Follow TV Tropes


Tanks for Nothing

Go To
Told you we shoulda made that left at Albuquerque!note 
"What it does to a tank" is apparently the standard unit of damage.

Main Battle Tanks are a crucial part of modern armed forces. They combine the mobility and speed of motor-vehicles with the killing-power of artillery, and can also help infantry assault entrenched defensive positions. Modern tanks are all but invulnerable to the crude and improvised weapons used by most partisans and rebels, making them invaluable in the extermination of such groups. All in all, a properly-used and handled tank of a sufficiently modern model can be a formidable weapon.

However, this is not true in fiction. Tanks will be destroyed right and left by the Humongous Mecha or Monster of the Week, with their firepower doing little to no damage. Essentially Red Shirt for armored vehicles, this is where a normally effective force of tanks serves as nothing but cannon fodder to make the enemy look intimidating.

Note that this does not involve tanks getting destroyed in the normal course of warfare. This is when tanks are completely useless for any purpose other than getting blown up for dramatic effect, even when you'd normally expect them to be effective. A tank column getting wiped out by the enemy through good tactics and properly placed weaponry is not this trope. An entire company of tanks firing at the enemy and doing no damage at all, followed by getting destroyed in one shot is this trope. This is about tanks themselves being useless, not just incompetent leadership. Also bear in mind that this can even apply in situations where the tank's introduction makes it rather badass, i.e. mowing down a squad of soldiers or weaker vehicles before being blown away by the real threat. In those cases, the swift destruction of something that was until recently kicking ass and taking names can serve to make it clear that this new threat is nothing to be taken lightly.

In Real Life, tanks have been designed for two purposes: winning battles, and winning campaigns. NATO and the USA specifically designed tanks for the former purpose, and the USSR and Warsaw Pact designed their tanks for the latter. More specifically NATO focused on fielding high-maintenance nigh-invulnerable tanks that could beat WP tanks in set-piece tank duels and hold the line due to their numerical inferiority, whereas the WP focused on fielding cheap tanks with good reliability and fuel-efficiency that could go long distances at high speed across rough terrain and defeat NATO logistics personnel in hit-and-run engagements, as well as flank, while not losing too much if a single vehicle was destroyed, since they have numerical superiority.note 

What this works out to on the field is tanks fighting while or in between speeding along with other vehicles, and tanks fighting while crawling alongside infantry on foot. Despite their higher costs, even NATO tanks are very vulnerable to (handheld) anti-tank weaponry in the latter role. Indeed, despite what we said about 'being nigh-invulnerable against ill-equipped opponents' urban warfare tends to expose the weak top- and rear-armor of tanks to potentially lethal attacks and ambushes by infantry at short ranges. Good tank commanders always know how to balance the need to avoid losses and their need to accomplish their immediate objectives - losses are inevitable, but they will never be wasted.

But in many Kaiju series, tanks are very poorly commanded and used. Tanks will be shown to line up directly in front of the monster and get stomped, despite the fact that modern battle tanks can reliably hit small-ish targets many kilometres away (and even over the horizon). Additionally, despite most militaries carrying ammunition designed to penetrate the thick armor plating of other tanks and defensive fortifications, they will never be able to cause even superficial wounds to the monster.

Even in more "realistically" based Humongous Mecha shows, the mecha can destroy tanks with ease despite being larger targets and not having any heavier weapons or armor than battle tanks. In fact, these reasons are why most militaries consider the idea of Humongous Mecha to be impractical to begin with. This can be justified if there is an extreme technological gap between the combatants. Usually, conventional tanks would have about the same problems with any Impossibly Graceful Giant war machine as they do with their old nemesis the ground attack aircraft, but in a practical situation the technology enabling that grace would be applied to the tanks first. Tanks could be said to be the Red Shirt counterpart to the Mecha-Mooks of the enemies.

In superhero series, tanks are never any threat to superheroes, usually only serving as an impromptu missile, getting swung at another tank, or flipped upside down. This can be justified if all the characters have Super-Toughness in addition to Super-Strength (as is usually the case), but you'd still think the military would learn their lesson after a while.

