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For a long time, most advancements in video game realism have been in visuals; adding detail and resolution to the environments simulated. A recent trend, however, is to increase the realism of objects, their physical properties, and how they move.

In practice, this means simulated objects that are not fixed in place; they break if struck, slide if pushed, and follow parabolic trajectories if thrown. The first objects to get the treatment were projectiles, like grenades, but the practice has expanded to include the majority of objects found in the game world. Especially enemies, be they alive or formerly alive.

Since simulating the complex interchange of balance and animation required to actually pick up an object is beyond the flexibility of most present game engines, many games that allow object manipulation employ some form of invisible force: a tractor beam or telekinesis are the most popular choices.

The name comes from the somewhat unrealistic action of dead enemies. They are not usually modeled with realistic joint stiffness or motion ranges, causing their limbs to bend at impossible angles (without breaking) and flop randomly in response to stimuli like explosions. Perhaps a telling view of the attitudes of many gamers, corpses get a lot of attention whenever physics engines are discussed. For another type of object that gets more than its share, see Jiggle Physics.

Examples of Ragdoll Physics include:

Action Adventure Games

  • Whenever you died in Spider-Man 2, Webhead would go limp and sometimes even keep getting hit and flying around.
  • Tomb Raider Legend does a fair job with its physics engine. Many of the classic block and switch type puzzles now rely on levers and ballistics as much as brute force.
    • However, Lara Croft's ragdoll death physics are somewhat ropey in both Legend and Anniversary.
  • In Tomb Raider: Underworld, using the hammer results either in hilarious this or zombie rain.
  • Dawn of Mana relied heavily on this mechanic; while it was possible to get through most levels simply by killing enemies normally, the only way to power up your character and rack up a decent score on the levels was by knocking or throwing the environment - crates, rocks, other enemies, etc. - into the enemies and attacking them while they were stunned. Crashing things into each other causes enemies to panic and drop medals that increase Keldric's stats, and the only way you can power him up besides earning badges.
    • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers used a similar mechanic for its battle system.
  • Lugaru's ragdoll physics can sometimes make the enemy rabbits fly into the air when hit, and one attack causes your character to ragdoll if it doesn't connect at the right time.
    • Its sequel, Overgrowth, improves upon ragdolls; notably, procedural animation allows characters to "partially" ragdoll so they'll stumble a bit and catch themselves when hit, or try to protect their faces as they're falling.
  • The games produced for the recent King Kong remake feature this. Aside from determining how enemies fall down when killed, it also allows for objects to be pushed back when hit with thrown objects (such as a dead enemy pushing another one off a cliff) and giant insects to dangle from a wall when impaled on a spear.

Fighting Games

  • In Toribash, all a fighter's muscles will go limp when a body part is removed, producing a ragdoll effect. However, you can lock them back into place the following turn and continue the battle, even without a head.
  • In Rag Doll Kung Fu, the characters act like this the whole time, even before they are defeated.

