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Golden Snitch

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"At your feet is a little ball called the Buall'dib. You get a hold of this, and everything everyone else has done is null and void. You snag this...and we win."
(picks it up) "This?"
"WE WIN!!!"''
Sluggy Freelance, "Ch. 31: Torg Potter and the Sorcerer's Nuts — Life at Hoggelryth"

A competition involving a series of events or activities, in which the final round counts for a disproportionately large percentage of the team's total score — and in fiction, will tend to be worth more than all previous events combined. Thus, whoever wins the final round earns enough points to win the entire match, regardless of just about everything else that happened before it.

In works of fiction, the Golden Snitch is widely used to do one of three things:

  1. Create a sense of tension for the heroes, who had been on a winning streak up to this point, but now have to worry about being defeated in the finals (usually because their star player has been taken out of play due to an injury, or the heavenly angels decided to stop helping the team).
  2. On the flip side, allow for the losing heroes to have a come-from-behind win.
  3. Allow one person (typically The Hero) to be solely or at least largely responsible for winning a team game.

This is very common in game shows — one standard approach is the "1-1-2" rule, where the first two events are worth one point and the third — the show's equivalent of the Golden Snitch — is worth two points; whoever wins round 3 is guaranteed at least a tie in their overall scoring. The reason for this is simple: it maintains tension, by making sure that if someone wins both of the earlier tiers, the viewer will keep watching because that person is not guaranteed to win after round 2.

It is worth noting that on actual game shows, it is rare for the Golden Snitch to entirely invalidate the previous rounds. The final round may be heavily weighted, but a player who swept the first two rounds may easily be able to force a tie (sometimes leading to a round of Sudden Death) instead of taking an outright loss. In fictional games, the skew will generally be insurmountable: 1-1-3 (or, in extreme cases, 1-1-1000) rather than 1-1-2. Most game shows have a fixed number of rounds, and it would be anti-climactic for the outcome to become a foregone conclusion before the final round is even played. On the other hand, giving too much weight to the last round makes the earlier rounds less interesting.


Whatever the case, if poorly played, it can leave audience members perplexed as to the point of everything they had just sat through for the last 20 minutes. At the same time, it prevents situations where someone can get a truly insurmountable lead (thus causing people to change the channel because they can tell who "won").

When handled well, the Golden Snitch still awards a significant advantage based on previous points. This is commonly done by either increasing the value of points earned in the last round, making it possible to win despite being completely behind, but very difficult, or by giving the team in the lead an actual advantage (usually extra time) in the finale. Another possibility is for the Golden Snitch to be entirely optional, with the implication that competitors usually win by just doing better at every other aspect of the game, and the main character's special skill happens to give them or their team a rare advantage.

When handled poorly, however, the optimal strategy in a game with a Snitch would be to focus solely on the Snitch and avoid every other aspect of the game. In fictional works, the characters will usually not follow the optimal strategy, because that's more exciting for the audience, but the Fridge Logic of the scenario usually leaves the audience thinking "why did they even bother with the other rules if the Snitch guarantees victory?"

Compare One Judge to Rule Them All, where points are awarded by actual judges (one of whom is the "snitch") rather than the players' own progress during the game; and Comeback Mechanic, a more general mechanic that allows losing players to catch up. A choice at the end of a game that determines your ending, regardless of past events, is a Last-Second Ending Choice. See also Instant-Win Condition (and all of its varieties) for situations where points and scoring are not involved in determining who wins.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The apparent purpose of the Sports Duel Tournament in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL was to make Kotori and Cathy friends again by forcing them to cooperate. However, it was actually a trap set by Girag. The scoring system was structured so that the two girls would end up dueling Yuma in the final round no matter what (to allow the Barians to steal Yuma's Number cards through the girls), so the preliminary rounds really had no purpose at all except to make the tournament less suspicious (and not to mention throw in some beach volleyball "Fanservice"). (This came back to bite Girag royally; after Shark - Yuma's partner - decided to leave, he had to take Shark's place, putting himself in just as much danger as Yuma.)
  • In One Piece, the Straw Hats enter a Davy Back fight — a sort of ritualized competition between pirate crews — with the Foxy Pirates. The competition takes place in three rounds, and the winner of each round gets to "steal" a crew member of the opposing crew, who must then swear eternal loyalty to their new captain. Since the competitors for each round are chosen from the start, stealing a member of the competing lineup for a future round forces the other crew to play that round shorthanded, conferring an advantage. When the Straw Hats win the second round, they realize that since the third round is a one-on-one duel between captains, they can steal the captain of the Foxy Pirates, forcing the Foxy Pirates to default on the third round and winning the Straw Hats the game. The only reason the third round is not rendered completely pointless is that the Straw Hats don't want Foxy on their crew, even as a deckhand and opt to steal back Chopper (stolen by the Foxy Pirates in the first round) instead.
    • The anime extends this arc by having a second set of events. In that, the Straw Hats lose the first two rounds, with the Foxy Pirates claiming Chopper and Robin for their crew. Even if they win the final round they could only get one of them back. So Nami convinces Foxy to make the last round a winner take all event, with each captain's entire crew on the line.
  • In My Hero Academia, the second game of the U.A. Sports Festival is a human cavalry game, with every of the 42 remaining participants having headbands worth individual point values depending on how well they placed in the Obstacle Race before, the first game (42nd place receives 5 points, 41st receives 10, and so on up to 200 for 3rd and 205 for 2nd place). Point values are visible to everyone and the object is to take other teams' headbands and thus their points to determine placement for the final round. However, the student who got the 1st place is the exception of the system and he values 10,000,000 points instead. Stealing this person's handband would be an instant win for the game, and the person who was unlucky to get this place after working so hard for it is none other than the protagonist himself, Izuku Midoriya. That said, it also averts the "rendering all other points meaningless" aspect of the trope, as the competition is simply the preliminary round of a Tournament Arc. As a result, while getting the 10,000,000 point headband is an instant victory, the other headbands are still important, as they determine who else qualifies.
    • Another interesting aspect to this is that Midoriya has a hard time just trying to partner up with anyone because of the target that will be on his team's back. He ends up recruiting Ochaco Uraraka (who thought it would be perfect to team up with a friend), Fumikage Tokoyami (who was impressed with why he was chosen) and Mei Hatsume (who figures this would be the best way to showcase her Support Gear.)
  • The Asterisk War: Normal Asterisk dueling rules state that the match ends when either one participant's school crest badge is broken by a direct hit, or they're incapacitated. This holds true in two of the three triennial city tournaments, the one-on-one Lindvolus and the two-on-two Phoenix, but not in the five-on-five Gryps Festa. Instead, each team designates one member to be the "leader", and if the leader goes down, the other team wins automatically (breaking badges of other team members only eliminates that individual). For an extra tactical twist, Gryps teams can freely switch leaders before each match, which is key to Team Enfield's victory over Rusalka in volume 8.

    Card Games 
  • The game of Black Maria or Hearts employs this trope twice. Each heart obtained in a trick is worth one point (points are bad), but the queen of spades is worth 13, meaning the player that ends up with it is almost guaranteed to end up with the most points for that hand. However, if a player "shoots the moon" and gets every heart plus the queen of spades, they get no points added and everyone else gets 26. It's technically possible for a player to shoot the moon but still lose the game in the processExample , leading some people to add an option for the shooter to subtract 26 points from their own score, allowing the "shooter" a chance to win.
    • If you play with the optional "shoot the sun" rule (take every trick to get a doubled version of "shooting the moon"), you have the most potent version of this; while it's possible to recover from watching another player "shoot the moon" early, it's almost impossible to come back should an opponent "shoot the sun" (unless you're playing to a score other than the traditional 100).
  • Some variations of baccarat double the pot every round, so that a player can reverse a loss of all the previous rounds just by winning the current one.
  • The card game Monopoly Deal has a card called the "Deal Breaker." Even the name sounds like a Golden Snitch, and it is one. Every player is trying to accumulate properties so that they have a monopoly on three properties; and with a Deal Breaker, you get to steal a full set of properties from another player. In other words, you make a third of the progress involved in winning the whole game; a Deal Breaker card is quite likely to be enough to win the game immediately, and if not, you also set another player back by a third of their progress towards a win. The only card with the power to stop a Deal Breaker is a "Just Say No" card, which really only means that Just Say No Cards are also a Golden Snitch in their own right.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • There's a fine example of this trope in one of Carl Barks's classic Donald Duck comics: "The Tenderfoot Trap" (1957). Donald, Scrooge, and Gladstone are all entrants in the Pizen Valley Contest for desert prospectors. The contest consists of five different events. The first four are worth 10 points each, and Gladstone wins them all. Then comes the final event, Wild Burro Catching, worth 50 points! In other words, the previous events were a complete waste of time... or not, as Gladstone's luck cannot be defeated by mere rules. Trying to find a burro, he quickly gets lost. This leaves Donald and Scrooge to fight for the prize. However, they end up tied, meaning they split the points. Final score: Gladstone 40, Donald 25, Scrooge 25. Gladstone wins!
    • A similar example involved Donald engaged in a sporting contest with some millionaires. He's won every year because his opponents suck, but in the tournament appearing in the book a new, physically-fit competitor appears and seems ready to sweep the competition. The character is so confident of his victory that he volunteers to concede the trophy if Donald can win even one event.

    Dice Games 
  • In Yahtzee getting a second "Yahtzee" after the first (which is already worth 50 points itself) is pretty much a game winner unless the other player also manages to do so as you get a 100 point bonus and can use it as a joker to complete any other scoring dice combination such as the otherwise difficult to acquire "Full Straight" worth 40 points before the bonus. In a game where the absolute maximum score without multiple "Yahtzees" is 375 and the average score is around 250 this is pretty much game over for your opponent 99% of the time.

    Fan Works 
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
    • Quidditch is torn apart mercilessly by rational!Harry, who never fails to point out how pointless the rest of the game is. Everyone he mentions this to is horrified at the thought of changing the rules. He eventually uses up his "Christmas Wish" to remove the Snitch from the game. The idea gains traction towards the end of the story when both teams in a game realize they can only win the cup if they let the total score get into the hundreds, leading to both Seekers intentionally sucking at their role and ruining the game for the spectators as it stretches out for hours with nothing actually happening.
    • A witch with a single viewpoint chapter provides a very good opposing view, though. The Snitch keeps the game interesting because it could end at any second — the problem is that Seeker brooms have advanced so much (while the Snitch's speed has remained the same) that it basically just comes out to which team has the most gold to spend on their brooms. The solution is to standardize the brooms, but then you have the arguments between the people who think a few hours average is a good game (with games of a day or two being exciting in moderation), versus the people who think the game isn't worth watching if it doesn't last at least a week.
  • It is also mercilessly lampshaded in Harry Potter and the Natural 20, with Milo — a Genre Savvy Munchkin Wizard from a D&D world — gleefully noting that it's perfectly designed for PCs to shine.

    Films — Animated 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon 2 there is Dragon Racing: a game in which the riders grab marked sheep and toss them into their respective bins for points. This seemingly consists of 12 sheep, each worth one point, and at the end, a black sheep is launched which is worth ten points, and there are five players. This means the only way for the race to be even remotely engaging is if a single player scores 10 out of the 12 available points before then. That means if any combination of the other four players score even 3 points before the final lap, that's it - the rest of the race is pointless and the black sheep will decide everything.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Mighty Ducks, the Ducks lose their first 11 games, forfeit another one because the team revolts, then have a few Training Montages in time to sneak into the playoffs with a 1-12-1 record.note  Of course, they sweep through and win the Minnesota State Title. (Truth in Television, of course, in that state sport championships are decided by the playoffs, not the season record.) Perhaps it was a case of Gordon's motivational speech holding too much weight:
    Gordon: "District 5 has had some losses... but The Ducks are undefeated!"
  • In Death Race, a "Race" actually consists of three separate races. The first two races are elimination matches where the only point is to survive/kill the other players to make the final round easier. Whoever places first in the final race is designated the winner and that race is added to their countdown to freedom. This means there is no reason to actually try to win as opposed to hanging back and taking out the other drivers or simply hiding until the coast is clear. Of course, this is pretty much Combat Racing Game: The Movie so no one ever figures it out.
  • In Summer School, one student who insisted he'd been placed in the remedial course by mistake skips the entire summer term, then returns long enough to take the Final at the end. His is the highest score in the class, proving not only that he was telling the truth about his circumstances, but also that no other tests or homework given during the summer session had counted for anything.
    • It is however stated outright that passing the test is the sole criterion upon which the students will be judged.

