"Cutscene death: The only death that counts!"
When someone dies in a cutscene, because the story gods have demanded it. It doesn't always fit with how the game handles combat death and wounds
, be they Non-Lethal K.O.
or Only Mostly Dead
and it doesn't matter how many extra lives the player has left. Characters who have taken fireballs (and worse) to the face
at pointblank range will be felled with a single gunshot or stab wound, even if they're level 99. Don't even try your resurrection magic, it would be wrong.
A few games actually see magic users or clerics attempting to heal fallen characters, but failing, somehow implying that the dying character is injured in a way beyond conventional methods of healing to help. It's technically a Hand Wave
, but they tried. Another reason this could be is that the spells do not have the power to bring back the dead, they just can revive the unconscious. Sometimes this happens in RTS games as well, where in most levels a death can easily be fixed by building the relevant unit production structure. This is generally because developers found that when players weren't
able to build heroes back during campaigns, they'd frequently ignore some of the most powerful units for fear of them dying
If the killed character is an NPC
, it's even worse, the gameplay mechanic usually simply doesn't allow the player to revive such a character.
The flip-side is that, occasionally, what the story gods took away, they may give back; there may be a way to bring someone Back from the Dead
in a cutscene, but it's usually optional. If not, well, that's what makes it drama
Usually a glaring
example of gameplay and story segregation
. Very commonly part of a Player Punch
and Death by Origin Story
Roughly, this is the worst form of death in video games, going plotline death, Final Death
, Only Mostly Dead
, and Non-Lethal K.O.
Inevitably, a character who is killed in this way will generate an Urban Legend of Zelda
regarding how they can be revived, even if actually reviving them is impossible.
Inverse of Cutscene Power to the Max
, where a character does nigh-impossible feats, including defying death, merely by the virtue of being in a cutscene.
This is obviously a death trope. It contains major unmarked spoilers, so read at your own risk.
- Happens twice in Shadow of the Colossus. One is when Agro throws you off her back to save you from a Broken Bridge, falling into a crevice in the process. This is subverted in the ending, where it turns out Agro survived the fall, but not without a noticeable limp. The other time is at the very end of the story, when Wander suffers a Mercy Kill at the hands of Lord Emon.
- In King Arthur & the Knights of Justice, at the end of the game, Morgana kills the two knights that were in your party. If you want them back, you have to go to the Land of the Dead.
- The difference between Plotline Death and gameplay death shows up again in God of War... But it's the opposite of the usual difference. When Kratos dies in gameplay, it's permanent, and you have to reload the last checkpoint... however, when the plot requires him to die, he's allowed a chance to fight back out of the Underworld and complete his quest.
- Given the circumstances of the death (killed by Ares seconds after claiming Pandora's Box, the one weapon that can kill him), and knowing Kratos, it's possible that when he dies in the plot, he's finally pissed off enough to kill his way out of there. That, and it's only on that visit that someone drops a rope for him.
- Circumstances of his death is probably the key, especially since it's implied he needs supernatural help to be able to escape from the Underworld. If he dies before claiming Pandora's Box, then he's just like anyone else who tried to get it and failed. If he dies after climbing out of Hades and challenging Ares, then even the power of the Box wasn't enough to kill the God of War.
- The same thing happens in Jade Empire. If you die, it's reload time, unless you're killed confronting the Big Bad, since that's where you're supposed to die. You then fight your way back from the afterlife.
- Regardless of whom Cole decides to save in Infamous, his girlfriend Trish will still fall to her death. This ends up motivating Cole to try to gain more powers and will not run away from the Beast in the future. In the 2nd game ending, its either the conduits or the humanity lives depending on your Karma.
- In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you must choose between rescuing Nightcrawler or Phoenix from Mephisto's realm. Doesn't matter if you have enough players to attempt to Take a Third Option, it's a case of But Thou Must. If Nightcrawler is chosen, Phoenix returns in the epilogue as Dark Phoenix. If Phoenix is chosen, Mystique kills Professor X.
- DLC does allow you to finally Take a Third Option with Magneto, who blows the locks on both cages and lets them walk out.
- In Batman: Arkham Asylum, it doesn't matter how many guards or doctors you rescue, most of them will be dead before the game's end.
- Dr Young is probably the most notable. At one point you have to save her from Victor Zsasz to progress, but moments later there's nothing you can do to stop her getting blown up by the Joker.
- Subverted in Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in North America) - the last third of the game is played as the main character despite him being technically dead.
- Throughout the Story Mode of Mortal Kombat 9, whoever has to kick the bucket will do so in a cutscene between fights, ranging from Scorpion immolating the original Sub-Zero at Quan Chi's behest to Shao Kahn snapping Kung Lao's neck] to Sindel single-handedly massacring the Forces of Light before Nightwolf pulls a Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Killzone 2, you play as Sev, a soldier with a "medic gun" that can heal downed soldiers (as long as they haven't been shot in the head). Some time near the end of the game, one of your partners, Garza, is wounded by Radec and eventually dies. Why you couldn't use your Medic gun to heal him doesn't make much sense.
- The FPS Requiem: Avenging Angel features a Plotline Death that must be reversed to continue the game. (One of the player's powers is "revive")
- Also, later in the game, a semi-major ally character dies. It makes sense that you're unable to revive her, as she is blown to pieces, and your revive ability requires an intact body to function properly.
- In Clive Barker's Jericho, two of the Jericho Squad members, Devin Ross and Paul Rawlings, have the ability to heal fallen comrades, provided that they maintain visual contact. Close to the beginning of the game, however, Ross dies after being slashed across the chest and dropped from a great height, and, no matter how hard he tries, Rawlings can not bring him back. This is important to the game mechanics during the following levels, however, as Ross' spirit lives on, possessing the bodies of his squadmates, so that he may share their consciousness and use their abilities, as well as still being able to use his own healing abilities.
- Also, just before the final boss fight, both Simone Cole and Xavier Jones are killed by the Firstborn, who uses its powerful blasts of lightning from its hands to blow them into bloody chunks. They cannot be revived at all, and no-one even tries, quite possibly because bringing back someone from the dead who has been blown into tiny pieces would be a tad difficult. This is also necessary for the mechanics of the boss fight, as the Firstborn is able to use the squad's magical abilities against them, and it wouldn't have been feasible (or really very fair) for it to use Cole's time-slowing/firepower-increasing abilities or Jones' astral projection against the other characters.
- Pretty blatant in Call of Duty, especially the fourth. Non-plot essential characters drop like flies, but if they are plot-essential, then they're invulnerable to damage. Then in some later scene, they die, of course.
- Some of the main Player Characters have this happen! You get to play out their final moments in first-person!
- This is what happens to Bill in Left 4 Dead 2 in The Passing campaign. Despite the fact that survivors respawn in closets when killed and the sequel introducing the Magical Defibrillator to revive on the spot, Bill is truly dead Was revealed in The Sacrifice comic that he was attacked by 3 Tanks while he tried to get the bridge with his friends up.. Naturally, an Urban Legend of Zelda spawned from this, saying Bill can be brought back to life with the defib. Obviously, it doesn't work.
- In the Medal of Honor series, both major NPCs and Red Shirts are frequently scripted to die, sometimes spontaneously dropping dead without even being hit.
- In The Darkness, Jackie's girlfriend Jenny gets killed by the antagonist Paulie. The Darkness prevented Jackie from saving Jenny in order for him not to be weakened by emotional ties.
- In Borderlands 2, Roland is killed by Handsome Jack late in the game, immediately after Angel commits suicide with your help.
- Rather sloppily handled for at least one event in Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri. In one mission the PC is captured by the bad guys and some of your buddies show up to bust you out, the "mission", such as it is, being "run to the exit". Schuyler, one of your guys, dies immediately as the mission starts (even though his health is full, no-one has even fired a shot yet, and they apparently managed to sneak in completely undetected - in full power armour no less). Makes even less sense as teammates (other than you) are almost never killed by running out of suit energy; the suit then "evacs" them from the mission when it hits critical (which is exactly what Schuyler does, complete with Casual Danger Dialog) so this is rather jarring. Made worse by the fact that it's not even a particularly hard fight to get to the exit, and you are never really under any threat.
- During the epic "While Guthix Sleeps" quest in Runescape Lucien does this to several NPCs, including Hazelmere, who acted as a mentor in earlier quests, and two Slayer Masters, one of whom (Duradel) was the strongest Slayer Master in the game at the time the quest was released.
- One of the required quests, Path of Glouphrie, has the player about to be killed in a death trap. Hazelmere, mentioned above, manages to teleport in and use a magic seed to save the day. Before arriving, Hazelmere was having a chat with his god about how he would need that seed to save his own life during While Guthix Sleeps.
- Invoked during one of the Dungeoneering sagas. You play as a Forgotten Warrior attacking a group of player spoofs. After beating them in the fight, you forcibly take their Ring of Kinship (in Daemonheim, you need to have one with you to enter and to choose your party), and then kill them. The Forgotten Warrior states that they would simply respawn if they had their rings.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Guess what happens in the last story....
- And before that Blaze and Omega
- And then the game retcons itself by resetting time to before the games starts ensure that none of the events ever happened. ever.
- In Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time, Ratchet dies in a cutscene after taking a relatively weak looking energy blast to the chest from General Azimuth's wrench. Clank goes back in time later on to save him and succeeds, but one does wonder why Ratchet's nanotech didn't just heal him in the first place...
- Fridge Brilliance: He didn't have his armor turned on. The devs game him Holo-armor so that they could turn it off during cutscenes. Due to the fact that he was completely unarmored, the weak looking energy blast offed him.
- Otomo in Battle Realms, if you choose to follow the Dragon Clan plotline.
- In Rise of Legends Carlini dies in a cutscene near the beginning of third campaign by the god of Death himself, meaning he can't come back at all. Normally it just takes some resources and time to revive a fallen hero. Moreover in this mission you get to control a hero that has ability to resurrect friendly units.
- The Warcraft series, including World of Warcraft, is fairly loaded with these. The RTSs vary between having missions fail if critical NPCs die or (in III) simply letting you pay to raise them. In the MMO, it's worse: gameplay-wise, every player and every NPC respawns after being killed, in intervals ranging from a few seconds to a week. This applies even if you personally walk into Thrall's room in Ogrimmar and slaughter him. But if an NPC has to die because a quest says so, or the story has to advance between content patches, well... that's it.
- Confusingly enough, however, the spirits that can raise a player from the dead actually do so in canon as well, one featuring in a cataclysm quest.
- Ace Combat deaths (for anyone but yourself) only happen when the story says that they happen. Unlike Gameplay Ally Immortality, this applies to enemy NPCs as well. For example, in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War Erich Hillenberand will always survive you shooting him down (in fact his first line is about him ejecting as you opened fire), while Anton Kupchenko won't; same goes for Ilya Pasternak who is killed in Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. A twist in Zero is that your story path determines whether or not Alberto Lopez survives being shot down, although this is inconsequential to the broader story. In any case he ends up dying anyway, with the story path only determining how long it takes to happen.
- Also done in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War with one of your squadmates and an enemy. If you shoot the named enemy in the second-to-last mission there's a comment about you being the ace of aces, but the enemy still appears during the final sequence to get his final Karmic Death.
- In the original Wing Commander, if a character died, they were gone for good, sometimes resulting in you having to fly missions solo. (Given wingman AI, however, it could be argued that you were always flying solo.) Starting with second game, pilots who get shot down eject, until the storyline calls for them to die.
- In Assassins Creed II, you could've totally saved your father and brothers with a fair bit of skills and some attempts, but they have to die during a cutscene and your sword had totally be knocked out of your hand even though you could easily pick it up/dodge the attack if it's in gameplay.
- In Silent Hill 2 there is no way to prevent Maria's death in Brookhaven's basement.
- Or in the jail cell. Or in the room with the Pyramid Heads. Or when you fight her, on some endings, anyways.
- The Fatal Frame games tend to conclude their (generally canon) endings with a Plotline Death. In the first, Mafuyu stays behind with Kirie, effectively killing himself to be with her; in the second, Mio strangles her sister Mayu to death as part of a ritual; and in the third, Kei (Mio's uncle) is captured and killed by the Tattooed Maiden, with Mio left in a perpetual coma ever since the game's events. Good endings allow you to negate a lot of these, but again, they haven't been canon thus far.
- An interesting aversion occurs in the Survival Horror game ObsCure. The only way a character can be killed off is through your own incompetence; the game continues until all four (later five) available player characters have been killed. You can theoretically finish the game with all five characters still alive, or with only one; in fact, which ending you get is determined by whether or not everyone made it to the end. The sequel, however, plays this very straight, with most of the characters getting brutally butchered as the game progresses, ending with only Shannon and Stan still alive.
- Resident Evil: Code: Veronica has a distinct NPC scenario. Steve, having mutated into a large green monster, can take any and all damage thrown at him by Claire without missing a beat. But he gets killed by a tentacle. A tentacle that had its end chopped off. Wut?
- The original Resident Evil has poor Richard Aiken die, despite a Hope Spot being around in the form of finding a serum for him (he's poisoned). In the original game, you'll just get a radio if you give him the serum on time, while in the Gamecube remake, he'll live, but he'll either be killed by the snake Yawn (Jill's scenario) or a Neptune shark (Chris' scenario) shortly after. In the remake, having him die the latter way will net you his assault shotgun, however, so it's worth it to get him the serum.
- In Ib, there is no way to save both Mary and Garry. One of them will die no matter what. Garry will either be driven incurably insane and left to die or he'll be murdered by Mary, and in a playthrough where he survives Mary will be set on fire. It's also possible to end the game with both of them dead, and in a really bad playthrough Ib will die too.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Fire Emblem Jugdral, Sigurd, main character and Lord for the first half of the game dies on you at the end of a chapter. Along with his entire army except for one or two survivors. Fortunately, all the ladies left children behind to carry on the struggle. Two children each, in fact.
- And there's a justification as to why you couldn't use the Dead-raising "Valkyrie" Holy Stave— when you get the wielder of the Staff, Claud, he says that it cannot raise those who have lost their Quintessence, which happens slowly over time, or could be stolen by special weapons... by time you get another Valkyrie wielder, the first gen characters have been dead far too long.
- In Sword of Flame, Ninian (playable character) and Hector's brother Uther (NPC). We also have Eliwood's father Elbert and Matthew's love Leila (both NPC) who also suffer deaths without any chance to save them. Ironically, in Binding Blade, we had Hector becoming the embodiment of Plotline Death.
- Ninian got resurrected again though, and lived happily ever after, Athos was the true plotline death in that he apparently overdid it in the fight against the Dragon, regardless of whether or not you actually used him.
- Also, Lord Helman (Lord Elbert's friend who gets stabbed by Ephidel, becoming the first victim of the Black Fang in the game)
- Ninian is replaced by Nils for gameplay purposes.
- Fairly popular Shaman Canas's death is a Foregone Conclusion, given that his son in the previous game was an orphan. His unavoidable death in his ending led to the cry "Canas was killed by continuity errors!"
- In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, we have Glen the Sunstone and the Ismaire the Queen of the White Dunes, though at least the former obeys normal combat rules (he simply attacks from the wrong position in the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors and receives a guaranteed critical hit to boot).
- In Path Of Radiance, we have Greil and Rajaion.
- In Radiant Dawn (for at least your first playthrough), Pelleas.
- In Fire Emblem Akaneia, your decoy in the fourth part of the Prologue, and Marth's parents. The sequel subverts the Decoy's death, as Frey (The canon decoy) shows up alive and kickin'.
- A remarkable number of people have died in Cut Scenes over the Heroes of Might and Magic games, despite the fact that most characters can learn to cast Resurrection. Easily.
- In La Pucelle, Alouette the Maiden of Light uses the last of her power to help Prier purify Croix's (the Dark Prince) heart and passes on.
- In Jeanne D Arc, one would naturally expect the lead female to be burned at the stake. However, since Jeanne herself had already gone MIA, and the French higher-ups made her childhood friend Liane pose as her for the remainder of the war... Although Team Pet Cuisses inherits her stats via the Paragon's Armlet, Liane only comes back as a spirit to assist in a Battle in the Center of the Mind against a demonic duplicate, and the player can recruit her ghost as a post-game bonus. Nevertheless, she remains legitimately dead to the plot, and Jeanne and Roger are last seen praying for her at the Chapel near Domremy.
- Super Robot Wars, especially Super Robot Wars Original Generation series love this trope. We have Captain Daitetsu Minase and Ouka Nagisa dying on the course of the game and there's no way to resurrect them. Likewise, some Anti-Villain like Folka's Aloof Big Brother Altis Tarl will fall into this.
- But they have also toyed with us with this trope. Axel Almer and Alfimi were supposed to be Killed Off for Real after Original Generation 2, yet they came Back from the Dead when OG Gaiden rolls in. Likewise, put one of your character a Defensive Support skill, and get him/her near Kyosuke during the last mission of the bonus section of OGs. Lamia Loveless would still get killed... until OG Gaiden rolls in and it's revealed that she's only Not Quite Dead. Considering all these examples span in the period of two games, it could count as before OG Gaiden gets released, people thought these characters are goners.
- Another version of toying around: According to Compact 3, Fernando Albark, Maysis Mark and Alion Lucada are supposed to suffer Plotline Death, there's no way you can save them. But their stories get tweaked that they didn't die. Fernando and Alion ends up joining you for good, while Maysis takes the back seat. Likewise, this also happens to Despinis, who ends up doing a Heel-Face Turn before she could get killed, ensuring her survival.
- And for non-OG examples (for this instance, Z), we have Setsuko's teammates Toby Watson and Denzel Hammer, killed by Asakim Dowin to further traumatize Setsuko.
- Baldarov from Warsong (Volkov in the original Japanese version of Langrisser) is struck down by an assassin's arrow at the end of Scenario 5, forcing the hero Garett (Ledin) to continue to journey on his own. Hopefully, you'll have given him an opportunity to level/get promoted before Baldarov/Volkov's inevitable death.
- In Luminous Arc 2, you may have battled and beaten him plenty of times, but Master Mattias only died in a cutscene, complete with a special CG.
- Odium: Poor Joan McFadden. Killed almost instantly by a poison which inexplicably was particularly deadly and immune to antidotes on that occasion. Too bad that her corpse and everything she was carrying vanished mysteriously shortly thereafter, too. But not before she delivered some annoyingly narmy lines.
- So when the king is killed in the very beginning of Shining Force, why exactly can the local priest not revive him? Even worse, since he didn't die right away, why can't you just HEAL HIM?
- Future Tactics has one glaring example of Gameplay Story Segregation in this regard. At first if you lose a single party member it is an instant game-over. A ways into the game, however, you obtain a device that will resurrect any dead party member, and in subsequent fights you only lose a party member for the remainder of the battle if one dies. Then, in a cut scene Pepper is killed by a stray grenade, and remains very much dead even though the immortality device was a huge plot point.
- In Saints Row 2, Carlos could have EASILY been saved. How? Shock Paddles, some food, walking it off, or calling 911 for an ambulance. Though he does come back as a zombie, and since Zombie Lin from Saints 1 is canon (some goths mention her, and the Boss says he tried to sell the story to Channel 6 in one of the DLCs) then so is he.
- It's supposed to be a mercy killing due to the mutilation of his pretty face, which hard to swallow with so many cheap plastic surgery clinics around.
- Johnny Gat suffers one early into Saints Row: The Third, being gunned down by the Morningstar gang offscreen and returning a a zombie Homie at the end of the game, which in the series denotes a character that's Deader Than Dead. Taking note of the word "offscreen," the dev team made a saving throw in the next sequel by revealing that Gat actually survived after all.
- A version of this occurs in Little Big Adventure II. Normally, non-villain characters in the game can't be killed, and most of them won't die even if they accidentally get whacked by a villain aiming at the hero. However, at one point a dissident escaping prison with you gets shot before he can get out of the building, and dies. An interesting thing about this is that your character possesses some sort of a healing ability, and the dissident doesn't really die instantly after being shot — but since the event happens during the cutscene, there's no way you can save him.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. A character who has the oomph to resist multiple bullets moments ago (on the roof of Madd Dogg's mansion) gets taken down by a single bullet in the foyer.
Non-video game examples:
- This can happen in tabletop games too, if your GM decides to unleash The Plot Reaper on an important NPC. Even if one of the PC's has healing abilities, they will not be able to help. Resurrection will be completely out of the question. Of course, this works better if the game is already very cinematic/story oriented.
- The spell's description explicitly says that a person can only be brought back if they want to come back. Since the afterlife is usually a great reward for most people, they usually only come back if they have something important to finish. The GM usually doesn't have to pull any tricks - it's not difficult to argue "no, he's happy where he is and doesn't want to come back."
- Using this excuse too often on beloved NPCs is likely to result in the players walking out in disgust though.
- There are games besides Dungeons & Dragons, which all of the above comments reference. In most other games death is not reversible or pretty much guaranteed to hit Came Back Wrong. For instance, in Call of Cthulhu, if the GM decides a cultist with a hunting rifle picked off the important NPC while he on his morning jog, well, he's dead. Of course, used poorly, that's a sign of a bad GM. Used well, it can force the players to seek out new ways to get the job done while helping enforce fear. Tropes Are Not Bad, and Tropes Are Not Good, after all. A good GM generally lets player input change whether or not The Plot Reaper can harvest someone while the players are around and is ready for both contingencies. Sticking with Call of Cthulhu, a GM could easily set it up so if the important NPC lives, he can tell the players important info, but if he dies, it's found in his journal which he wills to one of the characters.