When tanks are not useless, and are, in fact, quite awesome, then it's Tank Goodness. If the things being destroyed are called "tanks" but aren't or the depiction of tanks is incorrect, then it's Tanks, but No Tanks. A Sub-Trope of Armor Is Useless. Compare The Worf Effect, Red Shirt, and Five Rounds Rapid. Contrast Mecha-Mooks, when it's the Humongous Mecha that are getting crushed. For the helicopter version of this trope, see Hellish Copter.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Aldnoah.Zero, the United Earth government used tanks to combat Martian Kataphrakts in 1999. Lt. Marito's flashbacks show us this didn't go well at all. Though even in 2014, Earth-developed Kataphrakts are still ridiculously outmatched against their Martian counterparts.
    • Japanese type 90 tanks Marito's unit was equipped with are a bit of this even in the Real Life. While very well protected and powerful, they are also very large and heavy, so that few of the roads and bridges in the Japanese heartland can withstand their bulk, and the JR's narrow clearances mean that they cannot be transported by rail. This basically confines them to Hokkaido and select areas on Honshu, and the Japanese had to develop an another smaller and lighter type 10 tank so it could operate on the Japanese mainland.
  • In Code Geass, Japanese tanks prove to be useless against Britannian Humongous Mecha. Oh the irony.
  • In Dragon Ball, if an army of tanks attacks a Big Bad, he'll crush them in mere seconds. Guaranteed.
  • In the post-apocalyptic future of Fist of the North Star, it's rare to have working vehicles, and even rarer to have working combat vehicles. A fully functional and fully armed tank is next to unheard of in the setting and would make its owner a bandit leader unto themselves. One such tank appears once in the anime. But only once.
  • Subverted in The Five Star Stories, where during the infamous Emperor Rescue Mission the extremely light forces, with which Mishalu Ha Lonn took off to Both, meant that she had to rely on tanks to carry the day against three times more Humongous Mecha than she had at hand. The subversion lies in that while the tanks were clearly inferior to the Mortar Headds, and they were destroyed almost to a man, they did held the line until the reinforcements arrived, and the enemy ace switched sides.
  • Tanks in Fullmetal Alchemist are pretty useful against humans, although not so much against homunculi- Wrath cut one in two using Implausible Fencing Powers, Greed couldn't be harmed by one due to Instant Armor, and Sloth is just too bulky to be much affected by tank rounds.
    • The last case is more of a subversion, though, since Major General Armstrong commanded her men to remove the fuses from the rounds to limit the damage done to the facilities where the battle was held. Besides, the tanks were still useful even when they couldn't actually harm Sloth, because they were able to push him around and outside where he froze solid. The tank's performance during the assault on Central in the final arc definitely subverts this trope against the humans… well, until Fuhrer Bradley (the aforementioned Wrath) decides to get to work.
  • Full Metal Panic! is a good example of some more "realistic" mecha shows that shows tanks as useless, but mecha as nigh-unstoppable (especially after they cheat with the Lambda Driver). Justified early on, as the first major fight in the series features top-of-the-line mecha against explicitly obsolete Cold War era tanks, but later played straight.
  • Gasaraki features a squad of mechs single-handily destroying an entire regiment of Main Battle Tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles in open desert combat... Mostly from the perspective of the tank and IFV crews as they try to deal with a major Outside-Context Problem in the form of Humongous Mecha that can run faster than they can traverse their turrets, though it also didn't help that the regiment commander seemed to get his tactics from the back of a cereal box.
  • Gundam: Depending on the series, this can swing one way or the other. In more "realistic" shows like Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team this is averted, while more fantastical series' played it straight. Justified a bit more in some of the more fantastical versions like Gundam Wing, where each mech is practically an army unto itself.
    • On the other hand, official Universal Century history guides do state that most of the land battles were fought and won by tanks, Mobile Suits being only a useful addition mainly used as a force-multiplying mobile units. Given Gundam's love of Super Prototypes, most of the tanks' uselessness in the actual anime could probably be explained by the Conservation of Ninjutsu(i.e.: the tanks only go down so fast because they are Mooks).
      • A case in point is the liberation of Odessa, where the Feds had only ~30 MSes (including the White Base complement) compared to the Zeon's 1000+, but had their lines packed to the brim with the good ol' M-61s and artillery, of which they had more than three times against the Zeon's numbers.note  M'Quve's lines started to collapse after barely a single barrage, and they've managed to evacuate someone only due to the nuclear mines, installed by the fleeing spacenoids, bogging down the Feds advance somewhat.
    • Zakus are unsurprisingly enough shown to go down against tanks that are less then 1/5th of their size, though this mostly tells more about their status as Mooks then the ability of the tanks.
    • Guntank in the original series is an advanced prototype hybrid of Mobile Suit and tank that proves less than effective on the battlefield. The G-Bull, on the other hand, averts this trope.
      • Then there were the Guntank variants that appeared in IGLOO, which kicked all kinds of ass while operating primarily as very large (and fast) tanks.
  • The intro of Madox-01 shows tanks being blown up easily by a Mini-Mecha... in a dense urban area. It was a mock battle to show off the new prototype Mech.
  • Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse: Tanks are probably effective against weakly armored Soldier and Laser-type BETA, but we mostly only see them fail hilariously against Destroyer-types, which amount to sauropod-sized rhinoceroses with even thicker frontal armor than the tank. Tanks are mostly just used to lure BETA into killing zones for the TSFs.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The opening episode has the UN deploy tanks in mass numbers to try to combat the first angel. They are of course hopelessly outmatched and the UN forces make no further land participation until the finale of the season.
    • Rebuild of Evangelion has shown tanks deployed at various additional battles, including long-range bombardments and close-range running battles. They failed to have any impact on any of those battles.
  • Subverted in Patlabor. Humanoid Labors go down pretty quickly in the face of tanks simply by being undergunned and fragile. In Patlabor 2: The Movie, Ōtah becomes upset over his labor's armament (an anti-labor shotgun) in anticipation that he will face tanks; the mechanic replies that he should shoot with both eyes closed.
  • Pumpkin Scissors has lots of tanks. Too bad they can't stand up to one gargantuan Super-Soldier who's been conditioned to ignore pain and his 13mm, armor-piercing Hand Cannon.
  • Downplayed and zig-zagged in Strike Witches. In a setting where Magical girls in the 1940's using magic-tech to fight supernatural aliens that regenerate and shoot laser beams: conventional tanks in the series various stories are faced with a complicated situation. In the series its shown that simple Neuroi infantry and conventional Neuroi armor are able to be engaged and destroyed with reasonable, relatively even footing by the various tanks of the time period, barring the use of large wave tactics, and even than, while difficult, victory could still not be completely insurmountable, even factoring in considerable casualties at worst. However, it's also shown that larger and more powerful Neuroi can completely destroy conventional tanks with ease, and even conventional, mid-sized air and ground units that make use of beam weapons can cut through the armor of M4 Sherman's, Tiger I's and Panzer IV's like a hot knife through butter. And supposing that what small umber of weaker Neuroi infantry that make use of weaker beam weapons could feasibly melt the armor of such tanks giving a short amount of time, which would likely not be a desirable fate for the poor crew's of such tanks to endure. Ultimately, while not utterly useless against Neuroi by any Stretch of the imagination, they are still facing a foe with comparably better weapons and more resilient attrition rates by at least a few steps, not even factoring the distinct nuances of Neuroi warfare.
  • Vividred Operation: The scene with the completely useless UN tanks in Neon Genesis Evangelion is given extended Shout-Out during the Alone attack on Tokyo. (This is a series which loves giving extended Shout-Out to a lot of things.)

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk pretty much uses this as a conversation starter.
  • In the Sturmtruppen comics, Tanks are often played for laughs as they fall apart, run out of gasoline and fall into pits of various kinds. The few time they're efficient they'll end up running over their own soldiers.
  • In Über, the Nazis' "tank"-class superhumans can easily destroy regular tanks in close combat, but can still be killed by a direct hit from a tank shell. (Hitting a highly mobile man-sized target with a World War II-era tank's main gun is easier said than done, though.) The "battleship" superhumans, meanwhile, are totally immune to tank fire and can fling tanks around like beach balls.
  • In Watchmen, an early demonstration of Doctor Manhattan's godlike Reality Warping power is when he disassembles a tank to its components, then makes them implode in a fused lump. Happily, it's on a government test site rather than a battlefield.

    Fan Works 
  • Averted in Code Geass: Lelouch of Britannia. Like in the source material, tanks are clearly inferior to Knightmare Frames. But in his under-equipped unit that Lelouch commands in North Africa, where he has to make up for limited supply of Knightmares by supplementing them with tanks he pulled out of storage, he's able to use good tactics to make up for their inferior mobility. And even physics-defying Knightmare Frames go down after being hit by 140mm railgun shells.
  • Subverted in Operation Forging Steel, a White Fang Paladin mech managed to get a drop on an American MBT bearing the same model name, and launched its first attack with the mech's main cannon.... to no effect. The Paladin Tank then returned fire and destroyed the mech in one-shot.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Incredibles, a bunch of tanks try to take on the Omnidroid, and of course do nothing to it. To their credit, they did actually try to fight intelligently, aiming for the joints rather than trying to shoot its near-perfectly spherical hull.
  • In The Iron Giant, multiple tanks fire at the Giant, none of which lay a scratch on him. When the Giant goes into "defense mode", his Arm Cannon weapons can send tanks flying and, in once case, completely disintegrates one in a puff of green plasma.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Booker's Dynamic Entry in The Expendables 2. Given that he's played by Chuck Norris, he probably blew up the T72 by scowling at it.
  • In the 2003 Hulk movie, the Hulk is attacked by a squad of 4 tanks. He throws the first one like a hammer, rips the second one's turret out, then proceeds to beat the crap out of the third one with that same turret, and finally disables the fourth by bending the cannon muzzle to aim at the gunner. It is awesome to behold.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark (in his Iron-Man suit) gets matched up against a tank. The tank was able to accurately knock him out of the sky with a shell, and scuff up his armor (there's a deleted scene that showed how bad the damage was). Iron Man stands right back up, looks at the tank, fires a dinky missile at it, and walks away. Said tank then explodes. The novelization confirms that the missile did penetrate a weak spot on the tank and set off the ammo.
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • Transformers:
      • The Transformers' destructive power is first shown when Blackout singlehandedly attacks a US military base in Qatar, deploying a Sphere of Destruction and an Energy Weapon that send tanks flying.
      • Devastator, a Decepticon, actually has a modified Abrams as his vehicle mode, but isn't able to contribute much more than collateral damage to the climactic battle: he gets ganged up on by several Autobots and cut to pieces.
    • Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen depicts a squad of Abrams being used more effectively in the Battle of Giza, being used in a hull-down position as direct-fire artillery against the Decepticons. But then the Fallen starts playing around with gravity and the tanks are once again thrown around like gravel.
  • In War of the Worlds (2005), the Martian weapons are able to cut through tanks like butter. By the point that they finally appear in the film, they're only being used to buy time for survivors to escape before the Tripods can get to them.

  • Played with in the Axis of Time trilogy. The small number of M1A4 Abrams tanks brought by the "uptimers" (this particular modification is geared towards urban warfare and antipersonnel operations) make short work of Japanese and German forces, when they're deployed. On the other hand, German tank columns are bombed to hell and back on D-Day, thanks to all the Allied bombers being directed by the AI aboard the HMS Trident, allowing them to drop bombs exactly where intended.
  • Subverted in GATE, where the JSDF sends their oldest active tanks, Type 74, through the titular Gate, vaguely expecting something like this, and instead finding that even these obsolete tanks effortlessly curbstomped their vaguely Roman/High Medieval-level opponents.
  • In the Hammer's Slammers universe tanks were made obsolete by improvements in anti-tank weaponry. Then advanced computers and satellite observation and rapid-firing energy weapons made missiles harder to get through. And fusion power enabled Hover Tanks with heavy iridium armor.
  • In Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy series, standard treaded or wheeled vehicles are considered vastly inferior to Humongous Mecha/Real Robots. The first time this is proven true is at the very start of the First Galactic War, when the Earth Alliance fleet attempts to invade Dabog, its own Lost Colony. However, since Dabog has a bit of a Deathworld feel to it, the early colonists had to struggle and innovate in order to beat the environment and terraform the planet. Specifically, the big threat are giant dinosaur-like lizards and swamps that make traditional vehicles useless. Instead, they studied the lizards' leg joints and based their walker vehicles on them. They proved superior to the Alliance invasion forces due to their maneuverability and ability to cross any terrain, even when piloted by farmers. After the Alliance fleet nuked Dabog (because they actually managed to fight off the invading troops), it learned its lesson and replaced most of its treaded/wheeled tanks with Humongous Mecha based on Dabogan designs. The Free Colonies followed suit. Centuries later, Combat Planetary Machines (i.e. traditional vehicles) are only useful as troop transports, if that.
  • Honor Harrington: Tanks have generally been phased out due to Powered Armor becoming widespread in modern militaries. One of the short stories in the Worlds of Honor Anthology series features tanks, but they are stated to only be useful because the planet they are on has little in the way of a modern military force. One of the characters is killed using a tank in a duel against a Havenite shuttle, though the shuttle is destroyed as well.
    • However, in Echoes of Honor the Allies POWs' assault on the Havenite base during their Great Escape is seriously aided by the fact that they take the armor park of the base and use the tanks stationed there, which prove surprisingly efficient, as the speed and surprise of their assault minimized a coherent response by defenders in Powered Armor — in fact, they've managed to overrun the base's "morgue" before any Power Armored troopers have the chance to reach it, much less to suit up.
    • Scorpion light armored fighting vehicles (which, technically, aren't stated to be tanks) show up on the planet Mobius Beta in Shadow of Freedom, and are mainly used to disperse protesters and assault La Résistance positions with their 35-mm grav guns. However, when caught in the open by rebels with off-world anti-tank weaponry, they easily go down from a single shot. It is later revealed that although Scorpions are Solarian issue vehicles, they're more along the lines of IFVs/light tanks, and aren't designed to withstand the bona-fide antitank weapons.
  • It is openly stated in Starship Troopers that tanks are useless against Mobile Infantry; too small and agile to hit with heavy ordnance, too heavily armored to give a right damn about anything other than heavy ordnance, and they all carry the kind of havoc that can eat a tank.
  • When the heroes of Victoria rebel against the US Government, the restored Tsar (yes, that's a thing) gives them... 100 WWII surplus T-34s. This is perfect, the heroes say, because the T-34 is super-reliable (hah!) and the purpose of tanks isn't to fight head on but to raid the enemy's supply chain and rear areas. However, no tanks on any side are ever mentioned as making a difference in the war.
  • Worldwar: Justified for human tanks during the initial tetralogy, as the Race's level of military tech is roughly equivalent to The '50s or The '60s (and they strike during World War II). On the flipside, their own "landcruisers" are very difficult to destroy due to their better armor and millennia of perfecting all this tech. Even Germans manage to destroy a few of them by using better tactics and the terrain to their advantage (e.g. hitting a Race landcruiser in the poorly armored bottom as its crossing a hilltop), while also losing most (if not all) tanks involved in those fights. Shoulder-launched RPGs also work, but not against the heavy frontal armor. By the follow-up trilogy, however, taking place nearly two decades later, German tanks have reached a one-to-one parity with their Race counterparts in terms of survivability and firepower, as well as through the use of superior tactics. The tanks of the other major free powers are likely not far behind. It can be assumed that, by Homeward Bound, most of which takes place in 2031 (i.e. nearly 90 years after the first novel), human military technology has surpassed that of the Race by a wide margin. This is signified by the arrival of the American FTL starship Commodore Perry into the orbit of Home, the Race's homeworld.
  • In World War Z, the tanks present at the Battle of Yonkers were nearly useless. They primarily used anti-tank rounds which were woefully ineffective, since nobody thought to bring enough anti-personnel rounds to make a difference. Using the tanks to run over the zombies supposedly wouldn't work because the zombie guts would clog up their treads, which any real-life tanker would point out is extremely unlikely, as most tanks can function just fine with much worse things (i.e. full-sized trees) stuck in the treads. Mostly this is just another instance of Hollywood Tactics present throughout the book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Robot", a tank is rolled out in an attempt to stop the eponymous robot, but is quickly destroyed by it instead.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Subverted in BattleTech, though the Mechwarrior video games tend to play it straighter (Seen in the Video Games section below). 'Mechs and tanks coexist in-universe and tanks are used by all major militaries. Tanks can mount just as much weaponry and armor as a 'Mech, but are somewhat easier to disable if something inside gets damaged and are less mobile than a 'Mech of the same size. The "tanks are inferior" attitude does exist in-universe, particularly among the more naive Mechwarriors, but veterans always warn their younger comrades that underestimating the power of a tank is a good way to get yourself killed. The ComGuards in particular absolutely love combined-arms teams of infantry, tanks, and 'mechs all working together, and they are damnably hard to deal with using 'mechs alone. Clan Hell's Horses also likes fielding combat vehicle centric, or combined arms formations, and they can make it work as Clan tech is way more advance and tougher than Inner Sphere tech. All the other Clans do not hold the same views as the Hell's Horses and generally treat tanks with condescending disdain and regarding them as obsolescent relics of a world past, in which their attitude would cost them dearly during the Invasion of the Inner Sphere (even though the majority of their losses is more due to their fatuous Honor Before Reason attitude rather than underestimation of combined arms warfare).
    • The classic board game follows the trope much closer. In most editions of the game Mechs and Tanks use the same weapons and armor, but the damage rules heavily favor Mechs. Every hit has a roughly 3% chance of inflicting a critical on a healthy unit with that chance going up as armor gets worn down. However, 50% of the possible criticals on a tank will kill it instantly while Mechs typically lose weapons or gain penalties to future rolls. Given all the shots thrown around in a typical game this means Tanks are often killed by criticals when they are still otherwise in fighting shape while Mechs tend to take *lots* of abuse before going down. Also, mechs tend to get significant advantages in weight-saving than tanks of the same size. For example, the Awesome Battlemech and Schrek PPC Carrier tank are both 80 tons and have the same top speed and firepower- three Particle Projection Cannons. The Awesome, though, has roughly triple the armor that the Schrek does. But, of course, the Schrek is much cheaper to use.
  • Subverted in Heavy Gear. The titular mecha are much smaller and lighter than battle tanks with considerably less firepower and armour, complementing battle tanks by being utilized in terrain impassable to large armoured vehicles or where the expense of battle tanks isn't merited. The invading CEF, who initially didn't have Gears, made extensive use of hover-tanks and did very well for themselves.
  • Subverted in King of Tokyo. Playing the Tanks card nets your Kaiju 4 Victory Points and immediately discards the card, implying that your Kaiju stomped them. However, playing this also does 3 damage to your Kaiju, which means that the tanks did score a good hit.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Imperial Guard being the most "normal" and vehicle-heavy of all armies, they tend to suffer a Worf Effect in many an army codex. One unfortunate tank was seen to stop firing after being hit with a Tau railgun even though there were only two holes in the tank's sides... and the crew having been liquefied and sucked out by the hypervelocity round's passage.
    • There were points where even the tanks of the Space Marines, Games Workshop's favourite faction by a wide margin, have been subjected to the Worf Effect. The first full Necron codex illustrated the raw power of Necron weaponry by putting in some art of a Necron heavy weapon platform obliterating a Land Raider, one of the most durable vehicles in the game at the time.

    Video Games 
  • The first boss in Apocalypse is a tank twenty times larger than the player... and an easy Warm-Up Boss. A later stage throws two tanks as a Dual Boss, but they still go down like a punk.
  • The tanks in Armored Core might as well be plushies for all the good they do.
  • In the Civilization series, it's surprisingly common for bronze-age spearmen to take down modern tanks due to quirks in the combat system. Each successive game tweaked the combat mechanics in an attempt to make this less common, but it still happens often enough for "Spearman beats Tank" to become a long-running meme.
  • Unless you're spectacularly bad at designing your mechs in Chromehounds individual tanks are just funny little speed bumps. A squad of them just makes for some sad fireworks.
  • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, the GDI Titan walker is tougher, more powerful, and has a greater range than its Nod counterpart the Tick tank, whose main advantage (besides its greater speed) is the ability to literally dig in and turn into a static turret, trading mobility for survivability. It's also cheaper, allowing Nod commander to make more of them. To be fair, though, Nod tactics have always favored hit-and-run type attacks and non-traditional weapons.
  • Dangan, an obscure old shooter from the PS1, has tanks which initially appears to fulfill the Giant Mook-type enemy role, being large enough to take up an entire section of the arena, until you actually starts fighting them. Just whip out your smallest gun and fire away, and the tanks somehow blows up in less than ten shots.
  • Averted in most Front Mission games that features tanks, especially in Alternative. Mighty Glacier doesn't even enough to describe their potential (they can pack some big guns).
    • Tanks, as well as many conventional military vehicles, are somewhat more powerful in the cut-scenes, justified that most of the fight in the game is in close range (or in terrain where tanks would be less effective, like cities, jungles, or on bodies of water) where wanzers are more effective.
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: A Honkai Emperor beast in Second Eruption withstands several direct shots from tank rounds with little effect. It goes on to kill 5000 soldiers and likely several tanks before finally dying from attrition.
  • Into the Breach:
    • Light Tanks occasionally appear as part of Archive Protection Missions. As in, your Humongous Mechas are the ones protecting them from the enemy Kaijus. One hit is enough to destroy them. They aren't completely useless, as you can control them once they come online in the midgame and use their cannons to push Vek; they do no damage unless you shove the Vek into a mountain, building, another Vek, or into the water, but positioning and repositioning are so valuable in ITB that this can still provide a ton of assistance.
    • The various deployable tanks you can get start out as One Hit Point Wonders, and tend to be very demanding in power cores to run at maximum strength, but can be upgraded to be as durable as a main-line mech; the deployable version of the Light Tank is slightly better than most starting mechs if you're willing to commit a massive six power cores to getting it up to full power. Others can provide some very useful effects like covering an enemy in ACID or shielding your mech.
    • Averted with the Cannon Mech, Mirror Mech, Unstable Mech and Bulk Mech, which function as normal mechs in gameplay and are just designed aesthetically to evoke tanks. The list gets longer if you permit Spider Tanks as well.
  • Downplayed in Kaiju Wars. Tank squadrons are one of the basic units available to the player. Kaiju can flatten any given tank squadron with a single attack, but the tanks will do some damage as they're being destroyed and will slow the kaiju down for the rest of the turn. Presumably, stepping on a tank is the kaiju equivalent of stepping on a Lego brick. Even then, it's going to take a lot of tanks to bring down a kaiju.
  • In Marco & the Galaxy Dragon, the Mayor of Gold Cord rolls up in a tank to rescue Tera Isezaki from being executed by the Galaxy Auction representatives. It doesn’t go well.
  • This is given a strange justification in the MechWarrior series and its source Tabletop Game. Tanks are among the lighter mainstays of most militaries, with Battlemechs and even Aerospace Fighters mounting heavier armor and weapons (e.g. between a 100 ton tank, a 100 ton Assault Battlemech and a 100 ton heavy Aerospace Fighter the tank will typically have less armor and fewer weapons). Granted, the latter are practically tanks themselves, just with legs or fusion jets.
    • In MechWarrior 4, tanks are absolute joke enemies - the die in a couple hits from almost any weapon, and while some of them have powerful weapons, they almost never fire them. The trope is thankfully averted in MechWarrior Living Legends, where heavy tanks like the Demolisher can rip any battlemech to pieces with glee, and light tanks can drive (or drift) in circles around the more sluggish mechs.
    • Averted with a vengeance in BattleTech. Lighter vehicles might not pose much of a threat, but heavier tanks can, and if you ignore them, will cause you massive damage. Be extremely scared if you end up near a Demolisher or SRM Carrier.
    • But also justified as well. If a mech launches a melee attack on a tank (translation, attempts to step on it), the tank is nearly always destroyed if the attack hit. Tanks take 2x damage from melee attacks and only have one internal spot, so destruction is nearly always assured.
  • In Mother 3, the Pigmask army deploys some tanks to break into Osohe Castle, which works out fine. They later use the same tanks to chase down your party, only to have one get destroyed by them (Having a Tomboy Princess with Psychic Powers and a mighty old man packing explosives helped there), while another is crushed like a tin-can by a Drago right after its driver decide they've seen enough and bail out.
  • Played With in Rebel Inc.: Tanks will win virtually every battle they engage in, but have other flaws that can make them anywhere from a Difficult, but Awesome Situational Sword to an outright liability in a Counter Insurgency campaign, compared to the Boring, but Practical option of scraping them for a quick cash injection:
    • Tanks damage the infrastructure just by being there and thus actively hinder your main victory condition of winning hearts and minds
    • Tanks cannot support (increase combat efficiency of) adjacent units.
    • Tanks cannot enter Remote Zones unless they have Roads or Highways.
  • In the first Rune Factory game, the main opponent the Sechs Empire sends an armored battle tank to defeat the player. By this point, your character is strong enough to defeat the tank easily, at which point the opponent says "Maybe it was a manufacturing defect." At the climax, the opponent sends dozens of tanks to destroy your town. Then the huge Dragon causes plants to grow and defeat the tanks by clogging them
  • Shadow Guardian has the Alexandria shootout, where the hero Jason is ambushed by a tank... which he took out in five seconds by shooting a fuse-box atop a nearby lamppost, which lands on the tank and disables it. After a brief shootout against enemy mooks, the tank reactivates to continue attacking Jason, only for Jason to grab a rocket launcher from a slain mook and destroy it in one shot.
  • In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation, Ryusei thinks this is the case since he lives in a world where giant robots exist. He gets outmaneuvered and shot down by tanks during his very first training session, teaching him a very important lesson
  • Universe at War plays this trope several different ways:
    • In cutscenes and backstory, human tanks are said to be weak and virtually ineffective against the invading alien forces, playing the trope straight.
    • In the game itself, in the hands of a competent player they're easily able to hold their own against "superior" alien vehicles while their shells' large knockback lets them play Ping-Pong with enemy infantry, making them one of the most versatile and arguably most powerful units for their cost. If used en masse, they can even chew through the enemy's Habitat Walkers fairly quickly, provided their firepower is concentrated on a single hardpoint.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, your own tank, and tanks in general are quite effective. However in one event you are tasked with diverting the path of the enemy's humongous mobile battle fortress into an ambush where the Gallian Royal Guard's tank squad awaits. Your diversion is successful, the Royal Guard attacks, does absolutely nothing and is destroyed utterly making the mission entirely pointless.
  • Warcraft III: While not outright useless, Steam Tanks (sorry, Siege Engines) have a niche role: they have barely-above-melee range, deal less damage than the other artillery unit, and can't attack units. They're essentially steampunk battering rams, used to attack buildings and be hard to kill thanks to their building-type armor, and the expansion grants them the ability to fire rockets at up to three flyers simultaneously.
  • The army tanks in War of the Monsters are always seen being destroyed easily, and the ones in game only deal chip damage to your health. Somewhat subverted with the missile tanks, as they deal considerably more damage and the player should take note of their presence.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Played straight in Whateley Universe, when Wallflower manages to handle three tanks at once with her force field. Discussed Trope later on, as she does the math to determine how much force she just handled... and realizes it was WAY more then she should have. Subverted in a later story, where tanks are amongst the ground forces that TPK Team Kimba in a simulated battle.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender the finale features a scene during the taking of Ba Sing Se where pretty much every one of the Order of the White Lotus has fun beating the crap out of Fire nation tanks.
    • This is a pretty justified example considering the White Lotus benders are some of the best in the world and the firebenders off the group are getting a boost from Sozin's Comet and are much better than the firebenders that are acting as the tanks' "cannons". It's also zigzagged throughout the series since the tanks' introduction: talented benders can defeat them with fair ease, but they're still part of the reason why the Fire Nation is making great strides in their war to conquer the Earth Kingdom as the latter is still using foot soldiers and mounted infantry.
  • In the finale of Kim Possible, tanks are powerless to stop the Lorwardian war machines.
  • In the Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode "Carnage," tanks are sent in to stop the titular character. Carnage easily overturns one tank, rips open the underside, and feeds on the souls of the crew inside.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Good Neighbor", Squidward's house goes on a rampage after its security system malfunctions. The police send in a tank, only for the house to easily catch the shell and smash the tank.
  • SWAT Kats: The Enforcer Peacekeepers' only purpose is to get stomped by the Monster of the Week so the heroes can save the day.
    • In "Metal Urgency," Pumadyne designs an experimental tank for them called the Behemoth. It seems impressive, since it is protected by a force field and (for whatever reason) all of its armaments are said to be thought-controlled. But after being stolen by Hard Drive, it's taken on a rampage so brief it never even leaves the facility where it had just been built before the SWAT Kats manage to take it out by frying its electrical systems, which results in the thought controls becoming disabled. And apparently there is no backup conventional control for it because once Hard Drive loses the ability to operate it with his mind, the million dollar prototype promptly drives itself into a wall and crashes uselessly.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan plays this very straight. General Steel's usual response to any threat is to throw tanks at it. This never works, of course. Steel himself gets wise to this and has a Humongous Mecha of his own built, the "Hammer" that enjoys initial success against the Kaiju being sent to Earth, only to end up being destroyed just before the Titan gets upgraded in the Series Finale.


Video Example(s):


Kenshiro vs a Tank

Kenshiro meets a functional tank in a post-apocalyptic world. The tank doesn't even scratch him while Kenshiro blows up the tank with his bare fists.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / TanksForNothing

Media sources: