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Chasing Your Tail

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A type of boss battle characterized by the player and the boss running around in circles trying to catch each other and/or running away from each other.

Often times, the boss room will be composed of one big circular path. The Boss itself will attack the player by chasing the player around the path. Usually, the Boss' only weak point will be on their back, meaning that the player must run all the way around until they "catch up" to the boss in order to damage it.

Sometimes, the boss might turn around and cause the chase to change directions, which is often annoying to the player because it basically reverses any progress they've made running towards the boss' back.

In some cases, the boss might be vulnerable from any angle, but will constantly run away from the player. In such cases, it might be necessary to "outsmart" the boss by changing directions yourself and hoping the boss is stupid enough to run into you from the other side.

Not to be confused with chasing the other kind of tail. Compare Cat-and-Mouse Boss. If it's happening in three dimensions because both sides are equipped with a Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon, then it's an Old-School Dogfight.


  • Any and every Old-School Dogfight (real life, in combat flight sims, et cetera) can pretty much qualify, especially since the trope name inspired the term dogfight (soldiers observing on the ground during WWI commented that planes "looked like they were chasing each other's tails" [or their own tails, depending who you ask]).
    • Obviously, the Ace Combat games. While not as realistic as, say, Falcon 4.0 (the epitome of realism unless using mods or Dogfight mode) or Over G Fighters (for Xbox 360), they very much encourage this even for guided "fire and forget" missiles, since they have poor maneuverability. The only exception seems to be Quick-maneuver Air-to-Air Missiles (QAAM), which at least in AC04 have the same targeting/lock-on range as the standard missiles but ''extreme'' agility.
    • As well, the Air Force Delta series.
    • Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. also has the player do this, as the six o' clock position is one of the prime angles to fire missiles. It also has the concept of the All Aspect missile, which is a highly agile missile that can lock on in any direction. Offset in that you have to get within spitting distance to your target before you can pickle it off.
      • HAWX also subverts it; the ERS system gives you a flight-path you can follow that will, without fail, bring you within optimal firing position of the target, often without hard banking. The catch? It takes longer than doing it yourself, but doing it yourself is legitimately harder, so it's still a feasible option for downing a bandit you just can't seem to tag.
      • Fighting Aces will often require the player to turn their ERS off so that they can get a lock, otherwise you'll just be locked in a turning fight unless you go in a different direction or have your squadmates pick the guy off.
      • More importantly, Aces automatically deny you the ability to use the automated intercept. Not that you should need it.
    • A non-boss example would be the close up multiplayer banshee fights in the Mac/PC port of Halo: Combat Evolved, which consist of whirling around each other in a circle, punctuated by attempts to drop down by letting up on the accelerator (which allows one to turn faster) or break the cycle against an obstacle, in order to line up a clean shot with the fuel rod gun. PROTIP: Hold S (or whatever makes you go backwards) to brake and turn even faster!
    • Thanks to a slight aversion of Old-School Dogfight, you can avert this in Project Sylpheed: fly in a straight line to get the enemy to follow you before cutting the engines, turning around, and blasting them to smithereens while flying backwards. Most missiles can also lock in any direction.
    • Unlike Escape Velocity Nova, the game it's modded from, Starfleet Adventures makes a 2D version of this a major part of combat maneuvering. The mod uses the "inertialess" property for nearly all its ships, meaning that unlike the base game you can't stop thrust, turn around, and fire behind you while continuing to move on your original heading. This forces ships to chase each others' tails, making them behave like they do in Star Trek.
  • Fighting in FPSs and other genres that have similar movement rules often devolves into Circle Strafing matches, especially online, with combatants whirling around open ground in figure-eights, attempting to back the enemy into a confined space.
  • The safest way of killing a destroyer droid in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is to stay behind it, because they can't move or turn anywhere near as fast as a normal soldier while deployed.
  • In the classic MechWarrior series of games, literally running around a target in circles was always the most effective tactic.
    • The circle-strafe tactic soon became known as the "circle of death," in MechWarrior 2's multiplayer element, since opponents would use the same tactic, resulting in both players running around a circle shooting across it at each other. To be clear, one distinguishing point is that this wasn't really circle-strafing: In MechWarrior, it's actually possible to rotate your mech's torso to aim in other directions while walking straight forward.
