Let's face it: Death Is Cheap. If you die, there's always some alien artifact or magic spell or wish-granting being of immense power that's ready, willing and able to bring you back. Coming back as a shapeless, soulless horror? Never heard of it.
Sometimes, though, this nigh-immortality has other, no less dangerous caveats. If the number of times you can come back is limited, then you will eventually run out, and when that happens, you're as mortal as anyone else.
See also Living on Borrowed Time, where a character is already technically dead, but has had their life artificially extended. Compare Point of No Continues, where this essentially has a similar effect in video games lose all your lives after this point and it's Game Over.
- Once you use one of the Dragon Balls to resurrect someone in Dragon Ball, you can't use them to come back again. They eventually work around it by getting a bigger dragon.
- That dragon, on the other hand, can only resurrect one person at a time (though it gives three wishes instead of one) and then has to rest for six months, so they still can't bring back large groups (or entire planets; the first dragon can bring back a great number of people with a single wish, so long as their deaths are reasonably tied together, ie all being killed by the same person or group) more than once and it still has the limitation that it can only resurrect a given person once. The first dragon eventually gets upgraded to two wishes, and the same process "resets" it so that any resurrection that happened before the upgrade can be repeated. Thus, over the course of the series, a given character can be resurrected a maximum of three times.
- In Naruto, each method of resurrection only seems to work once. Unlike other Dangerous Forbidden Techniques, these are actually very likely to kill the user.
- In Inuyasha, Sesshomaru's sword Tenseiga can resurrect demons by killing the reapers assigned to that demon (which is used repeatedly on his idiot seneschal for stress relief), but it only resurrect each human once because there's a spiritual black hole system in place for weak souls that sucks in any human death cheaters. This became an issue when Rin died again. Sesshomaru's mother revived her with another artifact called the Meido Stone, but warned Sesshomaru that is the last time she can come back.
- In Fate/stay night, Berserker has quite a few lives, Rin takes one, Archer takes 5, and Saber takes the rest at the same time. Hax.
- Also from Fate/stay night, Shirou runs out of continues when he gives Excalibur's scabbard back to Saber, causing him to lose his incredible Healing Factor. He explains this with the line "People die when they are killed". Which, in context, was him expressing the opinion that people should die when they're killed.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, the homunculi do a good job making themselves look invincible (and mostly act as though they were, even Greed who cut himself off from the one way of recharging his stone), but there is a limit on the number of times they can heal themselves before they run out of juice. Good luck burning through it all in one sitting, though. Unless you're Colonel Mustang and incredibly pissed. The ones with the largest number of "continues" were Father and Hohenheim, who each started out with 536,329 souls, and Father briefly expanded that number to over 50 million. Each uses many of them for purposes other than resurrection, though, as unlike the other homunculi they're capable of performing alchemy (meaning that the stones can be used as a power source as well as a method of revival).
- Skeleton Soldier Couldn't Protect the Dungeon: Not really, but the skeleton soldier is worried about this, which is why he avoids dying as much as possible (instead of just letting himself get killed whenever he faces a setback). He's not sure how many times he can resurrect, and isn't interested in testing it.
- Is This a Zombie?: Kyoko gains an extra life whenever she kills somebody, so she became a Serial Killer so she could stockpile lives. Ayumu battles her and kills her over and over again until she is down to her last life, causing her to beg for mercy. He lets her live and she is arrested.
- One EC horror comic from the fifties (later adapted into a Tales from the Crypt episode) had a doctor discover that a cat does have nine lives thanks to a special gland, and also that he can transfer it into a human. He performs the process on a man, and they then go into show business. Because that's the only possible use for it. The man becomes "Ulric the Undying", and does things like leaping over Niagara Falls and getting the electric chair. For his grand finale (his eighth life) he'll be sealed into a coffin and buried alive for three hours. As he lies there, he reflects on the whole experience... and then realizes that the process of transferring the gland killed the cat, thus that one life had already been spent. Oops.
- We'll see if it sticks, but supposedly this is the case for the entire DCU in the wake of Blackest Night; according to Dan DiDio, Death Is Cheap, which had been taken to absurd levels in recent years, no longer applies.
- In Spider-Verse, it's revealed that the Inheritors, which is Morlun and his family, are resurrected via clone bodies whenever their current body is slain, which explains how Morlun survived two encounters with Peter Parker and an encounter with the Black Panther. However, when an Alternate Universe version of the Ben Reiley Spider-Man destroys the building housing these clones, they run out of continues.
- One of the purported uses of the Philosopher's Stone is granting eternal life. Many a tale involves the consequences of its destruction; modern examples include Fullmetal Alchemist and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In the latter, it is revealed that Nicholas Flamel successfully created the eponymous artifact and has kept himself and his wife alive for over 600 years with it. However, since Voldemort seeks the Stone as a means of resurrecting himself, Nicholas Flamel and his wife agree that the Stone must be destroyed, and they accept the consequences of doing so.
- Saash in The Book of Night with Moon by Diane Duane is a cat on her ninth life.
- In the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, several characters have nine lives. Only one story in the series, "Stealer of Souls", deals with this situation.
- The Dresden Files:
- While death is typically the end, certain Necromancers find cheats. Historical warlock Heinrich Kemmler, a necromantic prodigy and the man secretly responsible for both World Wars, had to be killed a seventh time before it stuck. It's possible that he didn't come back again because of the metaphysical mechanics of the Darkhallow, a ritual he devised to raise himself to godhood (he died the final time while he was conducting it but before he could complete it), or because the entirety of the White Council was brought to bear on him, and even his death defying techniques couldn't stand up to that kind of mojo.
- One of Kemmler's apprentices, the Corpsetaker, kept up with this. She could switch her conscious to another living person's body, possibly in a similar technique. After her death, her ghost wandered Chicago and amassed a small army of spirits and lesser shades as she sought out a new, appropriate host body that she could take over, though in a manner similar to possession rather than her typical body switch. She eventually settled on Mortimer Lindquist, a local medium and ectomancer (a school of magic that makes him able to communicate and cooperate with the spirits of the dead, a "good" and accepted adjacent to necromancy), up until Mortimer bested her and sent her away on the "Southbound" Express.note
- Kemmler's ressurective techniques were possibly explored with Corpsetaker. In the Dresden Files, a person's soul in the conscious and the truly eternal part of someone that moves on to the afterlife ("You are a soul, you have a body"), while a person's spirit is a psychic footprint that remains adjacent to the physical world. A spirit is accepted to not actually be the person they represent when they died, fades to nothing after it takes care of "unfinished business", and if they stay for too long, they risk madness or loss of identity. Corpsetaker seems to be near-unique in the sense that she found a way to bind her soul to her spirit instead of moving on after death, at least until her spirit was destroyed, and this may have been what sustained Kemmler after his many deaths.
- Another example from Harry Potter would be Voldemort's Horcruxes, a set of Soul Jars he created to ensure his immortality. By the end of the seventh book, they've all been destroyed through the efforts of Harry and his friends.
- Rowling stated that Voldemort ultimately wouldn't have used the Philosopher's Stone to maintain his immortality as he would've been dependent on constantly drinking the Elixir of Life which he'd need the Stone to produce, thus having a serious weakness. The Horcruxes were a better alternative in his eyes.
- The myth of the Deathly Hallows is that they make he who unites them, Master of Death, which they take to mean immortal. In reality, this is not so; the Cloak and the Wand are only marginally more useful than any other Invisibility Cloak or regular wand, and the Stone doesn't really bring people back from the dead. Master of Death is more of a philosophical thing - someone who has accepted, and does not fear, Death.
- The Cat (an assassin who can transform from cute little tabby into a vicious anthropomorphic killer) in The Looking-Glass Wars was made with nine lives — by the end of the first book he's been killed eight times, both by the heroes and as punishment for failing his mistress.
- Riverworld: Everyone respawns at a random location whenever they die. One character takes the "Suicide Express" trying to reach his destination (and evade pursuit). He kills himself so many times that he is eventually informed that he's reached the upper bound of lives and is very likely to not come back with each following death.
- Star Wars Legends: One of the motivating reasons for Palpatine trying to possess an infant Anakin Solo is because most of his supply of clone bodies used to resurrect himself were being killed, and those that were remained were tampered with by a traitorous Imperial lieutenant, leaving the clone bodies with rapidly decreasing lifespans. And Palpatine's immense Dark Side power is damaging to a human body to begin with, so not just any host will do. Anakin Solo, being very strong in the Force yet far too young to effectively resist possession by Palpatine's spirit, would be ideal in that regard. Palpatine is understandably worried about the fact that Anakin Solo is an infant at this point, meaning that even if he succeeded in the plan, he'd be helpless for years and would have to trust his not at all trustworthy (and dubiously competent, for that matter) Dark Jedi minions to protect him. The issue gets forced when Han Solo fatally shoots Palpatine's last clone. Palpatine immediately attempts to possess baby Anakin but is blocked by a mortally-wounded Jedi who drags Palpatine's soul into the Force with him.
- Doctor Who: Through the process of regeneration, Time Lords can come back to life up to twelve times after being killed (though they become a brand new person in the process), for a total of thirteen lives. While it is possible for a Time Lord to be granted a new regeneration cycle, it is only something that is allowed under very special circumstances.
- The Master actually did run out during the classic series, but got around it via body-snatching. They were resurrected by the Time Lords during the Time War (an event more explicitly discussed in the spin-off audio "Day of the Master") and given a full regeneration cycle as part of the deal.
- In "Let's Kill Hitler", the Doctor is drugged with a lethal poison, and cannot regenerate to save himself. Fortunately for him, River Song cures him by burning through her remaining regenerations all at once.
- Series 7 reveals that the Eleventh Doctor has already used up all of his regenerations, the two uncounted ones being the War Doctor and the Metacrisis Doctor, and his (permanent) death becomes a plot point. (Again.)
- As of Series 8, the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is stated to be an exception to the rule of the ultimate number of regenerations, and had to bend the rules quite seriously to get that far. Not even he knows how many he has left. The reason for the exception is because in "The Time of the Doctor", the Time Lords granted the Doctor a brand new regeneration cycle. As such, he has at least twelve more lives at his disposal.
- In "Hell Bent", it's revealed that not even the Time Lords themselves, who gave him the new regeneration cycle in the first place, know how many he has left.
- Invoked by Sandor in the Game of Thrones Season 7 episode when Thoros of Myr, the R'hllor priest who has resurrected Beric Dondarrion six times, is found dead himself of exposure the morning after being seriously injured by an undead bear: "You're dead for good this time."
- Kamen Rider:
- Kamen Rider Ghost: The Ganma achieved immortality by placing their souls into Eyecons, acting as a form of Astral Projection while their real physical bodies are kept in stasis capsules. They can run out of continues either by being forced out of the stasis capsule and back into their living body, or when the capsule runs out of energy, which prompts the Ganma inside to disintegrate into ash. The conflict of the series is primarily driven by the capsules being in imminent danger of running out of power.
- Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Bugsters, being video game characters who've come to life using a virus that acts as the Applied Phlebotinum du jour, can respawn an infinite number of times as long as they can possess a new host. Their creator is human, but comes up with several different ways of using the virus to achieve immortality of his own. Each of his methods eventually runs into its own limits.
- In Marvel Cinematic Universe the Hand can bring their dead back to life, as shown in both Daredevil (2015) and Iron Fist (2017). However, The Defenders (2017) later reveals that the process requires a unique substance, which they have totally run out of, raising the stakes for Mooks and Leadership alike. Their quest to reclaim more of the substance is the primary source of conflict in the series. Also, the process requires the body to be reasonably intact, with the Hand's enemies ensuring permanent death by decapitating the corpses.
- Darkonda, The Starscream of Power Rangers in Space, was introduced as having nine lives - most likely as an excuse to keep him around longer than his Sentai counterpart. By the time of the finale, he was down to his last one, decided to go for broke and went straight after the Greater-Scope Villain. Neither of them survived.
- Venjix from Power Rangers RPM has a long history of surviving apparent deaths; he even survived a control tower falling on top of him. It's not until RPM's Spiritual Successor (actually a Stealth Sequel) that Venjix (who went about as Evox) is finally Killed Off for Real, all thanks to the Beast Morpher Rangers who directly destroyed both his virus AND body.
- Weyoun, the Affably Evil mouthpiece for the Dominion in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is killed and brought back via cloning more than once. The spare Weyouns afford the show some very black humour; one episode featured a few gags resolve around the sudden (but well-deserved) death of Weyoun 7 and the grouchy appearance of Weyoun 8 in a doorway minutes later. In the seventh season, it's stated that the rebels blew up his cache of clones, and with the Dominion's supply lines cut off, the eighth Weyoun could be the final one. Despite being aware of this, he can't help but mock Garak (a Cardassian) for the devastation brought to Cardassia, which he helped caused and resulted in at least 800 million dead civilians. Unsurprisingly, it gets him killed.
Founder: I wish you hadn't done that. That was Weyoun's last clone.
Garak: [cheerfully] I was hoping you'd say that.
- Do we have to say that the Expanded Universe had more Weyouns turn up the first chance it got?
- Torchwood: If Jack Harkness really is the Face of Boe, then this eventually happens to him. For that matter, it might anyway, as he has noted that he's still aging slightly despite his immortality (albeit at a rate of a few grey hairs after over a century).
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In second edition , your originally-rolled Constitution stat was also the number of times your character could be brought back from the dead. To help you keep track, you lost one point of Con with each death/return.
- In 3rd Edition and 3.5, death costs one of your character levels if you're above first level — it takes away two points of Constitution if you've only got one level to begin with.
- A Promethean starts its existence with one free resurrection on its account... assuming it has more than one Azoth dot. Once it dies, all but the one dot burn away and it gets back up, but the next death will finish it. Osirans (and those other Prometheans willing to pay for it) start with a power called Revivification, which lets them expend their own Azoth to bring back fallen Prometheans (at an ever-increasing price), and which sacrifices itself to raise them if they fall rather than expend the "free" revival. It can be repurchased, but once you don't have the experience or Vitriol to rebuy it and have expended your resurrection, assuming you don't have any friends willing to give up their own progress for you, you've run out of continues as a Promethean.
- Recent editions of Paranoia let you buy more clones when your first six-pack runs out, but they're expensive, and then your genetic template starts suffering copying errors which cost even more to scrub out.
- If you die in Geist: The Sin-Eaters, your geist can bring you back to life again - just like the first time you died. Except this time, your Synergy (the Karma Meter that represents how well you and the geist can work together) goes down one... and its maximum goes down two. When Synergy (maximum or current, whichever bottoms out first) reaches zero, you become a Monster from Beyond the Veil. This means that, at most, you can come back four times. (The first time doesn't count because that's how you got into this to begin with.)
- Unreal Tournament III uses the Hand Wave of "respawn teleporters" to explain how people can die and return; in this context, this trope means your teleporter's out of juice.
- The same explanation is used in Battleborn.
- Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict has respawn teleporters as well. Usually, these don't run out of power, but there is one major exception: the final match in the tournament. When a contestant is one frag away from winning, his opponent's respawn teleporter is turned off. This ensures that somebody will die permanently in the final match.
- Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard uses this at the end of the first level, where Matt is told that someone hacked the game to erase all his saves, so that when he died, he would die for good.
- The page quote comes from the Alien Inventor from LucasArts' The Dig, who sealed himself away in a pyramid so that future generations who arrived on the planet could revive him (using the very same life crystals he invented) and learn of his grievous errors. Chatting with him reveals that the crystals' effect wears off with each subsequent use, until the crystals fail to resurrect the subject at all. He himself dies mere minutes after each revival, though whether it's due to the crystals failing or his own desires is left unsaid.
- In Left 4 Dead, going down twice will result in your vision turning greyscale. If you get knocked down again without receiving medical help, you're not getting up. Until your teammates find you in a Rescue Closet. Note that you can be killed while downed
- Similar to Left 4 Dead, in PAYDAY: The Heist and PAYDAY 2, heisters can go down from regular attacks a limited number of timesnote ; getting knocked down in greyscale instantly puts you into police custody until another player can exchange a hostage for your release.note
- Similar to Left 4 Dead (again), in Warhammer The End Times Vermintide and Warhammer Vermintide 2, heroes will receive wounds when they are downed, which causes greyscale on the last wound before downing causes instant death.note ] Using healing draughts or medical supplies heals all wounds. There are special trinkets and abilities that allow you to heal your teammates wounds without healing them directly.
- It is implied early on that the protagonist of Immortal Defense and his fellow path defenders are a case of this: their minds may be immortal and nigh-godlike entities in pathspace, capable of raining destruction upon countless fleets of enemy ships, but destroying their original physical bodies will kill them. It's later revealed that this is an outright lie. Path defenders exist independently of their bodies: they cannot be killed, period, nor can they ever return to their physical forms. This is not necessarily a good thing.
- Face of Mankind, an MMO shooter, has clones for lives. If your character is killed, you're out of clones and have no money, it's Permadeath.
- The Secret World takes this trope and applies it to an entire universe. Throughout history, the Gaia Engines have been able to save reality from apocalyptic disasters by harnessing the reality-warping power of the Dreamers they keep imprisoned: if something ever does manage to destroy everything - a war between the Nephilim and the Grigori, say, or one of the Dreamers waking up - the Engines will be able to restore the world to factory settings. Unfortunately, after four consecutive uses of this failsafe, the Engines have started to malfunction and the Bees speculate that they might not be able to manage another reset. In other words, if the Dreamers succeed in breaking out this time, it's game over for all reality.
- In Book III of Fire Emblem Heroes, Eir was blessed by her dragon blood with thousands of lives, allowing her to return to life the day after she dies. However, her mother Hel, who gains power from others' deaths, repeatedly killed Eir day after day to make herself stronger until she was on her last life.
- After Heaven burned down in Achewood, Roast Beef's next death was much less straightforward.
- In a Captain SNES: The Game Masta episode, it dawns on Mega Man that the building where extra lives are made has been blown up to bits.
- In Homestuck during Act 5 Act Jack Noir destroys Prospit and Derse in the troll's session, thus killing their dream selves and destroying the sacrificial slabs that served as a backup ascension method. Both Jade and Jake had their dream selves die, but Jade was able to resurrect hers and Jake's backup ascension still existed. Rose, Dave, Jane, Dirk, Roxy, Rufioh and possibly others all died and were kissed back to life as their dream selves. This also happened to Sollux but he had a second one.
- In Sonic the Comic Online! in order to stop Vichama, the God of Death from trying to kill everyone, Knuckles destroys his Immortality Inducer The Guardian Emerald which makes Knuckles' current life his last life.
- Similar to Wreck-It Ralph, Death Is Cheap for video game characters in Kid Radd if they're in their own game, but since leaving their game means leaving the code that respawns them, death is then permanent after that. Though Radd is eventually able to find a loophole to save Bogey after his Heroic Sacrifice by getting his original player to load a ROM of his game.
- Khalid Shamoun from SOTF: Evolution has the power of resurrection, with the downside that each resurrection takes longer than the last. In theory, he eventually won't revive at all.
- The Season 3 finale of The Venture Bros., when the Hank & Dean clone slugs are used as cannon fodder.
- There was a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon where Sylvester had used up eight of his lives, and if he died again he died for good. Naturally the world was out to kill him at that point.
- In Drawn Together, Link Expy Xandir decides to commit suicide and does so... but re-appears with 98 lives instead of 99. He spends the entire episode killing himself until he has only one life left, at which point he decides to continue living.
- In a later episode, Ling-Ling becomes so furious with Xandir that he begins killing him... and keeps on killing him until all of his lives are gone. The words "Game Over" appear and Xandir stays dead. For the rest of the episode, at least.
- Spawn goes to hell when his power ends, but other than that, he can basically regenerate from near-death experiences.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In "The Mask of Matches Malone!", the Cloak of Nefertiti grants the wearer nine lives. After a blow to the head turns Batman into a Criminal Amnesiac who thinks he really is the gangster 'Matches' Malone, he burns eight lives during a crime spree. After defeating Two-face, Catwoman kicks Matches of the roof of a 20-storey building, using his last life. Huntress and Black Canary demand to know what she's done. Below, Matches comes back to life, and Batman removes his disguise. He then explains that when Matches' last life died, Matches disappeared for good.
- Sort of done in The Fairly OddParents, in the episode "Power Mad," albeit in a slightly different way; Timmy and his friends Chester and AJ are actually inside a video game that Timmy wished for, where each of them have only 3 lives that, of course, if they run out of, they die permanently. Near the end of the episode, Timmy sacrifices his last life on the final level in order to save Chester and AJ, but he comes back, since he had enough points to earn himself another extra life.