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Sudden Death

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A rule in sports, Game Shows and Video Games where an end-of-match tie is broken by playing a special round. As Sudden Death is intended to bring a swift conclusion to the contest, the victory conditions for this final round are usually highly abbreviated - often, the first score wins the match.

In video games in particular, a common way to achieve this is to put all participants into critical health so that everyone kills and gets killed by each other at the poke of a finger.


For an actual sudden death of a character, see Dropped a Bridge on Him or Surprisingly Sudden Death. For Jean-Claude Van Damme film, see Sudden Death.


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     Anime and Manga 

  • Used in Gundam Build Fighters Try, when the final round of the national tournament, between Team Try Fighters and Team Celestial Sphere, goes over the time limit. Each team then takes a three-minute break to select a representative (Sekai and Wilfred, respectively) and perform quick patchwork repairs on their Gunpla before the two representatives duke it out in a one-on-one duel. Sekai wins.


  • Happens as the result of a "double fault" in the climax of DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story.
  • Sudden Death is also the name of a Jean-Claude Van Damme film, essentially Die Hard at a hockey playoff. Incidentally, the game all the fighting takes place around goes into overtime, which becomes plot-relevant as the bomb that was set to blow up the entire arena at the end of the game is allowed to tick onward since the Big Bad decides to let the game finish beyond the regular sixty minutes, which gives McCord more time to stop the whole thing while at the same time ratcheting up the pressure even more since the game can end at any moment.
  • ''Cars invokes this after retiring veteran Strip 'The King' Weathers, perennial runner-up Chick Hicks, and hotshot rookie Lightning McQueen simultaneously win the scheduled season finale while they were already tied on points. Hicks ended up winning after intentionally wrecking Weathers, which led to Lightning opting not to win despite leading in favor of helping Weathers finish his final race. Weathers' accident looking eerily similar to Doc Hudson's wreck in '54 helped make Lightning's decision.

  • Lampshaded by George Carlin in "Baseball/Football":
    Baseball has no time limit. You don't know when it's gonna end! (deeper voice) Football is rigidly timed and will end even if we have to go into sudden death!


     Live-Action TV 

  • Get the Picture has Sudden Death if both teams were tied at the end of Round 2.
  • In one Numberwang sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look, after three days with nobody getting Numberwang, they go to Sudden Death, in which the first person to die from the deadly Numbergas wins.
    • The Quiz Broadcast (remain indoors) also has a sudden death round, but the third contestant, Unknown Male 282, promptly screams and drops dead before it even begins. Evidently, the show does not operate under the same rules as Numberwang.
  • Family Feud: Since 2003, if neither team reaches 300 points by the end of the triple-score round, a Sudden Death round is played. Triple score is active, and only the #1 answer is on the board, for a question for which typically about 70 or more of the 100 surveyed gave the #1 answer; thus, the first to ring in and give said answer gets the 210+ points and will win the game.
  • Sudden Death is active in every round of Card Sharks should the round reach the last question and no one has finished their cards. The contestant who wins the question can choose to play (with the option of changing his/her card) or pass (the opponent must play and cannot change cards); whoever plays must complete their row and one mis-guess means the opponent automatically wins.
    • In the later part of the Eubanks era if both contestants won one game each, the "tiebreaker round" went from 3 questions to just 1 Sudden Death one; both contestants then got to see their base card but only the one who won the question got to determine who would play. The same above rules applied.
  • Double Dare (1986), If both teams are tied at the end of round 2, They would do a Tie-Breaker Challenge.
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple If both teams were tied on final temple game. They would bring in the Tie-Breaker Gongs (Similar to the ones used in Crossing a Moat). Olmec will ask the teams a question. When 1 team rings in the gong and gives out the correct answer will advance to Olmec's temple. Originally, if they get an incorrect answer, their opponents automatically win. Starting in Season 2, the opponents would have to give the correct answer to go to the temple.
  • Whew! also had this with the "Longshot!" If a Charger thought he or she couldn't reach Level 6 of the board before time was up, he/she could yell "LONGSHOT!" This stopped the clock and brought the action to Level 6. The Blocker then got to place a "Secret Block" on Level 6 with one of three secret buttons (host Tom Kennedy reminded the Charger a previously placed Block might be up on Level 6 too). The Charger got one final chance to solve a blooper from Level 6—if he/she could find one AND solve it, the Charger won. If a Block was found or the blooper wasn't solved, the Blocker won.
  • Jeopardy!: If there is a tie after Final Jeopardy!, a single tiebreaker clue is played. The first player to buzz in with the correct response wins. If no one answers correctly, additional tiebreakers are used until someone does. Prior to November 2014, contestants who finished tied were declared co-champions and played against each other on the following show.
  • In Nick Arcade, when time is running out for the Round, Mikey is sent straight to the Goal, and a sudden death Pop Quiz question is asked, where the first team to buzz in and give the correct answer wins the points and the Goal for the round.
  • Blackout had a tiebreaker word that was played if both teams were tied after two rounds. The team that had correctly guessed more words during the first two rounds (or the winner of a backstage coin toss if there was a tie) chose to either play the word or pass to the opponents. The contestant giving clues had 10 seconds to describe the word for his/her partner, and the opposing contestant had three seconds of blackout time, with the same repetition penalty as in the one first two rounds. A correct guess won the game, while a miss gave the win to the opposing team.
  • On Pyramid, ties were broken by playing another round of seven words. The team who caused the tie was given the choice of two letters, each of which would be the first letter of every correct response in the tiebreaker round. Originally, they were just played until one team finally outscored the other, but after many instances of both teams going 7/7 in tiebreaker rounds, it was changed in The '80s so that whichever team got their 7 words faster was declared the winner. (However, on at least one episode, they had to play three tiebreakers in the first half due to both teams only getting 6 words right on their first two attempts, while another had to do a double-tiebreaker due to both teams getting the seventh word in the first tiebreaker round on the buzzer.) Since 2016, the tiebreaker is only used in the event that both teams took the same amount of time to provide all of their correct responses.
  • Duel: On the American version, if both contestants answered a question incorrectly or, during the show's second season, there was no winner after 10 question, a sudden-death tiebreaker question was played. Contestants received four chips and the winner is the first to have the correct answer while using the fewest amount of chips. If both contestants got the correct answer while using the same amount of chips, the procedure was repeated until there was a winner. If no one answered the question correctly, both contestants were eliminated.
  • While it's extremely rare, ties have happened a few times on Wheel of Fortune. Originally on the nighttime version, ties were broken by a Speed-Up round played only between the two tied contestants, while the introduction of the Toss-Up puzzles in 2000 means that ties are now broken by a fourth Toss-Up puzzle between the tied contestants. Averted on the daytime version, where a tie meant that no Bonus Round was played and all three contestants returned the next day (and, if one of the contestants was a returning champion, the next episode would not count toward their three-game limit; according to one recollection, a daytime contestant in 1987 ended up playing five games due to two consecutive ties.)
  • On the Chuck Woolery-hosted era of Lingo, ties were broken by a seven-letter word being revealed one letter at a time until a team rang in with the right answer.
  • Taskmaster sometimes has a sudden death round if two contestants are tied in first place. Generally these are pre-recorded tasks (a selection of which will be recorded alongside the regular tasks and chosen by the production team as and when they're needed, with only the tied contestants' attempts being shown), but sometimes they will be done live with an arbitrary tie-break question (such as guessing Frank Skinner's age in minutes).
  • From Series 2 onward on They Think It's All Over, games which finished level after the usual final round, "The Name Game", would proceed to a tiebreak which usually took the form of a Call-Back to an earlier round. If the two team captains won equal numbers of episodes in a series, they would also play a tiebreak for the series. Examples included musical chairs, mechanical bull-riding, breath holding, answering trivia questions (from books allegedly written by the team captains), and launching football boots at cardboard cutouts of David Beckham.
  • The Weakest Link had a three or five-question Bonus Round at the end of each show between two contestants. If they were tied at the end of this round, then it would go into sudden death where the round would end if one contestant got a question right and the other got it wrong. Going into sudden death would give host Anne Robinson the chance to dramatically say "Then let's play... Sudden Death!"
  • Finders Keepers: If the game ended in a tie, a third Hidden Pictures round was played with the first to find two items going to the Room-to-Room Romp.

  • If two or more players are tied in score at the end, and a winner is required, the standard is to play one more game, except with just one ball instead of the usual 3 or 5. Whoever's score is higher is the winner. If they're still tied, more one-ball games are played until their scores are different. The Pinburgh 2016 Finals is one case of this, with the three tied players on Iron Man (Stern) going again with a one-ball game.

     Professional Wrestling 

  • AAA's Lucha Libre World Cup has gained an association with them since 2015 when they had seven matches on the card with one special sudden death match for third place. Due to multiple time limit draws, there ended up being seven sudden death matches and not because there was one for every match so much as the only planned sudden death match itself went into sudden death and the final went into sudden death three times.
  • Iron Man matches can be decided by Sudden Death if both competitors end the time limit on an equal number of falls but this only occurs if both parties agree to it (or are forced to by someone with authority; i.e. it is not a requirement of such a match). The first WWE Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart ended without a single fall and was pushed to an overtime where Shawn pinned Bret. However in a 30-minute match between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle, they ended with a 2-2 and Kurt just blew Shawn off when he begged to have the match settled in Sudden Death.


  • More examples of "sudden death" in sports can be found in The Other Wiki article here.
  • In Association Football, the "golden goal"note  rule was implemented in 1993, where if the game is tied at the end of regulation time and there must be a winner, and extra time is played, the first team to score a goal during the extra time period would win; with a penalty shootout taking place if neither team scored after 30 minutes. Said penalty shootout consists of five chances for both teams—if they're tied in the penalty shootout, additional chances are given for both teams until one team gets a goal in while the other does not. In major tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, this replaced the original rule where the full 30 minutes would be played regardless of how many goals either side scored, with penalties if the score was still tied. A lesser form, silver goal, was later implemented in 2002, where a team that led after the first half of extra time won. Both were scrapped in 2004 due to leading to very defensive play, among other reasons.
  • In professional American Football (the NFL), if the teams are tied at the end of the game they go into overtime, where the first team to score points wins.
    • The NFL adopted new overtime rules for postseason games starting in 2010, and extended them to regular season games starting in 2012. If a team receives the opening kickoff and only scores a field goal, the game doesn't end until after the ensuing drive. A touchdown ends the game instantly, as does a safety. The game ends on the second possession with any result that is not still a tie. If the game is still tied after the first two possessions (either due to no scoring or matched field goals), the game goes to sudden death, usually labeled as "next score wins". This rule was first used in the playoff game on Jan. 8, 2012 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos, in which Denver scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass-and-run on the first play in overtime, meaning it took longer to announce the new overtime rules than to play it.
    • The first regular-season game under these rules in the regular season was played in week one of the 2012 season. The Minnesota Vikings made the first score on a field goal. The Jacksonville Jaguars then got possession but were unable to convert a fourth down, making this the first NFL overtime game to end on a play that didn't result in a score. Two weeks later, the Tennessee Titans scored a field goal first. Then the Detroit Lions failed to convert a fourth down on a play in which they were actually trying to draw the Titans offside, thus ending that game on a play that didn't result in a score.
    • The idea of a second chance comes from other leagues. Instead of a kickoff format, high school, college, and Canadian Football League games use what's called the "Kansas Playoff",note  where after a coin toss to decide possession, a team starts a drive directly from a designated position in the opposing side of the field. In the Kansas format, each team gets a chance to score. A touchdown, field goal, or turnover ends that possession, allowing the other team to try from the other end unless the turnover results in a defensive scorenote . The process repeats if both teams match scores for that round; in high school and college, procedures are repeated until the tie is broken while the CFL limits overtime to two procedures during the regular season. Prior to 2021, after two rounds, the point-after kick is removed, forcing teams to attempt the riskier two-point conversion instead; in the CFL since the 2010 season, a two-point conversion must be attempted after every touchdown. In 2019, the NCAA turned fifth and any subsequent possessions into a single two-point conversion play, and overtime rules were further revised in 2021, with the mandatory two-point conversion moved to the second possession and the two-point shootout starting with the third overtime possession.
    • The 2020 incarnation of the XFL used a series of five two-point conversion plays, similar to penalty kicks in soccer or the shootout in hockey. If the score remained tied after each team takes five turns, the procedure is repeated until the tie is broken. The 2022 incarnation of the USFL also uses a series of conversion plays; however, "sudden death" begins after each team takes three turns.
  • The now-defunct Arena Football League's overtime rules guaranteed that each team had one offensive opportunity unless the first team to possess yielded a defensive score, whether by touchdown or safety. If the score was still level after each team had a possession, true sudden death applied. The defunct NFL Europa and United Football League also used nearly identical overtime rules to Arena Football; however, overtime was limited to 10 minutes rather than the full 15 in NFL Europa. In 2022, the NFL adopted this version of sudden death for postseason games only; regular season games can still end on the opening possession if the first team scores a touchdown.
  • If the score is tied after sixty minutes of regulation play during the regular season, the NHL uses a five-minute sudden-death overtime period. Beginning with the 1998–99 season, the teams played four-on-four hockey (normally it's five-on-five, not counting goalies); starting in 2015–16, it changed to three-on-three. Should the game still be tied, teams go to a shootout (before 2005 it was just left as a tie). In the playoffs, though, teams skate five a side for an unlimited number of twenty-minute periods until someone scores, which can take a while - the record is six overtime periods before someone scored.
  • In tennis, the US Open between 1970 and 1974 implemented a sudden-death tie-breaker in which the first player to reach five points won the set. Since then, the US Open and most other associations have used a "lingering death" tie-breaker at 6-6 in which the first to at least seven points with at least a two-point lead is needed to win the set. Note that many tournaments won't use the tiebreaker for the final set, requiring a clear winner by at least two games. Starting from 2019, the Australian open will use a tiebreaker to ten points instead of the standard seven, and Wimbledon will use the standard seven point tiebreaker for the final set if it reaches 12-12 instead of 6-6. The French Open is the last remaining Grand Slam event to not use a tiebreaker for the final set.

