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Dwindling Party

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Every two minutes, choose who dies.

"Three down. Six down. Nine down. You get where I'm going with this."
Richard B. Riddick, Riddick

So you're The Hero on a dangerous quest, you gather The Team and rally that Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits to your cause. Battles are fought, Character Development is had, Fire-Forged Friends are made, and hearty laughs are shared by all.

Then, as you proceed towards the final battle, your friends start to die.




When an author uses a Dwindling Party, it's to showcase just how dangerous the situation has become. Not only Can Anyone Die, but in fact, everyone is dying! The reasoning is that as audiences grow attached to characters, the Emotional Torque from their death will resonate more and more with each passing, until it reaches fever pitch when The Hero confronts the cause of all the deaths.

Usually it works pretty well, though there are risks to using this trope. Namely, killing characters off too quickly or without proper characterization will not elicit the audience's empathy at the deaths. Also, playing the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality too straight will allow viewers to pick off the obvious Red Shirts and avoid feeling urgency or attachment.

This trope is usually used only in the Action-Adventure and Survival Horror Genres because it's kinda hard to write a Love Dodecahedron when Everybody's Dead, Dave. There are a few common set-ups to each, but they usually boil down to:

This is a pretty common trope in these genres. However, it carries a few "common" twists that are often used to keep it fresh. While usually it's The Hero or Final Girl (plus Love Interest and/or Side Kick) who survive to the end, sometimes the last survivor(s) aren't the ones you'd come to expect, but more the "expendable" characters. It's also frequently used as The Cavalry by revealing one of the "expendable" characters survived and came back to help. Then again, whoever said someone should survive? A Downer Ending where everyone dies throws the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality out the window.

Another twist is to use this trope before or near the beginning of a story, leaving the Hero as the last survivor of their squad/family / camping trip. What follows is their rage fueled quest for revenge on whoever (or whatever) killed the rest of the group. And thanks to the Inverse Ninja Law, odds are they'll win. Of course, it's also possible that their superiors or the authorities force them to go back to help rescuers against their will.

There are also times when actually killing off the characters (and having them stay dead) isn't an option. They may be the main characters in a series where Plot Armor applies, or the work may be a prequel to another work featuring the same characters. In these circumstances, any scenario which involves the characters dying one by one can only be resolved by bringing them back to life. Or, rather than have the party be reduced in size via the deaths of its members, the work may have the characters be captured or otherwise prevented from continuing towards their goal, though this does mean there has to be some means of rescuing the trapped characters and reuniting them with their companions.

Related to Final Girl and Ten Little Murder Victims. When multiple characters say You Shall Not Pass!, leading to In the End, You Are on Your Own, its The Rest Shall Pass. This trope culminates in Everybody's Dead, Dave. Compare Minimalist Cast. Not to be confused with There Can Be Only One, where characters in the setting are explicitly out to kill/eliminate each other. If the circumstances allow everyone to come back afterward, it's a Climactic Battle Resurrection. Contrast with We Do the Impossible, for a team that subverts Dwindling Party (mostly) and gets the mission done. If the party is dwindling for non-lethal reasons, you're probably looking at Breaking the Fellowship or one of its variations.

As this is a Death Trope, beware spoilers!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 7 Seeds has Team Winter that already begins with a dwindled party of 5 instead of 8 people. Over the course of only a handful of chapters, characters keep dying with only one remaining at the end.
  • Akame ga Kill! uses this trope a lot. Of the ten introduced members of Night Raid, only four survive till the end of the manga. And the anime is even worse, only two members survive until the end. The Jeagers suffer the same; of six members, only two survive (in the anime a different second survives). The Wild Hunt isn't so lucky, all six members are eventually killed.
  • Akudama Drive: Seven Akudama (criminals) get hired for a heist, and their numbers slowly dwindle over the course of the events. None of them survive to the end, apart from the human cargo they were sent to retrieve and release.
  • Angel Beats!
    • In one episode, while the group is dodging traps set for Angel on their way to Guild, they are gradually all "killed" off, leaving only the two most central protagonists. Except, of course, they're already dead, so it's impossible for them to die; the "dead" members are all back by the next episode.
    • They run this "gauntlet" twice, and are eventually resurrected, however, the story does still play it straight at the end, with the characters slowly actually disappearing and not returning. Though a large number of them simply vanish with less characterization, probably simply because there wasn't animation time to do it properly, eventually the group is left with only five members, and finally they vanish as well. The final ending theme shows this trope heartrendingly well.
    • The first of these is actually done as early as episode 3 (with proper background to the character given), just to give you a taste of what's to come.
  • Attack on Titan does this from the beginning. At the end of the series, the only main characters left alive are Armin, Mikasa, Levi, Jean, Connie, Historia, Reiner, Annie, Gabi, Falco and Pieck. Yes, even Eren is dead. And so is 80% of humanity.
  • Berserk does this with the Eclipse that ends the Golden Age arc (and the anime) with Griffith's Face–Heel Turn leaving the entire Band of the Hawknote  branded for sacrifice. The Hawks' Raiders pretty much get slaughtered en masse by the monsters from hell, but as the horror continues, each of the important members of the Hawks go down one by one until only Guts and Casca are left. And then it all goes to hell. This sequence also has an aspect of a Suicide Mission about it, in that two of the Hawks die trying to get Casca away; Pippin gets eaten holding off a bunch of monsters and Judeau takes a spike through the chest for Casca. They succeed insofar that Casca doesn't die, but by the time Femto is done with her, she's been driven completely insane.
    • The Hawks began dwindling even before the Eclipse happened, since the moment that Guts left the Hawks for his own reason and Griffith just went on a downward spiral was when shit started going From Bad to Worse for them.
  • This is the entire purpose of Bokurano. One by one, the children take their turns piloting Zearth and die, resulting in a gradually shrinking class from the nature school.
  • In the Case Closed Non-Serial Movie The Phantom of Baker Street, fifty kids are trapped in a virtual reality game, and unless at least one of them makes it to the end of their scenario, they'll all be killed. Conan's group, who are wandering around Sherlock Holmes' London, figures out that the minute hand on Big Ben, which started at the 50 mark, ticks backwards one minute for each player who is eliminated from the game. Throughout the movie, the number on the clock gets smaller and smaller until Conan's team is the only one left. Of course, due to various circumstances, even they find themselves getting steadily picked off one by one as the game goes on.
  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Toys in the Attic" features a strange Blob Monster that slowly takes out the Bebop's crew one by one until it's merely Spike with a flamethrower.
  • In Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, the division heads of the Future Foundation, as well as a few others, are trapped in the Future Foundation headquarters together, with bracelets that will inject them with lethal poison if they perform certain Forbidden Actions, which vary from person to person. They're told that every so often, the bracelets on their arms will put them to sleep, and while everyone's unconscious, the "attacker" will kill someone (In reality, the monitors will brainwash the person closest to them into committing suicide). Naturally, people start dying very quickly, whether from the "attacker," from violating their Forbidden Actions, or getting killed by one of the other participants.
  • This is essentially the modus operandi of Dragon Ball Z, especially during the Saiyan and Freeza Sagas. The Z Fighters almost always start off with a numerical advantage, but slowly get defeated one by one by a single enemy until Goku shows up and finally starts the real fight; most of the battles can be summed up as "how many people will die/get incapacitated before Goku show up?"
  • Fushigi Yuugi begins pulling this roughly from the middle of the series all the way to the end, starting with the death of Nuriko. By the end, the only members of Miaka's party left who haven't died are herself, Tamahome, Tasuki, and Chichiri.
  • Gundam:
    • Zeta Gundam spends the last half-a-dozen episodes killing off the majority of its remaining characters, regardless of what faction they're a part of.
    • Victory Gundam is the franchise's best example, since the (named character) death rate is constant to the point of making many viewers utter the Eight Deadly Words.
    • G Gundam subverts this. The rest of the Shuffle Alliance all pull a Heroic Sacrifice one after the other to make sure Domon makes it to and confronts Master Asia, but they all turn out to have survived their efforts.
    • For the Universal Century works, the number of living, named veterans from the White Base dwindles with each successive work down the timeline. By the end of Gundam Unicorn, only Kai, Bright and Mirai are known to be alive. By the late-UC works (F91, Crossbone and Victory), the only major early-UC character who makes an appearance is a man named Grey Stoke aka Judau Ashta.
    • The final episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans see the members of Tekkadan dying one by one as the forces of Gjallarhorn close in while the surviving members mount a Last Stand to hold them off and buy time for an escape. By the end, two thirds of the main cast are dead and Eugene is the only main member of Tekkadan to still be alive.
  • This ends up coming into effect in almost every complete part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure to date:
    • It's probably least prominent in Phantom Blood, at least partially due to the small main cast relative to the other parts (only three; most Parts have five or six), but nonetheless, Jonathan's Hamon teacher Will A. Zeppeli dies shortly before the final battle, leaving only Jonathan and Speedwagon. They're immediately joined by Dire, Straizo, and Tonpetty, so it could be argued that this is one of the few times this trope is averted. Though, since Dire is killed and Tonpetty, Straizo, and Speedwagon are left behind in England, leaving Jonathan alone when he's ambushed by a Not Quite Dead Dio...
    • In Battle Tendency, Master Loggins is killed by Esidisi at Air Supplena Island, then Messina is crippled and Caesar killed by Wamuu at the Switzerland mansion. Later, Kars seriously wounds Lisa Lisa before using the Red Stone to become the Ultimate Lifeform, leaving Joseph and Stroheim to face him alone at Isola di Volgano.
    • The group of protagonists from Stardust Crusaders over the course of the part. First, Avdol is seemingly killed by Hol Horse and J. Geil and exits the story for quite a while; shortly after he is revealed to be alive and returns and Iggy is added to the group, Kakyoin is nearly blinded by N'Doul and spends quite a while in the hospital, out of the story. Once they finally get all six of them together again for the final battle, Avdol and Iggy are both killed by Vanilla Ice, then Kakyoin and Joseph are both killed by DIO (Jotaro is eventually able to save Joseph, but not until after the battle is over), leaving Jotaro and Polnareff left to fight him (mostly just Jotaro, since Polnareff is pretty quickly incapacitated and almost killed during the fight).
    • Diamond Is Unbreakable is the only part to fully subvert this; though every single member of the main cast is killed during the Bites The Dust arc, they're all brought back after Hayato ends the "Groundhog Day" Loop in which it occurred, and all survive to the end. Also, even though the final battle starts with Josuke being separated from his friendsnote  in which has no idea he's fighting the Big Bad, and they eventually clue in and turn up for a collective Big Damn Heroes moment, making this the only time in Jojo history that the entire main cast of a Part has fought the main villain together.
    • In Golden Wind, Fugo deserts the group in Venice and quietly exits the story for good, Abbachio gets his torso annihilated by King Crimson's punch in Sardinia, Narancia is impaled on a set of metal rods in Rome, and Trish (in Mista's body) gets puppeteered by Diavolo's consciousness, which hitched a ride. When Chariot Requiem is destroyed and the displaced souls revert to their own bodies, Bucciarati ends up back in his own technically long-dead corpse back at the Colosseum, leaving Giorno (and technically Mista and Trish, though neither could really do anything to help) to fight Diavolo over Polnareff's Arrow.
    • Stone Ocean gets the biggest case of this: F.F. falls to Pucci in the swamps, Weather Report is killed by Pucci in Fort Lauderdale, then once Pucci acquires Made in Heaven at Cape Canaveral, he almost immediately kills Ermes and Anasui, then Jotaro shortly afterwards. Jolyne sacrifices herself to allow Emporio to escape on a lassoed dolphin, leaving Emporio to face Pucci alone after the universe resets.
    • Steel Ball Run has a different 'party structure' than previous parts; the only 'main' heroes are Johnny and Gyro, but several other characters of varying levels of allegiance weave in and out of the narrative, helping or fighting Johnny and Gyro depending on the specific scenario. Still, this trope comes into play with these loosely associated allies; Mountain Tim is killed by Blackmore in Kansas City, then, closer to Manhattan, Diego and Hot Pants try to ambush Valentine on his train, but Diego is thrown beneath the wheels after carrying Valentine out of the window, then Hot Pants succumbs off-panel to the venom of a spider that was phased under her skin by D4C's Love Train. Gyro is killed by D4C after exposing Love Train's weakness to the ultimate Super Spin, and Lucy Steel is disabled by the growing Holy Corpse, leaving Johnny to face Valentine alone. After his defeat, Valentine summons Diego Brando From Another World, who steals the Corpse and prompts Johnny to pursue him, but Other World Diego redirects Johnny's ultimate spin attack, putting Johnny out of commission and leaving a revived Lucy Steel to face him on her own.
  • In the anime version of MÄR, the King literally starts killing off members of Team MÄR one by one until only Ginta and Jack are still alive. Ginta manages to bring everyone back to life later though. Except for Snow, who manages to resurrect herself by merging her soul with Koyuki so she can be with Ginta in the end.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The cast starts getting picked off rather rapidly as the series draws near the end. First Kaji, then Asuka gets her mind destroyed, Rei gets her body destroyed, Tokyo-3 is all but destroyed as everybody from the school (including Toji and Kensuke) is either killed or put on a crash-course bus, Shinji gets his soul destroyed, most of NERV is massacred by the army, the Geofront gets nuked, Misato is shot, Ritsuko is shot, Asuka is eaten, Humanity is destroyed. Not so much Dwindling Party as much as Dwindling Race by the end of End of Evangelion. By the end of the series only two children: Asuka and Shinji are left on Earth.
    • The ''Rebuild'' films are shaping up to be no better by the time of 3.33. Toji, Kensuke, Hikari, Pen-Pen, Kaji, and Rei II are all but explicitly stated to be killed in 2.0's (Near-)Third Impact. Ironically enough, Kaworu Nagisa appears to be the only direct casualty of Fourth Impact. pedantic clarification 
  • One Piece:
    • The last moments of the Rumbar Pirates. Knowing they will die from the poison their enemies used, they used their last moments to sing one final song and having a good time. Until they succumbed one by one, leaving Brook as their Sole Survivor ...technically.
    • Happened in one single battle. When Bartholomew Kuma shows up to have his second battle with the Straw Hats, he ends up sending all nine of the Straw Hats to different parts of the world. Though, unlike most examples, they all survive and regroup.
  • In Pluto, both Tezuka's original story and Urasawa's revamp, the plot revolves around the seven strongest robots in the world, destined to be killed off one by one by the eponymous Pluto.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has 5 magical girls. By the final episode of the anime, only two of the girls are left, and one of them isn't a magical girl in the first place.
  • The ending of RG Veda. Five of the Six Stars go to Zenmijou to challange Taishakuten and reclute the last Star who was there. Unfortunately, the moment they're in the same room, the real Ashura runs away to kill Shashi for her seal. At the same time, the Stars go against Taishakuten and his Generals (one being the same sixth member they're looking for). After the real Ashura fully awakes, he kills Ryu-oh and a bunch of guards for the kicks while Taishakuten kills Karura-oh, Bishamonten and Kisshouten, Kendappa-oh kills Souma and then herself and Taishakuten prevents Souma of reviving her. Then Ashura finally shows up to kill the last Star Yasha but his love for him drives him to kill himself before hurting Yasha. Yeah, bunch of people died.
  • Season endings in Sailor Moon tend to involve the cast getting picked off one by one, with a lot of Tear Jerker Heroic Sacrifices, leaving the title hero to stand up on her own. Of course, as the main character explicitly has "resurrection" as one of her powers, this doesn't stick... as long as you're a main character.
  • The Sanctuary arc of Saint Seiya, and to some extent the anime-only Asgard arc and the Poseidon arc were this for the Bronze Boys. It's particularly noticeable in the first example because the Bronzies are all breaking through the Twelve Houses as a single group, until one of them stays behind to fight the residing Gold Saint and distract him/hold him off long enough to let the others through (whereas in Asgard and Poseidon's domain they all split up and then reunited at the very end, and then the dwindling occurred.) The Hades Saga, on the other hand, became this for the Gold Saints once they entered the realm of the dead, often for the benefit of the Bronzies.
  • Shi ni Aruki begins with the death of Tokimune Kurosu, the adoptive father of Tokiko Kurosu, which leads to further deaths among the family. Many chapters end with a 3x3 grid of the family members' portraits, with the dead characters' portraits shaded and splattered with blood, while characters who are missing but not confirmed dead are shaded out. After all of the Kurosus besides Tokiko die, the grid changes to the remaining cast. By the end of the series, only three characters- Ai, Koga and Akiyama- are still alive.
  • Simoun spends the first seven episodes gathering up Chor Tempest, then proceeds to decimate them via Heroic BSODs, other personal traumas, accidental Time Travel, and bad cases of death. By the time Chor Tempest is finally disbanded in the last episodes, only half of its members are still there. This is even lampshaded in the mid-season episode title "One by One."
  • X1999 is heading towards this direction at least as the TV series is concerned. Among the Dragons of Heaven, only Yuzuriha, Aoki, Arashi and Subaru are left while Kusanagi is Sole Survivor of the Dragons of Earth.

    Comic Books 
  • Button Man: When Harry is pursued by a Carnival of Killers, he proceeds to off them one by one. Especially the last eight who unite at his cabin in Montana are killed in alarmingly fast order.
  • Villain version in Copperhead: when Zolo's gang kidnaps Boo and races for their stronghold, the gang is killed off one by one either by the pursuing sheriff's posse or Boo himself.
  • Garth Ennis' Crossed has this. Some of the characters are killed by the titular sadistic, not-quite-zombie Crossed while others kill themselves or are killed by the other survivors.
  • In Flesh: "Texas", Pat Mills has stated he is aiming to have an average of one character dying each week.
  • Each Year of Injustice: Gods Among Us features the death of at least one member of Batman's Insurgency. It becomes so common that by Year Four the remaining members begin lampshading it.
  • One Justice League of America story had the team taking on their enemy the Key and all sacrificing themselves one by one until only the John Stewart Green Lantern and Red Tornado were left. Turns out the other League members were secretly saved by the Phantom Stranger at the last minute.
  • In Last Days of the Justice Society, the members of the Justice Society of America in 1945 that makes it inside the Spear of Destiny's sphere of influence get picked off one by one as they make their way into the bunker where Adolf Hitler is using the Spear to bring the end of the world. Ultimately, the team fails, and the world is dissolved in flames.
  • In book 2 of Les Légendaires, the titular Legendaries agree to go along with a series of deadly tests imposed by the Guardian of a multiple magic stones, so they can acquire the one they need to cure their world of the curse known as the Jovenia Effect. They end up dying one by one while going through the test, each time giving their life so the others can go on. In the end, Danael and a dying Jadina alone make it to the Guardian, only for a villainous character to double-cross them and take the Stone they wanted for himself. Fortunately, when Danael refuses to take another stone, the Guardian decides to instead reward him by resurrecting his friends.
  • In Pocket God, The first story arc had most of the pygmies die one by one in their quest to revive their Gem of Life. By the end of the arc, Ooga manages to revive the Gem and bring his tribe back to life.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog and his friends are no strangers to getting separated from one another, but this trope isn't usually what scatters them. In Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW), however, Sonic and the gang face a threat that plays this trope straight: the Metal Virus, a bioweapon created by Dr. Eggman that turns its victims into zombie-like robots called "Zombots". Eggman unleashes the virus in Issue 16, starting a Zombie Apocalypse that gradually takes out every hero and villain involved. Sonic himself very nearly succumbs to the virus before being cured when he and Silver the Hedgehog go Super in Issue 29. By then, Super Sonic, Super Silver, and Deadly Six leader Zavok (in his One-Winged Angel form) are the only characters left who aren't infected, cornered, or otherwise absent from the battlefield. After making short work of Zavok, Sonic and Silver become the last characters standing a minute or two before restoring all their friends (and, by proximity, foes) with a World-Healing Wave.
  • Sullivan's Sluggers: The main cast is composed of a baseball team and the Smith, talent agent Casey invited to their game in Malice. By the end, only Smith, Duncan, Cornell, and The Slugger remain.
  • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers: A crack team of red shirts goes on a Suicide Mission to liberate a Hellhole Prison captured by a psychotic warlord. The team starts with eleven members (twelve if you count Snare) and by the end only five are alive and active.
  • The Wicked + The Divine's premise makes this inevitable. All of the resurrected gods will be dead within two years. As of issue 13, Lucifer, Inanna, Laura, and Tara are all dead.
    • Turns out Laura was less dead than originally believed. However, as of issue 22, Ananke is dead and the surviving gods have no minders and nothing to stop them from doing whatever they want.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: The team in "What if the Auximorphs joined the team right away?" starts with about 30 members, but grows smaller over the course of a few months. First Kelly kills Liam and they abandon ten others who can't survive outside of the hospital, then Cassie is killed after a reconnaissance mission at a Sharing meeting goes wrong, then Kelly nothlits herself as a Mix-and-Match Man so she doesn't die of cystic fibrosis and leaves, then Julio dies of his ailment, then Jake, Rachel, Ax, Tobias, and presumably a few others die on a suicide mission. Only five are left at the end: James, Marco, Colette, Timmy, and Elena.
  • The initially-thousands-strong regiment the main characters of the All Guardsmen Party are part of certainly counts. It lost a third of its personnel in the first engagement, and over the course of four campaigns was whittled down to fifty men. A quarter of which were purged for genestealer infestation. According to Word of God they're now down to fifteen.
  • All Mixed Up! has a non-lethal variant — the townspeople, the villains in Precinct 13579's Rogues Gallery, and Odd Squad agents in the precinct all attacked by Mariana Mag one by one, until Otto is one of the few left standing. In terms of the main characters, he's the only one left standing.
  • Happens to the main gang in the Calvin at Camp episode "Hobbes of the Wild."
  • Code Prime has a villainous example with the Decepticons being picked off one by one, starting with Makeshift, Kickback, Hardshell and Breakdown in R1 Dreadwing doesn't count as he defected to the Autobots by the time of his death. R2 has more being killed off, including the Combaticons, Starscream, Skywarp, Barricade,Airachnid and the Constructicons. By the time the final act starts in R2, the only remaining Decepticons left of the nearly four dozen introduced throughout are Megatron, Soundwave (with Rumble, Ravage, and Laserbeak), Shockwave, Thundercracker, Slipstream, Knock Out, Sky-Byte, Steeljaw, Fracture (with Airazor and Divebomb), Shin Hyuga Shaing, and Predaking.
    • Another villainous example is the Britannian Imperial Family. The Decepticons' takeover of the empire leads to Charles being killed, along with one of his consorts Victoria. Castor and Pollux are later killed fighting Grimlock, and Charles brother V.V. dies when Megatron takes his Code. After Megatron kills Schneizel, Anticlea, and Guinevere, the only family members left are essentially those with the Black Knights: Lelouch, Nunnally, Euphemia, Cornelia, Rai, Marrybell, Marianne, Odysseus, Carine, and Laila.
    • On the heroes' side of things, there's the Four Holy Swords, who are slowly picked off during the second half of R2. Urabe dies in a Heroic Sacrifice fighting Bruticus, Senba is killed by a Red Pawn, and Asahina is one of the many soldiers killed by the Damocles' fusion cannons, leaving Chiba the sole survivor.
  • Concerning Us ends with all the three main characters dead.
  • Danganronpa fanfiction runs off this trope, much like the games that inspire them.
    • Despair's Last Resort features a running count of how many students are left at the end of each chapter, even when it's been a while since someone died. After it's revealed that there are two more members of Class 79, there's a question mark after the total. At the end of the final trial, the counter instead says "7 Students Survived" — namely, the six students who were still alive as of the end of Chapter 5, plus Shuuya Kurogane, one of the missing students.
    • Three-Point Shot, a retelling of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, also regularly updates the counter based on how many students are still alive. After it turns out that K1-B0 technically survived Kokichi killing him (long story), the counter actually goes up from 5 to 6.
    • Where Talent Goes to Die updates the total number of remaining students after each class trial. At the end of the story, four students are left.
  • Invoked and defied in The Dresden FilliesTrixie lures the group into her castle full of traps exactly for this purpose but Harry pushes his powers to the limit to keep everypony alive.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: A villainous example happens with Cinder's faction during the Fall of Beacon. Roman dies when Nihilus causes the airship he was aboard to crash into Beacon Academy. Neo jumps ship after being given the Offhand Backhand by Nihilus. Emerald and Mercury are killed by Nihilus not long afterwards and Cinder commits suicide to prevent Nihilus from gaining control of her mind. Lastly, Adam has his life force drained by Nihilus after his heated duel with Winter draws the Dark Lord's attention.
  • Happens in the Pokémon Reset Bloodlines sidestory "Shadows of the Jungle", as told in the Apocalyptic Log entries written by Professor Gideon Knowles, who is the only one left (And by the time he writes the final entry, he's only seconds away from being Eaten Alive by Bug-types).
  • A lighter variation in The Rules: the amount of nations on the island is decreasing, not because more and more are dying (they are, but they keep coming back to life) but because more and more are sending themselves home.
  • In The Season's My Reason, at first only Rosemary is sick, but in later seasons, other Cures, including Ichika, Sora, and Love, start to fall ill as well.
  • Under Moonlight combines this with Me's a Crowd, as Danny Phantom deals with his duplicates disappearing under mysterious circumstances. When he finally learns what's been happening to them, he opts not to rescue himself, as merging back together would mean inheriting his other self's memories — and he doesn't want to remember his own parents experimenting on him.
  • Vow of Nudity: The prequel story starring Haara's mother is particularly lethal towards its main cast. Of the twelve different characters who join the core party, only she is still alive by the end.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 13th Warrior: A few of the other warriors are dispatched in each battle scene till only the title character and two others remain. "Ibn" (as they call him!), Weath, Herger, Edgtho, and Hatlaf (the boy) all survive. Plus, characterization is given beyond Buliwyf and Herger. Weath is hinted at being a Celt, a musician, and has a family. Herger is one of the more educated members of the party. Edgtho is known as "the silent" just like in the book and is shown to be the group's dour-mannered scout and tracker.
  • In 3:10 to Yuma (2007), five men set out from Dan Evans' farm to escort outlaw leader Ben Wade to the town of Contention so he can be escorted to the titular train to Yuma for prison. While they are soon joined by Dan's son William, the party itself is whittled down over the course of the film to William and one other man who abandoned the mission.
  • In The Abominable Snowman, our hero sets out to look for the yeti with a five-man team, and when his wife eventually finds him he's the only one left (though the guide apparently also survived, having run back to his village in the middle of the movie).
  • Alien, where the entire plot is centered around the protagonists trying to track down an unknown creature that's killing them off one by one, ultimately leaving Ripley as the lone survivor. And Jones the cat.
  • American Scarecrow starts with about 6-8 people. Only two remain by the film's end.
  • Anaconda with Terri, Danny and Cale the last ones left. It turns out that Sarone had set this up from the start; the crew were his bait for the snake all along.
  • Avatar. Jake, Neytiri, Norm, Max, Mo'at, and Selfridge are the only named characters to survive the movie. Tsu'tey technically survives the battle but dies afterward. Eytukan dies in the attack on Hometree, Grace is killed in between that attack and the Final Battle, and Trudy and Quaritch die in the battle.
  • Bandolero!: The posse starts out with around a dozen men. Four of them abandon the chase or are killed by the bandoleros around halfway through the movie, with the two who quit being killed by the bandits as well once their friends are out of sight. During the final shootout, most of the others are killed, save for July, Mauve Shirt Hayjack, and a couple of background characters.
  • Bataan has a ragtag group of 13 American soldiers with orders to hold a bridge and keep the Japanese Army from crossing. They're picked off one by one over the course of the film until five are left for the Final Battle. Four are killed there, and the film ends with the last remaining soldier sitting in his grave, making his Last Stand against an onslaught of Japanese soldiers as the credits roll.
  • Happens to the group of five friends in The Cabin in the Woods. Subverted when the friend who got abducted by a zombie turns out to have survived and saves the Final Girl. They later learn this is exactly what needs to happen for the ritual to work and refuse to play ball, dooming humanity to its fate.
  • Centurion ends with only the main character surviving and returning to his new Celtic girlfriend.
  • The page image provider, Circle, involves a game in which every two minutes, someone dies. They actually attempt several different ways to cheat the game, such as not voting or forcing a tie, both of which fail. For the former, the device selects a random victim. For the latter, everyone put into a tie will be killed if the votes don't shift.
  • Clash of the Titans and the 2010 remake both have the Argive soldiers killed to a man save for Perseus.
  • Code Red: the Rubicon Conspiracy has the six members of the tactical squad whittled away at a fairly steady rate once they actually reach their initial destination.
  • The Core with only Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank's characters left standing.
  • Used in all of the Cube films.
  • Damnatus invokes this trope once G'gour gets loose.
  • In Dawn of the Dead (2004), only Ana, Kenneth, Terry, Nicole, and Chips the Dog survive, but it's hinted they die shortly afterwards when they reach the island.
  • In Day of the Dead (1985), there were originally 18 people at the facility (going by Captain Rhodes' words "you've lost one, I've lost five" to the scientists). When the film begins, there are 12 left. By the end of the film, the only survivors are Sarah, John and Bill.
  • Deadly Detention: Over the course of the film, the cast of one principal and five students are reduced to the Final Girl. Subverted in the end, when it's revealed that the others are alive and kicking.
  • Deadtimestories Volume 1: In "Valley of the Shadow", members of Angela's expedition are picked off one by one by the headhunters until Angela is the only one left.
  • Deep Blue Sea used an interesting subversion of the trope urged on by test audiences. After dwindling the cast down to three people the manly hero predictably survives, but the female scientist and ostensible deuteragonist dies while the black comic relief makes it to the end credits along with the hero instead.
  • Deep Rising with Finnegan, Trillian, and Tooch surviving.
  • Most "Die Hard" on an X films have this happening to the villains as The Hero takes them out one by one.
  • Dinosaur Hotel: The main group of the movie includes Sienna, Maddie, Peter, Zara, Laura, Sam, and Jenny. At the end, the group has been whittled down to Sienna, Maddie, and Peter.
  • Not surprising that this happens in The Dirty Dozen, as a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits are sent on a Suicide Mission. The first death happens right when they land with the parachutes, the last while leaving the scene. The others somewhere in between.
  • The Doom movie killed off all the marines one by one with the exceptions of Reaper and Samantha.
  • The Elf: The movie starts with eight people in the house with the killer elf doll. By the end, there's only one.
  • Escape Room (2019): After the first room, every room claims a member until Ben is the only one playing …or so it seems, as Zoey also survives and saves Ben’s life in process.
  • Everest (2015): The climbing groups start to suffer from this after they summit and the blizzard moves in. The first to go is Doug, who falls off a cliff suffering from oxygen deprivation, others get caught in the icy winds and freeze.
  • Feral (2017): Over the course of the film, the campers start getting picked off, either by the disease, or the feral infected.
  • In The Gatling Gun, Lt. Malcolm starts off with a squad of ten cavalry troopers, plus Runner the Army Scout, the prisoner Sneed, and Reverend Harper and his stepdaughter Leona. He loses several men to the apaches before rescuing the civilians Luke, Jim and Martha Boland, and Tin Pot. By the end of the film, the only ones left alive are Lt. Malcolm, Runner, Martha and Tin Pot.
  • Ghost Ship kills off the entire cast on the haunted ship save for Final Girl Epps.
  • The Green Mile: When the film starts, there's maybe four or five prisoners in the titular hallway that we get to know and sympathize with. One by one their execution date arrives. By the time it's all over the only people still in the mile are the guards.
  • The Grey, where the wolves pick them off one by one. Either that, or the Alaskan environment.
  • Halloween: Resurrection has a reality show called Dangertainment with a group of college students and the TV crew in the old Myers house. Throughout the night, Michael proceeds to pick them off one by one until one member of the crew (the director) and one of the college students are left.
  • By the end of Hawk the Slayer, three members are dead out of the five-person party (or six-person party, if you count the witch despite the fact that she's hardly ever around).
  • Hazmat: The cast gets picked off one by one over the course of the movie until Brenda gets killed at the end.
  • House of the Witch: The film starts with six teenagers in the titular house. By the film's end, most of them are dead, and the witch is in Lana's body.
  • The alien guards in Hunter Prey. Soon only our main character is left.
  • The Hurricane Heist: Every mercenary involved in the heist is killed by either the heroes or the brute forces of the hurricane.
  • Interstellar: The NASA mission begins with a crew of four astronauts (with the possibility of rescuing up to three more) and two robots. By the movie's end, one astronaut was killed on one of the planets they visited; two of the three astronauts they hoped to save were already dead by the time the remaining crew got there; the third had gone insane and killed a second crew member (and actually tried to kill the entire remaining crew) before accidentally killing himself; and the remaining group of two humans and two robots was separated (with one human and one robot each) indefinitely. While the film ends with one party preparing to go rejoin the other, we do not get to actually see this happen.
  • Juan of the Dead: China is bitten at some point and needs killing after he reanimates. Then Primo breaks open the doors to a shelter, unaware it was full of zombies. They drag him in.
    Lázaro: Juan, enough of your genius plans! We have gone from an orchestra to a band!
    • Finally, Lázaro reveals he's been bitten. Subverted in that the bite never broke the skin, so he'll live.
  • The Jurassic Dead: The main cast gets gradually killed and zombified by the undead dinosaur over the course of the movie until only three remain. And even then, it's revealed at the end that the survivors became intelligent zombies anyway.
  • Inverted in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: by the end of the film the number of the treasure-seekers has nearly doubled. Lampshaded by Sylvester Marcus, himself one of the newcomers: "Mama, this thing's like a convention!"
  • Jurassic Prey: The cast gets picked off one by one by the dinosaur until only Jackie is left.
  • Krull kills off most of the cast, including A: the mentor figure, who dies in the process of finding out where to find the Black Fortress, B: The 'Travelling Man', one of whose wives we meet in a previous scene, and C: Rell the Cyclops, who makes a Heroic Sacrifice. Whereas the hero began with nearly an army, only four of his allies are still alive at the end to walk off into the distance with the hero after he rescues the Damsel in Distress and saves the world.
  • Parodied in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, when The Chosen One arrives just in time to discover that all of his friends, as well as his mentor, have been mortally wounded by Betty (including the dog!) After a series of heartfelt dying speeches, he eventually realizes that he just kept running away to the next person when they finished talking without confirming that they were actually dead, and thus everybody was still alive after all (except Wimp Lo.)
    The Chosen One: Master! I thought you were dead!
    Master Tang: All I did was go "AAUGHCCCK!" (flops over) That does not necessarily mean that a person is dead.
  • In The Lost Patrol an officer and 12 enlisted cavalrymen go off on a mission into the desert. The officer is shot first, leaving the men at a loss since they don't know what the mission is. Then they are picked off one at a time by unseen Arab enemy. At the end the sergeant is the only one left.
  • Lycan: Six college students enter the forest to investigate the Talbot County werewolf legend. They're all picked off by a killer until only Blake survives.
  • Four of the Magnificent Seven, following the plot of Seven Samurai. The same happens in the remake.
  • Mako (2021): At the start of the movie are eight crew members. By the end of the movie, that number's been reduced to three>
  • Mohawk: Initially seven men (six soldiers and their civilian interpreter) survive Calvin's attack on the camp. These are gradually picked off until only Holt remains.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, King Arthur's party gets whittled down by the Killer Rabbit, the Gorge of Eternal Peril, eating Sir Robin's minstrels, and getting arrested by the cops; only Arthur and Sir Bedivere reach the castle with the Grail.
  • Mosul (2020): Even before Kawa joins the group, the Nineveh Province SWAT Team used to number over 30 men and 6 Humvees. The film begins with a dozen left in 3 Humvees, and only gets smaller as they continue on their mission within ISIS-held Iraqi territory.
  • The Night They Knocked: The movie starts out with a group of seven young college students. By the end, there's only two.
  • Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight: The movie starts with three campers. At the end, only one survives.
  • Pitch Black, with only Riddick, Imam, and Jack making it off the planet.
    • And in Riddick, out of the 12 characters on Not-Furya, only 4 make it out: Riddick, Boss Johns, Dahl, and Luna.
  • Pitchfork starts with eight survivors, and ends with four. Hunter, Jenny, Lenox, and Ben.
  • In The Poseidon Adventure, ten people start the journey from the main dining room to the engine room. Only six make it all the way to the end.
  • Predator. And Predators.
  • The Redwood Massacre: The cast starts getting picked off before they even get to their destination.
  • Occurs in all the Resident Evil movies, so much so that in the final movie Alice works out who The Mole is simply by the fact that he's the last man standing.
  • In Revenge of the Virgins, the party that ventures into Injun Country in search of gold is picked off one by one by the Indians, intil only Potter remains.
  • Little by little, the group of protagonists from Robot Holocaust end up in the Big B-Movie in the Sky.
  • The climax of Rogue One depicts the members of the titular team getting killed one by one through the battle to get the Death Star plans until every single member is dead.
  • Saving Private Ryan has most of the squad die rather heroically. Out of the original squad sent to find Ryan as well as the entire paratrooper force defending the town of Ramelle, only two members of the original squad and Ryan himself survive when Allied reinforcements finally arrive. Pvt. Jackson is killed when a tank destroyer's cannon blows up his church tower, Pvt. Mellish is killed when he's pinned down and stabbed by a German soldier, Sgt. Horvath is shot repeatedly over the course of the battle and finally succumbs after crossing the bridge, and finally Cpt. Miller himself, shot by Steamboat Willie and dies giving a last speech to Ryan just as reinforcements arrive.
    • Even before the final battle at Ramelle, Pvt. Caparzo is shot by a sniper and bleeds out before anyone can get to him, and Medic Wade is mortally wounded by Steamboat Willie and Mercy Killed with a morphine overdose by Horvath.
  • Scarred: The film starts out with six characters (Bo, Asia, Shawn, Brooke, Jess, and Marley), and ends with two. Bo and Marley. And even then, the film ends with Martha in a torture device Jonah fix up.
  • Whedon's commentary on Serenity states that he was deliberately evoking the Suicide Mission, killing off two main characters from the show and seriously injuring everyone but River Tam, who he put in an inescapable death trap. Then he let some of them live.
  • Four of the Seven Samurai; Heihachi is killed in an attack on the bandits' encampment, Gorobei is Killed Offscreen in an attack on the village, while Kyuzo and Kikuchiyo are slain in the Final Battle.
  • In Shark Week, Tiburon transports eight captives to his island compound. One or more die at each Shark Pool in the Death Course, until only Reagan is left as the Final Girl.
  • Shaun of the Dead starts off with seven characters in the group, which dwindles down to two in the end (and one friendly zombie). Extra materials do show one other character survived and that she maintains 'Christmas card contact' with the main characters.
  • In Snowpiercer, the assembled group of rebels gets killed off one by one on their way to the front of the train.
  • The ten National Guardsmen in Southern Comfort are whittled down to two, mostly at the hands of some pissed-off Cajuns.
  • The landing on Iscandar in Space Battleship Yamato.
    • Then Desla's final attack on Yamato and Earth. By the time all is said and done, only twelve members of the ship's crew survive.
  • Sunshine uses the suicide mission format.
  • Terror Birds: The cast starts out with six college kids, all of whom die one by one until two remain. Those two being Maddy and Justin.
  • In They Were Expendable, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3 starts the war with six boats, each with a crew of 15, and a shore unit for supply and maintenance. One by one the boats are lost - sunk, grounded, burned, or transferred to the Army - and the men are killed, wounded, missing, or left behind, until at the end the squadron has zero boats and only a few men. The senior officers are evacuated, while the remaining officers and enlisted men march off to join the ragtag guerilla army forming on Mindanao.
  • In the remake The Thing out of the 12 scientists by the end only MacReady and Childs are left alive. In the 2011 prequel Kate is the only person out of the 15 people at Thule Station not explicitly killed (Lars is still alive when the credits roll, but dies at the beginning of the 1982 film). To add to the bleak tone, all three of the survivors across both films were last seen in a position where they could have easily frozen to death (assuming none of them were assimilated by The Thing beforehand).
  • The Thing from Another World is probably the film that popularized the "hunted" variant of this trope, although that particular film actually had a pretty low body count (the only casualties being a few minor characters who are killed off-screen).
  • Thirst (2015): At the beginning of the movie, the main cast has Burt, Claire, Roth, Courtney, Luis, Trapper, Meeka, and Wes. By the end of the film, it's been reduced down to Roth, Courtney, and Luis.
  • Triassic World: As the movie progresses, more and more of the cast die off to the dinosaurs until only Diana is left.
  • Truth or Dare (2017): At least two people die each round.
  • Truth or Dare (2018): Olivia and Markie being the only friends in the group to make it out of their game alive.
  • Tucker & Dale vs. Evil: A bunch of college kids embark on a Deadly Road Trip and start getting killed off... via multiple cases of Accidental Suicide.
  • Virus: With only Kelly and Steven escaping the cyborg massacre
  • What Happened to Monday: Seven sisters must pose as a single person to avoid the government putting the younger six sisters into cryostasis. (Actually liquidation) The only survivors in the end are Thursday and Tuesday, the latter of which has lost an eye.
  • The Wild Geese: Successive encounters with the Simbas steadily chip away at the ranks of the mercenaries.
  • Non-lethal version in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, almost every stop causes one kid to get bumped from the group, until only Charlie is left.
  • In The World's End, the gang lose Oliver to the Blanks before they fully know what's going on, then Sam flees the town, then Peter is mobbed by the Blanks, then Steven is abandoned with "The Beast". Steven and Sam come back; Oliver, Peter and "The Beast" stay dead.
  • Done twice in X-Men: Days of Future Past, with both ultimately stopped by Kitty's time travel power.

  • This happens in the fourth Lone Wolf book, among others — over the course of a simple mission to investigate a cult trying to bring back an evil god, your entire squad is slowly killed off, bit by bit, whatever path is taken. By the time you arrive there, you're alone.

  • John Peel's 2099 series killed off the entire human race except twelve children in the first book, and two children somewhat later in that same book. Every subsequent book killed off another two characters, until only two were left in book six.
  • Against a Dark Background generally whittles down its Five-Man Band of adventurers leaving only Sharrow alive at the end.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front is an early example, killing off its soldier protagonists one by one in every way the author can think of.
  • In Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (arguably the most famous example of this trope, or at least the book is most famous for it), the characters are at a dinner party (of sorts), and are killed off one-by-one, as you might be able to tell from the title.
  • In Animorphs #18, The Decision, the Animorphs are caught in a Negative Space Wedgie and end up hundreds of light-years from Earth, on an alien planet. As they head to meet up with the Andalites and then go on a mission to arm a continent-wide explosive, they disappear one by one. They eventually figure out that it's a snapback effect, and each of them is getting sent back to where they were in spacetime when the wedgie occurred.
  • Battle Royale has this in its very premise, with the twist that the party is killing itself.
  • Bazil Broketail: In the first book, Captain Kepteson's command of nearly a hundred steadily dwindles to around twenty as a result of battle casualties. Only a handful of survivors return, including him.
  • Missions led by Ciaphas Cain HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! (from Warhammer 40,000 books by Sandy Mitchell) tend to develop like this. Of course, without Cain the missions would've been doomed from the start.
    • The clearest-cut example is from Caves of Ice, where Cain's expedition into the eponymous caves goes from a full squad of Guardsmen, to half a squad, to three, and then down to only two. (Admittedly, he sent the other half of the squad back himself, but only because they were walking wounded.)
  • Cthulhu Armageddon: As befitting a After the End Cosmic Horror Story, this happens a lot.
    • In the first book, Gamma Squad consists of five members and they're almost all slaughtered by Reanimated with John believed to be the only survivor for much of the book until he finds Jessica. Later, Peter Goodhill, Katryn, and possibly Jessica are also killed.
    • In The Towerof Zhaal which is based on The Magnificent Seven. In the end, only three out of the seven survive with one of them being hopelessly insane.
  • This is part of the backstory of Sparky in The Dire Saga. His team hunted down The Great Clown Pagliacci in an amusement part named Funland and his party members are picked off one by one until only he remains to administer justice. When he later encounters an undead Pagliacci, he learns that Pagliacci believes that Sparky intentionally abandoned each of his team members to die because helping them would have slowed him down.
  • Eisenhorn Gregor Eisenhorn's organization is demolished and his team splits up or dies over the course of the latter half of his trilogy, until by the Bequin books he's left with Medea, Cherubael, and one starship.
  • Eternity Road is kind of weird about this. At first, it looks like it's heading for an Everybody Lives ending, especially since the first death is a case of Never Found the Body. The first and second deaths both come out of nowhere, but after the second it sets itself up for a scenario enacting this trope. After the third death, the main character goes through a Heroic BSoD and resolves to keep everyone else alive — and they all make it out, even the whiny merchant who couldn't be lower on the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality if he were wearing a red shirt.
  • Galaxy of Fear: In about half of the books, a group of several minor and often largely unnamed characters face the same dangers as the main cast and any previously established guest stars. They inevitably gradually experience misfortunes that remove them from the main action until there are few if any of them left. Sometimes, they are only injured or incapacitated, but usually, at least some of them are killed by the main threat.
    • In the Back Story of Eaten Alive, Captain Bebo and the other nineteen survivors of a starship crash began vanishing in groups of one to three at a time. About a quarter of them lasted long enough to take refugee in an abandoned laboratory that provided some safety, but some of them left to check their distress beacon and never came back. By the time of the book, only Bebo (the only one who can safely go outside thanks to a protective amulet) and his Not-So-Imaginary Friend Lonni are left of the original twenty. Neither of them makes it to the end of the book.
    • In Army Of Terror the handful of Rebel Red Shirts who accompany the POV characters after they prove ignorant of the Never Split The Patry trope are picked off by the monster that they happen to be carrying and Hoole submits to the Kivan wraiths and needs rescuing.
    • In The Doomsday Ship. The two Arrandas, Dash Rendar, The Captain of the ship, and several crewmen are left on a ship where everything is trying to kill them. All the unnamed members of the party are killed via Evil Elevator, another falls down the elevator shaft the party is climbing after droids start throwing things at them, the last is sucked into space through a hole put in the hull, and Captain Hajj falls to his death while climbing through a tube when he's attacked by tiny acid-spraying robots. Dash falls victim to The Door Slams You and Tash almost asphyxiates, but they live.
  • David Gemmell's books usually featured this due to the prevalence of sieges and last stands. The order of the Thirty is based on the idea that they fight in support of hopeless causes and they will die one by one until the last survivor leaves to found a new Thirty.
  • Caine's party in Gone. They start with quite a few members, but they all either Face–Heel Turn one by one so that by Plague, they're left with just Caine himself, Dianna, Bug, and Penny.
  • Prince Bifalt leaves Belleger's Fist with a party of sixteen men at the start of The Seventh Decimate. By the end of the book, he is down to a single companion, all the others having either died or turned back.
  • In Grent's Fall, King Osbert Grent's army starts with himself, his third son, two advisors, his best friend, his best friend's son, and multiple high-ranked military leaders. By the end, most of them are dead. Similarly, multiple battles make it clear that both armies are suffering casualties, named and otherwise.
  • The picture book Hairy Maclary's Bone by Lynley Dodd has a nonlethal and very young-child-friendly variant: the titular dog is being followed by his five friends who all want the bone he's carrying, and he leads them through a series of obstacles, at each of which one of the five fails to pass and is eliminated from the chase, until he's finally shaken them all off.
  • Harry Potter
    • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or "Sorcerer's Stone" if you're in the US), while they don't die the trio does indeed get whittled down to just one over the course of running the gauntlet to the mirror.
    • Over the course of its existence, The Order of the Phoenix (the organization, not the book) was like this as well. When Moody shows Harry a group photo of the original members, we find that over the years they've lost thirteen people, including the Potters and the Longbottoms, with only 9 of them still in the order by book five. While they did get more members in the form of the Weasleys, Snape and others, the order loses basically all of its original members as Dumbledore, Lupin, Sirius and Moody die.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry, along with Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, and Luna go to the Ministry to rescue Sirius. When they wind up cornered by Death Eaters, they're picked off one by one (non-fatally) until Harry and Neville (who has a broken nose) are left.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley, and Luna Lovegood lead Dumbledore's Army in opposition of the Death Eaters' takeover of Hogwarts. Luna doesn't return for the second term when she was abducted by Death Eaters at the Hogwarts Express during the Christmas holiday, and Ginny was forced into hiding along with the rest of her family during the Easter holiday, leaving Neville as the sole active leader by the time Harry returned to Hogwarts.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay begins a mission with nine people, and ends with only three.
    • Every single career tribute alliance in the history of the Games. For example: in the first book, the alliance consists of seven total members: Cato, Clove, Glimmer, Marvel, an unnamed tribute from District 3 who reactivates a set of mines, another unnamed tribute from District 4, and Peeta Mellark. Glimmer and the District 4 tribute are stung to death by a tracker jacker hive dropped by Katniss, Peeta betrays the group and is forced to flee in an injured state, the District 3 tribute is killed by Cato when his mines accidentally destroy their supplies, Marvel is shot by Katniss after killing Rue, Clove has her head broken open with a rock by Thresh, and Cato is shot as a Mercy Kill by Katniss. By the end of the book only Peeta is left... minus one leg.
    • At the beginning of the series, 59 Hunger Games victors are said to be alive. By the end, they’re down to seven. The surviving ones are: Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch, Johanna, Annie, Enobaria, and Beetee.
  • Into The Broken Lands: The Lord Protector warns Ryan that the odds of survival in the titular Death World are about 50-50, as they were in his own expedition. By the end, four of Ryan's original nine are dead by two magical traps, a murder, and the execution of the murderer.
  • In Lady of the Lake, the final installment of The Witcher saga, Geralt's Ragtag Bunch of Misfits is decimated while storming Vilgefortz castle. Milva scores a Mutual Kill with the enemy archer leader, Cahir is killed by the Implacable Man Bonhart while defending Ciri, Angouleme dies in Ciri's arms from blood loss, and Regis (a vampire) is melted into glass by Vilgefortz himself. Add the fact that Dandelion quit the party before that and only Geralt leaves the castle alive. However, he leaves with Yennefer (whom he freed from the castle) and Ciri (who entered the castle earlier).
  • Happens in the B-plot (Meanwhile, in the Future… style) in the first book of The Magnificent Twelve, with the original Magnifica. The original group gets smaller and smaller, either by members dying, or crossing the Despair Event Horizon and subsequently losing their powers, until by the time the A-plot takes place only Grimluk's left. It gets to Tear Jerker levels when the Plotline Crossover occurs and the reader pieces it together.
  • The Maze Runner: Twelve members of Group A are already dead by the time Thomas and Teresa arrive in the Glade. By the end of the book, another twenty-seven have died (not counting Gally, who is twice thought to be dead only for him to turn up alive) and there are further deaths in The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. Group B follow a similar pattern, though they have around twice as many surviving members as Group A when the two groups meet up towards the end of The Scorch Trials. Ultimately, only a handful of the kids WICKED used as subjects (up to seven from Group A, plus an unknown number from Group B) make it through to the end.
  • In The Odyssey, Odysseus's party is picked off by the fantastical beings they encounter on their journey home. This was part of a curse Odysseus received, stating he would be allowed to finally return home at the end of his long adventure, but it would be at the cost of his men.
  • Thirty-something people make it to The Mother in Remnants. By the end of the series, only seven of them (possibly eight) are alive: Jobs, Mo'Steel, Edward, Olga, Noyze, Violet, and Roger Dodger. There's some debate about D-Caf, since he completely disappeared from the plot after he accidentally killed Animull.
  • Rowan of Rin uses a nonlethal variant, as each character encounters their personal worst fear and turns back rather than face it. Rowan's the only one left at the end because he's a Cowardly Lion—he faces his fears every day.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has a villainous example occur in its latter half. Starting with the eighth book, it became a tradition for one of Count Olaf's long-term henchmen to die or meet an ambiguous fate each book, until by the final book he was completely alone and powerless.
  • Shannara:
    • The Wishsong of Shannara, Jair Ohmsford leaves Culhaven with Slanter, Garet Jax, Elb Foraker, Edain Elessedil, and Helt on a quest to stop the magical pollution of the Silver River by the Mord Wraiths and to save his sister Brin from the corruption of the Ildatch. As the company is constantly pursued by forces loyal to the Ildatch, one member after another stays behind to hold off the pursuers so that the rest of the company can continue on. By the end, only Jair and Slanter survive.
    • The Elf Queen Of Shannara has this too, and it also (somewhat) occurs in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy.
  • The original Pack in The Sight pretty much drop like flies.
  • This happens in The Silmarillion. Pretty much any character who does anything even remotely heroic gets killed in a series of battles in which things get progressively worse. The number of Elves who survive the First Age can be counted on one hand, and the only reason that civilization was not destroyed utterly was a literal Deus ex Machina.
  • In the various voyages of Sinbad, he would get shipwrecked or marooned on far off shores. If his fellow passengers or crew mates weren't all immediately killed, the locals would dine on them soon enough.
  • In Somewhere a Voice by Eric Frank Russell a group of people shipwrecked in hostile alien jungle are trying to reach an Earth outpost. Only the dog is alive when rescuers find them. The story is more about bigotry and What Measure Is a Non-Human?, with the viewpoint character initially considering most of the characters (all Earth humans) inferior.
  • Space Glass: The Blackstar Mercenaries lose Amy, and Marvelous loses Bagok, Reeva, and the Marauder in painful succession.
  • Dan Simmons' The Terror is pretty much made of this trope. Of course, since it's based on the historical Franklin Expedition, which nobody survived, it's not exactly unexpected.
  • The Three Musketeers: The musketeers and their servants peel off to hold off pursuers, deal with ambushes or tend to their wounds as the eight travel to London, with only D'Artagnan and Planchet reaching their destination. However, everybody survive in one piece, and they are reunited as D'Artagnan travels home.
  • The Unknown Soldier: The story follows the journey of a machine gun platoon during the Continuation War between Finland and Russia for 3 years. Only half of the cast survives the war, and less than half survives to the finale without being even wounded and sent away.
  • By the end of the Warrior Cats Super Edition Hawkwing's Journey, most of SkyClan has either gone missing, died (including major characters like Billystorm and Sharpclaw), or left the Clan of their own choice one by one, leaving only a very small group out of the almost 40 members of the Clan that the book started with.
  • Roland's ka-tet in the last Dark Tower book.
  • Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory uses this as the main device to select who will inherit the factory.
  • In Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Argonaut's expedition force to rescue Princess Ariadne gradually shrinks over the course of their quest as they pull You Shall Not Pass! to help him reach her in time. Crozzo perishes after using the last of his life force to raze the knights coming after them. Yuri falls defeating the other hero candidates that sided with the king as well as helping Galmus defeat the massive dragon. It's subverted at the very end, as Crozzo somehow managed to survive and get to Yuri in time to heal him.
  • Teen Power Inc.; In Dead End, the kids are framed for various crimes and then start vanishing from town, one by one, until only Nick is left. The kids who leave keep being seen in public places like bus stops that make it seem as if they are voluntarily leaving town. Actually, they have been kidnapped, and the kids making themselves conspicuous in public places are the same lookalikes who helped frame the gang.
  • The ''Ten Little..." book series by Mike Brownlow teaches small children to count using a child-friendly version of this trope. It starts with ten little characters (princesses, pirates, monkeys, robots, etc.) and they all go on an adventure and find themselves being trapped, left behind, or taken away somehow, one-by-one, counting down from 10. As expected, all characters come back in the end, however.
  • In the children's book Sick Simon, Simon comes to school with a cold, and as the story progresses, more and more students and even the teacher have to stay home sick.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100:
    • The 100 juvenile delinquents sent to verify if life on Earth is possible After the End see their numbers progressively reduced by the acid fog, violent natives and other dangers of the Death World. To illustrate this, the first episode of Season 2 is titled "The 48".
    • The few sky-people who tried to find the almost mythical "City of Light" in Season 2 are killed one by one by such things as landmines and mutant creatures until only Jaha and Murphy are left.
  • 1883: The journey west is going to be very dangerous and many of the settlers lack the experience and/or toughness needed to survive it. By episode 3, the wagon train has lost almost a dozen people and they are only a few days travel from their starting point. One couple was ejected because they showed signs of smallpox and will presumably be dead in a few days. A man is accidently run over by a wagon and two people are killed by wildlife. A stupid argument with some cowboys turns violent resulting in people being accidently shot dead. One person commits suicide. Two families are ejected from the group for stealing supplies. The experienced characters lampshade the fact that the really dangerous part of the journey has not began year and they expect the attrition rate to be horrible.
  • Buffyverse:
    • While most of them didn't die, Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer became very much like this, as Scoobies broke ties with the group for one reason or another. It was lampshaded in an early Season 7 episode, when the only ones left to help a victim are Buffy, Xander and Dawn.
      • Also a chief fear of Buffy in Season 5, after Glory discovered that The Key was human. After torturing Spike and driving Tara insane, both Glory and Buffy pointed out that all Glory had to do was keep picking Buffy's friends off one by one.
    • Like with Buffy mentioned above, the main heroes of Angel also suffered this. Doyle was the first casualty, followed by Cordelia and then Wesley. Lorne broke ties with Angel after killing Lindsey and then died in the comic continuation. By the series finale, Only Angel, Spike, Illyara and Gunn are left standing.
  • In the Community animated Christmas episode, Shirley, Jeff, and Britta are evicted from Planet Abed. Troy and Annie stay behind to hold off Duncan and only Pierce makes it to the end with Abed.
    • The Halloween Episode of the same season (a spoof of zombie films) also invoked this, with the main cast and one or two recurring characters having to bunker up in the study room. Then at least two of them turn out to have been bit. By the end the entire regular cast save the Dean (who survives by locking himself out of the school) has been turned into "zombies", though things go back to normal once the military arrives and cures everyone.
    • The paintball episodes play out like this. The study group members join forces and then get eliminated one by one as they fight the other players. In the end only one remains to claim the prize.
  • Almost any Doctor Who episode involving a group of people. For the Trope Namer of Everybody Lives, they invert it quite a lot.
    • Happens to the bad guys in "The Chase", as the Dalek force keeps losing members as they're pursuing the TARDIS from one time/place to another. Being Daleks, they don't care about, or even seem to notice, this attrition.
    • The Tomb of the Cybermen is one of the best examples of this. The archeological team starts out as a large group, but they start getting killed off very early and it’s not long before only a few characters remain in the tombs with the Doctor and his companions.
    • This is played with in "The Curse of the Black Spot". For most of the episode it seems that there's an evil siren running around a pirate ship and killing off the crew one by one. It turns out that the siren is actually a computer-generated doctor, and everyone she had supposedly killed is perfectly fine.
  • Fort Boyard games tend to develop like this if the team members aren't in best physical condition and/or don't pay attention to water clocks.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Bran starts his journey with Meera, Jojen, Hodor, and Summer. By the end of "The Door", only he and Meera are left, with everyone else killed by wights.
    • House Stark members drop like flies. By "The Last of the Starks", only Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Jon are left.
    • Much like the Starks themselves, the direwolves find themselves getting killed off throughout the seasons. Lady is killed early in Season 1 by Ned, to pacify Cersei Lannister. Nymeria was released into the wild by Arya and has only been seen briefly since. Grey Wind is killed along with Robb during the Red Wedding. Shaggydog gets killed off-screen by Lord Umber. Summer dies trying to protect Bran from the White Walkers. And Ghost is abandoned by Jon when he goes south.
    • Like the Starks' direwolves, the Targaryen dragons have been picked off. First Viserion, killed and reanimated by the Night King, and then Rhaegal, killed in a surprise attack by Euron Greyjoy.
    • The huge alliance Daenerys built against Cersei Lannister with Yara Greyjoy's loyalist fleet, Ellaria Sand's forces and the forces of the Reach led by Olenna Tyrell didn't survive the first half of Season 7, and what's left is halved by the White Walkers at the Battle of Winterfell a season later. By the end of the series only Grey Worm is left.
  • In murder mystery Harper's Island, we go from a cast of 25 main characters plus a dozen extras to four survivors out of the main cast: the Final Girl Abby, her Satellite Love Interest Jimmy, the little girl Madison with Improbable Infant Survival and by extension her mother Shea.
  • A less heartbreaking example: On the first dinner service of Season 11 of Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay ejected 12 of the 20 chefs from the kitchen. Notably, this lead to Zach being forced to carry out every single order on the Blue Team, which, amazingly, he did.
  • An episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys has Herc and Iolaus having a reunion with the other Argonauts. Of course, something happens, requiring King Jason to once again gather the old gang and sail. This is when the problems start, with the original Argonauts dying off one-by-one, some through a convenient accident, some killed by an unknown assailant by someone they know. It turns out that one of the Argonauts is the culprit.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • The final episodes of Kamen Rider Build see Sento, Ryuga, Kazumi and Gentoku mount an effective Suicide Mission to stop the Big Bad from destroying the Earth. The first to fall is Kazumi, who dies in a raging last stand against Evolt's mimics, followed by Gentoku sacrificing himself to cripple Evolt and buy Sento and Ryuga time. Ryuga then sacrifices himself to drag Evolt into the Void Between the Worlds so Sento can enact his plan, leaving Sento as the only person left to finish off Evolt.
    • Kamen Rider Saber ends with the ten swordsmen mounting an assault on Storious's tower, where most of them are separated out into fighting against a quartet of monstrously powerful minions that Storious has created from the corpses of their deceased mentors, allowing Saber to move on ahead to face Storious himself. Over the course of the final episodes, nearly all of the other Riders die one by one as they're forced into performing suicidal attacks to overcome the zombies, with only Blades and Espada actually making it all the way to the end of the gauntlet to catch up with Saber.
    • Kamen Rider Geats does it repeatedly, due to the Deadly Game happening multiple times over the course of the series. Each time a new cycle starts, the opening is updated with the new cast, and each time someone dies or is eliminated, their scenes in the opening are replaced with blank static.
  • Legends of Tomorrow seems to be heading this route. First, Carter is killed in the second episode. Now, Snart is implied to have killed Mick.
    • The latter case was averted, as Chronos turns out to be a (potentially brainwashed) Mick.
  • Lost: The Tail section of Oceanic 815 had it particularly bad after the plane crashed. 22 people survived the initial crash, only for several of them to die of their injuries shortly afterwards. Over the next few weeks many of them were either abducted or killed by The Others. By the time they reconnect with the main group of survivors they're down to four, and three of them die shortly afterwards. Bernard Nadler is ultimately the only one of the "Tailies" to survive past the third season.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015): Over the course of the first season, Wilson Fisk's organization slowly falls apart as various internal and external factors leave Fisk all by himself. First to go are Anatoly and Vladimir, killed by Fisk as a response to Anatoly interrupting his date with Vanessa. Next to go is Nobu, set on fire in the midst of his fight with Matt. Then James Wesley is shot to death by Karen Page. Madame Gao skips town shortly after Wesley's death. Then Fisk throws Leland Owlsley down an elevator shaft after learning of his complicity in Vanessa's poisoning. And lastly, Fisk is separated from Vanessa due to getting arrested.
    • The Defenders (2017): The Five Fingers who lead the Hand over the course of the series. Sowande is the first to go, decapitated by Stick as he attempts to capture Danny. The second to go is Alexandra, decapitated by Elektra. The third to go is Bakuto, who is decapitated by Colleen Wing but not before he's able to cut off Misty Knight's right arm. This leaves Murakami and Madame Gao, still in the pit underneath Midland Circle. It's unknown whether they survived, but seeing as Matt survived the collapse, they may have lived as well.
    • Luke Cage (2016): Both Mariah's and Bushmaster's gangs undergo this during season 2. Bushmaster goes first. He starts the season in control of a large number of Stylers, but sees the majority of his men get arrestede save for his trusted right hand man Sheldon after a failed attempt to take out Mariah while Luke and Misty are sheltering her at an under construction Rand clinic. Mariah gets hit with this even harder, as Sugar abruptly quits while the gang is going to the restaurant owned by Bushmaster's uncle to massacre the place. The massacre itself is enough to, in the span of an episode, cause her to lose the support of both Shades, who decides he can't work for a boss who will slaughter innocent people who just happened to be unlucky enough to be there, and her daughter Tilda. Tilda ends up allying with Bushmaster, helping him break into Harlem's Paradise to make an attempt on Mariah. When that fails, and Mariah just gets arrested thanks to Shades working with the cops, she decides to poison Mariah herself in jail.
  • Million Yen Women: In the last third of the series, two of the women get killed, and the one responsible for their deaths gets killed herself, causing only two of the original group of five women to still be alive by the end of the series.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves. The series depicts a group of gay men in the eighties at the time when AIDS began to spread. By the end of the third part only Benjamin and Seppo are still alive.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Promised Land", the humans who escaped their labor camp start out with over a dozen members, but by the end only three are left.
  • In Raven: The Island, a spin-off of the children's fantasy gameshow Raven, three teams of young "Warriors" must travel across an enchanted island to retrieve the "Time Pieces" which are needed for the final mission. However, the island is cursed and any Warrior who fails to successfully negotiate an obstacle is instantly eliminated. Of the twelve Warriors who set out at the beginning of the series, five have been eliminated by the time the teams meet up and a further four are eliminated after that, meaning only three (one from each team) make it through to the end.
  • While this is true of many horror pieces, Rose Red is notable for this, particularly with the sudden change in frequency of the deaths. Other than Bollinger, no one dies in Part 1; in Part 2 Pam and Vic meet their ends; then in Part 3, in rapid succession, Mrs. Waterman, Professor Miller, Nick, and finally Joyce are taken by the house.
  • Due to the nature of the games in Squid Game, the amount of living players decreases as they go on. By the time the sixth and final game begins, only two people are left, out of 456 people who started.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the episode "Remember Me", members of the crew keep disappearing from existence until there is only Beverly Crusher left. However, it turns out that they're only disappearing from a sort of extradimensional space where Crusher is trapped; outside of that pocket, they were never in any danger.
    • This happens to the villains in the episode "Starship Mine" when Picard is trapped on the Enterprise with a group of thieves who are stealing highly explosive trilithium resin to sell to terrorists. Once Picard realizes what they're up to, he goes Die Hard and starts picking them off one by one.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has the Hunted version in "Empok Nor", when a couple of drugged Cardassian soldiers left over from a failed experiment hunt down Miles and his engineering crew when they visit the abandoned station to scavenge spare parts. The soldiers are killed, but then Garak gets infected and he's much deadlier. By the end, only Miles, Nog, and Garak are left.
  • Supernatural has always killed off a lot of characters — one of the leads, Dean, is a leader in the television dying field all on his own — and any single ghost episode sometimes does this. The zombie virus episode, "Croatoan", also did it, in proper tropey fashion. Since the end of Season 6, the whole show has been doing it, killing off or otherwise removing recurring cast members without replacing them with new playersnote  and paring things down until, as of December 2011, the main cast has been completely reduced to Ackles and Padalecki, just like at the start of Season 1. Almost the only other even recurring character still in play is the demon Crowley. Near the end of Season 7, secondary characters began to return or get introduced, and Season 8 continued to build up the character count.
  • Super Sentai/Power Rangers, the final arcs of some seasons show how extremely dire the situation the heroes are in by having their mechs destroyed.
    • In Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger/Power Rangers Wild Force, the heroes lose their Power Animals to the Ultimate Lifeform Org Senki, both in mech formations (the slaughter even started with GaoGod and GaoHunter), and even individually, with the corresponding jewels even shattering. The killed Power Animals however return in the finale, and with them The Namesake of that season's title, the "Hundred Beasts".
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, faced with the full might of the Zangyack Fleet, lose all their Mecha Expansion Pack (MagiDragon, PatStriker, GaoLion, Variblune, Furaimaru, Machalcon) until the Gokaigers are left with their original mechs, GokaiOh and GoZyuJin. Only for those to get wrecked as well.
  • In the second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the supporting cast gets picked off one by one, starting with Michelle Dixon in the beginning of the season, and Riley, Jesse (maybe), Charlie, Derek and finally Cameron (well, technically) in the last few episodes.
  • Of the five main characters Torchwood started with, only two are still alive. One of whom is immortal and dies as what comes close to a hobby. The three other members die as a result of Captain Jack Harkness' past coming back to haunt him (Tosh is shot by Jack's brother Grey; Owen's body dissolves preventing a nuclear meltdown caused by Grey; Ianto is killed by a virus spread by an alien who came back after dealing with Jack decades ago).
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Devil's Alphabet", Deaver is the first member of the Devil's Alphabet Society to die when he shoots himself in October 1896. On November 2, 1897, Andrew hangs himself but may have been compelled to do so. That night, his ghost attends the meeting of the society and frightens Grant so much that he also hangs himself. After the meeting, the horse pulling Brian and Eli's carriage goes out of control. The carriage then spontaneously catches fire and crashes, killing them both. The next year, Cornelius commits suicide by shooting himself. This leaves Frederick as the last surviving member of the Devil's Alphabet Society. Seeking to bring an end to his deceased friends' torment and spare himself the same fate, Frederick proposes that the society be dissolved and their agreement to meet every year irrespective of death be rescinded. The others agree, though reluctantly in Grant's case.
  • The Walking Dead (2010) more and more of the characters die frequently.
    • To put this into perspective, we start off with a fairly decent-sized cast that is introduced in the first two episodes. As of Season 8, only four characters from Season 1 ( Rick, Daryl, Carol, and Morgan) are still alive.
    • Season 6, Episode 3 "Thank You", begins with a party of 10. Barnes is mercy killed by Michonne after being bitten by a walker, Rick leaves, Sturgess panics and shoots Scott in the leg before running off and getting devoured, Annie sprains her ankle and is eaten alive, David is bitten and later devoured, and Nicholas kills himself and knocks Glenn into a horde of walkers. The episode ends with Michonne and Heath helping a wounded Scott back to Alexandria, Rick stranded in a stalled RV, Glenn's fate ambiguous, and the other 5 dead.

  • BIGMAMA's "#DIV/0!" is about a party of nine who, in the beginning, successfully find the treasure they'd been seeking; however, their greed sets in, and once one of them dies they all become suspicious of each other. Each chorus begins with a reminder of how many people are left among whom to divide the treasure ("Divided by [x]!") and counts down one by one as they kill each other off. As the title implies, nobody survives; even the last man standing kills himself.
  • Weddings Parties Anything's "A Tale They Won't Believe" is a Based on a True Story account of six escaped convicts fleeing across the unsettled middle of Tasmania in the early 19th century, and being forced to resort to cannibalism to survive the trip, until only one is left to tell the tale (that the authorities "won't believe')

  • The White Vault is a Found Footage horror story focusing on the disappearance of a five-person repair team sent to an outpost in the arctic, and starting from the end of the first season, they all drop off one by one. First, Karina, then Walter, Graham, Rosa, all of whom are killed by the monster, and finally, Jónas, who is left to die alone of hypothermia in the second season finale.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Nearly every variety of this trope is likely to happen in any given game of Betrayal at House on the Hill, in just about every scenario, unless the Heroes completely stomp out the Traitor or achieve their goals quickly. Likewise, it's almost bound to happen in a game where the Traitor wins.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara supplement Dungeonscape shows a recurring party of adventurers in its artwork. Over the course of the book, Nebin the wizard gets pitched off a cliff by a gargoyle, Jozan the cleric gets electrocuted by a trap, and Tordek the fighter gets incinerated by a lich. The final image in the book is Lidda the rogue, bloodied but alive, climbing out of the dungeon alone with what treasure she could carry.
  • Hackmaster. There was a visual version of this with the Hacklopedia of Beasts Volumes 1-8. Volume 1's cover showed an eight person adventuring group, with one of the adventurers being killed by a monster. Volume 2's cover showed the remaining seven characters, again with one of them being killed. The pattern continued until Volume 8, which showed the last living party member being killed by the zombies of the first seven adventurers.
  • Barring players with nerves of steel and an incredible eye for tension, this is unavoidable in Dread. The game is built around a Jenga tower, with tasks requiring the players to pull out a set number of blocks and put them on top, with toppling the tower killing the player who was making the pull. As a result, between the increasingly unsteady tower and the mounting nerves of the players, someone is pretty much guaranteed to get it - several someones, if the game is long - and the main question is whether the player eats it thanks to an ordinary action going horribly wrong or intentionally goes down to buy the others a better position.

  • Played for Laughs in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the 2013 stage musical). While the bratty kids survive giving in to their vices in the novel and most adaptations, here the first three brats seem doomed to dreadful offstage deaths instead — Augustus may well become fudge, Violet explodes in a shower of purple glitter as a result of her transformation into a blueberry, and Veruca (plus her father) are sent down a rubbish chute to an incinerator. There is the possibility that each will be subject to a rescue or offstage Disney Death, but the odds aren't implied to be great. By comparison, Mike survives his trip into Cyberspace via the Television Chocolate setup, but he won't be restored to his normal height because his frazzled mother prefers him shrunken.
  • In playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney's Book of Job allegory Head of Passes, the first act shows Shelah preparing for an event that brings friends and family into her home. A series of tragedies offstage cause onstage confrontations and accusals that eventually leave Shelah alone on stage at the end of the second act, having a blistering one-sided conversation with an unseen God.
  • The Golden Apple has Ulysses gradually lose all his men over the course of the Big Spree, in a series of episodes loosely inspired by The Odyssey.
  • Shakespeare's Hamlet: a series of rather tragic events reduces an entire royal court to one man.
  • In J.B., Scene One has J.B. enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner with his beloved wife Sarah and his five contented children. Over the following scenes, the number of their surviving children diminish from four to two to one to none. At last Sarah leaves him, though, as in The Book of Job, she comes back to him in the end.

    Video Games 
  • In Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, the Dragon Saviors (Cayman, Apollo, and BB) assisting Kirin and Gunvolt are either preoccupied with or taken out by ATEM troops, Serpentine's illusions, and Sistina. Shiron (whom stayed behind) has completely lost signal and is unable to communicate with them. By the time Kirin and Gunvolt get close to reaching Prince Zed, they are the last two members remaining. Fortunately this is a non-fatal example, as the gang are alive and well by endgame.
  • Losing wingmen happens throughout the Ace Combat series, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown takes it to a new level with the 444 Spare Squadron. Out of the five missions you fly with them, you lose a named squad member in three. First, in Long Day, High Roller gets shot down without much fanfare by enemy mooks. The very next mission, First Contact, Champ decides it's a good idea to engage Mister X alone, who shoots him down without even trying. Then two missions later, in Faceless Soldier, Full Band gets shot down by Count due to a faulty IFF, caused by your AWACS Bandog.
  • While Alundra doesn't really have a proper party, there are the citizens of Inoa, the town that the title character is trying to protect, who end up getting picked off one by one and then suddenly start dying en masse when the Murgg torch the entire village throughout the game. By the end, only half of the village survives, with Alundra's mentor and father-figure Jess not being one of them.
  • This is one of the focal points of Among Us. As the crewmates are working on various tasks across the map, a group of impostors is hiding amongst the crew and slowly killing each member one by one. It is up to the real crewmates to snuff out the impostors before everyone on board gets murdered (or the crew falsely convict and eject their own teammates).
  • Non-lethally inverted in Predator rooms in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. The "party" is a number of gun-toting henchmen who are initially confident that they can kill the Batman (which they can if they find him). The room is full of vantage points, ventilation shafts, blind corners, and fragile walls that Batman can use to pick them off one by one, reducing the henchmen to an increasingly-smaller number of increasingly-terrified whimpering children.
  • Inverted in Cannon Dancer: one of the members of the Quirky Miniboss Squad actually counts down how many of his allies are being killed until that point, if only because when they are all dead he can claim to be the strongest in the world.
  • In Counter-Strike's classic mode, each team has a set amount of players (five in most competitive settings), and players stay dead until the next round starts, often leading to intense one vs. X scenarios.
  • After the shit hits the fan midway through Digital Devil Saga 2, this trope comes to play in full force, and you eventually lose all your party members to Heroic Sacrifices. Most shocking, however, is that it's Serph, the (mute) main character, who's the first member of the team to get 'offed! He actually survives due to a literal Deus Ex Machina and conveniently placed vat of healing fluid, But you don't learn this until much later; after the team has been whittled down to half their number. Then he dies for real in the second to last dungeon.
  • Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy:
    • The game starts with sixteen Warriors of Cosmos, but whittles them down to just ten for the sequel. Laguna, Lightning, Kain, Tifa, Yuna, and Vaan all die in a Suicide Mission to save the others, Jecht is captured and brainwashed into serving Chaos, Shantotto leaves after defeating Gabranth and we never do find out what happens to Prishe. Luckily, Cloud, Terra, and Tidus switch to Cosmos.
    • A minor (and non-lethal) case happened during the last cycle. Firion, Cecil, Cloud, and Tidus began the cycle traveling together, but the group gradually broke up as latter 3 left to deal with personal issues.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins has a DLC example and only from the enemy POV: in The Darkspawn Chronicles, the Warden has died at Ostagar and Alistair leads their remaining party into the Final Battle, leaving a member to defend every major point in the city. Then you, as a Hurlock Vanguard, come along and kill them all, one by one.
    • Dragon Age II can play like this, with party members leaving due to certain quests or their particular stance in the mage-templar conflict (as well as their relationship with Hawke) near the end of the game. The only character that is guaranteed to stay with Hawke throughout is Varric, since he's the narrator of the story.
  • One of the typical final fates of a fort in Dwarf Fortress. In the initial stages of the game, population growth is easy with big waves of migrants, but eventually they become insufficient to maintain the fortress. Experienced craftsdwarves and fighters suffer injuries and deaths, unskilled migrants can't fill their jobs and native fortress children take too long to grow up to matter in the long run. In addition to outside threats, stress of all previous loses eventually causes dwarves to turn on each other, furthering the spiral of doom.
  • In Elden Ring this happens to the Roundtable Hold. The Hold is a noncombat area and a hub of characters with questlines to progress and vendors that help you along your journey to become Elden Lord. But as you progress these questlines and explore more of the game world, the characters slowly leave the Roundtable hold. By the end of the game, the Hold is nearly empty, and you are basically the only one left who can attempt to ascend to the throne.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • During the College of Winterhold questline, as you journey through Labyrinthian, you see the ghosts of the former arch-mage, Savos Aren, and his group of friends that he explored the dungeon with, reliving their quest. The farther you go, the smaller their party gets, as they had died off one by one. In the end, only Savos and two companions are left, and he sacrifices them by enthralling them to seal Morokei in the tomb.
    • A similar thing happens in "Unfathomable Depths", a sidequest where a clearly traumatized Argonian named From-Deepest-Fathoms asks you to bring back a dwarven artifact to the ruins of Avanchnzel where she got it. Just as for Labyrinthian, you see ghosts of her and her companions as they travelled through Avanchnzel, and they start dying one by one as you progress.
    • A nonlethal version during the Companions questline. You set out for the Tomb of Ysgramor with Aela the Huntress, Farkas, and Vilkas to posthumously cure Kodlak of lycanthropy. As soon as you get there, Vilkas explains that he cannot actually enter the tomb with you because he is too ashamed of the actions he took at Driftshade when the two of you exterminated the Silver Hand as vengeance for Kodlak's death, but he wishes you well. Partway through the Tomb, Farkas decides he can go no further thanks to the way being blocked by giant spiders, which he's been afraid of ever since Dustman's Cairn, and he turns back, leaving only you and Aela to finish.
  • As you progress through The Evil Within 2, Sebastian meets and becomes allies with four Mobius agents who have been stranded inside STEM, Liam, Sykes, Hoffman, and Torres, and as the stakes grow higher and you fight towards the climax, each member gets picked off in various ways; you're forced to kill Liam in self-defense after he's been forcibly turned towards Theodore's side and tries to kill you, Torres is overrun by an enemy horde while protecting your unconscious body and succumbs to her injuries, Sykes subjects himself to an experimental escape route from STEM and is never heard from again, and Hoffman is tackled by an enemy and tells you to leave her behind to save yourself and rescue Lily before being engulfed in flames. Finally all the help you've had while inside STEM is gone, and you're just as alone as when you started.
    Sebastian: After all of this...I'm the only one left.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • This is possible to do, though you have to be pure evil or comically incompetent to make it happen.
    • At the beginning of Honest Hearts, the entire Happy Trails Caravan party is killed by the White Legs, leaving the Courier to make the trek through Zion alone.
  • Fate/Grand Order: A good number of story chapters have Chaldea's allies dying to help them, but Atlantis manages to kill everyone but the Chaldea crew. Francis Drake gets nuked by Lostbelt Artemis after passing the Golden Hind to Jason. Chiyome lets herself be eaten by Lostbelt Echidna to poison her from inside. Charlotte pulls a Mutual Kill agaisnt Lostbelt Odysseus. Bartholomew Roberts sacrifices himself to get Orion into firing position against Lostbelt Artemis. Hector destroys himself in order to tank the first shot from Lostbelt Artemis, quickly followed by Mandricardo doing the same to stop the second shot. Paris and Apollo become the arrow Orion uses to shoot down Lostbelt Artemis, but all three used up all their magical energy to do so. Achilles is killed by Lostbelt Chiron. Jason is left bleeding out as he tells Fujimaru to go on without him as he and Chiron sink along with Lostbelt Poseidon.
  • Fear 2 does this with the Dark Signal team. In the beginning, there are seven soldiers (six male and one female). Over the course of the game's 14 levels however, the team gradually loses its members one by one. By the end, all but two of the male soldiers (one of whom is the player) are dead. And even then, one of them is missing (and considering he neither appears nor is mentioned in the third game, his chances aren't good), while the other (the player) is driven insane and locked away by the Evil, Inc. Armacham Corp.
  • The Scions of the Seventh Dawn of Final Fantasy XIV have a bad habit of getting put out of commission. All but two of the main Scions are captured by the Garleans partway through 2.0 with the other members murdered by said group. They're all rescued by the end of the 2.0 story. Then, at the end of Patch 2.55, the team is scattered after being accused of regicide. They don't get back together in a functioning capacity until Patch 3.4, although Minfilia is gone and Papalymo dies shortly thereafter.
    • Most notably, the Patches between 4.1 and 4.5 have them get knocked into comas, one by one. First Alphinaud goes, and then Thancred, and then Y'shtola and Urianger. Alisaie is the only one left and she begs the hero to not let them separate... and then she gets knocked out shortly thereafter. Thankfully, the group reunites in the next expansion, and they stay together after that (at least, currently in the story).
  • One of the recurring themes in the Fire Emblem games, and what makes ironman runs so thrilling for many. With the odds so stacked against the player, it's normal that they lose a character or two per map. There is Permadeath, so the game provides new units from time to time, but it's still very possible for the player to lose units faster than they are replaced, and reach a critical point where there simply isn't enough manpower to win the game.
  • The final stretch of .hack//G.U. Redemption has you fight against doppelgangers of your party. When said doppelgangers simply respawn immediately after being defeated, your current party will stay behind to hold them off, afterwhich you replace them with another set of reserves. This repeats until about three-fourths of your party is gone, leaving you to pick from the remainder for the final boss fight. They all end up being fine in the end, however.
  • Halo:
    • Starts around the halfway point in Halo: Reach and ends with Noble Six (You). The characters are Doomed by Canon to fight the losing battle that's the catalyst for the original trilogy.
    • The Infection game mode is also this, It starts with a large team of survivors and a small team of zombies, but when the survivors are killed they become zombies (or stay dead forever in certain custom games).
  • Hell Night has this if you aren't careful with navigating the Tokyo's underground tunnels and sewers. All your party members can die, but you can only have one with you at a time.
  • Iru: As the game goes on, students and faculty get picked off by the mysterious force in the school.
  • The later part of Jurassic Park: The Game has it. First the party grows as Gerry and Jess find Nima and she takes them prisoner. They then meet the InGen mercenaries and Dr. Sorkin. But as they travel through the power plant to prevent it exploding, one mercenary is killed fending off Velociraptors and another is as good as dead thanks to the Troodons even before his friend mercy kills him. Dr. Sorkin turns dangerous when she learns about the plan to bomb the island and is ultimately knocked into the marine exhibit and eaten by the Tylosaurus. The third mercenary goes off the deep end and after trying to kill everyone else, he is eaten by the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Depending on what path the player chooses, the Rex can also eat Nima and Gerry. Ultimately you’re left with either Gerry, Jess and Nima surviving, only Gerry and Jess surviving or Jess alone surviving depending on the chosen ending.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning: When starting the Teeth of Naros DLC, the player joins an expedition to discover a lost region in the titular area, made up of just three people other than the player. The mage runs away upon discovering the corpse of a Kollossae, the thief gets herself killed when she triggers a trap she was scouting for, and the expedition leader gets injured fighting off a small flock of pteryx and sends the player on ahead to find a place to set up camp. And when they do, the player ends up stumbling down a steep slope and cut off from the expedition leader, leaving them no choice but to keep going.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: You won't lose any party members until just before The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, where you have to make a very important choice. Deciding to pursue the darkside route will require you to kill four of your party members (three if you make a persuasion check, but you'll have to kill them a little while later anyway). Another will run away but you will have to kill them later too. This leaves you with the evil version of one companion, an amoral mercenary, an even more amoral droid. Oh and T3-M4
  • The original ending planned for Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (before it was rather aggressively scaled back) called for both Light and Dark Side players to suffer from this, as various party members either turned against you, sacrificed themselves, or were simply incapacitated by the Sith academy's hazards.
  • LISA: The Hopeful has this occur in any normal route:
    • Rodriguez is first decapitated by the Lovelies and his head stuck on a pike.
    • Depending on your actions, then either Cyclops is set on fire or Beltboy gets shot in the eye. If they don't mutate on the spot, then they'll succumb to their wounds later.
    • Then depending on who the Lovelies took, the last man standing finds them either having hung himself (in the case of Lanks) or mortally wounded by a truck crash (in the case of Cyclops).
  • Happens to a group of young boys in LISA: The Pointless - Scholar of the Wilbur Sin, to emphasize how much of a Crapsack World Olathe is:
    • Manny falls to his death attempting to retrieve his helmet.
    • Danny runs off to join the Infinity Franchise, and gets killed by a fellow jerseyhead.
    • Shammi succumbs to his illness and becomes a Joy Mutant.
    • And Tony is either left the Sole Survivor, or is incinerated by a Infinity Franchise member.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood storyline. You are sent on a dangerous errand with Five Elves which compose "The Hidden Guard". Their numbers start to dwindle quickly so much to the point that you barely get to know the first one to die and cant really relate to his death, although the passing of the last victim is truly heartbreaking.
  • In Lost Dimension, you start out with (including yourself) 11 party members, but by the end of the game you'll only have 6. This is due to the game's Big Bad forcing your group to vote off one of it's members periodically.
  • Up to two party members can be killed in Mass Effect. If you fail to talk Wrex down on Virmire, you'll have to kill him. At the end of the Virmire mission, you must choose whether to save Kaidan or Ashley, since you only have time to save one.
    • Mass Effect 2's final mission, aptly titled 'The Suicide Mission', can be like this if you don't prepare properly and/or make bad decisions for assignments. In the worst case scenario, only Joker makes it out alive.
    • Mass Effect 3: Garrus and Tali may already be dead, and Tali can die on Rannoch if you choose the geth over the quarians. The Virmire Survivor is briefly benched, and you may have to kill them during the Citadel coup. Many former squad members and minor allies can also die over the course of the third game, and during the final mission whoever's in your party will die if you haven't prepared enough.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network 5: Team Colonel and Team ProtoMan, the liberation team infiltrates the Dark Chip factory, but all of the Navis on the team except MegaMan get sucked into the Dark Galaxy in the order each one joined the team, with ProtoMan/Colonel getting sucked in last, thus leaving only Lan and MegaMan to defeat Dr. Regal. The entire team ends up being revived by MegaMan's voice soon afterwards.
  • The assault on the Shadowlord's castle in NieR leaves only Nier and Kaine alive in endings A and B, with the implication that Kaine's shade is going to take over her body and kill her. Then in endings C and D, only Nier OR Kaine will survive till the very end.
  • In ObsCure II, unlike the original, the main cast runs into one horrific Plotline Death after another, until only Shannon and Stan are left standing to face the Bolivian Army Ending.
  • The Oregon Trail can and will be like this.
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners sees your hapless tour group whittled down by a series of harsh judgments... potentially. Most of the deaths are preventable; only Kuroe and Tsuchida can't be saved. For everyone else, it hinges upon your ability to stay alert and figure out how to save them in time.
  • Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh gleefully uses this trope. By the time the game is over, only two people are still alive. Who are they? Curtis and Jocilyn. One of the villains also survives. Technically...
  • Pyre: At the end of every cycle of Rites, there's the Liberation Rite, a final battle between the most successful Triumvirates, the chosen among the winner team gets to be freed from the Downside and back to Commonwealth, at the end of every cycle, one member of your team can go back and that member will no longer be with you for the rest of the game.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II:
    • In a mission specific example, this happens to the gang members who set out to rob the Saint Denis bank. Hosea and Lenny are killed, John is captured and Charles leaves the group in order to draw some of the Pinkertons off. Then, for those who managed to escape on the boat, Javier is wounded and captured, leaving Arthur, Dutch, Micah and Bill.
    • In general, this happens to the Van der Linde gang over the course of the game. Four members are dead/dying as a result of the Blackwater heist and subsequent escape before the start of the game. By the end of the game, Sean, Kieran, Hosea, Lenny, Molly, Susan, Micah and Arthur are all dead and remaining members are scattered. The epilogue confirms that Straus and possibly Karen died off-screen.
  • This happens in Romancing Saga 3 during the Maximus storyline when they trigger various (seemingly) fatal traps, leaving you with only your main character. However your party members come back one by one when you fight the boss.
  • The four playable characters in the sequel to Saint Seiya Ougon Densetsu are reduced to just the protagonist by the time it reaches the final stage, as its an adaptation of the Saint Seiya example above: each one of the final three temples "kill" one of the playable characters, making them unselectable afterwards.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, this happens to the group of Samurai you are a part of. First Navarre goes insane following his kidnapping by Alarune, then Isabeau and either Jonathan or Walter leave the group as their ideological differences tear them apart. Flynn eventually regroups with Jonathan and Walter in the alternate timelines, but the team completely falls apart after the battle with Kenji, leaving Jonathan, Walter, and Isabeau to each go their separate ways while Flynn is forced to choose a side. Finally, if Flynn sides with Isabeau, she leaves him after the fight against Merkabah to handle the evacuation of Mikado, leaving Flynn to deal with Lucifer on his own.
  • Stellaris: In the story trailer for the "Apocalypse" expansion, a United Nations of Earth pilot says her farewells to her daughter before taking off to defend their colony from an invading force of Fanatic Purifiers. As the battle begins, the defenders recite the creed of the United Nations of Earth armed forces and each line is spoken by fewer and fewer people as the Fanatic Purifiers wipe the floor with the defenders. By the final line, only the mother from the beginning is still alive as she rams her fighter into the alien Colossus in a last ditch effort to save their planet. It fails, prompting the Commonwealth of Man to retaliate on behalf of the United Nations of Earth and unleash their own Colossus upon the Purifiers in the subsequent release trailer for the expansion.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Tales of Symphonia, during your second trip to the Tethe'alla Tower of Salvation, has each supporting character pull off a Heroic Sacrifice one at a time to help Lloyd rescue Colette. Unknown to Lloyd at the time, they're all saved by either Zelos or Kratos, and return alive later to help out against the next boss.
  • Team Fortress 2 doesn't normally invoke this, but there are exceptions. The most notable is Arena mode, where the objective is literally to kill everyone on the opposing team, and respawning is not permitted until the next round. As a result, both teams lose their players one by one, and typically only one or two members on one team are still alive at the end.
    • There's also the Zombie mod, which as its name implies, creates a Zombie Apocalypse-type scenario. One team plays as the survivors while the other is the Zombies. The catch is that anyone playing among the survivors becomes a zombie if they die. Often the result is that the survivors' numbers gradually dwindle whilst the zombies grow stronger.
    • A more straight forward example would be the Saxton Hale mod, which uses the "hunted" variety. The players are confined to relatively small map whilst a random player is selected to play as Saxton Hale or another Memetic Mutation character. Whoever, they're playing as, they have ridiculously high health and instant kill attacks. Good luck trying to kill them.
  • Thomas Was Alone's fifth chapter, Purge, is this. In it, all of the various A.I.s, starting with Thomas, are picked off one by one by a pixel cloud. Granted, they're not killed (they're sent into storage), but if it wasn't for James and Sarah, the story would have ended right there.
  • This is seen in the 2008 Turok reboot. Of the two dozen or so Whiskey Company soldiers who survive the spaceship crash at the beginning of the game, only 3 (one of whom is the main character) end up surviving to escape the planet.
  • It's possible for this trope to play out in Until Dawn. Enough mistakes, wrong choices, or failures during Press X to Not Die sequences, (or being caught by a surprise Press X to Die situation) can wind up causing characters to get killed by the enemies stalking them, the environment around them, or by each other due to various grudges and misunderstandings. This is especially true starting around the 7th chapter, when the threat level rises significantly and sharply. Prior to this point there are very few chances to actually get a character killed unless you're kind of trying to get them killed off, as of that point it's entirely possible, even likely, for three or four player characters to be picked off in quick succession, along with several non player characters.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine', the heroes begin with Tidus, Sidonis, Mira, Leandros, and Inquisitor Drogan among named characters holding Graia. By the end of the game, Drogan has been revealed as a daemon-possessed puppet, Sidonis has been gutted by Nemeroth, and Leandros has sold Titus to the Inquisition over a question of Warp-resistance.

    Visual Novels 
  • It's part of the game in Danganronpa.
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc fifteen students are mysteriously locked in a school by someone called Monokuma; permission to leave is granted only to the student who murders a classmate and gets away with it. If culprit is correctly identified, then he or she will be executed as a punishment. Needless to say, the body count steadily rises as the students start to crack under the pressure and kill each other (and fail to get away with it) out of desperation. Three people die in the first chapter, two in the second, three again in the third, and only one in the fourth. The final victim's Heroic Sacrifice means that no one dies in the 5th chapter, and the only one to die in the sixth and final chapter is the Mastermind.
    • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair sixteen students are brought to an island which seems peaceful but quickly takes a dark turn as Monokuma appears and institutes the rules from the previous game. As before, the bodies start to pile up very fast. Though the victims are only left comatose because they died in a virtual reality program, and Everybody Lives in the end with the sole exception of the girl who was Dead All Along.
    • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, as in the original, sixteen students find themselves trapped in a school, and are told that they can either leave by murdering a classmate and getting away with it, or killing the mastermind. Once again, most of the class ends up getting killed over the course of the game. This Killing Game has the most casualties, leaving only three to survive the end of Danganronpa.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry, especially the Everybody Dies chapter.
  • In Muv-Luv Alternative, the squad infiltrating the original hive is essentially this.
  • Your Turn to Die pits the participants against various potentially deadly minigames, but the worst are each floor's Main Games, where they play a game similar to Werewolf (1997): they must vote to determine through majority rule which among them will be sacrificed. Just to twist the knife further, one among them has been assigned a role where, if they don't get the most votes, they'll be killed as well... but if they do convince the majority to vote for them, they'll win the game and can escape with someone else of their choosing... at the cost of everyone else.
  • Zero Escape:
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors begins with The Ninth Man's death. In most of the endings, after the third room you go through, the bodies really start to stack up. Although Snake lives in all of them... except the "Safe" Ending; play to the true end and Fridge Logic will take care of the rest.
    • Virtue's Last Reward has some similar endings, one notable one where of the nine, only four characters are left by the third set of puzzles, two of the characters return to a room to find the other two dead and seemingly no one around who could have killed them... They killed each other, in case you are wondering.

  • Drowtales:
    • The party being Sil'lice's entire army of children, grandchild and great grandchildren, who were forced to take part in desperate battle after desperate battle well traveling through the demon infested ruins of their city streets, losing more and more family to the demons and Nidraa'chal filling the city and demons floating through the air around them. In the end, her army of hundreds is massacred down to a battered and bloody few dozen. They fail completely in the end, their whole clan betrayed and every death was for nothing.
    • Kiel, sends her meatshield and Fame away to avoid this.
      "Listen! This ain't gonna end up with each of you being picked off one by one till it's just me and the last enemy. Lets skip the whole part where you and Fame get killed."'
  • The trolls in Homestuck. At the beginning, there were 12. Then, they started killing each other off. There were 6 kills and one spontaneous self-destruction, but two were revived, leaving 7 alive. Then, all of them except two were killed, but that was in an alternate timeline which was averted with the death of a sixth troll, bringing it down to 6. Then, one sacrificed himself, bringing it down to 5. He came back 'half-dead'. However, he and another troll stayed behind, leaving 4 remaining trolls to carry on. They grow as a whole when they are united with the humans (and a few other game constructs), but there are only 4 remaining members of the original party.
    • This comes to a head after the Gigapause ends, with most of the party slaughtered in the battle between Her Imperial Bitchy Cockblockerness and Vriska's psycho counterpart Tells Long Stories And Murders People. Half of the survivors die from their wounds. And to play with the trope even further, John executes one of his alternate reality selves.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons, this is the default state of any devil heist. Before going on a caper all the members swear the Night Oath, which basically goes "we're all going to kill each other at some point during this; Nothing Personal". Protagonist Allison gets roped into one of these during book 3, in order to rob the Demiurge Mammon. True to form, the devils all try to kill or rob each other and only Allison, Cio and Felicia walk away as part of the original crew, though Charon and Cat Master survive (and Oscar is implied to have survived, with Cio stating she's seen him survive worse).
  • Trevor (2020): Because Anyone Can Die, Trevor picks off the cast one at a time.

    Web Original 
  • Resident Evil Abridged: S.T.A.R.S. Alpha's search and rescue mission begins with most of Bravo Team already missing, or dead. Except they don't fare any better. By the time it's over, Chris, Jill, Barry, and Brad are the only four survivors from Alpha Team, while Rebecca is the last remaining member of Bravo.
  • In Ten Little Roosters, the titular ten Rooster Teeth members end up getting plucked off one by one by a mysterious killer. Only one survives.
  • In Worm, the Brockton Bay Wards — which only had seven members to start with — suffer repeated losses over the course of twenty-two arcs: Aegis and Gallant are both killed by Leviathan, and Browbeat moves to another city; Shadow Stalker ends up in juvie after Regent gets through with her; Chariot — their only recruit — was a traitor to start with and vanishes in the aftermath of Coil's arc; Weld — the hero transferred in to lead the team — leaves the Wards altogether when the truth about Cauldron comes out; and Flechette outright defects to the villains.
  • SCP Foundation: Subverted in SCP-2951, an anomalous mine shaft that screws around with exploration team Mobile Task Force Trotter-5:
    T5-6: Too long.
    T5-7: Too long in the fire.
    T5-5: Too long in the fire, too long in the fire, too long in the fire, too
    • Mobile Task Force Trotter-5 has four members.
  • Ya Dead, Ya Dead 2018 follows the Achievement Hunter crew as they try to survive Minecraft on hardcore difficulty. Naturally, things go downhill quickly. Lindsay is killed by a zombie, Gavin is shot off a ledge by Ryan, Alfredo is blown up by a creeper, Geoff is killed by a Verne of all things, Jack is severely injured by a Creeper and sent falling to his death, Jeremy murders Ryan to avenge Gavin, and he and Trevor make a suicide pact. By the end, Michael is the Sole Survivor, eventually dying after wandering the world alone for 50 years.
    • Ya Dead, Ya Dead 2019 adds a rule that building a Tower of Pimps can bring back someone who's died already, but It Only Works Once. As of episode six, Michael is killed by a drowned, Matt dies trying to save Ryan, Gavin is shot by a skeleton, Geoff falls to his death after being shot out of a waterfall by a different skeleton, and Jack is blown up by a drop creeper. After their resurrections, Michael falls into a hole full of mobs, Ryan lets a horde of zombies into his house while trying to farm experience, Jack is killed by another drop creeper, and Geoff accidentally lights himself on fire. Twice.
  • Xionic Madness: Over the course of their initial Suicide Mission and its subsequent events, Bolverk Squad is picked off one by one: Askad blows himself up rather than be ripped apart by XV's spawn, then Kary goes haywire, turns on the team, and is ultimately taken down by Omega and Xero, and then Omega, infected by XV, convinces Xero to end his suffering. By the Distant Finale, an elderly Xero is the only one left; and he's last seen jumping into a fight against an entire army he expects to lose.

    Western Animation 
  • Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings has the Bears trying to get to Coldheart Castle to rescue Kevin. Coldheart sets traps for them along the way that catch more and more bears until only Tenderheart is left... and then he gets trapped, too.
  • A somewhat non-lethal version happens in the Code Lyoko episode "Exploration", where, as Odd, Ulrich, and Aelita explore Sector 5, both boys get devirtualized and left in the ether, leaving Aelita alone before Yumi gets there. Then after finding the code to get Ulrich and Odd back, Yumi gets offed, leaving Aelita alone again, before Jeremie enters the code to bring the three back after bringing Aelita back by way of "Code Earth".
  • Another non-lethal version happens in the Defenders of the Earth episode "The Gravity of Ming", the final episode in the "Necklace of Oros" arc. First, the Phantom is captured shortly after freeing Flash, Mandrake, Lothar, Rick and LJ from the dungeon at Ice Station Earth, leaving Flash and the others to save Jedda from Ming's clutches. However, as they make their way through Ice Station Earth, their party is gradually reduced in size. Flash, on reaching the hangar, "borrows" a robo-ship and uses it to fly back to Monitor in the hope that Dynak-X may be able to tell him how to deal with the anti-gravity machine with which Ming plans to eliminate the human race. Next, Mandrake deliberately allows himself to be captured so that the others can get away. This is followed by Lothar falling prey to a Disney Death when he gets trapped in a room whose walls are closing in. However, since Plot Armor applies to the Defenders, he survives. Of the five Defenders who set out to rescue Jedda, only Rick and LJ succeed in reaching the chamber where she's being held.
  • In "The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn", one of the most universally praised episodes of the Dungeons & Dragons (1983) TV show, the kids have to help Dungeon Master get to the eponymous locale to restore his powers so he can save them all. So important is this quest that at various points one hero after another has to be left behind, either due to a separation that leaves them in a dangerous locale or to hold off some terrible threat so the others can go on. By the time they reach the dungeon and are facing off with Venger, only Hank and Sheila are left. Of course everyone makes it (albeit by the skin of their teeth), but it was one of the most suspenseful and exciting episodes of the series.
  • This shows up often in Bad Future episodes. The imaginary Bad Future episode in Gargoyles, "Future Tense", has the band of heroes dying off left and right as they assault Xanatos' who is also Dead All Along base. One of them gets a poignant death scene with important last words, others are killed suddenly without a word for extra shock value, and one turns out to be the real villain right before he is killed off. In the end, the only main characters left alive are Eliza and Goliath who is himself dying. Thankfully it was All Just a Dream created by Puck in a bid to take the Phoenix Gate.
  • Generator Rex: Doctor Holiday and three other scientists (Bouvier, Volkov and Rhodes) are trapped aboard a space station taken over by an AI. Bouvier tries to escape, but his escape pod ends up damaged and hurtling off into space, presumably killing him. Rhodes is Thrown Out the Airlock when she and Holiday try and fix the situation, but she's rescued at the end because of her space suit. Volkov and Holiday then just sit and wait Rex to save them.
  • The Legend of Korra: The final battle against the Colossus turns into this as the fight drags on. The airbenders, including Tenzin's family, are battered around and forced to retreat. Varrick and Zhu Li are shot down in their hummingbird mech, while Hiroshi sacrifices himself to cut open a hole in the Colossus, ejecting Asami at the last second. Lin and Suyin successfully disable the Colossus's Arm Cannon, but are knocked unconscious when Kuvira rips said arm off and throws it across the city. Mako and Bolin are similarly knocked out when Mako overloads the power source, which causes the Colossus to explode. At that point, Korra is the only one left standing against Kuvira herself.
  • In the Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "Gailbreak!," the main characters attempt to rescue Zoe's sister Gail out of the Largest Ever Pet Shop. However, as they attempt to execute the rescue, the Largest Ever Pet Shop's security gets the better of them, and, with each attempt to rescue Gail, one of the remaining pets gets caught and locked up inside, until only Blythe (who is human and got double-banned from the store in the process) and Sunil remain. Luckily for the others, Sunil taps into his badass he just discovered and successfully rescues everyone all by himself.
  • Happens in the last episode of Mighty Max. Several of the main characters perform a Heroic Sacrifice to help Max escape, and in the end he faces Skullmaster all alone.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic provides (non-lethal, but not any less tragic) examples:
    • The second season pilot thematises how the 6 protagonists are lured into an enchanted maze by Discord, the antagonist, and get hypnotised and subsequently psychologically broken by him one by one. He even spares Twilight Sparkle, the last of the cast, just so she can see what he has done to the others.
    • The sixth season finale involves Starlight Glimmer, Trixie, Thorax, and Discord infiltrating the Changeling Kingdom to save their friends. Discord is captured first when a group of changelings lead him into a trap. Trixie sacrifices herself to keep another changeling group at bay and buy Starlight and Thorax time. Thorax (disguised as Starlight) is captured in the throne room, leaving Starlight alone on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle courtesy of Queen Chrysalis.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar episode "The Hidden", Mort is taken by chameleons, leaving the penguins, Marlene and the lemurs to go in and try and rescue him. They are picked off one by one until only Kowalski remains. He manages to fight off the chameleons, but finds out that they are actually friendly and only took each member of the group to take them to a party.
  • A villainous example in Season 5 of Samurai Jack: The Daughters of Aku get killed off one-by-one by Jack. One dies in the temple in the second episode, another three are killed in the next episode, and the remaining three suffer a Disney Villain Death. It's possible that some are still alive, but the fate of the remaining three is unknown.
    • The next episode confirmed that at least Ashi survived the fall, but the jury is out on her other two sisters. Given they don't appear again, it's safe to assume that they're gone for good.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power:
    • Villainous example: the Horde has a few issues keeping up its named-character membership. Adora defects at the start of the first season; Shadow Weaver is overthrown and then defects; Catra betrays Entrapta and exiles her to Beast Island in season three; Scorpia, Lonnie, Kyle and Rogelio quit over the course of the fourth season; Hordak gets mind-wiped by Horde Prime; and Catra is captured by the same, yet convinces him to let her get on board. The highest-ranking named Horde character left on Etheria by the end of season four is Octavia, who appeared in like two episodes and was only voiced in one of them. After Catra leaves the Galactic Horde midway through Season 5, there’s no one from the Season 1 cast who is on the villains’ side, not willingly for that matter.
    • A more literal example occurs the second time the Princess Alliance assaults the Fright Zone. As each new threat appears to stop them, a pair of the attackers are forced to stay behind to buy the others time. The stakes are high because, last time the Alliance tried this, Entrapta was captured and presumed dead. Subverted in that the Princesses are much stronger and the Horde much weaker than the last time, and everyone is eventually reunited.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Over the course of the episode "Lair of Grievous" the dangers of Grievous' lair and the general himself kill off everyone except for Kit, who escapes in his starfighter.
  • In the Teen Titans (2003) Episode "Fear Itself", the group is stalked by a monster throughout their tower. Raven is the only one to make it to the end, and it turns out the monsters were manifestations of her suppressed fear. Everyone else gets better though.
    • The trope gets deconstructed later on when Beast Boy rejoins the Doom Squad. By the time they're about to fight the Big Bad it's just Beast Boy and the leader of the Squad. Beast Boy understandably is frustrated when the leader starts to talk about the team working together.
  • An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures had a group of the major characters being menaced by an unseen monster, Slasher Movie style. Any time one of them was away from the group for even a moment, the monster would manage to strike from somewhere ridiculous. (For example, one girl tries to get some water and a hand reaches out of the faucet and pulls her inside.) Within the space of about a minute they've been reduced, one by one, from five members in their party to two.
  • In the Young Justice (2010) episode "Failsafe", the Team is killed one-by-one. Then they wake up, and find out that it was a mental simulation gone wrong.

  • Elimination-based children's games like Musical Chairs play out this trope in miniature.
  • Due to previous bad feelings between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders, a game between the two teams on February 19, 2011, got entirely out of hand. The Islanders were looking for revenge after the Penguins players had injured an Islander with a questionable hit, and injured the Islander goalie in a fight earlier in the week. As the game went on, all the injuries and ejections for various fighting infractions began to take a toll on both teams' benches. By the end of the game, the Islanders only had 12 eligible players left, and the Penguins only had 9.
  • Any NASCAR race can turn into this, especially the restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega where it's not uncommon for large packs of cars to be taken out in the Big One due to the cars being bunched up together.
    • Most notably, the 2017 Alabama 500 at Talladega. 40 cars started the race, only 14 cars were running at the finish and 12 on the lead lap. The reason so few cars finished? Well, a string of six cautions for crash damage in just the 38 laps will do that: a four-car crash on lap 153, a six-car crash on the restart from that first crash, then a three-car wreck on lap 166, a Big One collecting 16 cars on lap 171, then two five-car wrecks in turn 3 on laps 178 and 184.
  • A non-fatal example happened with AC/DC around the Rock or Bust era. Guitarist Malcolm Young co-wrote the songs, but dementia setting in forced him to leave before recording. When it was time to tour, drummer Phil Rudd got arrested. At a certain point in the tour, singer Brian Johnson was forced to take a medical leave due to threatened hearing (his replacement was quite the big name, Axl Rose). And all these departures made bassist Cliff Williams decide to retire from music altogether once the tour was over. (fittingly, the only member left so to say was Face of the Band guitarist Angus Young)