Deader Than Dead

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"We gotta end this once and for all. I don't know about the rest of you, but I do not want that thing coming back when I'm seventy."

Death is permanent, as we all know. In Real Life. In fictional works, however, this need not necessarily apply. In fiction, people regularly do come Back from the Dead. This is fine if they're on the side of the heroes, but once a villain has pulled this a couple of times it gets really old. The solution? Death is not enough, time to kill them Deader Than Dead.

The actual implementation of a Deader Than Dead varies: Sometimes it's needed to kill more than one component of the target (often its soul and its body at the same time). Sometimes it requires following the dead to the afterlife and killing them there. Sometimes it involves tons and tons of Maximum Overkill that reduces the villain to a fine paste. And sometimes some alternative to death (sometimes a "Fate Worse Than Death") has to be found. For demons and the like, the latter often means "sealing" them somewhere, though more often than not, this is just a surefire way to end up with Sealed Evil in a Can. Your Soul Is Mine is an uncommon way of ensuring total death as well—pulling someone's literal life force out of their body and eating or smashing it is a good way to ensure that they're never coming back.

Characters who come back from the dead while staying dead (i.e., the Undead) are a special case, but of course, being "dead" also has a very special meaning in this case.

If you have to rely on this trope often, it tells you that you have cheapened the meaning of "death" to the point of uselessness. Relying on it after you have already pulled it for the same character tells you that maybe you're lacking in imagination to come up with good characters.

Or it might be that the character is too popular or iconic (to the fans or the writer) to stay permanently dead. So, it's not really that surprising when they pull something out of left field and let someone use Time Travel to...

Ow! Ouch! Stop kicking me!

Common for important bosses in video games (see Non-Lethal KO), but not rare outside them either. Compare with Final Death and Rasputinian Death. Common ingredient in a Death by Origin Story.

Older Than They Think—a Fairy Tale may outline the villain's death in graphic detail to ensure that, unlike the hero, they cannot come Back from the Dead. (Often, the Family-Unfriendly Death is proposed by the villain as a suitable punishment for his crimes, as a general principle.)

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Deader Than Dead include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Big Bad of Inuyasha had his body obliterated multiple times, but always regenerated before the end of the episode. Actually killing him would have required killing his heart, stored in another being. We never get to see this before the series ends though. The story continued in the manga it was based on and he eventually just absorbs the other being because it tries to betray him.
    • Kikyo was killed multiple times. The first she actually died by came back. The second time she fell off a cliff. Then she fell into a valley full of caustic poison. At a point in the story after the end of the anime she finally died forever when she dissolved in front of everyone.
    • In the end, Naraku also ended up Deader Than Dead when Kagome used the Shikon Jewel to wish Naraku's spirit out of existence along with the Shikon Jewel itself.
  • The Ninja Scroll movie, features a Big Bad who can regenerate any part of his body—even decapitation won't stop him. Jubei therefore has to get creative when defeating him; He eventually does so by dipping the villain's body in molten gold and letting it sink—with his still-living body encased inside, presumably forever—to the bottom of a river.
  • Nasuverse is loaded with characters who cheat being dead in a variety of ways (undead, reincarnating, etc...). The two Shikis, Shiki Ryougi and Shiki Tohno, can kill these things deader, because their eyes allow them to destroy their very concept of being. In fact, they can even kill things like ghosts, buildings, telekinesis, or appendicitis using a butter knife.
    • To be specific, they can kill anything they can comprehend the death of. Ryougi has Gaia helping her comprehend the death of some things, so she can kill anything Gaia can comprehend the death of; Tohno, meanwhile, doesn't have this assistance (And thus is slowly being driven mad). In one of his endings, he kills Gaia, so that the Full Moon doesn't keep him from perceiving Arcueid's death.
  • DragonBall Z
    • How can we forget the series which cheapened death to the point where the main cast isn't all that concerned when the Big Bad starts killing off the majority of the planet's population, since they can just be wished back to life! It's implied that if one dies while already dead, they're really gone, but as this never happens to anyone we can't be sure.[1] But there is one convention in the series, though: if the Big Bad gets killed by a Spirit Bomb (aka Genkidama), you can even bet your TV Tropes admin rights that he's Deader Than Dead.
    • People who die of natural causes can never return from the afterlife, which is why Goku developing a heart condition during the beginning of the Cell Saga was such a big deal.
    • The second-most-powerful technique in the franchise is hakai, useable by various Gods of Destruction, such as Beerus. This can destroy anything, and living beings destroyed by it do not appear in the afterlife, they seem to have been eradicated completely. Beerus even used it on a ghost in one story, but he also admits it does not work on immortal beings, such as other gods.
    • The most powerful technique is called Erase, and is usable only by the one being Beerus is afraid of, his boss, Zeno. This can not only eradicate immortal beings, it can delete entire universes and realities. What’s more, if used to Erase a whole reality, any beings from that reality are also Erased, no matter where they are. The only known way to restore an Erased being or universe is to wish them back with the Super Dragon Balls. Long story short, don’t mess with Zeno. Period.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
    • In Part 2, the villain Cars finally attains immortality near the end, and has to be "killed" by being knocked into space by a volcano, where he eventually stops thinking, effectively becoming Deader than Dead.
    • The Big Bad of the previous part, Dio Brando, had been crushed under the flaming wreckage of a mansion, decapitated, and caught in the explosion of a ship. He still manages to come back in Part 3 to terrorize the heroes yet again. During the final battle between Dio and Jotaro, Jotaro punches him across the room, destroying his Stand and killing Dio in the process. Just to be sure, Jotaro exposes his remains to the sunlight, since, as a vampire, the sun will vaporize him. And in case you were wondering if there was any chance Dio could still come back, there's a side note stating that Dio has been "completely destroyed".
  • Pretty much required in Bleach.
    • 1) Two of the arcs take place in the afterlife (Soul Society and Hueco Mundo), 2)Any Shinigami or Hollow is technically dead (this means a great deal of the cast). Being eaten by a Hollow destroys the soul, and dying as a ghost reincarnates you with no memory. Otherwise, there really wouldn't be any life-or-death struggle, and therefore no suspense.
    • It's also stated that a Hollow destroyed by any other weapon except a Shinigami's Zanpakutou sword, is completely destroyed, as opposed to cleansed and sent to Hell or Soul Society (Depending on the Hollow's actions in life). This was the reason for the Shinigamis' antagonism with the Quincy; they would use their powers to destroy the Hollow, soul and all.
    • There was the fight with Szayel Apporro Granz where it turns out that he can infinitely resurrect himself. Captain Kurotsuchi then proceeds to slow his mind down (by speeding it up) to the point where the guy can't make any coherent movement or actions.
    • Soul Society also has the Sokyoku, an execution device for Shinigami who broke the law, which actually vaporizes the soul of the person being executed.
  • In the manga Fullmetal Alchemist, you must destroy the Philosopher's stone that contains the actual Homunculus instead of destroying its body (according to later chapters, the body can apparently survive on its own and absorb a new philosopher stone if it isn't killed afterwards. It seems to lose its homunculus powers, though). In the anime, a Homunculus must be killed once per incomplete philosopher's stone within them (or forced to expel them otherwise, and then die again), but are frozen in place (allowing all the time in the world to actually do this) when confronted with a piece of their original human body.
    • Then there's the Philosopher's Stones themselves, which still contain the souls of the people sacrificed to create them. Once their energy is used up, these people are gone for good.
  • Sailor Moon. It is estimated that Hotaru died over 10 times during the series. She ended it alive. Basically, all of the evils and good guys of the series seem to be parts of some cosmic cycle and have died at least once, generally many more times. Further, all the normal inhabitants of Earth seem to be consciously absent by the time of the planar calamity and the Big Bad's attack, only to be very alive right at the moment of the Bad Guy's dead. A few villains (Kaolinite, for example) and heroes are even revived mid-season and almost on screen. It seems like only the evils slain by Moon herself in this present incarnation are really dead. And not even all of them.
    • In truth, she only died five times: One in her past incarnation (when she destroyed all Saturn's (or Titan's, in manga) life by the calling of the Outer Senshi's Talismans), one when she was a kid and one of the transdimensional experiments at her father's lab exploded, one when Mistress Nine took control of her body (but yet, Not Quite Dead), one when fighting against Pharaoh 90, and the last one when she had her Star Seed/Sailor Crystal taken.
  • The Arc-en-ciel in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha destroys something by distorting the very fabric of time and space to make sure it's really gone. That still wasn't enough to stop the Nigh Invulnerable corupted self-defense program of Reinforce from reincarnating again. To make sure it's really dead, Reinforce had to willingly delete herself to prevent her Rejuvenation Program from bringing it back.
  • People die in Shakugan no Shana by having their "power of existence" consumed—i.e., removing them from having ever existed in the first place.
  • The Data Entities in Haruhi could delete certain events—and, to some extent, beings.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch takes control of GOD and orders Him to wipe his parents from existence.
    • More specifically, he begs "God" (the collective unconsciousness of mankind) to not take away mankind's future. "God" interpreted this to mean "Get rid of his parents"; since they were in a spiritual realm, this resulted in his parents dissolving from existence within the realm. It still qualified because it managed to remove Lelouch's father from existence: a man who possessed the "Code" and was essentially an immortal being.
  • The cast of Ga-Rei have to kill evil spirits that were once people, such as Yomi. Then she comes Back from the Dead again.
  • In Naruto, several of the villains they face have some form of immortality or method of escaping death that requires extra effort. Sometimes on repeated occasions.
    • Orochimaru: The Naruto poster-...thing for defying death. It took him getting stabbed by a sword sending him into an eternal genjutsu to destroy the original thing... and he may still come back!
    • Kakuzu: He has five hearts, all torn out of other shinobi. To kill him you have to destroy all of them before he tears yours out and adds it to the collection. It took a jutsu capable of destroying his body on a cellular level to put him down.
      • And even that didn't kill him. He was still down on one (possibly faulty) heart. Kakashi eventually finished him off.
    • Hidan: Cut off his head and he complains about his hair getting pulled. He had to be dismembered, buried in an isolated forest, and left for a few years until his immortality jutsu ran out. And he still has time to roll his head back into action...
    • Hokages 1–4: All currently in the stomach of the God of Death
  • Digimon in general are fairly immortal, as most of them merely turn into Digi-Eggs after death. However, the Big Bad rarely ever return. The exception is Myotismon, whose soul persisted each time he died and regenerated into a more powerful form. The Digidestined finally manage to permanently kill him by vaporising his body and then combining the energy of every Digidestine on Earth to blow up his soul.
    • In Digimon Data Squad, Digimon turn into eggs as well, but Kurata is revealed to be a Complete Monster who has created a weapon capable of corrupting a Digimon's data, so that the Digimon dies permanently.

Comic Books

  • The backstory for the Marvel 1602 continuity is that, in a dystopian future where America is ruled by a despotical President-For-Life, Captain America (comics) joins an underground resistance-movement, fails, and is captured. The president then displays his Genre Savvy side - this being the Marvel Universe, killing an A-list Superhero has a spectacularly low probability of sticking. So instead, he attempts to remove him from the timeline entirely. After shooting him in the head. Instead, Cap winds up being sent over 400 years back in time, thus altering the timeline and ushering in the 'Age of Marvels' during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First.
    • Which makes the fact that at the end of the graphic novel Cap returns to his proper timeline -- with freaking Nick Fury as back-up -- hilarious.
  • Scud the Disposable Assassin featured a werewolf villain that seemed to regenerate from any kind of death, including having the main protagonist punch his way through the back of its head. The werewolf is finally defeated when it is jettisoned into orbit around the moon, where it explodes, reforms, and explodes again in an endless loop.
  • The casting of the Montesi Formula in the Marvel Universe not only destroys every vampire except Hannibal King in the dimension, it makes it impossible for vampires to even exist in the dimension—some brought in from another crumble to nothing as soon as they arrive. The Formula is, of course, uncast a few years later, since somebody always wants to write about Dracula.
  • In Those Annoying Post Brothers by Matt Howarth, anything that dies in Bugtown regenerates, though sanity may be slightly reduced. (The crazier Post Brother says "Naw, I've died lots of times." Tactful silence.) In one case, a character is killed in the street and spends several months regenerating and getting run over before an opportunity to get out of traffic. To kill someone for real, you have to get him out of Bugtown somehow.
  • Subverted in another Crowning Moment of Awesome for Judge Dredd. In the story Judgement Day, when the judges are facing a horde of zombies:

"How can you kill that which is already dead?"
"Bullet seems to work."

  • Don Hall (the first Dove of the Hawk and Dove duo) is so dead that the zombie-creating Black Lantern rings cannot so much as disturb the dirt around his grave. This is apparently because pacifist Don was "at peace" when he died, compared to most dead heroes who most assuredly weren't.
  • It's implied that this happens to the First of the Fallen from Hellblazer at the end of Garth Ennis' first run, after he's stabbed with a dagger composed of the energies of the now-killed Second of the Three and Third of the Three—he's the most ancient entity in the universe besides God himself, and predates any concept of mortality or an afterlife, so even he doesn't know what will happen to him when he's Killed Off for Real. This doesn't stop another writer from bringing him Back from the Dead—in one of the worst-received runs in the comic's history, and one that has never been released in Trade Paperback.
  • Chris Claremont has said this is the fate of anyone who gets killed in X-Men Forever—when Wolverine was killed off in Issue 2, his picture in the recap page was overlaid with a big red "DEAD" for at least 10 issues just to drive the point home. He did reappear, but only in flashbacks from his World War II service alongside Nick Fury.
    • And, he finally got to retcon the original ending for X-Men (vol.2) #3, in which instead of surviving, Magneto and any Acolyte who wasn't Fabian Cortez burn up and die in Earth's atmosphere as Asteroid M disintegrates.
  • In The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in His Wake), Ichabod is able to kill the grim reapers in Hell or limbo or wherever he is using a massive effort of will; they then get sucked down into what is believed to be a place even worse than Hell. It's implied that he can kill the already dead in a similar manner.
  • In the epilogue to Ultimatum, the writers go out of their way to assure everyone that not only is Wolverine really dead, extensive tests have been done to prove that he cannot be cloned, regenerated, or resurrected in any way. This after a Rasputinian Death.
  • The original Dr. Robotnik in Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog wasn't just killed, he was vaporized by a weapon designed to lock onto and disintegrate the DNA of individual people. The only way he could return? Reality warping via nuclear echidna. I'm not joking. And even then, the revival is only temporary, lasting a month before he dissipates again.

Fairy Tales

  • In Frau Trude, the little girl goes to a witch's house, where the witch turns her into a block of wood and burns her.
  • In The Three Citrons, a slave murders the heroine with a hairpin. When she returns as a dove, she has her killed and cooked. When she returns a third time, the king asks what sentence would be suitable for someone who harmed her, and the slave prescribes burning, and the ashes being thrown from the palace roof; so she is.
  • In The Death of Koshchei The Deathless, the prince's horse cracks Koshchei's skull, and the prince finishes him off with a club; then he burns the body and scatters the ashes.

Fan Works

  • An especially bizarre example occurs in Naruto Veangance Revelaitons. Da Cooger is killed off early on after Madara decapitates her, then comes back as a ghost head. Later on, Madara eats the ghost head, and kills her, but this isn't enough to prevent her from coming back yet again to give Ronan some advice. Toward the end, she revives Ronan with Intimate Healing and says that as her three lives have been used up, she will never come back, then fades forever
  • In The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13, gods are commonplace (including Link himself) and therefore so is resurrection. However, toward the end of the story, Ganondorf's soul is scattered across countless dimensions due to a Heroic Sacrifice. It would take a god millions of years to track down every last piece, and the one person who might want to try has already decided not to.


  • In The Mummy Trilogy the heroes spend a lot of time trying to find a way to kill off the undead High Priest Imhotep (played by Arnold Vosloo) for good. Not an easy task, since the mummy's body is virtually indestructible (when O'Connell cuts off Imhotep's arm, he merely puts it back on and it fuses instantly) and he can become invulnerable by transforming into a whirlwind of sand. In the end, the heroes perform an old Egyptian spell to split off the immortal part of the mummy's soul from the rest (in Egyptian belief, everyone had three souls) which is dragged into the Underworld. Afterwards, Imhotep, while still being undead, is now mortal and can be killed. Although Imhotep is resurrected and comes back from the dead again for The Mummy Returns and only finds permanent rest at the end of the second movie. (The third movie involves a different mummy.)
  • In the original Highlander movie (1986) and the series, the immortals can regenerate from any mortal wound, and do not age. They can only be killed permanently by cutting off their heads (or presumably if their bodies are burned to ash too quickly for them to regenerate, although this is never explicitly stated in the movie). In fact, they have to die at least once to become aware of and "activate" their immortality, otherwise they'd spend their days as a mortal until they died from old age.
    • Presumably, being burned to ash would count as "removing the head". In the OVA Highlander the Search For Vengeance, one Immortal is dispatched by jamming a live grenade in her mouth.
      • Which is decapitation, just via subtraction instead of division.
  • The Genre Savvy heroes of the Scream trilogy always shoot the killer in the head, because in the movies, they always come back for one last scare.
  • Though he's come back from gunshots and knifings the titular Serial Killer from The Stepfather trilogy of films is messily chewed up by a woodchipper in the third installment.
  • In Beetlejuice, ghosts who are exorcized go to the "Lost Souls Room", where they endure a disembodied existence described as "death for the dead".
  • The ghostly killer from The Frighteners not only kills humans, he can also kill other ghosts.
    • Who, it turns out, just go to whatever afterlife they had been avoiding by being ghosts in the first place.
  • In Lord of Illusions, the sorcerer Nix is defeated after being shot and then bound with a mystic mask made of iron by his former pupil, Swann. Thirteen years later, his followers are able to revive him after removing the mask and then he opens up a chasm to show off his wisdom of the grave while burying his followers alive in quicksand made from a magic rain. Harry D'Amour, helped by a dying Swann, knocks Nix into the chasm where he falls into a lava pit and succumbs to the heat of the magma. Nix casts one final spell to create a whirlwind to take Harry and Dorothea with him. They escape as Nix explodes and the chasm sealed, ending his threat forever.


  • The Taltos novels of Dragaera see people die and come back all the time; "revivification" is a tricky spell but most nobles will be willing to have an emergency fund for just such an occasion. If you want someone to stay dead, cutting off their head or damaging their brain will make reviving them impossible, or you can always stab them with a Morganti weapon, which will eat their soul, not only preventing resurrection but also cutting the victim out of the cycle of afterlife and reincarnation that is the natural order of things in Dragaera. One of the few times where Deader Than Dead really means deader than dead.
  • The sixth book of the Harry Potter series begins the plan to make Voldemort Deader Than Dead by tracking down and destroying all his Horcruxes. Once they are all destroyed in the seventh book, not only is Voldemort Killed Off For Real, his soul is left too mutilated to either become a ghost or move on to the afterlife, trapping him in Limbo for all of eternity in perpetual agony.
  • Played straight in The Wheel of Time, in which villains killed by conventional means are reincarnated frustratingly often, as with :Ishamael being resurrected as Moridin, Aginor becoming Osan'gar, Balthamel becoming Aran'gar, and Lanfear becoming Cyndane. In-world, only a weave of balefire will actually prevent resurrection, and that's only because it causes death by Retcon, not due to any effect on souls or such - the reincarnater can only grab souls of the recently dead and balefire takes someone directly from "alive" to "dead non-recently". Villains who have been killed by balefire are Deader Than Dead, now including Be'lal, balefired by Moiraine Damodred in book 3; Rahvin, balefired by Rand al'Thor in book 5, and Semirhage and Graendal, balefired by Rand in book 12. Only a few villains are Deader Than Dead when killed by other means, such as Osan'gar, killed a second time by Elza Penfell wielding Callandor in book 9, and the Dark One does not give third chances; and Sammael, killed by Mashadar in Shadar Logoth in book 7, a permanent kill confirmed by the Word of God.
    • Also, Asmodean was killed by an unknown assailant at the end of book 5, and the Dark One states in the next book that his death is permanent; it is unknown whether or not he was actually killed with balefire. In book 13, it was revealed that while Graendal escaped Rand's balefile, Aran'gar was unexpectedly present and killed Deader Than Dead by it.
    • There is a separate example in the same series. Wolves are sapient and have a special connection to Tel'aran'rhiod, the World of Dreams; they reside there between reincarnations. If a wolf is killed in Tel'aran'rhiod, they are Deader Than Dead, no longer able to run and hunt in Tel'aran'rhiod and never to be reincarnated again. A number of wolves, including Perrin's Obi Wan Hopper, are killed in Tel'aran'rhiod by Slayer.
  • Deliberately subverted (somewhat) in the Young Wizards book series by Diane Duane, where the Big Bad is almost always just a particular avatar of the Lone Power, who is so ubiquitous as to be represented in practically every culture (including alien ones)'s mythology or folklore, usually as a Trickster God as its "gift" of death/entropy has to be accepted by each species as it gains sentience... though it is also rather blatantly a Lucifer figure too (Wizards greet him as "Fairest and Fallen", and his invention of entropy got him kicked out of the Powers That Be's godly clique). Then again, the same holds true of fellow Power "The One's Champion", who is intended to beat the everliving crap out of it in its own avatar in a number of key battles... over and over and over again.
  • Played straight in a slightly weird way in the third The Dresden Files book, in which an evil (and apparently quite dead) sorcerer's nasty leftover rage manifests as a ghost that wreaks havoc on the folks he blames for his defeat, and anyone close to them. This editor calls it a "slightly weird" way because Dresden Files ghosts apparently aren't actually leftover living beings' souls so much as they are single-minded metaphysical residue from the deceased's emotions and intent, as seen when the titular wizard deliberately creates one of himself to help get out of a nasty situation, yet manages to be side by side with it moments later after he's resuscitated.
    • This is further explored in Ghost Story. Ghosts are spiritual copies of the deceased, formed and powered by their memories. A sufficiently powerful ghost can use memories to augment their abilities or manifest into a physical form. This is essentially Cast from Hit Points, however, and a ghost who uses up too much of their memories can become a Wraith -A mindless being that feeds on other ghosts' memories- or cease to exist entirely.
    • Also, Kemmler.

They killed him good. A couple of times. He'd come back after they'd killed him early in the nineteenth century, so they were real careful this time.

  • Roger Zelazny's novel Lord of Light is set in a world where everyone, from self-styled gods to lowly peasants, can have their consciousness transferred into a new body for a price, in a technologically-assisted version of Hindu reincarnation; the now empty old body is cremated. To forgo reincarnation, or be denied it, is to "die the real death".
  • In Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy, necromancers regularly bring back the dead, but dead generally lose all personality and sometimes their human appearance in the process. There are varying degrees of deadness, and once a person gets beyond a certain point, any resurrection of them will be a horrible monstrosity. The Abhorsen's job is to lay the walking dead to rest permanently by sending them beyond the Ninth Gate of Death. Stronger spirits may necessitate chasing them through the River of Death to make sure they go all the way and don't come back again later.
  • One name immediately springs to mind-- Dracula. Just about every modern appearance of the legendary bloodsucker feels obligated to invent a new way for him to be Deader than Dead by the end of the story, because staking him through the heart, cutting his head off and / or burning his remains just won't cut it to keep the old bastard down. Solutions include a vampire-annihilating megaplague (Blade Trinity), using a stake made from the True Cross (webcomic Clan of the Cats), being killed by a werewolf (Van Helsing), hanging him from a cross at dawn (Dracula 2000), being absolved by a priest before being killed (Dracula III: Legacy) ...and having his castle sealed inside an eclipse and his soul transplanted into a Bishonen Japanese schoolboy.(Castlevania from Aria of Sorrow onward...), or being turned into imaginary numbers. Needless to say, none of it is particularly convincing, because someone, somewhere, will always want to write a story about Dracula.
    • This was already a trope in the 1970s, when Hammer Horror films had to resort to increasingly drastic measures to try to keep Dracula dead (struck by lightning, sealed in ice, tangled in a briar patch in the last of his films).
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wisely, didn't even bother to insinuate that Buffy had killed him for good.
      • He was defeated in a way that's normally ignored: despite being the only vampire on-screen to survive being staked (twice), he was totally humiliated and left in disgrace.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld book Witches Abroad, a village-raiding vampire is hit by a thrown garlic sausage while in bat form and, while stunned, eaten by Nanny Ogg's cat Greebo. The narration later mentions that while vampires have risen from the grave before, none have ever risen from the cat.
    • One of the mushrooms described in The Discworld Almanac falls just short of this trope: it's said to be toxic enough that someone who dies eating it may still arise as a zombie, but a zombie that will still feel very sick.
  • The traditional method of execution for the Witted in the Farseer trilogy consists of hanging the victim over running water, chopping them up, and burning the pieces to make sure they're dead. It's also not really needed, Fitz's return from the dead notwithstanding.
  • Mostly Harmless, the fifth book of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, was written on the condition that Douglas Adams be allowed to destroy everything so utterly and completely that it would never ever ever come back and he would never ever ever have to write in that world again, making the entire earth Deader than Dead.
  • Daemons and daemonhosts from the Warhammer 40,000 universe are generally just banished back to the Warp when their physical bodies are killed. So it's especially notable that Eisenhorn managed to kill one (Prophaniti) so thoroughly that it was erased from existence, Warp presence and all, at the end of Malleus.
    • The Emperor killed Horus by obliterating his soul so he can't even reincarnate by the will of the Chaos Gods.
      • Abaddon managed to get a piece of the action too, by destroying the body of Horus and the cloning facility designed to revive him so thoroughly that no one dared to even mention Horus's name in his presence ever again.
  • In the Black Jewels world, if one of the Blood is powerful enough, they can continue to inhabit their body after death, and are called demon-dead. This is why it's important to "finish the kill," or burn out the person's Jewels (source of power) and brain, so that someone you killed last Tuesday doesn't track you down later to return the favor.
  • In Septimus Heap, series Big Bad DomDaniel has died and been brought back a couple times, including in a couple ways that are freakishly gruesome for a kid's series. However, in Queste, he is obliterated so thoroughly he doesn't even leave a ghost—and nearly every dead person in the Septimus-verse comes back as a ghost; it's just how things work there.
  • In the Dream Park novels, participants in high-tech adventure LARPs who get "killed" are designated as slain by a black holographic aura. In The California Voodoo Game, a zombie struck down by the Gamers is immediately cloaked by two overlapping black auras, indicating it's this trope.
    • Also from California Voodoo: areas of MIMIC that are off-limits for players are marked out with "radiation" symbols. Any character who violates a "radiation area" is not only killed without a saving throw, but their character is permanently declared dead by the International Fantasy Gaming Society, never to be played again.

Live Action TV

  • Claire Bennet of Heroes can regenerate even from apparent death, but she can be put into a state of death indefinitely by sticking a foreign object in the base of her brain and keeping it there. The "save the cheerleader" subplot also implies she could be permanently killed by having her brain removed, and Peter's encouraging her to shoot him if he goes nuclear (after he absorbs her healing power) suggests that either of them would also be killed by having a certain part of their brains obliterated. Fans have jokingly suggested that the base of the brain is where the "regeneration gland" is located.
  • Stargate SG-1 employs this concept several time. First, with the villain Apophis, who continually escapes death, even going as far as being raised from the dead by a rival, assassinating said rival, and taking control of the dead rival's army. He is finally killed permanently when his spaceship crashes on a planet while he is trapped on board. The villain Anubis is immune to death because of his former status as an ascended energy being, effectively rendering him "Touched by Vorlons", before finally being taken out of the picture by his "Vorlon" sacrificing herself to restrain him). On the non-villainous side, Daniel Jackson dies repeatedly throughout the series. He is brought back several times via the Goa'uld "Sarcophagus" device and then later by ascending to a higher plane and then descending back to human form again. Several other major protagonists suffer non-permanent deaths as well, including one incident where O'Neil is tortured by Ba'al by being killed and resurrected over and over again.
  • In Doctor Who, the Master is killed deader than dead repeatedly, making this pretty much the only show in which you can get away with the repeated use of this trope.
    • After a while, they stopped even trying to make excuses. On one of his later reappearances in the original show, he has the immortal line "I'm indestructible, the whole universe knows that!" and that's all we get for an explanation.
    • There is a Time Lord weapon, the De Mat Gun, which can accomplish this. It effectively erases the target from history, so that it never existed in the first the place.
    • Subverted in "The Curse of Fatal Death" (which was, admittedly, both a comedy and a tribute); both the Doctor and the Master clarify that no one can regenerate after being slain by "Zektronic Energy", but of course, the Doctor "gets better" anyway. (The Master is shocked: "It's against all the laws of the Universe!", to which the Doctor's companion replies, "Perhaps even the Universe can't stand to live without the Doctor".)
    • It's really not surprising that the Master (according to the novels) originally took the name Koschei.
    • He wasn't done yet, either. In the TV movie, he's disintegrated by the Daleks at the beginning, survives that to be the film's Big Bad, and at the end, gets sucked into a miniature black hole. He got better in the new series... and at the end of that arc, he took the conscious choice not to regenerate, just to spite the Doctor. His body was burned on a pyre, and that STILL didn't stop him. Now he's stuck inside the unescapable "time lock" of the Time War, on the planet Gallifrey on the war's last day, shortly before the Eighth or Ninth Doctor destroys the place. This would seem to be a conclusive, absolutely final, one hundred percent, truly Deader than Dead... which means we've probably got at least one or two more seasons before he finds a way out again.
    • Most enemies in Doctor Who are like this, but not on the individual level. The fan favorites always return. Try counting how many times the Doctor says "You're the last of your kind" to the Daleks in the new series. And then watch as 2 episodes later the last of the Daleks make a return...only to be killed and for another group to take their place. It's well into season 3 before they establish a proper storyline that sets up the next Dalek plot.
  • In True Blood the vampire leaders sometimes give other vampires what they call the True Death by beheading and staking the vampire to be executed.
  • The Cylons in the new Battlestar Galactica series download their consciousness into a new identical body when they die. How exactly this works is never fully explained. It is hinted at that all Cylons get resurrected, including the semi-biological self-piloting Raiders, not merely the twelve fully biological human models. (Although it is unclear if this is also the case for the completely robotic Centurions). For the process to work, a resurrection ship or resurrection facility has to be in range, so if a Cylon dies in space beyond range, he or she is permanently dead, their individual memories and consciousness lost to the collective. In addition, the Cylons deal with rebellious members by "boxing" them, where they download their consciousness into a small metal box and then put the box in storage. Also, season 4 sees the beginning of a Cylon civil war, one of the first acts of which is the luring of several ships into an ambush and destroying them while out of range of the Resurrection Ship. This is presented as a particularly heinous crime to the Cylons, who understandably have something of a blasé attitude toward death.
  • In Blake's 7, actor Gareth Thomas (Roj Blake) appeared in the final episode of season four, "Blake", on the condition that his death was sufficiently graphic to rule out a return Back from the Dead. Ironically, this proved unnecessary as there was no season five.
    • To make sure Gareth kept asking the pyrotechnic crew to add more bullet squibs to his chest plate, leading to a quite painful result when they went off.
  • In Supernatural there are a few ways to bring someone back from the dead (none of them much fun) but it looks like anything shot with the Colt is staying down. Except for Lucifer. And although the Colt isn't used on them, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are apparantly immortal - Death in particular is incapable of being killed or incapacitated by absolutely anything under the sun.
  • In the Angel TV series, Fred is infected by an elder demon and consumed from the inside out, everything aside from her skin and hair replaced with something else and changed in color. Oh, and her soul is destroyed in the process, though it seems as if some part of her has imprinted on the demon, giving it at least one of her personality quirks in that she is fond of Wesley.
    • The demon had appropriated her body, and the subject of mind/body dualism is beyond the scope of this entry, but memories and emotions are all stored in the brain, which is part of the body. Sometimes Illyria deliberately accessed Fred's memories.
    • The episode following Fred's death beats the viewer over the head repeatedly about exactly how dead Fred is. It seems every other minute, the viewer had to be reminded that Fred was very incredibly dead: Her organs were boiled and burned up inside her body to feed Illyria, making it inhospitable for a human soul to reside in, and Fred's soul itself was devoured by Illyria as well.
    • Of course, the original plan, had the show gotten a new season, was to split up Fred and Illyria. In other words, it would turn out that Fred's soul was not destroyed after all. The comic books feature Illyria but not Fred.
  • Pushing Daisies: Ned can bring the dead to life with a touch, but if he touches them again after that, they die again and nothing can revive them. Also, one episode implied that if a body is in a particularly severe state of dismemberment, his touch won't work. Or possibly he just didn't want to bring back someone in that many pieces.
  • In The Adventures of Brisco County Jr when Brisco stabs villainous time traveler John Bly in the gut with an Orb rod, causing him to melt into a pile of ash.
  • Torchwood in series 2 has just a bit too much fun with this one. First Owen is killed via gunshot wound then he's brought back to life. And if that's not bad enough he fights with Death itself, proving that he really is undead only to be vaporized in the season finale.
    • Then there's Captain Jack, who twice appears to have permanently killed before resurrecting: once at the end of the first series (he stays dead for a couple of days that time), and again in "Children of Earth", when he's blown to smithereens and his body still reforms in a truly gruesome fashion. It's eventually established that nothing will make Jack Deader Than Dead unless he is in fact the Face of Boe, in which case he'll finally die for good in a few billion years. Maybe.
  • Only one character from Charmed managed to have greater Joker Immunity than Barbas the Fear Demon, and that was Cole. Cole survived many apparent deaths that would have killed off any other demon for real, and this tendency to survive was Lampshaded on many occasions. He did finally die, however, from an incident in which he created an Alternate Reality where he was not quite so indestructible as he is in the normal reality. History changed in such a way as to keep him from being indestructible, and only then was it possible to vanquish him for real. Cole's only subsequent appearance was when he took on the form of a spiritual ghost who was dead rather than Back from the Dead as with his previous returns.
    • He still managed to be quite solid near the end. Fixing history should make him indestructible again, but he's learned that chasing Phoebe will get him nowhere by now, and gets to walk away on a good note.

Tabletop Games

  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, "Eternal Rest" is a Spell/Magic card that destroys all Monsters holding Equipped-Spell Cards. Really Eternal Rest is a Trap Card that has the exact same effect, ostensibly to dissuade an opponent from just Equipping more of his Monsters, because there's No Kill Like Overkill.
  • Also common in Dungeons & Dragons, where resurrection is pricey but doable. There are several ways to make it impossible, though.
    • Liches should be mentioned specifically. Not destroying their Soul Jar thing just causes their body to reform.
      • A lich can also become a demilich, which can rip out people's souls at will. And digest them. After 24 hours, they're gone for good.
      • At least in 2nd and 3rd edition, it was frequently mentioned that one of the components for the ritual of lichdom a wizard had to make was a potion of extreme deadliness. So deadly that, if the wizard fails in his bid for lichdom, he would die, and even the gods would not be able to resurrect the fool if they wanted to.
    • There is also a one-of-a-kind monster known as the Tarrasque. The writers probably put it in there to serve as walking Armageddon. It regenerates with lightning speed, most spells simply bounce off its hide, death effects won't work on it, and even if you batter it to death, it'll come back in a few days unless you also used a wish/miracle (level 9, most powerful non-epic spells in the game) to make it stay dead. The books further note that even this doesn't finally kill the Tarrasque, but pushes the Reset Button on its cycle of sleep-wake-rampage-sleep. This being D&D, however, enterprising players can turn it permanently into something small, then put it in a secret chest spell for long enough so that it is erased from existence, etc. etc.
      • Unname, a spell which destroys the target's true name, altering reality so that the creature cannot exist.
        • There is another version of that spell that requires you a feat to take "Mother cyst". It kills the person and then destroys their soul, removing them from existence forever. Although it seems less useful at first glance than Unname since you have to hit the person with a level 2 spell first. It can be used in campaigns that are not using the 'True Name' system. Meaning it's just as legit in Eberron as it is the Forgotten Realms.
    • 4th Edition's Tarrasque literally cannot be killed. It's so powerfully linked to the world that if you actually manage to bring hom down to 0 HP, then he simply sinks back into the planet's core and sleeps again. The only way to really kill it is to somehow lure it into another plane or otherwise away from the world before killing it, and even then that's just a theory.
    • In the Epic Level Handbook, there is a special assassin guild called the Garrote. You contact assassins if you want a person to die, you hire the Garrote if you want a person to stay dead.
    • Starting in First Edition AD&D, the Sphere of Annihilation will utterly destroy any being it comes in contact with, and presumably that being's soul. ("No spell can bring the dead character back to life, not even a wish!")
    • The chapters of the D&D rulebook Manual Of The Planes that are about the afterlife describe what immunities the souls of the dead have, implying that they can be slain in combat by those who visit the afterlife.
      • In the 2nd Ed. Planescape (set partially in the afterlife after all) rules the souls of the dead could be encountered, and killed. In many cases these souls were permanently dead. Natives of the afterlife killed outside of their native plane would reform on their plane, but if killed on their native plane were permanently dead.
    • And of course, there's no shortage of monsters that eat souls (not to mention monsters that corrupt their victims so thoroughly their original selves are essentially dead, monsters that, while leaving souls intact, convert corpses to a difficult-to-resurrect form like ashes or goop, and at least one form of undead that uses captured souls to power its special abilities.)
    • Promotional material for Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, a 3E updating of D&D's most infamous and hard-to-eliminate vampire, urged players who dared to tackle Strahd von Zarovich: "This time, make sure he's dead dead!"
    • When you are doing favors for gods, especially evil ones, often if a character dies, his or her soul will belong to said god. Resurrection would be impossible. Unless you killed the god.
      • Which requires you to go to their plane and kill them. Without critical hits. Or ongoing damage. Or instant death attacks. Must I go on?
    • A natural death by old age cannot be undone by any means. The soul is not destroyed, however; spells like speak with the dead still work.
    • In the 4th ed. "Demonicon," it's said that, when a demon lord dies in the Abyss, and the Abyss is tired of playing with said ex-demon lord, a tomb materializes in the layer known as the "Blood Rift." The tomb is inevitably filled with the deceased's favorite possessions, both treasure and servants.
    • Surprisingly, very few fiends in this setting can consume or destroy souls (enslave them, maybe) but one of the few who can is the nabassu. This demon actually tries to trick wizards into summoning it so it can attack mortals for this purpose. Even other demons despise them, as a nabassu can - and will - try to consume the souls of other demons, even another nabassu if it gets the chance.
    • Illithids have no concept of religion or afterlife. Exactly why is never stated, but seeing as they are natives of the Far Realm it would seem their souls or spirits have nowhere to go and would be destroyed upon dying. While they do have a patron deity of sorts, they don't exactly worship it, instead viewing it as the source of all Psychic Powers. Upon death, they instead have their brains assimilated into the Elder Brain, the ruler of an illithid community, joining its Mind Hive, and believe that if they do not join the Elder Brain of their respective communities upon dying, they face oblivion. Criminals in their society who are exiled often try to avoid this Fate by using unorthodox methods to become immortal, such as transforming into an alhoon, something most illithids regard as an abomination.
      • It isn't widely known, but illithids who do indeed join the Elder Brain suffer this fate as well. There is no Mind Hive; the Elder Brain assimilates the illithids’ memories but consumes their souls. Given that almost every other civilized race despised them, illithids are perhaps a prime example of why Being Evil Sucks.
  • The Old World of Darkness game Mummy the Resurrection had the character playing (oddly enough) mummies, immortals who could die any number of times and come back to life, even if their bodies have been burnt to ash or pounded to dust (though it's really hard to do, then). Even their souls were similarly tough, being able to survive Oblivion. As such, the game lists (it's a short list) ways you can really get killed: suicide (not Heroic Sacrifice, actual "I don't wanna live" suicide), losing all permanent Willpower (see suicide), or extremely powerful magic separating the body and soul (like being eaten by Ammit). The only non-magical means of killing a mummy permanently is a point-blank atomic explosion (mummies can come back from dust or ash, but not subatomic particles), and even that just traps them in the underworld.
    • In Demon: The Fallen, killing a demon's body won't kill the demon itself. It will carve out a significant chunk of the demon's power and lash it with Torment, but the demon itself survives - though they go back to Hell if they can't find a new body or host quickly. However, if they die too often, they dissipate into nothingness... and while they're out of their host, any other demon can devour them, destroying them for good and taking a portion of the devoured demon's power.
    • Wraith: The Oblivion features another fun variant—soulforging. When the rulers of a Necropolis need to get rid of a Spectre (or a political dissident... or just need some building materials), they'll take the guy and run their corpus under a spectral flame until it's melted, then forge the run-off into soulsteel. It's even implied that something of the damned's consciousness survives, but not enough to fight back. The infamous Samuel Haight wound up as an ashtray when the fandom got sick of him.
    • Two special cases in the New World of Darkness are vampires and Prometheans. Inflicting what would be mortal damage to a vampire merely sends it into a deathlike sleep called torpor, from which they eventually awaken... unless fire, sunlight, or extreme mutilation (think decapitation or woodchipper) is used to finish the job, in which case they're the Trope Namer for Final Death. Prometheans, meanwhile, all come with one built-in resurrection (which burns all but one dot of Azoth), and can learn a power called Revivification (Osirans innately start with it) that sacrifices itself to bring them back; while they have it, they may give up dots of Azoth to pull slain Prometheans back as well. Even these aren't foolproof, though - fire does to them as it does to vampires (those powers need corpses to work on), they don't get the one-shot resurrection if they only have one dot of Azoth, and certain Pandoran abilities (including one that involves eating them alive) will do the trick permanently. Furthermore, Prometheans don't have souls (most of them spend their existences trying to earn one), so if they die permanently, it's lights out.
      • Amongst mages, on the very rare occasions it's deemed necessary to render someone Deader than Dead, they do so by removing that person's soul, traveling to the end of the Dreamtime, and throwing it away in the primordial ocean at the end of reality. This is considered the most abhorrent thing possible for a mage to do (for obvious reasons), and if it is ever invoked, the local ruling council will always voluntarily resign as an indication of their ultimate failure.
      • Book of the Dead, being the NWOD sourcebook for the Underworld, introduces two ways to render something Deader than Dead. On the one hand, there's the Crushers in The Junkyard, which are explicitly capable of killing anything. On the other hand, there's the Grave Dream, a repository of dead dreams which can be dreamed into in addition to the usual route of navigating the Underworld, where the very first Old Law listed is "Dead In, Dead Out."
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Battle, when the Great Necromancer Nagash was killed (chopped up with a magic sword so lethal it killed its user) the skaven dismembered his body, burned it with Hellfire and sent the ashes to their agents in various places around the world to scatter on the wind. And after over a thousand years, he still manages to return.
    • And then he gets killed again by the living god Sigmar, only to return after another thousand years. Nagash has at least three soul jars that keep him bound to the Warhammer world. On the bright side, he always comes back weaker than he was before (though he's still one of the deadliest things in existence), and he spends those thousand year vacations trapped on a spirit plane where the ghosts of everyone he's ever killed torment him constantly.
  • Unhinged, a very definitely not tournament-legal expansion of Magic the Gathering, addressed the inflation of such things:

AWOL: Remove target attacking creature from the game. Then remove it from the removed-from-game zone and put it into the absolutely-removed-from-the-freaking-game-forever zone.

    • Which lampshades the fact that it's not at all hard to 'recycle' cards in the graveyard in this game and that even the generally accepted method of rendering something Deader than Dead by removing it from the game isn't 100% foolproof.
      • A recent rules change finally addressed this, and created the "Exile" zone to replace the "removed from the game" zone. Cards that allow the player to bring in a card from "outside the game" cannot affect the Exile zone, like they could with the "removed from the game" zone. This has had the effect of making the Exile zone more deader than dead than actually not being in the game at all. Note that some exiling cards, such as Necropotence, return the card to play later; Flicker does so immediately. (It's still useful; it stops stealing, gets rid of auras and counters, and all sorts of other fun.)
        • Actually, there are some cards that can retrieve cards from exile even when there are no active effects referencing it (e.g. Mirror of Fate). Effects that affect stuff "outside the game" affect the sideboard; objects in the sideboard are not in the game. AWOL seems to make it really dead though.
    • It doesn't stop there: some spells can make something deader than Deader Than Dead. Those spells exile a card and all cards with the same name from all zones of the game, including library and graveyard. It's less about being dead and more about having its very concept deleted from existence.
    • On a more serious note, inconsistent plotting in the books made Word of God have to emphasize that Yawgmoth, the Big Bad for most of the game's run, is indeed deader than dead. As he'd become a god and lived for thousands of years, only to be barely defeated during the Apocalypse storyline, and show up later to Karona (retconned so that it was All Just a Dream), many players to this day assume Yawgmoth will come back.
  • The Final Rest spell from GURPS: Magic is a positive take on this. When cast on the deceased it prevents resurrection but more importantly stops necromancers from abusing it for their purposes.
  • In Deadlands, anyone/anything that dies moves to the Hunting Grounds - essentially a spirit counterpart of the material world. From there, it is possible to eventually reach Heaven or Hell, but even that does not have to be permanent. However, upon "killing" someone in the Hunting Grounds you have two options. They can serve you for seven years (absolute-obedience-no-questions-asked style), or you can devour them. At which point you absorb their essence and they utterly cease to exist.
  • This is a gameplay mechanic in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Here, killing something deader than dead is called being removed from play (banished as of recently). It's frequently used to pay costs for cards like Dark Armed Dragon, but it's just as often weaponized with cards such as Dimensional Prison.
  • If Ming I, the Queen of the Darkness Pagoda from Feng Shui, hits you with her dreaded Arm of Darkness and you fail the Death Check that getting hit forces you to make, you are instantly and permanently destroyed—you don't come back as a ghost, no schtick can save you or bring you back, and your spirit can't be contacted from beyond the veil. You are, for all intents and purposes, gone.
  • In Lycee TCG, cards can be removed from game in the same manner as Magic: The Gathering.
    • Also, the Special Ability of Shiki Tohno (yes, that Shiki) kills something Deader Than Dead and makes it impossible for opponent to call the character he killed this way.

Video Games

  • In Might and Magic, your party members can die. But that's not enough for some enemies, which can leave your party members ERADICATED, as in their bodies completely disintegrated. Resurrecting party members in that state is much more difficult.
  • Albert Wesker in Resident Evil 5, after surviving through quite a lot, gets his head decapitated by two rockets while melting inside magma.
    • And even then it took a Word of God to convince fans that he was REALLY dead this time.
  • In the God of War series, not only is Kratos badass enough to claw his way out of the underworld repeatedly, one of his victims is brought back and killed by him again in both PlayStation 2 games. The Ship Captain (after getting gulped up by the Hydra and dropped into the dead monster's gullet by Kratos) is used as a ladder and hurled into Styx in the first game, then he's among the last ghosts called forth by the Barbarian Lord in the second game. (Both times, he's appalled to run into Kratos again, and it's really hard to blame him!)
  • The main character of Planescape: Torment regularly dies and revives just as easily. Much of the game is spent figuring out how this is possible... and under what circumstances the reviving might stop.
    • In one of the endings, you do this by willing yourself out of existence. That's one of the good endings, even.
    • If the Nameless One (which means you) tries to test the boundaries of his immortality on... let's say, Lothar or the Lady of Pain, s/he will promptly erase the Nameless One (I mean, you) from existence and you get a game over. The former is an immortal similar to the Nameless One but without any of the irritating side effects. The latter is the caretaker of Sigil who happens to be more powerful than almost any deity within the confines of the city, and will perceive the Nameless One a rash that has to be removed should the Nameless One overstep his place.
  • Several of the characters in Final Fantasy X, most notably Seymour (after the party kills him) and party member Auron (from the beginning), are actually "unsent"—souls that have not passed to the the local afterlife, the Farplane. As such, the only way to dispatch them permanently is to have Yuna "send" them; this isn't a harmful or painful process, but a soul generally can't come back from the Farplane afterward, and the targets in question are usually rather hostile about the prospect.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth's human body died seven years before the events of the game and his body was dissolved in the lifestream, but his soul fuses with Jenova and is reborn. You then end up killing his reborn body at the planet's core. Then you kill his soul in form of a grotesque mutated angel. THEN Cloud kills an anthropomorphic representation of his own subconscious fear of Sephiroth. No other villain in the series has the honor of being this dead.
  • In Suikoden II, a vampire called the Neclord comes Back from the Dead. In response, about five different powerful beings map out every single contingency and possibility of escape so that this time, when they kill him, it doesn't happen again.
  • In the Roguelike game TOME: Tales of Middle-Earth, after you kill Tolkien's Satan Morgoth, you have the option of entering the Void and killing his soul to prevent a Ragnarok-style war in the future. While traversing the Void, you might have to randomly fight any boss character that you've killed before.
  • In the Mega Man X series, after being killed and resurrected just about as many times as Zero, Sigma is considered gone for good in the final game X8. Due to the fact that his decimation took place on the Moon's surface, where the Maverick virus isn't as potent, Sigma is denied his ability to regenerate again.
  • All the characters in the adventure game Grim Fandango are Dead to Begin With, but there are apparently several ways to suffer "death within death", like being crushed, or shot with a sproutella gun (which causes the body to be replaced by a forest of quickly-growing flowers - marigolds, to be specific, as a reference to the Day of the Dead).
  • Kingdom of Loathing spoofs this kind of public domain death with the boss monster Ed the Undying. Killing him for the seventh and final time merely results in his crumpled form growling angrily at you while you nonchalantly sweep him up in a dust-pan and leave him leaning on the side of the tomb, too exhausted to try and figure out a way to permanently do away with him.
  • In Phantom Brave, Marona can kill the souls of her Phantoms if they "die" and she herself attacks their... um... phantom corpse. She can still put the pieces back together though, and even transmigrate them into a stronger form. She can also do this after the Bonus Boss Baal, after he attempts to possess the Possessed One, and discovers that this just puts him completely under her power. If Marona Soul-Kills him and then examines his "remains" the game states that the area is finally peaceful and calm. Given that in other Nippon Ichi games, Baal is a Cosmic Horror capable of coming Back from the Dead instantly, Marona really accomplishes something by permanently destroying one part. Although Baal does have more than one body.
  • In the computer RPG series Ultima, the protagonist (and party members) can easily and frequently be resurrected as necessary. There are a few points in the plot where it is possible for a character to be permanently slain - if taken prisoner by Blackthorne in Ultima 5, and Dupre during the plot of Ultima 7 part 2. Of course, the much maligned Ultima 9 undoes the latter.
    • It should be noted that, while resurrection is by no means impossible, it's not as easy as in certain other settings. It's either extremely expensive in a very stingy setting or very costly in terms of power and resources - and it always leaves the newly-raised character near death, at 0 or 1 hitpoints. In Ultima III, resurrection can fail and leave you with a pile of ashes, playing this trope straight; the ashes can be Recalled, which is even costlier and permanently drops the caster's stats if you do it yourself. Ultimas V and VI follow every death with a loss of experience.
  • Classic text adventure game Adventureland sends the protagonist to a place called "Limbo" when killed, from which egress is quite easy once you figure out how. There are only a handful methods of dying that really don't allow this.
    • Likewise, the Enchanter Trilogy provides you with spells (or allies) that automatically resurrect you upon death, but there are a few ways around this if you really screw up. Examples include erasing yourself from existence with a Time Paradox, having your soul eaten by a demon, and getting stuck in a permanent nightmare so that you aren't technically dead, but you might as well be.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expansion Knights of the Nine uses this trope as-is: the BBEG has to be killed in the real world and then his soul has to be killed as well so that he won't come back again.
  • In the Kingdom Hearts series, when a Nobody is killed, they utterly cease to exist, not even leaving a body behind, in a surprisingly (for a kids' game) gruesome disintegration, usually accompanied by an elemental explosion and screaming.
    • Lampshaded in a dramatic way when a very young (a few dozen days old) Roxas ask Xibar the classical infant-question, where the dead people hearts of the slain Heartless go. Kingdom Hearts. He then proceeds to ask, where dead Nobodies go... And is "shocked" (as far as this is possible) to hear that dead Nobodies go nowhere, won't return, and can't be met again. This severely depresses Roxas, as he's thinking that one of his only two friends, Axel, was recently killed.
    • It's also what happened to Vanitas, sort of. He was actually the dark half of Ven personified by Master Xehanort. At the end, he attacks Ven to forge the X-Blade (you need two hearts of pure light and pure darkness, respectively, to do that). Ven defeats him in the preliminary battle, but Vanitas overpowers him with the Unversed and starts a conflict in the former's heart. Ven overpowers Vanitas and destroys him, breaking his heart in the process.
  • In the Chzo Mythos, John Defoe (basically a Jason Expy)'s body, mind and soul all must be destroyed in order to kill him for good.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2 when confronting Irenicus in Hell, he claims that to die there is to cease to exist. As it turns out he's wrong, and he ends up in another Hellish dimension, where he is attacked and possibly killed by demons. Whether he's really gone then isn't clear, though he never appears again to you.
    • The series generally inverts with the Bhaalspawn, who can be killed permanently in the normal fashion, whereas everyone else can be raised under the AD&D rules... except that Imoen ignores this rule and both Sarevok and the player character manage to claw their way back from Hell, although the latter wasn't properly dead.
  • In the .hack game series, one recurring boss, Cubia, is fought and defeated a significantly annoying number of times, only to suddenly get up after being killed and escape.
  • Zouken Matou escaped death in Fate/stay night despite having his body destroyed over and over so many times that its doubtful anyone believed he was really dead when Sakura pulled him out of her heart and smashed him. Therefore, they had Ilya/Justizia show up and tell him to hurry up and die already. Finally, he complied and just to make damn sure we know he's gone, they dropped a pile of rocks on him.
    • Another example could possibly be Gilgamesh's Ea. Ea's description indicates that it works by spinning so fast that it draws in air and compressing air so hard that it creates a time and space rift.

"The rift created by Enuma Elish is said to be a look at the "truth" of what existed before the world. Referring to it as hell, the primordial form of the planet before heaven and earth were split, a land filled with lava, gas, scorching heat, and intense cold, Gligamesh states that it is beginning of all legends of lands of the dead. It is the origin of the memory of all organisms before the existence of the planet that is no longer found in the imaginations or spoken memories of people, but rather a genetically inherent and repressed knowledge of a place and time when organic existence had been impossible."

    • It is said to have split heaven from earth, and is the only weapon to be designated a anti-world weapon. One presumes that if Ea was ever used at full power then thewhole world would be Deader than Dead.
  • The Pile Driver in Boktai is an enormous Wave Motion Gun that channels solar energy created to kill the absurdly tough vampires that plague the world in a way that prevents them from reviving.
  • In Diablo II, the player has to kill the Prime Evils, three demonic rulers of Hell, and destroy their Soul Stones to keep them dead. However, with the third installment of the series forthcoming, it remains to be seen whether it worked.
    • The soulstones weren't actually the Prime Evils "souls", but rather artifacts that allowed them to physically manifest in the world of the living, all shattering the stones did was, supposedly, banish them to Hell. And while that may seem Deader than Dead for most people, for the Prime Evils it's just returning to their kingdom.
  • In Mass Effect, the player can talk Saren into killing himself. Saren shoots himself through the head and falls to the ground. Shepard then sends a party member to shoot him in the head again "to make sure". Of course, Saren then gets back up AGAIN through by Sovereign controlling him through his implants trickery and so you have to kill him a third time by destroying the implants.
    • Also, in Mass Effect 2 Shepard comes back from the dead, but during the suicide mission, she/he can die forever.
  • In King's Quest VI Heir Today Gone Tomorrow, if Alexander is touched by the Lord of the Dead, he is instantly turned into a skeleton, which then falls to pieces. The normal Game Over cutscene with Alexander entering the underworld does not happen.
  • In The Dig, a game whose premise involves an alien technology that will bring people back from the dead, it is stated that after several resurrections you aren't able to be brought back anymore, effectively making you deader than dead.
  • In Dragon Age this trope is the entire purpose of the Grey Warden order. Archdemons (corrupted gods who unite the darkspawn horde) body jack the nearest darkspawn upon death, reviving almost instantly. Grey Wardens intentionally introduce a modified version of the darkspawn taint into themselves so that when one of them takes the final blow, the Archdemon will attempt to posses their bodies rather than a real darkspawn. An act that annihilates both the dragon and the Warden's souls. Without this, the only way to end a Blight would be to kill every darkspawn in existence.
  • In the Sorrow games of the Castlevania franchise, Dracula was defeated for good after a coalition of soldiers, religious orders, and the last Belmont killed him and sealed away Castlevania, the power that enabled him to keep reviving. And even then, it's possible for his reincarnation to become the new Dark Lord given the right circumstances since the reincarnation retains the powers and connection to Castlevania that Dracula possessed.
  • Done to excess in Tales of the Abyss. First, Luke's fonons are separating, meaning that he will die and no amount of life bottles or resurrection artes can bring him back, and then he stays behind after defeating a Load-Bearing Boss to use the Sword of Plot Advancement and either gets crushed among the rubble or goes up to the fon belt with Lorelei - there are two lights. Yet he shows up alive three years later with no explanation in The Stinger: happy ending, right? Wrong. According to Jade's character development sidequests, something called the Big Bang Effect means that since Asch's fonons entered Luke's body when Asch died, there's no way for even Jade to prevent Asch's mind overwriting Luke's, erasing his personality and leaving Asch with Luke's body and Luke's memories. Even though the game's mythology states that the souls of dead seventh fonists go to the fon belt with their fonons Luke won't even be able to reunite with Tear there: Asch will essentially eat his soul. It's no wonder that many fans of the game ignore that sidequest and say it's Luke based on the body language of people with every reason to think it is Luke - they weren't there for the sidequest and it is Luke's body, after all.
  • In The World Ends With You, the protagonist and almost all of the characters are Dead to Begin With; they're in a deadly game that they need to fight through to get a chance to be brought back to life. Failure means they get "Erased."
  • In Echo Bazaar the dead can usually come back to life; this both applies to you and is referenced in-story. There are ways to bring permanent death, though: destroying (decapitating etc.) the victim's body, or the "Cantigaster" poison. (Death from disease or old age is also final.)
  • Finishing Moves in fighting games tend to lean towards this trope.
    • In the Mortal Kombat games, the "Fatalities" each character can perform frequently conform to this trope. For example, one of Scorpion's fatalities in Mortal Kombat (also known as "MK 9") involves him slicing his enemy in half, then decapitating them, kicking the apparently lifeless corpse over...then slicing their severed head in half for good measure. However, such actions are also an example of Death Is Cheap, since they can be performed after every fight. Additionally, characters always seem to return in the sequels even if they've been disembowelled or completely destroyed in the past.
    • BlazBlue has "Astral Heat" attacks, which are for the most part the very definitions of There Is No Kill Like Overkill. The most exemplifying Astral is however Ragna the Bloodedge's Black Onslaught, which not only showers the opponent in slashes from a Sinister Energy Scythe, but the final blow, that Ragna transforms into... something before executing, annihilates the opponent's body and soul. You don't get much deader than that.
  • In Dragon Quest V, Pankraz the Hero /King is beaten to death on threat of child hostages, and then firebombed by the boss into a fine black powder. Comes off as Fridge Brilliance when you consider that resurrections in that game world are canon; When you get married the priest lampshades the fact that people can get resurrected most of the time, as to get around the "Until Death Does You Apart" clause.
  • Raziel from Legacy of Kain was already Undead before Kain had him executed. Now he's...really, REALLY Undead.
  • In StarCraft, Dark Templar energies are needed to kill the Zerg Cerebrates for good, since the Overmind would resurrect them otherwise.
  • In Skyrim, the Dragonborn is the only one who can permanently slay Dragons by absorbing their souls upon death which prevents Alduin from resurrecting them in new bodies.
  • World of Warcraft used to have the rule that if a person was decapitated, they were permanently dead. However, the much-hated Creative Development team has now broken that rule so many times that it has become a joke.
  • Invoked in X-Men Legends II by Deadpool, who says he wants you "so dead you'd have to be reanimated as a corpse."
  • In Diablo III Diablo himself, along with the other Prime Evils that were reincarnated into the reborn God of Evil Tathamet are slain for good by the heroes who wield power surpassing that of angels and demons. The ending depicts the monster disintegrating into nothingness as it falls.
  • Wizardry I - V had distinct states of "dead" and "ashes". From the former state, you can attempt resurrection via priestly level 5 spell DI - if it fails, the character will be reduced to ashes. From the latter, you can attempt resurrection via priestly level 7 spell KADORTO, and if it fails, the character is really gone.

Web Comics

  • Everybody who dies in 1/0 gets resurrected as a ghost sooner or later, leading to lines such as "Oh, quit being melodramatic. He's just dead." Max, however, loses his personality and gets transformed into an ordinary molecule, meaning by the established physics, he can't return at all. At least until Tailsteak lets the physics model break down at the end.
  • While characters never really come Back from the Dead in Dominic Deegan, Oracle For Hire (the key exception being Helixa and a handful of demons/ghosts), several have found themselves Deader than Dead in a fairly simple way - their souls were destroyed. This is not done lightly, however, as when a soul is destroyed it causes a massive explosion. The simultaneous destruction of thousands of souls at the end of the War in Hell rendered the landscape unrecognizable.
  • In Girl Genius Applied Phlebotinum exists that can resurrect the dead and even rebuild bodies that were burnt to a crisp. However, there's no way to rebuild a completely destroyed brain, and even with an intact brain, resurrection works only if it's delivered to a good lab very soon. For this reason, some characters stay dead, and some don't.
  • In DMFA, after killing Dark Pegasus for the third time, Dan is seen enacting a sealing ritual: "No come back to life! No cookie!" (A much later comic cuts to his grave... and spends three motionless panels indicating that he's still dead.)
    • The undead race is basically made up of sentient zombies, brought back in order to have an unkillable horde, as they can lose limbs, organs, even be decapitated, and still put themselves back together. Unfortunately for their creator, they later ended up with free will and personalities of their own, so he devised a way of killing them off permanently that basically means magically frying them to ashes. As demonstrated on Hannah in Dan's flashback to his first adventure.
      • It is also revealed in the Demonology 101 pages that the undead can be killed permanently by having their brains destroyed.
  • In Eight Bit Theater, Sarda has killed the Light Warriors a dozen times, subsequently bringing them back so he'll be able to torture them some more.
    • However, the trope is played very straight with Black Belt. The author had his head chopped off and spraying blood to get people to shut up about bringing him back. Also, there never was a fifth Light Warrior.
  • Deader than Dead is a harder state to attain in Order of the Stick than in the game it's based on (to the frustration of the main characters when fighting certain villains), but it's been mentioned in two cases. First, as in the game, angels and such die permanently when killed on their home planes of existence. Second, anything eaten by the Snarl, a living rift in the fabric of reality, is assuredly gone.
    • A black dragon attempted to do this to Vaarsuvius' children in revenge, by using necromancy to bind their souls and then leaving the earthly plane of existence. Even this would not have permanently killed them, but it would have removed them from Vaarsuvius's reach for all practical purposes.
    • When Kuboto just surrenders to Elan and explains that he will have no time to rig his trial and will stall things that will cause the heroes precious time, Vaarsuvius just casts a spell that turns him into a pile of ash. Followed by a wind spell that blows the ashes out on the sea. While there are still spells in D&D that can resurrect him, it requires extremely powerful allies and costs a fortune to perform.
  • While every player in Homestuck's Sburb has an extra life, it's still possible to be killed permanently if that life is destroyed. Still, one the people killed this way has come back, so who knows? And besides, they still exist in afterlife in some form, from which they can be summoned if their remains are used to prototype a sprite. All the sprites are prototyped now, but you never know...
    • Characters who die now get a special DEAD caption, just so that there's no confusion. And just to ram the point home, Hussie released this page, which is basically a who's who of who's dead.
  • Schlock Mercenary, thanks to advances in medical nanomachines allowing to clone bodies and (though it's still cutting edge for humanity and associates) backup and rewrite brains, had a scale of deadness eventually devised. Details (on the next page) may indeed be bad for glad feelings, but the very fact that "in very small pieces" is on the middle of the scale between obvious benchmarks of "plain clinical death" and "really gone" already says something.

Web Original

  • In the Code Geass Abridgement, Code MENT, Young Lelouch and King Charles discuss Marianna vi Brittania's fate.

Young Lelouch: Dad! Dad! Mom is dead.
Emperor Charles: How dead?
Young Lelouch: Dead enough to cause Nunally to go blind.
Emperor Charles: That's pretty dead.

  • Most of the Forbidden Magic spells from Tal'Vorn fit this trope nicely. Specifically though; Dysjunction flings them so far out of this dimension that they certainly will not be coming back. They might not be dead, but they might as well be.
    • The Snap spell breaks every bone in the victims body to splinters. Which probably hurts.
  • CrimsonBranch had his face and most of his torso melted. Yet, he remains one of the most talked about characters in the fandom. Probably for a reason.
  • The Madness series seems to do this quite often as well, with many of the characters coming back to life in improbable ways, with the exception of the Sheriff, who after his death in Avenger, remains dead.

Western Animation

  • Poochie the Dog, from The Itchy and Scratchy Show in The Simpsons, is forcefully removed from that series quickly after his first appearance, and a lawyer shows up with a legal document that prevents him from ever returning, thus making him truly extremely dead. Of course, this being The Simpsons, he returns in a bunch of cameos anyway.
  • A Transformer can survive an insane amount of punishment, and many characters come back after being declared dead, or taking an amount of damage that really, really oughta do the job. The Chunky Salsa Rule is but a suggestion. (This isn't to say that Transformers never stay dead... but nobody ever knows what to make of a character's death. There's always someone else who went through worse and was just fine, or fixable, or rebuildable into a new toy, er, body.) However, there's one way to know one is truly done for, in-story: make sure that his spark, quite visible in a compartment in any Transformer's chest, is extinguished. (However, even then, there's Allspark energy...)
    • Even then, they just return to the Well of All Sparks (Transformer afterlife) where it's possible, if suicidally difficult, to bring them back. However, should something destroy the spark there (like being consumed by a dark god), then they are utterly erased from existence.
      • Even Optimus in Armada was brought back from being blown smithereens, supposedly via the Allspark.
      • Then, of course, resident Mad Scientist Wheeljack goes and creates the GT System in the backstory for Binaltech, which places the sparks in subspace (alongside Prime's trailer, presumably) where they operate their bodies by remote control...leave it to Wheeljack to make an immortal race even more immortal.
      • What's funny is, that is a needlessly complicated way of bringing back Prowl (died in The Movie, but made background cameos in some Japan-only series before Japan got the memo. So post-movie Prowl is a new body with the original Prowl's data - saved by Wheeljack - and animated by Chip Chase's soul until Prowl's spark can be recovered. Also, there are two Beast Wars toys named Prowl that don't resemble each other, so by way of retcon-fu, one Prowl is the fully revived G1 Prowl, and the other is an upgraded version of Chip/Prowl of "two-second Transformers Headmasters cameo" fame. Interestingly, the latter Prowl's packaging, written before the Binaltech retcon, gives him a bio that gives him a very G1 Prowl personality, and says he is convinced he was a great strategist in a past life, suggesting that he is a new Prowl who is a Reincarnation of the old one - easily possible since sparks can be retrieved. So maybe we can call TF the ultimate aversion of Deader than Dead—kill a character and mean for it to stick, and you'll find he gets resurrected twice, and may live yet another life later.)
    • Compared to that, Ravage's feats of Deader than Dead survival seem unimpressive. However, Ravage is in an exploding ship in Beast Wars, and we see his head kicked knocked off a cliff later - the writers assuring us that he's not "five minutes in a CR Chamber" dead, but really, seriously Killed Off for Real dead. Three different comic series have found different ways of bring him back.
    • Another way to terminate a Transformer with extreme prejudice? Rip out its spine and use the barely-recognizable carcass to whack another enemy over the head. That's the aforementioned kitty's fate in the Transformers Film Series. And in the movieverse, Death Is Cheap is averted; so far, everyone who looked dead was dead if you didn't apply Allspark energy. But no, Ravage lives on in the comics (though his death and mysterious return were acknowledged, and Soundwave can't sense him anymore, meaning it's less Unexplained Recovery and more "someone/something brought him back but not as he was before.") But in all these cases, the original writer wanted the characters capital-D Dead, took steps to show us that yes, this is death-death and not "Waspinator kablooification of the week..." and underestimated the ability of writers to follow to easily think of a way around it. The First Law of Resurrection will not be denied.

Real Life

  • Pseudo-Demetrius I, a Russian adventurer who claimed to be the last heir of the Rurikid dynasty who came Back from the Dead and (for a while) was accepted as such. When they exposed him as a fraud, they executed him, burned the remains, put the ashes in a cannon and shot them away. Didn't help, another Pseudo-Demetrius appeared after a while, claiming to be Back from the Dead again. This time, the Russian Orthodox Church found a more permanent solution: canonized the real Demetrius as a saint and threatened to burn anyone pretending to be him as a heretic. This time it worked.
  • Everything about Rasputin's assassination. Rasputin survives several assassination attempts that SHOULD have killed any man, and then his assassins go for broke and the guy survives...only to actually die after everyone thought he was dead.
    • To elaborate, he was poisoned, shot, clubbed and knifed, probably not in that order. THEN when he was still alive he was roped into a big charpet and thrown into the Moskva River, and found dead three days later. His cause of death was hypothermia, i.e. freezing to death. His assasins probably never slept a single night again after that.
  • Information-theoretic death, defined loosely as "so dead that not even hypothetical future technology can bring you back". This is as opposed to clinical death, which is defined as a lack of breathing or heartbeat, and can and has been reversed.
  1. In fact, in one arc during Z, the Ginyu Force ended up impaled by the needle mountain that, by all rights, should have killed them again, but they didn't die. Cell did as well, although he had regeneration.