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Rocket-Tag Gameplay

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"A weapon that defeats foes with one hit and causes the user to die from one hit. It loses its sheen and power after two consecutive uses, but will eventually regain both."
— Description of the One Hit Obliterator, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

When both sides are made up of squishy characters with the means to easily squish the other side, you have a case of Rocket Tag Gameplay. The slightest caress from any weapon in the game will reduce anyone to a fine paste, so the gameplay becomes entirely about hitting first and never getting hit yourself. It could mean that twitch reactions and being the first to attack is vital, it could place huge emphasis on dodging and leading targets, or it might just be a case of camping with extreme patience and never giving your position away, but in any case, being exposed to damage is a swift trip to the Game Over screen or a respawn.

The reasons for this are usually straightforward; attacks do about as much damage as you have health, more or less, and your attacks do the same to them. This changes the relationship your game has with damage considerably. In a regular game, it might be worth it to expose yourself to damage to do some yourself. Here, however, you don't have that option. Concepts like hitpoints and damage per second or per turn fall to the wayside in favor of avoiding being hit, ensuring your attacks land, maximizing weapon range, making sure you always attack first, and taking care not to get hoist by your own petard.

This trope doesn't have to be a bad thing. Fast-paced battles tend to be more exciting than longer and tedious ones, and they may require less Level Grinding. In RPGs, this can make each turn extremely tense, as the stakes are always at their highest. In real-time action games, this allows the inclusion of weapons which are difficult to use, like an extremely slow-moving rocket launcher, for example, because if it connects at all there will be immediate positive feedback (like your opponent exploding). In a real-time strategy game, this can place a greater focus on the "strategy" side and the logistics, as once battle is joined there is almost no time for the player to micro orders to troops before the demise of themselves or the enemy.

An Instakill Mook with low health will always result in this. When this happens in a Boss Battle, you have a Rush Boss. Compare Glass Cannon, One-Hit Kill, One-Hit-Point Wonder and Type 2 Mutual Disadvantage. Related to Begin with a Finisher, where a character opens a fight with their most powerful attack.

The Opposite Trope is Padded Sumo Gameplay, where there are mutually ineffective weapons instead of mutually ineffectual defenses.

This trope applies most of the time to real modern warfare: being directly hit (as opposed to grazed) with just one assault rifle bullet will generally kill you, or, at the very least, greatly reduce your combat effectiveness. In multiple FPS games, this mode of gameplay where all hits are a One-Hit Kill is also called InstaGib; usually, this mode has everyone equipped with sniper weapons and hits can even lead to Ludicrous Gibs.


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  • With the advent of beam weaponry in the One Year War, Mobile Suit battles in Universal Century Gundam turned into this. Most armor couldn't stand up to even a single hit with a beam weapon, and shields maybe saved you from one. So Mobile Suits were designed with only the most necessary armor, as the best defense against a beam weapon was not to get hit at all. Later developments in technology reversed this, such as I-field generators (which released particles around the user that would deflect mega particle beams) and eventually the development of beam shields.

  • In Game and Bleach, Yoruichi's spar against Tatsuki works this way. Yoruichi's hits each take out a full third of Tatsuki's health while Tatsuki's one successful attack leaves Yoruichi unconscious with zero health. To take things further, Yoruichi was deliberately striking Tatsuki's armor while pulling her punches as well.


