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Post-Defeat Explosion Chain
aka: Chain Reaction Destruction

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In older 2D Video Games, a common way of portraying the destruction of a large entity — typically, a mechanical boss — is to have multiple little explosions go off one-by-one all over its surface until it either disintegrates or fully explodes in a giant fireball.

The prevalence of this effect in earlier games is likely due to hardware limitations — realistic explosion effects are computationally intensive, requiring physics simulation and particle effects. By contrast, spawning a series of explosion sprites on a larger body is easy for older hardware to handle, while still conveying a satisfying feeling of destruction.

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Often, the explosions are staggered in a sequence, which reduces the number of sprites needed on-screen at the same time, further reducing the hardware effort needed. The explosions typically are spawned at a constant rate as well, which gives a characteristically regular rhythm to the destruction.

The explosions generally occur at random positions on the entity's body, even if there is nothing at that location that seems like it should be able to explode. The explosions may not even match the mask of the structure very precisely, causing even seemingly empty air to erupt in flame.

Some games that use this effect attempt to inject more realism by having parts explode in a more logical fashion — for example, having the extremities disintegrate prior to the main body instead of the whole thing just randomly exploding all over. One example in real life where this trope does apply are building demolitions; these often appear similar to this trope, as individual explosives are rigged up on the support pillars to go off consecutively. However, this process often goes by a lot faster than it does in media.

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Obviously, machines in Real Life don't tend to behave this way — if something blows up, it tends to do it all at once rather than in a sequential manner or randomly across the machine.

A common effect in 2D action games, particularly shoot 'em ups of the 1990s. Subtrope of Stuff Blowing Up, often with Made of Explodium, and Defeat Equals Explosion. See also Damage Is Fire. Not to be confused with Disaster Dominoes.


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Video Game Examples

    Action 
  • Power Bomberman:
    • One of the stages takes place atop the Armor Joe. Destroying all the engines in a section will cause it to detach with a quick succession of small explosions.
    • Blowing up the piñata will detonate it in a series of small explosions, with items shooting into the arena all throughout this.
    • Winning a round of Hyper Battle will make the player float in the air while the arena is destroyed with a rapid sequence of explosions, before a final large blast blows the other combatants away.

    Action-Adventure 
  • Alundra: After defeat, bosses erupt all over with brilliant explosion, then give a death cry and fade into blue light.
  • Cave Story: Some bosses, like Omega or Monster X, give out a few explosions here and there before vanishing in a white flash of screen-filling "+"-shaped explosion.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Enemies and bosses resembling segmented worms, such as Sandworms, Lanmolas and Moldorms, tend to go down in a series of small explosions, each destroying a segment until nothing's left.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: The Twinmold pair in Stone Tower Temple dies this way. When one of them has its HP depleted (their weaknesses are the head and the tail), it will fly erratically for a moment while agonizing, and then have its slender body explode piece by piece from the tail, only leaving the head intact and letting it fall down. The same thing happens to the other insect upon its defeat, and Link wins the battle as a result.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: After Link delivers the killing blow to Molgera, the giant Sand Worm guarding the Wind Temple, it flies into the air screeching; its body segments then turn to sand and promptly explode one after the other.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: The Moldorm has its back as a weak point, so when Link attacks it (by using the Mogma Mitts to scratch it) the backmost part of its body will rapidly explode piece by piece. By the time Link delivers the third hit, the explosion chain will occur more slowly and reach its head, finally killing it.
  • SPISPOPD: Autozoids and Traffic have extensive explosion sequences when they are defeated.

    Adventure 
  • Obsidian: If you decide to use the Crossover Switch to crash Ceres' systems, the AI's entire world self-destructs bit by bit, while the Conductor lets out a Big "NO!", before she too explodes in a white flash, ending with the Obsidian structure destroyed and you and Max returned to reality.

    Beat 'em Ups 
  • Cyborg Justice has every inch of the Final Boss explode four times.
  • Shatterhand: Major enemies, and some objects, are shaken by several small explosions before finally shattering.

    Fighting Games 

    Hack & Slash 
  • Chaos Legion : Metallic enemies and most bosses die this way.

    Metroidvanias 
  • Axiom Verge: After defeat, bosses are covered with eight-bit explosions, and then massively explode into paint in slow-motion.
  • Castle in the Darkness: Defeated bosses explode all over while spouting coins, then burst into a ring of sparkles.
  • Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow: Aria of Sorrow's true ending has the castle explode repeatedly before imploding.
  • Iji: Tor's Humongous Mecha first has various parts exploding, then what's left disappears with the same special effect it appeared with.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid Fusion: Bosses are consumed in explosions before pixellizing into their Core-X forms.
    • Super Metroid: Large normal enemies turn into a cloud of explosions upon defeat.
  • Shantae: This is standard for bosses. Virtually anyone bigger than Shantae herself will go up like a string of firecrackers once defeated. They're also seemingly harmless; characters that have been thus defeated can show up later none the worse for wear, and Recurring Boss Squid Baron remarks that "you get used to it" after a few fights.

    Platformers 
  • Defeating bosses in Adventure Island games for NES (not counting the first one) causes them to vanish, leaving a stream of explosions erupting where they used to be.
  • Decap Attack: Bosses are destroyed by having multiple small red explosions cover their body after flashing a lot.
  • Dr. Chaos: Dr. Chaos himself, the final boss, transforms back to normal after series of explosions.
  • Freedom Planet: Mechanical bosses, minibosses and large enemies erupt into multiple explosions after defeat.
  • Generic Man: Both Dora the Explorer and the Master of Evil set off a chain of explosions when defeated.
  • Ghostbusters (1990): All of the minibosses and bosses, bar the Possessors in the Castle level disintegrate in a series of "ghost vanishes" flashes.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy: On Mecha Birdo's death, it sinks down while hundreds of tiny explosions go off all over it; these also occur when its eyes are destroyed.
  • The Legendary Starfy: Some bosses explode continuously while sinking below the screen upon defeat, such as Big Squiddy in 5 and Degil in 4.
  • Both normal enemies and bosses in Master of Darkness die in a chain of explosions.
  • Metal Storm: Defeated bosses turn into a whole screenful of eight-bit explosions.
  • Moon Crystal: Regardless of whether the boss is made of flesh or metal, it gives off a chain of explosions upon running out of hearts.
  • Mc Donalds Treasureland Adventure: A Lighter and Softer version occurs — after Ronald lands the final hit on a boss, a series of large stars appear randomly all over the screen, growing and disappearing like the explosions in other examples.
  • Both normal enemies and bosses in both Power Blade games explode multiple times when destroyed.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Each battle against Dr. Eggman involves Sonic fighting him in one of his machines. When Sonic lands the final hit, the machine explodes before Dr. Eggman flies away in it.
  • Wario Land 2: The three Captain Syrup final bosses explode repeatedly before both Syrup and her machine fall off the screen.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • AirMech: The fortress goes down with multiple bangs and clouds of smoke when it's being damaged.
  • Video Game/200: After a Burrowing Snagret is defeated, its head explodes in a burst of feathers and the rest of its snakelike body is destroyed in a series of smaller explosions.

    Roguelikes 
  • The Binding of Isaac: Most bosses have a variant of this trope with blood instead of explosions. When their health is depleted, they have several small squirts appear all around them before dying in one big burst.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light: Destroying a ship makes it give off a few explosions before falling apart.
  • Nuclear Throne: Every boss from Big Dog onward dies with one of these, which is potentially fatal to the player if they don't have the Boiling Veins mutation. Most of them do the standard "stay in place while blowing up" version, but Little Hunter is unique, as he launches out of control as his jetpack blows up.

    Role-Playing Games 

    Run & Gun 
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt Series: Most larger bosses explode in this fashion upon defeat, ending with a screen-wide fade to white.
  • Cuphead: Bosses are wracked by repeated explosions after being defeated, although they aren't physically destroyed.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit: Defeated bosses have red chain of explosions accompanied by sparks.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man II: At the end of the game, you shoot down Dr. Wily's escape pod with a giant missile. Wily then explodes repeatedly and crash-lands on Earth in a massive skull-shaped explosion.
    • Mega Man X: Defeated Mavericks suffer numerous small detonations before going up in a final screen-whitening blast.
    • Mega Man Zero: When bosses are defeated, they give off numerous small explosions before a big one at the end. The only bosses that do not explode in this manner are the Baby Elves.
    • Defeated bosses in Mega Man ZX are wracked by repeated explosions before dying in a big one.
  • Turrican: Bosses are wracked by a chain explosions upon destruction.

