A character who genuinely believes Failure Is the Only Option, yet presses on anyway. Sometimes, it's all too tempting for them to turn their back on their dreams, or let themselves plummet over the Despair Event Horizon. Don't think they actually will though. If they ever do give up, you can bet it won't be for long. Often they feel their situation's so hopeless, they've got nothing to lose. After all, if there is nothing in the world but darkness, then all that matters is What You Are in the Dark.
Could be considered a Sister Trope to Knight In Sour Armor. The difference between the Knight In Sour Armor and this trope is that the latter isn't necessarily a snarky Anti-Hero who lives in a Crapsack World; they're more likely to be The Eeyore or The Woobie. They might lack self-esteem, or be going through a rough patch. But in both cases, you can be sure their dogged perseverance will get them through despite their pessimistic outlook. Neither "Shaggy Dog" Story nor Shoot the Shaggy Dog bother them because they were expecting it.
A fair number of them, if they discover that defeat is not the only option, will also discover that Hope Is Scary.
Also compare Cowardly Lion and The Anti-Nihilist. May overlap with Iron Woobie, as they keep going no matter how many times they get hurt or discouraged. If they refuse to let an innocent die even when there's a low chance of success, they are almost certainly a Small Steps Hero. When it's time to motivate the troops, the best they can come up with might be "Try Not to Die". If they do die, may overlap with Doomed Moral Victor. Contrast Doomed Defeatist, who gives up all hope and does not survive in this kind of situation.
- The titular character of Goblin Slayer is incredibly pessimistic about his mission. While he sincerely believes in his goal to exterminate the entire goblin race and his capacity to achieve it, he believes that "nothing has changed" until he's done it, no matter how many goblins that he's slain or how many people he's saved from them. Goblin Slayer also gives up every opportunity presented for him to try to make people outside his inner circle take goblins seriously, thoroughly set in his outlook that everyone else in the world will brush his concerns off until it's too late. This is in spite of a growing amount of contrary evidence that shows people will care, given the opportunity.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion's Shinji Ikari. Despite having abysmal self-confidence and alot of issues, especially with his dad, he is surprisingly determined in doing what he has to do (yet, also like his dad.) Though he (along with virtually every other character) begin breaking in the end as everything goes to hell.
- Miranda Lotto from D.Gray-Man. Gloomy and insecure as she is, she always puts 100% and then some into trying to be helpful.
- Before her rematch against Einhart in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid a mere week after their one-sided first match, Vivio realizes that Einhart will beat her once again but decides to put up a hell of a fight, nonetheless, if only to earn her respect. Corona also had this attitude when she faced Einhart in the Inter-Middle Championship, though Einhart's attitude as she was training for the match made it clear that she had already earned her respect as a teammate.
- Touma from A Certain Magical Index has terminal bad luck and a negative outlook, but will fight until the end for anyone he cares about(which might be someone he befriended minutes ago).
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Akemi Homura seems to be this. She knows that whenever she resets time to prevent Madoka's death, it always results in things getting worse; Madoka either dies again or becomes an increasingly powerful witch. Kyubey even points out that all she's doing is making Madoka into a stronger witch. Yet despite everything, she never stops trying. She also knows there's no hope for Sayaka, who is fated to die in every timeline where she makes a contract, but she still saves her life (for the moment) by retrieving her Soul Gem after it's thrown onto a truck.
- In Hajime no Ippo, in the second match between Ippo and Sendou, Sendou is hit by a full Dempsey Roll by Ippo, seemingly ending the match. But he gets on his feet again. He already knows he has lost, and he still refuses to drop to the ground or go unconcious, just so he can watch the face of the man who defeated him.
- Fujimaru from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, due to being a male Broken Bird who sincerely believes that the heroes can't win—but has too much of a conscience to just let them die when he can help.
- Mazinger Z: Kouji kept fighting even when he thought -or knew- that he couldn't win. He fought Jinray S1 despite of having almost no chances to defeat a flying, ultra-fast Robeast that used hit-and-run tactics. And he deployed Mazinger-Z to fight a squad of Mykene War Beasts even knowing that he'd not win that battle.
- Mumen Rider of One-Punch Man is this; little more than a bike cop, he rides around doing minor good deeds and trying to stop petty criminals, like purse-snatchers and such. Then there's the time he chooses to go up against the Sea King, a Demon-level threat who had already completely demolished several A-rank heroes and a couple of S-rankers. He's fully aware of his weakness and acknowledges it, but is determined to fight to the last anyway even though he knows he won't even slow the beast down. Best exemplified by his speech in the anime version:
Mumen Rider: Nobody expects much from me. They think a C-class hero won't be much help. I know that better than anyone! I know I'm not good enough for B-class... I'm weak, I know that much. No-one has to tell me I have no chance of beating you. I already know that! And yet, I must try."
