Follow TV Tropes


Game of Chicken

Go To

"The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch."
Captain Bart Mancuso, The Hunt for Red October

Broadly speaking, a game of chicken is one where the first to yield loses, but neither player yielding will lead to the worst possible outcome for everyone.

The classic example. Two men head toward each other, driving cars. The first to turn away is the chicken. If neither turns...well, you get the idea.

A similar scenario occurs with two guys driving their cars toward the edge of a cliff at high speed. Whichever driver stops closest to the edge of the cliff without going over wins the other driver's car. If either driver doesn't (or both drivers don't) stop in time... again, you get the idea.

There are other variations, like standing on a railroad track bridge over water as a train comes (whoever jumps first is chicken) or stalling your cars on the tracks as the train comes (whoever hits the gas first is chicken) but all are incredibly dangerous.

It goes without saying; Do Not Try This at Home! Fatal accidents can — and have — happened to people who tried this. It's better to be the chicken who refused to play than dead duck who did.

More generally, "Game of Chicken" can be used as a metaphor for any challenge that depends on seeing who will be the first to back down, such as in political or business negotiations. (The first person to cave in usually gets the worse side of the deal, but if nobody caves in, neither side gets a deal.)

Compare Wronski Feint, Mutually Assured Destruction, and Showdown at High Noon; similar concepts include Mexican Standoff and Prisoner's Dilemma. Closely related to Macho Masochism, and Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"! Also related to Zany Scheme Chicken.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Akagi: Akagi's introduction reveals he was playing a two-man cliff version just before he came into the Mah Jong parlour where the story starts. Akagi won by not exiting the car at all and willingly plummeting off the cliff at full speed; his opponent bailed out just too late and fell to his death.
  • Shotaro Kaneda, as the leader of the Capsules, plays chicken with the leader of the Clowns in Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA. This is done on a highway of Neo-Tokyo upon motorcycles at 150 kmh (88 mph). The Clown flinches first and skids out of control when he swerves away, while Kaneda executes his famous and much-referenced sliding bike stop exactly across the highway lane marker he was riding down.
  • GTO: The Early Years: Kamishima Toshiki challenges Katsuyuki to a duel on the train tracks, as a train is approaching. Katsuyuki flinches and jumps back onto the platform before the train comes to a stop.
  • Megalo Box: Junk Dog is introduced playing the cliff version solo for no stakes at all, just trying to see how close he can get to the cliff's edge before he has to swerve. It's implied he does this to work out his frustrations about not feeling challenged in the ring: After honestly fighting a non-rigged boxing match against a Worthy Opponent, he stops his next attempt prematurely because, in his own words, "I can't go back to that". He goes right back to it in episode 10, when Nanbu and Fujimaki reveal they want him to take a dive in the Megalonia semi-finals.
  • In My Monster Secret, Akane wants chocolates from the local Supreme Chef. Her great-granddaughter, Akari, wants to punish her by feeding her chocolates from the school's numerous Lethal Chefs. Where does the game of chicken come in, you ask? Akane is a stupidly powerful demon, and summons an asteroid that will destroy the Earth if she doesn't get what she wants or is defeated. So while the rest of the world is sending failed space teams to destroy the asteroid, despairing about the end of the world and altogether looking like your standard disaster movie, the main characters are feeding a little girl really REALLY bad chocolate. In the end, Akane finally loses consciousness, and the asteroid veers off course, saving the world. It's that kind of series, yeah.
  • One Piece: During the battle against Kaido and Big Mom at Onigashima, Luffy, Law and Kid start bickering over things and Luffy says that if they're so tough then they'll take a volley of fireballs from Big Mom head-on. Although both Law and Kid are very no-nonsense they still accept the challenge and don't move before their rivals do. All three brace themselves with a ridiculous look on their faces upon getting set on fire.
  • In Samurai Champloo, Mugen and his former pirate comrade Mukuro play chicken, so that Mugen will take part in another scheme. They drive horses off the edge of the cliff, and Mukuro wins by catching a ledge below the one Mugen hanged onto.
  • Episode 9 of Zombie Land Saga reveals that this is how Badass Biker Saki died: a rival biker gang challenged her to a game of chicken where they both drive towards a cliff; whoever brakes first loses. You can probably figure out the outcome yourself. In the present day, the daughter of her best friend gets caught up in the exact same game. Saki intervenes and takes her place: since she's already dead, she's not afraid of crashing.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Two passenger jets do this trying to land on the same runway in one of Calvin's toy-inspired fantasy sequences. Calvin's plane gains a decisive advantage by doing a barrel roll.
    • In another strip, Calvin asks his mom if he can learn how to skydive. His mother responds, "Why not just play chicken on the railroad tracks? That would be an easier way to toy with death, I'm sure."

