The Trope Namer occurs when Raiden and Snake are fighting through Arsenal Gear in Metal Gear Solid 2. At one point, the screen flashes white, indicating that Raiden has been killed, but instead of "Mission Failed", the text reads "Fission Mailed", the options read "Emit/Continent" instead of "Exit/Continue", and the action continues in the corner box that normally shows Raiden's cause of death. A few seconds later, the game goes back to normal.
You can mail your fission at any time in Metal Gear Solid 3 by taking the fake death pill, which sends you to a fake Game Over screen, except your inventory button still works, allowing you to take the revival pills. The Sorrow sends you to the same Fission Mailed screen, and the same remedy works. In fact, doing this as soon as The Sorrow's sequence begins will skip the boss fight.
The first Metal Gear Solid had Psycho Mantis, a boss with an attack that pretended to turn off the console. There was the big green "Hideo" in the top right corner as a giveaway, but this was another level of Interface Screw; it had a similar font and positioning as the "Video" input indicator on Sony Trinitron model televisions that were made at the time.
Metal Gear Solid 4 has both a tribute to the Psycho Mantis encounter in the form of Screaming Mantis (and in the Codec conversations about how to beat her when the player can't properly control Snake) and Psycho Mantis' reappearance, and the infamous microwave hallway has Snake's Life bar drain out... but wait, his Psyche is still there! Snake can actually complete that part with both bars depleted, tragicallypulling himself the rest of the way with only his fingers.
Other Examples and Counter-Examples:
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Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen actually starts with a Fission Mailed — the protagonist leaves the tavern right at the beginning of the game and is promptly set upon by an endless horde of bandits, who will kill you no matter how good you are. Then you come back as a vampire, and slaughter all the (now finite) bandits.
In The Legend of Zelda Oracle games, if you destroy (either by cutting them down, throwing them or what have you) enough signs then talk to the NPC that runs a sign shop he'll get particularly angry and give you a warning, if you break more signs and talk to him he'll make the Capcom logo flash on the Game Boy screen momentarily as if the game had reset, and you receive a ring which notes your hatred for signs.
While not seen in-game, implied to happen in-universe. Ocarina of Time splits into three timelines; the child timeline (which flows into Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess), the adult timeline (which flows into Windwaker, and the downfall timeline (which flows into Link to the Past, the gameboy games, and the originals.) It's implied that the adult timeline takes place after a Fission Mailed event during the downfall timeline.
In Assassin's Creed II, Rodrigo Borgia defeats Ezio using the Staff and takes the Apple from him, depriving him of the only way to fight against his power. Borgia then stabs Ezio and leaves him for dead. Ezio struggles but ultimately collapses in a pool of blood. The screen fades to black. However, a few seconds later it fades back, with Ezio standing and recovering slightly. The next game reveals that Ezio's armour blunted the attack, causing only a shallow wound.
Happens twice in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, first when Ezio is shot by snipers on the rooftops on Monterriggioni and falls to the ground, then when Ezio is on horseback heading for Roma after the siege, where he collapses and falls off the horse.
Super Metroid's giant Metroid pops up, is unavoidable and quickly drains your life. When you're at 1 energy, it remembers you're its mother and backs off. Health Refill station is in the next room, enjoy!
Super Metroid does this again in the incredibly creepy final boss fight, just a few minutes after the Giant Metroid event. The boss is almost dead, and it uses its most powerful, unavoidable attack. The first one can really kill you if your health is low enough — otherwise, the boss keeps using it until the next one will kill you, at which point Samus loses the ability to shake off the stun, and it charges for the final blast...
Similar situation for the final battle in Metroid Fusion. The Omega Metroid reduces Samus' health to 1 in just one swipe and cripples her. Before it strikes again, the SA-X inadvertently saves Samus and when the Metroid kills it, Samus can absorb the parasite to fully restore her health and gain the Ice Beam.
In God of Waronce Kratos obtains Pandora's Box, Ares senses this happening and kills Kratos by throwing a pillar from hundreds of miles away and impaling him. Instead of getting the Game Over screen and restarting from a checkpoint, Kratos shows up in Hades.
Also happens in the second game. You charge the Sword of Olympus by sacrificing a portion of your Godly powers. So, at the end of the Colossus sequence, Kratos gets slapped by the falling giant and then has to face Zeus, who has the Sword of Olympus, where you can barely swing your blades without struggling. And the button mashing sequence makes it more painful, because YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY WIN. So, welcome to Hell again, Kratos.
Very briefly appears in the original Tomb Raider. At the completion of a level, Lara must jump into a well, which turns out to be much too deep for a survivable fall. Lara goes into her "death scream", then lands in the water. But the game goes on to the next level quickly enough not to worry players unduly.
In Gunstar Super Heroes, the GBA sequel to the Genesis game Gunstar Heroes, Black's dice maze includes a new room. In the Japanese version of the game, upon entering this room through sheer (bad) luck, you are treated to a message that claims that failure to complete this challenge will cause your game file to be erased and if you think you can't do it, you should press Start+Select+A+B to reset the game and start the stage over from beginning. Next, you have to frantically blast through the floor of a seemingly endless vertical shaft while a literal representation of your game file crashes down from above. In the (extremely) likely chance it eventually catches up to you and crushes you, it turns out that the game was only kidding, but even if you survive, you still have to redo a large portion of the level. The US version has the same room, but the effect is lost because there's no message and the tombstone graphic has been altered so that the text in it refers to your character instead of your save file, although the location is still called File Crasher on the map. Talk about fighting under pressure
Batman: Arkham Asylum has an example that will probably walk straight into legend. At a certain point, the console or PC freezes. The effect is creepily realistic. The game "restarts"... but something's off. Then you're the Joker, escorting Batman into Arkham Asylum in a twisted parody of the opening sequence of the game. And he then shoots Batman in the face. It even goes so far as to show the game over screen with the helpful message to "Use the middle thumbstick (or "tilt the mouse" in the PC version) to dodge Joker's bullet"- wait, what? Whichever option you choose in the game over screen segues into another battle with the Scarecrow.
Furthermore, if you try to skip the twisted version of the opening cutscene, the game will prompt you to press the J button to skip.
In Wiz'n'Liz, one of the available spells (which you have to try out to find the effect) does "Game over! ... Just kidding!"
In Ninja Gaiden Black, during the cutscene after the second boss, Ryu is killed by Doku with the Dark Dragon Blade, but resurrected by the falcon spirit.
In Lollipop Chainsaw's prologue, after Nick gets bitten by a zombie and apologizes to Juliet for allowing it to happen to him, it cuts to a fake end screen, but then Juliet refuses, and then decapitates Nick to keep the virus from spreading, and keeps him alive as merely a head for the rest of the game.
The ending of Full Throttle has Ben leaping on his motorcycle trying to avoid an impossible-to-escape explosion. The game then fades to black, and opens on a funeral, as a preacher is eulogizing a fallen hero. The last mourning to be revealed is Ben himself, and the hero who had died was Corley, whom all bikers revered for being the last motorcycle manufacturer.
In Quest for Glory III, leaving a campfire burning in the savanna will give you a Have a Nice Death message stating that you have gravely upset Smoky The Elephant, and you are provided with the usual options to restore, restart or quit. Picking any option will make the game admit that it was a joke and send you on your way.
In Quest for Glory V, you have the option of sacrificing your life to resurrect one of two possible love interests. If you do, a pair of undead will hack away at you until your health goes down to 0, but you don't get a Game Over the way you usually do when your health goes down to 0.
In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, there was a scene where Guybrush was suspended over a cauldron filled with acid. When you took too long to get out, you fell into the acid and died — only to be reminded that you can't die in a story you are yourself telling.
In The Curse of Monkey Island, at one point Guybrush has to mix alcohol with medicine and drink it, causing him to instantly pass out. The other characters then assume that he's dead and the game is over, going so far as to comment on how it's supposedly impossible to die in a LucasArts game. Guybrush then finds himself buried in a crypt, and the fake credits (complete with a hokey score counter) stop rolling as soon as he regains consciousness.
In Sam & Max Hit the Road, if you use the wishing well at Bumpusland, Sam says "I wish this game was over." You get a "The End" message and the screen fades to black, then Sam says "Hold it! Get back here!" and the game continues.
In Omikron: The Nomad Soul, as the name would imply, dying at certain points (not a difficult feat) results in the player's soul merely transferring to a hapless passerby. In fact, your first character cannot survive the game; offending the Big Bad early in the plot has him labeled as a wanted criminal, and he is unceremoniously shot dead attempting to reach the next zone.
In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow in the Minotaur's lair, there are many rooms with deadly trap doors, and one with a not-so-deadly trap door. If you, like many, restored every time you started to fall, it took a long time to realize you had to fall into one of them.
There was also the bottle that shows up on the Isle of Wonder. Take a swig, and it appears as though Alex drops dead. Seeing as your typical KQ game had everything trying to kill you, this seems to be another trap... until Alex wakes up.
Also, some of the places where you observe cutscenes of your demise (or failure) are visitable while you're alive later in the game, such as the underworld.
In Riven, you have to enter the trap book you're carrying to prove to Gehn that you're sincere. After you enter the book, the screen shows the view through the "link window", with Gehn deliberating if he should or shouldn't enter the book. Then, Gehn finally decides to enter the book, catapulting you out... on the opposite side of the prison bars.
Apparently, the designers wanted to make the delay longer, but people thought the game had crashed and force quit it.
If you enter the book before reaching Gehn, you're eventually freed inside his cell; he realizes you were trying to trap him and shoots you dead on the spot.
When you first enter the Rebel Age, you are discovered and knocked out by the rebels. When you come to, you get to helplessly watch as you are transported by boat to the "Hive".
Classic text adventure Heroine's Mantle has this. There's lots of foreshadowing (if you pay attention), and it fits well with the game's theme of sacrifice. You still have to have your protagonist jump to her death, and pass the Heroine's Mantle on to the next Crusader. Which you then get to play for the grand finale.
In the first levels of Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy), getting busted by the police usually means a Game Over for Lucas. However, at some point, Lucas gains enough badassitude to turn what starts unraveling as a typical go-to-prison-for-life Game Over scene into a spectacular Escape Sequence with mad kung fu powers, hanging off flying helicopters, and leaping onto moving subways.
In The Adventures Of Willy Beamish, one of the puzzles near the end requires you to get captured by the villain after rescuing several frogs from being boiled alive and nearly drown. The first several seconds appear exactly the same as the actual failure of the puzzle, but letting the game over screen play out sees the rescued frogs come and rescue the protagonist.
The flash game A Small Favor referenced this trope, in a way. There was a Mission Failed ending that was only possible by using the postal service to mail a nuclear bomb. Kongregate made it a 15 point badge, so in a way it's a success only through failure.
In the Sega CD title, Snatcher, you come to a point where, while waiting for Napoleon, you can look around for women and try to get them to go out with you. After a few of them, Gillian tries to use his position as a Junker to get close to one. However, the woman assures Gillian she doesn't need protection, as she's actually a snatcher herself! The noise for the motion indicator/snatcher warning sounds, and in the text at the bottom, you see, "Game over...?" After a few seconds, Gillian gets back up and is informed by Metal Gear that he passed out, and, provided he's alright, they should get back to the mission.
In Heavy Rain, any of your main characters can die, but the story will go on regardless. One potential death sequence actually features the terrified death screams of your heroine.
Then again, there are sections that look life-threatening but won't actually kill your character if you fail. And Ethan and Scott can't die at all before the final showdown at the old warehouse.
In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, most of the time when you die a short piece of advice will appear on the screen before the game reloads at a recent checkpoint. In one case, you go through a door only to run into multiple monsters and find out the door you just came through has been locked. When you die, the game tells you to "sleep" - and rather than go back in time, you wake up in a cell that you must escape.
In the final episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, if you walk too close to Munchox/The King of Town, he'll knock Strong Bad away. A text pop-up will then appear, stating that you have died... but then Strong Bad stands up and says he always ignores those text boxes. Proving he has no luck with scorpions, he can also be killed if he gets too close to some scorpions while holding scorpion food. However, he had to touch a "video game checkpoint" in the area just to reach the scorpions in the first place, and it will always instantly revive him. Otherwise throughout the games, you cannot die, and you can never lose.
"Go West" from The IGF Pirate Kart is a text adventure which you win by repeatedly going west, with any other scenario resulting in your character dying 'a terrible, terrible death'. In the last room, if you try to go west, you get the same Game Over, only at the bottom it asks "Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, QUIT, UNDO the last command, or GO WEST?" Choosing to Go West wins the game.
In the first playable portion the story requires the player to be gunned down. And if you escape, you collapse from the malaria and open your bottle of meds, only to find that it's empty and collapse on the ground.
After you finish half the game, you need to make a brave last stand at either a Church (to protect refugees) or a Bar (to protect your fellow mercenary buddies). Regardless of your decision, you can't win, because the enemy has infinite reinforcements. You die, along with everyone else... or so it seems, because you recover after falling off a truck transporting your "corpse". Then, while stumbling through a sandstorm, you "die" again, but are saved by the man you've been hunting all along.
During normal gameplay, if you have a buddy in "rescue-ready" status, you get saved by them if you get "killed" by enemy forces. If your buddy isn't on standby for you, you die for real.
In a cutscene in the beginning of Project: Snowblind, where you are being rushed to the hospital after being bombed to death, the screen suddenly becomes filled with static for a few seconds, as if something had broken.
Deus Ex featured a mission where if you get killed, you get captured and wake up in a prison cell. Once your HP drops to zero, the ordinary death animation is cut short by a new level loading, presumably so players don't have enough time to reach for the "quick load" button. If you manage to avoid death all the way to Battery Park, you get an option to surrender or fight against NPCs and a huge mech, one of which (Gunther) ignores damage. The game has a quirk whereby if you go through a certain apartment window at any time during this mission, it figures you abandoned your ally and he won't appear in future missions, even if you already escorted him to safety and backtrack to the window.
In Doom, at the end of the first episode, you go into a teleporter and are "killed" by a group of monsters.note It's not the monsters that are supposed to do you in, it's the room's setup - it disables any invulnerability you previously had and then damages you until you reach a certain health, at which point the map transition hits. Then you find yourself on the lost moon of Deimos, which happens to have been transported into the Hell dimension.
Some custom mapsets make use of this effect to take away all your weapons when transitioning between levels. (Depending on the source port you're using, this can be annoying if you keep reflexively pressing the quickload key as soon as you die, before the map transition happens.) The Ghostbusters DoomGame Mod, for example, has a level in which you were given a weapon you were unable to switch away from normally - the chainsaw, which in this case becomes the Ectomobile, as the level in question has you driving from the Ghostbusters' HQ to the mayor's office. Arriving into the office's parking lot unexpectedly kills you so that you won't be stuck in the car in the next level.
A quirk in the ACS used in Hexen (and, through porting, ZDOOM) allows for a level transition while the player is dead. Normal behavior for that situation is to "respawn" the player on the new level. With enough delicate scripting, it is possible in ZDOOM to note the entire inventory of a player before instant-killing them with a scripted death and then force a level transition to the next level, which would then give them their entire inventory back. Fission Mailed indeed.
The First Encounter Assault Recon games do this at several points, usually using Interface Screw in the process. For example, at one point your motion slows down, Alma starts walking towards you and the walls burst into flames. You try to run, then an explosion blows you out the window. Your teammates think No One Could Survive That, but the Pointman is mostly unscathed.
Another major example is the final Mind Screw battle at the end of Project Origin, while Alma is raping Beckett.
Happens at the beginning of Half-Life 2. You are beaten severely by Civil Protection officers, and the screen blacks out. Soon after, you hear Alyx Vance kicking the shit out of them, and you wake up to a cheery "Dr. Freeman, I presume?" Several Fission Mailed instances are set up later in the game and throughout its Episodes, displaying overwhelming odds which are actually easy to overwhelm or evade if you know what you're doing, and the bits in the Citadel where you're being carried around through the Stalker Pod lines certainly seem like Freeman's death is inevitable. Similarly, Episode One climaxes with the Citadel exploding, the speeding wave of energy quickly engulfing your train and Alyx shouting "Gordon!", at which point the credits roll. Freeman's survival is, of course, the starting point of Episode Two.
This is a callback to the first game, where one segment ends with you walking through a door — the screen blacks out, there are sounds of a scuffle, and then a HECU grunt is heard radioing in that "we got him." The next sequence begins with you escaping custody.
In BioShock, immediately after you kill Ryan and Atlas is revealed to be Fontaine, the Little Sisters appear and guide you into a crawlspace to evade Fontaine's security bots. There is a hole in the crawlspace, which you cannot avoid, and you appear to die before waking up in Tenenbaum's safehouse.
In Jedi Outcast, the player must 'die' during his first encounter with Desann.
Borderlands and its second game does this. Of course, there's the whole "You will just respawn there, so no big deal", but there are two specific moments, one in each game, where the fission must be mailed.
In The Secret Armory of General Knoxx you have a countdown running as you have to collect all the loot you can in the end of the DLC chapter. Catch is that there's NO WAY OUT! No matter what, you can only die to get out. But, as soon as you die, you get the chapter ending and... You keep all you looted! Neat!
The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned DLC has an inversion of this. So spetacular that I won't explain. Instead, you MUST see for yourself.
Borderlands 2 is very straight-forward at this in one very specific moment. Kill Yourself. No, seriously, it is a mission given by Handsome Jack. He has choosen a spot for you to suicide and gives you the choice of doing or not. It's hilarious, regardless of the outcome.
Still on Borderlands 2, there's Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty DLC. Last mission involves you finding the "marked spot" that should lead to a vault full of loot. Instead, you get EATEN by Leviathan. The best part? He is taking you and her straight to the Vault, but the BEST part is... Do you remember her pet Roscoe? She found him!
In one level of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, you play as an agent of the Russian equivalent of the Secret Service, trying to protect the Russian President from an assassination attempt. At the end of the level, a helicopter arrives to rescue you, but it's Makarov. A "Mission Failed" indicator comes up, and Makarov takes the President prisoner, and kills you. Well, sort of. You're still able to get up, kick asses and save The President's Daughter in the co-op mission, somehow.
Perfect Dark's Carrington Institute Defense mission ends with the Skedar capturing Jo, followed by a fake "Mission Failed" debriefing with omnious music.
Infocom's Enchanter: a point where you have to "die" so that your "corpse" can be brought to another location, and then you get better and wake up there. While it's a bit of a Guide Dang It puzzle, it's not quite the usual for this trope, since it's something the player has to deliberately set up using an auto-revive effect.
The sequel Sorcerer starts you off in an incredibly deadly landscape full of monsters. Then you wake up. Naturally you'll have to go to the same place in person later, this time inexplicably less deadly.
Inverted in Frederick Pohl's Gateway. The player must stop the evil robotic aliens by placing a virus in one of their watchtowers - after completing two virtual reality segments, the player is led to believe that the virus worked. The player is returned to Gateway where the game continues with nothing out of the ordinary to attend to - except a message on their telescreen telling that they're still in a virtual reality.
In the interactive movie Star Trek: Borg, your character has to be assimilated by the Borg in order to get past a certain point in the story.
In Curses, putting something of the right size into the slide projector transforms it into a Portal Picture. Entering the pictures projected by the Grim Reaper, Drowned Sailor or Fool tarot cards gives the standard ***You have died*** message, followed by:
Or have you? No... this isn't quite the end. You see an intense blue-white light at the end of what seems a tunnel, and drift toward it until you realise that you are staring, dazed, into the light of the slide projector, and have not moved at all.
Forum Warz Episode 2 ends with your character's (apparent?) death, then goes on to state that your character has been deleted, your account has been deleted, and that your IP address has been blocked so you can't make a new one. In fact, every IP address has been blocked so nobody else can play again, and the game servers are being physically destroyed.
Dungeons & Dragons Online has one of those in The Shroud. The portal that leads from part 4 to part 5 triggers the death of everyone in the party (which, in any other quest, means people will recall out and try again), and teleports them to another room. After a few moments and a cutscene, everyone is revived (along with the 4 bosses fought in part 2) and the raid continues.
The game does warn you something is about to happen right before you hit the portal. When the altar is used, the DM warns you: 'The trip to the Lost Moon will be traumatic: do not abandon your quest yet, trust in the Shroud...'
World of Warcraft pulls one like these at Icecrown Citadel. In your fight with Arthas, the Lich King, your whole raid will be killed, once Arthas reaches 10% health. However, this is supposed to happen, and in a Deus ex Machina moment, Tirion Fordring shatters Frostmourne with Ashbringer, releasing the spirit of Terenas Menethil II, who will resurrect the players, who then just have to beat on Arthas until he falls over. The fight is basically won once this happens, as long as the players don't set their spirits free
When the fight was first available, the game actually DID let you release. Whether it was intended or not, it got hotfixed fairly quickly, in creepy Leaning on the Fourth Wall fashion. Currently, if you click the release button, it won't let you, and you'll get a creepy message that the Lich King has taken your soul. Interestingly, you still automatically win the encounter if you don't accept the scripted resurrection. If no one in the raid accepts, Tirion Fordring will melee Arthas to death by himself. This takes roughly about an hour to accomplish, though, given the boss' massive health pool.
