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The distressing scenario in a video game when you're caught in an inescapable Death Trap and have to watch your Life Meter gradually be reduced to nothing—or, if you're a One-Hit-Point Wonder, exhaust your supply of One Ups one by one as you keep respawning in a very unfortunate position.

Examples of Cycle of Hurting include:


  • Happens in flick screen games where you reappear at the edge of the screen you just entered. If you fell from the screen above, then you'll just keep reappearing at the top edge with no way to save yourself. See Jet Set Willy. It is also often called "Jet Set Willy syndrome" for this.
  • Many games with autosaves will sometimes trigger a savepoint just as you are about to be killed, resulting you being stuck in an Unwinnable cycle of dying and reloading.
  • Generally games with Standard Status Effects such as “stun” which prevent you from acting can have problems where the condition triggers frequently enough (such as every time the opponent hits) that the character in question is “stunlocked,” unable to do anything until death's release.
    • Even without special conditions, merely having a short Knockback or flinch animation when taking damage that prevents the victim from escaping or fighting back will have a similar effect if chained close enough together.
  • Spawn-camping in multiplayer games can result in this. Given that most players need a moment to orientate themselves after spawning, this can be extremely frustrating. Especially in games with automated turrets that other players can build, as they can instantly lock onto targets and kill them before the spawning process is even done. Usually the only way to stop it is to either wait for the round ends, go invincible (if it's possible, and in many games it isn't) and kill them, or call in a moderator or GM to resolve it.
  • Games where you're up against a horde of monsters can make this happen to you if, after some time, the monsters congregate around the respawn spot and keep killing you before you can substantially damage them.

Platform Games

  • There's a ridiculously deep spiked pit in Act 2 of Mystic Cave Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. You can't jump out of it, even in Super Sonic form, and you'll wish they had just made it bottomless if you happen to be playing as Super Sonic with a large surplus of rings.
  • La-Mulana does this to you intentionally in several places (unless you have the teleport magic). Sacrificial Pit of Shu, for example.
  • It's possible to end up in such positions in I Wanna Be the Guy, such as falling into a deep pit in the process of shooting a save point, so that death is inevitable by the time the bullet hits it and saves the game.
    • The evil save point at the end of the game turns evil again when you restore, so if you saved so that respawn in the middle of it, you're screwed.
    • The fangame Pickory lets you undo saves for precisely this reason.
  • In Impossamole, Monty's Mercy Invincibility doesn't protect him from being knocked back by Spikes of Doom, so you can end up being bounced back and forth in certain areas.
  • Because of the way extra lives work in Blinx the Time Sweeper, it's quite easy to land yourself in one of these. When you lose a Retry, the game rewinds everything, including you, by a few seconds. Of course, if you were already stuck during those seconds, you have no choice but to restart the level.
  • Ninja Gaiden (NES): Owing to the lack of Mercy Invincibility, in levels overloaded with Goddamned Bats, such as the first game's Stage 6-2, they can juggle you until you run out of HP or fall into a Bottomless Pit.
  • Yetis, Chieftains, and unarmed shopkeepers in Spelunky attack by throwing the player. Occasionally, they will toss the player against a wall only to rebound back into the enemy who then tosses the player into the wall again only for the player to rebound back into the enemy... you see where this is going. To add insult to injury, they'll continue doing this even after the player has died, only stopping once the character has been gibbed or the player exits to menu.
  • In Altered Beast there is no Mercy Invincibility. This is especially bad on the third level, which has Bottomless Pits and you often spawn right next to one, on top of an enemy. Rinse, repeat.
  • In Atlantis no Nazo, there is one door that leads to a "Black Hole" zone, basically a giant Bottomless Pit to fall into over and over again until you had no lives let.

First Person Shooters

  • In Left 4 Dead, if you've been pinned by a hunter or smoker and nobody's available to save you, there's little to do except watch your health drain. On lower difficulties, it can take a decent while to actually get killed in this situation.
    • Being hit by a Tank's attack stuns your character for a moment, making them unable to move or use a weapon. This can get incredibly annoying as you are struggling to get away or trying to reload and get stuck in a cycle of being hit, reloading, being hit, having to start the reload over, repeat. Did you get cornered? You might as well shoot yourself to save you the trouble if you could.
  • It's even worse if you never run out of lives - in some games, like Halo's co-op, you can spawn into a pit infinitely. Fortunately, in the Halo example, it's only an unbreakable cycle if your partner's a jerk - as soon as they move, you'll spawn in a different spot.
    • Unfortunately it is an unbreakable cycle in single player. There are spots where a checkpoint can register while you're in the process of falling off a cliff. All you can do is restart the level, so that's a good two hours of work down the toilet if you're playing Legendary.
      • However, dying enough times at a checkpoint in later games will throw you back a checkpoint. Not particularly a bad thing, but some of the game's checkpoints are widely spread out, making getting back to that particular section a little more difficult. This also happens regardless of if you're falling down a pit or not.
  • In Doom, there are many inescapable pits of poison or lava. If you fall in, you can either wait until it dissipates all your health, or just reload your last saved game.
    • Though some of those pit have a way out hidden inside, or even some bonus items as a reward for taking the plunge (good thing that falling didn't actually do any harm). Both Hexen and Strife included falling damage to avert having to endure a slow death via damaging floorspace.
    • In Doom 3, some enemies such as Pinky Demons and Shotgun Z-Secs can stun-lock you, especially if you're trying to reload.
  • In some levels of Descent on Insane difficulty, Demonic Spiders such as Red Hulks and Class 2 Missile Platforms can pin you in the starting area and blow you away every time you respawn, similar to multiplayer spawn-camping, or prevent you from reclaiming your lost weapons.
  • In Golden Eye 1997 and Perfect Dark, you are stunned and knocked back when hit. If being shot by a large group of enemies, they can stunlock you to death, especially on 00 Agent.
  • Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 often had this when stuck under a descending elevator.
  • Glider PRO wasn't too smart about respawning gliders in safe spots. Respawning locations were either fixed or where the glider happened to enter the room. If the latter happened to be inside the floor, you would lose all your lives; this was a Game Breaking Bug on one house released on the Glider PRO CD.
  • Call of Duty 2 had a segment where you had to defend a town from a large group of German mortar teams. Your play area was confined to the small tower you have to snipe from. If you aren't able to take out the enemies fast enough, the game can sometimes autosave just before a mortar shell lands directly on top of your head.

MOBA Games

  • Defense of the Ancients has the Cranium Basher, an item with a chance to stun the target on every melee attack. Get enough attack speed and the unfortunate enemy player is unable to do anything. Changes were made to prevent endless stunlock, but you can still achieve near-endless stunlock instead and when you throw in a few allies with some of the many X second stun spells in the game it's pretty much gg for the enemy.

Survival Horror

  • In Alone In The Dark, enemy attacks can cause your character to flinch. In the second game, being overwhelmed by enemies or even one enemy with a Tommy gun can stun-lock Carnby until he is dead.

Tabletop Games

  • In multiple editions of Dungeons and Dragons, it is possible for spellcasters to do this with the right combination of area control spells. A Third Edition example would be combining Evard's Black Tentacles with Stinking Cloud. The tentacles root you in place until you take a standard action to free yourself, and the cloud smells so bad you have to spend your standard action fighting back nausea.
    • Not to mention the infinite tripping strategy, which involved tripping an enemy on your turn, then on their turn, when they stood up, taking an attack of opportunity to trip them again, leaving them lying on the ground unable to take many actions (they could still perform many actions from the ground but for a melee character being prone is not a good thing, and if the tripper had reach and you didn't they could put themselves outside of your range and continually trip you).
      • This technically doesn't work; you can't trip someone who's standing from prone, because he's still prone when your attack triggers. However, you can disarm them, trip them when they pick up the weapon, and then disarm them again when they stand up.
    • In 4th edition, this is the main reason solo monsters suck compared to a group of enemies. They get surrounded, tagged with a bunch of different effects, and aren't able to spread their actions out like a group of monsters can, greatly reducing their effectiveness. Later monster books have given solos various counters to this; for example, dragons get an extra action each round on a different initiative count, plus the ability to quickly shrug off stun and daze effects.
  • Anyone who plays Yu-Gi-Oh! who has dealt with anyone with Neo-Spacian Grand Mole knows that either you disable the little bugger or you'll watch your Life Points whittle away.
    • Several combos that don't rely on dealing 8000 damage to your opponent in one turn ends up resorting to this. The most infamous of which is the Yata-Garasu + Chaos Emperor Dragon combo. Basically Chaos Emperor can wipe the field and your opponent's hand of anything useful, while combined with another card allows you to get Yata-Garasu onto the field. Yata's effect forbids your opponent from drawing in the next turn. Since your opponent has no cards, all he can do is watch his life points drains away (and very slowly at that, since Yata only has 200 attack points, which is pitifully low) or bow and surrender.
  • Many deck designs in Magic: The Gathering, often called "prison" or "lockdown" decks, rely on setting up a situation where the opponent can't do anything. They tend to be fairly frustrating to duel against.
  • GURPS has this as a basic tenet of any combat. Being injured causes shock, which makes it difficult to defend against subsequent attacks. Since GURPS lies squarely in the Simulation corner of GNS theory, this is perfectly intentional.

Third Person Shooters

  • Could happen in many of the early Tomb Raider games where saving in the wrong spot could get Lara killed at every reload, forcing you start the level all over again.
  • In Warhawk (1995 video game), an incompetent, Jerkass, or worse teammate can drive a 4x4 out-of-bounds with you as a passenger, at which point you start taking damage. If you jump off and try to walk back in-bounds you almost certainly won't make it in time.
  • In Twisted Metal 2, each enemy vehicle AI used only a few specific weapons but used them all the time. Two of them (Mr. Slam and Mr. Grimm) included the freeze missile in their rotation at a rate of fire well beyond what a player can achieve. If either one hits you with a freeze missile and you don't have enough initial speed and inertia to coast out of the danger zone while frozen, you'll find yourself trapped in place getting frozen over and over and over with no way to escape while having your life very slowly chipped away by machine gun fire.
    • In Twisted Metal III, the first boss's (Darkside) special is a flamethrower/freeze missile combo which he likes to spam and has seemingly infinite ammo. If you get unlucky, being hit by it is a guaranteed life-lose.
    • Twisted Metal Black was the king of this. Prepared to be stuck and beaten to death at any given moment. They synchronize attacks with yours to screw them up. Use Minion's special? They'll freeze you with Computers Are Fast reflexes. Use Mr. Grimm's? They'll hit you with a rico and tilt you or with a power missile and stun you. It never ends either.
    • Sweet Tooth as the Final Boss in TM 4 has a homing attack that follows you through walls, paralyzes you, and pummels you to death.
    • Outright stunlocks are rare in Vigilante 8 and its sequel, but Molo's choking exhaust can stall an enemy and deal enough damage to wreck them if you have enough special weapon ammo, though this is very hard to pull off because he's a lumbering bus and the exhaust is at the back. Also, there is an infinite loop on one of the Second Offense maps where cars that fall into a water hazard respawn right in front of the water where you can repeatedly blow them in again with Convoy's horn blast weapon.
  • Being inescapably crushed by a car in the 3D Grand Theft Auto games drains your health to zero in about five seconds in order to keep the player from being indefinitely stuck.
  • This could happen in the early Syphon Filter games if you triggered a checkpoint in a bad situation (eg impending One-Hit Kill).
  • In Mass Effect 1, getting hit by biotic powers knocks Shepard down. If you're in a room full of biotics, you'll get knocked down, get up, get knocked down again, get up, get knocked down again, and repeat ad infinitum until your squadmates either free you or you die.


  • In Guild Wars, it's possible for your party to get trapped in a wipe/resurrect cycle at a resurrection shrine, getting closer to the death penalty cap each time. The only ways to escape are to whittle your opponents down between wipes until you beat them or map travel back to an outpost. However, this can be exploited, because the enemies gain XP slowly and will eventually level, so when you finally beat them you'll gain more XP.
  • Perfect World has this… sort of. There is a certain status effect called "Stun", which keeps you from moving or attacking for a few seconds. Axe-using Blademasters have three stunning moves, and some people have figured out how to chain them in a certain way that keeps their enemies from moving forever. If you happen to be in PvP mode, well, I hope you brought a ressurection scroll, a good cleric, or, if you're a Barbarian, some popcorn, cause this'll take a while.
  • Same thing happens in World of Warcraft with rogues. If a rogue gets the first hit on someone, it's pretty much over. There are a couple of ways to break a stun, but all they have to do is reapply it again and again and again and again
    • Certain stuns (as well as crowd control) have diminishing returns, so that after four instances of a similar ability (each application being reduced by 25% in duration) you are immune within 1 minute of the first application. However, if you don't wear plate by then you're pretty much screwed anyway...
    • The troll city instance Zul'Gurub, at level 60 a challenge requiring 20 level-capped players, now easily soloed by any class with a healing spell for a chance to obtain a mount unavailable through any other means to one's faction (the nightsaber for horde and raptor for alliance) has a room full of trolls and tigers right before the tiger boss trio. The trolls there have a whirlwind type ability that can be applied from a distance that lasts for about 5 seconds, applies a stun to the player lasting about 2 seconds that is reapplied about every 1.5 seconds. And this is frequently used in succession by several different trolls while the player is being wailed on by a number of tiger cubs. Even the mightiest characters with best-in-slot gear can see their health whittled away from tens of thousands to near death before being able to fight back.

Action Adventure

  • The original Metroid had a particular area deep inside Norfair where it was possible to fall into lava between two eyeball columns tall enough that you couldn't jump back out.
  • Good luck living if you happen to get caught by the 11th or 14th colossi in Shadow of the Colossus; they'll ram into you the second you start getting up again, and again, and again... it's fully possible the colossus will ram you through the wall of the arena you're fighting in if you happen to be cornered and if your game wants to glitch out.
  • In Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, you could achieve this thanks to the quick save feature if you happened to quick save right before your inevitable death.
  • The Spikes of Doom are not immediately lethal in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but some spike pits are arranged so that you can end up bouncing from one spike to another until reduced to Ludicrous Gibs. This becomes less of a problem later in the game, as you can simply turn to mist, or pause the game and equip the Spike Breaker Armor.
    • The later games don't have this particular problem... but you're still likely to get petrified before landing in spikes, at which point you're pretty much boned. Portrait of Ruin actually codes spikes specifically to ensure that this happens.[1]
  • The Redeads in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess are often accompanied by half a dozen goddamned mini-skeletons; the skeletons knock you down, when you get up the Redead paralyzes and hits your with their BFS, then the skeletons hit you again, lather, rinse, repeat.
    • They did this in all the games, really, even if it's just a redead. Oh, and then there's swarms of ice keese, which will flap over, freeze you, and then freeze you again the instant you thaw.
    • If you exploit the screen-warp glitch in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening a little too much before getting Zora's Flippers, you may accidentally fall into a pit. Filled with deep water.
  • In Silent Hill 3, there's a room containing nothing but a sink and a mirror on the wall. The door locks behind you and you can only watch as the tendrils of blood on the other side of the mirror seep into that side's sink and leak out of the sink on your side, eventually starting to smother you. Players of the console versions might not realize that the blood slowly sucks out your health because, unlike the PC version, your health is only displayed on the pause screen. Luckily the door unlocks and you can leave as soon as you start taking damage, but the game gives no indication of this, so most players die in this room, unless they're unaware that the door locked in the first place because they never tried to leave before.
    • The Slurpers knock you down, rape you, knock you down as you get back up, repeat.
  • Oregon Trail II's river-rafting minigame sometimes respawns you right behind a rock, causing you to repeatedly hit it until you drown. Remind you of a certain Action 52 game?
  • In the early Resident Evil games, you could find yourself being repeatedly attacked by an enemy while hopelessly trying to reload your weapon.
  • In the "Eke Reloaded" pack (and its old precedessor, the Eke Pack) of Clonk, this is what makes stippels dangerous. A single stippel dies after one, or maximally three hits from any firearm, and its bite deals mere Scratch Damage, but in masses, they tend to fling you against a wall with the Knockback of their bite and stunlock you. If you don't have a jetpack or something to kill all of them in a single hit, Death of a Thousand Cuts is certain.
  • In Dragon Ball Z: Buu's Fury if you return to Hercule City after beating the game you can still fight the enemies around the carnival area. There's also a golden tank in front of the tent. Even though any of the characters can destroy it in a few punches, if it pushes one against a wall they constantly take damage and can't move from being stuck in the flinch motion. Seeing how at this point in the game everyone's defense would be so high that the tank only does 1 point of damage on every touch. Plus most of the characters' hp is well over a thousand so watching them die could take a while. The only way the escape is to restart, and God forbid you have a Lazarus crystal...
  • La-Mulana had a few spiked pits too deep to even Double Jump out of, most notably the Confusion Gate's 'Sacrificial Pit' and the Twin Labyrinth's passage pits. You could still use the Grail to teleport out.
  • The combat in the Little Big Adventure games was pretty frustrating because of this, as Twinsen would reel back uncontrollably any time he took damage and could still get hit while doing so, often leading to an endless loop until his health ran out.

Turn Based Strategy

  • In Jagged Alliance 2, Mustard Gas grenades work like this. If your character is not wearing a gas mask, and walks into a Mustard Gas cloud (or, more commonly, a Mustard Gas grenade is lobbed at him), the character will likely suffer a lot of damage and pass out. At this point, the character cannot be moved (he's passed out) and his inventory cannot be accessed, so he cannot be told to wear his gas mask if he has one at all. Each turn, the gas will drain a large amount of health and breath points from the character, making sure that he cannot escape. To make matters worse, it is even impossible to move the body out of the cloud by having another mercenary drag or lift it, so the afflicted mercenary just lies there in the cloud, completely helpless, until death. If you're fortunate though, the gas may dissipate before the character actually dies.
  • 7.62 High Calibre has the adrenaline mechanic, where situations that increase your adrenaline (seeing a target, seeing lots of targets, being shot at, being shot, etc.) make actions take less time to perform, but also makes your shots more likely to miss. If your adrenaline is maxed, you'll rarely hit an opponent more than ten feet away. On top of all this, anything that results in "shock" (see the previous list and subtract "being shot at" only) makes your character freeze for a few seconds if they're in the middle of performing an action. Since those few seconds can make a big difference between getting shot and shooting first, generally speaking if you get hit with shock, your adrenaline will shoot up, which, if you're lucky enough to get a shot off, means you'll miss, and if you then get shot, well, that character is dead. It's just a matter of time, really.
  • Star Control 2. If you get stuck in Hyperspace between several hostile ships (especially common in Ur-Quan space), you'll end up fighting one, wasting fuel on escaping/losing your crew, then immediately encountering another one, and then another, and another...

Role Playing Games

  • Due to certain bugs in the first two Fallout games, it was possible to have a save game stuck in an area full of previously non-hostile people, who will now all be hostile and in combat from the beginning of each load. A sure kill for non-combat or squishy players.
  • This is the way Secret of Mana works. Getting hit stuns anything that isn't a boss for exactly as the attacker has to wait to attack again. This mostly gets used against the enemies, but having this happen to your characters is still the most common form of death in the game.
  • The original Diablo has this in spades. Getting hit with enough damage will stun you (or an enemy) and you can get stunned repeatedly which leads to a stunlock. Avoiding stunlock is pretty much the basis of all warrior's strategies, and is important to ALL chars. If you do get stunlocked, all you can do is mash healing potions hoping for a chain of misses. Meanwhile, your equipment was taking damage along with you, could break completely in just a few seconds once the durability alarm appears, and once broken would vanish forever. But then this is the game where clicking the wrong shrine takes away mana permanently and some monsters cause permanent life damage, so it's fair.
    • On the bright side, this makes even the boss fight against Diablo a cinch.
  • In Tales of Phantasia, there's a certain enemy that can turtle into a state that renders it invulnerable to weapons and damages anyone who touches it.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins the Ogre has an attack that grabs and holds a character, and beats it to death while you watch the Life Meter slowly decrease when you can only be bailed out by one of your party members doing something to make it let go. Sometimes it uses this technique twice in a row on the same character. They can also spam their headbutt attack, which does a lot of damage and knocks you down.
    • Many enemies have such incapacitating moves from ordinary wolves to High Dragons. The best you can do is to try to stun them, while spamming Heal with your mage. There is also an Ogre-like demon in the Fade-level that will do two different stunning actions in a row, potentially putting you to a situation where you stand up only to be knocked down again repeatedly. Normal Ogres thankfully can't do this.
    • Perhaps the single most irritating instance of this trope in the game stems from the spell “Crushing Prison.” This spell immobilizes the target and does significant spirit damage while allowing the caster's allies free hits throughout the spell's duration. The game has no end of enemies who just love to stack this with the aforementioned mortality spell and other effects to make absolutely certain that you lose members quickly.
    • Blood Wound is the worst, though - a blood mage spell that incapacitates and wears down the HP of your ENTIRE PARTY at once. Always, always shoot the mage first.
  • Attack a Floating Eye in Nethack without making certain preparations, and watch your character get nibbled to Perma Death by a gecko or something equally nonthreatening.
    • And then of course there's being mobbed in the open by lightning-fast ants and bees.
  • The Dreamcast adaptation of Record of Lodoss War notoriously has this; Flying Omelette calls it "Record of Lodoss War Syndrome".
  • In Oblivion, its possible to be caught in a never ending cycle of being shot with an arrow, stumbling, and then being shot again, followed by stumbling. Its is painfully annoying.
  • In Final Fantasy X, you can fight a monster known as the Malboro (there's also a tougher variant in the hidden Omega Ruins). His Bad Breath move hits the entire party with a wide variety of status ailments, including Darkness (can't hit physically), Berserk (you can't control the character and he must attack, deals extra damage), Poison (character loses 1/4 max HP every turn) and Confuse (character attacks self and party members at random). Needless to say, if these stack, you're forced to watch your entire party flail uselessly trying to kill themselves - then succeeding due to the poison.
    • Bad breath got taken to eleven in Final Fantasy IV with Lunasaur. On turn one, you literally are stuck there, praying for one of your characters to eventually hit someone (which they won't, cuz they're blinded) until eventually the AI decides that it has humiliated your party enough and starts one shotting your party. Oh, and guess what it's guarding? Two ribbons, which make you immune to status effects...


  • The Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom at the beginning of Double Dragon's (arcade) final mission kill you in two hits, and also knock you backwards. Thus, you get hit once, knocked into the path of another moving block, lose a life, get hit again, repeat until Game Over (and you're probably on your last life by this time anyway). The same thing can happen with the gargoyle spears.
  • The biggest danger in Dynasty Warriors games and their derivatives. An enemy officer on his own is usually no more than an annoyance, even if he has soldiers with him. A small group of officers, however, can lock you into an almost permanent juggle. Combine this with fire elemental weapons (which drain your health so long as you are in the air), and you can see your health go down surprisingly quickly, all while being able to do nothing.
  • Completely possible in Castle Crashers, as seen here.

Fighting Games

  • This is generally known in fighting games as "infinite combos". They are often difficult to do, much less win with from 100% vitality, so they are generally considered either Game Breaking Bugs or Good Bad Bugs depending on the player's skill, but they are a common motivation for Updated Rereleases in either case. Particularly bad loops are often banned in tournament play. Some games feature Combo Breaker mechanics to give players a way out of these.
  • Until it was nerf'd, Sol Badguy's infamous Dust Loop was a textbook example of this. Now the ability belongs to Eddie's corner screw potential
  • Jinpachi in Tekken 5, if luck isn't on your side. Stun, fireball, stun, fireball, :dies:, :throws controller:.
  • "Virtua Fighter 2" has the Pai Loop...So called because a close-range high-kick from Pai, if repeated, is uncounterable by anyone except Akira (and even that requires frame-perfect timing). The good thing about this is that CPU opponents rarely if ever accomplish this loop...but a cheap player...

Driving Games

Other Games

  1. normally a character can be broken out of petrification by being hit by their partners attack. But spikes desummon your partner and make them unsummonable for several seconds. And you can't swap characters when petrified, either