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Staying Alive

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"Go ahead and shoot! I'll be back! I always come back! [sighs] But dying is such a bitch."
Chucky, Bride of Chucky

You did it. You ventured all the way into The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and slew the Big Bad. You stabbed him through the heart, decapitated him, chopped him into little bitty pieces, burned them, and scattered his charred remains all over the world. You know he's Killed Off for Real and is Deader than Dead... Seriously, No One Could Survive That!!

Then, after the ending credits, the bad guy is shown lounging on his throne, plotting his next Evil Plan...

Wait, what?!

Apparently, some villains and other characters have discovered the secret to staying alive even after they've visibly died a horrible, gruesome death. Explanation? Apparently, they do not need one. Maybe they're just too badass for death itself. Maybe they bought the advanced Contractual Immortality plan which also includes death insurance, Or maybe they're just too tough for Hell to contain, Or maybe you were only Fighting a Shadow and only succeeded in driving them back to hell for a while, or they are Only Killable at Home. Either way, they're given a full Snap Back from the dead at the start of the next episode, game, or season, and all the audience can do is accept the fact that they're back and at it again!

Particularly jarring when there's other, "less dead" characters around who stay dead, while the dude who was visibly disintegrated on-screen is back in action. Even with a perfect "4", the "deadest" you can get on the Sorting Algorithm of Deadness, the guy just won't stay dead!

Can sometimes count as a type of Negative Continuity. Could be due to As Long as There Is Evil. They Killed Kenny Again is when this happens so much that it becomes expected. See also Joker Immunity, Not Quite Dead, No One Should Survive That!, Only Mostly Dead and Why Won't You Die?

Not to be confused with the Saturday Night Fever sequel. Or what Willow did to Warren. Or that song by The Bee Gees.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Harry MacDougal of Outlaw Star is killed no less than 3 times, and he still wasn't dead at the end.
  • Himuro Gemma in Ninja Scroll learned the secret of "reincarnation" (probably a translation error and meant to be "regeneration") allowing him to put himself back together and survive things like decapitation, dismemberment, and getting split in half from the waist up.
  • Bandou from the Elfen Lied manga has come back from having one of his arms torn off while the other is broken and having his eyes gouged out by means of cybernetic implants. Later on he is torn in half (by the same character no less) yet returns in the end of the story healthy again (except he's half robot by this point). Somewhat jarring in that he was definitely dead the last time.
    • Also the Mariko clones in the manga are effectively a variation of this.
  • Due to it trying to adapt a Multiple Endings format to Anime, Higurashi: When They Cry tends to leave people seeing the second arc for the first time a similar reaction. To the good guys! There actually is an explanation, though.
  • Inuyasha: Naraku. Regardless of what the heroes do to him, Naraku will regenerate from it. It got to the point that Kagome had to wish him out of existence.
  • Bakugan Battle Brawlers has several cases of people being blasted into other dimensions, but you know they will get better and aren't really dead. However, there are two examples, one where the audience believes said person is dead and one where believing that another character was dead caused an Unstoppable Rage.
    • In the first season Hybrid Monster Rabeeder learned that her sister was "dead". This lead to a Not-So-Harmless Villain moment when she went into an Unstoppable Rage and beat the pants off of the two people who had previously been leading antagonists and their little dog, too. However, once she learned her sister had merely been beaten, not killed, by arriving in she calmed down.
    • In a more reviled instance we have Gus. He stupidly goes and attacks the BBEG all by himself and gets defeated. His Bakugan partners get totally blown away and he is blasted head-on by the Wave-Motion Gun and is sent flying into outer space. No ambiguous explosion, we see him get blown away. Fans actually felt a little remorse for the bastard. Then ten episodes later, who should not only be alive but just as much of an unlikeable bastard as before in the King's prison?
  • In Black Butler II, we have Ciel being revived in the first episode by Sebastian, and Lau and Ran-Mao are revealed to still be alive in the second.
  • Vicious in Cowboy Bebop. In his first appearance, he is less than four feet away from a grenade that, based on the size of the blast, was quite impressively powerful. Seven episodes later, he reappears, with no sign of ever having been hurt. The series has shown characters who could easily survive that, but this guy's supposed to be merely a Badass Normal.
    • Spike is a heroic inversion: survived getting thrown through a window with a chest full of bullets though he was in a full body cast at the end. Though given that it happened on Mars, where gravity is lower, the fall isn't quite as bad as it initially seems.
  • Naruto:
    • Tobi, aka Madara, has been cheating death for most of the past century. He was supposedly killed in the backstory, but somehow managed to survive. The reveal of his identity as Madara came after faking his death yet again, apparently caught in the explosion when Deidara self-destructed. Since admitting his status as leader of Akatsuki, he has only faked his death as part of battle strategies.
      • Of course Tobi is actually Obito, who also was supposedly killed in the backstory. The real Madara zigzags this trope; he plays it straight in surviving his supposed death at the hands of the First Hokage, but inverts it into Dead All Along when he dies several years before the main story.
    • A more egregious example would be Orochimaru, whose extensive forbidden jutsu research and body modification brought him to the point where his physical body is a possessed host he renews every 3 years and his spirit is a giant collective of white snakes that grants him From a Single Cell immortality. Also, any reservoir of his chakra seems to act as a Soul Jar for him, which Sasuke casually exploits when he needs Orochimaru's assistance after having personally murdered him. In his case, it's justified by the fact that obsession with obtaining immortality (so that he can live long enough to learn everything) is his entire driving motivation.
  • Shishio Makoto from Rurouni Kenshin was "erased" from Meiji history, meaning the government had Shishio shot point blank in the head and then had his body doused with oil and had it set ablaze just to make extra sure that he was dead. They should have rolled him off a cliff into the ocean after that, because he survived. Too bad it didn't work out a second time - At least not for a villain such as he.
  • Parodied in the English dub of Pokémon: The Series, when Team Rocket somehow escape from being caught in their own traps: "The writers couldn't figure it out, either!"
  • Medusa from Soul Eater gets rather decisively cut in two and then disintegrated by Stein... only for a rather suspicious-looking snake to slither out of a drain at the end of the chapter (and respective episode). Sure enough, a few chapters/episodes, she's back, and now possessing the body of a little girl.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Patrick Colasour becomes known as "Colasour the Immortal" for his habit of getting his ass handed to him by the Gundams, but always coming out not only alive but completely uninjured. The final episodes of both seasons in particular made it look like he'd been Killed Off for Real, but each time he was shown to have survived without an on-screen explanation. In the season 1 finale, his survival was understandable due to his mecha having an unusual cockpit location, but in the series finale it looked like the entire mecha was blown up.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Jean Pierre Polnareff has been in countless life-threatening situations, gone up against multiple Stand users, and faced off with not one but two Big Bads and lived to tell the tale. He even survives the death of his physical body thanks to his soul being preserved in the body of the turtle Coco Jumbo.

