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Open-Ended Boss Battle

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Let's be blunt: In most Boss Battles, there is only one "correct" outcome to the battle, and the game will not proceed until it occurs. Get slaughtered by a boss? Unless that was the point, go back to your Save Point and try again.

But sometimes the dev team thinks of everything and allows the game to proceed whether the player won or lost the battle in question.

Failure to defeat this boss may mean the player loses out on the opportunity to collect Experience Points, money, or items. In some games, the story may change depending on the outcome, or, more subtly, secretly record this outcome for future reference, having effects later on.

The Monster Arena is a popular venue for hosting open-ended battles, although the outcome of these battles rarely extends outside the bounds of the venue itself.

Note that getting a Nonstandard Game Over or an ending from getting the unexpected outcome of the fight is not this trope. Nor does avoiding the boss altogether.

This may be a form of Newbie Immunity if set at the beginning section of the game, to alleviate the fear of losing.

Subtrope of Boss Battle. Contrast Hopeless Boss Fight, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose.


    open/close all folders 

  • ANNO: Mutationem: At the end of the tutorial segment, Ann battles against a Training Boss to use each of her skills against it. Whether she does defeat it or the boss depleted her health, the training simulation undergoes an error and shuts down.
  • The first fight with Genichiro in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a Hopeless Boss Fight, and the new player is expected to lose very quickly. Of course, if you're persistent enough, once you deplete Genichiro's health, one of his mooks distracts you in a cutscene, making the Wolf lose his arm as usual.

  • The final fight against the Oracle in Fahrenheit can be won or lost. In the former case, Lucas gets to fight the Cyborg later, while in the latter, you take control of Carla in an attempt to save Lucas — which you can also fail, giving you one of the three endings. The other two are received for either beating or losing to the Cyborg.
  • Heavy Rain is basically all about this. Just about every fight can be won or lost, which can even result in the death of main characters... and the story will just keep going. Of course, this affects the outcome of the game and who makes it to the final stage.

    Eastern RPGs 
  • In Breath of Fire III, although the player loses their first fight against Balio and Sunder, when Ryu battles them later to save princess Nina from abduction, the player may win or lose that battle without penalty.
  • In Digimon World: Dawn and Dusk, both games start with a tournament held by the game's two main factions, ending in a battle against your rival from the other faction (Sayo in Dawn, Koh in Dusk) on roughly even footing. There's no difference between winning or losing the match beyond a change in the following cutscene. The tournament is also A Taste of Power before your non-mascot Digimon get reverted to Rookie level the next day.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon Red and Blue, the player's very first Mon battle was against their rival, and they could win or lose this fight without penalty or consequence, although the "Special Yellow edition" used this as a factor to determine which form The Rival would ultimately evolve his starting 'Mon into. Losing in your first rival battle in Fire Red and Leaf Green will have Professor Oak explain that losing in a trainer battle would normally require you to cough up your money, but he will cover your expenses this time since your rival demanded a battle when you weren't prepared for it.
    • In Pokémon Sword and Shield, you can lose the first two battles against Hop and still be allowed to continue the story.
    • In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, the story will continue whether you win or lose the battle with Cipher Commander Exol during the ONBS raid, though you'll miss out on catching his Shadow Mawile if you lose. He already got the data disc he came for, so the battle is more of a formality than anything.
  • In Shanghai.EXE: Genso Network, the exhibition match against Beetle Man at the cruise ship can be lost without a game over.
  • In Koudelka, whether or not the player can defeat the game's Final Boss determines whether they earn the game's Good or Bad Ending, with the latter being considered canon. What makes this unique is that losing is what gives the canon ending.
  • Chrono Trigger: In the Kingdom of Zeal, the plot requires you to be captured. To this end, a Golem is sent to attack the party. While the standard fare would be to lose to the monster, you can actually defeat it (in fact it can be pathetically easy if you know how). Doing so results in the summoner using the "Look Behind You" trick then shooting you In the Back. All winning does is net some decent EXP.
  • In Chrono Cross, the third battle with Lynx, AKA the one that happens directly after the Serge/Lynx body swap that pits you against your former party members plays out like a Hopeless Boss Fight, unless you're playing on New Game Plus, at which point it becomes possible to win. However, if you do, Kid gets back up and stabs you anyway, so there's really no point other than bragging rights.
  • Except for the last Lufia game, the mad gods known as "Sinistrals" could only be killed with a magic sword called the "Dual Blade". However, defeating one in combat prior to obtaining it would result in a rare equipment drop, and a slightly altered cut-scene afterward where the Sinistral blinks, then uses non-combat cutscene powers to defeat your characters anyway.
  • Luminous Plume: The first battle with the Black Blade allows the player to continue whether they lose or drop the boss's HP to 50%. In the latter case, the boss will still win in the cutscene.
  • Xenogears has the battle against Alpha Weltall, which is nearly impossible to win unless you've gone all out preparing for it and get a little lucky. The game proceeds exactly the same either way; however, if you do win you get the Slayer Robe, which is the best on-foot armor in the game (and that only appears if you have the Trader Card equipped, which makes rare drops more frequent and is difficult to get ahold of in the first place).
  • Scarlet Nexus: The first battle against the other player character takes place in a training exercise between multiple teams, with Yuito's and Kasane's team fighting each other. Winning or losing will carry the game forwards, with different cutscenes depending on Yuito or Kasane winning, although Kagero will also give your player character an item if you win.
  • Golden Sun:
    • In the first game, the Colosso competition can end in your victory or defeat in the tournament. Winning nets you an extra item and (if you export your save data) an extra scene and a unique item in the following game. Loss still advances the plot, but with fewer goodies.
    • The battle against Agatio and Karst on top of Jupiter Lighthouse in The Lost Age is also like this. After the battle is over, Alex shows up, heals the losing team, then the three of them run away, and the plot advances like normal. But if you win, you get a bunch of money and XP and a chunk of Dark Matter.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Kingdom Hearts: When Sora first arrives in Traverse Town, Leon fights him in the town square. There's no penalty for losing, and it is very difficult to win (unless you're aware of a certain flaw in your opponent). If you do win, Sora will delight in his win (and major EXP gain) and then promptly pass out. The next scene will have Leon praising Sora, instead of the usual "This is supposed to be the Keyblade master?!". You can also get an Elixir from Yuffie afterward, who mentions it's a gift from Leon for impressing him. Other boss fights where the story continues whether you win or lose are the first battles against Darkside in the prologue, Sabor in Deep Jungle, and Cloud in Olympus Coliseum. All of these examples (Leon included) are cases of Heads I Win, Tails You Lose.
    • Kingdom Hearts II has a this as well (albeit Downplayed) starting with the very first fight in the game. The plot continues no matter if Roxas wins or loses to Seifer. Then during the struggle tournament, while you have to win against Hayner and Vivi to progress, the outcome against Setzer merely determines whether Roxas earns a belt for winning or a medal for losing.
  • Early on in Secret of Evermore, you're attacked by four Raptors. If you lose, your dog drags you to the nearby village and an NPC heals you. If you win, you get money and continue on into said village, where another NPC rewards you with an early-game armor for free.
  • In Arc Rise Fantasia, there are summons that go to the strongest of two parties after certain battles. You can both win and lose these battles, and change the summons that you and your rival can use.
  • In Mother 3, there's the Almost Mecha Lion in the Chimera Lab. Win or lose, a Clayman will finish it afterwards.
  • Paper Mario:
    • In Paper Mario 64, the Dojo fights are optional, and if you lose, you'll be fine with 1 HP and can rematch the person who beat you whenever.
    • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the Glitz Pit works this way. In fact, every battle in Chapter 3 is one of these (though you will have to rematch if you lose, except for the grudge matches), with two exceptions. The first fight against the Armored Harriers is a Hopeless Boss Fight since the partner who can bypass their defenses hasn't yet joined the party (he'll be waiting for Mario in the dressing room after the fight ends). The chapter boss, Macho Grubba, is naturally the other example: Grubba plans on draining Mario's energy to prevent his scheme from becoming public.
  • In Jay's Journey, you have to fight Puff early on when he mistakes Jay for working with Antignarot. You miss out on a Defense booster if you lose, but that's all; either way, the misunderstanding is cleared up and Puff joins Jay's party.
  • Steambot Chronicles has the duel against the leader of the Killer Elephants early in the game. Win, and the Boss will recall his forces occupying a nearby town. Lose, and he'll capture you, but release you shortly thereafter as a show of respect for you having the courage to take him on, and recall his forces occupying a nearby town.
  • Tales Series:
    • Tales of Symphonia has a famous three-boss sequence at a spoilerrific important scene that goes regular boss -> this trope -> Hopeless Boss Fight. If you lose, the boss can't bring himself to finish you off because he's the main character's father. If you win, he can't finish you off because, well, he lost. Either way, this is where the Hopeless Boss Fight steps in to finish the job.
    • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World the fight against Ratatosk is this. Interesting in that even though it's the final boss fight whether you win or lose absolutely nothing changes.
    • In Tales of Xillia, the first fight against Agria in Jude's story and the first fight against Gaius can be won or lost, the only difference being that you'll miss out on rewards.
  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness; early on; one can get attacked by a nameless "Alternate Overlord" who turns into multiple smaller copies and attacks. If you lose; Laharl's father's minions; each about level 500 or so; come in as temporary allies and easily stomp them. If you win; either through Level Grinding or New Game Plus; the game simply continues with no commentary.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Ike's battle with the Black Knight can go several ways. If you win, which is practically a Luck-Based Mission, you recruit a powerful Dragon laguz. If you don't feel up to it, you can wait out five turns, at which point the character you would normally recruit pulls a Big Damn Heroes and finishes the fight himself but dies in the process. Ike also has the option to flee from the Black Knight which results in the same outcome as waiting five turns.
  • Final Fantasy X: You don't need to win the blitzball tournament to continue the story, the only difference being whether Wakka holds the trophy afterwards or not... and perhaps a feeling of shame in the player.
  • Faraway Story:
    • The first battle against Crowa is too high-leveled for a normally leveled party, and the story continues if the player loses. If the player wins, Necrovia will step in and defeat the party anyways.
    • Remi is a Time-Limit Boss, but whether the player wins or loses, she'll continue to stand in the party's way, forcing Erena to stay behind to distract her.
    • Maya's battle can be won or lost, since her ghost body is unstable and prevents her from finishing the party off.
  • Lie of Caelum:
    • The duel with Miyu will have the story continue no matter the outcome, since this is just a friendly spar.
    • No matter the outcome of the boss battle against Kado and Mai, the mysterious voice will command them to stop fighting, resulting in Elysion regaining mobility and knocking them out.
  • Radiant Arc: The second battle with Derek doesn't have to be won to continue the story, but winning grants a powerful accessory and a slightly different cutscene.
  • Sacred Earth - Alternative: The Final Boss fight with True Konoe can be won or lost, but the cutscene afterwards is exactly the same, with True Konoe killing the replica and absorbing her. The only thing that changes is that the ending is extended to show what happens to True Konoe.
  • At one point in Suikoden, the protagonist's recently-returned retainer Pahn demands that the rest of the party escape while he buys them time by stalling the approach of General Teo. The resulting Duel Boss can be won or lost to let the story continue, but losing results in Pahn's execution as a traitor. Teo spares him and retreats if Pahn wins.
  • Certain boss fights in The Legend of Heroes - Trails either expect the player to lose or take losses but will reward the player if they either win or do a sufficient level of damage before they immediately wipe you out. This will change the upcoming cutscene where the enemy will acknowledge your efforts and reward you with bonus points towards your overall ranking.

    Fighting Game 
  • During story mode, in Rival Schools:
    • Your team will encounter Raizo as the third battle. You're meant to lose the match, after which a designated member of your team is taken hostage while the other two are brainwashed and made to do Raizo's bidding for the next two battles. Depending on the team and their story, the effects of Raizo's mind control either wear off, or you're restored to your senses, after the second battle following the Raizo encounter.
    • On the off-chance that you manage to defeat Raizo, the game skips the mind control phase of the story and cuts directly to the battle with Justice High. You still lose a member of your team, however, as the story demands this happen. They're either kidnapped by Raizo, after the battle, or they proceed to Justice High on their own to speed up the team's investigation. By the time you arrive, you learn your missing teammate was caught snooping and is now a hostage.
  • Trapt: If you decide to fight the final boss, you get some interesting results, depending on the outcome. If you lose, Princess Allura/Alicea will get possessed by the demon without anyone the wiser. If you win, the Princess will vanquish the demon, and go back to the castle with her faithful knight.

    Massively Multiplayer Online Games 
  • In original Guild Wars, the bonus objective of the Dragon's Lair mission involves killing a major character. If you lose, your character is simply resurrected and completes the mission anyway. If you win, the character's death has no effect on the story, and they still communicate with you at some later points.
  • In Temtem, the story continues whether you win or lose the first few battles with Max, as well as the (almost) Hopeless Boss Fight against General X.


  • In the Mega Man Zero series, if the player loses a life out on a mission, they may be given the option to "give up", where the mission is a failure but the story continues without the mission's rewards.
  • The penultimate boss in Axiom Verge is open-ended, as there's nothing stopping you from simply walking past it to where the Final Boss resides. The ending doesn't change regardless, but you actually get an achievement for not defeating it before beating the game.
  • In Silhouette Mirage, in the third fight with Zohar, you can defeat him before the time limit runs out or run out of time and the game will continue regardless. Whether you win or run out of time determines if you fight him for the final time in his true Guardian Angel form or Serah as the next boss, and which final bosses you can fight and endings you can get.
  • Super Metroid: Ridley on Ceres Station. If you lose, he'll fly off with the baby Metroid. If you win, he'll drop the baby Metroid...and then immediately pick it back up again and fly off.

  • In Dragon Spirit: The New Legend, the game's Warm-Up Boss determined whether the player progressed in "Easy" or "Hard" mode, with "Easy" mode giving the player a stronger dragon before revealing it as All Just a Dream, and "Hard" mode featuring two additional levels and the game's True Final Boss.
  • In an old arcade game called The Ocean Hunter, you, at one point, encounter a shark, tougher than the rest, tearing at a scuba diver. If you manage to kill the shark before the diver dies, you get an extra life and an Optional Boss— but nothing happens if you don't manage to save him.
  • In Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl, after riding the subway, you come up against two gang leaders; depending on whether you beat them or lose to them, you go down a different path and eventually get a different ending. Interestingly, it is losing to them that will lead to the best ending you can get at that pointnote .
  • In Chimera Beast, you can either beat the final boss for one ending, or lose all your lives against it and choose not to continue for another. Due to your character being a Villain Protagonist from a Horde of Alien Locusts, winning gives you the bad ending, while losing gives you the good ending.

    Western RPGs 
  • CrossCode: The Spheromancer duels with Apollo and Shizuka will progress the story whether you win the duels or not, which is fortunate since their encounters can be pretty difficult for players to win against, even relative to other bosses. For Apollo, this is since he's only testing your merits as a player. For Shizuka, she's attempting to impede your progress but is forced to let you go by an Evotar version of Satoshi.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, during a certain rescue mission, the player is confronted by the powerful Ser Cauthien. If the player manages to defeat her, the mission is complete and they may return to their Quest Giver immediately. If the player is defeated, they are thrown into prison and must find a way to escape (and will fight her later).
  • In every single Fallout game, many bosses (And most of the major final bosses) you can avoid the battle entirely with charisma or sneaking alone. Don't feel like killing the Master in an epic boss battle? If your skills are high enough, convince him to commit suicide. Don't want to do the final test at the beginning of Fallout 2? Talk the guy out of it. In Fallout 3, you could kill the Overseer and take his keys, or blackmail him to give you the keys, or rob him blind when he's not looking, or avoid him entirely and raid his office. This counts for the trope, because in the Fallout series, most of the time the boss battle isn't the "Fight itself" you have to win, but just getting past the scenario in general.
  • Undertale:
    • The battle against Papyrus has an interesting take. You can kill him like anyone else or spare him when you are given the chance and the plot goes on as normal. Losing to Papyrus is impossible because he will never deal a killing blow against you, even if the last hit was fatal. He stops the battle to capture you and toss you into a Cardboard Prison that you can just walk out from. Escaping means you have to fight him again, but losing to him three times will have him forego the capturing and lets you proceed anyway.
    • The Final Battle against Asriel Dreemurr is impossible to lose. You can die, but your soul refuses to shatter and the fight simply resets with you fully revived.

    Non Video Game Examples 


Video Example(s):



Regardless of whether you win or lose against him, Your fight with Leon will end with Sora passing out.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / OpenEndedBossBattle

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