Exploding Barrels

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
This is an exploding barrel. You can tell it explodes because it's red.

In some action games and many first-person shooters, explosive barrels or crates are present. Generally red and marked with some sort of warning, they will explode when shot and kill any nearby enemies. They are sometimes located conveniently near a horde of enemies. Sadly, your own AI comrades may decide to take cover behind the barrels too, if they're as dumb as the enemies.

In platform games, the nature of exploding barrels usually varies somewhat. Instead of being a means to take out a large group of enemies, they usually pose a hazard to the player that should be avoided.

Exploding Barrels is a sister trope to Crate Expectations and these tropes sometimes combine to form Exploding Crates.

This is a well-worn trope, but with no signs of going away; sure, the presence of these barrels may be inexplicable at best, but players will never get tired about having a convenient source of Stuff Blowing Up.

In Real Life, storing explosives requires special permits, separation of batches and so forth to prevent "Pepcon" and AZF type explosions. Video game environments are not required to comply with such regulations.

See also Every Car Is a Pinto: cars often play a parallel role to barrel as a source of Stuff Blowing Up—with similar burn-then-explode dynamics. Particularly in games where barrels would look really out of place. This too can be combined if the game has the proper scale into exploding fuel trucks.

Examples of Exploding Barrels include:
  • Most Light Gun Games will have these present to clear the screen of enemies and move on to the next area quickly, especially in time-based games such as Time Crisis where they can easily cut down the total time taken to clear a stage.
  • The Doom series. Doom 2 had an entire level packed with them named "Barrels O' Fun".
    • As the first FPS to feature exploding barrels, Doom also bears honorable mention for filling them with something other than implied gasoline. They were filled with nuclear waste instead... that somehow explodes when shot.
  • Duke Nukem 3D has explosive barrels in the form of somewhat more realistic explosive gas canisters, as well as less realistic fire-extinguishers.
  • Descent 3 had several different verisons of these somewhat justified in that the series took place in a futuristic mine so it makes sense there would be explosives lying around. The second game used mines instead and the first didn't have any at all.
  • The Half-Life series. In Half-Life 2 the Gravity Gun opens up the possiblity of using the exploding barrels as a makeshift impact-fused grenade. The Combine also makes much use of the barrels: Civil Protection's tactic is to light them on fire and roll them down into the canal you're in.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and IV.
  • Even non-industrial games have this. Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance had gunpowder barrels scattered throughtout a few levels, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has an entire level with explosives (And Orc suicide bombers!). Moreover, these items will explode when hit by swords or arrows...
  • A staple of Rail Shooters, such as Maximum Impact.
  • Exploding barrels feature in Diablo.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed has a exploding red barrels littered all throughout the stages, which you can use to take out enemies, blow objects at a distance to take out enemies, throw to take out enemies, blow up bridges to both take out enemies and gain access to the areas below them, and on occasion activate puzzles and take out enemies and such.
  • Heretic has organic exploding barrels in the form of those exploding green pod things which can be pushed around.
  • Team Fortress 2 mostly averts this: there are yellow and blue barrels of radioactive waste littering various maps, but like every other solid object in the game, they are bulletproof. However, most of the Payload maps feature large piles of these at the end, and they do explode, although that's literally all that gets destroyed.
    • It also gets parodied in the two Halloween maps released for the game with the Exploding Pumpkin Bombs.
  • Bulletstorm's developers found that making them not red doesn't really work.
  • Ratchet and Clank
  • Jak and Daxter—The Eco barrels.
  • Perfect Dark
  • Spoofed in the Half-Life 2 webcomic Concerned
    • Not only does the main character accidentally order 100,000 explosive barrels for the Combine instead of just 100, thus explaining their abundance, but the Combine soldiers are specifically instructed to stay near them.[1]
    • Several strips later, he uses them to launch his boat over a barrier. Instead of creating a ramp with weighted barrels.
  • Played with in one PHW comic. Apparently, people just love shooting red barrels.
  • The James Bond game GoldenEye not only has exploding barrels, but nearly every other prop explodes too, including such things as office chairs and monitors. Apparently C-4 is common building material. Only barrels, however, tend to be used for the "please shoot me and blow up a whole squad of enemies!" variety. Not that you can't engineer your own fun with other objects, of course. Future 007 games would use this trope as well.
  • The Donkey Kong Country series is full of different kinds of barrels, so of course one variety is explosive.
  • The Flash animation game Goldminer and its semi-sequel Goldminer SE both have levels where barrels of dynamite are scattered among the gold and jewels for which you are "fishing". Hitting one with your grapple sets it off, destroying not only the barrel but anything too close to it.
  • The arcade Light Gun Game Area 51 has brightly-colored jerrycan-like objects which explode when shot, liberally scattered throughout the infested complex.
  • El Viento features some barrels you have to push around and then hit for them to explode and take away lots of enemies with them. Then again, in El Viento almost everything is Made of Explodium...
  • Resident Evil
    • Exploding barrels were introduced in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Usual use applied—shoot barrel, make enemies explode in a shower of blood and flying limbs. You could also kill yourself with these although Jill and Carlos were nowhere near as willing to detatch body parts and explode as readily as the undead.
    • Resident Evil 4 curiously decided that the best location to place almost every explosive barrel found in the game was the medieval castle. Some appear to be used to light catapult fodder, but others just lie in random and convenient places.
    • The opening cutscene of Resident Evil Code: Veronica features Claire Redfield infiltrating Umbrella HQ and coming into a room chock-full of guards with guns trained on her. She puts her hands above her head, drops her gun...and then dives down, catches the gun before it hits the ground, and shoots the exploding barrels behind the guards. It's pretty awesome. She then gets captured anyway, but you can't have everything.
  • The levels of Crash Bandicoot were littered with exploding crates, including ones which would explode if you so much as touch them.
  • They're barrel-shaped, at least: all of the wildlife and livestock that appear in the Warcraft Real Time Strategy games are explosive if you click on them enough times. The Frozen Throne expansion added actual explosive barrels which are used in the classic way in some missions. While it seems logical that the dwarves would carry around gunpowder, their placement is more than a little suspicious.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, when Sora battles Hercules, Herc occasionally starts glowing with the power of the gods. None of Sora's main attacks work on him at this point. Fortunately, a number of barrels start to materialize out of thin air that, if thrown at him, take away his invulnerability. Why this happens or works is never explained. There is also a type of Heartless called a Barrel Spider, which explode when destroyed.
  • The video game Tai Fu Wrath of the Tiger also has a boss battle with exploding barrels appearing out of thin air. It has no explination as to why the Rat Pirate loses his invulnerability when slapped upside the head with an exploding keg, or why he can even go invulnerable in the first place.
  • Subverted in the PS2 videogame The Punisher. Certain levels, such as the Chop-Shop, have barrels clearly marked as "Flammable" or "Gasoline" standing around, including a few that happens to be standing right next to entrenched enemies. What happens if you shoot them? Nothing. Realistic, and potentially dangerous, since your gunshot just alerted those entrenched enemies to your position...
  • In the game Final Fantasy VII: Dirge Of Cerberus, these barrels are all over. In one particularly idiotic case, some friendly soldiers decide, for some reason, to take cover behind one of them. Kaboom.
  • Some boxes in Jade Empire are trapped to explode, but if your Focus is high enough you can do a cool backflip or a leap backwards to avoid the blast. The evasions are random. Having a high Focus just increases the chance that you'll avoid it. Which makes it unnecessarily annoying.
  • Zelda
    • Exploding Barrels first appear in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, where they assisted in taking out enemies in a Western sequence.
    • They are also present in certain areas of the Great Sea in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, where their sole purpose is to be obstacles that has Link fly off The King of Red Lion if not dodged carefully.
    • There is a type of bomb in The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask that is just a Barrel filled with gunpowder. You can wait for its fuse to run down, or just shoot it with a bow. Also bomb flowers, bombchu and bomblings.
  • Oil barrels in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Arcade Game and its NES port would smoke for a little bit when struck, then explode! Turtles in Time, too, features them.
  • The Command & Conquer series often uses them, usually in missions that place emphasis on your commando units. Most bizarrely, Red Alert 2 had several defence missions where a Too Dumb to Live friendly NPC would add some fluff to your efforts to reinforce the area by heroically placing several of the things next to each of his buildings and parked units.
    • In the Commander's Challenge for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, there's a challenge map where explosive red barrels keep teleporting into existence, until there's over 600 of them dotting the map, making most of the city a powder keg.
  • The Crusader games have what you might call a suspicious amount of explosive barrels (and explosive everything else, for that matter). And then you realize none of those workplaces are OHSA-compliant, and it all makes sense...
  • Mass Effect has various kinds of Exploding Barrels: various "containment units" which have various effects that are suspiciously similar to those of grenade upgrades. At least unlike most examples, they need to take a shot or two from a hyper velocity military grade kinetic weapon to explode.
    • Mass Effect 2 doesn't have the containment units, but it does have (white, not red) explosive crates. And explosive containers which look suspiciously like the containment units from the first game. Using the 'overload' power on either one, will significantly increase the radius and amount of damage they cause, over just shooting them.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. series, all item containers (Barrels included) have a chance to be explosive, which can be an unpleasant surprise for those who try to open them with short ranged attacks, but a boon for those who prefer to chuck them at their opponents. Brawl introduces very conspicuously marked crates that detonate in a huge explosion if they sustain enough damage or are hit with fire.
  • Played straight in Dungeon Siege. If you see a red barrel, chances are shooting it will open up a "secret" room.
  • This website has a collection of video game barrels.
  • Also found in the Cannon Fodder series of run-and-gun games. Made some sense when you were in the jungle/desert and there were oil barrels lying around for (presumably) fueling vehicles, but less so when they were replaced by exploding sheep in the farmland areas; Rule of Funny may apply in this case.
  • Halo didn't originally have them, but Halo 2 added many items such as the fusion core. Still, the flood carrier form might qualify as a mobile exploding crate. They were mocked heartily in one news post. In Halo 3, they are scattered liberally in multiplayer levels, and also respawn. Thanks to a plentiful grenade supply, you WILL get toasted for inadvertently standing too close to them. The sniper position on Guardian, the shotgun location on Snowbound, and the ones next to lifts on Construct/Valhalla come to mind.
  • In an uncommon RPG example, Infinite Undiscovery for the Xbox 360 has many exploding red barrels in the opening dungeon (complete with Achievement for detonating them all). Given that the setting seems to have no gunpowder (or anything else similarly advanced) and the dungeon in question is a prison, one has to wonder what's in the barrels that would make them blow up.
  • The game series Marathon has a variation of this trope. Some enemies exploded messily when hit by fusion pistol bolts or with enough explosive projectiles. Chain reactions are FUN.
  • Metal Slug has quite possibly the most blatantly enormous Exploding Barrels of any game ever, and setting them off does some rather impressive damage, such as demolishing entire buildings in chain reactions.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has a variant in the "Barrel Full of Barrels zone. There are 36 barrels. Most give small items if you click on them. A couple of them, however, randomly explode and damage you for a huge percentage of your hit points.
  • Justified in Dynasty Warriors. In the various Nanman campaigns, there are usually exploding barrels. But these barrels have actually been placed with the intent to explode, so as to take out flammable enemy troops. This is loosely based off of something that happened in the books.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja lampshades this trope in the Alt Text for this comic.
  • Left 4 Dead gives you propane tanks and gas cans to use as mobile exploding barrels and, on higher difficulties, where to place them and when to use them is a significant part of the strategy. Oxygen tanks work like time bombs, where they explode a few seconds after being shot.
    • The sequel also introduces crates of fireworks for one level. They explode when shot at and then keep on burning.
    • The DLC The Sacrifice adds a campaign of the same name which includes actual exploding barrels.
  • Tequila encounters lots of explosive barrels during the Tai-O mission in Stranglehold, first in the form of Golden Kane drug labs (real life drug labs can be quite dangerous, particularly meth labs, as any cop who's had to deal with one can tell you), but later on when Tequila takes the gunner's seat on a chopper, he can blast away at barrels that are all over the place for some massive John Woo style explosions that can blow the crap out of lots of mooks.
  • A unique variation in Chrono Trigger: the Volcano enemies in Azala's Lair will erupt violently and rain down lava on the enemy of whoever attacks them. While you can smack them around to defeat the rest of the foes, sometimes the enemy party will attack the Volcano to make it erupt on you.
  • Mirror's Edge plays it straight, but only in a cutscene. When cornered by a group of machine gun toting enemies, Faith grabs a pistol and unloads it into a nearby barrel, which explodes, allowing her to escape.
    • Played straight in other parts of the game, as well. Blowing them up is rarely helpful, however, as enemies are almost never anywhere near the things. They pose a much greater risk to you, as enemies love to shoot the barrels when you're near them.
  • X-COM uses exploding barrels as fuel storage in your base, exploding gas pumps in urban maps, and a few explosive tank thingies in alien bases. Fun times with Blaster Bombs clearing out aliens in the hanger. Those things have a wide blast radius.
  • Disgaea 3 adds exploding barrels that detonate when thrown.
  • Exploding powder kegs are a common feature in Rayman 2: The Great Escape.
  • Worms has oil drums that explode and also rain down fiery death. Worms has everything that explodes.
  • Monster Hunter has exploding rocks. In a volcanic area. Also, the game features several flavours of handy portable exploding barrels which you can plant just about anywhere.
  • In Red Faction: Guerrilla, this is Lampshaded in a side-mission. "If the EDF didn't want us shooting their fuel tanks, they wouldn't keep leaving them around, right?"
  • In Demon's Souls, there are explosive barrels around places where it seems sensible to do so, like on the outer walls of a castle or in a mine. Somewhat unusual for this trope is that you need fire to trigger them, hitting them with anything else just breaks them.
    • Of course, upon entering a room filled with explosive barrel, you'll VERY often have a conveniently placed enemy toss a fire bomb or a fire spell into the room to blow you to smithereens. One of the rare examples where the barrels are an obstacle.
  • Believe it or not - Xbox 360 Magazine actually awarded the exploding barrel their 'Best Friend in a videogame' award, since no matter how little ammo you have left, they will always clear out the enemy.
  • Hype: The Time Quest is an obvious example of this. The weird thing is the barrels don't have anything explosive in it.
  • Legacy Of Kain: Blood Omen 2 has a particularly baffling kind of exploding barrels: they explode when a switch on the barrel is pulled.
  • Max Payne
    • The original Max Payne aims for a degree of realism. It used tanks of acetylene or some other flammable gas instead of barrels, and only putting them on levels where someone might plausibly need welding equipment or a gas cooker. When hit, the tanks react by shooting off a lengthy plume of fire from the valve, much as a gas cylinder might plausibly act if you clipped the valve off with a gunshot... and then explode a few seconds later for no readily apparent reason. Occasionally you'll even find one that's not been chained upright and has fallen over, ready to be turned into a field-expedient cruise missile for a Crowning Moment Of Awesome Yet Practical.
    • Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne includes the classic Exploding Barrels and fuel canisters, which catch fire once shot a few seconds before going kaboom, and also includes ammo boxes which blow upon taking enough damage. Either method is a very nice way of clearing out cleaners or other bad guys.
  • Wet, like a lot of other games, is a proud user of this trope. Rubi often gets the opportunity to shoot up lots of them (as well as lots of bad guys) during the minigun segments of the game. They also appear as a common hazard later on in the game.
  • Crackdown: Pacific City is full of these, everywhere. In the Keys to the City mode you can make them by the hundreds and make a kind of exploding dominoes.
  • In some Ace Combat games there are fuel-containing vehicles or what-not that will take out adjacent targets when destroyed.
  • In BioShock (series), there are hundreds of oxygen cylinders and oil drums scattered around Rapture. These can be picked up with Telekinesis (or punted with Sonic Boom) and flung with enough force to rupture them. You can add some proximety mines to them for a little more "Oomph".
  • Scribblenauts takes this a step further. Yes, you have the exploding barrels. Then you have a gun that shoots out exploding barrels, aptly named the exploding barrel gun, or EBG.
  • For some weird reason, Will Rock features several large wooden barrels in Ancient Greek Ruins scattered around.
  • Deus Ex has both exploding barrels and crates of dynamite (as well as barrels of poison gas).
    • Crates of TNT are so volatile that simply dropping them on the floor from chest height will cause them to explode. And these crates are frequently just left lying around in city environments!
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has explosive crates and barrels as well as gas tanks scattered around the maps causing great damage on the destructible scenery (and players) when destroyed. However, for some reason, many players seem to think they are great to hide behind, with predictable results.
    • Lampshaded in the campaign, with one of the conversations between Haggard and Sweetwater: "So here we are, in South Americastan or wherever, all Spec Ops'd up... and we're still blowin' up barrels." "What would you rather be doing?" "I'm just sayin'... rescuin' hostages, doin' slo-mo weapons kills on terrorists, tellin' people to 'Get off my plane'." "You wanna be Harrison Ford in Air Force One?" "Don't you?"
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes fulfills this trope with its phazon containers. Should a space pirate be standing next to one while Samus destroys it, they will be promptly evaporated.
  • Lampshaded in Ambrosia's Harry The Handsome Executive: the game's instructions state that toxic waste barrels (found in your office building) explode when hit, as per "videogame law."
  • Sonic Adventure has these in Twinkle Park. One wonders what exploding barrels, spike balls of varying sizes, and other various dangers are doing in a theme park...
  • Real Life example: Recently, there has been a series of propane tank explosions in Indonesia, which is troublesome because the cost of burn wound treatment in Indonesia is... well...
  • Non-videogame example: Allegiance, some pirates set out exploding barrels and then set them off in an attempt to kill Mara Jade.
    • The sequel, Choices of One, also features exploding barrels used against Mara Jade; she was in an abandoned mine which still had fuel for vehicles sitting around, and the villains moved those.
  • Quake single player games have lots of barrels that explode.
  • Every game in the Fable series has them, and the third one as an achievement lampshading the fact.
    • "Barrel of Laughs: You annihilated 30 enemies using explosive barrels. Isn't it nice how conveniently placed they are?"
  • Odium has these showing up during many battles.
  • Jet Force Gemini, right there in the tutorial level; though they themselves need no explination.
  • Something of a central game mechanic in Star Fox Adventures. "Fuel barrels" are used to break walls, hold switches and later defeat a boss. This is actually the first item introduced in the game and the only weapon Krystal ever gets a hold of.
  • In Split Second, Survival mode has you racing around a track while semis drop an endless supply of these.
  • Normally not present in World of Warcraft due to technical limitations, kegs of blasting powder were added to the new remake of the Deadmines, which can make nice crowd control devices when detonated properly.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger uses this in a rare non-videogame instance (and an even rarer live-action television instance) by having GokaiGreen take out several Mooks in episode 2 by shooting the barrels they're standing near.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours has context-sensitive exploding barrels. Play as Tony, who doesn't like hurting the innocent and the barrels will only cause bruises and confusion to civilian bystanders. Play as one of his henchmen? Barrels are fatal.
  • Every single Call of Duty game has exploding fuel barrels. Sometimes the placement is logical like at a fuel depot, but most the time they're somewhat random.
    • Ditto for Medal of Honor, and any game using the ID Tech 3 engine. The research facility level in Frontline has lab vials that explode violently when shot, as well as gas cylinders.
  • The first level of Soldier of Fortune II has an exploding propane tank, although utilizing it will cause extra enemies to spawn. The first Rail Shooter level has several more towards the end. In the first game, shooting the backpack tank of a gas-masked mook causes it to explode and light them and passersby on fire.
  • Even L.A. Noire has them in some shooting sequences.
  • The Binding of Isaac has wooden barrels in some of the rooms. These will explode when damaged enough.
  • In Orcs Must Die, you get to use these as traps after completing the first two levels. You can hurl them at oncoming orcs, or set them and shoot at them with your crossbow to reduce a group of orcs to a shower of Ludicrous Gibs.
  • In Crysis, they are spread around as expected, and when shot burst into flames and then explodes. But what deserves the mention are a few facts together: the game is highly mod-able, Crytek provides the map editor and the physics engine is very advanced. Cue user created maps filled with kilometer high buildings made of barrels and then set to explode, or a tornado throwing barrels around and then set to explode, the sky's the limit. Just search YouTube.
  • DC Universe Online contains three kinds of barrels, all which can be thrown or destroyed on the spot. First is the regular exploding variant. Second is a freezing barrel that creates an icy wind for a few seconds which freezes any enemies that enter it. The frozen enemies can then be picked up and used as weapons. Finally, there are healing barrels, which create a maelstrom of healing energies that will regenerate your HP as long as you stand in it.
  • Aside from the bomb birds,Angry Birds has exploding crates of TNT that increase the damage done if hit just right.
  1. The author's notes on one of the strips after this even mentioned that he had originally planned on putting the barrels in every single page from that strip forward, though this running gag was forgotten about within that week.