Deadly Game

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"The ultimate game show would be one where the losing contestant was killed."

Chuck Barris, creator of The Gong Show among others.

The Game Show Appearance from Hell. The characters are forced to compete in a dangerous contest where assault, battery, and even murder are either encouraged or actually the objective of the game. Tends to lend itself better to film than television, since a filmmaker can kill off characters with impunity.

It's common for these stories to take place Twenty Minutes Into the Future, and under a corrupt government, in order to Hand Wave the fact that they're basically murdering people for sport. Usually, the game is televised to legions of bloodthirsty people, thus raising the question: Who are the real murderers? The contestants fighting for survival, or the spectators cheering them on? [1]

A post-modern take on the Deadly Game is to frame it as Reality TV, à la Survivor.

A type of Public Execution. May contain a Duel to the Death or a Forced Prize Fight. Hunting the Most Dangerous Game is related, but generally lacks the "contest" element, and usually doesn't contain quite so much social commentary. A Blood Sport is a Deadly Game version of a modern spectator sport. Usually has a crew of Condemned Contestants. For an ancient counterpart, see Gladiator Games.

Examples of Deadly Game include:

Anime and Manga

  • Episode 2 of Weiss Kreuz does this with a game of "Human Chess" that doesn't particularly resemble chess, but which does involve forcing competitors to fight one another to death.
  • Kabuto pulls this in one chapter of Naruto. Basically tells a bunch of random ninja in his prison to kill each other and whoever's alive at the end goes free. He was lying though, as his plan was to quickly find who was strongest and Orochimaru steals the winner's body.
    • In the Three Tails arc, Guren does this with a group of Orochimaru's prisoners from a soon-to-be-abandoned hideout. She halts the battle after most of them are eliminated and takes a group of them with her, but kills all but a few of them when they turn on her; the remaining ones become the Quirky Miniboss Squad for the arc.
  • The eponymous protagonist of Yu-Gi-Oh! has a Super-Powered Evil Side Anti-Hero side who has the power to turn any game at all into this. Early on, many villains use this on Yugi.
  • Gantz. It's the entire point of the game.
  • Not quite deadly, but Liar Game's titular game leaves most of its participants with crippling, 100-million-yen or more debts which must be repaid by any means necessary...
  • Most of the matches in the Dark Tournament in Yu Yu Hakusho end with the loser's death. Similarly, Elder Toguro mentions that his wish if he wins the tournament is to kill the surviving members of Team Urameshi and all their friends, forcing the team to win or be massacred. Mostly averted in the Demon World Unification Tournament, as a result of Yusuke's insistence that they refrain from killing when they can.
  • In the English translation of the manga version of Battle Royale (original novel listed below), the Program the students are forced into is apparently broadcast as a television show across Japan. In the novel and movie, only the winner is revealed to the public; how much of the game itself that gets revealed to the public is unclear.
    • In the novel and real manga, it's ostensibly a "military experiment", so the Defense Forces of Greater East Asia will study the strategies and improvisations used by civilians under stress. Not much of the Program is revealed publicly apart from causes of death and the bloody, smiling winner; and parents are encouraged to view it as an unique form of military conscription and a patriotic duty. In the end, Sakamochi/Kitano says that this is all bullshit and the Program just a way for the dictatorship to terrorize their population into obedience.
  • Deadman Wonderland is based around this.
  • Played with in an issue of an early The King of Fighters manga. Kyo, Daimon and Benimaru have to battle Mai, Yuri and King in the streets of Tokyo not to save their own lives, but to save Kyo's kidnapped girlfriend Yuki, locked in an hotel room that contains a time bomb. The only way her kidnappers will tell Kyo and Co. where poor Yuki is before so they can rescue her before she's blown into smithereens is to have them win their fight in a certain time limit. They do, so they locate Yuki and bail her out of the room literally seconds away from the explosion... but it turns out the bomb was actually a fake, and Yuki never was in life-threatening danger. The one behind the deal, KOF host Rugal Berstein, was just trolling Kyo For the Evulz.
  • Underdog features a year-long tournament, wherein the goal is to be the sole survivor of the 200 participants that initially entered. In each round, a player wins by killing their opponent through indirect means only (meaning that they can't directly injure their opponent, confine them in a way that causes their death, or hire others to kill them.) Otherwise, anything goes.
  • The manga Enigme. The characters involved have to utilize their respective super powers to solve the puzzles in order to save their own lives.
  • The manga Cry Eye.[context?]
  • The manga Btooom![context?]
  • In the MMO game Sword Art Online, players can't log off once they are in the game and they have to win in order to survive. Dying in the game means death in real life.
  • In Eden of the East, Akira, along with 11 other people, become players in a game where the goal is to "become the savior" of Japan, armed with ten billion yen, a strange cell phone and a mysterious woman named Juiz who can make anything happen for a price. If someone uses their money in a way that is deemed "unfit" to saving Japan, they end up dragging their feet and being too passive, or if the player runs out of money, then they are "eliminated" from the game.
    • Subverted when it's revealed the players aren't actually killed but have their memories erased. The Selecao that actually did die was a coincidence due to Death by Woman Scorned.
  • Similarly, Mirai Nikki. 12 people have magic diaries that can predict the future. The winner gets to become god. The winner wins by being the last person standing. Anything is allowed.

Comic Books

  • Sort of mentioned in a Wolverine story arc by Frank Tieri. When an ancient francophile vampire wizard appeared on the set of a Survivor-style game set in Alaska and started killing the contestants, the network boss thought it made a great show that could boost the slipping sales. If only the vampire could contain himself and would only eat the people voted off...
  • In Ultimate Marvel, Krakoa is an island where mutant criminals are hunted down as a televised (and/or online) series. The X-Men end up there twice, and one time Spider-Man gets pulled along with them.
  • ...and of course, the main Marvel Universe has Mojo's Mojoworld, where the X-Men ended up anytime somebody wanted to make fun of television. Arcade's Murderworld also fits the bill, usually involving some kind of giant pinball machine. For the record? Mojo is a morbidly obese blob with mechanical spider legs and Arcade wears a leisure suit. You decide which is more repulsive.
  • The Lobo story "Unamerican Gladiators" features a deadly game show taking part on a planet that was a gigantic violence-themed theme park. The contestants had to complete a number of tasks, trying to kill each other while avoiding deadly traps... as well as answer some quiz questions to win valuable prizes.
  • Showed up on at least three separate occasions in Judge Dredd.
    • One early story featured an underground game show entitled 'You Bet Your Life' where stupid, greedy saps wagered the lives of their closest loved ones (and their own) on trivia questions.
    • A later story had a failed game show host put his old rivals through a crazy contest with endless fatal results. "Congratulations! You win a golden bullet!" BAM!
    • A third story saw a quiz show where a contestant's correct answers would let him to pick a number between 1 and 10, which would spring a booby trap in his rival contestant's own city block, with one of the numbers triggering a flesh disintegrator planted beneath their own seat; the show's host didn't particularly care if correct answers were actually given and would let contestants pick a number, anyway.
    • Note that actual wars between cities in Judge Dredd are sometimes conducted as a Deadly Game between small teams of Judges representing each city, as a less-destructive alternative to nuking still more of the planet. Such wars are always televised, complete with running sportscaster-style commentary.
  • Deadpool: Games of Death sends the merc with a mouth on a retrieval mission on an underground game show where contestants fight for their survival against the daily challenges, as well as the deadly traps contained within.
  • The Simpsons comic book: Homer has landed in at least one of these.

"This game show, banned in every state except our state and, of course, Utah, will soon send three convicts, two mental patients, a homeless guy, a circus freak and one lazy couch potato to unspeakable and untimely deaths. In this reporter's opinion, just the touch of Darwinism our society needs."

  • In Batman story Joker's Asylum, the Joker takes over an ordinary game show, with the intention of making it one of these, by killing anyone who gets the questions wrong. It turns out the Joker, for once, had no intention of killing anyone. He just likes terrifying the contestants, who believe he is going to kill them, and is actually recording the producer, who is ordering his people to keep the police out in the hopes the Joker will kill someone, as it will boost their ratings. The point was to show how messed up the producer and the people at home watching the show are for going along with him. In the end, he even claims it was the most fun he's ever had without killing someone..
  • Zigzagged in a Looney Tunes comic where Lola enters the "Delivery Girl of the Millennium" pageant. The host says that it originally consisted of wild, ravenous bears unleashed on the contestants, with the last survivor crowned winner - Lola and the other contestants are understandably scared by this idea. But he quickly adds that this is no longer the case and begins the talent competition. However, the last part of the pageant seems to play it straight with an "Delivery Route of Death", an obstacle course with flaming pits, live alligators, and blade traps; oddly, the contestants seem fine with this idea.


  • The film adaptations of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.
  • Series 7: The Contenders uses the reality show device.
  • The 2007 movie The Condemned keeps the setting in the present day, and handwaves the legal issues of it by putting the proceedings on a deserted island, and broadcasting them via the Internet.
  • Let's not forget the "Tryouts" that the Joker gives to those thugs in The Dark Knight.
  • The Saw series is based entirely around "games" where people are forced to either torture themselves or die painfully.
  • A voluntary version occurs in The 10th Victim.
  • This is the premise of the Death Race.
  • The 2009 movie Gamer starring Gerard Butler. Death row convicts can allow themselves to be implanted with Nanomachines that allow someone else to control their motor functions. If that someone else is good enough to make it through thirty battles with them, they are released. However, the true terrors are the others in the game, normal inmates who are stuck looping silly behaviors like sweeping up the battlefield or flashing their breasts to the audience. However, the movie focuses on something else after thirty minutes.
  • The Tournament has world-class assassins competing for the top spot.
  • 13 Tzameti features competitive Russian Roulette.
  • "Capture the flag" is usually a safe activity, but the way Percy Jackson and his contemporaries play it, is anything but, seeing how the playing field is a forest full of vicious monsters and participants use swords.
  • The Running Man : See entry under Literature for details.
  • The German TV movie "Das Millionenspiel" (from 1970!) is about a man who has to survive seven days while being hunted by a gang of killers. Prize if he survives: One million German marks. The population can help him or rat him out, as they like. Some people took the film for real and asked whether they could become either the candidate or the hunters. Unfortunately, for legal reasons the movie was forbidden to be broadcast for almost thirty years (had to do with being based on the Short Story "The Prize of Peril" by Robert Sheckley.)
  • Death Row Game Show: Prisoners on death-row compete in deadly games for a chance at a reprieve.
  • Slashers, about a Japanese game show producing an All-American special episode. Contestants entered a maze-like paintball course, converted for ambiance, to try to outlive three Axe Crazy, crowd-pleasing professional maniacs. The one and only camera was also a character, the game show's cameraman, provoking a lot of Genre Savvy observations whenever the contestants became aware of him.
  • The 2011 film Freerunner has this when Mr Frank intervenes the game.
  • Panic Button; a movie involving a setup that might occur if Jigsaw hosted game shows.


  • The short science fiction story "Survivor" by Walter F. Moudy is set during the 2050 Olympic War Games between the US and Russia. The games are designed to make clear the horrors of war to the public, and are therefore televised. One hundred soldiers on each side, with rifles, machine guns and mortars, are placed in a large camera-laced arena with battlefield terrain such as forests, hills and a lake, and must fight it out until all of one side is killed. The titular survivors are hailed as heroes, and the loser pays restitution to the winner. The broadcasters use color commentary, closeups, and special tech, much like sports. "Here's Private John Smith of Columbus, Ohio, a graduate of Johnson High School, running towards base -- ooh, he just got shot! Let's watch on slow-motion -- yes, you can see the bullet going into his throat, and our super-microphone confirms that his heart is no longer beating. Any comments, Jim?" "Well, it's obvious the Russians have slipped a sniper team in on the left flank, Bob, and that could be bad for Squad Two..."
    • The creepy part is what happens to the "Survivor". His reward is to be not bound by any of the laws of his country, but he's still protected by them. The story ends with one of the viewers hearing his daughter be another casualty of war.
  • The short story "All the King's Horses" by Kurt Vonnegut centers on a group of 16 POW's and family members. The group's captor forces them to play chess for their lives, with themselves as the white pieces; every "piece" captured during the game is immediately dragged away and executed.
  • Both the book and the movie The Running Man are centered on a deadly game, though the game itself is very, very different between the two. (The book presages the Reality TV form of the trope; the film version is American Gladiators with death.)
    • Richard Bachman, the author of The Running Man, had written an earlier novel (The Long Walk) centered on the Deadly Game trope. (Bachman was actually Stephen King writing under a pseudonym.)
    • It's quite possible that King was inspired by Robert Sheckley's short story The Prize of Peril which both embodied this trope and impressively predicted the rise of reality television all the way back in 1958.
  • More or less the point of the book Battle Royale and the film and manga based on it, in which randomly-selected junior-high-school classes were singled out by The Government, brought to an isolated island, and forced to fight each other to the death.
    • Replace "random junior-high-school classes" with "dangerous convicts", and you have the plot of the Ray Liotta vehicle No Escape.
      • And the above-mentioned The Condemned.
        • Edit in corporate sponsorship and a dystopian World centered around the US, replace the concept of a junior-high class with teens from all over the country selected via Lottery of Doom and you get The Hunger Games
  • The Pendragon Adventure does this with its eighth book, the Quillan Games, in which Bobby has to participate in the titular games. If he doesn't win, he dies.
  • In The Hunger Games, as can be inferred by the title, this is the main plot.
    • The basic plot is more or less similar to Battle Royale (but it's a coincidence, as the author only learned of the Japanese one as she delivered it to the publisher).
  • In the Geronimo Stilton book "Watch Your Whiskers, Geronimo!" the main character goes on a late-night game show called The Mousetrap, where contestants are strapped to a large mouse trap that snaps shut whenever they give a wrong answer. Since this is a children's series, the worst that will happen is Geronimo might lose his tail, which is still a pretty bad outcome, as far as Geronimo's concerned.
  • Friday the 13th: The Jason Strain, a Friday the 13th Tie-in Novel, has several Condemned Contestants put on a Southern island, with the winner getting a reduced sentence and transfer to a cushy minimum security facility. Along with Jason (a "special guest") the roster includes the framed main character, a mass murderer, a white supremacist, two serial killers, an Angel of Death nurse, a black widow, a serial rapist, a mob boss, and three street gang members.
  • In an Anthony Horowitz short story, there was a reality quiz show where contestants had to answer trivia questions. If you got one wrong, you were killed in a rather gruesome way. But that's not the real show. The real show was a contest to see who could kill the winner and take his prize money.
  • The Big Question, a book written by Chuck Barris, is about a game show where a group of people are asked questions about their chosen area of expertise, and when it comes down to one contestant, they're asked the titular Big Question; if they get it wrong, they are killed via lethal injection. The premiere is heavily rigged, because nobody's going to watch it if they don't immediately prove they'll actually kill someone. The questions are favored towards a little old lady named Vera Bundle, and after missing the final question (an unanswerable open-ended one about the length of the Great Wall of China), she's killed. The show's canceled two weeks later.
  • From Percy Jackson novels; "capture the flag" is usually not a Deadly Game, but the way it is done at Camp Half-Blood by Percy and his peers (where they use actual weapons, most of them magical, and the game is played in a forest full of monsters) might qualify. Technically, the players are not allowed to kill opponents, and there is a medic on duty, but seeing as the only "penalty" for breaking that rule is no dessert for a week, it might happen occasionally.

Live-Action TV

  • The entire premise of Inquizition
  • The Doctor Who episode "Bad Wolf" did this with parodies of popular British Reality Shows set in 200,100 AD, including a version of Big Brother where a contestant who is voted out of the house actually gets disintegrated, and a version of The Weakest Link with the same punishment for elimination -- or so it seems; it turns out to be a Fate Worse Than Death (being killed and having your genetic material used for Daleks). Although these have been interpreted as Deconstruction by fans, creator Russell T. Davies is known to be a fan of reality TV, and the episodes are more of an Affectionate Parody.
    • Doctor Who had already toyed with this notion in the serial Vengeance on Varos.
      • Some 39 years prior to "Bad Wolf", and 19 years prior to "Vengeance on Varos", the Doctor Who story The Celestial Toymaker saw the cast forced into children's games, failure in which would mean their eternal enslavement.
  • Subverted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Move Along". The crew seems to be trapped in a Deadly Game played by Quark and an alien. In the end, the entire crew is killed and removed from play to Quark's horror. Then they rematerialize back on the station, and the aliens who created the game are mystified by the fact that anyone would even consider that the people trapped in the game might be in real danger: it's only a game, after all.
    • Played straight, however, in "Our Man Bashir", in which the main crew's transporter patterns are sent into the James-Bond-esque holosuite program Bashir and Garak are enjoying, and Bashir must keep all the characters alive to prevent the program from erasing them from the game.
    • Also in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, wherein Seven and Tuvok are captured and forced to do gladiatorial combat, which is broadcast across space to numerous locations. Particularly jarring in that until they see Seven fighting, the crew of Voyager is enjoying these matches. Said episode features a cameo from The Rock. To be fair, though, only some of the matches were to the death. The Rock's cameo was a non-lethal bout which Seven lost, called a blue match. The red match she is put in later is lethal.
  • The season two Hyperdrive episode involving 'Death Game'.
  • The episode "Judgment Day" in the Outer Limits revival series did a version of this with a reality TV show in which convicted criminals are hunted down on camera as their punishment.
  • The Year Of The Sex Olympics features the titular games being pre-empted for "The Live Life Show", in which a family is taken to a Scottish island and murdered brutally - in this world, even non-stop pornography is less popular than snuff, apparently.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "Upper Class Twit of the Year" features a contest where various upper-class twits (it's a straightforward title) race to finish an obstacle course with challenges like unhooking a bra from a mannequin or running in a straight line. The last challenge? Shooting themselves in the head.
  • An interesting twist was seen in an episode of The Prisoner with members of the Village taking part in a giant chess game with themselves as the pieces. It's not meant to be fatal, but one 'piece' who decides to move on his own initiative is subject to forced brainwashing.
  • The 2003 version of The Twilight Zone featured an episode promptly titled "How Much Do You Love Your Son?" in which a reality show kidnaps a woman's son and said mother has to track down the kidnapper before it's too late. The twist is that the woman's ex-husband was the kidnapper and was in on the whole thing. The trauma she suffered from the game prompts her to shoot him, causing her to win but now have to use the prize money for an attorney.
  • The Saturday Night Live Digital Short "The Tizzle Wizzle Show" combines this with Subverted Kids Show. It involves giving the kid show hosts knives, drugging them, turning off the lights and then fighting to the death until one is left standing. Apparently, the hosts enjoy and willingly play the game.
    • Another SNL skit featuring Chris Farley parodied Japanese game shows. It seemed to be just a Japanese counterpart to Jeopardy!, with three contestants being asked questions by a host. However, it turns out that if you get the question wrong, you have to kill yourself. Farley's character, a Fish Out of Water American who doesn't understand what's going on, blunders his way to the final round, where getting the questions wrong gets him electrocuted.
  • The Sliders episode "Rules of the Game" finds our heroes competing in a dangerous adventure-quest-type game show where the losers die.
  • The Tokusatsu show Kamen Rider Ryuki was all about this: An unwilling Hero, an Anti-Hero, an Action Girl and a bunch of Jerkasses are drawn into an alternate dimension populated with man-eating monsters. Then everyone gets a Power Armor, a Mechanical Monster as a Bond Creatures and... a deck of cards. And these guys are all more or less adults. With this equipment, they get to fight each other to the death, with the last survivor being granted a wish by the mysterious host of this Deadly Game called "Rider War". It turns out that the host has no intention on keeping his word. He has all those people fighting for their lives and killing each other so that he can use his overpowered Kamen Rider Odin, actually a puppet who is an extension of his will (sucks to be the poor sap who put on the suit) in order to win the wish, using it to save his sister. Considering that Kamen Rider is normally a franchise of Superhero shows, Ryuki was received as a case of Deconstruction; an attempt to make an already pretty Dark and Edgy series even Darker and Edgier.
    • Ironically, the American adaptation Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is more true to the genre than it is to its source material, reverting back to the "Henshin Heroes fighting monsters to save the world" theme. It also keeps one of the best aspects of Ryuki - each Rider having his own story and each desiring to gain something different by participating. What each one thinks the battle between Riders really is differs from Rider to Rider. (At least one thinks he's Fight Clubbing.) In truth, the bad guy has almost all of the Rider decks. Each only works for its designated user, so he has to get the Earthen doubles of the Riders of his dimension to fight for him, usually by either trickery, or messing with their lives behind the scenes and then sweeping in to offer them the only way out.
  • Russian Roulette: A game show in which four contestants competed in a last-player-standing quiz contest. Each player stands on one of the six trap doors on the circular floor. A player who misses a multiple-choice question must play Russian Roulette, by pulling a lever to spin the "Drop Zones", to stay in the game.
  • Theoretically, the real life game show Downfall could have been played off like one (they managed to get Chris Jericho to host too!), had they not tried to avert it as much as possible and point out they were not trying to be evil.
  • The Blake's 7 episode "Gambit" includes a game of chess, where the players are strapped into electric chairs during the game, and when it is over the loser gets fried. The winner, of course, wins an obscene amount of money. Needless to say, Vila and Avon can't resist the prize and elect to cheat, after they've already scammed the casino out of a fairly substantial sum with the help of Orac.
  • Also in Blake's 7, the episode "Death-Watch" features a one-on-one duel to the death conducted between representatives of two planets who use the duels as a substitute for all-out interplanetary war. The events are broadcast widely, and of course nobody could possibly want to interfere with them for their own political gain.
  • "The Tale of the Forever Game" in Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
  • Intentionally invoked in the French made-for-TV documentary Le Jeu de la Mort, which frames a conduction of Stanley Milgram's famous experiment on peer influence under the guise of a pilot for a Game Show Within A Show La Zone Xtrême. The test subjects (under the promise of receiving €40 for participating), as with the original test, were to administer increasingly powerful shocks to the contestant for answering questions wrong, ranging from "mild buzz" to "lethal". This time, unlike the original, the subject was prodded on by both the host and the audience to deliver the shocks to the contestant (who, again as with the original, was just a trained actor). Out of the eighty people who auditioned, sixty-four of them -- 80% -- went all the way to the highest level of shock, as they were instructed.
  • The Japanese game show DERO! was played off as one, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek - contestants who lost a round were talked about as if they had just died, but the "deaths" were blatantly fake (and this was quite clearly intentional), and everyone would appear back on camera after the round without so much as a scratch (except for the Water Room leaving players soaking wet). Each game had its own way in which contestants could "die" and lose the round, such as having the Malevolent Architecture dump them into a Bottomless Pit made of Conspicuous CG, or cutting the wrong wire in a Wire Dilemma and being "blown up" with a blast of CO2 smoke effects.


  • GWAR: With a battle cry go forth which is "Give the people what they want." And what the people want could only be the senseless slaughter of the gutter-slime that litters this nation for cash and prizes. Yes, this is the show where people bet their lives to win something big. 'cause when your life is shit, then you haven't got much to lose on Slaughterama!

Newspaper Comics

  • In the Modesty Blaise arc "Those About to Die", elite athletes and combatants (including Modesty and Willie) are kidnapped by an insane millionaire and forced to compete in gladiatorial games for his amusement.

Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

  • Side Two of the Firesign Theatre's Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him album includes a sketch of a game show called "Beat the Reaper", in which the contestant must identify the deadly disease he's been injected with in time to receive the cure before it kills him.

Tabletop Games

  • Suerte y Muerte is a Deadly Game television series broadcast out of Aztlan in the Shadowrun 'verse. Other Blood Sport programs certainly exist, but S y M is noted for making killing all the other contestants mandatory to win.
  • In 5th Edition Ravenloft, the Trial of Heart in the domain of Valachan. This is a sort of ritual sacrifice done on the night on, preceding, and following the full moon devised by Chukuna, the realm’s Darklord, to appease the dark entities she made a pact with that made her Darklord (a burden she willingly accepted in order to protect her people, making her something of a Noble Demon). Once Chukuna choses the 15 participants (you’re not allowed to refuse, she is the Darklord after all), they are taken to her home at the Panthara Lodge where she politely explains the rules. Basically, each player or small team of players must vacate the Lodge at dawn and make it to one of the two shrines located on opposite sides of Valachan, and survive until Chukuna confirms the winners. Of course, this is not easy. Valachan is a place where Everything Is Trying to Kill You (by Chukura's command, no less) including savage, hungry beasts, wicked hags and fey, and carnivorous plants, along with the other competitors, and starting at dusk of the first day, Chukuna herself, and she is a huntress who knows no equal. She promises that the winners will be allowed to leave Valachan, something most visitors want to do but can only do so if she allows it. Everyone else dies horribly, their bodies left to rot. Note that the guidebook does not say she won't break the promise, nor does it say she will respect the rules. Whether Chukuna is a Fair Play Villain or a dirty cheater and liar is entirely up to the GM, as her personality is, like all the Darklords, easily mutable to fit the campaign.

Video Games

  • The entirety of Ratchet: Deadlocked is a deadly gladiatorial game.
  • Smash TV has the players blasting their way through a maze filled with hordes of Mooks and gigantic cyborg bosses, all in the name of earning mountains of cash and fabulous prizes. Yay, a new VCR!
  • One level of Sanity: Aiken's Artifact has the main character forced to compete on a gameshow called "Trivia Insanity", where "One Wrong Answer, and You're Dead!". Two of the four contestants (the main character himself being one) are obviously there against their will, but the third one is actually determined to win the game, and is there of his own will. The fourth is the magician you get to meet at the end of the boss fight, and he's given easy questions.
  • The last level in Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64, Grunty's Furnace Fun, has a lethal board game motif. The sequel, Banjo-Tooie, had a quiz show motif with Gruntilda and her sisters playing against the heroes; the losers got a weight dropped on them.
  • Dead Rising 2 features Terror Is Reality, a pay-per-view game show which is essentially American Gladiators or Takeshi's Castle is all the events revolved around killing zombies. It's also the name of a multiplayer mode based on said game show where players can transfer their winnings to their save files.
  • The World Ends With You has the Reapers' Game, where recently deceased teenagers have to complete seven tasks over seven days in order to win a shot at resurrection. Failure means that their existence is erased. Meanwhile, the Reapers try to hunt the players down in order to gain points for themselves and extend their lifespan.
  • This is the Excuse Plot in The Ship, an online multiplayer FPS. Basically, you're on a ship and a crazy guy in a mask pays you to kill your shipmates while being hunted down yourself.
  • In Blast Chamber for the PS1, the 'players' have bombs strapped to their chests. The objective is to run down the clock on the others' bombs before they do the same to you.
  • In Jets'n'Guns, there is a level in which the player has to fight through a level full of enemies to entertain the viewers of Carnage TV. There is a scene in which the announcer says that 100 viewers had won the special opportunity to be slain by the hero; when the player ship meets them, they even cheer and wave signs reading "Kill me".
  • The premise of MadWorld, centering around an ultra-violent deathmatch game show.
  • Unreal Tournament series revolves around Liandri Corporation gathering world's finest mercenaries, freaks, robots and aliens to duke it out on old battlefields, orbital bases, factories and other interesting locations. Unreal Tournament III, set in the same continuity and being more serious in tone, applies gadgets from the tournament like respawners and Field Lattice Array Generators to conventional warfare.
  • The Killing Game Show, whose premise is All There in the Manual for those who know it as Fatal Rewind.
  • The Nonary Game in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Possible ways to die involve drowning when the time limit for the game is up, and the detonators in the bracelets triggering an explosion inside a hapless rulebreaker... in the bombs implanted in the bowels of all the players.
    • Flipped on its head come The Reveal - only two of the nine players actually have bombs, and the game is designed for all players to make it out alive while saving Akane from an actual Deadly Game in the process.
  • The Devil Inside.
  • The visual novel game Killer Queen.
  • Saints Row: The Third has Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, where you run through various deathtraps shooting guys in mascot costumes and various targets for bonuses. Don't shoot the Pandas however. It's not ethical.
  • Present as a gag (in the form of a radio commercial) in Grand Theft Auto III:

"Tonight...the TV event that will make history...Liberty City Survivor! This takes reality TV to a whole new level! We'll take 20 recently paroled guys, equip them with grenade launchers and flamethrowers...and let them hunt each other down!! It's the reality show where you...just might be...part of the action!!"

  • The Killing Games in Danganronpa, even more so with the revelation that they are being broadcast, internationally even.

Web Comics

  • In usr/bin/w00t, Sarah leads one of those in a Dream Sequence, featuring people who are "asshats" to computer techs.
  • Last Res0rt centers around a Reality Show of the same name.
    • Word of God says that players' deaths, while advertised as a selling point, are merely "encouraged" by the rules of the show (which specify that anyone who survives the season will be pardoned of all their crimes, including those committed during the show).
  • Domain Tnemrot is set around one of these. The battles are to the death.
  • In Dead Winter, a large group of rich people is apparently behind a game of world-renowned assassins hunting each other for sport, with the assassins and their sponsors getting the bounty when they kill on of the other participants. Apparently not all of the assassins are in the game because they want to be.
  • In Jix, Lauren is abducted by the Amblians (a race similar to Jix's race, the Ambis) for a galactic show called "The Gauntlet" where the contestants are unwilling aliens captured from various planets and hunted down by the hosts. The show was cancelled when Jix came in to rescue her friend.

Web Originals

  • The Survival of the Fittest program in Survival of the Fittest, which is very similar to that of Battle Royale but with slightly different rules. For example, no time limit as long as there's a death every 24 hours, the names of killers are given on the announcements, and there's a different collar design.
  • Quite a few Original Character Tournaments are based around this sort of game show. The tournaments themselves are actually quite similar to this trope in some respects.
  • SCP Foundation-024 is a mysterious game show whose losers are never seen again. Even winners don't escape unscathed; the Foundation discovered it in the first place after one of the winners (who was injured, scared, and on the verge of going insane) turned herself in.

Western Animation

  • The entire premise of Celebrity Deathmatch.
  • The Justice League episode "Wild Cards," in which The Joker hides time bombs all throughout the Las Vegas Strip and uses hidden cameras to film the League racing to find them while simultaneously fighting the Royal Flush Gang.
  • Daffy Duck hosts a rather sadistic radio quiz show called Truth or AAAAHHH!! (a parody of Truth or Consequences) in the Looney Tunes cartoon The Ducksters, where poor Porky Pig is forced to go through increasingly painful "penalties" (parodies of penalty challenges game shows have for missed questions) for such things as not answering a question in a two second time frame, not knowing the answer to a ridiculously obscure question, and not being named Jack. These penalties include Porky being crushed by the Rock of Gibraltar, rained upon by Niagara Falls, tied up and blown up with dynamite, pounded with a mallet, threatened by a buzz saw, crushed by a safe, and other forms of abuse. Porky does eventually win something - which he uses to buy the network and turn the tables on his torturing host.
  • Rick and Morty takes this Up To Eleven with Just Music, a reality show orchestrated by the Cromulans that's sort of like America's Got Talent, except losing means your entire planet is destroyed.
  • Zigzagged in Gravity Falls with Globnar, a type of Trial by Combat used by inhabitants of the future period ruled by Time Baby. Death isn't always the result - the winner decides the loser's fate - but it often is. The game itself is actually a wide variety of events, including many forms of gladiator fighting (both between the participants and between them and monsters), chess, cycling, wheelbarrow racing, and a hot dog eating contest.
  • Zigzagged in an episode of Atomic Betty where Sparky competes in a game show called Space Brains that seems to fit the bill. It's kind of like Fear Factor but far more dangerous. However, Maximus purposely rigs the game to ensure that Sparky survives to the final round, as doing so is key to his plan. He figures that if he asks Sparky to identify Betty's home planet during the lightning round in game show format, Sparky will reveal it. Fortunately, Sparky isn't that gullible.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures, Pluck and Dizzy compete on a game show called That's Incredibly Stupid, where the idea is to complete tasks you'd have to be incredibly stupid to even attempt. Round one is to compete in a demolition derby (without a car), and round two involves finding a needle in a haystack (which is set on fire and has fireworks planted inside). Plucky survives those by putting the brunt of it on Dizzy, but when told the last round is simply to judge a beauty contest, he insists on doing it himself. The host neglects to tell him that the contestants are all of the Hot Amazon type, and all are horrible Sore Losers. Plucky doesn't complete this one; he was a little too stupid.
  • In the Animaniacs reboot sketch "Yakko's Big Idea", a Show Within a Show the trio likes named Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming functions kind of like Shark Tank - but if the submitter's idea is stupid, the judges drop him into a flaming pit.

Yakko: That's capitalism, baby!

  • In Inside Job episode “Mole Hunt”, JR thinks he’s being promoted into the Omniscient Council of Vagueness that is in charge of Cognito Inc. In truth, he has to compete for the promotion in a game like this, where he and the other applicants must survive an “insidious maze full of deadly traps and sinister creations.” JR actually likes the idea, not just for the “diabolical twist” but because one of the other applicants is his hated rival - Oprah Winfrey.

Real Life

  • The gladiatorial matches of Ancient Rome, of course.
  1. (It's the contestants. Duh.)