  • Harry Potter:
    • The Trope Namer is the Golden Snitch, a key part of the game of Quidditch — a bit like footy on broomsticks (with some baseball mixed in), but each goal is worth ten points. However, the Snitch is a separate, tiny, winged golden ball that flitters around the field — catching it is the only way to end the game and is worth 150 points. Harry plays Seeker, a position whose entire point is to look for that snitch, while everyone else is pointlessly trying to score goals that will almost inevitably not matter. The mechanics of the whole Snitch phenomenon have gone back and forth, even as J. K. Rowling has offered multiple explanations:
      • The original explanation: Rowling doesn't like sports. She eventually admitted that she deliberately made a broken and pointless game after an argument with her boyfriend over the subject, especially given how sports fans tend to take it so seriously. It gives Harry, the protagonist, something to do and worry about throughout the year, especially in the earlier few books, and allows the series to have a few Sports Story Tropes mixed in. The game is pointless in part because the books make much more emphasis on sports culture than on the game itself, and every now and then you can see little Take Thats to general English sporting culture (e.g. Harry makes the mistake of asking the Weasleys how England did at the Quidditch World Cup).
      • She later said that Hogwarts rules are a simplified form of the professional game. However, this is basically just a Retcon, as the books do feature a professional game in Goblet of Firethe final of the World Cup, no less — and it is identical to the games played at Hogwarts, just with better equipment and a bigger crowd.
      • She also says that in professional games, it's much more common for the losing team to catch the Snitch— i.e. someone catches the Snitch while behind by at least 16 goals. In the one professional game we do see, this is exactly what happens. But it doesn't make much sense for anyone to do this— professional athletes tend to be Determinators and aren't going to concede a match that they have any reasonable chance of coming back to win, especially a very important one. Viktor Krum, in the World Cup Final, catches the snitch when his team is down by only 160 points, effectively conceding the match when one goal on his side could have turned the tide in their favour. This is Hand Waved by saying Krum recognised that his team was so outmatched that they were never going to get that goal and probably fall behind even further had they continued playing, but even if that were true, how did they get to the Final to begin with?note  And it shows a missed opportunity wrought from ignorance of sports culture — Krum is 18 years old and shows a shocking arrogance and lack of faith in his presumably more experienced teammates, but no one in Quidditch fandom or sports media ever takes him to task for his decision — even though we see the press hound Krum as a Triwizard champion later in the book.
      • The one place where goals do seem to matter is as a tiebreaker, much like goal differential in football, for when two teams have equivalent records. We see Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup in exactly this method in Prisoner of Azkaban; Gryffindor lost to Hufflepuff decisively but beat Ravenclaw decisively, and Slytherin beat Ravenclaw narrowly and Hufflepuff decisively, leaving Gryffindor behind a win and 210 points (six goals and the Snitch)— but that's exactly the margin by which they beat Slytherin, putting them even in record and in points (and putting Gryffindor top of the table on the head-to-head tiebreaker). It likely works this way in World Cup qualifying and group stages as well (it very often matters like this in The World Cup and tournaments like it). But you can still see how it's broken in Half-Blood Prince, where going into the final match the first and last place teams are only separated by 400 points.
      • It creates the possibility of a very long, dramatic game (like a marathon tennis match or multiple overtimes in hockey), since the game lacks any sort of traditional timer, but games of this length are only ever alluded to. In fact, most of the games we see on page seem to be incredibly short for a sporting event. A match in Order of the Phoenix, considered a high-scoring affair with a 240-230 final score, lasts only 22 minutes, implying most matches don't last longer than 30 minutes. The possibility of a losing team's Seeker dragging the game out by not catching the Snitch and preventing his counterpart from doing the same still exists — which again raises the question of why Krum didn't do this in the World Cup final — but nothing like this is ever actually shown to happen.
      • The Defictionalized version of Quidditch even features fan-made rules that significantly modify the Snitch in particular. The Snitch (here a guy in a yellow costume who runs around like a maniac) is only worth 30 points and is released 18 minutes into the game, with the game still ending on capture.
    • The Triwizard Tournament, the focal point of Goblet of Fire, is set up like this. The first two tasks indeed award points, but the only thing those points give you is a head start in the maze that makes up the third task, and inside the maze is the Triwizard Cup— first to touch it wins it, no questions asked. The head start even ends up being totally pointless, as all the competitors encounter one another in the maze at various points.
    • The House Cup and the points system are basically arbitrary and broken. Early on, we learn that the professors can award or deduct points for any reason, in any quantity, at any time. Over the course of the series, professors get tired of throwing free points at Hermione for knowing the answer to every question, and Snape blatantly uses the system to favour Slytherin— almost every time the main characters are in Snape's classroom throughout the series, someone from Gryffindor loses points. It's highlighted at the end of Philosopher's Stone, when Gryffindor is in last place at the beginning of Dumbledore's end-of-year announcement, only for Dumbledore to award Harry and company a ton of points for their actions in the book's climax (including a random ten points to Neville for being brave enough to try to stop them), providing Gryffindor with just enough to vault over Slytherin and give them the Cup. At least one can say he's making up for Snape's shenanigans.
  • The Collegium Chronicles, in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar universe, has a Quidditch-like game called Kirball. There are three ways to score: get the ball into the opponent's goal tower (1 point), occupy the opponent's goal tower (10 points), and capture the opponent's flag (50 points). Matches typically end with either less than 5 total points scored, or with a flag capture leading to a ridiculous disparity in score. The 10-point score is repeatedly highlighted as having never been achieved.
  • In Lord Brocktree, Lord Brocktree needs to win the allegiance of King Bucko and his court. King Bucko always allows anybody to challenge him for his crown. There are three parts to a challenge: the bragging, the feasting, and the fighting. The announcement then adds that "In the event of the first two challenges being won, lost or declared a tie, the third challenge will decide the winner". Brocktree and his entourage realize that Bucko's doing this entirely for his pride, and train Dotti to target that specifically in the challenges. She comes out ahead.
  • In Unseen Academicals, the old foot-the-ball game apparently scores by counting injuries inflicted, but actually scoring a goal is an automatic win (and very rare - Trev's late father Dave Likely is a hero because he scored four times in his entire career). This is very loosely based on assorted street football games played in medieval Britain.
  • Parodied in Earth (The Book). The end of each chapter has a scavenger hunt with 5 items in Easy, Medium, and Hard, which are worth 10, 20 and 30 points each, respectively. Below that are the six Super Hard items worth 1,000 points each. The catch, of course, is that it's impossible to obtain any of them; they're either intangible ("the innocence of youth"), no longer existing ("the Colossus at Rhodes"), or completely fictitious ("Soylent Green Eggs and Ham").
  • In the short story "Fields" by Desmond Warzel, the last twenty people remaining After the End divide themselves into two baseball teams as a means of keeping themselves occupied. In a league with only two teams, it is of course a foregone conclusion that those are the two teams which will meet in the World Series; thus, to keep things interesting (and having nothing better to do), they play an entire 162-game season solely to determine which team will have home-field advantage in the Series.
  • Parodied in Barry Trotter where the Quiddit team that catches the sneech gets a million points and wins the game.

