Chain-Reaction Destruction

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A trope seen in video games. Basically, a larger thing, be it a larger enemy, boss, an entire structure and sometimes even a planet, makes numerous smaller explosions scattered across its surface (often with regular time intervals) before finally making a big bang or just simply being destroyed.

Usually, mechanical constructions in Real Life don't have tens of parts that explode, especially at regular intervals. However, you might notice that many examples below are made from even less volatile material like concrete which isn't known to explode in real life at all. Some examples take it step further so now even characters made of meat and flesh can cause explosions in a similar manner, be it an alien or a pirate captain. Strangely, they often aren't carrying explosives or firecrackers with them either to justify these explosions.

It's also often observed that while explosions often appear in random places on the surface of the destroyed thing or character, they can also appear in the vicinity of the destroyed thing and not on the surface of this thing at all. Moreover, some of the exploding things themselves disappear right before the series of explosions occur, making you wonder how can explosion chain reaction occur out of thin air. That might forever be a mystery. Maybe the explosions happen because of Rule of Cool.

The origins of this trope are currently unknown but may have been initially used because of technical limitation of consoles. Making a big explosion with sprites only will bring a third generation console down to a crawl so several small explosions which appear at different time intervals, were used instead since it's much more resource-friendly to the console. Then it was noticed that it looked cool anyway and that's why we have it in games on much more powerful consoles.

The regularity of this trope is the most clearly seen in third generation and fourth generation video games with about every 16th NES game having explosions like these. After that period, the usage of this has been reduced slightly, but it's still almost always played straight since it is not very recognized trope. Usually, 2D games use chain explosions more often.

Subtrope of Stuff Blowing Up, often with Made of Explodium. They're also common in games where every enemy tends to explode.

More than 3 explosions counts as this trope.

Examples from Video Games

Simple destruction after or with the series of explosions

Series of explosions after destruction

  • Minibosses and some of the stone walls in Iron Tank.
  • Regular enemies in Gremlins 2, although the series of explosions is rather silent.
  • Bosses in Kabuki Quantum Fighter.
  • The final boss in Karnov
  • Bosses and minibosses in Adventure Island II, III and IV.
  • Bosses in Mechanized Attack.
  • Bosses in Totally Rad.
  • 3/5 of the bosses in Vice - Project Doom.
  • A few of the bosses in Vectorman series.
  • Regular enemies in Gaiares.
  • Bosses in Hellfire.
  • Some of the bosses in Lightening Force.
  • Bosses in Syvalion.
  • "Bosses" in Bit.Trip Beat.
  • Larger enemies in Axelay.
  • Bosses in Batman and Batman: Return of the Joker.
  • In Tank Wars, one of the most satisfying things that could happen was seeing your post death explosion take out the tanks that killed you.

Big boom at the end

Series of explosions followed by big white flash

Series of explosions followed by something other

  • Final boss transforms back in to normal Dr. Chaos after series of explosions.
  • Without actually exploding himself, Balrog from Cave Story does this.
  • Tor's Humongous Mecha in Iji first has various parts exploding, then what's left disappears with the same special effect it appeared with.

Examples from Other Media

Anime & Manga

  • In Gundam Wing, Space Fortress Barge does this after having its main cannon cleaved open by Zechs Merquise and Epyon's beam saber.
  • Sesshoumaru's true sword, Bakusaiga, utterly destroys everything it cuts, and everything that touches what it cuts.


  • Two examples from Star Wars:
    • The second Death Star in Return of the Jedi exhibits this before its final explosion.
    • In The Phantom Menace, the Trade Federation ship explodes at random points all over its hull before engulfing the command section after Anakin puts two proton torpedoes into one of the reactors.

Live Action TV

Real Life

  • Fireworks factory and fireworks storage explosions are some of the closest it's possible to get to this trope without deliberately setting it up.
  • Similarly, the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, which went up in a chain reaction of organic peroxide explosions after it lost power to it refrigerated containment after Hurricane Harvey in 2017; topped off by the deliberate detonation of the remaining unstable chemicals at the end by Arkema officials.