Pathogenic microbes have evolved countless sophisticated mechanisms to subvert host immune responses and cause disease. Understanding evasion strategies employed by pathogens has led to numerous discoveries on specific host cell processes that are critical for controlling infection. Programmed cell death (PCD) is a key host defence to microbial infection, as well as being critical for organ development and cellular homeostasis in multicellular organisms. Much of our current understanding of PCD as a host response to infection has stemmed from the discovery and study of viral inhibitors of apoptosis, and more recently viral inhibition of the newly characterised from of PCD termed necroptosis, the mechanisms of which are still under intense investigation. Many bacterial pathogens also encode inhibitors of PCD, yet these discoveries are relatively more recent and thus the biological significance of such mechanisms is still under debate. In this viewpoint article, we will argue the concept that necroptosis is merely a “back-up” mechanism in the event that apoptosis is inhibited, or whether it is a true host innate response to infection that has evolved in response to a growing arsenal of microbial evasion strategies.