    Live-Action TV — Game/Reality Shows 
  • Sale of the Century: Early in the 1980s US run, a contestant who had a $16 or more lead after the final Fame Game playing was virtually guaranteed a win, as just three $15 questions remained. To rub salt in the wound: A dominant contestant could snatch the $25 money card and have it added to his score, which meant that all that would be decided was whether the winning contestant would be playing for a better prize in the shopping round, or need less money the next day to be eligible to win the next prize note .
  • The $100,000 Name That Tune used the 1-1-2 rule, as shown above. This was extended to a 1-1-2-4 setup in most tournament episodes during Jim Lange's version. (Note that if the players split the first two rounds, the third round became absolutely meaningless, aside from the winner of that game receiving a prize.) At least one $100,000 finals episode had one contestant sweep the first three rounds, only to lose the final round and the tiebreaker question, giving the whole shebang to his opponent.
    • In the show's second season, the final for the tournament held for the first season's contestants who qualified for the "$100,000 Mystery Tune" but were unsuccessful had a 1-1-1-3 setup, so again, if the first two rounds were split, the third was meaningless.
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple used the 1-1-2 rule; however, winning all three rounds had a significant advantage: If you won via tiebreaker, a bad setup of the bonus round could make it Unwinnable (the points/talisman fragments are the contestants' "extra lives"). Winning all three rounds, on the other hand, would guarantee that a team could not run out of lives (a team would have two full pendants, plus there would be two contestants to a team, which meant that all three Temple Guards would be taken care of by the time the second contestant had to give up their pendant).
  • The final survey on Family Feud is worth triple points, far more than enough to win with even if you lost on all of the others. (On the other hand, usually if the game gets this far, it means both teams are getting pathetically low scores on the other rounds. Normally, the double-point round is enough to determine a winner, but a team with a run of good answers can win even before that.)
    • "Winning" the round, and getting all the available points, are two different things. A family could, in theory, win every preceding round, but only because the other side couldn't get enough answers correct, whereas any answer given when the other team attempts to steal, regardless of popularity, wins those points. If things ever do get to triple-point scoring, it's mainly to just wrap up the game.
    • The current syndicated version originally had three rounds of regular scoring, followed by the triple-point round which only allows for one strike. Instead of playing to a set number of points, the family with the most points after the triple-point round won. The triple-point round almost always decided the game, meaning a family could sweep the first three rounds, and still lose if their opponents won the triple-point round.
    • After the game reverted to 1-1-2-3 in 2003, the rules changed again. If neither team had reached 300, then there would be a triple-value Sudden Death round, usually with a simple question whose #1 answer would have an extremely high point value.
  • On The Price Is Right, a contestant that loses their pricing game still has as good a chance of making it to the Showcase as one who wins. However, turn order in the Showcase Showdown is determined by previous winnings, and going last is a significant advantage, since you know exactly what you have to get to win, and you win by default if your opponents both go over before your turn.
    • On the original Price with Bill Cullen, a player could "underbid" during the first round of bidding if they think everyone else has gone too high. It is automatically frozen. Bill would usually state that such a ploy is optional and never suggested. Sometimes it works. Also during open bidding, a player could freeze early just to see how high the others would go in hopes they go over.
  • A malignant example is the Whammy in Press Your Luck. Getting just one will wipe out your accrued wealth, regardless of lead or total. As such, this is fatal to a player in the endgame regardless of score or skill. You automatically lose if you get one on the last spin of the game. (Unless there happens to be a tie at $0, which actually has happened on the show.) Because of this, passing your earned spins onto 1st place (2nd if you're in 1st) is a viable strategy, as they'll be forced to take those spins (until they're used up or they get a Whammy).
    • The "$3000/$4000/$5000 + one spin" spaces in the final round can usually help a contestant lagging behind to overtake the leader and win the game, even more so if they land on the space multiple times.
      • The revival, Whammy: The All New Press Your Luck, also had this, but the second season introduced the Big Bank, where all money/prizes a player loses to a Whammy goes into the Big Bank. A player that lands on the Big Bank space and then answers a question correctly would snag all the money/stuff stored. Since Whammies were commonly landed on, the Big Bank usually got tons of money and prizes stored, and this could guarantee that player a surefire win of the whole game if they don't hit a Whammy afterwards. (However, it would always restart at a base of $3,000 each episode, so it's even less compared to what might've happened if it was a normal rolling jackpot.)
      • The revival also had 2 rounds of spinning on the big board like the original had done, but it was very common to see people mainly win in the 2nd round of spinning, since round 2 typically had prizes with higher values than the prizes in the 1st round.
  • Go, a Bob Stewart show where the round values were $250-$500-$750-$1250, and the winning score is $1,500. If a team wins the first three rounds, to fill the half-hour, they get to play the bonus round twice (for a potential $20,000). However, like the Name That Tune example, if the first two rounds are split, the third round becomes meaningless.
  • Wild 'n Out has variable scores for the different sections in each minigame, but the Freestyle Slam at the end can allow any team to score more points than the other games combined (this is usually edited out in the broadcast, though).
  • Nickelodeon GUTS and its successor, Global Guts, had the Crag (and all variations thereof), whose completion gives a player 725 points for 1st, 550 for second, and 375 for third, meaning that unless you lose at every event before then, you can easily turn the game around in your favor by getting first or second. Plus, there's an added bonus that rewards players who would otherwise be tied, but did better in the front game.
    • However, if the three players went in with scores of 1200, 800, and 400, it would not matter what places they finished as the points differential between them was too high to change the standings. Basically the Crag in this scenario only decided whether the 1st place finisher would finish with a perfect score or not.
      • The new version, My Family's got GUTS, changes this to an American Gladiators-style setup: For every 10 points a team gets, that team gets to start up the Crag 1 second before the other team (for a maximum of 7 seconds). However, like AG's Eliminator, whoever finishes first wins, and some teams have come from a 7 second wait and still won.
  • American Gladiators was decided by the Eliminator from Season 3 on (in the first two seasons, it was total point score that mattered and the Eliminator simply added to the points accrued); first across the finish line won. The points scored in previous rounds were merely used to determine how big a head start the leading player got (one half-second per point).
    • In the 2008 edition, the Travellator, an inclined treadmill which the contenders must climb with the aid of a rope, becomes a golden snitch within a golden snitch - it's the very last obstacle that must be surmounted before crossing the finish line, and it's an order of magnitude more difficult than anything else in the event, especially as the contenders are now completely exhausted. If the first contender to reach it fails to make it up on their first attempt, their opponent will almost invariably catch up and the match essentially turns into a contest of luck.
    • The Travellator was an import from Gladiators, the UK verison, where it also acted as a Golden Snitch. Many a contender went into the Eliminator with a massive lead only to lose because they stumbled badly on the Travellator and had to watch as their opponent passed them. Some contenders literally had to pull themselves up by their fingertips to get to the top as this version didn't have the rope to help them. The 2008 reboot was even worse: due to the way the course was laid out, there was very little space in front of the Travellator and many contenders simply couldn't get enough of a run-up to drive them up the incline.
  • Similarly, Supermarket Sweep's numerous question rounds, Mini-Sweeps and other front game diversions simply determined how much time each team got to run through the store in the Big Sweep. The winner of the Big Sweep then got to play for the big $5,000 prize in the Bonus Sweep.
  • The Joker's Wild had two:
    • In the main game, either contestant could immediately win the game by spinning three Jokers and correctly answering a question in the category of their choice. This was even worse during the first week or so of the CBS run— spinning three Jokers would just win you the game, no question needed.
    • In the "Face the Devil" bonus round, a "natural triple" here (three of the same dollar amount) instantly awarded the player a prize package, plus either $1,000 or the amount in the pot plus the value of the triple, whichever was higher.
  • Merv Griffin's Crosswords had a musical chairs system with three "spoiler" contestants who can steal on clues missed by the front two contestants. If a spoiler makes a successful spoil, they get to switch places with one of the contestants, and their cash and prizes stay at the podium. Sure, this sounds harmless, but several games were decided by a last-second steal, and wouldn't you be aggravated as a contestant if you worked so hard (for such low payouts) to rack up that cash, only to see yourself get usurped by a contestant who did nothing the entire game just because you made one wrong move?
  • Fun House had the Grand Prix, a Gimmick Level race around the studio collecting tokens worth 10 and 25 points, as well as earning 25 points for crossing the finish line first. Either team could easily clean house in this round, especially when they added in a "token bank" in the latter seasons, giving both teams more chances of racking up the points.
  • Finders Keepers. Winning the hidden pictures round won a team money and earned the team the right to do the room search. However, the dollar values were increased for the room searches, and if a team failed to find the object, the money for that attempt went to the opposing team. So even if one team completely dominated the hidden pictures round, if they failed too many searches, the opposing team would win without doing a damn thing!
  • The "dare" system in Nickelodeon's Double Dare (1986) is similar to the Finders Keepers example; each time a question is passed to the other team (known as "daring" the opponent to answer; the controlling team can "dare" the other team to answer, and be "double dared" to answer it in return, after which they must answer it or take a physical challenge), the dollar value for it is doubled (twice the amount on a "dare", four times the amount on a "double dare"), and if the question is answered wrong while a "dare" or "double dare" was in play (or the physical challenge was not successfully completed), the last team to pass the question gets the money. Savvy players, therefore, could ping-pong a question with their opponents to rack up the cash, then get the answer right or win the physical challenge to net them a huge lead (or give the game to the opponent on a silver platter, if they suck).
    • In theory, anyway. In practice, most of the players didn't want to take the chance that their opponent would know the answer after all. So if they Dared, it was because they didn't know the answer to begin with, and if the opponent Double Dared back, it went straight to the physical challenge.
    • Remember, too, that this show had a 1-2 format, making it even worse than the usual game show Golden Snitch; it was possible to hold the opponent completely scoreless for over half of the game and still lose big.
    • And finally, the bonus round: eight purely physical tasks, each with a more valuable prize. In all, a dumb but athletic team not only stood a much better chance of reaching the final than one that was smart but weak, but also would win much more once they got there. So physical talents could be considered a Golden Snitch.
  • The Video Challenges in Nick Arcade could be horrendously guilty of this; essentially, one teammate has to meet or beat the challenge set forth by the "video wizard" on a certain video game within a time limit, and depending on how much their partner wagers out of their score (which can be anything up to their total, or up to 25 points if they have less than that), they could effectively double or bust their score, depending on if the challenge is beaten, making or breaking the game for them. In practice, most teams only bet 5 or 10 points.
  • Make the Grade, another Nick game show, was also a big offender. Here, the object was to answer at least one question for every subject and every grade level, thus lighting up your whole board. However, they also had physical challenges called "Fire Drills", where the contestants got to choose which player podium to return to based on how they placed in the Fire Drill. Very often, a contestant who spent the whole game answering questions and building up their board found themselves losing because one of the other contestants placed first in the Fire Drill and stole their board. (The worst ones come when the kid in first place is one question away from winning, then uncovers a Fire Drill and ends up losing their spot to a doofus that still wears Velcro shoes, who then stinks up the studio in the Honors Round.)
    • The error of this system was made even more glaring in the final season, where the outcome of certain Fire Drills was determined completely at random.
  • Masters of the Maze had the maze which took up most of the actual show. The previous (question) round determined which teams would go into the maze and which teams would go to the maze first, and the team who made it through the maze the fastest would win the game.
  • Body Language was a rare case where the first two rounds were in fact completely meaningless, or at least they would be if points weren't also consolation prize cash. To wit: The first two rounds were worth $100 each, and the second two were $250. You had to get $500 to win, which is only possible by winning both later rounds, whether or not you won any of the first two rounds. If neither team got to $500, there was a tiebreaker for the game that completely ignored the previous scores.
  • Super Password used a 1-2-3-4 pattern where the first to 5 was the winner. If the same team took the second and third rounds, it won; if they were split, the fourth round decided the winner. In neither case did the outcome of the first round have any significance.
  • Wheel of Fortune is full of Golden Snitches:
    • The "Final Spin," which involves the host spinning the wheel one last time to determine the value of letters. This has gone back as far as the beginnings of the show, whereupon if the host landed on the top dollar value, a contestant who previously had no winnings could solve the puzzle, overtake the first-place contestant in an instant and win. Since early in the 17th season (1999-2000), $1,000 is added to the value of the landed-on space, meaning that if the wheel lands on a high enough value (particularly the $5,000 space), the final puzzle could allow someone who previously hadn't won at all to overtake the leader and win. To be fair, all contestants keep all winnings, so it's hard to complain about a second-place score in the $20,000 range. There was a time in the Turn of the Millennium where Pat Sajak was so effective at hitting the $5,000 wedge that it wasn't uncommon to see $6,000 Final Spins once or twice a week.
    • One of the first Golden Snitches, aside from the Final Spin, was the "Star Bonus." Played during the 1977-1978 season, a contestant landing on this token could – if he was trailing after the final round was played – play a special bonus puzzle for a prize that was worth enough to allow him to overtake the first-place contestant's total and become the day's champion. He may have to solve an "easy" puzzle, one of moderate difficulty or one that was "difficult," depending on how much he was trailing. While the one circulating episode resulted in a loss (the contestant failed to solve a difficult "PABLO PICASSO" puzzle for a Porsche sports car), there have been several Star Bonus wins.
    • Other Golden Snitches include $10,000 Mystery Round and the "Prize Puzzle", the latter which offers a trip – always worth more than $5,000 – for simply solving the puzzle. Certain players will immediately solve a Prize Puzzle, even if they haven't even spun the wheel yet, because they know that the prize itself is worth far more than anything they could hope to win that round and don't want to risk hitting a Lose a Turn or Bankrupt and giving the puzzle (and, by extension, the prize) to another player. In a normal game, where nobody gets a special space like the aforementioned two and they don't get an obscenely large Final Spin, the winner is more often than not the person who won the Prize Puzzle.
    • Another game breaker is the "½ Car" tags. There are two on the Wheel in the first three rounds, and they are replaced if one is picked up. It's not too difficult to pick up both, solve the puzzle, and win a car in the $15,000 range.
    • Though the difficulty to get them was amped up starting in Season 33— now they don't appear on the wheel until round 2.
    • The Wild Card can shift the game as well, since it allows a player to call a second letter at the same value they just spun. $3500/$5000 space + Wild Card + a letter multiple = potential blowout.
    • During the show's 25th season, one round had a "Big Money" space that could award up to $25,000 if a player hit it at the right time and found a letter in the puzzle. At least one contestant won the game because of it.
    • Starting in Season 30, the Express wedge. If a contestant calls a right letter on it, he or she can decide to stop spinning and start picking off consonants at $1,000 a pop. The option of buying vowels is still open, too, so most contestants have no difficulty figuring out the answer fairly early and continuing to call consonants until the puzzle is filled in entirely for a pretty sizeable bank. Since the Express wedge occurs in the same round as the aforementioned Prize Puzzle (making it essentially two Snitches in one), the only way to beat a player with a successful Express run is to cancel it out with another Snitch (and even then, the catching-up player often needs to have done fairly well in previous rounds to boot, since often the countering Snitch on its own still isn't enough). Needless to say, this rarely happens, which makes the outcome of a game with a successful Express run highly predictable.
    • When it existed, the Jackpot. It started at $5,000, increased with the value of every spin, and could be won if you hit the wedge, called a right letter, and solved. The Jackpot frequently went into five figures, and usually guaranteed its winner a trip to the Bonus Round.
  • The British Reg Grundy show Keynotesnote  has a particularly bad case of this: £30 for the first round, £60 for the second and £120 for the third. Not that all games were decided by the third round; at least one had a £30-0 victory.
  • Beat the Clock, particularly the version hosted by Monty Hall from 1979-80, is a prime example. Even if you were behind by the maximum possible amount of $2,000, the game came down to who could get shuffleboard pucks the furthest in the Bonus Shuffle. Whoever was in the lead would go both first and last (admittedly a big enough advantage that an upset was uncommon), but as long the farthest puck that hadn't fallen off was yours, you won, even if you were behind the entire game! Not only that, but whoever won was that day's champion (and got to come back on the next show, unless reaching the $25,000 limit), even if they failed in the Bonus Stunt and ended up behind the other couple (by as much as $2000 to $300).
    • And then there was the Gary Kroeger version, which had two: the first had points accumulated translated to positions in an untimed stunt, last to finish is out; the second was a variation on Bid-a-Note from Name That Tune played between the last two teams (here's a stunt, whoever says they can complete it faster plays; if they fail, they hand the game to their opponent, and the first bid is determined by a trivia question).
    • Both seem very fair in comparison to the 2018 version. Round 1 is worth $100, and round 2 is worth $150, with each team playing one stunt in each round. Round 3 has the teams competing in a stunt against each other, with the winners getting $300 and the right to play the bonus game. Why even bother playing the first two rounds?
  • The first 50 minutes of The Crystal Maze concern the players completing challenges to win crystals. These crystals do nothing but increase the amount of time that the team is allowed in the Crystal Dome at the end (five seconds per crystal). This is made even worse by the fact that it didn't matter how much time you had: if you collected more negatively scoring silver tokens than positively scoring gold tokens, you failed anyway. (You had to get 100 points to win.) A perfect example of this can be found in a team that won 11 crystals (the average was four) and ended up with 198 gold... and 167 silver.
    • The Crystal Maze wasn't a true example, but the ineptitude of many contestants made it seem that way. The amount of time in the dome should matter, if the team has enough common sense to use the earned time to sort and discard some of the silver tokens, rather than collecting everything indiscriminately.
  • On the Canadian comedy-quiz show You Bet Your Ass (where the absolute top prize was $2500, Canadian), the setup was 1-1-2-n. First round had questions worth 100 points; second round did the same but mixed up how they were offered; third round had questions worth 200 points; the final round was effectively a series of three Final Jeopardies in a row to each player, with the minimum bet being 500. You have to build up an effective base to have a chance in the final round, true, but at that point almost anyone can catch you if they're bold and smart enough.
    • Also each contestant got a different set of questions, so they'd just have to hope they get easier ones.
  • Parodied by one Japanese variety show, in a game where the celebrity guests were asked questions worth 1 point each. However, the final question was worth 1,000,000,000,000 points. The score at the end humorously showed the winner's score as 1,000,000,000,003 (give or take a point or two) squeezed into very narrow digits.
  • Parodied in the 1978-79 game show sendup The Cheap Show, which used a 1-1-20 system.
  • Dancing with the Stars has gotten notorious for this:
    • It happened in the first season. It was a head-to-head, Kelly Monaco against John O'Hurley, which Kelly won. Criticisms over who really deserved it and how much of a role Kelly's fanbase played prompted ABC to do a rematch of the final several months after the season ended. It would be for the title, effectively discarding the entire season, and for some inexplicable reason Kelly agreed to it. John won. No word on whether Kelly was forced to relinquish the trophy.
    • The 11th season final featured Evan Lysacek and Nicole Scherzinger (with Erin Andrews as the also-ran). Every round had half of the score determined by the judges and half by the audience... except the final. It was played out over two days. The first had two dances, with the combination of the two receiving a single score in the usual fashion. The second had two more dances, each receiving a score from the judges only, effectively making the split 75/25. The judges, who were pretty vocal about wanting Nicole to win, scored her 2 points higher than Evan (30-28) both times, turning what had been up to that point a tight contest into an easy victory for Nicole.
    • And of course, every so often we get a very literal Golden Snitch, where the contest simply awards gigantic piles of points to one or more contestants at completely random points in the season. Any time you see some scoring wonk or something with a cute name like "dance-off" or "dance marathon", you can be sure you're going to see this. Of course, since scores don't carry over, all this does is ensure that someone the producers like survives the week (which is most likely the whole point).
  • The Newlywed Game, Carnie Wilson's version. First round, where the women are asked about the men, each question is worth 5 points. Second round, where the men are asked about the women, each question is worth 10 points. Except for the last question, which has two parts, each worth 15 points. The most famous version with Bob Eubanks was basically the same, except the final was a single question worth 25 points.
  • MTV's Trashed, to an extent: Questions in the first two rounds earned 50 points and 100 points each, respectively. The show's final round featured rapid-fire questions at 150 points each for 39 seconds, making come-from-behind victories quite easy. However, winning the earlier rounds had a significant advantage: the more possessions you saved, the longer your time limit in the Bonus Round.
  • MTV Brazil's Battle of the Bands contest Covernation had the final contest, an instrument duel, being worth exactly enough for the band behind in the score to take the lead (though if that backfired, it could translate to a Curb-Stomp Battle).
  • The German game show Schlag den Raab (internationally syndicated as Beat the Star) consists of 15 games (which can be comprised of sports (often unknown ones), games, trivia quizzes, any ability test of strength or dexterity, or tests of luck). Scoring is similar to a game of rotation (except that the rules of said pool variation don't apply here) the points in each game are scored 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15 for a total of 120 - first to 61 or more (which is more than half of the point total, so impossible for the opponent to catch up with) wins.
  • The question editor of British show Only Connect proudly announced that, due to adjustments to the difficulty of the Connecting Wall (making it harder) and the Missing Vowels round (making it easier), Season 2 saw the rounds give, on average, equal points as each other to within a point... Despite the quick fire nature of the missing vowels round making it feel like it should be swingy compared to the other rounds.
  • British show Fluke saw rounds of quick fire questions interspersed with entirely arbitrary elimination rounds, with the points only giving the privilege to pick first in chance based games where whatever position you played in gave the exact same chance of being eliminated (such as getting the choice of two ovens, one with a cooked goose and one with an uncooked goose, where if you opened the oven with the cooked goose it meant your goose is cooked which means you're out, to pick the final bye-bye game in the final episode as an example). Lampshaded via a catchphrase - "What are points?" 'Pointless!' - Not that the questions were any more than fifty/fifty toss ups for the entire show, including in the bonus round. Still, money would be given per correct answer.
  • Family Game Night on The Hub, for the first two seasons, awarded one "Crazy Cash Card" to each family at the start of the show, then an additional card to the family who won each game. Most cards were worth no more than $1500 or so (and generally only a couple hundred bucks), but one card, the Top Cash Card, is worth anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. Thus, a family could lose all five games and still win the grand prize if the card they chose happens to be the Top Cash Card. (That said, both families keep whatever they won in their games, so at least a family who misses out on the grand prize in this manner still walks away with a great haul of their own.)
  • Played with in Beat the Geeks with the "Geequalizer". Each contestant is given rapid-fire questions worth 10 points each, but one wrong answer ends the round for them. There are just enough questions that if one contestant got every single point possible and the other contestant had zero, that contestant could come back from behind, but only if they finished the entire Geequalizer (pretty much unheard of), and the other contestant missed the very first question.
  • The short-lived Scavengers had an odd variant— points were awarded for collecting salvage during each game, rather than for winning the round. However, the final round essentially reset everyone's score, requiring them to carry the salvage they've already earned across a deep gorge over several trips. The more they've got so far, the more points they can earn, but if they mess up then the leading team can finish with fewer points than they started with, allowing the trailing team to overtake them.
  • The Nickelodeon game show Wild and Crazy Kids was terribly guilty of this as their shows had a 3 event structure, with double points being awarded to the winners of the second event and triple points (or higher) to the winners of the third. This allowed the host to utter the line "So anybody can still win" before each event. This appeared to insult the intelligence of children about their understanding of competition.
  • The finale of WCG Ultimate Gamer has two contestants competing against each other in three different video games, worth 1, 2 and 3 points respectively, meaning all three games had to be played in order to guarantee a winner, and a player who won the first two games may still lose if they don't win the final game. Taken Up to Eleven in Season 2, where the final game was Halo: Reach, where one of the two finalists was one of the top Halo players in the world. Yep, isn't that fair?
  • In the Horrible Histories game show Gory Games, winning a round gets you a Year Sphere containing a hidden year. At the end of the game, the spheres are opened and the years are added to determine the winner... but BC dates are subtracted, and they go back a long way. If you grab, say, a 1.5 million BC sphere, it'll knock you into flat last regardless of how many rounds you've won, because the positive scores are things like 1066 and 1492. And winning more rounds makes you more likely to grab the dud. It's quite possible, although unlikely — most year spheres are positive — to win no games, gain no spheres, score zero, and be declared champion because the other two competitors got negative scores.
  • Catch 21. In the final round, the scores are wiped clean, and the two finalists play that round without Scoring Points. Winner of that hand wins the game. Say you curb-stomped both of your opponents in the first two rounds (say, 1500-100-0). You're obviously going through to the final, and the guy with 100 points goes with you, since he's in second. Now, your opponent is dealt an ace to start the final round, then answers just one question correctly and pulls a 10-value. Well, buddy, you're screwed. Hope you made a 21 earlier so the bonus prize goes home with you.
  • Inn the earlier days of the Japanese show DERO! the maximum possible prize in the Beam Room round usually accounted for around half the total money up for grabs in each episode, and it was also usually played first. Although it was also Nintendo Hard, so a win of more than half the maximum was rare. After it switched to a winner-take-all points battle format the Beam Room was moved to the last round before the Bonus Round, where the team with the last player remaining will earn two points per player. Under the new format, a Curb-Stomp Battle in the Beam Room (as highly improbable as it would be) would guarantee a win regardless of previous score.
    • The show's Spiritual Successor TORE! replaces the Beam Room with the Cliff Chamber, where each player in the winning team would receive two golden Pharaoh statues.
  • The first season of Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race had a pretty bad example of this. The final leg of the race completely ignored everything that happened in the previous five weeks in favor of a straight-up race around New York City. This meant that the truck that had won all five previous legs of the race lost out to a truck that stayed in the middle of the pack throughout the race (and was in fact almost eliminated on the first episode).
  • In the Bill Engvall version of Lingo, the setup is now 1-2-5. Mitigated by only having 3 words in round three, but still true if the in-behind team gets all 3 words and a lingo, $2000 usually being enough to overtake anything of a lead the competition might have had.
  • The very last round of Talkin' 'bout Your Generation is always worth one point more than the difference between the losing time and the winning team, "which means that anyone can win!" Of course, The Points Mean Nothing anyway; the only real stakes are bragging rights.
    • On at least one occasion, Shaun just admitted he didn't remember what the score was and set the final round at an arbitrarily high number of points.
  • Cha$e claimed that contestants accumulated money for every second they could avoid the Hunters and lost all their winnings if they were eliminated (by being tagged by a Hunter or otherwise), but there was no way to take that money and leave (although the show did have offers to quit the game for a fixed amount). Thus all that mattered was not being eliminated until the last few minutes, then being the first to reach the exit point. A player could easily reach the end with every utility and be eliminated simply because they couldn't reach the exit point first.
  • Couch Potatoes had the "Couch-Up Round", in which players took turns answering buzz-in questions. Buzzing in also stopped a computer that shuffled random point amounts as well as the phrase "Couch-Up"; answering a question with "Couch-Up" lit immediately tied the score if your team was behind, effectively making the first part of the show meaningless.
  • Spanish TV contest Gafapastas is a real-life shining example of this. It has five rounds, the first four are worth 600€ if you manage to do everything perfectly and the last one is 1200€ for the same. Not only that, but while the first four are individual rounds (meaning both players can get the 600€), the last one is head-to-head answer-this-first squareoff, so a losing player can quickly Curb-Stomp Battle their opponent and win by with a huge margin. The current champion has won many games simply because he's really good at the last round. The worst part? For a while, it was 800€ for the first 4 rounds and 800€ for the last. That's right, they changed it to make the rounds more unbalanced!
  • Let's Ask America has a question worth as much as all questions up to that point at the end of each of its three rounds, with money totals being cumulative throughout the game. The player with the lowest total gets eliminated at the end of each round. The format is 1-2-3 for the first round, 4-5-15 for the second, and 20-50 for the third round. Answering the last question of any round correctly will allow the contestant to at the very least tie, but more likely pull ahead of anyone who did not answer the question correctly.
  • Jay Wolpert's Wait Til You Have Kids uses a "1-2-3-4x2" format, though more than one couple can score per-round. In the final round, both members of each couple answer and score score individually, allowing up to 8 points to be won!
  • On the original Concentration, if a game ended in a draw, a new game was started with each contestant allowed to retain up to three prizes from the draw game. This also applied if time was running out on a show and a puzzle was 3/4ths exposed. The puzzle was revealed, the game is ruled a draw, and a new game is started on the next show with the players allowed to retain up to three prizes from that default draw game.
    • On Classic Concentration, a player could match no prizes, win both games and lose the car round both times, going home with nothing but the consolation prizes they give to the losers. On the original show, a player won $100 winning a game with no matched good prizes (and/or the $500—later a car—bonus for selecting two Wild Cards on the same turn).
  • The Krypton Factor, in pre-1995 series, had the General Knowledge round at the end of the game. Whilst in most rounds the contestants scored 10, 6, 4 or 2 points according to their ranking in that round, in the General Knowledge round, you simply scored 2 points for a correct answer and lost 2 for an incorrect one. It didn't matter how good your Mental Agility, plane-landing skills or completing a gruelling assault course faster than anyone else was, the General Knowledge round (often comparatively easier) could essentially undo all that. The 1995 series had the final Super Round, with all previous rounds merely buying "advantages" that could be used at the end.
    • The pre-1995 format was less of an example that it initially appears— there were slightly more points available than in the earlier rounds, and potentially a back-runner could make up ten or more points on the leader and snatch a victory, but this would have required them to be significantly stronger on general knowledge than all three opponents, which was unlikely. The more likely outcome was a distribution of points broadly in line with the other rounds. So in theory a Golden Snitch was available, but unless three of the four contestants were hopeless on General Knowledge, it would be almost impossible to pull off in practice.
  • Yes, Survivor has this, too. No matter how many immunity challenges or rewards you have under your belt, or who’s at the head of the alliance, or anything else, it’s all just buildup for the main event. You have to win the votes of the jury in the end. If you can’t win over a jury (made up entirely of the competition you eliminated), then being the best physically and the best strategically, all the strategy and moves and blindsides and whatnot, means absolutely nothing. (Unlike the Dancing with the Stars example, it is always and entirely possible to turn things around at the absolute last second.) Natalie White and Sandra Diaz-Twine (both times!), in particular, understood this point perfectly, and that’s why both of them wound up with the million.
  • Panel Quiz Attack 25 has the "Attack Chance," which kicks in when there are five boxes left on the board. The player who gives the next correct answer makes their regular capture, then targets one of their opponents' previously-captured boxes. That box can then be recaptured on a later question. If played correctly, a player in a distant third or fourth place often comes back from near-nothing to win the game.
    • This also has the potential to backfire spectacularly if the targeted box is in line with another opponent's boxes, or if the targeted player reclaims that box.
  • The comedy panel quiz podcast International Waters (and its renamed version, Troubled Waters) awards one million points for the final question (while pre-final-round scores tend to fall in the single or low-double digits). Even repeat guests who are fully aware of this gag often seem to lose track of it and worry about meaningless early-game leads.
  • There are six rounds of Idiotest, worth respectively $200/$200/$500/$500/$1000/$2500, so the last round is worth more than the first five combined. The rub is that players lose ten percent of the money for each second they do not answer. Even then, the minimum value of a correct answer in round six is worth more than the maximum value of either of the first two rounds.
  • The 1985 clunker Time Machine used a 1-1-2 point system during its second format. Each of the three minigames was worth a prize, so there was still incentive to play perfectly.
  • The American Ninja Warrior spinoff Team Ninja Warrior consists of a tournament of four teams (of three players each) in each episode. Each tournament is three rounds. The first round is only used for determining seeding of the second round (the winners of each branch of the tournament's first round face the losers of the opposite branch). It is only the second round that determines which teams move on to the third round. From a game-theory perspective, the absolute best strategy would be to immediately jump off the obstacle course and lose every heat of the first round, thus preserving the team members' energy and eliminating any risk of injury, to be fully prepared to take on the second round, where it actually matters if you win.
    • Within each round, there is also the 1-1-2 version of the Golden Snitch, as the first and second heats are worth one point each, and the third worth two points. A fourth heat is used if a tie-breaker is needed.
  • In the UK show The Edge, points (which are converted to prize money) are earned by bowling a ball down a lane marked with amounts from £1 to £950. Stopping the ball on the very last segment ("the edge") earns £1000, £2000 or £3000 in successive rounds - enough to be essentially an Instant-Win Condition for that round. If this happens in the final elimination round, then one player stopping on the edge forces their opponent to do likewise. Hitting the edge is so difficult to do on purpose that it comes down to a Luck-Based Mission, which if anything makes it worse.
  • The Countdown Conundrum (the single-question final round) comes close to being either a Golden Snitch or completely worthless. Seeing as someone nearly always gets it correct, it doesn't matter if you're 9 points ahead or 9 points behind at this stage, the winner is the person who gets this single question correct first, as they will score 10 points and the game will be over. On the other hand, if the gap is more than 10 points, this round will have no impact on the winner.
  • In Swashbuckle, the third round, Shipwreck Rummage, is the only one the team has to win in order to win the whole game. Winning the first two rounds cuts down the amount of items you have to find against the clock in the third, but it's still completely possible to lose the first two, then win the third and the game.
  • Even though teams on The Amazing Race have their time disparities preserved across legs (if you checked in N minutes after the first team on the previous leg, you have to wait N minutes after the first team departs on the current leg before you can depart), the show will usually set up an equalizer near the start of every leg where all the contestants end up arriving at an airport several hours before the first flight, or (more uncommonly) at a task location hours before it opens. The vast majority of the time, this wipes out most if not all advantages and disadvantages between teams had from the previous legnote . However, demonstrating that Tropes Are Not Bad, the first season's lack of these equalizers led to two teams being over 12 hours ahead of the rest by the end of leg 9, making the game essentially Unwinnable for the rest and making most of the remainder a Foregone Conclusion.
    • They also have non-announced "non-elimination" rounds, which, since the idea is to be the last team standing, makes the entire leg pointless. The first team may or may not win a prize, but all teams continue to the next leg and the order in which they arrived really does nothing to alter the odds. They also have "Fast Forwards" which if completed first allow one team to skip over all other tasks. It has however happened a handful of times that the fast forward has been completed, but still didn't win the team first place, typically due to long commute times or getting lost.
  • In Canada's Worst Driver, the Worst Driver trophy is generally given to the contestant who did the worst on the final challenge, regardless of how well (or badly) they did on the earlier challenges. The final challenge is driving on public roads, which is by far the most important test of the person's driving ability.
  • The 1994 French game show Trésors du Monde pitted a single team against five challenges; the first four challenges set up the prize money, but the fifth challenge was the one that decided whether the team won or lost the prize.
  • The Great British Bake Off: Paul and Mary have admitted that the showstopper is generally all that separates the contestants, though contestants in the bottom half of the technical challenge automatically become candidates for elimination. Proven most notably in series 3; Ryan came last in the technical challenge, only for his key lime pie showstopper to prove so amazingly excellent that he was named Star Baker that week, ahead of bakers who had consistently delivered in all three rounds.
  • Winsanity: In the second season, the format became one with two contestants stacking facts. In the first two rounds, each player got $100-$200-$300-$400 for up to four correct answers, for a total of $1,000 (and a $1,000-$1,000 tie after the 2nd round was referred to as a "perfect game"). In the third round, there are four more answers, where if a contestant got the stack wrong, their opponent got the cash. Those four answers were worth, in order, $500, $600, $700, and $1,750. The last question is worth $50 less than the first three, so if one contestant was tied or ahead and got the first three, they couldn't be beat. Every other scenario, however, brought the last question into play (except ultra lopsided scenarios like $1,000-$0 after 2 rounds).
  • The series Spook Squad had this in the final round. The object of the game was to win minigames in a haunted house and collect ectoplasm to banish the ghost haunting it. The final round takes place in the room the ghost died in, where the ectoplasm is used to create letters, which will spell out the item the ghost needs to gain special powers and/or immortality. (blanks are used in place of missing letters) The team must then find said item before the last stroke of midnight to win the game. Theoretically, a team can gain all of the ectoplasm and figure out what the item is, but still lose because they couldn't find it.
  • The Championship Gaming Series truly screwed the pooch on this one- the contest's five disciplines were hugely idiosyncratically scored- aceing both Dead or Alive rounds five-nil, (for a total of ten points) taking the top two spots in Forza Motorsport (taking six points and conceding one), and winning FIFA by three clear goals (Net profit of three points) will result in a tie if the opponent team wins all the Counter-Strike rounds (18 points). Of course, which discipline counts as the golden snitch is up in the air, as the rounds were never played (or at least broadcast) in any specific order.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race:
    • In the first five seasons, winning a challenge in an early round earned a contestant immunity from elimination in the next round. This ended as of season six.
    • Matching a contestant's answers during "Snatch Game" is meaningless. The goal is to deliver an entertaining celebrity impersonation.
    • Subverted to a degree in that sometimes winning a mini-challenge can put a target on the winner's back. If the main challenge is a team performance, the mini-challenge winners are the team captains and are held responsible for the team's overall performance. Winning the mini-challenge before a Ball main challenge saddles the winner with the task of choreographing a group dance performance, which can add to their overall stress and give the judges another reason for a harsh critique.
  • Both versions of Split Second (1972) used a handicap called the Countdown Round in their third segment. The players had to get a certain number of answers based on their score position after round two. The player in the lead had to get 3 answers (ABC, 4 on the syndicated show), second place had to get 4 (ABC, 5 syndication) and last place had to get 5 (ABC, 6 syndicated). So the last place player could ring in fast enough and run the table to win the game.
  • The TBS series Misery Index has three rounds. The first round gives each contestant one question, with $500 for getting it right. Round 2 does the same thing, offering $1,000 for a right answer. In the third and final round, both contestants give a numerical answer to the same question, and whoever's closest wins $2,000. It doesn't matter how well you do in the first two rounds, the third is the only one that decides who wins.
  • Due to the loose rule enforcement, it is stranger when the Red Squad vs Black Squad Tag Team Battle Rap that ends every episode of Wild N' Out doesn't rack up at least as many points as every preceding contest in the episode combined. If one squad performs poorly, or exceptionally, no amount of early game dominance can cushion it.
  • The Tru TV series Hot Ones: The Game Show. Three rounds, three questions each. 1-2-3 within a round. OK, not so bad. Across the three rounds? 1-2-10. That's right, round 3 questions are worth 10 times as much as round 1 questions.
  • Goodson-Todman's 1961 show Say When!! had the objective of accumulating prizes without going over a value ceiling. A test episode (made before it went on the air in 1961) had a rule that after selecting a prize you could stop. At that point that prize's value is not disclosed until the opponent's turn was completed. In a championship game where the value ceiling was $2000, a contestant selected a prize that put him at $2000 on the nose. However, he didn't say when and was forced to select another prize, which obviously put him over. The opponent had the prospect of going over as well, but didn't.
  • In the Wayne Brady game show Game of Talents, the first and second performers are worth $10,000, the third and fourth performers are worth $15,000, and the fifth performer (where the round is played in a head-to-head format) is worth a whopping $60,000. This means that a team that has been shut out in the previous rounds can buzz in correctly (or have the other team buzz incorrectly) and win the game.

    Live-Action TV — Other 
  • On Cheers, they had the Best Boston Barmaid competition in which Carla won every round, including customer service, only to be informed at the end that she lost to the terrible, blonde barmaid because the winner is always the barmaid with the biggest breasts.
  • On The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert's Metaphor-Off (Or "Meta-Free-Phor-All") with Sean Penn involved four questions. The first three were worth one point each. The last question was worth ten million points. It could decide the winner.
  • Dave Gorman's Important Astrology Experiment judged the value of astrology by measuring elements of Dave's happiness on three scales - Love (on a scale of -100 to +100), Health (on a scale of -100 to +100) and Wealth (in pounds) - and then adding them up to see if the total was positive or negative. So he could be dying alone, but as long as he had more than £200... (And that's exactly what happened; with all three scores circling the drain, he put up a longshot bet just before the arbitrary cut-off point and scored £500. So astrology works.)
  • Doctor Who: "The Beast Below" is set on Starship UK, a nation spaceship with a dark secret about how it travels through space. One of the ways the ship's voting system for almost all of its residents is designed to ensure they continue to vote for the program is by making the Queen's vote capable of ending the situation, and thus potentially destroying the Kingdom, all on its own.
  • National selections for the Eurovision Song Contest have been known to feature this, notably the Ukrainian entry in 2005. Having played out the preselection over the course of 15 knockout rounds, the broadcaster bizarrely added Razom nas bahato, an anthem of the previous year's Orange Revolution, as a "wildcard" entry in the final. It won the vote (and promptly had to be rewritten to remove the political content, in accordance with Eurovision rules).
  • In The Finder Walter needs to take a sanity test from Dr. Sweets, if he passes he can officially take part in any investigation as a consultant, if he fails Walter would be considered insane. Walter fails, but Sweets can get him to pass if Walter tells him what compelled him to find things.
  • The Beauty Pageant in the "iWas A Pageant Girl" episode of iCarly seemed to follow this pattern. Sam is an uncouth loudmouth going on about fried chicken during the introduction and answers her special question stupidly. Both of these on their own would be enough to stop someone coming first. But somehow Sam comes back to win, as she performs a tap dance routine in the talent section.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, Kamen Rider Odin, or rather, his Time Vent card, becomes this in Ryuki's World. Odin doesn't partake in the trial process and only fights Riders who pick a fight with him. Whenever a Rider gets defeated, the Rider who defeated them gains their cards, and so they'd get Time Vent. Once getting Time Vent, a simple time warp and prevention of a murder or whatever caused the trial in the first place is pretty easy and can technically count as the rider winning. However, first they must beat Odin, and he's just as powerful as he was in the original.
  • Kamen Rider Fourze pulls off something similar to Naruto. During an astronaut qualification exam, there is a "bonus" question about describing the test papers (answer ). Gentaro and Cloud Cuckoo Lander Yuki pass the exam answering only the bonus question, meaning that regardless of score, answering that bonus question is enough of a qualification. The exam proctor mentions that the school board chairman (also the series Big Bad) only put it in for "a little joke".
  • An episode of The New Addams Family show had Gomez competing against Death for his life in this fashion. The last round is worth all of the points, and when asked "Then what was the point of the matches before?" The reply is just "better ratings".
  • Out of This World (1987): In one episode, Evie's team sweeps the entire game, netting 900 points. The final question is worth 1000. Surprisingly, they win anyway.
  • Appeared in an Imagine Spot on That '70s Show.
    Kelso: (as the host) The girls have 50 points, and the boys have... zero. But the boys still have a chance, as this last round is conveniently worth
  • Competitions between the three presenters on the British motoring show Top Gear often include one for the final event making the other events sometimes completely unnecessary. For example in the original Cheap Car Challenge the final event was to add a point for every pound under the limit the presenter spent. This allowed Clarkson to come from behind and win because he spent a grand total of 1 pound for his vehicle.
    • The general flaw is that instead of awarding points for rank in any one event, they are awarded based on actual performance which is often unbounded and never weighted. The problem can work in reverse when points are subtracted for poor performance and a breakdown or other misfortune can result in thousands of points being lost. Usually by James May.
    • Lampshaded in the Police Car Challenge, where Hammond scores 1 point for 'flamboyance' while the others score nothing, and subsequently kick up a huge fuss about it despite it being totally irrelevant to the final scores.
  • In some episodes of Top Gear (US), the final challenge is "winner takes all". This means that whoever won the final challenge would be declared the overall winner of that episode, regardless of his performance in previous challenges.
  • An episode of Welcome Freshmen had an academic bowl being won a team that answered all of three questions, by luck to boot, which all happened to be worth 10 times that of previous questions.
  • The creators of Whose Line Is It Anyway?? gleefully tweaked their noses at this trope by having The Points Mean Nothing— what's more, not only do the point values have no meaning, the awarding thereof is completely arbitrary and the "prize" is just the questionable privilege of a bonus game.
    • The reason this was adopted in the original British version was originally for quality control— they filmed more games than there was time to include in one episode. Thus, the least funny/successful games could be left out. If the points were meaningless, they wouldn't have to account for the missing points at the end of the show.
    • In the British version, at least, the "prize" was to read the show's closing credits in the style of the host's choosing.
    • In the US version the prize was frequently to switch places with the host and sit out the last game.
    • In one episode of the US version they were doing a game show and the final round was "worth one million points, making all previous rounds pointless".
  • During a Wizard Ping-Pong match in Wizards of Waverly Place, Justin is falling behind until he hits the Tattler, who is an actual little girl that tattles to adult authority.

  • In Rappy McRapperson's Basketball, the singer's team was losing by a hundred points, only for a teammate to pass the ball to him so he could pull off an awesome dunk worth a million points.

  • In general, the Progressive Jackpots on many pinball games can be this if they have been built up for long enough. Similarly, games like Black Knight 2000 which carry over progress towards the Wizard Mode from player-to-player and game-to-game.
  • Good scores on The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot are usually in the tens of millions of points. However, it is possible to make a shot that will spin the Big Wheel which can light a shot for 1 billion points. This was viewed as such a Game-Breaker that anyone who makes this shot goes on a separate high score table called the "Billionaire's Club". Ironically, there is a 50 million point award on The Big Wheel which is much more of a Game-Breaker since you will still quality for the standard high score list provided you don't make the billion point shot.
    • Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball, from the same designer, also features a 50 million point shot, which overwhelms everything else in the game. The fact that it's only randomly available on the player's last ball just makes it even more capricious.
  • Johnny Mnemonic has Spinner Millions, which is worth 10 million points a spin for the rest of the ball it's activated (on default operator settings, you can only get this once per game). With only about 5-6 trips through the spinner, this can reach a billion points or more. The fact that it's part of your bonus that can be multiplied up to 4X will turn that into 4 billion. There is also a Good Bad Bug with Hold Bonus which will essentially award it twice on the next ball, meaning having Hold Bonus would award you another 8 billion on the next ball, and again as long as you keep getting Hold Bonus. By comparison, the Wizard Mode of this game usually awards about 5 billion points.
  • The Wizard Mode in Capcom's Breakshot, "Cutthroat Countdown", can easily become this — a decent round of Cutthroat Countdown can easily break ten million and roll the score, while the Score Multiplier and consecutive Countdowns could theoretically be worth over 200 million.
  • Comet has the One Million shot, which can make for some pretty lopsided scores. Somewhat mitigated in that it's only available on the last ball, and collecting it requires the player to light 1-9-8-6 and then make the Cycle Jump to the farthest target.
  • Completing 9-Ball in Cue Ball Wizard gives an overwhelming 500 million points, or 1 Billion if DOUBLE is enabled. Offset somewhat in that 9-Ball is a Timed Mission that is not easily achieved.
  • This is the biggest criticism players have against Gilligan's Island. Successfully delivering the Lava Seltzer to Kona the Volcano God rewards a lopsided 50 million points... with another 50 million rewarded for each subsequent shot the player makes before time runs out. For comparison, scores are relatively low for anything not related to Kona — a good player will still need at least a few minutes to reach even one million points.
  • White Water's "5x Playfield" bonus, which, well, makes everything worth 5 times as many points as normal for the next 25 seconds. If White Water appears at a competition, expect to see all of the top players build up their awards as high as possible, activate "5x Playfield," then collect them within those 25 seconds, which can likely make "5x Playfield" worth more than everything else collected up to that point.
    • In the earliest ROMs, it stacked geometrically with Double or Triple Jackpots in multiball, allowing 10x or 15x jackpots. That was Nerfed pretty quickly, making any jackpot 5x the value of a single jackpot while it is running.
  • Bad Cats normally awards points for consecutively shooting the left ramp, giving 50K, 100K, 200K, and then a million each for the fourth and later shots. However, on the last ball only, a fifth consecutive shot will award 20 million points. The Progressive Jackpot itself can also be this; despite the backglass implying that it caps at 8 million, it seems to have no Cap; it can go well beyond that.
  • Police Force has a Take The Highest Score feature, where on the last ball, two consecutive shots to the right ramp will add the highest player's score to the current player's score (or double their score if the highest or in single player).
    • Very similarly, The Phantom of the Opera (albeit being by a different developer) allows the player to double their score on the last ball with consecutive left ramp shots.
  • For completing each of the four major tasks in Indianapolis 500, Victory Laps are lit at the top center hole and are worth a large number of points (ranging from 200 million to a billion depending on how many are collected at once). One of the Speedways (modes) is 3X Playfield Values, which triples all points temporarily. This can apply to Victory Laps. Make of that what you will.
  • AC/DC, when Song Jackpots are added to and collected with playfield multipliers. 2x and 3x playfield multipliers can be gotten, and points for major shots are also added to the Song Jackpot. The multiplied points are added as-is, so a shot normally worth a paltry 400K with a 3x multiplier will award 1.2M immediately and add that much to the Song Jackpot. However, the Song Jackpot itself is also susceptible to the playfield multiplier, so that 1.2M added before can become 3.6M.
  • The Hand of the King round on Game of Thrones can become this if played perfectly. Similar to the AC/DC example above, having playfield multipliers will add the multiplied jackpots to a large hurryup that can be collected after collecting several Super Jackpots - which also add their multiplied values to the bank (and your score). If playfield multipliers are still running, that whole bank can be multiplied again by up to 5x. Executing this perfectly can result in a single shot worth well over 5 billion points, in a round that's usually started with a score around 1 billion.
  • Early versions of The Munsters made Munster Madness exceptionally lucrative, with strategic playing potentially resulting in final scores exceeding a billion points. This is on a game where - disregarding Munster Madness - 200 million or so is considered an excellent score.

  • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! features this in spades, as for most of the game each question is worth one point to each panelist, but in the final round, Lightning Fill in the Blank, questions are worth two points each, and they're more numerous than all the other questions combined. That said, since it's a comedy show masquerading as a game show, the score isn't really all that important.
    • In an average game, around 9 points or so are awarded before the lightning round. Each panelist gets 2 questions worth 1 point each, and 3 more are up for grabs for games like Bluff the Listener. The lightning round consists of up to 8 questions per panelist (or as many as can fit into 60 seconds, whichever is less), each worth 2 points. Thus, the only impact of everything before the lightning round is that one contestant might have a small lead (1-3 points) going in; the only time this factors in determining the winner is if the panelists score within a few points of each other in the lightning round. (To be fair, it's actually not that uncommon for that to be a deciding factor; it's only eight questions and at least a few are usually relatively easy, so two panelists getting the same number of questions right, or being within one question of each other, is a thing that happens.)
    • The standings going into the final game determine the order of play (the panelist in third place goes first), and panelists sometimes actually complain about having the most points going in because the third set of lightning round questions is supposed to be harder — though this seems to be more of an Informed Attribute most of the time.
  • Hamish and Andy Invented a game called random John, in which a random phone number is dialed. There are strict rules about how often a call can be made and what qualifies as random. If the person who answers the phone is called “John” the caller gets 1 john point. If the person who answers the phone is called “John Johnson” the caller gets 50 john points, making it something of a golden snitch. However, since they have been playing this game for over three months and still have not gotten a single john point, even getting a “John” could qualify as at least a silver snitch.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Munchkin gamers will usually gang up on whoever is highest, especially when that player is trying to score their tenth level (thus winning the game). For this reason, it's preferred to face off against a really weak enemy, so you can win even after everyone else has thrown everything they have to stop you. However, if that player is stopped, the next player trying to score the tenth level will usually win due to everyone else having run out of curses and monster-boosting cards.
  • In the remake of 1313 Deadend Drive, each person on the will starts with a certain amount of money tokens, descending as you go down. If someone on the will is bumped off, their tokens go to the person below them. Each player "owns" certain characters and can move anyone on the board, and the goal is to bump off the opponent's characters and get yours out of the house before the detective arrives. The cat starts with twelve tokens (the most of anyone - she's at the top of the will), and it takes several turns before anyone has the ability to trigger a Death Trap - so if you control the cat and can get her out of the house immediately, you have an insurmountable lead from the very start.
  • Japanese Mahjong has special hands called yakuman which are quite difficult to obtain, but they are worth 32,000 points (48,000 if you are the dealer). In a game where everyone typically starts with only 25,000 points, scoring one of these off another player will likely bankrupt them. Usually, if someone goes bankrupt the game is over and the rankings are determined then and there, and guess who probably just stormed into the lead with a cool 32-48,000 points?
  • Yugioh has the Exodia cards, which getting all five into your hand (Exodia, and the Right Arm, Right Leg, Left Arm, and Left Leg of the Forbidden One) awards you an automatic win. If a player can build their deck around drawing as many cards as possible, then it's pretty easy to win with those. There are other instant win cards too, such as Destiny Board and Final Countdown, but the conditions under which to get an instant win with them are harder (both requiring you in some way to wait a certain amount of turns before it happens, provided the game goes on that long).
  • Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot can offer a lengthy bout of playing bunnies, attacking bunnies, stealing bunnies, and doing all manner of intricate and interactive things to the other players and their bunnies. It's all nearly meaningless because the winner is whoever managed to get hold of the carrot that happens to be the bottom card of a deck that was shuffled before the game and never touched.
  • The whole point to the board game "Snakes and Ladders". Nothing makes an already-random game's outcome more potentially frustrating than having one's opponent luck into a huge boost from a long ladder right at the beginning of a round, unless it's to work your own piece's way up to the top row — gradually, roll by roll, bit by bit, with many a short drop along the way — only to land smack dab on a freakin' python one or two turns from a win.
  • Mouse Trap: No matter how much cheese a player collects, once that mouse is captured, the player is eliminated. Only the last mouse standing wins. Later versions change this, making the cheese the goal in and of itself, and changing the trap to steal cheese instead of having players pay cheese to activate the trap.

    Video Games 
  • Multistage Payload Race maps in Team Fortress 2 (including Pipeline and Nightfall) work this way; if a team wins both of the first two rounds, they can still lose the third round and the game. While they are given a significant edge (their bomb starts up further in the last round), whether this is worth the effort to win those first two rounds is debatable. At one point Pipeline was changed so that winning both of the first two rounds placed the winning team's cart at the checkpoint in the middle of the track, giving them a significant advantage but still allowing determined opponents to have a chance, especially given how quickly rounds of Payload Race can turn around. Then they changed it back for some reason.
  • Parodied somewhat in Mother 3, when the player has to compete in three games in order to continue. As the third game begins, the host alerts you that the third game is worth enough to win everything, but the point of the whole thing is to just barely lose all the games to stroke the ego of the villain, so this fact is irrelevant.
  • In the video game version of Scene It?, the final round is completely broken. Some versions have the final round set to where getting a wrong answer takes away points from your score, and later versions have the point multiplier, which doubles the number of points you get each time for repeatedly answering correctly (2x, 4x, 8x, etc.)
  • In Elite Beat Agents, a player receives 50, 100 or 300 points for successfully tapping "hit markers" in time with the beat of a song, with more points for a more timely hit. However, you then get a multiplier to that score that depends on the number of markers you've hit in a row, which can get up to hundreds of times the original score. So markers early in a song are mainly only good for raising your combo numbers, and the actual score only makes a difference later on. Except for one thing — on higher difficulty levels, 50s and 100s give you next to no life, so you need 300s. This has the side effect of missing a note in mid-song much, much more detrimental to your score than missing at the beginning or the end.
  • Left 4 Dead in VS mode is sort of like this. Both teams when playing as survivors gain points based on distance traveled, survivors left, health remaining, and then the map bonus multiplier. If the whole team dies, they only get distance and map bonus and the points gained for distance is very small since it only maxes out at 100 points. The map bonus multiplier starts off as x1 but can reach as high as x2 or x4 near the end. A team who has been losing for a bit can suddenly sweep victory under the other team's nose if they do exceptionally well in the end. This is assuming that the losing team is only down by a few points and not lagging badly like 3000 points behind.
    • The scoring system in VS mode heavily relied on number of survivors that made it to the safe room, how much health everyone had when they made it, and the map multiplier. This could often cause one team of very skilled players to dominate by 1000 points or more while the team that can't reach the safe room several times would never have a chance to get ahead. The sequel cuts down on this and the trope by changing the scoring where only the distance counts as the major factor of scoring and anyone that did happen to make it to the safe room would just get 25 more points per person that is alive. Tied scores in a round are dealt with by awarding the team that did the most damage as the infected in that round extra points.
  • The quiz game Buzz ends with an eliminator round: Every time you answer a question correctly, your opponents' scores tick down, and anyone whose score gets reduced to zero loses. Therefore, it's possible to catch up and win even if you were lousy in all of the other rounds.
  • A game called TV Show King Quiz Party or something along those lines, has you(r Miis) playing for money. On the final round, the 2 best players will compete against each other to in that final round. The prize money is always enough to beat the opposing team, even if they have a $700,000 lead.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • In Orzammar, the dwarven council is in a deadlock and you need to choose which dwarf you want to be king in order to get their support. You can spend the entire time supporting one of them, but whomever you choose at the final choice is the one that ends up being king. Even if you've been against them the entire time until that very moment. In that case, you explicitly only get away with it because everybody but the candidates themselves is so sick of the situation that they would have agreed to a coin flip at that point.
    • Regardless of how many votes you get at the Landsmeet, it always ends with a duel between the PC or a champion and Loghain, with the winner choosing the new king.
      • When it comes to the lore, Landsmeets are exclusively dependent on who has the better champion. Since the duels can be declared even after the voting is over with zero justification, the losing side will inevitably call for a duel if they can’t peacefully secure the throne. Ultimately, the entire ceremony is pointless because of this.
  • In Spellcasting 301, it doesn't really matter how well the Pharts do in the challenges. Whether they stomped the Yus, got stomped or ran a close competition, at the end of the final scheduled challenge, the Judge will declare that since the scores are so close (Which they might not be), there will be one last challenge, which will earn the frat to complete it enough points to guarantee a win. This is because the Judge is secretly the series Big Bad, and the whole point of the competition from his perspective is to manipulate somebody into completing this final task, which will provide him the MacGuffin he needs to enact his evil scheme.
  • In Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures: The Bogey Man, Wallace is competing against Duncan McBiscuit for chairmanship of the Prickly Thicket Country Club and is rather absurdly behind (167 to 83, according to the scoreboard). After the 16th hole, in order to humor his totally outmatched opponent, Duncan offers to ignore the stroke count and declare Wallace the winner if he can complete the course before Duncan does, meaning that despite Wallace having completed the course in twice as many strokes as his opponent, he still wins the game (mainly because Duncan couldn't find the 18th hole).
  • In Star Wars: Battlefront: Elite Squadron, there is a skirmish mode. It consists of three rounds. The first and the second have no effect on the final victory. They just provide offensive and defensive bonuses in round 3, which decides whether or not the game is won.
  • In Rampage: Through Time the usual city smashing only provide bonus points (awarded to a monster with the most destruction) for the minigame after smashing three cities in a particular timeframe. Finishing the minigame determines the true winner, and in the campaign mode, the only way to progress.
  • Played with in beatmania IIDX: On one hand, every note is worth the same maximum of 2 points to your EX Score. On the other hand, most songs tend to have a Difficulty Spike at the very end where the note density suddenly skyrockets. The clear/fail judgment is a straight example since your Life Meter must be at 80% or higher at the end of the song or else you fail, making the endings much more important.
  • In the Rampage and Knock-Out game modes of DiRT Showdown, which usually last three minutes, the last 30 seconds are worth double points. If you do well enough in these final seconds and get plenty of KOs, you can snatch a last-minute win unless you're significantly behind.
  • Earlier installments of DanceDanceRevolution would multiply the value of each step by the number of steps so far (so for example, if a Perfect on the first step is worth X, then a Perfect on the second step is worth 2X, third step 3X, and so on), making the last step worth well over a hundred times more than the first. In addition, it would calculate X to make the maximum possible score come out to a round number (which depends on the version and difficulty) but then round down X to a multiple of 10, essentially salami-slicing your score. To keep the maximum possible score at that round number, the salami-sliced points are added onto your score if you get a Perfect on the final step. For example, in MaxX Unlimited on Heavy difficulty, the first step is worth 530 points, the final jump is worth 323,300 points (530 base x 610th step), and holding that jump until the Freeze Arrow finishes is worth another 1,231,850 points (530 base x 611th step + 908,020 points salami-sliced previously). This system was finally changed in DDR SuperNOVA so that every step is worth the same and no salami-slicing occurs.
  • The Nintendo World Championships 1990 was a gauntlet of three NES games: Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. Players were given six minutes and 21 seconds to complete three objectives: get 50 coins in SMB, finish a specially-made course in Rad Racer, then use the remaining time to score as many points as possible in Tetris. The scores were added up when time expires, but the Rad Racer score is multiplied by 10, and the Tetris score was multiplied by 25. The contest therefore was determined largely by whoever got the most time saved for Tetris as well as optimal strategy for that.
    • Similarly, the 1992 Campus Challenge is a gauntlet of three SNES games: Super Mario World, F-Zero, and Pilotwings. The player must get 50 coins in SMW, finish two laps of Mute City I in F-Zero, and then use the remaining time to score as many points as possible in Pilotwings. In this case, the F-Zero score is multiplied by 100, making it worth a maximum of 340,000 points. The Pilotwings score is multiplied by 10,000. As with NWC, the Pilotwings segment makes up a vast majority of the score; each stage in Pilotwings is worth up to 100 points, which translates to up to 1,000,000 points in contest score.
    • And Nintendo Powerfest '94 follows. The medley this time is Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Mario Kart, and Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. Home Run Derby. As with the other medley contests, the scoring encouraged getting to the last game as quickly as possible and playing it as well as possible. The scoring in Ken Griffey Jr. varied depending on whether it was the regional or finals version. The regional version would give 10,000 points per home run, which along with the distance bonus, made it worth a fair bit more than the other games. The Finals version took this trope Up to Eleven, making each home run worth 1,000,000 points. For anyone but the best players, the final score basically is just the number of home runs in the (ten) millions place(s), with six other random less significant digits following.
  • The Vs. Mode Minigames of New Super Mario Bros. will give 100 stars to whoever player that wins the last round of Shuffle Mode, which mostly guarantees a win to anyone who isn't in first place (unless they are far behind).
  • WarioWare: Mega Party Game$!
    • Dribble & Spitz's "Milky Way Delirium" mode has one of these in the form of a giant robot. The player who owns the most tiles at the end of the game must "battle" this robot by playing one final microgame, and if they lose he crushes their spaceship with his hands and all of the other players win a joint victory.
    • Although it doesn't always happen, this can also occur in 9-Volt's "Card-e Cards" mode. In order to win, you need to have the most cards in your stack at the end of the game, and you earn the cards by winning the microgames shown on them. If you lose any of the microgames, however, the games you had beaten before losing, the games you had left to play, and your entire stack all go to the Pile. At the end of the game, if any cards are left in the Pile, the players play a versus microgame for it. This means it's highly likely for any given game of Card-e Cards to come down to a battle for a huge stack of cards and a highly likely victory.
  • Puzzle de Pon:
    • Some stages have hidden spots where you can shoot a bubble for an instant 1,000,000 points, in a game where a well-played stage scores about 100,000 points.
    • Puzzle Bobble awards huge scores for dropping a large number of bubbles at once, so levels where this is possible (especially a few "one-shot" levels where this is the only gameplay) are worth disproportionately more.
  • Zig-zagged in Spin-Off in Wii Party. When several x2 or x3 spaces are landed on without playing a mini-game, the bank will have an absurd amount of coins, and the player who wins the next game will usually get an incredible lead. That lead can easily be taken away in a duel mini-game though, where the challenger (who gets to choose their opponent) gets half the opponent's coins if they win. A win here will usually give the challenger a slight lead over their opponent and overall.
  • Jackbox Games have a some degree of this in general.
    • The Jackbox Party Pack has many games that are played in three rounds (Fibbage, Quiplash, etc). The second round is worth double points meaning the first round is far less important. Somewhat unusually the final round is often far less important, as it will only have a single question while the previous two rounds will have several, making the second round the most valuable overall.
    • The Triva Murder Party games feature several rounds of trivia questions and minigames where most of the players will die. However the winner of the game is decided by a final round that everyone gets to participate in, with players who did better getting moderate head starts. Someone who did not get a single trivia question right until the final round can still win.
    • The Jack Attack segments in the You Don't Know Jack games are so much more valuable than everything else it generally decides the game. Not only are they worth far more points than anything else, you can also lose enormous amounts of points by repeatedly getting lots of wrong answers, including losing points for hitting the same wrong answer more than once.
  • Mario Party. In almost all games, the last five turns tend to come with an event that activates to change things around, usually to the point the entire flow of the game is altered in about five seconds. Some of these events include:
    • Coins given or taken away by landing on Blue/Red spaces are doubled or tripled.
    • All Red Spaces become Bowser Spaces (a 30% or so chance of something bad happening to a random person every turn.)
    • 5 Star Spaces at once (Mario Party 5) — and unlike earlier games that could have multiple Star Spaces, all of them are real. If this happens, a player with a lot of coins could gain 2 or 3 Stars in a single turn, and still have enough for more Stars later.
    • Bowser Revolution, where everyone's coins/stars are taken and shared equally between all players.
    • The postgame Star giving awards, in which players get free Stars for various 'achievements' such as landing on the most happening spaces or moving the most spaces. In 5 and beyond, these bonus stars are selected totally at random. These can also take someone right from last to first (or vice versa), and right after the game's technically "finished" to boot!
    • Chance Time, present in the second and third games, has a chance of stars being swapped, potentially plunging the First Place player into last place — and vice versa. The fourth game introduced the Reversal of Fortune space instead of this, which besides the possibility of swapping stars, coins can be interchanged, both stars and coins may be swapped, or player A gives two stars to player B.
  • Finding Detective Marlowe's body in the second chapter of The Witcher automatically resolves the investigation quest arc that can be failed in oh-so-many ways if you only go by the bits of evidence you can collect otherwise.
  • An in-universe example happens in the second Robopon game. Dr. Zero's Legend 0 ranking, in his words, "transcends all ranking systems." He uses it to instantly rise to the top of the ranking and thus spend the rest of his time constructively.
  • KanColle downplays this with normal damage calculations, where the flagship gets disproportionate weighting, such that it's possible to get a C-rank (tactical defeat) despite having heavily damaged all the other enemies so long as the flagship only has light damage. Also played straight with bosses, where sinking them is the only thing that lowers the gauge, and all damage to the accompanying mooks doesn't count.
  • Somewhat ironically, Quidditch in the 2003 game Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup is nowhere near as susceptible to this as in the movies or books. In an attempt to balance the game so it didn't rely so heavily on the Golden Snitch it was seemingly overlooked that maintaining control of the field is so easy that running your score over a hundred points over your opponent is commonplace. It's also subverted with two challenges in the game; one of Germany's Team Special challenges requires you to win the game without catching the Snitch, while one of Bulgaria's requires you to lose the game while catching the Snitch.
  • Splatoon: Ranked Battles always keep track on how much each team has progressed in completing the set objective (capturing a zone for a set ammount of time, riding a tower to the enemy base, etc.), with the team that made the most progress before time runs out being the victor. However, if one team successfully completes the objective, the match ends immediately and scores the victor team a Knockout victory, giving them a huge victory bonus and the losing team nothing, regardless of how much progress the other team made.note 
  • Several Light Gun Games such as Let's Go Jungle!, Lets Go Island, Haunted Museum and Monster Eye run like this. The ending that the player gets only depends on one factor — whether you succeed or fail at the very last challenge of the game, which is also a Nintendo Hard or plain tricky one.
  • In A Way Out, the final confrontation between Vincent and Leo is decided by a button-mashing prompt as they both try to reach a nearby gun. Whoever wins here "wins" the game regardless of the preceding segments. The preceding segments do matter slightly — whoever has more health at the end has a slightly easier time button-mashing than the other player.
  • Final Fantasy IX: During the Festival of the Hunt, several characters compete to earn points by defeating the various monsters that have been released throughout Lindblum. However, whether the main character walks away with the prize or not is determined entirely by whether you take down the Zaghnol, which only appears in a certain area with a certain amount of time remaining on the clock. It's worth by far more points than any of the other monsters. Most notably, trying and failing to take this yourself is the only semi-consistent way to get Vivi to win, as Freya (who is uncontrollable outside this fight, and can be purposefully KO'd) will take it out herself and win otherwise.
  • In Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, one of the possible final rounds is "Royal Fumble" In this mode, one player has a tail, which can be stolen by other players. Whoever has the tail once time runs out is the grand champion. This makes most of the round's duration unimportant, since there is no difference between keeping the tail for most of the game and successfully fleeing from everyone else for that long compared to just grabbing it near the end.

    Web Animation 
  • Ultra Fast Pony: In "The Pet Games", eligibility for the final round of the Games is decided completely at random, rendering all the prior rounds utterly pointless. It's possible this isn't how the Games are supposed to be organized, but just the result of head judge Rainbow Dash being an idiot.
  • In one Puffin Forest video, Ben talks about a spectacularly disastrous job interview he had at a biochemistry company. Much to his shock, the company still decided to hire him, causing him to wonder if everyone else who interviewed for the job was even worse than him somehow. He later found out that they hired him because he gave the answer they were looking for to a seemingly unimportant question during the interview, which was the only thing that mattered to them.

  • DM of the Rings, like its source material, essentially ends with the entire fate of the campaign resting on one single die roll for whether or not Frodo manages to cast the ring into Mt. Doom. It should be noted that, at that point, Frodo isn't even a player character. He's an NPC.
    Gimli: You mean that after all we've been through, this campaign comes down to the roll of a single d20?
    DM: Well... With special modifiers...
    Gimli: [Eye Take]
    Legolas: Actually, that sounds intense. Roll it, man. Let's see what we get.
  • Sluggy Freelance, in the Torg Potter parodies:
    • In here, the Golden Snitch in their take on Quidditch is the Instant-Win Condition. Torg innocently picks it up to look at it during the rules explanation and wins the game for his team. Deliberately made sillier than the Trope Namer because the Bual'dib is a stationary object lying on the ground.
    • At the end of "Torg Potter and the Sorcerer's Nuts", Gandeldorf manipulates the House Cup at the last moment by giving his niece a trillion points. The comic especially lampshades how he's stealing the victory from House Wunnybun (Slytherin), and he explains this is because he can't treat them well because they're supposed to be the bad guys so they need to stay that way.
    • In this one, the final event of a competition is worth four billion points. The leader after the previous events had all of fifteen points. This is lampshaded as "Standard wizard procedure of completely unbalancing all games".

    Web Video 
  • Some Jerk with a Camera parodied this in his first installment of the mock quiz show "Is It Still There?" (involving attractions at Disney California Adventure that may or may not have survived years of frantic renovation). The first two rounds are worth ten and twenty points respectively; the final round is "worth one hundred points, rendering this entire exercise meaningless."
  • CinemaSins sometimes has bonus rounds to arbitrarily inflate a movie's score with things that aren't quite sins, such as a Verbal Tic or Stuff Blowing Up, in extreme cases going well into the billions. A bonus round for The Last Airbender counted many, many more sins for accurately portraying "air karate" than for the movie's actual flaws and errors.
  • Subverted in Groom - Martin gets every question in the quiz correct, and then it is announced that the final question will be worth ten points, so any team could still win. Martin gets the last question too.
  • Games Done Quick regularly runs a Super Mario Maker relay race, with 7 levels and one finale level. Each team gets a point if they beat one of the first 7 levels before their opponents. The points-leading team gets a 10-second head start (later increased to 20 seconds) on the final stage, and the winner of the final level takes the overall victory regardless of the points total; the races rarely end up being that close, so the points are unlikely to make any difference.

    Western Animation 
  • The Captain Planet episode "You Bet Your Planet" had aliens put on a game show between the Planeteers and Ecovillains to decide the fate of the planet. The Ecovillains won the first three rounds, but in the last, a Family Feud-style round, let the heroes get points for every correct answer they got, allowing them to quickly equal the bad guys.
  • In one episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Scooby and Shaggy are contestants on a game show that spoofs The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime. They get zero points throughout the game as the opposing team gets every answer right until passing on the final puzzle. Shaggy gives the correct solution ("pizza") and earns 30,000 points for himself and Scooby, enough to win the game.
  • Played for humor in an episode of Dave the Barbarian. After failing the first three parts of his Rite of Pillage, Dave is able to pass the rite overall because the final test is handwriting, and counts for 75% of his score. The explanation is that the Rite is sponsored by a pen company.
  • The very final race of Ōban Star-Racers is worth twice as many points as any of the prior races, giving even last placers a shot at the win.
  • The Simpsons episode "Pygmoelian" had a contest between bar owners. After two contests, they get to the Drunk Toss, which is worth 98% of the total score, "...making the previous rounds a complete waste. Oh yeah!" Sure enough, Moe wins the contest, although he could have won the other two if the judge hadn't rigged them in return for a sexual favor.
  • The PJs had this in the episode with the gumbo contest. At least the important event was actually cooking gumbo and the tasting.
  • Played straight in some episodes of Laff-A-Lympics. Usually by making the last event a "special" 50-pointer.
  • Manipulative Bastard and Jerkass Sociopath game show host Chris from Total Drama loves to pull these over on the contestants, as it always guarantees the show will be interesting. He usually gets called out for it, but the episode Up The Creek was one of the few that no one pointed out.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,:
    • In one episode, Jimmy cheats in a parent-child contest so that he and his father win the earlier rounds. Cindy discovers his ploy, neutralizes it, and then mockingly reminds Jimmy that the one remaining contest is worth the majority of the score.
    • In another episode, the children in Ms. Fowl's class take their final exam, which, according to Ms. Fowl, is worth 95% of their total grade.
  • An episode of ReBoot had Enzo playing in a sports game where only the last race counts whether or not you win. The point lead one accumulates determines how much of a lead you have for the last run.
  • The Tom Terrific story "The Big Dog Show-Off" has Mighty Manfred at first winning the contest after the other dog in the contest is unmasked to by the show's villain, Crabby Appleton. But Manfred has his prize revoked as the judge ruled that there is no category for talking dogs.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Billy Gets An 'A'", Ms. Butterbean says that the next test will comprise 99.99999999...% of the students' grades.
  • Lampshaded on The Cleveland Show: when Robert and Cleveland have a contest to determine who's cooler and Robert wins every round, the announcer, Gus, specifically says the last round will determine the winner "for a little tension." Cleveland still loses.
  • Nerds and Monsters: In "Monster and Commander", a disguised Dudley challenges Zarg for the leadership of the monsters. The challenge consists of three contests. After winning the first two, he learns that the third contest is a battle to the death, leading him to ask "What was the point of the other two contests?!".
  • Enforced in the Sonic Boom episode "Robot Employees", as Soar the Eagle explains the third and final round is "worth more points than all the other events combined. That's to create false dramatic tension. Otherwise, this competition would be over already!"
  • 2 Stupid Dogs: In "Let's Make A Right Price," all the little dog wants is to get the Consolation Price, doggie treats. When it's his turn to spin the Big Wheel, he's afraid he'll hit the $1.00 spot and win the car, so he jumps on the wheel and forces it to stop on the 5 cents space. He thinks he's got the doggie treats until host Bill Beaker says:
    You cheated. You win the car.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): In "The Games", Fisto and Spikor enter a game where they can win points by pressing the buttons on spheres hidden by the Bendari. Each one of the yellow spheres gives 100 points and the red one gives 2000 points. After He-Man takes Fisto's place, he finds the red one, turning the last yellow one into a tie-breaker.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters and the Scooby-Doo crew are in an abandoned mansion where to pass some time they play an impromptu basketball game. The Globetrotters spot the gang eight points in a ten-point game, and Shaggy scores the basket to make it 10-0. The Trotters tie it with their own brand of basketball.
  • The Owl House: Rather savagely parodied in "Wing It Like Witches". Luz and her friends seemingly win the grudgby game against Boscha, but then Boscha reveals that she caught a bug-like creature called the "Rusty Smidge", which means she wins even though the game is technically over. Luz proceeds to go on a long rant about how ridiculous a rule that is, and how it makes the whole game completely pointless.
    Luz: That just invalidates ALL of our efforts! If catching that thing is so important, why do anything else?! There is NO reason to watch ANY of the other players! THAT’S SUCH A STUPID RULE!
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: In "Plazalympics", the relay race that serves as the final event is worth five billion points, "rending all previous rounds worthless!"

  • Audiences often interpret games in this way, e.g. if a soccer player misses an open goal in the first half, it'll be forgotten, but if he misses an open goal in the last second, he'll be blamed for losing the game. Both misses were equally bad, but only the latter is seen as significant.
    • It is very easy for the audience to forget (or simply not care) that in order for the one team to lose the game on the 'last play', the other team had to be good enough to get the game to a state where this matters. ie all that happened in the game up to that point actually matters a lot more than the 'last play'
  • Two of tennis' four 'grand slam' tournaments, Wimbledon (until 1921) and the US Open (until 1911) both originally had a 'challenge' system in which the winner of the previous year's tournament automatically went straight through to the final of the current year's tournament to face a 'challenger' who had won a knockout of all the other players (and who had often worn themselves out in the process).
  • A lot of GAA tournaments are like this: seven or eight teams all play each other, but the top four go to the semi-finals anyway, rendering the opening games kinda worthless.
    • Indeed, historically, the team with the most goals won, regardless of the number of points - one imagines points are only valuable as tie-breakers...
  • A real-life example is the Major League Soccer playoff format. The first round consists of an aggregate-score two-game home and home series, meaning that teams that have worked hard all year and finished top of their division have no benefit over a lazy team that barely scraped into the playoffs, especially where 8 teams make the playoffs to begin with, in a league that at times had only 13 teams and currently is up to 20. This makes most of the season pointless.
    • Something like this happened twice in World Cups. The famous last game of the 1950 World Cup in Brazil was won by Uruguay, practically negating the hosts' two previous dominating victories over their rivals and winning the Cup for Uruguay. And in 1982, Italy advanced to the second round as the worst team of the top 12 after drawing their three first games, then went on to win their next four games, including the final match, to become World Champions.
    • Belgian soccer championship had a very convoluted play-off system that theoretically allowed a team that barely avoided relegation in the league to qualify for the Europa League.
  • If one really wants to stretch it, any sports playoffs are inherently worthy of qualifying. Possibly the only "playoffs" that couldn't be considered such was the original baseball World Series, before the LCS and interleague play was instituted. note 
    • The greater the fraction of teams involved in the playoffs, the less relevant the regular season is, even though the regular season represents many more games. The National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association are particular examples, where teams with losing records regularly qualify. Of course, if the regular-season divisional titles are themselves of value, then there are two separate competitions and it's not a Golden Snitch. European soccer, where the national titles both qualify you for the Champions' League and make you national champion is like this.
    • From 1979 to 1991, the NHL had 21 teams, 16 of whom made the playoffs. That means only the bottom quarter of the league lost their chance at a championship. In the 1987-88 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs with a record of 21 wins, 49 losses, and 10 ties. This was the worst playoff-worthy record of the period, but not by much. Thankfully, such teams were too blowful to make it very far into the playoffs. However, with the current format (top 3 teams from each division + 2 wildcard spots per conference), situations like this are, while still possible (especially if one of the top teams steamrolled their way through the regular season), far less likely.
    • The Canadian Football League playoffs allow six of the league's nine teams a shot at the championship after playing an 18-game regular season. Before Ottawa got a team back for the 2014 season, it was six of eight. Between the demise of the Ottawa Renegades in 2006 and the establishment of the Ottawa REDBLACKS, it was possible for all four teams in one of the two four-team divisions to make the playoffs if the fourth-place team in one division had a better record than the third-place team in the other (known as the crossover, the fourth-place team fills in the playoff spot of the team it replaces in the opposite division).
    • There is a slight advantage to having the second leg of a home-and-away game at home; extra time will be at home, so you could play 90 minutes away and 120 minutes at home, which helps.
    • Showing how the playoff discrepancy is high, none of the best regular seasons ever in the Big Four were champions: they were the 2007 New England Patriots (the infamous "18-1", a perfect regular season and two playoff wins that go on to fall short to the Giants in the Super Bowl), the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62 wins, 7 ties, 13 losses; fell in the conference finals to the Colorado Avalanche, who became the Wings' Arch-Enemy for a while; on the bright side, the team finally won The Stanley Cup the next season),note  the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116 wins, lost the ALCS to the Yankees), and the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (73 wins, 9 losses; managed to climb back from 1-3 in the Conference Finals only to give in a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers in the decision)note .
    • In many high school sports (usually besides football, which requires too long a recovery time to make it feasible), every team goes into the playoffs. In 2005, this allowed Ohio's Gibsonburg High School baseball team, with a regular-season 6-17 record, to win eight straight playoff games and win the Ohio state baseball championship with a losing record overall.
  • The post-season selection process in American college sports. In Collegiate American Football, poll voters give more weight to late-season results than early season-ones. In other sports, which have impartial committees to select teams for the national championship tournament, the committees freely acknowledge that they prefer teams who are playing well at the end of the regular season. Ergo, late-season games are more important than early-season ones. What makes this so bewildering is that, in the sports that matter (i.e. football and basketball), the latter half of the Regular Season is almost completely devoted to Conference Play!note  Meaning that if you're not in an Auto-Qualifier in Football or one of the Powers in Basketball, you're practically screwed unless you carry a (near- in basketball) Perfect Non-Conference record and then have to get through your Conference schedule trying to avoid a Bankrupt.
    • Worse than that, teams that have undefeated seasons can not even place in bowl games, on the single matter that their schools aren't big enough to rate television coverage against the big names schools (Notre Dame, any Pac 10) and therefore somehow don't count. Coaches themselves have been on record as saying they don't go against unnamed schools, on the fact that games with them don't count.
    • The NCAA "March Madness" Basketball tournament can act like this, because of automatic bids. A team that wins its conference tournament automatically gets entered into the big dance. Every team in a conference gets to play in its tournament. In theory, a team can lose every single regular-season game and still win the National Championship.
      Conversely, the Power Conferences (about 1/4th of the Conferences) usually take several At-Large bids per Conference, so the Conference Tournament is either an afterthought for the best teams, or a chance for one of the lesser schools to steal a bid from the lesser conferences. Inversely, the other 3/4ths are lucky to even get multiple At-Large bids between all of them, making the Conference Tournament a must win even if you're (otherwise) perfect in-conference!
    • The clearest example of this occurred in the 2011 NCAA football season. For virtually the entire season, Louisiana State was ranked #1 and Alabama was ranked #2. When they met head to head (in Tuscaloosa), LSU won and continued on to win the SEC Championship. Meanwhile, Alabama closed out the season with only the one loss, and was chosen to rematch LSU in New Orleans in the championship game, which they won in a hellacious Curb-Stomp Battle. So the final standings had Alabama as the Undisputed #1 with a 12-1 record, LSU at #2 with a 13-1 record, and the season series tied.
  • In the 1916 VFL season, due to World War I, there were only four teams competing. Consequently, every team made the Final Four, including Fitzroy, who had won only two games in the regular season. Fitzroy then managed to win all of its games in the finals and take the premiership.
  • Kim Jong Il's scoring system for basketball gives 8(!) points for scoring in the last 3 seconds. Still, that does double as both making those last few minutes really exciting, as well as giving you good reason to watch all the way to the end.
  • The NHL All-Stars skills competition has events that are worth 3-5 points each, until the Elimination Shootout- during which 12 players per side each try to score against an opponent's goalie in a penalty shot for one point, and those who score get to shoot again in the once all other players have shot. Of course, this doesn't render the previous rounds completely worthless, as even though no lead is insurmountable, you still need to score the goals in order to make up that ground, so the larger the lead, the more difficult to overcome it.
  • In many forms of racing, slipstreaming is a huge factor, to the extent that, in the most extreme circumstances, only the final section of the race can matter
    • The most glaring example would be professional cycling. On a flat stage of the Tour de France, the race will almost inevitably follow a certain pattern. A small group of nobodies attacks at the start of the stage, the peloton lets them go and conserves energy, managing the gap. As the stage draws to an end, the peloton draws closer, and eventually catches the exhausted breakaway (the breakaway is often unable to even stay with the peloton once they get overtaken.) Then the sprinters, who have done almost no work all day, attack in the last few hundred metres and win the stage. Of course, in less flat stages the breakaway can succeed, and on the toughest mountain stages, the peloton doesn't exist by the end.
    • Slipstreaming can be a huge factor in motor racing too. NASCAR has its two "restrictor plate" tracks (Daytona and Talladega), tracks so long and fast that they have to slow the cars down to race safely; the effect of this is that the cars race around in a pack of 40 cars within 5 seconds of each other, trying to get somewhere near the front for the final few laps of the race. Unsurprisingly when something goes wrong, carnage tends to ensue.
      • For a couple of years, they reduced the effect of the restrictor plates; due to bump-drafting, the races essentially became races between not single cars, but pairs of bump-drafting cars. It was very odd, and because the pair at the front was always slower than the pairs in their slipstream, it was far more entertaining than just watching a vague pack roaring around.
      • Incidentally, the Daytona 500, which is one such restrictor plate race, has the biggest prize money purse on the schedule by far; the 262,390 dollar payout for last-place in the 2015 edition (the last year for which monetary data is available) is more than some races paid out for winning them in that same year (one such race being the spring Martinsville event, which paid just over $172,000 to its winner). Some lower-end teams have in fact credited just qualifying for the race with keeping them in business for the entire season. NASCAR also once had its own equivalent to the Indy Car's triple crown prize, called the Winston Million, although in this case it involved four races (The Daytona 500, the Winston 500 at Talladega,note  the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the original Southern 500 at Darlington) and the million dollars only required three of the events in one year (not that it was any easier to win - only two drivers snagged the Million during the thirteen years it was offered in this form; in 1998 it was reformatted to a more inclusive setup that only required one win, and included the top five from the previous eventnote ).
    • Similar pack racing to this can occur at some of the fastest Indy Car ovals; but generally it is considered too dangerous for open-cockpit, open-wheeled cars to race under these conditions. These fears were realised when Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car pileup after being launched into the air, over the wall and tragically cockpit-first into the catch fence.
      • There was also the revival of the Triple Crown, which takes the three 500 mile races on the schedule (Indy, Fontana and Pocono) and not only throws a million-dollar bonus to anyone who can win them in one year, but also awards double points to all starters. The former was revived for 2013, when Pocono was returned to the schedule for the first time since 1989, and the latter was thrown in after Pocono was extended back to 500 miles for 2014 (after being reintroduced as a 400 mile race). After Fontana dropped off the schedule for the 2016 season, the Triple Crown was disbanded, with double points being shifted solely to the Indy 500 and the season finale event (Sonoma from 2016-2018, Laguna Seca starting in 2019).
    • Similar to NASCAR's restrictor plate, Champ Car used to use the "Hanford Device" in order to slow cars down on its fastest tracks. The result was some incredible slingshot-style slipstreaming duels such as this one.
    • There used to be a small number of Formula One races that could descend into slipstreaming duels. The most famous were the races at Monza before they slowed the circuit down with chicanes; particularly in 1971 where, after 300km of slipstreaming and overtaking, Peter Gethin went from 4th at the start of the final lap to win by a full 0.01 seconds.
      • Modern F1 actually has effectively an anti-slipstream: driving closely behind an opponent through corners slows you down, because of turbulent (dirty) air affecting your aerodynamics. This has often led to anticlimactic endings where a faster driver rapidly catches up to the race leader only to get stuck in their dirty air, unable to overtake them. The introduction of DRS in 2011 has only partially alleviated this.
      • In 2014, F1 experimented with doing this to the entire championship: the final race in Abu Dhabi was worth double points, in an attempt to make the championship battle last all the way until the end of the season. Everyone hated the idea, it proved unnecessary anywaynote , and it was scrapped after one season.
    • Almost all forms of car racing, and many forms of motorcycle racing too, now use safety cars, where the race is neutralised because of (say) a crash, bunching the field up. What was originally a rare event has become steadily commonplace; endurance races such as the Daytona 24 hour and the Bathurst 1000 that used to be won by margins of laps can now be won by a car length due to repeated safety cars.
    • Slipstreaming has a major effect in motorcycle racing, and even when it's not a major factor, riders can often form groups on the track because of a vaguely game-theoretic sort of thing where if one guy tries to go faster, the others do too, and everyone is more likely to crash, so they might as well not bother till the end of the race when there's less to lose and you don't have to hold on for so long.
      • Moto GP rider Valentino Rossi was famed for his tactics in one-on-one duels. He would sit comfortably behind his rival, conserving his tyres, and then launch a killer attack on the last few laps. In his prime, he hardly ever lost when he got into a race like this. Sadly, Rossi isn't quite the force he was, and there are fewer races in Moto GP like this any more, for reasons including electronic aids and Rossi's bikes not being very good any more.
  • In golf tournaments the actual number of strokes is apparently irrelevant. It's what the scorecard says. If the golfer signs a scorecard with more strokes than he actually took, that's his score and if it causes him to lose - tough! If the caddy puts down less strokes and the golfer signs for it, the golfer is disqualified. A golfer's honesty is Serious Business.
    • A more intuitive example in golf has come around with the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup structure, a way of breaking the season down into a "regular season" and four-event "playoff" schedule (three beginning in the 2018-19 season). Thanks to the way the points are awarded in the playoff tournaments (several times their normal value) and reset after the third playoff tournament since 2009, every winner of the FedEx Cup since its inception in 2007 had either won the final playoffs event (the Tour Championship in Atlanta), or already held the points lead entering the final event, until Justin Thomas in 2017 who overtook Jordan Spieth with a second-place finish.
      • The Tour has since chosen to play this trope straight starting with the 2018-2019 season. The 30 players who make it to the Tour Championship will now be given a stroke handicap ranging from -10 for the points leader, down to even par for the final five qualifying players. The Tour Championship and FedEx Cup champion will be the player with the lowest net score after factoring in their starting handicap. (In an unusual case of Bookends, Tiger Woods covered both aforementioned bases in 2007, but his victory at Atlanta in 2018, the final edition prior to the handicap format, was not enough to overtake Justin Rose who finished tied for fourth to steal the Cup away from Bryson DeChambeau.)
  • Who hasn't played a sports game recreationally where after a long period of forgetting to keep score, someone suggests "next point wins"?
  • The Modern Pentathlon was a sport invented for the "modern" Olympic games in 1912 and consists of events in shooting, fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping and cross-country running (it's that kind of sport). The spot is arranged so that all that matters is one's finishing time in the cross country event. The only purpose of the preliminary events is to earn points which then determine how much of a head start you get in the final race.
    • In 2009 the shooting and running were combined into a single event. Final time in the race is still all that matters, but failure to shoot accurately can add up to a 50 second delay.
  • This is a bit of a theme for combat sports
    • In Greco-roman and freestyle wrestling holding an opponent's shoulders to the mat is a win by fall, and regardless of the score (yes, Greco-Roman wrestling actually has two point systems, one for individual matches and another for dual meets), the win is awarded to the player who pinned the opponent. Furthermore, in dual meets, winning in this way is worth six points for the winning wrestler's team.
    • In [1], boxing, and [2] knocking your opponent out is an instant win, regardless of what the judges think of the fight so far.
    • MMA also allows forcing your opponent to tap out to instantly win, regardless of how badly you've been losing the fight up to that point.
    • In Chess Boxing, the player who scores a checkmate during a chess round automatically wins no matter how they've been doing in the boxing rounds. Conversely, a player who scores a Knockout or Technical Knockout in the boxing rounds wins the match no matter how they've been doing in the chess rounds. And if neither player wins at chess by the time the allotted rounds are up, the winner is determined strictly by boxing rules.
    • In Judo a throw meeting certain criteria, a pin lasting 25 seconds, or a successful strangle-hold or arm-bar will score an Ippon and instantly win the match, even if your opponent is on the cusp of victory.
  • In long track speed skating, the mass start competition pits at least 12 skaters competing at once in a 16 lap race. There are three designated sprint laps during the race, where the top finishers of each lap accrue points that count in the standings. This means that winning these laps affect a racer’s cumulative standing during the World Cup circuit, and during Olympic qualifying races can affect which racers qualify for the finals. However, the top three finishers at the end of a race get far more points than anyone who won a sprint lap but didn’t end up in the top three. As a result the mid-race laps are completely irrelevant for deciding who wins a medal in the Olympic final.
  • In the NASCAR Cup Series championship format (starting in 2014, then getting a tweak to add two new points-paying stages to each individual points race other than the Coca-Cola 600, which got three, along with "Playoff Points" note  that carry all the way to deciding who makes it to the "Championship Four" starting in 2017), winning a single race in the 26 race "regular season" almost guarantees a place in the Playoffs as typically multiple races are won by different drivers, usually ensuring there are never more than 16 different winners in a season, and as long as the driver is in the top 30 in points. In the postseason itself, winning a race in a round is an automatic pass to the next round, regardless of the driver's points standings in that round. In the final race of the year, the Championship winner has to only place ahead of the other three remaining Playoff drivers at the end of the race. It is, therefore, theoretically possible for a driver to win a single race during the first 26 to make the Playoffs but be dead last (30th) in qualifying points, then win a single race in each of the three Playoff rounds and not finish the other 6, and then, in the championship race, have the other three Playoff drivers crash out on earlier laps, getting the final victory on points without even finishing that race either.
    • There is a rules patch in that you can't just win the first race of the season and then decide that since you're already in the Playoffs, you don't need to race again until the first round of the Playoffs. Besides, the more stages and races you win, the better your "seed" in the Playoffs. Also, you can't just show up for race 26, win that and qualify for the Playoffs, either. Case in point: In 2015, Kyle Busch missed several races after suffering a broken leg in the Xfinity Series opener at Daytona. NASCAR ruled that even if he won a race when he returned, he'd have to compete in a certain number of races and accumulate a certain number of points before qualifying for the Chase (as the postseason was still known at the time). Busch came back and won several races to qualify with ease despite the restrictions. He then managed to survive all the way to the Championship Four at Homestead on points alone (no small feat), and ended up winning the Championship by 3 seconds over defending champion Kevin Harvick.

    Real Life 
  • This is pretty much Truth in Television, especially in tertiary education. Not surprisingly, this has received major complaints by students, lecturers and professors alike for "teaching to the test" in recent times. By effectively putting so much emphasis on the exam/project/assessment, you are encouraging students to focus on short-term goals by having them only study for the sake of acing it over actual learning, which effectively defeats the purpose of education as they will just generally forget everything they revised after the exams are over, turning the marks they earned into nothing more than a series of lucky moments and any achievement they earned into an unreliable indicator of their actual skills.
    • This is essentially the way British university degrees used to work, and occasionally still do. Better really revise for those final exams, because they're the only thing that counts!
    • Occasionally true for Canadian universities, too. One of the worst scenarios involved an 80% final and 20% for assignments (no midterm).
    • Universities in general tend to do this; it isn't uncommon for 50% (or more) of the entire grade to rest on a single project or exam, meaning if you screw it up, you fail.
      • The reasoning is to check if the student really understands the material, which is especially important for technical subjects like math and science. Homework, especially in upper-division courses, tend to carry <20% of the grade, because it's more useful as a self-check. Plus, unlike most of these examples, an exam is not a binary win/loss condition; an especially poor grade going into the exam means having to do better on it to pass the class.
    • Also, for Bachelor's degrees (well, at some unis, at least), your first two years don't matter at all so long as you do well enough to get into Honours, which is the only thing that counts towards the final degree.
      • Up until 2007, this was the standard in Germany. Then some dumbass had the brilliant idea to change it and suddenly the number of people failing in university shot through the roof.
    • This is still true for many schools and universities in Pakistan. It doesn't matter if you never show up for class, fail all the smaller tests, and never do your homework—so long as you did well on the exams, you passed, as said exams counted for 100% of your final grade.
    • Even in cases where the stated percentage isn't as imbalanced, many professors will adjust grades positively if the student shows improvement over time, effectively giving more weight to the later stuff.
    • In the U.S., transferring schools essentially resets your GPA. New schools usually require at least 30 hours of residency, but that still means you could have a completely mediocre first three years of college, transfer to a new school for your Senior Year, and earn your degree with a 4.0 GPA. Granted, the credits transferred would have to at least be Bs or Cs depending upon the program, but it is entirely possible to change a 2.5 (or lower) GPA from your first 3 years into a 4.0 in your 4th.
    • For a doctorate, there are usually about two choke points that actually matter: the written cumulative/qualifying exam(s) and the oral qualifying exam, though whether failing means "try again next time", "terminal masters", or "you're outta here" depends on the school. Nobody really cares about coursework grades unless you're actually failing (which, in graduate school, means Cs or lower... anyone trying for a postgraduate degree is supposed to be better than average). Theoretically the dissertation defense is a third, but it's hard to imagine anyone who's managed to make it that far failing unless their committee really has it out for them ... at most, you might be told to make some revisions (and really only even that if something the committee wasn't expecting came to light; revisions are generally suggested on a one-on-one basis before they'll even agree to convene for the defense).
    • GCSEs and A-levels have come in "finals" variants, often resulting in the uncomfortable scenario of getting high marks for a given topic but these not counting for anything, and then not being able to remember it in sufficient detail two years on. There was a period where GCSEs and A-levels were modular, with grades being based on assessments throughout the course, but this was followed by reforms in 2012 and 2013 which moved the emphasis back to final exams.
    • In Scotland, it varies depending on the subjects and level of exams, but it's not uncommon for either all or the majority of your final grade to come from the final exams. Appeals based on earlier 'prelims' (sat under exam conditions but don't affect the final grade) are possible, and because you sit exams three times, getting progressively harder, you'll quite often have something from earlier years even if you fail the later ones, but an awful lot does depend on your performance in the final exam.
    • There are also NABs for some exams - tests which are easier than the actual exam (about C-level questions for most), but which you must pass if you want to sit the final exam. For most subjects, you get a maximum of two resits (officially; you can sit papers under exam conditions which, if you fail, were 'just practice', but were the real thing if you pass - if the teacher's nice), but three fails and you've failed the course. What makes this worse is that for some subjects (maths is the one used here for examples of numbers, but it's not the only one), the NABs are based on a number of outcomes which must be passed individually, and with as few as 8 or 10 marks in some outcomes and a required percentage for each outcome to pass the NAB, you can lose 4 or 5 marks in the whole paper and still fail.
ou were the top of your class at law school but failed the BAR, you cannot practice law until you try again.
  • The legal profession has this Up to Eleven: not only does law school follow the tradition of one final exam determining your entire grade, but, past law school, grades are utterly inconsequential compared to the real test: passing the bar exam. You need to get through law school in order to be allowed to take the bar (and grades are important for the first job or two post-graduation), but ultimately it doesn't matter how stellar your grades are: if you flunk the bar, you can't practice. Conversely, if you coasted through law school with a grade just high enough to avoid getting kicked out, but pass the BAR, you can practice law.
  • Unlike Straight Pool, where the winner needs to pocket 150 balls, or Eight Ball, where the 8 can only be pocketed after several other balls have been pocketed (sinking the 8 before that point results in a loss instead of a win), in Nine Ball, only the 9 ball itself truly matters. It's entirely possible for one player to sink most or all of the other balls, yet lose the game if they a shot and the other player subsequently pockets the 9 (directly if it's the only non-cue ball left on the table, or with a combination shot if it isn't).
  • ComedySportz games are like this, especially at the high school league, in which the referee will award an arbitrary number of points to whoever wins the last game. Of course, since the entire point of CSz is the improv skills of the actletes and not who actually wins, it doesn't really matter. They lampshade this for all they are worth, acting as though who wins what decides the fate of the world, and even play the theme to Chariots of Fire at the end. The trophy is, of course, known as the Meaningless Trophy.
    • Which takes its lead from both versions of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. The American version even says "Everything's made up and the points don't matter." It's not uncommon for players to get "a billion points" (Quoth Drew Carey: "Eat my dust, Regis!") or be awarded with things other than points.
  • In backgammon, the doubling cube can be used to increase the value of a game. It's basically a "double or nothing" offer: A player offered a double can turn it down, at the cost of losing the current game.
    • Worth noting that matches normally run towards 7 points or more and the person receiving the double is the only one allowed to "redouble" his opponent in the same game. A double is usually used to force a game for 1 point, or potentially win 2 points. It takes incredible luck or a very, very poorly handled double for somebody to win in a single game if they're behind 6-0.
  • The "October Surprise" is a traditional version of this in American politics, especially presidential races. Elections are at the start of November; incidents and/or new information in the final month often render the entire race before that point moot.
    • Statistical analysis of U.S. elections have shown that the change in the unemployment rate over a President's entire four-year term is less predictive of re-election success than the change during the final year alone.
    • Because of the Electoral College System, it is entirely possible to only win 23% of the national popular vote and still win the Presidency. This assumes the narrowest possible margin (1 vote decided) in the least populous states (plus DC) until you reach 270 electoral votes (the minimum to win) and you win none of the 10 largest states. Conversely, winning by only the 11 most populous States (Again 270) under the narrowest possible margin in each state will net you 27% of the national popular vote. This only works on paper. In the former, case, the three least populous states would be D.C. note , Wyoming and Vermont, which are all three solidly for one party (Republican for Wyoming, Democrat for the rest). It's even worse on the second scenario, where the first three States on the list are California (Land of liberal logic), Texas (Land of Republican logic) and Florida (Land where logic of any sort rightfully fears to tread). In practice, the popular vote is closer and generally conforms to the electoral winner almost 90% of the time. Or, at least until Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, playing this trope dead straight. This caused some...problems.
      • It's worth noting that Trump's win was not a unique event, only the most recent one. Of the 48 elections between 1824 (when the popular vote actually started being recorded) and 2016, there have been no fewer than 19 cases where the newly elected President failed to win a majority of the popular vote, and 5 cases where they did not even achieve a plurality, the biggest margin being in 1824 when John Quincy Adams' popular vote total was over 10 percent behind that of Andrew Jackson (compared to Trump's ~2% deficit).
  • Until the 1970s, relatively few US states held presidential primaries. In the 1968 contest, for example, only 13 states did so for both parties. The vast majority of delegates who voted for the party nominee were not bound to any candidate, and so it was possible (and not uncommon) for a candidate to skip all the primaries and win the nomination at the Convention.
  • In many beauty pageants, one round (in reputable pageants it's generally the interview round, but it can also be the talent round - one imagines that in less reputable pageants it may be the swimsuit round) is worth a disproportionate percentage of contestants' final scores. It isn't quite as bad as the usual Golden Snitch because one contestant acing the important round doesn't prevent the other contestants from acing it too, making the competition hinge on the other rounds; but if one contestant does much better than the others she can win despite doing worse in all the other rounds, and if a contestant bombs in the important round, it doesn't matter if she aced all the others.
  • In U.S. medical schools, grades in the preclinical years (if the school even uses a grading scheme at all) are worth significantly less than clinical year grades and USMLE national exam scores when applying for residency slots after graduation.


Video Example(s):


The Rusty Smidge

Grabbing the Rusty Smidge, a golden beetle, instantly wins the game. Luz lampshades that it renders every other facet of the game pointless.

How well does it match the trope?

4.65 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / GoldenSnitch

Media sources:

Main / GoldenSnitch