There's a quest where you need to kill yourself to talk to the ghost of the architect of Blackrock Depths. He'll tell you how to craft a master key to the doors in the dungeon. Made somewhat more obvious since Cataclysm as the game drops you off right next to him so long as you're in the general area of Blackrock Mountain.
The first time you come face to face with Akama, you discover that instead of being The Dragon, he is actually a deep cover mole. In order to preserve his cover, as soon as he hears one of the demons coming he kills you. You then have to lie there dead and listen to their conversation; he brings you back to life once the demon leaves.
There's yet another quest chain in Zul'Drak where you're transported into the ghost world, complete with you in ghost form. Of course, you're not completely dead, just separated from your body, and when you die there, your corpse will be at where you entered the area instead of where you died.
You do this in Howling Fjord as well, as part of the prep chain for Utgarde Keep. You end up confronting the Lich King while in spirit form, and he kills you while you're already a ghost. You have to corpse run and rez to hand in the quest afterward.
Fission Mailed is used even more extensively in the Cataclysm expansion, released in December 2010, which makes heavier use of cutscenes in general. In one such quest, you fight a big monster called Iso'rath from its inside. To get the next part of the quest chain you have to die.
One of the new quests in Azshara has you searching high and low for a missing blue dragon. It turns out he's off having an affair with one of the Spirit Healers (the creepy blue and white angels that preside over your spirit when you die in-game) which means that in order to meet him you have to... you guessed it... die.
The boss Mandokir the Bloodlord will randomly decapitate party members (both in his original raid encounter and in the new heroic encounter), killing them and displaying the standard time to release. However, chained spirits will resurrect fallen players.
Since the forsaken are zombies this happens to the character just before you start playing, in fact the very first NPC you encounter as a forsaken tells you that they thought you might not wake up after all.
RuneScape: In one quest, you die. Three times. And go to the Viking Fremennik afterlife. Oh, and that prince/princess you were engaged to and possibly got married to a few minutes ago? Yeah, they're both dead for good.
Also, if inevitable eventual deaths count, then the fight with Sambrog in the barrow of Othrongroth is a Fission Mailed. He keeps healing himself when he gets to a certain health level, during which he's untargetable. The only objective is to survive until Tom Bombadil gets there.
The free-to-play MMO Jade Dynasty contains a quest that requires you to "understand the secret of life and death". No other indication is given in the quest description of how to do this. The way to complete the quest is, of course, to die. However, the game is set up so that certain quests fail if you die, and this quest is one of them. Dropping a quest counts as failing it. This means that you don't actually have to die to complete the quest; you can just drop it, and the game will think you have fulfilled the necessary conditions for completing it and move on to the next one.
I Wanna Be the Guy is so nefarious as to fake a Windows operating system error message... and then it drops down and squashes the Kid if you hadn't wised up to it. What makes it worse is that the error actually happens sometimes while playing the game; it's a known bug, and the game made the absolute best of it. Of course, since the window is clearly from the default theme in Windows XP, a person using a different theme, a different version of Windows or another OS entirely won't be fooled.
In a further use of this trope, it is possible to die after delivering the finishing blow to some bosses. The death animation and message will play, but if you wait, the boss will die in the background and you will appear unharmed on the next screen. Nefarious in that if you hit 'r' as the screen instructs you to, you will never know that you could have just waited and beaten the boss.
An example of this is the Mecha-Birdo boss fight. Because this battle takes place in an area apart from the rest of the game, where you are teleported out when the enemy is defeated, you can exploit a simple glitch. If you deliver the final blow to Birdo and then die shortly thereafter, just sit around and wait. The event of teleporting you out of there will still continue, same as everything else in the game continues after you die.
In fact, it is possible to get smashed into the usual bloody pulp a split second after killing the game's final boss, and still trigger the final cutscene. It's just as frustrating as it sounds, and thus fits the game very well.
The only way to get the Flame in Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame is to be killed by the Mook on the same screen and ignore any indications to press keys to continue.
In Futurama the Game, the first level has a forced Fission Mailed — Fry has to grab a hammer and be crushed to death. Then, after a game over screen, Farnsworth brings Fry back with the Reanimator. The Game Over itself is then lampshaded when Leela asks what death is like.
In La-Mulana, there is a gas-filled area of the Twin Labyrinths that you enter from the Temple of the Sun. You can survive in there for 30 seconds. If the time runs out, Lemeza goes through his death animation... and reappears back in the Temple of the Sun, just outside the Twin Labyrinths, alive as if nothing happened. This is averted in the remake, where you will die from the poison gas and receive a proper Game Over.
In the comedic Sonic the Hedgehog fan game When Tails Gets Bored, right before the final level, there is a cutscene that starts with a reproduction of the game's Game Over screen. As it turns out, this is because Sonic is frustrated with the game and refuses to continue.
In Eversion's later worlds, one of the screens that occasionally replaces the "READY!" screen is a false Game Over screen.
Mirror's Edge pulls one in the final level, where Faith kicks down a door to find Lt. Miller and then get punched in the face by a PK soldier. The Fission Mailed comes when Miller tells the PK guys to check her, then shoots them both in the back almost exactly after he gives the order, revealing that the police are not with the PKs, and that he's helping you save Kate.
Not a straight example, as it's not a requirement, but something similar to this can happen in the Donkey Kong Country games. Player characters' hitboxes remain active throughout their defeat animations, meaning that it's entirely possible to take a fatal hit on your last life, but fall onto a hundredth banana during this animation, getting that life back.
In Super Scribblenauts, after you shoot down your Doppleganger's UFO a message appears onscreen saying "Try again. The Starite has been destroyed". The only button there says "No way". After pressing it a new puzzle opens: "Write the answer!".
The first boss battle in Megaman X, who makes it a little obvious due to his lack of a health bar (though since he IS the first boss, a first-time player would have no frame of reference for a boss fight). After avoiding Vile's attacks for several seconds, he begins to shoot small, slow-moving orbs of energy almost constantly. When hit by one, X will be caught in an energy net, ending the battle and initiating a cutscene. If you attempt to dodge these orbs, Vile will keep assaulting you until you explode, no matter how many times you blast him.
In the PSP remake, Vile has a health bar and it is possible to defeat him before he does the same to you. Though the following cutscene plays out the same way regardless...
The events of Enchanted: Once Upon Andalasia took place during a bedtime story Giselle was telling Morgan. When Giselle's game self fell from too great a height and apparently died, Morgan asked how that was possible and Giselle replied that she must've gotten carried away with the story.
One of the trials in the final level of A Super Mario Thing involves being apparently taken to the Bonus Game, only you drop through the floor and the message "Oame Gver" appears on screen.
Hostile Waters has a example that narrowly avoids being annoying. The first time you see a helicopter with the scientist you were supposed to rescue take off, it means you failed the mission. When the same happens several missions later, it's just a scripted event.
In Warhammer40k: Dawn of War II's final mission, your cruiser is destroyed and your position is being overrun by Tyranids. Though after the first few waves you'll receive a communication from another cruiser that was presumed lost earlier in the game, that they'll be reinforcing you to finish the mission. The in game objective even changes to indicate that your situation is hopeless and should just take as many of them with you as you can.
In Command & Conquer: Red Alert you have to capture the Chronosphere for Stalin, but it is blown up by the allied before you can capture it. Then you are ordered to be shot. Then the blame is (accurately) pinned on someone else and you're reinstated. Due to a level-design bug it is even possible to actually capture it, by making it invulnerable with the iron curtain (that also works on enemy buildings) before the explosive detonates. Then you can capture it with your engineers, but get a real "Mission Failed" for going Off the Rails.
In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, the fourth Allied mission has you destroying a Soviet Psychic Amplifier in Chicago. When you complete the mission, the Soviets proceed to nuke Chicago.
Ultima IV. Many players Rage Quit and reloaded when their boat was sucked into the whirlpool, since the game went black and you got the same initial text that you got when you died. Except - it's actually a portal to another world under Britannia. D'oh!
Demons Souls ends the tutorial with a boss fight that will result in your death (if you defeat the boss, you'll be able to get a few things before a later boss punches you in the face via cutscene). Thus setting up the gameplay mechanic of recovering your body after you die.
And prepares you for the many, many, many, hopeless battles ahead.
In Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, when the player fights in the battle arena, the player must lose to the (invincible) Armored Harriers in order to continue. Doing this causes a Yoshi to join the party. He can defeat the Harriers by spitting one at the other.
Also in that game, Mario fights a Duplighost named "???" who turns into a purple Mario. Upon "winning" the fight, we see that Mario and "???" have switched bodies. You can only set things right by finding out "???"'s real name, Doopliss, and the letter "p" to spell it with.
In Super Paper Mario, you really do die at one point, but then continue the game in the afterlife.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team parodies the Paper Mario examples when the brothers are given the option to drink from a strange fountain on Mount Pajamaja. Drinking from said fountain makes Mario and Luigi fall asleep, dreaming about eating loads of mushrooms, growing massive, and being unable to go back to normal, which causes a fake GAME OVER screen to appear. It completely restores their health and Bros. Points, though.
The Hopeless Boss Fight against Balio and Sunder in the third game (only the first, the second one in Windia is winnable with some effort). Also another against Garr
In Breath of Fire IV, at some point in the middle where the player must lose to a general. Also sort of subverted in that the one of the final decisions in the game allows the player to be the final boss to wipe out their teammates.
The final and only boss in the Playstation version of Azure Dreams must bring you down to zero hit points in order for you to win the game. This is a particularly nerve-wracking example, since normally being defeated in battle causes you to lose all your precious equipment and have your save overwritten, and the player is actually capable of escaping the battle.
In Mega Man Battle Network 3, your first fight against Bass cannot be won, because he is surrounded by an impenetrable aura. He eventually defeats you, but instead of a game over, the next cutscene appears with Bass standing over Megaman in victory.
The Amiga classic Captive had an occasional blinking "Droid link failure - Guru Meditation" message pop up on the screen of the "briefcase computer" the player was using to control the Battle Droids — a spoof of the Amiga's notoriously user-unfriendly critical errors that almost always required rebooting the computer.
Final Fantasy III: When you first get to fight the Cloud Of Darkness, there's no way to keep her from vaporizing you and cutting your HP to zero. Don't waste a shuriken - you're not going to win, as she's too powerful at the time and it's pretty important to the plot.
Final Fantasy IV: The first real boss fight with Golbez starts with him paralyzing the entire party and summoning a dragon that proceeds to use a Death attack on each of your party members. Just as he is about to finish off Cecil, the Mist Dragon appears out of nowhere to defeat him and cure Cecil. Right after, Rydia (who summoned the Mist Dragon) rejoins the party mid-fight and the battle continues. Of course, the game also has it's fair share of Hopeless Boss Fights.
Note, however, that this fight comes immediately after a rather difficult Puzzle Boss fight. If Cecil is dead at the end of that fight, you won't have time to resurrect him before Golbez paralyzes and kills your entire party, causing a genuine Game Over.
That was just a particularly buggy fight all around. Golbez might kill every party member except Kain (rare), every party member except Yang (even rarer), or just simply kill everybody outright (regardless of whether or not Cecil was actually alive at the beginning of the fight), resulting in one of the most surreal game overs in video game history. Depending on how difficult the previous fight was - or whether or not you had remembered to save before looting the place senseless - it's also probably one of the most aggravating.
At one point in the game, the hero Cecil is forced to fight his old friend Kain. Kain is pretty much unbeatable in a normal game, having approximately 60,000 HP, and using attacks that are way too damaging to survive. But if you really crank out the level-grinding or use a cheat device to max out your stats and equipment, you can burn through all that HP and cause Kain to be "killed" on the battle screen. Cecil does the victory dance, but there are no rewards for winning, and when the game exits back to the normal field screen, Cecil slumps over in defeat while Kain stands triumphantly over him... essentially, the same thing as if you had lost.
In the fight against the Dark Elf where you can't use any weapons and armor made of metal, you have to lose so Edward plays on his harp weakening the Elf.
If you're not playing the DS version and reequip all your metal equipment before the battle (since you know it's throwaway), you're all paralyzed, so it's a Game Over. (The DS version goes directly to the weaken cutscene if this happens.)
At one point in Star Ocean: The Second Story, your party is ambushed while you're transporting a weapon meant to destroy the Disc One Final Boss. You inevitably lose and you and your party's unconscious bodies are tossed into the sea. It gets better though.
At one point in Ys IV: Mask of the Sun, Adol is "killed" by the Clan of Darkness.
Mass Effect 2 has one of these in the opening sequence - after rescuing Joker aboard the exploding Normandy, Commander Shepard is flung into space where s/he asphyxiates and dies. The game then cuts to the Mass Effect 2 logo, before continuing on to Shepard's revival thanks to Project Lazarus. What makes this example particularly clever is that, in Bioware's pre-release demonstrations, it was strongly implied that this particular scene was avoidable. So the game's biggest followers get a real shock.
Happens again with the Arrival DLC if Shepard gets "killed" in the Object Rho fight, instead to be knocked out and sedated. If you survive your Last Stand, then the artifact simply knocks you out for the same thing to happen
Mass Effect 3 does it one last time. When you're running to the teleport beam to get to the citadel, Harbinger's laser will hit (or, as it turns out, miss by a hairsbreadth) Shepard and the screen fades to black and radio chatter basically says that the final push failed. Then Shep's eyes open, s/he gets back up, having had all his/her armor burned off, grabs a gun and heads for the teleport beam.
Tales of Phantasia, at least in the PS version, had a puzzle in Moria Mine where using the Sorcerer's Ring on a certain candle will cause an arrow to fire from a wall and seemingly kill you, as the "Game Over" music starts playing. Cless, however, gets back up and mentions that (dying from an arrow) would never happen.
In the SFC version, you just lost hitpoints.
The fight against Dozo and Okiyo in the Euclid Arena qualifies, but it is possible to win with some extra grinding/Infinity Plus X swords available elsewhere (It goes up to Infinity Plus 5!)
In Tales of Symphonia, there are two Fission Mailed battles at the Tower of Salvation against Kratos and Yggdrasill. Both battles allow you to lose and still continue the game, but you can also defeat them. The first battle can be beat with a bit of grinding, but the second would take a major amount of leveling to pull off (probably approaching Level Cap).
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, the sequel, features a few of these as well. Under the Tower of Mana against Lloyd, who you can defeat, but the game will continue as if you lost anyway, Richter toward the end of Chapter 7 can be beaten, but losing to him changes nothing about the plot, and against Lloyd and Marta at the end of the game, only this time winning gets you the Bad Ending and losing will get you the true/normal ending.
In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, one of the side quests requires you to go to a specific canal in Vivec and allow yourself to drown to death in order to find a hidden shrine.
Similarly in Oblivion, there's a quest where you have to let a NPC kill you. This time though the game explicitly tells you what you must do.
In Chrono Trigger, when you face Lavos, your party will get your asses handed to you and Crono will actually die, but this will only start you on the next part of your quest.
You can actually defeat Lavos there, either with a New Game+ or with a crazy amount of grinding. Doing so will earn a different ending.
You can also get an item, the titular "Chrono Trigger", and go back, freeze the instant of time Crono was supposed to die, and replace him with a clone. Surprising, this part is actually optional. You can choose not to do it, leaving Crono to his fate.
Well, you as the player can. Beating the game with Crono dead shows the party reviving him.
Inverted in Baldur's Gate - Throne of Bhaal: At one point, your highly advanced group meets a low-level group of NPCs and can hire them to clean up some minor monsters. After the NPCs are finished, a short sequence starts when they try to attack your group and are instantly slaughtered by the main character's Demon Form. Then, the NPC's leader reloads the game to the point before the NPCs returned, as if you had just done a reload, and the NPCs reappear, just take their fee and leave.
Played With in Planescape: Torment as the player avatar always comes back to life after dying and occasionally must die to advance the plot, but you aren't always told when this is what's going on, and dying, while not permanent, is still fairly annoying from a gameplay standpoint, so it's to be avoided most of the time.
In the prologue to Golden Sun, the 14-year-old versions of Isaac & Garet have to fight Saturos & Menardi. As the villians are experienced Adepts, the heroes inevitably lose within no more than a turn or two. This leads into the "Three years later..."
Happens three times in Terranigma, the first two being optional. The first time you go into a poisoned room that has Ark doing his fainting animation but he is thrown out. The second happens the first time you try to cross a certain desert, giving the standard game over text (however the town music is playing all the time). The only obligatory time is when you meet Light World Ark, which plays the fanfare with the text and it's implied it actually kills Ark.
Fallout: New Vegas has a mission in which after finding 50 Sunset Sasparilla Star Caps, upon telling Festus that you've won the contest, he proceeds to give you the prize: Telling you the story of the origins of Sunset Sasparilla. After which, you immediately fail the mission. If you complain about your crappy "prize" however, Festus will direct you to a better prize: A bunch of stickers, amongst which is the asphyxiated corpse of a raider who was also suckered into all of this who happens to be holding a powerful laser pistol, as well as a whole lot of bottlecaps which went from being trash in pre-war times to being the most versatile currency in the land.
In Honest Hearts, killing any important friendly NPC's causes the main quest to fail, but also unlocks an alternate quest where you must find a map to escape from Zion and the now completely hostile tribals.
Fallout 3's Point Lookout has one when you get knocked out by exploding Punga seeds and have a hallucination where you find "Schmault-Tec Bubbleheads" along the trail that mock your SPECIAL attributes, the corpses of various NPC's, exploding Nuka-Cola bottles, and a lookalike of Mister Burke with Tobar's voice standing in front of a Megaton bomb that explodes as you come to, to find yourself with a lobotomy and a scarred shaven head.
In Arc Rise Fantasia, the first boss fights against Ignacy, and much later Luze, play out like this. It's impossible to win both fights, so you have to let them kill you to advance the plot. The two fights against Alf, Adele, and Leslie/Clydewould count; except in the first fight, you CAN defeat them, but it is very difficult to do so, and the plot continues on whether you win or lose (though you lose out on getting a Rogress if you lose). In the second fight, while it's impossible to win, if you lose you get the standard Game Over; the key is to stall out the fight until it ends on its own after enough turns have passed.
Also played with earlier on with Shadow Rise. When she uses Supreme Insight, none of your attacks will hit her. The battle will still continue for a few more turns until you're treated to a cutscene of you and your team about to die until Teddie/Kuma goes bearserk and kicks Shadow Rise's multicoloured ass.
The Maimed Gods Saga, a fan campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2, has this happen near the end when a corrupted paladin stabs you in the back to ensure you won't come back from a trial by fate scenario. You pass out from the resulting blood loss, but a literal Deus ex Machina saves you.
To defeat the Norlac in The Immortal, you have to get yourself sucked into an apparently fatal whirlpool, so that the monster gets dragged in with you. If you try to go for the ladder, you get a real game over.
Dissidia 012 upon starting a new game, it asks you if you mastered the original. If you say yes it pits you (Level 1 Lightning) against a level 120 Feral Chaos. Impossible to win but you don't get a penalty for losing.
The Gamecube/Playstation 2/Xbox version of The Lord Of The Rings The Third Age starts off with you being attacked by a pair of Nazgūl. After your first (useless) attack, one of them proceeds to "kill" you in a single hit. It turns out that you were only badly wounded, and you get rescued and patched up right away.
In Persona 3, during Minato's Moon Arcana Social Link rank eight event, no matter what choice the player makes, the Moon will Reverse briefly, before ranking up.
Shoot Em Up
Done similarly in the Trouble Shooters (Battle Mania in Japan) game for the Sega Genesis, where the credits begin to roll and a boss interrupts them; the game doesn't actually end until the stage after that.
In the Azdagari string of missions in Escape Velocity: Override, at one point, a Zidagar photographer takes pictures of a secret base and attempts to escape the system in a ship. The mission you're given is to destroy it before it escapes. If you succeed, you get congratulated and you eventually get the mission again. You need to fail the mission, however, for the story line and mission string to advance.
In RefleX, all seems to be lost in Area 7 when ZODIAC Virgo fires on a trapped Phoenix, forcing you to use up all of your shield (which doesn't regenerate here) and run out of armor, resulting in your death. However, instead of a Game Over screennote You MUST deplete all of your shield before you get killed, or else the Event Flag will fail to trigger and you will get a game over, your ship goes through an extended destruction animation as Virgo continues to rain Bullet Hell upon you, until it blows up... and resurrects as the ZODIAC Ophiuchus.
In Animal Crossing, once you piss off Mr. Resetti enough by abusing the reset button, he says he will erase all your data and will cause the screen to go black. A few seconds later, the screen returns to normal, and Resetti says "Gotcha!".
In the Harvest Moon series, most of the games since Back To Nature (PS) will trigger the credits sequence once you get married. But the game starts right back up as normal once they finish. Exceptions include For Girl (BTN's Distaff Counterpart) and if you're playing as Tina in the PAL version of Magical Melody. In those cases, the game actually does end there.
The NTSC version of Magical Melody still ends at marriage, if you marry Jamie.
A variation on this happened in the early missions of Starfleet Academy. The early "tutorial" missions spend quite a bit of effort expressing how you should always follow orders, and failure to follow orders will result in a failed mission (which they do). Then, however, in a mission where you're handling a culture's ancient artifact, you must specifically disobey orders to destroy it to pass the mission. Given the mission's otherwise fairly mundane presentation, it's likely very nearly all players fell into this the first time around. Not only that, but disobeying orders as a requirement never comes up again.
Some missions in Star Wars TIE Fighter require a friendly capital ship to be destroyed. Even if you successfully destroy all enemy ships and protect the ship in question, the ship will self-destruct to ensure the game continues as planned.
Both Freespace games loved this. There are quite a few missions where you could fail some or all of the (usually mission-critical) primary objectives and still successfully finish the mission. These tend to be scripted storyline events, however: The Freespace games like to remind you every so often that it's the middle of a war, and in a war, you don't always win...
Fan mission designers usually take the same route, and occasionally get headaches when a player uses cheats to beat a mission they were supposed to lose and then complain about the game being broken. Some wiser mission designers will make joke scenarios occur if this happens, to make it clear to these players that this was not the way the mission was supposed to go.
One of the missions in Freespace 2 where you need to protect a cruiser. Towards the end of the mission, the cruiser gets destroyed and you think you lost, but that's actually part of the story. This troper reset the mission a bunch of times when the cruiser was destroyed, actually thinking that the mission failed.
In Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader's Razor Rendezvous mission, you can successfully complete the mission by suicide-ramming the Star Destroyer's bridge, just like Arvel Crynyd in Return of the Jedi.
In Trauma Center, this happens in Under the Knife 2, where Derek loses his Healing Touch and fails a couple operations. Hilariously, it will still say "operation successful", even if you've let Adel bleed out. Even more amusingly, the second of these two operations will yield the standard "The Medical Board will be notified" screen even though it's training done in private.
Stealth Based Game
In Hitman: Blood Money, the final sequence appears to be Agent 47's funeral after Diana betrays him. However, as the credits are rolling, the player can twiddle the thumbsticks to bring him out of his induced coma and take out everyone present.
In Eternal Darkness, when the player's sanity gets low, a number of strange meta-game effects can occur. Their character's head may explode a few seconds after entering a room, followed by the usual death animation, but then they are safely returned to the door. There is a fake "game over" screen, a fake "stay turned for the sequel" screen, a fake BSOD, and a fake "Game Deleted Successfully" screen, with a blank saved game list. The TV may appear to turn itself off, the audio can gradually drop out (complete with a decreasing VOLUME bar, as if the user were sitting on the remote), and then there's the infamous "controller unplugged" fake error message.
Ghost Hunter, on PS2: When Lord Hawksmoor has you realise that there is absolutely no way out of your predicament, and possesses your partner to shoot you dead, the game returns silently and sadly to the main screen. Then the computer AI that's been guiding you on the game, and is present on the main screen, speaks up. And possesses a robot with a giant chaingun. And sets about fixing the problem and reviving the main character.
The dark dead-end alley sequence in Silent Hill 1, where Harry has to be "killed" by the demon children to proceed. Then he wakes up in the cafe, not much worse for wear. In the New Game+ this gets skipped and Harry wakes directly in the diner after the opening cinematic.
The Nightmare Amusement Park in the beginning of Silent Hill 3, where Heather gets run over by the roller coaster at the end. Heather can also "mail the fission" at any time during the nightmare by being killed by the enemies or jumping into a Bottomless Pit.
The interactive nightmare at the beginning of Silent Hill 4, where The All-Concealing I is accosted by a Victim in first person perspective (it's actually Joseph's final moments).
The Dead Space app has one in Chapter 11: After killing the brute and walking around, the battery low icon appears and then another brute appears out of nowhere before the screen goes thwip - nightmare sequence in a marker-desert comes back on. Excessively scary if you haven't charged your iTouch for a while.
Turn Based Strategy
In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Laharl and co. are easily beaten by the Overlord at the end of chapter 5... and then Laharl's lackeys join the fight and turn it around. Notably this Fission Mailed can be averted by leveling up in a New Game+, though by defeating the Overlord single-handed the lackeys will not appear and their previous dissapearance will remain unexplained.
In Transformers G1 Awakening, the player is facing the Big Bad with the only controllable unit being Optimus Prime. While it's possible to win the battle, if the player loses, reinforcements arrive that revive Prime and help him end the war.
The original Jagged Alliance has an assortment of randomly picked exit messages, one of which is an error message explaining the game failed writing the player's quick save (to avoid Save Scumming, the only way to save the game during battle is to exit the game) followed by "just kidding".
Fate/stay night has a hilarious false Bad End, complete with false Tiger Dojo. Tell Saber there'll be no food today if you want to see it.
Fate/hollow ataraxia continues the tradition when Shirou and Shinji sneak into Sakura's room to read her diary. But on a more serious note, due to the looping gameplay it's okay to get killed. In fact, you're going to get killed because you can't progress otherwise. Just ignore the Dead Bad End screen that pops up and continue playing.
Princess Waltz gives you a "Bad End" halfway through the game, at which point you need to go back to the title screen and choose to play its second half.
It is impossible to get the True Ending of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors on the first playthrough. For plot reasons. Akane has to send Junpei through the Safe Ending to obtain a password so that she can give it to him on the next run through. Otherwise, the game ends with the Coffin Ending.
In Katawa Shoujo, the good ending to Lilly's path does it's best to make you think you've gotten a bad end, up until the very last scene. In fact, the bad end is exactly the same as the good end except that it ends earlier.
In Danganronpa, this is how chapter 5's "true" ending plays out. You are presented with a choice whether or not to reveal Kirigiri was lying in court. If you reveal her lie, Monobear cuts the trial short in order to force Kirigiri to be executed, and you get a bad ending. But if you choose not to reveal her lie, the game at first makes you think that's the wrong choice: Makoto Naegi himself, the player character, is set to be executed instead, and using the exact same method, too. But just as Naegi is about to be crushed to death, a virus planted by Alter Ego opens a trap door under Naegi, saving his life and ensuring you get to continue to chapter 6 after all.
In Matches And Matrimony, both the Bingely and Wickeby paths will at one point inform you that your chosen suitor has married/gotten engaged to another woman. At this point, the narration will start to get sad, sending you back home, looking extremely similar to the closing of the paths that lead you to the bad "Miss Bennet" ending... until your suitor comes to declare their love and tell you they are free to marry.
Many, many times in the Ace Attorney series. In one especially egregious case in the third game, winning the trial comes down to pressing a single statement in a particularly drawn-out testimony. Any selection you make leads to Godot informing you that you've failed to find anything substantive — but if you figured out the right one, Phoenix will point out the contradiction a few moments later. If, that is, you haven't already loaded your last save. (This crops up again, which, considering the game's huge amount of Foreshadowing, may be intentional.) In the first game, the Judge even pronounces your client guilty at one point (going through the Game Over sequence) before suddenly being interrupted with new information and the case continuing.
The particular case in the first game, with the Game Over sequence, the only indication that you're supposed to let the Guilty verdict continue is that you weren't penalized. In fact, if you haven't been penalized at all, it will seem very weird, as the judge doesn't give you another chance, and you don't lose one of your markers. Also, the fact that you can't do anything to prevent the supposed Game Over. For someone playing through the first time, these vague indications are very easily overlooked.
Unless you've failed before. One indicator is that, during the Judge's typical spiel, it cuts to Wright, who sweats and says something like "This doesn't look good... I'm sorry..."
Also in the first game, while not a Game Over itself, there is a point in the 5th case where after failing to find something to convince the Judge about your points, he is ready to penalize you and your life marks show up (it could be a Game Over if you only had one mark left and the penalty was issued) to make it seem like he was for real. Cue in someone who prevents this from happening.
There's also a fake Game Over in the 3rd game in the 3rd case where it shows Phoenix losing his case to Winston Payne, his client getting a guilty verdict, and the courtroom doors closing. Given that it's the opening cutscene and you haven't even touched the controls yet, this isn't fooling anyone. You find out later on that it was actually someone who was impersonating Phoenix when the guilty verdict was issued.
In general, if it looks like Wright/attorney says "I've got nothing..." and the screen starts to black out, expect someone to yell "Hold It!" or for the chime to ring in and Wright suddenly realizing a contradiction.
In Die Anstalt, a patient's progress bar going red usually means that you screwed up their treatment and need to reset their mental state with electroshock therapy. For Dub, however, this is actually a required part of his therapy; many players, not knowing this, kept on trying other methods until they realized that letting his progress bar shoot way down and then shocking him was the only way to continue his therapy.
Fisher-Diver has a nightmare sequence after the first day. There, the player has got no fishing tools, will move slower and slower as the time goes on and is eventually bitten to death by wireframe fish.
On the Ripley's Believe It or Not! pinball machine, starting the Frog Frenzy mode causes the display to fake crashing and rebooting before the display shows "Just kidding!" and starts the mode proper.
Not a videogame, but Mahou Sensei Negima! had a Bad End screen after the party failed to stop Chao from making the existence of mages known to the world and Negi is captured by the teachers.
Yu-Gi-Oh! in season four. Yami goes through three would-be-losses near the end. One is when, against Rafael, he apparently loses for the second time. However, this is just a recall in animation to the first time he lost, and instead, survives an attack with 10 life points left. The other two are against Dartz. When the Seal of Orichalcos starts to enclose around Yami, he manages to repel it twice.
In Eyeshield 21, in the Fall Tournament semi-final, the Deimon Devilbats lose the game and everyone believes their dream of going to the Christmas Bowl is over... Until Hiruma reveals that they can still go there if they win their consolation match.
During the Final Battle against Nightmare Whisper in the Gaia Arc, Twilight gets hit with a beam of pure despair, which automatically pushes her past the Despair Event Horizon... and apparently has the same effect on the author, who says that obviously no one likes the story and is just going to end it right there. Then Trixie uses the Memory Spell to restore Twilight, and the heroes fight on to victory.
There's also the chapter where she tries to cure Trixie's discording, but instead kills her and goes mad from grief. Except she's really trapped in Trixie's psyche. Twilight realizes this when the psychologist who is counseling her lacks certain facts that a real psychologist would have been informed of - that Twilight has five friends, not three, and is Celestia's student - because Trixie doesn't know those things.
For people who read the Twilight book series, the scene near the end of Breaking Dawn where quite a few characters die is an absolute shocker. Once the scene completes, we see it was a vision Alice saw of the future, invoking this trope.
A Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Vecna Lives!, has the PCs run through a dungeon playing high-level pregenerated heroes... who are promptly slaughtered by the godlike villain, whereupon the players' own low-level characters pick up the adventure.
Likewise, in the adventure Death Triumphant, the conclusion of the Grim Harvest trilogy, the party of heroes manage to infiltrate Azalin's castle with the intention of stopping him from using the energy of thousands of souls harvested throughout the trilogy to unseal the can he was stuck in. As it turns out, they don't quite make it in time. The flavor text is meant to suggest that everybody's dead. However, it turns out that the unleashed energy has turned the party, along with everybody else in a twenty-mile radius, into various forms of the undead. Which does technically make them dead, mind you, but...
The Tomb Of Horrors has illusions and traps galore, but the most insidious of these (serious spoilers) is the false tomb. The players find a trinket that acts as a powerful holy weapon against a false Acererak, and when the fake's defeated the room and, indeed, the entire tomb itself seems to collapse. It's all an illusion. The text of the adventure states that if the PCs panic and leave the tomb that the DM should end the session.
The Mutants & Masterminds adventure "A More Perfect Union" uses this to great effect. The players are given generic police officer characters and told to investigate reports of shouting coming from a house in the suburbs. This is actually because the residents have been infected with a sort of mind-control virus and have slowly assimilated everyone inside into a hive mind. Next on their list? The police that come to investigate. Once the players have lost all of the police to The Virus, play picks up again with their own characters.
First, in Hill Top Zone, Docfuture successfully defeats Metal Sonic but gets a Game Over screen anyway. After getting three such Game Overs, he suddenly advances to the next level with no explanation. It's suggested that Tails was deliberately causing these, just to screw with Docfuture.
In the final video, Docfuture beats the Unexpected Shmup Finale and the ending cutscene starts playing... then Sonic falls out of the sky and lands in an underwater level. An underwater level with no air bubbles, and no choice but to drown. This case was definitely caused by Tails screwing with Docfuture. It's followed by a cutscene where the boss of a prior level returns and explain that Tails turned against Docfuture because of mind control, and that he's now been cured, so the game can be completed.
Akinator sometimes only guesses the wrong character because he tries to guess too quickly. Click "Yes" to continue, and the second time he guesses, he'll usually be right. (For example, answering questions in a certain way may cause him to guess "Urdnot Wrex" from the Mass Effect series. If you were thinking of "Urdnot Grunt" instead, who superficially has a lot of similar characteristics but isn't as famous and therefore wouldn't spring to mind as quickly, rest assured that he'll answer "Grunt" the second time he tries to venture a guess after you've given him more information.) There's always a 90% chance he'll guess correctly after four or five tries.
In an episode of Daria, Daria and Quinn are driving out to the middle of nowhere to bail Jane and Trent's band out of jail. At one point they pick up a cute drifter who flirts with Quinn before they drop him back off. A little while later, Daria panics when she realizes he stole their bail money. Cue the "We'll be right back" scene... which suddenly cuts back to the show as Quinn explains what really happened: she spent the money to buy him things.
In the two-part Season 2 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, at the end of the first part it looks like Twilight Sparkle falsely accused an innocent Princess Cadence of being evil, and disrupted the wedding to boot. Twilight Sparkle's chastised by her friends, her brother, and her mentor, and it looks like Twilight Sparkle has just screwed everything up and alienated everyone she ever cared about... only for Princess Cadence to seemingly drag Twilight Sparkle to hell. End Part 1! In Part 2, it turns out that Princess Cadence is secretly an impostor named Queen Chrysalis who's plotting to rule Equestria and gain infinite love energy for her subjects, and Twilight Sparkle's suspicions were correct. Then Twilight Sparkle is able to expose the impostor and indirectly contribute to saving the day.
An even better example in the Season 3 opening. Twilight Sparkle ventures into KingSombra's palace in order to retrieve the Crystal Heart to stop him. After spending some time trying to open a magical door, she finally blasts it with Sombra's own dark magic in desperation. It opens... Twilight walks in, and ends up in Canterlot's royal hall, where a cold, angry Celestia tells her she has failed to stop Sombra, failed her test, and is not worthy of being her student. Except this is just a vision of her greatest fear, a spell triggered whenever someone attempts to open the door with anything but dark magic. Spike snaps her out of it.