The Villainous Red Ring of Death occurs when a villain has pushed him/herself too hard and abruptly starts to break down physically. That one of these is coming may or may not be clear in advance, but when it starts, it will hit all at once.
Causes vary. It could simply be the villain wearing him/herself out after a good case of Villainous Resolve. It could be the consequence of using the Dangerous Forbidden Technique, Deadly Upgrade, or removing their Power Limiter. Or caused by Phlebotinum Overload. Some works directly support this via Cast from Hit Points. It might be represented with burning Tron Lines, Tainted Veins, Volcanic Veins or turning red.
Can be a sign of Villainous Valour, if they're intentionally overtaxing themselves to accomplish something they've set their mind on.
Compare/Contrast Pent-Up Power Peril (when you have a power that builds up in your body and not using it will cause peril).
Not to be confused with Rings of Death.
Since this is an ending (and sometimes a Death Trope) spoilers are unmarked. You've been warned.
- Dragon Ball - Frieza from Dragon Ball has a real problem with this. He's a prodigy from a species that is naturally very strong, to the point where he declared himself "Emperor of the Universe" because nothing could stand against him. This means that he has never fought a prolonged battle since he could effortlessly overpower his opponents, and his stamina sucks as a result. So in his first prolonged battle against Super Saiyan Goku, after Frieza pulls out all the stops and powers up to his maximum, it quickly proves unsustainable and starts weakening him in turn. After he is killed and resurrected, Frieza starts training for the first time in his life to get his revenge and learns to control and maximize his natural power to avert this. However, the moment he unlocks a new Super Mode, he goes straight after Goku, once again intending to flat-out overpower his opponent with his new trump card. It ends exactly the same way; Frieza's stamina peters out, and Frieza dies once more.
- My Hero Academia
- During the Paranormal Liberation War Arc, Shigaraki's body suddenly tears open along his chest because his body augmentation process wasn't completed before his capsule was forcibly destroyed and all the damage he's taken fighting the pro heroes along with the strain of using All For One catches up to him in spite of his Healing Factor.
- My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising: The heroes realize that they can cause the villain 9 to have one if they fight him long enough and force him to use enough of his powers in a short period of time.
- Naruto: Both Kimimaro and Itachi pushed themselves beyond belief by fighting for extended periods of time and on several occasions while terminally ill. As a result, they both abruptly died in the middle of a fight. Kimimaro's case is egregious since his death is very anticlimatic — the stakes were high as his opponents were in a tough spot (Gaara exhausted his ample supply of chakra and Rock Lee was recovering from a crippling injury). Itachi's death, on the other hand, is much more emotional and the suddenness is exploited to mirror Sasuke's confusion and lack of sense of achievement after completing his long-awaited revenge.
- In One Piece, villain Hody Jones use steroids to increase his power, but these were made from a substance designed to age whoever takes it, and he overdosed to the point that when the effect passed he ended as a frail old man.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Arc Big Bad Social Darwinist Shishio Makoto can only exert himself for so long before the massive burns he suffered threaten to kill him. He over-exerts himself in the battle against Kenshin and spontaneously combusts, sparing Kenshin the difficult decision of whether or not to break his Thou Shalt Not Kill vow.
- In YuYu Hakusho, this is what does in Younger Toguro, the Big Bad of the Tournament Arc. Toguro had always been desperate to face an opponent that made him use his full power, so when Yusuke fires off a massive Kamehame Hadoken, Toguro decides to take it head-on as a challenge to himself instead of dodging. At first, he says he's finally using everything, then declares he needs even more power to deal with the blast. When it's over at first Toguro seems fine, but then his body starts rapidly deteriorating him and he collapses. He thanks Yusuke for giving him the match he wanted before he dies.
- When Spider-Man first encounters Venom, he realizes that Venom is producing his webbing organically, and since Venom used a large amount of webbing to capture him earlier, the way to defeat him is to get him to use up even more webbing to deplete himself. In the end, Venom expends enough of himself that he is unable to maintain his form and is defeated.
- In Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, anyone who does not consume human flesh on a regular basis eventually melts down because their demons turn to their own bodies for nutrition. As a result, many people die from hunger, involving the villains.
- Harley Q is the first to succumb to his hunger, turning into a Nigh-Invulnerable Blob Monster and later an Eldritch Abomination.
- Mick the Slug suffers a beating so severe by the heroes that no amount of food manages to cure him. He melts down right when he manages to bring Sera to the gates of Nirvana.
- Varin Omega dies due to over-abuse of his invisibility powers. The heroes note that he melted down at an unnaturally fast pace.
- The Mad Scientist has captured Barbarella in the 1968 Zeerust film, and attempts to destroy her with his Excessive Machine. The device is meant to cause an overload of orgasms on its victim, but Barbarella is Too Kinky to Torture, so the villain exhausts himself working the controls until his machine is kaput.
- The Mad Scientist behind KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park built android duplicates of the title touring group in order to instill discontent in their fanbase and make pariahs of them in the media. Once this villain's phonies are defeated and his scheme sundered, the band discovers the man has aged decades in mere hours, slumped inert in his chair.
- In Monty Python's Life of Brian, an early scene takes place in the local Coliseum. A weedy, unarmed and nearly naked runt of a man is matched against a heavily armoured villainous giant of a gladiator. The runt decides his best hope of survival is to run away. The giant runs after him and chases him round laps of the stadium. This continues for some time - until the giant, by now sweating and staggering with the exertion, pulls up short, grunts, claps a hand to his chest and dies of a cardiac arrest. The weed duly performs a victory dance and takes the cheers of the crowd.
- In the second season of Luke Cage (2016), Bushmaster has been warned all throughout the season that his use of nightshade as part of the Hollywood Voodoo that grants him temporary superpowers will inevitably cause him serious health problems and the effects will be less potent the more he takes it. Despite this, when he runs out of other ways to get to Mariah, he takes a super concentrated dose that briefly makes him practically unstoppable... and after the effects wear off he's a complete wreck physically and health wise. His last scene in the season is him needing help to simply walk a few feet from one car to another, possibly unable to even speak as he's assisted into the vehicle.
- Ecliptor in Power Rangers in Space powers himself up using the database and energy of the Astro Megaship, gaining a red mode that allows him to trash the Mega Winger, Astro and Delta Megazords easily, even destroying one of them in a single blow. However, when he's about to win, his power ends up overloading and he shrinks back to normal size, and he's so weakened and exhausted that the Rangers are able to defeat him (albeit not destroy him) with ease.
- Azure Striker Gunvolt 2:
- Once her health hits the two-thirds mark, Gibril triggers her Limit Break Iron Maiden, which unique to her makes her defense sky-rocket to the point most attacks only do Scratch Damage while she starts rapidly jumping around and leaving behind blood pools that explode into massive metal spiked towers. However, her health is steadily decreasing throughout the move because she's expending her own blood to both form the pools and enhance her body's natural performance beyond its limits. By the end of the move, assuming you survived or didn't manage to kill her sooner, she'll just stand still for a few seconds panting and quietly cursing before dying on her own.
- In Gunvolt's scenario, during the Boss Rush, the Mirror copy of Tenjian will upon losing all his health cast his true Limit Break Seven Slashes. It's incredibly hard to dodge and if it connects, Tenjian will insta-kill Gunvolt (and considering Joule is scripted to activate Anthem when he does, this is very likely the canonical scenario), but regardless if it does or not the copy dies afterwards. According to expanded materials, Seven Slashes is Tenjian's ultimate technique, but it's so powerful using it is all but certain to kill him too hence why he uses the weaker Frigid Blossom usually.
- Final Fantasy Legend II: Apollo battles your party with the assembled MAGI, which gives him incredible power and defense. However, he didn't know there were 78 MAGI pieces instead of 77. Because his set of MAGI is incomplete, his power is unstable, and he ends up melting and exploding after some rounds of combat.
- In The King of Fighters, Rugal Bernstein tries to use 100% of the Orochi power bestowed upon him by Goenitz, despite the latter's explicit warning not to do so. Because Rugal is not of the Orochi bloodline, he can't handle the full extent of the power and dies.
- Power Stone: The Big Bad Valgas, upon defeat, tries to power himself up with the big Power Stone. However, he ends up being heavily mutated and losing his mind due to the sheer power, turning him into a mindless monster and a big, slow target.
- Girl Genius: Violetta exploits this trope via Phlebotinum Overdose on Zola by hitting her with a blowdart filled with more Movit#11. The normal dose Zola took beforehand is considered suicidal. Zola survives by sprinting across the castle to burn off enough to stay alive until she can escape and receive medical attention.
- The episode "Sock Opera" in Gravity Falls has Dipper's body getting possessed by Bill Cipher. However, Dipper hasn't slept all night and just got beat up by Mabel, so Bill collapses shortly after fight with Mabel and abandons Dipper's body.