"By concealing yourself in the flesh of your enemies you can constantly escape detection while committing countless evil acts. The different bodies will keep the authorities guessing, and when you get bored you can simply shed your current skin and move on to the next. There is also a great deal of fun to be had with tormenting heroes with this fashion. Consider, 'Mom, is that you?'"
—How to Be a Villain, Neil Zawacki
Some Body Snatchers simply have no patience.
Maybe they're committing Grand Theft Me, only to find that they're quickly wearing their new bodies out. Maybe no one person they possess has all the skills they need. Maybe they have no idea who's good to take over until they've done so. Maybe they're afraid of being found if they stay in one body too long. Or maybe they're just plain nuts. In any case, when a Body Snatcher is constantly switching from body to body, they are said to Body Surf.
Naturally, this makes them hard to catch. If this is done in a closed environment, you get a Ten Little Murder Victims scenario—only who's the mole changes, making things considerably harder for the heroes. Of course, it's considerably harder for the villain, too, who had better be a really good actor if people aren't going to be able to quickly tell who is Not Himself. But villains typically don't have to worry about such things.
Anime and Manga
- In the 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist, the Philosopher's Stone can be used to Body Surf by transferring someone's soul and mind into a new body. The series Big Bad has this technique repeatedly and is over 400 years old. Unfortunately the amount of time she can spend in each body lessens each time she does it, meaning she requires more and more Philosopher's Stones to keep going.
- In the second season of Code Geass, there is Marianne, Lelouch's mother, who reveals that she is alive and kicking, despite her apparent assassination prior to the series. She body-hopped into a nearby Noble child. This is said to be the power of her Geass.
- Orochimaru from Naruto is a very prominent example of this trope. His goal in life is to live forever in order to learn all the world's jutsu. But that is pretty much impossible, since new jutsus are being made everyday, and some are handed down from family to family and kept a secret, AND some require years and years to master, whether you're a prodigy or not. So he developed his Living Corpse Reincarnation jutsu, which allowed him to be able to transfer his soul into another person's body, and the perks include acquiring any special abilities that the meat puppet may have. He can only perform this jutsu once every three years. In theory this could be the closest thing to immortality, but the reality is - the host body will eventually weaken and reject Orochimaru's invading soul, so he will have to find a new host before it is too late; though, it is implied that how long it takes for the host to reject him depends on how powerful the host is to begin with, and that powerful hosts like Sasuke or Itachi could serve him a reasonable term, if not a whole lifetime.
- Captain Ginyu in Dragonball Z. Started out by snatching Goku's body, but when he realized that because he didn't know Goku's special fighting techniques, he had only a fraction of Goku's original power, he took a beating. Later, he decided to snatch Vegeta's body, as Vegeta was so powerful at the time that Ginyu wouldn't need to know very much about him to still be more powerful than any of the heroes at the time. He ended up inside the body of a frog and thus couldn't use his attack because it required speaking, but later ended up stealing Bulma's body when she makes a devise that allows him to communicate and almost managed to body-snatch Piccolo before being returned to the frog's body for good.
- Ironically, this leaves Ginyu as the only survivor of Frieza's minions, as both his body (now occupied by the frog's mind) and his mind (now in the frog) end up on Earth, and Ginyu-in-the-frog is seen alive and well two Time Skips later. One is left to wonder what the lifespan of a Namekian frog is.
- Baby from Dragon Ball GT jumps from body to body trying to find a host powerful enough to kill Goku, Trunks and Pan. He also leaves behind pieces of himself in each body, ensuring he still has control even after leaving it. The meat of the conflict takes place after he settles into the body of Vegeta.
- Mukuro Rokudo in Katekyo Hitman Reborn can transfer his soul between any bodies he has injured with his weapon, including artificial box animals (don't ask)... and it's his favorite tactic.
- Many people in MPD Psycho are able to transfer or copy their personalities, but Tetora uses this power whenever practical (though he always returns to (or stays in, if he made a copy) his original body fairly fast).
- The "Phantom Thief G" in D Gray Man (actually an orphan with a parasite-type Innocence) can possess people and Akuma just by looking at them; he's gotten roughly three dozen people arrested in his place.
- Pandaemonium in the manga version of Chrono Crusade.
- Anon, from The Law of Ueki, who steals the bodies of his victims by swallowing them whole. He does this to Robert Haydn and even the current God.
- The Sousui and Tsukihasa, both are capable of this as a form of immortality.
- In Soul Eater, Medusa uses magic to cheat death this way, the first time jumping into a helpless child, and then upgrading to something more comfortable by stealing the body of her sister, Arachne.
- Karla The Grey Witch of Record of Lodoss War has survived for centuries doing this via Grand Theft Me by placing the circlet she now resides in on her victims' heads. She is forced out of one victim only to possess another.
- The X-Men villain Proteus burns through he bodies he possesses as he uses his mutant powers. However, assuming he doesn't ever use his reality-warping powers, he can stay in a single body for an extended period.
- This is one of the powers of the psychic Kay Cera (A.K.A. "Cuckoo") of ClanDestine.
- Mountjoy, a villain from one of the X-Men's various dystopian futures, does this. He physically merges with his victims to possess them, and sometimes consumes their bodies for sustenance.
- This is the entire concept of DC Comics superhero Deadman, whose sole power is the ability to effortlessly possess anybody, from children to Superman.
- Doctor Doom has the Ovoid mind switch, an alien technique taught to him by the, guess, Ovoids, a species of aliens incapable of reproduction at one point so they had to clone their bodies and transfer their minds into it. Despite a later She Hulk issue retconning it as being difficult if there's a soul / mind in the body the "caster" is trying to inhabit, Doom seems to be able to do this with relative ease, especially after the Unthinkable arc, where all he is is a spirit, and he swaps and hops about the Comicbook/Fantastic Four until Reed shoots Doom-in-Thing, killing both, sending Victor von Doom.... to hell.
- Jericho of the DC Universe had this as an ability, and when he tried to help Raven using it, it eventually drove him completely mad.
- In the DC Elseworlds book Justice League: Another Nail, Scott Free (Mr. Miracle) is killed by DeSaad, but before dying he transfers his mind into Big Barda's Mother Box circuitry, allowing him to "possess" his wife long enough to use his escape-artist skills to release her from Darkseid's shackles. Barda then acquires a Green Lantern power ring, allowing Scott Free the ability to manifest himself as a green energy construct.
- The DC villain Ultra-Humanite accomplishes this by surgically transferring his brain between bodies.
- In Final Crisis, Darkseid (and possibly the other New Gods) are able to do this, as Darkseid is able to jump from "Boss Dark Side" to Dan Turpin.
- Palpatine in Dark Empire was forced to do this as one clone body after another was rotted by The Dark Side, culminating in an attempt to possess newborn Anakin Solo, a desperation plan necessitated by the fact that all of his remaining clone bodies had been sabotaged by traitorous elements in the Empire.
- In the final book of the Darth Bane trilogy, bane attempts to learn this technique to forestall his death at the hands of his apprentice. He attempts to force his soul inside the body of his apprentice, it fails. Or Does It.
- It worked better for another character named Set Harth, who learned the technique from the Sith, but then decided to ditch them. Who needs ambitions to one day rule the galaxy when you can live forever, huh? He successfully managed it for at least few hundred years, after which his trace had gone cold.
- In Hellblazer, a low-grade warlock's plan to invoke this trope was foiled when he discovered that every human had a defensive aura that his disembodied presence couldn't overcome. Foiled, he had to settle for possessing a dog, which grew to immense proportions with the warlock's spirit inside. It's hinted that he moves on to a rat after his dog body is destroyed.
- Elfes got the ancient dark elf necromancer Lah'saa. Once she is released from her tomb, she possessed one of te unfortunates who did this and goes on a conquest. She isn't too picky about species and sex, but prefers to take over the elves if it's up to her. Also, her victims die under a minute after being left behind, assuming they aren't killed before.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero The SOS Brigade determines Kanae's backstory had this. As Kanae was escaping the Alien Invasion who was right behind her she jumped through worlds, in every world she had an identity but has never considerered what happened to her "local" copy, who she had never met.
- A rather horrifying version is done in the Pony POV Series by Discord during his first reign. As a spirit, destroying his body merely frees him to take over another one (explaining why Celestia didn't just smash his statue to bits when she had the chance). After her aunt Galaxia shatters Discord's statue when he's defeated with the Rainbow of Light, he possesses G1 Galaxy or Wind Whistler (Celestia refuses to tell which, as she doesn't want their memory tainted by association with a monster like Discord) and morphs her body into the one he has now.
Films -- Live-Action
- The Hidden (1987). A Puppeteer Parasite-like alien takes over various people in Los Angeles and uses them to commit thrill crimes. He is chased by a member of a different Puppeteer Parasite species who is inhabiting the body of an FBI agent.
- In Fallen (the one with Denzel Washington and John Goodman), the resident body snatcher can switch from body to body by touch. In one scene, he chases Denzel Washington in a crowd by body surfing his way through the crowd, each person reaching forward to touch the next in the chain.
- In Shocker, this is Pinker's special power. He's very bad about selecting bodies with bad hearts, though.
- The Agents in The Matrix do this to revive themselves when killed. Since every human still plugged into the Matrix is a potential Agent, the Resistance cannot afford to leave witnesses when they go about trying to free people. As shown repeatedly in the movies, any populated area in the city is extremely dangerous. In a matter of seconds, an agent can jump into anyone nearby and shoot you dead.
- The first movie shows this in the finale when Neo runs through a market and an apartment complex. Smith and the other agents are constantly taking shots at Neo from behind or from the sides as they try to kill him.
- In the second movie, this is taken to its logical conclusion with a highway chase scene during rush hour.
- The third movie culminates with Smith, now unbound by the rules the Machines imposed upon him, copying himself into every human and program in the Matrix.
- The main character in the Korean horror film Dead Friend suffers from Easy Amnesia, and doesn't even remember that she had swapped minds with the main villain. Since this happened just as she was about to drown, the villain quickly jumped into the next nearest girl, and spends the rest of the film possessing different characters to get revenge..
- His true body blown up in the first ten minutes, Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13 th fame does this in Friday the 13th (film): The Final Friday. The host bodies die after Jason leaves them (oddly enough, NOT from the damage they take while he possesses them).
- The creature in Proteus absorbs bodies throughout the movie and is able to assume their form from then on. The minds of the victims continue to exist within it and are able to surface when it naps after a meal.
- In the J-Horror film Another Heaven, the Body Surfing killer is actually a murderess from the future whose (inadvertent?) time travel turned her into a sapient puddle of water. The bodies possessed are found to be missing their brains which are found to be merely shrivelled up and covered in tumours. The film gets kind of weird towards the end, with the implication that the killer evaporated from a housefire, and is now in the rain.
- A rare non-supernatural example: In Taking Lives, this is essentially the tactic of a serial killer - he kills people who look similar to himself, dresses them up as his old persona (killing them in messy ways helps), and steals their identity, continuing his life as the victim.
- In the 1978 film Heaven Can Wait, Warren Beatty's character Joe Pendleton is a quarterback who is taken from his body "before his time" by an over-anxious guardian angel. His body is turned into ashes by the time this is discovered, however, and he thus must find a new one to inhabit. While waiting for a more fitting corpse, Joe settles for that of an elderly millionaire. Hilarity ensues.
- Here Comes Mr Jordan and the Chris Rock comedy Down to Earth does a similar thing with a prizefighter and a black comedian, respectively.
- Lifeforce: After her escape the female vampire starts switching from body to body to evade capture.
- Dog-Face Joe in The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers does it as Grand Theft Me, as any body he takes soon starts growing hair all over.
- Harry Potter: Voldemort, after being almost destroyed by baby Harry, only retained the ability to possess bodies, and he jumped from animal to animal (severely cutting their lifespan) until he was able to get his new body.
- Tak from Stephen King's Desperation is forced to possess new bodies because he constantly wears them out.
- Corpsetaker from The Dresden Files. He (she?) goes through two different bodies during his (her?) time in the limelight, forcing Dresden to engage the Whack a Mole scenario in order to kill him (her her her). The twist? He's right the first time around, and he knows that.
- To elaborate, in Dead Beat, Corpsetaker is in the body of Alicia, a college-age girl. Later on, when fighting Anastasia Luccio, head of the Wardens, Corpsetaker suckers her into gutting Alicia's body, then transfers his (her) mind over to Luccio's, leaving Luccio's mind dying in the younger body. Harry, however, figures this out immediately and shoots Luccio/Corpsetaker in the noggin. Of course, this leaves Luccio stuck in the young and attractive (but magically weak) body instead of her old one. His uninformed companion declares him a traitor and almost kills him before he can justify his actions.
- In Ghost Story, Corpsetaker is back as a ghost. S/he steals Butters' body and attempts to Body Surf into Molly, but is repelled.
- Absolutely everyone in Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light. Yes, even the protagonist.
- In the War Against the Chtorr books by David Gerrold, members of the Telepathy Corps are fitted with brain implants that allow them to "switch minds" with others with a similar implant through radio transmission. The implants are supposed to be used only for military intelligence-gathering, but some agents (nicknamed "carpetbaggers") like to jump from body to body just for fun, which rather annoys the telepath who has to inhabit the body after a night of debauchery.
- The Great Game by Dave Duncan: Tion, soi-disant "god" of youth (actually a enchanter from an Alternate Universe—but that's much of a muchness, since in this story being from elsewhere in The Multiverse is the defining attribute of enchanters) holds a contest every year for the most beautiful and skilled youth in all the land. This youth 'represents' Tion and hands out the prizes—and then disappears for several years. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Tion has been committing Grand Theft Me for the sheer fun of it. The "god" is later shown changing bodies several times, and comments that male bodies 'wear better'. It is implied that the theft is reversed (with them Brainwashed not to remember) after several years of, um, wear; one of the characters has a chunk of his mind missing.
- In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath series, Bane, an undead spirit, travels in this way, moving from host to host and sucking the life out of each in turn.
- Done in a deliberately de-Mind Rape-ified fashion in A Swiftly Tilting Planet—Charles Wallace has to Body Surf throughout history to prevent The End of the World as We Know It. Notable as a rare example of the hero doing this.
- Major plot points in several of the Wild Cards novels. One character is able to make others into "Jumpers" who body-surf by swapping meatbags with another. Meaning a single one of them can cause an entire room of people to switch bodies. When the Jumpers form an army bad things happen.
- The Jumper "Prime" is revealed to be Edward St. John Latham, aka "Loophole", an Amoral Attorney who many believed owed his lack of a conscience - and resultant skills as a lawyer - to the wild card. It turned out he's honestly the best lawyer in the world - when his card finally turns, he gains the ability to body surf and create other body surfers via anal rape.
- Magos Antigonus from the Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights novel Dark Adeptus gains this ability through discovering some Lost Technology, allowing him to be Not Quite Dead. He's a hero, though, or something approximating it in this Crapsack World.
- The Sea Hag in the Xanth novel Golem in the Gears, much to the consternation of the protagonists.
- There were a race of body-hopping aliens in Jack Chalker's The Identity Matrix. Thing is, they weren't just possessing the bodies, they were instantaneously switching minds, which means that there were a lot of people left behind in the wrong bodies afterwards, including the protagonist, who winds up getting switched twice. And never gets the original body back.
- Doro, the adversary in Octavia Butler's Wild Seed and Mind Of My Mind. He uses up the body he's in (in months at the most), then jumps to the nearest body, killing the person in it and taking it over. Kill him (or just really startle him) and he jumps automatically. He doesn't know how to die, and he's been doing it since the Ancient Egyptians raided his bronze-age village in Nubia.
- In Everlost by Neal Shusterman the afterlight Allie finds she is able to hear the thoughts of and "skinjack" (a.k.a. posses) the living, and runs into other afterlights like her in the sequels. She ends up taking over peoples bodies as a convenient way to travel and because being in a living person's body is addicting to skinjackers. But she keeps switching bodies because if a skinjacker stays in one person's body too long, they are unable to leave. She tries hard not to be villainous though.
- In the first book she prefers to call it "body surfing," thinking "skinjacking," the proper term for the trope in Everlost, sounds too villainous.
- Sario from The Golden Key does this a number of times throughout the book. Unusually, the reason he switches is because the body he is currently inhabiting is usually too old, Sario having taken the then-young body and lived the life of the person he switched with into old age.
- In Empire From the Ashes, the mutineer's inner council managed their constant manipulation of the human race without going into stasis by transplanting their brains as necessary into the bodies of lesser mutineers who had obediently gone into stasis. Less important mutineers have to make do with regular human bodies.
- The antagonist of Stephen Gallegher's Valley Of Lights can jump from body to body.
- This happens in Transition by Iain Banks.
- Daedalus from Percy Jackson and The Olympians does this, except instead of possessing innocent people, he transfers his soul from robot to robot as he builds more advanced bodies.
- The Vampire Chronicles has Maharet. When she was human, her eyes were gouged out so after she was turned into a vampire she would take the eyes from the humans she killed and use them until they wore out. It's mentioned in one book that there's a reason why she doesn't take a vampires eyes (which would, presumably, last a hell of a lot longer) but I can't remember what it is.
- Ray Bradbury's short story The One who Waits (1949).
- The Marra of The Madness Season are capable of doing so, as long as they remember that they can. One manages to survive this way when she first encounters the Tyr.
- In Known Space, Jan Corben essentially Body Surfed through a series of clone daughters, via brain transplant. Each time she would assume the clone's identity, "inherit" all her stuff, and the identity attached to the old body would "die in a tragic accident". She survived for a timespan of 20, maybe 30 generations that way before suffering a genuine tragic accident.
- The mage Ma'ar in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series magically overwrites the soul of any person who is a direct descendant of his original body as soon as that person displays mage-talent. The only way to kill him for good is to kill his host and then follow him into the netherworld and destroy his Soul Jar.
- The villain in Mercedes Lackey's novel Jinx High does this with her own daughter every time she feels like she's getting too old, transferring herself to her daughter's body and her daughter to her old one. She pulls a Karma Houdini at the end of the novel by jumping back to her original body, leaving her daughter back in her body to die in her place.
- In the novel Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff, one character keeps himself alive this way by jumping to the body of his killer just before he dies. After figuring it out, he makes a habit of it and lives for several centuries jumping from body to body.
- In the world of Corona, the setting of the Demon Wars Saga, any sufficiently skilled user of magic gemstones can do this to an unborn child with a good magical hematite. In Mortalis, Abbot Je'howith is tempted to pull this on the child of the king when he suffers a heart attack after using magic to verify the pregnancy, but eventually resists and accepts his fate. In Transcendence, it is revealed that the long line of miraculous prodigies leading the theocracy of Behren have secretly all been one despicable old man's soul doing this over and over again.
- In George R. R. Martin's short story "The Glass Flower", this method of immortality is achieved by way of a Battle in the Center of the Mind. In the story, there are three "contestants", three "prizes", and a controller that take part in what is referred to as the "game of mind", where they enter a virtual world and battle one another, with weapons or psychologically. The contestants try to take over the bodies of the prizes, though the prizes can fight back and retain their bodies if they win, and the controller creates the world in which they fight.
- The Main Noon and Home of the Wanderers duology (the first has a movie adaptation) by Alexander Mirer has a whole Alien Invasion working like this. Eventually it turned out that they are "drop troops" who are supposed to scout out the place, disable defenses if necessary and send a call for the ships with "colonists" - and the latter makes it a Race Against the Clock. They also can interact with computers (or be Mind Probed) while in a little crystalline storage thingy, but it's not quite what we'd see as Brain Uploading/Downloading: the "intermediary" devices work through solid material, yet noticeably change weight when loaded or unloaded, and the original owner of a body is not harmed, merely suppressed. Also, the infiltrators can take over stupid animals - obviously, without opposable thumbs one can but watch and even to report needs a translation device or another body, and being a common rodent entails risk of not surviving to the extraction... but they do remain sapient while literally hare-brained; and their presence gives a body regeneration and ability to survive even otherwise fatal wounds. It's not quite reliable, since some creatures (even many humans) can resist control of a possessing mind. It also turned out they are plagued by a secret society devoted to stopping this "colonization". After all, it's essentially a pyramid scheme: on each assimilated planet "colonists" produce children, who at the end of their natural lifespans are also saved in storage and added to the queue waiting for new bodies... and so on.
- The sequel deals with aftermath of the first operation and some thought out details on the civilization of The Way who send those body-snatching ships. Puny Earthlings tighten security and fare reasonably well, but it's not quite enough even with one group of body snatchers subtly helping them against the rest, while Sufficiently Advanced Aliens (with Faster-Than-Light Travel) quietly give the invaders a Spanner in the Works or two: they won't do something as crass as nuking every mind-colony ship they can find, but now they can pick from hundreds of millions of potential agents who come with deviousness of cultures adapted to all sorts of conflicts and challenges, enough of stakes in the matter to take huge risks, and enough of mental fortitude to suppress trained and experienced Drop Troops, let alone sleepy civilians who in body-snatching process are as much of passive participants as their victims. Which, naturally, adds up to an opportunity far too good to pass.
- Quantum Leap is built around this premise but the body surfer is the protagonist, and is required to "set things right" in the person's life by the end of each episode. Does involve Mental Time Travel and mind swap (which raises the question what happens to the timeline that has been "set right" after the befuddled host is returned to his or her body).
- The Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1 can do this, but tend to stick with one host as long as possible (to the point of Apophis keeping a body that had been badly scarred by the torture he'd endured at the hands of a rival.) Anubis, on the other hand, was part Energy Being and once his containment field was destroyed, he had to possess humans. The bodies burned out quickly, necessitating taking new ones frequently.
- The second episode of Angel, "Lonely Hearts," dealt with a demon who jumped from body to body in search of the one it could live in permanently. It was a metaphor for searching for the perfect mate and, indeed, most of the episode took place in a nightclub.
- The third-season episode "Carpe Noctem" features an old man who shuttles his consciousness in and out of young men in order to experience the joys of youth, but the spell destroys any living body he possesses. Then he ends up in Angel...
- The Cylons of the new Battlestar Galactica do this upon their deaths, however they simply Body Surf into a brand new otherwise dormant identical body, rendering them effectively immortal. Eventually the system that allows them to do this is destroyed, rendering every death from that point forward final.
- Lady Cassandra in Doctor Who develops this ability in her constant quest to remain young and beautiful. In one episode of the new series (New Earth) she takes over Rose (successfully), the Doctor (not so much), then Rose again, then one of the disease hosts, then Rose a THIRD time, and finally her cloned assistant (who was a willing host).
- Subverted in series four: Midnight has the other passengers eager to accept the idea that the malevolent entity that has been possessing Sky has jumped into the Doctor, freeing her. Instead, not only is she still possessed, but is now playing a rather sick ventriloquism game in trying to get the Doctor killed...
- Androvax in The Sarah Jane Adventures story Prisoner of the Judoon.
- The demon Eyghon in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer second-season episode The Dark Age does this to several characters over the course of the episode. The catch is that he can only possess a dead or unconscious host, and, when his current body dies, it turns into a puddle of goo, spreading out to infect the next unfortunate dead/unconscious person who comes into contact with it. He eventually manages to possess Jenny Calendar, and later jumps into Angel's body (who is technically undead, being a vampire and all) after Jenny's body nearly dies. The vampiric demon inside Angel's body then proceeds to defeat Eyghon for good.
- The villain of sixth-season episode "After Life".
- Happens to Tom Paris in the Star Trek: Voyager episode Vis-à-vis. A criminal steals his body and dumps Tom in his own, leaving him to avoid pissed-off previous body-swopped personalities, plus somehow get back to Voyager and convince people that 'Tom Paris' isn't who they think he is. A similar plot appears in an episode of Bounty Hamster. This time Cassie is the victim.
- Also in "Warlord" a former dictator jumps from body to body (usually volunteers from among his fanatical followers) in a quest for immortality finds himself accidentally inside Kes. At first he finds Kes' mind powers and sexual attractiveness very useful; her stubborn determination to resist him however...
- Not to mention that if you want immortality, a host body that is dead of old age before it hits ten years old is a bad choice.
- In the Original Series episode Wolf in the Fold, spirit Redjac hops from body to body while committing violent murders because he's actually Jack the Ripper. And another episode had three noncorporeal life forms using the bodies of the Enterprise crew to construct android bodies for themselves.
- Also in "Warlord" a former dictator jumps from body to body (usually volunteers from among his fanatical followers) in a quest for immortality finds himself accidentally inside Kes. At first he finds Kes' mind powers and sexual attractiveness very useful; her stubborn determination to resist him however...
- Big Wolf on Campus had one of these for a Monster of the Week. It switched bodies by touch. Since it switched between "Human forms", that meant it could also posses and animate a giant statue.
- Smallville's Bizarro kills a number of human hosts by simply wearing them out before finding Clark and becoming his Evil Twin
Clark: Crown's mine, bitch.
- An episode of Farscape had a sentient virus who could only infect one host at a time. It was double-tricky to catch because it drugged its victims so that afterwards they didn't even know they'd been possessed.
- The Rossum executives do this in the last few episodes of Dollhouse. Ambrose, Harding and 'Clyde' change bodies several times. An interview with Alan Tudyk revealed that Alpha planned to do this, as well.
- The Outer Limits episode had an episode titled Better Luck Next Time, which featured two nearly immortal aliens. They could inhabit any living host and can survive for however long they can bind to the central nervous system. After the host dies, they have only moments to transfer into another body until they die, since they can't live too long in the Earth's atmosphere. If they transfer, they will still live for however long they can repeat the sequence. If they fail, they disintegrate.
- His Divine Shadow, the Big Bad from the first season of Lexx. He could transfer his "essence" to a new host when his old host was near death, thus ensuring he could reign indefinitely. The fact that his new host's mind and personality was improperly "cleansed" before the transfer was a major plot point in the first season.
- Priest has villain Jaarbilong, who commands a horde of zombies. He can possess any of the zombies at will, if his current body is destroyed he simply jumps into another one. Ivan gets around this trick by attacking his soul directly.
- The singer of Hide and Seek by【SeeU/시유/シユ/硒歐】is presumably a body surfer singing to a victim it is looking for.
- In Legend of the Five Rings, the villains Iuchiban and Yajinden do this. At one point Iuchiban attempts a Grand Theft Me on previous main villain Daigotsu, but for the most part their hosts are unimportant to the plot. They generally warp the bodies into their own image, however.
- Less nefariously, the Kami Togashi body-hopped for over a thousand years to guide the Empire towards the Second Day of Thunder. All of his hosts were willing members of his Clan hand-picked for the duty, however.
- Similarly, the Kami Shiba used his Clan's Ancestral Sword as a focus through which he can return in the soul of the current Champion of his Clan, all of which were his direct descendants. However, he is incapable of actively directing the new Champion, and instead acts more like a spirit guide.
- Characters with the Possession advantage can do this in GURPS
- In In Nomine, the Kyriotates (angels) and the Shedim (demons) are Body Surfers by necessity, they MUST possess the bodies of other beings while on Earth (unlike most angels and demons who are given special bodies to use in the physical world) and they can only possess their hosts for a limited amount of time, the Kyrios have a "hard limit" of anywhere from a day to a week or so as to how long they can borrow a given body continuously, and Shedim are required to force their hosts to perform evil acts each day, and the host becomes more likely to resist the longer they have been possessed, so the demons don't usually stick around for more then a few days at a time because the host gets too hard to control.
- Eclipse Phase features body surfing as a core element of the setting, to the point where bodies are referred to as "sleeves", useful not only for restoring backed-up characters after death and customizing characters for the job at hand, but also for long-distance travel in the form of Egocasting.
- The (in)famous Tomb of Horrors module for AD&D revolved around the players trying to prevent the uber-demilich Acererak from becoming this.
WhenIf they fail, Acererak gains the ability to manifest himself in full power within ANY undead creature on ANY plane, effectively propelling him straight into Greater Godhood.
- 3.5 D&D has Glimmerskins, Good-aligned ghostlike monsters who can assist characters by giving them fast healing and a few extra feats.
- And, for a more direct approach, the Magic Jar spell allows for rapid movement between bodies as long as anyone's near the "jar". (It's the place you keep your victim's soul while your original body is comatose.)
- Psionics does this too, obviously. Mind switch has endless possibilities, and there are brain leech parasites who can hop from person to person easily by using mind control to keep multiple individuals enthralled.
- Tsochari and Hellwasp Swarms can crawl inside a body and take over, although the process slowly kills a living victim and does not prevent the decay of a corpse.
- The Ravenloft setting has the odem, an undead spirit that Body Surfs as its signature ability. The cursed, headless Jacqueline Montarri is a variant of this trope, who steals just the heads of one victim (preferably beautiful) after another, wearing them to acquire the victims' abilities, then replacing them as they rapidly wear out.
- Some of the darklords, if killed, will Body Surf into a new host within their domain, after which the Dark Powers re-shape the stolen body to resemble their old one.
- Hunter: The Vigil provides The Owls, disembodied spirits that take over humans or vampires and turn them into rotting, blood drinking corpses known as Bloodjackers. When the corpse rots or is destroyed, The Owl simply grabs a new host. Some actually keep rooms full of fresh corpses, waiting to possessed.
- The Owls are pretty much what hunters know about the strix from Vampire: The Requiem. Over there, the strix have the power to not only jump into human corpses (which will kill the host instantly), but to also possess vampires who are in torpor or whose souls are currently out of their body due to possession or astral projection powers.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer the player spends the entire game struggling against a body-surfer that has inhabited her body and threatens to devour her identity.
- Gann's mother possesses your companions while you are fighting her.
- In the original, the Intellect Devourer has taken over the prison warden and brainwashed several guards. If you're stealthy and you want some positive karma, you can snap the guards out of it and get them to flee. Otherwise, once you kill the first body . . . "Heeheehee, I'm HERE, foes!"
- Dragon Age:
- Flemeth from Dragon Age: Origins.
- The Archdemons of Dragon Age lore take over a nearby darkspawn if their bodies are destroyed. The first Blight lasted over a hundred years before somebody figured out how to turn people into Grey Wardens, who are the only people capable of stopping an Archdemon. If a Grey Warden kills an Archdemon, the two souls cancel each other out in a spectacular lightshow, permanently killing both.
- In Avenging Spirit, you play as a ghost who's been brought to earth by a scientist, and you have to save your girlfriend from some gangsters. You have to possess the game's enemies in order to do anything- every time one body gets killed, you have to go right into a new one in a certain amount of time, or you'll run out of spiritual energy.
- Geist Takes the role of John Raimi, a scientist separated from his body by an experiment by terrorists. Raimi cannot do anything outside his body, but luckily can possess and control anything he can frighten from animals to armed guards, and can even possess objects ranging from mop buckets and cans, to Gun Emplacements and Bombs. Unfortunately for you, some of the later enemies in the game can Body Surf you as well.
- Likewise, this was the premise behind the Adventure Game Omikron: The Nomad Soul, while the player character being a soul from "our" universe who is only able to interact with the alien world of Omikron by taking over the bodies of Omikron's citizens. He/she hops from body to body quite frequently; the process seems to displace the original soul, so that the body's left an empty shell when the player leaves it for another. The morality of this is never even superficially addressed, especially considering the bad guys are essentially doing the same thing, only on a much more massive scale. The player even evaluates potential hosts like new cars when you examine them, and towards the end the game even requires you to poison a guy who just saved your life so you can jack his body.
- In Clive Barker's Jericho, the player character is a commander of an occult special forces military unit, and dies rather early into the game. His disembodied persona can shift into the bodies of each of his soldiers, possessing them consensually (though I guess nothing could stop him from 'pulling rank'.)
- This is Bob the Cherub's main tool in Messiah
- In Tales of Graces, this is Lambda's modus operandi. In the end, though, he settles down in Asbel.
- Guilty Gear X2 has Eddie, who is looking for a new body to possess after Zato died. His story mode pretty much revolves around trying to do this and repeatedly failing (can't possess Zappa, for example, because Zappa's got the spiritual equivalent of a "No Vacancies" sign up).
- Matou Zouken from Fate Stay Night.
- Roa from Tsukihime.
- Prototype's main character Alex Mercer can kill people to absorb them, allowing you to take on their appearance and pass for them. You will do this often. There's also an unlockable move called Body Surf, but it involves literal body surfing. As in surfboards.
- Basically all of Crash of the Titans. Aku Aku even tells you to do this to beat the first boss. Just "jack" a spike, then keep Body Surfing on up the chain to defeat more powerful mutants!
- Miang in Xenogears possesses another woman's body every time her current body is killed. She has gone through an average of one body a decade for 10,000 years. Grahf also lives on by possessing people once his current body wears out.
- Dimitri Yuriev in Xenosaga also does this. At the time the game begins, he's been possessing bodies for at least 200 years because he's terrified of dying and having to face U-DO aka God. He dedicates every waking moment to finding a way to destroy U-DO and comes very close to doing it. He'd be a Tragic Monster, if he wasn't a complete asshole.
- In The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks, Zelda can quickly surf from one Phantom to another one whenever Link hits one in the back. This turns into a true Body Surf-Orgy in the last segment of the Tower of Spirits.
- In Disgaea Infinite, one of the Prinnies has his soul sucked out of his body by a talking magical pocket watch. He has to jump between the other character's bodies to solve the main plot of the game. The fun part of the watch is that not only can he see events from the eyes of the person he's possessed, he can also hear their thoughts, and can influence their decisions, making them do things totally out of character i.e. Laharl hugging a sleeping Prinny or Etna professing love to Laharl.
- The character you control does this in Space Station Silicon Valley.
- In Age of Wonders, the dark elf Incarnate unit.
- This is a major gameplay innovation in The 3rd Birthday, a sequel to Parasite Eve. It also doubles as Mental Time Travel. Aya is using a machine to travel a year into the past, temporarily imposing over the physical presence of soldiers and civilians in the past; she can hop into another one at any time which lets her hop onto roofs or take over gun emplacements to use against the bizarre monsters plaguing the land.
- Oddly enough, this is to the benefit of the people she possesses, as Aya has access to more firepower and special abilities than anyone else. In addition, simply by taking over their bodies, she's allowing them to regenerate their health, which they can't do otherwise. Many of the challenges in the game revolve around keeping people alive, which will require a lot of body surfing during the tough segments.
- A major gameplay element of Stacking has Charlie Blackmore, a particularly small Russian stacking doll, possessing multiple dolls at once by "stacking" into them.
- The Bonus Boss of the first Baldurs Gate expansion Tales Of The Sword Coast Aec'letec will immediately take over the body of one of his cultists every time he is killed. Depending on how quickly you kill him each time this trope can easily come into play. Especially if you exploit his crippling weakness to Cloudkill.
- The upcoming Driving Game Driver: San Francisco has protagonist Tanner use the "Shift" ability to jump into the bodies of random motorists.
- This was revealed to be Master Xehanort's ultimate goal in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. It only worked partially.
- Wild ARMs:
- Mother of Wild ARMs has a lifecycle that involves creating four children on a dying world, moving on to the next, destroying that one, fusing with one of the four (and killing the rest), and repeating.
- Kressen of Wild ARMs XF simply downloads himself into a younger body whenever his old one gets old.
- Nebiros has this ability in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2. He appears with a gaggle of other demons, which he'll periodically revive if killed. Should the player decide to focus on Nebiros, he will simply take over one of the other demons and transform him into the next Nebiros.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising: While not normally a part of his skillset, Pit is forced to use this when he is transformed into a ring that can control body of whoever is wearing it. He surfs his way through the body of a little girl, a dog, and Badass Normal Magnus before he's able to return to his own.
- Reynardine from Gunnerkrigg Court is a
demonfox-being who has the ability to Body Surf, but the events of the plot prevent him from doing so. Good thing, too, because when he does it, he kills the host.
- Coyote has the original, non-deadly version of the ability, so he can use it for fun. And he probably does.
- Fridge from Sam and Fuzzy can hop from body to body in close proximity. He's only killed when Sexxica/Candice kills every host within range of him, including herself
- Professor Fitz in Fans! surfed through several bodies in order to avoid dying of old age. At one point, Will Erikson allowed Fitz to swap bodies with him in order to insure Fitz' loyalty to Rikk and AEGIS. Fitz is currently inhabiting the body of a fire-breathing dragon and loving every minute of it.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the lich sorcerer Drishnek likes to do this because his unholy powers tend to rapidly age and weaken his host bodies, so he constantly has to swap into a new host to survive. Every time he swaps bodies, however, the body he leaves behind dies.
- The A.I. O'Malley from Red vs. Blue. O'Malley's degree of control over its host seems to vary from individual to individual: Caboose's mind is completely subsumed while possessed (which may account for his sudden drop in IQ once it's removed), Doc develops O'Malley as a campy would-be universal tyrant split personality, and most of the other soldiers simply have some bizarre aspect of their character amplified to dangerous levels. Church somehow escapes its effects, ostensibly due to being that much of an asshole.
- As revealed in Reconstruction, it's because he's the Alpha A.I.--which means O'Malley is merely a fragment of his personality to begin with.
- Trivia: The only soldier to escape possession is Tucker, due to the fact that the RT crew decided an evil Tucker would be too obscene to broadcast.
- It should also be pointed out that any AI appears to be capable of body-surfing, (or at least the ones that are more than just fragments) but none to the degree that O'Malley is capable of. After "dying", both Tex and Church possess other people or robot bodies, but only O'Malley is shown to be able to possess someone and still give the other person some free will.
- Astral Controller of Epic Tales is only able to interact with the physical world by possessing human hosts. In his first appearance he switches between multiple different hosts as the situation requires.
- Fine Structure: Mitch Calrus is distinctively not immortal, but he needs to be around in 20,000 years to fight the Final Battle. The solution is to use Brain Uploading to make countless digital copies of himself all over the solar system, and have his immortal ally upload him into available bodies as needed.
- Dr Bright of the SCP Foundation. His spirit is tied to SCP-963, so anytime his body dies, the SCP can be transferred to a new body.
- Teen Titans gives us Jericho, who can take over anyone by making eye contact. In the penultimate episode, he does this very rapidly during a big fight scene.
- One episode of Bounty Hamster took place on a planet where a scientist had invented a device which allowed any two people to switch bodies. The Big Bad for that episode had stolen that device before the main characters got there. They ended up trying to track down said Big Bad as they ended up in the bodies of the locals (or each-other, or in one case the Big Bad from a past episode). At one point the titular hamster, the girl who hired him, and the Big Bad were all in the same body. At the end of the episode, he (the Big Bad, not the hamster) ended up in a cactus.
- In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends special, "Destination: Imagination", World can take over anything in his universe. He just can't take over anything that already has a face.
- In Adventure Time, The Lich has this ability. Whenever his old body is destroyed, he simply surfs to a new one. The first time, Finn manages to kill his old body, so his soul transfers into Princess Bubblegum. After that body is shattered and he's exercised, he possesses the Easter Egg snail to escape.
- In an episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy gets a buzzer-like device that he can use to switch bodies with anyone he shakes hands with. After he inadvertently switches with Crocker, he has to rush back home to keep Crocker in his body from finding his Godparents. Because Timmy's dad won't let Crocker's body in the house (thinking that Timmy's mom has feelings for Crocker), Timmy has to switch with his dad. Hilarity Ensues as Timmy accidentally bumps into and switches with everyone else in the house: Timmy in his dad's body switches with his mom, Timmy in his mom's body switches with Vicky, Timmy in Vicky's body switches with Vicky's dog, and Timmy in the dog's body finally switches with Crocker in Timmy's body.
- The third and final appearance of Queen La in The Legend of Tarzan.
- According to South Park, Miss Havisham of Great Expectations plans to do this. By way of her genesis device powered by the tears of young men. Along with her army of robot monkeys.