In any sufficiently long-running series, if a main character's initial backstory includes a friend, relative, or beloved who is absent but not dead, then that person will eventually show up.
Often in the Pilot
of a series, the writers establish characters and their relationships to others and will mention how a friend or loved one mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Because of the Law of Conservation of Detail
, this becomes a form of foreshadowing
that works better than an Asspull
when the writers run out of ideas; they can then return the relative, often through some form of Applied Phlebotinum
, or else He's Just Hiding
. The characters will almost Never Say "Die"
when it concerns their lost loved ones; they're simply Missing-In-Action due to the "mysterious circumstances" that took them away.
An uncommon-though-not-unheard-of variant has an established character saying that the MIA character IS dead, but the MIA character later shows up, with the established character's explanation being something along the lines of "he was/is dead to me," or else otherwise skewed by the character's viewpoint.
May even be related to Never Found the Body
as someone believed to be dead without proof may show up later.
If the character mentioned early as missing actually is
dead, and stays that way, then that's not a Chekhov M.I.A.
, that's a Posthumous Character
In some cases, Death Is Cheap
is to be blamed for this.
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Anime & Manga
- Fubuki in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
- Van Hohenheim, Ed and Al's dad in Fullmetal Alchemist
- Later, Shou Tucker's wife is said to have left him just before he became a State Alchemist but turns out to have been turned into the talking chimera that allowed him to pass the Alchemy Exam in the first place. Then in an even more Chekovian moment, the same thing happens to his daughter and his dog.
- In the first episode of Moyashimon, the police are searching for a missing student. The main characters stumble over what they think is her grave only to learn she's alive and their professor's graduate student.
- Gale Glory in Rave Master.
- Subverted in Blue Gender where the hero's best friend is MIA, he's told that it's a near certainty that the guy is dead, and he indeed never shows up.
- Used slightly in One Piece, though the character in question wasn't part of the main canon at first. One of the original "Romance Dawn" one-shots features Luffy's grandpa, who goes unmentioned for much of the proper One Piece manga until he eventually appears as Vice-Admiral Monkey D. Garp. Another example could be the Rumbar Pirates, who are missing and presumed dead when the Straw Hats enter the Grand Line. The crew eventually encounters a survivor, who becomes their ninth crew member. Used more strongly later on when Luffy's childhood friend "Sabo", presumed dead, turns up again.
- Appears to be in the works, both as a straight and as a crooked subversion, in Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- Negi's Father (which we know lives, somewhere, and as of late his mother, which we know lived for at least 8 years longer than official statements in Magic World counts as straight examples of this.
- The Crooked subversion would be Asuna, due to her being "on stage" from chapter one but have a past which suffers from Laser-Guided Amnesia.
- In Vision of Escaflowne, Alan's father left his family, and his sister disappeared with no explanation. Both of them show up later, obviously.
- Musashi, the kicker of the Devil Bats, from Eyeshield 21. He remained a mystery for a long time on who this "third original member" was, but it turns out he had been doing all their construction jobs for the clubhouse, which only Kurita and Hiruma knew.
- Kid-friendly version from Fushigi Boshi No Futago Hime: When we (and the twins) first get to the Moon Kingdom palace, the queen notes that Prince Shade never seems to be in. Turns out later that he's that shady Eclipse guy who always seems to be following the twins around, though Shade's 'do being a match for Eclipse's probably tips that off.
- Subverted in Code Geass with Kallen's brother Naoto. Officially he's said to be dead, with no known cause; however, the staff teased the viewers (and, in one DVD Commentary, Kallen's voice actress Ami Koshimizu) with the idea that he might still be alive. However, nothing came from the hints, and Naoto stayed mysteriously dead.
- Dragonball GT: Piccolo, of all people, pulls this. He gets blasted by Baby while trying to help Goten, and isn't seen again until the world is about to be destroyed. And THEN he dies.
- Kana's Missing Mom in 20th Century Boys. She disappeared shortly after giving birth, leaving Kanna to be raised by Kenji, her brother. Later turns out to have developed the virus crucial to the second arc, and had the child of the Big Bad.
- Naruto. In a world where techniques exist to revive people as a zombies, we are going to mention two only: the main baddy and The Dragon were both mentioned, offhand, very early in the manga. They were Only Mostly Dead, but by the time the Shinobi World finds out they've already started a world war. Obito Uchiha, who survived the rockfall, is moulded into the main villain of Naruto... by the other Chekov MIA, Madara Uchiha, age 100+ and counting.
- Zigzagged in the anime of Black Butler, as the character is technically shown but the audience doesn’t get to see the facenote or hear the voice of Queen Victoria in a scene where the manga included it.
- Cyclops' absent father showed up about a hundred issues down the line as a space pirate.
- His absent mother is then revealed to have been murdered, but still later it turns out she was alive long enough for a third Summers brother to come into the world. Oh, and ca. UXM #170 readers learn that Scott's paternal grandparents are also still very much alive.
- In both mainstream and Ultimate continuities, Peter Parker's missing biological parents are tied to some interesting work. Richard and Mary Parker were secret agents working for the CIA, while the Ultimate Parkers were scientists who were killed during Bruce Banner's first transformation into the Hulk.
- Other Marvel orphans whose parents provided grist for the story mills
- In Daredevil #1 readers are informed that Matt Murdock's mother is dead. During Frank Miller's run it turns out she was only dead to the world, having become a nun.
- The mystery of the parents of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch took years to solve. First they came to believe that they were the children of two Golden Age heroes, the Whizzer and Miss America. Later, after their long-lost adoptive father Django Maximoff made a reappearance, it eventually emerged that they are the children of Magneto.
- A not dissimilar saga was that of Nightcrawler's biological parents. He had been told that he had been found as a baby next to his dying father (or mother, there were conflicting accounts). It eventually turned out that he is the son of Mystique and Azazel (although Chris Claremont had wanted him to be the son of Mystique and Destiny earlier).
- Rogue had run away from her birth family to become the adopted daughter of Mystique and Destiny. The story of her biological parents was eventually told in Rogue vol. 3 #1-5.
- Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner fulfills both the traditional and variant version. He originally stated that his mother was dead; after referring to her as alive later on, he modified this to their getting on so badly that he thought of her as dead, and after a reconciliation she became an occasional recurring character until she was Killed Off for Real. His father, meanwhile, is established early to have left when Kyle was five; Kyle finally tracks him down some hundred issues later and discovers that he had a good reason.
- In The Tainted Grimoire, there is Grant, who only appeared as part of Vaticus' backstory and later shows up in the story proper to provide hope for Clan Gully, that Cid will recover from his injuries.
- In the Pony POV Series, the Alicorn Pantheon was described in story and by Word of God until all the Major Arcana were accounted for except for The Magician, who wasn't named or even described at all (not even their gender). Then the conclusion of the Dark World Series revealed that this is because The Magician is (and always has been and will be) Dark World!Twilight, having ascended after fused with Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox.
- In the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades story, A Month of Sundays, Damballa states to the Aries Zodiarts that the Zodiarts caused him to be separated by his own grandson. His grandson, Quetzalcoatl is actually fine, and became a god in Aztec Mythology before finding Ankh, possessing him, and then going to the side of good thanks to Jun.
- In Pokeumans, Sakato, Nathan and Starr each failed to rescue a friend or family member from Pokextinction and their brainwashing. So guess who Mr. X uses to try and break their spirit when they infiltrate the Pine Barrows base?
- In Mega Man Reawakened, Protoman is mentioned in passing in the first few chapters; it's stated he left for parts unknown. He appears in the finale of Arc 3.
- The first Star Wars trilogy is a good example. In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker's father is said to be dead, killed by a young jedi called Darth Vader. Towards the end of The Empire Strikes Back, something Darth Vader says puts a new cast on things...
- Big one that spans two films of James Bond. In Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd is working for QUANTUM because they kidnapped her boyfriend. However, in Quantum of Solace, it turns out that boyfriend is actually working for QUANTUM and he regularly seduces women working in government positions.
- Will's father - "Bootstrap" Bill Turner - in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie is listed as missing. As of the second movie, his fate is known. He's a crewman of the mystical Flying Dutchman.
- Charles F. Muntz in Up.
- In-universe example: in The Truman Show, the show's crew decides to bring back Truman's missing and presumed dead father after he starts suspecting that something isn't quite right in his world.
- TRON: Legacy: The titular character is excruciatingly conspicuous in his absence from the main plot. Until...
- Ditto with Kevin Flynn, absent from the analog world for nearly 20 years. He just shows up earlier in the second film.
- Star Trek makes it literal. Khan Noonien Singh, abandoned, forgotten, and left for dead. Appears again fifteen years later (in both story and real time) —and the first thing he does upon his return is cause Pavel Andreivich Chekhov to be MIA.
- The 2011 Prequel to The Thing (2011) features the ice station's husky killed and absorbed off-screen by the titular thing. At the end of the film, we learn that the absorbed canine was hiding, and it runs off, setting up the events of the original film.
- In Wreck-It Ralph, Fix-It Felix, Jr. tells Sergeant Calhoun the story of a character named Turbo, an Attention Whore who crashed another arcade game and caused it and his games to be unplugged; it is assumed he died when the game was unplugged. It turns out he game-hopped over into Sugar Rush and took it over.
- The Departed: Mark Wahlburg's character shows up at the end to avenge Leonardo Dicaprio's character. People who had already seen Infernal Affairs would notice his absence more readily, since there is no second person who know the undercover cop's identity in the original.
- In Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, one of the Decoy Protagonists who turns out to be the Big Bad claims that his father was killed before he was born by a hillbilly serial killer, and that the body was never found. It turns out that the supposed hillbilly serial killer was actually a hillbilly serial rapist, and the Decoy Protagonist-turned-Big Bad's father, meaning it was all In the Blood.
- Will's father in His Dark Materials
- Artemis Fowl II's father in the eponymous series. It's his absence that causes the plot of the second book.
- Nicholas Valiarde in Martha Wells' Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy.
- Elaine in The Dresden Files, who makes a surprise return in Summer Knight.
- Ser Barristan Selmy in A Song of Ice and Fire. In the first book, he's forced into retirement when Cersei and Joffrey take the throne, but refuses to give up, saying he'll be in the service of the true king. In the second book, all the candidates for the Iron Throne are making much ado about his comments, wondering why he hasn't shown up anywhere. In the third book, it turns out they had the wrong continent — he went to go serve Daenerys. There's also Benjen Stark, who vanishes under mysterious circumstances early in the first book (the Epileptic Trees hold that he is the mysterious Coldhands), and Howland Reed, The Ghost and the only surviving person who knows what promise Ned made to Lyanna. Finally, A Dance with Dragons gives us Aegon Targaryen, who instead of being dead was Switched at Birth with some other unfortunate infant and has been receiving education intended to make him an effective ruler since he was old enough to understand it; he is being raised by Jon Connington, another character who until the events of ADWD has been thought dead. Fans are also already speculating that "Septa" Lemore is Ashara Dayne, another background character who is supposedly dead. It's worth noting that Connington refers to her as "Lady Lemore" in his internal monologue.
- Rickon Stark has also joined these ranks. He had minimal impact and was rarely mentioned by anyone other than Bran while he was still actually present. He's last seen at the end of the second book, and nothing more than a passing mention is made of him again until a single instance in the fifth book, where he is set to become the key in overthrowing the Bolton's hold on the north, since their rule depended on Ramsay's marriage to 'Arya' (see below), and as Ned Stark's son Rickon comes before her in the succession.
- In the first book Sansa's best friend Jeyne Poole is "taken care of" by Baelish. You assume the poor girl is going to end up a reluctant whore in some brothel, never to be heard from again. Then she suddenly shows up again in ADWD as Fake Arya and is married off to Ramsay Bolton to strengthen his hold on the north.
- Theon's sinister uncle Euron was mentioned offhandedly throughout A Clash of Kings as exiled from the Iron Islands. His return a book later proved to have significant consequences.
- Andrew Trent in Matthew Reilly's Ice Station. Schofield has a Flash Back when his mission starts looking suspiciously similar to the one Trent dissapeared on.
- Mackenzie Calhoun's son Xyon in Star Trek: New Frontier. We go through an entire book with him as the secondary protagonist, then he and Calhoun finally meet, and Xyon introduces himself via a "Hey, You!" Haymaker.
- Bartemius Crouch Jr, Peter Pettigrew, and the mysterious Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter.
- In the Lonely Werewolf Girl books much mention is made of the mysterious werewolf mage Minerva MacRinnalch who was mentor to Thrix, but she remains unseen in person until late in book 2.
- Genaa D'anhk in the Green Sky Trilogy wants to find out what happened to her missing father, and this is a big factor in her rancor towards the Pash-San she believes responsible for his death. There aren't any Pash-San, and he's actually become a respected member of the Erdling community. He and Genaa become very prominent voices in the Rejoyner movement.
- Mekare in Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice has been missing for thousands of years. Her twin sister Maharet mentions several times how it was always Mekare who was the more decisive of the two of them. Just when it seems there will be a Curb-Stomp Battle between the vampire queen Akasha and the remaining vampires, Mekare enters the room and, having gone mad from being outside of civilization for so long, simply walks up to Akasha and pushes her through a glass window, decapitating the queen.
- Very common in Agatha Christie-style mysteries. Any time a character is mentioned who disappeared years ago or inexplicably moved away to parts unknown, that character and/or what really happened to them will be important, even if their connection to the present-day mystery is not immediately apparent.
- Marco's mother, Eva in Animorphs. She was believed dead, but technically it fits because she disappeared without a trace, then surfaced as Visser One four books in.
- Not to mention Tobias' parents, whose absence in Tobias' life is a large part of his backstory. We end up learning eventually that we met his father in the first book: It's Elfangor. We get introduced to his mother Loren as a child in the Andalite Chronicles, but it won't be until The Diversion, 48 books later, that we actually learn her fate.She's alive, albeit blind and an amnesiac from a car accident.
- Pippi Longstocking's absent sailor father, whom she claimed had been washed up on some tropical island and become a cannibal king, finally showed up in Pippi in the South Seas.
- The father of the main character in Esther Friesner's Gnome Man's Land series went out for a Sunday Times and never came back. It was later revealed that he'd spent the six years he'd been gone as the Champion of the Fey.
- Mazer Rackham is mentioned several times throughout Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It's assumed he's dead. Then, he is revealed to have survived by being flown on a relativistic ship specifically to train the future commander of the fleet.
- The young adult book Daphne's Book features a middle-schooler trying to convince her grandmother and sister that her father, who went MIA during the Vietnam War, is not coming back. Averted when it's revealed he really isn't back-the grandmother "saw" him because she's suffering from dementia.
- Wolf Boy, a.k.a. Boy 409 in Septimus Heap is mentioned in Magyk as having been lost in the river, but he's later revealed to have survived in Flyte.
- Dragon Slippers first mentions Shardas, a Dragon that befriends the main character, missing a " fair dragoness". Later, it's revealed that she was the Queen, and Shardas's mate, killed by the old king. Only not. She's still alive
- Drualt in The Two Princesses of Bamarre.
- The missing princess Halley of A Brother's Price.
- When the Venus Prime series begins, Sparta's parents have been missing for nearly two decades.
- In The Millennium Trilogy, Lizbeth Salander has a twin sister whom she hasn't seen since the day she tried to kill their abusive father. The ending of the third book implies that their reunion would have been a major part of the rumored fourth book.
- Part of the Mk. II bomb's directives in Blonde Bombshell is to find out what happened to the Mk. I bomb. It turns out it's one of the characters, Lucy Pavlov.
Live Action TV
- The entire first season of Supernatural was built around this trope. In the first episode the Winchester brothers team up to find their missing father, with each episode taking them closer to their goal.
- Their mother, who actually is dead, still manages to appear in seasons 1, 4, and 5, in the first as a ghost and in the latter two via time travel. Also in various dreams and hallucinations, more often than the dad they actually grew up with, but those don't count.
- Their half-brother, Adam, turns out to have been dead since before they met him. Or even knew about him. He still has a pivotal role in season five.
- Their dead maternal grandfather is a major character in season six. This family does not stay dead.
- In Jake20, Sarah mentions that her military father went MIA when working on a "top secret project".
- Primeval: Professor Cutter's wife just vanished without a trace.
- The 2007 Flash Gordon series.
- Also played to mixed results with Cain's family in Tin Man. Jeb Cain is alive and a leader in La Résistance, but the party finds the grave of Adora Cain. Also played with in the royal family. Azkedellia's on the throne, her mother is imprisoned. The younger princess is believed to be dead, and the lavender-eyed queen's consort was banished... The consort turns out to be very much alive and still in Oz, Just Hiding on his wife's orders. The younger princess is DG herself, sent to the Other Side as part of The Plan of her mother.
- In The Middleman, Wendy Watson very specifically mentions that her father disappeared "under mysterious and as-yet unexplained circumstances". He shows up in the cliffhanger ending of the comic continuity, but remained MIA in the TV version
- The X-Files introduced Mulder's back-story early on. His sister went missing as a little girl and she was possibly abducted by aliens or conspirators. This became a major plot point and several clues indicated she is still alive. The actual explanation for what happened to her was fairly controversial: She was kidnapped to be experimented on by aliens collaborating with the conspirators, but then taken away by the ghosts of lost children or some race of strange angels or fairies so she wouldn't suffer anymore. Fans were not impressed.
- Horatio Caine's brother in CSI: Miami. Except he was mistaken for dead.
- Bones: Brennan's parents went mysteriously missing when she was a teenager. Why and what happened to them have since become major plot points.
- Babylon 5 executes this trope well with Anna Sheridan.
- House: Remember Dr. Wilson's missing brother back in season 1? The one who is homeless? Wilson's brother was found and institutionalized, complete with Narm about how Wilson blames himself.
- In the 2008 series of Survivors, Abby is adamant that her son has survived the epidemic, in spite of the fact that the majority of the world's population has been wiped out. A bit of a twist on the formula seeing as he's not technically been "taken away", but at its heart he's a missing boy and this is a slice of Chekov.
- The 1984 TV series Airwolf. Stringfellow Hawke blackmails a US government agency: He'll fly missions in their top-secret Airwolf helicopter in return for their assistance in locating his missing brother Saint John Hawke, which they do in the last season.
- Power Rangers in Space: An early episode establishes that Andros's sister Karone was kidnapped as a child. It later turns out that she's actually Astronema, the season's Big Bad.
- Because of this, many Power Rangers RPM fans correctly predicted that the girl Dillon was searching for would turn out to be Tenaya 7, mirroring the in Space plot almost exactly.
- Then there's Mystic Force, where Nick's search for his biological parents, and Udonna's later search for her lost son Bowen reveal that Nick is Bowen, and Leanbow, his father, is Koragg.
- Don't forget Aisynia Cruger, Doggie's wife, from SPD; as well as the A-Squad. SPD abused this trope.
- Manimal: Chase's father is last seen in the opening credits winging away in hawk form.
- Chuck Bartowski's dad, who mysteriously walked out on his kids after promising to make them pancakes....
- Chuck's mother vanished. In fact, it was her disappearance that supposedly drove their father to leaving. And since he really left because he worked for the CIA, we can only imagine what that means for Chuck's mother. Turns out she was deep undercover trying to take down the world's biggest and most dangerous arms dealer. Who was only an arms dealer because Chuck's dad's program turned him from a timid British kid into an evil Russian chessmaster.
- Gossip Girl: Serena and Eric's father, Chuck's mother
- Season 1 of Heroes makes much mention of Peter and Nathan's late father, Arthur. Sure enough, as many fans predicted, he appears in Volume 3 as the Big Bad.
- Farscape had D'Argo's son Jothee and Chiana's brother Neri.
- LOST is pretty fond of this trope.
- Particularly noteworthy is the con-man that ultimately drove Sawyer's father to commit a murder/suicide being Locke's father, and also showing up on the island.
- Christian Sheppard, who was actually dead since before the events of the series even began, and yet continued to play significant role throughout all six season of the show.
- Jin (end of season 4) and Frank (late season 6) both pull rather impressive versions of this too, particularly Frank, since a lot of viewers thought he really was dead.
- In Nash Bridges, Nash received his '71 Plymouth Barracuda when his brother Bobby went off to Vietnam and went MIA. Because Bobby never gave him the keys, Nash has to use a flattened nail in the ignition. A few seasons in, Bobby shows up as a drug dealer. The episode ends with a foot chase, and Nash eventually decides to let Bobby go after Bobby scales a chain link fence. Bobby hands him the keys to the 'Cuda through the fence.
- That Ned's father in Pushing Daisies abandoned him at a boarding school as a child is mentioned at practically the beginning of every episode. In the episode The Norwegians, Ned and Olive are rescued by a mysterious man, who at the end of the episode is revealed to be Ned's dad. Unfortunately, due to the cancellation of the show, this became an Aborted Arc and was never mentioned again for the rest of the series. In addition, Charlotte's father may be a twist on this trope, as he really is dead until Ned brings him back to life.
- In Kamen Rider Double, Shotaro's mentor Sokichi Narumi, himself Kamen Rider Skull, was killed one year prior to the start of the series, though his body was never found. In the second movie, Sokichi's Transformation Trinket allows Shotaro to become Kamen Rider Joker, since he's currently unable to become Double.
- In Kamen Rider Fourze, a student named Yamada is mentioned as having transfered to Subaruboshi High while Ryuusei transfered to Amanogawa High. Yamada would later appear in episode #31 as the Aries Zodiarts.
- Fringe has William Bell, founder of Massive Dynamic and Walter's former lab partner. He appears in the final episode of Season 1 though, with the explanation for his disappearance being that he is stuck in an Alternate Universe.
- Subverted fairly well in In Plain Sight — not only has Mary and Brandi's father yet to show up, but the two times that someone appears who may have information about him, nobody really wants to find him, so his whereabouts are still unknown.
- Glickman from The Shadow Line. His disappearance is a major plot point in the first episode and is mentioned frequently after that, so it's no surprise when he finally appears in person in episode 5.
- Terra Nova: Commander Taylor's son went missing some years back.
- Twin Peaks had Josie Packard's deceased husband Andrew.
- Torchwood gives us Gray, Jack's brother who was kidnapped by... something.
- Jack's ongoing attempts to be reunited with the Doctor during season 1 also qualify if Torchwood is viewed as a standalone as opposed to being a spin-off.
- Monk's father came back (but wasn't seen) in one episode and came back again (and was seen) in another.
- Often on soap operas, viewers have noticed that when a former character's name begins to come up frequently (whether said character is presumed dead or merely left town), it's usually a strong indicator that said character is going to resurface very soon.
- Though technically not an invocation of the trope from the beginning, when Doctor Who returned to TV in 2005, the disappearance of the Time Lords became an illustration of the trope, with them finally returning, temporarily, in The End of Time.
- And finally the Doctor saves them in The Day of the Doctor.
- Horatio Hornblower: Midshipman Archie Kennedy is lost during a stealth Boarding Party of a French ship and presumed dead in the first episode of the miniseries. However, in the third episode Hornblower and his crew end up in Spanish prison, and guess who is his cell mate? It's Kennedy! Completely broken from being tortured and troubled by his sad fate, but he's alive! What a coincidence.
- All three formats of Noob insisted on telling the audience about Master Zen, the Noob guild's former leader who stopped playing before the story started thanks to being sent to jail by an Appliance Defenestration gone wrong. The franchise incidentally also qualifies for Cardboard Prison.
- Warhammer 40,000 has the Lost Eldar Craftworld of Altansar, introduced to the game background c. 1992 as the place of origin of the Dark Reaper Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra. Maugan Ra was the last survivor of the doomed world-ship, which was dragged into the Eye of Terror millennia ago by treacherous warp-currents, and for just over a decade (real world time!) that was all anyone knew about the place. In the Eye of Terror campaign and accompanying rulebook of 2003 Maugan Ra returned to the Eye with the express aim of rescuing Altansar and its inhabitants from their unpleasant sojourn. He succeeded, after a fashion, and the Craftworld's livery and background appeared in the 2006 Eldar codex. Unfortunately their period trapped in the warp has turned the Eldar of Altansar into otherworldly wraith-like creatures, but they are now officially at large in the universe once more.
- In Pokémon Live!, Mewtwo is mentioned early on as Giovanni relates how he escaped from him, necessitating the creation of MechaMew2, and he appears in the finale to help Ash.
- Pick any Role-Playing Game. They will almost always have a missing relative who went MIA while fighting the enemy, only to be deep undercover.
- Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind, was MIA throughout all of World of Warcraft and its first expansion. Ruling in his place was his nine-year-old son. In Wrath of the Lich King, he's back and became an incredibly skilled warrior. And also Broken Base. Characters who were confirmed dead are also strangely not dead, but not undead. Why?
Probably to flesh out the expansion Because they were just that tough. Or something. (Possibly they used one of the numerous resurrection spells or walked to the Spirit Healer.)
- Briefly lampshaded back in Warcraft 3:
- Fire Emblem runs on this trope. Any relative of a character, no matter how briefly mentioned, will appear eventually. Sanaki's thought-to-be-dead older sister? It's actually Micaiah. Lady Almedha's real son? That would be Soren. Also from the Tellius games we have Lord Renning. When Blazing Blade came out as a Prequel to Sealed Sword, many of the former game's characters' parents, or siblings, or even some of the elder ones themselves, became playable characters—but probably the most notable, because they were actually mentioned in the earlier game, though not by name, were Canas (the son of one Sealed Sword character, Niime, and the father of another, Hugh), Rath (likewise both the son and the father of a Sealed Sword character), and most of all Karla, whose husband, brother and daughter all appear as playable characters in Sealed Sword (the former two are also in Blazing Blade). The fact that Karla shows up so late in the game, and only in Hector's Story, makes this almost an Easter Egg of an appearance. And, of course, just about anyone mentioned in a conversation in the prequel is a character in the sequel (e.g. Hawkeye's daughter, Geitz's brother, etc.) And sometimes they'll just tie characters together by blood just for the hell of it. Which leads to some theories...
- Final Fantasy II: The heroes' brother goes missing in the beginning after an enemy ambush. He later turns out to be the Black Knight, The Dragon who undergoes a Heel-Face Turn when the heroes reach him.
- Unlike a lot of Chekov MIA's, this one actually is a surprise, since you're reasonably sure that the fourth character you named at the beginning of the game is still alive (if you even remember him), but the fact that he's The Dragon comes with almost no hints or clues whatsoever. It's a good deal more obvious in the GBA version (and presumably other ports) where the Black Knight's character portrait is pretty clearly Leon's, just hidden in shadow.
- Final Fantasy X: Jecht is listed as dead, as is Seymour's mother. Tidus is also considered dead in the sequel. The truth...gets complicated.
- Inverted in the Halo series. We know the Spartans who are dead, but for morale reasons they're listed as MIA.
- In the Halo: Ghosts of Onyx novel, Dr. Halsey, who was in charge of project SPARTAN-II, makes it a point of keeping track of which ones are actually dead. This is how she recognizes Kurt-051 even through his reflective faceplate.
- By the end of the novel, Kurt stays behind to cover the others, while holding off a Covenant army; he detonates nuclear charges after updating his own status as MIA. Which is completely unnecessary, as he is already listed this way.
- Near the beginning of the first Ace Attorney game, Maya tells Phoenix about her mom's disappearance 15 years ago. In the last case of the third game, Misty Fey shows up under an assumed name. Then she gets killed.
- The best way to be missing in action and assumed dead is to be executed, right? Dahlia Hawthorne disagrees.
- Inverted in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, where it's established in the fourth case that Thalassa Gramarye was accidentally shot dead at a rehearsal. Just kidding. A witness from the third case, Lamiroir, turns out to have been her under an assumed name. (Granted, she had lost her eyesight and memory).
- Carth's son Dustil in Knights of the Old Republic. As well as Canderous's former subordinate Jagi. The official story is that Revan died when Bastila tried to capture him. Only a few people know he's alive, amnesiac, and running around the galaxy with a new identity.
- Like everything else, the Game Mod Brotherhood of Shadow: Solomon's Revenge takes it Up to Eleven. There's Revan, of course. Then, there's Shadow herself who evacuated Revan's ship minutes before Bastila arrived. There's the titular Solomon, thought dead during the Mandalorian Wars. Arkikon Sin, last King of the Sith and the titular Brotherhood as Sealed Evil in a Can. The sneakiest one is where Shadow admits to killing a Jedi Master, but has no idea what became of the Padawan. It's heavily implied that the Padawan is Koybayashi, who ends up redeeming Shadow with a cross of "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight, The Power of Love, and Not So Different.
- Dragon Age:
- Technically, you DO have control of Tamlen in the Dalish Elf origin of Dragon Age: Origins for about thirty seconds. And then he vanishes and Duncan tells you there is no point looking for him. The phrasing he used was rather tricky, though, as he said Tamlen was gone and nothing could be done for him after three days of darkspawn taint. Not that he was dead. So when your camp comes under darkspawn attack, as a Dalish Elf you will see him again as he begs for death.
- Oghren's wife, Paragon Branka, went missing several years before Origins and then went completely insane. Among other things.
- Wynne mentions to Alistair in Origins that she gave birth to a son many years ago, but the Chantry took him away from her (as they do all children born to Circle mages). He later shows up as the protagonist of Asunder.
- Jeane (the person, not the cat), Travis' long-lost former love interest, from No More Heroes combines this with All There in the Manual. And then she comes into the scene when she shows up out of nowhere, kills Dark Star with a punch through the groin, drops a crap-ton of information about her and Travis, and becomes the real
final penultimate boss.
- Averted in Fallout 2. Sulik never finds his sister. He was supposed to and would keep traveling with the MC out of gratitude, but the developers couldn't figure out a good place to put her without making it feel contrived, so the quest has no resolution.
- Tales of Symphonia does this quite a bit and other the course of the game we meet up with Lloyd's Father, we learn of his mother too. We meet Genis' and Raine's mum, meet Zelos' sister, find Regal's long lost love and Presea's older sister, find Marble's (who is a very minor character) daughter...even meeting up with the Big Bad's sister by the end.
- Dragon Quest IX has Corvus, former mentor to Aquila , who fell to the Protectorate centuries ago and disappeared. Guess who the Big Bad is.
- In Mushroom Age, Professor Einbock's wife disappeared forty years ago. It turned out she'd been abducted by aliens.
- One of the very first quests in Diablo III has you exploring the abandoned home of Leah's allegedly long-dead mother Adria.
- Athrun Zala and Lunamaria Hawke are conspicuously absent in Jigoku-Hen despite both them otherwise always being PC's along with Shinn and Kira. They aren't forgotten about like the other missing characters either, as Kira mentions them frequently. As it turns out they were secretly working with Char to rig Axis with GN Particle emitters, in the event Frontal betrayed him and tried to drop Axis anyway.
- In the opening chapters of Girl Genius, we find out that poor Agatha Clay was raised by two characters who aren't really her parents, and their identities are clues that point toward the identity of her real parents. But her real parents are still missing, and may be the most important people in the entire world, considering her father is one of The Heterodyne Brothers, saviors of the world and her mother is apparently the one who nearly destroyed the world.
- Very early on in The Order of the Stick, we learn that Elan and his Evil Twin Nale's father was a conquering warlord in a distant country. As of Strip 723, guess who finally shows his face?
- Also, Haley's father Ian, who was being held ransom. Though she'd been looking for him ever since they arrived on the Western Continent, he turns up quite unexpectedly.
- And the casual mention early on (originally as a joke) that Vaarsuvius is married and has children. . .
- And according to the prequel book Start of Darkness, Redcloak has a niece still alive somewhere.
- In the Whateley Universe, Michael Waite has never known his father. Up until he finally manifests as a mutant and finds out that he is really a monster and his father is an Eldritch Abomination.
- In Worm, Perdition of the Travellers disappears between the Travelers leaving Boston and arriving in Brockton Bay, with the implication being that Trickster has handed him over to the supervillain Accord to be killed. In reality, Perdition was sold to the Chinese military parahuman division known as the Yŕngbǎn, and subsequently takes revenge during the Behemoth attack on New Delhi by murdering Accord, causing massive disruptions as Accord was coordinating the defense against Behemoth.