Recurring Element
Chocobos. Notice how it started with "II"? When they remade the first game, they discreetly put these birds in, too.note 

For many Series, especially Video Game ones, the various incarnations are only vaguely related to each other. The works may take place on different worlds, feature entirely different characters and have very different stories. In fact, it's only the name of the work that connects it with the previous ones at all...

Only usually it isn't. Most Non Linear Sequels or Thematic Series will have a character, theme, monster, or item that is emblematic of the series and remains constant. Note that this is often not the same character, theme, etc. Sometimes only the name will remain the same. Sometimes there will be a character "inspired by" the original much like a Spiritual Successor. In all cases the recurring element is not tied to a particular world, but simply shows up in each installment of the series.

These elements aren't explicit Expies, but they serve the same purpose in aesthetics, narrative, or function, or gameplay in the case of video games. Some are officially acknowledged, some are so evident they are given Fanon names, and others are just there.

This does not cover gameplay similarities, as those go without saying.

See Recurring Riff for music examples, and Mascot Mook for the enemy monster version of this. Also see Mythology Gag, which is where a single work has a reference to another, but there is no example that covers an entire series.


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     Anime and Manga  


  • Pretty much everything about The Crow and its sequels. The basic plot is always the same (Protagonist is killed by bad guys, along with someone else close to him, revenge ensues) and all the protagonists' names reference crow or raven (Draven, Corven, Corvis, Cuervo). Note that the first two are (very) loosely connected, with one recurring character, although played by a different actress.


  • Douglas Coupland's books recycle small elements in different ways:
    • The name of a minor character may become the name of a major/main character in a later book. Lisa is a recurring name for minor characters.
    • Backpacking across Europe (and making fun of it) has come up in multiple books.
  • The various Discworld novels take place in wildly different parts of the eponymous world, with different casts, in different time periods — but they all have the same Death. (Well, except during Reaper Man.)

     Live Action TV  

     Video Games  

  • Final Fantasy has several:
    • Someone named Cid, often involved with airships or technology;
    • Summon monsters (Ifrit, Shiva, and Bahamut are the only ones who are in every single game);
    • Common monsters like Bombs, Behemoths, and Cactuars, and recurring bosses like Omega and Tiamat;
    • Crystals, often which have some great importance to the world the game takes place in.
      • Not to mention Square Enix are making a whole mini-series where they play an important role: Fabula Nova Crystallis
    • Chocobos and moogles.
    • Gilgamesh shows up in many games, and save for a handful of appearances, is implied to be the same person in every one.
    • In an odd case, a character named Gogo, who is a mimic and dresses colorfully, is in both Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI; they're different characters though.
    • The money is always called Gil (at least once the translations got consistent).
    • Starting with Richard from Final Fantasy II you can expect someone to have the surname "Highwind". There's a good chance that said character will be a Dragoon (or at least have abilities evocative of the class). And if not, still expect some kind of nod to the name.
    • Starting with Final Fantasy VI, there's a recurring weapon (usually a Infinity+1 Sword) that goes by the name of Ultima Weapon. Other notable equipment that tends to resurface are the Genji and Onion sets of armor, Excalibur, Gungnir, Longinus, Muramasa, Masamune, Godhand, and Excalipoor/Excalipur, among others.
    • The English-based spell naming convention, as well as the [Element], [Element]ra, [Element]ga, [Element]ja nomenclature system for tiers of elemental and curative magic, like Fire, Fira, Firaga, or Cure, Cura, Curaga, Curaja. (Once again, the translations didn't quite get this at first.) Reinforcing the point, sometimes status-effect magic will use the "-ga" suffix do denote spells that affect all members of a group. Likewise, the ultimate white and black magic spells are often Holy and Flare, with Meteor and Ultima sometimes superseding the latter in rare occasions.
      • This magic naming convention appears in a lot of Square Enix games, actually: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Bravely Default all make use of it.
    • Inventory nomenclature. You will always heal with Potions, always recover MP with Ethers, always revive fallen comrades with Phoenix Down, and always hoard Elixirs, Megalixirs, and X-Potions till the final boss.
  • Square Enix's other series, Kingdom Hearts, Saga, early World of Mana, etc. have elements from Final Fantasy spilling into them. Usually in the form of items, spells, naming convention, and/or Moogles. The translation doesn't always let them keep them, however. note 
  • The Super Mario Bros. series and some of its spinoff series will have seven generals and one Big Bad to be the bosses of its 8 worlds in the 2d platformers. The Koopalings, The Tikis.
  • The original Donkey Kong Country trilogy has several enemy archetypes that appear in each game. There's a basic rodent based enemy (Gnawty, Sneek, and Neek), a basic kremling enemy (Kritter, Klomp, Kobble), a quadrapedal kremling that cannot be hurt from the front (Klaptrap, Klampon, Krimp), a large, beefy kremling (Krusha, Kruncha, Krumple), and an enemy that jumps around (jumping Kritter, Kaboing, Re-koil).
  • Every Wario Land game has an enemy with a large point or spear sticking out in front of them, requiring you to hit them in the back.
  • Wild ARMs:
    • Take place on a world called Filgaia.
    • Generally star a blue-haired hero.
    • The victory music, though different in every game, is always called "Condition Green!".
    • The money is always called "gella".
  • Many games that Yasunori Mitsuda worked on have a track called "Kokoro", which is a soft, simple tune, often played as a music box. The tune itself is different in each game.
  • The two When They Cry have a supporting character, some themes, and being a "Groundhog Day" Loop Murder Mystery in common.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Although the vast majority of the Demon Compendium is always transplanted from game to game wholesale, the only demons that always appear in all games, and always with the exact same appearance, are Atlus' mascot Jack Frost and its close relatives.
    • The Demon Summoning Program, the very basis of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise itself, appears in Megami Tensei I, Megami Tensei II, Shin Megami Tensei I, Shin Megami Tensei II, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, Devil Summoner, Soul Hackers, and Devil Survivor.
    • The Sanskrit and Japanese-based spell naming convention as well as the tiered scale system: Agi, Bufu, Zio (weak,) Agilao, Bufula, Zionga (medium,) Agidyne, Bufudyne, Ziodyne (severe) for the three indispensable elementals; Hama and Mudo for Expel and Curse (or Light and Dark) One Hit Kills; Raku/Taru/Suku-nda/kaja for buffs and debuffs, and the prefix "Ma" for multi-target vs. single-target spells (Mazionga, Masukukaja.)
    • Demon (or Persona) fusion to improve your forces has been the core and purpose of every single game in the franchise since the very first one.
    • Shiva is created by fusing Rangda and Barong.
    • The Persona sub-series, besides having many of the above-mentioned elements, has some of its own recurring elements in its more recent installments, specifically between Persona 3, Persona 4, and the PSP remake of 3.
      • When exploring the local town, the background music is a female-sung vocal theme with upbeat pop instrumentation but lyrics about heartbreak, break-ups, and depression. Notably, these songs have pretty much nothing to actually do with the game's plot, making them come off as a little out-of-place.
      • The Battle Theme Music against regular mooks has rapped vocals. Boss themes are instrumental.
      • The background music when in the protagonist's place of residence has rapped vocals.
      • One of the first party members in both 3 and 4 is a perverted-yet-friendly classmate of the protagonist representing the Magician Arcana that quickly grows to be the protagonist's best friend.
      • When the party first forms, their navigator will scan any foes the player targets, though their scanning ability has a few weaknesses. Later in the game, a new character joins the party and has stronger scanning abilities than the first navigator. The new character takes over the role of navigator and the previous navigator joins the party for battles.
      • After a lengthy and difficult Final Boss battle, 3 and 4 both end with the protagonist, on the verge of defeat, being encouraged by his closest friends to kick some major ass, leading to a scripted Post Final Boss sequence. Despite eating 4-digit damage spells that should instantly KO them, the protagonists use the strength of their friends to hold on, waiting a few turns before unleashing one final, extremely powerful attack to wipe the enemy out.
      • 3 and 4 both conclude with a female-sung vocal credits theme, sung in Japanese with a few Gratuitous English lines during the refrains and clearly told from the perspective of one of the main characters. This is especially notable as almost all other vocal themes in the series are sung entirely in English.
      • The Velvet Room has a silver-haired, gold-eyed female attendant accompanying Igor in each game - Elizabeth in 3 and Margaret in 4. In the female route in the PSP remake of 3, the attendant can instead be a man named Theodore, but other than gender he matches the look of the other two. Although the female route is an Alternate Continuity, Theodore canonically exists... somehow. It's later revealed that all of the attendants are siblings. Persona 5 has Creepy Twins Justine and Caroline as the new attendants that fit the description, though it's unknown as of yet if they have any connection to the previous attendants.
      • 3, 4, and 5 all begin with the protagonist taking a train into a new town.
      • 3, 4, and 5 all have primary Color Motifs that pervade the game's artwork and UI: blue for 3 (and pink for the female protagonist in 3s remake), yellow in 4, and bright red for 5.
  • Breath of Fire has several elements that repeat in subsequent games (though most of these were ignored in the fifth game, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter):
    • The main character is always a blue-haired hero named Ryu, who has some kind of power involving dragons (usually transforming into them). He's also always a swordsman and has a passion for fishing (save for DQ, but not for lack of interest)
    • There's always a Winged Humanoid girl named Nina accompanying him. She's also very adept at magic casting as well as the princess of the Wyndia Kingdom.
    • A very helpful and powerful naga sorceress named Deis (Bleu early on), who's the same character in the first three games thanks to Immortality.
    • Always a town named Dragnier (Drogen/Dologany) and a kingom named Wyndia (Winlan/Windia), related to the respective clans of Ryu and Nina.
    • Starting in Breath of Fire II, a member of the Woren/Furen Cat Folk clan always ends up joining the party.
    • Usually the starting enemy is from the "Goo" (Slime/Sludge) type family, often a blue blob (save in II, where it's green). There's also always a gold Palette Swap "Goo King" enemy near the end of the game who's extremelly powerful.
    • Dragon-named equipment for Ryu (Dragon Sword, Helmet, Armor, etc.), which is always high-level but not the best equipment available.
    • All games use Zennies as currency, though it was translated differently in early games.
    • In the Japanese version, pretty much every magic spell use the exact same names in each of the five games (for example, fire spells are Pamu, Padamu and Padoraamu). English started using consistent naming for (most) spells since Breath of Fire III.
  • The MOTHER series

  • Mega Man:
  • The Legend of Zelda: The "Link" and "Zelda" characters are, excepting the direct sequels, different people in each game (they just happen to look exactly alike and wear the same clothes and have the same name).
  • Fallout and Harold.
    • Though Harold was obviously absent from Fallout: New Vegas and seeing how his fate has multiple endings in Fallout 3 which all of them except for one, end up as And I Must Scream since he turned into an immobile tree coupled with the fact it's doubtful the writers will revisit the Capital Wasteland anytime soon. It's almost inevitable he will be Put on a Bus.
    • No protagonist has ever been without their Pip-boy.
  • The Pokémon RPG series has numerous. Some of them deviated from over the course of the series, some are subverted (Black and White in particular plays on those elements a lot)
    • You start in a small town, where you live with your mom. You meet your rival, a Pokemon Professor (named after a tree) gives you one of three starters - Grass, Fire and Water, and your rival gets the superior type. Then you get five Pokeballs, a Pokedex, and a mission to catch 'em all (with a tutorial on how to do so).
    • A rival, usually male and friendly, whom you face multiple times across the region. (Two in V, one boy and one girl, and four in VI, two boys and two girls if male or three boys and one girl if female.)
    • You can get a Potion somewhere early. You get obligatory Running Shoes in III and later (ou have them from the start in VI). You also get a Bicycle later on, which is essential because it gives you access to Cycling Road.
    • An early game forest dominated by Bug-types. How early you can access them depends on the generation. B2W2 averts this by making the region's forest a post game area instead due to how those games switched the orders on which cities you have access to from BW. SM's forest is located much later on in the game, rather than at the beginning.
    • Pokemon School.
    • Old, Good and Super Fishing Rods, except in V where only the Super Rod is given, and in VII where the fishing mechanic is completely revamped, and only one rod is given.
    • Some company that sells pokemon merchandise.
      • Exp. Share is often given to you by such company.
      • Alternatives to such merchandise (such as items that decrease friendship and heal, soft drinks that increase it and heal, a local speciality...)
    • Some sort of a communication device.
    • A Town Map, a map of the towns.
    • Recurring items list is way too long to be listed here, really.
    • Over the course of the game you defeat eight gym leaders. Each leader specializes in a type. Once defeated, they grant you a TM containing their most powerful Pokemon's best move, as well as a badge granting the ability to control traded 'mon up to a certain level and/or the ability to use an HM move outside of battle. (HM Surf is midgame, HM Fly usually too) Gen VII subverts this by replacing Gyms with Trials and Kahuna Battles, which are slightly different but are still based on battling to progress.
    • Oh, hey, the road here is closed. Get a badge first.
    • Once you defeated all gym leaders, you deal with the iconic legendary mon of this version, then proceed to beat the Elite Four. There's four trainers with type affinities fought in succession, followed finally by the champion who usually does not have a full type affinity. Then tadaa, Hall of Fame and postgame. Champion time == expect subverted expectations.
      • In V, this is altered significantly. You fight the Elite Four, then the version mascot, then the villain team leaders, and then you have to fight the Elite Four again to reach the champion. Gen VII also allows you to defend your title as champion against other challengers, rather than just staying champion forever.
    • You get access to new locations when you hit postgame.
    • There's a villainous team which you stop in their tracks. They usually use poison-types, and their leader is a man (however there's often a woman amongst high command). Gen VII is the first to have a female team leader.
    • People will offer you to trade a mon over the course of the game.
    • There's often an area similar to the Battle Tower from Crystal.
    • And now for the long, long list of recurring pokemon locations and categories (Insert Black and White Expies where appropriate)
      • Starters as previously mentioned. One starter will be quadruped, the others will be bipedal.
      • Cave full of Zubats. Geodudes, too.
      • A Pikachu expy, if not Pikachu itself; as fans call them, the Pika-clones.
      • Pseudo legendaries - available lategame, usually Dragon-type, evolve really really late, stat sum of 600 in their final form.
      • Magikarp Power Pokemon. Not necessarily Magikarp itself.
      • A legendary trio. Two since III - mascot trio and normal trio. Three in V, one of which is actually a quartet.
      • One of the mascots for the first two games every generation will have a blue motif, the other a red motif.
      • A legendary duo, usually exclusive to one game edition each, except in V as there are three trios.
      • An "ultimate" legendary, which is usually related to the aforementioned duo, except it's not edition-restricted and has a higher level (usually 70).
      • Legendary Mew expy - 100 in each stat. Possibly more of them, cutesy and small in design. Since Gen VI, whilst the "cute" legendary has remained, they have not received equally 100 in each stat.
      • Fossils. You get one of two fossils, you can revive them later. All fossils are part-Rock type.
      • A Pokémon that is blocking your path until you use an item to trigger a battle where you can catch it. This is usually the only way you can catch that particular Pokémon in that game. Snorlax is the most famous example. Sudowoodo is another good one.
      • With each new generation, new evolutions and/or pre-evolutions of Pokémon from previous generations (Black and White is the exception). Diamond and Pearl was especially well-known for this.
      • All the core games since B2W2 have an animated adaption of the upcoming or previous games released during the pre-release season, usually targeted towards the franchise's older audience. Both [B2W2] and ORAS received short animated trailers, while XY and SM received the miniseries of Pokémon Origins and Pokémon Generations respectively.
  • Fire Emblem will always star a sword-wielding hero attached to a noble or royal housenote  who has blue or otherwise unnaturally-coloured hairnote . In the hero's service will be a pair of cavaliers, one red and one green, and they will normally be assisted and advised by a veteran knight of questionable use.
  • The Paper Mario series has Parakarry: he is a partner in the first game, makes a cameo in the second game, is a Catch Card in the third game and leaves a note in the fourth game.
  • The Kirby games have a few recurring trends:
    • Kirby will inevitably end up accidentally unleashing the Sealed Evil in a Can or helping the villain with his plan. If for some reason he doesn't, either King Dedede or Meta Knight will.
    • If Meta Knight appears as a boss, expect him to give you a sword at the start of the battle. If he doesn't, he's probably a fake.
    • The thundercloud boss Kracko appears in just about every Kirby game. So does Whispy Woods.
    • The final boss will almost always be a blob-like Eldritch Abomination, often with only one eye. That or they'll become one as a One-Winged Angel. Bonus points if they have "Soul" at the end of their name.
  • The MCV is such a staple of the Command & Conquer franchise that the sole exception to its inclusion was highly controversial. GDI's super-heavy, double-barreled Mammoth Tank was likewise so iconic of the first game that variants of it show up in most of the spin-offs as the Soviet Apocalypse tanks or Chinese Overlord tank. (In fact, the exact same machine down to the sprites can be found in Tiberian Dawn, Red Alert, and Tiberian Sun, operated by GDI, the Soviets, and the Forgotten respectively.)
  • Key/Visual Arts visual novels seem to like the name "Minase"; it was the surname of Manami in Dousei, their first game under Tactics, and the surname of Nayuki in Kanon, their first game as their own studio. Even splinter studio H.I. Design Office named one of the two heroines Minase (though, in this case, it's her given name) in its first VN, Holy Breaker!
  • R-Type will always have one stage which consists entirely of fighting a single giant alien warship. Dobkeratops, the iconic armless xenomorph thing, is also very likely to appear as a boss.
  • Gradius: there will be a Boss Rush, there will be a high-speed section, there will be walls you have to carefully shoot through (sometimes they even regenerate), and there will be Moai.
  • FROM Software has had one in every game they've made since King's Field, the Moonlight Sword, a Laser Blade made out of, well, moonlight. The only game of theirs that it's absent from is Bloodborne, and even then it shows up in the DLC.
    • Games directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki all feature a character named Patches who will place the player in a death trap, then desperately apologize after they escape and offer to sell them things. No matter what version of Patches you're dealing with, he will be a coward and he hates the clergy.
    • The Dark Souls trilogy in particular, as well as its spiritual predecessor Demon's Souls, have a lot of recurring elements within them, such as a depressed and apathetic (or "crestfallen") warrior or knight who hangs out in the hub area, a blighted, rickety shantytown-like area filled with filth, poison, and dangerous drops, and a part where you get attacked by a beefy and brutal woman in ragged clothing wielding a giant axe-like weapon, among others.
  • Dangan Ronpa Every installment seems to have a character that matched a certain theme. This includes-
    • A Gentle Giant in the case for Sakura, Nekomaru, Gozu, and Gonta.
    • A Token Mini-Moe in the case for Chihiro, Hiyoko, and Himiko.
    • A character with a Nonstandard Character Design in the case for Hifumi, Teruteru, Bandai, and Ryuuma
    • A dark-skinned female character in case for Aoi, Akane, and Angie.
    • A character with an unknown talent in case for Kyoko, Hajime, and Rantarou
    • A character with a fighting ability in the case for Sakura, Peko, Gozu, Juzo, and Tenko.
    • A cute Tiny School Boy in the case for Makoto, Chihiro, Fuyuhiko, Ryota, and Kokichi.
    • A person with an "evil" talent in the case for Mondo, Fuyuhiko, and Kokichi.
    • Every game also seems to follow a pattern in its cases:
      • Chapter 1: the victim isn't the person the killer had intended to kill.
      • Chapter 2: it always involves the character with gang or mafia connections as a killer or victim.
      • Chapter 3: it's always a double murder, and the culprit tends to be the least apologetic/sympathetic.
      • Chapter 4: it always involves the Big Guy character as a culprit or victim.
      • Chapter 5: the case is always very complicated, and the death is the most gruesome. In Mukuro and Ouma's case, the corpse is unrecognisable.
    • There will always be a character who obsesses over one half of the main theme of the game, such as Junko Enoshima (Despair), Tengan, Ryouta, and Komaeda (Hope), and Oma (Lies).
    • The person that takes the death the hardest is always among the survivors, respectively, they were Aoi Asahina, Sonia Nevermind, Ryota Mitarai and Himiko Yumeno.

  • Ace Attorney will always have a hapless and put-upon yet nonetheless intelligent and quick-thinking lawyer (Phoenix, Apollo, Athena) and a plucky female assistant with a messed-up familial history (Maya, Ema, Pearl, Trucy)note . They'll first go up against a rather spineless prosecutor (Winston and Gaspen Payne) then a renowned antagonistic but ultimately sympathetic prosecutor with something of a personal history with or vendetta against the protagonists (Edgeworth, Franziska, Godot, Blackquill, Nahyuta). The prosecution is in turn aided by an friendlier detective (Gumshoe, Fullbright, Ema).note )

     Western Animation