Someone is about to kill a person, and someone else leaps in and does it instead, usually to get the credit and/or reward. This is a common way to establish a rivalry in stories about killers. Stealing a kill is a sure way to piss these characters off. Heck, Body Count Competitions often encourage this.
Happens with players in Tabletop Games (especially with The Munchkin) or online games (especially with Griefers). There is a significant difference between it happening in an FPS and an MMORPG though. In an FPS things tend to be much more fast paced and the consequences of losing a kill aren't much more than the loss of one point (and maybe a few wasted bullets) so complaining about it too much is considered quite childish. In an MMORPG things are slower paced so it's always clearer who's fighting what (so a Kill Steal is more likely to be deliberate) and a single kill usually involves more effort and grants a lot more resources (in the form of loot and XP), as a result kill stealing is a lot more of an issue. This is best summed up in the solutions to the problem:
- In an FPS you can get points for "assisting" in a kill, much like Leaked Experience in a role-playing game.
- In an MMORPG you can't attack someone else's target without their permission (or alternatively if you attack something already fighting someone else you won't get anything for it).
In general, kill stealing in video games will refer to a combat oriented online game, and the actual act is killing an almost-dead enemy whose health has been whittled down by another player. It is often seen as a dishonorable act by other players, leading to cries of "Stop Helping Me". However, there are a few cases where it is helpful, such as an MMORPG where a higher level player "trains" a lower level ally by allowing them to do this.
- Isamu does this to at least one other pilot in the opening sequence of Macross Plus. This is one of several bad habits that eventually get him re-assigned as a test pilot for Project Supernova.
- In Tiger & Bunny, superhero Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid has a regular habit of stealing other heroes' arrests (and thus their points and hero ranking) at the last minute.
- Subverted in Berserk. At first glance it looks like the Skull Knight's appearance during the final battle with Ganishka qualifies, but the dialogue reveals that his stroke was actually meant to hit Femto, who was about to fight Ganishka. It's debatable whether Femto actually planned this.
- Chloe's first appearance in Noir had her killing two targets that the main characters had accepted a contract on. In a later episode, Chloe then goes on to protect her target from a group of assassins sent by a third party to prevent this trope. At the end of the episode she tracked down their boss and killed him for the attempted offense.
- The titular character of Cross Ange is very fond of doing this, pissing off her other allies who do need the kills because their income is based on the number and type of dragons they kill. Averted, as it's suggested she does this to keep anyone else from dying like her disastrous first mission.
- In UQ Holder! Afro blames the protagonist for taking the points for his battle by intervening to save him when he looked to be in a bad position. In Touta's defense, he didn't even know that the preliminaries were going on.
- In Attack on Titan while the 104th Trainee Squad are doing an exercise, Connie leaps in to steal a kill from Jean. Subverted though, in that Sasha then goes and steals it from Connie.
- Kibaou from Sword Art Online rants on the "beaters" who, according to him, are beta testers who are more knowledgeable of the titular game than he is and steal all the rewards that should have been his. His credibility is completely thrown out the window when the La Résistance leader he worships turns out to be a false hero who formed up a team in order to exploit the system in such a way. Not to mention he later starts kill stealing himself.
- In Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online, during the second Squad Jam, Team T-S camped the entire battle, and came up after the bitter, desperate battle between Pitohui and LLENN to finish off the badly wounded survivors and win the game.
- In Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, Goku kills Freeza just as Vegeta was about to finish him off, which makes Vegeta very upset, as he assumes that Goku was trying to hog the glory. Goku wasn't: he was trying to stop Freeza from pulling a Taking You with Me and blowing up the Earth, which he already knew would catch Vegeta off-guard and he would fail to stop it. Once the situation is explained, Vegeta accepts it, but is still bugged that he didn't get to kill Freeza.
- In One-Punch Man, after Saitama defeats the Undersea King effortlessly, the civilians present start questioning the value of the other superheroes who fought the villain and were nearly killed for their efforts. In order to preserve peoples' respect for them, Saitama pretends that he did this, waiting for the other heroes to soften the Undersea King up so he could claim the last hit and the glory; it succeeds, but marks the point where the general public begins assuming that Saitama is nothing but a glory hound.
- This is what sets off the "versus" in Freddy vs. Jason, as seen in the quote. Freddy resurrects Jason and sends him to Elm Street, hoping that Jason's rampage will provide him with a fresh source of fear that'll enable him to kill people in their dreams once again. Everything goes as planned right up until Jason stabs one of Freddy's sleeping victims before he could kill her himself.
- Resident Evil
- Gimli accuses Legolas of this in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers during the fight with the warg-riding orcs.
(riderless warg charges at Gimli)
Gimli: Bring your pretty face to my axe!
(Legolas shoots the warg when it's within mere feet of Gimli)
Gimli: That one counts as mine!
- Subverted in For Your Eyes Only. Columbo demonstrates his knife-throwing skills on Kristatos (who's getting ready to demonstrate his own with a stiletto), lodging his blade in Kristatos' spine as Melina and Bond argue over whether or not it's right for her to put a crossbow bolt through the man's heart. One might think Melina would be angry at Columbo, but she seems happy enough to let it go (either because she realizes he may have saved both her and Bond's lives, or because she's just satisfied that Kristatos is dead).
- An argument brews in the beginning of The Big Hit when one assassin finishes off the target another already fatally wounded.
- Becomes an issue between the various monster-hunting companies in Monster Hunter Legion. The companies depend on the bounties for killing monsters as a big part of their revenue, and they get very upset when another company steals the kill (and hence the bounty).
- Biggles sees a fighter sneaking up on a British plane who's stalking another German aircraft. In the ensuing melee, he shoots down both German planes and is accused of this trope by the ungrateful pilot he rescued. In a Brick Joke, Biggles ends up stealing another kill from the same pilot at the end of the story.
- In a first season episode, Amanda (who is, after all, a thief) takes the head of an Immortal antagonist whom Duncan MacLeod was just about to finish off. As a result, she gets the energy from the Quickening.
- In the fourth season episode, "Something Wicked", a flashback shows Duncan challenging another Immortal, but when he arrives to face him, he finds yet another Immortal, Jim Coltec (a friend a Duncan's), has already dispatched the guy Duncan had challenged.
- Methos does this after Duncan refuses to kill a female immortal, citing "It had to be done"
- Part of the reason that Immortals in the Highlander verse insist on duels instead of ganging up is to minimize the chance of someone stealing a kill and gaining the energy from the defeated Immortal's Quickening.
- In the Masters of Horror episode "Pick Me Up", the conflict between the two serial killers revolves around this, with both fighting over the prey they both have set their sights on.
- In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson guns down HYDRA officer Daniel Whitehall in front of Skye's father, who had been plotting vengeance against Whitehall for decades. Coulson did not intend it, but Skye's father definitely views it that way.
The Doctor: What did you do!?
Coulson: ...you're welcome?
- On The 100, the Grounders capture Finn, tie him to a post, and are about to kill him via Death By A Thousand Cuts, but Clarke stabs him in the chest before they get the chance, so that at least his death will be quick. A lot of Grounders are upset they didn't get to inflict their traditional punishment on Finn, but their Commander forces them to accept it.
- On Angel Fred is about to get revenge on her former teacher who condemned her to a hell dimension, when Gunn steps in and kills him for her. Subverted in that Gunn wanted to stop her from becoming a murderer.
- A main theme of the game Cutthroat Caverns. Players represent a party of adventurers who must work together to fight and defeat various monsters...but only the player who delivers the killing blow gets points. The game's tagline: "Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you'll never win."
- In Warhammer 40,000's background:
- Mortarian grew up as the protege of an alien overlord who ruled a world of tall mountains wrapped in poisonous fumes, while a population of humans lived in the valleys below and were treated as prey. Mortarian eventually turned on his adoptive father and led the humans in reprisals against the aliens on the heights, until only one fortress remained on the highest peak, wrapped in the thickest fumes. At this point the Emperor of Mankind reached the planet to reclaim Mortarian as a Primarch, but Mortarian refused his offer of aid and stubbornly went after the last alien fortress, only to succumb to the poison. The last thing he saw before passing out was the Emperor effortlessly slaying the alien tyrant. The lingering anger over being denied the pleasure of ending him festered until it drove Mortarian to Chaos.
- This is the heart of the feud between the Space Wolves and Dark Angels chapters of Space Marines. During the Great Crusade, one world's ruler insulted the headstrong Leman Russ, but as the Space Wolves besieged the world, Russ arrived in the ruler's throneroom just in time to see Lion El'Jonson of the Dark Angels behead him. A furious Russ socked the Lion in the jaw, leading to a brawl that only ended when the Wolf King began laughing at his own stupidity... at which point El'Jonson knocked Russ unconscious and left with this Dark Angels in a huff. Even ten thousand years later, the Space Wolves and Dark Angels carry on their Primarchs' conflict, though these days at least it's resolved with nonlethal duels.
- In the campaigns, your A.I. controlled allies will complain about this if you kill the enemy they're targeting; even if you're the one who actually landed the majority of hits on it.
- This is a popular tactic in online multiplayer; Halo: Reach actually has a specific medal just for stealing an assassination by killing the person being assassinated before the animation ends. It's called Yoink! and it's used as the Swear Filter on 343 Industries' forums.
- In No More Heroes, Henry does this in a cutscene for Letz Shake, the fifth ranked assassin.
Travis: Where are your manners? That was my kill you naughty boy!
Travis: You've got to be kidding me! Would you fucking people stop stealing my kills?! ... Dammit! Irish ass. He could at least have told me more about those assassins.
- In the same game, Jeane does this as well to Dark Star, the first ranked assassin. It should be noted that the association has apparently thought of this ahead of time, however: in both cases, despite Travis not having killed his intended opponent himself (or the person who stole his kill, in Henry's case), Travis is still declared the "winner" and takes their rank.
- In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Henry (again), Shinobu, and ironically Dr. Letz Shake do this. Like the cases in the first game, the kills still count for him.
- Dr. Letz Shake kills twelve in what was supposed to be a battle royale that you missed the majority of.
- Shinobu kills two of the assassins on Travis' behalf while Travis is doing other stuff. You actually get to play as Shinobu for both the levels and the boss stages.
- After Travis rescues him from the above Dr. Letz Shake, Henry kills three, who are suggested by earlier statements in the story to be two assassins and a challenger, since the math didn't add up for three ranked assassins. None of these were actually playable, though he did have a different playable boss fight. He even leaves Travis/you a message and sends pictures just to rub it in.
Henry (answering machine message): And in case you were wondering, I took pictures of the three scangers as souvenirs. You'll just have to drool over 'em, 'cause there's no way you can play through these fights. The game's stuffed full as it is.
- In the Super Smash Bros. series, mainly Brawl, when someone gets knocked off the stage, the KO goes to the last character to land an attack on them. This means that if you're quick enough, you can get credit for the KO even if another character is the one who does them in. This is most easily accomplished by placing a Lip's Stick hit or Pikmin on the opponent before they get sent flying.
- Bayonetta's guns are also good for this, doing damage but no knockback, and capable of being fired at multiple angles simultaneously. If even one bullet tags a character in flight, she'll get the credit.
- In Star Fox, Fox's wingmen will complain if he shoots down an enemy they were taking care of.
- In The Legend of Dragoon, you fight the legendary Divine Dragon, which once dead is supposed to drop his soulgem, allowing whoever gets it to use his power. Once you finish the boss fight Lloyd appears out of nowhere, cuts the dragon's 7th eye, gets his soulgem, and takes off without you being able to do anything about it. You don't get it for yourself until you're literally in front of the final boss.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, Seifer Almasy invokes this trope during the tutorial. He orders his comrade (you) to leave him the last hit on all monsters, because this way he gets more XP. Classy.
- In Fable II, if you wait too long to kill Lucien, Reaver will shoot him instead.
- This is used to train weaker soldiers in Fire Emblem games. Have your stronger fighters weaken the enemy then have the unit you're trying to train score the finishing blow. All other things being equal, the unit that inflicted the killing blow will gain more experience than the other fighters. This combined with the fact that units gain more experience if they have a lower level than the enemy means that your weaker units can soon become bona fide powerhouses.
- In Flying Heroes, you may order your AI companion to steal kills. As it is a four-team deathmatch, the companion will take kills from the other teams rather than yourself.
- Vindictus averts this. No matter who killed the monster, everyone gets a share in the XP and loot. It does open the possibility of party leeches, but they can just be kicked from the party.
- In Phantom Brave, Bounty hunters are called "Chroma," and the man named Walnut is a "Chroma Oxide," someone who specializes in ripping off the bounty other Chroma are getting, either by this trope or by defeating the other hunters directly.
- Castile's dad, Saffron, pulls this at the end of Chapter 4, by killing off the last enemy with a fire bomb; since Marona didn't defeat the last enemy, she didn't complete the job, and therefore he doesn't have to pay her. However, he only does this because they need all their money to pay for Castile's treatments. Ironically, Marona would definitely have refused the payment anyway had he mentioned it (as she's happy enough to have befriended Castile) and is a bit sad that Saffron thinks she'd be that concerned about the money.
- Ragnarok Online allows you to configure equal XP share or damage proportional XP share for all party members. Loot is still dropped on the ground.
- Gears of War has players go into a "Down But Not Out" state when they take enough damage. In this state they can be revived by a teammate or killed by an enemy. The frequency of players killing the downs of other players is perhaps one of the major factors that led to the series' severe Complacent Gaming Syndrome regarding the shotgun, which, in addition to being just better, could blow an enemy to Ludicrous Gibs without the need of a down, and if you did get a down with it you were close enough to claim your kill quickly before anyone else could.
- MOBA games typically deliver bonus gold to the person who lands the killing blow, although anyone who's helped recently gets some. But more importantly, how many kills you get is recorded on your match statistics. Naturally, the arguments are bitter. Not helping is the extremely large amount of factors, many of which are unlikely to be discernible to someone intervening, that make the difference between someone dying and someone managing to limp back to safety with barely any health left.
- In many cases it's considered better to take a kill then risk even a small chance of an enemy getting away because you were trying not to still a kill, as one enemy escaping a death does more harm then multiple situations of the wrong member taking a kill. However, this won't stop some players complaining about kill stealing no matter what the situation sadly.
- Darius, from League of Legends, in particular seems designed for this. His ultimate is especially effective at last hitting enemy players and has its cooldown reset when it scores a kill; even though Darius is a melee fighter and susceptible to getting kited or stunlocked to death and therefore not a good basket to put all of a team's eggs into. Axe and Necrolyte in Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars have the same problem, being respectively an early game tank with no carry potential and a mage with no spell damage scaling from items; so while their ultimates can easily score tons of kills, doing so in front of other players with heroes that actually benefit from gold will probably result in a loss. Zeus however is well known in the fandom for being able to steal kills from anywhere in the map by using his ultimate Thundergod's Wrath to deal high magic damage to every enemy hero on the map. While others have global-range abilities to do such a thing with, they're all more delayed in action than Thundergod's Wrath, which is nigh-instant in execution.
- Ideally, all kills should go to the carries, while supports should try their hardest to avoid taking kills from others (in League of Legends, due to reduced gold rewards for killing players who keep dying without scoring kills, a support or splitpusher getting a kill may even end up giving the other team a bigger gold advantage over time than simply letting the enemy run!). Of course, while this is the most ideal strategy, players tend to judge each other based on kill/death ratio, especially when the team is losing and someone is bound to pin the blame on the player with the lowest score. Once the match starts going badly or someone decides to complain about bad teammates, team priorities often subtly shift to everyone trying to steal kills while not being too obvious about it, instead of working together to win the match.
- League also has neutral objectives: the Red Brambleback, Blue Sentinel, Elemental Drakes, Baron Nashor, and Elder Dragon. Because the benefit of these buffs goes to the team/player who dealt the last hit, if one team/player is fighting one of these , the enemy jungler and/or mage may go for a "miracle steal" by unloading their Smite summoner spell or full combo onto the neutral objective in question to steal it from the enemy team.
- Meanwhile Heroes of the Storm explicitly subverts this by making sure that all xp rewards are shared evenly with all team members (there is no gold so gold sharing is a non-issue). This is partially due to blizzards attempt to make a more casual-friendly game, however, this does remove allot of kill stealing complaints and general hostility that the old game's use to have.
- Ganesha as he appears in Smite has a passive to counter this. If he manages to kill an opponent and there's a nearby God, said God will get the Kill count, while Ganesha just gets an assist. The reason this is less likely to snowball is that Ganesha is a Guardian God, not meant to farm himself, but to support his allies in farming.
- A viable tactic in Dokapon Kingdom (and its portable counterpart, Dokapon Journey), where you can interrupt a fight between another player and a monster and deliver the killing blow to take all the credit for yourself.
- The World of Warcraft quest chain that has you decide between two factions in Sholazar Basin begins with a Wolvar accusing you of this when you kill a jungle cat for a completely different quest.
- There is actually an achievement in Red Dead Redemption multiplayer to allow someone to steal your kills 10 times in a gang hideout.
- You can do this in Anarchy Reigns without consequences (other than a pissed-off player). Considering it's anarchy, there's no rules to stop you from doing so either, and the game even encourages you for doing it by giving you bonus points.
- The plot of RE: Alistair is touched off when the eponymous "Alistair" killsteals a boss out from under Merui and claims the item reward she was trying to get from the fight.
- The Lord of the Rings Online, like many modern games, has a "tapping" mechanic to prevent killstealing: the first player or group to damage a mob gets the experience for killing it. It's still possible to usurp other player's efforts, though: If multiple mobs attack a player, it's quite possible for another player to tap a rare/plot-critical mob in the group before the first player gets to it.
- In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, your wingman, Solo Wing Pixy, would frequently steal your kills even if you ordered him just to cover you. Of the many wingmen in the series, Pixy is by far one of the most aggressive ones.
- Ace Combat Infinity includes a few mechanics to make this less painful, being a multiplayer-centric game - for starters, players are given points just for damaging enemies, so multiple players going for high-value, hardened targets aren't screwed out of all the ammo they used on it for no reward. There's also various bonuses for cooperating with a teammate to kill an enemy - Kill Confirmation for watching as they kill it, Assist for damaging it before they kill it, Overkill for hitting it with a missile after it's dead, and Rescue for killing it as it's attacking an ally.
- In the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you're a Dragonborn, with the power to absorb dragon souls after you slay them to both kill them permanently and keep their power for yourself. After progressing past a certain point in the expansion Dragonborn, the Arc Villain Miraak (also a Dragonborn) will teleport in and absorb the dragon's soul instead. Fortunately, you get all the stolen souls back after defeating him.
- The only way to join The Dark Brotherhood is to pose as one of their operatives and steal one of their contracts, which their leader refers as "Our kill, a kill you stole."
- Call of Duty tries to avert this by way of Assists - while whoever lands the killing shot on an enemy will be fully credited for the kill, any teammates who contributed will also gain a smaller amount of points as an assist (up to 75% of the points for a full kill if they did the most damage), assuming the target didn't heal from their damage before dying. "Kill Confirmed" mode, however, revels in this - it doesn't matter who kills the enemy, so long as someone on their team grabs the dog tags dropped by that enemy after he dies. You can even take dog tags from fallen allies, to deny the other team the chance to steal them and get credit for the kill.
- One of the few games where this is less of an issues is World of Tanks, where you get no credit or experience rewards for landing the killing blow, only for damage done. Some players actually prefer that someone else gets the kill in cases where the enemy tank has only a handful of health left. At higher tiers, the shells are prohibitively expensive, and some tanks don't carry nearly enough to last a whole match. So for them, they'd rather let someone else kill the guy, so they can save their shots for something else.
- It becomes an issue when War Gaming introduces missions requiring you to score certain amount of killsnote or when some famous enough personnote is sighted on the field. Players abilities seem take a huge hit during such events, either because of tunnelvisioning or deliberate sabotaging the team effort in order to get more kill themselves.
- Averted in Monster Hunter, where there is little benefit in delivering the last hit to or being the one to tranquilize a monster; there's no experience system, carve limits for slain monsters are localized so that everyone gets a fair chance at loot (before individual skills that boost carve limits apply) , and everyone gets the same number of rewards (except those with reward-boosting skills). After all, who cares about who delivered the finishing blow as long as everyone gives it their best shot?
- In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks during the boss battle with Goro no matter which character you control after he's defeated and you're about to deliver the killing blow Johnny Cage steps in and kicks a hole through his chest.
- Blockstorm has a unique variant where suicides can be stolen. If someone falls a long way and goes splat when they hit the ground, it counts as a suicide - unless you manage to shoot them in mid-air, at which point their splat counts as a kill for you. Similarly, people who accidentally kill themselves with their own grenades will count as kills for you if you damaged them after they tossed it - up to and including getting the achievement for making a grenade kill after death with their grenade, if you hit them and then die yourself before it goes off. The game otherwise tries to avert this as much as possible by giving points for assists to everyone who damaged an enemy, but the actual kill is counted for whoever landed the killing shot.
- The Freespace series avoids or at least downplays this, as, regardless of who gets the last shot in, kills are always awarded to the ship that did the most damage to the target.
- Most modes avoid this by tracking and ranking "eliminations" rather than kills and giving everyone who damaged a target in a period of time before they died an elimination point. Offense characters do track "final blows" but these aren't ranked or visible to anyone other than the player.
- However, kill-stealing is alive and well in the free-for-all Deathmatch arcade mode, though at least you're stealing kills from enemies rather than teammates.
- Battlerite's center orb awards health and Energy bonuses to the team that destroys it, and only the team that destroys it by landing the final blow. Rewarding players for using one powerful attack to finish off an orb that the enemy team chipped away is deliberately made to encourage this behavior.
- Not Always Working: In Her Prized Obsession, some sales associates are competing to see who can get the most rewards card sign-ups.
"I think I should get counted for this signup instead of you, because I spent so much time with her!"
- In Noob, Omega Zell weakened a member of a rival guild just to show off abilities that he had acquired since their last encounter, without killing her. Seconds later, Gaea showed up to kill said opponent and got the Experience Points from the kill.
- A Running Gag in Team Four Star's Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Xenoverse 2 Lets Plays are about how Goku always does this to their characters, Dumplin and Puddin respectively. It leads to them declaring Goku Puddin's rival, as his need to Kill Steal makes her indirectly destroy her family.
- One of the most famous property law cases, Pierson v. Post, involved Pierson shooting and killing a fox that Post was pursuing. Post sued for the value of the fox, claiming a right to it by virtue of pursuit. The court held that while kill-stealing might be rude, a person doesn't get any property right in an animal just by chasing it.