Three is a magic number, even when it comes to fighting. Often times in video games a character's most basic combo will consist of three attacks in rapid succession with the last hit dealing slightly more damage than the first two.
Often the most basic combo attack in the game being performed by simply pressing the attack button three times in a row. Sometimes the various hits that comprise the combo can be upgraded as the character Levels Up, or the combo can be extended to having four or more consecutive hits.
- Devil May Cry: Dante's default combo with his Rebellion are 3 strokes. With certain tricks, he can perform an alternative combo with more strokes.
- In Kid Icarus: Uprising, all weapons that aren't clubs or claws have three-hit melee combos.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has either three punches or two punches and a kick, depending on how fast you press the buttons.
- In The Wolf and the Waves, your human form's only attack needs to hit a zombie three times to kill it.
Action Adventure Games
- Double Dragon might be the Ur-Example, the first kick upgrade turns your third kick into a roundhouse, the last upgrade turns it into a leaping roundhouse that's one of the strongest moves in the game.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has four different three point combos depending on which direction the control stick was being held. Left horizontal, Right horizontal, Vertical and Thrust.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask also gives three-point combos to the Goron and Zora forms, but not to the Deku form.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess replace this with a four-point combo that can be mixed and matched.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword removes the combo system altogether by mapping the sword's movement to the Wii Motion Plus.
- The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes: The Aeralfos enemies' primary physical attack consists of diving down at the Links to deliver three quick sword strikes, turning the third into a spinning slash, before rising back into the air.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brings the four-point combo back for one-handed weapons, but removes the directional slash mechanic. It also has an eight-point combo for spears and a two-point combo for heavy weapons.
- Kingdom Hearts: Playable characters begin with a simple three-point combo which can be modified depending on the abilities or weapon equipped. In Chain of Memories, attack cards do different amounts of damage depending on which part of the combo you use them in, so when playing as Sora, it's best to group cards in the order of Strike->Thrust->Finish strength. Riku's attack cards are all identical, but it's still useful to keep track of the second hit of his combo: in Dark Mode, it inflicts a stun effect.
- In Beyond Good & Evil, Jade does this with her kicks, building up to a high kick.
- In Diablo III, all of the Monk's Primary attacks work like this, releasing a powerful blow on the third strike. They can be mixed up, using two strikes from one technique and the third from another, or any other combination.
- LEGO Star Wars: All lightsaber wielders and the Magnaguard use a three-point combo, with the finisher being flashier than the initial two. If the third hit is timed perfectly, it deals extra damage and hits through an opponent's block.
Beat 'Em Ups
- Chain combo systems in Fighting Games typically rely on a three-hit chain: Light-Medium-Heavy. This appears in countless fighters, including Street Fighter Alpha (the first one, but not the two sequels, unless—to a degree—your name is Guy or Gen), nearly every fighter related to the Marvel vs. Capcom series, BlazBlue, and Skullgirls.
- Codified for special moves in the form of Fei Long's Rekkaken (lit. Raging Fire/Conflagration Fist), a three-input special attack. A number of other attacks in later fighting games would follow several examples akin and/or different from this.
- Super Smash Bros.: About half the cast has a three point combo as their neutral attack. When possible, the combos are lifted straight out of the characters' original games. For instance, Mario's combo comes from Super Mario 64, and Snake's is from Metal Gear Solid. Other moves can count as three-point combos, like Meta Knight's forward tilt, Bayonetta's forward tilt and forward air, and Sora's forward tilt, neutral air, and forward air. Sora's forward tilt is unique in that the first hit is a strong hit if cancelled, but leads into the combo otherwise.
- Mace: The Dark Age bases its combo system on each character having several three-button-press combos exclusive to each character, which can then be followed up with various special moves.
First Person Shooters
- Team Fortress 2: the Gunslinger, a melee weapon for the Engineer in the form of a robotic hand. One of its features is a guaranteed critical on the third hit—this takes the form of an overhead hammerfist, as opposed to the normal straight jabs.
- Melee-based classes in Final Fantasy XIV have three-weapons kill combos as the basis of their attack rotation. Each skill only does its full damage and applies its additional effects when used immediately after the previous skill in the combo (helpfully marked "Combo Action" in the tooltip). For some classes (Rogue/Ninja, tanks), effective combat relies on effectively weaving in non-combo skills while making sure to keep the combo going. Other classes (Lancer/Dragoon, Samurai) have complicated branching combos that must be used in the right order.
- Spiral Knights: Most swords have one. The final hit does more damage than the first two.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
- Heroes of the Storm
- Thrall has the Windfury ability, which increases his attack speed for three attacks. This trope kicks in with the attack animation, which incorporates a sideways swing, a jumping uppercut, and a downward strike from midair. He can take a late-game talent to have the third hit deal bonus damage.
- Kharazim chooses between one of three passive abilities at the start of the game to either allow every third attack to deal bonus damage, heal a nearby ally, or restore Kharazim's own mana (and, after triggering enough times, reduce his cooldowns).
- Mal'Ganis has his Fel Claws ability, which he can use up to three times in a row to dash a short distance and deal damage, with the third slash also stunning enemies caught inside.
- League of Legends is very fond of this:
- Xin Zhao has Three Talon Strike, which enhances his normal attacks to deal increased damage, the third of which knocks the target into the air.
- Riven's Broken Wings is three slashing leaps, the third of which deals extra damage and knocks back nearby enemies. Diana's passive makes every third attack deal bonus magic damage to her enemy and those nearby.
- Similar to Riven, Aatrox can use "The Darkin Blade" (his Q skill) up to three times, each time changing the skill's sweetspot (an area which will deal more damage and lift the opponent for a brief period of time).
- Every third basic attack Vayne makes on a single target will deal a percentage of the target's maximum health as true (armor-ignoring) damage.
- Similar to Vayne, Gnar's "Hyper" will make his basic attacks and offensive skills apply a mark, dealing a percentage of the target's maximum health as magic damage on the third mark and giving Gnar a small speed burst. Unlike Vayne, Gnar can apply Hyper stacks to every enemy he can instead of just one.
- Nami is unusual in that she can give one of these to someone else: the target of her spell has their next three attacks or damage spells deal bonus damage and slow their target.
- A common variant is also for an attack to have some effect which intensifies each time until it reaches its maximum on the third. Orianna deals magic damage that increases for the second and third hit.
- There are also some spell based ones: after casting three spells, Sona's attack deals bonus damage and has an effect based on which spell she cast last. Varus' attacks apply up to three marks to an opponent that do nothing until he hits them with a spell, at which point they detonate to deal damage based on the enemy's maximum health and how many marks there were. Xerath's ultimate ability lets him fire three magical detonations at first rank. Ahri's ultimate lets her dash three times, dealing damage to enemies nearby.
- Another variant is empowering the third time a single skill is casted. Yasuo's "Steel Tempest" and Yone's "Mortal Steel" (both their Q spell) will make them stab (or a circular slash if used during Yasuo's E dash) and charge a counter each time they hit an enemy, turning the third Q into a ranged tornado or dash-tornado (for Yasuo, the dash-tornado is used during his E dash) or a dash with a small shockwave (for Yone) that will lift enemies in the air for a brief period of time.
- In Heroes of Newerth, Drunken Master's ultimate skill is the Three-Point Strike. He needs to hit a hero from three different angles for it to activate, dealing a powerful blow that stuns them. His array of short-range mobility skills makes this easier to activate.
- Banjo-Kazooie: On the ground Banjo can perform a triple claw-swipe move, while in the air, Kazooie can come out of Banjo's backpack to perform her own beak-based three-strike combo called the "Rat-a-tat Rap." In Tooie, the Claw Swipe would be replaced with a ground-based Rat-a-tat Rap.
- Donkey Kong 64: Each Kong had a three point combo. Donkey Kong could perform his combo with just two button presses, since the first hit was a double-attack, making it a curious example.
- Zero's basic saber attack in the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero series, starting from X4 onwards, is a three-slash combo. Before that (in X2 and X3), he also had a three-part combo involving a double-shot from his buster cannons followed by a slash. Model ZX in Mega Man ZX, which is based on Zero, also lends this ability to its wielder.
- Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight uses a Three-Strike Combo akin to Zero's... made awkward to use by the fact each attack inches you slightly forward and the third strike is slow enough that enemies will have come out of hitstun by then.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Super Mario 64: The basic right-left-kick combo might be the Trope Codifier for 3D games. Yah-Wah-Hoo!
- Epic Battle Fantasy 5: Most of NoLegs' skills consist of three-strike combos which deal elemental damage. They gain an additional strike if they kill their current target.
- The Tales series often gives you a three-point combo for basic attacks. However, there are passive skills that can increase the number of basic attacks and some characters only start with a two-point combo.
- Triple Kick in Pokémon.
- In AdventureQuest Worlds, a Warrior's Prepared Strike skill gives you two automatic crits on an enemy. If the Decisive Strike skill is used immediately after the two crits, the attack does more damage than it does normally, particularly if it crits as well.
- In Jade Empire, most styles have a Three Strike Combo of quick attacks. Exceptions include Magic styles and the longsword, which have four strike basic combos.
- In the Metal Gear series, the 3D installments have a 3-hit combo as the basic close quarters attack, consisting of 2 punches and a kick that will knock to the ground instantly any non-boss character.
- In every Disgaea game, the very first weapon skill you learn with fists is the humble Triple Strike, which hits a unit directly in front of you and knocks them back one tile.