First-Person Shooter

  • Deus Ex Invisible War to a hilarious effect. If you have master computer hacking skills and take control of a turret, you can have a lot of fun seeing enemies distort and stretch while ragdolling as you pump their corpses full of lead with the turret.
  • The recently released game Alpha Prime uses weird Ragdoll Physics in which many enemies will, when killed, flop down in a sitting position, and won't budge even if repeatedly hit with a hammer.
  • If a player died while jetting in Tribes: Vengeance the jet would continue to run until the energy ran out, propelling them around.
  • Half Life 2 turns the manipulation of the environment into a powerful tool and weapon for the player; especially appropriate since protagonist Gordon Freeman is a physicist. The Gravity Gun allows many objects of reasonable mass to be lifted, thrown and shoved about for many offensive and defensive purposes.
    • The Gravity Gun also gets temporarily powered up at one point, allowing you to lift and throw nearly anything, including enemy soldiers (However that means instant death to them).
    • And let's not forget that Valve's Source engine always uses Havok physics, and pretty much every game they've made (Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, and Half Life) shows you just how every kill falls.
    • Slightly tweaked in Episode 2 - ragdolls now behave more like actual corpses than human-shaped pieces of rubber.
  • The Metroid Prime games uses ragdoll physics when you kill a Space Pirate. If there's a slanted walkway, they will slide down after they die.
  • The very first game to feature realistic, real-time physics was Jurassic Park: Trespasser - in fact, it was more realistic than most today's games (e.g. you could pick up objects with your physical hand), but this resulted in rather clunky and unwieldy controls.
  • Epic's other core franchise, Unreal, has been getting much the same treatment as of UT2003/2004. In those games the ragdoll physics of slain foes were nothing short of wonky. In Unreal Tournament III, the physics have been reworked so that the ragdoll physics are less WTF-invoking, but they still have their moments. There's also a PhysX map pack floating around which features heavily destructible environments, one of which is CTF_Tornado. These maps aren't so much meant to be played seriously as they are tech demos; this is because the sheer amount of ragdoll physics in play will put strain on even the best computers.
  • Doom 3 also features these. In combination with the comparably bulky build of the characters and enemies, and the fact that for some reason ragdoll elbows do not fold at all, it not rarely results in comical corpse positions. It's not immediately noticeable due to Everything Fades, though.
  • Happens when you use the Telekinesis Plasmid in Bioshock on corpses-Whether splicer or Big Daddy.
  • This feature in Dystopia has lead to the unusual defense tactic of making barricades out of random physics objects.
  • Most zombies have pretty nifty ragdoll effects after death in both Left 4 Dead games where their bodies would bend and twist depending how and where they died. In the first game, killing a Smoker or Hunter via headshot would cause an extremely hilarious ragdoll effect where their bodies literally go flying 50 feet across the room or go spinning in the air for a few seconds. This was fixed in the sequel which now makes the Hunter and Smoker just fall over. The extreme ragdoll effect can still be seen if a special infected goes into a deep river and gets instantly killed (even during spawn mode in VS)
    • Previously, due to graphical limitations, zombies would not gib or ragdoll upon death due to an explosive, just disappear into a puff of red mist. With the improved graphic engine of Left 4 Dead 2, they now gib and ragdoll freely, which creates some pretty impressive explosions, where chunks of meat go flying in every direction. In addition, the developers also included ragdolling intestines that would comically follow and flop with the torso they originated with.
  • Painkiller uses ragdoll physics heavily - enemies' bodies will fly in any direction, depending on how and where they're hit (if they don't gib that is) and tumble to the ground, dropping their weapons. Also barrels, urns, chests and other objects will roll around, break on sufficiently hard impact and promptly explode (or break) if something else explodes within a certain distance of them. Their gibs also obey the same laws. Then of course there's the famous stakegun which fires large wooden stakes which can not only impale enemies in spectacular ways, but will also pin them to walls leaving their bodies to helplessly dangle.
  • Team Fortress 2 Uses ragdoll physics both to normality and to hilarity. Backstab a sniper? He's either on the floor in front of you or half-way across the map. Recent updates to the game have partially averted this, however - backstabs and headshots now trigger specific death animations, with the corpse only ragdolling once they hit the ground.
  • The Updated Rereleases of Serious Sam TFE/TSE now include ragdolling corpses thanks to the newest iteration of the Serious Engine. Notable in that it gives actual weight to the bodies - even Beheaded Rocketeers hit the ground with a satisfyingly visible "thump".

Beat 'em Ups

  • Enemy corpses in Madworld will go limp once you kill them. If the enemies are sliced into bits as part of the finisher, each body part will ragdoll individually. You can then chop up the bits even further with a well-placed vertical chainsaw, if you want.


  • City of Heroes added ragdoll physics to its handling of foes in late 2005, but the implementation is not perfect, as attested to by how many times you see a body draped over a non-existent railing. In fact, due to not-quite perfect ragdoll physics it's possible to knock enemies into some kind of barrier and "trap" them as the computer tries to figure out how they should be falling, thus rendering them helpless.
    • Ragdoll physics can lead to much amusement for the players, from the odd ways that corpses will get stuck hanging from railings and tree branches, to the awkward and embarassing positions they might collapse into. This (female) troper once knocked an enemy off a railing and watched him come back down with the railing between his legs, before eventually sliding off the ledge, unconscious.
    • This troper has seen situations in which the computer becomes so confused about how to ragdoll-ize the body that it just hovers in midair, spinning constantly, with arms flailing about until it fades.
    • And, of course, sometimes the ragdoll physics fails entirely. If you can defeat an enemy before they enter combat with you, such as with an Assassin's Strike, they'll occasionally just stand there until they fade away.

Platform Games

  • N is free 2D game that enjoys ragdolling the player whenever they die.
  • The Nintendo64 game Rocket Robot On Wheels was an earlier game to utilize physics, with the "tractor beam" variant. Interesting, the tractor beam allowed for some unusual consequences of the engine: Picking up a sufficiently round (or rolling) object, and wedging a floating platform between it and Rocket through the tractor beam, allowed you to roll along the platform on the object!

Puzzle Games

  • Stair Dismount (originally named Porrasturvat) is notable for being one of the first games to use ragdoll physics as a gameplay feature. The game is mostly about kicking a ragdoll down a set of stairs, watching it fall down and seeing how much damage you can cause.

Racing Games

  • The whole point of the Flat Out games is to crash your car in such fashion that the driver's body is ejected in spectacular fashion. The game even includes a mode where you use the driver as a human bowling ball.
    • Similarly, Truck Dismount and Stairs Dismount (if this troper remembers correctly) are all about just how much damage you can do to a poor human figure by making it fall down a bunch of stairs or crashing a truck against a barrier. Notable in that the figure falls and writhes a little slowly for Ragdoll Physics, but the game highlights in red the parts that are being currently damaged. Of course, the games are extremely fun.

Role-Playing Games

  • Corpses in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion very much follow this trope. The rest of the world is not so realistic: arrows lodge in glass as if it were wood, and shooting a clay pitcher will cause it to move, but not break.
  • Done to the extreme in Vampire: The Masqurade - Bloodlines: hitting your enemies with melee attacks causes them to go flying and land sprawled out. This led to the awesome sight of slashing a vampire with a katana and watching him go spiralling sideways out a window, breaking it, and plunging three stories.
  • Mass Effect utilizes ragdoll physics mainly in death animations, but there is also a certain zero-G level where enemies, when shot or meleed, will simply float away, bouncing off architecture and characters.
  • Dark Souls has a bit of a wonky implementation of them, with all corpse-leaving enemies rather light, resulting in Stone Giants who, upon death, apparently turn into cardboard and keep getting stuck on your foot.

Shoot Em Ups

  • The freeware game Soldat proves that ragdoll physics are fun no matter how many dimensions you use...

Simulation Games

  • Off-Road Velociraptor Safari features you driving a truck, attacking raptors with a ball-and-chain strapped to the back. And the raptors ragdoll awesomely when hit.
  • There's an early example to using ragdoll physics in the game called Carmageddon 2 from 1998. There's a quite good physics engine implemented in the game, which allows the player to run over pedestrians more realistically than in the first piece of the series. If you hit them only with low speed they're just tumble down, but when you hit them a bit faster they can burst to pieces, and their limbs spread in every directions.

Stealth-Based Games

  • Thief: Deadly Shadows uses a particularly strange form of ragdoll physics. If an NPC gets knocked out, they will often crumple into a position that should only be possible for someone without a skeleton.
  • The Hitman series incorporated the engine's ragdoll physics into the assassination/stealth aspect of the game. For example, putting a bullet through the head of a guard sitting in a chair would often result in him remaining in a sitting (if somewhat slouched) position. Unless other guards got up really close to him, he'd still register as "alive," resulting in no alarm being triggered.
    • This was pretty amusingly implemented in the early games, where you could send enemies flying 50ft with some of the more powerful weapons. Even 47's trademark dual silverballer .45s were enough to make someone go cartwheeling backwards, and if you were accurate enough to repeatedly land hits on them whilst they were midair it could make for some truly amazing death flights. This was somewhat important for the gameplay; if you used the silenced ballers to shoot an enemy, for instance, it could propel them into the line of sight of their comrades, ruining your chance for the top stealth ratings.
    • In fact, the first "Hitman" game is the first successful game ever to use Ragdoll Physics (the first one to actually use it was Jurassic Park: Trespasser mentioned previously). As part of the learning process, the earlier games were known to have somewhat extreme physics however (such as an Elephant Gun being able to cause a mook to soar up in the air and over a 10ft wall, if done at the right angle).
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum - Mooks falling from a height land in all kinds of unrealistic and decidedly uncomfortable positions (and most are just unconscious, not dead). Sometimes they remain twitching weirdly forever.
  • Assassin's Creed engine uses ragdoll for the dead. However, it is far too common for the body to start twitching in ridiculous forms for minutes and sometimes they just won't stop. Ubisoft has said they'll fix it for Brotherhood.


  • Valkyria Chronicles has soldiers ragdoll when they lose all their HP. For some reason, though, they often reset themselves to a more natural position shortly afterwards despite being unconscious and on the brink of death.

Survival Horror

  • The Penumbra series actually avoids this quite well, allowing the player to realistically move almost every object imaginable and it's essential for puzzles and evading enemies. However, picking up a dead demonic dog will allow them to jiggle around ridiculously, and a falling human corpse is a perfect example of this trope.

Third-Person Shooter

  • Destroy All Humans! is a pastiche of classic fifties "alien invasion" films casting the player as the invader. The main character can toss people, livestock, and eventually, cars, tanks and buses around with his "psychokinesis". His saucer has an "abduction beam" that does much the same job.
  • Freedom Fighters also has ragdoll physics. Soviet soldiers come out flying after they receive the impact of a nearby explosion.
  • Psi Ops the Mindgate Conspiracy blends telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and mind draining into a beautiful tapestry of turning living guards into bloody smears on a wall.
  • Oddly enough, the Transformers Armada game for the Playstation 2 saw heavy use of this mechanic. Seeing a giant battle-robot flop limply down a hill spoils the atmosphere a little.
  • The ragdoll physics in Gears of War were so ludicrous (heavily armored soldiers and giant supertough alien bugs turn into wobbly blobs of chewy flesh as soon as they hit Critical Existence Failure) that a Japanese artist felt compelled to make a comic about it.
  • Second Sight uses this in conjunciton with Psychic Powers. The result is hours of fun. Although sometimes it does result in Mook corpses becoming stuck in walls.
  • Max Payne 2 featured a number of pseudo-cutscenes which revolved around the camera zooming in on someone you'd just shot so that you could watch the Ragdoll Physics in action. Often the bad guys who triggered this event would be set up so that they ran at you across a plank high up between buildings or something, to make for truly epic slow-motion plummeting.

Non-Video Game Examples