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Gladiator Games

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"You honor the arena with your combat. May your swords and shield preserve the peace."

Because nothing says decadent and evil like death and carnage as a spectator sport.

People — criminals or slaves — are forced to fight each other or savage monsters. Sword and Sorcery (especially Sword and Sandal) and Lost World stories are particularly fond of the monsters; a good way to show them off. As a Blood Sport, this may last for a time, with many bouts, allowing the gladiators time to train; either the character can always win, or they do not always insist on death at defeat. The first is more common; the crowds will insist Finish Him!. Conversely, it may be a way of combining executions with amusement — a Death Trap that gets watched — which generally involves animals, as they don't want to deal with the winner.

Monsters used in an arena will fight long after a Real Life animal would retreat. Generally as a result of being starved a bit leading up to the match, as was the practice in the Real Life games.

Sometimes, after a particularly grand victory, the gladiator is freed, but generally ends with either Gladiator Revolt, or gladiators loosing the monsters they fight on the crowd, to great consternation. This trope is distinguished from other forms of recreational combat — such as The Tourney — by one or both sides having no choice but to fight.

On the other hand, this situation was involved in the Trope Namer for Androcles' Lion.

Frequently features in the nastier sort of Bread and Circuses, but it may just be an upperclass entertainment because Aristocrats Are Evil. Contrast The Tourney, which doesn't carry this stigma because the nobles risk themselves rather than compel others to do so.

Very popular in Ancient Rome settings, oddly enough, and in Sword and Sandal settings based on it. Hollywood History comes into play for some of the elements. In Real Life, only around a tenth of fights between professional gladiators actually resulted in death, as gladiators were expensive to train and difficult to replace. In fact, battles to the death were widely advertised specifically because they were so rare. Hollywood gladiators almost always fight to the death. In Real Life, most gladiators who got killed in the end of the fight were either Dirty Coward types, or so badly wounded they were not expected to survive. The manner of the Coup de Grâce varied, but one common method, supported by archaeological evidence, was to have a man dressed as Dīs Pater, a Roman god of the underworld, hit the doomed gladiator in the head with a large mallet.

Criminals condemned to die by the sword were not considered gladiators, and for them death was predetermined.

While gladiators were originally all slaves, over time a class of professional gladiators also emerged.note  These voluntary gladiators will very rarely appear in fiction, whereas in Real Life they were often the most skilled fighters in the arenas and by the time of the Roman Empire actually outnumbered the enslaved gladiators. The vast majority of gladiators were men, though female gladiatrices are not unknown to history; at the very least, regulations on the games existed concerning them specifically. It's believed that many women who were drawn to the arena were free citizens motivated by fame, fortune, and independence, or the daughters of retired male gladiators who followed in their fathers' footsteps. That said, the Romans saw them as only an exotic and/or erotic novelty, and many regarded their existence (and of women's athletics in general) as a corruption of traditional Roman gender roles, hence why women were eventually banned from competing in the arena sometime around 200 AD during the reign of Septimius Severus.

The thumbs-up and thumbs-down signals, indicating that less fortunate contestants should be spared or killed are common in fiction, actually can be traced back no further than the 19th century, where Jean-Léon Gérôme's 1872 painting "Pollice Verso" popularized their anachronistic use in ancient settings. There was a gesture of the thumb to indicate either death or life, but nobody knows exactly what it looked like.

When gladiatorial combat appears in a modern setting, it is often a Deadly Game or a Blood Sport. Will often take place in a ThunderDome of some sort and involve a Spectator Casualty or two.

When good guys are forced to participate in death matches, they typically refuse to kill their opponent, finding a way to get out of it.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • How final exams are depicted in Assassination Classroom to the viewer. Armed with hammers, swords, magical staves, and ray guns, the students are thrown into a coliseum where they must slay a hoarde of gigantic, surreal monsters within a short time limit. In reality, they're just sitting in a chair, taking an exam on a piece of paper.
  • Battle Angel Alita has gladiatorial combat between giant cyborgs as one of the major entertainments in the Scrapyard.
  • The titular Deadman Wonderland and their horribly violent Carnival Corpse games. Those that lose get one of their organs removed. While they are awake.
  • Dokuro has the Rumble Fish, in the sanatorium.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Robot Kingdom has a robot arena in the titular kingdom, where robots have to fight each other for the tyrannical queen's amusement - and the losers will either be destroyed, or be stripped of their emotions. Doraemon inevitably ends up in the arena, where he must face a thirty-feet tall robotic Killer Gorilla (much to Doraemon's horror).
  • In Dragon Goes House-Hunting, the eponymous dragon gets captured by a group of humans and made to fight in the "monster death battle" arena. However, the fights are actually rigged, with the monsters and the showrunner working in cahoots to ensure the maximum profits for the owner, so the gladiators actually live in luxury.
  • Golgo 13: Two millionaires who've made a hobby of this decide to pay an assassin called Spartacus to kill Golgo 13 in the ruins of the Colosseum, while secretly watching their duel on hidden cameras. Suffice to say this makes them Too Dumb to Live.
  • In Kengan Ashura there are Kengan Matches, events in which businessmen decide to settle their differences and market share not through courts but through appointing fighters to win it all. These fights are very brutal and can end up with one fighter dead or seriously crippled - there is a referee present but his presence is just for show and if a fighter is smart enough to cheat in a way that the referee and the audience can’t blatantly notice it then all is fair.
    • In the sequel Kengan Omega, the organization of Purgatory comes into prominence, which is a similar fighting tournament except held with stricter rules and with entertainment as the goal.
  • In the Danganronpa Spin-Off series Killer Killer, there's the Festival of Murder, an event in which a stadium full of serial killers and mass murderers watch each other participate in death matches for their own amusement.
  • Kino's Journey: Kino has to participate in a gladiator-esque tournament (held for the benefit of an insane emperor). She manages to win without killing any of her opponents.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: The Gundam Fight is a Humongous Mecha fighting tournament held every four years, with the nation represented by the winning Gundam Fighter earning the right to rule the world until the next tournament. The system is meant to avoid war among the space colony nations, but no effort is made to avoid the collateral damage caused by the matches.
  • Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: Tobia Arronax. Tobia gets captured and is forced to fight in a gladiator ring. He's on foot armed with a machinegun. His opponent is armed with a mobile suit. And he wins. By hijacking the mobile suit, which he then uses to escape his captors.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: One of these exists in the Magic World, which is used for a small Tournament Arc. There's been hints that it used to be much more violent than in the current story (including slavery and fights to the death).
    • It's been revealed that the reason that Jack Rakan is so unbelievably strong is because he spent years fighting in the arena so that he could earn his way out of gladitorial slavery, before moving on to fighting in wars.
  • One Piece:
    • Amazon Lily Island has a gladiator arena that they use to execute criminals (men) or just throw a few more or less friendly fights to see who's the strongest (along with heavy betting).
    • A much larger-scale version with participants from the whole world later appears in Dressrosa's Corrida Colosseum. Unlike Amazon Lily, participating is entirely optional, and the participants usually fight it out over some glorious prize, the most recent one being Ace's Devil Fruit, the Mera Mera no Mi. Also unlike Amazon Lily, the competitors are actually referred to as "gladiators". Though the Colosseum has its dark secrets: not all gladiators are there by choice, and a good number of them are "criminals" (read, people who stood up against the Donquixote Pirates) forced to fight under threat of execution, not unlike Roman ludi and munera. Also, any loser who doesn't die is sent down a trash chute to be transformed into a toy, to uphold Doflamingo's masquerade. There's also a weight limit, meaning that wearing a lot of armor was often prohibited. A bloodshed was almost guaranteed.
  • In Rakuin No Monshou gladiator games are extremely popular in Mephius. Most gladiators are sword-slaves and are often former criminals, such as the main character Orba. Matches are almost always to the death and the managers aren't above gimmicks such as having a chained woman in danger of being devoured by a dragon.
  • Saint Seiya:
    • Seiya earned his Cloth through this.
    • The first six episodes actually pay homage to this with all the matches being played out in a replica of the Coliseum.
  • Double Subverted (in a sense) during the "Legendary Heroes" arc of the original Yu-Gi-Oh!. Jonouchi had to take part in the Duel Monsters equivalent of a gladiator game to win a card the entourage needed in the virtual reality world they were in, which they were just starting to figure out could be truly lethal due to the Big 5's tampering. Fortunately for him, his opponent turned out to be Mai, who had been hired by the Big 5 as a beta tester.
  • YuYu Hakusho: The Dark Tournament is a martial arts tournament organized by the trillionaires and masters of shady companies dedicated to accumulating wealth through the dark arts. The fights don't necessary have to end in death (although it is highly encouraged), participants can win with a 10 second knockout or ringout.
  • Zoids: The third and fourth animes are primarily set at a time where the most popular sport is organized combat between the title Humongous Mecha.

  • Ancient Rome was a favorite subject of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, so gladiators inevitably featured in a couple of his paintings:
    • A Pyrrhic Dance depicts a group of gladiators, assuming a defensive stance as they face down something in the arena that's just out-of-frame.
    • Caracalla and Geta envisions the two Roman co-emperors overlooking a gladiatorial arena from a flower-decked podium.

    Comic Books  
  • Asterix: In Asterix the Gladiator, Asterix and Obelix have to go through this in order to save their friend Cacophonix.
  • In Cavewoman: Oasis, Meriem is kidnapped and forced to participate in gladiatorial combat in an arena called the 'Bowl of Bones'.
  • Exiles featured an alternate Earth where the entire superhuman population were slaves fighting in Gladiator Games for the entertainment of their Skrull conquerors. Unlike many examples of this trope, most of the fights were nonlethal; each superhuman was a unique entertainer, too valuable to lose.
  • In the comic book Grimjack, the title character spent his childhood fighting in the Arena. He wasn't released until early adulthood. His friend Blackjac and his enemy The Dancer were both gladiators.
  • In Hex, gladiator-style pit fights are a popular entertainment in the post-apocalyptic future. In one story arc, Hex's girlfriend Stiletta is kidnapped brainwashed into becoming an arena fighter called the Blonde Spitfire.
  • Hunter's Hellcats: In Our Fighting Forces #120, the Nazis have reinstated gladiator games at the Coliseum as a means of executing captured Italian partisans.
  • Marvel's Voices: According to Dara, Saarl makes the Badoon women partake in gladiator-style violence for the irony, since they are pacifistic. When brought before him Echo easily outfights him.
  • A central point of the series Murena, not surprisingly since the action unfolds in Ancient Rome.
  • Planet Hulk. And a bit in World War Hulk too.
  • Red Sonja: Berserker: Sonja is sentenced to the arena by a Kangaroo Court.
  • Simon Dark: Gaius Publius was a gladiator before he refused to kill a defeated opponent when ordered to by Caligula and was given to a sorcerer to experiment on as punishment. The last bit of his final fight in the arena is shown in a flashback.
  • Superman:
    • Mongul's War World
    • In Superboy (1994), Kossak makes it clear he intends to sell Superboy to an arena to be forced to partake in bloodsports for an audience.
    • In Adventure Comics issue #412, Supergirl gets forced to take part in the gladiator games of an alien world to ensure that a tyrant don't become the planet's ruler.
    • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: The titular villainess' punishment for stealing a Boom Tube and launching an unsanctioned attack against Earth is to fight a duel to the dead against four super-soldiers called Gladiortrons in a Colosseum-like arena called Terrorium. For bonus points, she is fighting for her ruler's entertainment.
      Granny Goodness: "Kneel, lowly dog! You are in the presence of Darkseid! You exist only for his amusement and today you will fight for your life... in the Terrorium! Your killers are among the foulest creations in all of Apokolips! Grown in the Gestatron Labs, fed only the flesh of infant children stolen from the streets and back alleys of Armagetto. Prepare to die at the hands of the Gladiortrons!"
  • Suske en Wiske: Lambik fights as a gladiator in the album Het Geheim van de Gladiatoren (The Secret Of The Gladiators), again on orders of Emperor Nero.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage): The Ninja Turtles had to fight in the Triceraton version of this in the original Mirage comics. The story is adapted and expanded upon in the second cartoon. They don't lose.
  • Transformers:
    • Gladiatorial combat is a recurring element in the backstory of The Transformers (Marvel) comics; specifically, Megatron is generally a former gladiator (well, a miner who became a gladiator) who rebelled.
    • In IDW's The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, the Decepticon Mech of Mass Destruction Overlord takes over Garrus-9 and essentially turns it into an arena of this sort just for the hell of it. Overlord had a cameo appearance in "Megatron Origin" as a member of Megatron's gladiator group. Seems he wasn't in it to fight corruption with superior firepower like Megatron's original mission statement said - he was just in it for the fun.
  • The Warlord (DC): Travis Morgan was captured and made into a gladiatorial slave. He eventually led a Gladiator Revolt that gained him the title of Warlord.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Ares forces his captives to fight in the Martian arena for him and his lieutenants to laugh at as they die. When Diana is forced to fight she manages to avoid killing anyone, while also beating every other competitor, for which Ares tries to have her flogged.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Flash Gordon, Flash is forced into such combats repeatedly.
  • In the Modesty Blaise arc "Those About To Die", Modesty, Willie and a group of elite athletes are captured by a mad millionaire and forced to participate in a Deadly Game recreation of the Roman games.
  • Nero: Nero, Petoetje, Petatje and Madam Pheip are thrown to the lions and bears in the Colosseum on orders of Emperor Nero in the album De Rode Keizer ("The Red Emperor")

    Fan Works 
  • The Basalt City Chronicles subverts this: The Empire of Smilodons has a reputation of allowing fights to the death for sport. Holding fights to the death for sport is actually VERY illegal, and is one of the very few capital crimes in the Empire. Not that their legitimate tournaments aren't brutal...
  • A Brief History of Equestria reveals that the Pre-Hearthswamring Pegasi reveled in gladiatorial games.
  • The Star Wars fic Gladiatorial Jedi has Luke Skywalker forced into one his ex, Callista, is running. She has Mara and Ben captured with him, and employs a Forced to Watch, torturing Mara and saying it'll go on until she dies if Luke doesn't submit to being taken and forced to fight.
  • Loved and Lost: After Prince Jewelius seizes the throne of Equestria, he makes a treaty with dragons that includes forcing Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy to fight as gladiators in the dragons' new colosseum. The crowd is eager to see the two pegasi going down, but they are able to hold their own in the matches until they're rescued by the other discredited heroes a week later.
  • The Demon Empire of Sonic X: Dark Chaos, essentially the Roman Empire in space, uses these as part of it Bread and Circuses policies. In a similar vein to the Romans, they use recaptured slaves and criminals as fighters. However, lethal games are quite rare.
  • Vow of Nudity: Walburt is a venator, aka a gladiator who specializes in fighting wild animals. At the end of the story, Haara joins him in the ring as a co-fighter.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • Airplane! doesn't actually show any arena combat, but it lampshades the fanservice aspects of the trope (buff loincloth-wearing men getting sweaty) with the famous line: "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"
  • Centurion: The protagonist's father was a gladiator. This is in no way relevant to the story, but if you've made a film about ancient Romans without mentioning gladiators at all, you've just wasted everyone's time.
  • In Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan had this as part of his backstory until he escaped.
  • In Demetrius and the Gladiators, Demetrius is arrested for assaulting a Roman centurion and sentenced to the arena. There, Demetrius trains as a gladiator and soon wins acclaim, proving his valor against a pack of hungry tigers.
  • The Eagle (2011), based on The Eagle of the Ninth, has The Lancer try to commit suicide by gladiator because he refuses to fight for Romans' amusement. He's deeply annoyed to be rescued by the Roman hero.
  • Flash Gordon: Flash is forced to fight Barin in a death match in Sky City, but Flash instead saves Barin's life, causing Barin to join him.
  • Future World (2018): The Drug Lord makes the Prince fight one of her men to get the cure for his mother's disease. He manages to win, but then has to dig it out of the dead guy's stomach, as she had him swallow it beforehand.
  • The premise of Gladiator. In reference to the above mention of fighting animals, a rhino fight was planned. It was shelved due to both the cost, and for its implausibility. You'd have to piss off a rhino to an insane degree if you want a real fight out of it.
  • The paid gunfight between Tenneray and Cross in A Gunfight is an updated version of this: two professional killers in a contest that will result in the death of one them.
  • The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire both have the titular games as a means to intimidate the downtrodden population and entertain the ruling class.
  • The Italian film, The Invincible Gladiators, starring Richard Harrison as a gladiator.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Although played straight as a spectator sport in an After the End society, it also serves a dual purpose — two men who have a dispute fight to the death inside The Thunderdome, ensuring their quarrel doesn't go any further.
    Dr. Dealgood: Listen all! This is the truth of it. Fighting leads to killing, and killing gets to warring. And that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up, and everyone talking about hard rain! But we've learned, by the dust of them all... Bartertown's learned. Now, when men get to fighting, it happens here! And it finishes here! Two men enter; one man leaves. (crowd chants "Two men enter, one man leaves" until Dealgood motions for silence) Right now, I've got two men, two men with a gut full of fear. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... dyin' time's here.
  • Played for laughs (naturally) in Monty Python's Life of Brian: first by showing the bloody aftermath of the "Children's Matinee," then in the next round, the stronger prisoner chases the weaker one around the arena, until the former collapses from a heart attack.
  • No Escape (1994): Marek forces Robbins to fight one of his men for sport. He's impresses how Robbins kills the guy seconds after the fight's started. He offers Robbins entry into his gang, but the latter refuses and escapes. The next time he's captured, Marek makes him fight Casey, a friend of his.
  • In Princess of Mars, Tal Hajus sentences Carter to the fighting pits.
  • Rollerball. The brutal titular game, a combination of martial arts, roller derby, motorcycle racing, and that's just for starters — is explicitly designed to distract the attention of an oppressed future proletariat.
  • Spartacus is premised on the titular character, a gladiator, leading a revolt of his fellow arena fighters which threatens to overthrow the Roman Republic until put down by Crassus' legions.
  • Star Wars:
    • Jabba the Hutt's technique for dealing with intruders.
    • Same for the Geonosians in Attack of the Clones. These guys apparently liked their fights a bit more one sided than they already are, given that they chained their victims up. Which ironically saved them all.
  • The Dutch film Temmink The Ultimate Fight features gladiator style fights which almost always end in death in a modern setting. The participants are convicted criminals who chose this alternative over jail time, and have to keep participating in these fights until they die.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: Grandmaster hosts those on Sakaar, and Thor is forced to fight Hulk on the arena when he becomes a slave.
  • In TRON, the Game Grid is a game simulation environment where programs fight in various gladiatorial games that are based on video games that Kevin Flynn personally designed while working at ENCOM. These games include the Light Cycle game, Disc Arena and the Ring Game.
  • Valhalla Rising begins with One-Eye being forced to fight other slaves to the death while his captors bet on the outcome.

  • Cretan Chronicles: Being set in ancient Greece, your hero can partake in these games in Minos' island.
  • Fighting Fantasy has a few examples where your playable character gets thrown into an arena of death:
    • The Crimson Tide: One of the possible routes you can select during your travels will have you ending up as a pit-fighter in an arena, where you can fight savage beasts or other gladiators. You can also instigate a slave revolt to escape from your predicament.
    • Master of Chaos has a sub-quest with you partaking in gladiatorial games while finding your way out of the Island of Ashkyos.
    • Trial of Champions: In the first act of the adventure, you are sold as a slave to Blood Island, the domain of Lord Carnuss, who will put you and 41 other slaves into a coliseum where you are forced to partake in numerous gladiatorial games and combat situations until only one of you remains alive.

