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Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke

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"The spell only affects one creature."
"That's... totally logical."
[Warning] Images of this skill are just a reenactment.
Description of the Big Bang skill, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance

A Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke is an attack that's undeniably powerful, but far less damaging than it should be.

Partner in crime to the Overly Long Fighting Animation, and with the help of cousins Made of Iron and Friendly Fireproof, this trope broke into Awesome, but Impractical's house and stole the Awesome, but left the Impractical. You see, a Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke is still a solid attack you'd gladly use on an enemy... it's just much, much less powerful than it ought to be, considering what it actually entails. When You Nuke 'Em, you may find this diminishing your triumph, if only a little.

Using a Summon Magic Monster that destroys the moon to rain fiery Death from Above on enemies, or a Wave-Motion Gun fueled by consuming galaxies, and the nine-hundred-megaton Colony Drop that won't scorch your lawn but will disintegrate that Money Spider... only mildly damages the Final Boss. Also, expect any stellicidal attacks or planet-busting techniques to be polite enough to rebuild the destroyed real estate after the CGI is done.

A particularly noticeable form of Gameplay and Story Segregation.

Explanatory rule of thumb: If dropping an asteroid the size of Russia on the Boss does less damage than slashing him once with the Infinity +1 Sword, which has the same animation as using the starting stick, you've fallen headlong into this trope.

Sometimes it's mostly because of programming issues. An attack may indeed be programmed to be powerful; but due to a problem with calculating the formula or some other factor, it's severely weakened.

Video Game Examples:

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    Beat 'em Up 
  • The final boss in The Simpsons shoots nuclear bombs at you. They take off a sizeable part of your health bar, but do nothing to the house, nor do they affect you if you stand a few meters away.
  • Streets of Rage 4: Floyd's Star Attack is a massive laser cannon. Which does about the same amount of damage as his regular combo.

    Fighting Games 
  • In Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, a particularly strong attack will show an animation of half of the Earth exploding, and change the stage you're playing on to a "ruined" version - but will do 1 1/2 health bars of damage. Mind you, this is pretty much exactly how it happens in the series. The Budokai series did this too but ultimate attacks were a bit harder to pull off, and only a handful of them did it. Tenkaichi 2 went a bit overboard as any energy blast ultimate would do it, as long as it hit the character while they were on the ground, or just hit the ground directly. Budokai Tenkaichi 3 had to tone it down a little by having this happen only once certain conditions are met.
  • Mortal Kombat series:
    • Cyborg Smoke's Finishing Move in Mortal Kombat 3 is made of this. He opens a hatch in his chest and fills the arena with tons of bombs. Next shot is the Earth-Shattering Kaboom. And then? Next fight.
    • Some non-finishing moves in Mortal Kombat would be extremely deadly in normal circumstances. Particularly egregious are the X-Rays in Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X, where you get to see in vivid detail how the move causes all sorts of gruesome injuries like getting their skull crushed, their organs punctured, their spine shattered or their ribcage broken. More often than not, these attacks also involve getting sharp weapons or claws going through the head or chest. Even though it takes away a huge chunk off a fighter's health, the opponent on the receiving end just stands up and keeps fighting after the attack, like the whole ordeal was about as inconveniencing as scraping your knee. Possibly the worst offender is the Predator's X-Ray in MKX, which involves throwing his Deadly Disc right through the opponent's neck, explicitly severing the spine. That's right, decapitation can be non-lethal in a Mortal Kombat match.
    • One of Cetrion's Fatalities in Mortal Kombat 11 has her grow bigger than the Earth and blast the opponent with a Wave-Motion Gun Breath Weapon. Somehow, the beam, which looks big enough to vaporize a large city, shrinks down in radius and becomes just barely powerful enough to tear apart the opponent while leaving the environment around them unscathed.
  • The Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games love this trope.
    • Most Ultimate Ninjutsu really should shred the target's body, if not outright vaporize it. They take 3-4 hits to kill from full health. This one probably takes the cake:
      Masked Man: Summoning Jutsu: Nine-Tails! [cue the Fantastic Nuke which explicitly decimates the terrain... and does about a quarter of the enemy's health at best]
    • Madara Uchiha drops a meteor on someone's head, and then another meteor on top of that one. Edo-Nagato forms a floating planetoid with his enemy crushed in the center, then blows the whole thing up with his Arm Cannon. Etc, etc... It gets more blatant when you compare them to the Ultimate Jutsu from characters earlier in the series. Young Obito's Ultimate is basically some fireballs and a kunai stab, yet it does as much damage as any of the aforementioned moves.
  • The Gundam Vs Series plays this straight, especially in Extreme Vs. and its sequels where several units' Super Moves are iconic moments from their source anime. Though the moves are appropriately powerful, they can be survived by all but the most fragile of mecha. Examples include Wing Zero's Twin Buster Rifle (powerful enough to destroy a space colony), the Double X's Twin Satellite Cannon (blew up a small island), the ∀ Gundam's Moonlight Butterfly (which single-handedly reverted Earth to pre-Industrial Revolution levels of technology), or even Sazabi's Colony Drop (self-explanatory). The trope is even played literally with a few machines like the Gundam GP02A or Gyan, which actually do throw nuclear missiles at their enemies.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us gets into this with some of the Supermoves. Superman punching, say, Green Arrow into orbit before smashing them back to Earth does decent damage - but you'd expect them to have been reduced to a fine red mist. This gets a Hand Wave in the story, as the Badass Normal characters use Applied Phlebotinum to get Super-Toughness similar to Superman's... but this only highlights the opposite problem: logically, Deathstroke's shooting and stabbing super should do nothing to Superman (or anyone else in the roster, given the aforementioned nanotech-induced Nigh-Invulnerability), but every super move does around the same amount of damage, no matter how spectacular or mundane it might be. Some of the stage transitions have this too, as Harley Quinn can get blasted out into space and hit by a runaway spaceship or slapped around a room by Physical God Darkseid yet only take as much damage as a couple of normal punches.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, and the JoJo's adaptation games in general, tend to run afoul of this for reasons of Competitive Balance. Probably the most noticeable examples are Okuyasu and Vanilla Ice, who both use attacks which outright remove things from existence, but which merely do some amount of damage (that isn't even visible) in the games. Some Great Heat Attacks explicitly show the target being utterly destroyed (Dio Brando inflicts Literally Shattered Lives, Fugo and Purple Haze's virus devours the opponent, Valentine shows off why Never Shall The Selves Meet) but once the animation is over, the victim is back in one piece.
  • Necessary for Balance reasons in the Super Smash Bros. series. It's the only way a boxer can go toe-to-toe with the self-proclaimed "Lord of Darkness" and win.
    • Often the case for Finals Smashes gained using the Final Smash Meter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Final Smashes are gained over time rather than from a Smash Ball, but are weaker as a result, meaning that Samus can fire a gigantic laser that won't even kill your opponent at 50%.
      • This is taken to its extreme with Sephiroth's Supernova, which, just like in his game of origin, involves sending a planet-crushing meteor into the sun and making it go supernova, this time with the added visual of the Earth being blown to pieces. Without modifiers, it's impossible for the attack to do more than 50% damage.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Call of Duty:
    • The Tactical Nuke in Modern Warfare 2. Getting a 25 killstreak in multiplayer with this equipped allows you to call in a nuclear warhead to end the match in your favor regardless of the current score. While it does kill every player on field regardless of team, the entire map remains intact and untouched.
    • Back again in Modern Warfare 3, this time called the M.O.A.B. (Mother of All Bombs). Unlike the Tactical Nuke, the M.O.A.B. only kills everyone on the opposing team upon detonation, as well as having an EMP-like effect on the other team for one minute and giving everything onscreen an orange tint. More importantly, it doesn't end the round, meaning everyone can still be fighting on a thermobaric ground zero with everything intact.
    • In Call of Duty: Black Ops, Nova 6 is a biochemical weapon of mass destruction which causes a Cruel and Unusual Death within a few seconds of exposure... at least in the story mode. In multiplayer, you can use Nova Gas Grenades, which only do a small amount of Damage Over Time which, thanks to Regenerating Health, anyone can quickly recover from if they manage to get out of the cloud.
  • For all its awesomeness and power (and the blasted rarity of its ammunition), Postal 2's Rocket Launcher has a criminally small area of effect that usually requires that your targets bunch up much closer than they normally would in the course of gameplay. Semi-relatedly, grenades, dynamite, and other explosives sound like they should leave nothing but scattered blood and body parts around when used, but in spite of all their flash, they still have a surprisingly small blast radius, and it takes two grenades to kill most enemies you'd want to use grenades on (mainly police and Taliban).
  • Shadow Warrior (1997) is one of the few FPSs with nukes. Since the game is pretty silly to begin with, the nuke's ability to kill everything in the game's largest rooms is reasonably impressive. But it still won't kill a boss in one hit.
  • Many weapons in Team Fortress 2 fall into this. The Soldier's rocket launcher, for instance, requires at least two shots to kill any given class (unless it's the Direct Hit, which still only one-shots the weakest classes or a Critical Hit). Either they're uncommonly weak rockets, or everyone, even the ones without armor, is Made of Iron. This can be particularly silly with weapons like the Air Strike and Liberty Launcher, which have reduced damage; get to a decent distance and watch three direct hits fail to down a Spy.
  • The Redeemer in the Unreal Tournament games is supposed to be a nuke, but its blast radius is only a few meters. Its destructive power is about what you'd expect for anyone caught in it though.

    Multiplayer Online Battle Arena 
  • Some of the spells in Defense of the Ancients and Dota 2 are like this—even though they might take away a significant amount of HP, from the spell descriptions there ought to be no way the target can survive.
    • Enigma's Black Hole is probably the best example. Yes, it's literally supposed to be a black hole from the Anthropomorphic Personification of gravity itself, described as having "the power to end worlds". And all it does is stun enemies in a medium area while dealing an okay amount of damage. That said, it IS considered a very powerful spell capable of winning a game on its own if timed properly, but that's more because of how it can hold a lot of enemies in place while other allies follow up with their own abilities.
    • Lion's Finger of Death. Yes, it does a ridiculous amount of damage compared to most other spells, but considering how its description says that it turns the target inside out, it probably ought to be more like a One-Hit Kill rather than something that all but the squishiest of Glass Cannons can survive if they aren't already low on health.
    • Necrophos' Heartstopper Aura. Apparently, stopping your enemies' hearts means passively inflicting slight Damage Over Time (albeit as a Fixed Damage Attack based on the enemy's maximum HP) in a large radius.
    • The Sniper has a passive ability which gives him a chance to inflict a headshot with his attacks. Said headshots do a small amount of bonus damage as well as a minor slow and knockback, rather than, say, exploding the target's head.
    • The Techies' basic attack is a grenade launcher. It's also one of the weakest attacks in the entire game by default (other than its impressive range), and doesn't even deal splash damage.
    • Mars can throw his spear to pin you to a wall. Being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice doesn't do any extra damage, just a stun.
    • The Elder Titan's ultimate ability, Earth Splitter, has this flavor text: "That which he created, the titan tears asunder." Considering how his lore states that he created the planet, the implications of this spell's effects, lorewise, are clear. Rather than destroying the entire map and killing everyone on it, it slows enemies and deals up to 50% of their maximum health as damage.
  • Heroes of the Storm:
    • A lot of the protoss weaponry is like this. Artanis' Purifier Beam is canonically meant for burning all life off of planets. In game, it chases a hero around at less than walking speed for a bit. Likewise, Fenix's Planet Cracker is supposed to - well, guess - but here it's just a big laser.
    • One of Imperius' abilities lets him charge forward and impale enemies he hits on his spear, literally lifting them off the ground in the process. It deals less damage than one of his auto-attacks. Hell, the impaling barely deals any damage - over half of the spell's damage comes after the stun ends. You take more damage being gently set down than you do being skewered.
    • Zig-zagged in regards to the actual nukes on Warhead Junction. These will appropriately rip through structures. If a hero gets caught in one, they take 30% of their max health in damage. Due to the nature of percent damage, tanks will get decimated by the hit while squishier heroes take the equivalent of any hard-hitting ability, effectively walking away from a blast that just razed the surrounding buildings. Most hilarious is Abathur, who takes a measly 200 damage from a nuke to the face.
  • Some of the weakest spells in League of Legends include falling stars, a tidal wave and a tornado. Due to Competitive Balance, anything that disables opponents for a significant amount of time deals barely any damage regardless of what it is supposed to be. Ziggs' actual nuke is fairly powerful for an ultimate, but this means about 1/4th of a high-level character's health bar in an area that's half as wide as the river.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • In Dune II the Harkonnen Death Hand missile is stated to be atomic. It is a fairly small blast if so. That and in the books any use of atomic weapons by a noble house is grounds for immediate planetary annihilation by the Emperor.
    • Likewise, in Emperor: Battle for Dune the Death Hand has a blast radius of maybe fifty meters, and the toughest buildings can withstand a direct hit. It also leaves behind an irradiated patch of ground which damages anything on it, but that dissipates in a couple of minutes.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • The nukes in the Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series always were relatively weak for nukes, but those in the first Red Alert game are the worst of the bunch, having barely enough yield to take out a pair of power plants and being unable to even completely destroy a Medium Tank with a direct hit. If you see the white flash of a nuke in the Allied campaign, though, your base just disappeared. Only in multiplayer, though; in single-player, the nuke can literally destroy ANY building, including construction yards. Can be used to great effect in some missions of the Covert Ops.
    • The Chinese in Command & Conquer: Generals, however, do have an explicit Slap On The Wrist Nuke: an artillery cannon, probably based on the M-338 Davy Crockett, that fires nuke shells. It counts more as a Wave-Motion Gun that fires Abnormal Ammo, though. China's superweapon in Generals is also surprisingly weak, given it's an ICBM launched nuke. It's weaker than the GLA toxin-laced Scud Storm, has a longer cool-down timer, and (unlike the Storm) requires power.
    • In Command & Conquer: Renegade, nukes (fired only by placing a beacon and waiting 30 seconds) had a pitifully, ridiculously small radius of effect. The damage it did at the center was incredible, killing almost any object in the game with that shot, but you could be literally standing 10 feet away from the nuke and not get a scratch. This gets a pass, partly for balance reasons (as it's the counterpart to GDI's ion cannon), and partly because the default setup allows for 'pedestal victories' where placing the nuke in the GDI barracks automatically wiped out the GDI base.
    • Averted in OpenRA (an open-source port for Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, Command & Conquer: Red Alert and Dune 2000), nukes and atom bombs do much more damage with a larger blast radius which can can destroy even a construction yard and take a giant chunk of the base with it. To compensate, their charging time is a lot longer.
  • The Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 Game Mod Mental Omega zig-zags this trope. On one hand, there's the Tactical Nuke Superweapon from the Soviets that, like its vanilla version, is nowhere near as powerful as one would expect from a nuke; it is, however, Hand Waved by the fact there are much stronger nukes in the setting. One such nuke is the Russian MIDAS, which destroys everything in the map when it explodes. However, there are very few of them in number, and by the end of Act 1 there is only one MIDAS and no way to produce more. And said MIDAS is used by Yunru halfway into Act 2, so there are no more of these devastating nukes.
  • Handwaved in Starcraft by explaining the Terrans use tactical nukes. Tactical nukes are designed to destroy enemy assets, fortifications, and forces as opposed to strategic nukes which destroy enemy cities. This is due to the Confederacy trying to solve a rebellion by lobbing strategic nukes at it until the entire colony was an irradiated wasteland. The political fallout was so bad that the larger weapons were shelved.
    • The nukes in the sequel, StarCraft II, are even weaker. This is justified by them being easier to research and produce.
  • War Front: Turning Point plays this straight with the Allied nuclear strike in alternate history WWII. Despite the nuke's magnificent visual effects, it is wide enough only to conflagrate a tight nest of buildings and leave a glowing slagpile. The earthquake bomb, however, topples more, but does little to infantry. German V-2s have a similar blast radius (albeit sans nuke-slag) and cannot be intercepted with anti-aircraft flak.
  • The Orbital Bombardment ability in the Dawn of War games, in which the Space Marine faction directs an orbiting Battle Barge/Strike Cruiser to fire its weapons on a target. The ability is impressive and can kill almost anything in one shot, even the bosses in the second game's campaign suffering tremendous damage, except the weapons of these vessels are known to take entire chunks out of planets (and can render a planet lifeless when enough vessels fire them at once), so it is incredibly implausible that anything survives at all, including the Space Marines that ordered it.
    • Considering that the Strike Cruiser and Battle Barge are optimized for orbital bombardment and are using their secondary weapons, they probably just turned the power down a bunch.
    • In the sequel, the Orbital Bombardment is tweaked; it now does even more damage on those it hits, but each individual blast has pitiful splash damage range and has an overly long build-up time. You will ONLY successfully pull it off if you can use scouts' infiltration successfully, or call it down on top of your own troops, at which point your other forces still have to mop up at least 50% of the enemy units. Then, in the Retribution expansion, we see that what we thought were godly cannons from the stars were overgrown point-defense weapons, as an Exterminatus fleet arrives to perform its designated function.
  • Hearts of Iron features nuclear weapons. To access them, one faction has to research enough technology to build a nuclear reactor to a high-enough level to produce a bomb, and then one is automatically added to your stockpile once a certain amount of time passes (which decreases the more technology you invest into it). Nuclear weapons have the following effects: they destroy all enemy troops in a province; they cause an amount of dissent directly proportional to the target country depending on the population levels, industry, infrastructure, etc.; they completely deplete all improvement levels (infrastructure, industry, etc.) to 0% and make it so it takes years to repair. And that's it. There is no fallout, nuclear winter, global warming, nor anything else. Troops that occupy a province that was just nuked suffer no ill effects. Furthermore, most provinces have such a low population that nuking them isn't effective enough to change anything. The best cities to nuke are state capitals and some high-population provinces in China, and that's it. Though the "no fallout" may be excused when you consider this depicts early nuclear weapons in the WWII era, the technology tree allows you to advance and develop better nuclear weapons that existed in the Cold War, but the basic effects stay the same. Nukes also do not affect diplomacy when one would think they really should. Finally, not only can the AI not handle nuclear weapons, there is no concept of "deterrence"; a country without nukes is just as likely to attack a country with nukes as they are one without them.
  • Subverted in Total Annihilation and its Spiritual Successor Supreme Commander, where nukes are extremely destructive, though in the case of the former a single nuke is still a slap on the wrist because of how quickly a base can be rebuilt after being hit with one.
  • Machines:Wired For War has a nuke silo that you have a to pay to create and launch a missile. While it can cause a fair amount of damage, some buildings can survive a direct hit.
  • Warcraft III: The Finger of Death spell's own tooltip says that it turns the target unit inside-out, destroying it instantly. In actuality, it only does 500 damage, enough to kill most tier-one units and severely inconvenience higher-tier ones, but nowhere near the instakill promised. It's also only used exactly once - by the Big Bad, and can't even be used on heroes. The expansion has a watered-down but more widespread version called Finger of Pain, which does 250 damage (enough to kill a Worker Unit) but costs mana, has a longer cooldown and can't target buildings.
  • Sword of the Stars: the basic missiles start out as nuclear and only get more powerful from there (fusion and antimatter). And yet a single, or even two hits from them usually isn't enough to obliterate even a 30-meter destroyer. While it's true that nuclear weapons are significantly weaker in space due to a lack of an air pressure wave, that shouldn't apply as much with contact nukes, and there's the deadly radiation damage to consider. Averted with planetary bombardments, however, since a nuclear strike habitually wipes out millions of sentient beings.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Absinthia: Parodied. Sera wants Thomas to help her with a skill that can supposedly blow a hole in the moon. Thomas points out that doing so would have repercussions on the entire planet. Fortunately, this is only a very hard-hitting physical attack.
  • Manafinder: The final bosses of Frederick and Starkas's route, Illia and King Vikar respectively, will use End of Times and Exile from Existence at low HP, both of which vaporize Aevi in their animations. Fortunately, these only reduce Lambda to 1 HP while exhausting the users.
  • In Vindictus, Kai's ultimate attack, massive impact, creates an explosion about 60 feet in diameter. Even heavily ranked and used in dark knight form, it doesn't deal enough damage to even stun most bosses even a few stages back from where you would have reached by the time you unlock it.
  • Final Fantasy became rife with these as soon as the graphics got far enough along to show it:
    • Final Fantasy has WarMECH and its ability "NUCLEAR". It seems like this ought to destroy the entire dungeon, but it doesn't, and the Light Warriors can survive it (if you've grinded enough). There's also the player-usable spell "NUKE" (retitled "Flare" in later editions) which is stated to work by teleporting in a piece of the sun. Unfortunately, because practically everything in the game has ridiculous levels of magic defence, it will typically do a lot less than your Knight or Master's standard attacks (and the latter is attacking with his bare fists!).
    • The Emperor's Starfall attack in Final Fantasy II, despite looking intimidating, has an utterly pathetic damage output since damage spread across the entire party or opposition in this game gets reduced by an incredibly large factor compared to single-target attacks.
    • Kefka's and Kaiser Dragon's Goner/Forsaken attack from Final Fantasy VI. On one hand, it actually does have the highest raw attack power of all attacks in the entire game, outstripping even Ultima. However, unlike Ultima, its damage is subject to split damage and doesn't ignore magic defense, meaning it's probably just going to do a paltry 1000-2000 damage on each character as opposed to the approximately 12000 it would've done without gimps and damage caps holding it back.
    • Sephiroth's Supernova in Final Fantasy VII is by far the best-known offender, not the least because the SFX get tedious. Blowing up most of the solar system and engulfing the planet within the flames of a tortured sun does less damage to each individual character than getting poked with a knife by a Tonberry. It's based on a percentage of their current HP - there's no way it can possibly kill. The weirdest part? This attack can even miss, and Sephiroth can attack by destroying the entire solar system and everything in it more than once. Some fans try to lampshade this by theorizing the attack is really just a big fireball, and the galaxy destruction part is just an illusion.
    • Given how deep underground the final dungeon is, summoning Bahamut ZERO while inside it (which results in a giant dragon appearing in space and doing an orbital bombardment of the enemy) should logically cause much more damage to the planet than Sephiroth's plot-based Meteor spell.
    • Another one would be Bahamut Fury's Exa Flare from Crisis Core. You'd think melting the moon and causing a dust cloud covering half the planet would do some terrain or ally damage... though to be fair it does regularly do 9,999 to all enemies.
      • ALL Limit Breaks in Crisis Core can be this in general due to how their damage is calculated. For example, summons are dependent on your Magic or Spirit stats whereas Tseng's helicopter-bombardment of Rush Assault are dependent upon your strength and vitality. So it's entirely possible for a single punch from Rush Assault to do more damage than Meteor depending on what gear you're wearing.
    • The third form of Final Fantasy VIII's final boss, a fusion of Ultimecia and the "strongest GF", Griever, has an attack called Great Attractor. It shows the boss pulling planets from across the solar system to collide with the players, and yet they survive! Supposedly it also does relatively little damage.
    • Ark, from Final Fantasy IX, whose attack animation shows it creating a crater that appears to be at least a mile in diameter, deals damage approximately equal to Zidane's Ultima Weapon blade.
      • Nearly every summon in that game is a city-destroying weapon in cut-scenes but not in combat. This is either subverted or reaches it's peak when cutscene Bahamut only gives a bloody scratch to Kuja.
    • Any of the Aeons' overdrives in Final Fantasy X, but especially Ifrit's. Being engulfed in a fireball, raised twenty feet in the air, hit with a chunk of floor and then dropped from a great height should by all rights be an instant kill, to anything, rather than causing a moderately severe bruise.
      • Subverted by Sin, whose Giga Graviton attack obliterates the airship the party's standing on if it's unleashed, resulting in an immediate Game Over. You can't even use an Aeon to block the attack.
      • Subverted by Anima in the international version, whose overdrive was buffed to be a multi-hit attack that can deal an excess of 1 million damage. Enough to put a big hurt on even the toughest bonus bosses.
      • In the international version, one of Penance's attacks is "Tera Graviton", which, logically, should be even stronger than Sin's Giga Graviton. But, here, it only does percentage-based damage! His other "ultimate" spell, Judgment Day, isn't much better either, since you can avoid it by summoning an aeon, unlike Sin's attack, which is an instant game over.
    • Final Fantasy XII:
      • The Espers' final attacks often fall into this category. They all have long elaborate movies that typically show the Espers creating all kinds of natural disasters such as tornadoes, tsunamis, a meteor from space, and even an ion canon. Zodiark gets the best though since his final attack seems to be an explosion on the scale of the big bang. Espers themselves are basically useless as allies in this game, dealing nowhere near the amount of damage your regular party would deal in the same amount of time.
      • Some of the Quickenings are also goofily underpowered for their special effects. You can have Baltheir drop a building-sized meteor on a boss, back this up with Basch punching it out of reality, have Penelo stop and shatter time, then see Ashe summon a hurricane sized electrical storm and wrap it all up with Vaan smacking them in the face with a tornado. Despite the fact that by rights most of Dalmasca should be in ruins after just the first few, you just deal some nasty damage high above the 9999 cap. If you use Quickenings on a mook or critter, don't count on getting even the more brusque death animation from a hit that causes knockback.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics and its GBA counterpart have summons that literally destroy the entire battlefield, but unless you were level grinding, the targets only suffer bruises in a few HP damage.
    • In Tactics, the Meteor spell is almost as large as the battlefield, and Ultima (angelic version) engulfs the entire battlefield in "absolute energy" and Divine Ultima's explosion radius would probably cover fields twenty-five times their size. This, despite their actual effect range being 3, 3, and 4 panels, respectively.
  • Square Enix in general seems to like the trope. In The World Ends with You, all three of the Level Three fusions qualify. Shiki's summons a Godzilla-like cat monster, Beat's summons a huge tsunami out of nowhere, and Joshua's drops the freaking moon on the battlefield. It's actually justified that it doesn't damage the real world since the Fight Woosh took you to a different plane of existence — but then you want to know why the Noise plane was also unaffected.
  • Golden Sun:
    • Isaac's most powerful summon, Judgment, is the apocalypse, but most bosses at that stage in the game shrug it off like nothing at all.
    • Same could be said for the Meteor summon. Also done with the final boss's most powerful attack in the sequel, but the damage seems to be random, though deadly most of the time.
    • The most powerful summon in the game, Iris, attacks by throwing the enemies into the sun. Bosses still survive, though most standard enemies probably won't. It also has the ability to fully restore your HP AND revive fallen members, even though there is nothing showing it.
    • In addition, the unleash of the game's most powerful weapon, the Sol Blade, drops a miniaturized sun on the enemy. This doesn't even do triple the damage of a normal attack with the weapon, which is just a sword swing...
      • And for extra fun, it's another reference to Armageddon.
    • Also, two of the bosses have a Psynergy called "Meteor Blow", which is basically a meteor impact much in the same manner of the Meteor summon. On the plus side, the attack is far more powerful than the summon, and will very likely kill the character with the lowest max HP.
    • Daedalus: a giant robot that starts with a Macross Missile Massacre, then fire a huge missile. The first wave deals moderate damage, and on the next turn, a missile the size of the screen turns up and still fails to atomize the enemy.
  • The Fireball, Blizzard, Lightning Storm, and Earthquake spells (the last one in particular) in Dragon Age seem like they ought to cause a lot of collateral damage when used inside the rotting wooden shantytown of the Alienage in the latter part of the game, and Earthquake really ought to cause some complications underground of the collapsing tunnels sort in Orzammar.
  • Lie of Caelum: Syou once had the power to nuke a crater into the planet, but sealed away most of this power. When he uses this attack on the party in a Hopeless Boss Fight, the battle background changes to show a completely desolate wasteland. Fortunately, it was only an illusion, meaning the party and surrounding area are intact.
  • In Xenogears, Fei's final spell, Big Bang, is nearly as over the top as it gets, apparently focusing a beam of chi through the gravity lens of a galaxy, and blowing the moon into tiny pieces every time it's used, and yet he can do much more damage by repeatedly punching and kicking the enemy.
  • Skies of Arcadia:
    • "Prophecy" drops a moon onto the planet. It deals less damage than the protagonist's last special attack and doesn't cause anywhere near the effects you'd expect.
    • There is also Galcian's special: "Terminal," which involves him diving at you with his sword and destroying armada ships along the way and plunging the sword into you, creating a large explosion that shakes the Hydra. The targeted character is unlikely to die from this.
    • One of Ramirez's attacks, "Silver Tundra", is another offender. The animation ends with one of your party members being thrown into the sky during a blizzard and being impaled on a massive spire of ice. Even though your character should have a massive cavity where their torso was, this attack barely does half of your healer's maximum HP in damage.
    • The final ship battle of the game has the boss call down a meteor storm on the whole continent just to hit you. Though it's one of the most devastating attacks in its arsenal, the meteor that inevitably hits your ship is so big you'd think it'd be a One-Hit Kill.
  • Games made by Nippon Ichi tend to have plenty of these, though all of them are capable of causing an appropriately high amount of damage with enough grinding.
    • Also subverted in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Don Joaquin's Galactic Power summons a meteor which is pathetically weak, and is accompanied by a sound effect which sounds something like "plop".
  • One character's ultimate attack in Chrono Cross is the destruction of the entire universe. It does do a lot of damage, though, even compared to a giant Venus Fly Trap or a tidal wave.
    • Chrono Trigger does it better, though. The final boss, Lavos, has an attack that, in cutscenes, destroys the planet (or at least takes a good chunk out of the biosphere and makes it nigh-uninhabitable). In battle, it does about 400 damage to each party member (with the HP cap set at 999, that's quite terrifying). However, this depends on your characters' own defenses; enter Lavos when you're severely underleveled and very undergeared and it'll deal a thousand.
  • The nuke powers from City of Heroes's top-tier Blast powers look like they'd be rather impressive, and canonical uses treat said powers as being impressively deadly. They're called nukes by players. They still won't kill a same-level minion on their own, though.
    • Not only do nearly all of these "nuke" powers consume all of your endurance to use them and have some of the longest recharge times in the games, but they can also MISS your foes completely and leave you exhausted and defenseless in the middle of a pack of angry foes.
    • The whole "use all your endurance and be useless for the next minute or two" is fine for a Blaster with a team backing him/her up, but for a Defender or Corruptor who is also there to buff, debuff, and heal could end up getting teammates killed by taking themselves out of action like that. Hence why the nuke powers are common on Blasters but often skipped by Defenders and Corruptors.
    • It also helps that Blasters do even more damage with a "nuke" than Defenders or Corruptors.
    • A little work can also earn you the (one-time, until you earn it again) ability to call down an actual nuclear missile. It makes a depressingly small explosion and isn't much more powerful than the aforementioned Blaster nukes, but it can still help out in a pinch.
  • The Legend of Dragoon gives you the ability to summon dragons capable of dealing far more damage than any other single spell, but given the mana requirements, only one of them is actually any better than spamming the next most powerful spell, or the non-magical dragoon additions. Hell even entering dragoon mode at all means you'll deal less damage than with your strongest regular additions. Some bosses even impose further penalties on the use of these powers. They are still the most visually impressive moves in the whole game. though. Also, a select few bosses need the defense boosts of that dragoon mode gives to be even remotely beatable.
  • Certain powerful spells in Fire Emblem games, especially those used by late-game bosses, tend to have impressive animations involving planets, black holes, six-foot pillars of light and other such eye candy. However, even if after all that your opponent doesn't outright dodge it, it may or may not be fatal and is guaranteed to only affect one person on the entire battlefield at a time.
    • You know what's awesome? Rexflame in Radiant Dawn. Turn off animations, and you'll still see the river of freaking lava swallow up the entire screen, but the only thing hurt is the enemy you were aiming at. Singular.
  • Super Robot Wars is the absolute king of this. Generally, the more powerful an attack is, the more over-the-top the animation. This gets especially crazy for final bosses. Although those attacks all mean instant death for the target, keep in mind the final one does damage to exactly ONE individual. And not even more than your characters are capable. This tends to get even more outrageous because of skills that will make attacks deal 1/4 damage to you, have the next one deal only 10 damage to you, no matter what it is, or even miss entirely! Yes, the attack that destroys countless planets just to try and kill one mech can be made to deal a measly 10 damage. Or even miss. There is nothing more satisfying in gaming then this.
  • In the Might and Magic series, the nuke spell (also called Armageddon) will do tremendous damage to everything in the same area, including the caster, and will kill all civilians instantly. Due to engine limitations, it has no effect on buildings and terrain, though.
    • The spin-off Heroes of Might and Magic has the same spell, and the icon for the spell is even a mushroom cloud. Despite this, it's quite easy to get hit by it and only lose half your forces. (Oh, and it can't touch Dragons. Apparently dragon-scale is nuke-proof.)
      • Technically, at least if we're talking black dragons, dragon-scale is magic-proof. They ignore anything magical, whether it's a puny magical arrow, a conjured lightning bolt, or a spell that, in the role-playing games, would lay waste to entire regions (man, but that was a fast way to rack up those evil points).
  • Toyed with in the later Wizardry games. Nuclear Blast, the "ultimate" fire spell for the Thaumatergy school, is explicitly described as a miniature fusion bomb, and it does inflict an enormous amount of damage to every enemy present (the distinguishing trait of all the "nuke" spells) and can oftentimes instantly kill several enemies, but most higher-end enemies, or those resistant to fire, will shrug it off.
  • Phantasy Star IV features combination attacks that play this trope straight. One of them is even called "Holocaust," which tries to kill every enemy you're fighting. The most powerful combo is appropriately called "Destruction," and is basically a huge bomb. It's powerful enough that one of the characters in the combo has to cast a shield spell to protect the party, but it still can't break the damage limit.
    • It's certainly a flashy spell, and guaranteed maximum damage on any enemy has its uses (the spell can't break the damage limit, but won't drop below it either), but considering that individual attacks can deal more than 50% of Destruction's yield against late-game bosses and that you have a bevy of instant-group-kill spells & combos by the time you gather the component parts of's definitely of limited utility.
  • One of the Limit Breaks available in Epic Battle Fantasy 3 is a nuke that deals moderate damage to your enemies, a tiny bit to your party, and poisons everyone. Often, the poison will outdamage the nuke within two turns. The nuke itself CAN deal ludicrous damage to enemies who are weak to fire, though.
    • Epic Battle Fantasy likes it a lot, in fact. Lance especially. Besides the aforementioned nuke, he also possesses an Ion Cannon which plows through the ground, obliterating it with no damage to the party at all and only decent damage to enemies. Natalie, herself, is not one to be outdone. Her attacks include a massive beam of Holy power visible from space itself (pardonable, since it's Holy, after all) and a BLACK HOLE which does deal heavy damage to all enemies and players with a chance to kill, but does not do what black holes are meant to do, which is destroying the world.
  • A couple of attacks in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team are a bit like this. Like the Zee Egg and its 'nuke the screen with magic' effect, which is still a tad less powerful than you'd expect given its concept (albeit still an Infinity +1 Sword). Or Giant Bowser's stomp attack, where a boss about ten times bigger than your character steps on them... and which can supposedly be survived with health to spare. Or just Luiginary Ball, which sends enemies/bosses flying into the background hard enough they wrap around from the front again... and happens to be the weakest special attack in the game.
  • Some moves in the Pokémon series fall victim to this, looking absurdly powerful but in reality not being much stronger (or even being weaker) than some far more mundane attacks. For instance, Palkia's signature move of Spacial Rend is described as tearing apart space itself (and looks as though it practically destroys reality in Pokémon X and Y), yet it possesses a relatively unimpressive power of 100 (For comparison, Head Smash, which is simply described as being a full-power headbutt, has 150 power), and worse, can be completely nullified by Fairy-type Pokemon due to it being a Dragon-type move.
    • The Z-Moves, originating in Pokémon Sun and Moon, can also come across as this trope due to their nature as cinematic attacks. The best example is Guardian of Alola, which only the Island Guardians can use: It depicts the Island Guardian climbing onto the magical equivalent of a Humongous Mecha, which then pounds its fist on the target, but it is incapable of knocking out any Pokémon with more than 3 HP.note  Other examples include Inferno Overdrive, in which the user creates a fiery Sphere of Destruction the size of a building; and Continental Crush, which involves throwing a rock the size of a hill at the target; both of which can only hit one target and will leave other Pokémon alone even if they're standing right next to the target (let alone the Trainers). For Black Hole Eclipse, the user actually creates a black hole and sucks the target in, but again, nothing is harmed except for the single target.
    • Seismic Toss in Pokémon Battle Revolution and Pokémon X and Y onwards shows the opposing Pokémon getting launched into space before landing smack dab on the ground. This animation makes even the One Hit KO moves look modest, and it's Charizard's finisher in the anime for good reason. However, it's a Fixed Damage Attack that only deals damage based on the user's Level, meaning it can only deal a paltry 100 damage at Level 100 (where most Pokemon have HP bars in the 300-400 range). Gameplay-wise, this makes it ironically a Boring, but Practical option for Pokémon who otherwise have trouble dealing consistent damage, most infamously Blissey who turns the move into outright Narm Charm due to the sight of a fat pink fairy blob launching even a heavy tank like Metagross into space.
    • Max Moves and G-Max Moves in Pokémon Sword and Shield are a Spiritual Successor to Z-Moves and have equally over-the-top animations for what are simply slightly stronger than standard attacks. Of note are Max Strike and its relatives G-Max Cuddle, G-Max Replenish, and G-Max Gold Rush, which depict the ground collapsing beneath the opposing Pokémon and a large beam of energy gushing out from it; Max Ooze and its relative G-Max Malodor, in which the entire area is flooded with a wave of purple poisonous goo; and Max Lightning and its relatives G-Max Volt Crash and G-Max Stun Shock; in which a thundercloud appears over the target and large bolts of lightning strike the target repeatedly and rapidly. Depending on the circumstances, these moves may be weaker than mundane moves; the aforementioned Head Smash, for instance, is equal to or stronger than all Max Moves and G-Max Moves. And, like with Z-Moves, they can only damage one target even if another Pokémon or the Trainer is standing right nearby (though their effects will affect all Pokémon on the corresponding side not immune to it, such as Max Strike's Speed drop).
  • In Undertale, Asriel Dreemurr has "Hyper Goner" for his ultimate attack of his first form, where the dodging space expands to cover the entire screen (even the status bar) and he forms a black hole like suction that sucks you and several damaging diamond-shaped projectiles towards it. Despite the incredible animation, it can only leave you at 1 HP. After that, though, he transforms into his second form where you're unable to use items at first and you're forced to dodge several tricky volleys of projectiles, though thankfully Death Is a Slap on the Wrist during the entire fight.
  • World of Warcraft gives us the Halberd of Smiting which has a "Chance to decapitate the target on a melee swing, causing 430 damage." You know, instead of killing you like most decapitations would.
  • Fallout 3:
    • The Fat Man, which ballistically launches a miniature nuclear warhead that produces an explosion that a conventional explosive the size of a satchel charge could produce. But it mushrooms! It bears mentioning that it is nonetheless, shot-for-shot, the second most powerful weapon in the game (exceeded only by its unique variant, the Experimental MIRV, which fires eight mini-nukes at once) and is more than sufficient to kill anything in the game, save for Broken Steel's Boss in Mook's Clothing super-variants of enemies.
    • Old wrecked cars can detonate in a nuclear explosion if shot enough times due to the remaining "fusion materials" somehow left untouched during the original bombs. The cars will even explode in mushroom-cloud style, but it won't do a thing unless you're within conventional explosive radius. Note that they CAN cause chain explosions though!
  • In the Like a Dragon games headlined by Ichiban, this is played with in that several of the Kiwami Attacks have some particularly ludicrous animations, most notably the Kill Sat that Ichiban can unlock by completing the business minigames that while doing a lot of damage can be survived by the bosses (most of whom are just humans, albeit typically really physically fit. Of course, a lot of this is stated to simply be Ichiban's overactive imagination at play visualizing what are presumably just mundane attacks (for the standards of the series) as JRPG nonsense.

    Shooting Games 
  • Battletanx: Global Assault features a tactical nuke weapon whose blast wave will generally cover the entire level. Most tanks will be wiped out by the blast, however, the Goliath-class tank can literally stand right on top of the nuke as it goes off, and it will survive with about a quarter of its health left.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots does this with Crying Wolf's rail gun. It isn't Gameplay and Story Segregation either—her shots will regularly destroy trees outright and fell ones that they graze. Get hit by one and you just get knocked over and some health taken off. This is the same weapon that one-shots Raging Raven. Snake should've been spattered over the snow.
  • Warframe: During the 8-player super mission "Law of Retribution", Vay Hek will try and kill the party with a giant laser cannon fired from the orbiting Balor Fomorian battleship. This is a weapon designed to rip a Mile-Long Ship in half, but it doesn't so much as kick up a cloud of dust when it hits the planet's surface.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In 3.5, there was a spell in an official Splat Book that basically ripped the target's entire circulatory system (other than its heart) out of its body (an a slightly higher level version that then used said veins and arteries to entangle nearby targets!)—and yet it did exactly half the target's hit points in damage. No more, no less. Funny, one would think losing your entire means of carrying blood to the brain, not to mention the rest of the body, would do a bit more damage than THAT.
    • One monster has an attack in which they reach inside you and claw out your lungs, dealing... 1d4 damage, which is on-par with what you take from a dagger wielded by someone with average strength.
    • The epic spell Hellball is described as creating an effect "like hell on Earth" for its few survivors. It deals a total of 40d6 damage on a failed save (an average of 140), which isn't likely to kill much on your level once you can cast it. What makes it especially problematic is that the damage is split between acid, fire, electricity, and sonic damage; the intent is to be able to deal damage through any form of energy resistance, but in practice, it means that pretty much anything you'd want to hit with a Hellball has immunity or resistance to at least one part of it, and it can get hit with this multiple times. (For instance, a vrock is immune to electricity and resistant to acid and fire, meaning it only takes about 85 damage to its 115 HP on a failed save, and it's far weaker than anything you should be fighting at epic levels.)
  • Used constantly on a smaller scale in Warhammer 40,000 and its various adaptations, with weapons that should cause incredible amounts of damage, if not merely instantly killing the target, causing rather standard damage instead. A lot of the time it's justified by the target being equally incredibly resilient, but when Bolters (firing a .75 caliber rocket-assisted shell meant to explode a split second after penetrating the target) is used against normal humans without them exploding it gets a bit puzzling.
    • Various characters in Warhammer 40k have had the ability to call down orbital bombardments, including Space Marines Chapter Masters, Inquisitors, Masters of the Fleet, Abaddon the Despoiler (from the not-misnamed Planet Killer) and even Orks (who flung asteroids at the planet rather than using their own guns). Considering that guns from all of the aforementioned ships have the ability to render a planet uninhabitable, if not destroy it outright, their effects in-game are quite underwhelming (typically a 5" blast template with STR 10, AP 1, unlimited range, and an increased tendency to scatter). Indeed, there are several tank-based artillery cannons that are just as strong, and more accurate to boot. Given the scale of weaponry mounted by 40k starships, it's actually kind of amazing that they have anything capable of producing a blast that small.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Though nukes in Civilization games are incredibly powerful, heavily damaging things and trashing the landscape, in IV they can't kill anything with 100% certainty. This doesn't stop your computer rivals from scorning your name should you use them yourself, however.
    • Contrast with the ICBM in Civilization: Revolutions. It will completely destroy anything in the region it is launched at and all units adjacent to it. If used against a capital, it will destroy everything except for the Palace and one unit of population. On the other hand, only one can ever be built.
    • Probably because nuclear shelters and bunkers are buildable long before nukes hit the table; completing the Manhattan Project unlocks nuclear weapons for everyone, including your enemies. Therefore, if a nuclear war is inevitable players will stall from building the Project and build up their defenses beforehand, significantly reducing the potential impact of nuclear weaponry when it does occur. On the other hand, throwing half a dozen nukes around will cause rampant global warming, rapidly terraforming random plains and grassland tiles into inhospitable desert tiles, and so on. The Fallout effect also reduces a tile's resource output until scrubbed by workers, so a city can suffer a gradual decline as an after-effect even if it survives the initial attack.
    • Averted in Alpha Centauri, however. Planetbusters do exactly that, killing everything in a 1-16 square area, destroying land so water fills it in and destroying any cities caught in the blast radius. Also pisses the planet off immensely, expect the mind worm attacks to increase after every use. And oh, yeah, everyone declares war on you.
  • In many 4X games, such as the Master of Orion series, nuclear missiles are the most basic type of missile you can build. This can lead to absurd examples like how in Master of Orion 2, a single unmodified nuclear missile can only kill the weakest ships with a single hit, and it is relatively easy from the middle of the game onwards to build a ship that can survive a hundred basic nuclear missiles.
  • Empire and its derivatives likewise have nukes kill everything in their blast radius, but cities are merely depopulated instead of being destroyed (the ability to destroy cities would be a Game-Breaker, since cities can not be built, only captured).
  • In Advance Wars, Sturm's CO Power drops a meteor onto the field. This power can only drop a unit 5 (or 8) HP, whether it's an Infantry or a Battleship, and it cannot kill a unit, only making it drop to 1.
    • Same in Advance Wars 2, and in Advance Wars 2 and Dual Strike there's the addition of giant cannons, lasers, and missiles that all have the same effect.
    • Also, in the final mission of 2, you can fail and let a doomsday missile be launched, but due to the game's Non Lethal KOs when losing, Sturm can drop the missile as many times as he wants and the world looks unscarred and the allied forces can just keep coming back.

  • An odd example: the video game of Spider-Man 2 has a spinning pile driver attack that Spidey can pull on thugs. He can do this from any height, including from the top of the Empire State Building (provided he swung up this high, first). It will seldom kill any thug in one shot, no matter how high you are.
  • Touhou Soccer. Earth-splitting attack animations just to score a goal.
  • In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh possesses a sword said to be bound with the creation of the world. Its main attack is described as 'anti-world' in strength and thus presumably capable of destroying the world — except that whenever it is used, it never seems to do worse than knock the main characters around a bit and put a few dents in the local concrete. The reason being that while it's capable of destroying the world, its wielder has zero interest in doing that (kind of a dumb thing to do when you're planning on ruling the world). The only times we see a hint of Ea's real power is in Fate/Zero and Fate/hollow ataraxia, where Ea is used in alternate dimensions, and thus those dimensions are the "world" that is destroyed by it. At its full strength, it's shown ripping holes in reality and annihilating entire armies with a single swing.
    • This can be even funnier in Fate/Grand Order: Gilgamesh is playable, and Ea (in his Archer version) is his Noble Phantasm. However, in the game, attacks that affect multiple targets (like, say, an attack that destroys the planet) deal less damage than single-target hits, so many enemies are capable of surviving it. Add in Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors, and Gil's planet-nuking blast can be outdamaged by a technique from Sasaki Koujiro that's pretty much three katana swings happening at once.
    • Grand Order features quite a few of these, by way of the franchise featuring a lot of seriously overpowered characters who also tend to have a lot of multi-target attacks. The pinnacle, though, is Arjuna Alter and his Mahāpralaya—the official lore is that it's him destroying and recreating the universe with the target being absent from the new one. It is not improbable for a wave of Elite Mooks to be staunchly resistant to the apocalypse. And if a character has an active evasion or invulnerability skill, then they can dodge being removed from existence entirely.
  • Parodied in Psychonauts during the Kochamara boss battle. Before Kochamara attacks he charges up and shouts the name of the attack, as if he's ready to unleash the fury of Hell itself. Of course, with names like Overly Intricate Combination and Hard To Avoid Area Attack, you don't expect the end result to be very spectacular. And obviously, it isn't. Simply activating your shield saves you from any damage (which isn't a lot to begin with), not very dangerous.
  • In Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010) and Rivals (2013), getting hit with an EMP or a spike strip will not (normally) end the car that is hit. Not a nuke-power thing, but logically a car should not run with knocked out tires/electronics.
  • Pretty much everything in Animal Kaiser. A few examples: Crashing various moon-sized objects into the Earth (including the actual Moon), slicing the Earth in half, slicing the Earth into quarters, sending the Earth into the Sun, running completely around the Earth, tunneling completely through the Earth both ways, dropping various colossal objects on the opponent like swords, steam irons, stone arms, and cheeseburgers, squashing the opponent flat, and eating the opponent.
  • The board game "Wabbit Wampage" has an Acme mail order H-bomb kit. Assuming nothing else damages them, it takes two H-bombs to destroy the dog's kennel, and six H-bombs to destroy the farm house. Detonating an H-bomb inside a building does no damage to someone standing just next to that building.
  • Parodied in Love Esquire: during the RPG portions, it's possible for Hugh to set off a Special Attack (essentially a Limit Break), which plays a brief video which zooms out to show the literal Earth split in two, complete with a reassurance that this is not actual footage. Naturally, you can do this multiple times, even within the same battle.
  • Many of the animations in Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story fall into this, with a side of Power Creep, Power Seep at times. Kreimhild Gretchen is noted in-game to be able to reduce the planet to dust, but usually gets outdamaged by Candeloro's Prehensile Hair or a mundane missile barrage from Homura.
  • Touhou Project: Utsuho makes it literal. In her first appearance as the final boss of the 11th game, her signature bullet (Minisuns) were only more threatening than other bullets due to being much larger. They do not take multiple lives (fortunately.) In 12.3, they're damaging but (with the exception of Giga Flare for most characters) possible to avoid. They're not even the most powerful attack in the game. (But considering the most powerful attack is basically 7 hits to guaranteed victory....) Fridge Brilliance kicks in at once when you remember that all fights in Touhou use the spellcard system, which is intentionally designed to be nonlethal. If Utsuho ever decided not to play by the rules, her attacks would probably be a lot more lethal. Same goes for many of the other bosses, since Touhou has characters with powers along the lines of "instantly destroy anything", "stop time", "invoking death as you wish" and even Reality Warping.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited has a Nuclear Bomb as a possible spawnable, with a blast radius sufficient to maybe destroy a large room. (In the prior games, it was essentially a Nonstandard Game Over, killing everything on the map, including invincibles.)
  • In F/A-18 Hornet, the B-57 tactical nuclear bomb that becomes available in the final missions is stated to have a 20-kiloton yield, which is the same as the Little Boy atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima, but only has a blast radius of "about 2500 feet".
  • Many of more bizzare weapons in Ratchet & Clank qualify. You can shoot enemies with lava stream, suck them in remotely-controlled tornadoes or shoot them in the face with nuke and they'll be still standing. Also, opening a black hole apparently won't affect enemies that are too big for it at all. Who knew? Averted with nuke bought for Star Explorer in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, which does destroy almost everything in sector you fire it in, including space junk such as asteroids.

Non-Video Game Examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon, Starmon's attack is called, and basically is, a Meteor Shower... but is otherwise an average champion-level attack.
  • Saint Seiya has the eponymous Saints use attacks of awesomely destructive power, especially the higher up on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil one goes. However, several of these attacks come with names and animation like "Galaxian Explosion" (attacks with the force of an exploding galaxy) and "Lightning Plasma" (shoots 100 million shots of plasma per second at an enemy). Yet for all this destructive power, the only destruction is of the local landscape and structures.
    • Things peak with the Athena Exclamation, a technique that releases the power of a Big Bang. Three Gold Saints must work together to perform the attack, and it IS a forbidden technique, but it's eventually used anyways. And then, not too long afterwards, two are used at the same time, against each other. If not for the actions of Shiryu (or the four Bronzies if you're talking about the OVA), the series would have had a painfully quick ending.
  • The JSSDF was forced to hand control over to NERV in Neon Genesis Evangelion when Sachiel treated an N2 mine as this. The "Non-Nuclear" mine has all the power of a state-of-the-art nuclear weapon... and all it managed was to make the Angel take a nap. Justified by the fact it wasn't a particularly big Fantastic Nuke, probably no more than a couple of kilotons; a strategic nuclear (or N2) warhead likely would have taken the Angel out entirely, but only if they didn't mind levelling Tokyo-3 along with it.
  • In My Hero Academia Bakugo’s explosive powers destroy buildings, solid walls of concrete, and can make huge craters in the earth. On an enemy it may knock them backwards, sometimes singe their clothing, and occasionally knock them out.
  • The Animatrix two-part short "The Second Renaissance" goes into more detail about how the world of The Matrix became the Crapsack World it is, which includes humanity deciding to nuke Zero-One, the city the machines built. However, despite what nuclear weapons would do in real life (frying electronics with an EMP, and the heat and radiation would destroy anything exposed to it), the machines are uneffected.

    Comic Books 
  • Done with a literal nuke on the Saint of Killers in Preacher.
    Saint of Killers: Not enough gun.

    Fan Works 
  • Chapter 7 of Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami begins with a nuclear bomb blowing up the street near Light's house. The only damage that it seems to cause is several buildings getting destroyed, and Soichiro's car getting its paint scratched off. The characters present in the building barely even notice it going off.
  • Justified in Fail to the King!, where (in keeping with the story's habit of giving Disgaea gameplay mechanics an in-story rationalization) it's explained that spells or skills of a certain level of power will automatically pull the user and target into a pocket dimension when used. The fact that one of the villains is able to ignore this rule and directly cast Omega and Tera level elemental spells in reality is treated as incredibly dangerous.

  • A quarter-gram antimatter annihilation occurs in both the book and movie versions of Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, doing little more than shaking things up a tad. Such a reaction would release a medium-altitude areal photon burst of 45 terajoules (11 kilotons), equal to the flash-burn caused by Fat Man, such a burst would handily have blinded everyone in Rome outdoors at the time (especially the large crowd watching the burst) as well as set fire to any medium colored surfaces in line-of-sight.
  • A column in SFX by David Langford remembered the dodgy science in a novel where the villain has a giant earth-shattering weapon "with an ammo belt of black holes. Things look bad when he turns it on the hero. Fortunately, it's a glancing blow..."
  • Played straight and subverted in the Honor Harrington universe, where nukes are properly devastating on a human scale, but missiles with standard nuclear warheads are considered all but obsolete in terms of ship-to-ship combat, with thousands being used during certain fleet engagements just so the resulting radiation would blind and confuse point-defense systems before a modern salvo was launched. Justified, as while "contact" nukes can seriously damage a ship, at the scale that ship-to-ship battles occur they need to detonate at point-blank range - something which is usually impossible to achieve against a warship with active defenses. The more modern bomb-pumped laser warheads are used because they can hit their targets at ranges of tens of thousands of kilometers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The primary heavy weapon of many starships in Star Trek is the photon torpedo, a space missile with a warhead containing 1.5kg of antimatter. Its annihilation with an equal amount of matter should be comparable to a thermonuclear bomb, yet frequently causes much smaller booms than it should, to the point that an unshielded starship can sometimes survive a direct hit instead of instantly exploding.

  • The Earth is in remarkably good condition (read: no damage whatsoever) by the end of Attack from Mars considering the absurd quantity of nuclear weaponry used to fight the Martians and how the Martians were targeting large population centers. The various Earth governments immediately decide to Nuke 'em before considering any other options. Apparently, in the universe of Attack from Mars, nuclear weapons harm only Martians and Martian technology while leaving everything else alone.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • A wrestler's Finishing Move is supposed to be a match-ender. If a match is booked poorly, such as WrestleMania XXVIII's main event, the competitors may spend several minutes hitting finishers (their own and each other's) and only get near-falls.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in the video "KHVIBS-GD" (supposedly an excerpt from a fictional JRPG Cyber Panic 2000), which showcases an attack named "Kinetic Hypervelocity Impact Bombardment System 神々の黄昏 Götterdämmerung". The minute-long attack animation depicts the character flying up into deep space, summoning a fleet of laser cannons shaped like a pair of wings, and firing an array of precisely aimed beams which bombard the enemy's location on Earth... only for the struck enemy to somehow dodge the attack with no HP loss (with just a simple sidestep animation, to boot).
  • Averted in DEATH BATTLE!: If one of the combatants can use or has survived an attack that has seemingly had an effect on a particular scope, they will calculate just how many teratons of TNT or whatever it means the character can attack with/survive and use that information in the battle. Thus, even attacks that would fall under this trope in the original usually won't here.
  • In Homestar Runner, Strong Bad once presses a self-destruct button on his laptop, creating a mushroom cloud at least a hundred feet high. The laptop and a ream of printer paper were the only things damaged in any way.
  • Mocked by Weebl & Bob in their Final Fantasy VII parody: The 'super special attack' drops the Moon onto the planet, which itself causes three separate mushroom clouds from the explosion, and finally deals... 7 damage. To a random encounter.

  • Adventurers!:
    • Final Boss Khrima's mostly flashy "Doom Vortex" magic attack shatters the entire planet, the solar system, the galaxy, and even the game's CD. The damage is fairly good but far less than what those events would entail. Lampshaded by Karn before the fact: "Is this going to be one of those destroy-the-planet spells? Because we've seen like nine."
    • Also lampshaded in an earlier strip. "You'd think that destroying the entire planet would be more damaging..."
  • Invoked in Axe Cop, "Axe Cop Gets Married". Axe Cop uses the Forbidden Move, which picks up the adjacent province and hits the target with it. However, since he can do it right, it only obliterates the target and not everyone else in the two provinces. (The tornado that picks up the province also really quickly removes everything but the target and then puts it back again after the impact before anyone can notice.)
  • Spoofed in Flaky Pastry, where a ludicrously powerful spell called Omega Murder Blast literally obliterates all terrain in a huge radius, annihilates whoever it was aimed at, but does not affect any other living creature in said huge radius because "it is a single-target spell."
  • Brawl in the Family demonstrates. "Gyarados used Hyper Beam!" [Colossal pillar of light visible on an intergalactic scale.] "Pidgey fainted!"
  • In EATATAU!!!, an Eldar warband nukes a force of Necrons assaulting their position. Due to the Necron Lord's timely application of Orb of Ressurrection, they get right back up and continue the assault. Of course, they should have been at least melted into slag, if not outright vapourized. There's also no fallout (although Eldar are made of sterner stuff than humans, so maybe they could just ignore it).
  • In 8-Bit Theatre, Black Mage has the continent of Australia dropped on him. The resulting tidal wave wipes out a nearby village, but Black Mage himself is barely scratched.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Sideshow Bob manages to set off a nuclear bomb inside Springfield's Air Force base — that releases an explosion about a foot wide. He then notices that printed on the side of the bomb is the disclaimer "Best before Dec 1959."
    Bob: [to himself] There were plenty of brand-new bombs, but you had to go for that retro '50s charm!