     Tabletop Games 

  • 22: While the game normally ends when all but one player hits 22 points or greater, with ties being broken by having the lowest score, in the event there is a tie for lowest score, standard tie breaking procedure is to run one last hand between the tied players - winner takes all.
  • Bang!: The last "event" card is always High Noon, which stays active until the end of the game since there are no event cards behind it.note  And while it is active, all remaining players each lose one Health per turn.
  • In the Pokemon Trading Card Game, sudden death is played with only one prize card, so whoever grabs the prize card first wins.
  • Spades: In the unlikely event both teams reach the target score on the same hand and end with a tied score, one last hand is played, following standard rules, to determine the overall winner.


     Video Games 

  • In Team Fortress 2, if a round ends with neither side winning, servers have the option of then going to Sudden Death, where all health packs are removed from the level and respawning is disabled. Teams can win either by accomplishing the objective or eliminating the other team.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. series, in the event of a tie, rankings are decided by a round in which everybody starts with 300% damage and only one stock. Last one to get knocked off the stage wins. If a Sudden Death match goes on for too long, Bob-ombs start raining from the sky. Additionally, in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, flames appear on the sides of the screen and it starts zooming in, making the "blast zones" closer and closer until it stops. If by some freak occurrence another tie manages to occur, the player with the lowest controller port number is declared the winner.
  • Worms has this, which can manifest in a few ways, depending on the selected options. Poison, set Hit Points to 1, no change to hit points. Usually including the water rising.
  • In the Swordplay duels of Wii Sports Resort, if neither combatant wins best of three, it goes to "Sudden Death" where the arena is reduced to the center circle, and one good hit can easily knock the opponent off. Interestingly, even this can be tied, awarding the player with an Achievement ("Stamp") for the round.
  • Boss battles in Guitar Hero used to initiate a "death drain" that would sap your Rock Meter if both combatants made it to the last part of the song. This was later replaced and now the song just repeats, but on Hyperspeed. And it gets faster each time both players make it to the end.
  • In Halo games, Sudden Death only started from the second game onwards. It typically only occurs in objective gametypes like CTF or Assault. In Halo 2, when the time would run out, if a player was still holding the flag or bomb, the game would continue endlessly until a player scored or if no one was holding the flag or bomb for a set amount of time. After some time, Bungie released an update that removed Sudden Death from certain gametypes on Matchmaking because players were holding up games by hiding during Sudden Death. In Halo 3 and onward, Sudden Death usually has a time-limit (typically from 30 seconds to one minute), but the game still ends if the flag/bomb isn't being held.
  • "Last Man Standing" in Max Payne 3. If you get downed, but still have painkillers, the game goes into Bullet Time and you get one last chance to shoot the mook before he finishes you off.
  • In multiplayer modes other than Turf War and Clam Blitz in Splatoon 2, sudden death, called Overtime, Pinch!, or Extra Time depending on the region, will kick in after the end of the allotted time if the team behind on progress towards the objective has control of the objective when time's up. At that point, victory is either achieved should the team currently behind surpass the other team's progress (hold the zone for longer in Splat Zones; advance the payload further than the other team did in Tower Control or Rainmaker), or should the team behind lose control of the objective. Clam Blitz, on the other hand, will have sudden death via the potential for scoring: In this mode, points are scored by tossing Power Clams into the goal on the opponents' side. If the losing team has any Power Clams, Overtime will begin and will only end when one of a number of conditions occur, one of them being that the losing team lose all of their Power Clams.
  • In Fortnite's Battle Royale mode, the Storm gradually covers more and more of the island, and anyone who gets caught in it continously takes damage, thus forcing players into a smaller play area and thus becoming more likely to encounter each other and engage in combat with one another. However, after the Storm pauses in its encroachment a certain number of times (i.e. if a match goes on significantly longer than usual), the Storm will just straight up cover the map completely, causing everyone to rapidly lose health no matter where they are, at which point the end of the match will certainly end in a matter of seconds.
  • In the first season of Overwatch's Competitive Mode, if four rounds of Assault, Escort, or Hybridnote  passed without a winner being declared, the game would go into Sudden Death: a coin was flipped, and the side it landed on determined which team would get 1 minute to fulfill a quick objective (such as capturing the first objective of two or escorting the payload to its first checkpoint); if they succeeded, they won, and if they couldn't, the defending team won without having to play another attacking round. However, this created balancing issues, since some maps are shown to favor one side or the other effectively making Sudden Death a Luck-Based Mission, so Season 2 scrapped it in favor of simply declaring a draw if neither team has won after four rounds.
  • In the Head Sports series, if a match ends in a tie after the time is up, the Power Shot gauges will freeze as the game enters "Sudden Death" or "Double KO" (in Head Boxing), which ends as soon as one point is scored.
  • In Bomberman's Battle Mode, the arena will shrink once the timer gets low. Indestructible blocks will fall into open spaces and crush any players below them. Normally, this will stop at a certain point leaving a compressed arena; however, there is an option called Sudden Death that will make the blocks continue to fall until every last square is covered. Subverted, however, in that there still can be a draw if multiple players end up surviving until the very last block is dropped and it kills them all at once.
  • Street Fighter II: The fourth round (tenth in The World Warrior) is designated the Final Round. The player who wins the Final Round doesn't get a point bonus. In solo play, the computer player wins the battle should the Final Round end in a draw or a double knockout. If this happens in two-player mode, both players get a game over.

     Western Animation 
  • In Total Drama Island's penultimate episode, "I Triple Dog Dare You!", the final three campers, Heather, Gwen, and Owen, must complete dares devised by the 19 campers who were eliminated before them, either completing the dare themselves to earn a freebie, allowing them to skip a future dare without penalty, or passing the dare to an opponent, with the first to chicken out of a dare automatically losing. After Gwen and Owen team up to take down their mutual enemy Heather, she is forced into a Humiliation Conga, doing dare after dare. Eventually, Heather faces a Sadistic Choice: either have her head shaved and stay in the game or keep her hair and lose out on the chance for $100,000. As the razor approaches her, Heather panics and kicks the razor in the air...only for it to land on her head and give her a Traumatic Haircut. When Chris announces that Heather is eliminated, she protests, saying that she got her head shaved, but Chris retorts that by her kicking the razor, she showed her intention of refusing the dare.