In some games, Death Is a Slap on the Wrist
. Occasionally, the game will go out of its way to explain exactly why
this is the case. The most common Handwaves
are "your characters are clones
" and "the game is simply a re-telling of events that already happened
." The latter will sometimes combine it with a Take That
to the player on the Game Over
screen with your character saying things like, "Of course, it would have been incredibly stupid
of me to do that.
It should be noted that this isn't necessarily a good thing
; players are so used to having extra lives or continues that the attempted explanation may only serve to emphasize an artificial scenario
they'd otherwise have been perfectly happy ignoring by pretending "that didn't happen
" and trying again. This is particularly true when the explanation is prone to Fridge Logic
or unintended Fridge Horror
A form of Gameplay and Story Integration
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Action Adventure Games
- In Shadow Man, killing Mike LeRoi sends him to Deadside just like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, once there, he becomes Shadow Man, whose powers include the ability to cross back over to certain locations in the world of the living.
- Chakan's immortality works similarly. He can be killed, but it just brings him to his inter-dimensional hub where he can go right back to where he was.
- Similarly, the Soul Reaver games/portions of the Blood Omen games, Raziel dying in the physical world causes his corporeal body to dissolve and he returns to the spirit world, until he can find a gateway to create a new physical body. If he dies in the spirit world, he dies completely.
- No, his soul is snatched back by the Elder God. In the others, his soul seems to have become strong enough to reform itself. This is mostly because only the Blood Reaver can "kill" Raziel by imprisoning him, and only Raziel can kill Kain.
- Kain himself transforms in a flock of bats and reforms in a safer location.
- In Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, the title character has an offer from Death, where Death will return him to life as long as he continues to work towards resolving the imbalance in the afterlife. This deal is bound by a physical coin Death gives him, and if he runs out of these coins, Death can no longer restore him to life and must reap his soul properly.
- Amaterasu in Ōkami is the sun goddess, so she can return to life at the cost of a single unit of solar energy. If all the units run out, she can revive herself yet again if she has filled a special Celestial Pouch. Add a special item which can refill said Pouch instantly and you have a functionally immortal character.
- Aliens: Infestation for the DS has you controlling a four Marine fireteam, one soldier at a time. If one Marine is killed, another will take their place. There are a couple of wrinkles: if your fireteam is short a member or two, you can find other Marines to join your fireteam throughout each level (They'll refuse if you already have a full fireteam.) Also, if a Marine gets incapacitated by an alien, they're dragged off to a nearby lair instead of killed, and can be rescued. If they are mortally wounded again, however, an alien will burst out of their chest.
- In DuckTales: The Quest for Gold, Huey, Dewey and Louie's stages give you three chances; one for each nephew. So if you beat the game on your last life, does that mean the other two nephews were Killed Off for Real?
- In V2000, the manual makes the player one of a number of pilots who fly drone craft remotely. Stocks and manufacturing capacity are both limited, so priority is given to those pilots who prove the most effective against The Virus and penetrate the furthest into its domain. A magnificent example. One that falls apart as soon as hidden trophies start giving lives, but magnificent.
- The way Alien Shooter describes extra lives is this: the scientists have finally found the method to dodge death, so they give you several in the beginning and several additional lives during your mission, after you pay them loads of money.
- Tenchu uses the Ninja Log for extra lives—you didn't die, you replaced yourself with a log. It only works if you die by via combat or trap damage though, falling into a pit means you need to start the level over.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES gives the player control of each of the four turtles one at a time. If a Turtle runs out of life, April or Splinter will inform the player that he "got caught." This isn't a euphemism - if a turtle is defeated, he can be rescued in a later stage if the player can locate his whereabouts.
- In Brute Force the characters in your party are clones (of clones of clones). If a character dies (s)he drops a Memory Chip that contains their memories of the mission so far, which you can recover to make recloning them cheaper, which affects your final mission score. If everybody dies the whole squad gets recloned at the last checkpoint location and you can collect all of the memory chips to compensate for (most of) the losses.
- Gain Ground starts you with three playable characters. However, a number of other combatants were captured by the Supercomputer before the game began, and are trapped in the simulation. If you find one, touch them, and then lead them into an exit, you can use them in all following levels. If your character is hit, you can retrieve them with another one - but if a character is killed while escorting another, you lose the character being escorted for good.
- Tex Murphy: Overseer presented the entire story as a flashback, with all player deaths handwaved by Tex: "Of course, I'd have to be an idiot to do that. Here's what really happened."
- In Under a Killing Moon, if Tex dies he meets God (the Big P.I. in the Sky) who explains that Tex is The Only One who can save the world and, since he's so special, God will bring him back "just this once". Of course, "just this once" turns into however many times you need. God will also comment on whatever boneheaded move got you killed.
- In The Secret Of Monkey Island, protagonist Guybrush Threepwood can die (if you're really, REALLY trying to). However, in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, the premise is that Guybrush is telling a story to Elaine, so any death would be inconsistent with the fact that he's alive enough to tell about it. Still, in one scene, Guybrush is hooked up to a timed death contraption. If you fail to deactivate the machine within the allotted time, he drops into a vat of acid, at which point Elaine reminds him that he can't be dead or he couldn't tell the story. The game then returns you to the beginning of the contraption scene.
- The premise of Shadow Of Destiny is your character using time travel to prevent his death; if you fail to do so you can just go back in time and try again. Note that it is possible to die permanently, by running out of time in the final level, touching your past self, or failing to return to the present when your time machine tells you to. You can still reload your saved game, though.
- Full Throttle, the story is told as Ben's backflash. If you die, he'll mention there's something wrong and let you try again.
First Person Shooter
- Alien vs. Predator on the Atari Jaguar had the Alien able to lay eggs in Marines. If you died, you would continue from the new alien that was hatched.
- In System Shock, this has to be turned on for each area by finding its BS-tech resurrection chamber. Initial incursions may be short and cautious until the chamber's discovery creates a bridgehead.
- As a Spiritual Successor to System Shock, BioShock has the Vita-Chambers, which work similarly. to the resurrection chambers.
- Bioshock Infinite doesn't have Vita-Chambers: instead the respawns are Elizabeth dragging the Only Mostly Dead Booker to cover and reviving him. If Booker runs out of health in the sections where he's separated from Elizabeth there's a hallucination-like sequence where he appears in his office from the start of the game and walking through the door puts him back in the fight. The endgame Reveal explains this as Booker actually dying, and the Luteces recruiting an Alternate Universe Booker and starting the game's events over from the beginning offscreen - something they've already done dozens of times before the game starts.
- Left 4 Dead sort of uses this. Every time a survivor dies, he will respawn in a closet down the road and thank you for releasing him. The developers used this as a way to simulate how the survivors would find other survivors that were alive. In other words, if a survivor dies, you find an Identical Stranger with exactly the same appearance and personality a few minutes later. It's best not to think about it too much; really it's just a way for the game to avert Death Is a Slap on the Wrist without invoking permadeath. Only when he dies in the finale will the game consider him Killed Off for Real.
- In The Darkness video games, the Darkness itself will not allow Jackie to die even if he commits suicide. This is a plot point several times in the first game.
- Portal 2: While this is averted in the single-player campaign, the co-op gives a justification. The players are robots; upon "dying" their data and personalities are transferred to a new body and plunked back in with their buddy. The choice of using robots was actually to avoid Fridge Logic, and the horror of seeing a human character die in hundreds of really painfully creative ways.
- PlanetSide - The ancient Vanu matrix system allows for humans to be rebuilt at specialized facilities. When the planet detects that a soldier has died, it deconstructs their body and rebuilds them in a friendly facility.
- Borderlands and Borderlands 2 have New-U stations, which basically creates an in-universe respawn point for anyone registered in the system. It's also implied to be the reason for the infinitely respawning enemies. It's repeatedly lampshaded (the second game actually has a mission where the goal is to kill yourself, because you'll respawn afterward anyway) and a bit prone to fridge logic (in 2, the Big Bad is the CEO of the company who owns the New-U stations, which raises the question of why he doesn't just take you out of the system). Word of God states that the New-U stations are simply a game mechanic and not within the universe (which still doesn't explain the fact that Jack pays you to commit suicide in a sidequest).
- Spider And Web: In this interactive fiction game, the framing story is that you are a captured spy being interrogated. If you died in your retelling, the interrogator would be cross with you and make you start over.
- More than just a way to explain extra lives, it's a story mechanic. You can't finish the story the first few tries - whenever you reach a dead end, you return to the frame story, where the interrogator demands you explain some action you took or item you were carrying; this lets you use them in the story you're telling.
- EVE Online explains this with clones. And actually goes for more realistic approach - when your ship has been blown up, you survive in an emergency escape pod. If you manage to get away in that, you only lose the ship and cargo. If the pod has been blown up as well - then the clone justification comes into play. You lose all the implants your original body had and all the skills that you have learned after you have updated your clone.
- In City of Heroes , the explanation is that every 'registered' hero has a teleport homer on them, that teleports them directly into an ultra high tech tube that revives them if they should be too badly hurt or rendered unconscious. In the original comics run from the earliest days of the game, the climax is made more dramatic by the bad guys having jammed said teleport homers. In addition, at least one mission deals with stopping bad guys before they can disable the hospital teleport system.
- Dungeons & Dragons Online has the same resurrection spells as the tabletop game on which it is based, as well as spirit binding, whereby trained priests conveniently available in every tavern have the ability to bring your spirit back from Dolurrh to restore your character's life should you die without other means of ressurection.
- The MMORPG Shadowbane explained the ability of characters to come back from the dead as something terribly wrong, but consistent throughout the world. Nobody could permanently die. At all.
- FusionFall: The Grim Reaper is on your side, so he just revives all casualties at the last checkpoint.
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is presented as a story the titular character is telling. If you die, he'll say something along the lines of, "Wait, no, that's not how it happened, may I start again?", allowing you to try again.
- which leads to some interesting Fridge Logic when you think about it. "So I scaled the wall, jumped off just as the platform retreated, and fell thirty feet onto spikes, killing myself in a gruesome manner. Wait, hold on, that doesn't sound right, let me start again..."
- It's possible that since the story would already include many seemingly fatal accidents reversed by the Dagger of Time, the Prince was retracting a telling of the story that would break its limitations - the only circumstance in which the player is likely to get a game over - because he knows Farah is clever enough to spot them too and call him on it.
- It's also possible the prince is confused by the images of the future he sees at the save points. He sees so many images of himself dying in the future it would make sense he gets those confused with his actual experiences and "remembers" dying.
- Psychonauts describes extra lives as "layers of projection": Lose enough and you get booted out of whoever's mind you happen to be inside. It's unclear as to why this also happens in real life, though...
- Conker, titular hero of Conkers Bad Fur Day, has as many lives as he has tails. The grim reaper of his world, a tiny foul-mouthed skeleton named Gregg, explains the deal to you the first time you die.
- In Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?, you get 1000 lives to solve the puzzles. That's not one Prinny with 1000 lives, but 1000 Prinnies dying one after another.
- The Futurama video game does this, thanks to Professor Farnsworth's invention, the Re-Animator (no, not that Re-Animator), which revives the player after every death. The game ends when the Stable Time Loop that starts the game results in the machine destroyed and the playable cast dead.
- Super Meat Boy seems to not justify this... until you get to Hell and see the hundreds of dead Meat Boys that you've gone through to get this far form into an angry boss.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns uses balloons as extra lives like the original SNES games, except this time the game shows your Kong being carried back into the stage by the balloon if he is defeated.
- Dare Devil Denis for the BBC Micro gave the titular stuntman a limited number of takes before getting fired. This premise was later adopted by the Codemasters games Super Stunt Man and Stuntman Seymour.
- In Smurf: Rescue In Gargamel's Castle, you are given five nameless Smurfs to play as in your Endless Game mission to rescue Smurfette, with a bonus Smurf added at 10,000 points in the Atari 2600 version. Also, the instructions never say that your Smurf dies, but rather "gets tired" when he gets hit by an enemy, fails to clear an obstacle, or runs out of energy before entering new territory.
Real Time Strategy
- Sacrifice: The game missions are narrated by the hero. Failing and restarting them makes the hero turn out to be an Unreliable Narrator and say, Of course, that's not what really happened. Let me start again...
- In addition, dying isn't much of an issue because your patron deity's got your back (or your soul, at any rate) and will restore you to life once your mana has recovered to 25%. As long as your Altar is intact, a wizard can't die, and thus the main way to win in Sacrifice is to desecrate your opponent's altar to keep the wizard from reforming.
- In-Universe in Starcraft I, where Zealots don't die, they get teleported back to Aiur/somewhere else after Aiur falls to get put in Dragoon shells.
Role Playing Games
- In Neverwinter Nights, a character who dies is pulled back to the nearest temple of Tyr and gets a lecture from the head cleric about how they almost lost him/her that time.
- In the Shadows of Undrentide expansion, you get a magic ring that does the same thing (but pulls you to Drogan's house instead of a temple) in the first chapter, except it has limited charges (depending on how many Focus Crystals you have)
- In the Hordes of the Underdark expansion, you get a magic relic that pulls you to a pocket dimension, and has limited charges (depending on how many Rogue Stones you buy) for the first two chapters. After that you don't have the easy respawn - you have to load a saved game.
- Done rather literally in Planescape: Torment, as the player character is immortal.
- Every time your mech is destroyed in Artix Entertainment's free Flash game MechQuest, you're told that you managed to eject.
- Dragon Quest and other old JRPG titles has a common function for the church: when a member is killed in combat, the local Crystal Dragon Jesus is capable of reviving the character in an exchange for a donation.
- Phantasy Star II uses a Cloning Lab instead of a church to fit its sci-fi setting. When the service is used, the dead character is cloned into a new being possessing the old one's abilities and memories. This also happens in canon at least once, as your entire party is killed in the crash of Gaila with the planet Palma, but Tyler had everyone cloned.
- Dark Souls: Because of the Darksign curse that's ravaged Lordran (and much of the surrounding world besides), you and most everyone you meet have been Dead All Along. The curse keeps an Undead alive even after they sustain lethal damage by restoring him or her to life at the last Bonfire they've visited. And while that's not SO bad, it has two drawbacks. First, resting at/getting resurrected by a bonfire causes almost every other Only Mostly Dead creature to come back as well. Second, Undeads will eventually go Hollow and start attacking anything non-Hollow. While the second doesn't ever clearly manifest in gameplay, it's implied quitting the game for good is equivalent to letting your PC go Hollow.
Shoot Em Ups
- Stargunner tries to explain its extra lives by claiming that they're actually some sort of warp devices that activate automatically when you die and proceed to "teleport you to the closest compatible parallel dimension".
- Ray series like Ray Storm and Ray Crisis have varying degrees of justification. On Ray Storm, you can clearly hear the radio voice upon your death(s) saying "Ray 2/3 to continue present tactics." Yes, it's not so much that you have extra lives, it's that We Have Reserves. Ray Crisis, on the other hand, takes place inside an immersive AI construct of a cyborg called Con-Human, and your fighter really is a virus designed to wreak havoc. Presumably then, your lives are the number of times the virus can regenerate after the Antibodies have killed it.
- Thunder Force V's story introduced it as a cloning system called "Circulate Death"
- The Amiga game Walker justifies this by each of your three lives being a different mech. They are even referred to as Walker One, Two and Three.
- Hellsinker's manual says that extra lives are due to the [LIFE] system, which excised the concept of being alive, and split it into seven parts. Of course, this being Hellsinker, it's not clear how seriously this is meant to be taken.
- SimAnt allowed you to be reborn as another ant if the ant you controlled died.
Stealth Based Games
- Metal Gear Solid 3 stars Naked Snake, Solid Snake's "father". Whenever he dies (or takes certain actions), he creates a "Time Paradox", preventing Solid Snake from being "born" and/or the earliest Metal Gear games from ever happening. It's up to the player to ensure that doesn't happen, making the whole game feel kind of like a Wayback Trip in a meta sort of way.
- In Assassin's Creed I, the player character is plugged into a machine that accesses your ancestor's memories. When you die, it's called "memory desynchronization", and you have to access the memory again and do it the way your ancestor did it; i.e., the right way.
- Gets interesting when you realise what else causes desynchronisation. Apparently said Ancestor did a perfect, never injured, never even seen, 100% run through. Badass.
- Considering most injuries would either severely cripple or kill him, he'd pretty much have to do it in a perfect go.
Third Person Shooter
- In Brute Force, a dead player is replaced with a clone created for the purpose. This is expensive.
- Lampshaded in a few places, such as when your commander tells someone to prepare a backup clone just after ordering you to jump through an untested teleporter without knowing where it will go.
- 'Lives' in Total Overdose are called 'rewinds', and results in the action winding back from death to allow more survivable choices — sort of like an instant internal Retcon. If the player is painted irreversibly into a corner anyway, that just displays how many ways the character can die, until you're out of rewinds.
- The flash game Dino Run calls lives "time shifts".
- And the game pause "time freeze".
- The platformer Liferaft: Zero's protagonist is a female text subject with TONS of her clo- sisters backing her up, all eager to go out and get that candy.
Wide Open Sandbox
- The Destroy All Humans! series replaces each dead player character with a sequentially numbered clone.
- Crackdown features clone replacements. In fact the "Extract" option just instantly kills your character and pulls up the menu to choose where you want to respawn. It's only the loss of your current progress towards the next upgrade level that prevents it being a better method of transport than driving to get across town.
- Spore: The Cell and Creature phases show that every time you die, you emerge as another member of your species, ready to continue. The Space phase explains extra lives as a combination of "advanced cloning technology" and "emergency consciousness transferal", having you re-emerge as a freshly-cloned pilot with a rebuilt ship after dying. If you happen to explode on you own planet, the pieces of your old ship will still be falling from the sky as your new ship flies up through them.
- After you die in Starbound, a cutscene plays showing a clone of your character being created back on your spaceship. The cutscene is different for each playable race.
Non-Video Game Examples
Anime and Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist: The unfinished Philosophers' Stone will not restore human life, but serves to act as extra lives for the homunculi. Thus, one can kill a homunculus either by destroying the stone, or by killing them over and over again until they run out of lives. How does this work? The stone contains lives of the people sacrificed. So they run out of people to kill in their place!
- The source of Alucard's indestructibility in Hellsing is that as blood is the currency of life, he has as many extra lives as there are people he has drained unto death. How many is that? Approximately 3.4 million.
- This becomes a problem when he's tricked into eating Lieutenant Schrodinger. Due to how Schrodinger works, Alucard ceases to exist in this reality until he can destroy every single one of those lives. This takes several decades.
- The 6th Day : The villain has access to cloning at $1.2 billion a pop, and plenty of billions to burn, so the Goldfish Poop Gang keeps coming back. This does not apply to the hero.
- What Dreams May Come: People in heaven can choose reincarnation.
- Nicky of Little Nicky lives in Hell, so when he goes to Earth, dying just sends him back home, and he can just walk right out again.
Demon: What happened? You were gone for two seconds!
Nicky: There was a bright light... attached to a lot of metal!
Satan: That's a train, son. Don't stand in front of it.
- This becomes plot-important later on, as he uses it as a shortcut to get back to Hell, and ends up in Heaven when he makes a Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the duo revive multiple times because they beat Death at chess... and battleship... and monopoly... and basically every other game you can name.
- In Ready Player One, a meta-example occurs: death in the OASIS resets your avatar to first level and you lose all your stuff. However, the protagonist won an "extra life" coin for playing a perfect game of Pac-Man. He didn't know until his avatar died that the coin was an extra life token.
- On Doctor Who the Doctor had a well-established way of regeneration with a new appearance, but it was limited to twelve regenerations, thirteen bodies total. When he reached the limit, the Time Lords chose to give him a new round of lives.
- In Paranoia, each character is actually six identical clones (officially referred to as a "six-pack" and usually tracked with one), to get around the fact that any imaginable action or thought is treasonous (and treason is a capital crime).
- Dungeons & Dragons and Order of the Stick have resurrection spells. These aren't perfect, though - you need expensive material components to pay for them (the old joke is "Life is worth 5,000 gold pieces"), some deaths can't be resurrected from, and the soul has to want to come back. In the latter, Lord Shojo refuses to be resurrected after his murder, because all he has to look forward to in life is a trial for treason and a slow death from old age.
- Alternity: AIs have backups stashed somewhere on The Grid.
- Car Wars featured 'life insurance' in the form of Gold Cross. For a modest fee, they'll grow a new clone from your corpse, or keep one as a backup.
- Transhuman Space allows "digital characters", such as ghosts and artificial intelligences, to store backups of their code on other servers so that they can be restored to life.
- Eclipse Phase allows anyone to make digital backups of their consciousness that can be "resleeved" in a new body (though you need to pay for it or you could end up in whatever cheap morph Firewall found for you). There are also cortical stack implants that can save a character's memories up until death.
- Bob and George features the communist robot Ran, who is built so crappily that even a slight poke can kill him. Cue his creator building a Ran factory which teleports a new Ran exactly where the old one died.
Ran: But Mommy, isn't rebuilding me expensive?
Kalinka: No, Ran, you're made with really, really cheap Soviet parts.
Ran: But if you replace me every time-
Kalinka: Really, really cheap Soviet parts.
Ran: But wouldn't it be-
Kalinka: Really, really cheap Soviet parts!
- South Park does this with Kenny, who was killed off every episode for about six seasons before getting around to explaining how he kept coming back: his mom gives birth to a new Kenny every time. A later episode revealed that not only does Kenny remember every time he's died, but this ability is somehow connected to the cult of Cthulhu.
- In Garfield: His 9 Lives, God decides to give more lives to Garfield and Odie because he thought their last life (blown up by an alien fleet) put them in an "unfair position".
- Fry, when asking the What-If Machine "What if that stuff I said?" on life being like a video game, is killed but walks in from off screen declaring "I had an extra man". An interesting use of the trope in that he was justified in coming back to life in reality BECAUSE life was like a video game.
- It is ridiculously hard to permanently kill a Transformer in any medium, mostly because they're mechanical beings who can be reassembled after taking massive amounts of damage. Nothing short of shooting them in the spark will do it... and even then there are artifacts like the Matrix or Vector Sigma which can undo that. The best way to kill a Transformers is to not have a toy of them on the shelves.