Created By: SemiCasualObserver on September 30, 2012 Last Edited By: SemiCasualObserver on October 2, 2012


A game makes you think you can make a decision, but you really can't.

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This is when a videogame offers you the ability to make a decision and then denies you any meaningful consequences for your choice.

Imagine that you've reached the final climax of the story, or at least a minor one along the way, and suddenly you're presented with a list of options. After considering your choices, you decide to save, and then pick one of these and proceed to the end of the plot. Having seen the story play out one way, you then reload your save and pick a different choice, hoping to see a different outcome. Then you see pretty much exactly the same thing as before.

Programming a real Branching Plot, even in a game with Multiple Endings, is time consuming and expensive, and becomes more so the further back along the timeline of the game you go. Consequently, something that a lot of developers will do is provide you with options, and then give you an identical or nearly identical gameplay experience without regard to your decision. There are several ways this can be done:

A. You have multiple options, but there's only one that actually counts. All the others lead, slowly or quickly, to a Non Standard Game Over, or a But Thou Must! declaration.

B. You have multiple options, but all they do is make a minor cosmetic change to the story you'd play out anyway.

C. You have multiple options, but as soon as you've made a decision something in the game will happen that invalidates your choice.

In non-interactive media, this trope is usually covered by Morton's Fork.


  • Just Cause 2 is either type B or C. You choose which of the three factions will back you in the endgame, and consequently which faction will become the basis for a regime change when you kill the president. What this amounts to is which of the three identically armed, identically behaving rebel crews gives you backup in one mission, and whose theme music plays during the end credits. Nothing else about Panau changes, possibly because you finish the game by nuking the island.
  • The second Ace Attorney game has a type C. You make a decision in the last case to either plead Guilty or Not Guilty, but before you can actually speak the words, new evidence arrives Just in Time for you to take a mandatory third option.
  • The Whispered World has a type A at the end, when you can choose which mirror to smash. Only one of the two mirrors can actually be selected; picking the other one will just cause the Narrator to tell you off.
  • Batman: Arkham City offers another type A. When you're playing as Catwoman, you can choose to either save Batman or leave him, and leaving him leads to an immediate Non Standard Game Over, and a rewind back to your decision point.
  • Resonance has a type C at the end of the second act. When Anna is considering whether or not to destroy the contents of the Dr. Morale's vault, Ed will shoot her no matter what she decides.
  • Jake Hunter consists entirely of type A's - whenever you have a choice, there is only one choice that actually advances the plot.
  • Hotel Dusk and its sequel Last Window have a lot of type A's - making the wrong decision almost anywhere results in a swift Non Standard Game Over.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • September 30, 2012
    Heavy Rain has multiple endings, but several scenes have the same outcome no matter what is done.

    Also, there needs to be a stronger distinction made with But Thou Must.
  • September 30, 2012
    I'd say type A is just But Thou Must, which already includes Non Standard Game Over cases. B is the core of this trope as distinct from that. C if kindof a delayed But Thou Must, but possibly different enough.
  • September 30, 2012
    I swear we already have this, I think it's Mortons Fork or something...
  • September 30, 2012
    Mortons Fork actually looks redundant with You Cant Fight Fate.
  • September 30, 2012
    We have this, it's called But Thou Must.
  • September 30, 2012
    After reading up on the description of But Thou Must, I think I'm inclined to agree with Emreld. There's not really that strong a distinction between this and But Thou Must. The only difference I can think of is that But Thou Must doesn't describe situations where you can make a choice that leads to you playing through the same gameplay with slightly different flavor text or a different outfit.
  • September 30, 2012
    Mass Effect 3, anyone?
  • September 30, 2012
    Type C would fall under a Story Overwrite.
  • September 30, 2012
    I have heard that some DM's improvise there players going Off The Rails by just tweaking what he already had in mind. The players are supposed to go south and storm a tower and they go north? Pretty much the same tower will be in the north.
  • October 1, 2012
    An example of this that isn't But Thou Must.

    • Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Sam Fisher escapes prison and joins the terrorist group John Brown's Army. Its leader, Emile Dufraisne, orders Sam to murder Cole Yeager, the helicopter pilot who helped Sam escape. If Sam kills Yeager he gains a bit of trust with the JBA. If he refuses, another JBA member kills Yeager and Sam loses a bit of JBA trust. In other words, no matter what you do Cole Yeager is going to die. This has little or no effect on the story.
  • October 2, 2012
    never mind, already has it.