Follow TV Tropes


Shooting the Swarm

Go To
Gonna need way more dakka to survive this...
You are faced with a rather horrifying foe: not one big enemy, but rather a large swarm of enemies. What do you do? Do you run away? Do you pick up a weapon that can torch all the bastards at once?

Your choice, the wrong one at that: For some reason you decide to pick up a gun and start blasting at the swarm hoping to kill some members, but there's little to no success in doing so even with a Hand Cannon. Worse case scenario? You're dead. But if you have a weapon capable of dealing Splash Damage, like a BFG or a mounted Gatling Good, then you may have a fighting chance.

People when in a situation like this will choose to try and do this for whatever reason, whether it's from an irrational fight or flight response or something else entirely, its just one example of a poor choice at its finest.

However, there is a chance that The Swarm has a type of Synchronization where if one member dies, usually a matriarch, the rest of the swarm will die.

Putting it in trope terms, this is the Zerg Rush overcoming More Dakka.

Borders on Too Dumb to Live and may result from Did Not Think This Through. Subtrope of Quantity vs. Quality. Compare Shooting Superman.

Straight Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Soul Eater, during the climax of the fight between 400 years-form Mosquito and Death the Kid, the former dissolves in a giant swarm of bats to attack Kid from multiple sides with sonic waves, while the latter answers by unleashing More Dakka using Brew to enhance his firepower: he actually manages to wipe out the swarm and force Mosquito to turn solid again.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ant-Man, when Ant-Man and his swarm of flying ants attack Dr. Darren Cross and his henchmen, who are about to escape in a helicopter, Cross grabs a gun and fires at the approaching swarm. He only manages to hit a few ants, including Anthony, the ant that Ant-Man was riding.
  • In Holmes & Watson, the Trigger-Happy Dr. Watson attempts to shoot a swarm of killer bees with his revolver; to no effect, obviously.
  • The Matrix Revolutions: During the battle of Zion, the human defenders in A.P.U. mechas led by Captain Mifune all concentrate fire on the hole the Machines just opened in the city's celling with the giant drill. While the first swarms of Sentinels get utterly shredded, more and more of them manage to get through the fire barrage and the mechas have to reload, leading to the forces of Zion being rapidly overwhelmed. Mifune keeps shooting (and shouting) at the swarms through and through no matter how hopeless the situation gets, until they eventually lacerate him to death.
  • The Mummy Trilogy:
    • When a horde of flesh-eating scarab beetles are chasing the heroes in The Mummy (1999), O'Connell first resorts to hurling his torch at them, then emptying a shotgun at the mass of insects. Each blast sends a fountain of dead bugs flying, but doesn't even slow the swarm down. Just legging it is a far more practical solution.
    • Subverted in The Mummy Returns. When Imhotep's followers, led by Anck-su-namun and Hafez, uncover the titular character and encounter the flesh-eating scarab horde, several of the guards use flamethrowers to burn them back, and to far greater effect.
  • Piranha 3DD: The sheriffs do this to the swarm of piranha to no effect.
  • Resident Evil: Extinction: The travelling survivors try this on the murder of crows that attack them. It doesn't work so they pull out a flamethrower and even that's ineffective until Alice controls the flame with her telekinesis to kill them all.
  • In Starship Troopers, the Roughnecks are firing at a massive Zerg Rush of Space Bugs. When Lt. Racszak sees just how many bugs there are, he gives a stoic Oh, Crap! look and calls for an evacuation. Few make it out, including Racszak.
  • In Star Trek Beyond, the Enterprise comes under attack by a swarm of small ships led by Krall, which Captain Kirk attempts and fails miserably to destroy with phasers and photon torpedoes. There are too many targets for Enterprise's Slow Lasers, and the swarm simply evades the torpedoes (because Hollywood thinks missiles need a direct hit to detonate). Starbase Yorktown attempts the same tactics when Krall attacks the station in the third act, to equally little success. Ultimately, the re-activated USS Franklin and Yorktown are able to destroy the swarm by jamming the drones' communications by spamming the radio frequency with Beastie Boys, causing the drones to crash into each other and explode.
    Chekov: Sir, our phasers are having minimal effect and our torpedoes can't track their movements!

  • The Dark Elf Trilogy has Alton and Masoj get a swarm of poisonous spiders unleashed upon them when meddling in some forbidden magic. Masoj tries to shoot one off Alton's shoulder with his crossbow. Alton, in desperation, uses a fireball instead.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe: The Dark Imperium novel The Devastation of Baal is essentially this trope spread out over a whole book: the Blood Angels, their successor chapters, the Imperial Navy, and a few million Imperial Guardsmen Shoot the Swarm for days and weeks and months... and the Tyranids barely slow down. It's only when the Indomitus Crusade shows up with superior firepower and fresh troops that the tide turns.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shooting at infantry from a Battlemech in Battletech works this way: Infantry come in platoons of ten, and no matter how hideously overkill shooting at infantry with 'mech-scale weapons is, you will only ever hit a single infantryman with a single attack and leave the rest alive to return fire. Exceptions to this are weapons specifically intended to be Anti-Infantry, which include 'mech-scale machine guns (20mm rotary cannons) and flamethrowers, and certain weapons like explosive shells, LB-X canister shells and plasma cannons, which kill several infantry per hit through explosions, shrapnel or heat while still being effective against vehicles and 'mech-scale opponents.
    • Powered Armour infantry, which shows up with the Clan rules, take this trope even further: Not only do they come in groups of five where shooting at a group means you hit a random trooper, but each trooper has multiple Hit Points and won't instantly die from most weapons. Clan Elementals have 11 HP, meaning you'll have to break out weapons intended to destroy heavy 'mechs and small buildings just to get rid of a single one from the swarm.
  • Swarm fighting rules in Dungeons & Dragons go all the way back to the Third Edition, which states that swarms of small creatures are immune to physical attacks except some specific exceptions. Splash Damage and area-effect spells are much more efficient.
  • An explicit game mechanic in Starfinder, only weapons which deal splash damage can injure swarm-type enemies.
  • Traveller: In the Classic Double Adventure 4 Marooned, when in a jungle hex, the Player Characters can encounter a swarm of hungry insects much like army ants, each weighing .1 gram. If the Player Characters are foolish enough to try to kill them with their rifles, they will be eaten alive.
  • Can show up in Warhammer, when confronted by Swarm Units, such as Jungle Swarm or Tomb Swarm. You can try to fire your bows or muskets into the mass of it, but using magic or fire or simply hurling an expendable unit into its path is far more effective.
  • A larger scale example of this trope appears whenever the Tyranids of Warhammer 40,000 show up. Their "swarms" can be the size of nebulae in orbit and small countries on the ground, and shooting them is often the only tactic the Imperium has available to them. Problem is, most times the 'Nids will have more bodies than the Imperials will have bullets.

    Video Games 
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has drone swarms that you can try to shoot down, but you are encouraged to use an EMP pulse to disable them instead. The first mission features a friendly Humongous Mecha tank trying to fend off one such swarm with machine guns. If you don't take down the drones quickly enough, the tank is destroyed.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Link will occasionally be attacked by a swarm of Keese. Each of them goes down in one hit, but it takes multiple kills (or hitting one of them with the stasis rune) to get them to cut their losses and leave.
  • Lost Land Adventure has a desert stage set in a set of abandoned ruins, where you'll have to shoot at entire swarms of scarab beetles before it overruns you. Unlike The Mummy, though, you have access to a machine gun.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect 2, the Collectors use a swarm of genetically modified insects called a Seeker Swarm to detect, attack, debuff and paralyze their targets. Particularly living specimens from populations they wish to take alive. As a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation, these swarms are shown to be nigh-impossible to fight back against with firearms or melee weapons — which is why they can so easily render entire colonies defenseless in short order. It's a major plot point that Commander Shepard and their crew have to use upgraded personal shields and barriers to keep the swarms at bay (and even then, there's a segment in the finale where the Collectors use massive quantities of the swarm and it takes an uber-powerful telekinetic to keep them all at bay, instantly killing the player or a member of the crew if it fails). Played straight when Ashley Williams or Kaidan Alenko try to shoot an oncoming Collector swarm on Horizon during a cutscene, even though the latter had a much better option in his biotics.
    • In the Multiplayer portion of Mass Effect 3, the Collectors utilize the swarms again and a cluster of them can be shot by the player and destroyed. If not, the swarm will overwhelm the player and disable their shields/barriers and all cooldown abilities for a short time.
  • In Metroid: Other M, Samus and the investigating Galactic Federation soldiers encounter the Brug Mass, a huge monster made out of individual bugs, and start shooting at it with guns. It doesn't work until they start using freeze guns and Samus' missiles to destroy them and the bug's leader/eye.
  • Monster Eye: You spend the game fighting mutated animals, including wasps, bees, bats, and flying critters coming in huge swarms that you need to shoot in order to survive.
  • Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2: Naruto has to do this during his boss fight against Orochimaru once he summons an army of snakes.
  • Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous: On lower difficulty settings this is effective, but higher difficulties copy the tabletop rules so that weapon attacks are half as effective against swarms of relatively large creatures like rats, and totally ineffectual against swarms of smaller creatures such as locusts or the demonic acid-spewing vescavors.
  • Pokémon: Horde battles, where one Pokémon from your team fights five low-level enemy Pokémon at once, are a downplayed example. The majority of Pokémon attacks only target one enemy at a time, and while the level difference between a horde's members and your Pokémon will likely be enough to one-shot any enemy with even a moderately powerful attack, this strategy will still require at least five full turns to end the battle — and, as each horde member attacks if able between each of the player's turns, this allows the individually weak horde members to whittle down your Pokémon's health as it takes them out one by one. Handling horde battles with some modicum of efficiency often requires moves that will affect every member of the horde at once, like Surf, Earthquake and Blizzard.
  • Heather references this trope in Silent Hill 3, if you're playing on Normal or higher riddle difficulty, when she encounters a swarm of insects blocking a hallway. Indeed, attempting to deal with them in a brute-force manner, even with the Unlimited Submachine Gun, will not work. You have to find a different way to deal with the insects.
    Heather: There's got to be a way. I can't very well stab them one by one...
  • StarCraft:
    • This is the intended effect of a mass zergling, hydralisk, or mutalisk rush. There is a reason that the Zerg Rush has an entire trope named after it. The zerg specialize in huge numbers of cheap units. Mutalisks specifically can even overlap each other on the map, which was initially a bug, giving a massive ball of flying death that cannot be individually targeted. In the StarCraft: Brood War expansion, the protoss and terrans were given splash damage air units explicitly to counter the mass overlapping mutalisk strategy.
    • Once the plot of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty moves to Char, Tychus Findlay can be found manning a huge machine gun sending bullets into Zerg swarms. He calls it "the biggest turkey shoot in the galaxy".
    • The opening cinematic to StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm shows an example where not even splash damage saves the shooters, The Zerg Rush barrels through gunfire and though artillery leaves a dents in the tide of zerg, those holes are quickly filled by the Zerg Rush until it overtakes the defenders. (The Ultralisk No Selling the artillery just hammers home how doomed the people with guns are.)
  • Time Crisis 4 introduces a new kind of enemy: Terror Bites, a swarm of killer creepy-crawlies of various kinds. While the crawling scarab-like swarm can be shot easily with the SMG, the swarm of flying insects need to be shot with the shotgun or you'll have a hard time shooting them.

    Western Animation 
  • The pilot of Clarence has a police officer trying to fend off a swarm of bees with his handgun.
  • Love, Death & Robots: In "In Vaulted Halls Entombed", the soldiers respond to the swarm of tiny spiders the only way they know, by opening fire on them. It only takes out a couple of the spiders since there are simply too many, and they are forced to retreat.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Exaggerated in "Marge in Chains" when Chief Wiggum fires his gun at a cloud of air that's spreading disease.
    • Played straight and inverted in "The Burns and the Bees" when Wiggum ineffectually shoots at a swarm of bees, which responds by snatching his gun and shooting him in the arm.
  • In Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, when the cartoon's version of Swarm (a sentient swarm of bees mutated by a meteorite) appears, a farmer tries to chase him off by throwing a pitchfork at him, which naturally just passes straight through.

Averted Examples:

    Card Games 
  • This is usually automatically averted in trading card games where the character is a literal swarm, an example being Swarm of Locusts from Yu-Gi-Oh!, which can be destroyed just like any other monster in the game.

    Tabletop Games 
  • When Swarm type enemies were nerfed in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, they were changed so they simply take half damage from physical attacks and full damage from elemental effects regardless of whether or not the elemental effect targets a single creature or an area. So shooting a swarm with Magic Missile or Ray of Frost is now a perfectly valid option.
  • In Pathfinder, this is usually played straight, with swarms of particularly tiny/numerous creatures being completely immune to weapon damage, but there's an item known as the "Swarmbane Clasp" which lets you ignore this... that just so happens to be particularly useful if you're a gunslinger, letting you snipe 10,000 bees with one bullet.

    Video Games 
  • Blow Out has flocks of winged alien bugs infesting entire corridors that you need to shoot at. A single Grenade Launcher round can do the trick, owing to the game being set in enclosed, confined corridors.
  • Averted with the Scrin Buzzers from Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars. They are a swarm of buzzing blades that can rip apart any infantry but they still function as a single unit and die to just about any guns.
  • Commando 2: You face enemy bug swarms in the fourth level that you can kill with firearms, and for some reason carry ammunition, food and treasure despite being too small to carry any of it, let alone hide it from view.
  • Diablo: This actually works against Swarm monsters in both Diablo II and Diablo III if you shoot them with arrows or throwing weapons. Also the same thing about them being too small to carry objects or hide them as said for Commando.
    • It's worth noting, however, that Diablo II only averts it in lower difficulties, with Hell difficulty playing the trope straight: Hell difficulty adds to every type of monster an immunity to at least one of type damage, and Swarm monsters are among the very few that receive immunity to physical damage, meaning arrows or throwing weapons (or melee blows, for that matter) will no longer work. In addition, Swarm monsters are classified in the "Swarm" loot class (a bit of a Non-Indicative Name since it also includes monsters such as ghosts), which prevents non-elite mobs from any monster in that class to drop most items in the game (they can only drop small items such as gold, potions or scrolls).
    • Diablo III, however, drops completely damage immunities in monsters, so Swarm monster are always vulnerable to physical attacks. They are able to drop any kind of item as well.
  • Similarly, in Fallout 4's Nuka World DLC, you have flying ant swarms as a single enemy.
  • Time Crisis 4 has biological weapons called Terror Bites deployed against you. Two in particular are streams of beetles and swarms of fliers both of which attack you — the regular handgun isn't very effective against them but the machine gun will stem the tide of beetles and the shotgun will make quick work against the flying swarms.

    Real Life 
  • Passenger pigeons, before their extinction, were known to fly in flocks so vast and thick that one passing overhead could obscure the sun for the better part of a day. As such, people hunting them would simply aim their guns into the flock and shoot. With the pigeons flying as thick as they were, each shot was usually enough to send up to a half a dozen at once falling out of the sky.
  • Punt guns were large shotguns bolted to a small boat called a "punt". Hunters who row out to a flock of ducks or other waterfowl, startle them and then fire the gun at the whole flock.


Video Example(s):


The Zerg Swarm

The scariest thing about the zerg is that no matter how many you kill, they just keep on coming. Full-auto, tanks, gatling guns, and artillery might kill some... but there is always more, they will keep coming undeterred - and for some of them, even the big guns won't cut it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShootingTheSwarm

Media sources: