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Smashing Survival

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"Hey, Steve! Shouldn't we be helping?"
"Nah. He will be fine."

These damn QTEs happen too bloody quick
I'm tired of shaking the analogue stick

You're walking down a narrow corridor and everything looks normal, when BAM! A huge monster, insane psychopath or malevolent spirit grabs you from behind and you can't move. How do you break free?

Cue Smashing Survival.

Smashing Survival is where in order to break free of an enemy's grip or shake loose from a trap you fell into, you have to either smash the buttons, frantically spin the analog stick, or a combo of both. This element can be OK when used sparingly, but if used for every enemy or simply used too much, say hello to broken controller buttons/sticks and finger cramps. Wrist cramps can occur as well if this trope is used for the waggling effect on the Wii or PS3 controllers.

As a result of the this, and in particular for accessibility reasons, several high-profile games such as Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, God of War (PS4) and Spider-Man (PS4) allow the player to switch out the button mashing for simply holding the button down.note 

Unless the AI programmers were tasteful, expect computer players to be ridiculously good at this.

Not to be confused with Button Mashing, which is a Super-Trope for this and covers a wider variety of scenarios (mainly noobs pressing the buttons at random in the hopes of compensating for their lack of finesse).

Subtrope of Press X to Not Die.


    open/close all folders 

  • Kung Fu Master is the Ur-Example; every time you let an enemy get close enough to touch you sends you into this.
  • No More Heroes:
    • If you lock weapons with an opponent, you can rotate the Wiimote in order to overpower the opponent and get a free death blow. If you fail to do so, they overpower you instead.
    • Shaking the remote and mashing buttons is the quickest way to escape Holly Summer's holes, and also is your only hope of escaping Harvey's dissappearing box.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game: Mousers latch onto your arm and have to be shaken off in this manner. Also, most Foot Soldiers would grab you from behind, requiring the same solution.
  • MadWorld: Some Power Struggles are like this, though not all. You may get grabbed by a giant hand, for instance.
  • God of War uses these extensively. Bosses will try to crush or eat Kratos, medusas try to turn him to stone, sirens will try to disorient him, climbing enemies will try to make him lose his grip and so on.
  • Metal Slug 3 had yeti enemies that spewed out homing ice balls. If you got hit by one, you wouldn't die, but you would turn into an immobile snowman. To get out of the snow you would have to repeatedly mash the buttons before the yeti killed you with its bone club.
  • The Legend of Spyro: Wiggling the analog stick will free you from being frozen.
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, you need to smash a button to free yourself when the insane inmates jump on your back or when Poison Ivy manages to grab you in her respective boss battle.
  • The Simpsons: Enemies in the arcade game took a hint from the Foot Soldiers mentioned above.
  • Amorphous+: If you get frozen by a Frostie in Amorphous+, you can move your mouse up and down quickly to thaw out faster before another Blob Monster touches and shatters you.
  • Sonic Spinball: This is the only way to break free from the Rexxon's jaws in the Toxic Caves.

    Action Adventure 

  • If the cat runs afoul of a Zurk latching onto them in Stray, a prompt appears to mash the meow button to shake it off. Fail to do so quickly enough (and/or get dogpiled by more Zurks) and they'll eat the poor kitty alive.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • The first Oriental Legend have the Gold and Silver Horned Brothers, who can suck you in with their magic gourd. You'll need to smash the jump and attack buttons to escape or be dissolved alive.

    Fighting Games 
  • Super Smash Bros. has a "break free" mechanic, where anything immobilizing you (Yoshi egg, Donkey Kong's grip, Master Hand grabbing you) is cured faster by mashing every single button on the controller or messing with the control stick. The computer takes advantage of this, and puts in commands faster than is humanly possible.
  • Capcom's Street Fighter games have several grab moves which use this trope. For example, if you get caught in Zangief's command grabs or Blanka's head bite, you can mash the buttons to escape faster. Interestingly, the attacker can also mash the buttons to increase the damage done by his grab, so this is kind of a double trope. A bystander passing an arcade Street Fighter machine would often see both players frantically whaling on the buttons at the same time.
  • It would be easier to list a Wrestling Game that didn't employ this to get out of holds, pins, and general stun.
    • WWE 2k15 and WWE 2k16 are recent aversions where it's been replaced by a timing minigame.
  • In Samurai Shodown, Blade Locks are resolved this way. Depending on how it goes, it can end in one or both players losing their weapon and having to fight bare-handed until they can retrieve it.
  • Averted almost entirely in Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. Unless your character is in a "test of strength" with another, button mashing will do you no good, and the manual explicitly states this. Escaping a grapple or pin revolves around timing your button presses, as opposed to smashing them into the controller.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Magicka has enemies that can grab you or jump onto you requiring that you mash the space bar to escape. Some bigger enemies will just eat you instead and there isn't enough time to escape.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Various attacks from enemies require the player to either rapidly mash the WASD keys or shake their controller joystick, and they'll need to do it very aggressively in order to dodge Monsoon's grab attack.

