Don't you hate it when your opponent decides to rush you with a horde of mooks so that you have to aim and take out each and every one while they swarm you? That's what good old Splash Damage is for! Their swarms of disposable mooks are no match for a well placed artillery shell blowing them all to pieces.
Most weapons have to hit their target directly to be effective — but some lucky few merely have to hit near the target since damage occurs in an area around their impact point. This Splash Damage usually represents explosives; it commonly applies to rockets and bombs, but can (and surprisingly frequently does) show up on more exotic and powerful weapons like BFGs and Energy Weapons.
Splash Damage is typically distance dependent: the closer you are to the hit, the greater the pain. Usually, such a weapon will also do a fixed amount of additional damage if it scores a direct hit. However, some weapons (such as grenades) deal out splash damage exclusively.
In contrast, an Area of Effect weapon has equal distribution of its damage/effects over its footprint.
This quality usually makes a unit very valuable in RTS games, where even very weak attacks can be highly effective in the right circumstances or in sufficient numbers, because a particular unit or tactic involves tightly bunching up a cluster of units, meaning that even a weak attack does that damage to every single unit in the cluster, making it a rather powerful attack. Examples of such weapons usually have an Arbitrary Minimum Range, so that you don't hit yourself or your own men. A limiting factor of Splash Damage is the fact that the commonly explosive nature of this trope normally causes friendly fire if allies are within the area thus mandating strategic positioning and planning if one hopes to prevent loss or injuries of friendly units. As such it this trope is rarely combined with Friendly Fireproof, although it is usually a tremendous boon when the two do meet.
Related tropes include: Cluster Bomb, Area of Effect, Spread Shot, Hit Box Dissonance, Splash Damage Abuse. Frequently an effect of the BFG and Wave Motion Gun. Sometimes allows players to Rocket Jump. Often used for a Herd-Hitting Attack. Contrast Convection Schmonvection, one example where damage that should have a splash effect does not.
- Dungeons & Dragons in all its editions, and Pathfinder (basically D&D 3.75), both feature "grenade-like weapons" or "splash weapons" depending on the edition. These weapons are usually a case of the useless useful weapon, as their effects are often available by other means at lower cost and with more impressive effects. Direct hits did more damage. Pathfinder introduces the Alchemist class, which specializes in dealing devastating damage with these weapons. Some spells, such as various editions of Meteor Swarm, had a similar mechanic where a direct hit may disallow a saving throw or do more damage.
- Many games use a mechanic like this for actual grenades or other explosive weapons, with a diminishing amount of splash damage based on distance to the blast. Notable in Shadowrun, The World of Darkness games, Paranoia, Deadlands, and dozens of others.
- Warhammer 40,000 uses Blast Templates for weapons like rocket launchers, Ordinance, and certain Psyker spells. The templates have a small hole in the center, which is placed over the intended target. Against Infantry, a direct hit and a splash damage hit deal the same damage. However, as of Fifth edition, splash damage against Vehicles is half the Strength of a direct hit. The way damage against vehicles is calculated, this means a splash damage hit will do absolutely nothing to a vehicle 99 times out of 100.
- In Warmachine/Hordes, some attacks can cause splash damage. When such an attack is aimed at a main target, it'll do full damage to said main target and reduced damage (called blast damage) to everything else in range if the attack hits, but if the attack misses, the AOE will fly off elsewhere while still doing blast damage. This fly-off-elsewhere rule can be used to "extend" the distance of the attack.
- The Energy Explosion power works like this in Hero Clix. It acts like a normal ranged attack, but anyone next to a target is also dealt damage equal to the number of targets the attack could have had.
- BattleTech has relatively few weapons that cause splash damage, but they tend to be pretty effective. The most commonly used one is artillery, plus there are fighter-dropped bombs, mech mortars, capital weapons (when used by orbiting warships to attack ground targets), and nuclear warheads. With all weapons, the effect does max damage on the hex it strikes, with reduced damage the further from impact you get. With nukes and capital weapons, said damage breakdown tends to be "target is most definitely dead, target is almost certainly dead, target is extremely likely to be dead..." out to "target's going to die of cancer about a year from now."
- StarCraft features various units in both one and two, not including the powerful AOE spells.
- Warcraft III has units and heroes that can do splash damage. The Orb of Fire also grants any hero using it splash damage.
- Humans: Mountain King, Mortar Team, Gryphon Rider
- Orcs: Tauren Chieftain, Tauren, Catapult/Demolisher
- Undead: Lich, Meat Wagon, Frost Wyrm, Destroyer
- Night Elf: Warden, Chimera Ballista/Glaive Thrower
- Iji: Splash damage is the main exception of Friendly Fire Proof - which comes in very handy in a Pacifist Run.
- Valkyria Chronicles: Grenades deal splash damage, which makes them one of the only weapons that can easily hit more than one target. Their main use, however, is taking out sandbags so you can get headshots on the exposed troops.
- Tower Defense Games: this is one of the common anti swarming-mook towers.
- Super Smash Bros.: along side the various explosives there are some attacks that have hitboxes that extend farther than what you'd expect, and are capable of hitting multiple opponents. King Dedede's and Yoshi's ground-pound moves, for example, deal damage to people standing close enough to the point of impact, not just the ones that you land directly on top of.
- Onmyōji: All of Ibaraki-dōji's skills are this. That, and coupled with the fact that he's abnormally strong compared to other attainable shikigami, he can easily become a Game-Breaker for players fortunate enough to summon him.
Ibaraki-dōji: Marvel before my strength!
- Pokémon Black and White: A handful of moves were introduced that, in double and triple battles, deal normal damage to their target, as well as a smaller amount of damage to opponents next to the target.
