In video games, combos are a sequence of hits where, if the first hit connects, the target cannot act in any capacity until it is over (compare to Mercy Invincibility). A Combo Breaker is the sole exception to this rule. If your target could have escaped your attack sequence by any other means, such as blocking or performing an invincible move, then it isn't a combo.
Generally these show up in fighting games, but they can also be seen in other genres. For combos to be possible, attacks in a given game must put the enemy in a state where they cannot act (fighting games refer to this as "hitstun"). The state must also be vulnerable, and the attacker must recover from their attack fast enough to deliver another before the state ends.
Knocking an opponent down can end a combo due to the potentially gained invincibility, but not always. Some games have moves that can be used on downed opponents, and knock-downs due to effects of being dizzy actually set the opponent up for further punishment.
A gauge will often be present, especially in fighting games, that will keep track of successfully combo'd hits. When the combo meter reaches a high number, you have Idiosyncratic Combo Levels, and may receive some entertaining messages underneath.
Very much Truth in Television for martial arts, as fighters will train to deliver a series of moves which are easy to do in succession, maintaining momentum while preventing the opponent from recovering.
If two or more attacks are done in concert or simultaneously, but do not fulfill the above criteria, it isn't a combo, but may be considered a Combination Attack.
Commands for special moves are not combos (e.g. down, diagonal, toward + punch).
Combo is a term that can be used loosely out in the wild; many uses of the word likely do not fit on this article (but perhaps on the Combination Attack article). However, feel free to add parodies or other examples that contain some aspects of combos (just be sure to label them as such). Rhythm game chains and puzzle game chains are not combos, nor are the combination attacks found in Chrono Trigger. Not to be confused with delicious cylindrical snack crackers with cheezy filling. Nor is it about getting fries and a drink with your burger.
- Prince of Persia (2008) has a wide variety of short combos that can be chained into longer ones, building brick-style. The longest combo in the game contains all four available moves over fourteen consecutive strikes. You get an achievement for actually pulling that last one off (the biggest problem being that most enemies run out of health half-way through it).
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has plenty of short combos, it's just the variety — on the ground, off the wall, in-between with bullet-time or in the air — that you want. You can also link the combos together for even more damage.
- In Zelda II, some enemies will be stunned in place after being hit, allowing you to bash them with impunity so long as you're not interrupted by something else. Usually this doesn't make much of a difference, but Bubbles have such a massive amount of health that you'll be beating on one of them for a while to kill it in the early game. Larger enemies don't follow them rule, and will just get knocked back when hit.
- The fighting system in Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is heavily geared around combos.
- Ur Examples of combos show up in some beat 'em up games. One example is Golden Axe, where repeatedly pressing the attack button can result in a pre-canned combo where the enemy is driven to their knees as the player character bashes them over the head with pommel strikes followed by a kick.
- Double Dragon Neon's Final Boss has several of these, at least one of which is instant death if you get caught in it.
- Cody in Final Fight had an infamous trick where he could restart his normal attack string by turning around on the 3rd hit and makinng it whiff, letting him repeat the first 2 punches over and over without ever delivering a knock-down blow.
- PS2 brawler Urban Reign has the usual sort of combo counter that action games have, which counts hits in a relatively quick succession that weren't interrupted by an enemy attack as a combo. However, genuine, inescapable fighting game-style combos are possible by hitting an opponent with a Launcher Move then following it with a meter-dependent Special Art.
- The Bayonetta series shows liberal abuse of combos, which is part of the gameplay. The first game even boasted a Guidebook that promised to teach players how to endlessly combo every enemy in the game (even on the insane difficulties) to get nothing but Pure Platinum Ranks. Not every enemy can be stunned with combos though, and for those that can a good part of them have Combo Breaker moves.
- Art of Fighting 3 uses combo moves known as "Command Attacks" which the characters do 3D fighter style combination attacks. Although many of the other SNK games have 2D fighter style combs that can be implemented.
- Darkstalkers was the pioneer of zigzag chaining (also known as hunter chaining, due to the Japanese name of the game it debuted in, or the magic series), where players can chain normals from weakest to strongest, tracing a zigzag line with the buttons pressed, making this series a grandfather to the Marvel series, Guilty Gear, Melty Blood and countless doujin/indie fighters.
- Eternal Fighter Zero has the Reinforce gauge, which can be used to cancel almost any attack and gives you a small window to input the next command, leading to all sorts of possibilities for creating combos.
- Fist of the North Star: Twin Blue Stars of Judgment is, basically, a combo maniac's festival. Comobos of up to thirty-three hits have appeared in tournaments. It helps that each character has an attack whose sole purpose is to launch the enemy into the wall, leaving them open for such tactics.
- Guilty Gear is made of combos, so much so that the damage scaling system is visible for the players' convenience, as well as fast to kick into high gear to stop Dust loops from being instantly fatal.
- Killer Instinct was the first game to use its specially designed combo system as a selling point, and after it took off, virtually every game had its own unique combo system built in. Killer Instinct's system was notable for having automatic combos launched by Button Mashing, and for the game's announcer enthusiastically announcing when a player managed to launch an extremely long "ULTRA COMBOOOOOOO!" KI also created the "C-C-C-Combo Breaker!", which infests imageboards to this day.
- Killer Instinct 2 had a great deal of refinement put into its combo engine, to the point where button mashing would do very little but sixty+ hit combos were achievable without glitching.
- The announcer in Mace: The Dark Age will criticize the player for making a combo longer than ten hits, using such words as "excessive" and "obnoxious".
- Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is famous for its obscenely long combos. The game's numerous mechanics especially tag mechanics allow combos to outlast the fight's timer and continue long after damage scaling has reduced them to harmless showboating. It is expected that a combo will take 50-75% of a enemy's health, assuming the player is mediocre, and that a landed hit by a high level player is usually a Touch of Death. Once a combo starts, the memetic reaction is for the defendee to drop the controller and make a sandwich, take a leak or walk their dog.
- To illustrate an impractical but possible combo, check out this demonstration.
- Note that in combos seem to play a larger role in the Metagame and culture of Mahvel than they do in most other fighting games. This seems to be because each player controls a three-person Tag Team, rather than a single fighter. While a Touch of Death combo would be a Game-Breaker in most other fighting games, they are only normal here. Likewise, the study of combo construction be it the development of Touch of Death combos or special, case-specific combos is thus not only acceptable but standard and basic. And the appreciation of combos is a hallmark of Mahvel culture.
- Juggle combos. Love them? Hate them? Either way, Mortal Kombat is their progenitor. Juggle-centric games like Marvel vs. Capcom have this series to thank.
- Mystic Heroes rewards high combo counts, considering a 30-50 hit combo quite good work. A combo of more than 5 hits requires beating the crap out of the corpse of a long-dead enemy — not an inconsiderable feat, as Everything Fades, but it does seem a bit strange that they would choose to reward this behavior.
- While playtesting Street Fighter II, the developers discovered a glitch, later dubbed "canceling", where inputting the command for a special move would interrupt the recovery of a normal move that connected. The glitch was kept in as the developers thought it would be an interesting "feature" for players to find, but nothing exceptional beyond an easter egg. Players and publications quickly caught onto these and spread the word. By the time Super Street Fighter II came around, the game was actively counting the hits of each combo.
- Rapid fire punches and kicks, as well as late jumping attacks into normal moves, are also combos in Street Fighter II. Canceling may be a glitch, but these are likely intentional.
- The Super Smash Bros. series has these as well, though most prominently in Melee. The first game had fighters fly too far after each attack for easy follow-ups, while Brawl tweaked the physics engine to make escaping combos much easier. The fourth game tries to strike a happy medium between Melee and Brawl.
- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom actually encourages smaller combos due to its damage scaling (which triggers pretty quickly). Expect to hear "YES!" (the game's call-out to three-or-four-hit combos) a lot.
- Every Tekken character from the beginning of the series has had a 10-hit combo deliberately programmed in. When the Tekken character Heihachi appeared in SoulCalibur II, he had three moves that were just called "10-Hit Combo."
- Tekken's versions aren't usually actual combos though, meaning that you can block or evade somewhere in the middle of them even if you're hit by the very first hit.
- Tekken's combos usually come in air juggles where the first hit pops you up in the air.
- In fact, you can generally find out which characters are far and away the strongest by looking at the combos that don't do this. Characters such as Heihachi or Steve Fox have had great combos that do not require a "launching hit" to guarantee the rest of the combo, and as such have been considered top-tier at times, especially the fifth installment.
- Skullgirls, being influenced in many ways by the MVC series, is built on these. The combo counter goes up to 999 for a reason (and almost every individual step up to there has its own name). The game was also infamous for its long Marvel-style combos until a balance patch added a new mechanic specifically meant to cut down on combo length. Big Band, in particular, was quickly given high-tier ranking when he was released because of his downright brutal combo ability and damage, especially when in the corner.
- Persona 4: Arena has these, being a fighting game, though pressing the weak attack button repeatedly will start an auto-combo, which typically ends in a super move if you built up enough SP to use it.
- Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening lets you feel like a superhero by the simple measure of allowing you to cancel out almost any move into almost any move at no cost, racking up devilishly large combos limited only by the monster's ability to absorb damage. In most games, this would break the game right in half. In DMC3, it was a necessity.
- Ninety-Nine Nights has a system where the higher your number of combos, the more likely a Mook will drop a rare(r) item (e.g. dropping a lvl 4 item instead of a level 1 item). And just to make things easier for you, each character has at least one stage where you will face a very large number (getting close and probably surpassing the 1000 range) of Mooks at once.
- Time Crisis from the second game in the series onwards awards bonuses for shooting targets in quick succession. Your shots don't have to be on enemies per se; shooting inanimate objects that can be destroyed will add to the combo counter as well. Time Crisis 4 adds a combo meter that shows how much time is left before the combo resets.
- Combos among a team are a stand-by in the average MOBA's gameplay. "Crowd-control" effects available to players' characters are intended to cut down enemy movement and leave them far more vulnerable to powerful, traveling projectiles, or simply force them to stay around longer while outnumbered (commonly referred to as ganking). Characters farther along the Difficult, but Awesome scale tend to have more potential for being devastating in a combo.
- Ragnarok Online two martial artist classes, the monk and the Taekwon has combo moves, the monk must charge up his spirit orbs in order to unleash something beyond the 3 hit comboo to follow it with deadlier blows but can only land up to 10 hits with a full skill set in his trascended class. The Tae Kwon is more traditional with him preparing kicks and pressing the skill when he can use it.
- Then of course there are Taekwon Rankers, the 10 best Taekwons (sorta) on the server gaining the ability to — when he can get in a kick — make infinite kicking combos limited only to the mana pool of the Taekwon. A kick is 2 sp, a normal Taekwon has ~2-300 max. mana.
- Deception games starting with the first sequel, Kagero, allow you to chain together traps used in a row on a given invader. The longer the chains, the more currency you are awarded to research new, deadlier traps.
- This becomes a more essential part of the later games, as many enemies will have immunity to specific attacks unless put into a compromised state, such as being knocked to the ground. Others will have a limited form of super armor unless a certain combo is used to permanently remove this state from them.
- Drakengard rewards combos with healing items as well, though at fairly arbitrary numbers. (The first one is seventeen hits.) If the character is at full health, the reward is instead an orb that lets out a shockwave when touched, sending all enemies in range flying; the resultant hits add to the combo. After about 100 or so hits, the reward is always a black orb that gives temporary Quad Damage.
- Exists in the game Fable I under the name "Combat Multiplier" and the higher it is, the more experience obtained when you beat an enemy. However, getting hit rounds it down to the next-lowest 5.
- The Mana Shield spell turns this into a Game-Breaker in that it allows you to take blows without penalty to your combo. Find an area with unlimited monster spawn (e.g. Grey House), activate the shield, and it's not too difficult to get the meter above 300 or so (at about which time you might as well stop, 'cause your experience counter just maxed out...).
- Gothic I/II allows melee specialists to chain multiple weapon swings together with properly timed presses of the "attack" key, instead of slower normal attacks.
- Magna Carta 2 has something like this. Your attacks get more powerful, which builds up Kan. After a while, you have enough Kan to perform a skill, which can then go into Overdrive mode, another skill, a Chain state with the next character, and then even more skills in Chain Drive mode.
- Legend of Mana has a fairly complex combo system, which rewards you with healing items if you make a long enough combo of attacks.
- Kingdom Hearts games allow you to string a certain number of attacks together (three by default, but abilities can increase it), after which you can pull off a finishing move that does extra damage. In II and III, it's not just physical attacks; magic spells can also be cast successively in the same fashion.
- In both cases, there exist abilities that disable combo finishers, thus allowing you to continue attacking infinitely. However, there is a hidden mechanic where after taking enough hits bosses will either block or teleport out of your combo, preventing you from cheaping them out too easily.
- In II, combo finishers are one of the only ways to finish off bosses, alongside Limit Breaks and magic. If Sora/Roxas doesn't perform a combo on the boss, it will continue to retain its last hit point indefinitely. Party members and playable guest characters like Mickey and Riku cannot perform combo finishers; apparently Sora is the only one allowed to kill the bosses.
- It should also be noted that Sora himself has a fairly lengthy hitstun, and is thus easy to combo. Thankfully, few enemies take advantage of this, and for those that do there's the "Once More"note ability, which prevents combo hits from reducing Sora's HP below 1.
- Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler-: The battle system utilizes a combo system where "arts" can be chained. Using non-repeated arts will increase the damage multiplier while repeating arts will lower the multiplier and not refill the combo time limit. The "Over-Art" version of an Art is considered a different skill in the combo.
- Remember Me has a modular combo system wherein thee different effects (damage, healing, special ability cooldown) can be applied to each strike in one of the predefined sequences of two attack buttons (except the first strike that initiates the combo sequence), with the effects of the strikes increasing the further down the chain they are executed.
- Star Ocean:
- In the PSP games, First Departure and Second Evolution, automatically string attacks in a set of three; if the first hits, the rest can't be blocked. However, you're more vulnerable after a combo than after a single attack.
- The third game, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, had a combo system which encourage you to pile on the hits in order to activate the Bonus Gauge and take advantage to it. If you wanted to get particular bonuses (Triple EXP and Double Fol), doing combos was the way to go and you'd grind quicker if you were lucky enough to get the Triple EXP bonus. On top of that, you gain Battle Trophies depending how long a combo you managed to reach. Combinations with the characters' special attacks can make such combos possible against meaty enemies with lots of HP. Unfortunately, simply tapping the attack button at a specific rate will give an easy infinite combo, circumventing any need to play with the system present.
- Every Tales game lets characters combo beyond their basic attack sequence by chaining skills together, offering bonus experience among other things for players who can cooperate to make extended hit chains. Symphonia gave a title to anyone who pulled off the most basic combo in the game (Lloyd's hit combo into Majinken) as well as an additional string of titles for ever-mounting combos (up to 100 hits). Tales of Destiny Remake and Tales of Innocence have battle systems geared around combos — any Innocence character can generally get to at least 20 or 30 hits on their own by endgame, and the AI tends to be very helpful in driving the number into the hundreds against some bosses.
- The Tales mantra, for those curious, applies to all games except Destiny Remake, Hearts, and Graces, which used the separate CC/EG gauge, and runs like this: "Attack, attack, attack, tokugi/base, ougi/arcane." Insert extra attacks and tech tiers where applicable.
- Tales of Vesperia has taken this to ridiculous degrees. Overlimit in Vesperia allows you to chain physical attacks and cast spells instantly for as long as it's active. Combining this with certain skills allows main character Yuri to preform infinite combos. Also, equipping the right skills to Rita, the main spellcaster in your party, allows her to chain magic spells together.
- TODR uses a Combo Capacity system that allows you to combo for as long as you want until either your CC runs out or the enemy escapes the chain (it regenerates pretty fast). The CC system was also used for Tales of Graces, Keroro RPG, and, in the form of the hybridized EG system, Tales of Hearts.
- The Tales mantra, for those curious, applies to all games except Destiny Remake, Hearts, and Graces, which used the separate CC/EG gauge, and runs like this: "Attack, attack, attack, tokugi/base, ougi/arcane." Insert extra attacks and tech tiers where applicable.
- Likewise, The Witcher allows you to chain together multiple sword attacks by timing them carefully. The maximum chain length can be extended by developing corresponding sword style skills.
- Tales of Xillia and its sequel make it ridiculously easy to rack up huge combos for a number of reasons. For instance, pretty much every single attack ("artes") can link into any other attack, there's no tier system or restriction. If you have enough Action Counter points, you can link any attacks you want. Secondly, the game's linking system enables two characters to attack an enemy in sync, allowing the partner (CPU or otherwise) to attack in the player's cooldown (when they ran out of AC), preventing the enemy escaping the combo. Furthermore many attacks simply hit more times than would be normal by the series' previous standards.
- Tales of Xillia 2 takes it to another level with Ludger. Xillia 2s combo mechanics operate around a damage multiplier which increases as you hit enemies with various elements in a "weakness combo" (triggered by an element they're weak to. Once in this state, even an element they're normally resistant to will count as a Power Hit as if they were weak to it). Using attacks they're resistant to won't even hitstun them. Ludger is easily able to hit every single weakness in the game single-handedly with no link-artes, thanks to having THREE weapon types and thus three movesets on the fly, which can be switched mid-combo. This gives him access to forty-eight attack hotkeys (VS 16 for everyone else).
- Combine this with the resulting huge damage multiplier (more than 600% on the highest difficulty, 450% on the second-highest), and combine THAT with his exclusive Chromatus ability (during which he is invincible, gets powerful new moves and can combo infinitely) which you can whip out when running out of AP and to stop the weakness combo fading, then finish it with his Chromatus Mystic Arte, and you can literally deal hundreds of thousands of damage in a single combo with no assistance. It's not unheard of for a boss to go down in one combo even on Unknown difficulty setting, but actually getting that combo going is where the difficulty lies, as bosses tend to one-shot you later in the game and have tons of iron-stance preventing hitstun.
- In The World Ends with You, reaching combo benchmarks is one of the conditions that ups your "special" experience multiplier.
- Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria has an attack system that can be abused for some truly ridonkulous combos.
- In an odd use of the trope, Final Fantasy XII allows you to combo Quickenings, including chaining attacks from other characters.
- In Dragon Quest IX, combos occur when a single target is attacked physically a number of times in a row. The second hit does 1.2x damage, the third hit does 1.5x damage, and the fourth hit does 2x damage.
- The Sacred Earth Series features a battle system where normal attacks can be chained into more normal attacks (5 total) or an EX Art if the character has enough EX. Each normal attack consumes 5 EP, and while the game allows characters to continue attacking with 0 EP, doing so will consume their LF instead. Similarly, offensive EP Arts can be chained into an EX Art, an AOE spell, or a strong single-target spell, though this requires the character to learn prerequisite skills. Finally, characters can learn Exceed Limits that chain from EX Arts.
- The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series features them as one of the prime gameplay mechanics, being a rare example of a non-fighting game that uses them. While they only usually comprised of a few tricks in the first game, by the third extremely, often absurdly long combos become the core that the series built itself around.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum uses combos extensively. You get vastly more experience for racking up a combo, and even more for a combo that uses all of your different moves. During several of the combat challenges going for large combos is pretty much the only way to get 3 medals.
- "Stance" mods in Warframe allow weapons to pull combos with increasingly powerful attacks and unique animations. The Jat Kittag Rocket-Powered Weapon with the "Crushing Ruin" stance, for example, lights the hammer-mounted rocket and sends the user in a Spin Attack with massive knockback. There's also a Melee Counter mechanic, which causes successive strikes against enemies to deal more damage.
- In the anime CLANNAD, Tomoyo has a trademark rapid fire sequence of kicks that juggles her opponent in the air, and a combo meter actually appears every time she uses it (on Sunohara). At one point, she and Tomoya do a chain combo that bumps the meter to over 1000 hits. In the Visual Novel, she chain combos with almost everyone on the cast. There was even an achievement for getting 64 hits.
- In Duel Savior Destiny there's a small meter with several boxes on the bottom of the screen. The higher level you are, the more boxes there are. While the blue half of the meter gets filled up over time when you aren't blocking, the red one fills up as you launch attacks and overwrites the blue side. When you've filled up two red boxes you can then launch a super.
- Combos can be found in most modern Pinball games, where making a series of loops, shots, and ramps (either repeating the same shot several times, or a specific sequence of shots) will yield extra bonuses. Naturally, the more difficult combos will reward more points.
- Pro Pinball: The Web requires players to perform at least 15 combos to get the Wizard Mode. Furthermore, players who shoot a long sequence of combo shots are recognized as the "Combo Champion".
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines takes this one step further, as starting specific series of Modes (such as Multiball, RED, then Payback Time) starts "Blitz", where certain shots award even more points.
- Fish Tales has the "Fast Cast", which is scored by shooting the Caster's Club right after a Long Cast or ball launch.
- In Sega Pinball's Batman Forever, a "Batarang" is a Combo for shooting the left outer loop, clockwise over the top, then up the middle ramp. Players who get the most Batarangs can enter their initials at the end of the game.
- Stargate has a single five-shot combo — left ramp, right ramp, left lane, right lane, and then the Pyramid. The game remembers the player who makes the most combos.
- Corvette has an assortment of two- and three-shot Combos, which have a cumulative value to entice the player to make more.
- Combos are a big part of Demolition Man, as making a lit major shot will cause the game to light whatever subsequent shot can be made right after it, and a skilled player can keep stringing lit shots for larger combos. A random Computer Award is available after every ten Combo shots.
- In Cactus Canyon, making at least ten Combos is one of the requirements for the Wizard Mode.
- In Stern Pinball's X-Men, making combos of various X-Men team-ups will give assorted bonuses, along with Idiosyncratic Combo Levels for the pair. Examples include "Savage Animals" (Beast and Wolverine), "Teacher's Pet" (Cyclops and Xavier), "Brain Freeze" (Xavier and Iceman), and "Lover's Triangle" (Storm, Phoenix, Cyclops, Wolverine).
- Several appear in Last Action Hero. The most lucrative is two consecutive ramp shots followed by a shot to the center scoop, which rewards the "Second Cousin Frank's" Progressive Jackpot.
- Not only does Game of Thrones feature numerous combos, there is a separate Score Multiplier to increase their value.
- NBA Fastbreak recognizes four potential combos ("Tip-Off", "Alley Oop", "Slam Dunk", and "Fast Break"), and achieving all of them is one of the six tasks required for Trophy Multiball.
- Guardians of the Galaxy doubles the value of a shot whenever a combo is made.
- Satirized in the animated series Drawn Together, in which the character of Xandir has a number of absurd power-ups and combos, mostly playing on the fact that Xandir is gay (e.g., a special attack called 'The Reach-Around').