    Fan Works 
  • A Darker Path: Taylor kills the police's suspicions of her involvement in Sophia's death with a single conversation, but there's still a risk of someone in the PRT making the connection to the fact that Sophia bullied Taylor for a year. That is, there was a risk, until she publicly claims the kill as "Atropos" after murdering her way through the city's worst gangs. Faced with the possibility of outing Atropos and drawing her ire if they investigate further, for the sake of a troublesome Ward who could have landed them all in hot water, the PRT blinks first, officially doubling down on an alternative theory involving the Empire 88 and unofficially acknowledging that they don't want to know any more.
  • Double Sunday, a short story in Justice3442's ''My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic'' continuity: The cast is playing this game riding two giant explosive rockets (but not steering them), with the losers the last team to ditch. The ponies and factors in this game are composed of:
    • Twilight Sparkle, rational, scared, able to fly away by herself, maybe able to also carry her teammate (or not), and very aware that her castle's front yard and preferred teleport destination is currently occupied by an enormous, massively powerful bomb which was lit at the same time as the rockets for no really valid reason. Cold sober, able to do the math and wonder how her life has come to where this is an actual way to spend a day with her friends.
    • Her teammate and co-rider, Sunset Shimmer, normally rational but now in a mild competitive rage, currently unable to fly (she's somehow temporarily suppressed alicornhood and wings out of pure spite), and able to teleport. ...But who's already in this continuity, in a similar mood, chosen to take a fragmentation grenade to the face. Essentially, out of spite. So not likely to bail first.
    • The opposing team's Trixie Lulamoon, whose idea this game was. Competitive, the subject of a recent argument about whether she has a death wish, and due to an unknown unknown is mistakenly under the impression she's already successfully cheated. Unable to bail first and doesn't think she has any reason to.
    • Her teammate, Starlight Glimmer. Able to bail and not suicidal, but "rational" doesn't mean the same thing for Starlight Glimmer as it does for normal ponies.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Izuku ends up trying to embarrass Yang during Color Week after weeks of playful romantic teasing from her. It ends up turning into a game of romantic chicken in which both players try to get the other to back down or reduce them into a sputtering mess with constant flirting.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, when Yui shows up at Asuna and Kirito's cabin and calls them her mom and dad, Asuna plots to use Yui to force Kirito to annul their marriage as she realized it was a bad idea. However, Kirito realizes this and decides that two can play that game and decides to do the same to force Asuna to do the same first. This turns into a race to see who blinks first. No one blinks.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Rock-A-Doodle, when Edmund, Patou, Peepers, and Snipes find "The King" (AKA: Chanticleer the Rooster), they're trying to get back to the farm so Chanticleer can crow and raise the sun, but they have to escape from Pinky, the evil music manager who wants to get Chanticleer back, and end up having to use Pinky's pink Cadillac. At one point, this happens:
    Pinky: So, they want to play Chicken, eh?
    Pinky's driver Murray: Don't worry boss, I ain't turning!
    Pinky: Idiot, that's my car!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The 51st State, Corrupt Cop Kane has McElroy and Desouza trapped in an alleyway. They respond by driving straight at him. At first, he charges forward, yelling "Come on, then! Come on!", but McElroy makes it clear that he's not stopping. Kane loses his nerve, stops and gets shoved out of the way by Desouza's car and in front of an oncoming truck for his trouble.
  • Alien Nation shows off what happens when neither side flinches.
  • The Boat That Rocked: The Count challenges Gavin to a game of chicken by jumping off the main mast of the boat.
  • Condorman: During the first chase scene, a KGB driver takes a shortcut to get ahead of Woody's car and charges him head-on, apparently hoping to force him off the road. Instead, Woody activates an angled forward-mounted shield that serves as a ramp, vaulting the enemy vehicle over his car and into an explosive collision with the car behind him.
  • The climax of Cry-Baby features one of these pitting the titular character battling the leader of the Squares in order to win love interest Allison's hand. Naturally the straight-laced Square blinks and Cry Baby comes out victorious.
  • A one-sided version happens in Death Race 2000 where the racers score points for killing spectators. Three spectators stand out on the road, then jump down a manhole at the last moment as the car approaches. Unfortunately the first two decide to pull over the manhole cover before the last man gets in. So he gets killed, and then the other two die when they stick out their heads to smirk at their handiwork and fail to see another car racing up on them...
  • Footloose has a memorable scene (set to Holding Out for a Hero) in which new kid Ren is up against The Bully Chuck in a game of chicken (which also happens to be a Cock Fight) played on tractors. Ren wins, not because he's braver than Chuck but because his shoelace gets caught on the gas pedal.
  • Gattaca has a variant that brothers Vincent and Anton would play many times growing up. They both swam into the ocean, and the loser was whoever first said it was time to swim back. Vincent ended up winning their last two races in spite of his "genetic inferiority". At the end of the film, he explains that he won because he never saved any energy for the return trip, clearly explaining to his brother that he is most deserving of going to Titan because he is willing to give everything he has to do it.
  • Subverted in Goldfinger. James Bond's weaponised Aston Martin proves effective in scattering the mooks in Goldfinger's factory, but as he's driving down a corridor between two buildings he's confronted by another vehicle driving head on towards him with its headlights on full. Bond fires his built-in machine guns, but the car doesn't swerve and at the last second he's forced to, crashing into a wall. It's then revealed that Bond was firing at his own reflection in a steel mirror, set up to reveal oncoming cars at a junction.
  • The cliff variant is used in Grease 2 to show how crazy one fellow is. The scene is parodied in High School High.
  • Invoked in Groundhog Day. Phil Connors, upon realizing he can do anything he wants with no consequences, pretends to play chicken with an oncoming train, scaring the hell out of the passengers in the car. "I'm betting he's going to swerve first."
  • In The Heavenly Kid, the cliff variant is how Bobby dies in the opening scene, and towards the end he learns that his son Lenny is fated to die in the same way.
  • In Herbie Rides Again, after being insulted by Willoughby, Herbie spitefully enters a Chicken tournament (complete with a jousting theme) with Willoughby trapped inside to convince him that he's sentient. Herbie's driver chickens out right away but Herbie doesn't, so the driver can't turn the wheel to get out of the way of the other car.
  • Highlander:
    • After Brenda is captured by the Kurgan, he takes her for a ride and asks, "Ever play chicken?", as he drives on the wrong side of the street right at people.
    • This would get reused in Highlander III: The Sorcerer, when Kane captures Connor's adopted son, John, and does the same thing, only many of the cars and planes he's driving at are illusions he created just to scare John.
  • The Hunt for Red October: Invoked by Capt. Mancuso after he uses a Wronski Feint to make a torpedo that's pursuing Red October miss and hit Konavolov, the Russian sub that actually launched the torpedo.
    Mancuso: The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, during the fight at the beginning Indy does this against a Soviet. Mac, who is riding on the Soviet's truck, knows this will not end well.
    Mac: Don't get clever, Boris, You don't know him. (sees Boris with a crazed look in his eyes driving faster towards the oncoming Indy) Know him, KNOW HIM! You don't know him! YOU DON'T KNOW HIM! YOU DON'T KNOW HIM! YOU DON'T KNOW- (vehicles crash, Indy uses his whip to escape).
  • King Solomon's Mines. A German pilot thinks he's in this trope when faced by a plane piloted by Jesse Huston; unfortunately she's so scared she's holding her hands over her eyes, so doesn't even realise what's happening. Despite his Badass Boast that he won't turn away first, he wisely does so.
  • Parodied in Last Action Hero:
    • This works in the movie world that Jack Slater, a Captain Ersatz of John McClane, inhabits, but not in the real world. Except it does work because Slater wisely chooses a car with airbag protection, unlike his opponent.
    • Danny at one point attempts this on the villains car... on a bike. He tries to rationalize it that since this a movie and he's a good guy, it has to work. He then realizes (almost too late) that he's not The Hero, he's the Plucky Comic Relief so it won't work.
  • The Establishing Character Moment for Mad Max in the first movie. The psychotic and high-as-a-kite Nightrider has gleefully driven his Main Force Patrol pursuers off the road, then finds himself faced by Max's Pursuit Special speeding down the highway directly at him. The Nightrider swerves first, and when Max turns round and starts ramming his tail, he's reduced to blubbering fear. Later while on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Max uses this trope as a weapon by driving at several bikers as they're crossing a bridge, so they've got no room to dodge.
  • Used to resolve the Jekyll & Hyde conflict in the 1970 Roger Moore film The Man Who Haunted Himself.
  • In P2, Angela and Thomas charge at each other with cars. Thomas turns away at the last second, but Angela loses control and crashes into a wall.
  • Ingeniously invoked in Touchstone Pictures' Pearl Harbor, where boyhood friends Rafe McCawley and Danny Walker played chicken in propeller airplanes, learning to avoid disaster by each pilot banking hard left, turning the planes' wings almost vertical. During the fateful attack on 7 December 1941, they use this tactic while being pursued by Japanese fighters. While McCawley and Walker dodge each other successfully, their pursuers slam into each other at speed.
  • Prime Cut: The Cadillac driven by Lee Marvin's team is destroyed when they attempt to do this with a combine harvester.
  • In Rebel Without a Cause, the "chickie run" game is to drive towards the edge of a cliff and see who will jump out first. One of the drivers gets stuck in his car and can't jump out in time.
  • The final confrontation with Rosta and the main characters of Red Heat involves them going against each other with buses in a game of chicken.
  • RoboCop 2: During the Motorcycle Jousting between RoboCop on a cycle and Cain in an armored car, the two drive straight at each other. RoboCop ends up going through the armored car's windshield and grabbing Cain.
  • Smokey And The Bandit II featured the world's biggest game of chicken. It was squad cars versus diesel trucks.
  • The finale of Tremors has this with Val luring the final Graboid to the edge of the cliff and dodging out of the way so it falls to its death.
  • The final battle in Wing Commander has the TCS Tiger's Claw facing off against two Kilrathi warships. The smaller one is taken out with torpedoes, but the larger ship is moving straight at the Claw while firing at her. Paladin takes temporary command since the captain is incapacitated. He has the Claw move straight at the enemy, stating that he expects the enemy to blink first. Indeed they do and turn away, passing very close to the Claw. Paladin has all portside missiles launched at point-blank range, obliterating the Kilrathi.

  • A pair of mocked targets make a bet on who can stay longer underwater. They both drown.

  • "Angel Down, Sussex" features a game of chicken between a car containing the fleeing antagonist and the hero, a former combat pilot, in a low-flying Sopwith Camel. The pilot knows that if it comes to collision the Camel will come off second-best but figures that it will at least mess up the front of the car enough to halt it and let his colleagues catch up; anyway, he's counting on the driver of the car to flinch first.
  • In Biggles a frequent piece of advice for new pilots is "never turn off from a head on combat". While there is an element of Honor Before Reason in this it's also practical advice, if two planes are flying directly towards each other than the first one to turn away is giving the other plane a perfect opportunity to shoot him down.
  • From Isaac Asimov's works:
    • In "Mirror Image", two mathematicians aboard a starship accuse each other of stealing an important discovery. Should they make it to their destination (and therefore, an official investigation) with the matter unresolved, both will have their reputations ruined. Therefore, the innocent one is as likely to admit guilt as the guilty, and the guilty is likely to admit it in such a fashion that he will look innocent. Elijah Baley actually calls it a game of intellectual chicken.
    • The Robots of Dawn show that the entire Auroran politics work on that principle - Spacers have extreme aversion to conflict, so the whole dispute always comes to an attempt by the president to get one side to back down before it comes to blows.
  • A version of this occurs in Congo, when Peter is confronted by a wild gorilla in full threat display (roaring, baring his teeth, ripping up the grass around him, and even charging). Demonstrating his understanding of gorilla behavior and, honestly, balls of steel, he stays still, keeping his eyes averted towards the ground. Ultimately, the gorilla leaves him alone, satisfied that its display worked. Peter explains afterwards that if he had fled, the gorilla would have bitten him on the hinders, leaving him with a Mark of Shame that would indicate to all the other gorillas that he was a coward.
  • In Double or Die, young James Bond is chased by two villains on the road. When he thinks that he has outrun them, Bond soon finds them ahead, driving straight at him. He briefly despairs, before deciding to just drive forward, forcing them to drive into a ditch to avoid a head-on collision.
  • In Legacy of the Drow Series it is mentioned that house Oblodra has a small population because people there like playing the game with levitation spells. Two people float over the abyss, in an area covered with darkness and silencing spells so that its impossible for either player to tell how the other one is doing. The first one to return to solid ground is the loser. More often than not, neither does.
  • In the novel The Outsiders Pony mentions playing "chicken" with another Tag Along Kid.
    "What happened to Shepard?" I asked, remembering Tim Shepard's kid brother. Curly, who was a tough, cool, hard-as-nails Tim in miniature, and I had once played chicken by holding our cigarette ends against each other's fingers. We had stood there, clenching our teeth and grimacing, with sweat pouring down our faces and the smell of burning flesh making us sick, each refusing to holler, until Tim happened to stroll by. When he saw that we were really burning holes in each other he cracked our heads together, swearing to kill us both if we ever pulled a stunt like that again. I still have the scar on my forefinger. Curly was an average downtown hood, tough and not real bright, but I liked him. He could take anything.
  • In Shades of Grey, Eddie Russet reminisces on a game he and his friends used to play as children: "dusk running, where the last one back to the safety of the streetlight was the winner." (This is a world where stepping into the darkness at night can cause madness and death.) A showdown between the two champions, Lizzie and Richard, ended with Richard's complete disappearance until his body was found eight months later. The kids stopped dusk running at that point.
  • In Stormbreaker, Alex plays chicken with one of Sayle's mooks while riding a quadbike close to the edge of a cliff. The mook flinches first, and ends up plummeting over the cliff as a result.
  • An X-Men novel opens with the team separated into two groups for a mock battle, led by Storm and Wolverine. Towards the end Ororo manages to grap Wolverine by the wrists and says that, since being dropped from a height would really inconvenience him, Healing Factor or not, he needs to say uncle. Wolvie responds that it's 'Ro who needs to say uncle, since she hasn't considered how silly it is to be holding him by the wrists, and while she's obviously bluffing, he's just crazy enough to do it. She replies that she's just as determined to win as he is. The first to blink is Iceman, who's been watching the whole thing in increasing horror and finally can't take it any more.
  • Plague on Kryder II by Murray Leinster. The villains try to shoot down the rocketship flown by our hero, who instead of fleeing turns his spacecraft towards them despite being unarmed. Alarmed, the villains turn away and our hero does likewise, cutting their rocketship into pieces with his Weaponized Exhaust.
  • In Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan where Corrupt Corporate Executives compete via road duels, one character drives his car close enough to an automated truck to trip the proximity brakes before swerving away. The protagonist, who was in the car with him, is rather alarmed—not just because of the danger but also because he's a potential opponent who just demonstrated superior skill.
  • The Fragility of Bodies: The Blood Sport that Rivero is in charge of for The Cartel. Rivero picks two "brave" 10~ year old boys from the soccer club and offers them cheap cash in order to participate. He drives them to the train station at night, and orders them to stand on the track and to wait until the last possible moment before jumping out of the way of the incoming train, with wealthy people betting on the winner. And sometimes, they wait too long.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There's a task called a Fast Forward in The Amazing Race that pops up Once a Season or so. It allows for the team who gets it to go right to the pit stop right away, all but guaranteeing a first place victory. note  The catch is that only one team may do it and if you go for it and someone a) beats you to it or b) you fail and another team gets it, you have to go back and do all of the other tasks which almost guarantees you getting eliminated. There will almost always be a fight over it between two teams before someone ultimately backs down. Nowadays the Meta Game has evolved that teams would rather stick with the pack and lose a battle to win the war, so to speak.There are still teams who care about winning individual legs even though they’re risking elimination but most would rather finish in the middle and not take the chance.
  • The Big Bang Theory: In "The Comic-Con Conundrum", Leonard and Penny engage in an emotional variation when he invites her to Comic-Con, but she doesn't want to say she doesn't want to go, and he doesn't want to admit that he doesn't want her there, because each wants the other to be happy.
  • Blake's 7. In "Duel" the Liberator is being fired on by three Federation cruisers. Rather than wait till they've worn down their forcewall, Blake decides to go Straight for the Commander and ram Travis' ship. Instead of taking evasive action Travis decides to fire everything he has at point-blank range. Sufficiently Advanced Aliens intervene before we find out what would have happened next.
  • Community: In the first episode of season 2, after Jeff rejected Britta in the previous year, she's riding a wave of popularity as a strong, independent woman who was willing to put it all on the line for love—when in reality she was just in a pissing match with Jeff's ex-girlfriend. Jeff gets fed up and starts dating her to prove a point; since she can't back down without losing her newfound fame, they get into a ridiculous game of chicken (encouraged by Abed) that almost leads to them getting married within hours of their first "date." Annie eventually gets fed up and calls Jeff out for what he's been doing, making Jeff and Britta both realize they're being crazy.
  • Doctor Who
    • In "The Time Monster", the Master acquires an artifact that will allow him to control an almost omnipotent transdimensional being; the Doctor initiates an overload of the Tardis's systems that will destroy them both unless the Master hands over the artifact, while the Master insists he'd rather perish than surrender absolute power. The Doctor caves first, but companion Jo triggers the overload. Fortunately they all get better.
    • They played this again in the revived series, at the end of "Last of the Time Lords" when the Master threatens to blow up Earth with him and the Doctor on it with the black hole converters of his would-be universe conquering space fleet. The Doctor calls him on it, pointing out that he knows the Master and knows that he would never kill himself. The Master caves.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Robin and Kevin get caught in a game of "relationship chicken", where neither one wants to say no to anything. It comes to a head during an outing to a dangerous neighborhood led by Barney. When Kevin finally caves in, Robin is relieved that one of them finally said no.
  • On Knight Rider, the first episode with KARR climaxes with KITT and KARR driving at each other on a winding mountain road. When KITT tries to take over control (being programmed to protect human life), Michael won't let him and stays on course, knowing KARR (who is programmed for self-preservation) will swerve first. KARR ends up driving off the cliff and into the ocean.
  • Person of Interest. In "Asylum", Root forces the Machine to tell them Shaw's location by closing her eyes and walking along the edge of a building in a high wind, until the Benevolent A.I. relents.
    Root: You taught the Machine to play chess and blackjack, but how about chicken?
  • There's an episode of Power Rangers Turbo where a group of teens get into an argument and decide to settle it down by drag racing Game of Chicken style at a cliff. Unfortunately, the drivers get distracted by chimpanzees Bulk and Skull, who were hiding in their backseats, and end up driving off the cliff. Fortunately, they get caught by the Turbo Megazord before they plummet to their deaths.
  • The Professionals. In "Spy Probe", Bodie and Doyle drive their Ford Capris at each other, braking with the cars only four inches apart.
  • The Punisher (2017). In "Resupply", Frank Castle is in a car chase with Homeland Security agent Madani, and they end up in this trope, only for Madani to be unexpectedly rammed by David Lieberman driving a truck, so we never find who would have flinched first (likely neither).
  • Scrubs has Gay Chicken, where two guys lean in to kiss each other and the first one to back away loses.
  • Sense8: In the Season 1 finale, Will knows he doesn't have the stomach for a dangerous game of chicken, so he calls up the suicidally reckless Wolfgang to drive an ambulance straight at a low-flying helicopter.
  • One episode of the British war drama Soldier Soldier had the protagonists jokingly playing gay chicken in a bit of Ho Yay Ship Teasing.
  • In the Stargate Atlantis episode "Ghost In The Machine", The replicators, as energy, have taken over the computers of Atlantis and begin to submerge the city without the shields unless they can be given new bodies. Woolsey tells them to go ahead and destroy the city, which would also ruin all the equipment they need to get their new bodies. The replicators relent.

  • "Ridin' the Hook" from SpongeBob SquarePants's album The Best Day Ever is about playing "hooky" (riding a fishing hook, getting pulled by the fisherman to the surface, then jumping off before reaching it) from the episode "Hooky", except played together and SpongeBob and Patrick wants to see who jumps off the hook first.
  • The Mitchie M song "Bad Girl A" has Hatsune Miku doing the "driving towards a cliff" version of this trope against Kagamine Rin and Len (the Vocaloids are Japanese Delinquents in this song). In the end, Miku suicidally drives off the cliff: just before the race, she'd murdered her abusive father, and realizing she would be going to jail anyway, decides she'd rather die free while showing up her rivals.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons. According to a supplement book about Beholders — a race of evil creatures that can levitate — they sometimes play a game in which two will rise high above the ground and simultaneously start to free-fall. The one who stops his fall closest to the ground is the winner.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! game's answer to this is Chicken Game, a Field Spell which works as follows: The player with less Life Points cannot take Battle Damage, and once per turn, the turn player can spend 1,000 Life Points to either A) draw one card, B) destroy this card, or C) increase the Life Points of his opponent by 1,000. While using this card has enormous benefits, letting you draw cards and stop taking Battle Damage should you use it enough, it's also very risky should the card be destroyed; thus, the player who used the second effect is "chicken" (but might be the winner of the duel if the other player used the effects too carelessly). The card's illustration shows the vehicle monsters Oni Tank T-34 and Overdrive racing toward a cliff, whie Oni Tank T-34 looks like it is going to chicken out.

    Video Games 
  • Fate/Grand Order: The "Dead Heat Summer Race" event has Boudica challenge all the racers to see who can ride the closest to the mouth of a volcano. As soon as the race starts, Scheherazade chickens out and refuses to move her vehicle, saying she doesn't want to risk death, to her partner Nitocris' frustration. The other racers are forced to stop because of obstacles like lava flows. It gets down to Boudica in her chariot vs Nero and Altria Alter in their car. Boudica says she doesn't care if she dies as long as she can beat Nero, since she hates Romans. Just as they reach the mouth of the volcano, Nero and Altria Alter stop. Boudica doesn't, but Nero and Altria Alter grab her and pull her to safety as her chariot falls into the lava. To Nero and Altria Alter's surprise, Boudica declares Oda Nobunaga and Mysterious Heroine X the winners because they actually fell into the volcano (the two survive).
  • Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble has the "drive toward a cliff" variant as one of its minigames. For additional joke points, the opponent is an actual chicken.
  • Mario Party has several of these.
    • Mario Party 5: The minigame Night-Light Fright has the players stopping an approaching Chain Chomp with a flashlight. Whoever let's the Chomp get closest before stopping it wins, but of course you instantly lose if it reaches you. Making things more complicated is the Chomps approach at varying speeds. Do you turn early, or let it come a little closer, hoping it doesn't get a sudden burst of speed...
    • Mario Party 7: In the minigame Gimmie a Brake, players must brake their scooter at the farthest distance without falling into a pit of mud.
    • Mario Party DS: The Battle Minigame Short Fuse is centered around this concept, as players must blow into the DS microphone to whittle a bomb's fuse as low as possible without actually setting it off. Refusing to blow into the mic at all causes the bomb to instantly explode.
    • Wario's Bluff, a minigame of Mario Party-e, is decided by which of two players can stop closest to the edge of the cliff without falling off.
    • Mario Party 10:
      • In Balloon Blast Bash, each player uses an air pump to inflate a balloon, with the winner being the player who pumps their balloon larger than anyone else. However, if a player inflates their balloon too much, it will pop, and that player will automatically get last place.
      • The Rosalina amiibo board has an event where players jump atop a Sling Star, then shake the Wii Remote to charge up power, after which they will be launched into space and earn coins. The higher they fly, the more coins they get, but if they charge up too much, the spring in the Sling Star will break, and the player will get no coins at all.
  • "Charging Chicken" in Rhythm Heaven Megamix is a solo variant. You need to charge up an electric car as much as possible, and send it over a crumbling bridge to a small platform. Charge the car too much and it drives off the cliff. Don't charge it enough, and it stops on the crumbling bridge (and falls into the sea). Also, the car is driven by a chicken.
  • In Sonic Shuffle, in the "Egg and the Chicken" mini-game, the four players are standing under basketball hoops that Eggman tosses bombs into. The player who stands under their hoop the longest without getting blown up by their bomb wins, while any player who runs away too soon or gets blown up gets sucked up by Eggman.
  • One activity in the Minigame Game Work Time Fun is "Cliff Race 2000": you and your opponent drive towards the edge of a cliff, whoever brakes first loses. You have to take into account your car's deceleration: even if you brake later than your opponent, you can still lose if you slide off the edge.
  • In Minecraft, a popular game invented by players is 'Void Chicken': Two or more players wearing elytra and carrying fireworks will dive off an End Island into the void. The first to pull out of the dive is the chicken. If one or both players don't pull out in time, they will die and lose any equipment they had been carrying.

