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A train has plenty of advantages for an action scene: it's fairly enclosed, without people able to go too far either way for fear of falling off, it has plenty of opportunity for tunnels and overhead lines for your Look Behind You! moments, it doesn't need much explanation, the high speed acts as wind to let characters billow dramatically. In short, it turns an Action Movie into a Fighting Game. There's really no other way to justify Boss Arena Idiocy, and it's pretty much ensured that somebody's going to suffer that most dramatic of defeats; a short drop followed by a sudden stop.
If hero and villain are trying to get to a location in time, it means the hero can be thrown off, and "lose" without dying. Or a villain may be forced out of the action, only to return later.
A similar effect can be achieved by riding on a truck. Subway trains rarely have the room on top for a good battle, but are still seen occasionally.
The Standard Snippet for a Traintop Battle is Suppe's "Poet and Peasant Overture".
Anime & Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist. With the sheer amount of train-time in that thing, it had to happen some time. "Some time" was, in this case, pretty early in.
- There's also Ed and Alphonse's fight with the terrorist Bald early in the first anime and manga (the chapter is cut from Brotherhood).
- The first level of the Play Station 2 game is based on this part of the anime with combat both inside and on top of the train.
- In the manga, Kimblee and Scar once fight on a train.
- The first mission in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha's third season involved a battle that started inside a train and ended on top of it.
- Baccano has a massive three-way one featuring Chane, Ladd, and Claire, plus another featuring Jacuzzi and the Lemures' leader Goose.
- Bobobobo Bobobo has a fight against "the Number-One Train Fighter" that eventually jumped the tracks and smashed through an amusement park.
- The first episode of Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~ has this as part of the main action.
- The fight that eventually led to Pissard's death in Futari wa Pretty Cure moved to several locations, one of them being the roof of a train.
- The sixth episode of The Daughter of Twenty Faces features a train fight between Chiko and Angie during a snowstorm.
- One Piece
- Franky and Nero fight on top of a train in one episode.
- The later fight between Zoro and T-Bone deserves honorable mention for taking place directly in front of the moving train.
- Yu-Gi-Oh, "Waking the Dragons". "Yami" / the Pharoah. Weevil Underwood. Traintop card dueling. Seriousness. This is the one that ends with Weevil pissing Yami off so much that he keeps attacking even after Weevil's life points hit zero. It just wasn't his day.
- And then topped by Kaiba (oddly enough) when he and a filler villain from the same arc battle on top of a private jet. Even Lampshaded for its ridiculousness.
Joey: So you dueled this guy on top of a moving plane?
Kaiba: Maybe I did. Don't you geeks have someone else to annoy?
- A Filler episode of Rurouni Kenshin has the Kenshin-gumi ride a train for some reason when bandits take it over. Kenshin gets knocked overboard, then finds himself a horse that earns the Fan Nickname of "Super Horse" for the improbable jumps that it pulls off.
- Cowboy Bebop's Mushroom Samba episode.
Cow: Oh, it's no problem!
- In Soul Eater, Death the Kid gets into a three way battle with one of the various Mizune rat witches and a fat fisherman assassin while on a train that's zooming through the desert.
- In Maiden Rose, after Klaus and Azusa jump on top of a train Azusa asks why they will be going in through the last car and fighting their way to the engine room rather then running across the top straight there. Klaus Lampshades the impracticality of this trope, mentioning their footsteps would give away their location and they'd just be target practice.
- A recent episode of the Best Wishes arc of the Pokémon anime had Meowth pretend to reform and join the main characters, saying that Team Rocket fired him for messing up one of their evil plans, but it is then revealed that he joined them as part of a trap set up inside one of Team Rocket's trains, and that Meowth was never fired at all. A battle between Ash, Pikachu, and Co. and the Subway bosses Emmett and Ingo and Meowth, Jessie, James, and an elite Team Rocket member follows shortly afterward, and ends with the elite Team Rocket member carrying off the Team Rocket trio with his helicopter.
- One Golden Age Batman story climaxes in a battle between Batman and The Joker atop a moving train. A punch from Batman sends the Joker off the edge of the train and over a cliff in a No One Could Survive That moment.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Lost Adventures has "Combustion Man on a Train" where Aang fights "scary big explosion guy", while a little girl and all the other passengers learn to meditate as the train gets destroyed around them.
Films -- Live-Action
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has Indy getting chased along a line of circus train cars. One word: Rhinoceros.
- James Bond gets to do this a fair bit; the scenes been used in...
- One of the earliest examples in Buster Keaton's The General.
- The finale of the Mission Impossible film. This is at least partially Subverted: They do have a Traintop Battle, but it's on the high-speed TGV. They can barely move because of the enormous wind resistance.
- The N64 game adaptation also has a traintop chase with The Mole.
- The Matrix: Reloaded has a fight on top of a semi truck, with many similar stylings.
- Silver Streak
- Wild Wild West
- Spider-Man 2 has a fight on top of the train, on the side of the train, trailing behind the train, and briefly in the train. Sounds like Kama-Sutra, only with rampaging violence instead of sex.
- The climax of Speed features a fight on top of an out-of-control subway train that ends with the immortal line "Yeah? Well I'm taller."
- Parodied (with knobs on) in Top Secret. The bad guy fails to duck for a low bridge, and shatters it -- but he's unharmed!
- The Zorro Sequel gets in on it, even the damn horse ends up getting involved!
- Emperor of the North climaxes with one very brutal train-fight between a determined hobo and a sadistic conductor.
- Pirates of the Caribbean 2 has a scene similar to a train fight: Will and Norrington are fighting on top of a large waterwheel, Sparrow underneath.
- The Charles Bronson movie Breakheart Pass has a couple, set in an 1800's Wild West setting. Supposedly, he did his own stunts.
- Jackie Chan did this in a number of movies, including Shanghai Noon, which has a fight that goes through several different cars, including an open lumber car with tree trunks. Rollage Ensues.
- Happens in The Good, the Bad, the Weird, as a result of two Train Jobs happening simultaneously.
- In the remake of Narrow Margin, set mostly on a train, Gene Hackman and the witness he's protecting are confronted on the roof by a woman he met earlier, who turns out to be a Career Killer.
Gene: "You know what I like about you? You're tall." (train enters a tunnel)
- The climax of The Dresden Files: Death Masks took place on top of a train, and the fights were pretty damn badass for a book.
- To elaborate, Dresden, a mob boss (equipped with commando gear and an assault rifle), and two Knights of the Cross (one of whom is carrying an AK in addition to his holy sword) chase and then land on the train in the mob boss's helicopter, which happens to be, on Dresden's request, playing "Ride of the Valkyries." All of that to stop a group of demons from unleashing an apocalyptic plague. Just as awesome as it sounds.
- The Sherlock Holmes tribute novel The Seven-Percent Solution features a train-top Sword Fight between Holmes and the villain.
- The Warhammer 40000: Eisenhorn trilogy features a traintop sword-fight between Eisenhorn and the mercenary captain Clansire Etrik. However, the train is not moving at the time, which is probably a good thing since it is noted as being able to make a trans-continental crossing in a day.
- It is, however, coated with ice and in the middle of a blizzard, so that may even things out.
- In The Other Side of Dawn, Ellie jumps onto a goods train from a bridge and ends up fighting an enemy soldier atop the train and inside one of the carriages.
- Alistair MacLean's Breakheart Pass is set around an American train in indian country in the late 1800's. It has a couple. For that matter, the same author has a top-of-the-gondola fight in Where Eagles Dare.
- The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon has the protagonist forced to fight his way from one end to the other of a train in Nazi Germany that has been rebuilt as a rolling death trap while the Egomaniac Hunter stalks him from behind.
- Fitting of its Western influence, The Alloy of Law includes a gunfight atop a moving train, which continues despite the protagonist being thrown off the top (he uses magic to save himself).
- Partially invoked in the pilot of Human Target: there isn't a fight on the roof of the train, but there are several go-rounds in the cars, and one in the air ducts at the top of the cars.
- The second Christmas Episode of Community has one. Did we mention it was stop-motion animated?
- The Dungeons and Dragons setting Eberron has a magic train for two purposes. To get the characters to places quickly, and for them to have climactic fights on top of it.
- The videogame adaptation of Quantum of Solace includes a flashback level set during the unremarkable train ride to the eponymous Casino Royale. It now includes a traintop gunfight.
- Final Fantasy VI has several fights upon an Afterlife Express, though little is made of the particular environment. The boss is the train itself.
- Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door, against the Giant Space Flea From Nowhere Smorgs. To simply reach the boss fight itself, you also have to hammer your way through a veritable horde of them on top of the Excess Express first.
- The Mole Train boss fight in Donkey Kong Country Returns.
- Ratchet and Clank Going Commando had a fight atop a hover train with jumps from car to car. The first game featured a short train top battle, as well.
- In Samurai Legend Musashi, there's an entire part of a level in which you stand on a train and fend off robots, including some that are in another train behind you!
- Just after the first chapter in Dark Cloud 2, you have to throw bombs at a car with two mooks in it firing a machine gun at the train. Fail and the game ends from the train derailing.
- Sonic the Hedgehog seems to like this trope. In Sonic Heroes there is an entire act with a railway system. Mostly you just "grind" down the rails, but a tunnel area has you doing exactly this trope, fighting off minor enemies on the train that try to push you off.
- Sonic Triple Trouble's Sunset Park Act 3 takes place on a train, with the boss apparently being the engine.
- Sonic Shuffle has the Riot Train board.
- The video game Ur Example is probably the first stage of Hudson Soft's Stop The Express. The second stage goes inside the train.
- Mega Man Zero had a stage where the second portion was on and in a train and the boss was inside the engine.
- Zero 2 had an entire stage that was a train, with the boss pulling up on another train at the end and the battle involving both of you jumping between the trains.
- Zero 4's intro stage took place on fast-moving trucks.
- Mega Man X 5 had Grizzly Slash/Crescent Grizzly's stage, which was technically centered around trucks, but it's the same idea.
- Slash Beast in X4. His entire stage was composed of several trains, barring a small section between the areas, when the first one crashes.
- Of course, Charge Man in Mega Man 5 beat them all to the punch, and even resembles a steam locomotive himself for added fun.
- This is reaching Once an Episode status for the series. The first real boss battle of Mega Man ZX Advent starts out on top of a train car, then falls inside it as the boss slowly demolishes the roof.
- Don't forget Mega Man Legends where Mega has to fight two out of three of the Goldfish Poop Gangs on top of one train while shooting across at another train outfitted with bombs, turret guns, lasers, and missiles.
- Yet another game with a train-battle level: Bubsy. Though that one's probably forgettable.
- The Ord Mantell Junkyard hovertrain in the video game of Shadows of the Empire.
- Final Fantasy VII had a series of battles on top of a train.
- Crisis Core: The opening cutscene involves Zack jumping from a helicopter onto the roof of a speeding train and fighting off attackers.
- Final Fantasy VIII doesn't have an actual battle, but it has a (kinda) traintop stealth mission.
- The battle against Janus and crew in the Prologue of Wild Arms 3.
- Terry Bogard's stage in Fatal Fury 2 is on top of a train.
- The final battle against Karai in the SNES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters takes place on top of a commuter train.
- The Last Express, which is set entirely on board a train, could hardly escape a scene like this.
- Sunset Riders, essentially a side-scrolling Wild West shoot-em-up, has the requisite moving train level. Depending on the version, it can either take place on top of the train where you shoot both at enemies coming in from the sides as well as the ones poking up from the windows below and where not jumping over the quickly-approaching girders in time means instant smashy death or riding alongside of one, where you need to jump over logs dropped from a wagon so your horse doesn't trip over them and cause you to die in a similliar way.
- Skies of Arcadia has a train battle level, both inside and out. Eventually, Vyse and co. are tracked down by Implacable Man Galcian, and have to head toward the front of the train while he chases after them...very...slowly.
- Vandal Hearts also has a train battle level. The villains start releasing the back cars (very slowly) after a while, so any of your characters that are lagging behind may find themselves ejected from the battle prematurely.
- Contra: Shattered Soldier has a level that involves chasing a train down on motorcycles, attacking the weaponized caboose, and heading to the engine. At which point a mecha attacks the train, leaving the player to wonder why our One-Hit-Point Wonder heroes had to bother.
- Before that was 'Contra: Hard Corps. The boss was a Humongous Mecha that pushes the train to a halt and climbs onto it, which was the inspiration for the boss in Shattered Soldier
- Hard Corps: Uprising likewise has one taking place on an underground railway, with another set of tracks running along the ceiling as well and cars being destroyed left and right either by having either track end prematurely, taking too much damage from enemy fire, or being used as projectiles by yet another Humongous Mecha running along the tracks. And that's before you get to the actual boss, which takes place in a vertical tunnel with both trains now moving straight up and subject to be destroyed entirely by the boss's huge laser. Thankfully there's a neverending supply of train cars, which proceed to roll in from offscreen and attach themself to any of the remaining ones whenever one is destroyed.
- The entire final act of Gears of War takes place on a train, with the members of Delta Squad fighting their way to the front car to activate a superweapon.
- A Soldier of Fortune level, complete with Bilingual Bonus (the train is in Africa; the guards speak Swahili).
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe apparently has trainlike vehicles that allow for this, just going really fast.
- One mission of Jedi Academy centers around this.
- A sequence in Shadows of the Empire uses the trope.
- In Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, there are two levels in Parsley Woods taking place in/on a train. Falling onto the rails while the train is in motion is instant death.
- There are also levels like this in The Shake Dimension, Wreck Train and Derailed Express. You've got both fighting across the top of the train and making your way through the carriages though.
- The 1800s level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Turtles in Time was set on a moving train of flatbeds. Other than Foot Soldiers riding up on horses and boarding, it could have been a ground level and not changed the essence of the gameplay.
- In an inversion of The Problem with Licensed Games, The Tiny Toons game for the NES (The one with the Amusement park setting)) has Hampton Pig on top of a Train Ride, having to fight several enemies, avoid getting stranded on disengaged cars, and fight Arnold the Pit Bull.
- The SNES game also has a battle taking place on a train, except it's Buster Bunny doing the fighting in this case. It even uses the above-mentioned Standard Snippet as background music in one part.
- Banjo-Tooie has a fight in the train's boiler. Old King Coal (a Grubby Boiler Monarch who's not the jolly old soul Kazooie thought he was) won't let you use his train until after you beat him into submission.
- Time Splitters: Future Perfect in the Bond parody level. The second part is on a train. After you apply the emergency brakes, the camera PoV cuts between the train and your partner's girlfriend, making it look like she's about to be run over. As the train grinds to a halt, the camera pans out... showing several dozen feet of track between her and the train.
- In Ninja Gaiden II for the NES, Ryu is in a hurry to get to the Lahja mountains. His solution: climb onto the top of a train and fend off the enemies that attack him as he makes his way to the locomotive.
- At least two of the Metal Slug games have fights on moving trains, including trains as bosses or subbosses.
- Armored Core for Answer features a fusion of this and the Battleship Raid trope with the Arms Fort Great Wall, GA America's ultimate AF. Your objective is to get inside it and blow it sky-high. I don't think anyone's been dumb enough to attack it's outside other than to get into the damn thing.
- The second stage of Time Crisis 2 has this where you fight along not one but two speeding trains (the first the the passenger compartment and the second alongside an adjacent train). After fighting off the mooks you deal with the boss who takes you on with a gun turret, swings a missile around at you (no, really) and lastly tries to take you down with a rail gun while holding onto a helicopter before you blow him up. Likewise in TC3, the end of the second area has you fighting atop a speeding train. The difference here is at the end of the stage, the bridge is blow out from underneath, resulting in the heroes being forced to climb their way up from the still attached dangling compartments.
- The N64 Spider-Man game features a level where Spidey has to hold off hordes of lizard men while atop a subway car.
- Tomb Raider IV has one of these. With ninjas.
- An obscure action-adventure game for the first Playstation, Covert Ops: Nuclear Dawn (known also as Chase the Express), has one of these due to taking place onboard a high-speed train. You have to shoot a boss, jump over to his train, pull some switches and jump back to your train.
- One of the stages in Blaz Blue has the fighters standing atop a speeding monorail.
- The Sega shooter Confidential Mission 2nd stage is set on a train which not surprisingly forces the heroes on top of the train in few occasions
- Luis of Grand Theft Auto IV the Ballad of Gay Tony jumps aboard an El Train in order to steal one of the cars. He has to shoot his way past half of the LCPD to reach the front.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has the best Traintop Battle yet seen; starting at the caboose, Nathan Drake works his way to the front one car at a time, alternating between gunfights and crawling along the sides of the cars while dodging passing signal lights -- and then a helicopter gunship shows up and starts blowing cars off the train behind him!
- Not an exaggeration. This is the level developers should look to for thrilling train sequences.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks features a train-top battle as part of the final boss fight.
- Shadow Hearts opens up with one of these.
- The SNES adaptation of Batman Returns has one.
- In Famous has a mission where Cole has to rescue a bunch of hostages on a train. Unusually, Cole himself provides the train's motion, powering it with his electrokinesis to move it somewhere safe while zapping enemies from the top.
- This happens in The Saboteur, in which Sean has to rescue a defecting scientist from a Nazi train before the train reaches the bridge that Sean has rigged to blow. There are also hijackable turrets every couple of cars that can be fired at any Nazi installations the train happens to pass.
- The final mission of Total Overdose is along the top of an old steam locomotive.
- Old Dynamix game Heart Of China has a battle atop the Orient Express. He's armed with a sword. You're armed with a piece of metal you ripped off the train. Don't forget to duck when the tunnels show up (the only way you know to duck is that he ducks first; he's facing the direction the train is moving).
- The third map of Blood took place on a Cabal-owned train, which ends up crashing into a carnival when Caleb blows up the engine.
- Both Unreal Tournament and Unreal Tournament 2004 have Assault maps with this sort of premise, though the 2004 map isn't so much "trains" as "gigantic trucks". Falling off is possible, and leads to instant death.
- Every other level of Data East's Express Raider is a train top Beat'Em Up.
- The fourth stage of Super Double Dragon is a truck-top battle, which may be a Shout-Out to the second level of Bad Dudes.
- Two back-to-back levels of Syphon Filter 2 have you racing to the front of a train to stop it before it reaches a blown-out bridge. You fail to stop it, but jump onto a chopper stolen by Lian just before it falls through.
- The Ballad of Cripple Kane starts out with of course, a saloon brawl, a horse chase, but it ends up on a train. Oh wait you knew that, reading the trope and all. It's still 'awesome'!
- In one Family Guy fantasy sequence, Stewie has an Imagine Spot about a fist and knife fight with someone on top of a moving 19th century train over a MacGuffin.
- In the third episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey fights The Lizard on top of a moving subway.
- In an episode of Samurai Jack, Jack fights two bounty hunters (one a Cowboy and the other a saloon-girl Femme Fatale) on top of a train.
- Danny Phantom had this happen during the season 1 final.
- Done twice in Kim Possible.
- Done in Winx Club S4 episode 13, Layla, Nabu and Sky fight Ogron, the leader of the Black Circle on top of a moving train. It quickly becomes just a fight between Ogron and Sky when Nabu is knocked off the train and Layla had to catch him before he hit the ground.
- This is how Rainbow Dash of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic first meets Little Strongheart, during a chase on top of the train that the main characters were riding.
- In the G.I. Joe: Renegades episode "Homecoming, part 2", Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow fight on top of the train, while The Baroness takes out soldiers within the train.
- The Archer episode "The Limited" has ISIS escorting a radical Nova Scotian separatist (yes, really) back across the Canadian border via train. Archer keeps talking about how it's been, like, his life-long dream to fight on top of a train. And in the show's semi-deconstructive spirit, when the time comes, he finds it's not all it's cracked up to be.