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Left to right: A blacksmith, a pirate captain, and a disgraced Naval Commander. Each seeks the chest for his own desires.

Gabe: Well, isn't the enemy of your enemy, like, your friend? Or whatever? Can't they team up?
Tycho: Not exactly. In this setting, the enemy of your enemy is still a floating, greasy, armored brain.
Gabe: Well, what about his enemy? Maybe you could be friends with him.
Tycho: No, because that guy is a mechanical horror in an undying battle shell. He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

This is any fight where there are at least three sides involved (i.e. against each other), with no prearranged alliances.

We can be talking individuals or armies, although the version with the individuals is usually more fun since the army one often degenerates fast into a free for all. Often noted by directors and fight coordinators as being very difficult to set up or film properly, although often worth it for the aforementioned fun if they manage to pull it off right.

Almost always begins as a Mexican Standoff as the various sides try to figure out who to shoot or stab or fireball first. Things get particularly fun if you have several guys with a gun in each hand, each trying to keep aim on the other two targets simultaneously. Expect a lot of sweating, twitching, and flicking eyes until the inevitable happens.


This trope calls for no prearranged alliances, because then it's not really three-sided — unless there are so many sides involved that even taking prearranged alliances into account, there are still at least three sides! However, it is fairly common that after a short amount of fighting, two of the sides will accidentally or on purpose end up ganging up on the third, often with an unspoken agreement to finish dealing with each other once the third side is out of the way. As a general rule, at the very least two of the sides will have to be in an Evil Versus Evil scenario and at the very most everyone involved.

Often enough, this alliance will be helped along when the third side assumes that all its foes are on the same side.

Alternatively, if neither side can win the battle on their own, the outcome depends entirely on whom the weakest of the three will ally themselves with, resulting in the Kingmaker Scenario.


As another alternative, a particularly devious side may manipulate the others into Let's You and Him Fight, then go after whoever is left.

In a video game, especially a First-Person Shooter, 99% of the time the three sides will consist of the player and any allies vs. enemy soldiers vs. some sort of mutants/aliens/zombies.

The trope name comes from the French phrase "Ménage à trois", which basically means a threesome. Who knows if that's connected to what this trope means.

No real relation to Super Smash Bros. Melee, although that trope appears quite prominently in that series as a whole.

Compare Gambit Pileup, which is like this trope but with gambits instead of fights. Can be a result of Colliding Criminal Conspiracies.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This becomes second nature in Baccano! due to its large cast.
    • The Grand Punk Railroad Arc has originally the Lemures vs Ladd's gang vs Jaccuzi's gang, but then Czes, Rachel and the Rail Tracer also join in the fray.
    • The Slasher Arc has Jaccuzi's Gang vs The Gandors vs Larvae vs Martillo Family
    • The Alice in Jails arc has Huey vs Nebula vs Police, in a sense.
    • 2002 Arc has The Masked Makers vs SAMPLE vs Angelo+Firo
  • Magical Girl Raising Project: The ACES arc have Puk Faction vs Osk Faction vs Princess Deluge's Team vs Ripple.
  • Multiple times in the Gundam multiverse:
    • Zeta Gundam: Titans vs. Axis Zeon vs. AEUG. The most memorable of the Free for Alls, homages of this set-up continue down to Gundam 00.
    • Gundam ZZ briefly dabbled in AEUG vs. Zeon vs. Blue Team during one episode, but that was quickly swept away once the titular mech showed up. However, at the end of the series, it does essentially become a showdown between the AEUG, Neo Zeon, and Glemmy Toto's faction of Neo Zeon.
    • Crossbone Gundam: Ghost has a confusing four-way battle erupt among the Crossbone Vanguard, the Zanscare Empire, ThouCus, and the League Militaire at one point.
    • Gundam Wing: Gundam Team vs. World Nation vs. White Fang. Though eventually, the Gundams decide to side with the World Nation, mainly because White Fang is the actual threat. Though Wufei ended up fighting Treize, the World Nation's leader, anyway.
    • Gundam X: Vultures vs. New United Nations Earth vs. Space Revolutionary Army
    • Gundam SEED: ZAFT vs. Earth Alliance vs. Orb the Three Ships Alliance
      • Subverted in Gundam SEED Destiny, in which, in the final episodes, ZAFT defeated the Earth Alliance, and after that, the Three Ships Alliance defeats ZAFT.
    • Gundam 00: At the start of the series, the main conflict would be between the three major power blocs of the Union, the HRL, and the AEU. Also known in modern times as the United States, Communist Russia and China, and the European Union, but mostly actually just small conflicts in the Middle East in countries supported but not formally belonging to any one of these and no major war.
      • After everyone gets GN Drives the first season winds up to be Celestial Being (with Aeolia Schenberg/Sumeragi Lee Noriega as "proxy") vs. Thrones (Alejandro Corner, but reallyRibbons Almark) vs. everybody else (UN Forces). It's interesting because it kind of goes back to being a Mexican Standoff considering that this season ended in a complete STALEMATE. Remember,while the Thrones and Corner himself did die, Ribbons was controlling them. It's his set-up of A-Laws that begin the second season. Celestial Being didn't get wiped out, they build new Gundams for the second season, and the regular military gets left alone, which doesn't matter as they're the weaker force that's just happy to be there.
      • In the second season, after the timeskip, and especially after the endgame really gets going, you can see that the entire season has interconnecting melees. The main story arc is essentially the continuation of the first season with Celestial Being and Regene Regetta vs. A-Laws read Fucking Ribbons and The Innovatorsvs. everyone else (Earth Federation (the "Regular" army with Smirnoff and Mannequin calling the shots, serving the Kingmaker role). However, the B story is Katharon vs. A-Laws (SPECIFICALLY. No Ribbons) vs. Celestial Being, and in that specific order because Katharon and Celestial Being were technically not allies unless A-Laws did something stupid, and even then, it was because global catastrophe would ensue otherwise.
    • A variant of this exists twice in Gundam AGE. First, we have Zalam and Euba fighting each other, with Flit fighting to stop Zalam and Euba from fighting, and later we have the Diva's crew who wants to destroy the UE, the corrupt Earth Government who wants to capture Grodek and the Diva, and the UE who just seems to be killing everyone they see mercilessly...
    • You can make the point that Flit, Asemu and Kio do this ideologically since while both Asemu and Kio disagree with Flit's kill-em-all attitude about the UE, Kio doesn't agree with Asemu. And they're family that each have their own personalized Gundam and backing army. (Literally. Diva Crew, Bisidian and Abis Team/Algreus, respectively]] for Chrissakes! If it weren't for the fact that the entire goddamn thing was an Ezelcant setup from the very start that provides some very convenient enemies who are in fact the VICTIMS they'd be at blows themselves.
    • The closest it gets to this is in the infamous Girard Sprigan arc where Asemu intrudes on a battle between the Earth Forces and Vagan in order to settle his personal score with Zeheart. The Earth Forces have him flagged as hostile and Flit tells him to get lost and not get involved in their business but when he shows he's willing to cooperate Flit relents and lets the three Gundam's team up.
    • Gundam: Reconguista in G does this all over the place; fans have counted at least six or seven different factions, each with their own objectives. Alliances are formed, fall apart, and shift on a near episode-by-episode basis, and is further confused by the antics of various double agents. The primary conflict, however, is the Earth nation of Ameria vs the also Earth-based Capitol Tower vs the space nation of Towasanga.
  • Jubei-chan 2 has this; Jiyu vs. Freesia. vs Kita. Kita was the weakest of the 3, but Jiyu and Freesia couldn't ever focus on him because of each other. That is, until the end, where he gets possessed by the spirit of his father. By then, though, the two Jubeis have made up.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Way back in the original Dragon Ball, this happened briefly in the Red Ribbon arc with Goku, Pilaf, and the Red Ribbon Army all chasing after one of the balls at the same time.
    • This appears in Dragon Ball Z early in the Freeza arc. You have three separate factions (Gohan and Krillin vs Freeza and his men vs. Vegeta) all looking for the Dragon Balls and trying to undercut each other at the same time.
    • Happens again in the middle of the Cell arc. The Z team wants to stop the Androids, who want to kill Goku and treat it like a game. Then Cell shows up and wants to eat the he can attain his perfect form and begin his own reign of terror.
  • The Musical Chairs arc of Liar Game is a three-way battle of wits between Akiyama, Yokoya, and Harimoto. Throughout the game, Yokoya and Harimoto are repeatedly making fake alliances before someone betrays the other, Akiyama's schemes often being the catalyst to the latter.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico, as a series, is a three-way running brawl between The Federation, Corrupt Corporate Executives, and an Alien Invasion. Sometimes the former two work together, sometimes they don't, and the titular Cool Ship is always stuck in the middle.
  • About two thirds of the way through Death Note, following the end of the original Light vs. L feud, two new characters are introduced: Near, replacing L as the new mind-gaming uber-sleuth, and Mello, a criminal mastermind. All three have very good reasons to eliminate the other two, although Near and Mello's relationship is a tad more confusing, and Light treats the whole thing as an extension of fighting L.
  • At the end of Outlaw Star, Gene and the crew of the Outlaw Star vs. the MacDougal Brothers and Gwen Khan vs. the Kei pirates. The C'tarl C'tarl Empire also shows up outside the Leyline but is unable to get in.
  • Naruto: Tsunade vs. Jiraiya, Shizune and Naruto vs. Orochimaru and Kabuto. Although Tsunade takes up Jiraiya and Naruto's side more or less right away, she does first poison Jiraiya.
  • One Piece:
    • Ladies and gentlemen... The Battle of Marineford. Whitebeard and his entire fleet set to attack Marine Headquarters, where the Admirals, the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and all the important Marines have gathered. Luffy had brought in the Impel Down convicts, among them Crocodile, Buggy, and Jimbei, with the former two not feeling any particular loyalty to him. Meanwhile, Hancock attacks everyone, be it Pirates or Marines, without prejudice. Luffy had a chat with Whitebeard and while they do not work against each other, they do not work together. Luffy also basically declared his hostilities towards Whitebeard even as he protected him from Crocodile, who attacked him because he defeated Crocodile in the past and Crocodile wants revenge. The remaining Seven Warlords are all practically factions in themselves. It's hard to tell just how many factions actually fight, and for whom. In the end, another faction, the Blackbeard Pirates, shows up so that Blackbeard can take Whitebeard's power and use it to destroy Marineford, and yet another faction, Shanks and his Red Hair Pirates, shows up after Blackbeard leaves to end the war by basically threatening that his fresh crew will beat down the exhausted survivors if they keep fighting. All in all, there are at least five different factions, with individuals breaking off from their group to do their own thing in the middle of all of this.
    • The Survival Game in Skypiea is a struggle between three factions; the Straw Hats, who want the gold, the Shandians, who want to reclaim their homeland, and Eneru's minions, who want to see who is worthy to go to Endless Vearth. The Ordeal of Iron features Zoro and Gan Fall vs. Wyper and the Shandians vs. Ohm and the Enforcers vs. a giant snake that swallowed Luffy, Nami, and Aisa.
    • In the Water 7 Arc, while Luffy and Franky are fighting each other over their respective grudges (Luffy has a grudge against Franky for attacking and robbing Usopp, while Franky wants revenge against Luffy for destroying his house), the Galley-La shipwrights attack Luffy because they believe he sent Robin to shoot Iceberg, and attack Franky for getting in the way, as he doesn't appreciate their taking on Luffy.
    • On Green Bit, a fight takes place between Law, Fujitora, and Doflamingo.
    • During the Dressrosa arc, the fighting eventually boils down to the Straw Hats and their allies (including the Revolutionaries) who want to take down Doflamingo, the Donquixote Pirates who want their enemies dead, the Marines who want to capture the Straw Hats and Doflamingo's crew and stop the whole mess and the confused citizens who are trying to survive by capturing people on Doflamingo's blacklist.
  • In Darker Than Black, just about every intelligence agency in the world is out for every other one's blood, which is only exacerbated by the activities of The Syndicate and PANDORA. And then Evening Primrose gets involved, making the already Gray-and-Gray Morality into an even more tangled mess. Things do not get any easier in the second season, either, where we have the CIA, MI6, Japanese special forces, bits of The Syndicate, and Madame Oreille all playing their own games with what's going on, plus messages left by Amber, making her a postmortem chessmaster.
  • Happens fairly often in Code Geass, particularly in the second season with Lelouch vs. Schneizel vs. Charles, the father of the previously mentioned two.
    • In Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally, most of the battles involving Nunnally have this, with Britannia trying to suppress the Japanese, the Japanese trying to defeat Britannia, and Nunnally trying to stop the violence.
  • In the first season of K HOMRA and Scepter 4 oppose each other, while both are trying to hunt down the protagonists Kuroh and Shiro. This comes to a head at the end of the season, when Kuroh ends up fighting both sides (particularly Red and Blue's strongest fighters, Misaki and Saruhiko).
  • In Bleach's Bount arc, Byakuya and Ichigo fight Kariya, but Byakuya doesn't seem to care if he hits Ichigo with his attacks, so it looks like this trope at times.
  • Hellsing descends into a four-way war between Millennium, Iscariot, Hellsing, and Enrico Maxwell (who conducts The Purge against all Protestants and Catholics who disagreed, including Iscariot).
  • The Synchro Dimension arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has multiple factions warring against each other. The first are the Lancers, the main characters, who came to the Synchro Dimension to rally people against the second faction, Academia. Academia has kidnapped people who are important to their plot while turning people into cards and using their souls for their grand scheme. A third faction is introduced in this arc: Jean-Michel Roget and his Security. He defected from Academia and has worked his way into a position of power in the Synchro Dimension, and fights the other two factions to keep them from getting in the way of his own power. A fourth faction exists in the city council, who Roget works under. Roget wants to overthrow them and take more power for himself, while the city council only acts to preserve their own interests. They hinder all other sides and only side with the Lancers in the end when they offer them protection from Academia and Roget.
  • In the Arcobaleno Fight arc in Reborn! (2004), there are seven teams all doing this; the number seven is kind of an ongoing thing in this manga.
  • Volume 15 of A Certain Magical Index is this. Five organizations from the dark side of Academy City made up of four people each fight it out. Add in how three of the groups have Level 5's, one group hires 5000 mercenaries and a subordinate of one of the organization's rebels, and you have one book practically made of awesome moments.
  • Battle Royale has aspects of this, both of the indirect type and the very direct type. There are several "groups" involved- Mitsuko, Kiriyama and 3 or 4 minor characters, all out actively hunting all the other students (and thus, each other), although 3-way confrontations are rare. However, there is the moment when Kyoichi confronts Shuya/Noriko, and Shogo appears, aiming at them both (although mainly at Kyoichi because he has clearly snapped. And, obviously, who could forget the Melee a Cinq/Six in the lighthouse?
  • Fairy Tail has Erza vs. Kagura vs. Minerva. While both Kagura and Erza hate Minerva for holding their mutual friend hostage, Kagura is also after Erza because Erza is in love with Jellal, whom Kagura wants dead because he murdered her brother.
  • In Princess Mononoke, the main plot revolves around three fractions in midst of a war. There is Lady Eboshi and Irontown who wants to protect Irontown and expand their mining, the spirits of the forest who want to protect their homes from Irontown's expansion and a samurai warlord who wants Irontown for its wealth. And that's not including Ashitaka who became involved to find a way to cure his curse and Jigo who plays Lady Eboshi and the forest spirits to find the Deer God.
  • In Food Wars!, the final match of the Tootsuki's 43rd Autumn Election is between Souma, Hayama and Kurokiba. It's the first time in the history of Tootsuki that a three-way final is held.
  • In the anime of Ninja Scroll: The Series, there's the Hiruko and Jubei's group vs. the Kimon vs. the Yaguya.
  • In Black Butler, at the climax of the Campania arc. When the mastermind behind the zombie dolls is revealed to be Undertaker the rogue shinigami, Ciel and Sebastian try to arrest him to answer to the Queen for his crimes, while Grell and Ronald try to bring him in to answer to their superiors how he was able to revive the dead. This conflict of interests leads to Sebastian fighting the reapers for arresting rights, at the same time both sides are trying to overpower Undertaker.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! film, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, Aigami, Yugi, and Kaiba have a 3-way conflict, with Kaiba trying to get the pieces of the Millennium Puzzle from both Aigami and Yugi, and Aigami wanting to foil Kaiba's plans and destroy Yugi, while Yugi had opposed both Kaiba and Aigami on separate occasions.
  • In Gate, teams of special forces from America, Russia, and China all collide in their efforts to capture the royals from beyond the gate. Then, in the manga and anime, demigoddess Rori the Reaper joins the battle.
  • The Testament of Sister New Devil: The Tournament Arc begins as a way to resolve a Civil War between incumbent Demon Lord Leohart and a "moderate faction" led by Rasmus that backs deuteragonist Mio Naruse's claim (she's the daughter of the previous Demon Lord; Rasmus is his elder brother). However, it quickly turns into this, as the demon realm's Council (either Cabinet or Parliament to the Demon Lord) is trying to use the conflict to increase its power so that no matter which side of the war loses, they win. Leohart wants to take them down, after securing his throne against the moderate faction. Basara, Mio, and Rasmus ultimately join forces with Leohart to defeat the Council.
  • Attack on Titan: In what will be adapted as the fourth season, the plot becomes a four-sided conflict between Eren, Zeke, the government of Paradis, and Marley. The former three all disagree on how to combat Marley, with constant betrayals and alliances between these four factions.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, the Team Rocket Trio consisting of Jessie, James, and Meowth tends to serve as a wild card in major conflicts (typically when another villainous team shows up). They usually start out as a third distinct side, but eventually team up with the side that has most of their interests in common, reserving the right to betray them and/or switch teams at any given moment.
    • Interestingly enough, it comes to the forefront most noticeably when they're fighting another Team Rocket group, Butch and Cassidy. Jessie and James hate Butch and Cassidy too much to ever work with them, but they are technically all on the same team, so usually Jessie and James will attempt to sabotage Butch and Cassidy's plans and steal the credit/spoils, while both groups are in opposition to Ash & co. and sometimes the local authorities.
  • The Overhaul arc of My Hero Academia culminates in the heroes attacking Shie Hassaikai, who have entered in an alliance with the League of Villains or so it seems; Tomura Shigaraki sent Twice and Toga to infiltrate the yakuza and then betray them to the heroes as revenge for Overhaul killing one of Shigaraki's followers and daring to speak down to the villain, and ultimately gets the last laugh when he ambushes and cripples Overhaul as he's being sent to jail by the victorious heroes.
    • The Meta Liberation Army arc culminates in a final battle with Shigaraki's League of Villains vs the titular terrorist group vs Gigantomachia (who's normally allied to the League but has been fighting them due to feeling Shigaraki is an Inadequate Inheritor to former leader All for One).
  • Steins;Gate 0 culminates in a three way battle between DURPA, Stratfor and Russia. DURPA (led by Judy Reyes) and Stratfor (led by Alexis Leskinen) want to acquire the Time Machine. While Russia want to destroy it so they remain as the only one with Time Machine technology. Add in Okabe and SERN Rounders (FB and Moeka) that aims to protect Suzuha and Mayuri who are going to use the Time Machine to go back to the past so they can complete Operation Archlight and prevent World War III.
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, The Two Criminals arc culminates in a confronation between William Moriarty, Charles Augustus Milverton, and Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock and William turn on Milverton as one without prior discussion. Once Milverton has been dealt with, Sherlock and William have a brief discussion and then both retreat for the time being.
  • Rebuild World: Taken Up to Eleven in the chaotic Inner Kuzusuhara Ruins Assault where all communications have broken down, and Akira ends up in one of these against both Katsuya and Tiol on the top of his Awesome Personnel Carrier being driven through the war zone. Akira uses the Sticky Shoes function of his Powered Armor to take cover standing off the back of it, Tiol uses his Voluntary Shapeshifting to fight from another side, and Katsuya just hangs on with one hand. The stray bullets from the three fighting make holed up hunter squads in the area think they’re being attacked and fire back, and a feral monster jumps onto the vehicle mid-battle too. So it’s a Melee a Cinq.
  • The☆Ultraman has the humans being trapped on the surface of a desert planet, with three kaiju from the past - Gokinezula, Arstron and Ghostdon - ripping each other apart with the humans caught in-between. There isn't a winner in this case, for the sudden appearance of the juggernaut kaiju, Red King, quickly forces all three duelling monsters to flee.

    Board Games 
  • Sannin shogi is a kind of chess with 3 players playing against each other. However, an alliance is automatically formed if two players gang up on the third.
  • Diplomacy features seven sides, and the only good way to get an advantage is by convincing other players to join with you in ganging up on somebody else. Since the rules are explicitly designed to allow you to lie to other players about what you are going to do in your next move, things quickly get crazy. Many players have remarked that playing Diplomacy is a good way to ruin friendships.
    • And that's just the original; many variants can have up to eleven players, but these boards tend not to be as balanced as the original, so some countries are doomed from the start unless the player is exceptionally good.
  • This is actually quite common in board games, whether the games range from simple to mind-bogglingly complex. Consider Risk and its variants, Twilight Imperium, Dirk Henn's Shogun, and dozens of other examples. Heck, even a lot of games that prohibit direct conflict, like Settlers of Catan, Monopoly, etc., allow for the same dynamic as this trope — if you excuse a broad enough definition of "conflict".

    Card Games 
  • There's a format in Magic: The Gathering, which appropriately enough is called "multiplayer chaos", which consists of at least 3 players against each other, with no predetermined alliances, and no rules saying you must adhere to alliances you make over the course of the game.
  • The card game Munchkin in all its forms lives and breathes this trope. Although it can be played with only two people, it works perfectly fine up to six with just one box set, and even beyond if you have enough expansions, all of which are a side unto their own.
  • Also by Steve Jackson, the game Illuminati isn't any fun with fewer than three players. Players can support each other's attacks and defenses, and sides will change rapidly as players approach their respective goals.
  • Poker, and its deformed brother Texas Hold 'Em.
  • Speaking of poker, the Deadlands CCG Doomtown (which uses a poker mechanic to resolve shootouts) can be played this way.

    Comic Books 
  • KnightsEnd, the third and final story arc of Batman: Knightfall, culminates in a four-way battle between the original Batman, Nightwing and Robin vs. AzBats vs. Catwoman vs. Selkirk and his goons. The focus is mainly on Bruce Wayne and Jean-Paul, though.
  • In The Punisher MAX, the first arc essentially boils down to a giant all-out war between the CIA, Cesare Family, and every other crime syndicate in New York. All of whom are trying to get their hands on Frank with the intention of either killing him or recruiting him.
  • The great big battle at the end of Lucifer is between Lucifer, allied with the angels of the Silver City, and Lilith's faction. Halfway through the battle, Christopher Rudd appears leading an army of demons and the damned combined. When his general asks who they're attacking, he responds, "Both. We attack both."
  • Also seen in The DCU's mega-crossover Amazons Attack!.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • In one issue: Sonic vs. Scourge vs. Shadow vs. Amy vs. Rosy vs. Rob 'O vs. Metal Sonic vs. Silver... with absolutely no real clear way to tell who's fighting who and when. Though it quickly turns into everyone vs. Scourge when he turns Super.
    • At issue 162-164, an all-out battle for the crown of Acorn was fought between The Freedom Fighters, Mammoth Mogul and the Destructix, and Ixis Naugus and the Arachne. Naugus joins with Mogul during the battle when he was told by him that Mogul was the founder of the Order of Ixis, turning the battle into a simple two-sided war. The battle was interrupted by Dr. Eggman, however, and he captures Mogul, Naugus, and their forces back to his capital prisons. The Freedom Fighters won, but at the cost of Sir Connery.
    • And during one of the Sonic Universe arcs, we end up with Team Rose (Amy, Cream and Cheese, and Blaze), Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge, and Omega), Team Hooligan (Nack, Bean, and Bark), and the Babylon Rogues all fighting each other over a Sol Emerald. Teams Rose and Dark briefly team up, but by the end of the story, it quickly devolves into a four-way battle.
    • A later Sonic Universe arc, Pirate Plunder Panic, briefly becomes one of these as Team Rose and the rival pirate crews of Captain Metal and Captain Whisker fight over control of the last Sol Emerald. However, Whisker's crew gets taken out pretty quickly, leaving it a normal two-way fight.
  • Spider-Man sometimes gets in between certain Anti-Heroes.
    • He stops Ghost Rider from killing the Demonic Hobgoblin, and then later tries to stop the Demogoblin from killing the depowered Hobgoblin. None of the parties like the others. Then there is the 2006 story involving all three versions of Mysterio, one of whom is (un)dead at the time.
    • Half an issue into Eddie Brock's transformation into Anti-Venom, we get a three-way fight between him, Spidey, and the then-current Venom (Scorpion). Spidey and Anti-Venom soon realize they're more or less on the same side and gang up on Mac, but not before Peter quips:
      Spider-Man: Hey, what's black and white and red all over?
  • In Throne of Atlantis, the battle is initially between the Justice League and Ocean Master's Atlantean forces. Then the Trench are freed from their watery prison and attacks both sides. When Aquaman becomes king again, he orders Atlantis to ally with the League and fight the Trench.
  • The climax of the Eppy Thatcher arc in Grendel, with the corrupt Pope's army of fanatics fighting Orion Assante's anti-corruption followers fighting Pellon Cross's horde of vampires, with Eppy acting as a lone agent of chaos and a load of drug-crazed worshippers caught in the middle.
  • In Sinestro Corps War, the battle for Earth turns into this toward the end. The Green Lantern Corps and Earth's superheroes are on one side, the Sinestro Corps are on the other, and Superboy-Prime—who was previously affiliated with the Sinestro Corps—is in the middle, fighting everyone else for the hell of it.

    Fan Works 
  • The plot of The Dark Lords of Nerima is kicked off when one lone, outcast youma tries to instigate one of these between the sailor senshi, the dark kingdom, and the Nerima crew in order to kill the sailor senshi and get back into the dark kingdom's good graces. They will accept the deaths of many youma if it means killing them. It works only too well. Ranma and Ryôga end up fighting and defeating Jedite, which is something no amount of dead teenagers can forgive.
  • HERZ: In this faq the different factions are listed. Essentially you have: HERZ fighting SEELE's attempts to set Third Impact off and other nations' programs to build their own Evas; SEELE fighting HERZ, GEIST and the UN to initiate Instrumentality; GEIST fighting SEELE and the different world nations; the UN fighting SEELE but not particularly liking HERZ; and other nations fighting HERZ and the UN and not liking SEELE but being prone to strike a bargain with them.
  • Thousand Shinji: You have four sides in war against each other: The Angels, alien monsters intending to replace humankind with their own species; Gendo and Nerv, trying to exterminate the Angels (and Gendo willing to kill everyone to see his wife again); Seele, a group of old men plotting to kill everyone to create a new god and become one with it; and Shinji and his fellow pilots, fighting to protect humankind and gunning for revenge against Gendo and Seele. The war concludes with the fourth side winning and utterly annihilating the other sides. Discussed by the three Children in chapter 5:
    Asuka: Well then we should be friends. "The enemy of my enemy" and all that.
    Rei: "And all that"? [...] You mean "dies next"?
    Asuka: No, the phrase goes "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".
    Rei: I prefer Shinji's version.
    Asuka: What have you been teaching her?
    Shinji: I think it's a more valid interpretation in my opinion.
  • Near the latter end of the Digimon fanfic Zero 2: A Revision, Demon and UmbraDevimon's armies invade the Real World at the same time and immediately start fighting each other, with the humans stuck in the middle. And then the Gravemon show up...
  • In the Danny Phantom/Teen Titans crossover fic HIVEMinded, Jump City ends up as the sight of a brawl between the HIVE, Plasmius' army of ghosts, the Guys In White, the Titans, and the local police forces. Oh, and then the Justice League sends a few members to try and help, but that doesn't work out so well.
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K has a Gambit Pileup with Shinji vs. Gendo vs. SEELE vs. Kaworu. This eventually culminates with an actual melee between NERVs EVAs and Magnos Tancred vs. Kaworu's Warborn vs. Keel Lorenz's MP EVAs, although Kaworu temporarily joins Nerv.
  • In the Naruto fic Hakumei, the heroes return to Konoha to help La Résistance rebel against Danzou... on the same day as the Sand/Sound Invasion, which occurs more or less as in canon. No one realized in advance that there was more than one conspiracy ongoing, so the eventual three-way battle is not good for anyone's plans. Sasuke said it best when they found out that Itachi and Kisame were there too.
    Sasuke: We're only missing a joint Kumo-Iwa invasion and then everyone will be represented.
  • Queen of All Oni: The fight in the shrine of the Three Shades — the J-Team goes there looking for information about the Shadowkhan, the Shadow Hand follow them so that Jade can steal a powerful Shadowkhan artifact, and the monks are duty bound to protect said artifact (one tablet of a Tome of Eldritch Lore). Of course, since the monks are all True Neutral, they interpret "protect the artifact" as "fight anyone who shows up who isn't there to join the order", so even though they and the heroes are technically on the same side, they fight both them and the Shadow Hand. And it should also be noted that this fight is a total Curb-Stomp Battle, as the monks utterly wipe the floor with the other two sides.
    • Likewise, the fight over the second tablet in the Vault of Endless Night is between the J-Team, the Shadow Hand, and the various evil creatures sealed down there. This time around, the heroes are at least aided by the local guardian (a giant feathered serpent called Nameless), who joins forces with them the moment he realizes they're not evil. The Shadow Hand still wins however, managing to grab the tablet and get away at the last minute.
    • The Final Battle starts as just the heroes vs the Shadowkhan. But then an Enemy Civil War breaks out with Jade and Tarakudo fighting each other for leadership of the Oni and their respective loyalist Generals turning on each other, all while the heroes are still fighting their forces.
  • Nobody Dies is escalating into this, with humanity (NERV) vs. the Angels vs. the Cherubim. No one's entirely sure where the newly-unveiled Grigori fit into this, and there's even another faction of Angelic beings, the Seraphim, who have taken notice of the conflict on Earth but have thus far not done anything directly. And to make things even more confusing, a few of the Angels appear to have their own agendas, which may or may not tie into the above conflict.
  • The Harry Potter fanfic The Return of the Marauders features a very elaborate three-way conflict between Harry's Marauders, Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and Manipulative Bastard Dumbledore and his Order of the Phoenix. Among other things, double agents abound.
  • A Brief History of Equestria:
    • The Lake Trot Crisis started as the Celestine Junta attacking the Hyracotherium Republic and Kingdom of Unicorns for control of said lake. Then Wind Whistler kicked off her coup, which led to the troops loyal to her attacking those loyal to Sullamander; both the Earth ponies and unicorns decided to take advantage of this to take more territory for themselves, and started attacking each other as well as the pegasi.
    • The Winter War wasn't supposed to be one of these — nominally, the Republic and Kingdom were allied against the Junta. However, only the Royal army obeyed that; the nobility's mercenary forces splintered, with only some fighting the Junta, some fighting the Republic and some fighting everyone for the sake of riches.
  • Turnabout Storm gets a courtroom version during Gilda's cross-examination when the defense, the prosecution, and the witness all start to verbally smack one another, prosecutor-witness relations be damned. Since Ace Attorney's courts run on Mundane Made Awesome, the overall treatment is not that much different from a physical version.
    Judge: A three-way tussle between the defense, prosecution, and witness! My! How exciting! Er- I mean... ORDER!
  • In The Swarm of War, the first arc has: 1)The King’s Army. 2) The Loyalist Space Marines and Duke Verin’s forces. 3) Judanus with his Chaos Marines and cultists. 4) Bugklaw with his Orks. 5) The Swarm.
  • Chapter 6 of Power Games: Wolkenritter plus one unknown vs. Alicia's weird doll monster vs. Earth natives vs. TSAB vs. Team Testarossa vs. Mariage.
  • The Rise of Darth Vulcan: The battle of the Everfree Castle is fought between Vulcan's forces, Chrysalis' changelings, and Sombra's brainwashed minions for control of said castle and the Tree of Harmony beneath it. And that's all before the Princesses and Royal Guard show up.
  • Webwork: There's one in Chapter 13, with an all-out brawl between Jade and her minions, Chang and his Samurai Khan, and an unwilling teamup between the J-Team and crime boss the Old Colonel.
  • In the Worm fanfic, Intrepid, we have the ABB going against the PRT, the E88, the Brockton Bay Brigade, Faultline's Crew, and the Undersiders in Arc 2.
  • Wonderful (Mazinja): Shortly after the Leviathan's attack the drug-dealing gang called The Merchants declare war on everybody else. In chapter 12, the battle between the local Protectorate -a super-hero organization- and three crime gangs -the ABB, the Empire 88 and The Merchants- begins.
  • Children of an Elder God: In the Final Battle, the main characters have to fight the dead Outer Gods once again. However the Eldritch Abominations hated each other as much as they hated the Children, so they tried to fight the main characters and each other simultaneously.
  • Last Child of Krypton: In this story, there’re several sides fighting each other: The Angels; SEELE; NERV; and the Justice League and their successors: Shinji, Asuka, Touji, Kaji, Misato…
  • The Last Spartan: Chapter 31 sees a four-way fight between Saren's troops, Promethean Knights, the Flood, and Master Chief's squad. When Saren reveals that the Chief has data leading to a Halo, the first three groups all team up to take the latter on. They end up curbstomped.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim quickly turns into this when Tak returns to Earth, as she's now competing with Zim to conquer the planet, and Dib is now trying to stop them both. This leads to several three-way fights over the course of the story.
  • Black Crayons: In one of the installments A Child's Innocence (a retelling of Transformers: Dark of the Moon) has a three-way fight between Optimus Prime, Megatron, and Sentinel Prime.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, the big fight in Chapter 9 starts as the Guardians, Caleb, and Jade against Daolon Wong and his Shapeshifters when the latter show up to claim an Oni mask that's in the same area as the former group's ski trip, but then Hak Foo shows up to claim the mask himself, and Quentin Ross (who had been trailing the group) steps in to try and capture Hak Foo.
    • In Chapter 22, both Jackie and Viper have Oni masks forcibly put onto their faces, and become corrupted. Viper is turned into a Card-Carrying Villain who fights the Guardians For the Evulz, while Jackie becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist who decides that the best way to keep everyone safe is to have the Mini Khan eat their shadows and put them into comas so they can't fight anymore. This leads to him attacking Viper and the Guardians, and their Shadowkhan fighting each other even while fighting the heroes.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): The Battle of Haven has six different factions with ten different goals. The White Fang under the Albain brothers just want to cause death and destruction. The White Fang under Sienna want to stop the other White Fang faction. Ozpin and Qrow simply want to escape to collect the relics. Cinder wants to kill Raven. Raven's faction wants to kill everyone. Tyrian and Sapphire want to kill Qrow. Coral wants to sleep with Qrow. The SDC and Emerald are simply trying to survive. And lastly, the members of teams RYBN and WRJP and Sun are just trying to regroup and head to the Grimmlands. The whole situation is Played for Laughs as people repeatedly attack allies (or at least non-enemies) on accident since no one can keep track of what's going on. It finally ends with Jaune summoning a Grimm dragon, which Weiss uses to threaten everyone into sitting down and shutting up. The dragon then spends the rest of the time following Weiss around like a puppy.
  • In Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness, Reimu reveals that there's a provision in the Spell Card rules for this. At least four people with no set alliances with each other need to agree to a fight, and it has to take place in open air so that there's enough room to dodge the sheer volume of danmaku that would result. One Spell Card is allowed per combatant, and the winner is the last one left standing.
  • Earth's Alien History: The Praxis War starts as a Klingon Civil War with just two sides (Azetbur's legitimate government and the rebels led by House Duras), only for the Cardassians and Breen to try and take advantage of the situation by invading Klingon space and attacking both sides. And since the rebels are too stubborn to call a truce (unlike the more pragmatic Azetbur), it stays a three-way conflict.
  • J-WITCH Season 1:
    • In "J-WITCH Meets The J-Team!", the Auction of Evil that Valmont is hosting breaks down into a brawl between all of the attendees over the stolen Heart of Kandrakar, even before the J-Team and Guardians get involved to retrieve it.
    • In "Divide and Conquer - Chaos and Hilarity", the heroes find themselves being attacked by Cedric and Daolon Wong, Valmont and Hak Foo, and the Monkey King all at once, who also start fighting each other.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic This Means War, Ginny Weasley, Cho Chang, Pansy Parkinson, and Susan Bones get into a four-way Wizard Duel, with each fighting to keep the other three from getting to Harry first and asking him out to the dance. Ginny wins, but when Harry hears about the reason behind this, he is insulted. He and Ginny had been snogging for a week by that point—did she really think he would say yes to any random girl who asked him?
  • In A Jade Dragon, the North becomes a battleground between the invading Free Folk, the Boltons and their allies, and a coalition of Stark loyalists and Valemen led by Sansa.

    Films — Animation 
  • Princess Mononoke: No less than eight distinct factions, what with San and the Wolves, Ashitaka, Eboshi and Irontown, Jigo and his hunters, the Boars, the Apes, the Deer God, and Asano's samurai. All at cross-purposes. Of course, they aren't all actively trying to kill every other faction, but the resulting tangle is pretty impressive.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is largely a three-way conflict between Batman, the Phantasm, and Joker, as demonstrated by this nifty color guide. By the time they're all gathered in the same place, though, Enemy Mine has come into effect.
  • Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai, which has the original Japanese title of Dialga vs. Palkia vs. Darkrai. Basically, Dialga and Palkia are having a territorial feud (the reason for which wasn't revealed until two movies later), a battle which they incidentally bring to the town of Los Alamos, Darkrai's home. Darkrai has to protect the town from the two Olympus Mons' rampage, making him the hero of the movie.
  • Tekken: Blood Vengeance has a really impressive brawl between Heihachi Mishima, Kazuya Mishima, and Jin Kazama.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: All of the movies have some point or another where this sort of thing happens. It's almost always Pirates vs. other Pirates vs. Country (Spain or Britain). Or all of them against Jack Sparrow, because he's just so likable.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: The crew of the Black Pearl vs James Norrington and the British vs Will Turner and Sparrow. Until Sparrow starts betraying everyone, and it seems to all almost work out in the end. Turner betrays Norrington to make sure it does.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Will Turner vs. Jack Sparrow vs. James Norrington, with Elizabeth standing disgusted on the sidelines. Notably, does not feature two of the sides joining temporarily. Unless you count Will and Norrington both attacking Jack and ducking out of each other's way, but that doesn't last long. There are also Davy Jones' crews who have come to recover the titular chest while the three is busy fighting, and it's up to Elizabeth to team up with Pintel and Ragetti to keep it out of their hands.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
      • At the beginning we have: Barbossa's pirates vs. British Redcoats vs. Sao Feng's pirates), but the two illegal factions quickly postpone their differences for a later date.
      • Later on, after Davy Jones breaks free of Lord Beckett, this leads to the Jack's Black Pearl crew vs. Davy Jones' Flying Dutchman crew, and Beckett's British Navy forces.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Blackbeard's crew vs. Barbossa's crew vs. the Spanish for control of the Fountain of Youth, with Jack caught in the middle.
  • The original Dawn of the Dead has a climactic 3-way fight between Peter, the zombies, and the bikers invading the mall.
  • Face/Off features a six-way Mexican Standoff in this manner.
  • A very short but awesome fight happens between Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, and Jackie Chan in Dragons Forever.
  • The famous climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a Mexican Standoff between the three eponymous leads, well-known enough that almost half of it is in the theatrical trailer, although it stops short of showing the outcome. Although a picture of the scene would make a good trope-picture, it turns out to have a minor subversion since The Good had unloaded The Ugly's revolver, so he knew there was only one threat on the field. But since the viewers and the other two combatants didn't know, the delightful tension before the battle was still there.
  • Parodied in the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, when a brawl between rival news broadcast teams escalates to ridiculous levels as all the other stations in San Diego show up one by one.
    • This is parodied further in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, where Burgundy and his friends tangle against their cable network rivals, the BBC, sportscasters, apologetic Canadian newscasters, the crews of music, entertainment and history networks, Stonewall Jackson, a Minotaur and retired news anchor/werewolf Mack Tannen.
  • Parodied in The Blues Brothers, where the Chicago Police and the Illinois Nazis hate each other as much as they hate Jake and Elwood.
  • The wuxia Duel For Gold climaxes its first act with an extensive sword duel between the thieving Yu sisters, Security chief Master Teng, and legendary bandit Teng.
  • The Matrix:
    • In The Matrix Reloaded, Morpheus and Trinity vs. the Merovingian's twin wraiths vs. two Agents, during the highway chase involving the Keymaker. One of the twins even helps Morpheus aim at an Agent when he interrupts their own Gun Struggle.
    • In the sequels overall, it was the humans vs. the Machines vs. Smith and his clones. By the end of the last movie, Smith is a sufficient threat to unite the other two against him, leading to a ceasefire.
  • Millionaires' Express is a 1986 Hong Kong movie that appears to juggle a complex set of storylines... until the final 25 minutes or so, when the movie erupted into an all-out anarchic brawl spanning an entire town and involving some of the biggest names in Hong Kong movie ass-kicking at the time: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Hwang Jang Lee, Cynthia Rothrock, Yukari Oshima, Corey Yuen, Dick Wei, Richard Norton, Lam Ching-ying, and Yasuaki Kurata among them.
  • The film adaptation of Hitman. Agent 47 and three other assassins are at an impasse. However, rather than the usual resolution, they drop their guns, pull out swords, and deal with each other in that manner instead. Of course, it's not entirely clear why the other assassins go at each other since they're on the same side. Presumably, the guy who takes out 47 gets the bounty on his head.
  • District 9 has one around the climax. Wikus and his Mini-Mecha versus the MNU Mercenaries versus the Nigerian Gangsters.
  • The fight on the baseball field between Jason, Duncan and Charlie in Mystery Team.
  • The Dark Knight:
    • During the climax, Batman has to take on the Joker, along with his goons and dogs, while simultaneously incapacitating S.W.A.T. officers who have been fooled by a Disguised Hostage Gambit. Saying the S.W.A.T. officers don't cause much of a problem would be an understatement, however.
    • Earlier in the film, the Joker sets one of these up between three goons, forcing them into working for him, but claiming that only one spot is open and holding "try-outs". He leaves a broken pool cue in front of them and leaves, telling them to "Make it fast."
  • Killer Elite. The hitman protagonist Danny is tied to a chair by his antagonist, ex-SAS man Logan for interrogation and killing. A third party then enters and takes Danny prisoner, binding his hands behind his back. This leads to a three-way fight involving two bound badasses trying to kill their captor and each other at the same time.
  • 2 Guns: The climactic shootout is between the two heroes and the entire Big Bad Ensemble, who spend as much time shooting each other.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • This is how four of the five team members meet in Guardians of the Galaxy. Quill has stolen an item of immense value and has a bounty on his head; Gamora wants the item and Rocket and Groot want the bounty. Gamora and Quill get into a battle in the middle of a busy street, with mildly interested onlookers watching. Just as she's about to deal the killing blow, Rocket and Groot come out of the woodworks and the fight becomes one of these, with Quill trying to escape and the others trying to take each other out of commission without losing Quill in the process. Then they all get arrested.
    • The finale of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 features this, with the Guardians battling the main villain Ego before being interrupted by the Sovereigns and having to fight them as well.
    • A brief example in Avengers: Age of Ultron with the Avengers (minus Hulk) vs. Ultron, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver vs. Klaw's gang.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp: The climax involves three factions entangled in an extended Chase Scene, battling each other for possession of the miniaturized Pym Lab and the technology inside it: The heroes, Sonny Burch and his men, and Ghost. The FBI also gets involved outside of the chase, trying to arrest Hank and Hope and bust Scott for breaking house arrest.
    • Eternals: Kro's attack in the final battle leads to this: Ikaris is fighting to stop the other Eternals from their plan, Kro wants to kill them all to avenge his fellow Deviants, and the Eternals fight Kro in both self-defense and to stop him from absorbing Ikaris' powers.
  • Freaks of Nature features a town where humans, zombies, and vampires leave at peace with each other until aliens arrive. Immediately, humans and vampires accuse the other of bringing the aliens to get rid of them and zombies riot because they haven't received their brains yet. This results in a town-wide fight between all three populations, who are then all attacked by the aliens.
  • Godfathers of Hong Kong climaxes with two opposing triad factions slicing and dicing each other into bits, while the Hong Kong riot police tries to break up the battle by beating the snot out of everyone present.
  • The final shootout in Lethal Weapon 4 is between the LAPD, The Triads and the Tongs, and the Chinese military.
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout: The battle at the London safehouse splits into a conflict with at least five sides. Ethan and his team are trying to capture Solomon Lane and Walker non-lethally, Lane is just trying to escape, Ilsa is trying to kill Lane, Walker and his men are trying to kill everyone else, and Erica Sloane wants her men to capture everyone for questioning.
  • Money Talks: The climax features a shootout at a baseball stadium with four factions: the two heroes and a couple of Gangbanger friends of Franklin, the Inspector Javert cops, the French thieves and their mercenaries, and several Mafia goons who Franklin offered a cut of the diamonds in exchange for muscle, but who are planning to betray and kill him.
  • Swordsman: The East is Red ends with a lengthy naval battle between the film's constantly-feuding parties: the Portuegese conquistadores, Japanese Man-O-War, and the Ming Navy. With Asia the Invincible the Anti-Hero protagonist manipulating the three behind the scenes.
  • The Hong Kong heist film Three Against the World concerns three parties constantly trying to outsmart each other to gain possession of a priceless Quran. So basically, Melee A Trois the movie.
  • The climax of The Warrior's Way ends with a fierce battle between Yang and the townspeople, the Colonel's army, and the Sad Flutes.
  • The climax of the martial arts movie Vengeance ends with the protagonist, the corrupt millitary general and his lieutenants, and the triads slashing each other to deaths. With NO survivors by the end of the fight.
  • Star Wars: In Rogue One, during the ambush of a kyber crystals convoy on Jedha City, Saw Guererra's partisans attack Imperial soldiers. Jyn and Cassian gets caught in the crossfire; they mostly fight stormtroopers to get out of the danger zone, but at one point Cassian shoots a partisan that is about to throw a grenade in Jyn's direction, and the explosion kills several other partisans. Unsurprisingly, when the duo is caught by them at a later time, the partisans aren't happy with him.

  • Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire The final battle at Xizor's skyhook has the Empire vs. the Rebels vs. Black Sun.
  • In one of the Discworld books, a good Dwarf brawl is described as having "100 participants, and 150 alliances."
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain: A series staple.
      • In For the Emperor, Gravalax is the site of a mini-Space Cold War between the Imperium and the Tau, but relations are somewhat amicable because neither side actually considers the planet to be worth getting into a shooting war over. Then the planet falls into a civil war between PDF factions, directed at the top by genestealers, and the Tau join the Imperial Guard in an Enemy Mine.
      • Caves of Ice is initially between the Imperial Guard and the Orks. Then a necron tomb awakens and lays into both of them.
      • In The Traitor's Hand, the fight against the Chaos forces is greatly simplified by the fact that two separate Chaos factions are on the planet. At the end, Cain follows Chaos Space Marines to a ritual they are trying to disrupt; the Marines clear their path.
      • In Cain's Last Stand, the main conflict is between the Perlian PDF with Cain as de facto leader and a Chaos invasion under the aegis of the 13th Black Crusade. Then the necrons get involved and wipe out a considerable amount of the Chaos forces on the way to their objective.
      • Invoked in The Emperor's Finest. While working with the Space Marines, Cain ends up trapped on a genestealer-infested space hulk. He tricks another group of stowaways, an Ork WAAAGH!, into fighting the genestealers for him, reducing it to a mop-up job for the Space Marines.
      • In The Last Ditch it's Imperial Guard, orks, and tyranids.
      • In Choose Your Enemies, the Valhallan 597th intervenes to deal with eldar raiders only to collide with Amberly Vail's investigation of a Chaos cult. The eldar battle the Imperials in the background for most of the book but save Cain from an assassination attempt and then help defeat the cultists, since they're Slaaneshi.
    • In Dan Abnett's Ravenor, there are the forces trying to summon a daemon, the forces trying to exploit Enucia, an evil language, and then the Inquisitor Ravenor and his retinue. When the daemon-summoners try to assassinate one of the language forces, Ravenor watches it psychically, making the target assume he had been behind the plot.
    • In James Swallow's Blood Angels: Deus Sanguinius, a battle between the Blood Angels still loyal to the God-Emperor and those who have thrown in with Arkio is complicated when Word Bearers Chaos Space Marines join in.
    • Gaunt's Ghosts: First and Only by Dan Abnett has an Inter Service Rivalry between the Tanith First and a Jantian regiment flare into violence in the middle of an invasion of a Chaos-held world. Gaunt comes out on top because he'd befriended the Vitrian Dragoons also assigned to the assault.
  • In the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain, there's a board game called Intrigue which is considered best played with three players in a Mêlée à Trois type game.
  • C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station features a war between Earth and the rebel Union that becomes three-sided when the Stations and Merchanters, caught in the middle, form an Alliance so as not to be sold out in a peace treaty between the other two.
  • The Hobbit has the Battle of Five Armies: Elves and Lakemen vs. Dwarves vs. More Dwarves vs. Orcs and Wargs. Gandalf intervenes to get the dwarves to ally with the elves and men right at the outset, however. Other semi-independent factions that join the goodies later on include the Eagles and Beorn.
  • The central plot conflict of Atlas Shrugged has three sides: the strikers, the scabs and the looters.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire features a great number of factions fighting each other, each with their own point of view justifying their actions. This is most overt in the War of the Five Kings, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Even after that war grinds down, new factions rise up or splinter away.
    • While there were technically five kings in total, only four were active at any one time for Renly was slain before Balon Greyjoy crowned himself.
  • Any Matthew Reilly book will probably have at least one of these. Most of the battles in Scarecrow turned into these, with the heroes repeatedly fighting 3 different mercenary armies, as well as whoever they were trying to fight in the first place.
  • At the end of War of the Spider Queen between Halisstra, Quenthel, and Danifae.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has the Death Eaters versus the Ministry of Magic versus the Order of the Phoenix. No group likes any of the others very much. Later, the first two groups become one and the same.
    • Dumbledore's backstory involves one with him, his brother Aberforth, and his partner Gellert Grindelwald. His sister Ariana is killed in the crossfire.
  • In A Practical Guide to Evil there is the "Five-Way-Melee", a war- game at the war college of the Dread Empire of Praes. Catherine, the protagonist and her company of cadets, face four other companies. Nearly all the companies go in with one or more pre-made alliances, and nearly all of these alliance get broken along the way and new alliances form until there are only two companies left in the field.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms has the Shu, Wei and Wu kingdoms all fighting to unite and be The One Ruler of China. It lasted for a dynasty.
  • Redwall:
    • At the end of the book Pearls of Lutra, it's Martin II, Grath, and the other heroes vs. Emperor Ublaz and his monitor lizards vs. Rasconza and his corsairs.
    • In Triss, it's the good guys vs. Princess Kurda and her vermin vs. three giant adders.
  • 1984 had Oceania, a totalitarian empire consisting of all of the Western Hemisphere plus Great Britain and the southern half of Africa, fighting Eurasia, essentially Soviet Russia and Continental Europe, fighting Eastasia, a cultist union of China, Japan, Korea, and Northern India. They usually united against each other but also betrayed each other just as easily. Of course, they are almost indistinguishable apart from location and language.
  • In the Conan the Barbarian novella The Flame Knife, what starts out as Conan and a handful of Zuagirs besieged by Yezmites winds up as a pitched battle of Yezmites vs. Kushafis and Zuagirs, then a massive engagement of Yezmites, Kushafis and Zuagirs vs. the Iranistani army, and finally a route of Yezmites, Kushafis, Zuagirs and Iranistanis as they flee the city and a horde of ghouls eager to devour all four human forces.
  • The Battle of Artaleirh in Rihannsu: The Empty Chair by Diane Duane begins with Romulan rebels, with the aid of the USS Enterprise and the renegade Romulan cruiser ChR Bloodwing, fighting a pacification force sent by the Star Empire's government. Then the Klingons show up hoping to take out the winner and get the system cheap; they finish off the Imperial ships in passing and then start on the Free Rihannsu. Fortunately, that's when Tyrava Ship-Clan turns up as The Cavalry for the Free Rihannsu.
  • The "Truel", a piece of math folklore usually credited to Martin Gardners "Mathematical Games" column in the "Scientific American". Description here
  • The second book of The Silent War has the heroines, empowered demon hunters, getting into an extended fight with the Brotherhood of the Pit, an old secret society of dark sorcerers, AND the Night Hand, a cult devoted to the Death Lords, and with a bad history with the Brotherhood.
  • The second book of The Witchlands has two of those:
    • Safi, Vaness and their group are making their way out of the arena where slaves and slaveowners are battling, with both sides attacking them because they think they're the enemy.
    • Iseult and Aeduen fight two gangs of pirates who want to get to them and who recently turned on each other as well.
  • In Mister Midshipman Easy — a sea story set in the Napoleonic wars, by Captain Marryat, first printed 1836 — the eponymous hero, Midshipman Easy, newly joined to the frigate Harpy, quarrels with two of the warrant officers, and insists on fighting them on the same day. The officer charged with arranging the duel, fancying himself a mathematician, places the three men at the points of a triangle, with instructions that each is to fire at one opponent and receive the fire from another. Easy realizes his advantage at once.
  • While the party in Below is battling a force of goblins, a tiny but agile squad of gremlins appears behind the party and attacks both. The goblins and gremlins have been at war, so it's not even clear which group the goblins were trying to find in the first place. The gremlins would have been better off engaging only the goblins, but despite their intelligence, they take typical "greenskin" concepts of friend and foe to the simplistic extreme.
  • The first book in the X-Men/Avengers trilogy Gamma Quest concludes with a three-way brawl at Niagara Falls. The Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man and the Vision) and the X-Men (Cyclops, Beast and Storm) try to make contact with Bruce Banner to ask for his expertise in gamma radiation after gamma-based technology is involved in the abduction of the Scarlet Witch and Rogue, only to end up fighting after Banner's transformation is provoked by the Canadian army. With neither team aware of the other's missing members (and fake X-Men having recently attacked a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier), the fight features such developments as the Hulk tearing Vision's arm off, Storm disabling Iron Man's armour, and Cyclops and Captain America basically stalemating as their optic blasts and shield parry each other, until Beast manages to calm the Hulk down long enough to explain the situation.
  • StarCraft novels:
    • Discussed in Liberty's Crusade. Arcturus Mengsk is a talented chessplayer but dislikes comparing it to war. Among other thingsnote , there's never a side of green pieces that suddenly appears mid-match and attacks both sides (referring by implication to the zerg and protoss attacking in the middle of his guerrilla war with the Confederacy).
    • The novel Shadow of the Xel'Naga ends up with a three-way fight over a Xel'Naga temple between the Dominion's Alpha Squadron under General Duke, Kerrigan's new Kukulkan Brood, and a protoss battle group. Nobody wins: after taking serious casualties Duke orders the temple nuked. The warhead wakes up a baby Energy Being inside that eats the protoss and zerg and blasts the rest of Duke's warships out of his way as it leaves the planet.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Ellimist Chronicles has Ellimist, now a Living Ship, arrive in a star system where two non-FTL-capable species are fighting a war. When he reveals himself to them, one side immediately attacks him and the other takes it as an opportunity for a flanking attack. Ellimist, a Higher-Tech Species, nonlethally disables both groups of ships and attempts to mediate a truce.
    • The three-way conflict between Visser Threenote , Visser Onenote , and the Animorphs lasts most of the series, reaching a climax in the Interquel novel VISSER. Both Vissers want to conquer Earth for the Yeerk Empire, but Visser Three (who's actually in charge of carrying it out) favors open warfare, while Visser One pushes for a secret invasion so her children don't get killed in the crossfire. The Animorphs play both of them off each other, especially Marco (whose mom is Visser One's host), and it gets to the point that Visser One (who knows the Animorphs are human but kept that to herself since keeping it secret would discredit Visser Three)calls Marco for help during her trial in VISSER.
    • The endgame of the series also turns into this. The former Visser Three (now Visser One after Edriss's death) has moved to open warfare after discovering the Animorphs are human and forcing them into hiding. Tom's Yeerk, once he gets the morphing cube, is nominally loyal to the Empire but secretly starts assembling his own faction of morph-capable Controllers. In the penultimate book, he approaches the Animorphs with a deal: the codes to get into the Pool Ship, in exchange for letting him and 100 of his faction escape in the Blade Ship. Of course, Jake correctly guesses that he has no intention of letting them live and plans to destroy the Pool Ship with both them and the Visser on it. The Taxxon Resistance, seeing the potential of morphing, make their own deal with the Animorphs to fight with themnote  in exchange for all being allowed to morph anacondas to escape their Horror Hunger once the war is over.
      • And then the Andalite military '''finally''' shows up, after letting the Animorphs fight all on their own for three years, once the Animorphs have Esplin in custody. It's only thanks to that victory, the cultural experience and military cred of Ax and the newly-freed Alloran, and Jake's political savvy, that they prevent them from razing the Earth and win the right to make their own terms of surrender for the Yeerks.
  • Aeon 14: The Orion War. The two primary combatants are the Scipio Alliancenote  and the Orion Freedom Alliance.note  The third side is the ascended AIs of the galactic core, who have been playing Let's You and Him Fight with all of humanity for millennia.
  • Fed Up by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant features a fight at a wedding reception over a video camera which contains footage of the wedding and incriminating evidence between a camera operator, a producer, and the bride's best friend.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Warrior of the Lost World features a big fight meet between the various rag-tag gangs who eventually team up to overthrow the evil Empire.
  • Sheridan's forces in Babylon 5 engineer one of these against the Vorlon and Shadow fleets.
  • Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O'Brien staged one of these over who was ultimately responsible for Mike Huckabee's political showing. This one did start with an alliance, between Stewart and Colbert, but that was quickly abandoned because the true Mêlée à Trois is funnier. The Colbert Nation provides an alternate name for this one: menage a awesome. (Let the record also show that the whole thing was concocted as a way to "waste time on all three of our shows" during the writers' strike.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In one episode, a fight breaks out between Buffy vs. a cowboy vampire vs. a horde of innocent bystanders under mind control by a demon. Buffy and the vampire don't actually team up, but they do take a break from fighting each other to focus on the bystanders. A person just tuning in might think they were on the same side.
  • This is very much a thing of the Heisei (post-2000) series of Kamen Rider starting from Kamen Rider Ryuki as mentioned below. Multiple riders make for some very complicated conflicts sometimes. Considering that every rider in Ryuki and its US counterpart Kamen Rider Dragon Knight has their own motivation and goal, this is bound to happen. It's even the whole point of Ryuki in nutshell.
  • Lost was, for its first three seasons, a conflict between the Oceanic flight 815 crash survivors and the mysterious Others. However, the survivors essentially wiped out the Others in the season 3 finale, just as the third combatant, a freighter with a mercenary team sent to kill everyone on the island, arrived. Both the survivors and the Others had separate conflicts with the freighter, though by the end of season 4 the survivors and Others had teamed up and successfully repelled the freighter.
  • The Tonight Show: The Great Late Night Debate of 2009-2010.
  • Stargate Atlantis developed a three-cornered fight between the Atlantis team, the Wraith, and the Asuran Replicators. Although there was never a three-way battle; the closest is when Atlantis pulled an Enemy Mine with the Wraith to take out the Replicators.
  • Has happened more than once in the various Super Sentai and Power Rangers series. It's a sort of tradition to have The Dragon interrupt a Monster of the Week about to win so he can beat the Ranger(s) himself. Whether this results in a Mêlée à Trois or not varies from series to series.
  • Person of Interest:
    • The first season finale "Firewall" features this for its second half. Reese is trying to save psychologist Caroline Turing with Carter and Fusco as backup, Dirty Cop organization HR is trying to kill her because a hit was put out on her, and there's an FBI task force trying to kill Reese because they think he's a gun for hire. It turns out that two of those three parties are being played by Turing, who is actually the cyberterrorist Root: she put the hit out on herself, HR tried to cash in, and the entire point of the scheme was to draw out Reese and Finch in a chance to get in touch with the Machine because Root knew that Reese and Finch would not hesitate to help a seemingly helpless woman.
    • "Aletheia" has Team Machine end up in one against Northern Lights, the shadowy government agency that gets the Machine numbers relevant to national security, and Vigilance, Western Terrorists opposed to government surveillance. The actual fight ends up with Northern Lights effortlessly defeating Vigilance and Team Machine disappearing. In the end Decima Technologies is the real winner, having already achieved the prize, the alternative to the machine.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine develops one in the lead-up to the Dominion War. The Klingons launch an invasion of a newly democratic Cardassian Union.note  The Federation tells their erstwhile allies to knock it off, to which the Klingons respond by breaking off the alliance and then attacking the Federation when they provide protection to the Cardassian government. The real winner in this is the Dominion, which hasn't gone to open war yet but is working in the shadows to play the Klingons, Federation, and Cardassians off against each other to pave the way for their invasion. All they had to do was plant the suggestion and then let the Klingons be Klingons.
  • Z Nation: "White Light" consists primarily of a battle between the main group, a group of bounty hunters, and Murphy who doesn't want to go with either.
  • This happened in the two melee matches in the first round of each heat during the 4th, 6th and 7th series of Robot Wars, with the contestants thrown into the arena in two groups to cut the numbers down to four so the survivors could be paired off against each other in the second round. In the 4th Wars there were two 3-way fights with the first robot knocked out eliminated, while in the 6th and 7th Wars there were four robots in each melee with half of the eight contestants being eliminated at once (the 3rd and 5th Wars instead had four one-on-one fights in the first round, while the first two series instead used the Gauntlet and the Trials to eliminate two of the contestants before the battle stage even started). Taken to extremes in the Annihilator episodes, where six robots were thrown into the ring at once and battled until one was eliminated, over and over until at the end of five rounds there was only one robot left standing.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does this a fair bit, with most seasons having several different factions all fighting each other. Season 2, for example, had S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. HYDRA vs. the US military vs. Skye's father, Calvin Zabo, and later S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. HYDRA vs. Ward vs. the Inhumans vs. the self-proclaimed "Real S.H.I.E.L.D.".
  • Super Sentai may have different villain factions fighting each other while fighting the Rangers. But Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger redefines the concept, with Rangers fighting each other as well as the monsters. Time will tell if cops Rangers and thieves Rangers will finally team up.
  • Daredevil: The climax of the season 3 finale involves one in Wilson Fisk's penthouse, between Dex (who wants to kill Vanessa out of revenge for Fisk killing Julie, and Matt too while he's at it), Matt (who wants to bring down Fisk and Dex, clear his alter ego's name, and also stop Dex from killing Vanessa) and Fisk (who wants both Dex and Matt dead and keep Vanessa safe). Fisk eventually takes Dex out of the equation by breaking his spine, so it's just him and Matt now.
  • The Ultra Series tends to have these happening when two Kaiju shows up and fight each other over territorial dispute, and the Ultra of the show trying to prevent them from doing further damage.
    • Return of Ultraman have the predator kaiju, Gudon, attacking its prey, Twin Tail, and Ultraman Jack fighting them simultaneously, twice, in a two-part episode. Firstly in the big city, which ended in a stalemate when all 3 combatants are too exhausted to continue and are forced to retreat, then later in a construction site in which Gudon mauls Twin Tail to death, before getting defeated by Ultraman Jack.
      • Averted a couple of episodes earlier featuring the two duelling kaijus, Detton and Sadola. The moment Jack shows up, both kaijus put their differences aside and gangs up on Jack.
    • Ultraman Taro have another predator kaiju, Birdon attacking its prey, Kemjila, and Ultraman Taro getting in between them. It didn't end well, because Taro ends up getting killed by Birdon while fighting Kemjila, and Kemjila ends up getting killed soon after .
    • An earlier and downplayed example in the original show, Ultraman features two ancient monsters, Banila and Aboras which are arch-enemies, fighting in a stadium while the Science Patrol tries to destroy both monsters from the sidelines. The Science Patrol decides to focus their attack on Banila until Aboras had the upper hand, killing Banila with its Acid Spit. By the time Ultraman shows up to deal with Aboras its strictly one-on-one.
    • Late into Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga, shortly after the arrival of Trigger Dark; when Ultraman Trigger is still battling his counterpart, cue the arrival of a new monster, Metsu-Orga, on a rampage to devour everything in sight, Ultraman Trigger and Trigger Dark included. For most of the battle the two Ultras spends as much time beating up each other as they did fighting Metsu-Orga, but eventually they have to put aside their differences when Metsu-Orga morphs into it's One-Winged Angel form of Metsu-Orochi.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Doomsday", there is theoretically a three-way battle between the Daleks, the humans, and the Cybermen. However, it was effectively a one-sided Curb-Stomp Battle by the Daleks against everything else.
  • Series 7 of Waterloo Road featured the rival gangs of the Dale Sken Crew and the Murray Set Boyz clashing in and near Waterloo Road school, with the school's faculty attempting to purge said gang warfare from the facility.
  • Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya often has Jiraiya vs. the Sorcerers Clan vs. the World Ninja of the Week in each episode. Occasionally the latter two will team up, though the Sorcerers Clan usually end up betraying them.

    Logic Puzzles 
  • You are in a three-way duel where each duelist takes turns firing one shot at any target. The duel starts with the person who is the worst shot, then passes to the middling shot (if still alive), and then the best shot. The turn keeps rotating until only one person is left. You are by far the worst shot. What is your best strategy to stay alive? Shoot in the air until one opponent is killed — the two better shooters will fire at each other until one dies, and you will get the first shot at the survivor.

    Music Videos 
  • The bizarre abusable child music video addition: What looks like the entire lineup of Cobra Starship does one of these with hidden pies around a table piled with cash in the music video for "The City Is at War". This doesn't really constitute a pie fight, however, as they're meant to be basically gun/knife stand-ins, with being pied in the face being a cause of death.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Occurs rather often in Professional Wrestling, in the form of a "Triple Threat Match" or "Fatal Four-Way" (those are the terms used by WWE), or the "Three/Four-Way Dance" (as ECW\SMW called it).
    • Ring of Honor uses a combination "four-way" and tag match (separate from a four-way tag team match with eight participants) called "Four Corner Survival," where either of the two 'legal' wrestlers can tag in either of the two wrestlers but only one can win (which is just a cooler name for the old "four corners" match).
    • Matches can go from Triple-Threat Matches to Fatal Four-ways to Six-Pack Challenges to full scale 20-60 man Battle Royals.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. Triple H in 1999.
  • This is basically how it looked like the InVasion storyline was going to play out. To sum up: after the WWF (later WWE) very publicly buying out WCW, it turns out that Shane pulled some last-second shenanigans and now "owns" it, and a massive WWF/WCW feud builds up. Suddenly from left field comes Paul Heyman and the ECW Originals, sick of playing second fiddle to the Big Two, especially since their buy out was far more low-key and basically ignored while their wrestlers were quietly filed into place. But then, it turned out he was just The Dragon to Stephanie, who was in fact allied with Shane against Vince, supposedly set-in-stone contractual alliances changed almost on a weekly basis, only a handful of people from either ECW or WCW were saved from becoming jokes, and by the end of it most folks would rather just forget it ever happened.

    It got so bad that when Vince Russo was eventually re-promoted to the position of head writer of the WWE, his first act was supposedly to suggest relaunching the entire debacle again, YEARS after the whole thing was dead and gone. Debate still rages on whether, if true, it was a case of being so rash as to force them to let him go or simply thinking that doing the exact same thing again would turn out differently, since obviously no one would remember how horribly the last one turned out.
  • IWA Mid-South No Blood, No Guts, No Glory in featured a three-way bloody war games match between Team IWA, Team NWA and Team Fannin.
  • NWA Empire's Lord Of The Dance Title and Vendetta Pro Wrestling's Triforce Title could only be won in three-way matches. TNA tried to enforce this limitation on its X Division but it was negatively received since the X Division title was introduced with no limits as far as who could win it.
  • The first holder of Dragon Gate USA's Open The Freedom Gate was decided mostly by a series of multi-man matches. One of the few men to advance in the tournament by way of a one-on-one match, BxB Hulk, ended up being the winner.

  • GET THAT PIZZA!: Exaggerated. Literally everyone is against each other, and anyone will hurt anyone else to get the pizza. Subverted with Bluethorn, DrNoPuma, and TropesForever, who eventually formed their own alliance when it came time for them to post after each other.note 
  • Occurs in Survival of the Fittest on a couple of occasions. For example, Andrew Klock vs. Xian Chun vs. Cole Hudson (becoming Xian and Cole vs. Andrew) and Maxie Dasai vs. Johnathan Rizzolo vs. Emma Babineaux (and turning into Maxie vs. Riz and Emma).
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! East Academy there was a battle royale between Justin, Marcus and an NPC called Yikhezkel.
  • One of Zeonquest's main deviations from the UC canon is the One Year War turning into one of these. Ghiren Zabi attempts to poison his father so he can seize control of Zeon and win the war his way. The news of this causes the royal family to split into the Legitimacy and Loyalist factions.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battles:
    • During the storm of chaos, the Empire is fighting the forces of Chaos led by Archaon. Then Grimgor and his orcs turn up, fights their way through both forces, kills the Chaos leader to prove that he is the best and goes away — leaving both forces badly damaged. Most worldwide campaigns pit everyone against everyone, though. Old Imperium motto used by fans: "The enemy of my enemy is the next one to die".
    • In general, the forces of Chaos are locked in the four-sided variety of this trope. There are four Chaos gods, and a given Chaos warrior is aligned with one of them and opposed to the other three. The key is getting the four sides to stop fighting long enough to actually accomplish something. But hey, at least they get an army of Demi-Gods by feeding thousands of raw recruits to their chosen champions.
  • In the setting of the RPG CthulhuTech, the Aeon War is a grand Mêlée à Trois between the New Earth Government, who want to live; the alien Migou, who want humanity to die so they don't learn more of the mythos and accidentally wake up the Old Ones; and the Cults of the Old Ones, who want the Old Ones to wake up which would result in the death or massive alteration of everyone else. It's a fun time all around.
  • Paranoia has the official agenda of The Computer, the clandestine agendas of over a dozen secret societies, the office politics of several service groups, plus the personal goals of six PCs and as many NPCs as Friend Gamemaster can keep track of. Any two of these may sort-of-align at any given moment (in the sense of "yes, this person will screw me over, but this other person will screw me over faster and harder"), or may pretend to do so. Some official missions up the ante by having everyone pursue the same MacGuffin at once, generally in ways that are as mutually-exclusive and Gambit Pileup-inducing as possible.
  • Since even the heroes of the setting are professional domestic terrorists, Shadowrun tends to turn into this. Corps hire runners to do their dirty work and even if a lot of runners shun wetwork (outright assassination contracts), they aren't above sabotage, bombings, espionage, theft, and occasionally offing some security guards if things get messy. As a result, runners tend to be grey-area men and women working for bad people against other bad people. Other teams of runners rarely cooperate past a pulling a big job together and many will betray each other for the sake of a bigger cut. To quote one book's fluff:
    The only mate a runner should trust is himself... unless some corp brainwashed him into one of those sleeper sorts who go blow themselves up when they heard the phrase "warm bacon". Then he probably would be best off not trusting himself either.

  • The Mahri Nui saga in BIONICLE has five sides fighting over the Mask of Life: The Toa Mahri need it to save the world; the Big Bad Makuta also doesn't want the world to die but the Toa (justifiably) don't trust him; the Barraki want the mask because it can reverse their mutations and allow them to try conquering the world again, and they hate Toa on principle but despise Makuta even more for his role in putting them in this position in the first place; Hydraxon thinks it's too dangerous thanks to subconscious memories from his old life as Dekar and must be destroyed; and a mutated Gadunka beast is just territorial. Not to mention that the Mask passes from person to person in the conflict, and some of the Barraki decide to just go solo and escape, leading to an internal conflict within the Barraki group as well. Brutaka arrives at some point to try and get the Mask and fight Makuta, for reasons of his own. The mad ruler Karzahni also got an interest in the Mask after hearing about it, but he never to join the conflict as he was defeated and taken captive by Lesovikk in a side-story.

    Video Games 
  • Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars has the plot start of with a traditional war with the Brotherhood of Nod staring an assault on the GDI Blue Zones after Nod disables Goddard Space Center and nukes the defenseless GDS Philedelphia space station. However, through deliberate plotting by Kane (supreme leader of Nod), the GDI forces take the bait Kane left them and fire their Ion Cannon upon the desired target which alerts the Scrin to invade Earth and turns the war into controlled free for all. This is all according to Kane's grand scheme so that he can capture Scrin technology for his longterm goals.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: This becomes the heroes' plan to defeat Dark Force, to pull his mothership into the Yami world, where its alien physics disrupt his ship's teleportation technology. Then, while Dark Force and the Yami Clan waste troops on each other, the heroes launch a strike against both Yami and Dark Force factions.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
  • The final few missions of the main story in Borderlands see the protagonist mowing down dozens of both Crimson Lance soldiers and the indigenous "Guardian" aliens as the two also battle each other.
  • One level in Medal of Honor: Underground have you infiltrating German-occupied Crete, just as Cretan buccaneers are looting the area. For most of the level the Germans and buccanners will be shooting at each other and ignoring your presence (if you're still disguised as a reporter) but should your cover be blown (or you chose to draw a gun in front of the Germans) you'll quickly become the third-party of a three-way-shootout.
  • Franchise/Metroid:
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes: There are numerous factions battling on Aether at the time the game takes place. Samus, the Federation Marines and the Luminoth are essentially on friendly terms, but the Ing, Dark Samus and the space pirates all have their own agenda.
    • Metroid Prime: Hunters: Samus and six other bounty hunters are all in the Alimbic cluster to try and claim the "ultimate power" for themselves.
  • In Drunk On Nectar, the tiger beetle, dragonfly, and spider are all engaged in a 3-way rivalry as they're the only species that can prey and be preyed on by each other.
  • For all intents and purposes, Tales of Symphonia had three parties at conflict: Cruxis, the Renegades, and Lloyd's group, who wove in and out of the conflict between the first two in an attempt to save Colette and end the system without sacrificing anyone.
  • A gameplay variant of this appeared in Tales of Berseria, where your party got in a three-way fight with Eizen and Zaveid.
  • The first two missions in Metal Gear Solid 4 have the local militia vs Ocelot's P.M.C.s vs Snake. Of course, this changes quite quickly if you make it clear to the rebels that you are out to get the P.M.C.s.
  • This shows up a lot in video games that feature both enemy human soldiers (or just humanoid, really) and enemy monstrous creatures. Typically, the soldiers and monsters fight each other as well as you. Examples include Halo (alien soldiers vs zombies), inFAMOUS 2 (fascist redneck militia vs feral mutants), Fallout 3 (Talon mercs vs Super Mutants), Dead Rising 2 (mercenaries/security guards vs zombies), [PROTOTYPE] (US marines Blackwatch soldiers vs Greene's Infected army), and...
  • Half-Life:
    • Three-way firefights between Gordon Freeman, the marines, and the aliens are one of the defining attributes of Half-Life. The Marines usually end ahead of the aliens, and Gordon consistently trounces both.
    • It happens in scripted sequences too, to remind you that yes, there is a battle raging. For example, three Alien Grunts get dropped off by a Xen Flyer only to be immediately bombed by an F-16.
    • In Half-Life 2 and the Episodes, it becomes Human/Vortigaunt Resistance vs. Antlions vs. the Combine vs. Headcrab Zombies (Antlions and Zombies were rarely in the same place at the same time in the original game, but Episode 2 features a particularly epic brawl in an abandoned mine shaft). The Combine use headcrab shells as a weapon against rebel-controlled areas, and at one point the player gets to control a bunch of antlions.
      • In fact, the very first time Overwatch soldiers show up, they're seen killing zombies that wander out of the Ravenholm mine shaft.
    • In Opposing Force there are four sides in play (the player and the friendly Marines, the Xen Aliens, the new aliens that have since disappeared from the story and the Black Ops that used to be with the Marines), and with a level editor there could be five (the traditional "enemy" Marines), but without that level editor you never see more than three in the same place at once. The Black Ops and Race X don't fight as much as the Xenians and Marines, but they do indeed so. More noticeable in the final few chapters.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • The Republic and the Sith Empire have enough on their plate fighting a major galactic war with each other. Then Darth Malgus betrays the Empire to form his own. He fights both armies. Then the Hutt Cartel gets involved.
    • Alderaan is engulfed in a Civil War at the start of the game due to the death of all the Royal family's heirs. There are three, possibly more, factions all shooting at each other. First, we have House Organa (Leia's future adoptive family) which supports The Republic and receives military support from them. Then there's House Thul which is backed by the Sith. And House Ulgo which started the war to begin with when their leader Bouris Ulgo stages a coup in a bid to ironically end the planetary legislature's stalemate on choosing a new Royal family. It's eventually revealed that he was the mastermind behind the previous Monarch's assassination and he slaughtered most of the Panteer clan because he saw them as weak and unable to face a possible Imperial invasion. And if things weren't crazy enough, the long-hidden insectoid Killiks are accidentally disturbed and are thus drawn into the war themselves.
    • On Hoth, The Republic, The Empire, and the White Maw Pirates are fighting over the lost technology in a graveyard of crashed starships from the last war.
    • And then in Knights of the Fallen Empire (the newest and to date, largest expansion) we have the biggest example of this yet. The Eternal Empire of Zakuul, a powerful new faction hailing from a region in space not fully explored. This new Empire reveals itself to the galaxy, wages war against both the Republic and the Sith Empire....and WINS!! Thus beginning the Fallen Empire storyline.
  • Legendary: The Box revolves around the Council of 98 (which includes the player) vs. the Black Order vs. the Monsters running amok in the world.
  • The Story Mode in Godzilla Unleashed consists of four sides: Earth Defenders, Global Defense Forces, Aliens, and Mutants. The sides differ on how they deal with the crystals that arrived from a meteorite and start royally screwing up the Earth, sent by the Big Bad Spacegodzilla. The Earth Defenders goes out of its way to destroy the crystals, even though their efforts do cause massive property damage. The Global Defense Forces work to stop the monsters running amok from trampling all the cities, and try to maintain order throughout the course of the game. The Aliens are loyal to the Vortaak and want to use the crystals to conquer and enslave Earth. The Mutants wish to use the crystals for power and are willing to trample anyone to get it, whether they are monsters, humans, or aliens.
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning: In the level Dante's Freezer, Spyro arrives right when the Ice Soldiers and the apes are in the middle of a war. Neither of them is pleased to see him. They spend a lot of time bombing each other as well as Spyro, which can sometimes mean that the gigantic mass of enemies in front of you that you're sweating over is wiped out in ten seconds by the other side.
  • StarCraft: Averted... most of the time. Despite the seemingly perfect set-up of Terran vs. Protoss vs. Zerg, each race consists of various factions. Infighting ensues.
    • In the novels, the Battle of Tarsonis was depicted as one of these (in the game, there were three separate missions for the battle, allowing them to show that each side was around without having a true melee), with Confederates, Sons of Korhal, Protoss, and Zerg beating the crap out of each other. Mostly, though, the various factions were canny enough to sit back and watch when they found two enemies fighting. Mostly.
    • Another example can be found in Brood War when the UED follows Fenix, Raynor, and Mengsk to Aiur and not only encounters Fenix' forces there, but also a bunch of Zerg broods that are still around.
  • Warcraft 3 has a few missions where this occurs.
    • In "Reign of Chaos Night Elf 4", the three factions are Night Elves (player), humans and orcs, and undead and demons.
    • "Frozen Throne Blood Elf 3" has the Blood Elves (player), humans, and undead. There are a couple of points within the mission where the players have to go through the other two factions fighting it out.
  • Mario Party is in essence a four player free-for-all (at least in a standard game), but for the minigame at the end of each turn, teams are determined by the color of the space they landed on, leading to basically random and constantly changing 2v2 and 1v3 alliances, as well as free-for-alls if everyone lands on the same color.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, the conflict between Dante, Vergil and Lady, until Arkham de-allied with Vergil and led the Sons of Sparda to work together against him, while Dante Befriended Lady shortly as well.
    • In Devil May Cry 4, there are actually three factions: the Player Characters Dante and Nero, the Order of the Sword, and the Demons. When you're in a battle with enemies from both enemy factions, they will occasionally attack each other instead of Dante/Nero if you stand back long enough and watch the carnage. You're given hints about this situation in Mission 9 when two Assault enemies that were introduced in the last mission jump past and ignore Nero to attack the two Bianco Angelos guarding the Order of the Sword HQ, only to be killed effortlessly as part of an introduction for the Alto Angelo enemies and later in Mission 12 when Fortuna comes under attack, and the Savior and its army of Bianco and Alto Angelos come in to attack the Mephisto army.
  • The final boss battle in Bloodrayne is a 3-way fight between Rayne, the super-powered Nazi Commander, and the Devil.
    • Earlier in the game prior to the aforementioned final boss battle, there are also 3-way fights between Rayne, the Nazis and various Vampire creatures. And before that we also get Rayne vs the Nazis vs the Daemites.
  • Halo:
    • Halo: Combat Evolved has Humans vs. Covenant vs. Flood vs. Sentinels, and Halo 2 takes that same setup and eventually splits the Covenant side between Loyalists (Prophets, Brutes, Jackals and Drones) vs. Separatists (Elites, Grunts, and Hunters). In Halo 3, things settle down into a simpler two-way Everybody vs. the Prophet of Truth and his loyalists, with Gravemind and the Flood taking over as the Big Bad guys after Truth is finally killed near the end; specifically, 3 serves as an inversion and subversion of the typical FPS case, with the Flood essentially becoming your temporary allies... and then backstabbing you again. As the Arbiter says, "We trade one enemy for another."
    • Halo Wars also has Humans vs. Covenant vs. Flood vs. Sentinels.
    • In Halo 4, you can find Covenant remnants and Prometheans fighting each other in the first level that they are both in, making it possible for you to mop the floor with whoever's left. The rest of the game subverts this by having the Covenant and Prometheans unite under the command of the Didact. In Halo 5: Guardians, the two groups oppose each other again, with the opening level dropping your team right into the middle of a big battle between the two.
    • The expanded universe tells of several proxy wars on Earth and it's colonies, which were three-way conflicts between the United Nations, the Friedens, and the Koslovics. The subsequent Interplanetary War continued this setup.
  • One Mission in the Magical Battle Arena Lyrical Pack takes this trope and multiplies it by ten (plus 1) with a Gadget Drone Mêlée à Trente-et-Un. Naturally, your mission goal is to be the last Gadget Drone standing.
  • In Phantasy Star Online 2, the native creatures of the various planets can often be seen fighting the Darkers (and vice-versa) when they aren't attacking you.
  • The Item World in Disgaea. In the earliest levels, the "specialists" that you must kill to level up your weapon ignore everything until you attack them, at which point they may counter, but won't attack. Once you get deeper in, however, you see that their "NPC Ally" designation on your map screen isn't just for show, and you may have to pull off some tricky maneuvers to make sure your enemies don't kill them first if they start out too far away.
  • The game Sins of a Solar Empire has this as its basic structure — a three-way fight between different factions with different abilities (tech, psionics, wormhole manipulation). Also, Sid Meier's Civilization series, the Dominion games, (most 4x games, in fact)...
    • The Rebellion Expansion Pack has the main three factions each split into Loyalists and Rebels with slight differences between the two. Mainly, each of the six factions has their own Titan (unique ginormous warship that dwarfs entire fleets).
  • Crysis has the USA vs. North Korea vs. Aliens, but only in the expansion game Crysis Warhead. In the original Crysis, the Koreans were killed off right as the aliens showed up. You see Koreans standing around everywhere, frozen solid.
    • Crysis 2 & 3 have a similar dynamic, with you fighting both CELL PMCs and the Ceph who also fight each other.
  • Dynasty Warriors 6 has two of these in Lu Bu’s Musou Mode. His second battle has him suddenly rush into the Battle of Guandu and he fights both Cao Cao and Yuan Shao’s armies at the same time. His fourth stage has him butt in on the Battle of Chi Bi, and he fights both the Coalition Forces and Cao Cao’s Forces at once. Both scenarios are eventually subverted, due to the armies involved forming an Enemy Mine in an attempt to stop Lu Bu, not that it does them any good.
  • Samurai Warriors:
    • In the first Samurai Warriors, Masamune Date's entire story mode consists of nothing but him butting in on other generals' conflicts and annihilating both sides without stopping to think overmuch on whose side is right or wrong... or stopping to think at all, for that matter.
    • In Noh’s story in the first game, she has a variation of the Honnonji Incident where she betrays Nobunaga at the same time as Mitsuhide. As such, the two of them end up fighting each other as they attempt to be the one to personally assassinate Nobunaga, only for him to escape in the confusion, while his army stays behind to try and stop the two would-be assassins.
    • One of Samurai Warriors 2's more interesting fights takes place during Hanzo's story, a three-way fight between Hanzo, Kotaro, and Nene (the game's three playable ninjas).
    • Speaking of Nene, her dream stage in the second game sees her interrupt the Battle of Sekigahara in order to discipline the two armies for fighting over Japan. She ends up defeating both of them then gives them a lecture and makes them rice cakes.
    • Kotaro Fuma's Musou Mode in the second game, often sees him doublecrossing his supposed allies and ends up kicking everybody's ass indiscriminately. Then again, he claims to be Chaos...
  • The Fire Emblem franchise averted this for a long time, where enemy factions who should theoretically hate each other just as much as you will Gang Up on the Human, though some later games have warmed up to the trope.
    • In Chapter 12 of Fire Emblem Warriors. Hoshido and Nohr are manipulated into fighting each other, and it's up to you to subdue both of them while preventing them from killing each other. In addition, Pincer Escape maps in History Mode set you up against two rival factions and task you with bringing them both down.
    • The trope then appeared in the main series with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, with a number of examples. Firstly, the trope is invoked by the academy that serves as the game’s main setting, with the school year including two mock battles that take place between the houses. While the first one is treated as a Gang Up on the Human in gameplay, the second one is a proper example of the trope, where both rival houses will be just as willing to attack each other when they can. The second mock battle is called back to after the time skip in two of the story routes, where the three factions meet up on the same battlefield, only this time, it’s a real battle. There are also optional auxiliary battles, where the player’s army must take on a group of bandits, and a giant monster is also present on the map, which is too feral minded to side with anyone.
  • A few of the battles in Sengoku Basara also involves this. The second game has one in which Keiji butts in on the Betrayal at Honnouji and ends up in a battle between Nobunaga and Mitsuhide (all for the reason of just saying hi to Nobunaga) and one where characters crash a battle between Kenshin and Shingen. The third has certain campaigns ending with the characters intruding in on the Battle of Sekigahara and wiping out both Ieyasu and Mitsunari's army.
  • In Iji, the conflict eventually becomes Iji vs. Tasen vs. Komato. Of course, the Komato outgun the Tasen completely, and eventually the Tasen either end up siding with a pacifistic Iji who promises to keep the few safe and very likely makes good on it with Tor of the Komato, or the Tasen are killed to a man and Iji instead just tries to talk Tor out of Alpha Striking the remains.
  • The final mission in The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a frenetic chase and final boss battle between the Hulk, the Abomination, and General Ross' troops.
  • The Final Boss fight of RefleX is a three-way battle between yourself, an alien Humongous Mecha, and two Kamui fighters from the developer's previous game.
  • The fourth to last mission in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2 takes place in space, just next to a battle between the Einsts and the Shadow Mirrors/Inspectors. Your team arrives to destroy everybody still standing.
  • In Overlord II, it's the well-meaning but idiotic elves, versus the Roman-themed Glorious Empire, versus the forces of the eponymous Evil Overlord.
  • In the first two Total War games you could end up in this situation if two or more powers attacked a third at the same time. In later games, this kind of massive free-for-all is only possible in the custom battles, but boy could this make for awesome battles if your computer could handle the weight.
  • Armored Core is kind of complicated in a way this trope is played. In 2 it was Zio Matrix vs. Emurade vs. Balena, with the LCC later joining with Balena. But it led to some confusion involving a Civil War between Zio on Earth and on Mars and Balena being caught between the now Corrupted Martian government and the Earth Government.
  • Near the conclusion of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, after General Shepherd's betrayal, the player is caught in a battle between Makarov's men and Shepherd's, though you're encouraged to let them kill each other off (because, as always, they'll all drop everything to focus on you if you make your presence known).
  • Trinity and Hilo Monster in Impossible Creatures feature three players in an RTS free-for-all. Also mission 14 of the single-player campaign, between you, the island's caretakers, and The Virus infected creatures.
  • Alien vs. Predator games have Predators vs. Aliens vs. Space Marines vs. Weyland-Yutani.
  • Several of the battles in Devil Survivor are like this, and frequently let you choose to intervene on one side or another. In one particularly complex example on Day 6, you have to intervene to stop some demon tamers from escaping the barricade in the midst of a fight between several angels and demons. You can choose to fight either the angels, the demons, or both; meanwhile both the angels and demons will try to kill the tamers before you can defeat them and remove them from battle, resulting in a game over.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The plot of Final Fantasy VII quickly becomes a three-way battle between Cloud's group, Shinra and Sephiroth.
    • In Final Fantasy XIII, some Random Encounters will have one group of monsters fighting another group of rival monsters. You can use this to your advantage to take out the stronger group as the weaker ones whittle their health away.
    • Frontline PvP battles in Final Fantasy XIV pit players of the three Grand Companies of Eorzea (Limsa Lominsa's Maelstrom, Ul'dah's Immortal Flames, and Gridania's Order of the Twin Adder) against one another.
  • Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy has several examples in different levels, with the player character being the third party.
    • One level has Imperial Remnant stormtroopers fighting Noghri assassins left behind by Darth Vader, both also hostile to you.
    • In another, the Disciples release a Godzilla-like mutated Rancor to ravage a city, but it begins eating them just as surely as it will chase you. That doesn't stop the cultists from attacking you while you're trying to run away from the danged thing before it breaks down the wall between you and it and kills everyone on the other side.
    • Most notably, the final levels have the Jedi and students from Luke Skywalker's academy fighting the Disciples of Ragnos. If you've chosen to play the Dark Side, the Jedi will sense your evil and attack you as well. This leads to a number of different Mêlée à Trois situations.
  • In the Drak'theron Keep dungeon of World of Warcraft, the Scourge is attacking the Drakkari ice troll-controlled keep. Both sides are hostile to the player. At the Wrathgate battle, the Horde and Alliance put aside their differences to fight the Scourge until Putress launches the New Plague that kills the living and the Undead at the Alliance, Horde and Scourge forces, killing many and starting a war between the Alliance and the Horde. Both factions then invade the Undercity, which Putress' master Varimathras has taken over; the Alliance hopes to reclaim Lordaeron while the Horde wants their city back. As a result, in Icecrown Citadel, the player must fight through soldiers of the opposing faction, and board their faction's gunship to fight off the other side's.
    • In Warlords of Draenor, the main conflict is the combined Alliance/Horde forces vs. the Iron Horde vs. the Shadow Council/Burning Legion.
    • Generally speaking, any given expansion tends to amount to "Alliance vs Horde vs Monster of the Week". How much focus the Alliance vs Horde conflict gets varies between expansions and sometimes major patches.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge downplays this. The only actual three-way battle between the Allies, Soviets, and Yuri occurs in the first mission (either the Allies use their time machine to travel back to the beginning of the war, fighting off the initial Soviet invasion then moving to take out Yuri's Psychic Dominator, or the Soviets capture the machine from the Allies, then go back in time with it to destroy the Dominator), and even then whoever uses the time machine still focuses on taking out the other faction first before paying much mind to Yuri.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 has the Allies vs the Soviets vs the Empire of the Rising Sun.
    • Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars has the Global Defense Initiative vs Brotherhood of Nod vs Scrin. The best part of it was that the leader of Nod, Kane, had manipulated all the three factions for his own agenda, and without any of them realizing it. In the mission "Operation Stiletto" as Nod, the GDI and Scrin are launching full scale assaults against each other and you have to make sure they don't completely destroy each other while you capture each other's construction yards. The Scrin even make note in their campaign over how odd it is that GDI and Nod continue to skirmish with one another at every chance even with the presence of what should be a common enemy.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II it was Sora and his allies vs. Organization XIII vs. Maleficent and her allies, and The Heartless regularly changing sides among the latter two depending on which one is the strongest for the moment.
    • In the manga adaptation for the same game, it's Hades vs. Pete vs. Auron, with a Bound and Gagged Megara caught up in the middle, Hercules lying unconscious nearby, and Sora and his friends on the side rooting for Auron.
  • Syphon Filter: Logan & Xing vs. Rhoemer's troops vs. Pharcom. The last act of second game has Logan & friends vs. the Agency vs. the NYPD.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • Averted in Ogre Battle. If there are two or more enemies, they will spontaneously ally against you.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 has the Brotherhood of Steel as the main good faction and the Enclave as the main antagonists, along with several lesser factions fighting with or against the player as well as each other. At the optional Capitol Building, you may get involved in a four-way battle between yourself, the Enclave's troops, the Super Mutants, and the Talon Company Mercs. In another location, there can be a threesome between Outcasts (friendly to the player unless you piss them off), Mutants, and Raiders. Or better still, Raiders, a Yao Guai, a Deathclaw, and a Sentry Bot.
    • Fallout: New Vegas involves an upcoming battle for Hoover Dam between the New California Republic, Caesar's Legion and Mr. House and his Securitrons, with the main character deciding who they want to side with as the Wild Card of the game. Of course, if the players wish, they can even fight for an Independent New Vegas in which they essentially take over Vegas.
      • It gets even more complicated with DLC, which reveals that Elijah and Ulysses also want to wipe out the three main factions competing in the Mojave. And they fully have the means to do it.
    • In Fallout 4, you have four different factions: the Brotherhood of Steel, the Minutemen, the Railroad, and the Institute, all with their own agendas. Aside from the Minutemen and Railroad, who mostly don't care about each other, all of them oppose all the others. In the story mission The Battle of Bunker Hill, you actually have a three-way brawl between the Railroad, the Institute, and the Brotherhood. At that point in the game, it's entirely possible to be working for all three factions, so they'll all treat you as a friendly. Even if you're busy slaughtering them. Yeah, this is basically Hilarity Ensues: The Mission. And the battle can get even more complicated if an outside force like Raiders, Super Mutants, or a hungry Deathclaw get attracted by all the fighting.
      • The DLC continues the tradition. Automatron has the Sole Survivor and Ada, plus other robots they may have crafted, versus the Mechanist's robots, vs. the Rust Devils and their robots, while Far Harbor pits the citizens of the titular harbor town, the synth colony of Acadia, and the Children of Atom against each other, as well as possibly the Institute or the Brotherhood if the Sole Survivor has allied with one of them.
  • [PROTOTYPE] starts out as Alex Mercer vs. Blackwatch/US Marines, but shortly thereafter, the Redlight virus and Elizabeth Greene hit the scene as well, adding legions of viral mutants to the fray as well. Later on, Greene is killed and her virus starts to die off as well, but the Supreme Hunter takes her place as the third party, although not until the Final Boss fight.
  • Ace Combat:
    • The uncut Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere eventually had four sides fighting each other in every one of its Multiple Endings: UPEO vs. General Resource vs. Neucom vs. Ouroboros. In fact, each ending was mainly characterized by who your character was fighting for in the end (Ouroboros technically got two).
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War had the setup of Yuktobania vs. Osea vs. Belka in the last few missions. Also, your own squadron had to fight all of them at once until the truth about the third participant went public.
    • One mission in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War briefly descends into this, with the Allied Forces intercepting a group of Belkan bombers and escorts, only for a second group of Belkans to show up and open fire on the first group to try to prevent them from dropping their nuclear payload. The latter group won't target you, but you can still shoot them down if you want extra money and don't care about being seen as a moral-less merc.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown: after the Usean satellite network is destroyed in Mission 15, communications on both sides of the conflict are severed. Chain of command disintegrates for both Osea and Erusea, with Erusea's military splintering into anti-war conservatives versus pro-war radicals, and Osean penal units taking advantage of the chaos to attack their captors and escape. In Mission 16, all vehicles are designated as "Unknown" until you can do a visual fly-by to positively identify them, with Oseans shooting Oseans until your AWACS can send the updated data out. And to make matters worse, no comms means the Erusean UAV fleet is unable to receive updated orders from their human controllers, so the drone AI programs begin acting on their own as defined by their dangerously vague mission parameters and overriding the Erusean military's authority as to what constitutes a "target.".
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Assassin's Creed: Revelations has this, between the Ottoman guard, the Byzantine Templars and their guards, and the Assassins. It's not uncommon to see both of the opposing factions fighting (or sometimes cause it by forcing them to meet somewhere).
    • Assassin's Creed III was an even better example; neither the Assassins nor Templars have any loyalty to either side in the American Revolution. Haytham makes it clear that he cares nothing about England's "idiot king", and Connor is motivated purely by personal vengeance and doesn't really give a damn if America wins independence. The very messy political situation is reflected in the ending, where the Colonial Templars have been wiped out, England has lost its colonies, and Connor realizes that the men he slew, though certainly despicable, weren't in any way responsible for the destruction of his village, while the man who was is now the most powerful man in the newly-formed United States of America.
    • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Bartholomew Roberts flees to Principe in the near the end of the game after the British and Spanish navies take notice of his conquests throughout the Caribbean. Edward Kenway catches wind of his trail and pursues him there, eventually arriving and forcing Roberts to take to the seas once again. His escape causes him to accidentally sail directly into an absolutely massive battle between the British and Spanish fleets both arriving off the coast at the same time. Both sides immediately turn their guns on Bart and he is forced to return fire in every direction while Edward attempts to navigate himself onto the ship to kill him.
  • Saints Row often has the player fighting off both rival gangs and police. Nowhere is this more evident than Saints Row: The Third's penultimate mission, "Three Way", where the city of Steelport breaks out into chaos as the Luchadores and STAG engage each other in mass warfare, and the Saints have to clean up the killing off both sides at the worst areas of fighting, along with any extras that show up due to maxed notoriety for both sides.
    • The second mission of the first Saints Row has a Melee A Quatre, with the Saints crashing what was already a three-way gang war and wiping out all the other parties in the confusion.
  • By the third game in the series, the conflict in Gears of War has the remains of humanity, the Locust, and the Lambent locked in a three-way war.
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein, in levels with undead enemies, pits you vs. the Nazis vs. them.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising:
    • Pit vs Dark Pit vs Underworld Forces in Chapter 6.
    • Pit vs Space Pirates vs Underworld Forces in Chapter 8.
    • The big one, starting in Chapter 11, is Palutena's Army vs Hades' Underworld Forces vs Viridi's Forces of Nature.
    • And then you throw the Aurum and later the Chaos Kin into the mix... Does anybody get along in this game? As a matter of fact, if you stop to pay attention, you will see mooks of different factions beating each other up. Sometimes they'll even kill each other for you so you don't have to.
    • Actually subverted in the Aurum's case, since Palutena's Army, Hades' Underworld Forces, and Viridi's Forces of Nature join together in defeating them. Played straight with the Chaos Kin, however, as there it's Hades' Underworld Forces, Palutena's Army (under control of the Chaos Kin), and Viridi's Forces of Nature, with Pit siding with the last since they're the most decent group left.
  • In Sniper Elite, you are an American OSS agent/Cold Sniper dropped into the middle of the Battle Of Berlin. You can come across Germans and Russians fighting each other, and can join in whenever you like or simply observe until one side destroys the other.
  • End of Nations the player chooses to side with either the Liberation Front, and the Shadow Revolution, as they fight the Order of Nations and each other.
  • In Driver's final mission, The President's Run, both the NYPD and the Mafia are all over Tanner like fire ants.
  • Happens in almost every game of the Total War series, with multiple nations fighting it out in campaign mode.
  • In the second mission of Perfect Dark Zero, you can trigger a three-way battle between yourself, Killian's gang members, and Datadyne's personnel.
  • Happens on two separate occasions in the Jak and Daxter series.
    • In Jak II: Renegade, which focuses on the three-way struggle between the Underground Resistance, Baron Praxis and the KG, and the Metal Heads.
    • In Jak 3: Wastelander, Haven City becomes a war zone between the resurgent Metal Heads, the Freedom League, and the army of KG robots led by a cybernetically-revived Erol, and that's not even bringing Spargus or the Dark Makers into the mix.
  • The story of Heroes of Might and Magic: A Strategic Quest is that three sides are battling it over who'll become ruler of Enroth when a noble stumbles through a portal from another world and starts a fourth faction with the same goal. That noble is the canonical victor.
    • There are many maps featuring three or more factions clashing, although the factions being large enough that the clashes can persist over multiple missions is rarer after I. One exception is in III, where the neutral campaign ends with your mercenaries triggering a border war between Tatalia and Krewlod after you helped both of them expand their borders at Erathia's expense enough that only a thin strip of land separates them, with remaining Erathian forces acting as a third force. Then in the second good campaign you get sent in with a joint Bracadan-Erathian force to expel both Tatalia and Krewlod from their occupied land while they continue to fight one-another.
  • Happens twice in Max Payne 3: First in chapter 3, where Max and Raul's meeting with the Comando Sombra is rudely interrupted by the Cracha Preto, and second in chapter 9 where the UFE stick their heads into the same.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: The fight in prison 42 soon explodes in a three-way battle against the Pro-SRA heroes, the Anti-SRA heroes, and the nanomachine controlled supervillains.
  • Broken Helix focused on a U.S. marine team being sent to Area 51 to eliminate both renegade scientists and aliens (including hybrids). The player can join either of them.
  • The obscure First-Person Shooter Team Factor pits NATO special forces (eg. Green Berets, KSK, SAS, GIGN) vs. terrorists vs. the Russian Spetsnaz, around the world.
  • Tom Clancy's EndWar pits the United States, the European Federation and Russia against each other in a three-way conventional war; they simply don't nuke each other into oblivion due to a nuclear missile defence shield covering the territories of all combatants.
  • Star Wars: Battlefront The Tatooine map has the Rebel Alliance vs The Galactic Empire vs Tusken Raiders
  • The Star Wars Conquest Game Mod features three playable factions: the Rebel Alliance, the Galactic Empire, and the Hutt Cartel. Although the formers begins the campaign at war against each others while the latter is neutral at first, the situation will eventually become this trope.
    • If the player character decides to create his own faction, it can even become a Mêlée A Quatre.
  • The Star Wars: Empire at War expansion Forces of Corruption has the Galactic Empire, the Rebel Alliance, and the Zann Consortium duking it out, culminating in a massive final battle over Kuat, in which Zann at first allies with the Rebels only to betray them once he has control over the Super Star Destroyer Eclipse and its One-Hit Kill laser. At that point, it's a straight-up three-way fight.
  • In XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, the Lost (even with their skewed priorities) will attack both the player's troops and ADVENT's forces as opportunities allow, turning missions into a frantic three-way brawl.
  • At one point in Sly 2: Band of Thieves, there is a three-way battle between the Cooper Gang, Neyla and the Contessa, the latter of whom has Carmelita Fox captured.
  • In Galak-Z: The Dimensional, The Empire, Void Raiders, and Space Bugs aggro on one another just as much as they aggro on the player.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Skyrim finds itself in the middle of three different wars: an active war between the Cyrodilic Empire and the Stormcloaks, a cold war between the Empire and the Thalmor, and everyone versus the dragons. One of the missions you can elect to take during the main mission chain is to call a meeting between the three factions to get them to stop their fighting and accept a truce in order to fight the dragons. Meanwhile, the Forsworn want to kill all the Nords in one part of Skyrim and Harkon's vampires want to make the sun never rise again in order to rule over the mortal world. And to top it all off, the player themselves can be a force to be reckoned with, following their own agenda, if they so wish.
    • Before that, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion featured seven specially named goblin tribes whose lairs contain totem staves, which the player can steal and give to another tribe to provoke a war. The only time most players encounter this mechanic is a sidequest where a farmstead placed right between the caves of two warring goblin tribes asks the player to stop them fighting nearby. The players' options range wildly here, from wiping one or both tribes out, returning the staff one tribe stole from the other, or stealing them both yourself and dropping them somewhere else to simply move the fighting.
    • The Elder Scrolls Online has the Aldmeri Dominion (High Elves, Wood Elves and Khajiit) vs. the Ebonheart Pact (Nords, Dark Elves and Argonians) vs. the Daggerfall Covenant (Orcs, Bretons and Redguards). Naturally, PVP devolves into this quickly.
  • In Battlefield 4, the multiplayer maps can be played with some combination of the United States, Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, though the maps can only be played with two factions at once.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in the Half-Life mod Heart of Evil, with Percy, Barney, and MIKE troops vs. the 1st Air Cav vs. the Viet Cong and the NVA vs. Kurtz's zombies vs. exploding dogs vs. gorillas.
  • Escape Velocity Override features the Strand War, fought between the Zidagar, Igadzra and Azdagari (all cultures of the same species). Word of God is that it was deliberately set up this way: their original home-planet was nuked by internal warfare into being a dead rock. The Council that was set up by the survivors debated how best to ensure the survival of the species. The answer they came up with was to split the species into three sides, as that would be the number easiest to keep balanced in war, while a single state would be at greater risk from internal unrest outside the Council's influence. This works fine until they run into humans, who are apparently born meddlers and there's not a single Council operative amongst them, so the Council ends up going 'fuck this' and just openly assuming control, ending the Strand War.
  • Both PlanetSide games take place in the middle of a Forever War between three splinter factions - the oppressive Terran Republic remnant, the corporate New Conglomerate rebels, and the transhuman Vanu Sovereignty cultists. Because of the Ancient Vanu nanite sequencing system, anyone killed is shortly re-assembled inside a facility spawn tube, leading to the endless slaughter. Fights over bases in both games often have the defenders blasting at another empire on one side... and the other empire attacking in the opposite direction.
  • There's a brief one in Grand Theft Auto V, with the meth/arms trafficking wars between Trevor Philips Enterprises, The Lost MC, the Varrios Los Aztecas and the O'Neil brothers. Shortly after the player gains control of him for the first time, Trevor proceeds to wipe out all opposing sides almost entirely by himself.
    • Later on in the mission "The Wrap-Up", a four-way shootout occurs with Michael, Dave Norton and Trevor vs. an FIB SWAT team vs. a team of IAA agents vs. a whole platoon of Merryweather mercenaries with several Buzzard attack helicopters. And it should be noted that Michael, Dave, and Trevor are all on shaky ground with each other to begin with.
    • The possible final mission, "The Third Way", begins with a grueling shootout between the three protagonists (Franklin, Michael, and Trevor), a team of FIB agents, and some Merryweather mercenaries. True to the trope, the FIB agents and Merryweather soldiers help the protags out by shooting at each other.
  • Vandal Hearts II's main plot thread starts off as a simple East vs. West civil war in the country of Natra, and then things get complicated when the heroes form a third side, the Central faction, with the help of some disillusioned nobles and generals. Things get even more complicated when it turns out there are also at least three other outside factions who are manipulating the entire civil war for their own benefit, all of them acting independently of each other (the Church of Nirvadia, the Kudur Cult, and the Zora-Archeo Empire).
  • FEAR's later levels have three-for-alls between the F.E.A.R. and Delta Force units, the Replicas, and ATC's rent-a-cops.
    • The original's game's second expansion pack, Perseus Mandate, adds the Nightcrawlers to the fray, making it a Melee A Quatre.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: While there're many factions and individuals with their own agendas competing with each other across Ferelden, the main conflict is between the Grey Wardens and their allies, Loghain and his allies, and the Darkspawn. The main plot is about the Grey Wardens trying to gather allies in order to fight off the Darkspawn, while being antagonized by Loghain, who betrayed them in an attempt to seize Ferelden for himself, forcing the Grey Wardens to deal with him first before they can deal with the Archdemon.
  • As discussed in Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition, the island nation of Seheron is currently being fought over by the Qunari, the Tal-Vashoth (former Qunari), the Tevinter Imperium and the Fog Warriors (Seheron natives).
  • Spec Ops: The Line follows a three-man Delta squad as they make their way through the apocalyptic wasteland that was once the city-state of Dubai. They end up fighting both armed civilian insurgents (led by CIA agents, one of whom has plans of his own) and the 33rd Infantry Battalion, who are of course fighting each other. This isn't counting the more rebellious elements of the 33rd that were executed before the events of the game, or the civilians who are fanatically loyal to the 33rd's leader John Konrad...
  • Star Trek Online:
    • The mission "Skirmish" opens up with one of these between Starfleet, the Klingon Defense Force, and the True Way (The Remnant of the old Cardassian military dictatorship). You learn later there's a fourth side, Devidians preying on ships in the area, including the True Way.
    • Upon arrival at the Preserver outpost world, the player finds several Breen and Jem'Hadar ships fighting for control of whatever's on the surface. The player's crewmates encourage them to attack while both are distracted.
    • On a macro scale, the conflict between the Voth, the Alpha Quadrant powers, and the Borg, shown in Dyson Reputation cutscenes and spoken of in the dev blogs. The Voth are fighting the Borg in their home space, as is the Alpha Quadrant, but the Voth are fighting the Alpha Quadrant for control of the Dyson spheres. Then Delta Rising adds the Vaadwaur to the mix, who are at war with the Voth, Borg, and the Alliance. Then the Vaadwaur have an Enemy Civil War 2/3 of the way into Delta Rising and one side allies with the Alliance.
    • "A Step Between Stars" is initially just between the Voth and the Dyson alliance. Then the Undine blast their way into the Jenolan Dyson sphere and wipe out what's left of the Voth fleet before engaging the Dyson alliance.
    • In Delta Rising's "Borg Disconnected" STF, what starts as an effort to rescue Borg drones liberated after "Hive: Onslaught" from re-assimilation turns into a Mêlée à Quatre between the players and Borg Cooperative, the Borg Collective, the Undine, and the Voth.
  • Universe at War has the aggressive world-bestriding Hierarchy vs. the robotic Novus vs. the Sufficiently Advanced Human Alien Masari. Humanity is less than pleased with the idea of three hyper-advanced and powerful alien races duking it out on their Insignificant Little Blue Planet, to say the least. Eventually the Novus, Masari and humans team up on the Hierarchy and manage to defeat them.
  • The three-way ideological rivalry reflective of history in Hearts of Iron between the democratic Allies, the fascist Axis, and the communist Comintern. Each version of the game had slightly different means by which individual nations could join or drop out, but the three groups start out more or less hostile to one another and have their own set of victory conditions to accomplish by the end of the game.
  • Dead Island:
    • In the Jungle level, a local militia would make an attempt to gun you down at a waterfall. What they don't know is the zombies will ambush them. You can let them fight each other and then finish off the remaining foes.
    • The same scenario happens again in the Prison. The Police is hostile to everyone since they are overly paranoid. You can let them fend off the zombies and then finish them off, or finish the cops first and then the zombies.
    • You can deliberately invoke this by baiting the zombies to the Punks in the Town level.
  • In Bloodborne, the Beast Possessed Soul is outright hostile to everything when he is a mob, and will attack the other creatures within its sight. You can use it to dispatch other creatures for you.
  • In Dark Souls III, the Darkwraiths and Ghrus in Farron Keep are hostile to each other. The Ghru may still attack you while fending off the Darkwraiths, but the Darkwraiths are much stronger and would prioritise on killing the Ghru first, usually resulting in the Darkwraiths defeating a pack of Ghrus before focusing on you.
    • PvP in general can potentially lead to one of these fights if the player ends up fighting invading phantoms from different factions who don't just team up against you. The sequels take it up even further if you use the Seed of the Giant Tree during these encounters, as it makes the enemies hostile to the invaders in addition to already trying to kill you.
  • Mercenaries vs. Trigens vs. Jack, Val and Doyle in Far Cry. The level "Rebellion" showcases it best, when Jack has to go through battle sites between the Trigens and the Mercs, and can be targeted by both if he doesn't wait for one side to be wiped out.
  • Crusader Kings: If two separate claimants launch wars for a title, they automatically become hostile to each other as well. This mechanic can sometimes result in a morass of warfare consuming entire continents.
  • Pirates Vikings and Knights: Guess who the three factions are.
  • The Senran Kagura series is absolutely full of this. Originally in the first game Burst, it was Hanzo Academy vs. Hebijo Academy to evoke the traditional sense of "Good Shinobi vs. Evil Shinobi", but this gets completely abandoned near the end of the game when the true Big Bad shows up and releases an Eldritch Abomination on both of the factions. After that, the Hebijo students break off from their faction to form their own called the Crimson Squad.
    • Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson has Hanzo Academy and the Crimson Squad vs. Dougen and the Youma vs. Naraku and Kagura. It gets complicated.
    • It gets even more complicated in the Versus series. Shinovi Versus introduces Gessen Academy, a Knight Templar faction, and the new Hebijo faction formed from new students in the wake of the Crimson Squad's breakaway. Leading to instances of Good Versus Good, Evil Versus Evil, and Gray-and-Grey Morality throughout the whole game. Estival Versus introduces the Thousand-Year Festival Executives, a faction with a Freudian Excuse who engages the other four factions in a five-way competition.
    • And let's not even get started with New Wave. Whoo boy!
  • Unreal Tournament's Team Deathmatch and Domination gametypes can support up to 4 teams.
  • Nexuiz and its Spiritual Successor Xonotic have multi-way Team Deathmatch, Domination and Key Hunt matches. Some of those matches can even be found in both games' respective campaigns.
  • In space strategy Reunion it's you against Morgruls-Kalls alliance against the League.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine starts out as the Ultramarines and Imperial Guard vs. the Orks, but two-thirds of the way through a Chaos Space Marine warband shows up and starts summoning daemons.
  • In Stellaris, an event called War in Heaven becomes one of these between two fallen empires alongside their respective allies and an alliance of all the factions that decided to stay neutral.
  • Nexus War games revolve around the titular War between Angels, Demons and the free-willed Transcended. Transcended can join either of the other sides instead of forming their own factions, but this serves to keep both Angels and Demons distrustful of them.
  • By the end of Act I in Tyranny, you have one of these on your hands between the Disfavored (Empire-aligned, honorful warriors, elite army), the Scarlet Chorus (also Empire-aligned, army of thieves and whores, the horde) and the Rebellion, which is split into even more sub-faction that might or might not get along. Made even more complicated by a number of neutral groups that just want to be left alone, such as the beast people tribes, those that are mostly in it for the money (the Bronze Brotherhood), and the Court of Fatebinders, which is the judicial part of the Empire and the faction the player belongs to initially. The player then can ally with either of the main factions, support them while trying to stay neutral in their role of fatebinder, or betray everyone and start their own anarchist faction.
  • The entire Forever War in PlanetSide is a Melee A Trois - Three empires in constant warfare over some tiny rock god-knows-where. Often, three empires will fight over the same base, usually with one team already holding the base and trying to stave off the other two empires (who are busy shooting each other and the defenders at the same time). The areas between bases often turn into deadlocks between two empires until the third empire barges in for some kills.
  • Monster Hunter: World introduces Turf Wars where two large monsters enter the same area and get into an epic clash of the titans. Anjanath vs. Rathalosnote , Barroth vs. Diablosnote , Odogaron vs. Paolumunote , Deviljho vs. everyonenote , are just a few examples. These battles are not only cool for the hunters to watch, but it gives them an opening to wail on the monsters while they're busy, plus monster-on-monster damage is buffed so hundreds of points of damage can be inflicted as a result of these fights.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, the conflict escalated from the events of Shin Megami Tensei IV with the humans, the angels under Merkabah, and the demons under Lucifer in an all-out war, with the Divine Powers joining the fray.
  • In BioShock 2, you occasionally come across a group of Splicers trying (and always failing) to bring down a Big Daddy. It's always scripted, though, as Splicers will otherwise leave the Big Daddies alone even in your absence in both games. Which makes sense; if every Big Daddy had to constantly fight off every Splicer they run across, you could just follow them around and wait for their health to get whittled down — helping yourself to free Splicer loot all the way. Luckily there are still ways to force this.
  • BioShock Infinite, meanwhile, has the fights between the Vox and the Columbia police, which become this once the Vox turns on you.
  • A first for the series, in Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain introduces the Kindred Rebellion, who will fight you and the EDF as much as the giant insects are trying to kill and eat the both of you.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors:
    • In the main story, "Land of Twilight" starts out as Hyrulean Forces vs. Cia's Dark Forces, but partway through the stage, Midna shows up with her own army. She teams up with the Hyrulean Forces afterward.
    • In Cia's Tale, this happens twice. The Dark Forces fight both the Gorons and Volga's army in "The Dragon of the Caves", and both Zant and Midna in "The Usurper King".
    • In the midst of the battle in the Temple of Souls between the Hyrulean forces and Cia's, Ganondorf bursts in with his own army to fight them all.
    • Some battles in Adventure Mode task you with defeating two enemy armies, while others have you in a Body-Count Competition with another army.
  • Happens often in Streets of Rogue, usually invoked by the player to find simple solutions to their problems. Getting mugged by the mafia? Just lead them into that base you need to storm and let guards and mobsters waste their ammo on each other. Need to take out a gangster? Just orchestrate a massive shootout between them, a rival gang and the police then clean up whoever is left. The capacity for nearly any NPC to become hostile towards any other NPC under the right conditions and the several automatic rivalries between various groups means that it's actually fairly rare to go through a level without some form of multi-party Set a Mook to Kill a Mook action breaking out.
  • SCP: Secret Laboratory has Class-D personnel and the Chaos Insurgency vs the Foundation vs the escaping SCPs. It should be noted that there's no actual benefit or consequence to all these factions waging war on each other, making it perfectly fine to try and make alliances with players or to backstab your own team. Also note that the Class-D and the Foundation Scientists are forced to work together to survive in the first sections of a game, but are also encouraged to wipe each other out if they find the means to.
  • Happens sometimes in random missions in BattleTech, particularly ones to kill specific enemies: a third party will occassionally arrive who also wants to kill the target. This is actually a good thing if the target happens to be in a big, nasty mech since you can pull back and let both sides pound each other for a few rounds before you swoop in with your fresh lance to mop up the survivors. It also happens at the end of the Heavy Metal flashpoint, when you find yourself going up against Natasha Kerinsky *and* the Bounty Hunter, and each of their overpowered lances- the only chance you really have is to make sure they spend more time shooting each other.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Hoenn games (Ruby and Sapphire and their remakes) feature two villainous teams instead of just one: Team Aqua and Team Magma. The two have opposing goals (Team Aqua wants to flood the world for the benefit of water-types, while Team Magma wants to eliminate the oceans for the benefit of ground-types), and of course the player wants neither team to succeed. Typically the Aqua/Magma conflicts play out off-screen (since watching them fight would just slow down the game), but the animosity is present from the start and by the end when the Olympus Mons get into play, it's something of a free-for-all.
    • Downplayed in Kalos, wherein hoard battles (five wild Pokémon encountered at once) are typically player-against-wild, but every so often a Zangoose or Seviper (mortal enemies) will wind up in a hoard with each other, and they'll attack each other as well as the player. Which is tricky, because it's the only way to get a Zangoose or Seviper, depending on the version you're playing, so you've got to stop the others from killing it if you want to catch it, not to mention stop them from killing you.
    • Alola introduces the Battle Royal battle format, wherein four competitors engage in a one-on-one-on-one-on-one fight which ends as soon as the first person's Pokémon faints, rather than being to the last person standing.
  • Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back has Crash himself stuck in the middle of one, as it's N. Brio's forces vs. Neo Cortex and N. Gin vs. Coco (who tries to warn Crash about Cortex manipulating him). Of course, since it's Crash who is the hero, he ultimately defeats Cortex and N. Gin, and he, Coco and N. Brio use the gems to destroy Cortex's space station. The N. Sane Trilogy version skews things even further by having Coco directly help Crash herself via time travel.
  • The Pure Blooded Thief/Convict Allies path in Henry Stickmin Series: Complete The Mission has this as Henry and Ellie find themselves in an all out battle between the Government and the Toppats while being chased by the Wall. This results in a 4-way battle between the Government vs the Toppats vs the Wall vs Henry and Ellie, where the Government tries to take down the Toppat Clan, the Toppats try to launch their space station, the Wall tries to recapture Ellie and Henry (not caring if they have to fight through the government and Toppats to do so), and Henry and Ellie aim to escape. At the end of the path, the player is asked to choose sides. Choosing the Government or the Toppats results in endings where Henry and Ellie help take out the space station and get pardoned (Government), or help the Toppats launch their station and kill the leaders of the Wall (Toppat). Choosing the Wall will result in a fail where Henry and Ellie are brought back to the Complex and frozen in a cryogenic cell. Choosing no side will also result in a fail where Henry and Ellie both die after a poorly executed escape plan.
  • In Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the Legion and the Outlaws will attack eachother as well as the player.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II, the final mission in Chapter 6 has Arthur and John confronting and fighting Dutch, Micah and the remaining gang members while an army of Pinkertons arrive to wipe everyone out.
  • Tetris 99: As expected from a battle royale game, this tends to happen a lot. You have manual targeting and badges that increase your attack power (that you can only get by other players), so the dynamics can get interesting.
  • Civilization series:
    • The ideology system in Civilization V is designed to evoke, or at least approximate this trope. Although civilizations with different ideologies do not necessarily have to enter into direct military confrontation, their choice will have an impact not only on their own population, but also on other civs. This means that every civilization is interested in having their ideology adopted as widely as possible, since this guarantees them internal consent, and their rivals - a series of protests, in case of disagreement. Therefore, nations with common ideological aspirations will be more likely to converge with each other against adherents of other worldview systems. In theory that's must indirectly distribute all civilizations into three ideological alliances that will perceive each other's very existence as a personal insult and a threat to their way of life, but in fact, the difference in ideologies only gives a penalty in the relationship, which is difficult to overcome, but possible.
    • Affinities in Civilization: Beyond Earth also work in a similar way. The further colonies go in their development of chosen affinity, the less they are inclined to understand each other and the more incompatible their ultimate aspirations become. It very noticable when trying to achieve any type of victory associated with certain affinity: while adherents of other affinities will have something to say to you in protest, like-minded colonies will not say a word to you. Even though there can only be one winner. On the contrary, they will be more inclined to ally with you against the former, who may try to stop you from making a "critical mistake". Again, as in the case of Civilization V, the presence of different affinities is not a condemnation of any relationship between civilizations, therefore it can be said that the confrontation is noticeably not so much during gameplay as in narrative.
  • God of War III: After the inevitable betrayal of Kratos by Gaia, the Second Titanomachy turns into this, with the Olympians vs. the Titans vs. Kratos and his remaining few allies (Pandora, Athena, Hephaestus); the latter two predictably tries to betray him later on.

    Visual Novels 
  • The final battle of Dies Irae is a huge free-for-all between Ren, Reinhard and Mercurius, each fighting to determine who is gonna be the next god of the multiverse, all while doling out reality shattering attacks trying to win the upper hand. Ultimately they end up destroying each other as neither Ren nor Reinhard can exist without Mercurius and instead it is Marie, who had been sitting back the entire time, who is able to move in and seize godhood.
  • Fate/stay night: The Holy Grail War is fashioned as one: seven Masters, their eventual associates, seven Servants. To reach the end of the War and fully open the path to the Holy Grail, all seven Servants must ultimately die. The Master's death is not required, but killing a Master is the fastest way to dispose of a Servant who doesn't have the Independent Action skill. A Servant who survives their Master's death long enough can take a new contract, and under some conditions a Master can have a contract with more than one Servant.

    Web Animation 
  • The Flash video series Super Mario Bros. Z pits the Mario team (Consisting of Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Sonic and Shadow) against the Koopa Bros (From Paper Mario) and the Axem Rangers X (Upgraded versions of the Axem Rangers from Super Mario RPG), in a fierce battle on Yoshi's Island. Later, Mecha Sonic appears, who fights against all three, though only one team at a time. He enters the battle by ramming into the Koopa Bros, taking them out instantly. With them down, he then proceeds to nab the Axem Ranger's Chaos Emerald and destroy their gunship. The Rangers attack him, but he systematically beats and then kills them. This leaves only the heroes, Mario, Sonic and the gang, to take on Mecha Sonic, and the rest of the episode revolves around this fight rather than the earlier Melee A Trois.
  • In the Recollection saga of Red vs. Blue, it's the Blood Gulch Crew vs. Project Recovery (and, by extension, the UNSC) vs. The Meta. Though, with the introduction of other characters and elements, the sides shift quite constantly.
  • Garry's Mod Animation series Gaming All Stars:
  • In RWBY, when Clover and Qrow start fighting after Ironwood's order to arrest Qrow, Tyrian gets involved in the fight, having escaped from his cuffs. When Qrow tries to subdue Tyrian, Clover targets Qrow instead of helping to recapture the prisoner. For a short while, the three men all fight each other before Tyrian decides to help Qrow fight Clover. When he successfully convinces Qrow to join forces to subdue Clover, the fight becomes an Enemy Mine battle.
  • In Zimaut Animation's "Super Soldiers Clash", what starts as a duel between Guile and The Winter Soldier is interrupted halfway by Brock Rumlow a.k.a. Crossbones, trying to recapture Bucky for HYDRA, turning the fight into a three-way brawl.

  • During the "Stormbreaker Saga" from Sluggy Freelance, a straightforward battle between the kingdoms of Trent and Mercia is interrupted by K'Z'K attacking both sides with its demon army. Whether any of the Trents or Mercians join sides (besides Torg and Zoe) is unclear.
  • An appropriate quote from Schlock Mercenary:
    The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more, no less.
  • In Girl Genius, you have:
    • Agatha and her friends, plus (now) Castle Heterodyne and all the Jägermonsters.
    • Baron Wulfenbach and his army (with Gilgamesh torn between this side and Agatha's).
    • House Sturmvoraus (with Tarvek being of dubious allegiance, and possibly choosing Agatha's side). Also, the multiple branches of the family are constantly schisming, re-aligning, and betraying each other.
    • Zola and the conspiracy backing her. This started out being part of the Sturmvoraus plan, but appears to no longer be under the control of any known family members.
    • The Other and her minions.
    • Othar Tryggvassen, GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER.
    • And many others, including any power-hungry Spark that would get involved. It doesn't simplify things that The Other, Lucrezia, is currently inhabiting Agatha's body.
    • The best illustration of a Mêlée à Trois, though, would certainly be this page.
    • In one arc there's at least seven different factions fighting for control of Mechanicsburg, and word is more are on their way.
  • Homestuck:
    • God-tier Vriska vs. Eridan vs. Gamzee! STRIFE! Subverted, A newly undead Kanaya kicks Gamzee in the crotch and off a cliff, punches Vriska and sends her sliding away, and breaks Eridan's wand and pulls out a chainsaw on him.
    • Later on in the act, there's a showdown with a quintet, existing of the aforementioned Kanaya and Gamzee, but also with Karkat, Sollux and Terezi. The first one is named 'Attempt a rare 3x showdown combo', and the second one is titled in the same vein: 'Attempt a rare and highly dangerous 5x showdown combo'. Though this is downplayed in that everyone except Gamzee is on the same side; Karkat merely calms his friends down to stop them from fighting Gamzee so he can settle things himself.
    • Much later, in "[S] Game Over", there's the Condesce vs. Aranea vs. the protagonists, who all attack the members of the other groups with the intent to kill (and, in many cases, successfully do kill each other). There's a minor fourth side with Gamzee, who's in a mad rage, but he only attacks the protagonists, and only manages to kill one and badly injure another before a third protagonist kills him.
    • In the climax of Act 6, there is a three-way between Terezi and Dave and Dirk on one side, Spades Slick on another, and Jack English on the third. Both Jacks are equally hostile to everyone.
  • In the webcomics of Urban Rivals, the B team have to protect their captured leaders from Zlatars robot ninjas and the Ghiest clan.
  • The Order of the Stick: This briefly occurs during the Battle of Azure City, when both one of Xykon's decoys and some ninja assassins sent by Daimyo Kubota try to kill Hinjo. Humorously, the duplicate and one of the ninjas actually argue over who gets the kill, before Hinjo suggests a third option:
    Hinjo: I call my proposal "Giant Dwarf with a hammer".
  • Two instances in Tower of God: First in the crown game, where up to 5 teams could and would face off against each other, and then the three-way fight between Viole, Hon Akraptor, and Kang Horyang.
  • Gone with the Blastwave's premise is three armies (the protagonists' faction Red, plus Blue and Yellow) fighting a Forever War in a bombed-out city. An April Fools page has the Red protagonists find their way out of the city to find that the entire war is a giant museum exhibit or memorial to a war that, for everyone else, ended centuries ago.
  • Grrl Power: The "situation" in Manhattan starts with alien bounty hunters trying to capture Maxima and tangling with the rest of her team, but it soon gets complicated by the meddling of local supervillains that are after the alien tech, and also inside intel on ARCHON.
  • Evon: Hero and Evee take on Sevarian, Ferneris and Ferneris' right hand, Freya, in a bid to rescue Evon. The fight suddenly turns into both sides fighting for their lives against a Drunk on the Dark Side Maximus. Maximus wins

    Web Original 
  • On the Internet, "Player 3 has entered the game" is a popular memetic phrase used to highlight moments or situations where a third party abruptly barges into an otherwise simple feud between two subjects, in reference to Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer.
  • This is going on throughout the Whateley Universe story "Saks and Violence" but the final battle in the wrecking yard is Jadis (the protagonist) and her fellow Bad Seeds plus as many minions as she could hire on short notice vs. the Empire City Guard and the Cadet Crusaders vs. the armies of the Anti-Champion. Plus whatever Jobe is up to, and the general untrustworthiness of anyone whose last name is Wilkins.
  • The Ruins of an American Party System:
    • The German Civil War of the 1920s is a three-way conflict between the Communists, the Nazis, and a more centrist movement that supports a restored (and constitutional) monarchy. The latter wins.
    • The Indian Civil War of the 40s is even more complicated. On the surface, it's the British and their loyalists vs Hindu nationalists vs Muslim nationalists vs Communist revolutionaries. But both nationalist groups are further divided by factions willing to work with each other against the Communists, and those willing to work with the Communists against the British. And there's also the maharajas, who are playing the field amongst the British and both sets of nationalists to fend off the Communists.
  • A More Personal Union has a few examples:
    • The Italian theater of the Great War becomes this, as the Pavian Compact is formed by the otherwise neutral northern Italian city-states to kick both the French and the Spanish out of their territory once their fighting spills into it.
    • The unrest in China during the early 1600s has the Imperial court, a sizable army faction that's gone rogue out of disgust at the court's corruption, Red Tiger's revolutionary army, and the Jurchen invaders (the latter two eventually reluctantly teaming up), as well as numerous smaller groups, all fighting each other.
    • The Spanish Civil War has four claimants fighting over the throne, as well as having to deal with an uprising by the Muslim Moriscos.
  • Magic, Metahumans, Martians and Mushroom Clouds: An Alternate Cold War:
    • Egypt's Civil War upon resurrection of Ramses XI has four distinct factions — Ramses' undead forces and living supporters of his restored monarchy, the ousted General Naguib's remaining loyalists trying to restore him to power, and various Communist and Muslim groups trying to take over Egypt for themselves.
    • The power vacuum in India following Subhas Bose's takeover and subsequent death results in several of his lieutenants fighting to take his place, while also dealing with uprisings by the Sikh population, loyalists of the ousted Prime Minister Nehru, and the Communist Party of India.
    • The chaotic fighting that engulfs Paris in May 1968 is between Charles de Gaulle's government, various socialist and right-wing groups opposed to said government and each other, and an expeditionary invasion force from an Alternate Universe when the Bonaparte dynasty conquered the world.
    • The Himalayan War involves China and India both separately invading Tibet to try and conquer it for themselves, with Tibet not only having to fend them both off but also having to deal with communist militias and fringe Buddhist sects aimed at bringing down the government.
    • The Iraqi civil war almost has too many factions to count. Army cliques, Baathists, Islamists, minority separatists, local metahumans, and more all pop up to fill the power vacuum that happens when Nergal wipes out the government, and start fighting each other for dominance.

    Web Videos 
  • After the (entirely satirical) feud between The Angry Video Game Nerd and The Nostalgia Critic got really heated, the Critic busted in on one of the Nerd's autograph signings. Also, there was fellow Internet personality Captain S, who wasn't involved with the feud at all but invited himself in anyway, resulting in a slow-motion three-way brawl in the parking lot that simultaneously spoofed The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Rocky V. It kind of has to be seen to be believed.
  • Happens sometimes in Epic Rap Battles of History with a third person dropping by to smack both contestants:
    • Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates vs. HAL 9000
    • Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney vs. Abraham Lincoln
    • Ghostbusters vs. Mythbusters vs. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
    • Exaggerated in "Rasputin vs. Stalin" which was first interrupted by Lenin, then by Gorbachev and then by Putin, each dissing out all previous contestants.
    • Also exaggerated in "Steven Spielberg vs. Alfred Hitchcock", where the battle keeps getting interrupted by Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, and Michael Bay.
    • Played straight in "John Wick vs. John Rambo vs. John McClane", the first rap battle to have three contestants from the start, without anybody dropping in later.
  • Perhaps a very downplayed example, but the whole format of Movie Fights feature a three-way verbal battle between three movie nerds arguing about movie trivia. And, yes, they get very heated in their arguments, especially if Nick Mundy and Roger Barr are on the set together.
  • Noob:
    • Horizon started out with two factions, the Empire (the faction in which the protagonists are playing) and the Coalition. Later installments introduce the Order, which is hostile to both, causing this trope to happen.
    • Season 5 finale of the webseries had a fight between the three UltimateGamer386 characters. Fantöm and Amaras ended teaming up to have a chance to beat Spectre, who's good enough to put both of them in Overshadowed by Awesome territory.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has the episode "Daring Don't" which features The Ring of Destiny. This is fought over by Daring Do with the Mane Six who need to destroy it, Dr. Caballeron with his henchponies who want to sell it for the money and Ahuizotl who wants it to use for his dark ritual.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In "The Chase", Azula vs. Aang vs. Zuko. Then one by one the rest of the Gaang shows up, as does Iroh. Eventually collapses into everyone vs. Azula by silent agreement that they all hate her the most. She "surrenders" but gets away anyway.
    • This is also present in the rest of the series as a sort of Right Hand Versus Left Hand between Zuko and the rest of the Fire Nation (especially Zhao) fighting over Aang, while Aang is trying to avoid capture.
    • An earlier episode has a three-way battle between the Gaang, the Fire Nation, and pirates.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man:
    • Gang lords auction on a disc with the key to New York. This leads to a battle between Spidey, Hammerhead, Silver Sable, Rhino, and Roderick Kingsley, the guy who actually bought the disc. The winner of the fight? Norman Osborn, who sold Kingsley a fake disc knowing it would never survive the ensuing chaos, and now has all the money Kingsley gave him and the real disc.
    • Also, the brawl between Tombstone, Doc Ock, and Silvermane in "Gangland" with Spidey watching from the side, only getting involved to prevent collateral damage. The villains form a (very) brief alliance to take him down, but Tombstone turns on them to maintain his image, as he couldn't be seen in public siding with the bad guys. The winner? Norman Osborn again as his main rivals were arrested, or in the case of Tombstone had their assets severely crippled.
  • After the Foot Clan got taken down a few notches in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), New York became a battleground between what was left of the Foot, the mob, and the Purple Dragons gang.
    • Most of the major conflicts in the series are less Turtles vs. Shredder and more Turtles vs. Shredder vs. Baxter Stockman (who eventually pulls a The Starscream on Shredder and remains a persistent thorn in both sides' sides by hitching his wagon to the aforementioned mob and later Bishop). Stockman usually gets eliminated from the three-way first, though.
    • The "Turtles in Space" arc has the Turtles caught in the crossfire between two galactic dictatorships that are nearly identical in their corruption, militarism, and insanity.
  • Transformers:
    • The second season of Transformers: Animated is Autobots vs. the Decepticons still working with Megatron vs. Starscream and his clones, with lone enemies like Swindle, Blackarachnia, and Meltdown showing up occasionally.
    • The Transformers: The Movie: Autobots vs. Decepticons vs. Unicron.
    • Transformers Energon: Autobots vs. Decepticons vs. Alpha Q and Team Rodimus (before their Heel–Face Turn).
    • Transformers Cybertron: Autobots vs. Megatron's Decepticons vs. Starscream's Decepticons.
    • Transformers: Prime: In the midst of the general Autobots vs. Decepticons conflict, several third parties such as M.E.C.H., a temporary independent-acting Starscream, Airachnid and her Insecticons, Unicron, the Predacons and the Terrorcons joins in the fray, often as an enemy to either one of the main factions or to both. And put in with all the ever-shifting alliances and loyalties, backstabbings and betrayals Game of Thrones style to go with it.
  • The Batman: Batman vs. Catwoman vs. Ragdoll, as they fought over stolen goods.
  • Exo Squad: Exofleet vs. Neosapiens vs. Pirates. Pirates are the King Maker.
  • War Planets, a.k.a. Shadow Raiders, involved an ages-long war between four planets, until they are all forced to cooperate because they are attacked by a fifth, far more powerful enemy.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Witches of the Mist" gives us the franchise's first three-way lightsaber duel, between Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and Savage Oppress.
    • The series' final battle is a three-way struggle between Ahsoka and Rex, Maul, and the Order 66-affected clone troopers.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • In the episode "Flirting with Disasters", it was Danny vs. Valerie vs. Technus. Danny's prime target is Technus, though he has to shake Valerie off without hurting her. Valerie primary aims for Danny, though being a ghost hunter, she would eventually have aimed for Technus. Technus concentrated more on world dominating, but he would have warded off both of them as he attempted throughout the episode.
    • Also, briefly, Danny vs. Vlad vs. Valerie in "Reign Storm" before they all decided to team up against a bigger foe.
  • In one episode of Kim Possible, Shego, Monkeyfist and Duff Killigan all fight each other for possession of Ron's naked mole rat Rufus. Added awesomeness here as they fight on, in and around the Eiffel Tower, with Kim intervening to save Rufus from harm.
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! episode "Hail Hydra!", there is an Enemy Civil War between HYDRA and A.I.M., with the Avengers trying to stop it, and S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to stop everyone.
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Winner Take All", the final battle among friendly competitors is between Robin, Speedy, and Wildebeest. The competitors hold no grudges and are only playing to win the tournament. The fight becomes a one-on-one once Wildebeest loses.
  • In the Young Justice episode "Drop Zone", on the Team's first mission, they find themselves going up against Bane and the cult organization Kobra, who are also warring against each other.
  • Happens frequently on Celebrity Deathmatch, often unintentionally.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Beware the Creeper", the Joker and Harley Quinn are trying to take down the Creeper, since the Joker feels that he's ruining his "act". The Creeper is trying to get revenge on the Joker (and seduce Harley) for turning him into the Creeper. Batman and Robin are trying to stop all of them from causing even more chaos than they already have. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The "Shanghai" trilogy of DC Nation shorts ends in a three-way fight between Catwoman, Bane and Batman over a valuable scroll, cutting to a suspiciously similar image of shadow puppetry as the battle goes on.
  • In one episode of Birdman (1967), the evil organization F.E.A.R. mind controls the leaders of three nations to go to war with each other as part of their plans.
  • PJ Masks: In the episode "Robot's Pet Cat", after Romeo uses his Animal-Metamorpho Ray to turn Catboy into a cat and makes him Robot's pet, it leads to a struggle for control over the invention between The PJ Masks (who want it to turn Catboy back to normal), Robot (who wants to destroy the invention to prevent Catboy from being turned back) and Romeo (who wants it to turn more people into animals for his new zoo).
  • Carmen Sandiego features Carmen and her allies against both V.I.L.E., a secretive, extensive criminal organization, and A.C.M.E., a secretive, extensive crime fighting organization. Each organization believes (or at least, suspects) Carmen is working with the other. Carmen is only actively fighting against V.I.L.E., though, whereas she's merely trying to evade A.C.M.E.'s capture, and she happily works alongside A.C.M.E. Agent Argent. She was even considering formalizing the alliance with A.C.M.E. (who were beginning to realize she wasn't the enemy) toward the end of season two until she found out the head of A.C.M.E. killed her criminal father in the line of duty, leaving her to be raised by V.I.L.E. in the first place; meanwhile, the cyber-attack Carmen did against A.C.M.E. to confirm this information soured the relationship on that side as well, making Carmen Sandiego their number one target.

    Real Life 
  • The Yugoslav Wars were a three-way melee between the Serbs (Eastern Orthodox, backed by the Russians, Greeks, and other East Europeans), the Croats (Catholic, backed by Western Europeans) and the Bosnians (mostly Muslim, backed by Arabs and other Muslims). Various alliances were formed and many backs were stabbed in the course of the four-year war.
  • This was also the case in Yugoslavia during World War II where the Chetniks (nationalist partisans), Tito's communists and the German occupiers and their allies, most notably the Croat Ustashe were also trying to gain or retain control of Yugoslavia. Tito's eventual victory was not wholly due to Soviet intervention, setting up his rivalry with Stalin and the 1948 split with Moscow. There were many alliances forged: Italians weren't really happy with NDHnote  (they didn't even allow NDH forces to cross to south part of the state), partisans were fighting against any occupiers for communist Yugoslavia, and Chetniks for royalist Yugoslavia, while Germans simply wanted resources from NDH. So Italians often protected Chetniks and Partisans from NDH, and fought them at other times; Chetniks made alliances with Axis forces against Partisans as well with Partisans against Axis forces; Germans and Ustashi fought Partisans constantly, but sometimes allied with Chetniks against them...
  • The Sectarian civil war that occurred in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. You may hear it referred to as "war between Muslims and Christians". But in actuality, there were countless factions such as the Phalangists, Palestine Liberation Organization, Amal, Druze, Hizbullah and others. Other countries got dragged into it too. An infamous method of execution that happened during the war was "Identity Killings". Every Lebanese person at that time had an I.D Card which listed their sect or religion. The result was that if you were a civilian trying to get through Beirut in your car, you would come across a checkpoint manned by militants. They would demand to see your I.D, and if you happened to be from a sect that they didn't like, they would pull you out of the car and shoot you in the head. Such behavior by all parties involved characterized the war.
  • The Crusades: Roman Catholics vs. Orthodox Christians vs. Muslims, with the Jews caught in the middle. Oh, and the Mongols show up too.
    • And members of all three sides taking the opportunity to attack rivals within their own faction — occasionally with the help of members of another faction.
    • It got more complicated with the Ninth Crusade (1271-1272). Abaqa Khan, the monarch of the Ilkhanate, allied with the Crusaders against the Mamluks. He was a Buddhist. On the other hand, the Northern Crusades (or Baltic Crusades) featured various Catholic factions at war with the last remaining Pagan tribes of Northern Europe. Said Catholic factions rivaled each other and did not hesitate to go into open war. For example the long conflict between Poland and the Teutonic Order. Add a number of Orthodox states, mainly Novgorod, getting involved and you have even more complexity than the Middle Eastern Crusades.
      • Even more complicated. The Mongols who conquered the Russian lands, the Golden Horde, converted to Islam and went to war against their Ilkhanate cousins in Persia.
      • Mongols were also involved in the Northern Crusades, but against the Crusaders in this case, as the statelets of northern Russia were also vassals of the Golden Horde (and Alexander Nevsky, the Novgorod prince, was a sworn brother of Sartaq, the Mongol Khan (of the Horde).
  • The Haitian Revolution: one group wanted to remain loyal to the French Revolution (mostly free blacks, supported by France), one group wanted independence so they could keep things as they were under the monarchy (mostly whites, supported by Britain), and one group wanted independence for a black nation (mostly slaves, supported by Spain). The free blacks won, but when the French Expeditionary Force arrived and started acting like dicks, the free blacks teamed up with the slaves and established an independent Haiti.
  • In many governments, the power is often divided up into three branches, with the idea being that no one branch can get all of the power because it has to compete with two other branches. Apart from America, many Commonwealth countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand have separation of power where the government is split into 3 branches (parliament, judiciary, and executive). Many Commonwealth countries countries in general also have several parties jockeying for position. As just one example, Canada has had everything from Melees A Trois to Melees A Cinq. The Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic Parties have been competing for decades, with various other parties (Social Credit, Reform, Bloc Quebecois, etc.) being elected to Parliament at any given time.
  • In the old Soviet Union, the Communist Party, the Armed Forces, and the KGB tended to function as competing political power blocs.
  • Let's not even get started on the causes of the First World War.
    • Many smaller countries went into the war nominally allied with one side but with the full intention of seizing land or other perks from the weakened victor, even if that victor was ostensibly an ally.
    • Several countries backed efforts to establish a southern Slavic state (Yugoslavia) purely because it would weaken the Austro-Hungarian Empire or allow a pretext for war.
    • The "Young Turks" allied with Germany, bringing the Ottoman Empire with them. They then participated in a covert plan to travel the Middle East, fermenting various nations to call for a 'jihad' against the British Empire. To the Germans, this was a tactical plan to force Britain to either expend troops quelling uprisings or lose India, the crown jewel of its empire. The Turks, however, intended to use the holy warcry to found an all-Turk empire of the Middle East. The plan failed on its very first mission to Afghanistan due to a wide array of tactical and diplomatic blunders, as well as the British keeping hefty bribes flowing to Afghanistan. It didn't help that the German agents decided to brew schnapps and get drunk in a country where alcohol was unheard of. Intoxicated European provocateurs flaunting disregard for local religious laws rarely help under-the-table diplomacy.
  • World War II was one of these, as two separate wars (Japan vs. China in 1937, Germany vs. Poland in 1939) broke out on opposite sides of the globe and eventually merged into a single massive conflict.
    • Indeed, the Chinese conflict was a straight example. The Japanese came and took over the major cities in the eastern area. In theory, this caused the Communists and the Kuomintang to work together to fight a guerilla war against the Japanese. In practice, the Japanese tried to keep control over the area, while the rebels tried to gain popular support, with all three sides taking pot shots at each other trying to remove the competition.
    • Germany and China had an excellent relationship prior to World War II. Indeed, Chiang Kai Shek's best troops were equipped and trained by the Germans and German advisors were still planning their operations when the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out—and would continue to do so until 1938 when Hitler agreed to withdraw them. So, for a year or two, the Germans were indirectly fighting the Japanese in China!
    • After the Germans pulled out, the Soviet Union stepped in as the major supplier of arms (and "advisors") to the KMT government. When the KMT armies (unofficially) clashed with the Communist Chinese forces from 1939 onward, they may well have been doing so with Soviet arms.
    • Soviets had a complex role in the Chinese communist movement. Cominten (i.e. Soviet) agents in China distrusted Mao and the local communists (though there were Soviet-style Chinese communists, such as the Twenty-Eight Bolsheviks) and often clashed against them, even while they were supposedly fighting together against both the government and various warlord armies.
      • Chiang, for his part, was only nominally allied with some of the warlords. Zhang Xueliang was none too pleased that Chiang preferred to focus attention on his fellow Chinese communists rather than the Japanese invaders, and took him prisoner until he agreed, on paper, to play nice.
    • Soviet aid to the KMT government (against Mao's forces) and the earlier hostile role played by Comintern agents against Mao and his followers in the Chinese communist movement were not forgotten by the PRC leaders after 1949. They were among the contributing factors to the breakdown of the relationship between PRC and USSR in the 1950s.
    • Ukrainian Resistance fought at the same time against Polish Resistance, German Army, and Russian Army.
    • Ditto in parts of Lithuania that were also claimed by the Poles—e.g. around Vilnius.
    • Similarly, several countries had local pro-Axis troops fighting against both pro-Western and pro-Soviet resistance fighters, who often also fought each other.
    • The vicious nature of the bureaucratic system in Nazi Germany also often resulted in this, especially in the early days of Nazi rule. There was a time when a shooting war between some combination of the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht could have been a real possibility and was a major motivation for the SS to viciously consolidate power in the late 1930s.
    • When SS General Sepp Dietrich was told of the failed assassination attempt on Hitler in July 1944, the first thing he wanted to know was whether the attempt was carried out by the SS or by the army, in order to figure out which side he should join. Likewise, in the last days of the Third Reich, Heinrich Himmler supposedly thought that he could make a separate peace with the Western Allies, along with his SS, against the rest of the Nazi regime.
    • Finland's role in the second world war could be boiled down to "fought almost everybody". The Finns had just ended the Winter War fifteen months prior to the start of Operation Barbarossa and were convinced to ally with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, which in turn led to the Soviet Union's allies, Great Britain, to declare war on Finland. When the war turned against Nazi Germany, Finland sued for a separate peace with the Soviet Union, which in turn caused the Germans to attack Finland. Finland entered a mutual co-operation pact with the Soviet Union (though they only provided a little bit of areal support for one campaign), but were still technically at war with them and the British. They weren't formally at peace until 1947, when the Paris Peace Treaty was ratified.
  • Likewise, the Cold War had not two but three main factions: the Western world featuring NATO, the Communist bloc and the Non-Aligned Movement. Adding to the complication was the defection of China which became a power in its own right opposed to the Soviet Union.
  • The bizzare 1967 Opium War, where The Remnant of the Kuomitang that escaped from China and hid in Burma started to traffic opium and heroin with help of the CIA. They were kicked out by a Sino-Burmese force and resettled in Laos. In 1967 they entered in conflict with a local drug warlord where they tried to steal 16 tons of Opium from a drug mule caravan and both factions soon started to fight, soon the CIA-backed Laotian general Ouane Rattikone got involved as he used the royal armed force's resources to bomb and attack both sides. Ouane won the conflict and used the 16 ton captured opium to refine it into heroin and sell to the international market.
  • The term "battle royal" refers to a fight in which three or more combatants fight until only one is left standing.
    • The term was first coined by the Romans to describe gladiatorial fights involving three or more combatants who would fight until one remained standing or alive. Such battles were considered brutal even by Roman standards, such that early Christians such as Clement of Rome and Ignatius actively campaigned against it to no success.
    • The battle royal was revived in the arena of boxing in 19th century America, appearing on the undercard of boxing matches. Before the abolition of slavery, such matches featured five or six black slaves who fought blindfolded and bare-knuckled until either one was left standing or until two fighters remained, at which point the blindfolds were taken off and the fight continued as a normal bout. The practice of the battle royal continued long after the abolition into the early 20th century, with the fighters being allowed to keep their winnings.
    • Nowadays, battle royals occur in Professional Wrestling (see above), with World Championship Wrestling holding the largest battle royals in the industry in the form of the annual 60-man World War 3 pay-per-view events.
  • China has the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" period that was pretty much this trope. In fact, this trope can be easily summed up in just three battles of this time period: Chibi, where western Shu and eastern Wu alliance to battle against northern Wei; Fan Castle, where Wu betrays Shu with the help of Wei to take control of an incredibly important part of central China; and Yi-Ling, where Shu responds to the betrayal by attacking Wu, losing a huge chunk of troops and their leader, and eventually surrendering to Wei, which, after undergoing a mostly bloodless coup and becoming Jin, quickly sweeps up the rest of the empire.
    • There were numerous other leaders who clashed with at least one of the kingdoms, including Zhang Jiao, Dong Zhuo, Lu Bu, Yuan Shao, and Meng Huo. It was an...interesting period.
  • Korea had a similar time period which saw three dynasties battling it out, which were also called The Three Kingdoms.
  • Large chunks of Chinese history follows this trope when there were multiple rulers claiming imperial title and "mandate of heaven." A particularly prolonged yet "stable" 3-4 way conflict took place between 10th-13th centuries. Most of China, by the end of the 10th century, was unified by the Sung Dynasty. However, northern borderlands were controlled by Khitan Liao Dynasty and the western borderlands were controlled by Tangut Western Hsia Dynasty, while the Manchurian lands were in the hands of as of yet divided Jurchen (Manchu) tribes, all of whom were fighting one another. Sung was able to defeat Liao with the aid of Jurchens, who became a unified empire that called itself the Jin, but, after a Sung betrayal, Jin invaded Sung and captured all of northern China...and continuing the 3-way warfare against both the Sung and the Western Hsia. Then Sung made another alliance with some upstart nomads to the north under some guy calling himself Genghis Khan, who would become a party to this conflict until his grandson eventually conquered all the rival empires in China.
  • Basically every war on the North American continent before the 1840s involved Native American tribes that could lead to... complicated allegiances and events.
  • The French Revolution which saw the French against more or less everyone at some point, even the US (undeclared naval war). The best example would be the Jacobin Republic, which fought against the British, Austrians and Prussians while fighting their own civil war against both the moderate Federalists/Girondins in the south and the reactionary Vendeans in the west. The Federalists might have been tolerable to the British, the Vendeans were absolutists like the Austrians, and had they ever met they would have shot each other.
  • The Iraq War was a clash between the US-led coalition, the Shia insurgents, and the Sunni insurgents.
  • Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network have been competing for the attention of a generation of preteen children, with higher-level digital networks following suit.
  • The English Civil War of the 1640s often had the Royalists, Parliamentarians, and 'Club Men'. The latter were locals who just thought the other two factions should go and fight over the fate of the country somewhere else.
  • Even better was the contemporaneous wars in Ireland. It was already complicated — with Catholic Irish (who wanted to be ruled by the Pope), Less Catholic Irish (who wanted the king to treat them better), Nationalist Irish (who wanted independence) and English and Scottish settlers (who trusted each other as little as they trusted the natives). When the civil war broke out in Britain most factions then split along King or Parliament lines as well.
  • The conflict in Mali has alliances changing at the drop of a hat. Broadly speaking, there are three major factions: the military junta in Bamako who want to rule the country, the secularist Tuareg MNLA, who want an independent secular Tuareg republic in the Azawad, and a collection of allied Islamist groups (most notably Ansar Dine, the flagship Tuareg Islamist movement, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and an AQIM splinter group called the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) who broadly agree on the goal of an Islamic government in the region but differ on technical points and objectives. In early 2012, after the junta took power in Bamako, the MNLA formed an alliance with the Islamists, and the victorious alliance created the Islamic Republic of Azawad in the northeastern half of the country. However, since then the alliance has crumbled, and after the French and ECOWAS began to deploy forces to support the junta and bring down Ansar Dine in January 2013, the MNLA agreed to work with the French to throw the Islamists out.
  • In the Middle East, there is a cold war currently going on between Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel.
  • The situation in Syria evolved into this by 2013 due to infighting among the rebels: the sides were the Syrian Arab Republic government backed by Iran, the "Free" Syrian Army groups backed by the Gulf states and most of NATO, and the Salafist jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda, backed by no state but receiving lots of funds and recruits from private citizens abroad. While Assad was slowly weakening and the FSA was fraying, and foreign fighters from places like Chechnya, Iraq, and Tunisia became more common, the jihadists gained ground.
    • In the next few years, it became even more complex. The jihadists fractured into two coalitions, one led by al-Qaeda franchises and the other by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which also operated in Iraq. Iran sent its army to fight directly alongside the Syrian government against all opposition groups, while Russia did the same with its air force. Meanwhile, a coalition led by the United States consisting of most of NATO dropped the bulk of their support to the FSA (while the Gulf states and Turkey continued it), and launched military operations against ISIL while throwing their weight in with the YPG. The YPG was a Kurdish militia that came to prominence in 2013 when it threw both the jihadists and the Syrian government out of the majority-Kurdish regions in the north, and spent most of its time fighting AQ and ISIL rather than the government. So it's effectively five sides. Assad, Iran, Russia, and Iranian-linked militias (e.g. Lebanese Hezbollah) on one; al-Qaeda and its allies on the other; NATO and the YPG on another and aimed primarily at ISIL; the now decentralized FSA on a fourth, and losing even more ground; and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant all by itself and quite successful.
    • By 2018-2019, ISIL had mostly been defeated by a combination of the efforts of all the other factions (but mainly the YPG and NATO), yet the conflict still managed to become more complicated. Turkey began an all-out attack on both ISIL and American-backed Kurdish militias (who have been raising trouble in Turkey and pre-invasion Iraq for ages), and trying to make NATO support it, while still backing FSA groups against the Syrian government, while the other NATO countries had dropped all support for the FSA groups due to their associations with al-Qaeda linked groups. Then Israel stepped up its own airstrike campaign in Syria aimed primarily at Iranian and Hezbollah forces, who NATO, despite being allied with Israel and nominally aligned against Iran, have refused to strike directly in favor of focusing on ISIL. However, things were also simplified a bit more by the Syrian government's defeat of the Southern Front; with their destruction, the last significant relatively moderate rebel groups were gone, leaving the remaining FSA groups pretty firmly in the "jihadist" camp, and cooperating in an Enemy Mine situation with the al-Qaeda linked groups (who they still occasionally fight despite their ideologies being nigh-identical) against the Syrian government and YPG.
  • The Russian Civil War: While it's often remembered as a straight-up Reds vs. Whites, there were actually many other factions, such as the Blacks (anarchists), Greens (local peasant militias, sometimes backed by the Social-Revolutionary party), foreign intervention forces, independence-seeking minorities (most notably the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Democratic Republic of Georgia) and many local warlords who shifted their allegiance as it suited them.
  • In early days of First Indochina War, there were not only fights between the French army and Viet Minh but also skirmish between French and Chinese. To make the whole thing even more complicated, the whole thing, early during the First Indochina War, French were helped by Japanese remnants.
  • The Jidaigeki period. There was a reason why the era is often referred to as "The Age of the Country at War". At some point, every major power in Japan had a battle with someone else and alliances were very shaky indeed.
  • There's a three-way-war in South East Asia in the early 15th century, taking place after the fall of Malacca (part of Malaysia) in the hands of Portuegese conquistadores, between the newly-formed Johore Sultanate, the Portuegese invaders, and the Acheh Empire, over territorial control for Johore. It was in fact referred to as the "Triangle War of 1511" in Malaysian textbooks.
  • This is expected to happen in the far future, when the Milky Way collides with the Andromeda Galaxy. The latter has a large companion, the Triangulum Galaxy, that will participate too in that event, perhaps even colliding with our galaxy before Andromeda arrives.
  • The Thirty Years' War started as a fairly simple rebellion of Protestant nobles in Bohemia against the Catholic Emperor. In the end, it was a free for all with Catholic France fighting on the same side as Protestant Sweden (which in turn went on sidequests fighting against Denmark and Poland) against the Emperor. Oh and several German petty states switched sides more than once. To mention nothing of individual soldiers or generals, who rose through the ranks, showed signs of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder or were murdered once they had outlived their usefulness. Whoever won that war (and many point to France) the common people who got caught in the crossfire sure as hell lost it.
  • The most famous "drama" in YouTube history- iDubbzTV vs. Keemstar vs. LeafyisHere, which involved iDubbz successfully pitting the other two against each other and then coming out victorious.


Video Example(s):


The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

$200,000 is a lot of money. Blondie, Tuco and Angel-Eyes are going to have to earn it.

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Example of:

Main / MeleeATrois

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