    • The Shadowcat is without fail one of the earliest mechs you are given. It is quite weak, and has very little support for add-ons or weapons. However, it's the fastest in the game. It's made even more effective in Vengeance when you're given the option of installing a 'tracking beacon' which when fired makes every missile a homing missile.
    • Such tactics are Older Than They Think: see The Cantabrian circle on The Other Wiki.
    • This can also be seen in the original BattleTech board game at times — because 'Mechs usually have thin rear torso armor and carry most of their firepower pointing forward, meaning that an attack from behind faces at worst return fire from the target's arm-mounted weapons (and if the target isn't designed to "flip" its arms, only one arm at a time at that), there's a fairly strong incentive to get into their rear arc while denying them the chance to return the favor if it can be at all arranged.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: The fight with the fourth dungeon mini-boss Cue Ball is one of the earliest examples of this type of fight in the series, it chasing you in a cramped looped room with you having to outrun it with the Pegasus Boots.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds have the Moldorm, a giant worm whose only weak spot is in his tail. You fight it in a tiny little area in the middle of a hole that drops you down a floor if you fall. Getting hit by the boss knocks you back several times farther than normal.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time:
      • A well-known example is the Big Octo fight, the mid-boss battle in the third dungeon. The player must run around a small circular arena, chasing the boss, trying to hit its back. The middle part of the arena has a rotating platform with spiked walls.
      • The King Dodongo fight, which takes place in a small square-shaped hallway with a lava pit at its center. The player must run away from the boss until it becomes vulnerable. (Hunkering down under the Hylian shield works too. Or you can just stand on an inside corner, and watch as he rolls around you.)
      • The mini-boss Flare Dancer. After its flames are extinguished, the Flame Dancer runs away from the player around the circular room until it can re-light itself.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask:
      • The fight with Goht involves chasing after it in Goron form, trying to ram into it. It's possible to snipe it with arrows too, but that method is much slower and less commonly used.
      • The first half of the fight with Skull Keeta involves chasing after the mini-boss before it reaches the end of a path punctuated with fire walls and Stalchildren. If you fail to catch up, Skull Keeta decides that you are too weak to bother fighting and you must re-enter the area to try again.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, the early-game battle with Revolver Ocelot takes place in a square-shaped room with a hostage and explosive tripwires in the middle, in which the boss persistently runs away from the player. It is necessary to outsmart the boss by stopping and running in the opposite direction (or shooting him while he is reloading).
    • In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, The Running Man would run away from any direct confrontation and Snake had no hope of catching him, leaving the player to choke on the poison gas of the room. Unless you got bright and placed landmines in the narrower passages, anyway.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, the battle with King Boom Boo takes place on a giant circular platform with a pillar in the center. In a semi-subversion, you're at first chased around like this, needing to lure the big ghost into chasing you long enough for you to sneak up behind him and smack the little ghost chasing his tail with an hourglass; once the hourglass is turned over and the sun pops out of a skylight, King Boom Boo shrinks down and vanishes into the arena, breaking the looping pattern by moving erratically until you dig him up (after which it's back to Chasing Your Tail until you hit him, rinse and repeat).
    • Also in Sonic Adventure 2, the Biolizard does indeed use this attack pattern on a circular path, though the tail is not his weak point. (In fact, he'll chase you with it if you get too far from his head.)
    • In the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, Labyrinth Zone's boss involves Robotnik simply fleeing from you in a repeating obstacle strewn shaft while the water level rises. Meaning you have to keep up, or else.
    • In Sonic Adventure, during the boss fight with Chaos 6, Chaos likes to shoot tentacle-like things at you while you're near the edge of the circular arena on the Egg Carrier. The best strategy is to simply run around the edge (don't worry - the game won't let you run off of the arena) until he stops and retracts the tentacles back into his semi-liquid body. Then you have to go back to trying to jump up and stun one of the freezing mine-things that are released onto the arena while he's not attacking, and pick up and throw the stunned mine into his mouth to freeze him so that your next attempt to attack will do some damage (he thaws out too fast for you to get more than one hit in).
    • The final boss battle in the Wii version of Sonic Colors takes place on a circular track at the Terminal Velocity zone. Sonic constantly chases the Egg Nega-Wisp Dr. Eggman pilots around and around the track until either is defeated.
    • In Shadow the Hedgehog, the final boss for going straight through Normal missions is Eggman riding on a slot machine on wheels, going around a square circuit, around which you have to chase him.
  • In Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, the battle with Begoniax the witch takes place near a cauldron full of a green, bubbling elixir. Begoniax chases you around the cauldron, until you manage to splash some elixir on her; at this point, she turns into a frog, and for a brief time you are the one who does the chasing.
  • Goomboss from Super Mario 64 DS.
    • And of course, Bowser from the original Super Mario 64.
    • In Super Mario Galaxy, the boss level Dino Piranha has this, only on a spherical planet, as opposed to a circular room. And you are quite literally chasing the tail of the enemy.
    • Not to mention the battles against Bowser in Galaxy, which has him chasing you around a small planetoid until you get a platform to explode under him, at which point you must smack him with a spin attack as he careens around the sphere, usually by going the other way. That's the ONLY way to damage him in that battle.
    • Don't forget Raphael the Raven on the Moon in Yoshi's Island.
  • The Ceramic Smile in Killer7 will run around the room, attempting to catch you from behind and kill you by detonating. If you turn around, it lets out a cry of panic and runs in the other direction. Its weak spot, its heart, can only be hit from the front; the trick is to shoot it while it's screaming.
  • When facing Andross' Brain Monster form in Star Fox 64, after the eyes are destroyed, the player is forced to chase his only weak spot, the Cerebellum (located on ventral-posterior). The result can be extended periods of mutualistic tail chasing while remaining comically close on the radar.
  • The first part of the battle with the Boss Galdon in Star Fox Adventures involves chasing its tail in order to strike it a few times. The room is not a path, however.
  • Fighting Inuart and his black dragon on your own mount in Drakengard is more an exercise in how long you can stand to circle around each other in the air before gaining a clean shot.
    • Same with the Angelus battle in the sequel.
      • Or you could just use the control that makes you automatically turn to face him/her, then use the homing fireballs.
  • The fights against Legion in the Castlevania games Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin take place in vertically-looped arenas.
  • A number of bosses don't chase you around but rather fire in a loop, causing you to have to outrun it.
  • Crisis Core encourages this behavior, since hitting anyone from behind causes automatic critical hits.
  • Burning Rangers: The third boss would run around in a large tube like room, while the player would have to knock off its armour and then hit its core.
  • Psychonauts: The final boss chases Raz around the edge of a circular arena with an instant-kill zone in the centre. The absolute final fight against this boss is impossible to win with Raz in his normal condition - your only option is to run away until Raz gains enough power to turn into a giant version of himself, and then turn on the boss.
  • Mega Man Legends: The titles are all but made of this trope. Most of the bosses — and a few of the bigger regular enemies as well — are most easily defeated by circle-strafing until they pull off their (easily dodged) big attack, letting you get in a good number of hits while they recover.
  • Jackle from NiGHTS into Dreams… backs away, throwing cards at you, and you have to dodge the cards to get to him and throw him out of his mantle.
  • A strange version of this can occur in Bushido Blade 2. The boss in one of the story modes has nearly impenetrable armor, and you spend most of the fight running around in tight circles so you can get a perfect shot at his back while he tries to catch up to you by rapidly turning in place.
  • The first battle with the Sphinx-like Bourban in Bomberman Hero, where his front end is protected and his tail is his weakness. In the second battle, both his frontal shield and his breath weapon are disabled, but his missiles are harder to avoid because you're fighting him in an underwater tunnel.
  • One of the many complaints with the "NGE" addition to Star Wars: Galaxies was the changes in AI behaviour that made EVERY SINGLE FIGHT with a ranged attacker an example of this trope. The AI would inexplicably start running around your character in circles, forcing you to constantly scroll the screen with your mouse to try and keep them in sight.
  • The first boss fight in Bully is partially this trope, and part spamming him with your slingshot.
  • Twinblade in Fable is only unarmored on his back, and can only be attacked there when he attempts to stab the player and gets both blades stuck in the ground for all of two seconds. Particularly annoying because the player must not only avoid Twinblade's attacks, but also stay away from the edges of the relatively small arena because the bandits that stand along the outside will also strike the player character whenever he is in range.
  • This is a common trope in Star Control II, when fighting both the AI and other players. This most often happens when one ship is very slow but well-defended, while the other ship is fast but underpowered. The two ships can spend a long time flying around the (spatially looped) battlefield, staying at very long range from one another while each tries to gain the advantage. Especially annoying when the AI is in the fast ship, as he may go on infinitely. Definitely exacerbated in Star Control 3, where the AI loves to stay as far away as possible. Fortunately, this can lead to collisions with the planet (that might kill a ship or at least seriously damage it), or collisions with asteroids that will change your direction unexpectedly. Also, the slower ship can make a slingshot maneuver around the planet, increasing its speed and making it much harder to evade.
  • There's one of these in Hexen when you face a Death Wyvern. While the creature has no specific weak point, between its breath and the delayed explosions caused by said breath, most players will quickly figure out the only practical way to fight it is to take to the air and stay behind it.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, the fight against Dirge is one of these. The first part is running from Dirge while he chases you. The second part is attacking him. Rinse and repeat until he's dead.
  • Most of the battle against Ruler of the Sky in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days consists of chasing it around in circles trying to hit it. Then it Turns Red...
    • Also occurs in the mission: Eliminate the Emerald Serenade, with him being on a fixed route as opposed to a small room or circular arena.
  • World of Warcraft has the "Fixate" mechanic where a boss or other enemy will target a specific player and pursue them regardless of how much aggro any other player has. Properly kiting the enemy during this phase and taking advantage of the environment are key to the fight.
    • The Big Bad Wolf in the Karazhan Opera Event has a stage like this: at regular intervals, the BBW will transform one of the raid members into Little Red Riding Hood, removing all of their defenses but making them move at a much faster rate. That player then has to run in a circle around the battlefield while the BBW chases them (since getting hit in that form all but guarantees the player will be one-shotted) until the debuff wears off. Otherwise, though, the fight is a normal tank-and-spank.
    • The Flame Leviathian, a huge war machine fought using other war machines, will pick one person to chase around, while everyone else chases the leviathan hitting it. The chased player draws it into explosives. The boss also gets faster the longer its mechanisms aren't disrupted, requiring players to launch themselves onto its back and damage it.
    • Blackhand has a mechanic similar to the Leviathan during his second stage. He periodically summons siege tanks which fixate on the nearest character and chase them until one of them dies. The kiter needs to drag the tank across mines to weaken it and clear the ground while other players keep it between themselves and the boss to avoid a powerful attack.
    • Kargath in Highmaul will periodically fixate on a character and chase them, doing lethal damage to anyone in front of him. Leading him into flame pillars damages him, destroys the pillars, and ends this phase. On Mythic difficult tigers also fixate on random players and are dragged into pillars, much to the delight of the watching crowd.
  • In the final boss battle of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Zoran Lazarovich will chase you mercilessly around the arena while trying to pump you full of shotgun pellets. As a result, this fight typically degrades into "run around the arena and fire blindly" in a matter of seconds.
  • A lot of the time in Dark Souls, due to the fact that attacks lined up correctly behind are critical hits for massive damage. A lot of the time melee builds will circle strafe behind tough targets such as Black Knights behind their shields to land a back stab in while trying not to run out of stamina first.
  • If you're in a light scout tank in World of Tanks, such as the M24 Chaffee, and you meet an unsupported enemy heavy tank, like the famous King Tiger, doing this can allow you to score a David Versus Goliath kill... so long as you don't get hit.
  • The entire premise of the Pokémon Dream Radar app. You zap clouds with your Ray Gun, and when a Pokemon flies out inside a energy ball, you have to chase it around the field of vision, zapping it enough times to catch it before it flees, while avoiding hits from the energy balls it throws to try and zap precious time away from you.
  • Ship battles ("battle navigation") in Puzzle Pirates can tend towards this (in a grid map, no less), as each ship tries to align their broadside to the other's stern, so that they can fire at the enemy without being fired back at.
  • Any boss enemy in Wolfenstein 3-D can be exploited this way, by luring the boss into chasing you around an "island" of wall, firing on him while backpedaling and ducking around the corner when he prepares to shoot back. Because boss enemies so heavily telegraph their attacks, a skilled player can defeat a boss in this manner without sustaining any damage at all. Level 18 of Spear of Destiny puts a much deadlier spin on this by having the Death Knight and a horde of Nazis chase you out of the death trap that is the level's main room into the perimeter hallway, which is full of officers who will harass you as you desperately scramble for health as the mad dash out of the central room will have without fail brought you to the brink of death. The Death Knight is also considerably faster than bosses from the original Wolfenstein 3D and floods of guards will pour into the north and south sections of the perimeter corridor, adding to the pressure and making for a truly nerve-wracking battle.