- In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, the attack Splash has the user splash to an adjacent square and if they hit someone, it does five damage to both the user and the victim. Splash averts this in the main series by doing no damage.
- Quake series: the rocket launcher. Against fast targets, it's actually more effective to aim at the ground near rather than trying to hit directly.
- Doom: rocket launcher, same as Quake.
- Interestingly, splash damage in the doom engine is an infinitely-tall cylinder rather than a sphere.
- Unreal series: rocket launcher, flak cannon, bio-rifle, shock combo.
- Unreal Tournament 2004: the Paladin's weapon normally fires an explosive shell but if fired while the Paladin's shield is up, the tank will release a fairly powerful shockwave that deals damage to and knocks back anyone nearby.
- The Halo series has everything from small grenade launchers like the Concussion Rifle and Brute Shot, to the master of all splash damage, Halo 4's version of the Incineration Cannon, which has a blast radius that's larger than the effective range of the game's shotgun. Many vehicles also pack powerful explosive weapons with wide splash damage too, making splash damage a very prominent component of the series's gameplay.
- Plants vs. Zombies has the Melon-pult.
- In Mega Man 4, to defeat Dr. Wily you have to use Drill Bombs. However the bombs themselves bounce off his ship. To win you must detonate the bomb before it hits so that the Splash Damage of the explosion hits his weak spot.
- Wing Commander II and Wing Commander IV have the Mace, a tactical nuclear missile that can be used to take out groups of sufficiently close targets, detonated either by shooting the missile (WC2 or on command (WC4).
Wing Commander IV also has the Starburst and Coneburst missiles, which effectively act like player controlled grenades. As the names suggest, the Starburst's shrapnel field is omnidirectional, while the Coneburst's damage is aimed forward in a conical pattern. Unlike with the Mace, though, the damage is constant within the damage area.
- In Team Fortress 2, the Soldier's Black Box and standard rocket launcher both deal impressive splash damage - the Direct Hit, however, is geared so as to eliminate it almost completely (except in relation to the Soldier himself for the purposes of Rocket Jumping). Splash damage is also the Demoman's bread and butter depending on his setup; stickies from the standard sticky launcher or Scottish Resistance and grenades from the grenade launcher or Loch'n'Load have impressive blast radii.
- The Demoman actually has as MELEE WEAPON that deals splash damage (a WW2 stick grenade he is using as a club), that can kill most of the classes in a single hit and does damage to himself.
- Water Warfare's buckets and water bombs—along with its bazookas and launchers—provide a very literal example.
- Explosive weapons in XCOM games work this way, though damage from the most powerful bombs just cut off at a certain (quite large) distance rather than continuing to fade. Aside from hitting friendly units, a misplaced grenade may also destroy valuable loot or stunned prisoners or trigger Exploding Barrels.
- A necessity in [PROTOTYPE] where, short of the most powerful ground vehicle in the game, you are your most reliable source of splash damage once the game starts throwing AT YOU waves of mooks, Elite Mooks, as well as the beyond-elite mooks that will make you call out the Spiteful A.I.!
- Age Of Empires has catapults and juggernauts, while the sequel introduces mangonels, onagers, bombard cannons and cannon galleons. However said Splash Damage is very dangerous as it can damage your own soldiers en masse.
- Empire Earth employs splash damage with its siege weapons, as well as bomber planes (especially atomic bombers) and one the Pandora, an anti-infantry cyber.
- The Tribes series, being a game where players are zipping across the map on Jet Packs at 400kph, relies primarily on explosive weapons to deal damage. The famous Spinfusor - a weapon that shoots what are essentially exploding blue frisbees, is the staple bread-and-butter weapon that almost all players carry with them. Regular 'ol projectile based guns are sidelined, and used mostly just for killing flying players.
- Left 4 Dead 2 has the Grenade Launcher do this. Direct impacts will heavily damage zombies and anyone else caught in the radius will be damaged as well. This is amplified with incendiary ammo where the splash damage will set anything on fire as long as they get hit.
- Explosive ammo makes your gun have splash damage capabilities. allowing you to shred common infected as long as the splash damage area hits them. Shotguns are extremely powerful with this ammo since a clustered group of zombies can killed in a single shot. However, explosive ammo can harm you as well if you are too close and if you get too close to your explosive shots with a shotgun, you will stumble backwards.
- High-Explosive shells in Multi Track Drifting World Of Tanks do splash damage, though most tanks use ammunition with a very short radius of effect and relatively low damage. SPGs (Self-Propelled Guns aka artillery), however, can do significant damage with a near miss and even knock out crew members or damage tank modules.
- Resident Evil 4 departs from previous games by including splash damage with all explosive-based weapons. The rocket launcher can now wipe out an entire horde of enemies rather than a single target.
- If a jubeat cabinet is malfunctioning, hitting one panel may cause adjacent panels to set off as well. This is a bad thing, because this can result in nearby notes being hit too early, resulting in potential misses.
- Etrian Odyssey does this with the basic fire rune, dealing fire damage to both the selected target and any adjacent targets on the same row.
- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, using Etrian Odyssey IV's engine, also uses this for Zen's Fire Spray skill and the enemy-exclusive Fire Dance.
- FreeCiv has Nuclear (missile) units. It may be very expensive and require much research on the Tech Tree but its attack destroys all units within a 3x3 radius. It is most often used to clear out cities containing large numbers of defending units, but becomes even more legendary when they can nuke up to 4 cities with one blast, provided you detonate the nuke between the 4 cities and those cities are all located within a 3x3 area. To discourage liberal use of nukes, nuclear winter will start if enough of the world has been hit by nukes. Its only weakness is that if your enemies have SDI defense buildings or AEGIS cruisers near your intended detonation sites, in which case your nuclear unit is shot down and disappears into thin air.