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Video Game / Skullgirls

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Ladies and gentlemen(?) it's...SHOWTIME!
"Legend tells of an artifact that can grant a woman's wish...The Skull Heart. However, if she is impure of heart, her wish will be corrupted and she will be turned into an immensely powerful, twisted being of destruction...The Skullgirl.

A new Skullgirl has risen: who will defeat her and claim the Skull Heart?"

Skullgirls is a frenetic 2D Fighting Game putting players in control of an (almost) all-female cast à la Arcana Heart. The game combines Animesque character designs with a stylized Golden Age film motif, employing "Dark Deco" stage backgrounds and a cinematic presentation. (The look and the name both derive from Batman: The Animated Series.)

The game was developed by Reverge Labs, published by Autumn Games and formerly Konami as well as by Arc System Works in Japan. It was maintained by Lab Zero Games until its closure in 2020. The game is currently in the hands of three teams: Autumn Games continues to act as the publisher, while active development is handled by Future Club, a studio formed by some of Lab Zero's former developers, and Hidden Variable Studios, who both work on the main game and act as the primary dev team for the mobile version. Skullgirls features work from an all-star development crew: fighting game veteran Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont (he of REAL SOVIET DAMAGE fame) led the project, Cristina Valenzuela directed the voice acting, Alex Ahad (whose prior work credits include Lava Punch, Studio UDON's Tribute books, and promotional art for Scott Pilgrim) created artwork for the game, and Michiru Yamane provided the music. The result is an eclectic and delightfully quirky cast and setting.


In the Canopy Kingdom, female combatants fight in an attempt to control the enigmatic Skull Heart, a mysterious MacGuffin with the power to bestow wishes — but not without a substantial price. Should the victor possess an impure soul, the Skull Heart corrupts both her wish and her physical body into a living nightmare that haunts humanity: a monstrous entity known only as the Skullgirl.

In the middle of a war with two other nations, the Canopy Kingdom's queen won the Skull Heart and wished for peace. In a way, she got her wish: after transforming into the most powerful and dangerous Skullgirl in history, all three countries agreed to stop fighting each other in order to save themselves from the Skullgirl.

When the game's story begins, the now-ended war remains fresh in everyone's minds, and rumors say a new Skullgirl has risen…


Skullgirls' gameplay carries the feel of old-school arcade fighters while providing a high-definition twist. It features a "ratio system" that allows each player to choose to fight with one character or a team of up to three characters, resulting in different combinations for a particular match. The game also features a special combo detection system: if a player begins an infinite combo, the damage strikes change color, and the game will allow the opponent to "burst" out of the infinite and knock the offensive player away.

The default cast of playable characters includes Filia, Cerebella, Peacock, Parasoul, Ms. Fortune, Painwheel, Valentine, and Double. Check the Character sheet for more information on all of them. Six DLC characters are currently in the game. The first, Squigly, was included with the beta and final releases of the PC version and was later released for the console versions, having been funded thanks to a crowdfunding drive. Big Band became the second DLC character, and first male character in the roster. The third and fourth (fan-voted characters from the crowdfunding drive) are Eliza and Beowulf. The fifth is Robo-Fortune: started off as a meta joke, then became an alternate voice pack, before becoming a full blown character thanks to the crowdfunding drive becoming a massive success (see below for details). The sixth is Fukua, who was originally conceived as an April Fools' Day joke and subsequently turned into an actual character after fan input. The team at Lab Zero confirmed 25-28 possible future DLC characters (all of which could be Saved for the Sequel).

Both the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade carry the game in the US, Europe, and Australia, and the game's available to PC gamers through Steam. A version of the game with translated text was published by Cyber Front on the Japanese PSN in February 2013; despite Japan's general mild distaste for downloadable games, Skullgirls became a smash hit. (There are currently no plans for a Japanese XBLA version.) Due to legal issues surrounding the developers' rocky relationship with Konami (see below), the original PSN and XBLA releases of Skullgirls were delisted at the end of 2013; Lab Zero later republished the game on both services in Febuary 2014 on PSN and Steam, and in April 2014 on XBLA as Skullgirls Encore (due to specific platform differences, PSN's version of Encore comes as an entirely new standalone release, while XBLA's version patches the original Skullgirls release).

The game was notably in an aftermarket Development Hell, due to a serious case of prolonged Troubled Production. Most of the post-release content, including the first patch and the first DLC character, was delayed because the Skullgirls team members were laid off from Reverge Labs (the original studio). This was due to Konami's and Autumn Games' (the publisher and owner of the Skullgirls franchise) being hit with an unrelated lawsuitnote  which tied up financial assets intended for the developers. Thankfully, Autumn Games helped them back up by supporting their new independent company, Lab Zero Games, as reflected on the newly-patched intro screen of the game. Lab Zero then started a fan fundraising project to get new content out, which became much more successful than anyone expected it to be. Originally set to fund just one characternote , the fundraiser raised enough to fund a total of five DLC characters fully, each of them with their own DLC stage and story mode! (And two more stages were added thanks to Contest Winner Cameos.)

Additionally, as part of one of the final stretch goals of the crowdfunding, Lab Zero allowed the Mane6 team to use the engine behind Skullgirls as part of their title which replaced Fighting Is Magic after they received a cease-and-desist from Hasbro. Them's Fightin' Herds was the result.

A port entitled Skullgirls: 2nd Encore was released on July 7th, 2015 for the Playstation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Skullgirls: 2nd Encore has exclusive content and provides, most significantly, full voice-acting in all the character story modes. Similarly, Arc System Works published 2nd Encore in Japan, complete with a full Japanese voice cast and in arcades no less. The additional gameplay features and voiced story cutscenes have been added to the Steam edition as DLC. In November 2016, a limited-edition physical copy of 2nd Encore was available on Limited Run Games for PS4 and Vita with the soundtrack and a book as bonuses, and were to be delivered in January 2017. They sold over 10,000 copies to get the money needed to buy the Japanese dub of the game from Arc System Works for the English version of the game and will put them in the PC and PS4 versions.

In 2018, Skullgirls: 2nd Encore was confirmed for a release on the Nintendo Switch, marking the franchise's very first appearance on a Nintendo system.

Hidden Variable Studios released the Android and iOS port, Skullgirls Mobile, in May 2017. It serves as a Prequel to the main game, taking place in the same year, but before Marie had made herself known as the Skullgirl. The game is split off into chapters for story mode and coupled with daily missions and gauntlets.

In July 2019, the official Twitter account of Skullgirls Mobile announced that the studio was in early pre-production on a webcomic series.

In August 2020, a brand new character was revealed for the series in the form of Annie, five years after the last character was revealed. She was added to the mobile game later in the year and will be added to 2nd Encore in May 2021 (excluding the Switch version, where the Season Pass and Annie will release later), with another three new characters (Umbrella, Black Dahlia, and Marie) on the way after her as part of the game's first season pass.

In addition, after multiple appearances at various events, an official online North American esports series, the Skullgirls Championship Series, was launched in Spring of 2021, with the first of three seasonal majors- or "Blockbusters", as they're referred to- happening in April.

Make it flashy, guys... action! Skullgirls proudly presents the following tropes:

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  • Action Girl: This being the kind of game it is, the entire playable cast certainly qualifies.
    • So far, the only exceptions are the male DLC characters Big Band and Beowulf unless you count the parasites some of the characters have, all of whom are either male or genderless with the exception of Sekhmet, Eliza's skeleton-Parasite.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Aerith and Bob: Well, we've got characters with names like Filia, Parasoul, Cerebella, and Umbrella, alongside others with names like Adam, Patricia, Carol, and Nadia. Sort of downplayed, though, since there are a lot more Bobs than Aeriths.
  • Affectionate Parody: If, by some miracle, you defeat Marie 300% in Squigly's joke "story mode" (which consists of just that boss fight), you get a parody of anime episode previews narrated by Filia and Samson, complete with Japanese title cards and excessively lengthy episode names.
  • A.I. Breaker: Filia's boss form in Fukua's Story mode has inflated stats and an AI stuck on Nightmare difficulty. However, she has issues dealing with Fukua's Inevitable Snuggle special throw. Fukua has considerable start-up super armor on said move which the AI Filia repeatedly fails to break with jabs rather than moves that can actually get through it. While slow, timing it just as Filia gets up from one is a reliable way of beating an otherwise difficult endboss.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: When Peacock, Parasoul, Valentine, Eliza and Beowulf turn around, their respective weapons swap hands.
    • When Squigly turns around, Leviathan comes out of the other side of her head.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Unlike the Downer Endings of other characters Big Band's ending has him watch the sunset while knowing that the battle isn't over.
  • Animesque: Made by Americans, but Japanese enough in feel to get backing by Konami.
  • Announcer Chatter: The announcer not only calls out character selections, but has a wide variety of battle start and battle end quotes. There are also three variant announcers which each have approiximately as many lines.
    • There's even one scenario where the announcer will speak in the middle of battle, if Beowulf pulls off a Blockbuster at Hype 3 in the NMO Arena.
  • Antagonist Title: Even though there's only one.
  • April Fools' Day:
  • Art Evolution: Not in the game itself, but Alex Ahad's drawing skills have increased big time, from the rough, unpolished first concepts of 2005-2006 to the professional spreads of 2012.
    • It begins to show in the game itself. The DLCs are a step up from the artwork of the original campaigns.
    • While not technically Art Evolution (Presentation Evolution?), the story mode paths of the DLC characters have much higher production values than those of the default roster, featuring longer cutscenes and more artwork. Earlier characters' storylines can feel very light in comparison.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Skull Heart. If there's even the least taint of corruption within the person who uses it, the Heart will mutate her into the next Skullgirl. Even worse, one of the characters' endings reveals that the Skull Heart is sentient, and actually wants to create more Skullgirls.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Even on the harder modes, the AI doesn't seem to know what to do when the player is in the air (except Marie, who does what she always does). Normally this doesn't amount to much, because most jumps are very short, but repeated jumping and Painwheel's Flight mode can leave the computer uselessly futzing around for extensive periods of time (ironically making Painwheel a good counter for CPU Peacock).
  • Art Shift: In the story modes of Squigly and Big Band, the story segments that aren't simply a character portrait or two against a stage background are of a more painterly style than the artwork used in the main game. Fukua's story mode segments are all in a much less detailed style than anything else in the entire game.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: See Crapsack World below.
    Alex Ahad: The personality is kind of my own thing — I like making things that are ridiculous and over-the-top, but are also serious and tinged with a dark sense of humor. And a lot of my characters are cute, but I always end up putting something off-putting or violent about them.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Most of the potential DLC characters are background characters in the vanilla game.
    • A non-character example with the Glass Canopy stage. It was first seen solely as a background in a panel of Parasoul's story mode.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • Robo-Fortune, is a fully fleshed-out character, thanks to the fund-drive.
    • Fukua, who became a playable character on a mere whim of Lab Zero's.
    • As well as a few of the Gag Dubs mentioned below.
    • In Squigly's tentative story mode included in the game's extra menu, Marie asks when her real story mode is going to come out. Squigly's response? "Two weeks!" Marie is not pleased.
      Marie 300%: I'll teach you to troll me!
  • As Long as There Is Evil: The Skull Heart can never truly be destroyed; it always return every seven years to turn those with dark desires into Skullgirls. (That is, unless The Trinity has any indication).
  • Aside Glance: One of the things Peacock can drop on her opponent is a fully grown live elephant, which not only survives the fall unharmed, but gives one of these glances at the player.
    • Cerebella takes several looks at the player at blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments during several of her attacks. Possibly justified, as she is a performer at heart.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The fourth DLC stage, Glass Canopy, is a massive ballroom first seen in a background in Parasoul's story mode.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Both Painwheel and Fukua's story modes have one of these - Painwheel's against a palette swap as she resists Brain Drain's control, and Fukua's as she fights Filia, Fukua's case having a twist in that she herself is the opposing force in Filia's mind, being a figment of her nightmare and all.
  • Beating A Dead Player: Continuing a combo on a defeated opponent would originally allow you to build meter, but after a patch, this was changed so that only the defeated player would (encouraging players to not be jerks about it).
  • Beat Still, My Heart: The Skull Heart is both a skull and a heart, with glowing blue blood vessels that spread out and provide the platform for the final stage.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Skull Heart can grant any wish, but if one's heart is even the slightest bit impure, or the wish even slightly selfish, they will turn into a Skullgirl, and their wish will be perverted. The queen of the Canopy Kingdom wanted to end a global war. She got her wish, but only after becoming so dangerous a Skullgirl that the warring nations set aside their differences to stop her.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Filia and Squigly pull of one of these at the end of Eliza's Story Mode. It doesn't work very well.
    • Annie performs one in Beowulf's story mode, with more positive results.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The achievement for completing the tutorial is "Sküllgirls". That would be pronounced Schoolgirls.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Almost every character ending.
    • The closest one to a completely happy ending is Ms. Fortune's, but even in that one Minette gets kidnapped, leaving Nadia and her friends to search for her. Peacock's would be relatively happy, if not for Dr. Avian and most of the Anti-Skullgirls Labs being destroyed.
      • However, Valentine is the one who invaded Lab 8 in Peacock's story, and it's possible that she uses her medical techniques to make the scientists only look dead to please Double and Marie. The support for this is in Beowulf's story, where Avian is alive in the ending despite what Big Band says after fighting Beowulf.
    • It would seem that Beowulf has finally broken the cycle and experienced a story with an unambiguously happy ending and no strings attached, although even then he had to work for it.
    • Big Band's ending is actually relatively good, despite his rather pessimistic outlook: Dr Avian has been killed but the Skull Heart has been destroyed, Painwheel has been rescued and has a chance at a normal life, and the gang that used to control the city has been badly weakened.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The characters are stabbed, shot, crushed, blown up, and God only knows what else in-game, yet there's far less actual bloodshed involved than you would expect. There are a few exceptions... but see the character sheet for more details.
  • Bloody Horror: Invoked in Ms. Fortune's backstory. She got her abilities when she swallowed a stolen gem with immortality-granting properties, and was promptly butchered alive by a mafia assassin. She woke up later on the seafloor, finding her body in pieces and surrounded by the chopped-up carcasses of her friends.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Ms. Fortune's Detachment Combat. She doesn't appear to be in any pain when making weaponized use out of her limbs and is cracking Incredibly Lame Puns constantly while doing it, further adding to the hilarity.
  • Body Horror: One of the defining elements amongst the characters. Many of the girls have some kind of terrible, weaponized bodily gimmick, and many of them are fully explained. Squigly, Filia (and by extension, Fukua) and Eliza have Parasites assisting them. Double is an Eldritch Abomination, Peacock, Painwheel and Big Band are walking weapons, and Ms. Fortune is a zombie catgirl who detaches her limbs on a normal basis. The only exceptions to the rule are Cerebella, Parasoul (both use living weapons alongside their own skills), Valentine (who's a trained ninja/soldier nurse) and Beowulf (a professional wrestler with an old opponent's arm).
  • Boss-Only Level: Squigly's Joke "story mode".
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Peacock's getting ready in the morning, Andy asks Avery if she even took a bath and if she brushes her teeth with metal polish. Avery's response is that a bath and her usual morning routine were implied, but not something the audience needs to see.
    • In Robo-Fortune's Story Mode, she asks Marie if she just gave away an important plot point. Marie responds that no-one will think any of this is canon.
    • Beowulf's into animation involves him literally tearing his way through the background onto the stage, prompting employees of Lab Zero (that is, the game's developers, not the in-universe laboratory) to patch the tear back up.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Pretty much everybody in Eliza's story mode. Once Eliza gets bored of playing around, the list of characters begins to shorten drastically.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: Downplayed example. Though the game rarely actually reaches complete darkness, there are some places where the characters are in shaded or low-light conditions. In these cases, the sprites are darkened or shaded accordingly except for their eyes, which remain whatever colors they'd normally be in under bright light. Averted with Peacock, whose arm-eyes are shaded with the rest of her body.
  • The Cameo: As of a recent patch, Yuzuriha from Under Night In-Birth can be spotted hanging out at the River King Casino.
    • The Under The Bridge stage may include an appearance of Bonus-kun.
    • Matt and Woollie can randomly appear in the background of the River King Casino.
    • Shady, a character from a line of indie games, is occasionally seen in the Glass Canopy.
  • Capcom Sequel Stagnation: Parodied in the codename of the first patch: "Skullgirls: Slightly Different Edition".
    • The second major patch continues the trend, being named "Skullgirls: More Different Edition".
    • Due to a bit of legal trouble involving Konami, the team also unintentionally played the trope straight by releasing Skullgirls Encore as a way to replace the console versions that were de-listed. It has its own "edition" names for its major patches: "Unfinished Business Edition" for the patch that introduced Big Band, and "Are You Ready For? Edition" for the patch that made Fukua an Ascended Meme.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Riccardo, a thug working for Vitale Medici who feels up Filia in her storyline and hits on and later helps abduct Minette in Ms. Fortune's storyline.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Good luck finding two background NPCs, let alone player characters, who look even remotely alike. Well, aside from the Egrets, but they're a special case.
  • Cat Fight: Since the majority of the roster are women, expect this to happen a lot.
    • There's even a cat woman who often meows when attacking or being hit and a lot of her attacks are scratches.
  • Charge-Input Special:
    • Parasoul is one of two fighters in the game that uses charge inputs. Her projectile, "Napalm Shot", travels a long distance and will create an explosive trap wherever it lands. And her anti-air, "Napalm Pillar", is invincible and launches opponents, with the added function of detonating Napalm Shots. She also has a set of three other charge specials that utilize her soldiers, the Black Egrets. "Egret Call" which resets Parasoul to a neutral position, "Egret Dive" where a soldier jumps in front of her and blocks incoming attacks, and "Egret Charge" where a soldier on a motorcycle comes and slams the opponent into the wall to start a combo.
    • Big Band is a Juggernaut style fighter who's Signature Attack, "Brass Knuckles", unleashes a devastating punch that powers through other attacks thanks to his super armor. He has another charge special called "Take the 'A' Train" which is a Grapple Move using the same windup animation as his punch, allowing for mix-ups. Both of this attacks can be used also as anti-air moves.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The Trinity in the Cliffhanger ending upon clearing Double's Story Path.
    • Big Band (the first male DLC) can be seen in the Lab 8 stage.
    • Quite a few characters that appear in the background or as assistants to the main cast were either intended to be playable, but cut from the roster, or are planned for DLC / a possible sequel.
  • Chromosome Casting: All-female cast of characters.
    • Averted once DLC came out, bringing Big Band and Beowulf, two unambiguously male characters.
      • Big Band is more band than man, however.
  • Cliffhanger: Double's Story Mode path ends with two girls playing the game and mentioning the existence of "other routes." According to the devs, it's essentially a fancy and long-winded way of saying that none of the storylines are Canon, but that there will be a single unifying canon storyline sometime in the future. Seems to have come to naught since development of the game has stopped and the staff have moved onto other projects.
  • Cloak and Dagger: The Anti-Skullgirl Laboratories, founded as a military R & D group by the leaders of the Canopy Kingdom. In the aftermath of the last war, the King disbanded the agency — but instead of going their separate ways, the ENTIRE organization went rogue, and without government oversight their methods became ever more questionable (ex. Painwheel and Peacock).
  • Co-Dragons: Valentine and Double in Story Mode. Subverted in Valentine's case, as she's The Mole.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The color of a floor bounce determines whether or not a character can ground tech.
      • Red: Cannot tech immediately.
      • Blue: Can tech immediately.
      • Green: Can still tech immediately, but the opponent can still deal damage if they are quick.
    • Likewise, Valentine has poisons that can be loaded into a syringe mid-battle and each color poison has a different effect on the opponent.
  • Combo Breaker:
    • Tied in to the game's "Infinite Prevention System." You can only burst out of a combo when the IPS detects an infinite combo.
    • A new mechanic in Squigly's patch update introduced a different kind of combo breaker, where instead of bursting out of a combo when an infinite is detected, you can burst out of a combo when the opponent uses too many non-super moves in a combo. This is referred to as "undizzying", based on the mechanic in Marvel vs. Capcom 2; this was introduced as an alternate escape method after clued-in players began deliberately using infinites to bait their opponents into bursting in order to take advantage of the (extremely) short cooldown period and combo them again.
  • Combos: Naturally, though the game takes several unique stances on the subject. While infinite combos are possible, the Infinite Prevention System makes it so that they are impossible to do after more than one rep. Similarly, the "Drama" bar forces combos to end after a certain point, as they will automatically drop if the opponent lands OTG once the bar is filled and can allow the opponent to burst out if they haven't been OTG'd. Finally, the "Combo Stage" mechanic makes sure that infinite combos will be detected extremely fast due to the game remembering each stage of a combo. Once a combo has reached the fifth stage (usually once a player has caused the opponent to bounce OTG once), any additional chaining will cause the IPS to be set off. What this all means is that Skullgirls forces combos to end after a certain period, allowing the comboed player some breathing room and giving them the opportunity to get out of the combo. But this leads to...
    • The game's secondary combo mechanic known as "resets". By purposely dropping your combo and throwing out a mixup, the game's combo scaling and all the mechanics listed above get reset back to zero, meaning damage begins all over again. Thus, the game's meta for comboing relies around balancing between longer "true" combos to build meter and condition opponents, and occasional "fake" reset combos to throw them off guard and go for big damage at the cost of allowing your opponent to block the mixup and thus allowing them to combo you instead.
  • Common HTTP Status Code: There are plenty of lines for combo ratings. 403 has "Forbidden" and 404 has "Not Found".
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Used as a game mechanic. The more characters you have on your side, the weaker each individual character is.
  • Copy Protection: A pirated version of this game is fully playable, but with the odd addition that finishing story mode would display a message box asking "What is the square root of a fish? Now I'm sad." The intention was to confuse pirates into asking the developers what the message meant, which would expose them as pirates. It worked on at least one player.
  • Corrupt Church: One of the story mode's paths suggests that the Trinity may be the source of the Mineral MacGuffin's power. Even the cathedral architecture and sculptures suggest one of the characters as quite representative of the church's true nature.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Double's ending reveals the characters and fate of the story are being controlled by Aeon and Venus' arcade stick, and suggests that none of the current storylines are Canon.
  • Crapsack World: Powerful Police States constantly on the border of expensive and bloody conflict? Check. Organized crime getting its tendrils into everything? Check. Science run amok with no regard for ethics? Check. Eldritch Abominations loose in the world? Check. Dark And Troubled Pasts for almost every character whose name we know? Check. Skullgirls qualifies.
  • Creator Cameo: One of the bullies hanging out in Maplecrest — the guy with the black star on the back of his jacket — is designed to look like one of the game's animators. Several of the developers' dogs can be seen in the same stage.
    • The optional Real Soviet Announcer is voiced by Mike Z.
    • Lab Zero employees can be seen in Beowulf's intro.
  • Creator Injoke: The random cat that has a .02% chance of appearing when Cerebella hits you with her Lock & Load move (seen here). One of the animators doodled a cat in one frame and forgot to take it out, and Mike Z then insisted that the cat be put into the game as an Easter Egg. Everyone agreed — on the condition that Mike Z animate it himself.
    • Peacock's TV drop sometimes has Filia dressed as Sadako crawling out of the TV. This references a bit of Halloween artwork Alex Ahad did, which had the same reference.
  • Cute Monster Girl: A whole lot of cute monster girls and not so cute in the case of Double.
  • Dark Reprise: The Lives We Left Behind, the stage music for Maplecrest, gets two. First is Nightmare Crest's The Dreams We Left Behind, while the second, The Lives We Tried to Reclaim, plays at the end of Painwheel's story and during the credits.
  • Defector from Decadence: Why Lab 8 went rogue; to prove they could help humanity in ways besides building weapons.
  • Developer's Foresight: Just about every minor feature Mike Z has added.
    • The Infinite Prevention System - The game knows when you're trying to pull off a proper infinite combo (a.k.a. a loop) and allows the player being hit to burst out of it. At the same time, the system is lenient enough that players can rack up huge extended combos as long as they don't start repeating themselves.
    • Unblockable prevention - The game knows when you've been put in a true unblockable situation, where blocking one attack means getting hit by another, and requires you to only block one (whichever hits first, or either one if they would hit at the same time). At the same time, the game allows for "hard-to-blockables" — where it seems that you're faced with a true unblockable situation, but you can actually block both attacks if you time it right.
    • The game requires you to hold Start for a couple seconds to pause the game in any form of PVP environment. This is necessary to prevent the players accidentally pausing the game in the middle of a tournament match, which is frequently grounds for disqualification, though it's just as appreciated by Button Mashers.
    • 360 detection - The game recognizes when you are inputting a 360 motion, which usually ends with an up direction. This can end with the character jumping and attacking instead of performing a special throw (as the motion usually requires) if you're not fast enough. So instead, the game keeps you on the ground as seen here, to make intended 360s easier to perform. Furthermore, Fukua's 360 detection only activates when her team's super meter is at maximum, as her 360 move is her rarely used level 5 Blockbuster and part of her gameplay revolves around quickly throwing air fireballs, which can be problematic if she can't jump.
      • Which may be a bit of a waste, as only three moves currently require it; Cerebella's Ultimate Showstopper, Fukua's Head Over Heels and Beowulf's Wulfamania.
    • The game prides itself on the high count of animation frames. When you switch in a character and not all of its animation loads in time, your character's hitboxes show instead as an error handler, just so that there's something there. It doesn't last for more than a split-second and it's fairly rare.
      • As of the first major patch, this is replaced with the characters appearing as de-rezzed versions of their usual art. "Looking all 8-bit", in the words of the creator.
    • The game actually uses a shading layer and depth map for its sprites. Not only does this speed up the art process, it also allows for some amazing lighting not usually seen in 2D games.
    • How about turning on hitboxes during Practice? How many other fighting games do that?
    • The first major patch added savestates to the training mode, for repeatably testing out different scenarios. Savestates are cleared by holding down select. They can also be cleared by pressing LP+LK+select, because somebody alerted the developers that some types of dual-moddednote  arcade sticks can't register "holding down select."
    • There's an icon in the HUD that indicates who is leading in total health so as to make it easy to tell who will win if time runs out.
    • The patch also introduces a mechanic based on Marvel vs. Capcom 2 where hitting both the point character and assist character with a snapback attack leaves the assist character open for combos. Because it's impossible for the IPS to trigger on an assist character, the assist is trapped in a potential infinite loop resulting in a KO. As compensation, whenever a double-snapback occurs, the game detects it and automatically regenerates the meter of the player being comboed, so as to prevent the attacker from having too much of an advantage.
    • One of the stages a fight may have Anti-Skullgirl Lab 8, where Big Band can be seen watching the ensuing fight. If Big Band is one of the characters in the match, he will not appear in the background.
      • The same is true for the Glass Canopy stage and Parasoul.
  • Diesel Punk: The game's setting is a weird amalgam of 1930's-'40's United States and Europe, with superscience technology housed in Art Deco architecture.
  • Ditto Fighter: Double briefly transforms into other characters to fight for nearly all of her moves. Her specials are unique in that, while they mimic other characters, the moves themselves come from the older builds of Skullgirls. For example, Cilia Slide and Hornet Bomber mimic Filia and Cerebella respectively, but neither can use the move themselves.
  • Dominatrix: Mrs. Victoria has an alter-ego in one — who is a dominatrix superhero. She was one of the DLC candidates.
  • Double Meaning: Peacock usually says "Poke!" during her crouching light punch, not just referring to how she's literally poking the enemy, but to how using light attacks to keep an opponent at bay is called "Poking".
  • Double Jump: Cerebella, Peacock, Ms. Fortune, Valentine, Double, Squigly, Big Band, Robo-Fortune and Fukua. Lampshaded in the tutorials:
    Tutorial: No one knows how they do it, but some characters can perform a rather mysterious feat: jumping a second time in mid-air!
  • Downer Ending: A fair few. For example:
    • Filia: Deciding that her regaining her memories wasn't as important as ensuring Carol (Painwheel) had a chance at happiness, Filia wishes for Carol to have a normal childhood. The Skull Heart grants the wish, but because the wish was to a small extent self-serving, it was impure. As a result, she would become the next Skullgirl. The transformation would be slow, though, and the Skull Heart advises Filia to use her remaining time well.
    • Peacock: The Skullgirl, Bloody Marie, turns out to be a childhood friend of Peacock. Peacock kills Marie to free her from the Skull Heart's control, then destroys the Skull Heart. Afterwards, she vows to continue Marie's work: destroying the Medici family, the ones who injured Peacock and forced Marie to find the Skull Heart...
    • Parasoul: To save her younger sister Umbrella from becoming the next Skullgirl (and because shooting the Skull Heart would set off an explosion that would kill Umbrella), Parasoul wishes for Umbrella to not become the Skullgirl. The wish is granted, but Parasoul would eventually become the Skullgirl in Umbrella's place. Like Filia, though, her transformation would be slow, so she begins Umbrella's combat training shortly thereafter, knowing that once she transforms, Umbrella would have to kill her...
    • Painwheel: After destroying the Skull Heart, Painwheel returns to her home in Maplecrest. Her parents reject her, however, because of her grotesque appearance. With nowhere else to go, she returns to Lab Zero and begins to plot her revenge against Brain Drain and the Anti-Skullgirl Labs. With the implication that she is somehow going to be the next Skullgirl...
    • Cerebella: Word Of God is that she's the only one with a pure enough heart to make a wish without turning into a Skullgirl. Her affection for Vitale, however, means that she never gets the chance; instead she's forced to murder Ms. Fortune both to protect him and to recover the MacGuffin he sent her to retrieve, leaving her broken and confused.
    • Valentine: We discover that she was in fact The Mole and possibly a Stealth Mentor to Painwheel, to whom she seems to harbor remorse for turning her into what she is. She kills Marie, and at first considers using the Skull Heart to resurrect the other members of Last Hope, but knows the Heart is a Jerkass Genie and will likely corrupt that wish. So she instead wishes flat out to become the next Skullgirl, with the implication that she wants Painwheel to hunt her down and kill her to atone for what she had done to her.
    • Squigly: Double reveals she was behind the events that exterminated Squigly's family. With Filia's help, Squigly defeats Double and destroys the Skull Heart. Unfortunately, Squigly's exsistence is still tied to the Heart and she passes away again. Her only comfort is that Leviathan swears to stay with her until her next awakening. At the end of the credits, we see Filia visiting Squigly's new grave.
    • Surprisingly averted in Big Band's story. There's about one whole sad moment: Dr. Avian's death, but it's not as emphasized as it is in Peacock's story. Heck, Peacock fighting her best friend Marie isn't emphasized either. Big Band's story is pretty easy going, although he does acknowledge that despite destroying the Skullheart, another one will pop up, and that "I'm smart enough to know that this isn't a happy ending" (paraphrased), but it's still much more optimistic than other stories.
    • Fukua's story mode has our Villain Protagonist pull a Grand Theft Me on Filia.
    • Eliza. The Bad Guy Wins... and she takes out nearly half the cast along the way leaving only a Not Quite Dead Marie to fend her off.
    • Robo-Fortune's story: Robo-Fortune controls several giant robots to Kill 'Em All, prompting a last stand from several NPCs. Well, it was a good ending for Aeon and Venus, at least...
  • Downloadable Content: Squigly was released in August 2013. Big Band was the first male character added, released in April 2014, and Fukua arrived in May, and Eliza in late 2014, Beowulf was in April 2015, Robo-Fortune in June 2015, and Annie in early 2021. See also Gag Dub below.
  • Dual Boss: The penultimate stage in most of the characters' storylines has the player fighting against Valentine and Double.
    • This is actually inverted in Squigly's story mode, where you fight as both Squigly and Filia against her Final Boss, Double.
    • Eliza never fights the Valentine-Double team; her final match is against Squigly and Filia.
    • Also an inverted case in Big Band's story; His final battle with Marie has him teamed up with Peacock.
  • Dynamic Loading: On the console versions, character animations are streamed in and out of memory as they are needed. The occasional failure to load fast enough results in the unloaded sprites looking heavily pixellated. This was introduced in a patch in order to make the characters actually appear somewhat normal before the streaming is complete; beforehand, the artwork was completely replaced by the character's hitboxes.
  • Easier Than Easy: The "Sleepwalk" Difficulty.
  • Easter Egg:
    • If Peacock is hit at the right time when she fries an ant in her crouching Mid Kick move, you can save it and then watch it run across to the other side of the stage. You can also spare said ant if you play as Peacock by immediately cancelling the move into a special. You can do this in rapid succession to get multiple ants skittering along the stage.
    • When Cerebella connects with her Lock n' Load attack, there's a .02% chance of a random, poorly-drawn cat skittering across the stage. As detailed on the main page, an animator sketched a cat in one frame but forgot to take it out, and Mike Z said he wanted to keep it in as part of an Easter egg. The rest of the dev team agreed, but only if Mike animated it himself.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Double, who serves a trinity of higher-level abominations: Venus, Aeon, and the Mother. She's a shapeshifting monstrosity who turns herself inside-out to reveal her true form - a being made almost solely of undulating flesh.
  • Eldritch Location: The Nightmare Crest stage. The background is entirely grayscale, with the normal NPCs replaced with black figures with glowing white eyes, and black leaves frozen mid-fall - but the swirling red-and-purple sky overhead moves much faster than reality. This is the setting for the main Battle in the Center of the Mind stages.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The Medici Tower stage.
  • Excuse Plot: One of the few fighting games to actually avert it. Much care has been given to the character's personalities and the game's lore, with a very detailed world tying together the game's plot. However, aside from the opening sequence explaining the purpose of the Skull Heart, the game still just throws you into everything, and the story and game world aren't really fleshed out until you've played through multiple character's storylines.
  • Exotic Eye Designs:
    • Whoever becomes the Skullgirl gains red pupils that are shaped like half of a skull.
    • Valentine has medical crosses in her eyes. And in her ending, she retains those crosses along with the aforementioned Skullgirl eyes.
    • Subverted with Peacock. Those Black Bead Eyes are actually eye sockets.
  • Expy:
    • Parasoul bears a resemblance to Mitsuru Kirijo, to the point of even having a Palette Swap based on said character.
    • Squigly tends to resemble Emily from Corpse Bride, right down to the patch of exposed ribs and parasite in her head. She actually dresses up as CB in a Halloween fancy dress shot, and also has an alternate palette based on the character.
    • There is a drawing of Umbrella dated 2001(!) which puts her before Yachiru. Skullgirls is not just Reference Overdosed, it makes Shout Outs to the future.
    • The series has another brush with Persona due to Beowulf, a wrestler who fights with a folding chair. The character was around some time before Ms. Fortune's design changed, but most people heard of Persona 4: Arena first.
      • Amusingly, in the list of characters and games that inspired Beowulf, one of the items is "Not Kanji".
  • Fan Disservice: While there's an underlying theme of playful fanservice running through a lot of the characters, there's an equal amount who totally turn it on its head. Sure there's busty gals in Form Fitting Wardrobes like Valentine and Cerebella, but then there's:
  • Fanservice: It's a fighting game with an (almost) all-female cast. This shouldn't be a surprise.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Word Of God is that there's a bit of a social stigma against people who have parasites. This is the reason both Filia and Squigly hide Samson and Leviathan until they get in a fight.
    • Ferals. This is best seen with Ms. Fortune's opening, where Riccardo and Lawrence hit on Minette by saying she's "Not bad, for a gill-girl", and then call Ms. Fortune a "flea-bitten furball" the second she walks in.
  • Female Gaze: The crotch area on Beowulf's pants is tight and moves rather bouncily.
  • Film Posters: The opening movie shows movie posters for each of the game's fighters (except for Double and Squigly).
  • Fish People: The Dagonian race. As an added bonus, many of them inhabit a district known as Little Innsmouth.
  • Funny Background Event: Certain strong attacks such as Double's Megalith Array move (in midair) or Peacock's fully charged Shadow of Impending Doom can cause certain background events to happen. These vary from Ms. Victoria in Class Notes covering her mouth in shock to the pigeon on Meridian Area Rapid Transit falling off the side of the train.
  • Funny X-Ray: Valentine's Steam Trading Card shows some X-Rays of Valentine's body, one of showing her cracked heart, Filia and Samson's head, and Peacock's hand.
  • Gag Dub: The voice actors have recorded videos of themselves playing the game and doing gag dubs for their own characters. For a charity donation drive they even did this for playthroughs of the story mode (see the Funny Moments page for more details). This culminated in Gag Dub voice packs being announced and funded for the Indiegogo campaign, they are, as follows:
  • Gainaxing: All of the buxom females do this, though Cerebella, Parasoul and Valentine are the more obvious examples.
  • The Ghost: King Franz and Queen Nancy Renoir, the previous monarchs before the crown princesses. Queen Nancy is briefly seen in Skullgirl form at the start of Parasoul's story but only indistinctly.
    • The other Labs 1 to 7 and any beyond 8, which are only inferred (although Stanley's bio says that he used to work for Lab 4).
    • Delilah, Samson's previous host. Apparently he was quite fond of her, although ultimately Eliza lead to her eventual death.
    • At the start of Parasoul's story, the newsreader comments that 'Frank has the night off'. Who is Frank? We don't know. But we do know that he's the news anchor, and that this is his night off.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The previous Skullgirl, who was the former queen of Canopy Kingdom (though it's implied that she was a nice ruler until the Skull Heart corrupted her).
  • Gorn: The game's rated "T," but it can really push the limits at times. The best example is probably the "Gehenna" stage.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: No seriously. Eliza is one of the Parasites who blew up the world aeons ago. Even the Skull Heart and Double, the local Big Bad Duumvirate, hate her guts for the greater depths she sank to.
  • Grotesque Cute: Most of the young cast members, in one form or another.
  • Guest-Star Party Member:
    • In Squigly's story, Filia helps you for the Final Boss fight against Double.
    • In Big Band's story, Peacock helps you for the Final Boss fight against Marie.
    • In Eliza's story, Cerebella helps you for the first two fights against Squigly and Ms. Fortune.
  • Guide Dang It!: When the initial release hit, there were no in-game move lists. Players had to go to the game's website to obtain the characters' move lists in PDF format. Now, moveset lists can be accessed in the pause menu, complete with a feature that shows only the movesets of the characters(s) the player is currently using.
    • The achievement titles and descriptions are puzzling at best and rarely helpful. Most of the achievements have many ways they could be interpreted, and the requirement usually has to be met a large unspecified amount of times, but the player has no way to know whether or not he or she is meeting the requirement.
      • One references medicine and surgery but requires the player to use a defibrillator in a certain way.
      • Another suggests the player to throw stuff but actually only requires the player to drop stuff.
      • The one that says to let the weight off your shoulders requires the player to play as Ms. Fortune and leave her head off for an hour in total.
      • The character-specific achievements, however, have their requirements outlined at the beginning of each character's tutorial, which can be easily missed. For example, the tutorial says that the player has truly mastered Cerebella once he's/she's thrown an opponent 100 times.
  • Harder Than Hard: The "Ridiculous" and "Nightmare" difficulties.
  • Hartman Hips: Almost all of the girls.
  • Heart of the Matter: The Skull Heart, an Artifact of Doom the corrupts its user into a murderous, undead necromancer bent on causing the destruction of the world.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: The game does its best to avert this with some of the most detailed hit boxes seen in a modern fighter.
    • The game also has more than just hit and hurt boxes allowing for all manner of different effects.
    • Surprisingly, some dissonance had to be intentionally added in patches, because making the hit boxes too accurate caused problems like combos dropping when they shouldn't.
    • Fukua's standing hitbox arrangement is exactly the same as Filia's, even though she stands in a different pose. This is because the creators believe that any combo that works on Filia should also work on Fukua.
  • Holy Pipe Organ: Anytime the characters are in the Grand Cathedral, whether it's in a cutscene or a fight takes place in it, organs will be playing in the background in some way.
  • Home Stage: Several characters have stages with strong narrative and thematic ties to them.
    • Filia: Maplecrest
    • Cerebella: Medici Tower
    • Peacock: Lab 8
    • Ms. Fortune: Little Innsmouth
    • Double: Grand Cathedral and Gehenna
    • Big Band: Under the Bridge
    • Eliza: Bath of Tefnut
    • Beowulf: NMO Arena
    • Annie: Sound Stage 15
    • Marie: Final Atrium
  • Humanoid Abomination: Double and the Trinity.
  • Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: It was mentioned that there are at least 250 different lines for combo ratings. Several of them are meant as obvious jokes: 7 hits is "Lucky", 13 is "Unfortunate", 18 is "Barely Legal", 34 is "Crass", 37 is "In A Row", 42 is "Meaningful", 65 is "Jurassic", 66 is "Devilish" (with 616 -- if you ever get that far -- being "Infernal" and 666 "Diabolical"), 121 is "Gigawatt", 314 is "Algebraic", 403 and 404 are "Forbidden" and "Not Found"...
    • And then some are just intentionally bizarre, the most cited example being 32 hits — "Anatiferous"note .
    • The entire list is available over at Shoryuken. And yes, it goes all the way to 999note .
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Most of the characters, due to the art style. Aeon's midsection is a literal hourglass.
  • Improbably Female Cast: Up until Big Band was added as the first male character, all the playable characters were female (If you can even consider Double female...)
    • Word Of God is that Alex Ahad wanted to completely flip the usual gender ratio of fighting games.
  • Interface Screw: Valentine's Orange Syringe can cause delay to button inputs.
    • Squigly is able to pull the camera towards her, dragging her opponent and the stage boundaries with it.
    • One of Isaac's conceptual super moves would temporarily speed up the round timer, making it easier to win via time-over.
  • Jackass Genie: The Skull Heart, given the ludicrously strict requirements of Incorruptible Pure Pureness that it demands in order not to turn someone into a Skullgirl.
  • Kill 'Em All: By the end of Eliza's story mode, virtually every character featured except Eliza herself is either dead or condemned to a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Ladies and Germs: As the announcer says "Ladies and Gentlemen," a question mark briefly flashes next to "gentlemen" as a reference to the absencenote  of male characters to choose from.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: Anti-Skullgirl Lab 8 is this to Lab Zero. Both produce super-powered child soldiers to fight the threat of the Skullgirl. But whereas Lab 8 takes in war victims and, with their blessing, gives them upgrades, Lab Zero's only known subject, Painwheel, was an innocent girl kidnapped off the streets and brainwashed into a fighting monstrosity.
  • Literal-Minded: A snapback is a specific type of move in tag fighters such as this game. When used, they force the opponent to tag out. In Skullgirls, they're called "Outtakes" - as in, literally taking the opponent out of the fight.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Fish People and Cat People exist in the game's world, and the various stages show there are more, such as bears and tigers mingling with each other at a high class party.
  • Living Weapon: Erm...Living Weapons. Word Of God has stated that unlike Parasites, Living Weapons are not sapient; they are conscious when in use, but strictly subsentient, more or less in the manner of intelligent animals. They also don't bond with the user the way Parasites do.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: More common, among other bugs, in the Pre-Patch Version on the Xbox 360. This was rectified after the patch.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Double and Marie are cosmic horrors, the time period is similar to that of H. P. Lovecraft, and the setting even has a city called Little Innsmouth.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The end credits theme, In a Moment's Time, is a soft jazz song. The lyrics initially seem to just be about love, but it becomes increasingly clear that it's actually the Skull Heart's Villain Song about how whoever it's singing to is bound to make a wish and become the next Skullgirl.
  • MacGuffin: The Skull Heart. When Peacock finds it she calls this trope out by name.
  • The Mafia: The entire Cirque de Cartes works for them, whether they want to or not.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Squigly's funeral, paid for by Lorenzo. Subverted though, since the Continello family were murdered on his orders. In the end of her storyline, Squigly is re-interred by Filia, away from the city.
  • Mind Screw: Double's story-mode ending. Expecially if you aren't familiar enough with the game's story to know about The Trinity.
  • Minimalist Cast: Up until Encore there were only 9 characters (8 playable, 1 unplayable), as of the release 13 characters will be playable, that is until the number was bumped up to 15 by means of the inclusion of Fukua and Annie.
  • Monster and the Maiden:
    • Filia is currently a host to a sentient parasite named Samson. Samson is attached to the back of her head, which makes him look like her hair, with which he can grab and hit opponents with. Filia isn't that good of a fighter, so it's mostly Samson doing all the legwork for her, in exchange for Filia's body supporting his own.
      • Samson also formed this kind of a duo with his old host, a woman named Delilah.
    • Squigly and her parasite Leviathan are a more sophisticated and harmonious equivalent. Leviathan is devoted to Squigly, especially since his old host was actually Squigly's father. Their moves are more like a dance, compared to Samson's more dominant and brutal fighting style, where Filia is mostly dragged around by him.
    • To a lesser extent than Filia and Squigly, we have Peacock and her parasite, the tiny bird-like Avery. Unlike Filia and Squigly, whose bodies are literally merged with their respective parasites, Avery's body is separate from Peacock's, and he functions more like an Assist Character that appears in some of her attacks. Andy Anvil, another one of Peacock's assists, also qualifies.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: The Announcer, after a particularly drawn-out match. "All right, all right, show's over."
  • Multiple Endings: There is a canonical true ending, as yet unrevealed, but the endings in the game's initial Story Mode are all "Threads of Fate" for each individual character's triumph over all the others, in which will all have a single common point where they converge.
  • Mythology Gag: In Robo-Fortune's ending, the only hope for defeating her in the Robot War is the other DLC characters from the Indiegogo fundraiser who didn't make the cut. Robo-Fortune detects in them high levels of sodium chloride, or in layman's terms, mad salt.

  • "Nighthawks" Shot: The first scene of Filia's story mode is a blatant shout out. It takes place at a cafe that strongly resembles Nighthawks.
  • No Ending: Or rather, no true ending. Word Of God outright confirmed that the story's true ending is literally impossible without Marie, Black Dahlia and Umbrella becoming playable. None of them had their Indiegogo fundings reached. Do the math. However, with the game's revived development confirming Umbrella as a new part of the roster and later confirming Black Dahlia for a 2022 release, it seems making this an Averted Trope is the goal.
  • No Fair Cheating: The PC version is coded to instantly kill anyone who plays as Marie or a character they do not own online, and playing as Marie online is planned to zero out a players win count and TrueSkill.note 
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The voice actors apparently couldn't agree on the pronunciation of 'Medici.' When playing through his character's story mode, Rich Brown pronounces it as "Meh-dee-chee" before asking Kaiji how to pronounce it - and Kaiji corrects him to "Meh-dee-see". But the official pronunciation is "Meh-dee-chee," as shown in Marie's pre-battle quotes and the 2nd Encore voiceovers.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • The Big Bad remarks that Ms. Fortune's wishes are similar; to destroy the mafia and all affiliated crime organizations as revenge for their friends.
      Ms. Fortune: Look, I'm gonna have to stop you before you get to the 'We're a lot alike, you and I' bit.
    • Both she and Squigly have been killed by the Medicis and come back to life. If she loses to Squigly, she'll occasionally mutter "But... we're... the same..."
  • Obvious Beta: The pre-patch version of the game by Reverge Labs. The Xbox 360 version suffered from this longest due to Microsoft's very strict file size patching limits, but it was eventually patched months after the PlayStation 3 version, plus unless you didn't download the required patch, you're stuck with it until you do.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: While the Infinite Prevention System is useful, people were still able to find ways to pull off insanely damaging, even lethal, combos without triggering it. This lead to the addition of "Drama", which puts a hard limit on how long a combo can be when the player can't get out of it.
  • One-Woman Wail: The main theme music — a remix of Marie's stage theme, which also fits the trope.
  • On the Next: Parodied in Squigly's Joke Story Mode ending.
  • Only One Name: Zig-Zagged. The full names of a little over half the playable cast - Parasoul (Renoir), Squigly (Siena Contiello), Big Band (Ben Birdland), Peacock (Patricia Watson), and Ms. (Nadia) Fortune - as well as the Medicis, Squigly's family, Parasoul's family, Marie (Korbel, according to Word Of God), Adam (Kapowski, also as of Word Of God) and Stanley (Whitefin), have been revealed. Every other character, including every DLC candidate besides Stanley, Marie, and Adam, have no revealed full name. Dr. Avian is unique in that we only know his last name.
    • Filia at least has the excuse of simply forgetting her last name. (It's almost certainly Medici, though.)
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Gigans have their own nation with a violent history with the Canopy Kingdom, a reputation as berserkers hungry for battle, and are interfertile with other races. Scythana is part-Gigan, and Beowulf wrestled against a Gigan named Grendel in his backstory.
  • Panty Fighter: Might be some Author Appeal in it all, given how frequent and almost intentional it seems (the end of Cerebella's grapple super has her do a handstand, revealing her thighs and then some). The game isn't overtly sexual but no doubt that it tries to be cheeky.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: The characters' strength is adjusted depending on whether or not they're fighting in a team or alone.
    • Also used in regards to a character's power in the story. After all, the rest of the cast would have zero chance against Eliza or Double if they used the same level of strength they're shown as capable of using outside of fights.
  • Premium Currency: In the mobile game, the 2 currencies are Canopy Coins and Theonite. The former can be earned through regular playing while the latter can be purchased with real money or earned through achievements and missions.
  • Product Placement: Billboards for real-world sponsors of the game, such as EightySixed and Sanshee, can be seen in the background of some stages. In addition, the developer build of the game is streamed on the EightySixed channel.
  • Punny Name: Almost the entirety of the playable cast. Many other examples as well - check the characters page for the full list.
    • Cerebella is a pun on "cerebellum", a region of the brain. Cerebella's primary weapon when fighting is a hat.
    • Double "doubles" the other characters.
    • Parasoul uses an umbrella for a weapon, and, as the ruler of the Canopy Kingdom, is the heart and "soul" of her kingdom, as well as her wielding of a Living Weapon and her symbol being the same as that of the main in-universe religion.
    • Painwheel's most distinguishing feature is the giant metal pinwheel sticking out of her back.
    • Ms. Fortune's name is a pun on the word "misfortune", which makes a bit of sense considering since she's the resident pun lover and a kind of a zombie.
    • Bloody Marie's name is a pun on "Bloody Mary".
    • Valentine's name is a pun on her real name, Valerie. It also ties into the Last Hope's Theme Naming after holidays.
    • A non-character example in two stages: Under the Bridge literally takes place under a bridge, and Glass Canopy is a massive ballroom with a glass canopy for a roof. The name of the country the game takes place in is the Canopy Kingdom.
  • Putting on the Reich: Parasoul's Black Egrets mixes this with Badass in a Nice Suit. Combining grey-green pinstripe pants and a dark red dress shirt and tie with a grey-green military style button down jacket. They also wear a red and white armband with an umbrella logo and vaguely German-looking helmets with a spike on top. Parasoul uses a Luger and the Black Egrets are seen to use MP 40's, Sturmgewehrs, MG 42's, and travel on BMW R12 motorcycles.
  • Recurring Riff: Those first nine notes you hear in the opening? They play a lot throughout the course of the game, mostly in the cutscene music for the story modes.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Quite a lot of characters have them. They either have parasites implanted in their body, or have a connection with the Skullgirl.
  • Reference Overdosed: Boy howdy. See Shout Out page below!
  • Reformulated Game: The original version and the mobile version, due to having inherently completely different control schemes (buttons vs. touch screen), required the mobile version be rebuilt from the ground up. The story is also different, involving battle prototype (non-sentient) clones from the Canopy Kingdom deployed to fight the Medici Family, who have created their own similar clones. It's currently unknown if the mobile version's story takes place at the same time, before, or instead of the original version's.
  • Refrain from Assuming: The credits theme is called "In A Moment's Time", not "In Just A Moment's Time'', as most sources on the Internet have it listed.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The Anti-Skullgirl Labs.
  • Retcon: Juju. Due to legal issues with her concept, Mike Z has removed her from the story and the game itself.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: The stages New Meridian Rooftops and Rooftops Assault.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: Sometimes, computer assist Peacock will use her charged up Shadow of Impending Doom (item drop move). You cannot have your own Peacock assist do this. You also can't do Painwheel's charged up attacks as assists, something the computer player also periodically uses.
    • Patches have since added the ability to set charged Shadow of Impending Doom as an assist, but good luck finding out how.
  • Sequel Hook: Double's (the final story mode's) ending. For that matter, it's technically a True Story Mode hook.
  • Set Swords to "Stun": Despite most cast members carrying some sort of lethal weapon of some sort, none of them are actually killed as a result. Cerebella's death in Eliza's story mode doesn't count, because that was in a cutscene rather than as a direct result of their fight.
  • Shaped Like Itself: In Squigly's Joke story mode ending the preview says that "a mysterious rival mysteriously appears! How Mysterious!".
  • She's Got Legs: Exaggerated, almost, to the point where in some bits of art character's legs take up well over half their body. The best (worst?) example is Mrs. Victoria in this frame from the ending of Filia's story mode.
  • Shout-Out: Check the page.
  • Show Within a Show: There's a show called Annie: Girl of the Stars. Peacock and Parasoul (secretly) are known fans of it, but ironically not Umbrella. Then in Beowulf's story mode, it turns out Annie is real (she was playing herself-as-a-character on the TV show), and she plays an important role in Beowulf's storyline.
  • SNK Boss: Bloody Marie. She was notorious for being exceedingly aggravating to beat with most characters (save for Peacock, fittingly enough) before the game was patched. Even after the patch, which added hitstun and more visibility on her attacks, she remains a difficult boss.
    • Exaggerated with Marie 300%, who has triple her normal health and is locked to the hardest difficulty.
    • Fukua's story mode has a special boss version of Filia that also has 300% HP, starts with 5 bars of meter and always has its AI set to the hardest difficulty setting no matter what you set it to at the start.
  • Some Dexterity Required: Averted, which is a a big deal for a tourney-level traditional fighter. The most complex joystick motion is a single full circle forward, which only three characters even use, and even then, only for supers (a level one in Cerebella's case, a level 5 for Fukua and a level 3 for Beowulf).note  Stringing lengthy combos together takes a bit of practice, but pulling off the moves individually is no sweat.
    • The only exceptions to this are taunt inputs. Taunts in this game are complex inputs similar to the super inputs in the Darkstalkers series and/or Akuma's famous "Raging Demon" input. This does have a purpose, though—since the taunts are complicated to perform, you can't perform them accidentally, and you can't accidentally press start and pause the game like you might if the taunt was attached to the select button.
    • Big Band is also an exception because his taunt actually powers up two of his super moves.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Eliza's ending shows her turning into a gigantic monster using all the blood she took from Gehenna and declaring war on the Medici. All while soothing jazz music plays.
  • The Stinger: Squigly's, Fukua's, Eliza's and Robo-Fortune's endings have an extra scene after the credits.
  • Story Difficulty Setting: "Brain Drain Mode", which can be toggled on or off at any time during a fight. When it's turned on, the AI will take over for the player. It can still succumb to Artificial Stupidity, however, and requires the player to sometimes turn it off and assume direct control, which was a deliberate decision. Canonically, Brain Drain himself is mind-controlling the player characters, but Word Of God is that Brain Drain Mode exists so people who aren't used to the high speed, twitch-based style fighting games have can still enjoy the story.
  • Super Move Portrait Attack: A patch gave Blockbuster attacks character portrait cut-ins at the same time as the super flash. They also cause the screen to go sepia-tone for that split-second.
  • Super Soldier: The projects from the Anti-Skullgirls Labs. Peacock and Painwheel are two of them. Concept art of Panzerfaust shows him to be a very literal interpretation, being a hulk of a uniformed soldier with a tank for a hand.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: Umbrella's story. Not only does she manage to free Painwheel of Brain Drain's control completely and reunite her with Filia at the end, She and her sister succeed in banishing the Skull Heart without Umbrella becoming the next Skullgirl!. For a fighting game known for it's Bittersweet Endings and Downer Endings, This was a welcome change of pace to many fans.
  • The Symbiote: Parasites.
    • Standard Parasites attach themselves to the user's body and display sapient-level intelligence and speech. Word Of God says that after the Parasite is attached, the Parasite and its user will die if separated (though it's possible to transfer a Parasite from one user to another without killing the Parasite).
    • Remote Parasites are not directly attached to the user's body. However, the user must give up some body part to use the Remote Parasite.
    • Finally, Synthetic Parasites are artificially created and implanted into the user's body. However, they do not display speech or intelligence and in fact may not be truly alive.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: Even disregarding all of the cosmic horrors interfering in the daily lives of the characters, the mere existence of the Skull Heart practically ensures this; wishing on the Skull Heart turns you into a creature not only powerful enough to destroy the world, but outright DRIVEN to do so, destroying it just causes it to reform within seven years, and Word Of God confirms that just leaving it alone after killing the current Skullgirl will simply cause said Skullgirl to regenerate and begin her destruction anew. The previous Skullgirl prior to the events of the game nearly succeeded in ending the world only seven years ago, which even by the standards of a human lifespan is a relatively short period of time. So... yeah.
  • Symbol Motif Clothing: Skull shapes. They're visible on the outfits of quite a few characters, such as Marie's hairpins and Squigly's corset. If you look close, Filia has skull-shaped cufflinks.
    • There's also Cerebella's thing with diamonds; all the members of the Cirque des Cartes have card-related motifs.
    • Beowulf has a lot of wolf imagery, probably as part of professional wrestling gimmick.
  • Tag Team: If there's a two- or three-(wo)man team involved.
  • Take That!:
    • The list of changes on the v1.01 patch includes the note "Prettied up that billboard on the Medici Tower stage." By "prettied up", they mean "ditched the Reverge logo and replaced it with the Lab Zero logo".
    • For April Fools 2014, a preview video was released for Fukua, a palette-swap of Filia. This was created to poke fun at Ultra Street Fighter IV 's highly-anticipated final roster member being a clone of Cammy.
    • The "Republican Double" voice makes fun of the Republican Party with such battlecries as "DEPORT 'EM ALL!", "IF YOU CAN'T PAY TAXES, YOU'RE BETTER OFF DEAD!", and "IT'S ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND CHAIR!"
  • Theme Naming: All the members of Last Hope are named after a different holiday.
    • Valentine: Valentine's Day
    • Patty: St. Patrick's Day
    • Easter: self-explanatory
    • Hallow: Halloween
    • Christmas: self-explanatory
  • Title Confusion: People seem to think that the title refers to the seemingly all-girl cast, but it refers to the game's central plot and antagonist. The demo, where the only two playable characters are Filia and Cerebella, seems to give people the idea that all the girls fight with their head/headgear. And to add to the confusion even further there's only one actual full-blown Skullgirl in the game (and she's not even playable); the rest only appear in flashbacks or implied transformations in the endings.
  • Training Stage: This game has the "Class Notes", a special stage which is a blank training stage as a school classroom with tables, chairs and a blackboard. Used only as a training stage and as part of Mrs. Victoria's tutorial, can be unlocked for multiplayer and versus by completing the tutorial or buying the Downloadable Content with all stages.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Peacock smokes cigars, fights, kills, swears, and, according to Word Of God, drinks. A lot. She's thirteen.
  • 12-Bar Blues: The chord progression for the Under The Bridge stage music. Fittingly, said stage happens to be Big Band's.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Silliness Switch Easter Egg in Skullgirls Encore turns the game from a fighting game to an Edutational typing game.
  • Unflinching Walk: Peacock does this when she blows up her opponent in her "Goodfellows" Blockbuster move. Her Steam Trading Card even mocks this with "Cool people don't look at explosions!"
  • Updated Re-release: Skullgirls Encore, following the game's loss of support from Konami.
    • The PS4 and PS Vita versions are similarly being retitled Skullgirls 2nd Encore.
  • Vanity License Plate: Eliza's car, as seen in her Story Mode, has the license plate 'CAR2CHE', short for 'cartouche', an Egyptian royal signature. Which the plate is shaped like.
  • Video Game Demake: An April Fools joke from the official site shows the initial game redone in the style of Neo Geo Pocket Color fighting games (most notably SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium), complete with 3-color super deformed character sprites, eye candy backgrounds and even mockups with the actual handheld console.
  • Villain Protagonist: Eliza and Double in their respective Story Modes. Valentine subverts this due to secretly being a double agent.
  • Villain Song: The credits theme, "In A Moment's Time", is sung from the perspective of the Skull Heart attempting to seduce people into making a wish.
  • Visual Pun: The Glass Canopy stage takes place in a ballroom with a, well, glass canopy for a roof. As mentioned above, the country the game takes place is the Canopy Kingdsom.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Skull Heart grants both to the Skullgirl.
  • Wham Episode: Squigly's Story Mode. It starts by revealing Squigly's mother was the Skullgirl before Queen Nancy. It gets progressively more shocking from there.
    • And Eliza's storymode somehow manages to kick the shock factor up even higher. She pretty much eliminates half the cast, is revealed to have killed Aeon and Venus in the past, and is pretty much the sole reason the Skullgirls world is as messed up as it is. And that's not even bringing up the kaiju-sized blood construct she creates.
    • Double's ending, for the original 8 stories: Double kills Marie to await a better host for the Skull Heart, and begins to consume the rest of the cast...only for the goddesses Aeon and Venus to basically say that none of the story modes are canon.
    • Umbrella's story mode stinger is a still alive but headless King Franz.
  • Wham Line: In Eliza's Story Mode.
    Double: It was murdered them...! Aeon...Venus...You daughters...! You...destroyed my kingdom...!
  • Wham Shot: Marie appearing in The Stinger of Eliza's Story.
  • Womb Level:
    • Final Atrium, the area where the final boss is fought, is made of demonic blood vessels that glow blue. Why is this? Because they're a part of the Skull Heart.
    • Gehenna, seen in Eliza's story mode, is a more conventional take on this — red and meaty, with eye-tumor things and sparse music.
  • World of Action Girls: Naturally, given the almost all-female cast, but even non-playable women have a disproportionate tendency to be badass.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The very presence of the Skullgirl means that the Godzilla Threshold has long been crossed and that she need to be stopped by any means possible. The current Skullgirl is a 13 year-old girl named Marie. Even if she's still a child, she doesn't act like she still has any innocence left. As such, every character in the game ends up killing her because there's literally no other way to stop her. The only character who shows any reservations about harming Marie is Peacock, who's also 13 years old and was a close friend of Marie before she turned.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: Using a tech will often prompt the opponents to briefly exchange insults with each other, usually with the one who recovered expressing pain and the attacker mocking them. For example:
    Parasoul: Cheap shot!
    Valentine: Want a bandage?
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Happens in Eliza's story mode - three times. First, just as Eliza is about to claim the Skull Heart, she's attacked by Double. Afterward, it looks like the ending begins...but then Filia and Squigly barge in and the player has to fight them. Then the true ending plays..which leads to The Stinger where Marie suddenly reappears to oppose Eliza.