    Web Animation 

  • The 10 Doctors: Nyssa is piloting a spaceship without weapons when she finds out that the Master (who destroyed her home planet) is piloting another ship nearby. The two engage in a chicken game the Master is sure he can win... until Nyssa shows that her plan was actually to release a thruster to slam into the Master's ship.
  • DOUBLE K: When Simon gets kidnapped by a suspect, Kamina challenges him to a game of chicken to get him back. The suspect doesn't initially believe that he'll really let him go if he wins, but Simon says that Kamina does things like this all the time. Kamina rides on the hood of his car while a few shanghaied prostitutes drive. Once the race starts, Kamina orders the prostitutes to bail, but stays on the hood. When the cars crash, he leaps off the hood, grabs his partner and the suspect, and does his best badass pose while the cars explode behind him.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things makes a Brick Joke of a game of Gay Chicken between Kratos and Leonidas. "When Spartans play Gay Chicken, they play for keeps, kid." It starts here, then much later it progresses to the "arguing about buying furniture" stage. Eventually it ends with Leonidas conceding defeat, while Kratos realizes it's a Pyrrhic Victory.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: In the Distant Prologue, a newscaster suspects the governments of Sweden and Finland to have engaged into the political variant in terms of closing their borders to stop the spread of The Plague, with neither country wanting to be the one to do so before the other.

