Hitmonlee's attack missed!
Hitmonlee kept going and crashed!
Usually, a failed attack simply means that the target gets away with little or no damage. This trope is when it not only wastes your chance to attack and possibly leaves you open for a Counter-Attack, but actively damages you. Whether the attack fails and backfires may be determined by your ability to execute Action Commands or do well enough in a Mini-Game, but it's often up to the Random Number God.
This trope is used to balance powerful attacks and make them riskier to use. If both a successful attack and a backfire are devastating enough, it's a Death-or-Glory Attack. On the other hand, downplayed Self-Damaging Attack Backfires may still deal significant damage — the important part is that their failure hurts the attacker at least a little.
Self-Damaging Attack Backfire can be confused with a few similar tropes. To qualify for this one, all of the following requirements must be met:
- The attack damages the attacker because it fails, or at least was executed incorrectly. An attack whose use drains the user's HP even (or, in some cases, only) if it's successful is Cast From Hit Points, though they can overlap if the attack has a fixed HP cost and a penalty for failure on top of that. Note that if the attacker is so inexperienced or incompetent that they'll always perform the attack badly and damage themselves, it still counts.
- The failed attack directly hurts the attacker. If it helps the target, it's Attack Backfire. If it merely wastes ammo/mana/whatever, wastes your turn, leaves you open for a Counter-Attack, etc., it's a regular Critical Failure, or just a good old-fashioned miss on your part.
- The risk of the attack backfiring is present regardless of the target's properties and actions. In other words, it could (and in some cases would always) backfire even if the target weren't there. Hurting your feet after jumping on The Spiny is not an example, and neither is a target reflecting your attacks back at you. However, it is a valid example if someone has already e.g. sabotaged your weapon to put you at risk of backfires that's an invocation of Self-Damaging Attack Backfire. Things like tricking a boss into Ground Pounding glass that covers lava also count that would still hurt if it weren't done in a failed attempt to hit you.
Sub-Trope of Critical Failure, which covers failed attacks in general. Can overlap with Deadly Dodging. Related to Attacking Through Yourself. Compare Hoist by His Own Petard, when the use of a weapon or plan not only backfires, but leads to the user's death or at least defeat. See also the Friendly Fire Index for tropes about those times your attacks accidentally (or "accidentally") hurt your allies instead of (or in addition to) yourself.
Video game examples
- Super Smash Bros.:
- Several Final Smashes (such as those of Marth, King K. Rool, and Ridley) start with the user dashing forward at high speeds, stopping when they reach the edge of whatever platform they're standing on (if the Final Smash is initiated while on the ground) or if they run into an enemy. However, on stages where the ground extends to the edge of the screen, or when used in the air without a solid piece of the stage to stop them, the character will keep going until they hit someone or after traveling an extreme distance, which in many cases will result in the character ringing themselves out if they don't hit an enemy.
- Some side specials, such as Little Mac's Jolt Haymaker in Smash 4, send their user flying sideways and render them helpless. Of course, if you mess up and accidentally send yourself flying off the stage with one of them, you're doomed.
- Pichu (in Melee and Ultimate) is unable to control its electricity, and deals damage to itself with all its electrical attacks, regardless of whether they hit an opponent or not.
- If Mr. Game & Watch holds up a one during his Judgment attack, he damages himself and only inflicts Scratch Damage on his target, who won't even flinch.
- The Bullet Bill item can cause this as well, since it is mechanically identical to the abovementioned dashing Final Smashes.
- Borderlands 2: Krieg's "Silence the Voices" skill gives him a massive boost to melee damage, at the cost of also giving his melee attacks a chance to hit himself instead. The self-attack also has a short animation tied to it, rendering Krieg vulnerable for a few seconds when it occurs.
- When you fail a hack in E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy, there is always a slim possibility that your brain will be fried by the firewall, resulting in instant death regardless of how many resurrectors you had. Using dangerous psychic abilities has a chance to drive you insane, kill you, or give you permanent trauma. Excessive use of the medkit before it has time to regenerate can give you tainted medicine (though you get an achievement for killing an ally with this).
- Downplayed in Overwatch; Doomfist's Rocket Punch minimally damages him whenever he hits his target.
- Team Fortress 2:
- Your team mates are immune to your splash damage. You are not. Rocket Jumping takes advantage of this. If you don't blow yourself up trying.
- The sentry gun fire is similarly damaging to the building engineer.
- Scout's Boston Basher has the helpful description of "On Miss: Hit yourself. Idiot."
- In the Video Game/Descent franchise, the Fusion Cannon has always worked this way. You can hold down the fire button to charge it up for a more powerful shot, but if you hold it down too long, it starts damaging your ship.
- Every weapon has a chance of critical failure in Kingdom of Loathing, which it calls a Fumble. Fumbles cause the character to drop their weapon on (insert body part here) and hurt themselves.
- Dota 2: Alchemist's Unstable Concoction ability has him whip up an unstable, exploding compound in a vial that he can throw at enemies to damage and stun them. The longer he holds onto the concoction, the more damage it deals and the longer the stun. However, if he doesn't throw it in time, the concoction explodes in his hand, causing him to take the damage and stun instead.
- Brewmaster's Cinder Brew ability gives afflicted enemies a chance to hit themselves when attacking.
- The second boss of Kirby: Squeak Squad, Mrs. Moley, has an attack where she jumps high from the background and then tries to land onto you in the foreground. If she misses you and hits the ground instead, it'll deal a few damage to herself; it's possible for her to kill herself that way if her health is low enough.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- In Super Mario Bros. 3, Bowser tries to use his Ground Pound to defeat Mario. This backfires if Mario can trick him into destroying the floor, which sends him into a Bottomless Pit.
- In Super Mario Galaxy, Bowser's Ground Pounds hurt him when he performs them over those glass covers that happen to be on top of molten hot liquid.
- In Final Fantasy VI, Setzer's special command, Slot, can roll the combination of 7-7-Bar. When that happens, everyone in your party dies. Game over, man, unless you had Reraise or are exploiting a Good Bad Bug that redirects this effect onto your opponents. This feature carries over to Final Fantasy VII in Cait Sith's Slot Limit Break, with the 7s being replaced by sections of Cait Sith's face.
- The Devil Axe in the Fire Emblem series is a nasty weapon against your enemies, but it has a small chance of seriously damaging its wielder if not killing them outright instead of the target. It can even harm you if you try to destroy a wall or cut down a snag.
- Mario & Luigi:
- Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time features a major enemy the Post-Final Boss who doesn't let you attack at all. However, its attacks mysteriously come back and hit it if you can dodge them.
- The combination of the Risk Badge and Expert Badge in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team gives everyone including your characters, of course a 50% chance of taking enough damage to drop to 0 HP.
- Primrose (and anyone with the Dancer job) in Octopath Traveler can use Bewildering Grace, which may have a beneficial effect like dealing damage... or a negative effect like damaging your party. If you're lucky, it'll just be Scratch Damage. If you're unlucky, it'll leave everyone in the party with zero MP and PP and only one HP.
- Persona 3 and Persona 4: Rarely, when going for a regular attack, there is a chance of the character overshooting their attack and stumbling, causing themselves to fall over and either lose their next turn (in vanilla 3 and FES) or be vulnerable to extra damage (in 4 and Persona 3 Portable). In 3, ranged weapons wouldn't cause this, giving them a small extra benefit.
- A Confused Pokémon has a 50% (Gens I-VI) or 33% (Gen VII) of hurting itself instead of executing an attack.
- The moves Jump Kick and Hi Jump Kick damage the user if they miss. Early generations had the moves grant minor recoil damage upon missing, but come Generation 3, the recoil damage was increased to half the user's maximum health.
- In the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia, many of Patty Fleur's arts have a chance of backfiring instead of causing good effects. The results include hitting herself with her own attack, KOing herself instantly, completely emptying the Overlimit gauge, or cutting the entire party's HP and TP in half while also applying an array of bad status effects to them.
- In POWER, attack ads have a chance of backfiring and damaging the user's approval instead of the target's approval. The chance of a backfire depends on the user's reputation as a Sleazy Politician, which goes up for each attack ad regardless of its success.
Non-video game examples
Anime and Manga
- In My Hero Academia, a 100% Detroit Smash was always Izuku's final trump card due to its devastating destructive power at the cost of breaking virtually every bone in the arm he uses it in. He's forced to use it against Muscular after all of his other attacks fail, only to gape in horror when Muscular reveals that he tanked the hit, leaving Izuku with two broken arms against a villain able to take a blow on par with All Might's. Izuku is forced to push his limits to utilize a 100% Delaware Detroit Smash with his already broken arm to defeat Muscular at the cost of further scarring and the risk of paralyzing his arms if he does it again.
- In One Piece, Wyper is a strong warrior in his own right. But his secret weapon, the Reject Dial, carries such incredibly destructive power, that it will not only assuredly defeat whoever you target with it, it will also destroy the user, making it a Dying Moment of Awesome or Heroic Sacrifice for anybody willing to resort to one. Wyper successfully survives using it on three separate occasions, but unfortunately, so does his final and most important target.
- The city destroyers in Independence Day are so named because their main energy weapon is capable of creating a chain reaction effect that can incinerate an entire city in a single shot. However (provided their shields are down), any damage to the firing mechanism during the charging sequence will cause the beam to reverse itself and destroy the ship.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ron Weasley tries to cast a slug-vomiting spell on Draco Malfoy with his broken wand. It backfires, causing Ron to vomit slugs instead. Before the climax, the same happens to Gilderoy Lockhart when he tries to wipe the memories of Ron and Harry Potter.
Trading Card Games
- In Pokémon, many cards require coin flips, and you sometimes get a negative effect on a tails. An example is Platinum Vigoroth's Reckless Charge, which inflicts 10 recoil damage on a failure (though the enemy still takes 30 damage).
- In roleplaying games with a Critical Miss Table, inflicting damage on yourself is a common critical miss effect.
- In Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner, this is how Wile E. Coyote gets his comeuppance nine times out of ten. His traps for the Roadrunner always end up getting him instead, even if it goes against the laws of physics. The Roadrunner rarely does anything to counter the attack; it mostly doesn't have to.
- Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale: During the rugby match, Wal throws an uppercut in the scrum, and ends up punching himself. To add insult to injury, the referee tells him that next time he punches himself, he'll be sent off.