    Comic Books 
  • The Joker makes somehow living through usually fatal things an art form, to the point where Batman will occasionally ignore him and save someone else because he knows the Joker will get away just fine.
    • In one story, the Joker was shot with a machine gun at point blank range, while in a helicopter that then exploded over the sea. He was a little longer recovering than usual, is all.
    • This is how he got Harley Quinn to fall in love with him. He was recovering in Arkham Asylum for about two weeks, joked about how the Bats kicked his ass constantly in his usual, hilarious way, and she busted him out of prison because she felt Batman was the aggressor and Joker the victim. Which may be kinda true....
  • The Painted Doll (a Joker pastiche) from Promethea dies quite frequently by being blown up, etc. It's eventually revealed that he really did die each time; the Painted Doll is actually a series of androids. Each time one is activated, it assumes that it miraculously survived the explosion or whatever that killed the last one.
  • Franco-Belgian comic Blake and Mortimer has arch-enemy colonel Olrik who survived, among others, getting lost, and insane in the middle of Sahara, being flooded in the remains of Atlantis (long story), being locked inside a sarcophagus in a collapsing base in Antarctica (again, long story) and the collision of a submariner with a flying robot
  • Major Force in DC Comics has exploded and come back so many times, sometimes with an intervening period of having been absorbed by Captain Atom, that Green Lantern Kyle Rayner finally just cut off his head, sealed it in a force energy bubble, and knocked it into deep space, leaving the rest of the body on an asteroid. He was back a few months later, with nary a comment about the experience.
  • This was originally how Boba Fett was resurrected in the Star Wars Expanded Universe comic Dark Empire; the story of how he escaped the Sarlacc was written later. At the time Fett just made an offhand comment about the Sarlacc finding him somewhat indigestible. Granted, Boba Fett isn't the most talkative guy, so it's no surprise he didn't give any more explanation.
  • Black Mask. During a confrontation with Catwoman, he was thrown off a building a presumed dead. He later showed up during the War Games arc none the worse for the wear. Now, he's hardly the only villain to survive a fall, but this wasn't a case where he was tossed into water or thrown off a cliff. He fell off a building. You would think they could've just checked the street to see if he was alive, but apparently not.
  • Although The Punisher has a history of letting archenemy Jigsaw go, during a brief revival following the cancellation of his three main series, he went after him with clear intent to kill and shot him through the head. Years later, Jigsaw came back, not in the pages of the Punisher but in Daredevil's comic instead. It seems like the case where the writers simply forgot who was supposed to be dead.
  • The poster child for the Slouch of Villainy, Loki was extremely hard to keep killed even before he convinced Hela to take his name out of the Book of the Dead. He once had his head cut clean off — which lasted only until his killer left the room before he calmly got up and affixed it back on.
  • Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges always return because they're not "alive" to begin with. Imprisoned in glasseen crystals, blown into space, thrown into hell, locked up in Judge Anderson's head, teleported to the void between dimensions, they will find a way.
    Judge Death: You think you can beat us?! You know we'll be back. We always come back!

    Films — Animation 
  • In Rio 2, the trope is invoked/discussed as Card-Carrying Villain Nigel (who had already survived a painful collision with a plane's engine in the original movie) does a dramatic reading of "I Will Survive" as an audition. Although he avoids admitting it to those who may recognize him, the event he refers to is his going through a plane propeller in the first movie, coming out badly mangled and flightless but still alive.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. He was stabbed through the heart by a spaceship, yet his hand and evil laughter at the end of the film clearly indicate that death was a mere inconvenience.
  • Baron Samedi, one of The Dragons to Dr. Kananga, in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. He was apparently killed by poisonous snakebites, then re-appeared at the end of the movie sitting on the front of a moving train (to be fair, he was very likely a god.)
  • Dr. Fu Manchu repeatedly hung a lampshade on it, ending movies with "The world will hear from me again".
    • This and many other aspects of him were inspirations for Ming the Merciless, mentioned above.
  • After the credits roll at the end of the Street Fighter movie, Bison is revived through solar power, paving the way for the So Bad, It's Good cartoon series.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides makes no attempt to explain how Blackbeard survived his historical death.
  • Catwoman lives at the end of Batman Returns.
  • The Universal Horror version of Dracula. All the Universal pictures were connected by a loose continuity, and while other recurring monsters would have their reappearances explained by having Nigh-Invulnerability (Frankenstein's Monster) or by simply having survived their latest Disney Villain Death (Lawrence Talbot), Dracula would just pop back up after having been Stripped to the Bone or burned to ash by sunlight in the previous picture without so much as a Hand Wave.
  • Loki, following a drawn-out Disney Death, at the end of Thor: The Dark World. Before that, he survived a suicide attempt by letting himself fall into a black hole in Thor, something that judging by the other characters' reactions clearly was considered impossible to survive.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger, full stop. They've come up with a massive amount of ways to kill him off, like setting him on fire (again), digging up and consecrating his bones, freeing all the captured souls from his body, sticking an explosive up his stomach, wiping out every memory of him... it doesn't matter, he always finds a way to resurrect himself.
  • Much like fellow Slasher villain Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th is always resurrected one way or another, no matter what happens to him. He started out as Made of Iron, surviving situations that would usually be fatal, until finally being killed by having his own machete lodged into his head. However, Jason proved too popular to kill off permanently, so after skipping the fifth film, he was revived via a lightning strike. Later films had him melted away by toxic waste, blow to bits by the FBI and literally dragged into Hell, but he always still managed to come back.

  • Dracula, in books, movies, comics, and Castlevania.
  • In Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Crowley says that dying is not a problem because (being a demon) he can always get a new body from his superiors, however, he would prefer not to have to do so, since they're always anxious to know what you did with the last one.
  • Elsewhere in Pratchett's works, Discworld's Dorfl and Angua, although non-villains, have both revived after suffering violent deaths: Dorfl, because freed golems turned out to be hardier than owned ones; Angua, because it's hard to keep a good werewolf cop down. Note that Angua's "death" seemed real enough at the time, as Pratchett hadn't yet established what was necessary to permanently kill the werewolves of Discworld.
  • At the end of the Dresden Files novel "Changes", we see Harry shot and fell into a frozen lake, apparently dead. In a later novel, we find that person has been kept alive via magical life support due to a Deal with the Devil.
  • While H. P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones are immortal and unkillable, Nyarlathotep, the herald of the Outer Gods can be "killed" as he manifests using various avatars that, while generally very durable, are still made from ordinary matter and thus destructable. Of course all it does is cause him mild inconvenience as destruction of the avatar causes no actual harm to the god itself. He might be out of the picture for a while, but eventually he'll manifest again in one of his forms.
  • In Cryptonomicon, Enoch Root very clearly dies, then shows up later with no explanation whatsoever. Apparently it's explained in The Baroque Cycle.
    • I always figured it was an elaborate hoax perpetrated with the doctor's assistance.
    • "Explained" is rather overstating it. Enoch Root is around several centuries before Cryptonomicon, in the 17th century that the Baroque Cycle is set in. Assuming it's the same character - and indications are that it is - then yes, Enoch Root is immortal or at least ageless. But we're never really told why, unless it's supposed to be some sort of alchemy.
      • At the end of The System of the World, he reveals that he knows the secret of the Philosopher's Stone. It's pretty clear this is what he's been using to keep himself alive (and occasionally revive other characters as well).
  • Aaron in The Knife of Never Letting Go - he gets attacked by a crocodile, half his face ripped off, left unconscious and face-down in a river and his nose ripped off by a dog while travelling for days on end seemingly without rest before being beaten to a bloody pulp in a brawl that includes him getting smacked repeatedly in the head with rather large rocks before finally being stabbed in the neck. Even then he still manages to stagger to his full height and try to say something before he finally tumbles into a waterfall.
  • In Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus, Gaea grants her minions this.
  • In Stephen King's The Stand, Flagg respawns somewhere else in the end, after ending up in the middle of a nuclear explosion and vanishing.
  • In Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance, Szeth-son-son-Vallano. This was later rewritten in the paperback edition.
  • De Griezelbus: No matter how many times he's killed, Onnoval keeps coming back as a different type of monster. Apparently, this is part of the deal he made with Ferluci.
  • Triamond from The Faerie Queene is able to survive death twice because his brothers souls merged with his upon their deaths. When a killing blow hits him, one of brother’s souls dies instead, to Campbell’s terror.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5 Mr. Morden is a few hundred feet from two 500-megaton nuclear explosions that destroy an entire city. He shows up a few weeks later with nothing but some severe burns that heal within a month or so. He does not survive having his head cut off and stuck on a pike, however. A book involving the techno mages explains exactly HOW he survived. And note that the burns included minor insanity as a side effect, and he was PEELING OFF HIS OWN FLESH!
  • Played for laughs in the final episode of the second Black Adder series. It appears that Edmund Blackadder has saved England and killed the master of disguise who was attempting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. But, in a scene after the ending credits said villain is standing over the bodies of the Queen, Edmund, and many of the others, disguised as Queen Elizabeth I. There's no explanation as to how this may have happened.
  • Doctor Who: The Master has been killed off Deader than Dead and revived four times in the TV canon, through being caught on fire, being eaten by the Eye of Harmony, deliberately refusing to regenerate after getting shot by his wife, and being shot with an Anti-Regeneration blast before being left on a spaceship deck destroyed by an explosion minutes later. Let's not even begin to count the number of times he has faked his death or survived even when No One Could Survive That!
    • Elevated to a gag as of Moffat's tenure. The Master several times reappears after being killed without any attempt at an explanation, and points out that no one should be surprised.
    • Lampshaded by the Rani after his volcano death. His response? "Everyone knows I'm indestructible."
      • Bonus points for that being the only explanation for his survival.
      • She later casually lampshades this succinctly for Clara in her Missy incarnation.
        Missy: Death is for other people, dear.
    • Captain Jack Harkness from the new series (and Torchwood) also just doesn't stay dead. But then, he can't.
  • In the Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible episode "Frenzy of Tongs", there's a lampshaded bad Pun variant of this where, having killed Hang Man Chan, The Sinister Bony-Fingered Menace From The East, Hang Man Chan, Sinister - yada yada yada - shows up again. Nathan Blaze kills him - again - and remarks, "That's the trouble with these Chinese. You kill them, and then twenty minutes later, you have to kill them again."
  • Scorpius in Farscape lives and breathes this trope, having been aboard ships that blew up on a couple different occasions and later being shot and buried. Appropriately lampshaded by John:
    John: You're dead! I saw you! You're buried! You're dead!
    Crichton: (to Scorpius) Kryptonite, silver bullet, Buffy. What's it gonna take to keep you in the grave?
    D'Argo: Perhaps we should just take your head off. Worked for Durka.
    • Speaking of, Durka. First (evidently) burned to death aboard the Zelbinion, then later aboard a Nebari ship that was blown up, before finally getting decapitated and his head stuck on pike (by Rygel).
  • The Forever Knight pilot sees LaCroix staked through the heart with a stake that was on fire in a building that followed suit, but by the start of the second season, he's back as if nothing happened.
  • Sylar at the end of the first season of Heroes pretty much defines this trope. Peter bludgeons him with a metal bar and super-strength for a while, and then Hiro impales him with a sword. We're then treated to a close-up of his eyes showing all the people he's killed in a very final-seeming death scene. Then, come season 2, he's back alive again.
    • Honestly, Sylar has pulled this one so many times over the course of the show he's pretty much up there with Jason Voorhees at this point.
  • In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Trakeena is last seen being apparently vaporized by a pointblank blast of Leo's Battlizer (although her laughing face can be seen rising from the explosion). Then the next season, she turns up alive and well, though she does at least get some scars. She has another, shorter version in the climax when she seemingly explodes after being hit by the combined finishers of the Omega Megazord and a Lights of Orian powered Galaxy Megazord and much to the Ranger's surprise, she's not dead yet. She does stay dead after they explode her one more time, though.
    • Power Rangers does this on occasion, often due to the PR story disagreeing with the imported Super Sentai footage. Most recently (as of 2012) it was Power Rangers RPM: Kilobyte goes through his counterpart's final battle footage, getting exploded quite utterly by no less than the combined might of five Megazords. He later staggers back into the villains' lair a little singed.
  • True to his theme song Jim Moriarty shot himself in the head at the end of the "The Reichenbach Fall" episode of Sherlock but reappears (on every screen in the UK) at the end of the third series. Did you miss me?
  • In Stargate Universe, First Lieutenant Mathew Scott has almost died in several episodes, only to survive by sheer luck.
  • The Borg queen is killed several times and always comes back. Although she was not shown in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the movie Star Trek: First Contact mentions the queen was on the cube destroyed in episode "Best of Both Worlds." She's killed again, this time on screen, at the end of the movie. Star Trek: Voyager manages to kill her at least twice on and off screen over the series' run. When pressed for an explanation, all she said was:
    Borg Queen: You think in such three dimensional terms.
    • Popular theory is that as long as there is a Borg Collective, there will be a queen. Whether or not it's the same queen, or a different one with the memories of the old one is debatable.

  • "Follow You Home" by Nickelback Well you can dig me up a grave / And try and stick me in the ground / Well you can tie me to the bed / And try and beat me half to death / But you can never keep me down... You can shoot me in the leg / Just to try to make me beg / And you can leave me there for days / And I'll stay alive / Just to follow you home
  • "I Can't Decide" by Scissor Sisters Oh I could throw you in the lake / Or feed you poisoned birthday cake / I wont deny I'm gonna miss you when you're gone / Oh I could bury you alive / But you might crawl out with a knife / And kill me when I'm sleeping /That's why / I can't decide / Whether you should live or die...

    Myths & Religion 
  • Jesus. First they beat him nearly to death, then they nailed him to a cross and left him till he was completely dead, then they put a spear through his heart to make sure, then they buried him and sealed the grave with a boulder and a squadron of Roman soldiers. Three days later: "Hi, guys! Got any fish? Oh yeah, I can walk through walls now, too."
  • A quick visit to The Other Wiki offers plenty of other religious examples to peruse; Baal, Adonis, Attis, Orpheus, Dionysus, Odin, Inanna AKA Ishtar, and Persephone, among others.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Arkham Horror, while the Ancient One can be stopped from awakening or put back to sleep in the Last Battle (except Azathoth), they can never be defeated once and for all, as they will stir and try to awaken again a few thousand years later.
  • Justified in Dungeons & Dragons games thanks to the existence in every edition of spells with the power to restore life to the dead, as well as the option to become a lich. This can make the most powerful characters in a game difficult to kill off on any kind of permanent basis, although you can usually render a character beyond the reach of any spell you could cast yourself.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Though many individual creatures have abilities along these lines, the Undying mechanic from Innistrad exemplifies it best (with its predecessor, Persist, coming in a close second). Undying combines this with Came Back Strong (the creature comes back with a small stat boost), while Persist is basically being weakened but too stubborn to die.

  • Tuyet from BIONICLE has a chronic case of this, to the point where it's almost a non-comic version of They Killed Kenny Again. At first it was assumed that she died during the Great Cataclysm, then later her corpse was found and reanimated into a zombie, which was subsequently destroyed. Then an alternate universe version of her appeared, and was also disposed of. It was then revealed that the original Tuyet was actually imprisoned in an alternate dimension, and was replaced by a duplicate that died. She escaped back to her home universe by faking her own death. Lampshaded in the title of the short story "The Many Deaths of Toa Tuyet."
    • Big Bad Makuta Teridax also. First caught in a barrage of elemental forces, he reappears two story arcs later at near full strength, only for his body to be crushed under a gate. His essence shows up as Phlebotinum in a later arc but the vat containing it gets destroyed. Afterwards, he possesses a robot which gets trashed by an army of deep sea creatures. Makuta then goes missing until Big Good Mata Nui is reawakened, seemingly dooming evildoers like him, except it turns out Makuta put his mind into Mata Nui's body, becoming a Physical God. What finally took him down was his island-sized head getting smashed into a planet chunk. However, his benevolent counterpart who came from an Alternate Universe is still alive.

    Video Games 
  • William Afton in the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise is famous both in and out of universe for this. To boot, he has survived being locked in a metal death trap for years on end, being trapped in a burning amusement park, being trapped in a burning pizzeria, and being trapped in a burning mall. Each time he withers away more and more, but his spirit remains as fiery and ferocious as ever with little canon explanation other than being a supernaturally rage powered Determinator. He lampshades this with what would become his eventual catchphrase:
    I always come back.
  • Calo Nord in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic somehow survives being attacked by your party, hit by a building-destroying laser, and being crushed by falling rubble. He then escapes, despite the fact that the planet he is on is being bombarded. His explanation later on? "I'm hard to kill".
  • Bowser in the first Super Mario Bros. game. Despite being dropped into lava eight times (although the first seven times it's really just his minions in disguise), he's back at trying to kidnap the princess in Super Mario Bros. 3.
  • Ganondorf/Ganon from The Legend of Zelda has died in a variety of ways from simply exploding to being stabbed through the head, but somehow never manages to stay dead thanks to being effectively immortal. It seems that the The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker timeline is the only one of the three where he's actually dead for good.
    • Zant in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess can do this, due to being Ganondorf's Soul Jar. After being defeated by Link, he collapses at his feet, only to then reappear on his throne to boast about how his Ganondorf will resurrect him endlessly. Then Midna uses the power of the Fused Shadow to impale and explode him, and yet he's still alive later so we can see him die a final death when Ganondorf is defeated.
    • Vaati, who (chronologically) first appeared in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, is also shown to be able to do this, most likely through the power of the hat he stole. In The Minish Cap, the endgame implies that he's either dead or eternally sealed... and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords proves he was alive, only sealed — temporarily, though; he broke out of the Four Sword, hence the game's name. And then, after the rest of the plot, you defeat him again, only for him to, unsurprisingly, return in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. This time, he is confirmed to be dead in the Child Timeline through Hyrule Historia, but nothing is said of the other two.
  • The Black Baron of MadWorld simply refuses to die. He has survived being crushed by a press, decapitated and having his head as a golf ball, being shredded by a giant fan, being slugged through a giant target and being turned into a firework and exploding among other things.
  • Dr. Wily from the Mega Man (Classic) series always seems to return to menace the eponymous character with his army of robot masters, even after getting a rock dropped on him at the end of Mega Man 3. The next game in the series attempts to subvert this by introducing a new villain, but guess who's The Man Behind the Man?
    • Not to mention, taking a series of direct buster shots to the face during his boss fights, since not all the machines covers his face.
  • Similarly, Sigma from the Mega Man X games always seems to return in the next game no matter how many times he's destroyed, even though the game explains this by making him The Virus. However, he does die a final death in Mega Man X8, if only because his viral nature is less effective in space.
  • Metroid:
    • In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, after defeating Dark Samus, she is shown simply re-appearing in outer space after the credits. She actually regenerated from being destroyed twice during the game, with your scan visor explaining that only "total atomic disruption" can kill her completely. Apparently, this is what happens in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption...
    • There's also Ridley, the Dragon of all dragons who has been killed no less than five times, killed twice in the same game (Metroid Prime 3), and still hangs around to harass Samus another day? Hell, it even happens in Super Smash Bros. Brawl!
    • The one in Metroid: Other M, at least is actually a clone. Canonically he died in Super Metroid, the two subsequent games either have a clone of him or a rejuvenated clone. That copy is killed in Metroid Fusion, and surprisingly he completely fails to turn up in Metroid Dread.
  • It's very easy for this to happen in the universe of the Resident Evil games, which is filled to the brim with Nigh Invulnerable and/or regenerating monsters created by various viruses and parasites. Not to mention it's a series centered around zombies, which are, you know, reanimated corpses. Though surprisingly enough, the series doesn't have very many recurring antagonists. Yep, James Marcus, William Birkin, the Nemesis, Alexia Ashford, Osmund Saddler, they've all been Killed Off for Real by the end of their respective games. Meanwhile the most prominent villain, Wesker, came back from the dead exactly once in a plot twist and then just didn't die after that.That is, until his grand finale Resident Evil 5.
    Individually within each game, however, this trope is very much played straight where certain Recurring Boss enemies keep coming back despite being shot, stabbed, exploded, immersed in fire, shot with a rail gun, etc. etc.. They usually end up being killed off for good by some giant explosion at the end of the game, i.e. a self-destructing lab or a military air strike leveling the entire city.
    • Whether or not Wesker will stay dead remains to be seen. Capcom has in fact stated he's gone for good, but being the fan favorite that he is, he might be brought back just from Capcom caving in to the fans.
    • Characters like James Marcus and Jack Krauser are interesting cases where they aren't recurring villains within the series, but the plots of their respective games paint them as Back from the Dead or Faking the Dead. On top of that, Krauser's "return" was retroactively given more context in a canonical spin-off, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, which is chronologically set before his debut game, Resident Evil 4.
  • Kane from Command & Conquer, who survives bear-hugging an orbital Death Ray strike into his own base with nothing worse than some nasty facial scarring, and in the sequel, gets impaled through the heart. He gets better in time for the third game, where he only proves that he is Ninja by somehow escaping from a titanic siege right before the previously mentioned orbital death ray sets off an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
    • To his credit, he is an extremely long-lived space alien with access to reverse engineered cloning technology. He's also the actual Cain from The Bible; his brother Abel's sarcophagus is even in the safe-keeping of the Brotherhood of Nod.
    • Not just Kane, but Nod as a whole. Win a war against them, bribe officers within their ranks to factionalize them, kill their leader (multiple times), they'll come back, bigger and stronger.
  • Wild Dog from the Time Crisis series takes this to an extreme. (How extreme? In addition to being shot over a thousand times by the player(s) he blows himself up when defeated, only to be back for the sequel with a new upgrade for his Arm Cannon. He then repeats this in every game he appears in!)
    • Note that he appears in EVERY Time Crisis game apart from one spin-off.
  • Wild Dog's an easy choice, but let's not forget Kantaris, appearing in the PSX Time Crisis special mission. This mission has three possible results, each culminating in her dying in spectacular fashion. In Project Titan (a PSX-only exclusive), she appears completly unharmed, and NO explanation for her survival is ever offered. (There is no possibility that this takes place before the events of TC1, as Wild Dog has his prosthetic arm at this point.) Even weirder, she only appears in a couple of cutscenes and never even confronts Richard this time. Namco never used her again.
  • Ghost/Zombie/Demon pirate LeChuck from Monkey Island is killed four times throughout the games, only to return later. Somewhat justified, with him being undead and all.
  • In NetHack:
    • When in Explore mode or Wizard mode, one is asked upon death "Die? [yn] (n)." Should one refuse, the game simply replies "OK, so you didn't die," and continues as if that were truly the case—although if you're far enough out of your depth, this won't help, since it's quite possible to be in a situation where you'll repeatedly die one or more times per turn and it's impossible to escape.
    • And there is a certain overly insistent wizard who wants his stolen artifact back from you, and then some more. The Wizard of Yendor, of course, and he returns stronger every time you kill him.
    • The three horsemen: kill them, petrify them, disintegrate them, tin them, box them, drown them, etc. and they'll still return in short measure! Okay, so they'll stay dead if you kill them and then fill every single panel on the floor with a monster before they revive. Of course, if you can pull that off, it'd be simpler just to ignore them.
  • The Warcraft series suffers from a severe case of this:
    • Deathwing: Killed by the Alliance in WC2, made a major plot character and survival hinted in tie-ins to WC3, brought back to life in tie-ins to WoW. Now, the WC2 campaigns contradict each other so it's unclear which elements are actually Canon, and in one background novel it's mentioned that he was wounded in the battle and pretended to fall off a cliff into the sea. Ultimately, World of Warcraft is officially the canon that supersedes all others, and Deathwing is finally Killed Off for Real in Catacylsmutterly vaporized in a manner that is specifically meant to prevent it from ever being undone, even with time travel.
    • The vampiric demonic Nathrezim in particular made it into an art form. In WC3 Balnazzar was killed by his brother Varimathras and Mal'Ganis was killed by Arthas. Both were brought back in WoW. Varimathras turned out to be The Mole and was killed as well. There's almost no evidence that a Dreadlord can ever permanently die save Tichondrius—who was killed with a demonic Artifact of Doom.
    • Muradin Bronzebeard: Allowed to die by Arthas in exchange for vengeance against Mal'Ganis in WC3, brought back in WoW. We only saw Muradin being hit by the shard of ice; we didn't know for sure that it had killed him. Of course Arthas SAID that Muradin was dead, but it appears that he simply didn't bother to check.
    • Baelgun: Killed by Arthas in WC3, brought back in WoW. The ironic thing is that the first time we met him, he was pissed off as hell at Arthas for killing Muradin, and Arthas was wondering,
      "Doesn't anyone stay dead anymore?"
      —-Arthas, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
    • Dar'Khan Drathir: Incinerated into ash in tie-ins to WoW, brought back in the first Expansion Pack.
    • Medivh, killed by his best friends after it turned out he was possessed by a demon in The Last Guardian, returns in WC3 to warn the humans of the impending return of the Burning Legion. How exactly he came back to life is never even touched upon. His mother (The second most powerful wielder of arcane magic after Medivh himself) brought him back, sans Demonic Possession.
    • the Headless Horseman is a Justified example: he's a restless spirit that only appears during Hallow's End (Halloween). He sets fires in several villages and faces the players when they put them out. When killed, he reveals that he cannot be killed unless his head is found.
    • Kael'thas reappeared in Magisters Terrace after his life was saved by a demonic crystal in Tempest Keep, looking quite unhealthy as a result, and even references his past defeat. The Memetic Mutation that resulted from this led to the redirect for this page. Memetic quote:
      "Don't look so smug! I know what you're thinking, but Tempest Keep was merely a set back."
    • Anub'Arak reappears for no apparent reason as the final boss of the Trial of the Crusader. This was mostly to fix having the supreme leader of an entire race of undead Demonic Spiders be an extremely Anti-Climatic Boss Fight. Justified by him being undead and so being able to be re-resurrected. Arthas later did it again with the Blood Princes—all three of them were already killed by players once and were brought back for a fight in Icecrown Citadel. One of them even referenced his previous defeat exactly like Kael'thas above:
      "Naxxanar was merely a setback!"
    • Very last in 'Wrath of The Lich King, Bolvar Fordragon is confirmed to be Not Quite Dead, but merely captured and tortured by the Lich King, though he just simply proved Too Kinky to Torture even for the Lich King. The last time we see him is when he prevented Tirion Fordring from making a Heroic Sacrifice, and let himself be the one that take the horrible duty as the Lich King's eternal jailor.
    • Captain Eudora is an incredibly minor pirate captain in Freehold the player fights as part of a boss battle and visibly defeats. She returns in Hearthstone and is implied to have survived the battle with only the loss of her crew.
  • Sarevok, the Big Bad from the first Baldur's Gate, returns from the afterlife to plague you twice later in the series (once in the end stage of Baldur's Gate II and then again in Throne of Bhaal where he is returned to life) — although, to be fair, there are special circumstances (for a start, you're in the demiplane where dead bhaalspawn go on both occasions.)
  • The Battle Butler, Sakuya Izayoi, of Embodiment of Scarlet Devil comes back in the next game as a potential Player Character. However, this might seem a bit jarring when you have this little exchange with Remilia after you've defeated Sakuya for the last time:
    Remilia: You. You're the murderer.
    Reimu: Don't worry. One doesn't make me a mass murderer.
    Remilia: So?
  • In Shogo, Sanjuro faces a recurring opponent named Samantha who barely puts up a fight yet somehow keeps attempting to kill Sanjuro. He eventually starts to wonder how she keeps coming back despite her mech getting blown up every time.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Liquid Snake survives (possibly as a result of Gameplay and Story Segregation) the crashing of his Hind D helicopter, getting struck repeatedly by Stinger missiles when Metal Gear Rex's cockpit is exposed, falling from a tall height after a fist fight with Solid Snake, and getting shot repeatedly with a machine gun while riding a jeep. In the end, he dies from a cardiac arrest after being exposed to the Fox-Die virus, but survives to appear in Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4. Sort of...
  • In F.E.A.R. Extraction Point, Paxton Fettel returns from the dead without any explanation offered as to how. Fettel simply comments, "I know it doesn't make much sense. Nothing does anymore."
    • Paxton IS Alma's kid. Given Alma's own state, his being her son is all the explanation that's needed.
  • In No One Lives Forever, Volkov ends up on the losing end of two boss battles and is still alive enough to quit.
  • Castlevania: Dracula is pretty well-known for this in most media, anyway, that's true, but the Castlevania incarnation is the KING of this trope. The series is over 20 games strong, Dracula is in all but three of them (at least in his Lord of Darkness vampire form) and in each of them he dies—vaporized disintegrated the end—and is resurrected in pretty much every sequel, sometimes after a..."surprising" revelation.
    • The castle itself could be a contender. It crumbles to dust after every one of Dracula's defeats. Its sudden reappearance in Vallachia is a sign of fit hitting the shan.
  • Allen O'Neil in Metal Slug is nicknamed "The Immortal" by his subordinates, and for good reason. No matter how hard you kill him, he's back for more in the next game (and in Metal Slug 3, he's back at full strength later in the very same level). Hell, after being "killed" by you in Metal Slug 2 he's eaten by a killer whale which then spits out his bones.
  • In Solatorobo, after the credits roll for the first time, Lares' eyes begin to glow under the water. And, of course, it comes back for the second half of the game.
  • GLaDOS in Portal gives us a nice little song about this. Guess what? Even though several rockets were fired, her cores were destroyed, and her body was torn from its wiring and dumped into a parking lot, she's still alive!
  • Gig and Endorph in Soul Nomad & the World Eaters are both revealed to be alive in The Stinger of the game (although you'll only learn the latter in one of the Multiple Endings).
  • Dr. Eggman from the Sonic the Hedgehog series survives just about everything if he can't just flee from danger. Even if stuck in his collapsing doomsday machines or sent to fall to his death whenever Sonic destroys his escape pods, he'll always return for the next game.
  • In Blazblue Central Fiction, Terumi is back fresh from being erased from existence by Hakumen. The given explanation is that he's still able to "observe" himself, but he only has one week to fuse with Hazama again or he will be erased from existence for good this time, no come back. Unfortunately for Terumi, Trinity's spells prevent him from fusing with Hazama, and Hazama himself has no intention of being his puppet again. But, cunning Magnificent Bastard he is, Terumi has another plan: the Susanoo Unit.
  • GoldenEye (1997): In one of the bonus levels, Bond has to dispatch Baron Samedi in an Egyptian temple after receiving an invitation. First, killing him requires retrieving the Golden Gun from another room, a One-Hit Kill weapon that kills any normal enemy instantly. But every time Bond shoots him, he lets out an Evil Laugh and reappears somewhere else in the level. After killing him three times and 'completing' the mission, Samedi *again* shows up.note 
  • Dragon Quest IV: It's never explained how Amon is still alive in the bonus chapter when you clearly killed him earlier.
  • The King of Fighters: Rugal Bernstein got beaten to a pulp by Kyo Kusanagi, Benimaru Nikaido and Goro Daimon combined, and then tried blowing up his own Airborne Aircraft Carrier to kill them all. He lived. Then one year later he resurfaced harnessing the power of a malevolent god, got beaten again by the exact same men, and then got disintegrated via Superpower Meltdown. 2002 and XIII implied that he survived that and ended up lording over NESTS for a while, although XV clarifies that he only truly came back after Verse's defeat in XIV. There's a reason his hobby in his official bio is listed as "resurrection".
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The Ninja questline has Karasu Redbeak, who explodes after the boss fight against him, only to show up later after the heroes defeat the Big Bad to return the last piece of the armour set he stole. The same character pulls this again in a later questline, being apparently killed by the new villain he was serving, only to show up to help in the final battle against said villain.

    Web Animation 
  • Inverted in Teen Girl Squad, when Tompkins famously "died somehow". Torso took silver Teen Girl Squad plays this trope straight all the time thanks to Negative Continuity. Indeed, the mentioned episode takes place mostly in a flashback, in which many of the eponymous girl squad are killed in their infanthood before being shown alive in their teens reflecting on their memories (before being killed again).
  • Happy Tree Friends: The entire point of the series is Everyone Dies, yet they still have a large group of recurring characters. This one is definitely Negative Continuity at work.

  • Narbonic:
    • Doctor Helen Alpha Narbon. When her daughter/clone Beta insists that she saw her being burned at the stake and chopped into pieces by angry villagers, Alpha simply replies, "There's always an out, Beta. Remember that."
    • Let's also not forget Dave. Really, why did he even decide to stay there after everything they did to him. As he says in the "Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit" arc, while standing on the moon and looking at the earth... "You know, sometimes I wonder why I stick with Narbonics Labs. Then I get a moment like this, and I feel like there's no way I could work anywhere else. Of course, to get up here, I had to appropriate the body of an evil genius with skinny girl arms who'll probably end up killing me for this." As he trudges to the moon base, he thinks to himself, "Casual dress, smoking permitted... Casual dress, smoking permitted..."
  • Oasis and Kusari from Sluggy Freelance. Oasis has died multiple times, including being blown up twice and taking a bullet to the head, while Kusari's one (on-screen) death was a decapitation. They're both wetware remote controlled avatars for orbital satellites that house their minds. Said avatars are cloned, and there full facilities with dozens of backups of them. It's mentioned that destroying the satellite or the facility would put them down for good.
  • Crushed from Crushed: Doomed Kitty Adventures, a project from Supermegatopia. A parody of RPG and Fantasy Comics, Crushed dies a lot, but that's just fine, because main characters are always reincarnated at the Temple of Infinite Lives the second they kick the bucket. She doesn't even lose her memory or anything, although all her gear (including her clothes) are left behind — along with her previous body. The Temple eventually gets tired of her constant reincarnations, so they assign a huge priestess to tag along with Crushed and keep her alive. By the time the head priest has turned around, the party — priestess included — is back in the reincarnation circle.
  • Casey and Andy are mad scientist roommates who occasionally die. Throughout the strip's run they constantly got killed, either by enemies or by their own malfunctioning mad science, and always immediately came back. The reason for this was intentionally never explained anywhere, not even by Word Of God.
  • Parodied in Sam & Fuzzy: [1]

    Web Original 
  • Gaia Online has had it's fair share of No One Could Survive That! moments. (An infamous one involved a character spontaneously turning into a parasite and merging with his son while falling from a skyscraper.) But one of the most infamous Staying Alive moment occurred when the Rich Bitch Von Helson Sisters died after having the previously mentioned tower dropped on their heads. A two years later, Gaians log in to discover an email from the mostly unharmed sisters. Granted, the girls turned out to be Vampires, mainly because everyone wanted them to be. Still, it was an effing skyscraper!
  • Kagetora in Darwin's Soldiers blows himself and Murakami up in front of the entire cast, and subsequently appears with no explanation for the final battle. Apparently he got better.
  • Phelous:
    • Phelous dies at the end of practically every review and reappears unharmed for the next. While explanations for this have been given, the reason changes randomly and often makes little sense to start with (frequently based on some plot element of the movie he's just reviewed).
    • This becomes a Running Gag in To Boldly Flee, where his Red Shirt causes him to have many swift and improbable deaths, even when there's nothing around to kill him. He just shows up alive shortly after, with the Hand Wave that Red Shirts always are in infinite supply in movies.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: Virtually every cartoon involving a predator – Sylvester the Cat, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote and other villains – going after their foe (i.e., Bugs Bunny, Tweety, the Road Runner and so on) – involves the bad guys getting crushed to death by huge rocks, blown up, mauled by vicious bulldogs and other wild animals, falling off cliffs, shot and much more. The ending gag of these cartoons almost always involved the most spectacular instance of being on the wrong end of their trick ... and more often than not, the bad guy would die. Then, a month or so later (or not more than 20 minutes later, if said cartoon aired on Saturday morning), the bad guy would be back at full health, trying again to capture and/or defeat his foe.
  • Demona and Macbeth from Gargoyles are both Cursed with Awesome such that they can only die if one kills the other, and when that happens, they will both die. In other words, they can survive falling off of a skyscraper, being stabbed or shot in the heart, etc., as long as one is not doing it to the other.
  • Kenny from South Park. In early seasons, he gets killed gruesomely in nearly every episode, but is back to life at the beginning of the next episode for no apparent reason. He eventually stayed dead for a whole season, but in the season finale was revealed to have been "standing right over there".
    • Amusingly, this gets a Lampshade Hanging in an early two-part episode. Kenny is killed in the first episode, then appears with a suitable teleport sound effect at the beginning of the next, to which one of his companions looks over and nonchalantly says "Oh, hey Kenny." Of course, he dies again later in the episode in a form of Heroic Sacrifice... And is back the next episode.
    • And another Lampshade Hanging when his parents give birth to another kid. Which they name Kenny. And remark that this is like the fiftieth time that's happened.
      • "Fifty-two".
    • The Coon and Friends trilogy does reveal that Kenny's ability to not stay dead is connected somehow to Cthulhu.
    • Another example is Saddam Hussein, who somehow managed to resurrect himself between "Ladder to Heaven" and "Krazy Kripples."
  • Everyone in Drawn Together. Since they're 'toons, characters can suffer bloody, gory deaths, but be back by the next scene and act like nothing happened.
    • Of course, Xandir, being a video game character, has multiple lives anyway. (Particularly troublesome when he was trying to commit suicide...)
  • Vilgax in Ben 10 has survived:
    • Being strapped to a nuke that was fired into his own ship.
    • Being caught in his ship's self-destruct.
    • Hurled into space (twice!).
    • Incinerated by a gas explosion.
    • Trapped in One-Winged Angel form in his sinking ship exploding underwater.
    • And let's not even talk about Ghostfreak, who despite being burnt to ashes twice, found a way to come back no less than three times. Though since it's part of his abilities (his conciousness can survive even in the slightest sample of his DNA), it's kinda justified.
  • Par for the course in Trollz. No matter how many times the girls sealed Simon and Snarf away, even when they were sure they wouldn't come back, they were back with little explanation soon after. Except when they ended the show.
  • In Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, Kale returns after being magically dematerialized and vanishing into Wild Magic - where she is then also magically restored, accidental courtesy of Morgana in her attempt to retrieve the Dark Stone. When told by Gwen she was thought "to be lost in Wild Magic", Kale answers "Well, I'm back!"
  • In all but the first season of Code Lyoko, Franz Hopper would be found alive at some point in the season and then killed in the finale, without fail.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Merely A Setback


Nigel The Cockatoo

In Rio 2, the trope is invoked and discussed as Nigel (who had already survived a painful collision with a plane's engine in the original movie) does a dramatic reading of I Will Survive as an audition.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / StayingAlive

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