  • Eternal Darkness had one enemy who would latch onto you and try to bore its way into your body. Players had to rotate the control stick quickly to live.
  • The flash game Darkness requires the player to rapidly tap the space bar if the main character gets caught by one of the ghosts, otherwise the game ends with a black screen and said character letting out an ear-piercing scream.
  • Dino Crisis forced you to mash the X button when a quick time event played out that put Regina in danger.
  • Resident Evil:
    • This has been in the series since Resident Evil 2, where mashing buttons after being grabbed by a zombie would allow the player character to break free from their grip, thus reducing the amount of damage taken.
    • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis incorporates this into the Nemesis fights: if he grabs you in preparation for his One-Hit Kill attack, you can mash the buttons to break free before he can pull it off. This doesn't work, however, if you're in Danger status, so if he grabs you then, you're as good as dead.
    • Shows up in Resident Evil 4, sometimes being a quickdraw press, and sometimes being Smashing Survival.
    • Resident Evil 5 is equally guilty with the executioner majini among others. The executioner majini even does both smashing survival and Press X to Not Die within the same attack sequence! During the final boss you get a Press X Then Mash X Then Shake L Stick Then Mash O Then Mash X Then Press L + R Then Mash X Then Press O sequence just to move a frigging rock.
    • Of course these were present in Resident Evil 6 but much more merciful. On the lower difficulties you could press any button regardless of which one was displayed on screen. Savvy players quickly learned you could take advantage of this to break free of holds almost instantly by mashing every button on the controller as fast as possible.
    • Resident Evil: Outbreak uses this for any enemy with an attack that grabs the player, which includes the majority of enemy types in the game. Spinning the sticks and hitting buttons will make your character throw the enemy back and reduce the amount of damage taken, while simply waiting will have the enemy deal the full damage of the attack and leave them ready for a follow up.
  • Dead Space has this as a component of his gameplay whenever Necromorphs jump on you to attempt face-rape.
  • Fatal Frame has it that if you smash the Confirm button X for PS2 and A for Xbox on II, hit R1 for III, and waggle the Wii-mote on IV at the right moment, you can shake off the attacking ghost without taking damage. However, all three games require the Evade function equipped to do so. The first game? Good luck with those shots!
  • In Survivor: The Living Dead, you have to hit the sprint button repeatedly if Amber runs out of stamina and trips.
  • Mad Father has a few instances where you're instructed to mash "Z" to escape some attack.
  • Clock Tower has this in the form of mashing the Panic Button; normally, it comes during a chase scene when Bobby is trying to bring his scissors down on Jennifer, but it can happen at pretty random moments - the most shocking being an optional scene where your reflection tries to strangle you.
  • Haunting Ground: following on from the Clock Tower series' tradition, mashing the action (circle) button is the only way to escape a death hold (not mashing results in being strangled, having your spine snapped or being impaled more often than not).
  • Rule of Rose: whenever an Imp attaches itself to Jennifer, you have to frantically rotate the analogue sticks to make her shake it off.
  • House of the Dead 4 requires you to shake the gun to break free of an enemy's grip, get up when knocked down, or manipulate certain objects.
  • In the first episode of Song of Horror your character may be confronted by The Presence trying to force itself through a door. At which point you have to mash the A button to build up strength, then hit the RT to slam the door shut with the built-up strength. Letting the Presence get through is certain death, and it requires balancing building up strength with strategically slamming the door shut to buy yourself time.
  • Silent Hill:
    • This pops up frequently in the franchise, with almost every enemy since 1 having an attack which you must break free from, usually by wiggling the analogue sticks. Some notable examples include;
    • Silent Hill: In their first ever appearance in the franchise, the nurses (as well as their male counterpart, the Puppet Doctors) will lunge at Harry and attempt to choke him, requiring the player to wiggle around the analouge sticks to prevent taking further damage the longer they hold on, which wouldn't be that big of a deal if they didn't gang up on you and essentially chain grab poor Harry.
    • Silent Hill 2: In the first Pyramid Head boss fight, if the player is close enough to him, rarely he will catch James in a Neck Lift; the player must wiggle the analogue sticks to break free, much like the nurses in the first game. If the player can't break free fast enough, Pyramid Head will be revealed to have an Overly-Long Tongue (or maybe it's a tentacle?).
    • Switching this up a bit, enemies in Silent Hill: Origins can latch onto you, requiring you to either use Action Commands, or the usual method of wiggling the analogue sticks.

  • In Champions Online, this is how you break out of hold and immobilize effects: hit Z until the hold or your keyboard breaks, whichever comes first.

  • Azure Striker Gunvolt 2: Both the binding rings and Desna's Entangled Strands can be escaped from by pushing buttons until you break free.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros. 3 had Micro Goombas that could cling to Mario and make his jumps extremely short. The only way to shake them off was to keep jumping until they fell off.
    • Super Mario 64 lets you escape Chuckya by shaking the Control Stick and spamming A. pannenkoek2012 explains the mechanics of how to do so here.
    • After getting frozen/put to sleep in Super Paper Mario, you must shake the Wii remote to unfreeze yourself/wake up. You will also stop sleeping if you take damage, but shaking is the only way to become unfrozen.
  • Kirby:
    • The Plasma Wisp power in Kirby Super Star builds up power this way.
    • In Kirby's Epic Yarn, one of Squashini's attacks leaves you tied up on stage with a nearby bomb's fuse burning away. Downplayed in that button mashing to wriggle free is easy; the real point is doing so quickly enough so you can ring a bell and collect all the beads that come out before the bomb explodes.
  • Mega Man X: The fight with Crystal Snail in Mega Man X2 uses this; you have to button mash to escape his Crystal Hunter. Likewise, if you get caught by Crush Crawfish's crushing pincers in Mega Man X3, you have to do this if you want to minimize your damage. This is also used to escape from the vacuum fish present in X and X5, and to escape from Web Spider's webs and the eyes in Cyber Peacock's level in X4.
  • Wiggling the analog stick will free you from being frozen in Sonic Unleashed.
  • In I Wanna Be The Fangame, you have to mash the fire button to escape a Pokéball at the end of the Pokémon trainer Boss Battle.
  • In Shovel Knight, one of King Knight's attack can leave the player pinned to the floor, forcing them to mash the buttons or face King Knight's sceptre.
  • This is how the revival mechanic for Freedom Planet 2 is activated. Just keep in mind that, unless you have the Strong Revival item, you're coming back with a brief bit of Mercy Invincibility and your Last Chance Hit Point, so try not to get wasted again, as each revival consumes one of your stock as if you had died.
  • During the second and third parts of Cala Maria's boss battle in Cuphead, while in her gorgon form, she can fire out a huge beam that can turn Cuphead and/or Mugman into stone (complete with empty eye sockets). Fortunately, you can mash any directional buttons repeatedly until they break free from their petrified forms. Just be careful not to get petrified while a projectile is coming your way, though.

    Racing Games 
  • When a racer in Crash Team Racing runs into a TNT crate, it will land on top of them and start counting down. When this happens to the player the jump button can be tapped rapidly to knock the crate off, preventing any damage that would've been taken from the eventual explosion. Nitro crates (the upgraded version of the TNT) don't give a chance of escape - they explode instantly upon contact.
  • Super Mario Kart: Monty Moles jump out of holes onto to front of your kart, slowing you down and blocking your vision. You have to hop quickly and repeatedly to shake them off.
  • As part of its Darker and Edgier tricks, the main character Jack in Need for Speed: The Run must do this either to break free from the car about to be crushed in a compactor, or avoiding a police car about to smash his person, or even an out-of-control container truck sliding his way.