  • In The Arts of Dark and Light, the Republic of Amorr has regular gladiatorial games, as inspired by real-life Rome. Both professional gladiators and condemned criminals fight in the arena, and the games are very popular with the masses, though the sympathetic protagonists aren't as amused.
  • Bazil Broketail: These are very popular in Tummuz Orgmeen, with its ruler "loving the games", as does the city populace under its influence. Captive soldiers from Argonath are forced to fight there commonly for entertainment.
  • In the Confessions, contemporary Rome's gladiator tournaments were portrayed as evil and incompatible with the Christianity of Augustine and his friends. Alypius had to be violently dragged by his friends to a game and even then he covered his eyes for the whole time. Unfortunately, he couldn't also cover his ears or his curiosity, so an especially raucous roar from the audience convinced him to look as one gladiator killed another, inciting enough bloodlust in the future Catholic bishop to get him addicted to the blood sport.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones's Dark Lord of Derkholm, Kit and Blade are captured and made to fight in a tournament to entertain the off-world tourists.
  • In Dora Wilk Series, a bunch of werewolves run an underground fight club where werewolves fight each other, and when audience wants a fight to death, they use their captured kin.
  • Caramon was forced to become a gladiator in the Dragonlance book Test of the Twins. Not easy for the fat drunken slob he'd become. Caramon's always-win status comes about because he can't 'die' convincingly, so the trainer/manager decided to advertise "he always wins, come see if someone can beat him!"
  • The Eagle of the Ninth's Esca is rescued from the arena and becomes The Lancer to his new master.
  • Conn Iggulden's Emperor novels, being set during the last decades of the Roman Republic, have quite a few of these. A notable one occurs in the third book, lasting for several chapters which is held by Julius Caesar to garner popular support in his campaign for consul. This also provides Character Development for Brutus, Domitius, and Servilia, brings Cabera to a turning point, and gives some insight into the ways Crassus and Pompey do business.
  • In James Swallow's Faith & Fire, the reenactments of Saint Celestine's life are quite literal, and since she fought the foes of the Emperor — well, this trope doubles up with Human Sacrifice. (The rich can bribe their way out, if chosen.)
  • These appear very prominently in Ben Kane's The Forgotten Legion. Mostly because Romulus and Brennus are gladiators through much of the first book.
  • The Gentleman Bastard sequence features the infamous blood sports of the city of Camorr. Most of them involve condemned criminals battling professional gladiators or various types of monster, but the favourites are the female gladiators who stand on platforms in the water to battle the famous jumping wolf sharks.
  • In John C. Wright's Green Knight's Squire, in the backstory, discussions of staging these were derailed by Ygrainne's suggestion that the elf knights should fight in tourneys instead. She pointed out that merely human knights did, and they should be able to.
  • In Ben Counter's Grey Knights novel Hammer of Daemons, the novel revolves about the Gladiator Games that the captured Alaric is forced to fight in.
  • The entire plot of The Hunger Games trilogy revolves around a scenario where tributes from each District have to fight to the death in a massive arena. Suzanne Collins called it "basically an updated version of the Roman gladiator games."
  • Brian Aldiss's short story "In The Arena". Human captives of the redul are forced to fight alien monsters in an arena. The male protagonist is paired with a female fighter in a "double double": the two of them against a pair of deadly yillibeeth, with each pair being chained together.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars:
    • "A Princess of Mars", the prospect of Dejah Thoris's being thrown to the wild dogs in the arena prompts John Carter to secure their escape. She does escape, but he is recaptured and forced to fight beasts in the arena.
    • In Chessman Of Mars, the hero infiltrates the game of the title, where the pieces are living swordsmen, and fights; he wins and leads a revolt.
  • Douglas Hill's Last Legionary has the titular Keill Randor participating in a gladiatorial tournament. Despite him being the only one not using weapons, the rest don't stand a chance.
  • The Mark of the Horse Lord's hero is an ex-gladiator who masquerades as a tribal king. He wins his freedom in the opening scene by killing his best friend.
  • A frequent setting for scenes in Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion; one of the main characters is an enslaved gladiator himself.
  • Modesty Blaise is forced to do this in Dead Man's Handle. Actually, she's kind of forced to do something like this in all the books, frequently stripped for action, but Dead Man's Handle is the closest to Roman-style gladiation. More examples include:
    • Sabre-Tooth: Fights the Twins in a proper arena.
    • I, Lucifer: Forced to duel with Willie, pistol against throwing knife.
    • A Taste for Death: Fights an epee duel with Wenczel, stripped to the waist. The Fanservice is lampshaded as an attempt to distract one of the villains. It's also noted that although the venue is the ruin of a Roman arena, the settlement it was situated in was quite small and in a remote corner of the empire, so it probably wasn't used for actual gladatorial combat in the old days and Modesty's fight with Wenczel might well be the first fight to the death that's happened there.
    • The Impossible Virgin: Forced to fight a gorilla.
    • The Silver Mistress: Not quite this trope—she fights Mr. Sexton with an audience of one. Worth mentioning for sheer Fanservice—her edge in the fight to the death against a larger, stronger, and dangerously skillful opponent is that she's completely naked and covered in grease.
    • Dragon's Claw: Forced to fight a quickdraw duel with the Reverend Uriah.
    • The Xanadu Talisman: Fights El Mico in an arena in the Atlas Mountains.
    • The Night of Morningstar: Fights the Earl in.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, gladiator games between contestants in Powered Armor are popular entertainment on Paradox. There are apparently two leagues; one which features legitimately dangerous contests of skill, and one which has scripted matches intended to show off the armor's abilities. Devi was offered the opportunity to be a gladiator, but declined because female gladiators are expected to wear Chainmail Bikini style "armor" rather than the real powered armor Devi loves using.
  • Jonathan ends up in the arena in The Roman Mysteries novel The Gladiators from Capua, and its television adaptation.
  • In Shadows of the Apt, The Wasps often hold these, using slaves as combatants.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Danaerys has the fighting pits of Mereen closed, and is constantly being asked to reopen them. In A Dance with Dragons she agrees, but the blood and noise serves to attract Drogon, who's a bit more formidable than any of the animals they anticipated fighting.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, the Alethi have a tradition of dueling and have a number of arenas set up to allow noble swordsmen to duel for sport or for stakes. Such duels are often for status, but they can also be used to win concessions by the loser, as well as a means to win Shardblades or Shardplate - assuming the challenged person is willing to put them up as the stakes. In Words of Radiance, Dalinar Kholin has his son Adolin (one of the best duelists in the kingdom) challenge and win the Blades and Plates of several rival nobles, until they become too afraid to fight him. At that point, Adolin challenges them to an unfair fight, which ends up with him in the area with four other Shardbearers at once... and realizing too late that the overseer of the duel has been paid off so that they won't call off the match until Adolin is maimed, dead, or victorious. With a little help, Adolin wins.
  • Time Scout: Ancient Rome is a tourist destination. Tourists go and watch sometimes. Scouts and guides and tourists sometimes get unlucky and end up playing along.
  • Tortall Universe: The The Numair Chronicles reveal violent entertainment is very popular in Carthak. Slaves and captives from military conflicts are forced to fight for their lives for the enjoyment of the crowds. Arram despises them for their wanton violence.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The other common fate of male characters who get enslaved besides becoming a Galley Slave. Characters forced to become gladiators will be treated fairly well as their owners desire a good show. After training and having proved themselves in minor bouts, they will then face a more seasoned professional gladiator. If offered their freedom as a reward, the Rule is the character must kill him. Otherwise, they will just beat him and then the pair can escape not long after.
  • In the Towers Trilogy, Edren has gladiatorial arena where people fight with swords and spells for the entertainment of the public.
  • This is the setting for Tim Marquitz's War God novel, which is a Deconstructive Parody of this genre. The antiheroes intend to rig a tournament about this by upping the violence and murder to make their Fake Ultimate Hero look good so they can clean up when he crashes and burns.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe novels:
    • In Dan Abnett's Xenos, after a Chaos cult tortures Eisenhorn, they throw him and his party to monsters. Their counterattack does considerable damage to the cult — and fortunately, a naval attack secures their escape.
    • In Dan Abnett's Ravenor, the Carnivora Circus, particularly when they dispose of intruders.
    • C. S. Goto's Dawn of War novel Dawn of War: Ascension features their ushering the aspirants into an arena and telling them they can't leave. Fighting breaks out shortly, and the Blood Ravens watch with care. Gabriel Angelos remembers his own selection: he drew his sword and killed several people on arrival, before anyone else realized they should fight.
    • In James Swallow's Blood Angels novel Deus Encarmine, Rafen reflects back on his own induction and the games there.
    • Same with the Black Templars in the comic Damnation Crusade, interseting the main character gets notic for refusing to kill a friend and getting everyone to stop fighting
    • In Ben Counter's "Hell Break", the dark eldar start by throwing Commissar von Klas into the arena — as the monster — to fight the wych. When he wins, they are seriously displeased and send him to torture.
  • Queen Scarlet from Wings of Fire forces her war prisoners to fight as gladiators in her arena, and quite enjoys watching the fights. They technically are supposed to be free after winning a few battles, but the last battle is always with her champion who is essentially undefeatable.
  • In The Witchlands, the Pirate Republic of Saldonica has a giant arena where enslaved witches fight for the entertainment of the public and as part of the city-state's religious celebrations.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Gladiators, of course. This was more evident during the first half of the first season, when the spectator stands were elevated around the arena and a hooded executioner served as referee. This was dropped quickly, but the concept of the Gladiators vs. contenders was always there. The show became a phenomenon, and spawned international versions, most notably the UK Gladiators (and the international crossovers). However, it wasn't a Blood Sport, though there were plenty of injuries; crash mats and foam pads helped to prevent real messiness, and weapons, when used, were things like pugil sticks (those giant Q-tips) and tennis-ball cannons.
  • An episode of Angel featured a demon arena where all the captured demons had bets taken on them. Angel is captured as well, and spends the episode trying to free them... and then realizes that he's unleashed a whole gang of demons on Los Angeles.
    • One of the novels had Buffy and Angel being forced to fight each other like this for a while.
  • Being Human (UK) episodes "Lia" and "The Pack" have cage matches with captured werewolves, run by vampires.
    • A popular variation is to pit a werewolf against a human armed only with a knife. After all, what fun is it without giving him a sporting chance?
  • Blood Ties (2007) episode "Necrodrome" featured a necromancer using rites based on Egyptian mythology to re-animate dead athletes to perform in bouts.
  • An episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys called, well, "Gladiator" featured the heroes trying to free a gladiator and being forced to take part in the games as well.
  • In the Max Headroom episode "Rakers", Edison Carter investigates the rise of the violent sport of raking, which involves skateboard riders with weapons fighting each other.
  • Sylvester Stallone appeared as a gladiator fighting a lion in a sketch on The Muppet Show. As it happens, the lion doesn't want to fight and the two decide to sing and dance "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" instead.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) episode "Fun and Games" featured an alien race that regularly abducts beings from other planets and forces them to fight to the death for their amusement. For incentive, anyone who loses or refuses to fight gets their home planet destroyed. The evil aliens also like to make the fights one-sided. For example, when a man and woman from Earth are abducted, they are pitted against a male and female pair of savage aliens with incredible strength. The aliens are provided with food and Absurdly Sharp Blade boomerangs, while the humans are only provided with food and the bullets in the man's gun are confiscated. The humans win anyway.
  • Planet of the Apes: In "The Gladiators", Prefect Barlow holds regular gladiatorial games to ensure that the humans of Kaymak have an outlet for their anger and aggression.
  • Titus Pullo's averted execution from Rome took this form. (THIRTEEN!)
  • The Saint episode "The Man Who Liked Lions" has Simon Templar running afoul of a thuggish Roman revivalist.
  • The Smallville episode "Dominion" had Clark Kent and Oliver Queen sent to the Phantom Zone, where they find that General Zod has taken over and organizes these. Naturally, Clark and Oliver were forced to participate.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand: For reasons that should be obvious.
  • Gladiators appear in multiple Horrible Histories sketches such as when they run out of animals.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • The episode "Arena" is so named because of this trope. Very powerful aliens trap Kirk and a Gorn alien on a planet together so they can go at it to the death. No Romans, no literal arena, but the concept is identical. Kirk gets the upper hand, and refuses to dispatch the defenseless Gorn.
    • In "The Gamesters of Triskelion", Kirk and co. are captured by the titular disembodied intellects and forced to battle for their gambling enjoyment. Three hundred quatloos on the human!
    • In "Bread and Circuses", the crew discover a planet identical to Earth except that that it's ruled by The Roman Empire with TV cameras.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Tsunkatse", Seven of Nine is forced to battle an alien played by The Rock, and loses only because she hesitates. The crowd loves seeing a Borg drone being beat, and she is then put into a death match.

