Cutscenes are non-interactive sequences inserted into the action of a video game. Sometimes also called "cinematics", they are included in almost every modern game that has any kind of story or plot. Sometimes, they can be overused, causing the game to [[StoryToGameplayRatio feel more like watching than playing]].

Cutscenes can take two forms. They can be produced in-engine, by moving the characters and viewpoint within the game itself. They can also be pre-rendered animations or even live-action videos triggered during certain events.

Pre-rendered cutscenes can contain any content desired, and can be as detailed as your animation studio (or casting budget, as in the Command and Conquer games) will allow. Their drawbacks are the amount of data required to store video files on the game disc, and a noticeable visual difference between the video and the game content. Also, if a character's appearance is subject to change, the cinematic cannot reflect this.

The word "cutscene" itself was possibly first coined by Creator/RonGilbert while making ''VideoGame/ManiacMansion'', wherein he defined cutscenes as short "scenes" that "cut" away from the action itself, to show what else was happening in the game world when the player wasn't around.

An in-engine cutscene is by definition a form of {{Machinima}}. It will most often have [[GoingThroughTheMotions custom movements]] for the character models that don't occur in normal gameplay. In-engine cutscenes have several innate advantages:
* The scenes will look exactly like the rest of the game.
* The animation data required to render the scene will take less storage space than the equivalent in video, allowing playback to cover up LoadsAndLoadsOfLoading.
* If a character's appearance can change, the changes can [[NoCutsceneInventoryInertia (but still usually won't)]] be reflected in the cutscenes.
* They can include interactive elements, like the ability to move the camera or zoom in during the scene.

The main disadvantage to an in-engine cutscene is that you are limited to the capabilities of the game engine itself. However, game engine technology can now do in real time what once took pre-rendering. Detailed and realistic hand and facial animation, camera and lighting tricks, and special effects are all possible within even a relatively old console architecture like the Sony [=PS2=]. The difference used to be a much bigger deal in older games; [[ just look]] at the difference between the models used in the introduction and gameplay sequences of ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil2'' to get an idea.

During the era of "FullMotionVideo", a number of games featured cutscenes which were not simply prerendered, but live-action, with (usually not very accomplished) actors playing the roles of the game characters. While this could make the cutscenes look far more like traditional film and television, it also inflated the size of the game: FMV-intense games would run to as many as ten discs for a comparatively short game. It looked as if the advent of DVD-ROM would solve this issue, but just as the DVD-ROM format emerged, FMV was almost totally abandoned in favor of in-engine and pre-rendered cutscenes.

The now-deceased format of "Interactive Movies" used FMV even for in-engine play, and as a result often felt like a near-continuous stream of cutscenes. In a powerful example of what happens when the technology gets ahead of itself, few players have much affection for the format now, making it unlikely that it will make a return in the near future, even though the technology could probably support it far better now.

Presumably, in the future of games, in-engine cutscenes will continue to be the norm. However, many recent games have claimed to do away with cutscenes altogether. ''VideoGame/HalfLife2'' has many sequences where characters talk to each other and advance the plot, but control of the character is almost never taken away; it's arguable whether the result, frequent impossible to skip sections where you're locked in a room with nothing to do with said control, is actually much of an improvement. Cutscene abuse king ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' added several interactive elements to its story scenes for its third installment.

Some definitions say "cutscene" refers specifically to in-engine segments, and "cinematic" refers to pre-rendered. However, in use they seem to be interchangeable.

Not to be confused with DeletedScene (scenes cut from the final product), or ''WebVideo/{{Unskippable}}'' (a show about MSTing these cutscenes).

See also ExpositionBreak, GoingThroughTheMotions, GameplayAndStorySegregation, CutScenePowerToTheMax and CutSceneIncompetence. Contrast PressXToNotDie, which makes you ''think'' it's a normal cutscene at first.

!!Some games notable for their cutscenes:

* 1980 arcade game ''VideoGame/PacMan'' had brief comic interludes between some map levels that [[UnbuiltTrope presaged the modern cutscene]].
* Data Age's ''VideoGame/JourneyEscape'' for the UsefulNotes/{{Atari 2600}} had an animated interpretation of the cover of Music/{{Journey}}'s 1981 album ''Escape'' as one, complete with the intro of "Don't Stop Believin'".
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' - Pioneered the use of the in-engine cutscene to create cinematic effects. The first game of the series has over three hours of them. [[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty The second]] has closer to seven, including one notorious cutscene which was, ''literally'', an hour long. [[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4GunsOfThePatriots The fourth game]] infamously has nine and a half, including the ending that is, again, at least an hour long. Thankfully, the fourth game also finally added the possibility of pausing during the cutscenes.
* ''Franchise/JakAndDaxter'' - The whole series has good ones. Check out ''VideoGame/Jak3Wastelander''[='s=] commentary section for some really informative stuff about Machinima.
* ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas'' has a main character with a [[VirtualPaperDoll highly variable appearance]], yet the cutscenes work with whatever you put together.
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'':
** ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaCDIGames'' contain several cutscenes, considered SoBadItsGood.
** ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'' was billed by Nintendo as having over 100 minutes of cinematic cutscenes. Because all cutscenes are rendered in real-time, disc space is not wasted on video files like with ''[[VideoGame/SuperSmashBros Super Smash Bros Brawl]]''.
** While not to the same extent as its 2011 follow-up, ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'' is very cinematic as well, and manages to feature them in real time to cope with the limited capacity of the UsefulNotes/NintendoGameCube (otherwise, the game would have had to come in two discs).
* ''VideoGame/{{Karateka}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{Prince of Persia|1}}'', both created by Jordan Mechner and originating on the UsefulNotes/AppleII. These really invented the in-engine cutscene as we know it. Since the technology was so limited, Mechner used the techniques of the silent movie era to add drama to his ahead-of-the-curve action games.
* ''Bug Eyes 2: Starman to the Rescue'' (1985, BBC Micro/ZX Spectrum): its infamous "C5 to the rescue" cutscene might be the earliest "annoying and unskippable" example. Just the one scene (Starman walks on, is picked up by a magnet on a string and dropped into a [[ Sinclair C5]] which he then drives off in), but repeated ''so'' many times over the course of the game.
* Creator/BlizzardEntertainment's ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}}'', ''VideoGame/{{Starcraft}}'' and ''{{VideoGame/Diablo}}'' games are renowned for having, at the time of their release, very well-done pre-rendered animation. (The most recent games have truly cutting-edge rendering. ''Warcraft III'' has both kinds of cutscene.
** And now, ''VideoGame/StarCraftII'' has amazing real-time in-engine cutscenes and ''even prettier'' pre-rendered cinematics.
* ''VideoGame/BloodRayne'', the first one, for some really bad examples of cutscenes.
* The ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' series (from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'' onward) is known for its extremely high-quality pre-rendered cutscenes. Both the earlier and the later games also make ingenious use of scripted events that take place within the battle screen, a form of in-engine cutscene.
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'' is famous for having as least as much cutscenes as the ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' series itself. Most of the story is told through them and in many cases they can't be rewatched, or, in the case of the first game, skipped. Most of the cutscenes worked on the game's engine and would include opened or unopened treasure chests, changes in the party's weapons (if Sora attached another keychain to his Keyblade, its appearance would also change in most of the cutscenes) and Sora's drive forms (Whenever he fought in a drive form, but didn't change back before the next cutscene, he would stay in his drive-form in this cutscene, leading to hackers misuse this fact to create cutscenes with Anti-Sora in them). Due to the large use of Disney humor in the games, using ''Kingdom Hearts'' cutscenes to create Internet parodies is extremely popular, especially on Website/YouTube.
** The first game was also quite notorious for having unskippable cutscenes, which made the fight against [[spoiler: Ansem possessed Riku]] even worse, since he was ThatOneBoss, and the cutscene you'd be watching before fighting him was ''very'' long.
* ''VideoGame/{{Xenosaga}}'' has extremely long cutscenes. Some of its cutscene sequences are more than half an hour long. In terms of "[[MemeticMutation LONGEST CUTSCENE EVER]]", this series is right next to ''Metal Gear''.
** A preorder bonus for Xenosaga II allowed for watching and summarizing the first game as one complete cutscene. It lasts for FOUR HOURS.
** ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'' had anime cutscenes inspired by ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion''.
* ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' is probably the biggest example of cutscenes ever. It's a strategy game where every single attack resulted in a minute to five minute cutscene showing the resulting battles. And they always worked, mostly because something was actually ''happening'' game-wise in the battles.
* ''VideoGame/{{Homeworld}}'' used in-engine cutscenes that would take control away from the player, but ''not pause the game'', leaving the enemy AI a few minutes with complete control of the battlefield. Ships are invincible during cutscenes, but can still be reduced to one unit of health and destroyed the instant the scene ends. For those reasons, it was helpful for a player to memorize cutscene triggers, and put their fleet into a defensive posture before triggering the cutscene. [[note]]It can be gamed to your advantage in ''Mission 4: The Great Wastelands''. Shortly after your fleet jumps in, there is a cutscene where the Bentusi traders show up, introduce themselves, and offer to sell you ion cannon technology. Accept or reject their offer and the cutscene ends swiftly, with the Bentusi jumping out to avoid the incoming Turanic raiders. If you ''donít'' accept or reject, the cutscene and the dialogue buttons just stay up. Eventually, the game hurries you along, the raiders draw near and the Bentusi have to go, but you can still click "accept" while theyíre saying goodbye. By which time your resource collectors will have cleaned out the system and be returning to safety, and youíll have resources to build enough ion cannon frigates to destroy the Turanic capital ships easily.[[/note]]
* One of the biggest complaints about ''VideoGame/EternalSonata'' was its large amount of cutscenes, several of which were also very long. It gets worse if you count the [[ExpositionBreak Chopin history lessons]].
* The phrase "Interactive Movie" is more associated with ''VideoGame/WingCommander III'', mentioned below, but the ''original'' game from [[TheNineties 1990]] was so labeled, with its animated cutscenes.
* ''VideoGame/NinjaGaiden'' was one of the earliest games to use cinematics to tell an elaborate story, as part of a way to motivate players to finish the level. In the era of SaveThePrincess, the relatively complex tale of Ryu's [[YouKilledMyFather quest for vengeance]], his inheritance of the [[MacGuffin Demon Statues]], and his UnresolvedSexualTension with Irene Lew was something altogether new and different.
* ''VideoGame/TheLordOfTheRingsTheTwoTowers'' alternated between FMV and in-engine cutscenes, and the very long intro was unskippable for some reason.
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvilCodeVeronica'', having true 3D backgrounds, used more in engine cutscenes, but still used pre-rendered videos when that was not feasible. ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil4'' and up used entirely realtime cutscenes (outside of the UsefulNotes/PlayStation2 port), with many of them being unskippable and incorporating PressXToNotDie events.
* The first two ''Franchise/SilentHill'' games mostly used realtime scenes, with a few CGI videos. All subsequent games were exclusively realtime.
* The ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' series has used 3D cutscenes since ''VideoGame/PokemonDiamondAndPearl''. This is in contrast to the earlier generations, which couldn't use cutscenes due to technical limitations, with the exceptions of a fourth-wall-breaking cutscene in ''VideoGame/PokemonColosseum'', a brief scene with Rayquaza in ''[[VideoGame/PokemonRubyAndSapphire Pokémon Emerald]]'' and an in engine cutscene with the Legendary Beasts at the basement of the Burned Tower in ''[[VideoGame/PokemonRubyAndSapphire Pokémon GoldAndSilver]]''.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Valis}}'' games relied heavily on cutscenes, though the earliest releases had no voice acting and barely any animation. ''Super Valis IV'' loses most of the cutscenes of its UsefulNotes/PCEngine counterpart, perhaps due to cartridge size limitations or a reduced art budget.
* ''VideoGame/CustomRobo'' for the Gamecube only saves the game at fixed points. This is especially notable in the cutscene where [[spoiler:Sergei]] explains the Z Syndicate's true goals, which is so long that it has ''three save points.''

!!Notable examples of games with full motion video cutscenes include:
* ''VideoGame/WingCommander III'' and ''IV'' featured Creator/MarkHamill and Creator/MalcolmMcDowell in its cinematics. One of the few examples of substantial FMV outside the Adventure genre.
** Also used, albeit to a lesser extent, in ''VideoGame/WingCommander Prophecy''. ''VideoGame/WingCommander Secret Ops'', the last "big" WC game, relied on cutscenes rendered by the game engine, instead of FullMotionVideo.
* ''VideoGame/{{Phantasmagoria}}'', possibly the first Interactive Movie, mostly remembered for how well it exposed the limitations of the genre.
* ''VideoGame/TheXFilesGame'', which featured the series' actors, probably had the highest production values in its cutscenes, but the use of FMV in-engine proved fatal to playability.
* ''VideoGame/GabrielKnight 2'' is often considered the only Interactive Movie that wasn't a monumental failure.
* ''Time Traveler'', a rare example of the FMV shooter, originally an arcade game which was not only FMV, but 3D, using ''holograms'' (actually just an optical illusion using parabolic mirrors).
* ''VideoGame/DragonsLair'', ''Dragon's Lair II'' and ''VideoGame/SpaceAce'' were three arcade titles featuring animation by Don Bluth. While not live action, they were pre-rendered interactive movies, made with traditional cel animation. Recently, these games were re-released as a box-set, playable on any movie DVD player.
* ''VideoGame/TheJourneymanProject Part 3: Legacy of Time'' combined rendered environments with live actors, resulting in one of the most playable examples of the FMV-intensive format. The game was also released on DVD, demonstrating the advantages that medium held. Possibly the last major FMV game.
** Parts 1 and 2 had them as well....just in lower quality and less frequently.
* ''A Fork In The Road'', in which save points were rare, so you had to wait through FMV scene after FMV scene until you could make any new decisions.
* ''VideoGame/TheSeventhGuest'', one of the first CD-ROM games, was so popular that [[KillerApp CD-ROM drive sales spiked to an intensely high number due to people wanting to play it.]]
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquer'' had FMV mission briefings and prerendered cutscenes. The series swears by them to this day (as do other RTS that used to be made by Westwood).
** Starting with ''[[VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert2 Red Alert 2]]'', they used cutscenes that appeared mid-mission (to show a new unit, etc.) In ''[[VideoGame/CommandAndConquerGenerals Generals]]'', these in-mission cutscenes became intrusive by [[InterfaceScrew taking control of the camera]], and preventing you from moving units or ordering them to defend your base from the one or two hostiles that are trashing your defenses and buildings.
* ''VideoGame/JediKnightDarkForcesII'': The fighting is a little lame, but when you compared to the Original trilogy (which had gems like the Force Kick) it gets better.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}: Final Liberation'', a turn-based strategy, used extensive live-action cutscenes to show the results of many of it's battles. The combination of terrible ork costumes and hilarious over-acting by humans is the stuff of legends.
** The Commissar was awesome though.
* VideoGame/EnterTheMatrix relied on a combination of FMV and in-engine cutscenes.
* ''[[Franchise/StarTrek Starfleet Academy]]'' and ''[[Franchise/StarTrek Klingon Academy]]'' used FMV for mission briefings, ship-to-ship communications, and important outside-of-mission events. Particularly notable is the fact that the studios brought in the relevant actors from the Star Trek franchise to be in the scenes, including William Shatner, Christopher Plummer, and David Warner.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker'' is the first game in the ''Zelda'' series to use FMV cutscenes as part of its story. In fact, the game uses only one at the very end of the game. The FMV consists of the entire "after the final battle" sequence, the staff credits, and the epilogue. The cutscene may have been prerendered in order to properly implement the transition from the game to the credits, or because the developers didn't have time to implement it. This cutscene runs in realtime on the Wii U version. The Wind Waker's demo cutscene was removed in the HD remake, presumably because the developers didn't want to re-record it. ''Master Quest'' and ''Collector's Edition'' also feature prerendered cutscenes for ''Ocarina of Time''[='s=] ending. ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'' and ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'' have prerendered cutscenes for their demo videos, and ''Skyward Sword'', ''Majora's Mask 3D'', and ''Ocarina of Time 3D''[='s=] Sheikah Stones hints are prerendered. ''Skyward Sword''[='s=] ending credit sequence is prerendered, too, to save on loading (Zelda goes through various locations in the game). Like its predecessor, ''Twilight Princess HD'' removes the demo video for presumably the same reasons.
* ''VideoGame/MetroidOtherM''; the game is loaded with cutscenes, some of which are FMV while others are rendered in-engine, and the difference is fairly noticeable. All of them are unskippable as well. Also, the developers created a TheMovie special [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin which features the entire game as a single sequence]] interspersed with gameplay.
* ''[[VideoGame/SuperSmashBros Super Smash Bros. Brawl]]'' comes up to nearly two hours of prerendered cutscenes, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it does when you're actually going through the Subspace Emissary (Adventure Mode). In fact, the cutscenes alone are the reason the game is on a dual-layer disc, which offers twice the capacity of a regular Wii game disc.
* VideoGame/TheMatrixPathOfNeo, like the VideoGame/EnterTheMatrix example, has a mixture of FMV and in-engine cutscenes.

!!Games which have in some way avoided or used an alternative to cutscenes include:
* The ''VideoGame/HalfLife'' series is played from the first person perspective of the protagonist of each game (normally the physicist-turned-saviour-of-mankind Gordon Freeman). Instead of traditional cutscenes, in order to preserve immersion, control is hardly ever taken away from the player, so you can usually still run around the room and mess with the environment while plot-important sequences are going on.
* The ''VideoGame/MetroidPrimeTrilogy'' has a few cutscenes (mostly introducing a boss or new area), however the majority of the story is revealed by using a piece of equipment called the scan visor to read various pieces of lore and logs. In fact, Samus rarely even interacts with other characters in ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'' games (beyond killing enemies); ''VideoGame/MetroidFusion'' was the first game in which Samus was seen talking to another character (somewhat ironically, a computer). ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime2Echoes'' was the first game to have other characters speaking (the Luminoth U-Mos explains much of the story to you), and ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'' was the first to have voice acting beyond Samus' suit talking to her (though Samus herself never actually speaks). As mentioned in the previous example section, ''Other M'' does extensively uses cutscenes, with Samus having voiced soliloquies even.
* ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' is very similar to the ''Metroid Prime'' example. The game is notable for how unintrusive the game's story is. There are very few Cutscenes except at the beginning and end of the game, and occasionally at the start of boss battles and when a new arc of the game starts. Most of the story is told through item text and NPC dialogue.
* ''VideoGame/{{BioShock|1}}'' also has most of its story told through various logs and audio diaries which have been left lying around by the (now dead or insane) inhabitants of the game world. It's particularly notable in that, apart from the intro and ending, it contains only one cutscene, [[spoiler:and the fact that it's the one point where control is taken away from you is actually part of the plot itself, if you count out every mention of the phrase "Would you kindly"]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Gothic}}'' only has a few major cutscenes. All other exchanges use a clever camera that frequently switches being centered on speakers during their specific dialog and utilizes generic NPC body motion for emphasis.
* ''VideoGame/{{Ys}} IV: Mask of the Sun'' has a really long unskippable dialogue prior to fighting Gruda, ThatOneBoss.

!!In-Universe examples:
* PlayedWith in the WebOriginal/KingDragonCanon. The InUniverse game has an unskippable cutscene just before the FinalBoss. The cutscene is also played every single time the boss is fought, which makes Dennis (the player) [[ very frustrated.]]