Can't Drop the Hero

In an RPG, you're allowed to switch any character out of your party. Any character except Bob, because he's the protagonist. Depending on the leveling system, this could be a problem if you want to train everyone— Bob's always in the group, so everyone else Can't Catch Up. In more annoying cases this trope goes hand in hand with We Cannot Go On Without You, in which case you also lose the moment Bob dies.

From a story standpoint, this makes sense. The game's not about Alice, Charlie, Dave, or Emily even if they do have more interesting stories than Bob.

See Also: Required Party Member, when it's Alice, Charlie, Dave, or Emily that's forced into your group; and We Cannot Go On Without You when the death of Bob stops the entire plot; even if Alice could resurrect them.

Since this applies to almost every RPG, please, exceptions only.


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    Miscellaneous Games 
  • Most of the Dept Heaven games play this straight. Knights in the Nightmare is a bit unusual in that while you're always required to have the heroine in your party when she's with you, battles where she actually accompanies you only take up about a third of the game. Yggdra Unison notably averts this completely—you don't have to bring your main characters into battle at all, though it's recommended that you do.

  • In the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, you're only allowed to remove the hero and partner from the team after you've beaten the game.
    • It's particularly notable in Rescue Team, as outside from appearing in scenes from time to time, your hero and partner essentially become the same as standard recruits, staying in their respective friend areas with them rather then living in their house (Which is instead used by whichever Pokemon is your current leader).
    • Explorers still requires you to use both the hero and partner for some of the post-game dungeons, due to them being part of a second plotline. The hero is also always the one who you control while in town.
    • Gates to Infinity is the best about this, as its new Companion Mode feature allows you to form a secondary team that excludes your hero and partner prior to finishing the story. However, you still need to beat the game if you want to remove your hero and partner from the team without using Companion Mode, which matters due to certain dungeons only being visitable outside of the mode.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Valkyrie Profile forces you to use the titular Valkyrie at all times, although it's handwaved away by the rest of the party being anchored to her existence.
  • In SaGa Frontier, the protagonist is locked into group 1, but with the exception of certain scripted encounters, you're allowed to use either group 1, 2, or 3 at your discretion. Lute is the exception to this rule, as the player can put him in any group of their choosing. By moving him to group 2 or 3, scripted encounters that normally involve the protagonist can be done without him.
  • Prominent throughout the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, with the result being the self-insert silent protagonist being at least five or more levels higher than the rest of the party. While it's more prominent in Persona 3 and Persona 4 - they can go into the games's dungeons alone, and they get to keep their high level perks for a New Game+ - the first game and the Persona 2 duology has its leads keep the pace by allowing the player to freely distribute their stats, whereas the other characters will level certain stats automatically, often at a fixed rate; this leads to the player potentially having Maya in Eternal Punishment have 99 points of Dexterity and 6 points of Strength by the endgame.
  • In Chrono Trigger, the trope is played straight for the majority of the game with Crono, but after Crono dies protecting his friends from Lavos, he's out of the party. There is a lengthy sidequest to bring him back to life, though. After Crono rejoins the party, he can be freely switched out for the rest of the game.
    • Alternatively, you can always choose to fight the Final Boss (and win) without getting Crono to rejoin, thus beating the game without actually having your main character in your party.
    • In Chrono Cross, Serge must always remain in the party for the main game. However, in New Game+, you get an item that allows you to swap him with a different character, but only for battles (Serge still shows up on field screens).
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII have mechanics wherein the main party can be switched up however you like, and it's just assumed that the rest of the party is traveling with your chosen group. Therefore, the main hero isn't required to be part of the battle party for most of the game. (Unfortunately, of the three, only FFXII bothered to avert the Lazy Backup problem.)
      • The fact that it's not as clear cut who the main character is than in some of the previous games doesn't hurt.
      • You still have to control Vaan in towns however in XII and Tidus when on the map anywhere (Except for that one scene where you play Yuna).
      • Final Fantasy XIII Zig-Zags this trope; for the first half of the game, you constantly switch between characters, getting to play as each of the six members at least once, but you cannot switch them out for another character, and even when the party is fully formed, you still have to play as Lightning for a Boss and the start of the following chapter. After that you're free as a bird to chose your battle team, however.
    • Final Fantasy VI has moments throughout the game where certain characters have to be used, but by the end, you can have a party of anyone. You can have Umaro, Gogo, Mog, and Relm be the saviors of the world.
      • Terra, Celes, and Locke probably have the most instances where they have to be in the party but FF 6 is the only one in the series that is mostly devoid of this trope. This mostly have to do with the fact that there really is no main character. Though many would agree that Terra is the most plot important character, you don't even have to get her for 2nd half of the game. Heck Terra's probably the one character who spends the most time out of your party.
    • Final Fantasy IX did some aversions, however most of them were when your perspectives were splitting, such as when the party is split up in Desert Palace. However, in the final dungeon, you are free to remove Zidane from your party freely if you wish. (You still walk around with him, though.)
    • Final Fantasy VII has Cloud in your party at all times and can never be switched out, but there is one exception, which can be a bit jarring for first time players and shows just how serious the situation is. After Cloud falls into the Lifestream and falls into a stupor from mako sickness, Tifa becomes the main party lead until they find Cloud in his vegetable state. Tifa stays behind to look after Cloud, causing Cid to become the party leader until Cloud recovers.
    • Final Fantasy IV Advance allows you to switch your team around at a late stage of the game, but you can't leave Cecil behind.
    • Final Fantasy VIII puts Squall in your party the majority of the time. There are several exceptions such as the assassination attempt at the end of Disc 1 and the Battle of the Gardens at the end of disc 2. Interestingly, your party is chosen at random for the final battle so you can defeat Ultimecia using any party members you want.
  • Both Knights of the Old Republic games have scenes in which you control only one or two characters while the hero (you) is imprisoned: the escape from the Leviathan in the first game, and Freedon Nadd's tomb and multiple sections of Nar Shaddaa (including Goto's yacht) in the second. There is even a section in part two where you have to split the team in two, with one full-strength party led by you on the main mission, while the other (led by a party member of your choice) provides a distraction.
    • Jade Empire used the same technique in the siege of Dirge, ensuring that all party members had a role to play in the event. It should be pointed out that all three games otherwise followed this trope, although the party probably doesn't want to leave Revan, the Exile, or the last Spirit Monk behind.
  • Surprisingly, Pokémon, which plays an incredibly high number of RPG tropes straight, averts this. You get your starter 'mon but there's nothing forcing you to keep it. Generally the starters are decent though so it's worth sticking with them, but in the competitive battling scene it's unlikely you'll find a person using a starter Pokémon just because it was their first 'mon. You can even release them into the wild, never to be seen again.
    • The spin-off Pokemon Ranger Guardian Signs plays it straight, as Pichu will always stick with the main character.
    • Even in Pokémon Yellow, which had the Pikachu-following gimmick, if you wanted to you could put Pikachu in the box and never let him out. (Or trade him away.)
  • In Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, Sonic is a permanent fixture in the team's lineup for almost all of the game. There are two instances where the team splits into two groups, but in both those cases, You instead have two Required Party Members per team (out of four) and Sonic's on one of them anyway.
  • Later games in the Tales Series avert this trope. There are only a few times when you are required to have a certain character in your party, otherwise you can play through most of the game without the protagonist in your party. The games also use Leaked Experience, so you don't have to switch characters out to level other characters (although you do need them to fight if you want them to learn new abilities).
    • Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World allows you to remove Emil and Marta from the party, but they're the only 2 that can be in the on screen character slot (the top slot) (you can switch characters in battle, but as soon as the fights over you switch back to the on screen character). As with the previous one it too allows non-active characters (in this case the monsters in your party) to gain levels without going into battle. Also, if you keep one of them out of the main line up for long enough they complain about it in a skit.
    • Tales of Xillia 2 plays this straight on your first playthrough, where Ludger has to be in the active party at all times (With the sole exception of the arena). In a New Game+, however, you can remove him whenever you're not doing a story quest.
  • In Dragon Quest IV, Dragon Quest V and Dragon Quest VI, you are allowed to set up the active party however you like, even putting the main character on standby. However, when you're in a town or certain dungeons, all you can do is rearrange the active party. None of these games are very consistent about this, but usually when you see the wagon behind you, it's possible to switch out characters. In V, you can make an active party of just recruited monsters, so if you wanted to, you could follow a theme to beat the rest of the game, such as an all-slime party. In the latter two games, you are even allowed to leave some of your party members at Patty's Party Planning Place (which means they're not in your active party OR in the wagon) but because of this trope, the player character can't be left there. In VI, Ashlynn can't either, despite not being a Required Party Member for any mandatory portion of the game.
  • In The Reconstruction, you can switch Dehl out of your party at any time once you can switch characters. There's even one sidequest where it's very likely you'll need to do this.
  • Breath of Fire subverted this trope; all future ones played it straight.
  • Eye of the Beholder. As soon as you get a fifth party member, you can drop any of the four you started with.
  • Although the Xbox version of The Last Remnant required Rush to be in your party at all times, the PC rerelease removed this restriction.
  • Might and Magic I-V averts this by letting you switch out all members of the party. VI, VII and IX averts it by not letting you switch any member of the party. VIII plays it straight, however.
  • Black Sigil regularly switches up the party. Kairu is the protagonist, but often you'll be leading a party without him in it.
  • The second Golden Sun allows the player to take Felix out of the main party. You even get special Battle Theme Music based on who's in the party. The first game also briefly allows one to run around as the three non-Isaac party members.
    • Not to mention you didn't even start the game as Felix, but rather as his sister Jenna, though you only play as her briefly.
      • The battle theme only has 2 factors: Felix and Isaac. If Felix is in the party, his theme will play. If Felix isn't but Isaac is, Isaac's theme will play. If neither Isaac nor Felix is in the party, Jenna's theme will play, even if Jenna isn't either.
  • The Icewind Dale series allows you to switch out and add new party members at will (up to the maximum of six characters), even the person in the first slot — the story is about the party and the characters are all Player Mooks. This can lead to the amusing situation where none of the party members you started out with are in the game at the end, but everyone acts like they're the same people.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has two sequences near the end of the game where you can take control of a group of characters without the Warden, once to break the captured Warden out of prison and once to hold Denerim's gate while the Warden hunts the Archdemon.
  • Played straight in the Suikoden series.
  • In Endless Frontier, Haken is basically the character the plot revolves around. Doesn't mean you have to put him into battle, though. The game only ever forces character use when the enemy is of particular importance to one of your party members (for example, when Suzuka confronts her possessed lover). On the other hand, characters in the back row still actively participate in battles as an Assist Character, so it's clear they're always on the field.
  • In Digital Devil Saga you can freely switch around your party members, and there are times when Serph won't be in your party at all.
    • Though, when the main character is knocked out in most other MegaTen games, it's an immediate game over regardless of the state of the rest of your party. There's usually a justification in-game, but it's a Scrappy Mechanic to some.
  • In Alter Aila Genesis every single character is sprited to be outside of battle. And thus any character you get can lead your party, and on those rare occasions you have more then 3 characters you can boot whoever you feel like from the party entirely.
  • Averted in Shadow Hearts, although the third game will make you unable to switch out whatever party member is important to the dungeon (like Mao during the Alcatraz dungeon). In addition, you need Natan in the party to do his sidequests.
  • The Legend of Dragoon averts this only when there's no battles to be fought. It happens once when you're traveling by ship for the first time in disc 2, having you control every party member and get some plot-based dialogue happening. It happens again when the party is split late in disc 4 during a series of character-specific boss battles. When the hero is out of the party though, random battles are turned off entirely.
  • In Riviera: The Promised Land, this trope's played straight for Ein in regular battles, but in the practice battles, you can choose not to have him in.
  • The Inazuma Eleven series allows you to set a "Story" team and a "Connect" team, each of which can have 11 to 16 members of your party of up to 100 characters (and overlap is allowed between the two teams). Endou is locked to the first slot of the Story team, but you can rearrange the Connect team however you please. The Connect team is meant primarily for multiplayer matches (hence the name), but you can also use it for optional sidequest matches.
    • After beating the main story of Inazuma Eleven 2 and 3, you're also allowed to rearrange your Story team as you please, which also allows you to have 4-on-4 mini-battles without Endou (since mini-battles use the first 4 slots of your Story team).
  • In Star Ocean First Departure you can swap any party member in and out of the main party and even choose which one you directly control while the others go to their AI script.
  • Averted in Xenoblade, where anyone can be the party leader, and is also the only character you control directly in combat and on the field.
  • Played straight for the first two installments of Neverwinter Nights 2 but averted in Storm of Zehir, which has a fully interchangeable Player Party like Icewind Dale above.
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age avoids the trope for the most part because, like the game before it, your party never grows beyond four members, so you have no chance to swap out the leader anyway. However, once your party teams up with the party from the first game, you're free to arrange your group however you want and you don't have to use the main lead if you feel like it. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn also follows up on the exception to the trope once your party grows beyond four people.
  • In Three the Hard Way, the Menu Prism has the party management option to switch around the active party, but if you try to select the protagonist, he will refuse to leave the party and tell you to choose someone else.
  • Played straight in Grinsia as the unnamed hero is elected to be party leader once the team grows too big to have everyone together in one group.
  • A Witchs Tale justifies this as Liddell is the one magically controlling her dolls.
  • Averted in the Neptunia series. There's nothing forcing you to keep the main heroine in the front row, or even in the battle party at all. That said, certain plot events will automatically put Neptune/Nepgear into the first slot of the front line, booting whoever was there to the last open slot, or failing that to the bottom of the backup list.
  • Fully justified in Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars. Wake's ether field is the only reason the heroines and star children can even function inside Dusk Labyrinths.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, you can play without Ramza in random encounters, but not story battles. More importantly, if you try to actually dismiss Ramza from your party, you get specifically told you can't. If you try it in the endgame, Ramza outright tells you "I'm you. This is my story."
  • Nearly every Nippon Ichi game lets the player do this
    • In Disgaea and its sequels, you can send any party of ten people into battle. (But the ensuing cutscenes assume that the main characters were in it.) As a matter of fact, with the massive number of creatable units in combination wih the unlockable special characters AND the number of DLC characters released in later installments, most of them totally dwarf the majority of the main cast outside of maybe one unit, so using the mains is basically a way of severely handicapping yourself in postgame due to their often abysmal leveling stats. The game really does seem to pride itself on letting the player make its own team without worrying about using the main character designates.
    • Ditto La Pucelle.
    • In Makai Kingdom, the only required "character" is Book-form Zetta, who serves as the "base" from which your playable generics are summoned, but he doesn't count towards your character limit and can't move or defend himself.
    • Similarly in Phantom Brave, Marona is the only character who 1) doesn't disappear after an Arbitrary Time Limit and 2) can Confine the other characters.
      • Her stat growth is some of the worst in the game, but her ability to confine makes her something of a living home base who can barely fight. At least her speed is good, and with the right weapon in Phantom Brave, any stat can become your damage dealing stat...
    • In fact, Marona has a problem with Can't Catch Up herself because you don't want her to fight directly and the leveling up tricks don't work on her.
    • The Neptunia series allows you to use whichever characters you want for battle in teams of up 2 six, with three in the front and three in back, and it is totally optional who you want to use. This can be quite irritating at the same time, however, as only the six you put in play level up, the others will not.
    • Ar tonelico and all the games in the series allow you to choose any congruence of characters you want, as long as you meet the required number of Reivyteils for battle and the number of vanguards necessary.
    • Cross Edge allows you to choose what characters you want in your team with very little limitation beyond character number.
  • Almost every Fire Emblem game forces the player to deploy whoever is the main character at the moment in every battle, except The Sacred Stones, where you aren't forced to use the mains on the skirmishes/optional battles. They're still forced for plot fights though. Additionally, there is usually one character who cannot die or else the game is over. Some other plot related characters can die, and can no longer fight, but the skit for their death will pretend they "ran back to base", but the main major characters cannot lose at all or it is instant game over.
  • The original Vandal Hearts plays this straight, except for a few battles in Chapter 3. You play a few missions where Clint, Eleni, Huxley and Darius have to escape from prison without the others.
    • For added fun, in the final prison break mission The Hero does show up, but his defeat doesn't signal a Game Over like normal, so you finally get to use your most powerful swordsman with (relative) impunity.
  • In the online game League of Angels, you can recruit as many party members as you desire, and you can have up to four (later five) in your party at one time, not counting the Angel. However, your own character must always be a part of it. (Your character also has a few advantages they don't have, and a few disadvantages, like not having the Elemental Powers buffs.)

     Non-Video Game Examples 
  • In Web Comic/Adventurers, Karn is always in the lead, while other characters switch in and out of the three-person party. In the final battle against Khrima, they form a tag team, with Karn replacing party members at need.

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