  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl has the Great Marsh, where you have to mash buttons and toggle the d-pad to get unstuck from the bog squares.
  • Black★Rock Shooter has this after every single boss fight. You get TWO for the final boss!
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and D&D 2: Shadow Over Mystara had players wiggle the joystick in order to "make a saving throw" if they get hit with a spell.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, Xemnas' final attack involves trapping Sora and Riku in a field of darkness filled with thousands of laser bullets aimed right at them. Somewhat counter-intuitively, you have to block for both Sora and Riku by mashing X and Triangle simultaneously.
    • In Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], while playing the Flick Rush minigame, you can escape faster from any kind of status effect that makes you unable to act by rubbing the touch screen. On a fortunate note, the AI isn't a cheater when it comes to doing this. On a not-so fortunate note, you can't do this in normal gameplay, where said status effects are far more dangerous.
  • In Custom Robo, to recover from Down and start matches more quickly, do this.
  • Mass Effect 3, with some monsters capable of grabbing you. Generally if you succeed you break the grasp, hurl the enemy to the ground and stomp them. Higher-ranked grabby monsters will instead One-Hit Kill you if they latch on, with no chance of escape except a very quick save from a teammate.
  • Monster Hunter: Several of the big monsters have attacks that pin the player if they connect. Players who are pinned lie helpless on the ground as the monster attempts to eat them, which not only deals damage to them but also restores the monster's stamina in the process. The player can mash buttons to escape, or alternatively throw a dung bomb, which stuns the monster and lets the player escape.
  • In Dragon's Dogma, getting grabbed by an enemy requires this in order to escape, unless one of your party members intervenes by attacking whatever caught you. It overlaps with Press X to Not Die during certain sequences, particularly the fight with the titular dragon.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: If the player is Toppled, Launched, or Dazed, they can end the state early by wiggling the control stick and Button Mashing.

  • Star Wars: Republic Commando has a small drone that latches on to your helmet and starts to drill through your visor. You have to mash the melee attack button until you manage to shake it off.
  • Semi-aversion: When opponents (including you) lock lightsabers in the Dark Forces Saga, the result of the contest is decided statistically depending on the two combatants' "Saber Offense" skill levels. However, it is supplemented by button mashing nonetheless. Also subverted in that, if you're losing or don't have the time to go through with the whole song and dance, you can tap one different button to use Force Push and force the enemy out of the saber lock.
  • In Call of Duty 3, there are certain sections in which the player is required to do this to defeat a Nazi trying to grab your rifle. In a Call-Back to this, Call of Duty: Black Ops has one section where an NVA soldier jumps on you and attempts to kill you; you have to mash the Use button to knock him away, at which point your character pulls the pins off one of the guy's grenades. There's also trying to push a door open before a tank runs you down and drowning the Big Bad at the very end of the game.
  • Hammering the "use" key is how you shake off Choking Hands in Blood and Bone Leeches in the sequel. It is also the only way to survive after a knockdown in Bloodbath.
  • All over the place in Uncharted games, usually involving Good Old Fisticuffs.
  • In SkyGunner, when your aircraft's engine/balance stalls you have to mash the face buttons to avoid crashing. When Dog Missiles and Poulets latch onto your plane, you have to mash the directional buttons instead.
  • Very common in F.E.A.R. 2.
  • The Gears of War series has the chainsaw duel. Upon being attacked by a Lancer chainsaw, the victim must mash the melee button in order to survive. This only works if the victim also has a Lancer equipped, and is facing the attacker.

    Sports Games 
  • 1080°: Avalanche requires you to spin your control stick in an effort to avoid falling over from moderately flubbed landings.

    Stealth-Based Games 

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • [PROTOTYPE 2] now features this in order to shake off a Super Soldier grapple.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, this is how you break out of a zombie hold.
  • In Bully, if you're grabbed by prefects or law enforcement after making trouble, you'll need to mash a button to escape their grasp. But if your trouble meter is too high, they'll skip this and you'll be headed straight to detention the moment they get their hands on you.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Smashing Recovery


Sergeant Guy Banzai Bill

Mario has to run from the Banzai Bill by pressing A repeatedly

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SmashingSurvival

Media sources: