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Diabolus ex Machina

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"This is not the convenient plot twist that saves our heroes. This is the convenient plot twist that makes them even more screwed."
Ryan MC, Two Evil Scientists

Diabolus ex Machina (Devil from the Machine) is the Evil Counterpart of Deus ex Machina: the introduction of an unexpected new event, character, ability, or object designed to ensure that things suddenly get much worse for the protagonists, much better for the villains, or both. This could also be called Acute Dramatic Necessity Disorder.

Observers of this trope should note three things:

  1. Diabolus ex Machina is often brought in simply because if the villain were to lose, the story would be over. Like the Deus ex Machina, it only applies if it comes out of left field.
  2. Like the Deus ex Machina, a Diabolus ex Machina does not necessarily occur at the end. Though it often overlaps with Ending Tropes, it should not be confused for one.
  3. The Diabolus ex Machina, while a very common Pet-Peeve Trope when used for a Downer Ending, can be pulled off — see the entire "Rule of X" series of tropes.

If a movie ends with a "Take a Moment to Catch Your Death" for the last surviving character, it may be this. Also see Not Quite Saved Enough. Compare Diabolus ex Nihilo, Ass Pull, and Cruel Twist Ending, as well as Life Will Kill You. Often the cause of a Sudden Downer Ending. Likely to be employed by writers who believe that True Art Is Angsty.

Please note that the examples below will contain lots of ending spoilers, as many tend to be on the tail-end of stories. But we'll try to keep you from getting too spoiled.



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    Comic Books 
  • Blue Is the Warmest Color: Just as it seems that Emma and Clémentine are going to be happy together, it turns out that Clémentine has been dying of a heart disease all along without realizing it. The drugs that she took made her heart even worse.
  • The Smurfs story "The Hungry Smurfs" (and its Animated Adaptation counterpart "Haunted Smurfs") has one early on in the story, when the Smurf Village storehouse catches fire without any in-story explanation, immediately setting up the situation where the Smurfs are without food.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • In the issue before the crossover with Mega Man, Sonic and his friends have found and retrieved Mecha Sally and Silver has finally understood the whole "Freedom Fighter traitor" deal was about... then Eggman hits everyone with the Genesis Wave and we're left at a cliffhanger which is aborted the moment the crossover ends.
    • The arc before the crossover was a series of these for Ixis Naugus: his bid for the throne happened on the exact same day that both Eggman and the Battle Bird Armada attacked for unrelated reasons. And even though some of his later schemes had failed and the fear and paranoia that allowed him to make his bid had died down, Naugus got another chance by possessing his apprentice. Of course, the crossover took care of all that.
  • The Transformers (Marvel): The fourth issue ends with one, on account of sales having been enough to keep the series going. So the Autobots are triumphant, the Decepticons having been disabled due to the action of one of their human friends, and everything looks good. Optimus is making a speech, and then BAM! Shockwave arrives and takes out what few Autobots were still standing with one shot.
  • Uncanny X-Force reveals that the Age of Apocalypse reality had been positively slammed with this, and off-panel no less, since we last saw it. The eponymous dictator was dead and everyone seemed to be starting to rebuild their lives... and then the Celestials showed up, judging that Earth must be destroyed. Wolverine cuts a deal with the Celestials: he will function as their agent on Earth if they spare the planet. The Celestials accept and transform Wolverine with their technology. Now, who was the last guy they did this to? Oh, right, Apocalypse himself. Needless to say, it doesn't end well: pogroms against baseline humans are initiated, Rogue and Magneto's preteen son is eaten by a villain, and by the end of the arc that reveals all this, only two of the reality's X-Men are left alive.
  • A very confusing one in Vampirella: "Vampis Feary Tales - Metifa" shows a Deus ex Machina as this trope. Metifa, Satan's woman, just wants to show off to an old man by playing with fire. The old man is very unimpressed, demasks as God and smites her.
  • It's also a favorite of The Walking Dead. Was it really necessary for Rick to lose his hand, his wife, and his newborn daughter?
  • Occurs in a number of What If? issues from Marvel. One occurrence dealt with the story arc where Captain America became The Captain when the US Government had replaced him with John Walker. It looks like Cap's won in the what-if and everything's going to be great with him still Captain America when suddenly Red Skull orders his sleeper agent to shoot Captain America in the back of the head in the middle of the news conference announcing the positive resolution of things. Cap's promptly killed, Walker in taking his place ends up going on a bloody rampage, the identity of Captain America is retired and Red Skull sits back sipping his wine reveling over his victory.
  • Messiah Complex. The X-Men have finally defeated all of their enemies and Scott has given the mutant baby to Cable to take into the future. Everything seems great. Until Bishop, who's been trying to kill the baby to prevent his horrible future, shoots at the baby and Cable. And Cable is already disappearing from that point in time, leaving the shot to go through and hit Professor X in the head. It really sucks to be a mutant. Granted he got better since this is a comic book and Professor X missing at the end was a hint.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Funky Winkerbean, Wally (nephewnote  of the title character) has just returned from a trip to Iraq, with his new bride and newly adopted orphaned waif in tow. The future looks bright for the young Winkerbeans... until Wally gets a letter from the Army telling him that he was technically A.W.O.L., because his discharge was issued one day too early. As a result, Wally is ordered back to active duty to serve a full year's tour of duty. The readership was pretty sure that discharges don't work like that (even the ones incorrectly filed) and could've fought the order if he wanted (and almost certainly won). But he fought the war instead. As an extra kick in the metaphorical nads, Becky finds out she's pregnant just in time for Wally to get shipped off. An extra EXTRA kick was administered when the second Time Skip came about and Wally was nowhere to be found. Turns out that for the entire second Time Skip, Wally was held captive by insurgents.

    Ironically, the author's complete ignorance on military discharges was such that he overlooked an entirely legal way to suddenly recall Wally to service. All initial enlistment contracts are for eight years of service obligation, not four. The typical arrangement is only four years of active duty and then four more years of "Individual Ready Reserve" status, the practical upshot being that short of medical disability, Bad Conduct Discharge, etc., you can be yanked back in entirely at their discretion up until eight years have passed since your initial enlistment. The recruiter is required to make darn sure you understand this before you sign.
  • Peanuts:
    • If you're going into the funny pages, Charlie Brown learned that the demon of heartbreaking sports losses can attack after the end of the game, when he has a rare win stripped from him over a "gambling scandal" (Rerun betting Snoopy a nickel that they would win).
    • Also, the fire that destroyed Snoopy's doghouse in 1966 seemed to come out of nowhere.
  • Curtis: *GULP!* It's Derrick and "Onion"!

    Fan Works 
  • The cheesy yet fairly popular Half-Life fanfic series, Half-Life: Full Life Consequences, uses this as a Sequel Hook: The first installment ends with "the next boss" coming out of nowhere and stepping on Gordon Freeman, setting up for a sequel that centers around John Freeman hunting down the next boss. Adding to the bizarreness, our heroes had just defeated the "Final Boss", which by all rights should preclude any more bosses showing up.
    • And the second installment, after the defeat of the evil boss, ends with the dead Gordon Freeman becoming a zombie goast.
    • This is followed up with a glorious Deus ex Machina in the third chapter, when even further into the future, John Freeman descends from the heavens to assist his son in defeating the Combines and sending them back to science and outer space.
  • Star Trek: Voyager Virtual Season 8 uses one of these after the crew is almost home, getting them lost again in order to fix a few plot holes as well as to set up a more satisfying climactic battle in Virtual Season 9.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Dark Fic series Immortality Syndrome has several of these, but the biggest comes in Immortality Relapse at the climax, when Boomer Face Heel Turns and survives impalement long enough to trigger the death of the world.
  • There's a Crossover fanfiction for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Chris-Chan. One of the chapters introduces a device actually called the "Diabolus ex-Machina," which serves its purpose of throwing the direction of the conflict in favor of the villains. If that isn't enough Lampshade Hanging, the chapter it's introduced is called "Diabolus ex Machina? Never Heard Of It!"
  • In the Daria fanfic Triumph of the Retart, Daria and her new boyfriend, Author Avatar David MacAllister, are finally settling down after surviving David's run for Student Government President, during which he was the target of beatings and an assassination attempt. Just as it seems that they've earned their happy ending, David is killed by a suicide bomber.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos:
    • Episode 75. Two fleets - a Demon fleet and a Metarex fleet led by the Blue Typhoon - are facing off. Maledict and the heroes are about to have their final climactic showdown. And then Dark Tails suddenly appears, steals all the Chaos Emeralds, and uses them to fully manifest himself in the physical universe, beginning the real final battle.
    • The ending is one of these; Dark Tails' defeat allows the Forerunners to escape - and its implied that they quickly devastate the entire universe.
  • After waking up in a Britannian hospital in Pendragon in Nil Desperandum, Luluka manages to escape quickly and cleanly without being spotted by anyone. Then at the first intersection she comes to, her getaway car is struck by a drunk driver. Schneizel even notes that if not for that, they likely would have never found her again.
  • In the Neptunia fanfic Best Friends Forever, near the end a three-way fight between Neptune, K-sha and Noire is dying down, and although both Neptune and Noire are seriously wounded and Noire additionally exhausted from using NEXT form, Compa and IF have arrived and are patching up Neptune, and Noire is about to bring to plot to its resolution by confessing her love for Neptune. However, it turns out the reason why Compa and IF are there is because Uzume, Big Neptune and MAGES. are about to dimension warp over not only an Arfoire from a dimension she rules over, but also her top enforcers CFW Magic and Dark Purple.
  • Forged Destiny: In Book 6: Chapter 8, the Hunters have set up a reasonably well thought out trap to ensnare Roman, Neo, and Watts, all of whom are exhausted from their trek through the desert and have no way of even accessing the first temple. Even if they did have a way to enter the temple, they would have to outrun the Hunters close behind them while fighting through hordes of Grimm to reach the main complex. Even if they did reach the main complex, they still don't have any of the human sacrifices necessary to summon Salem. Through unexplained means, the villainous group both gains access to the temple without having to perform a blood offering, outruns the heroes while fighting Grimm, and have a large amount of sacrifices delivered to them presumably through a portal that is briefly seen when it was previously stated that portals shouldn't be able to access the temple.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Land Before Time: At the start of V: The Mysterious Island, a massive horde of locusts suddenly appears in the Great Valley and devours all the plants, thus kicking off the plot since the Dinosaurs are now forced to abandon their home and seek refuge elsewhere. These locusts come without any foreshadowing, and once they have ravaged the valley they simply disappear, never to be seen or mentioned again.
  • In The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, because Burgerbeard is able to rewrite reality to his will, he obtains the secret formula, empties the Patty Vault, and turns Bikini Bottom into a dystopia. He later strands the heroes on Pelican Island with the same method.

  • Depeche Mode's song "Blasphemous Rumors" is about a girl who tried to commit suicide at age sixteen. She fails, and learns to love life again. Then she dies in an accident.
  • Countless country songs take advantage of this, often to a narmy extent. In fact, it's a common joke in the American south that if you play country music backwards, the singer's wife will return to him, bearing his dog and his truck intact.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Michael Cole winning at WrestleMania XXVII. He was a non wrestling non athlete going against one of the all time greats with another all time great backing that one up, but "won" because the anonymous general manager decided to reverse the decision on the grounds Jerry Lawler had help, even though that "help" was just evening the playing field since Cole tried to get Jack Swagger to help him.
  • MVP's Beat Down Clan was a logical place to go, seeing as he had been a megalomaniac ever since his Face–Heel Turn in TNA. Kenny King had been with him from the start, even Bobby Lashley not being in on it was okay because he was at least implied to be more honorable than the other two. What knocked them into this trope was the entry of Samoa Joe and Low Ki into the group. Joe in particular had been feuding with MVP almost since the start of his turn and him maybe putting aside his differences with Lashley might have made sense but King had cheated during Joe and Bobby's last match so him taking King and MVP's side was even more baffling.
  • Las Sicarias being infiltrated, beaten down and cheated out of a match by their sworn enemies C4 was largely the fault of their new recruits Mercedes Martinez and Thea Trinidad. Losing all their contenders to all SHINE title belts in the process though was the fault of the referee seeing Martinez choking out Allysin Kay during a three way title match, LuFisto arriving too late to stop her and giving LuFisto the winning pin fall anyway on a one count. It also wasn't the fault of Martinez that after SHINE officials all but admitted they had messed up they put Martinez in another match with Kay, who she basically already beat, rather than LuFisto who got credit for it. But the heels had apparently gone long enough without the clear advantage.
  • Finn Bálor turning heel in WWE NXT would've been shocking enough. That it had to happen at the expense of Johnny Gargano (who up until that point never had beef with Finn) in the middle of a Hope Spot while he and Tommaso Ciampa were staring down The Undisputed Era was rubbing salt in the wound.

    Tabletop Games 
  • To some BattleTech fans, Diabolus is behind the Jihad storyline. Let's see, the Clan invasion is finally called off, the Star League tentatively reestablished, and while there are still loose ends left over (like the threat of the Wolf Khan to come invading anyway once the original truce is up, or the aftermath of a nasty civil war) things finally seem to be ready to calm down a bit...but hey, we can't have that, right? This game isn't called PeaceTech! So the Star League declares itself a sham and disbands again for no good reason just in time to cause the suddenly uber-powerful pseudo-religious lunatics known as the Word of Blake to go Ax-Crazy and start pulling cyborg super soldiers, nuclear weapons, and other stuff out of their nether regions in an all-out war against everybody...
  • The ending to the Deadlands: Hell on Earth setting involved the PCs getting a chance to kill the Big Bads of the game. After going through a bunch of Railroaded scenes, they're presented with the opportunity to win and a ship to do so (but they have to sacrifice one of their own to the demonically-powered engine to do so). Then you get to a distant planet... and the ship crashes and the Big Bads are re-released. At least the Game Master should have been implying that this was the best possible result from the start; the can that had the Big Bads in it was always shaky at best. Guess who gets to hunt them down and finish the job now?
  • The entire universe of Warhammer 40,000 was probably made by Diabolus.

  • In the Richard Strauss opera Elektra, the title character, in the midst of rejoicing over the deaths of her mother and her consort, suddenly drops dead at the end for no reason except to bring down the curtain on a crushing downer note.
  • William Shakespeare is a notorious offender.
    • In King Lear Cordelia's death comes out of the blue, transforming the play into a tragedy in its final act. Many of Shakespeare's other plays were based on earlier stories that his audience would have been familiar with. Shakespeare killed Lear and Cordelia off because he wanted to surprise the audience. This ending was subject to a lot of Fanon Discontinuity in later centuries, and many performances ended with Cordelia marrying Edgar instead ... even though she already got married earlier in the play.
    • Romeo and Juliet is one Diabolus Ex Machina after another. This is even lampshaded; the line in the opening speech about them being "star-crossed lovers" is a reference to the practice of trying to predict the future using astrology, implying that Fate really is out to get them. (Most notably, the final tragedy plays out when the Friar is temporarily detained by a plague quarantine, and thus is unable to get to Romeo and tell him the truth about Juliet's fake suicide.)
    • The famous Exit, Pursued by a Bear bear that appears in The Winter's Tale appears completely at random.
  • In Finale, the reveal that the world is ending in a week comes at the end of Act 1, and severely screws up everyone's plans.
  • At the end of Pass Over, a black-focused Setting Update of Waiting for Godot, Moses and Kitch seem to have earned their happy ending, but then Master, the previously friendly white businessman, suddenly reappears and guns down Moses, who dies in Kitch's arms.
  • Much like Romeo and Juliet, the final tragedy of West Side Story only plays out because Anita gets attacked by the Jets while trying to tell Tony to wait for Maria. Then, in the heat of the moment, Anita claims that Chino killed Maria. Tony then becomes a Death Seeker and begs Chino to kill him.

    Video Games 
  • In any game where a chopper is called in to rescue your party halfway through the game, it will probably get shot down or otherwise destroyed, as in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Dino Crisis, Resident Evil 4, or Modern Warfare.
    • In general, some sort of Diabolus Ex Machina would happen in the beginning of each Left 4 Dead campaign, serving as the Machina of the preceding campaign. But all those escapes turn sour because the Immune carry and spread the disease.
    • In Serious Sam 3, after seeing at least two choppers get shot down, (one of which he was ON at the time), Sam decides he's not going to get on any more choppers.
    • The Conduit actually jokes about it, where Ford's way off an oil rig is supposedly a Leviathan. The Leviathan destroys a helicopter flying over the base:
      Ford: ...And you're SURE there's no other way out of here?
      Prometheus: Well, there was a helicopter...
  • Apocalypse: Bruce Willis/Trey Kincaid has defeated the four horsemen, (i.e. the Dragons), and is about to take down the Big Bad Reverend. Unfortunately, he gets a Demonic Possession ex machina.
  • Aquaria pulls this in The Stinger: the woman in black — who hasn't done anything of significance since the Noob Cave — reveals herself to have been manipulating Naija in a Batman Gambit to destroy the Big Bad. She then wipes the Naija's memory and spirits her away from her new family, leaving her right back where she started- lonely, isolated, and amnesiac.
    • The creator has admitted in this message board thread that there were never any fixed plans for a sequel, and that he wanted to avoid a happy ending.
  • A lot of the moral choices in the second Army of Two game end this way. You either choose the "bad" option, or you choose the "good" option...except that the guy you gave up some advantage to save turns out to be corrupt AND selling weapons to terrorists. Or a guy you choose to save instead of killing in exchange for money is later killed in a plane crash accident.
  • The Baldur's Gate series has a variety of endings, depending on your action in-game. One of them involves the Protagonist giving up their divine soul and turning their back on Godhood in order to be with their newly-found True Love - who, in her aftermath/autobiography is brutally murdered by her vengeful kin, leaving the Protagonist to raise their child alone, embittered, and hell-bent on committing genocide as return. This even applies if the Protagonist was, for the previous 100 hours of gameplay, a Lawful Good Priest of Peace and Healing... This is especially silly given that even if that attack somehow worked (and by the end of the expansion everyone in the party is so powerful that there's virtually zero chance of that), the player character either had the power to raise the dead themselves as a virtual afterthought or they were such a legendary hero that they were owed favors by multiple individuals (including a few gods) who could easily do it for them.
  • The BlazBlue series makes it clear that its demands for anything resembling a happy ending will be paid with blood, in full with lots of overdue interestnote , and yet even by those standards Chronophantasma is where this trope comes out in full force.
    • So Tsubaki is back with the good guys, Bang has been reunited with Lord Tenjou's son, Relius is a broken shell of a man, Terumi is dead, Take-Mikazuchi is defeated, Nu is unconscious, and all is right with the world, yea? Izanami pops right on in at the very end, has Phantom teleport Hakumen away (he was trying to kill Nu, something not even Celica could talk him out of), sics Phantom on Jubei (and reveals that she is Jubei's long-dead wife Nine of the Six Heroes), and reanimates Nu, who proceeds to hug.exe Ragna on the spot, fusing with him despite every effort he made to prevent it, wounding Noel and beating Jin to within an inch of his life in the process, with Ragna doing everything in his power just to keep from outright killing them. Bonus points for Izanami being the manifestation of death, as Rachel calls her, which implies a being of divine nature.
    • On the subject of Ragna, he never gets a good ending in Arcade mode, but the endings for his Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift Arcade runs can be seen coming. Ragna manages to stalemate with Nu-13 in CP Arcade (whereas all prior encounters ended with hug.exe), but when he attempts to activate his Azure Grimoire, Izanami intervenes and jams it. Terumi gloats about it, Nu stops Ragna from trying to wipe the smirk off Terumi's face, and that's how it ends. It ends this exact same way in Chapter 7 of the Chronophantasma story, too. Bonus points for evoking the Evil Plot Escape Clause, as losing Nu would compromise the villains' attempt to evoke the Master Unit.
    • Tager gets hit with it, too. His final battle is against Relius Clover, and when the fight ends, Kokonoe orders him to round the bastard up on the spot, but time gets scrambled at that point, with Tager back outside the Ibukido Ruins. Kokonoe notices something is amiss, and chalks it up to the Master Unit, with no further explanation.
    • And then there's Makoto, who the villains make damn sure nothing goes right for if they can do anything about it. In Continuum Shift Arcade, Makoto has just knocked Noel out when Hazama comes along and tosses the poor girl into the smelting phase, whereas in Chronophantasma Arcade Tsubaki only gets one line in before Izanami forcibly reinstates Mind Eater and pushes her into a deathmatch with Makoto - after a fight in the Izayoi's Zero-Type mode no less. Both times attempts are made on Makoto's life in Story mode to prevent the incidents from repeating themselves. The latter also overlaps with Deus ex Machina as Master Unit: Amaterasu ejects Makoto from that fight before it gets underway.
  • In Call of Duty: World at War, the fake-surrendering Japanese soldiers who kill Roebuck/Polonsky at the end of "Breaking Point" in World At War could qualify, too, seeing as the mission had been a success up to that point, and Roebuck even said in the opening narration that they would all go home at the end. Even worse, you have to choose which one to save. In about a split instant.
  • Dalton in the Chrono Trigger /Cross continuity. He is quite clearly used as a comedic (and a not really super-powerful) villain in Chrono Trigger, but he manages to exact his vengeance against the heroes as suggested in Chrono Cross backstory and in exclusive Chrono Trigger DS version dialogue.
  • Clock Tower (1995): Poor Jennifer. Between Scissorman, Mary and seeing Lotte die (no matter what the player does), she may get a lovely Hope Spot in the form of either Laura or Ann running to greet her at the climax — except said Hope Spot is promptly pushed straight off the ledge, into the Clock Tower's gears.
  • In the original Contra, the Final Boss is a large alien heart, and defeating it is the only way to stop the alien invasion and save the world. In the Amstrad CPC port, however, for no reason at all, its destruction somehow triggers the Earth's self-destruct mechanism which then promptly wipes out humanity and all life along with it.
  • You just wiped all the gangs out of Paragon City and finished Crackdown. Now it's a police state run by your employer, which is another gang.
  • Dead Space 3 pulls this in the Awakened expansion pack. The destruction of the Weird Moon of Tau Volantis sends a signal to awaken the other Brethren Moons, which have discovered Earth and are feasting on the planet by the time Isaac and Carver return.
  • The first two Descent games end like this. In the first one, after clearing out the hostile robots from the solar system, PTMC refuses to let you return to base as they fear your ship might be infected with the virus, and they force you to do more work for them. In the end of the second, your warp drive malfunctions when trying to jump home, leaving your ship disabled and stranded in an unknown star system. It later turns out that Dravis intentionally sabotaged your warp core.
  • Devil May Cry 2: In the penultimate mission of Dante's campaign, Dante sabotages Arius' ritual by replacing one of his artifacts with an ordinary coin. However, in the final mission, Argosax is summoned anyways, as a portal to the Demon World inexplicably opens, forcing Dante to step inside to fight him.
  • The first episode of the original Doom ends like this, as after you defeat the Barons of Hell, you step on a teleporter expecting to end the level, but it sends you to a dark room filled with monsters and a damaging floor that kills you. The following text screen even lampshades this. Fortunately, you can still continue with the second and third episodes.
  • Dragon Age II: The Hawke family farm is gone, one of your new allies is dying of darkspawn taint, and just when you think it's safe to stop for a breather, an ogre comes out of nowhere to brutally smash one of your siblings into the dirt, reducing your party to you, your other sibling, and Aveline against the ogre and its hurlock buddies. And it's only the prologue.
  • The path towards the fourth ending in Drakengard is shaping up to be a Bittersweet Ending, which, given the only other "good" ending is also bittersweet, doesn't seem too bad. After all, after finding out that the Creepy Child Big Bad is irredeemably evil even after the protests of her twin brother, the heroes have finally succeeded in killing her once and for all. Now the world is saved. Except, wait, something's falling out of the sky... Justified in that said Creepy Child was essentially the avatar or representative of said things falling out of the sky. We probably should mention that said things are pissed off as hell after she dies and with no seal holding them back, it's The End of the World as We Know It.note  The real kicker is the fifth ending. The heroes cross over into another dimension to kill the mother of all the aforementioned elderitch abominations. She and the heroes are transported to modern day Tokyo and, after a climatic boss battle, get shot down by missiles from an aircraft. And as Nier reveals, this leads to the extinction of the human race.
  • Because Drowned God: Conspiracy of the Ages's story had to be Cut Short due to the restrictions of the 90's, the final world you have to explore, Chokmah, had to be basically unfinished, and the game ends abruptly. In the Chokmah diner, a man-pig hybrid cowboy randomly teleports inside to give you a warning, and then as soon as he leaves the Man In Black who's been stalking you throughout the entire game knocks you out, sending you out of the realm and resulting in your failure to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant that you've been searching for. A sequel that was supposed to wrap up the story never came about.
  • Near the end of Fable II Lucien tells you he killed your family. There's no reason for him to do this, other than to set up the neutral choice for the ending.
    • Private Jammy is a soldier stationed at Fort Mourningwood in Fable III, named such for his good luck (he's been wounded a whopping total of 724 times). However, once the Hollowmen arrive, he invariably meets his demise no matter what the player does. His ghost then comes back to continue serving as the Hero's loader in the mortar mini-game. What a trooper.
  • Fallout 3: The finale of the main quest is especially guilty of this, capping off with the protagonist sacrificing his/her own life by entering a radiation-flooded room to save the world... even though your radiation-proof mutant friend is standing right beside you. The Broken Steel expansion pack changes this ending, allowing you to send in a highly resistant super mutant, a ghoul who is actually healed by radiation, or a Robot!
  • Fatal Frame:
    • Fatal Frame: Miku has managed to collect all pieces of the Holy Mirror and managed to save her brother, as well as Kirie from her continued possession of the Malice. Kirie fulfills her duty as the Rope Shrine Maiden, keeping the Hellgate closed. Out of nowhere, Mafuyu decides to not leave with Miku, but remain behind with Kirie, so that she'll never have to suffer alone anymore.
    • Fatal Frame II: Mio finally finds her sister and is ready to leave the village. Suddenly, Mio gets possessed and strangles Mayu, completing the ritual they were trying to prevent from having to go through the entire time, and leaving Mio with huge guilt when she realizes what she has done.
  • Invoked in Fate/Grand Order's 2016 Valentines' Day event. When the protagonist and Shakespeare learn that they'll be able to resolve all the chaos going on simply by having a short tea party with Nursery Rhyme, Shakespeare decides that this is too easy and boring. So he "accidentally" rewrites the encounter so that Nursery Rhyme decides to trap the protagonist in the tea party using her Nameless Forest Reality Marble.
  • Not quite the ending, but the climax of World 1 in Final Fantasy V is rather like this. Against all odds, you finally managed to get to the last elemental crystal in time, unlike all the other ones that ended up breaking. The bad guy's possessed puppet gets beaten back, there's a lovely reunion with one of the characters and his granddaughter, where he gets his memory of her back, and a reunion of two of the characters and their long-lost father... and then Bartz realizes that throughout the long reunion, they'd forgotten to turn off the Crystal-draining machinery and the crystal shatters.
  • Ultros of Final Fantasy VI is a Diabolus Ex Machina personified. Four times in the World of Balance, he comes out of nowhere to cause trouble for the heroes, including trying to drop a weight on Celes's head at the opera.
    • Kefka's rending of the world is a huge example of a famous Diabolus Ex Machina that was actually very well received.
  • Disc 2 of Final Fantasy VII is a Diabolus Ex Machina strewn throughout an entire disc. Aside from Aeris dying at the end of disc 1, the party chases Sephiroth to the Northern Crater, where they prepare to battle him once and for all, until Sephiroth decides to break poor Cloud's mind and force him to learn that he's a failed experiment. This ends in Cloud handing over the Black Materia, and all hell breaking loose. So now, not only is Meteor looming, about to kill the world in one week, but the Planet has released its failsafe, a group of massive biomechanical creatures called the WEAPONs that are capable of wreaking serious destruction. The next time we see Cloud He's alive, but totally catatonic.
    • It was revealed 20 years after the game came out that there was originally a really extreme one. Nojima had the idea that the entire party should be killed off except for the two characters the player brought with them, and planned to use the part where the party parachute into Midgar to kill off everyone. Mercifully, Tetsuya Nomura talked them out of it, saying it was important to keep Aeris's death special by not just killing off characters at random.
  • F.E.A.R. ends with the protagonist being extracted aboard a helicopter with a couple of NPC teammates. The helicopter suddenly lurches and Alma is seen climbing aboard an instant before the game cuts to the credits.
    • The Expansion Pack Extraction Point, takes this trope one step further by killing off those NPC teammates and foreshadowing a devastating war.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Chapter 9 ends with your father Jeralt getting shanked in the back. Your player character naturally takes offense to this and pulls out their Divine Pulse ability to turn back time in order to stop this. Too bad a new villain you've never seen before teleports in out of nowhere and blocks your counterstrike, resulting in Jeralt getting shanked again, this time for good.
  • The Force Unleashed 2 uses this in regards to the outcomes of its moral choices. At the end, Starkiller has beaten Darth Vader after he seemingly killed Juno, and the player is given the choice whether or not to kill him. If you do try to kill him, another Starkiller clone comes out of nowhere, kills you and all your friends, and infiltrates the Rebellion in your place, leading to The Bad Guy Wins.
  • FreeSpace 2 does this with a flourish: at the end of an arduous, complicated and desperate campaign to destroy the Shivan dreadnought Sathanas which threatens the (known) galaxy, you learn that the Shivans have about a bazillion more such ships.
  • In Hades, this is invoked for any runs after completing the game's story while also being played for laughs. When reaching the end, the narrator gives a Hand Wave of an excuse for how exactly Zagreus ends up dying after escaping. These include, but are not limited to: tripping on a rock, stepping on a rake, trying to talk to a bear, being run over by a chariot, discovering it was all a dream, and assuming that the Narrator has run out of ways to kill him off and being proven wrong.
  • Half-Life 2 Episode 2: After Gordon has whipped the Striders, a Combine Advisor shows up, immobilizes Gordon, Alyx and Alyx's father Eli, rapes Eli's brain to death by jamming a nozzle up his spine to suck the brains out, but is then stopped by Dog before he can do the same thing to Alyx or Gordon, leaving the game on a Kick the Dog moment.
    • Heck, look at Half-Life, if you decide not to side with the ostensibly evil G-Man, you're immediately dumped into the middle of a bunch of angry monsters with no hope of victory.
  • Haunting Starring Polterguy: After poltergeist Polterguy defeats the final boss, he returns into his human form again, but an anvil appears out of nowhere, lands on his head and turns him into a ghost again.
  • The ending to Infocom's text adventure Infidel has always been somewhat controversial with fans because it's a good example of this trope being used to Shoot the Shaggy Dog. The protagonist (despite being selfish, greedy, and foolish) makes it to the pyramid's burial chamber to claim the riches ... only for the walls to collapse and trap him there to die.
  • Parodied in I Wanna Be the Guy. At the end of it, you defeat The Guy, take his gun, and return home triumphantly as the credits roll. You also walk under a tree with one of the game's deadly apples giant cherries on it, which falls. If you're not expecting it and don't move, it lands on you, killing you and giving you the standard Game Over screen even though it's after the credits. Fortunately, the game still counts you as having beaten it.
  • Jak X: Combat Racing. Non-fatal example, but after you've won the game, Rayn is suddenly revealed to have been manipulating you all along, wasn't poisoned, and now she's the biggest crimelord.
  • In Killzone 2, the ISA has busted their asses to get to and defeat Visari, only to find out that the Helghast have a huge reserve fleet coming.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is especially infamous for this. Everything since the original Kingdom Hearts endures a big Happy Ending Override as part of the Greater-Scope Villain's new Stable Time Loop to set-up the Grand Finale in Kingdom Hearts III.
  • L.A. Noire has Cole Phelps about to break the case against Courtney Sheldon involving illegal morphine when the Chief of Police interrupts the interrogation and drags Cole away to his office. The interrogation is suspended and is never resolved. Cole is outed for having an affair with Elsa and is demoted to the arson desk. The demotion also keeps Cole away from the big case he was working on since he would have gotten to close to the plans that were laid within the Suburban Redevelopment Fund.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: When Link pulls out the Master Sword, it (or possibly Rauru) puts him in a coma until he is an adult, which allows Ganondorf to take the Triforce unopposed. While Rauru claims afterwards that the Sword demands an adult wielder, this is not foreshadowed beforehand, and it is contradicted in both earlier and later games within the same timeline.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: One in the backstory. Ganondorf is exposed for his crimes and executed. When the Sages stab him in the chest with a giant sword, they are very surprised when he suddenly manifests the Triforce of Power, survives, and starts killing them. They have to exile him to the Twilight Realm instead. This is because of timeline trickery. After Ocarina of Time, Link came back and warned Hyrule about Ganondorf's ambitions and they were able to stop him. But in the original timeline, his plan went unopposed, and when he touched the Triforce it broke, with the Triforce of Power going to him. Since the Triforce transcends time and space, he received it again in the altered timeline at the same moment.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has one at the very end: At the conclusion of the Final Boss, Demise suddenly curses the incarnations of Link and the descendants of Zelda to forever fight the incarnation of his hatred. Hence, he causes the events of every game for the rest of the series.
  • At the end of Marathon 2, the defeated Pfhor use their sun-shattering Trih Xeem on L'howon's sun, unintentionally releasing the omnicidal Eldritch Abomination known as the W'rkncacnter.
  • Metroid: Zero Mission is a remake of the original Metroid that continues after the original ended. It accomplishes this by having Samus shot down by Space Pirates while leaving Zebes, destroying her ship and suit. This is followed up by an inversion in the form of an ancient Chozo temple giving Samus an older yet far more advanced Power Suit (the one she's pictured with in most incarnations). It even is capable of recognizing the incompatible Upgrades she received earlier in the game.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Raiden's ending in the original Mortal Kombat.
    • This trope has been the common theme of Reptile's endings since Mortal Kombat 4.
    • Mortal Kombat 9 takes it even further. After destroying Quan Chi's Soulnado, thus saving the souls of Earthrealm, Nightwolf regroups with Raiden's chosen right as Raiden and Liu Kang go to have a chat with the Elder Gods. At that moment, the Cyber Lin Kuei and a Brainwashed and Crazy Sindel show up. Everything goes to hell after that.
    • The entirety of Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath. After the main story resolves everything in the heroes' favor, Sindel and Shao Kahn come into play to ruin everything. Cassie Cage and the Special Forces are captured by Shao Kahn's armies and sent to Outworld, Past!Kitana is dethroned, Past!Liu Kang is crippled by Shao Kahn, Raiden and Fujin are brought to death's door by Shang Tsung, who now wears Kronika's crown, and overall the bad guys win. Granted, there's still a chance for Fire God Liu Kang to stop Shang Tsung from forging an evil timeline in his image, but even then the player could always choose Shang Tsung if they were feeling mean.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 has one of the most appalling Diabolus Ex Machina endings ever. Quite literally, Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.
    • Remedied in the Expansion Pack that follows with you waking up afterward, albeit on the opposite side of Faerun, and you spend much of the game trying to figure out how the hell you got there. Also you wake up with an entirely new Diabolus in the form of the Spirit Eater curse.
    • The rocks falling is lampshaded later in Mask of the Betrayer by Ammon Jerro, in a rather hypocritical bit of humor.
      Player Character: I remember being disappointed that the fortress's structure wasn't more architecturally sound.
      Ammon Jerro: Yes. That powerful and evil beings insist on causing destruction even as they die is an unfortunate habit.
  • Persona 2 pulls this infamously at the end of the first installment of the duology, Innocent Sin. Despite having lost his bet with Philemon over whether humans can overcome the supernatural adversity he was stirring up, Nyarlathotep teleports a minion of his behind Maya Amano, who stabs her with the mythical Spear of Longinus, fulfilling the Oracle of Maia and triggering the end of the world. Distraught at the death of their friend, and with the earth destroyed, the remaining party members agree to give up their memories of each other in exchange for Philemon reviving Maya and resetting the timeline.
  • In Pikmin 2, after collecting enough treasure to repay the debt of Hocotate Freight, Olimar immediately takes off to return home, only to realize he forgot to make sure sure his coworker, Louie, got on the ship with him. This results in him needing to return to the planet again, this time to retrieve Louie, who has somehow taken control of a massive mutant spider, who serves as the game’s final boss.
  • The updated ending to Portal — The first independently mobile entity apart from Chell turns up just to drag her back right after you thought she was free.
  • In [PROTOTYPE] after defeating the game’s big bads and getting yourself in a position to stop the military from nuking Manhattan, it’s revealed that your contact in the military is actually a shapeshifted Supreme Hunter, a boss enemy from half a game ago. Cue final boss fight. Up until that point it’s never so much as hinted at that anybody but the player character has that ability.
  • Red Dead Redemption II can be chalked up to poor decisions or the simple fact that they're up against the whole United States, and the gang gets a mole a some point, but the beginning of Chapter V is a clear case. They've just robbed a big city bank, giving them enough money to fulfill their dream of buying land somewhere, and the gang's combatants have made their escape on a regular ship bound for Cuba. Sure, John was captured, but they can effectively spring him and send for the non-combatants at their leisure. Then a storm hits the boat, causing it to not only sink, but do so too fast for the gang to stick together or hold onto the loot. The loot is lost, and the gang washes up on a slave-based sugar plantation in the middle of a civil war they must now fight just to get home.
  • In Saints Row, under gang leader Julius, you destroy the three rival gangs in Stillwater and "unify" the city under the Third Street Saints. Then, with the help of the undercover cop in the Saints, Julius is captured by the police. They use him to blackmail the Saints into helping an anti-gang mayor get elected. Afterwards, when you confront said mayor to negotiate Julius's release, the two of you are blown up in an assassination attempt.
    • In the sequel, it's revealed that Julius set all of it up to dissolve the Saints and gang violence altogether: without his or the player's leadership, he knew the gang would fall apart and things would become more peaceful. Obviously, it didn't work, if only because the man didn't understand the concept of a power vacuum.
    • It's also revealed in the sequel that Dex, an ambitious ex-Saint, orchestrated a similar gambit during the finale, aiming to kill the player and destroy the gang, but for less noble reasons.
  • The last episode of Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse has Max transformed into a giant hell-beast due to his new psychic powers mixing with an Elder God. Sam, Papierwaite, Dr. Norrington, and a pregnant Sybil are inside him. If they don't fix things, Max will explode and take out most of the northeastern United States. To stop this, the government is ready to kill Max. Things start to look up near the end when the Big Bad takes a Heel–Face Turn and lets the gang get out before fixing Max himself. It turns out that they all took too long: Max is hit by the weapon just as his normal mind is restored. His psychic brain has already caught fire, signalling that he'll explode. He manages to teleport into space to avoid killing everyone, but Sam is left defeated and broken-hearted. Sure, a Max from an alternate universe shows up to hang out... But that's because he just had the same thing happen to his Sam.
  • Oichi in Sengoku Basara 2 Heroes dies this way in her own story. On the other hand, The Anime of the Game Sengoku Basara... well, puts this on many many characters. Oichi included.
  • At the end of Soldier of Fortune: Payback, the Shop informant Alena Petrova turns out to be The Mole for an unidentified Greater-Scope Villain, and knocks out Mason with a fire extinguisher, taking the mysterious MacGuffin he just retrieved. There follows a cliffhanger ending with a conversation between her, said villain, and the still-alive Moor, that is Lost in Transmission.
  • Ameena's subplot in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time ends on a big one. Ameena, Ill Girl and blatant Expy of another flower girl, is finally reunited with her long-lost childhood friend. Then he dies (he was injured in battle a few scenes prior to this) and she succumbs to her illness seconds later. It's even more of a nightmare for the protagonist, since the girl was also virtually identical to his own best friend. Then Fayt's dad dies, then Earth is destroyed...
  • In the ending of Star Wars: Republic Commando, your squad has taken out a massive separatist gunship and are ready for evac. Then, out of nowhere (and off-screen), Sev reports he's under attack and you lose contact with him. Despite the protests of you and your squad, your commander refuses to let you rescue him, and you all get on your evac shuttle, leaving him to die.
  • In Street Fighter Alpha 2, Charlie, who always dies in his endings due to Foregone Conclusion, manages to corner Bison, only to be shot on the back by his intended back-up chopper.
  • In The Stinger of Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow, Logan and Xing return to their hideout only to find Mujari dead and Teresa wounded by Trinidad, who then shoots Logan in a moment of Cutscene Incompetence, although he gets off a Last Breath Bullet. Xing starts CPR on Logan, and the story is left on a cliffhanger.
  • Tales of Vesperia has Zagi. He pops up at random moments to fight the party, all due to his obsession with Yuri. He also has various upgrades throughout that make him more dangerous each time he's encountered - and how he gets said upgrades are completely unknown. This is exactly why Yuri is so frustrated with him.
  • Tales of Xillia 2 has the party finally collect all 5 Waymarkers needed to make the Land of Canaan appear. Then, out of the blue, it's revealed that one needs a soulbridge to get there. A person with the ability to use Chromatus needs to die, so that their soul can act as a bridge. Meaning the party needs to kill either Julius or Ludger.
  • Throne of Darkness: Your team has finally defeated the Dark Warlord and restored peace to Yamato for it. And suddenly, your daimyo takes the power of the Dark Warlord for himself, as it was his plan all along, becoming the next Dark Warlord, effortlessly stomps your party and turn them into his mindless slaves.
  • TimeShift. You've killed the Big Bad, retrieved the only remaining temporal jump drive in your particular dimension, taken down a planet-wide fascist government, and even saved the girl. Then you cause a paradox.
  • As retconned in the intro to Turok 3, the destruction of Primagen in Turok 2 caused a explosion that destroyed the entire universe, which is what Joshua was trying to prevent in the first place, making that game somewhat of a Shoot the Shaggy Dog. Fortunately, the universe is recreated, and Joshua somehow survives and has offspring, only to be killed at the beginning.
  • Undertale does this in both the Pacifist and Neutral endings, Flowey appears out of nowhere to ruin your day. In the Pacifist ending you actually get your happy ending after all, but in a neutral ending he succeeds. If you make it to the Pacifist ending after getting the Genoside ending, the normally happy ending reveals the Fallen Human is still possessing Frisk's body and is hunting down and murdering the other characters.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • Episode 5 combines this with Morton's Fork. Kenny will sacrifice himself to save someone else regardless on whether or not you saved Ben or let him die in episode 4. If Ben lived, then the balcony the group jumps off to get into the rooftops will collapse when he tries to jump it, causing Kenny to go down and sacrifice himself to ensure Ben gets a Mercy Kill out of guilt. If Ben died, then Kenny will live past the balcony, but will instead knock Lee's radio down an opening in one of the roofs later, one that just happens to be filled with walkers. Christa will go down and get it, but can't get back up. Kenny will then jump down and hoist her up, before running off and leaving his fate ambiguous.
    • Omid's death at the start of Season 2 Episode 1. If it wasn't for a random bandit showing up at just the right time, a series of seemingly inconsequential if slightly silly choices by Clementine (one - leaving her gun on the sink while she went to find her water bottle - which the player could have actually avoided if it weren't for it being preventable by the game), and the bathroom door closing just before Omid could successfully disarm the bandit, then it wouldn't have lead to the rest of the events of the first episode. Whats worse is that the Bandit likely had no intention of causing any of them any harm. She shoots Omid out of panic and drops the gun immediately but gets shot by Christa nonetheless.
  • The Witcher and its sequels are infamous for pulling this frequently in its sidequests, as a means to enforce the Grey-and-Gray Morality Crapsack World theme.
  • The World Ends with You: After surviving the Reaper's Game, Neku and Shiki discover that only Shiki can come back to life. Neku is fine with this, until the Conductor hits him with the whammy that in order to play the next game, the entry fee he has to pay is Shiki herself—and he only tells Neku this after he agrees to play the game, and the Conductor has "collected" Shiki. It's later revealed that the Composer, the Conductor's boss and the guy responsible for reviving people, was absent. In fact, the whole game was invalid because of that; only the Conductor knew the Composer was gone and would have been shafted if anybody, including his subordinates, knew. Thus, it was just a cheat to keep the two in limbo and prevent from being found out.
    • Final Remix adds another one. After Neku and Beat fight their way out of the illusionary Shibuya, Coco simply shoots Neku dead, and prepares to revive Sho Minamimoto to be his partner for the next Reaper's Game. Oh, also? Shinjuku has been erased, and it looks like more bad stuff is on the way.
  • In Zenonia 4, Regret spends most of the game trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong with Time Travel. Every time he changes the past, something else happens to ensure that the world is still doomed. Regret eventually decides to face the threat head on rather than running back to the past in a futile attempt to avoid it.
  • Dragon Quest V: The "Harry's been kidnapped" plotline. It turns out the kidnappers are on the Order of Zugzwang's payroll. The main character's father dies, and the hero and Harry are turned into slaves.

    Visual Novels 
  • Whenever the glider in If My Heart Had Wings is completed, something will go wrong no matter what, unless it's the end of a route.
  • Quite a few Bad Ends for Ookami Kakushi fall under this. To be fair, not all of them are like this; some can be obtained by simply making the wrong decision (such as choosing to believe one girl over the other). As for others, however, there are arcs where you don't immediately see the result of a combination of choices you made until much later, which tend to result in this trope. Probably the best example of this is one Bad End where Hiroshi attempts to commit suicide after becoming a Kamibito and losing his friends only to be saved by Nemuru, who convinces him to keep living. Sounds like a happy, potentially heartwarming way to end a chapter, right? Cut to one month later, where Hiroshi comes across his old mufflers that have his old, strong honey-like scent attached, which causes him to go insane and attack his sister, which then leads to his implied execution.
  • Similarly, plenty of bad ends for Root Double: Before Crime * After Days in Root A end up this way, typically in ones where he follows his superior's orders. While there are a few cases where he was ultimately right for not following them (as the aforementioned superior took an emergency field promotion and is inexperienced in that area), that's very much the minority in such endings.

    Web Animation 
  • GoAnimate: No matter how savvy the troublesome kids in the grounded videos are nor how far the measures they take to hide their wrong-doings, something invariably happens that exposes them, even when there is no possible way they could have been caught.
  • By its very nature, any given episode of Happy Tree Friends will end this way:
    • "Swelter Skelter": Nutty trips and his head cracks right open, at which point his brain fries in the heat like an eggshell, and Lifty getting trapped in a frozen explosion, which Shifty then impales himself on.
    • The end of "Wingin' It," when after surviving a plane crash and a shark attack, Godzilla shows up out of nowhere and eats Flaky.
    • "Idol Curiosity": Just when Sniffles thinks he's evaded all the Cursed Idol's traps, the earthquake he evaded earlier in the episode somehow takes a cab and destroys his house. He manages to evade it again... and then he breaks in half for no reason, though this could be explained as an effect of Sniffles being cursed.
    • "Spare Me": Sniffles spins around, which somehow causes his head to go flying off his body.
  • Sims Big Brother 5:
    • The main twist of the season is that there was a liar in the house. By "liar", we mean someone playing under a false identity. The Liar is revealed to be Logan, but not to the houseguests. One week, there is a double elimination week and Michael Goldsmith says they have to evict the Liar, or else they will lose a portion of the grand prize (which the Liar would receive). Knowing he is in trouble from the other alliance, Logan persuades the majority and the floaters that the liar is Darby. Thus, the house cast their votes for Darby and Logan, and since Darby receive more, she is evicted.
    • Diablous ex Machina struck once before. In Sims Big Brother 2, there was a week in which 6 people were taken into the Solitary chamber, making themselves immune from the vote during Public Voting Week (in which everyone was up on the block, sans the 6 in the chamber). However, the person who lost all of the challenges was more or less screwed. They couldn't use any of the luxuries, couldn't compete for Head of household, were automatically nominated for three weeks in a row, had to eat an instant meal diet, and if any of those rules were broken, they'd be expelled. Dora unfortunately lost....meaning she had many of the worst weeks of her life in the house. Is it any wonder that after becoming the Unlucky Houseguest, she asked everyone to nominate her and vote her out?
  • Teen Girl Squad pretty much runs on this.

    Web Comics 
  • Maria's death in Anders Loves Maria. Occurs in the second-to-last strip, wtih next to no foreshadowing, and Anders spends two splash panels just staring off into space before a Time Skip to his life as a single father.
  • In Bittersweet Candy Bowl, Confrontation just gets worse and worse, with every choice the characters make just making things more dangerous for them.
  • The first half of Homestuck's fifth Act goes swimmingly for its focal group of Internet Trolls. They overcome their differences to defeat the evil Black King and prepare to receive the ULTIMATE REWARD for defeating him; then a scratch in spacetime releases an invincible demon who kills their robot army and forces the Trolls to hide deep in an asteroid field until they can think of a way to overcome the demon.
  • Din and Jin from Las Lindas seem to be this trope personified. Their latest "prank" rivals the Euphinator Incident in terms of everything going to hell in the worst way possible just when things were going good for the cast.
  • The Order of the Stick pulls two of these at various points to save the (un)life of its Big Bad, Xykon — first when Miko Miyazaki unwittingly pulls the rug out from a paladin who's about to smite Xykon and his lieutenant, and second when Xykon's Soul Jar narrowly misses utter and permanent annihilation by falling just short of a portal to another dimension — after the bird that was supposed to drop it in from point-blank range stopped shy for what was then no apparent reason.
  • In Plume, chapter 9 is chock-full of this. It starts with the protagonists having captured the villain and Vesper at the edge of having her vengeance, only for a sudden appearance of Azeel, who proceeds to wreck the party, leaving Corrick's amulet free for Dom to take and ushering what seems to be the true plot of the comic.
  • Happens several times in Slightly Damned. Every things start getting good for the Protagonists, something happens to mess it up. Made even worse, since many of them double as Hope Spot moments. The lists include:
    • The end of the "Escape from Hell" arc, where just before Sakido manages to get them out of Hell and into Medius, which she had always wanted to see (at the cost of going berserk, which would have killed her anyway, albeit probably allowing her to at least get a glimpse of her dream), she's promptly shot dead by a Holy Arrow shot by an Angel that for some reason was in Hell.
    • In Weyville, just as Buwaro was about to express his feelings to Angel (with severe PTSD that's given him an intense hate for demons and anything remotely associated to them) suddenly shows up out of nowhere.
    • In St.Curtis, everyone seemed to be having a good time, with the St. Curtis Arc seemingly shaping up into a breather arc, then the army of Hell decides to break the Truce Zone that St. Curtis was shaping up to be. Also, the Seraphim have gone full-blown cultist, complete with ritual sacrifices of angels, and are commanding most of the demons.
  • Season 5 of Survivor: Fan Characters was full of these, given that the season was tagged "The Cursed Islands". Such "curses" involved having someone divvy up the tribes, but then get sent to Exile Island and have no control over which tribe they're sent to at the end of Day 3; a tribe being absorbed into the other tribes; someone having the choice to send themselves to Exile Island until the merge, but have absolutely no contact with their tribe mates until then; a random mutiny - one of the challenges was full of these; mainly, contestants would vote as to how many tribal councils they would be willing to go to with such debilitations as not being able to vote, having an extra vote against them, and not being applicable to win immunity. Miranda won the first, Brock won the second and subsequently led to his elimination, and Marius won the last although he managed to win because of this curse.
  • In the climax of Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic's Rannite arc, Arachne - who just happens to be specially trained for this purpose - manages to seal Ranna into an unfamiliar body, subdues her and prepares to kill her with a weapon made to make sure Ranna's soul can't escape at the moment of death. But before she can land the coup de grace, she's tackle-glomped by Princess Dewcup, who wanted to show Arachne her new Drow body. And Ranna promptly throat-stabs Arachne. In an impressive, but ill-timed bit of badassery, Dewcup chokes out Ranna with a sleeper hold. Which allows Ranna to escape Arachne's vessel and return to her body. Which she then promptly uses to obliterate Black Mountain with a burst of raw magic. This is on top of several major characters meeting horrible ends in the course of the storyline.

    Web Original 
  • The finale of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Mad Scientist Dr. Horrible held at gunpoint with his own death ray? The gun explodes and he survives. The Made of Iron superheroic jerk Captain Hammer is injured and humiliated. Then Penny, who has just realized Dr. Horrible and Billy Buddy are one and the same and in love with her, gets impaled and killed with shrapnel.
  • "The Grand Heist" in Achievement Hunter's Let's Play Grand Theft Auto V. The Fake AH Crew is able to get the money and race towards the Titan to escape. Ray stays behind and performs a Heroic Sacrifice to get the other five into the air. As they're in the air, Gavin's doing his best to stay there and reach their target. Suddenly, the Titan stalls, clips one of the chasing helicopters and kills the rest of the team.
  • Parodied in The Nostalgia Critic's review of Moulin Rouge!: he spends practically the entire episode complaining about the movie before the The Nostalgia Chick and Brentalfloss convince him it is fine as a guilty pleasure. He then randomly shoots Brentalfloss and mourns his loss; mocking one of their complaints about the movie (namely that Satine's consumption — and her decision to break up with Christian instead of telling him about it — seem like this trope).
  • Nan Quest appears to pull one: just as Nan, Santiago, and Kim have come through a frighteningly-literal hell to get to the end, they are just managing to get out; then, just as Kim goes to leave, part of the burning, crumbling building collapses, pinning her under there where it's likely she'll be burned to death. They reach for her hand, call her name, fade out...and then the timeline alters, the hotel is intact, Kim is a child again and perfectly fine who goes off with her mother (keeping her memories), and even Santiago gets a happy ending as a child/surrogate son for Nan.
  • One exists in-universe in SCP Foundation. SCP-3167 (the Character Assassin/Serial Killer) is an entity that manifests inside copies of popular fictional written works, murdering major characters and rewriting the plot accordingly while causing all those who witness it to view sequels of the affected work as being altered accordingly, often for the worse. Its victims include Sherlock Holmes, Ron Weasley, and the titular game within the light novel version of Sword Art Online. It claims to be carrying out the author's wishes, stating "Rowling wanted Weasley to die. Doyle hated Holmes at the end. Kawahara wishes he had axed SAO a while ago." but neglects to elaborate on its other murders.
  • In the World's BIGGEST Domino Run by Corridor Digital, this trope is used twice. The first usage can be observed when a drone comes out of nowhere to start the driving plot for the protagonists by setting off the domino run before they're ready. The second usage can be observed once the main crisis seems to be averted: they get a call saying Sam's foot is now impossibly stuck under the extremely-heavy domino tower, making them choose between failing and succeeding the world record.

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks are not safe from the Diabolus. In one episode, involving a new cat dubbed "Cookie Chomper the 3rd," a Death by Newbery Medal comes out of nowhere in the last two minutes of the show.
  • In American Dad!, "Stan's Best Friend" has Francine getting a dog for Steve, despite Stan's vehemently refusing to get one ever since his jackass of a mother tricked him into killing his previous dog when he was a kid. Stan warms up to the dog quickly, until he tosses a frisbee to the street and a car nearly runs the dog over... Cue pirate cats riding a hot air balloon landing their basket on the dog, crushing him to death.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender does this three times in the Book 2 finale. First, it's quite clear that Zuko's gonna do a Heel–Face Turn and join Team Avatar, but he instead does the reverse, betraying his uncle Iroh and teaming up with Azula. Then, while Aang appears to have mastered the Avatar State, Azula shoots him with lightning, killing him, and successfully taking the Earth Kingdom capitol of Ba Sing Se. He comes back, at least.
    • Thirdly, Azula convincing the Dai Li to turn on Long Feng, an intelligence master who specialized in brain-washing, even on his own subordinate, makes little sense when you break it down. How did Azula break through the brainwashing, loyalty, and the distrust the Dai Li had towards her, all with just the limited interactions she had with them and also with Long Feng being literally the only one to not notice?. This may be overlookable if it was just a plot-of-the week type of twist against a band of bandits, but the Dai Li are supposed to be elites and their turn plays a pivotal role in both the climax of the 2nd book and the direction of the story from that point onward.
  • The Boondocks episode "Ballin" has Riley coming close to finally winning a game when the mentally challenged replacement center for his main competition turns out to be a child prodigy at basketball.
  • It didn't involve any dying, but... Codename: Kids Next Door, "Operation Elections": Nigel Uno has just led his school to fend off an attack against a rival middle school, and is making a speech as he's assuming his rightful position as 4th grade president position that was robbed from him by the Delightful Children, who had instigated the attack by the middle school. And then the guy who earlier told him that he had won the election now tells him that he still lost the election to some random guy. Diabolus pours salt into Uno's wounds by suggesting that his fellow operatives also voted for the other guy.
  • Cyberchase LOVED using these to keep the magical cure-all MacGuffin out of the protagonists hands; it's how they lost it in the first place.
  • Dexter's Laboratory has a brutal one in the original Grand Finale "Last But Not Beast," combining it with a massive case of Status Quo Is God. Dexter and his family have finally learned how to work together and were able to stop the monster Dexter accidentally unleashed from Japan. However, he accidentally mentions his lab, which causes Mom and Dad to remember it, toonote . What does Dexter do? Pull out a mind eraser gun, erasing the memories of the lab and everything after it! However, Monkey, who had aided the family earlier, loses his mask, making Dexter realize his pet monkey was the hero. So, Monkey goes and takes the gun and erases HIS memory, allowing Mandark, who was taken out early on, to claim victory and leaving Dexter to bemoan that he wished he destroyed the monster. And Dee Dee says nothing about it.
  • This is the purpose of the Kanker Sisters in Ed, Edd n Eddy. They tend to show up anytime something's actually going right for the titular characters (ex. "Over Your Ed," "Look Into My Eds").
  • This trope is a recurring theme in G.I. Joe: Renegades, where Failure Is the Only Option. Every time the Joes find something that will clear their names, it's a safe bet it will either get burned, blown up, smashed, stolen, or stabbed. That is until the series finale where the Joes returned to the Pentagon with all the evidence they needed to clear their names after destroying Cobra Mansion and defeating Cobra Commander, who survived and is ticked off by the way.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • The Devil sure loves stalking Eugene Horowitz...
    • Used in-universe in one episode (that was actually Eugene-focused) where the drama teacher, having been dumped by his girlfriend, changes the ending of the school musical so the protagonist is randomly hit by a bus, the villain steals his Love Interest, and then sings a gloating song about being a Karma Houdini. The kids spend the rest of the episode trying to get it changed back.
  • Happens on a regular basis in Invader Zim, usually with Dib.
  • During the Christmas Episode of Metalocalypse, Doctor Rockzo, The Rock and Roll Clown (he does cocaine) sells all of Toki's Secret Santa gifts, for some cocaine. When Toki finds out, he prepares to give the clown a sound thrashing. Unfortunately, before he can reach him, Murderface's drunk Grandma crashes her scooter into a cross, trapping Toki under it. Rockzo escapes punishment, and even gets a handjob from Skwisgar's mom.
  • It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown: Final play of game, and we're looking at either Charlie slotting in the game-winning field goal from short-range, or Lucy humiliating herself in front of the crowd for pulling that trick (you know the one). Even Charlie pulling a John Carney wouldn't have been as bad as Lucy pulling the trick anyway and not getting any of the blame for the loss, not even from poor old Chuck.
  • ReBoot. The final episode of the revival season has Megabyte captured and our heroes celebrating. But then it turns out the captured Megabyte is an alias (a.k.a. a decoy) and that Megabyte has infiltrated the Principal Office and then takes over.
  • Happens to Samurai Jack all the time. Because Failure Is the Only Option every time a way home is within reach, something will cause him to lose the chance or compel him to forfeit it. Even when he DOES manage to get back home, he ends up losing the woman he loves.
  • The early episodes of Sealab 2021 always end with the Sealab exploding. The most notable example of this trope is the Gag Dub episode on the original series.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In other election news, a lizard-suit wearing Homer Simpson seems well positioned to win a mayor recall election to replace Quimby, since no one else seems to be good enough. The suit turns out to be his downfall when it shrinks in the wash, and suddenly no one likes him, and since no one gets enough of the vote, Quimby stays in office.
    • In "Brother from Another Series," Sideshow Bob appears reformed and gets work release when his brother Cecil offers him a job for a dam project. Bart is convinced that Bob is up to no good, but in the end it turns out Bob really has reformed and Cecil was trying to embezzle millions from the dam project. Bob actually helps stop Cecil and saves Bart and Lisa's lives, but when the police arrive to arrest Cecil, Police Chief Wiggum insists on arresting Bob as well for no good reason.
      Bob: (in the backseat of the police car with Cecil) But I saved the children's lives! I'm a hero!
      Cecil: Tell them they'll live to regret this.
      Bob: You'll live to regret this! ...Oh, thanks a lot. Now I look crazy.
  • South Park has too many examples to list.
  • This trope is played for laughs in Stone Trek: Every episode ends on a happy note... until the Starship Magnetize explodes for no apparent reason.
  • In Total Drama Island, Bunny is eaten by a snake. When Geoff tries to catch the snake to get Bunny back, an eagle swoops in and captures said snake. Geoff gets another chance when the eagle lands at the edge of the dock, but then a shark jumps out and snatches up not only the eagle with the snake with Bunny inside, but a sizable portion of the dock as well. Although Bunny's demise has dramatic consequences, the incident itself is played for laughs.
  • Early Bill Plympton short Your Face is a plotless cartoon about a man who sits in front of his camera while a romantic song called "Your Face" plays, and the man's head transforms and morphs in all sorts of bizarre ways. At the end the man finally stops doing weird faces and looks at the camera as it pulls away—until a giant mouth in the earth opens up and swallows him whole.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Inexplicably Went Wrong, Contrived Downer Ending


Convicted Troublemaker Appears

When Cole is about to perform his stunt on his motorcycle, he discovers his sidecar is loosen. Molly reveals an escaped convict (portrayed by Bitsy) broke into his house and sabotaged it, despite the fact that this was never foreshadowed. Paige points this out, but Molly insist it totally works.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / AssPull

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