    Web Original 
  • A Collection Of Unmitigated Pedantry considers that all pre-modern cavalry on cavalry encounters are this. Crushing into another fully armored rider at full gallop is bound to catastrophically injury both of them and their mounts, but the first one to slow down or turn aside would be disorganized and at a risk of being surrounded and flanked by the opposing cavalry. Unlike many examples of this trope, most cavalry encounters ended up with both formations slowing down to non lethal speeds to push through each other with their weapons.
    "But in some ways, a cavalry charge is a game of nerves: coming in at a strong gallop looking like you are willing to risk that collision is a great way to panic your enemies, make them turn aside, and gain the advantage."
  • The Hire: In "Beat the Devil", James Brown (playing himself) wagers the Devil that his driver can't beat the Devil's driver in a car race. As they're racing down the highway, they see railroad tracks cutting across the road and an oncoming train. Brown's driver puts his foot down whereas the Devil chickens out and shouts for his driver to stop, causing a spectacular car crash.
  • In the fourth season of the Life SMP, the Bad Boys faction have a game of this on Day 1, where they each set fire to a block on the roof of the very flammable Woodland Mansion they call their base, and the last one to put out their fire wins.
  • This is how the ambush predators known to the SCP Foundation as SCP-745 operate; they hunt in pairs using their bioluminescence to resemble oncoming cars at night, and sprint towards lone vehicles at speeds over 100 mph to force drivers to stop or swerve off the road, allowing them to feast on the car's occupants. The only way to survive is to win the game, as they'll split from each other and run past if the driver calls their bluff.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Underdwellers", Batman saves two teenagers from almost getting killed playing chicken. They stood on top of a train and the first to leave before it entered a tunnel was the chicken, but the "winner" got stuck and would have hit the tunnel if Batman hadn't stepped in. As he tells them once they're safe, "You play chicken long enough, you fry."
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", a Jokerz gang steals an experimental military vehicle. At one point, their leader Scab enters a game of chicken with Dr. Price who is in another vehicle. When they are about to collide, Scab's henchman Coe panics and turns the steering wheel in time, though both vehicles still take damage.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Talkin' Trash", Wheeler finds that his old friends have joined a street gang, and they play a game of jumping on a train and waiting until the last second to leave before it enters a tunnel. They invite Wheeler to join them, but he declines and they call him a coward. Later, Wheeler is horrified to learn that his friend Franky hit the tunnel offscreen and died. Trish almost falls off the train and almost hits the tunnel, but Wheeler saves her.
  • In Filmation's Ghostbusters, Futura makes this challenge to a villain, threatening to ram her spaceship headlong into his; he recognizes it as a game of chicken and accepts the challenge, but eventually, he's the one who chickens out.
  • Looney Tunes gives us "Wild and Woolly Hare." Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam are in locomotives on the same track headed to a collision course, with neither one willing to stop theirs. In the end, Bugs' train has elevator wheels that allow it to go over Sam's engine, which falls off the tracks and into a river.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Gorizilla", when Adrien jumps off the roof, he can transform and save himself at any time, at the cost of revealing his Secret Identity to the world. Unbeknownst to him, Hawk Moth is on the other side of the game — able to order Gorizilla to let Ladybug go so she can save him, at the cost of losing his chance to learn if he's Cat Noir. If neither of them flinches, Adrien will hit the ground and die. Because Adrien has unwavering faith that Ladybug will save him, Hawk Moth flinches first, and Cat Noir's identity is safe.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: In "A Lesson In Love", Kevin, a kid on a hoverbike, plays this with Hordak's warship. Despite Hordak boasting that Kevin will lose his nerve first, Hordak is the one who turns.
  • Aerrow in Storm Hawks often does this against Talons, noting they without fail always "blink first" and more often than not end up crashing their rides in a panic. In fact, in "Talon Academy" he gives this very advice to a recently Heel Face Turned Talon named Lynn (who failed such a game against him earlier in the episode) and sure enough the Talon she goes up against "blinks first."
  • In the old Super Friends, there was a Wonder Twins short called "Game of Chicken" where the duo had to rescue one of two teenagers who tried this. In this variation, the participants piloted motorboats towards the topside of a waterfall on a river, and the one who turned away first was chicken. Ironically, the one whom the twins had to rescue was technically the winner; the guy who turned chicken could at least say he was a smart chicken.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "The Toad Warrior", Kar-Krazy Koopa challenges Toad (as the Toad Warrior) to race towards a ravine. Both end up going over the edge, but while Toad is able to jump to the other side, Koopa ends up crashing into the cliff.
  • Transformers: Rescue Bots: The season finale includes a game of chicken between the resident speedster Blurr and the evil Morrocco Bot. Professor Baranova protests, "This is no time to prove who has less brains!". At the last moment, Blurr flips over, just scraping the top of the Morrocco Bot.
  • In the Voltron: Legendary Defender episode "Bloodlines'', the Garrison Trio is bored and reprograms a robot and have some fun. At one point, they play a game of chicken. It doesn't end well.
    Lance: So worth it.
    • In the episode "Some Assembly Required", Lance and Keith turn a training exercise into one of these. It ends with both of their lions stuck in the ground, hind legs pointing up in the air.

  • The game of Chicken, along with the Prisoner's Dilemma, is a classic problem in Game Theory, in part because it represents the logical inverse of the Prisoner's Dilemma: Whereas the Prisoner's Dilemma is a coordination problem, Chicken is, at heart, an anti-coordination problem — whatever your opponent does, the rewards are highest to do the opposite.
    • Game theory has four classic symmetrical two-option two-person games: Prisoner's Dilemma, Chicken, Stag Hunt, and Deadlock. The difference between Deadlock and Chicken is that in Deadlock, both players prefer mutual defection to any form of cooperation. In Chicken, the players would rather concede and cooperate than accept mutual defection. Using the metaphor of two drivers racing at each other, Deadlock is each player prefers the outcomes in this order: other guy swerves > we crash > both swerve > I swerve. In Chicken, these preferences are: other guy swerves > we both swerve > I swerve > we crash.
  • A performative form of Gay Bravado is "Gay Chicken," a game in which two straight participants of the same sex are dared to come as close as they can to kissing each other. The first person to flinch is deemed most insecure in their heterosexuality.
    • Some accounts of the game add a twist Punch Line: "We've been married for six years now but I just know he'll crack any minute!"
  • Approval voting is an alternate election system in which voters may vote for as many candidates as they like, instead of having to pick just one as in the more common "first past the post" system. The chicken dilemma arises when there are three (or more) candidates, of which two (or more) are clearly ahead of the pack. Voters who are okay with all of the leading candidates might strategically not vote for those they're okay with but don't most prefer, to give their favorite a better chance at winning. The more a given candidates' voters do this, the more likely they are to get their most preferred outcome instead of a second-best... but if the voters betray each other this way too much, they might end up giving the election to a candidate outside the group entirely that none of them are okay with at all.
  • The game of Russian Roulette requires a revolver with only one live round. Players take turns pointing the gun at their own head and pulling the trigger, hoping they will have landed on one of the five empty chambers. If you're too chicken to engage in such Reckless Gun Usage, you lose the game but win much better odds of living another day.


Video Example(s):


Chicken, Anyone?

The Action League takes on The Mayor in a game of chicken against his vehicle while riding... a toy car.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / GameOfChicken

Media sources: