Tobio Tenma fits. Without his death, Astro Boy would never have been created.
Axis Powers Hetalia has the death/disappearance of the Roman Empire. It is brought up at the very beginning of the series, and leaves the little Italy brothers to be tormented by other nations. Roman Empire makes a few appearances, but he's pretty obvious dead.
Guts of Berserk has a whole bunch of dead folks in his origin story (which actually played out in the manga) consisting of pretty much everyone in the Band of the Hawk with the exception of Rickert (who wasn't with the Hawks when the Eclipse went down) and Casca (the one other character other than Guts to survive being Branded, who had a very nasty experience that she still hasn't recovered from). Because of this, Guts is madder than hell at Griffith, who sacrificed everyone to join the Godhand as its fifth member.
Clare from Claymore has one of these with the death of Teresa.
Three of the four central characters of Code Geass became the people they are today by losing a loved one (Leouch = mother Marianne, Suzaku = father Genbu, Kallen = brother Naoto). Later on it's revealed that there's much more to the deaths of Marianne and Genbu than first appeared (Naoto, however, simply stayed dead).
In Dragon Ball Z both Goku and Vegeta's home planet was destroyed by Frieza before the series began and losing their families in the process, also making them the last pureblooded Saiyans alive, with the two other survivors Raditz and Nappa being killed many years afterwards (If one counts the movies, Then Vegeta's brother Tarble was also among the last pureblooded Saiyans alive, and there were other survivors, namely Turles, Paragas, and Broly, who were eventually defeated).
And earlier, in Dragon Ball, there is Son Gohan, the elderly master who adopted young Goku as an infant. The poor fellow ended up being squished by Goku's Oozaru form some time before the series began. Since Death Is Cheap in the Dragon Ball universe, however, he did come back for a day during the Fortuneteller Baba arc as her fifth fighter for a reunion with Goku and his former master, Master Roshi.
With the exception of one fairly minor character in Fairy Tail (and a few demons) all deaths happen in people's back stories. As an inversion, in Hiro Mashima's previous manga, Rave Master there was no better guarantee that you'd be alive for the actual events of the story than dying in a back story. If you didn't turn out to have been Not Quite Dead or have faked your death you got to stay in the realm of the living as an animal (though if you were a mom you seemed to be exempt from that rule.)
Fruits Basket LOVES this trope. Most obviously for Kyoko, but Katsuya and Akira, Akito's father as well.
Most of the main characters in InuYasha are motivated at least partly by dead relatives or acquaintances, either before the beginning of the series or shortly after their introduction. Inuyasha's girlfriend Kikyo and Sango's brother Kohaku come back, sort of (very complicated in Kikyo's case). Inuyasha's mother, Shippo's father, Miroku's father, and the rest of Sango's village stay dead.
The Iron Man anime series shows the classic origin story with Dr. Yinsen (see the Comic Book and Film entries below) ...then subverts it by not only having Yinsen survive, but become the Big Bad of the series.
Kimba the White Lion has the eponymous character's parents who both die by the end of the first episode.
Soubi in Loveless ends up at Seven Voices under Ritsu's instruction because his parents were murdered. Soubi's mother is also Ritsu's Lost Lenore, and Nagisa claims this is the reason that Ritsu took Soubi's virginity.
Tiida Lanster in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Teana's older brother who died during his final mission in disgrace. From that point on, Teana sought to achieve her brother's dream of becoming an enforcer while proving that the magic he taught her was not useless.
All five Shuffle Alliance members in Mobile Fighter G Gundam have deaths connected in some way to the reason why they're in the Gundam Fight: Domon has his mother, who was killed by Kyouji's escape; Argo has the wife of future Neo-Canada pilot Andrew Graham, Norma, who gets sucked out into space in an accident; Sai Saici has his father, who died attempting to revive the Shaolin Temple; George has the Tragedy In Marseilles, in which a cruel competitor snaps and kills many spectators when he's denied the title of Gundam Fight rep; and Chibodee has his mother, who were killed by clown-faced terrorists.
In Naruto the whole story of the eponymous character is set in motion by his parents, the Fourth Hokage and his wife sealing the Nine-Tailed Fox into Naruto, even though they lose their own lives in the process, which is shown right at the start of the manga/anime. Likewise the massacre of the Uchiha clan leads to Sasuke changing his personality and focusing almost entirely on his revenge.
Neji's father allows himself to be killed in Hiashi's place. Neji believes he was forced to do it, though, and holds a grudge against the head family until it is revealed that he chose to die- not for the main family but for his village and his brother.
Kakashi got this twice in one arc. The first was in-story, where Minato explained the suicide of Kakashi's father had led to him being a stickler for the rules. The second was when Obito died and inspired Kakashi's current personality.
Gaara's mother and uncle died, his mother due to complications during birth and his uncle trying to kill him. The Kazekage's attempted manipulations of the facts led to Gaara being less than well-adjusted.
Sasori's parents were killed by Sakumo Hatake during a mission, and arguably contributed to his fall.
Haku's mother was killed by his father, who Haku then killed.
Nagato's parents were killed defending him, his dog was killed in cross-fire from a battle, and his dear friend Yahiko killed himself to protect Konan.
Tobi's backstory hinges on the death of Rin, his childhood crush.
Madara's brothers were both killed during the Warring Clans Era, as was Hashirama's youngest brother. While Hashirama moved forward, the loss of his brothers played a part in Madara's eventual destiny.
Black Zetsu was created by Princess Kaguya in her dying moments, in order to revive her at some point in the future.
Neon Genesis Evangelion. Every single character who is given more than five minutes of screen time is defined by the loss of some loved one, most often a parent, most often horribly. Almost all of them through suicide or misaimed noble sacrifice. But then, this is Evangelion.
Also, one ingredient in the construction of their Humongous Mecha are the soul of the pilots' dead mother.
Noir has main protagonist Mireille Bouquet's reason for fighting being that she wants revenge on The Soldats for killing her parents and older brother.
Practically every Straw Hat Pirates member in One Piece has such a tragedy, the only exception being Sanji, whose mentor merely lost his leg and is still around. In the present, however, the number of real deaths (while not zero) is greatly overshadowed by the Disney Deaths.
Brook is an unusual case in that, being an undead, the Death by Origin Story is actually his own, along with his pirate crew at the time.
There's also Fisher Tiger and Otohime, whose deaths influenced the current generation of fishmen.
That was pretty much the only guaranteed way, save one or two instances, that any named One Piece character could die.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Kamina. No one saw it coming, which added to the shock value of his sudden death. Even afterward, he remained a large inspiration to the entire Dai Gurren Brigade, all the way to the final battle.
Tower of God: Anak's reason for entering the Tower was revenge for the murder of her parents by orders of King Zahard.
Rem of Trigun serves as the reason for Vash's motivations and also the source of his philosophy. While in early episodes of the anime their actual relationship is unclear, episode 17 shows their origins and her motherly relationship to him.
In UQ Holder, Touta's parents were killed in a car crash resulted in him getting amnesia and being raised by Yukihime.
Weiß Kreuz enjoys playing with this one. Three of the four members of Weiss are motivated at least in part by someone else's death: Aya by the deaths of his parents, Yoji by the death of his partner Asuka, and Ken by the death of his friend Kase. Kase and (arguably) Asuka both turn up alive again, only for Ken and Yoji to be forced to kill them for real.
All Fall Down has the 642 casualties inadvertently killed by Sophie's ascendance in The Fall.
Parodied in the first issue of The Awesome Slapstick. The Scientist Supreme of Dimension X conveniently falls dead after telling protagonist Steve Harmon everything he needs to know to stop the Big Bad's schemes. After Steve leaves, he springs back up with a grin.
Batman has several instances of this. Thomas and Martha Wayne for him, and the Flying Graysons for Robin, who would later become Nightwing.
In case you didn't think the Batfamily had enough of this, Kate Kane, her twin sister and her mother were kidnapped and held hostage when Kate was ten years old. When her father managed to rescue her, she left her cell and saw their bullet-ridden corpses.
Batman Inc. introduces two more characters with similarly tragic pasts. Mr. Unknown, the future Batman of Japan, took on the role after his friend and mentor was tortured and killed in a very gruesome manner. Batwing is a former child soldier from Congo whose parents died of AIDS when he was a boy.
At least two Batman villains also have this as their origin; the parents of the Wrath and those of Prometheus were criminals gunned down by the cops right in front of their son.
In the continuity of the New 52, it has been established via retcon that Helena Bertinelli, the post-Crisis Huntress, was killed as a young woman and had her identity usurped by Helena Wayne, her pre-Crisis counterpart.
In Big Bang Comics, the Knight Watchman is a Captain Ersatz version of Batman. Instead of losing his parents as a child, however, Reid Randall lost his brother as an adult — he was killed by gangsters who wanted to scare the Randalls into handing over the family business. Reid became the Knight Watchman to put his brother's killers behind bars, and soon took in his orphaned nephew Jerry as his sidekick, Kid Galahad.
Blade's mother was attacked while pregnant by a vampire. And while she died in labor, Blade was tainted at birth by the vampire bite, but not fully turned. This pretty much shaped his grudge against the supernatural.
Captain Atom had two examples. The experiment that turned Nathaniel Adam in Captain Atom also hurled him eighteen years into the future, where he discovered that his wife, Angela had, in the intervening years, died of cancer. Coming to terms with her loss was a big part of Cap's character arc.
Cap himself was also an example, of course, since the experiment that made him Captain Atom also atomized his body (he got better, obviously). This was true in the Charlton version as well.
Doctor Strange inherited the title and artifacts of "Sorcerer Supreme" after killing his master and tutor, the Ancient One (at his request). Whether this means the role is a You Kill It, You Bought It deal is yet unresolved.
This was one of the reasons that The Flash (Barry Allen) stayed dead once his former Kid Sidekick Wally West came into his own as his successor. That's been undone now, though.
A pivotal story in the early '90s played with this by having Barry seem to return leaving Wally happy about Barry's return but conflicted about being back in his shadow (particularly since his speed had been reduced at the same point when Barry died leaving him the slower and less competent Flash). He had to deal with these issues in order to defeat Barry when he turned out to be Professor Zoom.
Abin Sur's impending death on Earth led the Green Lantern ring to choose its first human bearer (not counting Alan Scott, whose ring is of a different origin.) He's managed to stay dead and his death has even recently given Hal Jordan the nemesis Amon Sur, who blamed Hal for his father's death.
Particularly nasty variation in Hack/Slash, in which Cassie Hack's origin story involves having to kill her own psychotic and undead mother.
The Intimates only offhandedly mentions it, but Punchy first donned his costume shortly after his older sister was murdered.
Ho Yinsen, the man who helped Tony Stark escape capture and build his first suit of armor. The identity of the people who capture Tony and force him to build them weapons varies depending on the medium, but regardless of the exact telling of Iron Man's origins, Yinsen is always there to a) help Tony build his armor and escape, b) act as The Mentor, and c) die.
Parodied in Kill All Parents, where a scientist discovers that dead parents somehow directly guarantees their kid will become an awesome superhero. This leads to a government project dedicated to randomly murdering couples with children (and in one case an entire alien planet) to ensure that a generation of heroes will exist to save them from a foretold catastrophe.
Martian Manhunter has what is arguably the most extreme example of this ever. Most of his species, including his wife and daughter, spontaneously combusted after contracting a psychic plague engineered by his own brother. J'onn only survived by severing his own psychic connection to the rest of his people, meaning he had to watch his family die in front of him while he was mentally cut off from them. The worst thing is that he could have stopped all of this. He knew his brother was up to no good, but J'onn still had misplaced trust in him and underestimated the depths of his evil. The loss of his people and his family in particular are a huge part of his character, which might be why attempts to revive his race always turn out to be fakeouts. While there is another (evil) Green Martian out there, his family is still dead.
Both Mister Terrific's older brother and wife die, leading to him taking up the mantle of the original
The Punisher watched his whole family get caught in a mafia cross-fire, leading him to kill as many criminals as he could find.
And then, in an alternate-universe story where Frank Castle's family were killed during an alien invasion, he blamed the X-Men and Avengers and went on to hunt down meta-humans. It didn't help that the superheroes weren't very willing to accept responsibility for the deaths that their superfight caused, though Castle's actions in this What If comic were portrayed as nothing less than extreme.
Marvel supervillain crimelord, The Hood, magically resurrected Frank Castle's wife and kids during Marvel's Dark Reign, in an attempt to bribe him to leave him alone. Frank is unable to accept that they're the real deal and burns them alive (using the corpse of another briefly-resurrected supervillain who he just killed). Even the Hood (who still gives support to his own ex-wife and kids) was thoroughly shocked.
The DC miniseries Relative Heroes parodied this; the main characters, who recently discovered their superpowers, decide that the death of their parents means they're destined to be superheroes.
Spider-Man's defining tragedy was the very preventable death of his Uncle Ben.
To a lesser extent Peter Parker's biological parents, as he was introduced as an orphan being raised by his aunt and uncle. Richard and Mary Parker's death however was not shown until an annual during the Lee/Romita run; later the two were "brought back", but not that surprisingly the "returned" parents were revealed to be robots.
Spider-Man supporting character Toxin plays around with this a little: Toxin's already an established hero when Razorfist kills his father, and by the end of the series Toxin sees Razorfist put behind bars.
Played with in Starman. David Knight dies in the first issue after doing nothing of note (apart from fighting the Will Payton Starman), but Jack takes an entire story arc before taking up the mantle. David becomes more interesting after his death, popping up in the annual "Talking With David" stories and even getting his own story arc at the close of the series.
Superman's parents died, of course, when Krypton blew up. Originally this also included both Pa and Ma Kent dying , marking the passage between Superboy and Superman.
Averted in post-Crisis Superman, where both Ma and Pa Kent are alive in the main continuity.
Subverted and played straight with Rorschach in Watchmen. When his mother died all he said was "Good". But it was the event when Kitty Genovese was killed and despite multiple people hearing and seeing this event did nothing did he decide to become a vigilante.
"The Wombat" in 10th Muse murdered her own parents outside a movie theater after arranging for them to see a showing of The Mark of Zorro in an attempt to invoke the trope and make her a stronger hero.
This storyline was later remade with a few major alterations in Insane Jane - Jane kills everyone she knows so she can have a proper "origin", but she's schizophrenic and doesn't actually know she's doing it.
A few other Marvel stories that involved this trope, for example:
The Wasp's debut and origin story involved the murders of Hank Pym's first wife and of Janet Van Dyne's father as motivations for Hank's attraction for Janet and Janet's decision to become a superhero.
Daredevil #1 introduced Matt Murdock as a half-orphan, then his father was murdered on the orders of the Fixer. Frank Miller's retcon later revealed that Matt Murdock's mother had not died but become a nun, while the origin of Miller's new character, the aptly named Elektra also entailed the death of her father.
Professor X of the X-Men was shown as having lost his biological parents as well as his step-father in his origin story. Cyclops was introduced as an orphan (although it was later revealed that at least his father survived long enough to meet his children again).
Professor X's origin (which spans several decades prior to his debut) also has him paralyzed from waist down. Even though he's no longer in his original body, the notion of one of the most powerful men alive being confined to a wheelchair is so intrinsic to Xavier's character that restoration of his ability to walk never lasts long.
Loki's Tales of Asgard origin story showed him as the orphaned son of one of Odin's late enemies.
Magneto's young daughter died in a fire while a mob tried to kill her father for his newly emerged mutant abilities.
Another X-Men example with X-23, who's actually the Decoy Protagonist of her own origin book, which focuses instead on her mother and creator, Sarah Kinney, her attempts to clone Wolverine, and her subsequent Heel Realization and Heel-Face Turn to save the girl. And then she's killed at the end as a final posthumous Kick the Dog by Zander Rice, just as she helps X-23 escape.
My Little Unicorn: As we learn through flashback narration, the case for Lightning's family. In the remake, the same goes for Starla's parents, Buddy Rose's parents and Buddy Rose's Cousin's parents.
Connor, Zane and Starr's capture by Pokextinction in Pokeumans give Sakato, Nathan and Starr something tragic to fight for. On the plus side, they aren't dead. They're just brainwashed.
How much of Anakin Skywalker's (Attack of the Clones) move toward the Dark Side had to do with the death of his mother at the hands of the Sand People (whom he'd slaughter in an orgy of vengeance, including women and children—definitely a path to the Dark Side of the Force)? And of course his premonitions of Padme's death were how Palpatine got his hooks in him too.
And in Star Wars, Luke starts his trajectory to Jedi herodom with the death of his guardian family on Tatooine, and is on a deeper level motivated by the long ago death (from a certain point of view) of his father.
In Godzilla (2014), Sandra Brody is shown with Joe and a young Ford at the beginning of the film, and dies shortly afterwards. The film then jumps fifteen years later, and we're shown that Joe hasn't gotten over her death, while their son Ford has moved on, married and has a kid of his own.
On top of that, his death is a total Tear Jerker, revealing Ten Rings murdered his family, so by dying, he's "going to meet them" as he earlier said he would when he "escaped."
The Bowler in Mystery Men references this, a little. She inherited the role and title from her father, whose skull is now encased in her (transparent plastic) bowling ball. Twisted a little in that she doesn't really want to be The Bowler; her father's ghost guilted her into it, and she's looking forward to avenging his death not because she feels a burning need for justice but so that she can go back to grad school.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine has Love Interest Kayla. Being Logan, a character who in the comics collects dead lovers and was unattached in the first three movies, it seemed she was doomed to die, and the film doesn't disappoint... at first. But when it's revealed he death was faked and their affair false, the trope seemed averted. But then it turns out she really loved him... so she was dead as a doornail by the end, and the now amnesiac Wolverine didn't even know to cry over her corpse. Tragic in all the wrong ways.
Then there's John Howlett, Wolverine's father, who is killed by the groundskeeper Thomas Logan in a drunken rage. The trauma of witnessing this activates young Logan's mutation: bone claws and he uses this to kill Thomas Logan, supposedly avenging his father's death. With his dying breath, Thomas Logan reveals that he, not John Howlett, is his real father.
The CHERUBs are all required to be orphaned or abandoned with no family members likely to turn up and claim them. This trope strikes main characters James and Lauren, as their mother dies just chapters into the first book and Lauren's father is sent to jail for smuggling cigarettes after hitting Lauren.
In Discworld, the death of Susan's parents. Unusual in that they'd been key characters in a previous book, and that Death himself is implied to have offered them an alternative (living on at his estate, like Albert), but they opted to see their real lives through to the end.
Subverted in Hogfather. The Assassins' Guild took Mr. Teatime in as a child because they took pity on him after the sudden death of his parents. As Lord Downey later came to reflect, it was a pity they didn't look into this...
Clark Savage, Jr. died in the first Doc Savage novel. He had already trained his son to fight crime.
In Dune, Paul Atreides becomes the prophecied Muad'dib only after the sneak attack on his House by the Harkonnens, resulting in the death of his father, drives him into the desert, and into the shelter of the Fremen.
Paul gets this twice actually: he only decides to fully follow through on the prophecies when his son dies.
This also makes him Duke Atreides and eligible to become Emperor, but that's just the normal workings of inheritance.
Mack Bolan, The Executioner, tried to wipe out the entire Mafia after he returned home from Vietnam because of the death of everyone in his family except his little brother.
In Harry Potter Harry's parents are sacrificed at the start of the story, his mother's sacrifice specifically allowing him to survive.
In the Incarnations of Immortality series, Zane becomes the incarnation of Death by killing the previous incarnation of Death. Also, death figures largely in why Chronos and Satan become their respective incarnations.
Fisk's parents in the Knight and Rogue Series. His father died of pneumonia after reading a book out in the rain. His mother died in a flu epidemic.
In Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, the Markhagir (although he is a villain) has a Death by Origin Story - the neighboring country invades and kills the entire royal family, leaving him suffocating under a mountain of corpses. This trauma turns him into the complete madman he is.
Happens to Queen Vasi Bria's mother in The Last Dove. Her death causes the fighting between the clans.
Nick Carter's father Sim died in the first Nick Carter story. He had already trained his son to work as a sleuth.
Alex Maxwell, a.k.a. Shade of the Seekers of Truth gets one of these when his parents are killed explicitly to draw his brother into the Big Bad's evil plot.
Simon Mead in the Selena Mead stories.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The first book Weekend Warriors introduces us to Myra Rutledge, Nikki Quinn, and Barbara Rutledge. All three of them are very happy... until Barbara gets killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver who exploits Diplomatic Impunity! Myra sinks into a funk for over a year until she witnesses a vigilante killing a rapist and killer on live news. Then she gets the inspiration to set up a group of vigilantes to get justice for women who were wronged by Karma Houdinis. On an interesting side note, Barbara has appeared as a ghost to Myra, Nikki, and Charles Martin from time to time to make conversation or offer advice.
The Spider, Richard Wentworth, fought crime after the death of his wife and daughter.
Dorn Graybrook in The Year of Rogue Dragons hates dragons with a passion and hunts them for a living. Reason being, a black dragon killed his parents and bit off half his body as a child. (A wizard replaced his missing limbs with iron golem parts.)
The Domino Lady's father, a senator, assassinated by a criminal group, inspired her to fight crime.
Live Action TV
Alias: Sydney's fiancé Danny is killed in the pilot episode after she tells him she's a spy, and provides the motivation for her turning on SD-6 and starting to work for the real CIA. Despite the introduction into the series mythos of zombies, clones, zombie clones and immortality juice (oh, if only it made sense in context) and multiple fakeout deaths for Sydney's main in-series love interest, Vaughn, Danny stays dead and is never seen again.
Captain John Sheridan has always regretted the death of his wife, whose ship was destroyed while surveying a distant planet on the edge of known space. Particularly since he is aware that he forgot to say "I love you" and "Good bye" to her the last time they spoke, as they were both in a rush. The discovery that the Shadows were responsible for her death is a huge motivator for him in the second and third seasons of the show. Since he assumed that Delenn was telling him the truth when she said the Shadows killedhis wife.
Also, Marcus was motivated to become a Ranger after the death of his brother, a Ranger, in a Shadow attack—when previously, he hadn't taken his brother's stories about the Shadows very seriously. (This is touched on a bit in the series, but elaborated in the canon book "To Dream in the City of Sorrows", where we see him in training.)
Ivanova joined Earthforce after the death of her brother in the Minbari War—in spite her father being a pacifist and opposing her joining. Also, her mother's suicide from the depressive effects of PsiCorps drugs spurred her to become a big foe of that organization, and to help some telepaths avoid or escape its clutches.
Blue Bloods: The middle sibling Joe Reagan was killed in the line of duty before the series began. This formed part of youngest sibling Jamie Reagan's motivation to leave law school to become a cop like most of the rest of the family. Jamie's investigation into Joe's death also formed the main plot arc for season 1.
CSI NY: Mac's wife Claire, who died on 9/11—it's gotta be part of the mix of his motivation to fight for justice, alongside his Marine background.
Dark Justice: Judge Nicholas Marshall, the protagonist, stopped believing in the system and started believing justice when he lost his family (namely, his wife and his daughter) and the murderer got Off on a Technicality.
Dexter: Dexter's adoptive father, Harry Morgan. And his biological mother who got hacked up in a shipping container when he was 2.5 years old - Dex and his older brother Brian sat in blood for three days.
A number of companions of the Doctor have ended up traveling with him after their close relations died, usually as Back Story (making them Conveniently an Orphan) occasionally as shown onscreen:
Vicki's father was killed in a massacre just prior to the events of her debut story, "The Rescue".
Sara Kingdom was tricked into assassinating her own brother in "The Daleks' Master Plan", but died herself at the end of the story.
Victoria Waterfield's father died fighting the Daleks in "The Evil of the Daleks".
Adric lost his brother to the Marshmen in "Full Circle" and, with him, any reason for staying with his own people. When Adric himself died at the end of "Earthshock", he was seen holding his brother's belt in his final moments.
Nyssa lost two family members as a result of the Master's machinations in "The Keeper of Traken". The first was her stepmother, whom the Master manipulated, then killed once he had no further use for her. Then, the Master killed Nyssa's father and took over his body; this was followed soon after by the destruction (in "Logopolis") of Nyssa's home planet.
Tegan Jovanka's aunt was murdered by the Master in "Logopolis".
For a viewer who begins watching from the beginning of the new series (2005) this trope could also apply to the entirety of the Time Lord race.
Technically the regeneration of one Doctor into another is a Death by Origin Story, since the previous Doctor has to die for the new one to be born.
Leverage: Sam, the young son of mastermind Nathan Ford, died prior to the start of the show after a health insurance company refused to pay for his treatment. Nate blames the company, and his need for revenge leads him to use his skills to steal from the heartless rich to give to the deserving.
The Mentalist: Psychic Patrick Jane, the protagonist, became a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation when his wife and his daughter were murdered by a serial killer. Particularly because he partly blames himself, as he openly mocked the serial killer on a talk show.
Merlin: Arthur's mom, Ygraine, died giving birth to him. The catalyst for Uther's magic ban and a major part of the series' premise.
The death of Gibb's first wife and only child at the hands of a drug dealer (And his hunting down and killing him) set him on the path to stop being a Marine sniper and instead become one of the top investigators of NCIS
Pushing Daisies: Ned first discovered he could resurrect the dead when his dog, Digby, was hit by a truck. His mother died soon after, and he resurrected her. However, the dead could only be brought back to life for one minute, or something else had to die. Ned didn't know this, and only learned it when the father of the Girl Next Door, Chuck, suddenly died. Ned then discovered that if he touched a resurrected person again, they died again, with no more chance at resurrection. He learned this when his mother kissed him good night. Finally, Chuck is murdered when she and Ned are adults, and he resurrects her, thus starting the events of the series...
Queen of Swords: The murder of Tessa's father in the pilot episode provides the motivation for her to become the masked vigilante, the Queen of Swords.
Revolution: In the pilot episode, Ben Matheson gets killed off in a shootout between the Monroe Republic's militia and his son Danny Matheson. Between that and Danny Matheson being captured the militia, this is what starts the plot of the show.
Slingers: DM's blames himself for his girlfriend's death. As presumably some form of closure he uses a holographic copy of her as ship pilot.
Smallville: There was a comic book about Lex's childhood hero, the Avenging Angel, whose love interest became a victim of this trope. When the producers of a movie based on the comic decided to use the Spared by the Adaptation trope on her, it motivated a Villain of the Week to kill her actress while recording the scene where the character should die. When said villain learned of Clark's powers and how he uses them for good, the villain decided to kill Clark's love interest out of the belief a hero needs this element and a living girlfriend would be a weakness.
Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Charlie, O'Neill's son. In the original movie, Charlie's death is a major motivation for O'Neill to go on what is probably going to be, and almost is, a suicide mission. And despite several characters treating death as a revolving door (I'm looking at you, Daniel), Charlie stays dead (except for that onealternate reality). Of course, he's been dead and buried well before they ever run across the technology to bring people back to life, which only seems to work on the recently deceased (and has bad side effects anyway).
Also, their dad was Killed Off for Real after "In My Time of Dying." (Sure, he returned as a ghost in "All Hell Breaks Loose," but that doesn't count — their mother returned as a ghost as well and then she got Deader than Dead.)
Teen Wolf: The deaths of Derek's family. The fire that killed the majority of his family years before the story begins has shaped Derek into the person he is, and establishes Kate as one of the first season's main villains when it turns out that she was the one who set the fire. The more recent murder of Derek's sister Laura establishes the Alpha as the Big Bad of the first season, and also starts the whole story since her body being found is the reason Scott and Stiles are wandering around in the woods, leading to Scott being bitten and becoming a werewolf.
Tracker: Cole became a prison guard to guard Rhee, the Vardian who killed his wife and daughter. And then he follows Rhee to Earth after the escape. Although he's charged with rounding up all the escapees, Rhee is his first and primary objective.
Dick Tracy decided to join the police force after the murder of his fiancée's father.
The first Phantom started battling pirates to avenge his father.
Toa Lhikan as part of the Toa Metru's origin story in BIONICLE.
It's not surprising that this happens a lot in Ace Attorney, given the game is entirely about murders.
Phoenix's first major case was the murder of his mentor Mia Fey, although she stuck around afterwards. Later she even does double-duty for the origin of Prosecutor Godot.
Gregory Edgeworth's death is what led to his son Miles getting adopted and getting turned into the Demon Prosecutor.
The unsolved murder of Cece Yew is what prompted the formation of the Yatagarasu.
Kay Faraday would probably not be the second Yatagarasu if she wasn't trying to follow in her dead father's footsteps.
Assassin's Creed II: Ezio Auditore becomes an Assassin after his father (an Assassin himself) and two brothers are framed and publicly executed. His first act is to hunt down and kill the man who had them killed, only to find out that someone else was pulling the strings. The rest of the game involves hunting down and assassinating Templars one-by-one.
In Assassin's Creed III, Connor's mother was killed when his village is attacked by Charles Lee, setting him on the path of vengeance.
It being the slightly Troperiffic game that it is, Dragon Age: Origins has six different origins to choose from, and someone dies in at least three of them.
Jeff Bogard dies ten years before the events of Fatal Fury, driving his adopted sons Terry and Andy to train in martial arts to avenge his murder at the hands of Geese Howard.
Tombstone's wife in Freedom Force was killed by a neighbor in revenge for turning him down (also see the own death section)
In The Godfather: The Game game, Johnny Trapani serves as the Decoy Protagonist for the prologue and is gunned down at the end, paving the way for his son Aldo to become the real player character and giving him motivation to go out and kick the asses of other mobsters.
Aldo himself dies in the prologue of Godfather 2, which as his second in command allows the player character room to step in and take his place in the organization.
The Spirit Monk's unnamed parents (and the entire population of Dirge) was killed by Emperor Sun Hai's invasion in the backstory of Jade Empire, which led directly to the nasty problems the player must solve.
Dawn Star is also an orphan, although it's revealed that her father is still alive - it's their teacher Master Li, while her mother was murdered by order of The Emperor.
The Last of Us has Sarah, Joel's daughter who dies in the prologue, which takes place 20 years prior to the events of the game.
Similarly in Bioware's other RPG, Mass Effect two of the three possible backstories for Commander have his/her parents dead by default either because Shepard grew up on the streets or because of a Batarian attack.
In Metroid, Samus Aran's family and the Chozo who raised her are all dead thanks to Space Pirates. This is elaborated in the manga, and only hinted at in the games.
Hanzo Hasashi's family is slaughtered by the Lin Kuei, specifically, by a warrior named Bi Han (AKA Sub-Zero). After Hasashi himself comes back from the dead, he vows to avenge them and kill Sub-Zero. To symbolize himself as a new person, he starts calling himself Scorpion (also see below).
Esmerelle, the player's mother in Neverwinter Nights 2, was killed by a bit of the exploding MacGuffin that ended up stuck in the player's chest.
Bella Goth in The Sims 2, who was abducted by aliens. Even trying to bring her back using her character files usually fails because she has the memory "I died". Trying to get her clone from Strangetown also usually messes with the game. Despite this, there is still an Urban Legend of Zelda going around that there is a cheat to bring her back.
Street Fighter is fairly fond of this trope with the "disappearance" of Chun-Li's father and the death of Charlie being the main reason why Chun-Li and Guile respectively joined the Street Fighter II tournament. Thunder Hawk's father, Arroyo, was also a past victim of M. Bison.
In Suikoden II, the entire backstory for the Cooking Duel minigame sidequest is that Hai Yo is on the run from a cooking syndicate intent on stealing a recipe he received from his deceased fiancée Shun Min. Slight subversion in the fact that we're able to meet Shun Min in Suikoden V before her Death by Origin Story takes place.
When her little brother Myouren dies, Buddhist nun Byakuren Hijiri decides to pursue immortality to avoid her own death. She tries to broker peace between humans and youkai along the way, gets sealed away for her sins, and that puts in motion the events of Undefined Fantastic Object.
In World of Warcraft, lots of dead characters from the previous games are back in a way or another for everybody's enjoyment. However, this doesn't include Durotan and Draka (Thrall's parents), Llane Wrynn (Varian Wrynn's father), or Grom Hellscream (Garrosh's father).
Through time travel shenanigans, the Warlords of Draenor expansion actually is bringing back Grom and Durotan.note Llane and Draka could conceivably be alive in the new timeline as well, though so far there's no mention of them.
In Axe Cop #0, the eponymous character's parents are poisoned by Telescope Gun Cop. This involves Time Travel.
In El Goonish Shive, the death of the original Grace Sciuridae was the reason Grace was created the way she was.
In Everyday Heroes, Jane Mighty changed her life after the murder of her best friend, Goldie Aurum.
Homestuck has this for two characters using an unusual twist: the deceased in question died ages before those whose origin they are part of were born; they simply prepared things ahead of time and it is their story that drive the heroes, rather than direct personal connection, although there is some form of attachment.
In Kirby Adventure, Keeby was introduced in a flashback arc solely to die and give Kirby a reason to start the KAS.
In the Epic Tales series Shadow Hawk the title character's father is killed. This is what leads to him becoming a superhero, so that he can learn about his father's killer and get revenge.
Also the character Astral Controller is an example of someone whose death was their origin story, as David Wilson only become Astral Controller after he died because of a deal he made with Hades.
In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, this is part of the Back Story for several characters. The most blatant example would be Doctor Ka, the rest of whose family was slaughtered by demons when his sorcerer father delved into things Man was not meant to know. This set the mystic superhero on his path to... well... mystic superherodom.
Battlecat, being basically a Captain Ersatz of The Punisher, witnessed his entire family (other than his daughter) being slaughtered by crime lord Baron Samedi and his Mafiosi after his wife testified against one of the crime lord's henchmen. Turned out to be a big mistake on the part of Baron Samedi.
The Shadow of the LessThanThree-Verse has his older brother, who was killed in a shootout between rival gangs. This lead to Shadow taking self-defense classes, and beginning his crimefighting career. Lucky for him, he discovered his superpowers on the job.
Phase in the Whateley Universe still has both parents, but his mother hates him now that he has turned into a mutant. It's her backstory that has this trope. As a child, she and her big sis were kidnapped by two horrific mutants, one of whom generates a fear aura and manifests monsters. The other was worse. The other ate the big sis alive in front of the child. Phase's mother was institutionalized for three years after her rescue. She's never going to be okay with Phase being a mutant.
In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, the source of the conflict between the Turtles and the Foot is the rivalry of Hamato Yoshi and a rival (primarily Oroku Saki) over the beautiful but ultimately ill-fated Tang Shen, who always ends up dying after choosing Yoshi due to the other suitor's jealousy.
In ThunderCats (2011), Lion-O's personal motivation to defeat Big Bad Mumm-Ra is shaped not just by the destruction of Lion-O's kingdom, but by Mumm-Ra's gloating assassination of Lion-O's father, King Claudus.
Examples of Own Death By Own Origin Story:
Anime & Manga
Really quiet young hitman gets betrayed and murdered by his closest best friend. His body is stolen from the syndicate he worked for by a scientist who has the technology to reanimate the dead. The deceased man in question is revived as a nearly-invincible gun-toting cowboy assassin and sent out to take revenge on his killer and the syndicate that betrayed him. That's Gungrave right there.
Kore wa Zombie desu ka?: Ayumu dies at the start then becomes a zombie. The driving force behind the first third of the anime is finding his killer.
Brook of One Piece died along with his entire crew, but he was the only one who could come back (though only once).
Pretty much the entire cast of Sailor Moon died in their origin story and reincarnated in present day (as of when the Series was released) The senshi aside from Venus are kept in the dark about this for much of the first season. It is unknown how Venus already knows in the anime but in the manga she learned in her own series, Codename: Sailor V.
One of the first things we learn in Shakugan no Shana is that the protagonist, Yuji Sakai, has been dead for an indeterminate amount of time.
The main character of YuYu Hakusho, Yusuke Urameshi, looks at his own dead body within the first 5 minutes of the first episode.
Briar Harvestar/The Hooded One in Bone, though she is not the main protagonist.
The same thing applies to everyone resurrected by The Crow, and they usually have dead loved ones to avenge as well.
Parodied in another way in the Great Lakes Avengers' Mr. Immortal. It's something of a misnomer, since he's perfectly capable of being killed; "Mr. Resurrection" might be better... for him the Grim Portal is more of a revolving door.
Doomsday is shown to be a version of the trope in the minseries Hunter/Prey. He started off as an experiment in "evolution". Whenever he gets killed, he comes back in an "evolved" form with improved resistance to whatever killed him. Over time this builds up to the point that he was capable of going toe-to-toe with Big Blue in the "Doomsday/Death of Superman" arc. In which he and Superman killed each other. Hunter/Prey takes place after that; you do the math.
Parodied in Knights of the Dinner Table; Bob's first attempt at being a Game Master involved all the characters being killed, and then the main bulk of the adventure took place in Hell. For some reason, though, he never explained this and let them roll up new characters, who also had to die before the adventure could begin. This went on for hours, until the group, as he put it, "gave up during the prologue".
Moon Knight took the cowl when he was beaten to death by Raoul Bushman and was resurrected to serve as Khonshu's fist of justice. He also hunts Werewolves by the side, we're not really sure why.
Resurrection Man's power involves him dying and then being resurrected by nanotechnology with a new super power, usually related to the manner of his death.
Secret agent/assassin Al Simmons is set up and murdered by his boss. After striking a Deal with the Devil he is returned to Earth as Spawn with a new body and supernatural powers.
Typically, this is what happens to The Spectre's hosts; almost all of them were murder victims who found themselves bonded to the Vengeance of God incarnate.
The Spirit 'dies' in every version of his origin story, which is why he calls himself the Spirit in the first place. If you want to get technical, he is exposed to chemicals that put him into a death like coma and is buried. He awakes and takes advantage of his new found death status to become a vigilante. Alvarro Mortez AKA 'El Morte' in the DC reboot actually dies though. He is unfortunate to die TWICE.
And, while on the subject of Swamp Thing, it's also true for Garbage Man, a very similar character.
Physicist Jon Osterman from Watchmen is atomized in a nuclear experiment, but returns as "Dr. Manhattan", an immortal indestructible ascended godlike entity.
Dr. Manhattan was an Expy of Captain Atom, so it is of course not surprising that Cap's origin was basically the same in both the original Charlton version and post-Crisis DC version: his body atomized by a nuclear bomb, he returns with superpowers. Also, see above for the example of his first wife.
Parodied in an issue of What's New? with Phil and Dixie, when a nascent superhero is subjected to so many different methods of acquiring superpowers simultaneously that said hero is reduced to ashes.
Hilariously invoked in All-Star Superman, when Superman is on a world that spits out opposite clones of his world (such as Bizarro Superman having flame breath instead of Superman's trademark ice breath), Superman asks about Bizarro Batman, and is told that his parents shot him, he's dead.
The Crow movies, where the murdered protagonist is granted the chance to return as a deathless revenant to take revenge on his murderers.
Naturally, some movies featuring vampires or ghosts as main characters.
Jesus Christ in the Bible becomes the savior of human souls after His death and resurrection.
The opening paragraph of Daemon is Matthew Sobol's obituary. Guess who becomes the main antagonist of the book.
A variation occurs with Pete Sebeck. He is tried, convicted, and put to death, but the Daemon had an agent that somehow made him simply be put to sleep instead of dying. In the second book, he goes on to be a legend of the Darknet, and Sobol gives him the choice of whether the Daemon has been a force for good or evil in the world.
Allen Carpentier in Niven and Pournelle's Inferno.
Ring 0 Birthday, and the novella "Birthday", on which it was based, recount the tale of how Sadako Yamamura was killed and tossed down a well, turning her into the vengeful, supernatural entity of Ringu.
Arguably almost all the Cullens in Twilight, if you count "between life and death, only turning them into a vampire can save them now" as death.
Live Action TV
The Grim Reapers in Dead Like Me start their "second" life (well, unlife) by dying, and then find out that for them the afterlife is not what they expected. Consequently, the central character and narrator of the series, Georgia "George" Lass, dies in a freak accident during the first twenty minutes of the pilot episode and is drafted into the ranks of the Reapers, to collect souls from the dead and help them pass on into the light.
All kinds of vampires, those we actually met (if briefly) before they became undead: Dracula, Nicholas Knight, Angel, Spike... becoming a vampire has a marked effect on their psyche and motivations.
The Legacy of Kain franchise offers several interesting examples: Kain originally becomes a vampire to kill his assassins and to satisfy his thirst for revenge, and Raziel has been killed and resurrected twice, first by Kain after his death by his own hand as a vampire-hunting Sarafan knight, and again after serving as Kain's underling for a millennium and then betraying him, being cast into the Lake of the Dead, from where the Elder God resurrects him as a half-wraith half-vampire to settle the score with Kain...and to carry out the Elder God's ulterior motives.
Kai from Lexx, whose introductory narration declares, "Today is my day of death: the day our story begins." After spending 2000 years reanimated as an assassin in the service of evil, he finally reclaims his memories and identity, but not his life.
Jack Harkness of Torchwood was killed by Daleks on Doctor Who and was revived and made immortal by a temporarily god-like Rose Tyler. Every time he died subsequently, he then returned to life. When we meet him at the start of Torchwood, his death and resurrection happened 138 years ago. His death, abandonment by the Doctor, and immortality, more or less created the Jack we see in Torchwood.
And if you want to pull off becoming one of Immortals' purified, you've got to kill yourself first.
Early versions of the Traveller RPG featured a character generation system which frequently killed player characters before play began.
Yes, you read that right: it was possible for a character to die while being rolled up. In fact, there was a military service (implied to be of the commando/special forces type) for "hopeless" characters with sub-par ability scores designed to either kill them off or give them significant rewards to compensate for their deficiencies.
In the arcade game Avenging Spirit, the main character is killed while walking with his girlfriend, and the girl's father, who researches ghost energy, calls him back as a ghost so that he can save her.
Tombstone of Freedom Force was framed for the murder of his wife (see up) but the execution wound up transforming him into his super"hero" self.
Almost every character in Grim Fandango. A game about a reaper in the afterlife.
In Mortal Kombat, Scorpion returned from Hell to avenge his and his family's deaths by hunting down and killing the Lin Kuei assassin Sub-Zero. Of course, that didn't quite go as planned, and only proved that Scorpion probably shouldn't have wound up in Hell to begin with.
Mortal Kombat Legacy reveals that sorcerer Quan Chi impersonated Bi Han (AKA Sub-Zero) and, along with Shang Tsung, set the whole thing up in order to trick General Hanzo Hasashi (AKA Scorpion) to join the Netherrealm in Mortal Kombat. Quan Chi even mentions that the desire for revenge will blind Scorpion (no pun intended) to any inconsistencies.
The hero of the Dark Avenger module for Neverwinter Nights 2 gets sent back from the dead to avenge him/herself and everyone else who died without being avenged.
In Planescape: Torment, The Nameless One wakes up in a mortuary and spends the rest of the game figuring out why he cannot die.
The eponymous Sonny of the flash game series of the same name died prior to the start of the first game and is resurrected by some sort of experiment that turns him into an amnesiac zombie with superhuman powers.
The main character of The 503, Phil Stone, accidentally sent his girlfriend, Dawn, to her death during a wildfire three years ago and the strip opens with him just starting to heal from it. It's later revealed that the whole reason he moved to Portland is because of Dawn.
The Adventure Time episode "Ghost Princess" reveals the death by origin story of the titular character.
Danny Phantom wouldn't work at all if Danny weren't a phantom. Then again, he's not really dead, he's just drawn that way.
Due to the odd Never Say "Die" quality of the show, its never made completely clear if he did "kinda-sorta" die or not — a lot of ghosts are heavily implied to have died, but others seem more like alternate-dimension monsters that where never alive at all. All we really know about Danny is that he's now a hybrid that's half-human and half-ghost, whose DNA was suffused with ectoplasm.