Follow TV Tropes


Comeback Mechanic

Go To
Catchup mechanics help you get back in a game when you're behind. Ketchup Mechanics fix your fruit.

"There needs to be a way for players that have fallen behind to catch up.
A game becomes frustrating if a player feels like he or she has no chance to win."
Mark Rosewater, head designer of Magic: The Gathering, Ten Things Every Game Needs

Video games can be cruel sometimes. After all, The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard. However, some games feel sorry for a player who might need a positive shove. When done well, this creates a motive for less experienced players to keep playing and a deeper layer of strategy for more experienced players. When done shoddily, it will needlessly drag out a match longer than it should. If done extremely poorly, then the trope overlaps with Do Well, But Not Perfect where players that play too well will constantly be harassed by players that are falling behind and possibly lose because of the mechanic. In general though, the purpose of such mechanics is to keep the game close so that less experienced players aren't left in the dust, which can have disastrous results in the game's popularity.

There are two ways a game can go about comeback mechanics: The first is to give an advantage to a losing player. That is, it allocates privileges among players at any given moment, with more given to those whom the game feels is more likely to lose. The second is to give an advantage to a player about to get eliminated. All players can use this mechanic, whether they're winning or losing, but they either favor players close to the losing condition in a game (such as having low remaining health) or can only be used by such players.

Comeback Mechanics are most commonly seen in genres where matches end quickly. Fighting games and racing games are prime examples of these, with matches rarely exceeding a few minutes. Games with time limits for multiplayer will also often have Comeback Mechanics regardless of genre. This is because there is little to no harm in extending the matches a bit longer. Comeback Mechanics are less common in genres that traditionally don't have a time limit and tend to take a long time to complete a match, such as shooters, puzzle games, and turn-based strategies.

This is different from a handicap, which is specified by the players before a match to be specific amounts. A Comeback Mechanic is integrated into the game itself and is present in all multiplayer.

Most examples of comeback mechanics are in video games, but there are a few examples outside of it, most notably in Tabletop Games (this includes board games and card games too), though some sports do too.

The fancy term for this trope in system control theory and professional game design is "negative feedback loop". It is a supertrope of Desperation Attack, and a subtrope of Anti-Frustration Features and Mercy Mode. Compare Rubberband AI, which is when this is applied to the computer players but not to human players; and Dynamic Difficulty and Critical Status Buff, applied to a single-player mode (though not necessarily for the latter). Compare First-Player Advantage Mitigation for when the game grants advantages for the second player (and players later in the turn order if any) to compensate for a first-player advantage. Turns Red is a Comeback Mechanic applied to a boss. If a game has a particularly strong comeback mechanic, this may invoke players to Do Well, But Not Perfect. A Golden Snitch is a Comeback Mechanic run amok, where it's so strong that performance outside of this one mechanic is pointless. Contrast Unstable Equilibrium (a.k.a. "positive feedback loop") and Kill Streak, which is when a game gives advantages to the winning players.


    open/close all folders 

  • In the game Atomic Runner, if a player lost 5 lives in the same location, on the next respawn their character would have all power-ups. This would continue to be the case for further respawns until they managed to clear that section.
  • Devil May Cry 5:
    • If your Vitality Gauge runs out, picking the most expensive Red Orb revival choice also deals significant damage to the enemies aside from refilling your entire health bar. It's a huge step-up over the standard revival methods of the previous games.
    • When playing as V, summoning Nightmare also fully restores Griffon and Shadow even when they're in stalemate, making it a great comeback for V if both of his two other familiars are down.
  • The Player Versus Player action game Rounds gives the loser of the previous round a powerup to pick in order to even their odds against the winner.

    Beat ‘Em Up 
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle allows Travis to recover from 0 to 3 HP if the Wiimote and Nunchuk are aggressively shaked. It works up to four times, but if the last hit before the potential death is landed when Travis, Shinobu or Henry is knocked to the floor, or is One-Hit Kill, Travis, Shinobu or Henry will invariably die.

    Card Battle Game 
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes: The Ketchup Mechanic is a pun on the term "Catchup Mechanic" in addition to playing it straight. She buffs her stats by one for each Zombie in addition to healing the Plant Hero by 1 for each Zombie as well. The Flavor Text also points it out.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Stairway to the Destined Duel, if a player loses the card duels too often, Mokuba Kaiba, an extremely easy opponent, starts popping up to give some quick victories.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • The Conquest and Operations multiplayer modes in Battlefield 1 spawn high-powered vehicles known as a Behemoth for teams that are losing (either by having a large scoring deficit in Conquest, or by losing a life or map in Operations). They are map-specific boss vehicles, such as an armored train, a Dreadnaught, or a Zeppelin airship, all of which are designed to distract and/or decimate opponents.
  • The "Second Wind" feature in Borderlands, whereby if you manage to kill an enemy as you're in the throes of death yourself, you gain a small amount of health back, and can continue. However, each time you're downed you get less time to kill until it's practically instantaneous.
  • In the "Blast Ball" mode of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, each time one team scores, the opposing team's goal shrinks, making it tougher to score back-to-back.
  • In the Modern Warfare series, they added Deathstreaks; much like it sounds, it's a bonus given to players who're doing particularly bad. If they die multiple times in a row without ever getting a kill, the game will give them a buff of some sort (such as increased health or dropping a grenade upon death) to help them out.
  • TimeSplitters has a "Monkey Assistant" mode in multiplayer, where the player with the lowest score gets an army of monkeys to help them out; conversely, this crack team of monkey commandos targets the player in first place as their top priority, making it both easier for the straggler to get back into the fight and harder for the top dog to stay there. There's also "Shrink mode" where the lower your score, the smaller you are and thus the harder you are to hit.

  • All versions of BlazBlue give players automatic Heat (super meter) gain when low on health. Blaz Blue Chrono Phantasma swapped out gold bursts for Overdrive mode, which applies a buff that differs for each character. Overdrive lasts longer if the player activates it while low on health. BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle has this mechanic for Yang Xiao Long's Rage Semblance, which increases her offense and makes her super moves more elaborate (and obviously more damaging) when she's close to being defeated.
  • Bloody Roar: Primal Fury aids losing players by expediting the rate at which their beast gauge fills, regardless whether inflicting or receiving damage. Meaning, the lower their health, the greater the gain per hit.
  • In Capcom vs. SNK 2, the most obvious examples are S-Groove (based off of The King of Fighters '94 and 95's super bar system, as well as the one used in 97 and 98's Extra fighting style) which let the player use level 1 supers infinitely and allowed for Max level supers when the bar was filled up when the user was at low health, and K-Groove (based off of Samurai Shodown's Rage Gauge system) where the bar fills up when you take a hit, and when filled allows the user to perform a MAX level super as well as giving them a damage buff.
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy and its sequel, the summon Magic Pot changes your Bravery (attack power, which is extremely highly variable in this game) into that of your opponent's. If your opponent is able to land a finishing blow on you, odds are you can do the same to your opponent with Magic Pot. There's also a more conventional version of it in the form of skills and accessories that activate when you're losing and Cosmos Judgment, which aids losing players.
  • The Technos-made Double Dragon fighting game from 1995 unlocks a character's Limit Break when the "Charge" gauge is full. The Charge gauge is a blue field that fills up from the bottom of a character's life bar as you score hits and is considered full when it meets the point at which it completely overlaps your current health. The less health you have, the faster the Charge portion of the bar will fill.
  • Dragon Ball FighterZ:
    • The Sparking Blast works similarly to the X-Factor function mentioned below in that it grants automatic health regeneration and more power, which scales up based on how many characters are left on a team when activated. It can also be used during a combo (again, like X-Factor, although it has an actual hit effect as opposed to simply canceling the active animation).
    • There's also Captain Ginyu's Body Swap technique, which is enormously difficult to pull off but if it works will result in the opponent suddenly finding themselves saddled with a gimped, heavily-injured Ginyu while the user's stolen their character.
    • Base Goku's Kaioken allows him to perform a series of powerful attacks. If one or both teammates are knocked out, Goku can use more attacks, and can use the Kaioken Kamehameha.
    • Two of GT Goku's super moves (Super Kamehameha and Dragon Fist Explosion) are improved after one or both teammates are downed. The former makes him go from Super Saiyan to Super Saiyan 3 before unleashing it, while the latter makes him turn into Super Saiyan 4 before unleashing it.
  • When most characters get low enough health in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, they enter Rumbling Mode, where their health meter turns red, and they gain increased attack and defense.
    • A select fewnote  instead get Resolve Mode at low health, where their health meter turns yellow, and they get super armor while not attacking and increased defense. Fugo also gets a new move that he can only access while in Resolve Mode. This move lets him evolve Purple Haze into Purple Haze Distortion without spending meter, when he can usually only do so by using his Great Heat Attack.
    • Ikuro Hashizawa, a.k.a. Baoh, gets his own low health effect: his health automatically regenerates, but only up to 50%.
    • Jonathan, Bruno, and Valentine also deserve special mention. Jonathan has a move called "My final Ripple" that can revive him from defeat with 20% health and give him permanent Ripple-infused attacks at the cost of locking out his HH meter. Valentine can expend 3 HH bars to have D4C replace him with a full-health Valentine at the cost of all his corpse parts and the usage of his HH meter. Bruno auto-revives in Resolve Mode if he's about to lose the match for one last chance to win.
    • R adds Yukako and to the list. If she's knocked out, about to lose the match, and has at least one bar of HH meter, she will automatically revive in permanent Super Mode at the cost of disabling her meter entirely.
      • DLC character Wonder of U possesses an unique Calamity skill, which improves his moves the lower his health gets.
  • The Xbox One version of Killer Instinct:
    • Each character has access to Instinct Mode, which gives each character a specific buff, like increased damage or gaining super armor. However, the respective Instinct Meter builds only when you take damage or successfully perform Combo Breakers, so you have to be beaten down a few times before you can activate it.
    • T.J. Combo has an additional "Last Breath" mechanic to go with the Instinct Meter - if it's full when he runs out of health, he punches the ground, causing a shockwave that knocks the opponent back, and gets back up with a small amount recovered and a half-duration Instinct Mode for one last chance to turn things around.
  • For Killer Instinct 2, Jago can also come back from the moment of defeat by using his “Spirit” move. However the trick here is you need to have the foresight to sacrifice some of your life earlier in the match in order to stash it in the event you get defeated later in order to use it.
  • The King of Fighters:
    • The series, during 94 and 95 as well as 97 and 98's Extra fighting styles, used this trope where if one player was low on health, they were allowed infinite use of any normal DMs to attempt a comeback. Later on, '98 and 2002 onward has a more subtle mechanic- with its 3 vs. 3 fights, later fighters will be able to store one more super bar. Therefore, the first character in a team can stock up to three bars, the second stock up to four, and the last up to five. It allows for more damaging combos or escape attempts, but it won't single-handedly turn the tide of battle.
    • In KoF '99 and 2000, power stocks remain the same all throughout but with each downed character, the next fighter will be able to call in strikers more frequently, some of which can be potential game breakers.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom gives Jin Saotome a character-exclusive desperation mode that activates if he's low on health and his partner has been knocked out. While active he gains offense, defense, and a degree of super armor.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has the X-Factor mechanic, which boosts the speed and attack power of the current player character. The fewer characters the player has remaining on his or her team, the stronger X-Factor becomes. In Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, the Infinity Stone meter works on a similar principle to Street Fighter IV's Revenge Meter (see below), in that you absorb damage to build it up. Like said Revenge Meter, once it's half-full you can use it (the effect varying depending on which Stone you chose before the match).
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Mortal Kombat 9's super meter seems to work more on the side of damage intake rather than output. Beating up your opponent won't earn near as much super energy as simply getting smacked around yourself. Charge it all the way up and retaliate with a big combo full of EX moves or one powerful X-Ray shot.
    • Jason in Mortal Kombat X has the Unstoppable variation which grants him this ability: if he is KO'd, he will revive with a bit of health depending on how much meter he had, at the cost of consuming his entire meter (complete with screeching violins!).
    • Mortal Kombat 11:
  • Naruto:
    • In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Storm series, every character has an Awakened Mode, which offers either increased speed and attack power or a new, more potent set of abilities. However, it can only be used if the character has less than half of his or her total HP, or in the case of particularly strong Awakenings, less than a quarter or even one-sixth. It's Changed up a bit in Storm 3, where it can be used at any time as a form of a Lag Cancel as opposed to just a Comeback Mechanic, though it can still be used this way. Also, in the Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution series, there are Latent Ninja Powers, an additional bunch of moves for each character triggered by being below a certain HP.
    • In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, the Substitution Jutsu gauge, which allows a character to teleport away before getting attacked, refills at all times except when attacking. This means a player on the constant offensive will replenish his or her Substitution Jutsu gauge slower than someone being attacked.
  • Nidhogg is about two opponents, with the offensive one running to reach the other side of the screen to win in a tug-of-war duel. If the other player is behind, it is very difficult to catch up on foot. A perfectly valid option for the behind-player is to simply dash offscreen, which will allow them to respawn in front of their opponent with a new sword drawn.
  • Persona 4: Arena has Awakening mode, which kicks in at the back end of your character's life bar. In this state, you take reduced damage (roughly one-third less), gain 50 more points of super meter (in both the senses of getting free meter and increasing your meter capacity), and have access to an "Awakening" super move. However, since Awakening only triggers once your character returns to a neutral state, if the player is trapped in a combo upon that threshold, damage reduction won't occur until it ends. The sequel, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, changes the mechanic slightly in response to the introduction of Shadow-type characters; only normal-type characters can access Awakening, but Shadow-type characters have access to their Awakening super from the start of the round and gain more meter from being hit, which makes it easier for them to activate Shadow Frenzy and cause massive amounts of damage.
  • Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid has the Megazords. Once one of your fighters has been defeated, you can call in your Zord as a sort of gigantic Assist Character. A later revision of the game modified these rules so the Zords are now more nuanced in their use.
  • Samurai Shodown is one of the first fighting games to employ a comeback system in the form of its Rage meter that builds while your character takes damage, allowing better damage when it's maxed or using it to perform a Desperation Attack. K-Groove in Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium uses the Rage meter as well (although in that case you can also build it by performing Just Defends).
  • Soul Series examples:
    • Soul Calibur IV allows players to assign skills to custom created characters, among them are will power and hysterical strength. Both are passive abilities that activate when the player's health dips below a certain point.
      • Will power - requires the player to be in critical status (low health) and causes the character to glow red, when active. It sharply increases the user's stats for the remainder of the round.
      • Hysterical strength - only requires that player's health drop below half and only offers a boost in attack power; noted by a greenish yellow glow when active.
    • In Soul Calibur V and VI, a player that is one round away from losing the match gets one free soul gauge stock in the next round. This only happens once though- they'll have to carry themselves the rest of the way.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Street Fighter IV has the Revenge Meter, which fills the more damage one takes. Once it's filled halfway, an Ultra Move becomes possible and when filled all the way, the Ultra does more damage. Like Super Moves in Street Fighter II, Ultra only lasts one round. Street Fighter IV also has a very subtle mechanic in that characters receive less damage depending on how much life they have left. With less than half their life remaining, they take slightly less damage from each attack. With less than a quarter of their life remaining, they take significantly less damage from each attack.
    • Street Fighter V has the "V-Trigger" gauge, which enables your character's Super Mode and is charged up by taking damage (which ultimately makes it more similar to Killer Instinct's Instinct meter). The game also has the V-Gauge that can be filled up by taking damage. This gauge can be used to perform certain actions such V-Reverals and V-Triggers. Unlike Street Fighter IV's Revenge gauge however, players can also fill it up by using special moves called V-Skills. The game also doesn't allow players to lose from chip damage taken while blocking. The sole exception to this being each character’s Critical Art.
    • Street Fighter X Tekken has Pandora. This allows a player 10 seconds of infinite super meter (and changes the character to black with glowing purple, including the clothes), at the cost of disabling the partner character and losing the match once Pandora wears off.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl:
      • The Pity Smash is given to someone who has been knocked out multiple times without inflicting a knockout. It allows a free use of a powerful Final Smash.
      • From this game onward, Lucario has this as a unique character mechanic. The more damage Lucario has, the more damage its Aura-based attacks will deal, with its power capping when the damage meter hits 170%. Lucario's current standing in a match also affects how powerful its attacks are; at one stock (or one point in Time matches) behind their opponent, its attacks will be 20% more powerful, and on two or more stocks/points behind, its attacks will be 40% more powerful. On the contrary, if it's one stock/point ahead, it'll be at 90% of the usual power, while being two or more stocks/points ahead will leave its attacks with 80% of their usual power. For one more bonus, the size of Lucario's neutral special, Aura Sphere, directly correlates with its current power standing.
    • Super Smash Bros For Nintendo 3 DSA Nd Wii U:
      • There's an additional comeback, called "rage", where the higher a character's damage percentage, the more knockback is added to all of their moves (although damage dealt is unaffected). For Lucario this stacks with its existing comeback power, making an injured Lucario a truly dangerous threat. Even on other characters, this could lead to extremely early KOs(Samus with rage could combo dash attack into up special for a KO at 0%, for example), and also indirectly buffed heavyweights and nerfed lightweights, since the former can nearly always survive long enough to abuse it, and the latter would often be on the receiving end of it. The mechanic was nerfed in the next installment.
      • Cloud and Little Mac both have a mechanic where after taking 100% damage, they can do more damaging special moves. Cloud's Limit Break increases all his special attacks power allowing him to gain super early kills and Little Mac gains an unblockable move that can do a One-Hit Kill. It's important to note that Cloud can charge it up himself though.
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:
      • Joker, after his Rebellion Gauge gets fully charged by taking damage, becomes a complete Lightning Bruiser, having the kill power of Bowser combined with the swiftness of Sheik and similarly to Cloud, gains better specials. However, unlike Cloud's Limit in Smash 4, it only lasts for 20 seconds rather than until you use it.note 
      • Terry Bogard gains the ability to use super special moves using certain inputs once he's above 100% on his damage meter. Power Geyser and Buster Wolf, while tricky to master, are among the nastiest kill moves in the game, and along with the rage mechanic added in Smash 4 it increases his already brutal early kill potential given that he can cancel many of his normal attacks into them. However, these moves will leave Terry wide open if they don't connect, meaning that using them unwisely can lead to Terry losing the stock entirely if he's not careful.
      • Sephiroth can gain his Winged Form when he's significantly damaged. While in this form, he gains an extra midair jump, a speed and damage boost, and his smash attacks have super armor. The amount of damage he needs to take to activate changes based on how many stocks he's ahead or behind by. It disappears when he gets KO'd or he score a KO on someone, although there's a chance he keeps it if he's far behind.
      • Kazuya has Rage, which he enters after taking more than 100% damage and makes his attacks deal 10% increased damage in this state. He automatically uses his Rage Drive in this state when he lands a grab, down special, or Dragon Uppercut. He loses Rage after using his Rage Drive, repeatedly missing those attacks that trigger it, getting hit too many times or gets KO'd.
  • Baroque in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom allows you to deal more damage in a combo—how much more depends on how much red health the player's current character has. As red health increases with damage taken, the more damage the character has taken, the stronger Baroque becomes.
  • Tekken:
    • 6 has "Rage Mode", which activates when a character is low on life and does more damage the lower their life gets.
    • In Tekken Tag Tournament 2, it returns but tweaked so that the losing character's partner is the one who gets "Raged" and the only way to get the buff is to tag them in. Also, it goes away after a certain amount of time and there are moves the opponent can do to end Rage Mode instantly.
    • Tekken 7 changes Rage Mode from a damage buff to Desperation Attack. Once raged, your character will have a single opportunity to perform a powerful move called a "Rage Art" that can do a lot of damage.
  • In TowerFall, players lagging behind on Versus Mode get shields at the start of the round. This mechanic can be lessened or taken off with certain variants.
  • In a few WWE video games, if certain wrestlers are getting whooped enough and have no finishers stored up, the aptly named "Comeback" mechanic allows them to do a quick time event involving a sequence of moves; if successful, a signature move is automatically available.

    Four X 
  • Some of the events in Galactic Civilizations II are designed to help a player who is behind or hinder a player who is ahead.

  • Final Fantasy XIV
    • A few patches into the successful A Realm Reborn rerelease, Square introduced the Echo buff for groups who died against bosses after being engaged for 2 minutes. The buff gave a 10% increase to all stats and would stack up to 5 times. Unlike most examples of the trope, however, this buff could actually end up hurting groups; due to many boss's highly scripted attack patterns, the increased damage would often cause phase changes at inopportune times in the cycle. Thus causing an additional wipe that further complicated matters. Some groups would rather abandon the Duty and return without the buff than deal with the poorly timed phase changes that resulted. Later patches would adjust some bosses to become invincible when transitioning to a different phase in order to prevent phase skipping that would lead to a Total Party Wipe. Another patch also lets players remove the Echo buff if they don't want the additional help.
    • The Frontline PVP mode has mechanics in place to make it so every team still has a chance to come back and win. Getting a KO on an opponent gives your team points, while the KO'd player's team loses points. How many points each value is worth depends on the map, but it's a consistent mechanic across the entire mode. Secondly, the team that's in first place will have each member's Limit Break gauge fill 25 percent slower, while the team that's in last place will have their Limit Break gauges fill 25 percent faster. Thirdly, the Battle High mechanic rewards players for getting KOs and staying alive with buffs to damage and healing. However, every player can see anyone's Battle High rating, and getting KO'd will cut a player's Battle High rating in half, so you can aim at higher-profile targets if you want to. Finally, the Seal Rock and Onsal Hakair maps make higher-value objectives more likely to spawn the more time passes in the match, and the number of simultaneous objectives that spawn will also be reduced. The latter is done to force teams to fight against each other instead of just running out the clock.
  • Guild Wars 2 has the "downed state"; once your character's health reaches zero, you cannot move, your health constantly ticks down, and your skill bar is replaced with set skills determined by your profession. If you kill an enemy in this state, you "rally", but every time you are downed, you gain a point of "downed penalty" that lasts for a minute. Each point reduces your initial downed health bar by 25%; if you get downed four times within a minute, you die instantly on the fourth down.
  • World of Warcraft reintroduced world PvP in Wrath of the Lich King but soon face the issue that on realms with large population disparities, the more populous side would always win. "Tenacity" was a scaling buff introduced by Blizzard to balance this. Unfortunately, sheer numbers could still carry the day with ease. When Tenacity failed, Blizzard implemented a different Comeback Mechanism. Player entry into battles was limited at a one-to-one ratio. The smaller faction would face a group of the same size, evening the battlefield.

  • Battlerite:
    • The center orb grants a small but significant health and energy bonus to the team that lands the last hit on it. If you are the last surviving player on your team, the bonus is doubled.
    • Defeated players drop energy bonuses that can be picked up by teammates. The more energy you had before dying, the bigger the bonus. This can lead to a player using their Ultimate ability, picking up a 100 energy bonus, and immediately using a second Ultimate, which can win a round if both abilities hit.
  • Dota 2:
    • The game, as of patch 6.82, has a mechanic where the team with lower net worth gets more gold and XP for killing enemy heroes, proportional to how far ahead in relative terms the other team is. Additionally, heroes with a large Kill Streak are worth much more gold and experience. This means that even if a team is far behind in terms of items and levels, they can reduce the gap considerably if they manage to get a kill on a high-value target.
    • In the Dota 2 Spin-Off Dota Underlords, losing a round lets you re-roll your hero selection once for free (normally doing so costs 2 gold). Losing several rounds in a row will also earn you extra gold.
  • In Heroes of the Storm, the exp you gain from low-level heroes during early game ganks is minuscule, and a few successful late-game gank can easily make up for a disastrous 15-0 early-mid game stomp. Also, the death timer gets longer the higher your level, and level difference matters; if the level difference gets too much, your enemies will respawn way faster than you and give a pittance of exp when killed. Meanwhile, you become an exp pinata, and every team death will cost your team more than it cost theirs. Add the various optional but extremely powerful secondary objectives, and the Unstable Equilibrium so prevalent in the MOBA genre is averted.
  • League of Legends has a minor example. Players who die without killing enemy champions decrease the amount of gold awarded for killing them, while players who kill without dying are worth increasing amounts with each kill. This doesn't counteract the game's Unstable Equilibrium, but mitigates it to a degree. Later added was more experience for a champion of a lower level killing a champion of a higher level - which helps mitigate that aspect a bit.

    Party Game 
  • Mario Party:
    • If a Bowser Space is landed on, Bowser will normally take Coins or Stars from players. If a player reaches Bowser with no Coins or Stars, however, Bowser will give that player coins instead.
    • Most Mario Party titles present an event when there are 5 turns remaining, where the player in last place is invited to spin a roulette wheel, of which most of the results are in that player's favor.
    • The first few Mario Party games have the Chance Time space, which has the player roll three dice. Two pick a player, and one picks something that will happen. The first die you choose to hit is slow enough that it effectively allows you to pick what it is, the second requires some skill to do that, and the third is effectively random. This could include everything from "give Player A twenty coins" to "give Player A all your Stars."
    • Mario Party 9:
      • When the players reach the Homestretch, Green Toad will give a free Slow Dice Block to the player in last place.
      • Most possible outcomes of landing on a Bowser Space will benefit the player in last, and one outcome is an extremely high-stakes minigamenote . We're talking "whoever wins this wins the board" stakes, so it can cause comebacks, making it a combination of this and Golden Snitch. On top of this, in the Homestretch, Bowser will turn several spaces ahead into Bowser Spaces, making it all the more likely for one of these to happen.
    • Mario Party 10:
      • In Mario Party mode, when Team Mario reaches the Homestretch, the player in last place will be given a free Slow Dice Block, just like in Mario Party 9.
      • In the first two boards of Bowser Party, once Team Mario reaches the Homestretch, Bowser Jr. will appear and allow Bowser to roll a roulette wheel to gain an advantage to ensure that Team Mario will have a bad time in what remains of the game. Some of the effects Bowser can gain include increasing the Dice Blocks in his hand, increasing the number of dangerous Bowser Jr. Spaces, and activating "Big Bad Bowser Mode", which allows Bowser to choose whatever minigame he wants to play when it's minigame time.
    • Mario Party: Star Rush:
      • When only one boss is left in Toad Scramble, the player in last place will be given a chance to pick a card to get a special item.
      • Rosalina's Wondrous Dice Block is similar to a regular Dice Block, except the 1, 2, 3, and 4 faces are replaced with a number that matches the user's current placement. If used by a player in last place, they are guaranteed to roll at least a 4, but it gets weaker as they rise through the ranks.
  • WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$!: In "Survival Fever" of Mega Party Game$!, players with more lives left have to play the level 2 variations of microgames, while those with fewer lives get the easier level 1 forms.

  • Multiplayer games in Lights... Camera... Action! use a Catch-Up feature; each round ends with all players receiving the score of the opponent immediately ahead of them, while the leading player gets an extra 1 million points.
  • In the pinball machine Snow Derby, finishing a lap is normally worth 50 points when the ball drains. On the next-to-last ball, laps are worth 100 points each, and on the last ball, they are worth 200 points each.

  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series:
    • The games that support multiplayer races will usually have a feature that swaps two players' locations in the stage. Sometimes, it's a hidden item, and sometimes, it's a character's ability. Naturally, this is only useful to a player who's fallen behind.
    • Sonic Adventure 2 Battle:
      • In the game's racing multiplayer mode, if a player gets killed he will respawn at the checkpoint with an ability ready to use. This can be problematic if there is a long stretch of no rings after the checkpoint as players may commit suicide specifically to fire a Sonic Wind/Chaos Spear at the opponent. A stalemate can occur if both players repeatedly do it to each other. The only end to this is when the time runs out or one player gives up.

        Keep in mind that a stalemate of this nature is not as easy to pull off as it sounds, as the power-up you get is based on the distance between the two racers. If you're within close distance, you'll usually only get a Speed-Up, medium distance gives you a special attack and long distance gives you a time stopping power. There are not that many levels available that allow for the kind of distance traveling necessary to cause an endless cycle of attacks.

        The comeback mechanic also becomes enhanced by distance in the race modes. If the two are neck and neck, they'll cycle through their specials normally. If a character is far behind, they'll only get Sonic Wind/Chaos Spear and Chaos Control/Time Stop while the person far ahead will only get Speed-Ups and the odd Chaos Spear/Sonic Wind.
      • This also shows up in the treasure hunting mode where your character, upon revival, is given either their Interface Screw special attack or, if they're an emerald behind, their paralyzing move.
      • There are also unlockable alternate outfits for all of the core cast that give them infinite access to one skill every 20 rings instead of cycling between the three.(For example, Shadow gets access to 5-second Chaos Controls and Sonic gains access to Sonic Wind) The character is, however, able to access their other powers after death thanks to the comeback mechanic.
    • In Sonic Rivals and Sonic Rivals 2, any racer who isn't in 1st place gets an increased top speed. There are long empty sections in each stage to allow them to catch up.
    • The head-to-head multiplayer in Sonic Lost World has each stage divided into segments. When one player reaches a checkpoint, however far behind the other player was will be roughly however far ahead that player will be when the next segment begins.

  • In Panel de Pon and all its spinoffs, clearing a garbage block turns it into regular panels (or in the case of larger garbage blocks, the bottom row turns into regular panels while the rest turn into a smaller garbage block). If you can line up the panels underneath before the clear animation finishes, the new panels can fall and create a chain. As a result, matches between top players usually turn into garbage tennis - each player sends a maximum-size garbage block to the other, who clears the block while using it as ammo to create another massive chain that generates another maximum-size garbage block. Repeat until one player can't clear the garbage block within the two-second grace period.
  • Puyo Puyo has a few that appear in certain games. Puyo Puyo~n has Super Attacks, which allow the player to clear Puyos more easily or hinder their opponent; CPU players tend to make use of this mechanic when nearing defeat. Puyo Puyo Fever introduced Fever mode, which is triggered when you fill a meter all the way and gives you preset chains of Puyos that unleash a massive attack on the opponent when set off. Puyo Puyo 7 has a variant on Fever mode called Transformation, where the player's character transforms into a child or adult once the meter is filled; Mini mode (child) is essentially Fever mode but with even larger chains of smaller Puyos, while Mega mode (adult) has you eliminate as many mega Puyos as possible to sustain a chain attack.
  • In Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, each time a player drops a piece, all the Counter Gems (garbage blocks) on their side count down by 1, and turn into regular gems when they hit 0, turning them into fuel for counterattacks. Additionally, clearing gems higher up on the screen generates more Counter Gems sent to the opponent. Thus the definitive strategy is to send one giant attack that KOs your opponent in one hit - but that's easier said than done.
  • One item in Tetris Axis switches your playing field with that of the opponent. This is most often used to transfer what should be an inevitable loss to your opponent.

  • Crash Team Racing (along with sequels such as Crash Nitro Kart) use a similar item curve as the Mario Kart series, especially noticeable since a lot of items work in the exact same manner as those of the latter series. They're not quite as effective due to the game's focus on skill-based boost and track design: if you can't take the shortcuts or do Power Slide Turbos, all the Warp Orbs in the world aren't going to help you.*
  • Disney Speedstorm has this in Jumba's unique skill, as it always targets and deals damage to whichever racer is in the lead at the moment, and it's extremely difficult to dodge.
  • In the multiplayer modes of FAST Racing NEO and its Updated Re-release FAST RMX, the orbs that refill your Boost meter award more to your meter the lower in standing that you are.
  • F-Zero 99:
    • The Skyway helps lagging players catch up by temporarily letting them ride on a much easier track with no barriers that propels the user at a much higher speed than usual and has lots of boost pads scattered about. The Skyway's duration is also more generous depending on how far back you were when you activated it... and a cagey player will notice that the game will let you stay on the Skyway until you're over a safe straightaway, even once the duration has technically run out.
    • Red Bumpers give players in the back a chance to move up the ranks by making it much riskier to stay in the front.
    • Occasionally, a Golden Bumper will appear somewhere in the middle of the pack. Bumping into it will yield a lot of Super Sparks, which can help you get a leg up with a Super Boost.
    • In the last leg of a Grand Prix (but not a Mini Prix), the large starting area is done away with, and all remaining racers (up to 20) start on the track proper in rows. The contenders are lined up in reverse order of point standing; players at the top start at the end while players at the bottom start at the front. This mechanic was also done in the polygonal F-Zero games in single-player, but it marks the first time it's been implemented in a multiplayer game since there are significantly more than four players in a single race now.
  • In Jak X: Combat Racing, the Peacemaker (which kills 1 or 3 players ahead of you, will hit the one in first place unless someone happens to be in the way of the missile) and Super Nova (which destroys EVERYONE in front of you) have a higher chance of appearing when you're at the back or in last place. The latter is especially potent because using it will almost guarantee you get enough Dark Eco to make your weapons even more powerful!
  • All Mario Kart games will bestow more powerful items the further behind a racer is. This was at its most potent in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, where characters have powerful special items. This extends to Battle Mode's Balloon Battle in Mario Kart Wii: When a player runs out of balloons, they are considered knocked out, and that player's team loses 1 point. The fewer balloons a player has, the more likely an Item Box will yield something powerful. If one team has a substantially higher score in any mode of Battle Mode, the game will give the losing team a powerful item, such as the Lightning Bolt or POW Block, which hits all members of the opposing team.
    • Starting with Mario Kart 64, racers in the lower places have a chance of coming across the infamous Spiny Shell (also known as the Blue Shell). When fired, it rockets ahead to the driver in first place and divebombs them, plus any racers that happen to be in the blast radius. While it's not a comeback for the one who used the item, it serves as a way for second place to catch up to their opponent. This can lead to the player making a comeback, or it can be an unlucky break that causes the player to lose at the last second. Mario Kart 8 introduces the Super Horn, an item that is specifically meant to counter the Spiny Shell by firing a powerful soundwave, though you still need to hold onto the horn until one comes close; using it on a Red Shell or getting spun out by Lightning will make you waste the item.
  • In Midnight Club, players can draft behind another racer to receive a free boost with the same properties as nitrous. Obviously this cannot be taken advantage of by the person in first.
  • Sega Superstars:
    • Each character Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing and Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed has an "All-Star Move", which shows up when they're falling behind. All-Star Moves give the character an increased top speed and allows him or her (or in a few cases, them) to attack racers they pass by. This is not available online, howevernote , so it winds up as a kart racer without a strong comeback mechanic.
    • All-Stars Transformed also introduces the Swarm item, which is a densely packed group of giant hornets flying out in front of the lead racer, serving as stationary obstacles for anyone to drive into. It's intended to slow as many drivers down as possible in front of the user of the item, who's immune to them. The comeback mechanic is still not that strong in Transformed, however, because the game has a very shallow item curve: The main difference between a racer in 2nd and a racer in last is that the last place player is more likely to get double or triple items, not stronger ones.
  • In Sonic Forces: Speed Battle, if you're a significant distance behind the leader, the next item you pick up will be your character's special "Speed Boost" item instead of a shield, allowing you to try to close the gap.
  • Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune's handicap feature gives a speed boost to players who are falling behind. It's not powerful enough to allow a stock vehicle to catch up with an 840 HP one on the Wangan Line, but it provides a chance for players to catch up after hitting that NPC truck that was hiding around the corner.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Pokémon:
    • The moves Reversal and Flail do more damage the less HP the user has, and Endeavor reduces the opponent's HP to be the same amount as the user's.
    • Among the abilities introduced in Gen III are Overgrow, Blaze, Torrent, and Swarm, which respectively increases the power of Grass-, Fire-, Water-, and Bug-type moves by 50% when the user is down to 1/3 (or less) of their HP.
    • The move Pain Split adds the HP of the user and the target, averages it, and changes both monsters' HP to that amount. Logically, this means that the less HP the user has than the target, the more effective it becomes - although since some Pokemon have naturally low HP, they don't really have to be losing to take advantage of the move.
    • Kingambit's signature ability, Supreme Overlord, gives it a slight power boost for every fainted ally on its team. The boost can go up to 50% with 5 fainted allies, letting its attacks hit considerably harder than normal if it's the last Pokémon standing, and potentially letting it turn the tide of a losing match.
    • The Ghost-type move Last Respects initially starts at a measly base power of 50, but its base power increases by 50 for every fainted ally on its team, similarly to the above-mentioned Supreme Overlord. A Houndstone or Basculegion using this move alongside speed control tactics like Sticky Web, Choice Scarf or even their weather-related abilities (Sand Rush and Swift Swim particularly) could all but guarantee turning an otherwise lost game into a victory, barring the absence of an opposing Normal-type Pokemon.

  • In the Capital Conquest multiplayer mode of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, the losing team gets the option to use heavy bombers against the winning team in a last-ditch attempt to turn the match around.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends had a large issue of Unstable Equilibrium which was rectified in the final update via a comeback mechanic. Players in cheap vehicles would get more money and points (for themselves and their team) when firing at players in more expensive vehicles. It's possible for the winning team to shoot themselves in the foot by upgrading to more expensive and larger BattleMech too soon in a match, causing the enemy team to get craploads of points whenever they shoot them.

    Sports Game 
  • In Pigskin 621 AD, if one team falls too far behind in the second half, a very aggressive troll would substitute a player on the losing team. One could even get two trolls to appear in the same game.
  • Punch-Out!! on the Wii has two examples:
    • If the player is about to go down from a KO or TKO, mashing buttons 1 and 2 or shaking the Wiimote and Nunchuk can help bring Little Mac back into the action and not lose, coming back with about 1/4 of his energy. However, the mechanic has a great chance of failing if said mechanic is relied on too much in a single round.
    • If Mac takes a hit that will normally knock him out, there's a small chance that he'll force himself to stay up through Heroic Willpower. However, it only works once per fight.
  • In Wind Jammers 2, the Stadium arena has an expanding center red zone to allow players who are falling behind to have an easier time scoring five-point goals. The zone resets to its original (small) size once the player scores.

  • After two cases of Curb Stomp Battles, Fire Emblem Heroes introduces a multiplier for the Voting Gauntlet to help a trailing army catch up. Each time a multiplier is triggered, players in that army are given one hour to make use of it. Originally, it was a static 3x multiplier, but it got adjusted to an increasing multiplier that can reach up to 7.5x in the last hour of a round.
  • In the Nintendo Wars series, damage to units charges CO Power for both sides proportional to the funds needed to repair/replace them (including discounts, though as if the unit was bought that turn), but the attacker only benefits half as much as the defender. Although if one side gets a funding advantage, this makes a comeback less likely, because fighting economically will still give the other side more CO Power. It also one reason Hachi's Super is so overpowered: It lets him deploy units for half price and from every city, not just bases. If the enemy defeat the sudden onslaught of new units, Hachi will be well on the way to repeating the process because the discount only reduces the gauge buildup on the turn its used.
  • In Europa Universalis, larger empires have greater chances of rolling a bad random event or even incurring a sudden civil war, while smaller nations enjoy generally more favorable random events.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Splatoon:
    • Special weapons are charged by covering either neutral or enemy-colored ground in ink of the player's own color. This gives an advantage to a losing team, who can charge up their special weapons more easily since there's more ground for them to cover, especially in Turf War mode, since the objective there is to cover the most area in ink.
    • Some gear abilities exist to give benefits to players or teams in bad situations: "Haunt" marks the location of any opponent that splats its user to all of their teammates, "Tenacity" slowly fills the player's special bar automatically if their team has less active players than the enemy, and the aptly named "Comeback" gives a short boost in stats to its user after respawning.
    • Splat Zones (Splatoon's version of the classic King of the Hill mode) has a penalty mechanic. When a team manages to take the zone(s) out of the opposing team's hands, the opponents receive a penalty timer, with a bigger penalty being given the closer they were to running out their main timer. If they manage to capture back the zone, this penalty time has to drop to zero before their main timer starts counting down again. While this penalty doesn't affect the final score after the match ends, it does make it so the losing team has a bigger chance to turn a match around, even if the enemy was a few seconds away from victory; and it forces the enemy to fully commit to taking the zone(s) back and keeping control.
    • Tower Control involves riding a tower platform along a rail to its destination in the enemy base, and this has its own comeback mechanics. First, if a team takes the tower after it's gone into their territory, the tower moves at an accelerated pace until it enters territory that team has not yet covered. Second, starting in Splatoon 2, both sides have streamlined routes that are lined with checkpoints at which the tower comes to a complete stop, allowing the defenders a chance to siege the tower and retake control.
    • Clam Blitz, a mode introduced in Splatoon 2, requires each team to collect enough clams to create a Power Clam, which must then be tossed into the goal on the opponent's side to break the goal's barrier and score points. After enough time, the barrier will reseal itself, but it will also drop a Power Clam for the other team, allowing them to skip having to collect enough clams and go straight for the goal. Either team can still drop and lose their Power Clams though.
    • During all ranked modes, the team that's behind on the objective will have their active members' special meters slowly refill automatically. (This refilling is suspended when someone is KO'ed and won't refill until they leave the respawn point.) The conditions upon which their special meters refill depends on the mode:
      • Splat Zones: The other team must be closer to reaching their objective and the other team is in control of all Splat Zones on the map.
      • Tower Control: The other team must be closer to reaching their objective, the tower must be moving, and no member of the losing team is on the tower.
      • Rainmaker: The other team must be closer to reaching their objective and the losing team is not in possession of the Rainmaker.
    • If the losing team in any ranked mode is currently in control of the objective when the time runs out, the game goes into Overtime, which finishes when the losing team loses control of the objective, surpasses the winning team, or a hidden overtime timer runs out, encouraging the losing team to keep trying until the very end.

    Non-Videogame Examples 
Anime & Manga
  • The Fictional Board Game designed by the Tabletop Gaming Club in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is designed with this in mind as all of the spaces on the "board" are actually cards that the players draw when they land on them, cutting down the distance that everyone behind them has to travel to reach the end. Notably, this was the only game mechanic that Ishigami didn't have any problem with when providing constructive criticism after play testing.
Game Shows
  • On the 1980-82 series Bullseye, if a Bullseye came up in the contract window during the main game, the contestant in control could answer as many questions as desired until they either missed one or chose to stop. No matter how the scores stood, a Bullseye always represented the potential to win the game on that turn.
  • In Jeopardy!, the contestant with the lowest score at the end of the first round gets the first choice during the Double Jeopardy! round. Since a person who answers correctly gets another turn, this could be (and often is) the chance this contestant gets to start increasing their score and possibly even overtake the others.
  • On the 1979 game show Whew!, the object was to scale a game board correcting malapropisms ("bloopers" in the show's vernacular) without hitting blocks which dock five seconds on the contestant's time. No matter how many blocks are hit or incorrect answers are given, the player can call a "long shot," which takes him/her to the top level with a chance to uncover and correct a blooper to win the round. However, this could only be done on the first five levels; once the player hit the sixth level, he/she was committed there, and must answer the blooper or suffer the block (also, he/she was denied from doing it while serving the 5-second penalty for any block; this meant that if there was less than 5 seconds left on the clock, and a block was hit, the player automatically lost, because the player had to serve the penalty, even if there was less than 5 seconds left).


  • NFL American Football tries to maintain long-term competitive balance by making the order in which teams are allowed to select what college players they want to take on run from the bottom to the top of the year's league table.
  • Team golf events such as the Ryder Cup traditionally schedule their first two or three days of play with two-on-two matches before concluding with one day of one-on-one ("singles") matches. Because the singles session is often the only one in which every player on both teams is required to play a match, the final day typically has more points at stake than any of the prior days, allowing teams the chance to come back and win the competition from being down early in the day (best seen with the 1999 US Ryder Cup team, 2012 European Ryder Cup team, and 2019 European Solheim Cup team).

Tabletop Games

  • Downplayed in 7 Wonders Duel. The Progress Tokens "Architecture" and "Masonry" give you a resource discount on, respectively, your future Wonders and your future civilian buildings. These abilities make the biggest difference if you're behind on resources.
  • Some of the vegetables in Abandon All Artichokes, a game where you want to get rid of your artichokes, have mild catch-up mechanics baked into them:
    • The eggplant makes each player pass two cards to the right. This means that players who are behind have a greater chance of passing someone else two artichokes while getting only one in return.
    • The beet makes you and an opponent swap a random card from your hand. The further you are behind, the more likely you are to give the opponent an artichoke and get a non-artichoke in return. Though you could get unlucky and have the opposite happen. Or you may encounter the special case where both players reveal an artichoke, in which case both get composted.
    • The carrot and broccoli can compost artichokes for you, but require you to actually have, respectively, two or three artichokes in hand to use them. If you're ahead, that might not be the case.
    • The potato reveals the top card of your deck and lets you compost it if it's an artichoke. Of course, this is more likely to happen if you have a bunch of artichokes.note 
    • The leek lets you look at the top card of an opponent's deck and gives you the option to steal it. If they're ahead, you're more likely to get something good.
  • In Kingsburg, the player with the fewest buildings gets to roll an extra die in the spring phase (improving the chance to acquire resources) and receives the Envoy (which lets the player place dice in an already-claimed spot or build two buildings in a phase) before the autumn phase.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the Dark Ascension expansion has cards with a Fateful Hour mechanic. These cards have additional effects which kick in only if you have 5 or less life (usually out of an initial 20) remaining.
  • Some house rules for Monopoly give a certain amount of money to a player who gets bankrupted, allowing them to keep playing. Additional requirements vary between houses. This isn't always a good thing: since the only way to end the game is for one player to completely dominate the others, methods of lessening that domination often just drag out the inevitable.
    • The "Longest Game Ever" version does away with bankruptcy altogether, makes the commonly used "money on Free Parking" house rule official, and throws in a new mechanic. If you land on an opponent's property, you can buy it outright (including any houses/hotels on it) for $10 more than the listed rent. And they can't turn you down.
  • The main way to win a card game of Pokémon is to pick up six of their own Prize cards, one of which is granted by knocking out an opposing Pokémon. Several cards are more effective or can only be used if the opponent has less remaining Prize cards, such as Reversal Energy and Counter Catcher.
  • Power Grid determines turn order based on the number of cities each player owns and, in case of a tie, the most expensive power plant each player owns. These factors usually, though not always, correlate with who is doing the best. However, by being last in these categories, you get the most advantageous position in the turn order:
    • When buying a power plant, you go last, meaning that if you don't win a power plant at auction, you can buy one for its minimum bid value. (Since all the other players will have either won an auction or dropped out of bidding for that turn, you won't have to deal with competing bids.)
    • When buying resources to fuel your power plants, you go first, which is good because each resource is in limited supply and becomes more expensive the fewer that are left.
    • When buying cities, you go first, again good because there are limited places to buy cities and they become either more expensive or completely unavailable once they're occupied.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: The Practical Magic of the Court of Storms lets them reverse wound penalties into bonuses, so a Sworn or Princess of Storms become more powerful the closer they get to death. Similarly, Storm's invocation of Tempesta can be applied without spending a Wisp if the user has suffered enough Bashing damage to take wound penalties or any amount of lethal or aggravated damage.
  • The Quacks Of Quedlinburg: If you're behind at the end of a round, you get to add rat tails to your potion in the next round, which helps give you more money and victory points.