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Central Theme: Video Games
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The truth will always make itself known.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: There will be people trapped by circumstances beyond their control, and they need someone on their side.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: What's better: law based on absolute proof or law based on human evaluation?
    • Ace Attorney Investigations: When the law is limited or perverted, how can we ensure justice without resorting to simple vigilantism?
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent: How far one is willing to go for redemption.
  • Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs: The way an industrialized society views its workers.
  • Assassin's Creed has the Arc Words of "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" and examines how this idea evolves and applies to different individuals and contexts.
    • The real theme is the struggles of history itself, that our ancestors are humans, and for all our relative progress, people are still the same more or less. Great figures in history have Feet of Clay and are more human and down to earth than expected and that humanity is only the inheritance of all past achievements and that descendants have a responsibility to make "all this suffering worth something".
    • The struggle between the Assassins and Templars is about the nature of power and freedom. To what extent do people need leaders to define and direct their lives and to what extent does democracy work, both the Assassins and Templars have a millennia long philosophical debate over this with no real resolution, with the running theme of compromise, failure and Humans Are Flawed.
  • Batman Arkham Series:
    • How far can a man be pushed until he breaks?
    • The theme of the second game is specifically a question of whether criminals deserve basic fundamental human rights, to what extent do the worst of humanity command compassion and restraint and what does it say about a society that decides to wash their hands off them and simply corral them to a dustbin where they will eventually be subject to Kill 'em All.
  • Beyond Good & Evil: Question everything. Never take truth for granted.
  • Bioshock:
    • No philosophy or vision of greatness, however well-intentioned, long survives contact with human flaws.
    • Alternatively, it's important to live and rule by a philosophy that accounts for and understands human flaws.
    • When a person devotes their entire life to opposing an evil, it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid becoming like one's enemy in the process.
  • BioShock Infinite: Constants and variables (some things can be changed, others cannot).
  • BlazBlue:
    • The struggle of free will versus predestination.
    • Summed up by the announcer: "The wheel of fate is turning. Rebel one. Action!"
  • Borderlands: The love of money is the root of all evil.
  • Borderlands 2: In addition to continuing the above theme, "hatred" is important. Over the course of the game, you begin to hate Handsome Jack as a true evil force that needs to die rather than a funny Faux Affably Evil jackass, and he in turn comes to truly hate you for everything you've done in the course of disrupting his plans.
    Anthony Burch: Now, I totally acknowledge that this is the creepiest and most negative sounding theme ever, and I’m not gonna throw out that little tidbit if I'm ever asked to defend videogames as an expressive medium, but there it is.
  • Bravely Default: What takes the most courage of all, is the courage to refuse.
  • Catherine: Part of being an adult is accepting the consequences of your actions.
  • Chrono Trigger - The actions of even a few can change the future in a significant way.
  • The Civilization series: What does it take to raise a civilization from nothing to greatness?
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberium: Will you embrace change or resist it?
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Is there really a better world than what we have now?
  • Condemned Criminal Origins: The homeless, and middle/upper-class society's view of them.
  • Dark Souls: Fire, death, what beauty means in the Crapsack World of Dark Souls, and ultimately, Humans Are Good.
  • Deus Ex: Worries of the modern age, in particular self-aware AI, governmental conspiracies, the rise of cybernetics, and the loss of an easy way out.
  • The Dragon Age series as whole: Loyalty and friendship can change a Crapsack World for the better.
  • Fahrenheit: Guilt, murder, and redemption (basically all the words written behind Lucas on the cover art).
    • Heavy Rain: How far are you willing to go for someone else's sake?
    • Beyond: Two Souls: Death and growing up, especially growing up in stressful situations.
  • The Fallout series: Even After the End people will still try to kill one another.
    War... war never changes.
    • Via Word of God, the series' other central theme is that you need to let go of the past. In New Vegas in particular there is a direct correlation between a faction's evilness on the karma meter and how tightly they cling to the values of the past.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has a theme beyond that, and a different one for each DLC. In the game overall, it's that all power is a gamble (appropriate for Vegas) and small things can tip huge scales.
      • In Dead Money: Obsession is a cage. (Begin again, let go.)
      • In Honest Hearts: We're all tribes in the end and family forgives no matter what, so long as you admit that you went wrong.
      • In Old World Blues: The Wasteland may be harsh, but the Old World was no kinder. Look to the future - not for something better, but to make it better.
      • In Lonesome Road: One person with one careless action can leave unimaginable scars, and the power of symbols - particularly flags.
      • The theme of letting go of the past plays a key role in each DLC. In Dead Money, the fall of the Sierra Madre came from its owner's efforts to keep the woman he loved safe forever, and the main plot is driven by each character's inability to let go of the reasons why they originally came to the Sierra Madre. In Honest Hearts, you decide whether Joshua Graham lets go of his past or embraces it. In Old World Blues, the peaceful ending of the DLC has you convincing the Think Tank they need to let go of their mad science and leave the Mojave be. Finally, Lonesome Road centers around Ulysses' inability to let go of the ideals of Hopeville after the Courier unknowingly caused its destruction.
    It's said war - war never changes. Men do, through the roads they walk.
  • Far Cry 2: War for the sake of war, and that eventually the only way to make it end is to save the innocent and kill everyone else, including yourself.
  • Far Cry 3: Insanity, the blurred line between fantasy and reality, and whether or not a normal person can ever be good again if they choose to go down the rabbit hole and embrace their inner warrior.
    "Have I ever told you the definition of insanity?" (It's doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result.)
  • Once Final Fantasy started to develop genuine plots, it began to look at themes:
  • Fire Emblem - Teamwork and camaraderie.
  • Ever since the jump to 3D, the Grand Theft Auto series has been about betrayal and revenge. Claude's motivation throughout Grand Theft Auto III appears to be revenge on various people for betraying him, in particular Catalina. The reverse idea - loyalty to your True Companions - figures strongly into the plot of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV: Your past scars your future. Every character has one mistake they regret and try to fix it in some way or another. Most importantly, is the American Dream still alive?
    • Grand Theft Auto V: In an age where everyone is willing to betray, kill and steal in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, is loyalty still a virtue worth dying for?
  • G-Senjou no Maou: In this world, there are only those who use money and those who get used by money.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Poor Communication Kills, Sinners must atone for their sins and not blame someone else for them.
  • Killer7: Every nation has its own culture, and one nation forcing its culture onto another will only make the other nation bitter.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: The nature of memory seems to be observed in this game. All kinds of memories are observed, from Sora's true memories to the fake memories of the Riku Replica. The game even seems to suggest that even false memories can be of importance.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Is redemption truly possible for everyone?
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Even seemingly innocuous actions can have unforseen long-term consequences.
  • The Last of Us:
    • Partnership. Just about every named character has or had some sort of partner or companion.
    • Selfishness comes in at a close second. There's rare exceptions but the motivations of almost all the characters have some degree of selfishness to them.
  • Left 4 Dead is interesting in that the theme - The Power of Friendship - is almost entirely told through gameplay, e.g. committing traitorous acts such as running away from your team will draw a tank or hunter to you, getting you and probably everybody else killed.
  • Legacy of Kain: Take a Third Option. There's always one somewhere.
    • The developers of the first game in the series described its core motif as "What is evil? Perhaps it is only a perspective." This theme has coloured every game in the series to a greater or lesser extent, with its extensive use of Grey and Grey Morality.
  • Legend Of Heroes VI: No one person, no matter what they've done in the past, no matter what they've done with their lives, is completely beyond love and redemption. Any life can be given meaning so long as you're willing to reach out to a person.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Time changes everything.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: The Power of Friendship heals all. It's also about dealing with despair.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Nothing lasts forever. Growth is another major element.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Power corrupts.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Destiny, weaponry, and the role of a hero as a weapon wielded by fate.
  • Lollipop Chainsaw: Love always finds a way.
  • MadWorld: Humans Are Bastards, and this isn't about to change any time soon. All you can really do is is stiffen your spine and keep going.
    • Anarchy Reigns: When, if ever, is it right to take the law into your own hands?
  • Mass Effect: Can a single person change the fate of the galaxy?
    • Also the fact that sometimes, no matter how hard you try or how well you think you're doing, you can never get a flawless victory. Sacrifices must be made, and you can't save everyone. Despite this, things can always get better.
    • And actions that you take, no matter how small or insignificant, can come back to haunt (or help) you later. We are the summation of our choices.
    • Centrally, the story of all three games seems to have a great deal to do with the emergence of AI and the way the inevitable conflict with organics will be played out or resolved. This itself can be tied into the greater theme of parenthood and creators-verus-creations. We dare you to find a single main character in the game who doesn't have some sort of family issue. If you actually do, they'll probably instead have issues with their mentors, trainers, employees/employers, oldest friends, or someone else who could be said to have created or been created by them.
    • The risks of cultures and societies achieving things they haven't earned are presented multiple times throughout the series, and are central to the choices at the end of all three games.
    • No matter how impossible it may seem, a Third Option can be there when you need it most.
    • Being the person in charge is not always fun or glamourous, especially in this case.
  • Metal Gear Solid has several themes interwoven through the series:
    • Pacifism is good and War Is Hell.
    • There is a large difference between reality and fiction.
    • Though you are influenced by your situation, it's your choices that determine who you are.
    • Your past will haunt you for the rest of your life.
    • On another note, the games also have themes that are often summed up in a single word. The first Metal Gear Solid had the theme of "GENE". The theme of MGS2 was "MEME". The theme of MGS3 was "SCENE". The theme of MGS4 was "SENSE". The theme of Peace Walker was "PEACE". And the theme of Revengeance is "REVENGE". For Metal Gear Solid V, the themes are pain and loss. Or, more accurately, the pain that comes from a loss. These themes tend to crop up a lot in the game that they describe, although they are often referenced in other games. To the extent that mission packs for the multiplayer of 4 were named the "GENE" "MEME" and "SCENE" expansions, and all included elements from MGS1, MGS2, and MGS3 respectively.
  • Metroid - Isolation and self-reliance.
  • Mortal Kombat: How the world is worth fighting, killing and dying for.
  • NieR: Futility and the true meaning of a sacrifice.
  • No More Heroes: Violence and revenge both have consequences and are more than "just a game".
  • Persona: You can't run from yourself. Doubles as the core theme to the Persona series as a whole.
    • Persona 2: How rumors affect reality. Personal responsibility for making the world what it is and what we want it to be, and the consequences of failing to take responsibility.
    • Persona 3: No matter what, hope for the future. Nothing is ever truly hopeless.
      • Also: Remember that you will die one day (Memento Mori), but do not long for death and instead live your life to the fullest.
      • For The Answer it seems to be: Remember those who have died and cherish their lives instead of regretting their deaths.
    • Persona 4: Is the truth attainable? Can one successfully dispel the fog of deception?
  • Pikmin - Teamwork. Alone we are weak. Together we can do anything.
  • Planescape: Torment - You Can't Fight Fate. The Nameless One may save and redeem his companions, civilizations and his enemies, but in the end he simply can't save himself.
    • Most themes in the game (including whether it errs on the side of Screw Destiny or You Can't Fight Fate) depends on how you play it and personal interpretation of the ending. However, one of the larger ones, one that links in with the Arc Words ("What can change the nature of a man?") is that of Change. What changes, what doesn't, and whether anything can't.
  • Pokémon:
  • Prince of Persia (at least the Sands of Time sub-series): Every action has consequences. You can't evade them forever.
  • Red Dead Redemption: Everyone eventually pays for what they've done.
    • Progress always wins out over raw savagery.
  • The Reconstruction: Scope; the necessity to understand all sides of the story and the full truth before one can make the correct decision, and the danger of jumping to conclusions. However, you must acquire the necessary knowledge without also losing sight of what is truly important.
    "How far back must we stand before we can see everything ahead? And...does that mean we must lose sight of what was closest to begin with?"
    • This is strongly represented by the Multiple Endings; if you get the normal ending, your scope stays in place, and does not expand. In the Golden Ending, your scope explodes, as you realize the story was Science Fiction all along, not Fantasy.
    • I Miss the Sunrise is the inverse of this; whereas The Reconstruction's scope went from small to big, here the focus is on big to small.
  • Rise of Legends: In the end, is there any difference between magic and technology?
  • Quite unusually for an over-the-top, uber-silly action game, Sengoku Basara 3 has a fairly downbeat one, seeming to be about how all the fun times and glory days are either over and done with or coming to an end. Instances include Mitsunari's total anguish over the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Motochika constantly muttering "those days are long gone", Oichi degenerating into a Psychopathic Woman Child, Yoshihiro still fighting despite knowing his generation's practically over, the lack of well-known characters from previous games due to plot purposes... oh, and being set at the very tail-end of the Sengoku Jidai is a fair indicator. Still, considering the plotline about Tenkai attempting to resurrect Demon King Nobunaga and succeeding, maybe it is telling us that it's better to move on.
  • Rule of Rose: The difference between an adult and a child's mentality, the difference between fairy tales and reality (and how the two combine), and the different forms of love.
  • Saints Row: Power can be lost as easily as it can be gained.
  • Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri: Even on other worlds, humanity is still human... but can it become something more?
  • All of the Silent Hill games have one (with the possible exception of Origins).
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
  • SimCity: What it takes to run a city efficiently (...or inefficiently).
  • The Sims: Even everyday life can be exciting!
    • Life goes on.
  • Sly Cooper: Envy gets one no where. All the Big Bads in the series have been driven by jealousy, primarly of the Cooper Clan.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog CD - Technology is not inherently evil as long as mankind does not misuse it. The Bad Future shows us a portrait of a world overrun completely by technology but Good Futures illustrate technology and nature co-existing in harmony, making for a better Little Planet.
    • Sonic Adventure 2:
      • A common motif in this game seems to be misunderstanding. For example, Sonic is mistaken for Shadow and wrongly arrested. Shadow misunderstands Maria's final request and nearly destroys humanity instead of protecting it as she wanted him to.
      • Are people good, or evil?
    • Sonic Heroes - The supah awesome power of TEAMWORK!
    • Sonic and the Black Knight - Who Wants to Live Forever?
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) - A question often asked in this game is whether or not one person should suffer for the good of the world. Since Elise is used as a living seal for Iblis the world is safe from destruction, but she obviously suffers from it and has to force herself not to cry so as to not release the god through her tears. After being confronted about it by Amy, Silver wonders whether or not it's right to kill Sonic to save the future and later on in the story Silver is reluctant to seal Iblis inside of Blaze thus sending her into another dimension and out of his life even though doing so will keep the world safe. At the end of the game, when Elise has to blow out the Iblis Flame to stop it from ever existing, she is hesitant to do so since that will erase the meeting between her and Sonic. She even cries, "I don't care what happens to the world!" She has to choose between herself and everyone else.
  • Starcraft:
  • Super Paper Mario - The Power of Love, any and all love. All the bosses represent some form of perverted love, and all the characters showing genuine love end up redeemed. Almost every NPC talks about or shows some form of love, whether it be romantic love, friendship, familial, even love for the environment.
  • Tales of Symphonia: It's never too late to atone for one's sins. Every life has value, and everyone deserves the right to live happily.
    • Tales of Vesperia: Making your own choices. It's better to choose what you want to do or what you feel is right, rather than resign yourself to what others expect of you or what you think you have to do.
    • Tales of Xillia: It is better to work together to forge a better future for everyone instead of mindlessly devoting yourself to a single cause.
    • Tales of the Abyss: Don't let prophecy or fatalism decide your actions. Your family, your nation, or the circumstances of your birth don't define who you are; only you can do that.
  • Tekken: The conflict between succeeding generations.
  • Tenchu: The need to exercise power wisely and responsibly.
  • Thief: You can only run from your responsibilities for so long.
    • In addition: At some point, all causes, movements and systems will fall prey to corruption. The greatest danger any of them face is always, always from within.
  • Twisted Metal: Pursuing your dream at any cost.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Because of love, we are able to see things that we could not see before. But because of love, we also see things that shouldn't exist.
    • The difference between facts and truth and that truth is, in most cases, entirely subjective.
  • Uncharted: Luck, Honor (or lack thereof), and Deception, respectively.
  • Warcraft III: The evils of Fantastic Racism.
  • The World Ends with You: To truly live, you have to reach out to the world.
  • Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant: Do you have free will? Does anyone? Does mankind? Or is it all destiny, preordained long ago?
  • Xenoblade: Screw Destiny. Humanity should the one to decide its own fate.
  • Xenogears: Everyone is broken and trying to become whole—often at any cost.
  • Xenosaga: Clinging to the past perpetuates suffering; progress comes about by letting go.

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