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Deadly Game

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With a battle cry go forth which is "Give the people what they want."
And what the people want could only be the senseless slaughter of the gutter-slime that litters this nation for cash and prizes.
Yes, this is the show where people bet their lives to win something big.
'cause when your life is shit, then you haven't got much to lose on SLAUGHTERAMA!
GWAR, Slaughterama

The Game Show Appearance from Hell. The characters are forced to compete in a dangerous contest where if they lose, they die in various ways. Tends to lend itself better to film than television, since a filmmaker can kill off characters with impunity.

It's common for these stories to take place 20 Minutes into the Future, and under a corrupt government, in order to Handwave the fact that they're basically murdering people for sport. Usually, the game is televised to legions of bloodthirsty people hungry for Bread and Circuses, thus raising the question: Who are the real murderers? The contestants fighting for survival, or the spectators cheering them on? note 

A post-modern take on the Deadly Game is to frame it as Reality TV, à la Survivor, and a subtrope of Immoral Reality Show.

A Sub-Trope of Player Elimination for when elimination is fatal. A type of Public Execution. May contain a Duel to the Death or a Forced Prize Fight. Hunting the Most Dangerous Game is related, but generally lacks the "contest" element, and usually doesn't contain quite so much social commentary. A Blood Sport is a Deadly Game version of a modern spectator sport. Usually has a crew of Condemned Contestants. For an ancient counterpart, see Gladiator Games. For a deadly game that involves luck instead of skill, see Lottery of Doom. Subtrope of Involuntary Battle to the Death. Supertrope of Battle Royale Game.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Audio Plays 
  • Side Two of The Firesign Theatre's Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him album includes a sketch of a game show called "Beat the Reaper", in which the contestant must identify the deadly disease he's been injected with in time to receive the antidote before it kills him.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the Modesty Blaise arc "Those About to Die", elite athletes and combatants (including Modesty and Willie) are kidnapped by an insane millionaire and forced to compete in gladiatorial games for his amusement.

    Fan Works 
  • Cuanta Vida heavily implies that this is why the RED and BLU teams are in "2fort".
  • Despair Island reimagines Total Drama Island as one illegally organized by Chris with the help of a corrupt Canadian government official with connections to the Serbian mafia. This time, all the contestants are competing for the right to remain alive, with everyone voted out being killed in a different manner.
  • In The Lion King Adventures, the Series Four story The Interceptor revolves around this trope. It doubles as a parody of a similarly named game show, too.
  • Total Drama: Pomewin Island is a second Total Drama example, a similar concept to the above though rather than being a reimagining it instead takes place after the Ridonculous Race season and features a cast that mixes contestants from each of the show's prior seasons. All of those competing have little idea about the true nature of the game until they bare witness to the first elimination. What's worse is that in both versions, it's highly implied that should the game go as intended, they won't even have a true "winner"

  • The Citadel of Chaos: The titular citadel houses a Games Room which seems designed to kill or horribly injure anyone foolish enough to partake in their games. You can choose between Knifey-Knifey - a Russian Roulette played with 6 daggers, five spring-loaded ones and a real one - or Ruddlestones, a Grenade Hot Potato where you and a few contenders passes a stone containing an explosion spell that can blow up randomly, which deals severe SKILL and STAMINA damage if it explodes in your hands.

  • GWAR: "Slaughterama," as mentioned in the page quote is GWAR manager/drug dealer Sleazy P Martini's game show - where the prize is an undisclosed sum of money, the answer time is one second and the punishment is death. Its contestants? A hippie, a hair metal musician and a Neo-Nazi. Their prizes? Getting shot in the head, scalped and decapitated.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance has Wonderland from The Suffering Game arc. Run by two elves (actually liches), the place is more or less a gameshow designed to draw as much pain and suffering from the contestants as possible. Which the liches sustain themselves on. Unlike most other examples on this page, there's no winner: participants are lured in by promises of great wealth, then given false hope to keep them playing, so that they continue to suffer for as long as possible.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The titular game The Splinter is one of these.
  • Suerte y Muerte is a Deadly Game television series broadcast out of Aztlan in the Shadowrun Verse. Other Blood Sport programs certainly exist, but S y M is noted for making killing out the other contestants mandatory to win.
    • Another bloody game is Desert Wars, which emerged out of two armies fighting in the nuked remains of Tripoli and soon became a television sensation. Armies, corporate and national and mercenary, take part in the show, but only one of their tournaments has fully lethal rules of engagement.
  • XCRAWL is an extensive supplement for 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons, in which the base game meets Smash TV. The party crawls through dungeons, slaying monsters, collecting loot, and saving non-combatants (like "Princesses" hired to act out the roles) for the ratings. And yes, it's televised. And your DM is perfectly justified giving out a year's supply of car wax as a prize (along with actual stuff you can use-the book advises this). The Deadly part comes in where if you die, not only do you die, but you lose points.
  • Classroom Deathmatch is basically the Serial Numbers Filed Off version of Battle Royale: The Roleplaying Game.

    Theme Parks 
  • Halloween Horror Nights Orlando has the RUN series of houses. The original from 2001 saw Eddie Schmidt, the Icon of HHN that year, build a twisted "game show" in which people were kidnapped and forced to escape a junkyard labyrinth while being hunted by psychos. Its 2006 sequel Run: Hostile Territory was less of an example, being based more on the film Hostel than anything, but the 2015 house RUN: Blood, Sweat and Fears went all-in on it, complete with an '80s retro-apocalypse theme inspired by The Running Man in the form of arenas filled with bright lights and neon, the killers having their own themes to them, and a setting that made reference to "the Corporate States of America" and "the Irradiated Soviet Wasteland".

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa is entirely based around this trope, with each game having a group of high school students trapped in a remote location and being forced into playing a sick game designed by Killer Teddy Bear Monokuma. The only way to escape is to murder one of your classmates and get away with it. After a murder, the students are given an amount of time to investigate, followed by a class trial where they argue over who the "blackened" culprit is and then put it to a vote. If they get it right, the blackened is executed in spectacular fashion and the game continues. If they get it wrong, the blackened "graduates" and goes free, while everyone else is executed instead.
  • Euphoria is about a group of people who find themselves inside a facility, and quickly discovery that they're playing such a game. The sole male of the group is the designated "Unlocker", with everyone else being "Keyholes". He is then tasked with performing extremely unwholesome acts towards any of the Keyholes according to specific guidelines — the Unlocker must successfully do so five times in a row, or else all players will be killed.
  • Exile Election follows a group of twelve people trapped in an amusement park while the outside world is being ravaged by monsters. The group is forced by the park's A.I to hold Exile Elections to vote on who should be exiled outside the park and killed by the monsters. The sister of the protagonist is the very first victim, with nine people overwhelmingly voting for her death, so he decides to use the game to take his revenge.
  • Fatal Twelve has the Divine Selection in which twelve people who died are given a second shot at life by the goddess Parca. The ritual gives the participants twelve weeks to compete in order to undo their deaths. One must eliminate others by gathering information regarding their name, cause of death, and greatest regret in the real world.
  • In Quantum Suicide a group of researchers tasked with finding humanity a new home among the stars are forced to play the spaceship's corrupted A.I system's "Deletion Game", in which it forces them to play a different game against each other each week, with the losing crewmember being executed.
  • In Raging Loop, the Feast is an event that occurs in a remote mountain settlement in Japan whenever a mountain god curses a handful of people to transform into monsters during the night. The villagers must gather ritually each day to try to deduce who among them are the beasts, voting to execute them before they are all killed. It's practically "What if Werewolf (1997) was a visual novel?" However, the protagonist - an outsider to the town - has the advantage of being stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop and able to use his memories of failed outcomes in order to find the route to survival.
  • Your Turn to Die has the Death Game, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: In the Main Game, the group votes on one person who they think should die. It's divided into a 70-minute-long preliminary round, where they debate on and select a group that seems the most suspicious or least cooperative, followed by a 20-minute-long final round where one person of those initially voted for is selected to die. Of course, to make things harder, every participant is also randomly assigned one of four roles:
    • Commoner - A normal player. Has no unique abilities.
    • The Keymaster - If the Keymaster is voted to die, then everyone else will also die with them. This will happen even if there's a tie for first, as the Keymaster role takes priority.
    • The Sage - Knows who the Keymaster is through divination, but can't lie about the results.
    • The Sacrifice - If someone else is voted to die, the Sacrifice will also die with them. However, if the Sacrifice is voted or there's a tie for first (excluding the Keymaster), then they'll be allowed to escape the game with one person of their choosing at the cost of everyone else. They also get two votes during the game itself.
  • This is a staple of the Zero Escape series. In each game there's a Deadly Game with different rules, mechanics, participants and masterminds. Specifically:
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the very first installment, has the Nonary Game. Nine people have to risk their lives to explore a ship so they can find the exit, a door with a number 9 on it. Possible ways to die involve drowning when the time limit for the game is up, being killed by other participants, and the detonators in the bracelets triggering an explosion inside a hapless rulebreaker... in the bombs implanted in the bowels of all the players. Flipped on its head come The Reveal — only two of the nine players actually have bombs, and the game is designed for all players to make it out alive while saving Akane from an actual Deadly Game in the process.
    • The Nonary Game makes a reappearance in Virtue's Last Reward, and is deadlier than before. The participants find the number 9 door right off the bat, but in order to open it they need to rack up 9 bracelet points, which are obtained through a variation of the Prisoner's Dilemma called the AB Game (which stands for "Ally" and "Betray")... And this little game is what can kill off the participants if their points get down to zero, injecting them with a lethal dose of muscle relaxant, suffocating them. Considering how the characters don't really trust each other, it seems like it's impossible for all 9 people to escape... but once again, the game is designed for everyone to make it out alive. Even if only one person escapes through the number 9 door and strands everyone else, their escape means the game is over, and all doors in the building except the number 9 door become unlocked for the convenience of the remaining people... including the door identical to the number 9 door located one floor down. Sure, it can only be opened from the outside, but if the escapee was aware of this and feeling generous enough, they could let everyone else out with them (assuming the game being over also means their bracelets will no longer kill them if they try to leave the facility with less than 9 points).
    • At its deadliest in Zero Time Dilemma's Decision Game, where at least six people must die for anyone to escape. Each player has a password associated with them, which is announced upon their death, and a combination of any six of these passwords will open the exit. And there's no trick to circumvent these deaths this time around either — the game shows how the exit really does only open with six deaths. C-Team attempts to get around this by deliberately killing themselves to learn what their passes are and then shifting to a different timeline in order to put them in, only for the computer to straight-up tell them that passes from other timelines will not work and then sic a Killer Robot on them for trying to be smartasses. However... the characters make it out alive of Dcom by not getting trapped behind the X-Door in the first place. Yes, the only way for everyone to live is for Zero to release them at the very beginning of the videogame. Of course, this group of characters proceed to have their consciousnesses swapped with the versions of them that did get trapped, which puts them right in the middle of the facility as it's about to blow up. So yes, at least six people must die for the characters to escape, even if it means all nine of them throw their own alternate timeline counterparts under the bus to do it.

  • In usr/bin/w00t, Sarah leads one of those in a Dream Sequence, featuring people who are "asshats" to computer techs.
  • Last Res0rt centers around a Reality Show of the same name.
    • Word of God says that players' deaths, while advertised as a selling point, are merely "encouraged" by the rules of the show (which specify that anyone who survives the season will be pardoned of all their crimes, including those committed during the show).
  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything: Once there are 16 A-Rankers, X reveals the next quest: Player Versus Player, and the first to collect the 6 A-Dice set will get any wish. Later it gets upgraded to There Can Be Only One for all Dicers.
  • Domain Tnemrot is set around one of these. The battles are to the death.
  • In Dead Winter, a large group of rich people is apparently behind a game of world-renowned assassins hunting each other for sport, with the assassins and their sponsors getting the bounty when they kill on of the other participants. Apparently not all of the assassins are in the game because they want to be.
  • In Jix, Lauren is abducted by the Amblians (a race similar to Jix's race, the Ambis) for a galactic show called "The Gauntlet" where the contestants are unwilling aliens captured from various planets and hunted down by the hosts. The show was cancelled when Jix came in to rescue her friend.
  • The second season of #Killstagram is about a phantom assassin game. Thirteen people are forced to hide from the phantom assassin or be killed. Then they vote on who they think is the assassin, and that person is also killed.
  • This is how Morph E starts. The losers die. The winners turn into something a little different...
  • This is the main plot vehicle in Hell(p). Every five years Hell's government hosts a big game where multiple teams compete for a chance to return back to life. The story is set during one of the special games where the main prize is a ticket to Heaven instead. This being Hell, the games are as brutal as it gets.
  • In Nodwick, there are the Hench-Games, an annual event run by the Adventurers Guild, which are actually perfectly safe for the contestants. However, the games are played using henchmen as equipment, and it's not so safe for them. (Suffice to say that, while this attracts a lot of spectators, those with heart conditions are not advised to watch the javelin toss.) It includes such events as hench-vaulting, synchronized looting, high seas pillaging, dodge curse, trapped-chest handling, and the 200-meter dash-with-cash-a-thon. (The villains try to win by using a henchman shaped golem, which unfortunately, is not considered cheating by the Guild, who encourage dirty tricks in this reality.)
  • Serix: These are shown to be widely popular forms of entertainment in the future, with most participants being volunteers. An In-Universe commercial asking people to sign up for "The Risol Tournament Death Games" has its roster filled before the commercial even ends. It helps that cloned backup bodies are cheap and common in the setting.
  • In Undead Friend, the main plot centers around a supernatural mobile game called Undead Friend where the characters have to travel to an alternative layer of reality and kill monsters called fiends every week in order to not be erased from existence. If they can manage to win, they get released from the game and the ghost partner gets to come back to life. Nobody has won the game to anyone's knowledge so far though.

    Web Original 
  • Quite a few Original Character Tournaments are based around this sort of game show. The tournaments themselves are actually quite similar to this trope in some respects.
  • The Adventure Zone's Suffering Game arc is entirely one of these. It doesn't end well for anyone involved.
  • The Annoying Orange's "Foodsplosion" is this to everyone who played it, getting a question wrong means you win, and the prize is getting killed in various ways, such as getting shredded with a chainsaw or having a hammer hit you straight in the face.
  • The Life SMP functions this way. Players are dropped into a small Minecraft world with a limited number of lives (3 in its first and third seasons, between 2 and 6 in its second season), indicated by the color of their username, and sometimes their skins (with 4+ lives they're dark green, with 3 lives they're light green, with 2 lives they're yellow and with 1 life they're red). Greens and Yellows can't directly attack one another, and typically form alliances and a rudimentary society, while those on their final lives, dubbed the Reds, become bloodthirsty, with as mission to kill as many people as they can. Inevitably, the game ends with only one winner.
    • The fourth season comes with a change in game mechanism, with Color-Coded for Your Convenience applying to the time limit of life one has left (out of 24 hours) instead, and Yellows are allowed to attack Greens. In spite of the more drastic changes, the overall nature of the series is fundamentally the same.
  • Minilife TV: The episode "Chris and Ian Shamelessly Promote Themselves" provides a subversion with @midflight. The premise is a game show inside an airplane where the player with the least amount of points after each round gets ejected into shark-infested waters. However, it turns out the show is actually filmed inside a soundstage and the losing contestants are shown hanging out backstage.
  • SCP-024 is a mysterious game show which puts its contestants through Death Courses and whose losers are never seen again. There's also SCP-263, a TV set that forces whoever turns it on to play "Cash or Ash", which requires them to answer obscure questions about other SCPs or else spontaneously combust. It will also burn anyone it catches coaching the contestant or otherwise cheating.
    • There is also SCP-2206, which is a series of radio broadcasts from another universe, where the MLB, in addition to being very weird, often has players dying during baseball games.
  • The Survival of the Fittest program in Survival of the Fittest, which is very similar to that of Battle Royale but with slightly different rules. For example, no time limit as long as there's a death every 24 hours, the names of killers are given on the announcements, and there's a different collar design.
  • The podcast The Thrilling Adventure Hour has the Punishment Soccer, a deadly take on soccer and a parody of The Hunger Games in which Pemily Stalwark fought and won.
  • WitchCraft SMP: The final battle to determine who becomes the next Supreme Witch is a fight to the death between all candidates, where the last one standing wins. Everyone is only allowed to bring 20 items into the arena with them, not including wearable items like armour and trinkets, alongside the powers they have learnt and accumulated over the eight-week course of the series. Even the arena setup is reminiscent of a Minecraft Survival Games map, as everyone starts on podiums in a circle around a "cornucopia" of chests, which are filled with supplies which may help the Witches, and the border shrinks the longer the battle goes on. The main difference is that those who lose the battle royale aren't Killed Off for Real, but are teleported back to Spawn when the winner is determined.

    Real Life 
  • The gladiatorial matches of Ancient Rome, of course. Not every fight ended with death, only about one in five (a well-trained gladiator is an expensive investment, so it cost a lot to "give the people what they want"), and some gladiators even made their careers on victories that did not draw any blood. Still, most gladiators did die in the ring eventually, usually after no more than ten matches, and the average life expectancy for a gladiator was 27.
  • The Mesoamerican ballgame, in a sense. While not fundamentally deadly in itself, there's evidence that the game had a lot to do with the selection of human sacrifices in some civilizations. Historians are still debating on who gets killed, the winning team or the losing team.

Alternative Title(s): The Most Dangerous Gameshow, Death Game


Kaiji: Final Game

The "Dream Jump" gives 1 person the chance to win big... and the remaining 9 to end it all for good.

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