- Steve Trevor's never been one to back down or give up but he's been finding himself in situations and given order he doesn't think he can survive since the 1940s. Luckily he underestimates his own skill frequently and his girlfriend/wife/best friend is Wonder Woman and she's pretty good at rescuing him when he needs it.
- Star Wars: Purge: the only time Makisshaalas speaks, he has this to say of a proposal to kill the Emperor and Darth Vader.
Can it be done? I dont know. Should it be tried? Yes!
- Brit from New Reality can't see herself past the Tower of Salvation event but thinks nothing worse can happens, except death. It eventually backfires when she realizes she actually doesn't want to die, so much, that she practically pukes her guts out and make the group worries of her on the last night before said event.
- This is how Adam Taurus is in The Games We Play. He considers even having made it to 10 to be a miracle and believes every moment past that has been him living on borrowed time. That doesn't mean he's about to lay down and let his enemies have their way with him.
- Rei in Thousand Shinji. One of the core tenets of her Nurglette faith is: "Death is inevitable, but you must resist it and endure as long as possible anyway".
- In The Silmarillion fanfic A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script:
- Neither Beren nor Luthien believed that retrieving a Silmaril from Morgoth was possible. They were sure that they'd die trying it.
No. We thought that was it, that we were never getting out alive. We had no illusions that what we were trying to do was rational or possible, whatever Huan said to cheer us up.
- Beren displayed this mindset when they met gigantic wolf Carcharoth:
And Beren says, "What the hell's that?! We're doomed—" And then he gives himself a little shake and says, in this weird almost-cheerful way, "But, hey, — we knew that already."
- Neither Beren nor Luthien believed that retrieving a Silmaril from Morgoth was possible. They were sure that they'd die trying it.
- Children of an Elder God: When Gendo tells his son that he is to pilot Unit-01, Shinji thinks that he can't do it... but he decides to try anyway.
- Shinji in Evangelion 303. When Asuka ran away, Shinji thought that he'd never find her; or he'd find her but she wouldn't listen to him. Nonetheless, he looked for her, he found her, and he talked her into getting back together.
- Ghosts of Evangelion: Shinji doesn't believe he can be a decent father, but he promised Asuka he'd make his best.
- In The Second Try, Shinji and Asuka sometimes lose hope and think that they have no chance to change the future. Nonetheless, they keep trying.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Shinji doesn't really believe that he is capable of helping Asuka, but he decides that he'll try to look after her anyway.
- Last Child of Krypton: When Shinji rallies his friends to move in on NERV, Kaji firmly believes that operation is doomed to failure. He joins them anyway.
- In Once More with Feeling, Shinji often wonders if he has some chance to outthink people who have spent a long time plotting the extinction of mankind. Hes determined to try to stop them, anyway.
- Doing It Right This Time: About the only thing motivating Shinji to keep trying to make things better this time around is the certain knowledge that there's a strictly limited number of ways he could do worse this time. In fact he's rather resistant to any attempts to make him feel better on the grounds that Hope Is Scary.
- In All That Glitters, Anna puts a lot of effort into a plan which banks on Hans saving her life after she willingly ingests poison. Yet it's implied she doesn't actually expect this to work, blurting during an argument: "At least when I poison myself, I'll finally be taking myself out of a world with you in it!"
- All-Might praises Momo for this attitude in The Emerald Phoenix, declaring that like all heroes, she faced a situation where she seemingly had no hope of winning but pressed on anyway. While she lost, Momo still came within a hairsbreadth of victory.
- In Frozen II Princess Anna has been cast away by her sister Elsa so she cannot follow Elsa to a mystical island. Shortly after this, Olaf, who is kept alive only by Elsa's magic, disintegrates to snow and thus signifies Elsa's death as Elsa sends one final ice sculpture message to Anna revealing who the true villain of the movie is, and Anna recognizes what she must do now in her sister's stead. That said, the normally optimistic Anna is drowning in despair as she sings "The Next Right Thing":
You are lost
Hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing
- In 16 Blocks Jack Mosely fully expects to be killed along the way but he is determined to get the witness to the courthouse to testify. Even if he succeeds the witness's testimony will incriminate Jack as a Dirty Cop and send him to jail. His only real chance to walk away from the whole mess is to let the witness be killed but that is the one thing Jack is determined will not happen.
- Rocky has the title character realizing that he will fail the fight against Apollo, but decides that he will go the distance so he would not be seen as a bum. Also helps that he's just a flat out Determinator.
- In Avengers: Infinity War, Loki swears fealty to Thanos whom he failed and left years ago and tried to lure into a trap moments ago, gets close and then attacks the towering purple giant who has two Infinity Stones with an ordinary dagger. He is frightened and fully aware that his chances are next to none. But he does it anyway because he has nothing left to lose. Thanos doesn't fall for his pretend devotion, easily thwarts his attack and kills him.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, King Theoden has this exchange:
Gamling: Too few have come. We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor.
Theoden: No, we cannot. But we will meet them in battle, nonetheless.
- Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is convinced that Voldemort is going to win and advises the heroes to give up and flee the country. Naturally, he still shows up to fight when push comes to shove.
- Strongly reflecting something written years earlier by C. S. Lewis — one of the lines of the eponymous devil from The Screwtape Letters:
[Hell's] cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
- Albert Mc Phee, a skeptic who fights for the good guys (Christians) in That Hideous Strength.
- Crowley in Good Omens. At one point, when Aziraphale has gone missing, the Apocalypse is beginning, and it looks as if there's no hope, Crowley thinks he might as well drink himself into a stupor while he waits for the world to end. Instead, he drives at top speed to Tadfield to avert the Apocalypse, holding his burning car together through sheer force of will.
- Most of the main characters (especially Frodo) in the later parts of The Lord of the Rings. Several people get speeches to the effect of "We're pretty much finished at this point, but we're going to carry on because what else can we do?"
- Usually he's anything but this trope, but in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, the titular character experiences a severe And I Must Scream, after which he is deeply shaken and nihilistic. It comes up several times that he no longer sees the point; even if his side wins the book's conflict, ultimately it won't even matter. And yet he keeps going and continues to be compassionate, because someone has to.
- In Peter Pays Tribute, Peter is convinced that he will never finish the tasks his god demands of him, but he refuses to flee. This is partly out of cowardice, but partly out of a sense of duty, even if his task is impossible.
- The narrator of William Ernest Henley's "Invictus."
- Atticus Finch knows full well that the racist jury will never acquit Tom Robinson, a black man, even if all evidence points to his innocence. He gives his all in defending him anyway, because no one else will, and it's the right thing to do.
- The Aiel of The Wheel of Time series have this trope ingrained in their culture due to prophecy about "He Who Comes with the Dawn," a Destructive Savior foretold to unite and lead the Aiel people, but also destroy them.
- In Those That Wake, Mike is this. He thinks the world sucks, he's worthless, and he probably can't do anything to change it, but he'll fight anyway.
- Hero of Ages: Elend gives a speech to his men, asking them to fight even though they will die if they do. He says that every second they're able to keep going is a second longer the people they're protecting will stay alive. Of course, it turns out that they only survive as long as they do because they're all burning atium. And because Atium is actually Ruin's body, their deaths mean that Ruin can't get his full power, making it possible for the Hero of Ages to win.
- Just about everyone in The Overstory, but especially Patricia Westerford, who becomes convinced that humanity won't be able to save the trees, but devotes herself to trying anyways. Despite her Not Good with People tendencies, she deeply admires humanity because of this trope.
- Angel: Though there is the occasional reprieve, at heart, Angel suspects that he will never stop paying for his crimes. He and Spike share a grumpy exchange about how they're both going to Hell, and thus will never be rid of each other.
- Spike in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Gift".
Giles: We few, we happy few...
Spike: ...We band of buggered!
- Ryotaro Nogami, the protagonist of Kamen Rider Den-O, willingly admits that he's not very strong or smart, and that he has insanely bad luck. That doesn't stop him from doing his job and protecting the timestream, which results in his eventually Taking a Level in Badass.
- In Lexx, a number of the Brunnen-G decide to stand and fight against His Divine Shadow, fully aware that they have no chance of success. An in-show musical touches on this a bit more, and even inspires the protagonists to take on a similar attitude.
It matters not if the cause is lost and we cannot stop the tide. We will fight to the end, and then fight again. It will be a good way to die.
- Married... with Children: Al Bundy. Best exemplified by his "World of Cardboard" Speech.
Al: So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn't respect me? A whole city that curses the day I was born? Well that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you somethin'. Every morning when I wake up, I know it's not going to get any better until I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered-down Tang and still-frozen Pop-Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas, and six more payments to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would. I'll never know the touch of a beautiful woman. And I'll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head! But I'm not a loser. Because despite it all, me and every other guy who will never be what he wanted to be are still out there, being what we don't want to be 40 hours a week for life. And the fact that I haven't put a gun in my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!
- Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor has this attitude in his more pessimistic moments.
- The Beatles' folk hero Rocky Raccoon, after he is shot by Dan, the guy who stole Lil, the girl of his fancy"
[The doctor] said "Rocky, you've met your match,"
Rocky said "Doc, it's only a scratch,
And I'll better, I'll better, Doc, just as soon as I am able."
- "Until The End" by Breaking Benjamin:
I've lost my way, but I will go on until the end
- "The Tragedy Of The Commons" by Delain.
I raise my glass
To another investment
Into the future of wasteland
Well here's to pulling the waistband
But I know at least I thought, at least I fight
At least I know at least I tried
I know I thought, I know Ill fight
Tonight I kiss the world goodbye
- "The Curse" by Disturbed states, "No hope for the hopeless" and "Couldn't help even if you tried," but the narrator "held on too long just to let it go now" and will never surrender.
- The narrator of "Whisper" by Evanescence is frightened and desperate, knows that the situation will only get worse, and keeps going.
- "Survive" by Lacuna Coil.
I'll survive in this nothing, leading nowhere
I'll survive feeling strong for how much longer?
- "Ovtnvmbered" by Rave The Reqviem.
I stand alone, bitten, bruised, and outnumbered
I gave them hell but you can't win a war against your mind
It's a matter of time before the end of this arrives
I will die with a victorious smile
You never took my pride
- A few Within Temptation songs have this feel.
- "Stand My Ground" is about facing something that the narrator knows she can hardly overcome or survive.
- "Shot In The Dark":
And I'm wondering why I still fight in this life
'Cause I've lost all my faith in this damn bitter strife
- "Endless War" is about someone who's haunted by their Dark and Troubled Past, breaks further and further, and keeps on fighting a Hopeless War.
- Prominent concept in Norse Mythology:
Kine dies, kin dies, you yourself will die.
One thing I know that never dies, the story of dead men's deeds.
- Christianity traditionally had this as a center of struggle, especially Calvinism and Roman Catholicism before Vatican II. Enough that even the doubt of God's salvation was a serious question, the most devout Christians believed even if you're guaranteed a place in hell you should still live life by Christian virtues. Because God already made the greatest sacrifice by giving his son up for our sins, we have no right to complain otherwise and it's our duty as the baptized to attempt to live by God's rules no matter how unguaranteed salvation is.
- Jim Cornette was a Sour Supporter in Global Force Wrestling, both the original incarnation and the Anthem owned version, publicly stating Jeff Jarrett was crazy for starting another pro wrestling promotion but that he was going to pull for it anyway. In fact, this is has been Cornette's attitude ever since SMW failed to get a television deal, believing there simply weren't enough people in the know to save pro wrestling, which was destined to fall to the level roller derby had, and that he himself wasn't the kind of booker who would be necessary to turn it around. Nonetheless, he won't give up the fight, which is what lead him to TNA and Ring of Honor in the first place, as well as publicly endorsing Lucha Libre USA, saying it was much better than WCW but wouldn't be as successful due to a lack of network penetration.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Craftworld Eldar take this to the point where it's their racial hat, that and being Magnificent Bastards. Their species is staring extinction right in the face, and yet they continue to fight tooth and nail in a galaxy where they are hopelessly outnumbered by dogmatic and xenophobic humans, murderously psychotic Orks and planet-eating Tyranids, while also being hunted relentlessly by a God of Evil who is out for their souls.
- Speaking of humans. Beset on all sides by xenos and galactic horrors while also being attacked from within by traitors and heretics, their God-Emperor is tied to a millennia-old life support machine that is in serious need of a good fix, all the technology and grandeur of the by-gone golden age is slowly being forgotten to be replaced by superstition, Fantastic Racism and blind zeal, the Imperium of Man loses worlds everyday despite its overwhelming might. Yet we Puny Earthlings don't cry or despair, we stoically take these losses and try to hold the line as best we can, or failing that, drag our enemies down with us. For the Emperor!
- Demon: The Descent: As the Guardian Inquisitor Mr Bliss says in Night Horrors: Enemy Action, directly hurting the God-Machine is impossible; all one can do is defeat or kill its underlings. Just lying down and letting it have its way, however, is out of the question.
- Max Payne goes through the entire first game knowing perfectly well that there are only two outcomes for him: either being killed during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge or being put away for life upon completing it. In fact, after he goes free thanks to The Man pulling a few strings, he considers himself to be a Karma Houdini.
- Mass Effect 3:
- Javik in believes that Shepard's cycle is doomed for failure. However giving up is not an option for him, especially after his race and civilization sacrificed themselves just to get him to this point.
- Also Commander Shepard, by the end of the series. Case in point is his/her reaction when the Reapers first invade and s/he's asked how to stop them.
- Even Liara seems to adopt this philosophy over time. She even discusses the fact that as an asari, she could actually survive to see the cycle complete itself.
- In Hakuouki, Hijikata is fully aware that the balance of power is shifting away from the shogunate and that the Shinsengumi are on the losing end of things, even before the Boshin War has officially kicked off. Nevertheless, he gives it every possible effort, sticking with the fighting from Kyoto all the way to Hokkaido and the war's bitter end even when all of his comrades have died or gone their separate ways.
- The Ancestor in Darkest Dungeon flip flops on how much faith he has in you depending on how well you do during a battle, but he has a small hopeful streak as he assures you that despite the hardships, the monsters can be felled. They can be beaten.
- The Vendrian Guard in Tyranny. Serving as the game's Starter Antagonists to the Villain Protagonist Fatebinder, they have pretty much accepted the best they can hope for is an honorable death in battle, but fight fiercely even so. Even if they're incredibly fortunate and the Fatebinder joins them, it takes until the third and final act for them to seriously consider the possibility that they can win, and only because they suddenly have the power of Edicts on their side.
- Near the end of Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm, Kerrigan outright states it's functionally impossible to stop Amon. She'll try anyway because "the only other option is to lay down and die."
- The Wage Slave Race known as the Solaris are this in Warframe. They realize that they, and often their families, are damned to a lifetime of hard labor and unending debts to the greedy and amoral Corpus. In spite of this, they refuse to take it lying down and continue to press on, both to avoid the dreaded brain-shelving punishment and to provide a cover for Solaris United operations.
- Soldiers with the Hard Luck personality in XCOM 2. It's clear they don't really believe they can liberate the Vichy Earth. They still fight as hard as any other soldier.
"One down, thousands to go."
- Undertale: Sans is a Fourth-Wall Observer, allowing him to understand that the Player Character is being driven by an entity on a completely different level (the player), which he refers to simply as "the Anomaly". Sans is fully aware that thanks to the power of Determination, the Anomaly has total control of the timeline, resetting, restarting and destroying timelines at will (through the Save/Reset/Erase game functions), which renders him a little hopeless with the knowledge that everyone's life is ultimately just a plaything for an entity on a level of existence he cannot even conceive. However, when you, the Anomaly, finally go too far and initiate a No Mercy run, Sans will still actively stand up against you to prevent The End of the World as We Know It. Sans knows that no matter how many times he kills your Player Character, he ultimately cannot directly do anything against you - but maybe, just maybe, if he tries hard enough, he might make you Rage Quit.
- Fate/stay night: Shirou knows that he doesn't stand a chance in battle against really any of the servants or masters in the war (except Shinji) yet he still fights them with Incompletely Trained trace magic. Rin points out how unhealthy his obsession with saving others is. Finally, his fight against Archer in Unlimited Blade Works is a back and forth of Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids! and Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!; Archer doesn't just believe that Shirou's future will be bleak, he knows it as an absolute fact because it is his past.
- Rika in Higurashi: When They Cry has been trying for a long, long time, but she's been killed so many times that she's become a cynical fatalist. She keeps trying though, and eventually gets it right.
- Himei from Sailor Nothing. She's an utterly Broken Bird who knows that As Long as There is Evil, there'll be Yamiko. This doesn't stop her fighting as many of them as she can.
- Worm: Cauldron fully expect to fail in their mission to save humanity from Scion. They just don't want to stand there at the end wondering if they could have done something to stop it.
- One of the few good qualities The Nostalgia Critic has is that despite all the hurt he goes through, he's strong-willed and keeps on going.
- Ed Wuncler I from The Boondocks (in the episode "The Red Ball"), during the kickball game to determine the fate of Woodcrest:
Ed Wuncler: We're Americans! We don't quit just because we're wrong. We just keep doing the wrong thing until it turns out right!''
- Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz is well aware that Perry is a Comically Invincible Hero and therefore that Failure Is the Only Option for his attempts to take over the ENTIRE! TRI-STATE AREA!, but he still keeps attempting it anyway.