Burn the whole city... that's pretty extreme for the life of one woman. Caine:
Fuck the city. I'd burn the world to save her.
The hero makes it uncomfortably plain that they value the life of their Love Interest
over those of everyone else: friends, family
, True Companions
, or even all other life in the universe. Can come about as the result of a Sadistic Choice
, only having enough time to rescue one person out of several, or whatever other requirements the plot puts in their way and well, plainly making a decision.
As long as the hero takes a third option
or at least shows a decent amount of angst
over the decision, the audience may
sympathize. But the hero will seem to suffer from Moral Dissonance
if he makes the choice a little too easily, or if the exchange of life is ridiculously high. It can be downright absurd if the couple in question were Strangled by the Red String
or if they've only known each other for a short time
. Then again, it could also be done in such a way that makes the audience feel the hometown/nation/world deserved it for relentlessly abusing the hero.
Another ridiculous aspect is that only
the hero can rescue his Love Interest
. The hero is able to rescue her
while allies who should be more efficient are helpless.
Sometimes the hero will find a way to save both the love interest and everyone else
. If done right, the hero can come out looking even more clever and badass. Often times, though, the "The Needs of the Many
" argument will fall on deaf ears.
Not to be confused with Men Are the Expendable Gender
, which covers the Double Standard
where women in general are more likely to be rescued than men.
See also Hostage for MacGuffin
. Contrast Loved I Not Honor More
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Anime & Manga
- Heavily subverted in Sin City: The Big Fat Kill, Dwight McCarthy offers Jackie Boy's head to Manute (which will allow Manute to tie Jackie Boy's death to Old Town) in exchange for Gail. Dwight's stuffed the head with explosives and as soon as it's in Manute's hands, blows it up as dozens of Old Town girls show up on the rooftops, raining bullets into the alley, killing Manute and all his men.
- Also extremely subverted in Ultimate Fantastic Four during the Ultimatum storyline. Reed Richards chooses to confront Doctor Doom and save the world at large, abandoning his dying girlfriend, Sue. Eventually, she calls him out for it and breaks up with him. He explains that he made the "logical" choice, as saving the world would ultimately mean saving her as well. Sue remarks that she always felt that their love defied logic, and leaves him.
- Absolutely subverted at the end of the Argentine comic book El Eternauta (the second volume). After blowing up the enemy headquarters, the hero flies to help La Résistance. When he arrives to the war scene, he must choose to help either his wife and daughter at one side of the battlefield, or the bulk of the women and children of the small population of last remaining humans. He goes for the later and saves them, but by the time he can go to help his wife and daughter, they have died.
- Surprisingly played straight in the 2011 run of Journey into Mystery. When Loki is confronted by the Leah who he created for the Serpent's story he decides to risk everything to give her a chance at having a better future
- In Y: The Last Man the three astronauts (two male, one female) who avoided the effects of the male-killing plague crashland on earth, their pod in flames from a missile attack. One of them is able to escape the pod before it explodes. It's the woman, who reveals that the other two basically threw her out against her protests. Another character remarks on the apparent stupidity of the chivalry in a world where males are desperately needed, but the woman reveals that it's most likely because she was pregnant with one of the two's sons.)
- A Growing Affection: Naruto's actions during the Dojutsu Tournament arc. He puts Hinata above everyone else (including himself) multiple times in the four chapters.
- Evangelion 303: In chapter 10 Gendo chided his son for neglecting his duties and to be so fully focused on a pretty girl that he does not care what happens to the rest of the world.
Gendo: You disappoint me… Letting your emotional ties to a pretty girl blind you to the crying needs of the entire civilized world… You would turn your back on every innocent soul on the planet because you can’t see past your infatuation.
- In Perfection Is Overrated, Toki is willing to alter events so that Mai, Natsuki and Nao's tragic pasts are changed and they never end up at Fuuka Academy, thereby risking a temporal paradox, so that she can be together with Hayate- all details about Hayate are intentionally left vague, and the Usurper even questions her superficial attraction to him compared to how far she will go to have him by her side.
- The Second Try: In the original timeline Gendo was willing turning the whole humankind into primordial soup only to see his wife again, and Shinji lost his will to fight when he saw Asuka was dead, letting the world die. And in the altered timeline Shinji almost caused the Third Impact again when he thought Asuka had been killed because he could not stand losing her. Deconstructed because later he realized that he really would have lost everything if he would have done so.
Yui: Is it okay now?
Shinji: Yeah. She's fine. That's all that matters to me.
- In Scar Tissue, a character summarizes Shinji's actions in End of Evangelion:
"You killed last every human being because you wouldn't have the guts to save her [Asuka]. Then, you gave a big fuck you to Instrumentality to bring her back".
- Thousand Shinji: His girlfriend Asuka, Rei and Misato were the three persons more precious to Shinji. When Asuka and Misato got killed and Rei showed up to grant him his deepest wish he asked her bringing them back, not matter the cost. The cost was Third Impact.
- When Cordelia tried explaining to Xander in And Another Thing I Hate About You that the Powers-That-Be could very well have had a plan that saved the world but required her death, Xander angrily says the Powers can go to hell. Nobody hurts his girls.
- In Necessary To Win, Maho defies this trope. While her primary motivation for being heiress of the Nishizumi school, which requires upholding her mother's winning at all costs ideology and meeting her difficult expectations, is Miho's happiness, Maho doesn't give Miho's happiness disproportionate weight, and is unwilling to use methods to further her goals that would cause many people to suffer.
Was upholding the Nishizumi style, or even Maho's ulterior motive for doing so, worth the lives of those girls in that fallen tank? Maho did not believe it was, and desperately hoped for the welfare of the girls who crewed Tank 6.
Films — Animation
- Disney's Hercules pulls this with Hercules giving away his powers to make Megara safe. It leads to Fridge Horror when you consider what would have happened if an unlucky accident hadn't killed Megara and returned his powers. Though Hercules falls straight into Good Is Dumb.
Films — Live Action
- The Dark Knight Saga:
- The Joker is counting on this in The Dark Knight, as he tells Batman the two hostages' locations backwards to ensure that he saves Dent even though he wanted to save the girl.
- Bane in The Dark Knight Rises plans on this when he captures Miranda Tate, knowing that Batman will come to her rescue. However, it's quickly revealed that Miranda is a Decoy Damsel.
- Also Batman Forever, but subverted as Batman knows he wouldn't be able to save either the girl or Robin, then he goes and saves both anyway because he's just that good.
- Star Wars
- Attack of the Clones plays with the trope. Anakin finally accepts continuing the more important mission while Padmé seems to be hurt, but it turns out she isn't even injured in any significant way.
- Deconstructed in Revenge of the Sith. Anakin Skywalker turns to the Dark Side, kills off all the Jedi, and turns a Republic into an Empire to save the life of his wife Padme Amidala. He loses his temper, chokes her, and she dies anyway soon afterwards.
- The Matrix Reloaded, in which Neo, faced with a choice between restarting the free human race with 7 other males and 16 females to rebuild Zion and returning to the Matrix (which the Architect says will result in the end of the free human population, and will crash the Matrix killing the non-free humans there) decides to return to the Matrix to save Trinity. At least, until The Matrix Revolutions...
- The Architect also pointed out that the previous "One's" loved humanity in a general sense, leading them to sacrifice most of the population for the sake of the species as a whole. Due to the Oracle's influence, Neo loved Trinity more than humanity, directly leading to humanity's freedom.
- There's the choice given in the first Spider-Man film where Peter is forced to choose between Mary Jane's life and the lives of some children in a cablecar. It appears for a moment as if he's chosen M.J., but actually he's Taken a Third Option.
- In the first Hellboy film, the villain Rasputin offers Hellboy the choice of bringing about the Apocalypse to gain enough power to save his desouled girl, Liz, or to save the world and lose her forever. Hellboy initially sees this as no choice at all, and begins the procedure of summoning the Ogdru Jahad and ending the world, before Myers throws Hellboy his father's cross. The cross burns into his flesh, reminding him that this is his choice. Save the world, or save Liz, and his father always did say that a man is made by his choices. He then chooses the world, tears off his newly regrown horns, and stabs Rasputin to death with one of them. There is then a Double Subversion when he he saves the girl anyway by intimidating the thing in charge . A newly awoken and somewhat confused Liz asks him how he saved her. His answer?
- In the second film this is played straight by both Abe and Liz. Abe tries to save his porcelain princess by giving her brother the MacGuffin that controls the Golden Army (which nearly drove humanity extinct last time it was used) while Liz, after being told by an Angel of Death that Hellboy would bring about the Apocalypse, tells Hellboy's Angel of Death to sod off and save him anyway. This successfully doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, since it shows just how much Liz trusts Hellboy (and, as the director's commentary points out, is the humane decision to make), but she still screwed the world to save her man.
- Parodied in The Naked Gun 33 1/3. Rocco tells Frank to give him the bomb or he'll shoot Jane. A long discussion about the possible consequences of each action, and which is preferable, ensues. It doesn't help that the terms keep changing.
- In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy offers to let the Nazis keep the Ark in exchange for Marion, threatening to destroy the Ark if they don't comply. Belloq calls his bluff (as an archeologist, Indy can't bring himself to destroy the Ark, even to keep it out of the Nazis' hands) and Indy gets captured.
- The King in Spaceballs sacrifices himself and the entire population of his home planet, just so the princess doesn't get her old nose back.
- Parodied in D.E.B.S., where the girl doesn't want to be saved as she's in a Girls Love relationship with the villainess.
- Subverted at first in The Spy Who Shagged Me where Austin decides to save the world and let the Girl of the Week die, but later Double Subverted when he lets Dr. Evil escape so he can use Evil's time machine to save her.
- James Bond
- In The Spy Who Loved Me, 007 chooses to defy his superiors to save Anya Amasova from the villain's lair, which is about to be torpedoed by the navy. Considering that she said she would kill him as soon as the mission was over, this proves that he really did love her.
- In Golden Eye he subverts this trope by telling Janus to go ahead and kill Natalya, but this is actually a Batman Gambit. Of course, he ends up saving her.
- In The Wolfman (2010), Gwen's actions in protecting Lawrence from Aberline are understandable, but she is also putting the chance that he can be cured above the likelihood that he will kill again (and in fact Lawrence does end up infecting someone directly because of her.)
- Subverted in Plunkett And Macleane when despite Plunkett's warnings he'll be captured, Macleane attempts to to go back and save Lady Rebbecca despite the risks. It is a trap and General Chance is waiting to arrest him.
- In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, despite knowing the consequences of doing so, Dave gives up the Grimhold and Merlin's ring to save Becky. Despite the consequences, Balthazar admits that he would have done the same.
- A Boy and His Dog averts in the last ten minutes.
- Predators: Royce is a Combat Pragmatist who doesn't hesitate to abandon any one of the team that gets injured or falls behind, unless it's lone female Isabelle. The fact that he shrugs and moves on any time she deliberately stays behind to help the others makes it seem more like a spinal reflex on his part than adherence to an honor code.
- In Peter Jackson's King Kong, one of the members of the rescue party makes the perfectly reasonable observation that Anne is probably dead already, that a good number of the rescuers have just died, and the rest of them will probably either get killed or get left behind, since their ship will sail without them if they are not back in time. He is immediately accused of being a Dirty Coward by The Hero, and since the character has been an arrogant douchebag for the entire film, we are presumably meant to hate him even more for the heinous crime of not wanting to die horribly for an almost certainly lost cause.
- In fact, the character's Scrappyness for the rest of the film ( his Big Damn Heroes Crowning Moment of Awesome notwithstanding) almost seems to have been inserted specifically to make the audience hate him enough to disagree with him as a matter of principle. While he does not put forward his case particularly well, the points he makes are completely valid, and would likely have many members of the audience agreeing with his argument if it had been put forward by a more likable character. His point remains valid even though Anne is brought back alive; of the seventeen people who die on the island, fifteen were killed trying to find her. No matter how much you might love Anne, is that really a price you want to pay?
- In the MST3Ked film The Magic Sword, a young prince leads a band of knights on a quest to rescue his lady love. All the knights are killed along the way. At no point does anyone even mention that fact that several good men have died to save a single life and several more are likely to before the thing is done.
- Pretty much the same thing happens in Krull. At least the prince manages to kill a horrible beast that would likely murder countless people if not stopped in the process (and a few of his allies survive), but it's clear that he's only in it to save the princess.
- Discussed in Courage Under Fire, which reflected a real-life shift in the U.S. military's attitudes toward women in combat. As noted under "Real Life" below, female soldiers themselves weren't a problem, but prior experience suggested that male colleagues would endanger themselves or the mission to protect the woman.
- In Zombieland, this trope causes Columbus to change one of his Rules of Zombieland (Never Be A Hero) and face his greatest fear (a Monster Clown) in order to save Wichita.
- In Looper, the future Joe will just about anything to save his wife. However, when given an option to stop his past self from meeting her, he refuses. He cannot sacrifice their relationship.
- In The Three Musketeers (2011), this is Double Subverted. D'Artagnen is at first reluctantly willing to ignore Constance (who has been captured by the villains) and continue with their mission, saying that the fate of France is more important. Athos urges him to save her, or else he will save France only to become a lonely and bitter man like him after he lost Milady de Winter. The Musketeers then save her.
- Averted in Jack the Giant Slayer. Brahmwell decides to cut down the beanstalk to save the kingdom, even if it means his daughter will be left trapped with the Giants.
- Enforced in Ex Machina. Both Nathan and Ava separately work to see if Caleb will do this, manipulating him into considering Ava a princess in the tower who needs rescued. And maybe she does, but there's much more to her than that.
Live Action TV
- Smallville: Clark does this where Lana is concerned on more than one occasion. He generally does find a way to Take a Third Option, but it came to a head in "Requiem", where Lex Luthor posed a sadistic choice to Clark and the now-superpowered Lana: allow Lana to absorb the kryptonite radiation from a bomb and save the city but sacrifice their ability to be together, or let the city die in order to preserve their romance. Clark and Lana agonize over what to do, but ultimately they decide to do the heroic thing. The Sadistic Choice involved—and the evilly elegant way he Out-Gambitted Clark and Lana into putting themselves in this position in the first place— marked this as perhaps the episode where Lex Luthor officially became the diabolical Magnificent Bastard and Chessmaster we all know and love-to-hate in the comics.
- "Bride" and "Legion": When Brainiac possessed Chloe's body, he/she/it proceeds to drain the world of its knowledge and readies Doomsday to destroy what is left. With great difficulty, Clark manages to save both Chloe and the world - but the most heartwarming part is how they provide the page quote of The Needs of the Many.
- The BBC's Robin Hood, when the outlaws and Marian are all taken hostage. Take a wild guess who Robin's the most afraid for. (Poor Much.)
- Happens again in Season Three in which all the outlaws abandon a house that has caught on fire in order to rush off and save Kate. One can only assume the villagers were not too impressed.
- Kira in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine found out about Odo's feelings about her when she encountered an alternate future where she had died when the Defiant crashed on a planet and the crew formed a town. The cast were subject to The Time Traveller's Dilemma as going back to change things would result in those being born in the town never existing. Odo pretty much committed chronocide, not just on himself but on the crew of the Defiant and their descendants without even thinking about it. Unlike many instances of this trope, however, Kira's knowledge of this would create a rift between them that would take months to heal.
- Worf in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fails to save a Cardassian dissident because he goes back to save an injured Jadzia Dax (who dies anyway a few episodes later).
- In Firefly, one of the villains presents Zoe with a Sadistic Choice between a captive Mal and Wash. She surprises the villain by immediately choosing her husband over her captain/war-buddy before he can even finish. Subverted in that, fans are still torn over whether she did this because Wash is her first priority or for the coldly logical reason that Mal will survive the villain's "gentle" ministrations long enough for her to rescue him as well.
- In Doctor Who, the Doctor, particularly Ten, puts his companions (who are usually, if not always, young and female) before anyone else. Also, Ten's era suggests that his companions represent his humanity in a universe full of mass death; as seen in "The Fires of Pompeii" when Donna convinces him to go back for one family among all those destroyed in Pompeii. It's mentioned some times that he feels responsible for them because it's his fault that they are in danger, since he brought them to wherever it is they are.
- As of Eleven, the Doctor has sacrificed three of his lives for a companion, two of them female.
- Then you have Rory:
The Doctor: All of creation has just been wiped from the sky. D'you know how many lives have now never happened, all the people who never lived? Your girlfriend isn't more important than the whole Universe.
Rory: (punches him)'' She is to me!
- River Song takes this trope to extremes, disintegrating Time itself to keep from killing spoiler:the Doctor.
- Amy gets in on it too. To hell with time and space, Amy Pond wants to be with her husband.
- A mild version in Torchwood, which might even count as a somewhat Out-of-Character Moment for Captain Jack Harkness. In the third miniseries, Children of Earth, Jack is facing the alien menace 456 and is prepared to lead humanity in a war against them to protect the children of the Earth. Then the 456 releases a virus in the building, while Jack's love interest Ianto is in it. When it's apparent Ianto can't escape and will be killed by the virus, Jack recants and begs the 456 to spare Ianto in return for his surrender. By then it was too late and Ianto died in Jack's arms. It's unknown whether Jack really would have given up protecting humanity's children in exchange for Ianto's safety, or whether he was just bluffing in an attempt to save Ianto's life.
- makes it doubly ironic then that Jack later gives up his grandson's life for the sake of humanity's children. Ianto had at least signed up for the danger. Jack's grandson hadn't.
- Farscape makes this brutally clear at around the middle of the fourth and final season. Scorpius is on the ship and John is convinced he's only there because he craves the wormhole knowledge in John's head. So far over past seasons, Scorpius threatening John, his family, even the entirety of Earth hasn't made John give in. Meanwhile Aeryn, angry that she has done everything she can think of to tell him that she wants a relationship with him, confronts him on his emotional deadness... and John performs a neat trick that shuts down the comms long enough for him to explain that, yes, he'd let anything else be destroyed, but Aeryn and her child? Not in this universe. But if Scorpius knew that, he'd come after her immediately and he won't let that happen.
- Next episode, she gets kidnapped by Scarrans with similar designs on wormhole knowledge, forcing Crichton into a deal with Scorpius — trading the wormhole knowledge for his help in rescuing her. Whoopsidaisy.
- Incidentally, Crichton (and some fans) seem to believe that Scorpius wasn't fooled by the comm trick, and engineered the whole thing from beginning to end. Certainly he got all the information his big brain needed to puzzle out the truth during that same episode.
- Subverted in an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: the Evil Alien Computer put Buck through having to choose between Wilma Deering and Hawk (an alien from a Proud Warrior Race of birdmen). He chose Hawk because he guessed that Wilma was really a double put in by the Evil Alien Computer because the real Wilma Derring wouldn't have been such a wuss.
- Supernatural is a rare subversion where the heroes are more concerned with their Heterosexual Life Partner than with any Love Interests. Especially the moment in "All Hell Breaks Loose" where the hellgate opens: Sam, Ellen and Bobby try and shut it; Dean gets pinned to a grave by the Yellow-Eyed Demon, and Sam immediately goes to save his brother, leaving Ellen (who is a woman, but not a Love Interest) to try and shut one door by herself.
- Pushing Daisies: Ned keeps Chuck alive fully knowing someone else will die instead.
- In One Tree Hill there is such an amazing frequency of Lucas saving Peyton that it is even acknowledged by her saying "You're always saving me" repeatedly.
- John Connor in The Sarah Connor Chronicles finds Cameron — his Terminator love-interest — with her chip missing. Ignoring Judgment Day's impending arrival and his mission to stop it, he leaves his mother, and joins forces with a rogue T-1000 (liquid metal Terminator), jumping to the future in order to rescue her. In jumping after Cameron, John seems to have erased himself from the timeline, veritably sacrificing himself and his position of mankind's savior to save the "woman" he loves.
- In the first season finale of Dollhouse Omega!Echo allows Alpha to escape in order to retrieve Caroline's original wedge.
- This could be seen as a particularly selfish example, since Echo is Caroline (sort of).
- Also a fundamental part of Paul Ballard's personality; first he saves Mellie, then he gets to work protecting Echo from everything.
- On House, Foreman secretly switched Hadley from the placebo to the real drug in the drug trial he was working on, something that could end his career if it became known. Hadley was a bit weirded out by this, as they had only been dating for a couple of weeks.
- When the drug gave Hadley a brain tumor and turned her blind he was all set to openly tell his supervisors about it. They got better.
- Bill Adama does this twice in Battlestar Galactica, first to save his surrogate daughter Kara Thrace in "You Can't Go Home Again", then to save the woman he loves, President Laura Roslin, in "Sine Qua Non". Both times he's called on it by his colleagues and (eventually) realises they're right; fortunately fate rewards Adama's determination and returns both women to him.
- Angel nearly makes this choice when he learns that the only way to save Fred is to let hundreds of thousands of people die in her place. He initially spits out an angry "to hell with the world" and storms off to perform the ritual as the scene cuts away. When it returns, though, he's still standing at the threshold, unable to actually go through with it, and he finally, sadly turns away.
- Buffy, meanwhile, is willing to let the entire world die in torment to save Dawn. Notably, Dawn thinks this is crazy, and insists that Buffy let her die. She takes a third option. It doesn't fit on the surface, but Word of God says that Dawn was intended to fill the dramatic role of Love Interest from Season 5 on out.
- On The X-Files, this isn't even a thought for Mulder in terms of Scully; he seems to do it on pure instinct. Mulder is so predictable when his partner is taken, that the villains of the story exploit it. In the 1998 movie Fight the Future, one of Syndicate suggests that instead of killing Mulder, they must "Take away what he holds most valuable. That with which he can't live without." with the next scene showing Scully staring off into the horizon. True to form, Mulder doesn't hesitate to save her, even when it includes going to Antartica and breaking into a top-secret space craft.
- It works the other way around, too, in which Scully will risk everything to save Mulder. She doesn't even let being pregnant get in the way of heading her own private investigation into his abduction, which involves driving cross-country and confronting alien replacements. In fact, it is Skinner who tries to convince her that Mulder wouldn't want her to do this if he had known her condition.
- 24 loves playing with this trope; both Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida are put into Sadistic Choice scenarios at different points during the series run, and their differing reactions are part of what make Tony such an effective Foil for Jack. Jack does absolutely everything in his power to Take a Third Option on Day 1, but his wife ends up being killed anyway, having had the misfortune to find out the identity of The Mole. When Tony's turn comes two seasons later, he breaks down completely at the prospect of losing his wife and proceeds to play this trope 100% straight, despite it being presented in-universe as morally and legally indefensible. Agonizingly, it's Jack who has to force Tony almost literally kicking and screaming into taking a third option, despite knowing firsthand what kind of grief is in store for Tony if it doesn't work, and Tony once reminds Jack about he supposedly "let (his) wife die".
- In Flashpoint the rules against team members dating are there for this specific reason. During a dangerous situation the team and civilians could be put in danger if one of them breaks protocol to try and save their Love Interest.
- In one episode an undercover cop falls in love with a gangsters girlfriend. He then tips her off about the upcoming city wide bust so she is not arrested. As a result another cop gets shot, the gangster escapes, the undercover cop's career is ruined and the girl gets killed.
- From Merlin we have Guinevere on the one hand, and Camelot on the other. For Arthur, Merlin and all the Knights of the Round Table, Guinevere always comes first.
- Given a few twists in Babylon 5 episode "Comes the Inquisitor". The Vorlons send the Inquisitor to see if Delenn has the right stuff to be one of the Chosen Ones in the fight against the Shadows. At the end of the episode the Inquisitor puts the life of her love interest on the line, saying that she can only save Captain Sheridan by giving up her fight against the Shadows. She chooses to save Sheridan... and it turns out this is exactly what the Vorlons were looking for: "How do you know the Chosen Ones? No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Not for millions. Not for glory, not for fame... For one person."
- Sherlock loves this trope. After first disappearing Irene Adler is revealed to have died, only for it have been a ruse. Several months later, Mycroft reveals that she really has been killed by a terrorist cell, for certain this time. We end on a scene of Irene about to be executed, fading to black. Subverted once more, when the ringtone she left on Sherlock's phone rings, revealing her executioner to be Sherlock, who raises the sword and instead charges at the terrorists.
Sherlock: *Chuckles* The woman... the woman...
- Something like this also happens in "The Blind Banker" - Sherlock pulls a Big Damn Heroes to save John and his girlfriend Sarah when they get captured by the Black Lotus. When General Shen manages to get away, Sherlock is torn between chasing after her or freeing Sarah and, even though John notes that it bothers him he let General Shen get away, he still chooses to stay behind and help Sarah, even though she was out of immediate danger by that point.
- This also gets subverted in the same episode where John grabs the Idiot Ball and rushes off to save Sherlock when the latter is getting shot at in a museum, leaving Soo Lin by herself, where she gets killed by her brother.
- In Series/Warehouse13, Pete's primary concern is Myka's safety.
- Wizards of Waverly Place uses this. Justin saved Alex countless times and Juliet when she was kidnapped by the mummy.
- The Doctor Who Big Finish play Neverland has an example where the Doctor refuses to shoot his friend Charley, even though she's a temporal anomaly that poses a threat to the whole Universe by her very existence.
- Alpha Protocol allows you to either plays it straight or subverts it. You even gets tailored answers about it, calling you out or congratulating you about it.
- One particular option (Rome) is to either save the day, or save the girl. If you save the day, everyone tells you that you did the right thing, but Mike is still racked with guilt about it. If you save the girl, everyone tells you that you did the wrong thing, including the girl that you saved. And Mike is racked with guilt about it. And The Bad Guy Wins either way.
- In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil decides to hand over the last remaining crystal that Golbez needs for world domination in order to save Rosa's life. Turns out there are four more crystals after that, but he didn't know that at the time. And he didn't even do the exchange right.
- In one of the more poignant scenes in Tales of Symphonia, it is established that Colette will have to sacrifice her life and become an angel to save their world. Lloyd doesn't like this, and is just barely convinced by everyone, including her, that this is for the best. A subversion? Not quite. After several plot twists and a Boss Rush, Lloyd and party run off with Colette after all. And if that wasn't enough of a double subversion, Lloyd argues in a skit that because he was willing to sacrifice Colette for the sake of the entire world, he's a horrible person and a hypocrite.
- However, this is after Lloyd and the others as told by Sheena about Tethe'alla, so if Colette had gone with Remial and Kratos, Tethe'alla would have then been put in danger, which was the exact reason Sheena came to kill Colette in the first place. They Take a Third Option by trying to find a way to save both worlds.
- An earlier instance that arguably makes this even more poignant is the incident in which Governor-General Dorr cooperated with the Desians to get a cure for his mutated wife, resulting in many people being taken to the human ranches and used to harvest Exspheres. Lloyd gets angry at this, telling him that he's endangering many other people to save his own loved one, and ultimately saying that if he actually cared, he would have given up his position to get help for his wife, but Colette calms him down by telling him that not everyone is strong enough to resist the Desians. It's implied that Lloyd has, in the course of the above incident, realized what it's like to make a decision like this, especially when the choice that's ostensibly for the world's benefit won't necessarily be the best thing in practice.
- Taken to a literal extreme in the ending of Prince of Persia (2008), where the Prince releases the very same god of darkness he just sealed in order to revive his female sidekick Elika — who was the person he was helping to seal that god in the first place.
- Not only that, but the whole reason they were doing anything to begin with is that he was not the first person to do that.
- Nearly every line the Prince says in the Epilogue is him trying to justify what he did. As well as the above, he says that Elika's powers have grown, and if Ahriman didn't think she was a threat why is he pursuing them? The Ahura had been beaten before they rallied and sealed him away; if they could just repeat that somehow... For most of the epilogue, Elika doesn't listen, but at the end she leaves the Prince, saying she can't do it alone - she has to find her people.
- A moment in Metal Gear Solid 4 which garnered a lot of fan hatred towards Otacon was when Snake has just forced his way past the microwaves and is not only half-dead but screaming Otacon's name, and Otacon doesn't react. The second Naomi shows up in the video, Otacon starts crying hysterically and performs a symbolic hand-touch with her image. He'd known her for a week at absolute maximum and most likely a day, they'd had a one-night stand, and she'd then screwed him over royally and was betraying her actual partner to do it - yet Snake had been unfailingly and fiercely loyal to him ever since the moment they'd met nine years ago. It seemed powerfully unfair for sudden romantic love to be held in higher esteem than an incredibly deep and loving friendship that had been developed over the course of the series.
- The ending of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) has Elise debating whether or not to destroy the time-destroying evil sun god Solaris if it means she'll never meet Sonic, who thankfully assures her that the world's more important.
- There's also a gender-inverted example earlier in the game with Amy, following Silver's attempt at killing Sonic:
Amy: If I had to choose between the world and Sonic, I would choose Sonic!
- Resident Evil: This has become standard procedure for Leon after he believed Ada to have died in Resident Evil 2. His current VA, Matthew Mercer, actually commented on it in an interview:
Matt Mercer: "Even if a situation seems very dangerous and stupid and a total trap, if there’s a woman who needs help he can’t turn that down [...] And in the end of it he’ll feel better about himself knowing he went through the motions on the off chance whoever it was really needed help.”
- In Kingdom Hearts, Sora commites a Heroic Sacrifice in order to save Kairi. However, "saving her" is equal to "recreating the Big Bads opportunities to end the world, which he just foiled a few minutes ago". Especially stupid, because Sora's also the only one who could stop this End of the World as We Know It, since he's the one with the Keyblade. In the manga adaptation, he at least throws Donald the Keyblade before committing suicide, so his friends can take over the task. Turns out to be pointless, because it disappears as soon as he's gone anyway.
- This persists in Chain of Memories, where Sora tells Namine to shatter his heart and memories if it will mean saving her from harm at the hands of Marluxia, and that he'll still protect her even without his memories. Marluxia is amused at the naivete of this strategy, saying that Sora will be comatose if he loses his memories and unable to do anything. Of course, then something happens that challenges this claimnote , so it's unknown exactly what would have happened had Sora followed through with his initial plan.
- If Sly Cooper's love interest Carmelita is in danger, he will risk life and limb to save her even if he knows full well that he's headed into a trap; several of his enemies have used this to their advantage.
- inFAMOUS outright averts this when offered a sadistic choice by the villain to save Trish or a building full of doctors saving the girl is the evil choice to make and sacrificing her for the good of the many is the good one.
- Not only that, there's literally NO WAY to save her — you go to save her, she's a decoy and the real Trish is among the doctors. You save the doctors, she's the real Trish.
- Partially subverted in The Dig. When Maggie Robbins dies towards the end of the game, Boston Low can resurrect her using the crystals against good sense, and breaking your promise to her. If you choose to do this, she will commit suicide, die again and hate your guts forever. At the end of the game, the Cocytans will resurrect her and Brink, and her attitude towards you will depend on your choice.
- Deconstructed in Mass Effect. After making the Sadistic Choice on Virmire, if the person you saved was your Love Interest, they will call you out on this, blaming their relationship with you for the other's death. This becomes Harsher in Hindsight with Ashley, as one of her letters to her sister explicitly warns her not to get into that situation, although she assumes that she'll be the one making the decision.
- And if you start a new game in Mass Effect 2 without importing a save, the default is always the crewmember of the opposite sex being saved.
- And Paragon!Shepard is a lot nicer about it than most examples of this trope, possibly giving Ashley a bit of a speech on how she shouldn't blame herself for Kaidan's death, but should blame Saren instead for forcing you to choose.
- In a non-romantic sense, if Tali gets exiled on her loyalty mission, Shala'Raan, a friend of Tali's parents and the only admiral who cares what happens to her, will become furious with her and Shepard for not showing the evidence that would have exonerated her, although she calms down after a moment.
: "I don't give a vorcha's ass
about the fleet! I was trying to protect you, Tali!"
- In Armored Core 4, this is Gender-swapped, Fiona Jarnefeldt is hinted at being in love with the Player Character- but this is made clear if you're doing poorly on a particular mission on Hard Mode— the enemy has sent forces to destroy the city that you're trying to protect, and you can't use your radioactive Primal Armor, or you'll risk harming the innocent civilians of the city... if your AP falls below 25%, she'll choose to save you instead, and activate your Primal Armor anyways.
- In Chrono Cross, the flirtatious but practical harlequin, Harle, can ask the player character which he would choose: the world or her. If he chooses her, she is visibly affected and thanks him for saying so, even if it's only a kind lie.
- Lost Magic has one of the most obnoxious examples of this. The Big Bad asks the character to hand over the MacGuffins or else she'll kill the girl. If the player refuses, the girl disappears and the hero goes mad over her loss, gets brainwashed by the Big Bad, starts working for her, and hands over all the MacGuffins he had, all by the end of the next cutscene. The player then has to go around killing people and doing the Big Bad's bidding.
- The Force Unleashed: Starkiller disobeys a direct order from his master, Darth Vader, and rescues Juno Eclipse from The Empirical.
I've been branded a traitor to The Empire
. I can't go anywhere, do anything. Starkiller:
I don't care about any of that. I'm leaving The Empire
- In The Force Unleashed II, Starkiller is called out several times by Rahm Kota about how he doesn't care about the war between The Empire and the Rebel Alliance and just wants to rescue Juno.
- Dragon Age: Origins has a heartbreaking example, though it can be avoided by multiple ways, like accepting the deal that Morrigan offers near the end of the game. Still, if a female Warden romanced Alistair, he chooses to deliver the final blow to the Archdemon, killing himself in the process because he won't let the woman he loves die. And no, he can't be persuated out of his decision.
- The sequel lets your Player Character do this, if you romance Anders. You can let him live after he blows up the Chantry...despite all the fallout that comes with the decision, such as Sebastian swearing vengeance.
- It's very easy to see this in Starcraft 2, as Jim Raynor's interal conflict about what to do about the controlled/infested Kerrigan is obvious, and thus even though the Queen of Blades "murdered 8 billion people" as Raynor says himself, he is still haunted by the propect of getting her old self back. That is, until Raynor's Raiders and the Moebius Foundation manage to use a Xel'nagan artifact to cure Kerrigan, and infestation is normally 100% incurable because it "mutates too fast".
- Golden Sun gives us Felix's big Establishing Character Moment of Awesome at Venus Lighthouse: standing up to the endbosses over Sheba (at Level 5!), then jumping off the top of the Lighthouse to save her when she falls off, endangering himself and the mission to restore Alchemy to the world twice for the sake of some girl he implicitly just met.
- .hack//GU has this as a central theme in the story. Anti-Hero Haseo makes it clear right from the beginning that he intends to revive his comatose girlfriend Shino and doesn't care what he has to destroy in the process. This causes a LOT of problems, though Haseo mostly doesn't care... at first. Haseo's own character arc is, briefly put, his learning that although saving Shino is still important his friends and the other players matter too. Ironically, not only did Shino see him as Just Friends, he probably doesn't even end up with her anyway.
- At the Road Cone in Radiata Stories, Jack can choose to play this straight or avert it. Deciding to help Ridley brings about the destined end of humanity but leaves Jack with Ridley, while deciding to stay behind to aid the kingdom saves the human race at the cost of Ridley's life and Jack deciding to wander the earth a bit.
- In Fable III, at the beginning of the story you can choose between saving your childhood friend and/or lover, or saving a group of protesters who are dissatisfied with your older brother's regime. To make things worse if you're considering choosing the former, your childhood friend will practically beg you to choose him/her, while the protesters will grovel for their lives as you make your decision.
- In The Walking Dead video game, most players choose to save Carley over Doug, not that it matters much since the person you save ends up dying Episode 3 regardless of who it is. It's also averted in Episode 3, where most players choose to save the injured Omid over his Action Girlfriend Christa. In a subversion, however, the person you don't save will manage to catch up. The person you do save will berate you for saving them over the other, however.
- Played with in Savethe Date, where saving your date is literally the name of the game.
- Saints Row: The Third: You have to make this choice at the end of the last mission. You can either let Killbane escape and save Shaundi (and Viola and Burt Reynolds), or go after Killbane and condemn Shaundi (and the others) to die. The sequel makes the former choice canon, making it this trope.
- The game actually starts playing Bonnie Tyler's "I Need A Hero" when the choice comes up. It seems like the devs really wanted you to save her.
- An interesting variation in Radiant Historia: the rescue-ee isn't a love interest, but a family member, and the rescuer is the Big Bad. He figures that if either he or his nephew has to die to postpone the end of the world, then the world is so screwed up that it doesn't deserve to be saved. He resorted to borderline Mind Rape to avoid his nephew calling him on it.
- Allegretto in Eternal Sonata, more so in the PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release.
Allegretto: (to Frederic Chopin, PS3 version) Why did Polka, of all people, have to suffer like that? What the hell is wrong with this world!? Damn it! You! You come barging into our world out of nowhere, then just leave when you get tired of it! This is supposed to be your dream, right?! Well then, why couldn't you do anything!? No. That's not it. It isn't a dream at all. It's real. And I don't know what, but I have to do something!
- In Fate/stay night Heaven's Feel route, things take a different turn than normal as Shirou basically says 'Screw all that other stuff, I'm saving Sakura even if she might start devouring the town or go berserk.' When asked directly whether he wishes to save the girl or protect the town and by extension his ideal itself, he picks the girl despite the destruction this will probably entail. If you don't do it, you get a bad end. To make things worse, she knows and realises this, and is desperately torn between wanting Shirou and wanting Shirou to be happy. Inevitably she can only sit and watch as he throws away his ideals in order to save her.
"I... I broke him."
- In Aoi Shiro, this is treated as the right way to go, always. The few times Syouko can take the decision to not save Yasumi or Nami and she does (which she notes how it's out-of-character for her), things always end badly.
- In Chaos;Head, Takumi could have let Norose use Noah II to greatly improve the world but he saved Rimi instead. Of course, That's assuming the psychopathic Norose would use the Noah II as he claimed he would.
- In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the entire plot is centered around Junpei saving Akane from dying as a child, to the point where she set it up that way. Though to be fair, if Junpei succeeds in this, it leads to the ending where every single person who possibly can be saved is saved.
- By the end of the third day in Sweet Fuse At Your Side, Urabe makes up his mind to do whatever it takes to keep Saki safe... even if it means bargaining with Count Hogstein, keeping Saki locked up for the final three days of games, forcing the rest of their companions to unwittingly kill him and putting everyone else's live in danger, including the lives of their friends and Saki's uncle.
- Invoked in Ace Attorney: Justice for All, your sidekick Maya is kidnapped by an assasin who blackmails you into defending an apparent killer in a court. As the game's system goes, getting "Not Guilty" verdict in this case involves accusing someone innocent into the murder. Being Phoenix Wright's stand-in, you can choose to go all the way for this trope. Though everything turns out okay in the end regardless of what you're doing, your choices become a reminder of your morality toward the situation.
- In Yo-Jin-Bo, the guys often mention how they are More Expendable Than You and are willing to sacrifice as many of their own lives as are necessary to save yours. Sayori, of course, is less than pleased with this.
- This is how Raven reacted when Credenza was lost in Book 5 of Archipelago.
Raven: Forget the heirs. Forget the Raven. Until we find Crendenza, nothing else matters.
- Girl Genius averts it here:
Gil: How can I justify letting all that death and destruction happen again — just because I fell in love?
- Oh, and plays it straight here (same girl).
- Straight again, different girl.
- Next panel, Gil choose to protect the most vulnerable girl rather than the one he loves. Agatha takes care of herself, but she doesn't like to watch Gil rescuing Zola.
- In the beginning of The Dreamer, Alan infiltrates Gen. Howe's ship and rescues Beatrice.
- City of Reality averts it in an Imagine Spot: Todo would always go for the Bus Full of Innocents.
- Parodied in Boy Meets Boy. Cy, while having a Tuxedo and Martini-flavored dream, is given the choice to either save his "obligatory Love Interest" from a Death Trap or stop the villain's doomsday device. Since he knows that it's All Just a Dream, he decides to go with the Love Interest, figuring that he can at least get some action before the world ends. Unfortunately for him, he soon learns that his dream has cast Skids as the LoveInterest.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Amospia, later known as "Mosp" commits treason against the forces of good out of the belief that fighting in the war with the demons will get her lover killed. He's not at all pleased, and ultimately gets killed by an arrow that was meant for her.
- The first volume of John Dies at the End ends with David Wong explaining that the forces of darkness have "checkmated" him now that he is in love with Amy. The shadow people drive this point home by demonstrating how easy it would be for them to retroactively kill Amy if he ever steps out of line.
- Averted in Yudkowsky's The Sword of Good, when Selena is testing Hirou's resolve.
Hirou: It's not exactly a difficult question! Calling it 'the Choice between Good and Bad' kind of gives away the answer.
Selena: What if the Lord of Dark had me prisoner, and threatened to kill me unless you -