  • The Borg Invasion in the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy boils down to this. Borg cubes have enough firepower to shred any Federation ship in a matter of seconds, but the Federation has transphasic torpedoes, which are specifically designed to One-Hit Kill the normally Nigh-Invulnerable Borg ships. Unfortunately, this proves to be an Unstable Equilibrium; the torpedoes are used so much that eventually the Borg adapt to it and No-Sell the Federation's only effective weapon, turning the invasion into a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • From the Earth to the Moon: The foundation of Nicholls and Barbicane's rivalry: the former designed armor plating, the latter shells, and during the course of the Civil War both started seeing the other's efforts as a personal affront (despite both working for the Union). Nicholls was hit particularly hard by the war ending before he could prove Barbicane's shells wouldn't damage his latest creation, and even worse on learning Barbicane was now building a gun capable of hitting the Moon which no armor would stand up to.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the Vintage and Legacy formats are notorious for this, but the worst offender was Standard play just after the release of Urza's Saga. During the Urza's Saga block, it was a common joke that "early game" meant the coin flip to decide who went first, "midgame" was the decision to mulligan, and "endgame" was the first turn.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In 1st Edition Advanced D&D, there was no limit on spell damage, so (for example) a 20th level magic-user's Fireball did 20d6 (20-120) Hit Points of damage. This meant that at higher levels of play, whichever side gained initiative would probably win the fight. The designers of 2nd Edition decided to put level caps on most of the damaging spells to prevent one-round wipeouts. This also happened between two editions of Basic D&D. In general, D&D is this at very low levels (when characters can be potentially killed with a single high-damage hit) and very high levels (when save-or-die effects become prevalent).
    • Note that magic spells in 1st edition had fixed casting times which typically increased with spell level, so in a showdown between two high-level parties, the best casting choice was the lowest-level spell which was powerful enough to take out the enemy magic-user. At sufficiently high levels, this would typically be...the lowly Magic Missile.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition is often accused of Rocket Tag gameplay. Not only because damage outstrips hit points, but because of an excess of spells which instantly kill or cripple their targets (and spellcasters knowing so many spells that they can always choose the one that's most effective, like Mind Rape against a dumb enemy). In fact, it was possible for every one of a caster's spells of 4th level or higher to be very direct "instant win" spells. For example, solid fog (a 20' radius) meant standard movement was limited to 5', or 20' if the target ran as fast as he could in a straight line and remembered he could do that. Evard's black tentacles tried grappling all creatures in the area (in a 30' radius, natch) and usually succeeded. Add stinking cloud (another 20' radius) to taste, which prevents those who fail their Fortitude save from acting and you have yourself a killer combo. At level 7. In the core ruleset. (In general, spells of level 3 and below can't plain win fights like this, but a failed save against a grease, color spray, glitterdust, or web means you're pretty much screwed while the caster's friends & minions quickly beat you to death.)
    • And if you're a Shadowcraft Mage, then with the right build, you can use silent image (a level 0 spell) with the Gnome Illusionist substitution level and Heighten it to make it do what was just described. Or cast miracles.
    • At mid and high levels, defenses tend to be binary: if you aren't flat-out immune (or they got unlucky and missed), you're going splat! in one round or even one hit, with few exceptions.
    • Pathfinder eliminated most of the damage loops and frank abuses of 3.5, buffed melee and ranged physical damage so the warrior classes do most of the damage, and still results in this trope due to the prevalence of "Save or Suck" spells. In short, casters can shut down the enemy with spells that inflict status ailments so severe the warriors simply cut down the enemy like butter. For example, failing a save versus Blindness seems like an inconvenience by itself, but if it happens while a Barbarian is in the room, your life expectancy can be measured in seconds. Not to mention that the aforementioned buffed up damage on warrior classes can reach the point where a full attack from a martial character will one-round kill most level-appropriate enemies.
    • 4th Edition was the one edition to invert this with its Padded Sumo Gameplay. While enemies did have some attacks that could take a PC down if focus fired, these were generally once per fight skills, and the easy access to quick healing would mean that PCs would be back up on their feet within a round (Monsters seldom got healing or regeneration because it unnecessarily prolonged an already long slog). A typical 4th Edition fight would start with the monsters unleashing some fairly strong attacks against the party that could make them concerned for a minute, the party quickly healing everyone back up, some exchanges of blows where one or two enemy combatants would eventually be defeated making victory pretty uncertain, and then another 30-60 minutes of mop up by the players. The rules tried to fix this slightly with the second Monster Manual toning down Hit Points and defenses while buffing up an enemy's attack once they were "bloodied", but combat still took a long time.
    • 5th Edition tries to strike a balance, with combat being faster than 4th edition but not as deadly as the earlier ones. This has gone over well with the majority of the fanbase. Perhaps D&D's troubled relationship with this trope is finally at an end... perhaps.
  • The Dresden Files, using the FATE system, is tuned to encourage this. The Dresden world is one where people with normal human bodies throw around power that can level blocks, and in the books Harry usually has at least one near-death scrape per fight, so the game models this. It doesn't take much to inflict wounds or death on an opponent (barring Toughness abilities). One or two solid shots is usually enough to end a fight, and many battles boil down mostly to defending and maneuvering in order to set up those one or two solid shots.
  • Exalted Second Edition seesaws between this and Padded Sumo Gameplay due to its lethality issues. It's trivially easy to throw an attack at someone that is absolutely certain to kill them instantly, resulting in whoever attacks first winning easily... unless the enemy uses one of the game's perfect defenses. Once everyone is using an impossible-to-bypass suite of perfect defenses, the game changes from Rocket Tag to Padded Sumo Gameplay, with no attack ever doing more than making the opponent pay a tiny amount of the game's equivalent to Magic Points. "2.5ed" fan-made balance patch makes those defensed more expensive, but doesn't inherently change the overall system. Third Edition redoes the system from the ground up to try and find a happy medium.
  • GURPS is this at high TL, especially whenever high-RoF guns are considered.
  • Urban Fantasy games like Shadowrun and the New World of Darkness have fairly lethal combat systems where commonly-available weapons are capable of killing a player character in less than three hits at nearly any power level. Cover is invaluable as well as avoiding combat altogether.
    • The Old World of Darkness was little better. Since a character gets stunned if they take more than their stamina in damage, and most weapons like a shotgun or a melee-focused character would do just that, whoever loses initiative had best just pray they made it out of the first round still able to take an action. Add this to a game system where the average damage for a shotgun is 4-5 health levels, taking wounds causes increasing penalties to all actions, and you only have eight Hit Points to begin with, and combat was effectively over in a few rounds.
    • Unknown Armies shares the same fate for any gunfight. It's a percentage-based system, and if you make the roll to hit then firearms deal damage equal to your attack roll - as in, if you hit with a roll of 23 then you just did 23 damage, and if you hit with a roll of 75 then you just did 75 damage. The average human has 50 health. You can bump up the relevant stat at character creation or by spending experience points if you want more health, but taking a couple bullets will still ruin your day. The combat chapter opens with advice that you should do your best to deescalate conflicts or just retreat unless there's literally no other alternative.
  • Cyberpunk 2020 is this in spades too. Solo-class characters have a combat sense, that adds an bonus to initiative, meaning they're very likely to start a fight first. Even with protective gear a single bullet, especially if is in the head (double damage) can kill your character. So you can see why solos mean trouble for non-ones.
  • Notorious in tabletop RPGs based on Warhammer 40,000:
    • Fights with Master-type enemies (things like Hive Tyrants and Daemon Princes) and, to somewhat lesser extent, Elite ones in Deathwatch and Black Crusade tend to be like this. Since both the players and the enemies can do huge amounts of damage, the fight generally come down to who goes first and who can dodge/parry better.
    • Also very common in the Dark Heresy games, where one unlucky semi-auto burst from a common-as-dirt lasgun can kill a reasonably-armored player. Most characters are either built to subvert this with heavy armor, high dodge, and a high health pool, or exploit it with absurd damage rolls made at high initiative and accuracy from very far away. Subverted once the players and game master are familiar with the system, though, as the proper use of armor, cover, and utility equipment can make even the squishiest character surprisingly survivable.
    • On the tabletop site Goonhammer, the second "Blunderdome" Warhammer 40000 tournament went to the opposite extreme of the Giftedly Bad lists of the first Blunderdome by stripping away all the game's balancing errata and issuing relatively non-competitive players with the most vicious lists that its most hardcore competitive players could assemble, leading to many games where the player with the first turn annihilates a significant chunk of the other player's army in a hail of bullets. While the players are clearly trying to enjoy it to a degree, cracking jokes about how their battle plan is to win the roll for first turn, by the second and third rounds the writeups are getting more and more open about how miserable an experience it is to be rendered incapable of winning before even getting to play a turn.
  • Call of Cthulhu features this due to its attempts to make actual humans as squishy as we really are, for contrast against the bullet-shrugging horrors that inevitably pop up an hour or two into the session. Unlike most games, hit points don't increase as an integral part of character advancement, which means regardless of how many mind-bending abominations your character has faced off against, a reasonably accurate or lucky mugger armed with a .45 caliber pistol can still send you to the hospital or the morgue with one shot. And since it's set in the 1920s, there have been reported incidents of a Total Party Kill in one combat round because one of the bad guys that didn't graduate from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy happened to own a Thompson sub machine gun.
  • Sanguine Productions' "Cardinal" rule system, used in Ironclaw 2nd edition and Myriad Song, doesn't use hit points, instead attacks inflict status effects based on how many attack dice rolled higher than the defender's highest Dodge dice, plus their weapon's bonus (usually +2). 5 successes in one attack is Dead, 6 invokes the Chunky Salsa Rule, while two of the less serious statuses increase damage from later attacks, and they stack. After sustaining damage the character can attempt to "soak" a few hits but most characters only roll two, maybe three dice when soaking. In addition, many starting characters roll four or more large dice on attacks.
  • Early-level Stars Without Number is very, very lethal, necessitating a great many low-combat stories and a lot of diving for cover; Warriors are the best at it, in the sense that they have the ability to tank one hit with no damage, but this just means they probably go down on the second hit rather than the first. The high damage output makes sense, given that Magnetic Weapons are everywhere at TL4, but it doesn't make the results any less messy. The free "Stellar Heroes" expansion, aimed at one-player campaigns, does contain variant rules for playing with characters who can stroll through hordes of Mooks rather than being reduced to fine red goo if there are more than two enemies, at least.
  • Power Creep turned Yu-Gi-Oh! into this at higher levels of play. The ability for newer cards to give free advantage, search for options, or facilitate more Special Summons, allows for longer combos that make a board full of 2000+ ATK monsters that either destroy the opponent in one turn or disrupt the opponent when they try to set up their own powerful board for a counterattack. The combos are so long and are sometimes hinged on a single card such that negating a single search can cause the whole game plan to fall apart and may even lead to a concede.
  • Forsooth!: An NPC dies if a player is in the same scene and they say they kill them. If it is another PC they have to agree to die; alternately the victim can retreat wounded or kill their killer as they die.
  • Melee and magical combat in Lace & Steel is played using a special deck of cards, where two opponents play attack and defend cards from their hand, representing individual thrusts and parries (or magical equivalents). The way the damage rules work, failing to defend against at most two attacks will eat through your entire hit point supply, resulting in most fights being over within a couple turn (one combat turn encompasses multiple cards being played).
  • The Pokémon Trading Card Game became like this during the later parts of Generation IV and the earlier parts of Generation V. Everywhere in tournament play was the "Donk" deck, which makes use of one Pokémon with one very high-damage, low-Energy attack. These attacks invariably have drawbacks, such as Rampardos taking damage or Machamp only able to use it on certain Pokémon, and the rest of the deck was designed to minimize those negative effects. In addition, there were plenty of cards to boost damage, like PlusPower, Buck's Training, and Expert Belt. Together, playing the Pokémon TCG competitively during then largely came down to a race to the first knockout which, more often than not, created momentum that would grow into an insurmountable lead.
    • Parodied in this Penny Arcade strip where Gabe optimistically tries to play the game against a veteran adult player. His opponent goes first, makes some weird noises while he runs some mental calculations, then declares he's won the game. He offers to explain how, but a dispirited Gabe just takes his word for it.
  • The fan-made system PokéRole was largely designed to emulate the actual video games, where fast sweepers are largely dominant. This is especially true with multiple actions, with combat rarely lasting one or two rounds.
  • Starfleet Battles was notorious for its "eggshells armed with hammers" nature, in part to speed up the resulting game which was already overdetailed.

    Video Games 
  • AI Dungeon 2: Because there's no actual stats system, battles tend to be quick and brutal, with either the player curb stomping enemies or the enemies doing the same in toll.
  • The Achron metagame has gone through this at various points with strategies such as chronorushing (rushing chronoporting tech, which lets you send an army back in time, to hopefully wipe out the opponent before they can even do anything). It is possible to defend against, but it's usually easier to just counterrush and try to wipe them out even faster.
  • High-level gameplay in the Disgaea series and other Nippon Ichi strategy RPGs. Due to the way attack vs. defense is calculated damage increases exponentially as levels rise, so more or less any battle over level 500 or so means you either kill your opponent in one shot or die in their response attack. It's actually possible to take multiple hits in the fourth game by stacking defensive abilities, though. The fifth numbered game however tweaks the formula so that defense becomes viable no matter what by adding armor mastery and increasing a skill's level only lowers the SP cost. The Carnage Dimension outright punishes min maxing via the Carnage Tyrant evility.
    • Phantom Brave, which allots turns based on units' Speed stat instead of alternating between teams, goes one step further: in addition to being a game of one-hit kills, a sufficiently fast team can annihilate the enemy before they're able to make a single move.
    • There is a significant upside to this, though: Rocket Tag Gameplay for most of the Disgaea games only happens at levels considerably higher than needed to enter the post-game, wherein you spend the vast, vast majority of your time Level Grinding or going through Item Dungeons which have dozens and dozens of floors. If battles didn't get shorter as levels increased, getting the Infinity +1 Sword or defeating the Superboss would take an even more unbearably long time.
  • Divekick takes this to the extreme, with every character able to win with only one well-placed dive kick. The only way to not die is to avoid that kick.
  • Enchanted Arms. You could generally wipe out Random Encounters in two to three rounds if you weren't ambushed. If you were, you were likely to have half your party dead by the time you regained control. As an amusing consequence of this, bosses actually did less damage than the Mooks you'd been killing to get to them.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics:
    • In high-level Final Fantasy Tactics Advance play, especially in multiplayer, there is really only one stat: speed. Thanks to a series of balance-annihilating skills, first strike generally wins. The amount of damage a character can take or deal is irrelevant with Viera Assassins covering half the battlefield in a single turn and instantly killing their target 85% of the time or more, or Moogle Gunners blasting insanely powerful Ultima Shots at ludicrous ranges.
    • Likewise, the original Final Fantasy Tactics lends itself to this sort of thing. By the end of Chapter 3, it's a common strategy to stack damage-boosting equipment in every slot, and it's very difficult to build a character that can survive more than a round or two against a high-level Ninja or Summoner. And that's before you start dual-wielding Knightswords, driving your Brave stat as high as it can go and making your attacks ignore evasion.
  • The Djinn system is a major part of Golden Sun, as they allow for class changes, summons, and stat boosts. However, when you use several of them to prepare a more powerful summon, it lowers your stats accordingly (and depending on which Djinn are on which character, their class. Going from Stone Wall to Squishy Wizard is a nasty surprise for the unprepared). Against most bosses, the best strategy is to go into battle with lowered stats, fire off all your summons and survive, gaining back the stats one turn at a time until your Djinn are ready to be used again.
  • Halo:
    • SWAT mode disables all energy shields and gives everyone precision weapons, turning the gameplay into highly tactical twitch-combat, because one headshot is all it takes to kill you.
    • There's also a multiplayer mode literally called "Rockets" where players are all equipped with, you guessed it, rocket launchers. Explosions and quick deaths for all.
    • There's another multiplayer mode called "Sniper". As with "Rockets", if you hit your opponent, they're dead. If not, that smoke trail just gave away your position.
  • Many, many weapons in Chaos Faction (e.g. the Cannon, R.P.G. and Homing Missile) have the capacity to One-Hit Kill. Many, many fights will boil down to whoever manages to score the first hit with one of said weapons.
  • Hotline Miami. The protagonist is a One-Hit-Point Wonder (though there are a few masks that change this), but very few enemies can endure more than a single armed hit.
  • Mega City Police: Given that the average character's starting health is around 20 and enemies are capable of doing around 5 damage at a time, either you kill the criminals before they hit you or you're already dead. And that's not even getting into the bosses, who have attacks that can do upwards of 12 damage in a single hit.
  • Invisible, Inc. implements this for turn-based tactical stealth: One hit from a weapon, and any character is down, whether agent or enemy. (While an agent can be revived with some futuristic Applied Phlebotinum, and an enemy may be KO'd or killed depending on your weapon, if they're hit, they're still out of the game.) Notably, during early development the devs did try a more conventional approach with hit points and hit percentages, but came to the conclusion that it felt too much like a combat game rather than like a stealth game, and specifically a spy game. They arrived at Rocket-Tag Gameplay after some brainstorms about what a spy game should feel like: like the stakes are high, and the enemy is always better-equipped than you are, but you gain the advantage through improvisation and quick thinking.
  • Played straight in theory, but averted in Monster Girl Quest. While Luka's defence stat stays at a fixed 5 (25 when you get the only armour in the game), damage stays consistent with what you would expect to receive if Luka's defence went up.
    • The game gets more strategic depth as Luka gains spirits that let him resist or negate several types of attacks, either by deflecting them (Sylph), making his body tougher (Gnome) or making him too fast to hit (Undine). This, at least, until he loses control of them and the monsters start using their own...
  • M.U.G.E.N: The Space Invader character turns a fight into one of these. Its only attack is a Disintegrator Ray that will One-Hit Kill the opponent if not blocked, but it also goes down in one hit.
  • Pokémon:
    • The metagame has a role called the "Sweeper". The purpose of this monster is to one-shot the entire opposing team due to a high speed stat, insane damage, and good coverage on the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors table. The best counter for a sweeper? A faster sweeper that can one-shot it. Barring that, a character tough enough that it can survive a sweeper's attack, so it can retaliate. Many sweepers focus purely on Attack/Sp. Attack and Speed, so they're likely to be a Glass Cannon or a Fragile Speedster. Their prevalence depends on the generation, with some generations (usually earlier) making it harder for sweepers to take out the enemy team, and others giving them more tools to run away with the game after a single Status Buff move. Volcarona in particular has developed the Fan Nickname of "Matchup Moth", since it'll either blow away the entire enemy team after a single Quiver Dance, or fail to accomplish anything.
    • The original tournament ruleset used at Nintendo Cup encouraged this heavily. It was a bring-six-choose-three meta where no Pokémon above level 55 could be used (giving less bulk overall), and where One-Hit Kill moves and freezing multiple Pokémon was legal (though sleeping multiple Pokémon was not). Additionally, this was played with the original Red and Green, where Blizzard (already one of the best moves in the game) had a 30% freeze chance. The result was a metagame utterly dominated by fast sweepers like Jynx, Lapras, and Tauros; a Jynx with good luck could disable 2/3 of an opponent's team in two turns. Even Snorlax and Chansey, normally regarded as among the best Pokémon of the first generation, saw little success owing to how quickly their Mighty Glacier statlines could crumble. In fact, it's been claimed that this ended up being a contributing factor to Snorlax receiving a massive buff in the second generation, despite being a near-mandatory pick in any format even slightly less hyper-aggressive than this one.
    • Generation IV Little Cup, a format which only allows unevolved Pokémon at level 5, is well-known for being based around all-out offense. Stat calculation and damage rolls at low levels make every LC generation more offensively-oriented than usual, and these Pokémon also have access to extremely powerful moves like Hydro Pump and Close Combat which they wouldn't normally know at level 5. However, unlike later generations' LC formats, gen 4 lacks the Eviolite item, which boosts the defensive stats of a Pokémon that can still evolve by 50%.
    • Generation V in particular seems to encourage this, as nearly any Pokémon in OU play that isn't a Stone Wall is more than likely going to get taken out by one super effective attack. Ditto's new level in badass shines in this sort of gameplay, as its new Ability to transform as it enters the battlefield instead of spending a move, combined with a Choice Scarf, means that it doesn't matter what the Sweeper is or how powerful and fast it's gotten, at the very best it has a 50% chance of going first.
    • Generation V's Double Battles were also like this, due to the prevalence of Taking You with Me moves like Explosion, Destiny Bond, and Final Gambit: Official tournament battles, which were all Double Battles, frequently ended in fewer turns than there were Pokémon. By contrast, Generation V's Single Battles often turned into Padded Sumo Gameplay, with the ubiquitous presence of walls like Reuniclus, Slowbro, Dusknoir, and Scrafty with battles consisting largely of both players switching from Pokémon to Pokémon to take hits (until one of the aforementioned Sweepers shows up). Self-Destruct and Explosion got Nerfed in Generation VI, though Double Battles continue to progress much faster than their Single Battle cousins to this day.
    • In Pokémon GO, Team Rocket Trainers fight you with Shadow Pokémon, which inflict and take significantly more damage. This results in fast-paced battles in which a super effective charged attack is usually enough to one-shot a Pokémon.
    • Pokémon Legends: Arceus, being focused more on catching, battling, and observing wild Pokémon than battling against NPCs, uses a heavily streamlined version of the main games' battle system: no Random Encounters, no Abilities, no held items, no weather-changing or entry hazard moves (though weather still exists), no results screen at the end of every battle, a Stance System that allows combatants to hit either harder but less often or softer but more often, and offensive moves in general have been buffed significantly; moves that are fairly weak in the mainline games like Venoshock and Aerial Ace can now easily chunk a non-tank Pokémon for 40% of their health or more, and the smaller power difference between Pokémon of different levels means that lower-level mons can more easily go toe-to-toe with ones 20+ levels higher and win.
  • Early versions of MechWarrior Living Legends had Battlemechs and tanks killing each other with alarming speed; a Heavy Gauss slug could One-Hit Kill any light mech and cripple anything else, for example. Version 0.3 buffed all land vehicles to have more armor to increase the duration of fights. Aerospace Fighters, however, were frequently capable of instagibbing each other with LB-X shotguns and Heavy Gauss Rifles, and was only partially alleviated in the final update with the infamous Shiva "E" being gimped and other variants being tweaked for more tradition dogfights rather than rocket-tag.
  • Sins of the Prophets uses this, unlike vanilla Sins of a Solar Empire. Frigates drop like flies and even capships and starbases go down with ease if you don't pay attention.
  • The Gears of War series suffered from Gameplay Derailment resulting in this. It was intended to be a cover-based shooter and used paintball as its main inspiration. Instead, the player base latched onto the fact that sliding into cover is faster than running, leading to everyone only using the cover for "wallbouncing" (taking cover for fractions of a second at a time in order to move around the map quickly) while hipfiring shotguns at each other hoping for a One-Hit Kill, since it is by far the most effective way to play 90% of the time (the other 10% is when you have something that can either blow people up or pop heads off, ie. an easier way to kill in one hit).
  • Star Fox: Assault has several multiplayer game modes that result in this, such as Rocket Launcher fights and Sure Shot Scuffle which renders every shot a one-hit kill. Then there's Sniper Showdown, which limits weapons to only Sniper Rifles but gives them infinite ammo. Sniper Rifles are also probably the most powerful weapon, one-shotting anyone unless you have a low Pilot Skill and your opponent has high health (i.e. Krystal Vs. Wolf) but even then it's still just one more shot. And unlike most shooters, you don't need a headshot, as long as the bullet hits, bye bye goes the healthbar.
  • The first expansion of Star Wars: Galaxies was pretty close to this. Weapons were much better than armour, so your ship might survive one hit before getting destroyed (or being so damaged as to be effectively destroyed). Some players took this to the logical conclusion and didn't bother to install armour or shields at all, instead using the extra space to pack in bigger guns or more powerful engines.
  • Pillars of Dust: Each battle has a countdown of how many ATB ticks have to pass before the enemies get stronger. To mitigate this, the party is fully healed after every battle, encouraging them to try to wipe out the enemy as quickly as possible rather than conserving AP. For tankier enemies, it becomes necessary to use the Magic Star consumable to forcibly increase the countdown for the phase timer.
  • PlanetSide 2, unlike its predecessor, has extremely fast time-to-kill for almost all its weapons, with sniper rifle headshots and point-blank pump action shotguns being able to One-Hit Kill. Soldiers pretty much melt under enemy fire, and even the MAX Powered Armor can only sustain two direct hits from rockets.
  • Bomberman multiplayer matches generally fall into this, given that players almost always can get killed in one hit. It's somewhat complicated by bombs not really being projectile weapons, along with the need to obtain Power Ups to increase the number and range of one's bombs.
  • Evochron's ships are capable of annihilating each other at close range with extreme prejudice. As such, players will often desperately fling their ships into complex multi-axis spins in order to avoid fire while diverting power to shield generates to avoid being nuked. Luckily, Death Is a Slap on the Wrist (usually).
  • This is what makes Ninja Gaiden II so difficult. Ryu can inflict a lot of pain on his enemies, but so can they on him. Even simple mooks can kill you with no effort if you're not careful.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 is often joked among fans to be a game where the broken abilities of the enemy are counteracted by the broken abilities of the player. One-rounding enemies is trivially easy for most units, but enemy accuracy and critical rates are noticeably high, and magic enemies hit very hard. Staves that inflict Status Effects are at their most powerful, with infinite range and duration, but are also fairly trivial for the player to obtain. Map designs gleefully abuse all these aspects. In the lategame, a common strategy is to Sleep, Silence, and Berserk as many enemies on the map as possible on the first turn before they can do the same to you.
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, at least compared to the rest of the series. Due to the addition of a third tier of character classes, most stat caps are higher in this game than in any other game in the series save for Genealogy of the Holy War and Awakening. The HP cap, however, is class-based and goes up with promotion for the first time, so the Squishy Wizards and Fragile Speedsters actually cap out lower than a first-tier unit in the rest of the series even at third tier. Defensive stats being higher as well mitigates this somewhat, but physical units' resistance and magic units' defense aren't terribly impressive either.
    • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (the DS remake of the original game) becomes this on high difficulties. Most enemy stat gains are centered on offense, meaning they become very, very dangerous, to the point of being able to kill pretty much any unit (barring a trained Wolf or Sedgar) in two hits at most. However, the existence of the Forge mechanic in combination with effective weapon damage means that the player can also kill most enemies in one or two hits right back. Accuracy on both sides is also very high, to the point that you'll rarely see hit rates below 70%, so most hits are going to be taken on the chin. This is especially pronounced in the case of killing the Final Boss, Medeus: Tiki (and her counterpart Nagi) can blast off about two-thirds of his health in one shot at base level, but in exchange, he will pretty much always kill her in one round no matter how much she's been raised. Because of this, the most popular way to kill him is to use the Aum Staff to revive her after she's been killed so that she can get in a second hit.
    • Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem is as rocket-taggy as its predecessor, though effective damage is not quite as overpowered due to a boost in enemy variety. It becomes particularly obvious on the highest difficulty, Lunatic Reverse, which causes enemies to always get in the first hit—combat quickly becomes a game of finding characters who can either attack at range and chip down the opponent without taking a counter, or characters who are strong enough to survive the enemy attack and annihilate them in return.
    • Fire Emblem Fates:
      • The "Life and Death" skill enforces this, causing the user deal and take 10 more damage.
      • Chapter 19 of Conquest. The enemies consist entirely of Kitsune, who are fast, move far, hit hard and most have the Pass skill to bypass any attempts to wall them, but have poor HP, defense and a weakness to beast-slaying weapons. The chapter becomes a race to kill as many as possible on the Player Phase to stop them doing the same to you. Doubly so if the player is using Keaton, as both him and the enemies are weak to each other's Beastbane skills. It's even more pronounced on Lunatic, where a few enemies are given the aforementioned Life and Death skill.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses becomes this between two characters, Lysithea and the Death Knight/Jeritza. Lysithea is a very powerful mage who can defeat the Death Knight easily because of her Dark Spikes Τ which causes extra damage to horse riders, the Death Knight included. On the other hand, the Death Knight is strong enough that even the beefiest party members aren't expected to be able to take him head-on, so if he attacks first, Lysithea isn't going to survive. This even applies in the Crimson Flower route if you didn't recruit Lysithea and you control Jeritza. Jeritza better attack first otherwise Lysithea will attack with Dark Spikes Τ.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Champions' Ballad DLC of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild starts with Link being granted a four-pronged sai-like weapon called the One-Hit Obliterator, which reduces his health to a quarter-heart, but has infinite attack strength for two hits at a time (albeit with a quick recharge period). Its use is restricted to the Great Plateau, where he's tasked to defeat all of the monsters in set areas with it to unlock new shrines and the path forward to learning more about the history of the Champions, his old allies.
    • Hyrule Warriors: The "Watch out! All attacks are devastating!" maps in Adventure Mode, where everything on the battlefield is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, both the player and the enemies alike. Technically, the player has two hit points due to their Last Chance Hit Point, but the only way to get an A-rank on those missions in any version of the game barring Definitive Edition is to never get hit.
  • Open combat in Splatoon rarely lasts more than a few seconds before one side (or both) is wiped out. Most rollers, chargers, and blasters — as well as nearly every offensive sub and special weapon — are capable of a one-hit kill. Numerous other weapons, if they aren't strong enough to kill in two hits, compensate by having high fire rates that allow them to kill just as quickly anyway, so long as your aim is on-point. Thus, sneak attacks and hit-and-run tactics become an important and highly effective strategy.
  • Counter-Strike, the classic. Most weapons will kill in a single shot to the head, and the primary game modes have no mid-round respawns or ways to recovery help. When the AWP comes into play, any shots to the head or torso put you out of commission, even through your body armor. Using smoke grenades, flashbangs, suppressing fire and squad tactics is crucial to ensuring that your team members aren't taken out by a stray shot.
  • Literally in Doom deathmatch games; the game has an actual rocket launcher, and taking a direct hit from it can be a One-Hit Kill. Best case scenario, you're at 200% of both health and armor, which means you can survive one hit for sure, and two if you're lucky. Three shots from the rocket launcher takes about a second and a half to fire. The rocket launcher isn't even the most powerful weapon.
  • KanColle: Night battles in Kantai Collection are essentially a double-edged sword case of this, as the firepower cap is drastically increased and certain ships (such as destroyers and cruisers) on both sides gains a significant boost in firepower, and may perform attacks that are capable of inflicting significant damage, if not outright obliterating the enemy target altogether. While it is useful or even essential for defeating enemy bosses as you may chose to enter it voluntarily, there are certain maps that features night battle nodes. Though night battles only have one round of shelling, the enemy cut-in attack could heavily damage even your battleships and force you to make a costly retreat. For this reason, forced night battle nodes are loathed by most players.
  • Warframe:
    • In the original Player Versus Player combat incarnation, "Conclave", players were free to use any weapon, Warframe, and any combination upgrades modules. Due to the largely PvE-based game design with all that ensues, coupled with the bunnyhopping-esque melee animation glitches that allow players to catapult themselves at 100 mph, the end result was a Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode where players were zipping across the map fast enough to break the netcode while mowing each other down with hitscan machineguns that dealt 30000+ DPS against players with less than 2000hp. "Conclave 2.0" is a complete rewrite of the system; players are still extremely agile courtesy of Le Parkour, but most upgrades are forbidden — increasing the time to kill — and the animation exploits have been removed.
    • The PvE content isn't much better at higher levels. With the right mods on the right weapons, players can one-shot most enemies for a very long time, while enemy damage increases steadily with their level. Meanwhile, player health hits its cap relatively quickly, preventing tanking from being a reliable playstyle for Warframes without powers to facilitate it.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, some of the strongest weapons do over 100 damage a shot before subtracting DT (more with a Critical Hit, which you can make amazingly common), then have their final damage multiplied several times from perks, sneak attacks, and headshots, while the strongest Optional Boss only has 2000 health and 20 DT. You yourself can only have DT in the 40s and a couple hundred hits points, so most really strong enemies can kill you in one or two hits unless you pile up damage resistance from taking multiple chems simultaneously.
    • Fallout 4: Compared to Normal difficulty, players in Survival difficulty take four times as much damage but only do one-quarter less—and can make up the difference with the Survival-exclusive Adrenaline mechanic, that increases damage for every kill made without resting, and increased drop rates for Legendary weapons.
  • In the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, the "Master" Harder Than Hard difficultly shifts the game into rocket tag. Headshots are almost always lethal, and only the Powered Armor can protect the user from more than just a couple rounds. The upside is that your enemies are just as vulnerable as you are.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Combat with actual weapons tends to end in a few hits due to the pain mechanics: One guy catches one arrow/hammerstrike/axe chop to one limb and they'll probably pass out from pain if they're not badass enough. Same with beasts: Either the warrior gets stomped through their armor or the monster gets cut in half early into the fight. Weaponless brawls, however, and battles with non-organic foes, tend to be significantly longer. The rather twitchy damage system can also cause attacks to be ridiculously overpowered (there's a documented incident where a player in Adventure Mode killed a Bronze Colussus by throwing a Fluffy Wambler at it, blowing its head clean off) and armor useless, rendering the best strategy "wear no armor and dodge like you mean it" (and really hoping your dwarves don't dodge straight off cliffs...).
  • In The Godfather, Aldo can't take much punishment, but even plot-vital "bosses" can be easily mowed down with headshots or upgraded weapons too.
  • The ARMA games generally use this, though attempting more usual mad dashing and dodging usually results in dying without getting a hit in; the trick is playing in a very careful manner, including setting up ambushes, outflanking enemies or just knowing when to call in an artillery strike to knock down a house or two.
  • In the Rainbow Six series, especially the original trilogy but still prevalent in Vegas and Siege, both the player characters and the enemies can die from a single shot, with armor providing little protection, and in the original trilogy even a non-lethal hit may be a Game-Breaking Injury that significantly hampers their movement speed or accuracy for the rest of the mission and requires them to stay off the field for several more afterwards to heal.
  • In Elite Dangerous's "CQC Arena" — a standalone arena fighting mode featuring small craft — players are capable of blasting each other apart with frightening speed, thanks to their Space Fighter's nonexistent armor, large guns, and oversized thrusters. Even the comparatively heavily armored Sidewinder dies in seconds. Averted in the base game, which veers off into Padded Sumo Gameplay when dealing with full specced-out starships.
  • In high-level play of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, players can reliably take more than half (sometimes all) of their opponent's life in a single combo. Thus the actually competitive part of the match is when both players are trying to land the "touch of death" that starts a combo, often flying wildly around the screen to do so.
  • Matches in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle end extremely fast, for much of the same reasons Capcom vs. games do.
  • Warcraft:
    • In Warcraft II, battleships have the most hitpoints of any unit in the game, however their attack damage is so obscenely powerful that it only takes two direct hits for a battleship to kill an enemy battleship.
    • Warcraft III' skirmish mode lets you set all of a player's units' health to 50%, making Glass Cannon units and casters far more powerful. It's a good A.I. Breaker as the computer will send its forces out against creeps as normal... except the creeps are now essentially dealing double damage.
    • One of World of Warcraft's expansions, Wrath of the Lich King, did this by accident. Due to a few miscalculations, gear scaled up so fast that the healers had effectively limitless magic for healing, so damage capabilities were increased to the point where any character could be killed in seconds, so that the healers had to be healing quickly and proactively to keep anyone alive. As a side effect, PvP combat became a game of rocket tag where any class could die or kill another in seconds with a lucky crit.
  • Just like the above example, battlecruisers in Homeworld 2 are the toughest units in the game. Their firepower though is vastly out of proportion to their hull strength, such that two opposing battlecruisers will melt each other down in a matter of seconds. By contrast a destroyer duel will drag out for almost a minute.
  • PVP in Diablo II — the game is designed around the massive Health/Damage Asymmetry of PVE, and even reducing all PVP damage to 1/6 only just barely lets high-level players take more than one hit from each other.
  • Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler-: This applies to bosses, who can easily wipe out the party if they get lucky, but will fall quickly if the party uses Overtension and hits their weaknesses with a long combo. Due to how many bosses have regeneration, the game favors offensive tactics over defense in general.
  • The Devil May Cry games after the second game have a "Heaven Or Hell" difficulty mode unlocked after beating the game on the "Must Die" mode. All sources of damage — yours, the enemies', traps and the like — are boosted to ridiculous levels on this difficulty, so much that anything that can die in the game will do so from a single hit. This is in contrast to the "Hell And Hell" difficulty mode introduced by the fourth game, where only the playable character dies in one hit.
  • The fast movement and fast Time-To-Kill speeds of the Titanfall games are this in spades. Pilots rarely live though more than one burst of fire, and movement can be blindingly fast, especially after Titanfall 2 added the Stim and Grapple abilities. This goes all the way to the other side when the Titans drop, however.
  • Very common in Onmyōji (2016) PvP, where the team whose accelerator or "puller" (usually Yamausagi or Kamaitachi) is faster will speed boost the rest of their shikigami, meaning their entire team gets to act before their opponents, usually resulting in the slower team being seriously crippled, or even completely wiped out without even getting a single action. If both player's pullers are similar in speed the enemy puller may be able to cancel out (or at least minimise) the lead gained by their enemy, but it's double down on with the popularity of using a second high speed puller, or combining pullers with high speed "pushers" (most commonly SP Shuten Doji) which push the enemy team back down the action bar, meaning that even if the enemy team survives the first round of attacks, they still might not get a single action before the attackers get pulled up to hit them again.
  • Fights in Bushido Blade can easily end in a second, thanks to the realistic damage system.
  • Players in Fantasy Strike have very little health compared to most fighting games, to the point where life bars are separated into clear segments. To keep games from being too short, players need to win four rounds instead of two or three to win a match.
  • In Katana ZERO, which draws a lot of inspiration from Hotline Miami, you play as a katana-wielding Glass Cannon that cuts through Mooks as if they were hot butter. Most hits end up with someone dying in a ludicrously bloody fashion, with a few exceptions. (Some enemies can block attacks and need to be hit twice, although this can be averted by ambushing them or hitting them with the right timing. On the enemy's side, some gun-wielding enemies can knock the protagonist to the floor if he gets too close. It's not lethal, but it might as well be, because it stuns him, and in a game as fast paced as this one...) To get a bit of an edge, the player can slow down time to dodge blows and deflect bullets, but still, prepare to die a lot.
  • Ghostrunner can be seen as a 3D version of Katana Zero: the titular character destroys nearly every opponent in one hit, but can be killed the same way. Like the example above, there are exceptions, like ninjas who know how to parry and stay on their positions before striking, requiring to attack them in the operation, other enemies simply carrying a shield, or the three bosses who actually have a health bar. This game also has a Bullet Time to dodge bullets, but it doesn't mean you won't die and retry.
  • Most games in the Kingdom Hearts series have the option to play in Critical Mode, which halves the health of the player and makes enemies significantly more powerful. In exchange, there are generally Critical-exclusive bonuses that vary between games, but are always incredibly powerful. Among them is No Experience/EXP Zero, which sacrifices the player's ability to gain experience or level up in exchange for a significant damage boost that scales to the current world's difficulty. The end result is that the player will be dealing significantly more damage than a properly leveled player on a lower difficulty, but are generally a One-Hit-Point Wonder (though Second Chance and Once More will usually earn you at least an extra hit).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links has the same problem its parent does in that Duels are fast, though this is more intended as life points start at 4000 (as opposed to 8000) and has no Main Phase 2 that lets you take actions after battling. Ironically, battles are longer than the normal card game, due to the Power Creep not being as terrible and having cards to balance it out. Most of the time, anyway; sometimes archetypes slip through that are simply too good for the game and can end things as early as the player's second turn like normal Yu-Gi-Oh!
  • Shadowverse is designed and balanced in such a way that you can complete a match or two between a subway ride in Japan. They way they accomplish is to give every deck a billion ways to deal direct leader damage. Many late-game cards are either huge Storm minions, have some sort of scaling damage, or are extremely hard to remove, and that's not even mentioning OTK combos that only take a few cards to set up. But to not make the game totally dominated by late-game cards, mid-game cards are either extremely high-tempo cards or permanent leader effects that snowball out of control if not immediately dealt with, and there's good ol' aggro to fall back on. To top it all off, all of them are made consistent with copious amounts of selective card draw and flexible keywords like Choose and Enhance, so it's much harder to get "dead draws". In contrast, late-game healing and Ward minions are comparatively weak and even huge board-stabilizing cards are reactive and do little to defend against direct damage, and the game completely lacks any out-of-turn interactions that let you counter them. As a result, the average game struggles to even get to turn 10 and Victory by Endurance simply does not exist in this game.
  • With the exception of bosses, all enemies in the stealth game Aragami go down in one hit. Since the player character is a shadow-powered spirit of vengeance and the enemies all use light-based weapons, they'll happily return the favor should the player break stealth.
  • Battles in Fortnite are very frequently decided by whoever has the element of surprise, as it doesn't take much to shred a player's health even with shields. Add in powerful legendary weapons, which depending on the season can include such things as miniguns, sniper rifles, or actual rocket launchers, and the trope becomes even more apparent.
    • There's a whole subgenre of "one-shot" custom maps in the game.
  • Streets of Rogue can be played like this thanks to the mutators. Turning on Low-Health For All lowers the health of every character to the point where both you and the enemies will die in just a couple of bullets or even a single swing of a melee weapon. Turning on Rocket Chaos makes it a very literal example of this trope by having everyone spawn with a rocket launcher, which even with normal health values is strong enough to drop anyone in just a couple hits. Due to the already fast-paced and occasionally hectic nature of the game these optional rules can make combat very, very brief.
  • Lethal League, like the aforementioned Divekick, has every attack be a one-hit knockout. This rendered some characters near useless though, particularly Mighty Glacier types who had no real advantage in this format. The sequel, Lethal League Blaze, turned it down by actually giving everyone health bars but is still thoroughly in this trope, as it only takes a few seconds into the match for attacks to build up enough power to inflict one-hit knockouts anyway. It's just that said Mighty Glacier characters can get there sooner and aren't that much slower than the Fragile Speedster characters.
  • The arcade versions of Puyo Puyo 2 and Sun use a different damage formula in single-player than in multiplayer, one in which way more garbage is generated on average. This is especially noticable in Sun, where the higher damage formula, series-low 48-second margin time, and Sun Puyos combine to make it possible to have your day ruined by a couple of lowly 2-chains.
  • Judgment has this. Enemies, even story bosses have the ability to rip huge chunks off of your health bar in the blink of an eye, and Yagami has access to special attacks that can deplete entire health bars or more with a single use (for reference, the Final Boss of the game has four health bars).
  • Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3: Enemy mooks will usually go down after one or two pistol shots, but you will usually go down after one or two bursts from an assault rifle, so getting that close is very risky. It's much safer to camp out and snipe them from long range. The clue is in the title.
  • In Advance Wars, attacking first is crucial. Not only do good match-ups leave victims with 20% health left at best, the more injured a unit is, the less firepower it has. So the strategy is to never take a solid hit and reduce the enemy's firepower considerably before they do that to you. (In Super Famicom Wars, however, units attack each other simultaneously, so there is no advantage in attacking first.) Note that while individual skirmishes usually only last a few attack, the overall matches can move very slowly because you're constantly building replacements.
  • Metroid Dread: Once Samus acquires the Omega Cannon, both she and the local E.M.M.I. have weapons that are a one-hit kill on each other. It's just a matter of who lands theirs first.
  • Killer7's fight against Andrei Ulmeyda works out this way. If he catches you, no matter which personality you're using, he instantly kills them. On the flipside, if you get around behind him and can shoot his weak point, he goes down in one shot.
  • Titan Souls is all about this. Your character dies in a single hit from any of the boss's attacks, but each of the bosses dies instantly if you Attack Its Weak Point (though it make take a few shots to expose the weakpoint).
  • StarCraft
    • Open-field battles tend to lead to units dying in quick succession, so to limit this, micromanagement is important to keep your combat units from dying too quickly to their counter-plays. Protecting your spell casters and support units sufficiently while they help turn the tide of battle with their abilities is vital as well as they can be sniped very quickly. No matter what units you field, blindly rushing into battles without considering what you're facing is also ill-advised as even the strongest units in the game can be brought down or incapacitated in seconds with the right counter units.
    • Starcraft II lets you reduce unit HP as with WC3, which will make casters and units that deal high burst damage very powerful. It's not used in serious matches as many units are heavily balanced around their specific amount of hitpoints, which plays havoc with Glass Cannon units like Marines and Zerglings who already can't tank much abuse. This handicap setting also applies to custom maps like RTS or zombie survival games, for better or worse.
  • In Star Ruler, ships can often annihilate each other in their opening salvos, especially at higher tech levels. The speediness of annihilation is often accelerated by some ships mounting subsystems that explode when destroyed, like Anti Matter reactors. However, larger ships (such as the Mile-Long Ship or Planet Spaceship designs favored by many players) are generally very resistant to being instagibbed.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Super Smash Bros. 64: The game has an extremely high hitstun that allows for easy, frequent very long combos, that often end in a KO. Additionally, the entire cast has easily edge-guarded recoveries outside Pikachu, and most moves deal high damage while KOing early, especially throws. Then on top of that heavy offense, defensive options are very limited, and the only two dedicated defensive options in the game, shielding and rolling, aren't very effective (shields have such immense shieldstun when attacked that a competent player can keep a shielding opponent stuck in their shield through a flurry of attacks until their shield breaks, and rolls are slow and easily punished). This all results in a game where the entire cast dies ridiculously quickly and is heavily based on who can get the first hit, and is the reason why competitive Smash 64 runs more stocks in their matches than all the subsequent Smash games do in tournaments.
    • The subsequent Smash games has this as an optional feature. If the damage ratio is set higher than the default, characters will be sent flying even with a low damage percentage. Heavy characters like Bowser can also be sent flying easily with this set up, making power hitting attacks like smash attacks or throws become the major appeal to the fights instead of juggling.
    • Sudden Death sets character damage to 300% and eventually starts dropping random Bob-ombs in the area if the stalemate keeps dragging on. The first person hit will almost certainly lose. Super Sudden Death in Melee and the 300% option in Special Brawl are both exactly like Sudden Death, sans the Bob-ombs.
    • You can also set up a match so the opposite is true. Heavy-Metal-Slow-Mo Match, anyone?
  • Sword of Paladin: Even on the highest difficulty, the party's endgame damage is high enough to defeat most mobs and bosses very quickly. However, the enemies can just as easily wipe out the non-Paladin party members if they get lucky or if the player is careless. This is especially true when fighting Miasma-using enemies, since everyone in the party is weak to Miasma damage.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • Every class has amazing damage output, bar The Medic, whose primary weapons range from mediocre to okay in that regard. Either they have a rapid-fire weapon which has pretty good per-hit damage (Heavy, Pyro), a usually-weak weapon that has the potential to instant kill if one is skilled enough (Sniper, Spy), or a mildly slow weapon that will almost always two-shot on close-range direct hits (Scout, Soldier, Demoman, Engineer). In contrast, most classes have low HP, and even the toughest can be taken out with a few good shots. This is where the Medic comes into play, with his ability to temporarily increase a teammate's max health allowing them to survive some more damage, but even a fully overhealed heavy can die surprisingly quickly (most notably to charged headshots and backstabs).
    • One popular mod for the game is "Rocket Tennis" (sometimes also called Dodgeball), where everyone plays as the Pyro, trying to deflect a Critical rocket for as long as possible. Since the rocket moves faster as the game goes on (and the rocket starts out capable of a One-Hit Kill), it's a mad frenzy to reflect like your life depends on it (which it sort of does, since the maps of this mod are Arena-based: one life, no respawning).
    • Modded "100% Critical Hit'' servers turn the gameplay into this trope and can end up being either frustrating or hilarious (depending on respawn times) due to the fact that almost all explosive type weapons deal considerable Splash Damage. Rocket launchers are one of the simplest weapon types to use in the game, and a critical rocket from the basic rocket launcher will instantly turn all but two classes into a rain of bloody body parts, including the Soldier using it if he's too close to the explosion.
    • Another popular mod are "10x servers" (based on a forum concept, then turned Garry's Mod video by Blood_Wraith), where everything in the game is multiplied by a factor of 10. This includes damage. And the number of rockets a Beggar's Bazooka shoots. Of course, the inverse is also true in these servers, as "everything" includes damage debuffs. Since nearly every weapon in Team Fortress 2 is not an upgrade, but a sidegrade by way of a Situational Sword, you'll either be decimating the opposition or be doing jack crap to any of them.
  • In Tetris: The Grand Master ACE's versus mode, clearing 20 lines is one possible victory condition. To put it in perspective, 20 lines is only five Tetrises.
  • GoldenEye (1997) has a one-shot one-kill weapon (the golden gun), but players can also unlock and set various game settings to increase enemy damage, reaction time, health, etc (nicknamed Dark License To Kill) to make the levels Nintendo Hard. There's also the Licence to Kill multiplayer mode, which makes every character into a One-Hit-Point Wonder. This leads to tense pistol duels where quick reflexes win the day and mutual kills run rampant.
  • The Unreal games have the InstaGib modifier, as described above, giving everyone a red-colored variation of the Shock Rifle that reduces anyone you shoot with it to chunky salsa.
  • In many older 3D fighting games like Virtua Fighter and Tekken, individual hits do a lot of damage, so many rounds can be easily ended in a couple of seconds after one side lands three or four good kicks.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown is like this, at least towards the start of the game. The first enemy aliens you will encounter are Sectoids; only 3 HP, unglamorous stats, and instead of a highly useful grenade they have a relatively weak Psionic ability to support one another. However, they wield Plasma Pistols- doing the same damage per hit as your own assault rifles, but without the need to reload. Your own forces' vitality varies on difficulty- in Classic, they have 5 HP to start, and in Impossible it's just FOUR (enough for a single lucky-rolled non-critical attack to kill them). On high difficulties, such as Classic and Impossible, kills will be determined by who hits whom first- making abilities such as Hunker Down and using frag grenades utter necessities to survive. Ditto the original X-Com, especially when the player first gets their hands on a plasma rifle: Enemies are still weak enough to die from a single hit, and so are your troops.
  • Many Shin Megami Tensei games, including the Persona spinoffs:
    • You get extra turns for attacking enemy weaknesses, and lose them if you attack an enemy with something it's resistant to. They play by the same rules. So the turn-based battles revolve around either annihilating the enemy on the first turn or getting your HP wrecked by the demons if any survive your initial assault. Especially notable is Persona 5's Merciless difficulty level: critical hits and weaknesses do three times as much damage as normal, meaning that they're extremely likely to be one hit kills against everything but bosses.
    • Exaggerated in Shin Megami Tensei IV and its sequel, where there is no defensive stat. Defensive buffs and elemental resistances become even more important, and damage from single attacks that exceeds health bars quickly becomes the norm.
    • Special mention goes to the "Berserk" mechanic of Digital Devil Saga 2, which triggers when battling during full solar noise. The characters lose access to all magic, their defence significantly weakens, their attack skyrockets, they do not have their elemental affinities, and any attack is miss or critical.
  • X-Universe:
    • Destroyer-on-destroyer battles. Their guns are powerful enough that if both ships are A.I.-controlled, the one that gets off the first salvo usually wins. Averted in Albion Prelude (and in many Game Mods for earlier titles) due to a significant buff in the hull strength of all ships.
    • The same is true at the fighter level for scout ships. Or heavy fighters if both sides are mounting Plasma Burst Generators. (Flamethrowers).
    • X: Rebirth: Fighters are capable of blowing each other to bits pretty quickly, but capital ship combat is slow.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader: You can stack extremely powerful buffs on your party members, who can dish out incredible amounts of damage per turn as they level up. So too can (some) enemies. In particular, the boss fight that ends Act 4 is a coin toss that nearly entirely depends on which side wins the Initiative order; with either your party nearly destroyed in a single turn, or you mopping up the floor with most of the enemies before turn 2 even start.

    Web Animation 
    • "The Shredder vs Silver Samurai" ultimately goes down to who would be the first to land a lethal hit due to Oroku Saki's ninja precision and Kenuichio Harada's Tachyon Blade. The Shredder is deemed the winner since the hosts shown that Saki can strike faster than Harada can react to protect himself. That, and Oroku could always just chug some Mutagen to become Super Shredder, whose strength far outclasses Harada's defensive abilities.
    • "Carnage vs Lucy" overlaps this with Padded Sumo Gameplay; the fight goes down to who would be the first to land a lethal hit due to Carnage's ludicrous Healing Factor letting him tank all manner of damage short of complete bodily destruction and Lucy's unbelievably-fast and incredibly durable Vectors letting her block almost anything while one good shot from Carnage could easily kill her. Lucy is deemed the winner since the hosts show her Vectors can not only move much faster and reach farther than Carnage, but they can also hit with enough force and firepower (as in, nuclear explosion) to overcome Carnage's durability and healing factor while also exploiting his weakness to fire to kill him in one shot.
    • "Shadow the Hedgehog vs Ryuko Matoi" has it noted that both fighters had the ability to end each other rather swiftly, with Shadow's sheer speed and Chaos Control allowing him to slice through Ryuko's Life Fibers faster than they could regenerate while Ryuko has enough raw power to one-shot Shadow's base form. The hosts determine that Shadow is many times faster than Ryuko's best reactive feats even without factoring in Time Stands Still, meaning her chances of actually landing that fatal one hit were rather nil. Plus Shadow can match Ryuko's raw power output simply by removing his Inhibitor Rings, to say nothing of how his raw power and speed so utterly eclipse her as Super Shadow that he would have no issue ending her before his Hour of Power wears off.
    • "Akuma vs Shao Kahn" has the hosts note that both fighters had a way of killing the other rather easily since Akuma's Raging Demon could destroy Kahn's soul with the weight of his sins while Shao Kahn could easily overwhelm even Oni through sheer power. Shao Kahn is determined to have far greater reaction speeds than anything Akuma has shown, meaning Kahn would be far more likely to land a fatal hit first.
    • "Stitch vs Rocket Raccoon" is this despite the ludicrous gap in strength and durability between the two combatants. Stitch is more than strong enough to rip Rocket to shreds if he gets a chance, but Rocket’s strongest weapons are capable of injuring beings even stronger than Stitch. Stitch ultimately comes out in top, as his higher reaction speed, greater intelligence, and varied abilities meant he’d be more likely to land a killing blow before Rocket could.


    Web Video 
  • TierZoo describes the "metagame" in Death World Australia as this. Thanks to several venomous species that can kill in a single strike, and a lack of herbivorous tanks due to a scarcity of vegetation, most players (animals) would be relatively Glass Cannons.

    Real Life 
  • Robot Combat (think Robot Wars, BattleBots, and King of Bots) tend to be like this, especially from the 2010's and onward, as advancements in technology for weapons and power have moved faster than such advancements in armor and other means of protection. As a result, by the time of the renewal of BattleBots on ABC in 2015 (and the subsequent Channel Hop to Discovery Channel in 2018) and of Robot Wars on BBC, fights end in a pretty decisive knockout early on much more often than them lasting the full 180 seconds allotted.
  • Modern naval warfare between major surface combatants is basically playing tag with transonic/supersonic missiles packing half-ton warheads. For a variety of reasons, modern naval ships are not heavily armored and so the first ship that fails to stop or decoy away an incoming missile is likely out of the fight, if not sunk outright. Submarines likewise; modern heavyweight torpedoes are massively powerful and the first sub in a fight to get hit is probably never going to be heard from again.
    • There is a reason any modern ship of the battlegroup is going to be sporting a 3-4 layer protection system of long range air defences, self defence missiles and decoys, then close defence missiles and guns. If you are hit, the missile will deal significant damage.
    • And don't even think about decking yourself out in heavy armor. Battleships were made obsolete by aircraft carriers because the planes could carry bombs and torpedoes that could penetrate enemy battleship armor just as well as battleship guns, but do so from much further away than any battleship could shoot. Modern anti-ship missiles don't typically carry armor-piercing warheads because no one uses armor anymore, but there's no reason you couldn't build an armor-piercing missile capable of defeating any practical amount of shipboard armor, and it'd take a lot less time and money to do that than to start building armored ships again.
  • For awhile, combat with firearms was essentially this. By the 17th century, armor powerful enough to deflect bullets was also too heavy to be practical to wear on a battlefield. A single musket ball could easily disable or kill whoever it managed to hit. Even with the advent of modern kevlar fiber and ceramic plate armor, battlefield tactics work under the assumption that enemy bullets are immediately lethal, and the best defense is doing everything possible to avoid being shot in the first place.
  • Tanks in the 1960s had the benefit of increased firepower but were very vulnerable to each other's guns, as well as anti-tank guided missiles which could be launched by either other vehicles or enemy infantry; HEAT warhead technology had advanced to the point where no practical thickness of homogeneous steel armor could protect against it most of the time. The 70s and 80s saw the development of explosive reactive armor and composite armor that could provide some real protection against HEAT and APFSDS.
    • Even then, in close range of perhaps 500-8000m, a modern APFSDS round will cut through composite armor plating of the front of a tank. Trying to defeat this class of weapons at close range is logistically impossible, the physics simply demand an extraordinary amount of armor.
  • Minus the lethality, points-based sparring in martial arts is effectively this. The first person to land a good hit gets the point, regardless of how powerful the strike was, so there's more emphasis on movement and strategy, not simply pummeling your opponent into submission. "King of the ring" games used in training are even more so: quick 1-point matches with the loser swapping out to the next person in the queue.

Alternative Title(s): Missile Tag, Glass Cannon Gameplay, Rocket Tag