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Chain Reaction Destruction

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A trope seen in video games. Basically, a larger thing, be it a larger enemy, boss, an entire structure or sometimes even a planet, makes numerous smaller explosions scattered across its surface (often with regular time intervals) before finally making a big bang or just simply being destroyed.

Usually, mechanical constructions in Real Life don't have tens of parts that explode, especially at regular intervals. However, you might notice that many examples below are made from even less volatile material like concrete which isn't known to explode in real life at all. Some examples take it step further so now even characters made of meat and flesh can cause explosions in a similar manner, be it an alien or a pirate captain. Strangely, they often aren't carrying explosives or firecrackers with them either to justify these explosions.


It's also often observed that while explosions often appear in random places on the surface of the destroyed thing or character, they can also appear in the vicinity of the destroyed thing and not on the surface of this thing at all. Moreover, some of the exploding things themselves disappear right before the series of explosions occur, making you wonder how can explosion chain reaction occur out of thin air. That might forever be a mystery. Maybe the explosions happen because of Rule of Cool.

The origins of this trope are currently unknown but may have been initially used because of technical limitation of consoles. Making a big explosion with sprites only will bring a third generation console down to a crawl so several small explosions which appear at different time intervals, were used instead since it's much more resource-friendly to the console. Then it was noticed that it looked cool anyway and that's why we have it in games on much more powerful consoles.


The regularity of this trope is the most clearly seen in third generation and fourth generation video games with about every 16th NES game having explosions like these. After that period, the usage of this has been reduced slightly, but it's still almost always played straight since it is not very recognized trope. Usually, 2D games use chain explosions more often.

Subtrope of Stuff Blowing Up, often with Made of Explodium. They're also common in games where every enemy tends to explode.

More than 3 explosions counts as this trope. Less than that, and you're better off looking at Defeat Equals Explosion.

Not to be confused with Disaster Dominoes.


Examples from Video Games

    open/close all folders 

Destruction after or with the series of explosions

    Action Adventure 

    Action Game 
  • Missile Command is the Trope Codifier of videogaming history. Part of the strategy is that even though you have a limited number of missiles, you try to destroy the missiles at the edge of your explosion, because their explosion can take out other missiles, causing a chain reaction of explosions. Since you get bonus points for unlaunched missiles, it also aids your score.
  • Many, many bosses in Contra series. Sometimes applies to some of the other objects too.
  • The final boss in TankForce.
  • Bosses in Journey to Silius.
  • The final boss of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde NES game.
  • Minibosses and bosses in Low G Man.
  • Bosses in Ninja Gaiden NES games.
  • Some of the smaller bosses in Shadow Of The Ninja.
  • Defensive walls in Shatterhand.
  • Bosses in The Trolls In Crazyland .
  • 2/5 of the bosses in Vice Project Doom.
  • Numerous bosses in Gunstar Heroes series. Considering that even the regular enemies explode even in a more spectacular fashion than the enemies in Contra series, it's hardly surprising.
  • Bosses and minibosses in Dynamite Duke
  • Stronger enemies, minibosses and bosses in Alien Hominid.
  • Final boss in Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.
  • Bosses and in lesser extent, regular enemies in Madoo Granzort.
  • Bosses in Super Bomberman.
  • Minibosses, some bosses and some miscellaneous objects in X-Men Mutant Apocalypse.
  • Bosses in Rocket Knight Adventures series.
  • Most mini bosses and bosses in Run Saber.
  • Numerous bosses in Metroid series.
  • Bosses and some of the larger structures in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters.
  • Bosses and barricades in Ex-Mutants.
  • Non-Robot Master bosses in the Mega Man (Classic) series.
  • Bosses in Cuphead explode repeatedly.

    Beat 'em Up 

    Driving Game 

    First Person Shooter 

    Platform Game 
  • The bosses in ActRaiser
  • The bosses in Moon Crystal. It's strange because large part of the bosses are living creatures.
  • Bosses in NES version of Joe & Mac. Notable that the bosses are dinosaurs.

    Real Time Strategy 

    Role Playing Game 
  • Bosses in Faxanadu.
  • Secret of Evermore bosses get the "simple destruction" variation.
  • Bosses in Adventure Kingdom though, with one last large explosion in the end before destruction.
  • The final boss of Blue Dragon sinks into lava while numerous explosions erupt across his body.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Final boss in Galaga '88.
  • Bosses and walls in Heavy Barrel.
  • Both phases of final boss in Jackal
  • Bosses in Iron Tank.
  • A few bosses and minibosses in Legendary Wings.
  • Bosses in S.C.A.T.. Rather long variation.
  • Bosses in Section Z.
  • Bosses in Silkworm.
  • Bosses in Star Soldier.
  • Many bosses in Metal Slug series.
  • Bosses in Air Buster. Rather humble variety.
  • Bosses in Arrow Flash.
  • Bosses in Elemental Master.
  • Bosses in Granada.
  • Larger enemies, barricades and bosses in Mercs.
  • Bosses in Twinkle Tale.
  • Bosses and minibosses in Axelay.
  • Larger enemies in Bio Metal.
  • Bosses in Forgotten Worlds.
  • Bosses in the first Darius.
  • Bosses and structures in Raptor: Call of the Shadows will suffer from multiple explosions once they have taken enough damage. The buildings themselves have sequential explosions that move from one end to the other, interestingly.
  • Bosses in Guxt.

    Simulation Game 

    Wide Open Sandbox 

Series of explosions after destruction

    Action Game 

    Action Adventure 
  • Large normal enemies in Super Metroid turn into a cloud of explosions upon defeat.
  • Bosses in Metal Storm turn into a whole screenful of the best 8-bit explosions ever.
  • Oddly, in Monster Party normal enemies die like this, but not the bosses who just fade away.

    Platform Game 

    Rhythm Game 

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Minibosses and some of the stone walls in Iron Tank.
  • Bosses in Mechanized Attack.
  • Regular enemies in Gaiares.
  • Bosses in Hellfire.
  • Some of the bosses in Lightening Force.
  • Bosses in Syvalion.
  • Larger enemies in Axelay.

    Strategy Game 
  • In Tank Wars, one of the most satisfying things that could happen was seeing your post death explosion take out the tanks that killed you.

Big boom at the end

    Action Game 

    Action Adventure Game 

    Beat Em Up 

    Fighting Game 

    First Person Shooter 

    Platform Game 

    Role Playing Game 
  • In Super Robot Wars, almost everyone explodes with several small explosions followed by a big one. Even living beings like the Radam beasts.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Bosses in DonPachi.
  • Minibosses and bosses in Gun Nac.
  • Bosses in Ikaruga.
  • Capital chips in Zanac.
  • Bosses in Mushihime Sama series.
  • Bosses in Gaiares.
  • Bosses in M.U.S.H.A..
  • Many bosses from Fraxy.
  • A planet at the beginning of S.C.A.T..
  • Bosses in Bio Metal.
  • Bosses in Raiden games.
  • Star Fox 64 has the train boss crashing into a weapons depot in The Scottish Planet, demonstrating the (at the time) newfangled rumble feature like few games have since. Made all the more satisfying in that going to the planet and the train's demise are both optional.
  • Bosses in Hero Core.
  • Any ship in Escape Velocity will suffer a series of secondary explosions at random intervals, the duration of said series dependent on the ship's DeathDelay stat. If said stat is more than 60 frames, the ship blows up in a huge explosion that damages anything in a radius dependent on the ship's mass.
  • Bosses in later games in the Darius series.

    Simulation Game 
  • Everything bigger than a fighter in FreeSpace. The bigger the ship, the more little explosions go off before the big boom that typically splits the whole ship in half.

    Strategy Game 
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: Sectopods explode four times when destroyed. With Enemy Within running, the last explosion deals considerable damage up to four tiles away.

Series of explosions followed by big white flash

    Action Adventure Game 

    Platform Game 

    Rail Shooter 

    Role Playing Game 

     Shoot 'em Up 

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Capital ships and space stations in the X-Universe series suffer two or three secondary explosions, then one enormous flash that completely disintegrates ships and leaves a burned-out hulk behind in the case of most stations. Anything corvette-size or smaller explodes immediately in a small fireball, averting the trope. The explosions do no damage in the vanilla game, though various Game Mods such as Xtended add it.
    • Capital ships in X Rebirth will have dozens of explosions go through their hull, then a massive implosion followed by an explosion as the jumpdrive goes critical. Ships near the explosion take massive damage.

Series of explosions followed by something other

    Action Adventure Game 
  • Without actually exploding himself, Balrog from Cave Story does this.
  • Bosses in Metroid Fusion are consumed in explosions before pixellizing into their Core-X forms.
  • Bosses in Alundra erupt all over with brilliant explosion, then give a death cry and fade into blue light.
  • Most bosses in Chaos Legion are covered with dozens of fiery explosions and then simply die.
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow's true ending has the castle explode repeatedly before imploding.

    Fighting Games 

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Bosses from Radiant Silvergun spout fiery explosions and then implode into a tiny ball of light.

    Platform Game 
  • Final boss transforms back in to normal Dr. Chaos after series of explosions.
  • Tor's Humongous Mecha in Iji first has various parts exploding, then what's left disappears with the same special effect it appeared with.

Examples from Other Media

Anime & Manga


  • Two examples from Star Wars:
    • The second Death Star in Return of the Jedi exhibits this before its final explosion.
    • In The Phantom Menace, the Trade Federation ship explodes at random points all over its hull before engulfing the command section after Anakin puts two proton torpedoes into one of the reactors.
  • In War of the Worlds, Ray sticks a grenade into a tripod. The tripod then explodes repeatedly and falls over.
  • At the climax of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Planet Ego goes out with a massive chain reaction after Groot's bomb explodes on the core.
  • Green Lantern: Hal Jordan punches Parallax into the sun, causing him to repeatedly explode.
  • The ICSS's self-destruct sequence in Geostorm is this.

Live Action TV


  • When you sink a ship in Black Rose, it explodes several times before sinking for good.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Fireworks factory and fireworks or munitions storage explosions are some of the closest it's possible to get to this trope without deliberately setting it up.
  • This is how several real life aircraft carriers were lost during World War II (and how the USS Forrestal was nearly lost after an accidental fire during the Vietnam War). An aircraft carrier in wartime has a lot of explosive stuff lying around both on and below flight decks (bombs, fuel lines, bombed-up and fueled-up aircraft, etc.) If there is a fire, there is a good chance that fire would spread to these incendiary objects, start a chain reaction, and lead to catastrophic results.
    • Note that ideally, said flammable/explosive things are kept safely stowed away (preferably in protected areas away from each other), but certain operations necessitate moving them to more exposed areas, such as arming and launching aircraft, or moving ammunition from the magazine to the guns. Several Real Life examples of ships being destroyed due to this trope were the result of unsafe practices meant to more quickly move the process along (this was infamously how several of the Royal Navy's battlecruisers met their untimely end at the Battle of Jutland.)
  • The Deepwater Horizon/Macondo blowout and explosion is a modern textbook example of this trope as well as being a case of Disaster Dominoes:
    • The well casing cement fails, allowing wellbore pressure to rise beyond manageable levels.
    • The blowout preventer's annular fails to contain the pressure. The well blows out on the rig floor, venting wellbore contents.
    • The MGS (Mud-Gas Separator, also called a Gasbuster) fails to keep up with the volume of gas in the mud being pushed out of the well. This causes a fail-deadly situation as gas begins to build up around the platform, particularly around the wellhead.
    • Gas is sucked into the platform generator air intakes, causing generators to overspeed until they explode.
    • The fire flashes back to the wellhead.
    • The accumulated gas cloud on the drilling floor and surrounding the platform explodes. This entrenches the fire that will ultimately cause the platform to sink.
  • Decades ago, before the currently accepted models of supermassive black holes and/or large-scale star formation concentrated there fueling them, it was proposed that supernova chain reactions would power active galactic nuclei as quasars.
    • Today, more accurate modeling reveals that individual supernovas are often examples of this trope, with their intensity and duration coming from rapid (on the cosmic scale) cycles of collapse, explosion, and re-collapse of the remaining matter over several hours, days, or weeks until enough kinetic energy has been bled off to collapse fully into a black hole or stellar remnant.


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