  • From Aesop's Fables, "Androcles and the Lion". After he took a thorn from the paw of a lion, Androcles was thrown into the games. Fortunately, the lion to which he was thrown was the same lion, and remembered.

  • "We Who are About to Die" by Evile.
  • "Guardian of the Realm" by Fireaxe.
    Two Kings. Two rivals. Fighting for supremacy.
    Each sends into the arena their finest champion.
    Their champion strides towards me, a grizzled veteran, winner of a hundred duels and I only one.
    "Hey kid let's stop this madness. Are we just high priced slaves?
    Both kings are tyrants. They should fight in our place."
    "Only your king is a tyrant.", I answer filled with pride.
    "That is why he will lose. That is why you shall die."
  • "Sanguine Pluit In Arena" by Ade.
  • Cat Stevens O Caritas is partially in Latin and sets the gladiator oath to music:
    nos perituri mortem salutamus...
  • "In The Colosseum" from Bone Machine, by Tom Waits.


    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has the Game World, Solaris 7, where Mechwarriors, spectators, and bookies gather to fight in 'Mech combat, watch 'Mech combat, and make a killing taking bets on 'Mech combat. The battles are live combat with fully powered weapons, and deaths in the ring are not unusual (though rarely intentional). Most people watch and bet on the official games within Solaris City, but for people who just want to see anything fight, safety or protocols be damned, there's the brutal "Blood Pits" outside of the city. There, any warrior with enough of a 'Mech and adequate desparation can enter into no-holds-barred brawls for a shot at fame, prize money, and the posibility of being noticed by more respectable operations.
  • In D&D's Dark Sun, gladiatorial combat is popular in every city-state, and Gladiator is even a Character Class.
  • In Freedom City, August Roman, as befits a Lex Luthor expy with Roman Emperor pretentions, runs underground gladiator games. The fanfic/solo game "The Gathering" by Davies is set at one of their big events.
  • In the world of GURPS Banestorm, Megalos is a not-very-nice empire explicitly modeled, in setting, on Imperial Rome. Hence, it is completely inevitable that it will feature blood-soaked arenas hosting gladiatorial games. This is mentioned fairly briefly in the main book covering the setting; a published adventure for a previous edition of the game, "Fighters of the Purple Rage", deals with a band of gladiators who escape from the imperial arena. Rather oddly, it assumes that a party of (presumably more or less heroic) PCs will be willing to pursue these skilled and desperate fighters into locations which they must know better, in order to capture them and return them to slavery and death.
  • Hc Svnt Dracones has Pulse-owned arena for gene-forged monsters in the "Clash Event" expansion. Moreover, Guide (DM) is encouraged to let players control the monsters for the fights in arena, if they desire so.
  • In the Mystara setting of Dungeons & Dragons, gladiatorial combat is prominent in the empire of Thyatis, and is even core to the adventure modules Arena of Thyatis and Legions of Thyatis.
  • In Rocket Age many Martian principalities have arenas where prisoners fight each other and great beasts for the entertainment of the crowd. Some rulers have even imported Thunder Lizards from Venus. One such arena in the state of Ustanik even features in the Trail of the Scorpion campaign.
  • The Star Wars role-playing game kept the tradition seen with Jabba in Return of the Jedi, mostly in published scenarios: From West End Games's Star Wars d6 (happens in Secrets of the Sisar Run) to Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars d20 alternative (Reckonings) to Wizards's Saga Edition (Dawn of Defiance). It's easy to use this trope in a role-playing game scenario, satisfying the players' need for Attack! Attack! Attack!!
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the primarch Angron's Back Story (leading to a Gladiator Revolt).
    • Dark Eldar Wyches live and breathe Gladiator games. The main reason they go along on raids is to acquire captives to use as opponents/victims.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the Gladiator Beasts, a set of monsters that are Exactly What It Says on the Tin, and has the gimmick of "tagging out" with each other after a battle. Bonus points for Konami showing their work by using the real gladiator types and weapons/battle tactics for most of the cards, as well as real-life Roman figures for the namesakes of the most powerful Beasts.

  • BIONICLE's 2009 line picks up on the world of Bara Magna, where gladiator games are used to settle tribal disputes. Though the games are regulated enough that it doesn't fall under Blood Sport, and rule-breakers such as Malum and Strakk are banished to the wastelands. The games lose their meaning once the Skrall decide they can just take what they want by force.
  • Transformers commonly has gladiatorial combat as part of pre-civil war Cybertronian society. Megatron is usually a former gladiator, and sometimes Shockwave and Grimlock are as well.
    • Beast Wars: Uprising: Cybertron at the start of the story has become a culture (using the word very loosely) based around nothing but these. It's mentioned there are some other sports, but the death-match fights are the most popular ones. Which the Cybertronians cribbed from The Hunger Games. Also, they're rigged, so as to keep Maximals and Predacons at each other's throats rather than wondering why they need the Builders at all.

    Video Games 
  • Adventures of Mana sees the Dark Lord of Glaive pitting enslaved fighters against monsters for his amusement. Among the gladiators are the protagonist, Sumo, and his friends Amanda of Menos and Will.
  • Baldur's Gate II: Early in the game, the party can find an underground gladiator ring hidden in the back of the Copper Coronet, with the option of starting a quick Gladiator Revolt for some good karma. A few acts later, stumbling into the wrong part of the Underdark results in the whole party being captured by Mindflayers and sent to fight monsters in their arena.
  • Clive Barker's Jericho: Happens to the player and their squad. The Jericho team, travelling through the Roman time-slice in the Pyxis, are lured into a trap by the Big Bad of the period, Cassus Vicus, a ridiculously fat Roman governor who was said to be so utterly depraved that he was banished from Italy by Caligula. The team find themselves in a huge arena where they must fight off a few waves of monsters while being watched by Cassus and thousands of spectators. Once this is over, you go on to fight Cassus himself.
  • Colosseum Road To Freedom has the player take on the role of a slave that must partake in gladiatorial games in order to earn enough money to purchase his freedom. The majority of the game is spent training the player's character and fighting in arena battles.
  • The newest (free) DLC for Darkest Dungeon is the Butcher's Circus, a PvP game mode where your party of heroes (separate from your Hamlet) battles other parties of heroes controlled by other players for the amusement of the Ringmaster and her troupe. This is portrayed as fairly horrific, as both parties are subject to Stress and can easily go insane in the arena, and the heroes' (often horrifically mutilated) corpses imply that they die in horrific ways (for example, the Crusader is impaled through the head with his own sword, the Arbalest is screaming in agony, and the Houndmaster's dog is weeping over her partner's body).
  • One level in Demon Skin is a gladiatorial arena, where you're in the middle of an area filled with enemies, all of them lifted from previous levels. Many which are actively attacking each other, some in the background while those in front will either attack you or another mook, turning the whole stage into a free-for-all bloodbath where you must survive.
  • DOOM Eternal has the Coliseum of Sentinel Prime. In ages past, it was used as a place of honorable combat, a proving ground for outsiders and prisoners to join the front lines of the Sentinels, and was how the Doom Slayer originally found his way into the ranks, back when he was just Doomguy. But since being taken over by Hell, it has become a place of blood sport, with the Hell Priests encaging a powerful demon known only as the Gladiator into the arena in direct transgression of Sentinel law, using it as an executioner to enact judgement of their own decree.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, a very prestigious sport for the dwarves of Orzammar. Combat in the Provings is not to the death, however, except in extremely rare cases. Oghren apparently accidentally killed a noble who challenged him in a battle to first blood, due to being a berserker, and thus was banned from bearing arms and armor in the city.
  • In Dungeon Keeper 2 the combat pit is used to train fighters past level 4.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Cage traps are useful because they're a guaranteed elimination, except that you have to find a use for the creatures so trapped. One of these is providing much-needed XP for your military by letting your troops grind them into powder in an arena.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Elder Scrolls: Arena is so named because it was originally intended to be a game about teams of gladiators battling it out. This would be dropped during development in favor of adapting Tamriel, the developers' home-brew D&D setting, into a video game. As promotional material had already been created, Arena stuck as the title.
    • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: You'll need to fight a number of battles in the Vivec Arena in order to advance through several factions. In particular, you'll need to do this to achieve guild leader status in the Imperial Legion, House Redoran, and the Mages' Guild.note  You'll need to battle Dram Bero's champion in order to gain his support in House Hlaalu as well. Besides these honor duels, the Vivec arena is implied, by NPC dialogue and the number of gladiator NPCs, trainers and caged beasts in the area, to also host professional bloodsport for entertainment. However, there is no way for the Nerevarine to engage in the sport, and given the somewhat static nature of areas and NPCs in Morrowind, you never witness any battles beyond your own.
    • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
      • The Arena in is also an optional version. Your armor is limited to the one provided. You can however use your choice of helmet, shield and weapons. The Arena was founded by the legendary Redguard hero Gaiden Shinji, who also served as its first Blademaster (which wasn't just a cosmetic title for him).
      • Inverted in the Shivering Isles expansion. Some notes found in a ruined Arena show that slaves were abducted to engage in sex for the spectators. The captives instead assumed they were being prepared to fight to the death, and instead murdered each other on the arena floor, to the disappointment of their captors.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: There isn't one in the final game, but there was an arena planned in Windhelm, and there is even a leftover arena model in the game's files. The original concept was that the arena was a way for prisoners in Windhelm to have fought for their freedom, but it was scrapped. There are also several Game Mods which add their own underground gladiator arenas to the game.
  • Fallout 3's The Pitt has the Hole, an irradiated Thunderdome-style arena in which the player must fight several slave opponents to regain his/her freedom and equipment.
    • Fallout: New Vegas plays this trope straight by having an actual Roman style fighting arena situated in Caesar's Legion's main camp where male characters can fight for glory and Legion fame. Female characters, however, cannot participate under normal circumstances. There's also The Thorn, a literal underground arena in the sewers under Westside where wasteland creatures are pitted against each other and human challengers.
    • Fallout 4's Wasteland Workshop DLC allows the player to build their own arenas and pit their settlers and companions against animals, mutants, imprisoned Raiders, or even other settlers.
  • Far Cry 4 features the Shanath Arena, a gladiator tournament hosted by Noore Najjar (one of King Pagan Min's military governors). Here, men (including both slaves and volunteers) must fight against other warriors and dangerous animals in gruesome battles to the death. Ajay Ghale is briefly kidnapped and forced to fight there to earn his life and freedom back, though afterwards he may return to continue killing people and beasts with his own free will.
  • The Corneo Colosseum in Final Fantasy VII Remake, which is owned by the crime lord Don Corneo and provides entertainment to the residents of Wall Market. The player has to fight in it as part of the story and can later fight in it for rewards. It features a variety of enemies: humans, monsters and even robots.
  • The Fire Emblem series often features Arenas on certain maps, where characters can fight for extra gold and experience. However, Permadeath is still in effect here, so there's a lot of risk involved. In the Akaneia games, Ogma's backstory involves being a former gladiator (from a very young age, it's implied), and some of his conversations in Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem imply it was so horrific he still suffers from some form of PTSD over it.
  • The trailer for The Force Unleashed 2 shows Galen Marek entering an arena and taking on some type of titanic beast that just picked up a rancor with one hand and threw it to the cheers of a bloodthirsty crowd.
  • For Honor has added elements of this over the course of the second and third seasons with two new Knight faction heroes, the Centurion, and well, the Gladiator. The Centurion is a Hybrid ostensibly based on Roman soldiers and uses a gladius as his weapon, but also incorporates a lot of punches and kicks in his repertoire; two of his purchaseable executions are also very gladiator-themed (including the thumbs up/down and playing to an imaginary crowd of spectators). The Gladiator is an Assassin character who appears to be a combination of the retiarius and hoplomachus types of gladiator (retiarius-like armour and a trident, but with a small shield in place of the net). Many Duel arenas also take on the form gladiator matches, including ones where you are fighting for the amusement of Knight or Viking nobles.
  • Aksys Games's Gladiator Begins rather obviously features such fights. You're actually a slave fighting to earn your freedom, and when you do eventually earn enough money to do so, you can leave it all behind for an ending. But over the course of the game, you also can get involved in, and resolve, three separate storylines that bring you to the attention of someone influential if you decide to stay in the arena.
  • Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance have you playing as a Gladiator (well, no doy) - naturally, all the battles are gladiatorial matches.
  • Gladiatrix has a female gladiator as the Player Character. Also, her fights to the death are with non-human opponents.
  • The LucasArts Turn-Based Strategy game Gladius is based around building a team for a gladiator circuit, though you wind up Saving the World instead of becoming grand champion. Stupid Sealed Evil in a Can...
  • Grim Dawn:
    • Gladiator combat was a common practice in the old, corrupt, and decadent Arkovian Empire, and you can even visit a ruined colosseum. You can also find an Apocalyptic Log of a spectator who witnessed an execution where a prisoner was forced to fight a mighty champion of the arena. Midway through the fight, the Arkovians were cursed by the powerful necromancer Uroboruuk to become mindless undead, and the account by the spectator mentions the champion and the prisoner cutting each other repeatedly with neither being able to die.
    • In the Four Hills area, Cronley's Gang have set up a pit arena where the gang's champions fight captives for their amusement. The pit usually has one or more Optional Bosses based off powerful fan-made PvP builds.
  • Data East's Hippodrome is a gladiatorial game where your barbarian must do battle against creatures such as giants, medusa and lizard men. This would be followed by Mutant Fighter (Deathbrade in Japan), where monsters and brave warriors are wrestling inside a colosseum. Mutant Fighter may be most memorable for having your fighter wrestle the Hydra (which gives you its equivalent of "draw and quarter" as a special move).
  • Hades has the final area of Elysium, wherein you battle the Champion of Elysium, Theseus, and his companion Asterius, aka the Minotaur. It takes place in an arena surrounded by excited Shades (including one who is actually a fan of yours) and is technically a fight to the death, though being in the Underworld you all get better afterward.
  • Hollow Knight has the Colosseum of Fools, an optional area that offers three challenges of brutal enemy waves to fight. It features all of the hallmarks of gladiatorial bloodsport: A vicious crowd of onlookers that cheer the fighters on (and laugh when you die), a large creature sitting atop a throne (now dead for that signature Hollow Knight dark fantasy vibe), and a nice variety of warriors and monsters to fight to the death. Many of these foes appear exclusively in the Colosseum, and these are either warriors styled after actual Roman gladiators, or souped-up versions of animalistic beasts you see elsewhere, explicitly outfitted and trained to kill on the arena. The situation of these warriors is unclear: Their flavor text on the Hunter's Journal speculates that they could be either slaves or willing challengers, but it does not confirm one or the other. You, as the player, partake willingly without no-one forcing you to do so. However, Zote is indeed kept in a cage and forced to fight. They eventually let him leave, probably because of how pitiful he is as a fighter.
  • The Patricians of the Coast in King of the Castle love nothing more than to watch two combatants fight each other to the death in the arena. They offer gladiators as candidates for the King's Honour Guard, one story event involves a particularly talented gladiator saying they'd make a better ruler than the King, and the Coast's version of the story event "An Invitation" sees the King invited to the Summer Games, in which they can choose which of several gladiators will fight which of several opponents (and make a Side Bet with their Patrician host on the outcome).
  • Kirby Super Star: The Arena is set in a colosseum for the mid-bosses and regular enemies, while also acting as a rest area in-between bosses. It’s remake introduces The True Arena, which is set in a much more threatening looking colosseum, which only gets more threatening once you reach the Final Four.
  • Noxus in League of Legends has a gladiatorial circuit, of which egotistical Glory Hound Draven is the all-time champion. The "Awaken" cinematic has Riven forced to fight in the arena, starting out unarmed and with a chain limiting her mobility, whereupon she takes out multiple armed gladiators fairly quickly; Draven, being Draven, immediately flings her preferred weapon so that it severs her chain and dives into the arena for a fight.
  • Legend (1998) have a stage in a colosseum where you must fight your way through an arena full of enemies, right before a massive cheering crowd.
  • The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night: The Sky Pirates kidnap other creatures to make them compete in an arena on their flagship. Spyro ends up there after being caught, and winds up fighting three matches — one against a pair of scorpion-riding pirates, one against a miniature airship and one against a towering, armored colossus — before making his escape.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII has The Slaughterhouse, where you can fight strong monsters for recovery items early in the evening, and weaker monsters or hostile people for lesser rewards as the night wears on. Some quests also require you to take part in matches.
  • The premise of MadWorld is a spectator sport called Deathwatch, complete with the hilarity caused by having announcers.
  • The MechWarrior 4 Mercenaries expansion allows you to participate in arena matches where everyone is piloting a Humongous Mecha ranging from 30 tons (for the lightest weight classes) all the way up to 100 tons, in a free-for-all of 8 (or more) competitors. None of the games are to the death, although competitors must bring their own personal mechs to the match, and are not reimbursed for losing their mech in the fight, leading to the upper weight classes being fought out completely by professional gladiators (with some lip service paid to corporate sponsorship).
  • In most Might and Magic games, there's an Arena you can go to where you can fight to the death against groups of monsters to win gold (and in some cases, experience). The rules vary depending on which game, and the monsters are chosen at random, although you can usually pick the level of difficulty. (Although the difficulty levels often get more difficult overall as your own experience levels get higher.) Unlike most examples of this Trope, it's entirely voluntary; sometimes you even have to pay a fee to enter, and at times you can only go on certain days. In at least one game, a promotion quest depends on going there.
  • At one point in Overlord II you are captured and sentenced to die in the Arena where you are pitted against laughably weak prisoners, not so laughably weak unicorns, a Gargantuan, and the Yeti. Fortunately there are plenty of captive minions in barrels to be found, and you can turn the tables on the audience by making them part of the show.
  • Perfect Dark Zero has VR deathmatch apparatuses, and you must fight Mai Hem in one that is rigged so that the player who dies in the game dies for real.
  • One particular Last-Team-Standing map in Pirates Vikings and Knights takes place in a Roman colosseum, although there are no spectators. (Might have something to do with the soon-to-erupt volcano).
  • Most games in the Ratchet & Clank franchise feature an arena level that you must participate in in order to get a story important item, though afterwards you can play additional challenges in order to get more money and other various collectibles. Interestingly in Going Commando (where the arenas were inrtoduced) the tournament was hosted by the local Mega-Corp, though as the games have progressed they have instead shifted to solely the product of backwater criminals or Proud Warrior Race species.
  • Rengoku: ADAM soldiers are reprogrammed to fight each other, while humans watch from home, bewildered and amused by their combat capabilities and gamble on champions.
  • Rome: Total War allows you to put on (very abstracted) gladiatorial games in order to keep a city's population happy.
  • Saints Row: The Third features Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, which hilariously mixes this with the vibe of a Japanese game show.
  • Suikoden V: There's an important sub-plot involving traditional gladiatorial games. They're more humane than most of the examples on this list, thanks to some new laws introduced by the Royals Who Actually Do Something in the backstory, and by the end of the game they've been abolished entirely.
  • This is the fundamental premise of the Unreal Tournament franchise: the NEG and Liandri Corporation run the Tournament as a way of keeping the masses in order. Contestants include convicted criminals, mercenaries trying to win fame and fortune, and aliens and robots trying to prove their dominance over humanity. The original title included at least one economist, with the character bio saying, "people will pay good money to see economists, lawyers and other scum fight in the arena". Not to mention that the big champions like Xan Kriegor and Malcolm have become genuine celebrities for their Tournament exploits.
  • Vambrace: Cold Soul: There is a secret fighting pit in the Entertainment District, where you can fight for money. Gaining access to it requires reading a letter in the district's final dungeon.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • There are several arenas like this, although participation is voluntary. (Most of the time; some storylines have villains that leave the player little choice.) Most questlines involving them consist of the player fighting one boss after another, and it's one of the few places you can engage in PVP combat against a member of your own faction.
    • The Player Versus Player Arena system allows players to form teams of two to five characters and fight against other teams for rewards, including ranking, titles, and the best PvP gear in the game.
    • The Argent Tournament in Northrend takes the form of an area which pits the players against NPCs representing the opposing faction, champions of the Argent Crusade, and gigantic monsters captured for the sole purpose of unleashing them in the arena. Rather than just being entertainment, it's meant to find the greatest heroes in the world to take on the Big Bad, but that doesn't stop the crowd from cheering when you trample someone under your horse.
    • The Gorian Empire of the Ogres loved gladiator games, with the fighters primarily being slaves take from the other races. Historically their Empire only rose as far as it did due to the use of these games as a form of Combat by Champion.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers episode "Shoot Out": The Queen builds a stadium on the Wretched Hive world of Tortuna, and inaugurates it with a gun-slinging tournament (yup, this is a Space Western). This serves as Bread and Circuses for her subjects, adds a few more poor bastards (the losing contestants) to her Psychocrypt, and she baits the Rangers there with the promise of awarding Eliza's crystal to the winner. The last part turns out to be total BS.
  • In an episode of The Angry Beavers, Norbert and Dagget take a bus back in time and get kicked off at what they think is a hockey game, but turns out to be the Colosseum. They face off against an entire pride of lions, and they help a neurotic two-eyed cyclops gain confidence. The Roman Emperor thinks they're actual gladiators, instead of Fish out of Temporal Water with dumb luck.
  • Ben 10: "Grudge Match" opens with Ben and Kevin being abducted mid-fight by an alien robot that runs the Mega Cruiser, a ship with its own colosseum where prisoners are forced to fight for the entertainment of the galaxy.
  • Hard as it is to believe, they had this in Challenge Of The Gobots, and it was not the non-lethal kind. The "Old Gobotron" episode had combat done on flying platforms with long sticks, over a pit of lava, the loser being the one who fell first. (One viewed match ends with both gladiators losing when both fall at once.) It gets better. Matt Hunter (the Guardians' human companion) was conscripted into one of the fights, and won the same way the regulars did; at the end of the episode, he challenges a villain to a match (said villain accepting with relish, saying this is the first time he's fought a human) and he wins the same way again.
  • Gladiatorial death matches between enslaved robots are a feature of the Robot Republic visited by the crew of the Valiant in an episode of Dogstar.
  • Parodied on Family Guy during an Imagine Spot where Peter claims to own gladiator mice.
    "Yes! Die, die! I have everything and you have nothing!"
  • Dr Zoidberg challenges Fry to "Claw-Plach" in the Futurama episode "Why Must I Be a Crustacean In Love?".
  • Generator Rex: Van Kleiss is sold into the arena after being captured by the Romans in "A Brief History of Time".
  • Gravity Falls: Globnar from the episode "Blendin's Game" is Gladiator Games IN THE FUTURE!. The contestants battle against each other in a variety of challenges, the winner getting a single Time Wish (which allows them to wish for anything, paradox free) and decides the fate of the loser. Dipper and Mabel are challenged by Blendin Blandin, although after they win they ask for Blendin's old job restored and give the wish to Soos.
  • The seventh episode of Il était une fois... takes place in ancient Rome and naturally involves two Gallic prisoners fighting beasts in the arena and winning, to the approval of all.
  • In the Jana of the Jungle episode "Katuchi Danger", the Katuchi chief forced Jana and Montaro to fight a reptilian beast.
  • The Justice League episode "War World" had Superman in such a fight.
  • Mr. Benn: In "Gladiator", Mr. Benn is transported to Ancient Rome, where he meets his friend Smasher Lagru. But he has forgotten that prisoners are made to fight gladiators in the arena, and those who aren't beaten will end up facing the lions.
  • One of the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials parodied the Attack of the Clones example with an in-universe ad, depicting it as an event like a monster truck rally.
  • Samurai Jack has twice been kidnapped and forced to participate in these kinds of events. As a Martial Pacifist, he finds fighting for other people's entertainment to be disgusting.
    • "Jack and the Smackback" is a straightforward example, in which Jack is enslaved and imprisoned in an arena known as the Dome of Doom, where he battles against a series of other warriors.
    • "Chicken Jack" involves an animal-fighting variant. Not long after being magically turned into a chicken, Jack is abducted and forced by his new "owner" to fight various monstrous creatures. But even as a small bird, he's still just as deadly.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "Gnoman Holiday", Brainy is forced to fight a muscular brute named Biggus in order to keep Smurfette from marrying Julius Geezer's son Nerdo during their time travels.
  • When South Park had Stan entering Facebook, in a direct parody of Tron, the game is... Yahtzee.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: Trial by Combat is a spectator sport on Gelrak V, and there's a large crowd at the arena for the Ransom vs. Vindor battle.
  • In the first (Tartakovsky-produced) Star Wars: Clone Wars series, Count Dooku used such games to recruit anti-Jedi assassins. Asajj Ventress proved herself by killing all of the other candidates. In one fight.
  • Timon & Pumbaa: In "Rome Alone", Simba is captured and taken to the Roman Colosseum. The Emperor tries to feed Timon and Pumbaa to him, but he of course refuses and they try to escape. Simba gets recaptured and ordered to fight an undefeated lion named Cladius the next day. Timon and Pumbaa try various schemes to get Cladius to forfeit, but they all fail. The next day, just as they prepare to fight, Cladius falls asleep because Timon and Pumbaa bothered him all night long. Furious, the Emperor draws a sword, jumps into the arena, and attacks the trio himself, but they manage to defeat him and escape.
  • In TRON: Uprising Tesler begins holding "The Games" when he takes over Argon. Any violations of the law, including staying out after curfew, warrant being thrown in to fight against his soldiers.
  • On the Wander over Yonder episode "The Birthday Boy", Lord Hater gets a Doom Arena for his birthday, where he will watch Wander and Sylvia get slaughtered. Naturally, Wander manages to defeat everything that gets thrown at him thanks to The Power of Friendship.

"MORITURI TE SALUTAMUS, We who are about to die salute you!"


Video Example(s):


Are You Not Entertained?!

Is Maximus yelling at the arena audience, or is Russell Crowe yelling at the movie's audience? (Not that it hurts his popularity with either)

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / TakeThatAudience

Media sources: