Quite simply, the player is always the "point man," and has the sole responsibility of accomplishing every task of significance. It's your responsibility to defuse that bomb, kill that monster, retrieve those documents, or take out that sniper: It's Up To You.
In shooters, this tends to occur with Sniping Missions, in which your character is tasked with using a sniper rifle to kill or protect someone, despite the fact that your character has never been acknowledged as a sniper or marksman until now. NPC allies tend to be struck with Artificial Stupidity such that they are incapable of defeating anything but the most basic Mook even when armed with the same weapons as the player.
Similarly, in many RPGs, the main character will be designated to lead the party for no other reason than that he or she is the player's avatar; no matter how much stronger, more important, more intelligent or more experienced the other party members are. Even if this doesn't occur to the character, the group the character is part of frequently falls victim to this trope instead. Anyone trying to beat the Big Bad who isn't part of the main party will fail, and at best have to be rescued. Equally likely is the character will simply die and give the player greater reason to kill the Big Bad. It may be shown later that the side character "weakened" the boss if the programmers are trying to deliver An Aesop about The Power of Friendship.
Of course, this is generally forgivable if your character is a Super Hero or otherwise possesses extraordinary abilities that would warrant his increased involvement, but it can be particularly jarring to one's Suspension of Disbelief when the plot acts as if you and your AI comrades are of equal skill (such as in most warfare First Person Shooters). One lazy but occasionally effective way to justify this is to have all your allies out doing other missions, conveniently far away from you, but sometimes the game doesn't even try.
Note the relationship with Rule of Fun; the player gets to do these things so there'll be more in the game, but the story suffers by focusing all the action on one character.
This always involves But Thou Must: no matter the situation, the player is powerless to turn down these assignments, even if their character should have the choice.
Essentially, this is the video game equivalent of Only One and The Main Characters Do Everything. Also see One-Man Army, Apathetic Citizens and Evil Only Has to Win Once. Players who Do The Impossible and beat the odds may lament "Dude, Where's My Respect?" due to no recognition.
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In the Harry Potter video games, Ron and Hermione are basically reduced to doing nothing except constantly saying "You handle this, Harry. I'll just stand here and be of no use whatsoever." Averted in the third and fourth games, as in the former you can play as all of them and switch between the three, and in the later you pick which one you want to play as in each mission.
Justified in Dark Siders. The Charred Council sends War on a mission to hunt down the Destroyer with only the Watcher as his companion/jailor because they believe he started Armageddon before all Seven Seals were broken. War himself offered to take up this mission to atone for his supposed crime. It's personal for him too — he wants payback on whoever is responsible for his disgrace. Of course, the Council knew all along that War was innocent. They sent War out early on purpose to foil Abaddon's attempt to bend their laws and framed War for triggering Armageddon so he that he would offer to hunt down Abaddon himself. The Council couldn't just order the Horsemen to do it since they have a hard enough time controlling the Horsemen already, and the Horsemen would never agree to serve as common assassins. They chose War for the deed because, according to the backstory, he was the most difficult Horseman to control and had already rebelled against the Council once.
Played straight in most games within The Legend of Zelda series where Link has do all the work to save the day while other games subvert it. While the trope is justified since Link is the Chosen One or Because Destiny Says So and there is no other hero who can take on the evil plaguing the land, there has been a few games where Link has received help from other characters that greatly aid him in his quest and would have not succeeded if it wasn't for them, such as Zelda aiding Link in the final battle against Ganondorf with her Light Arrows in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
In Lego Star Wars, the character controlled by the player is the only one capable of damaging enemies or using their special abilities (outside of certain specific events in the Story Mode). You could have a party of 6 characters, and all 5 of the ones that aren't controlled by the player could gang up on a single Stormtrooper and pound him for upwards of 20 minutes, but he won't go down until the player-controlled character decides to attack.
In LEGO Indiana Jones the allies' attacks can stun enemies, but not kill them. Still useful.
Justified in a particularly cruel manner in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. You're always the one who has to go in first whenever there's obvious danger, handle all the grunt work and also get all the neat toys first (and sometimes exclusively). This is because you're the new guy, and thus less valuable than the old hands — if you get killed by whatever obvious danger you're leading the way into, or the dangerous, experimental technology based on nuclear power and theoretical particle physics ends up melting you into a puddle, they can just hire someone else and it's no huge loss, and why waste the experienced people on turning cranks or the like when you can have the newbie do it? Also averted, to a degree — the other Ghostbusters will fight and defeat enemies with little or no help from you, if it comes to that. One boss in particular is probably most easily defeated by letting the others do the actual fighting, while you act as medic/bait.
Later in the game the rest of the team is captured and the player must find and free them, literally making it up to you until you find the first Ghostbuster.
Blast Corps boasts a team of talented demolition experts that are called to action when a truck carrying leaking nuclear missiles is on autopilot and the slightest jolt to the truck will make the missiles explode. However, the "team" in the game are nothing more than words of encouragement to you while you do all the destroying, driving, etc.
In Unsolved Crimes for the DS, you're a new rookie in the homicide division working under a veteran detective, Marcy. Though the trope is averted once or twice, it's played ridiculously straight a good chunk of the time - Marcy lets you solve most of the crimes yourself, and even lets you do things on your own without even asking 'are you sure?' that no sane person would let an inexperienced rookie do. Like trying to defuse a bomb with a box of basic tools.
Averted in Chronomaster. The PC allies with Anti-Hero Milo, who then heads off alone, captures one of the remaining villains, and conquers a mini-universe by himself. Occasionally, he'll contact you and mention bits of his journey; though you never learn all the details, it's implied to be every bit as epic, puzzle-filled, and Troperrific as yours, complete with Evil Twin. And when it comes time to face the final villain? Well, for Milo... It's Personal.
Both played straight and subverted in The Secret of Monkey Island. Though you manage to gather a small crew to go off and rescue Elaine from the ghost pirate LeChuck, when you finally get out to sea they all decide Elaine can take care of herself, leaving you to do absolutely everything while they relax and sunbathe. Then, just as you reach the climax, you find out they were absolutely right, Elaine was perfectly capable of handling herself without you, had already freed herself, and you show up just in time to scare off the monkeys with the root beer she would have used to finish LeChuck off.
The Chzo Mythos is susceptible to this. In 7 Days a Skeptic, your role is supposedly ship's councellor and yet you end up running around doing everything, including tasks that should be someone else's responsibility. This is most glaringly apparent with Adam, the engineer, who seems to have no qualms at all in leaving someone far less qualified to take care of things he should be doing, although he's rightly presented as a douche for acting that way. In 6 Days a Sacrifice, you are sent to run around finding guns or looking for vital objects despite nursing some rather severe injuries following a nice little fall down an elevator shaft. Yahtzee both justifies and lampshades this in the 6 Days special edition commentary by pointing out how dull the game would be if the player character could only sit around doing nothing.
In the Sierra adventure game Codename: ICEMAN, your character is a spy assigned to a submarine mission, and yet you constantly go around fixing pipes or navigating the sub, despite plenty of crewmates aboard.
Speaking of Sierra, Roger has a crew, complete with Chief Engineer in the fifth Space Quest game, but as Cliffy is a little accident-prone, you have to handle a lot of maintenance.
Roger ends up with a lot of this. In his first game, it was up to him since he was the only survivor of the Sarian attack on the Arcada, and the only one who smuggled out the shutdown codes. In the second game, he was the only one near the Labion system that wasn't loyal to Vohaul. In the sixth game, no one was interested in investigating Stellar's "death" since the wealthy admiral's widow Sharpei was above suspicion.It's lampshaded and justified in the fourth game; the time traveling La Résistance found Roger and sent him to the Bad Future to stop Vohaul as he was the only one in history who did.
In Bill Nye the Science Guy: Stop the Rock!, you play the new research intern at Nye Labs, Bill Nye's fictional research complex. After but a few minutes of stepping through the door, you're assigned by Bill Nye himself to solve the riddles poised by the off-the-rails AI controlling MAAX (Meteoroid And Asteroid eXploder) so it will do the job it was programmed to do. Everyone else is only there to support you.
Rescue The Band, a rather addictive game on Ok Go's website, does this in a rather funny manner (i.e. you're the only one who can save the band from Swedish nycelharpa players), but it still makes you wonder "Why am I the only person in the world who can do this? Am I just the only one that cares? Why doesn't anybody hear the band members' shouts of terror? Why?"
First Person Shooter
95% of all warfare First Person Shooters (you're the man who flanks the machine gun, you snipe an important target, you plant the explosives, etc.)
Of the 5% that avert this trope, most make the increased NPC involvement into a major if not THE major gimmick.
Doom II, on the other hand, plays it straighter. There is mention of a few survivors left on Earth after Hell invades, but none of them bother to lend a hand to our intrepid Space Marine, leaving him to prep their escape vessel and kick all of Hell's ass by his lonesome.
Averted in Star Wars: Republic Commando. While the game lets you hack the consoles and plant the explosives yourself while your squad covers you, you can order one of your teammates to do the job himself while you and the rest of the team cover him. Only a small part of the game forces you to go solo and do everything yourself.
Aliens Versus Predator 2 for PC has the Marine character separated from his comrades for most of the game, with the most egregious part where one part of your team is dragged to the local hive and only your character goes to rescue them. The rest... sit in the APC and do nothing but occasionally comment on what you're seeing via your camera.
When playing with bots in the single-player mode of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, it is the player's responsibility to defuse any planted bombs. Often results in an absurd situation where the player is at the other end of the map unable to reach the bomb in time, and the AI comrades allow it to blow up in their faces rather than simply defuse it themselves (and it's not like the player is the only one who is capable of doing it, the bots have no problem doing it themselves if the player is dead).
You can avoid this searching the option on the match configuration before the game starts on custom matches, the predefined campaigns by other side... you can change the option with the console and the correct command! (if you get access of course)
All Halo games use this trope in full force, but it does make sense, seeing that Master Chief is a raised-from-childhood Super Soldier and all. But there is a curious example: In Combat Evolved, the player must always be the driver of the warthog, and can never man the gun in the rear, which was much to the annoyance of many players. This was rectified in the sequel, a highly-touted feature promised that your comrades would be capable of driving vehicles while you use the machine guns in the back.
It's more prevalent in Halo: Reach, where the player is the one saving the trapped Army troopers, hunting the Elite Zealots, destroying the anti-air guns and Spire, flying into space, etc, when your allies this time are Spartans who should be equally capable of those feats. Some, like the space mission, are justified, revealing the main character having a background in piloting, as well as other black ops missions.
The Marathon games aren't quite up to having falls damage the player, and lampshades it by making you the only member of your team capable of surviving the fall into the setting of one mission.
"Up the stairs from your current location is a ventilation shaft that leads to the underground geothermal station. Because only you would survive the fall, you're going on this mission solo."
F.E.A.R. is a major offender. Apparently you're part of a team of operatives, none of whom ever assist you, and the game contrives reasons to keep you on your own.
In Perseus Mandate, your allies at least help you fight through the first introductory level, before they end up separated from you for most of the rest of the game.
Played with in the Rebirth expansion. At the begining (after a few firefights along with your fellow clone soldiers) the rest of your squad disappears and you're assaulted by ghosts (unlike most of the Player Characters Foxtrot actually speaks and is noticeably shaken by this sudden loss of contact). After the ghosts are gone you realise you were actually shooting at your squad and have become Brainwashed and Crazy.
Resistance: Fall of Man is another case where it's justified by your character being superhuman. His unique reaction to The Virus causes him to start developing some of the abilities of the Chimera without actually turning into one.
Averted in Resistance 2, where you often fight alongside more superhumans like yourself... and sometimes end up doing some significant but decidedly non-primary side task like recovering viral inhibitors or rescuing squad mates, while your main squad does the primary work.
Partially subverted in Tron 2.0. 3/4ths of the way through the game, you finally manage to fight your way to the throne room of the Big Bad, Master User Thorne, only to discover the leader of the Redshirt Army has already beaten you to it and even managed to kill the Big Bad guy for you. Of course, because he's a Knight Templar, he proceeds to challenge you to a duel to the death also.
But also Justified by the universe setting. Users (humans) are almost PhysicalGods in cyberspace, and with a corruped User unleashing Zombie Apocalypse all over the digital world, Ma3a figured the only thing that could stop a User was a User. Jet was also immune to Thorne's plague, whereas no Program could take a hit without becoming a Zombie Infectee. Worse, the Knight Templar Kernel had also flagged Ma3a as an enemy, and Ma3a's agent, Mercury, was de-rezzed when the Encom server reformatted, leaving Jet as her only line of defense. Also given more justification in the last third of the game where F-Con uploads an army of Datawraiths (digitized human mercenaries). Programs worship human Users and are relatively powerless against them while Jet, another User, can go toe-to-toe with them and survive.
Half-Life. Random young brunette tech with a crowbar and bad eyesight turns out to be a more effective warrior and scientist than any number of spec-ops forces, particle physicists or cammo-suited assassins. Taken to extremes in Half-Life 2 when most of the remaining human race has heard of your badassery and refuse to do anything without your explicit approval, particularly in the last quarter or so of the game. However, HL2 does attempt to retcon your importance in the first game by suggesting you were an equal and respected member of the science team, which definitely isn't how you were originally treated.
Don't forget to reload, Dr. Freeman!
That said, Opposing Forces, Decay and Blue Shift do show that other people (Adrian Shepherd, Gina Cross, Colette Green, and Barney Calhoun) were pulling off acts of badass valour at the same time as Gordon Freeman.
Not to mention the fact that there's heavy implication that Freeman is, in fact, superhuman in some way. He's not just good, he's born to be good.
Partially justified by Gordon having possibly the only functioning suit of Power Armour in the world, although the game never makes it clear why nobody else can wear it, given that it doesn't actually belong to him as such.
And lampshaded at the same time. At one point, you can hear Breen dressing down his soldiers, reminding them that you're not a supersoldier, just an ordinary man and a mediocre engineer.
Semi-averted in Crysis and Crysis: Warhead, as your team is an elite force equipped with state-of-the-art nanosuits. At one point your team is split in two; Crysis follows the adventures of one group and Warhead the other, and you get snatches of what the other group is up to whilst carrying on with your own objectives. The two groups' activities are shown to supporting one another's objectives.
Justified in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, where the characters you control are responsible, via the plot, for various actions. Soap is the squad's dedicated marksman, and so gets the sniper rifle; Jackson is the squad Sergeant, and therefore leads the charge on flanking actions while the Lieutenant sets up the base of fire (he also takes over the Javelin missile launcher only because the soldier who was supposed to use it gets killed); Lieutenant Price takes the sniper shot on the big bad because Captain MacMillan already gave up control of the sniper rifle (snipers switch off after a certain period of time to prevent eye strain). The fact you personally have to lead the advance, since the enemies will respawn infinitely otherwise is just there, don't think about it.
Then again... The first part of a particular mission involves rescuing S Sgt. Griggs, both out of a "no man left behind" mentality and also due to the fact that Griggs has the C4 required to blow up an electricity pylon. Who has to plant the C4 on the pylon? Hint: Not Griggs.
In the Modern Warfare online multiplayer mode "Search and Destroy", both teams take turns either defending the objective or trying to blow it up. There is no respawning, so if the rest of the team dies you'll hear "It's all up to you!" or a similar phrase. This can lead to epic failure when you get killed or a personal Crowning Moment Of Awesome when you single-handedly kill every member of the enemy team and defuse the bomb. There's even a challenge for doing this, "Enemy of the State."
Modern Warfare 2 uses the trope, but doesn't manage to justify it as well. RAMIREZ! DO EVERYTHING! Fortunately, the removal of infinitely-respawning enemies at least allow you to not require moving forward until the enemies are dead, and there are even cases where your allies alone might be able to kill most of the enemies.
Played completely straight in Call of Duty: World at War: Not only does it fall to you to take point and destroy the important targets and so on, when you have to defend against the counter-attack after taking the airfield, none of the NPCs make use of the fixed machine guns and AA cannons available to yourself. And in the flying boat level, the gunner on the other side will even give up his spot in order to let you shoot on the side with the most targets. Possibly lampshaded for the Russians, as at the end of the game, Sergeant Reznov will tell your character "As long as you live, the heart of this army can never be broken."
Taken to ridiculous extremes during the Normandy level. Your character is the one with the heavy machine and the satchel charges and the flamethrower. If anything had happened to him (and considering how much unstable ordnance he was carrying, that's very likely), the squad would have been screwed.
Call of Duty: Black Ops, meanwhile, was discovered to have actual competent friendly AI; at least one person on YouTube recorded himself playing through the entire first level without firing a shot that wasn't explicitly designated for them.
Lampshaded in Star Trek: Elite Force II when a character points out that your character, the team leader, shouldn't be going off on solo scouting missions. The response: "Don't ask".
Played straight in Battlefield 1942, to the point that it was pretty much the only complaint reviewers had. But it was so much worse in Battlefield Vietnam, it seemed like a parody. While the player was supposedly as good as anyone else, in single-player mode, it was possible to single-handedly capture the enemy's main base, but your own bases would fall like dominoes as your bot teammates failed to hold the line.
Embarrassingly obvious in Red Faction. Your character is just a random miner, yet you have to do everything, because your allies have about a ten second life span when confronted with enemies. (And even if you manage to save some of the nameless grunts, they will refuse to advance with you.) Out of the entire resistance only one person seen on screen survives to the end.
Played straight and averted at the same time in the campaign mode of Star Wars Battlefront 2. Only you can capture the command posts and do other mission objectives. However, your allies can prove useful in killing surrounding enemies and you will also capture the command posts much faster when you have your allies with you. Simply played straight in other modes with bots, however, wherein you are the sole competent soldier on your side.
Somewhat averted in the somewhat obscure, early UnrealEngine 2 game Devastation. Your teammates could be surprisingly effective in the early missions, able to make their way from the beginning to the end of the level without any assistance from the player. They could even be ordered to charge ahead instead of lulling around behind the player. The only limiter on their A.I. was the fact they'd stop moving if they got too far ahead of you, to stop them from outright completing the entire level without you. This does break down in the later missions, which turn into "capture the flag" style team vs team battle where you're somehow the only person on your team able to shut down the enemy respawner.
The survivor AI in both Left 4 Dead games are quite limited on what they can do. They move with you, shoot any zombies nearby, grab guns and items as needed, heal you when needed, and help revive you should you go down. Survivor AI will never use bomb items, activate switches, or pick up and use gas cans in finales that require it, forcing the human player to do all the work.
Likewise, the friendly AI in PAYDAY: The Heist will give cover fire and help revive you, but you have to do all the objectives yourself as well as tie down hostages.
Hack And Slash
In Dynasty Warriors, whether you play as a random general or the army's commander, you will almost certainly have to go out and kill every enemy officer yourself. Same goes for bases.
DW6E doesn't even get it completely right, as if you decide not to defend against an invasion on your territory in Ruler Mode, you automatically lose it. However, it is (in theory, at least) more than possible to use this to one's advantage for a pacifist Empires mode victory.
Although, Samurai Warriors Chronicles uses a 4-man squad system where the player controls all 4 characters during the battle. The only times the trope is played straight is if all but one party member are killed and during the Western Army's version of Sekigahara where Sakon is killed and Mistunari and Yoshihiro retreat, leaving you to either retreat or rush the Eastern Army's main camp. Though this can be averted on a second playthrough where you can use any character you've unlocked for the mission.
Untwisted in Guild Wars: Factions, when regular civilians will take the initiative and attack enemies in the area, often before you do. However, this almost always ends with the low-leveled civilian getting destroyed by the much stronger enemy.
The MMORPG Wizard101 has the Dumbledore Captain Ersatz telling you that Malistaire is up to stuff that (gasp) might destroy the entire Spiral (the galaxy (I guess) wherein the various worlds exist) - but far be it from the high-powered head of the school to shut down the school for a few weeks and run off to stop the Big Bad himself: It's Up to You. Why he thinks it's a good idea to put this grand task in the hands of a first-year student is anyone's guess. But the way in which It's Up to You is stressed makes it very hard for an adult player to keep their Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
Zig-Zagged with Star Wars: The Old Republic, where your character ends up being the only one who can pull off the quest for one Hand Wave or another, but justified heavily in the case of the Jedi classes. The Knight is The Chosen One that Lord Scourge personally saw killing the Omnicidal Maniac Emperor. And the Consular, in the first act, learns a Force technique from an artifact that can cure several crazed Jedi Masters of a Hate Plague, but the artifact is destroyed minutes after in a failed attempt at Genre Savvy by the Act 1 Big Bad.
Regardless of your class, the game does establish early on that you've been selected because you're outstanding in your field. Zig-zagged with the Sith Inquisitor, who, despite being inducted into training due to their strong control over the force, is told by their instructor that they're a worthless slave who is doomed to fail.
In Psychonauts, for a while it seems reasonable that Raz is the only one around who can stop the evil plot. The other campers, who were too wrapped up in their own personal dramas to notice all the weird stuff going on, have all been kidnapped and de-brained. The camp counselors aren't there, and the one adult who could possibly help isn't able to leave a certain area of the camp. By process of elimination, you're left. However, even when the other campers get their brains back, they're still unwilling to help you, for reasons such as getting pedicures or making out.
The player character in Drawn to Life is designed to save the village from the Big Bad. Fair enough, he has to be the one to traverse the dangerous levels to free the Raposa, as Jowee shows how inept the Raposa themselves are at it in one level. But why does he also have to do absolutely everything else as well, including gathering up characters, and playing messenger delivery service to the NPC's when they could just as easily do that at least for themselves?
Averted in Super Mario 64. The Toads that are trapped in the castle are very helpful, as they gladly give Mario a Power Star if one of them has one.
Justified in Spyro the Dragon, since you're the only Dragon that hasn't been turned to crystal.
Sonic the Hedgehog, once the franchise made the leap to 3D, plays the trope straight when you have partners following you. Your allies just mimic your movements and they don't bother attacking enemies. It's up to you to do all the attacking.
In the first Myst game, you're on your own, but in the second Atrus asks you to journey to another world, rescue his wife, and capture the villain (in this case there is a reason: he is busy, quite literally keeping that world from falling apart). In the third game you pursue an intruder, leaving Atrus behind, later to find he was trapped by a fire that destroyed the Linking Book (and, presumably, the Descriptive Book to that same Age...). In the fourth, he is stranded by an electrical storm, leaving you with the task of rescuing his kidnapped child (initially, it looks as if the task falls to you because he was out shopping). It's been speculated that the series had to be brought to an end because there was a limited number of times you could plausibly pull Atrus's goodies out of the fire.
Real Time Strategy
A fair portion of Real-Time Strategy falls into this also. If there are other forces besides the ones you command, they tend to fail so you can bail them out in the next mission.
It was actually averted in a few levels of OgreBattle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber. In fact, if you don't move fast enough, a unit not directly under your command can win the battle for you. At the very least, they can hold their own and kill more enemies than any of your units (although there's never more than one extra unit).
Kinda averted in Command & Conquer Red Alert 3. In my experience, your AI teammate rarely needs bailing out (playing on Normal). Obviously, if you're playing with a human co-commander, you're both more or less equally important in completing missions.
Emphasis on "Playing on Normal". In the later levels, the enemy AI can get pretty brutal while the allied CO remains basically the same, resulting in levels where if you fail to complete your objectives quickly enough your allied CO will be eviscerated. By enemies you've been holding off just fine, while also attacking, thank you very much. The computer is literally fighting itself and losing.
In Ogre Battle, Destin is the leader of the Rebellion, and solely his actions / stats determine the endings. This is despite the fact that he will recruit characters with far bigger stakes in the Rebellion than him, and far bigger beefs against the Empire, but it's Destin who chooses who becomes the next King in the end, and killing Destin is all that is needed to end the rebellion.
Grim Grimoire is an amusing example, where the main character Lillet Blan finds herself trapped in a persistent "Groundhog Day" Loop, repeating the five days leading up to a powerful mage killing everyone at her school of magic. Due to being a complete novice she spends the first few times around informing her teachers of what's going on—inevitably leading them to screwing things up even worse than before. She gets the hint eventually.
World in Conflict. You start out as a mere Lieutenant, but Saywer puts a lot of trust into you right away. Granted, the other officer, Captain Bannon, isn't good for much most of the game, but Sawyer doesn't even really give him a chance until the 4th mission (where he fails, but his target was defended better than yours, and further away). And even after Sawyer gets his old friend Webb as a replacement for Bannon, you're still the one that does all the important stuff.
It is implied that they are currently doing other things in the current operation and it's a plot point that your Battalion is undermanned and under supplied.
While the campaign of Dawn of War 2 is not a complete example, as proper use of allies is essential to victory, it still remains that a dozen Space Marines are required to defend three planets from an Ork WAAAGH!, Eldar incursions and a friggin' Tyranid Hive Fleet. Partially justified by a) the Chapter suffering a horrific defeat that depleted their numbers, so it really is All Up To You, and b) anything in Warhammer 40,000 being notorious for its Unreliable Narrators and the whole thing playing like one big propaganda film, leaving one with the impression the numbers weren't quite so one-sided as the game depicts.
Role Playing Game
In Mass Effect 1, you are tasked with hunting down Saren and his associates for most of the storyline. However, your superiors back on Earth will call you up all the time and ask you to do all sorts of missions. Despite humanity having a pretty decent fleet (as shown at the end), apparently none of them are ever available to take care of any of this stuff. It's as bad as the USS Enterprise always being the "only ship in the quadrant".
In their defense, you're the only human Spectre in the galaxy, and most of those missions they send you on take place in a hostile part of the galaxy where no Citadel race can officially send their military without possibly starting a war with all those rebellious races in the area. So by sending you, they can deny having given you any official orders, since Shepard can really do anything (s)he wants.
One such mission takes place on the Moon. Yes. Earth's moon. There's a good reason, though.
Justified in the third game, mostly because the Normandy is the best concealed-deployment ship in the fleet - with the Reaper IFF and stealth systems, it's effectively invisible to the Reapers unless you're using active scans, and a lot of missions involve going behind the lines to areas where any other ship is at serious risk of being torn apart by Robot Space Cthulhu and/or shot down by Cerberus. You also have contacts with all the major races - the core Citadel races via the Council, the krogan via Wrex, Grunt and/or Wreav, the quarians and geth via Tali and Legion respectively, and potentially even the rachni via their Queen - making you the ideal candidate for the Chain of Deals required to get them all on-side.
In Jade Empire, this trope makes perfect sense most of the time. You are the only Spirit Monk left, so you are the only one capable of defeating a lot of the challenges placed before you.
The other members of the Wigglytuff's guild in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Darkness/Time only exist to talk and get some hints, and they do nothing to advance the plot, even when they go to missions like the player.
Semi-Averted in the Deluxe version, Explorers of Sky, which adds a playable backstory, missions, and possibly epilogues for all of the guild members. It's all still up to the player, but at least you get to control the NPCs.
There's slightly more justification for this in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, due to the hero being the sole remainder of The Chosen Many who can stand up to the entity that's threatening the world. Doesn't change the fact that the members of your team are only ones that even bother trying to help out, though.
Just about EVERY main series Pokémon game features this— why is it that it's always a kid with level 20 Pokémon that saves an area from trouble while there are plenty of adults with Level 25 Pokémon just a few steps down the road and, of course, Gym Leaders and the Elite Four?
Speaking of the Elite Four, this was averted once in Pokémon Gold and Silver, as Lance of the group in question shows up at the same time as you to clear a power plant of Team Rocket members. A good "you take that one, I'll take this one" combined effort commences.
Handwaved in Persona 3 — the player is chosen to lead the party in the Journey, much to the irritation of one of his companions, because he has the wild card. His friend gets even more frustrated when he begins leading the party over much, much more experienced SEES members. Aigis in The Answer is dubbed party leader for the same reason - again, much to the chagrin of The Lancer from the previous game.
Persona 4 plays it the same way, except that, with the wild card being the only one who could enter the world inside the TV to begin with the others are completely comfortable with you taking point.
Gothic doesn't try to hide the fact that your nameless character was chosen randomly to move the planned events of the different camps to their conclusion, then save the world. Being given a message for the Magicians of the Circle of Fire at the beginning of the game does not motivate the plot much at all, and serves just to give the player some initial goal.
The Elder Scrolls games are very much victims of this trope in a variety of ways. Justified by the fact that the player character is always the Hero of the Age, foretold by prophecy and "blessed" with the ability to rule their own fate (also the justification for the players involvement), so effectively superhuman.
Somewhat averted in Morrowind, though, where at one point during the main storyline you find a cave filled with the spirits of the other "chosen ones" who obviously weren't the real chosen one on account of being dead. It is quite possible that the Daedra Azura made up this whole chosen one thing to get some mortal to do her dirty work for her.
Not like Azura has a choice, Daedra Lords cannot physically manifest on the mortal plane without outside assistance (Being summoned or the Dragonfires not being lit). And since people don't tend to react too well to lesser Daedras, mortal agents are all that's left.
Averted in Daggerfall where you're just some bloke that the Emperor decided to send on a quest. It's possible that you're the only one he trusts enough to go on such a sensitive mission (in the intro, he repeatedly emphasizes his close friendship with you), but there's no overwhelming reason why he couldn't have sent someone else.
Averted in Final Fantasy VI as the Party is completely self composed, no one really sets themselves out as a leader type, and you can even finish the game without re-recruiting the Main Character Terra.
Half Lampshaded half Played for Drama in Final Fantasy VIII as Squall is made leader of Balamb Garden, and as a matter of course the party. While Cid does this because he knows how competent Squall is, Squall himself feels insecure and agonizes over it, as he is generally uncomfortable in a leading position.
In Final Fantasy X you do meet other summoners who are also going through the Pilgrimage with the eventual goal of defeating Sin. True to this trope's form, however, they all give up before the end, requiring your party to do the deed. It's for the best, however, as the other summoners would have just continued the cycle of Sin.
And later, totallyJustified! Your party tells Yunaleska to go Screw Destiny, and send her to the afterlife, which closes off the Senseless Sacrifice option. We also figure out who Sin really is, what Tidus really is, and why Auron is along for the ride, which means they were the only ones who could end this mess once and for all!
Final Fantasy XII averts this the hardest in the series yet, the effective main character Vaan is completely overshadowed by the later acquired characters Ashe and Basch, even the self-proclaimed leading man Balthier plays more of a supporting role. This combined with the Wide Open Sandbox approach widely contrast its rather linear predecessor FFX, and the sudden movement away from traditional turn-based battling to real time command based gameplay with AI controlled party caused the fanbase to be rather divided in their opinion on whether or not the series had taken a step in the right direction.
Used in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. The player character is a newborn vampire, and yet is apparently the only agent Prince LaCroix has available. This is, however, thoroughly justified; LaCroix has only just taken over the city and his control of the older, stronger vampires is precarious at best, the player character is still young and weak enough to be easily Dominated into doing any tasks he doesn't want to do, and LaCroix is actively trying to get the player killed.
Completely averted in Depths of Peril - Any and all quests are handed out to the PC and any NPC adventurers. They will happily go off, kill the bad guys, rescue the damsel in distress and collect the reward if you're not fast enough.
Deconstructed in Planescape: Torment: The story is that of The Nameless One's quest for his identity, something that you're obviously not going to get many other people working on, and the reason you lead is because The Nameless One bears the Mark of Torment, binding his compatriots' destinies to his own and unconsciously compelling them to follow him whether they like it or not - and that's if they weren't consciously compelled by the Practical Incarnation.
Averted in Fallout Tactics; the main character doesn't have to do anything except accept missions and collect promotions. Anyone on the team can snipe that mook, pick that lock, disarm that bomb, or pilot that vehicle.
In the first two Fallouts, if a party member had a higher skill in something than you, they would attempt to do the task in your stead. Unfortunately, they were rarely better than you (if you specialized in something), let alone good enough to perform any of the tasks requested. Typically, that meant you had to do anything important.
This trope is frustratingly blatant towards the end of Fallout 1, when it's clear that a full invasion of the Cathedral by the then-numerous and heavily armed Brotherhood of Steel would have led to a quick victory over the Master's defenses. The Elders of the Brotherhood seem more than happy to just sit back and make you do all the work, not even allowing you access to their vast weapons stockpiles as they send you on your way to face the Super Mutant army.
Fallout 3: For the final quest (if Broken Steel is installed), you have to singlehandedly infiltrate and destroy the Enclave's airbase, unless you have a follower and/or Dogmeat with you.
In Tales of Hearts, the main characters and the Church of Valeia are the only ones who have a magical Soma weapon. Now, a Soma is effectively required to be an important character. The exceptions to this rule are the Empress, her staff, and the magically powerful Mysterious Waif, herself a Sufficiently Advanced Alien. The Lancer is incapable of participating in combat until he receives his Soma, even though one of his skills when he does get it is a straight kick. Late in the game, another character gives up his Soma and immediately feels useless; in one of the sidequests, the party has to bail him out when he goes looking for a new one and is jumped by a relatively easy boss.
Valkyria Chronicles. Player-controlled squad 7 are drafted militia. If you think the trained army or any of the other militia squads from all over the country are the ones who are going to be winning the important battles, defeating the enemy armies, stopping the invasion, or indeed do anything useful without your help, you've got another thing coming.
A specific mission comes to mind where you and your lowly militia prevent a kidnapping attempt on the "well-protected" princess by yourself, after a gathering of military captains, in the capital city and not a single squad or soldier from the actual army even lifts a finger to your aid.
Squad 7 also lifted seiges, defeated each and every one of the enemy's main generals, recaptured key cities and hunted for war criminals in their spare time. They also take out the enemy superweapons by their lonesome with the help of their own Valkyria. The war could not have been possibly won without the efforts of Squad 7.
Squad 422 begs to differ. They are the only ones to stop Calamity Raven from breaking into Randgriz (twice!), they attempted assassination of Maximilian, and they narrowly prevented the shattering of the fragile peace after the accord is signed. Having their own Valkyria, imperfect she might be, helps greatly. Despite this quasi-retcon, the trope is still played dead straight, with only player controlled forces making a difference...
In the old Dungeons & DragonsGold Box game Pool of Radiance there was a fighter at the Training Hall named Rolf. He was always equal or higher level than your characters. One wonders what he was doing while you did all the dirty work to liberate Phlan.
This is lampshaded on two occasions in Dragon Age: Origins when both Morrigan and Shale separately ask Alistair why he follows the Player Character's lead even though he is the senior Grey Warden by about six months. Alistair explains that he does not want to be responsible for the lives of others and, thus, is more comfortable as a follower than as a leader. If you offer to put him in charge, he somewhat jokingly states that he would probably get everyone killed. And it seems he is entirely right about that. The Darkspawn Chronicles DLC shows what would happen if the Player Character had died during the Joining and Alistair was forced to deal with the Blight himself... it ends with everyone dying and the country being destroyed by the darkspawn.
In fairness, The Darkspawn Chronicles is silly and isn't intended to be a serious What If? evaluation, and it makes other changes to the setting beyond just putting Alistair in charge. So the question is open.
Justified in Wild ARMs 3. Virgina Maxwell has the leader role of her rag tag group of Drifters, despite the presence of Clive, a seasoned Drifter. This is because all three fellow party members recognize that Virginia may not be the best fighter, but she would make the best leader.
Handwaved in the beginning of Neverwinter Nights, where the powerful paladin Aribeth has to stand still in a room while your rookie adventurer clears out the bad guys, because they're tracking her location with some kind of magic. After that, it somehow continues to always work out like that, with the Big Good tier characters standing around in a base doing vital background work/nothing and sending you to do everything.
Partially justified in Neverwinter Nights 2, though sometimes it seems like Nasher should have given you a crapload more support than he did. Completely justified in Mask of the Betrayer, in which you are on a personal quest with no backup organization.
Mostly justified in Knights of the Old Republic, in which the Jedi Council doesn't want to attract Malak's attention by sending a full team of Jedi Knights, and you and Bastila are the only ones who have the information to locate the plot coupons. Carth is paranoid (and Genre Savvy) enough to wonder why the Jedi Council is entrusting a mission of this significance to a newbie like you — but it turns out that there is a very good reason to send your character.
In the second game, you are on the run from the Republic for some of it, so you don't have any backup in most sections of the game. When Mandalore brings in several commando squads at the Battle of Telos, though, it still falls to the party to plant the warheads that will destroy the Sith warship.
Partially averted and then justified in Tales of Symphonia: For the first section of the game, main character Lloyd is just a tag-along to the Chosen One and her guardians. After the Disc One Final Dungeon twists the plot so far around that everyone's paradigm is shattered, Lloyd winds up leading the party because he's the one with the ideals driving the rest of the plot, and even then he relies heavily on advice from other party members for a good long while.
And they're the only ones who can defeat the Big Bad because no one else even knows where the source of the problem lies...except The Renegades, whose plan to defeat said Big Bad involves using Lloyd as bait for The Dragon, and who don't really feel like explaining said plan to their bait, especially at first...because after all, he was just a tagalong nobody.
Then you get to the end of the game, and it turns out that Lloyd really WAS the only one who could save the world, since he had the special exsphere produced by the Angelus project.
In Legend of Mana, nothing gets done without the player character...this even includes building the map. (Not as in you have to draw the map, but you literally create the world around you by plonking down the magical artifacts that create the towns and dungeons you quest in.)
In Dragon Quest V you find a mysterious stranger in a cave who claims to have been stuck in a minecart going in a loop for twenty years. Less than one screen away from him (in the same area) is a little cave where someone has set up house after being hired to investigate the place. Couldn't he have given the dude a hand?
In Marvel Avengers Alliance, the player character is a brand new S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who just happens to be around when the plot-driving catastrophe occurs. That means you become the point man (or point woman) in all the significant battles, acquiring and commanding a roster of major Marvel heroes.
Played straight in Super Mario RPG where it's up to Mario to do everything from combat to puzzle solving to convincing people why they should let him through an important area. Mario's partners help out in battle (including Bowser and the Princess), but that's all they do.
Zig-zagged in the Paper Mario series. Mario needs his allies to solve puzzles or reach inaccessible areas, but he is still the point man as far as the plot is concerned and it's always up to him to solve the problem of the day.
Shoot Em Up
In the original Star Fox (and slightly less so in the N64 remake), your wingmates existed for two purposes: to soak up a pitifully low number of enemies that got past you and then to be chased by the bad guys, forcing you to rescue them.
And to land the last blow on the missiles in Sector Z, thereby robbing you of the needed points to get a medal.
Also, in the grand scale of things, General Pepper's army doesn't seem to do anything in the war. This is a real quote from General Pepper in Star Fox 64 in response to Fox's cunning strategy: "You're going to attack the enemy base? Great idea Starfox!"
In Pepper's defense, they're attacking a heavily-defended production facility, and it's entirely possible that by that point that you've personally plastered the entire Cornerian air force back on Katina.
Desert Strike has you and your co-pilot win the not-quite-the-Gulf War in a single helicopter (and your co-pilot is even captured at one point.) The first missions of Jungle Strike take this trope to absurdity: the enemy has brought tanks, missile trucks and soldiers into Washington DC and tries to destroy the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Washington Monument, and no-one lifts a finger to stop them but you.
Applicable to some extent to the Ace Combat series, both story and gameplay-wise starting with 5 (which introduced wingman commands). Note though that the wingmen of Zero were more helpful, or at least tended to be more aggressive in terms of actually attacking and launching missiles, than those in 5, while 6 has only one wingman and only two commands (Attack or Cover) but introduces the Allied Support System, which can definitely avert this trope. Nothing like most of the enemies in a mission going down from you calling allied attacks onto them while you were at 3% "health"...
While the Allied Support momentarily averts this trope, it also highlights how much it's played straight the rest of the time. The allied planes would be more than capable of easily accomplishing most missions without any player intervention, if they always fought like they do in the few seconds Allied Support lasts. But most of the time NPC planes just circle around lazily and wait for the player to earn their "support points".
The Descent: Freespace series tries so hard to avert this. The first game had art in the manual with a huge alien capital ship, with an encircled dot labeled "this is you" (and it really is that scale). You're not given a name - Command calls you "pilot" or by your wing designation "Alpha 1," just like all the other Red Shirt pilots. During in-game briefings, you're constantly updated to the status of other squadrons on missions which you aren't actively involved in. In some missions, one squad will be assigned to take on a task that you can witness being done, but aren't actively involved in. You don't even need to complete most of the secondary objectives either, so it's not like the storyline pretends that you're Superman or anything - instead you get a message saying 8,000 lives were lost and there wasn't much you could do (you do get the occasional medal if you manage to do the job).
However, where the AI comes in, the trope does, too. Limitations in the AI creates a situation where Alpha 1 and his wing becomes a One Squad Army. Your squad can rearm, the enemies can't. You can customise your wing's armaments for the specific mission, while the enemies will jump in with the default weapons (unless they're an "Elite" squadron). You can reassign wings under your control to different tasks, depending on the mission, but the enemies only perform orders as scripted by the mission designer. As a result, while Alpha Wing is able to take out three squadrons, five cruisers, or two destroyers (or ALL of those), the enemy needs to send five waves of bombers just to get the ship you're defending down to 70%. Command can pretend all they want that you're just another Red Shirt, you're fighting a battle all by yourself this side of the star system!
Then again, by the end of the game, Command is repeatedly sending you off on missions that seem incredibly silly on paper, like defending a constantly jumping in convoy over several kilometers of space with only three other squads for backup. You may still be just a pilot, but your mission objectives tend to match your capital ship kill record.
Not to mention Command's over-the-top reactions to failing mission objectives. For instance, in one mission a single fighter wing (4 fighters, including yourself) has to defend a Hecate-class destroyer, which is not only the size of a mountain but has all the fighting capability of a hunk of cheese. Against wave upon wave of Shivan bombers, as well as a Moloch-class corvette. In a vision-obscuring nebula. If you fail, Command yells at you, strips you of your wings and consigns you to cargo-hauling in a dead-end system for the rest of your days. Damn.
In the space fighter game Starlancer, while the player is supposedly just another pilot in a six-fighter squadron, you have a tendency to be personally punished for failure.
Starlancer also has news reports on the war which are updated every mission and frequently feature reports on other squadrons, warships and pilots who are kicking considerably more ass and doing more important jobs than you are (at least at the start of the game). Towards the end of the game, by which time your flagship and squadron have become increasingly badass and your reputation more legendary, you meet these other guys who've also been keeping tabs on your career in the same manner.
Avoided at least at the start of TIE Fighter. The Rebels attack while you're out on an early training mission, so you're ordered to return to base. After all, the Empire has many more experienced pilots in the area, and you're not ready to take them on yet (not that it really matters to the Empire if you get killed or not).
Not avoided at all however in the rest of TIE Fighter, the X-Wing series and the more recent Rogue Squadron series, in which the player's allies will be utterly useless and the player will have to kill dozens of enemies and the occasional massive starship by themselves.
Most games in the Harvest Moon series have this as the central theme: either you've been given a task by the Harvest Goddess or you need to save the Harvest Goddess from something. Island of Happiness takes this Up to Eleven: Literally every bit of development on the island is spured on by your productivity or paid for by you directly (road and bridge repair). And characters will leave the island if you ignore them for long enough, no matter what their connection to anything or anyone else is (temporarily, but still).
Weirdly used in Mario Hoops, each team has three players, but only the one currently under your control actually does anything beyond standing around waiting to be passed to. If the ball is fumbled near one of the other guys, not only will they ignore it but if it hits them anyway it will just bounce off.
Stealth Based Game
Averted in Rainbow Six Vegas and the like. Not only can you tell your CPU-controlled team-mates to go first, in some cases they're more accurate than you are! You'll hear this exchange dozens of times: "Prepare for entry." "Stacking up." "Frag and clear." "Cleared!" "Regroup on me." Careful planning will have you taking out a room of six tangos in something like 3 seconds.
Definitely not averted in Rainbow Six Vegas. Your three-man team is routinely sent to engage hundreds of heavily-armed enemies with virtually no backup, despite the assumption that a significant amount of other friendly troops would be in the Vegas area (after all, it is the site of several major attacks). The worst offender is when you end up fighting your way through an entire building just to find several dozen police/FBI waiting happily outside.
In the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter games, the player controls only Captain Mitchell. Although there are several infiltration/recon missions where he must go solo, the majority of the game provides him with up to three specialized "Ghost" units —ranging from heavy artillery, medic, sniper, and infantry. These units can turn the most difficult missions into cakewalks, but only if the player utilizes the Ghosts effectively, instead of leaving them behind. For example, this editor completed the final mission of the first GRAW game solely by providing cover fire, while the heavy weapons specialist and his shoulder-mounted rocket launcher took on the Big Bad one-on-one.
In Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth, you're alone for the first half of the game, so naturally it's up to you. However, this becomes rather egregious in the 2nd half when you accompany, in Turn, the FBI, the USMC and the US Coast Guard into the town, and they all prove to be almost completely useless, leaving you to do all the legwork.
Averted in Eternal Darkness, despite having a Chosen One. Most of the game consists of playing as the various Red Shirts who contribute to the fight to save humanity, and almost every chapter ends with its player character dead or insane. At the end, everybody comes back in ghost form, one at a time, to attack The Dragon, and the guy who died at the beginning of the game gets to seal away the Big Bad.
In Vampire Quest, produced by www.vampyou.com, this is used, almost to the point of parody. You have three other party members, who are unseen throughout most of the adventure, except getting captured and rescued. At no point do they actually do anything, ever.
Averted in most of the Resident Evil games. All the characters are running around blind trying to find a way out, and you just pick one to play as. Resident Evil 2 even gives you a Game B option, which lets you play as the other character as the other character (Who you played as the first time around) runs around. Played straight with Resident Evil 4 and 5.
Telltale's The Walking Dead: Season 2. The amount of times a party of grown adults defers to an eleven-year-old girl to take charge in dangerous and complicated situations is downright comical. Justifiedoccasionally in instances where Clementine is best suited to the task at hand (she is the smallest and sneakiest person in the group), but not always, and when it isn't, this trope is absolutely egregious.
Third Person Shooter
It's implied, in Crusader, that your character of the Silencer is just one of many operatives—other Rebels are mentioned as taking on missions. However, for a barely-trusted recent defector, you sure end up handed a lot of critical missions. Even when the mole takes over the base, you are given a mission that could expose the traitor, assuming you survive.
Half-subverted in the game's final mission; you're supposed to command a squad of Rebel soldiers, but all methods other than the one you took to get there are locked out or inaccessible.
Averted in the 3rd-person tactical shooter Win Back 2. Two characters from your three-man squad are assigned to each mission, and you play the first one... During which time, several opportunities are given for you to accomplish things outside the scope of your mission. Then you play as the second character, and receive bonuses when the "first character" helps you out (for instance by helping open a locked door, or by picking off some Mooks).
Kind of averted in the latest Rogue Trooper video game. The player takes the role of Rogue, the only survivor of an ambush that slaughtered the rest of his genetically-engineered Super Soldier pals. Having said that, part of the soldiers' cybernetic augmentation is "biochips," which preserves their consciousness for download in a newly-grown body; in the meanwhile, Rogue installs his three friends onto his Swiss-Army Weapon, Backpack Of Holding and helmet. All three items are now capable of independent action (the rifle can be set up as a sentry gun, for instance, and the helmet can project a holographic decoy), and frequently chat amongst themselves. While It's Up to You still, at least your One-Man Army is allowed to multitask.
Also semi-averted in Max Payne 2 with missions which are played from Max's perspective and then switch to Mona's, showing what she was doing at the same time to help Max perform his jobs. The original Max Payne lampshades his uniqueness though by pointing out that only he in the game world has the ability to slow down time, but offers no explanation at all for it.
Max Payne 2 notably fails to address why, given what happened last time Max went on the run from the police but was proven right, people are still unwilling to trust him. A non-game example of this is on 24, where after seven seasons of Bauer's crazy theories and maverick tactics generally being proven to be a 100% reliable course of action, you'd think his superiors would actually listen to him and not keep screwing him over.
Well, in this case, Max did kill Winterson. And even before that, his behavior was increasingly erratic. And in the first game, he wasn't so much "proven right" as "had the charges taken care of by mysterious and powerful connections".
Strangely done in Kane and Lynch, where you are the only one who can revive teammates... even when your living teammates end up standing in front of the slumped over ones like they're cover.
Slightly inverted in Red Faction: Guerrilla, since Mason's expertise doesn't extend much farther then "explode this thing over here", most Faction Missions involve other, unseen operatives doing the leg work while you support them.... usually by exploding things.
Also in one mission you have to drive across a artillery firing field and shut down the artillery. However it's less it's up to you and more you're the only one who manage to not be completely utterly shelled to dust. That mission was a Player Punch as you watched the truck in front of you explode then you hear the rest of rebellion screaming for help over the radio or how they're stuck and the shells are getting closer.
Dead Space: Isaac fix the gravity drive! Isaac reroute the power! Isaac get me a ham sandwich! The other two characters do contribute but mostly their role is opening doors and giving you bad news. (Well, Hammond tries to do something once. Result? You'll find him more than slightly poisoned.) However, Isaac is, in fact, an engineer, and it turns out Kendra has been manipulating him to get the Marker.
Deconstructed in Spec Ops: The Line as it shows precisely what sort of mindset it would take to believe that you are the only one who can do anything. Captain Martin Walker exceeds the scope of his original mission because he thought it was up to him to figure out what was going on and save everyone. He fails at both learning the truth and doing anything that doesn't get people killed in various horrible ways.
Turn Based Strategy
Fire Emblem 10 (Radiant Dawn) really drives the point home at the end of Part 3 by turning everyone but the heroes and antagonists into statues.
Generally played semi-straight in the rest of the Fire Emblem series. While the main character(s) are usually quite powerful in their own right, your other units may be stronger or more useful. However, that tiny band of 10-30 people is the only effective resistance to the Big Bad and his army.
In the missions where there are non-recruitable NPC allied combatants (e.g. ordinary soldiers or guardsmen of whatever nation you're part of/allied with), they have low stats and generally get slaughtered by almost any enemies. Even if they're using a superior weapon.
As Bright Noa deliberates during Scenario 20 of the Space Route in Shin Super Robot Wars, Bright gets an unexpected transmission from someone he's never met before: Chief Oka of the Federation Far East Base. He asks if Bright is planning to heed the order he just got to return, and Bright says that he doesn't see any alternative. Oka is adamant that Bright do no such thing, saying that as Bright is well aware, Staff HQ is anything but sane these days. There's no call for Bright to be punished for the whims of a few lunatics, especially since he and his men are one of the few glimmers of hope mankind has left. Bright briefly protests that disobeying would get all his men branded as traitors, but Oka firmly points out that fighting the aliens comes first. He tells Bright to leave things to him and his friends at Staff HQ, though the Reinforce Jr. itself will have to be relinquished.
Amuro is impressed with Oka, and after all the transfer is complete, Londo Bell decides to go to the Moon. This will fulfill the League Militare's needs and let Amuro pick up the Nu Gundam from its commissioned builders at Anaheim Electronics. Usso is a little sad to see Gomez go, but most of the rest of the crew are still with the Londo Bell.
Wide Open Sandbox
In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the player's territory can be invaded by other gangs. However, it's solely the player's responsibility to defend it. No one else in the gang of presumably hundreds ever takes the initiative to help out or, better yet, handle the attack themselves. However, your gang in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City will cheerfully blow away anyone who tries to attack the player character.
Also in the Grand Theft Auto series, the player must always be the driver, and apparently no one else who ever rides with the protagonist knows how to drive. Even when someone arrives to pick you up during a cutscene, they invariably scoot over to the passenger seat once the gameplay begins. This is lampshaded in one of the missions in San Andreas, where Ryder instructs; "You drive - seein' as you "Mister Driver" and all."
Averted, probably intentionally, in one of the later missions of San Andreas. At the end of the mission, the main character offers to drive his cohorts to the hospital, but they assure him that he's done enough.
Same goes for pushbacks in Saints Row. Subverted, since you can call up allied members to drive you, and any Saints in the area will also help out.
Especially glaring in the bank robbery mission in Vice City, for which you need to recruit a gunman, a safe cracker, and a driver. None of whom perform their roles and require the player to do them.
For a drug lord rebuilding his empire, Tony Montana has to do too much of the dirty work himself, as shown in the Scarface: The World is Yours title. Even the goons who deliver cars to him proceed to take the passenger seat and leave their boss to drive. While players can switch to playing as the hired muscle, that is an unexplained, wholly optional, plot-irrelevant element.
In the video game adaptation of The Godfather, we see that apparently all Mafia operations outside of the inter-family intrigue handled by the movie characters are performed by one man, the player. He essentially takes over the entire underworld single-handedly, and it goes to even further extremes in the final mission, where the simultaneous hits on the heads of the other families during Michael's daughter's baptism are all carried out by the same guy driving frantically all over New York.
Apparently realizing how difficult and unrealistic the single-handed approach to underworld domination was in the first game, the developers of the sequel have created the "Family" or "Crew" system. This will allow the player to send members of their families to do their dirty work for them, so the player isn't saddled with all the work. At the same time, fellow mob members can be brought along on missions to help take over rackets and storm rival family compounds. It would appear the game makers have realized why the Mafia considers itself a "Family Business."
Averted in the first level of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky. If you ignore the mission objectives, your teammates will eventually accomplish them for you. This allows you to progress to the next level, but you also miss out on the mission rewards you're given if you participate in the missions.
Also, later in the game, you're assigned to help a group of Stalkers assault a zombie-filled factory. Far from making you pointman, the Stalkers tell you to stay back and keep out of the way, and as it turns out they're more than capable of finishing the mission by themselves.
One of the love it or hate it features in the first game was the fact that due to the living world, sometimes your quests would sort out on their own. Say if you were tasked to kill a certain NPC, he isn't suddenly gifted with a "character shield" and he might fall victim to the many, many dangers of The Zone if you leave him wandering long enough. Often all you have to do is go to the right place, then go back to the quest-giver to claim your reward; skipping all the fighting as the mutants you were supposed to eradicate were killed by your allied Stalkers who then used the place as their hangout.
In Spore, whenever a colony planet owned by the player is under attack, the player must travel there with his ship or else the colony will be lost as the automated defense turrets won't work unless the player is there. You are also in command of the only ship your creature species will ever possess so you have to do all other kinds of busy work along with defending.
This becomes incredibly frustrating as your empire grows to several (and sometimes dozens) of systems, and you can only defend it with one ship, often from attacks that come from different directions.
Played straight, averted and lampshaded in Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption, where the whole main plot is your personal mission to kill your old companions, but on those missions where you have allies (like the assault on Fort Mercer or Escalera) they are useful but not so much that you aren't essential to victory, and lampshaded when John bitches to the goverment agents about how stupid it is to send two men into a gang hide-out by themselves, even though you've pretty much been doing exactly that since the start. Considering the ending clearly indicates Ross wants John to just die, sending John on missions alone against ridiculous odds may even be a Justified Trope that makes sense to do from Ross' perspective.
In Space Rangers, due to the nature of the living world, it is quite possible for the alliance to win the war without you. You could be milling around, running side-quests and trading for cash or what-have-you, while the other rangers and military forces actually drive the Klissans or up to two Dominator factions to extinction. This is especially true on lower difficulty levels, though on higher ones all you need is to give the war an initial "push", and the AI will usually take care of the rest.