• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic
File:1229371267 toboxx360scrntf2spy.jpg

Right behind you.


"Nothin' beat surprise — 'cept rock."


Found usually in RPGs and Stealth Based Games. A type of attack that gives you a chance to use stealth and surprise your victim, dealing massive, often lethal damage with a single hit.

Usually a Back Stab requires the player character to be right behind the target. Often this is the only way to dispatch an enemy undetected. This attack is a staple of assassins, spies and other similar characters or character classes.

As with One-Hit Kill, some enemies can be immune to this. The opposite of this is typically the Finishing Move.

Video game-specific subtrope of In the Back. Not to be confused with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, though the two may overlap.

Examples of Back Stab include:

Card Games

  • In an expansion of Magic: The Gathering, the relatively new creature type Rogue was given exclusive domain over the ability "Prowl," which was an alternate casting cost for spells that could only be paid if an opponent had been damaged by a rogue creature. Sometimes, paying the prowl cost garnered extra effects for the spell, and in its early stages, Prowl was called "backstab."
  • Munchkin has 'stab your buddy' as one of its taglines (the other two being 'kill monsters' and 'take their stuff'), and characters with the rogue class can do just that by discarding a card to give someone else a -2 bonus to their current combat. Amusingly enough, they can't backstab monsters, only other players.
    • Munchkin Epic Rules adds a similar power to Epic Elves (although they can use their power against monsters as well), and Munchkin Bites has the Power "Evil Eye" that allows the player to discard N cards for a -N bonus to any other player currently in combat.


Tabletop Games

  • Thieves in 1st and 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons had this ability. Assassins, who were playable characters before 2nd edition, got this as well, and also had an "assassinate" ability that could One-Hit Kill anyone if they succeeded on the roll against a surprised opponent and dealt damage even if they missed.
    • Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition renamed the ability from "backstab" to "sneak attack". The main reason for using "Sneak Attack" instead of "Backstab" in later editions of Dungeons And Dragons was because it was no longer required to be 'behind' the enemy to use it; you simply had to catch the enemy off guard (signified by any situation where the enemy doesn't get a DEX bonus to AC). In 4th edition, this is called gaining "combat advantage." Also, the early backstab had to be performed with a dagger or shortsword, weapons one could easily stab someone in the back with, while later editions removed the weapon restriction (weapon restrictions which 4th Edition brought back, probably because of people wondering why more assassins didn't carry around battleaxes instead of daggers).
      • AD&D Complete Thief's Handbook clarified that "A backstab is not always literally a stab in the back!" - but word wasn't chosen too aptly, of course.
      • You can also set up a flank on the enemy (have your rogue and another PC adjacent to the enemy and positioned so that a line going between them goes through the enemy). "Rear or Flank Attacks" overlapping with thief's backstab first appeared in PO: Combat & Tactics. Of course, since flanking is easy to set up and facing was removed in 3E (meaning the rules don't have a concept of "from behind" any more), partnering with the fighter to flank enemies is now the standard rogue tactic and the old-school, stalk and pounce "backstab" is obsolete.
      • This can get rather silly if you multiclass, since you can also sneak attack with any spell that requires a roll to hit. Sneak attack with a twinned Scorching Ray, anyone?
    • Blackguards (anti paladins) also get sneak attacks (significantly less then Rogues and Assassins as well as non core sneak attackers), but given that they are heavy armor wearers, they will only activate on a flanked or disabled foe.
    • Sneak Attack appears as a common special ability in D&D Minis; the only requirement is that you have another of your minis on the other side of the target. It increases the attacker's damage by a set amount.
  • In GURPS sneaking up behind a person is very effective because you can make an All-Out Attack (improve accuracy or damage by sacrificing defenses) without fear of reprisal.
    • With the addition of GURPS Martial Arts, it is also possible to use a Telegraphic Attack instead or in addition to All-Out. Telegraphic attacks are more accurate, but easy to defend against. The trouble is, you can't defend from an attack you're not aware of.
    • There's also an attack enhancement that causes it to suddenly appear behind the target.
    • GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (an homage to classic dungeon crawling) lets sneaky characters make a difficult skill roll at the start of a fight to appear behind the closest enemy, in perfect position to shank them. Explained as you being so sneaky you were there all along...
  • If you can successfully sneak up on someone using Intrusion in Feng Shui or otherwise catch them unawares, your opponent's Dodge Value is zero for the purpose of your first attack on him, meaning you will be dealing some pretty nasty damage. Beware the "unaware" opponent with the Hair Trigger Neck Hairs gun schtick, though, lest you get caught by an Offhand Backhand...
  • An "unexpected attack" in Exalted cannot be defended against, which is a huge deal because the combat system is balanced on the assumption that every attack that gets through will be dulled at least a bit by defense. There are several Charms specifically designed to let the user make an unexpected attack. On the other hand, some Charms will also permit the user to defend against unexpected attacks.
  • Sneak Attack is one of the standard abilities in Mage Knight miniatures. Since MK minis have defined 'front' and 'back' areas, all that's required is to be adjacent to the target's back area. It doubles the attacker's damage.
  • Sneak Attack is a possible feat in Mutants and Masterminds although the ability is capped as with all damage, so the best one can do with it is to accomplish the same level of damage as everyone else in certain situations.
    • That's underselling it. Attack Bonus is one of the most expensive items to buy in character creation, so most players prefer to buffer it with combat-speciality feats. Sneak Attack is one of the many useful, cheaper ways to hit your caps with regularity.
  • Paranoia encourages PCs to wait till their enemies already have their hands full with something else before trying to blast them. "Ideally, he should not be sure he's being attacked at all, or at least not be sure who's attacking him."
  • In The Dresden Files game, setting up an ambush successfully means that the targets have to roll their defenses from 0 in the first round of attacks. This makes ambushes particularly effective on high-level characters, for whom the normal defense might roll from 5 or higher, and the dice only allow for, at absolute best, a +4 result.

Video Games

  • In Arcanum of Steamworks and Magick Obscura there's a Backstab skill that gives you a good damage bonus if you attack an enemy from behind, and a HUGE damage bonus if you attack from behind and the enemy is also unaware of your presence.
  • Assassin's Creed I had two different versions of these; the discreet Low Profile Kills you could do within two feet of a guard and walk away from without attracting attention, and the flashy High Profile Kills that scared the crap out of everyone but could be initiated while running and from a greater distance.
    • In the sequel, Ezio can not only use the styles of kill described above, but in a straight-up fight if you work your way around behind somebody who is fighting someone else, and hit the attack button, Ezio will (unless they're not a mook) do an instant kill move with his current weapon. With the long sword and hidden blade, it's an honest-to-god back stab. With the short blade, he actually grabs the enemy with his free arm and plunges the blade into their chest. And with a hammer he, well....what happens is very....crunchy.
  • It's a spell Lars can use in Aveyond if he chooses to join the the Elite Mage guild.
  • The Battlefield Series. Getting knifed in the back is a humiliating way to go in multiplayer.
    • Varies by the game. In 2142 and the Bad Company series, every hit with a knife is lethal. Aside from Bad Company 1, however, the time it takes to draw and use your knife is generally longer than how quickly an enemy can just shoot you, it's generally only safe to utilizing it as a Back Stab.
    • Battlefield 3 actually rewards you with a special animation if you manage to pull off this move off, involving your guy stabbing the enemy and removing their dogtags in a single stroke.
  • The Thief classes and the Ranger subclass Stalker in the Baldur's Gate series can backstab.
    • And the Assassin class appears in the second game as a Thief kit (subclass, basically). Along with a couple other benefits, their backstab multiplier tops out at x7 (at level 21) instead of x5 (at level 13) for other Thief classes. Someone on Bioware's forums twinked out an assassin as much as the game's rules would allow and got 1064 damage out of one backstab—easily more than enough to one-shot anything not immune to backstabs.
      • ...Which would be basically everything it would be really useful to backstab, rendering said multiplier a nice case of Awesome but Impractical since it only appears about halfway through the expansion pack, at which point everything you'd really like to one-shot this way can't be, and everything else dies within two rounds of making melee contact anyway.
  • Similar to the flanking maneuver in D&D, Battle for Wesnoth gives some attacks the "backstab" trait, which causes double damage when flanking a target.
    • More precisely, some units have the weapon special "backstab", which causes double damage to the target if the attack that's got the weapon special is used and there's a unit hostile to the target behind it.
  • In Beyond Good and Evil, the enemy soldiers are nearly impossible to defeat in normal combat, but have a weak spot in the breathing tanks they wear, which you can hit if you sneak up behind them or shoot them with a gyrodisk. One hit there leaves them stumbling around helpless, a second one makes them fly into the air and explode.
  • Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain has almost the same implementation of the idea as Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, but did it first.
  • In the original Castle Wolfenstein, you did double damage to opponents if you attacked them from behind. In the sequel, your character could backstab and kill any Nazi soldier in one hit if you had the dagger equipped.
    • The instant-kill dagger backstab was brought back for RtCW.
  • In Chrono Trigger, sneaking up behind a guard during the prison break-out scene allows you to 1-hit them to make them 'Pass out' without an actual fight scene.
  • The Stealth Assassin from Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars has a Backstab skill that allows him to deal additional damage based on his Agility when attacking from behind.
  • In City of Villains, the "Assassin's Strike" and "Hide" abilities are the entire point of the Stalker class, which is otherwise a somewhat weaker version of City of Heroes' Scrapper.
    • Were. The Assassin's Strike itself was changed so it lands a To Hit Debuff on everything within 30 feet and has a 25% chance of making everything within 30 feet quake in fear. Furthermore, their overall damage was raised, and they now possess a chance to land critical hits outside of Hidden status, a higher chance than that of Scrappers! In addition to this, each teammate within a certain distance of them grants a + 3% addition to their critical hit chance. On a tightly grouped team, a Stalker can have up to 31% chance to land a critical! Scrappers are still better head on combatants, but Stalkers hold their own in a fight.
      • A Stalker attack always has a chance to crit. If performed from stealth, it's a 100% chance to crit, thanks to their class ability "Assassination". Using the special "assassin's strike" attack allows them to Backstab the opponent For Massive Damage. Toss Placate in, and they can get a free crit or even another Backstab in while in the middle of a fight. The Arachnos Epic Archetypes also possess this ability (with the sole exception of the Crab Spider).
  • In Dark Messiah, backstabbing your way through the game was a legitimate tactic. Most enemies would die instantly and quietly by a dagger through the top of the spine. Even better their fellows would come to check the body often with their backs to the shadows. Another tactic is to use the staff's special attack to knock an opponent onto their back then rapidly switch to daggers to deliver a finishing blow.
  • In Deus Ex, attacking from behind is generally an effective tactic. Moreover, the description of the "riot prod" weapon implies it works better when used in this manner.
    • It does: zapping someone who isn't aware of you knocks them out instantly, while attacking them from the front might take a couple of zaps.
  • Heavily used by certain builds in Dungeon Crawl, where it multiplies damage according to your Stabbing skill.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, you generally need to be behind your enemy to deliver a Sneak Attack (dealing a basic 4x damage, but increasing with your Sneak-skill). But if you're good enough at sneaking, the enemy bad enough at detection, and the shadows deep enough, you CAN actually sneak-attack somebody in the face. You can also sneak attack at range with a bow.
    • If your sneak is high enough, you can even hit the enemy with another sneak attack, and then another, and another, and so on and so forth.
    • This is also possible in Morrowind, if you train your sneak, strength, and skill in what ever your choice of weapon is. At night, one can literally walk straight past a guards line of sight and punch him in the face. If one is so inclined.
    • In Daggerfall, if you manage to get behind an enemy you can backstab them for a damage bonus.
    • Skyrim has a perk in the Sneak skill that causes sneak attacks with dagger type weapons to do 15x normal damage. Realistically this can only be done when behind an enemy. Often triggers a brief execution cinematic, depending on the weapon used and the type of enemy.
      • On top of that, there are gloves you can find that give "double back-stab damage" allowing daggers to do 30x normal damage and one-shot just about anything in the game, including some Dragons. There's also a daedric artifact dagger you can get that also doubles back-stab damage, along with giving a small chance of simply killing the enemy. Combined with the gloves and the perk, you do 60x normal damage, and if that wasn't enough to kill them they might get killed by the 1% chance of instant death anyways. Of course, if you screw it up, they probably eat your face.
  • Fallout 3 includes backstabbing, along with stealth chainsaw kills. Attacking in general while undetected results in a Sneak Attack Critical on whoever is hit. While not necessarily a guaranteed kill, it provides a very high damage bonus for executing.
    • Earlier titles have the Silent Death perk, which grants double damage for melee attacks from behind while sneaking.
  • Ragnarok Online had this as Rogues' signature attack, until it got nerfed to hell and back.
  • In several Final Fantasy games, if your target is facing away from you when you attack it, you will deal double damage.
  • Final Fantasy XI has the Thief class have two different abilities: Sneak Attack, which deals large damage when behind an enemy, and Trick Attack, which, at first, deals somewhat more damage than a normal attack when behind a party member, and passing the hate from that attack to that party member. Both are normally combined, normally called SATA, to ensure the tank has good hate, but this changes at level 60, when the Assassin trait allows Trick Attack to have the same massive damage effect as Sneak Attack, and thusly both abilities are used separately, normally using a Weapon Skill with Trick Attack.
    • In addition, the Ninja class gains the Innin ability at level 40, which, while not a "true" Back Stab, gives them a decent size bonus to accuracy and critical hit chance when attacking from behind (at the expense of lowering their own evasion) for a short time.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has comparable abilities to Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, they don't need to be executed from behind, but with all other skills, doing so significantly increases their chance of success.
    • The sequel replaces the accuracy boost with more damage. The Sneak Attack skill is the closest to an actual Back Stab as it deals a whole lot more damage.
    • And in the original Tactics, while attacking from behind usually didn't boost damage, it did guarantee a hit with physical attacks, ignoring dodge or block bonuses from shields. The Sword Grasp ability still worked fine, though.
      • More specifically, there 3 categories of "dodging." Class evasion works only from the front and depends on your class (Thieves and Ninjas dodge more, for example). Shield evasion works from both the front and the sides, although only a few classes can equip shields. Accessory evasion (granted by capes) works regardless of which direction the attack is coming from, although not everyone wears capes because the accessory slot is pretty valuable. Tactically, attacking from the side is usually just as good as from behind, except against knights with shields. The aforementioned Sword Grasp ability just ignores all this and blocks everything.
    • In fact, all games based on the Tactics Ogre formula grant some form of attack bonus when you attack from behind (and a slightly diminished one when attacking from the side). Disgaea does it too.
  • Let's not forget 'stealth kills' from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Of course, civilians (and cops) don't really pay attention if CJ is running around with a minigun, so him having a knife works fine. Move up behind victim, target, attack, giggle maniacally. Oddly, though, this tends to increase the wanted meter more than when you just go up and hack them up with a katana and stealth be damned, but hey.
  • If you sneak up behind Combine soldiers in Half-Life 2, you can dispatch 'em with a single pistol bullet to the back of the head, even on Hard mode.
  • In Halo, you can hit someone with your gun. Normally this is pretty ineffective, but from behind it's a one-hit kill. Flood, naturally, are immune to this (it's pretty damn hard to get behind them in the first place anyway) but Hunters will drop. This was fixed for the sequels, as was one-shotting them from behind with anything but a sniper rifle.
    • Less ineffective within later games, as melee attacks practically half-kill someone, making it an important move at close-range with weapons less suited for it.
    • When Bungie said that Halo: ODST would feature "tactical stealth gameplay", this is pretty much what they meant. Being a normal (if exceptionally trained) human, your best bet for surviving in New Mombasa is attacking patrols from behind, "silently" taking out the enemies in the back with melee attacks. Straight up firefights are also possible, but much riskier.
    • One of the features introduced in Halo Reach includes actually backstabbing someone.
  • In the Hitman series, 47 has special attacks (garrote, syringe or chloroform, along with some special attacks) that automatically kill or disable an unaware target. These attacks are almost always much easier to perform from behind (the garrote specifically only works from behind).
  • The Assassin's class in Hexen II acquires this skill once she reaches a certain level. It only multiplies damage instead of killing instantly, otherwise it pretty much fits to a T. Down to the name of the skill.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2, a successful hit with a throwing knife is a One-Hit Kill, unless the target has spotted the thrower (in which case it does a pitiful amount of damage instead).
  • Left 4 Dead has an achievement for killing Infected in a single shove, and backstabbing is the way to go.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, the dangerous Phantoms can only be defeated from behind (and only if you have the proper weapon to do so).
    • In Twilight Princess, the Back Slice involves jumping all the way around the enemy du jour and slicing into their back.
    • Similarly one of the parry attacks in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker involves rolling under the enemy's attack, around behind him, and slashing. More standard backstabs are also effective against moblins: though they don't do any extra damage the moblin will spend the next few seconds jumping around in pain.
  • You can execute a variety of one-hit kill attacks (depending on armament) from behind in Lugaru: The Rabbit's Foot while your victim is startled or if you sneak up unnoticed. Thrown knives are also a one-hit kill on unarmored mooks, but are almost always dodged by wary targets.
    • One of these, with the sword, is actually called "Backstabber" (the others are "Spinecrusher" for the unarmed melee move, and "Tracheotomy" for the knive-to-the-throat).
  • The Mario RPGs (although its usually a pre-emptive attack rather than starting the battle from behind).
  • In the Metal Gear Solid games, the player can sneak up on an enemy and point the gun at the back or side of the their head. This makes them drop their gun and, in Metal Gear Solid 2, lets you steal their Dog Tag.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4, when the player does this they can now execute a 'body search' feature, which will usually make for gaining better items then found normally from enemies.
    • In Solid 3 onwards, it's difficult to perform the CQC Grab (and follow up with a chokehold or throat slit) unless you approach your target from behind.
  • The Mother series has this (you got a free hit at the start of the battle, or an instant kill if you were overleveled), but you also could be attacked from behind yourself.
    • Somewhat awesomely, Duster the thief has the ability to potentially make the enemy's preemptive attack effort blow up in their faces by either hitting them with a spinning back kick, still getting the first attack in the round, or by jumping behind them, where the battle begins as if * you* were the one to sneak up on them.
  • In Neverwinter Nights (3rd edition D&D) the assassin has a chance to not only do massive damage but also paralyze an opponent on a successful "death attack" as long as the opponent is unaware of their presence (stealth mode). This is partially subverted by the primarily fighter based feat "devastating critical" where a noisy, clanking, plate mail wearing powerhouse actually does a one shot critical hit kill without any sneaking or flat-footing of the foe.
    • Again, doing it wrong, the fighter sets up a flank, and the Rogue/Assassin unleashes his sneak attack for massive damage, every 3 turns using his save or die death attack, not to mention the rarity of a critical hit in the first place.
    • For posterity, that's a fighter/weapon master. Typically uses a rapier or scimitar, has a keened weapon, improved critical, and ki critical. That brings the rapier/scimitar's already-wicked 18-20 threat range to 10-20. That's right. They threat for a critical HALF THE TIME. Throw the DC >43 instant death devastating critical in there for good measure. This procs two or three times per turn.
  • Nexus War gives bonus damage for attacking from hiding, at the cost of some accuracy. What makes it slightly absurd is that with the right class and skill choices, it's possible to sneak attack somebody with a fire truck.
  • Prince of Persia : The Two Thrones gave the Prince the ability to do something called "Speed Kills" where if the enemy didn't know you were there you could basically jump on their back and kill them instantly.
    • These become pretty important late in the game, when failing to use Speed Kills will result in being outnumbered in the ensuing battle very quickly. Against enemies that love to counter your every attack. And those Quicktime Events were the ONLY way to finish off certain bosses. If you kept failing the speed kill, the boss just would not die.
  • Prototype allows you to do a stealth kill from behind, which allows you to kill someone and immediately take their place without alerting anyone, as opposed to simply killing them with gore all around.
    • Inverted in the trailer, which had a move not in the game where blades came out of Mercer's back into a guy who had grabbed him from behind.
  • The "Mortal Rising" skill that Dhan assassins get in the MMORPG Rohan Online allows a chance for a crit on the first attack that you make out of stealth mode, which goes up to 100% when maxed-out (pretty much guaranteeing a crit on the first attack), and is especially nasty when used with "Deadly Blow," a buff which increases your crit damage based on how much Agility you have. "Sudden Attack" is another skill that allows you to attack for high damage while still in stealth mode before coming out of it for combat.
  • In the second and third Sly Cooper games Sly can OHKO enemies if he gets right behind them without being detected. Otherwise he has to brawl and they usual alert other guards that way.
    • Bentley gets this ability in the third game, even if you omit the sleep dart. By slipping a BOMB into the back pocket. Sneaky, yes; stealthy, doubtful. Sly's backstab is noisy as well, until he upgrades to 'Silent Obliteration'.
  • Flece from Summoner had a backstab ability that could get completely of hand. Not only could a number of items giving stackable bonuses to backstab raise it to absurd levels about half way through the game, but Flece had a bunch of abilities that could knock an enemy prone in the heat of combat (virtually unopposed with a chain attack.) Since you get huge bonuses when attacking prone enemies, this means Flece could repeatedly deal well over 3000HP of damage in a couple of attacks, vastly outclassing the rest of the party.
    • Sangaril has the same ability in the sequel. If the enemy doesn't realize she's there, it deals such heavy damage that in most cases it's a one-hit KO. Once she learns Paralyze, you're pretty much set. It's no use on Bosses or monsters who are resistant to Piercing, though.
  • The chief modus operandi of the Spy class in Team Fortress Classic and Team Fortress 2.
    • The Pyro has a weapon suited for this tactic, the Backburner, which, while not a guaranteed instant kill, triples the already high flamethrower damage when used from behind (and even if the enemy gets away, there is a good chance that he'll die from the burn damage). The problem is, the Knife registers a backstab from 80 degrees to each side of the enemy's back... axis, and the Backburner, only 45 degrees. In addition, if the target turns around after being fired at, the triple damage stops rolling in and the Pyro is quickly blasted in the face. Spies never get that - the Knife deals damage equal to six times the enemy's current HP on a backstab. Hence the fandom name "BADburner"...
    • There are a handful of counters for the Spy's instant-kill backstab in Team Fortress 2: A Medic's Uber-charge (active) makes him invulnerable, the Sniper's Razorback shield (passive) blocks one backstab attempt and momentarily freezes the spy, a scout with bonk atomic punch active which makes him invulnerable, and the Spy's Dead Ringer watch (active) fakes death. The Dead Ringer's effect makes the Spy somewhat useful for pushing carts (if disguised as his own team), as it isn't immediately obvious that the person was a Dead-Ringer Spy.
    • Beyond just the vanilla butter-fly knife, the Spy has a variety of other choices to make him more effective (depending on play-style of how good the player is). The Big Earner will grant him extra cloak on kill (useful for quick get-aways or players using the dead ringer). There's also "Your Eternal Reward" which sacrifices the Spy's ability to disguise, but upon use immediately disposes the victim's body and the Spy takes his appearance- allowing him to easily infiltrate and destroy a large group without them noticing.
  • The Tenchu series was practically built around these, as a ninja kills without being seen. If you can get into striking range of your target without being spotted by him or anybody else, your attack instantly kills him - in a rather flashy way - without so much as rousing the guards. Tenchu 3 has a separate one for every possible way you could approach a target and a special one that's triggered when your target is standing on an incline.
  • In the Thief series, Garrett can knock out guards with a single hit from his blackjack on the noggin.
    • He can also kill most unalerted enemies with a single blow from his weapon (a short sword in Dark Project and Metal Age; a dagger in Deadly Shadows), or (versus human enemies) with a broadhead arrow to the head. However, the resultant noise and blood stains, and mission requirements that discourage or even ban killing on higher difficulty levels, make blackjacking the more practical method of enemy elimination. Thief: Deadly Shadows plays this trope the straightest, as you must be directly behind the target to score a blackjack or backstab.
  • The Thunder Dome II and Thunder Dome X MUDs have the greatest variety of sneak attacks. Rogues could backstab to initiate combat and later circle to get multiple backstabs in the same combat. Assassins could also disembowel, a surprise attack to the guts. Spies could interdict for massive damage at the start of a fight, and attempt again in midfight. A ninja could neck-break, often an instant kill performed barehanded. Pirates could throat-stab. Barbarians and wrestlers could suicide roll, grappling an enemy from behind and spinning backward, smashing the enemy's head into the ground.
  • While it's not exactly a game, this is how the Nanaya clan in Tsukihime operates. As they're almost entirely normal humans going up against demons and vampires, the only way to win is to get close to them before they notice you and cut them to bits. Kiri, Shiki's father, actually used a mace to crush skulls, throats and internal organs. Shiki can mostly avoid this one because his eyes cheat, though he does take out at least one DAA like this in supplementary material.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, you can Sneak behind most anthropomorphic enemies (i.e. humans and vampires but not monsters) and perform a "stealth kill".

To elaborate, the "stealth kills" include:

    • Neck Snap with your bare hands (also the default animation if you carry a ranged weapon).
    • Slashed Throat with a knife.
    • Chest Impalement with a katana or anything similar (complete with japanese sound effect).
    • Swinging your sledgehammer above your head and smashing your enemy's head into tiny little pieces. No kidding.
    • Swinging a bush hook into the victim's neck at high speed, both impaling and breaking the neck at the same time.
    • Another more useful (if less satisfying) method of back stabbing was to sneak up on a (humanoid) foe, grab him, and suck his blood till he drops dead. Not only is it stealthy, it also replenishes your blood supply, which allows you to use Disciplines. A good strategy for character with a low stealth stat but have the Trance Discipline is to use it on any unwary foe, run up, drain him dry, and repeating the routine for the next 50 enemies or so.
  • Kingdom Of Amalur has enhanced damage for non-detected backstabs with a dagger weapon.
  • Rogues in World of Warcraft get several moves which are only effective from behind:
    • Backstab (self explanatory), which requires a dagger in the main hand.
    • Garrote (does damage over time)
    • Ambush (a more powerful version of Backstab which can only be used while stealthed)
    • Shadowstep (instantly teleports the rogue behind their target and increases their movement speed and the damage of their next attack (absolutely lethal when its combined with one of the above. It can easily deal 3000 damage with no twinking).
    • And there's Cheap Shot, a move that stuns the target and gives two combo points (other skills give one). It's as cheap as it sounds. Although only requires stealth or the Subtlety tree's Shadow Dance, the rogue can smack some muppet in the face if they so choose.
    • Druids can change into catform to imitate Rogues, having several moves that can only be used from behind as well: Shred and Ravage (roughly equal to Backstab and Ambush, respectively). Pounce on the other hand (which stuns and has a similiar effect to Garrote) only requires stealth but can be used frontal aswell (although doing so is riskier).
    • Furthermore, all melee attacks benefit from the attacker being behind the target. Attacks made in this manner cannot be parried or blocked. Unless you're attacking an NPC.
      • The computer can even dodge attacks made in their back. Don't ask us how they pull that off.
  • Knights of the Old Republic - the Scoundrel class gets a "Sneak attack" feat that does extra damage to an opponent that is facing away from the attacker or otherwise incapacitated (stun, stasis, horror). A particularly fun and nasty trick against Mandalorian raiders or Dark Jedi is to have your PC and one character draw their fire while you have Mission a little ways away in stealth mode, armed with the nastiest melee weapons you have on hand. Have her sneak up on the biggest mook and engage critical strike. Takes a little work, but the result is worth it.
  • Dragon Age Rogue class are capable of the same thing. Park Leliana or Zevran behind an enemy For Massive Damage.
    • Anyone can take advantage of flanking bonuses in Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II. Rogues can develop more expert skill at this, with wider flanking angles, increase critical chance and danage, and completely penetrate defenses. DA2 gives them this as an active attack, which allows them to Flash Step directly to the rear.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum gives the eponymous hero a few low-profile KO moves like the Silent Takedown (performed from behind) or the appropriately named Corner Takedown. In Predator stages, these moves can be pretty important since most enemies are packing heat and you can't take sustained fire for very long.
  • In The Godfather: The Game you can garrote an enemy if you manage to sneak up behind him unnoticed. It's not particularly powerful, though; its only real use is to take out the victim without alerting people not in line of sight, and since standard strangulation from the front is equally silent, the only real advantage is the extra Respect. In the sequel the Neck Snap is at least faster and you can also order Bruisers to do stealth kills.
  • If you attack an enemy from behind in Demon´s Souls this is what will happen. Especially useful for the Thief class and pretty much any dagger user because daggers are the only weapon that get an extra bonus (even more than others weapons) doing so, and fatal daggers pretty much do Massive Damage in these situations.
  • In the free MMORPG Lunia, Tia has the backstab attack, whose damage is tripled if she uses it against the enemy's back.
  • In Gladius, you get a huge bonus to damage if you hit an enemy from behind. Many lightweight gladiators, especially bandits, also have a Backstab attack.
  • In the Mechwarrior series, armor is lighter on the rear of the battlemechs. Attacking from behind allows lighter vehicles to cripple even a Mighty Glacier with a little luck.
    • In G-Nome, another(less popular) mech title, HAWCs are similarly poorly armored from behind. This doesn't hold true for all of them, as the shape and contour of many of the stranger vehicles mean there is no "behind."
  • In Mass Effect 2, the DLC character Kasumi Goto's signature ability is Shadow Strike. She cloaks herself, making her invisible to everyone (including you), runs up to an enemy, and stabs them, at which point she turns visible again. It's notable mainly for being one of only two melee abilities in the entire game (the other is Vanguard Shepard's Charge).
    • Playing as an Infiltrator class can also give you a damage bonus if you attack while invisible.
    • Stealth kills are slated to return in Mass Effect 3, with Shepard now able to pull enemies from behind cover (after sneaking into melee range) to stab them to death with the Omniblade.
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow has the Dead Pirate soul - you can attack enemies from behind normally, but this soul allows Soma to do double damage to an enemy attacked from behind. Combine it with a strong soul or weapon, and the damage output can be rather high!
  • Evelynn the Dhampyr assassin in League of Legends has a skill called Ravage (not so much a stab as a vicious rending with her talons) which decreases the target's armour and magic resistance if she hits them in the back with it. Combined with her stealth abilities and high spike damage, she can appear out of nowhere and inflict monstrous damage in a matter of seconds. It's notable for being one of only a few skills in the game which take facing into account.
    • Shaco's passive does extra physical damage from the rear, and has a similar stealth ability as Evelynn, except his guarantees a critical strike on hit.
  • The thief class in the Quest for Glory series could sometimes do this. In the fifth game, the thief could sneak up behind certain enemies and knock them out with a blackjack to the back of the head. In the Fan Remake of the second game, the thief could sneak up on random enemies in the desert and throw a dagger in their back For Massive Damage. (if your strength and throwing were high enough, this would usually drop the lesser monsters in one hit)
  • Thieves and Assassins in Discworld MUD get this command. All players can learn the similar Ambush command.
  • Psi Ops the Mindgate Conspiracy has single stealth attack, smacking someone over the head when their back is turned. Notable in the most players would be to busy throwing their enemies around like rag dolls and setting them on fire to notice this feature.
  • Oni has the Backbreaker move, which can only be performed when behind a target but can One-Hit Kill most enemies.
  • You can even do this in Red Dead Redemption if you come up behind someone with the throwing knife out. And yes, it's very awesome.
  • In the game The Saboteur Sean can upgrade his perks to allow him to stab someone from behind, who will stay standing a few seconds before falling over dead. Giving Sean plenty of time to run away before someone notices.
  • The Scout class in Transformers: War for Cybertron has access to an ability called Backstab that increases melee damage (and since the Scout's melee weapon is a blade, it's a proper stab), though not enough to allow for a one-hit kill. In reference to certain more infamous instances of this trope, scoring a Backstab-boosted melee kill earns a bonus called "Rogue".
  • In Runes of Magic, the Rogue class has two abilities that require you be behind the target, and a skill that instantly warps you behind your target. Backstabs, however, are not the main focus of the class.
  • Sneaking behind someone in Alpha Protocol gives you the option of a back stab or a nonlethal takedown with a button prompt. Both cause the victim to go down for the count silently, but the killing one is slightly faster.
  • As mentioned above in Tabletop Games, this is a favored Rogue tactic in Dungeons and Dragons Online. One of the best ways to get a Sneak Attack on someone is to use your Sneak ability to get behind them and then make with the stabbity.
  • The next gen Ninja Gaiden 3 allows you to use these on occasions. Seeing Ryu Hayabusa using stealth sure is at odds with the rest of the series.
  • Many humanoid enemies (and a few nonhumanoid ones) can be backstabbed in Dark Souls. Especially effective when paired with the Hornet Ring, which increases Critical damage by 50%.
  • The Old Republic's Scoundrel class has the Backblast ability, which is a backstab with a shotgun.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, Shulk, Fiora, and Riki all have arts that cause a significantly greater amount of damage when hitting from behind. There's also a gem that boosts the damage of all attacks that strike from behind by a large degree (Including the aforementioned arts), which can effectively make everything into a backstab.


  • Seeing as he's based on the standard Final Fantasy class, it should surprise no one that Thief of Eight Bit Theater favours this tactic, typically resorting to this move first if he's forced into a fight. Of course, he'll back stab you in more ways than one.
  • Nerf Now gives this advice.
  • In the world of Homestuck, attacks from behind (regardless of stabbiness) tend to ignore hit points and be more automatically deadly, though the most recurring instance of this is by Jack Noir, so this trope still gets plenty literal use.