    Shooters 
  • 8Bit Killer: As the Warbird gets destroyed, it emits a few explosions before it crashes offscreen.
  • Apidya: All large enemies die in a flurry of fiery explosions, especially bosses.
  • BIOMETAL: Larger enemies and bosses go down in a series of showy explosions.
  • Battle Clash: A series of small, muffled explosions engulf every remaining limb and piece of an enemy ST upon defeat, leaving nothing behind. Metal Combat rewards every K.O. with a series of small explosions. The initial explosion causes the enemy ST to fall to pieces, leaving the remaining torso/core to bounce and stumble along the ground if it was moving when defeated. The ST's pieces get smaller rapid explosions followed by a final, larger explosion. However, sometimes you only see a portion of the flashier blast, because the game uses a first-person view and the enemy ST's torso just explodes from stumbling as you're still moving along. Every enemy ST explodes this way, even in stages with midair/underwater combat. The Final boss ramps up the pretty, pretty explosions by including several of them in succession with bright flashes.
  • CAVE loves this trope.
    • The Donpachi series have their defeated bosses getting covered by a series of small explosions before exploding violently.
    • Ketsui has defeated bosses getting covered in small explosions, and the final explosion shakes the screen.
  • Deadly Tide: Invoked in the final mission, where you are supposed to blow up the main reactor connected the alien motherships surrounding it and thus start a chain reaction that'll blow them all up and save everyone.
  • Galaxian 3: Project Dragoon: If the Cannon Seed is damaged enough to get destroyed, it will start to explode with progressively larger explosions.
  • Gradius: In IV, bosses with multiple parts explode piece by piece. In V, the boss' pieces fall apart while a shockwave surrounds its central body until it finally explodes.
  • Half-Life: Each time a Gargantua is killed, its death is marked by a series of explosions.
  • Ikaruga: Most of the bosses do this when killed, with parts of them breaking away and blowing up with smaller accompanying shockwaves just before their central part explodes violently.
  • NightFire: The space platform in Equinox eventually starts exploding in the background after three of the missiles you put off course hit it, and is destroyed after being hit by one more missile.
  • Quake II: Each time a Supertank or Hornet (or, in the Mission-Pack Sequel Ground Zero, the Carrier) is defeated, they fall to the side, a bunch of small explosions take place, and then the bigger (and somehow non-lethal) explosion that reduces them to bits.
  • Radiant Silvergun: Bosses spout fiery explosions and then implode into a tiny ball of light.
  • In Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages, destroying all weapons on large structures and spaceships makes them emit a chain of explosions and parts of their hulls turn to char as they "sink" into space for a while before blowing up.
  • The Tale of ALLTYNEX: All games in the trilogy have their bosses and large enemies mark their deaths with a series of small explosions until they make a massive one. A few of them are big enough to turn the entire screen white.
  • Tyrian does this a lot. Sometimes the explosions continue after the enemy disappears.
  • An enemy crewship in Warframe's Empyrean missions can be destroyed from the inside by damaging its reactor, which will cause both a fire inside the ship and eruption of explosions on its outer hull for about half a minute before one large explosion consumes the ship.
  • Yoshi's Safari: Upon defeat, every boss in the game, except for Wendy O. Koopa, Magikoopa, and Chargin' Chuck, gets covered in explosions appearing randomly throughout their sprites. Reasonable enough for the remaining Koopalings and the Elite Mook Koopa Troopas, who all pilot mechs, but this even applies to non-machine bosses, such as Big Boo and Bowser himself.

    Simulation Games 
  • FreeSpace: Everything bigger than a fighter. The bigger the ship, the more little explosions go off before the big boom that typically splits the whole ship in half.
  • Star Wars Legends: In the X-Wing and Tie Fighter games, most space objects larger than a shuttlecraft will go down in a chain of explosions if you succeed in destroying them. In X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, when larger ships (anything from a corvette up) are defeated, explosions are shown across the surface of the ship as it keels over before a larger explosion occurs and it disappears.
  • X: Capital ships and space stations suffer two or three secondary explosions, then one enormous flash that completely disintegrates ships and leaves a burned-out hulk behind in the case of most stations. Anything corvette-size or smaller explodes immediately in a small fireball, averting the trope. The explosions do no damage in the vanilla game, though various Game Mods such as Xtended add it. Capital ships in X: Rebirth will have dozens of explosions go through their hull, then a massive implosion followed by an explosion as the jumpdrive goes critical. Ships near the explosion take massive damage.

    Tower Defense 
  • City Conquest: When the enemy destroys the capitol, it explodes and every other building in the city explodes afterwards.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Super Robot Wars: Almost everyone explodes with several small explosions followed by a big one. Even living beings like the Radam beasts.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: Sectopods explode four times when destroyed. With Enemy Within running, the last explosion deals considerable damage up to four tiles away.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Escape Velocity: Destroyed ships will suffer a series of secondary explosions at random intervals, the duration of said series dependent on the ship's DeathDelay stat. If said stat is more than sixty frames, the ship blows up in a huge explosion that damages anything in a radius dependent on the ship's mass.
  • Grand Theft Auto V: A destroyed Kosatka explodes 5 times and disappears.

Non-Video Game examples

    Anime and Manga 
  • Macross: Do You Remember Love?: At the end , once Hikaru blasts Bodolzaa to smithereens, the mobile fortress that housed Boldolzaa starts to suffer a chain reaction of explosions until the entire fortress goes up in one big fireball. However, Hikaru and the Macross are completely safe in the center of all this.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Whenever a powerful ace monster is destroyed, it usually explodes in this type of manner.

    Fan Works 
  • The Weaver Option: The final destruction of Commorragh begins with cascading explosions as every portal connected to the main realm detonates, with the attached sub-realms then exploding along with their gates. Finally as the Will of Eternity explodes, the entirety of the Dark City is obliterated by planet-sized explosions.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bride of Frankenstein: Pretorius' tower comes down in a series of explosions when the Monster pulls a certain lever.
  • Green Lantern (2011): Hal Jordan punches Parallax into the sun, causing him to repeatedly explode.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: After Groot's bomb explodes in Planet Ego's core, the planet is wracked by numerous explosions before finally detonating.
  • Logan's Run: Once Logan 5 realizes that the city's central computer has been lying to everyone about Carousel and Renewal and population control, he makes a daring escape. Logan 5 shoots at some consoles with his sidearm that elicit a shower of sparks. Minor explosions follow, first in the command building, then spreading throughout the city, until most of the place is rubble, in flames, or a shambles. Presumably, the survivors will embark on an Adam and Eve Plot to rebuild society, minus the crapshoot computers.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Empire Strikes Back: Luke Skywalker manages to catch up to an Imperial AT-AT, and attach a magnetic grapple to its underside. Winching himself up next to the machine, Luke lightsabers away an access panel, then throws in an explosive charge. After uncoupling himself and falling to the snow, Luke sees a series of explosions lighting up the walker's interior that culminate in the command head exploding. The AT-AT legs buckle and it topples over.
    • Return of the Jedi: The second Death Star is destroyed when the Rebels' attack on its main reactor initiates a chain reaction of explosions that quickly spread through the battlestation before culminating in a larger detonation that destroys it.
    • The Phantom Menace: After Anakin puts two proton torpedoes into one of the reactors, the Trade Federation ship explodes at random points all over its hull before splitting in half.
  • War of the Worlds: Ray sticks a grenade into a tripod. The tripod then explodes repeatedly and falls over.

    Live-Action Television 

    Pinball 
  • Black Rose: When you sink a ship, it explodes several times before sinking for good.
  • Medieval Madness: When you destroy a castle, a series of smaller explosions destroy several of the turrets first, then the rest of the castle goes up all at once in an enormous mushroom cloud.

 
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Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Chain Reaction Destruction

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Destroying the Cannon Seed

From Galaxian 3: Project Dragoon (original release 1990)

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