In a story that allows for some degree of Story Branching
, a character is presented with a clear number of choices each with their own viable outcomes. However, one of these options sometimes appears to be substantially more developed than the others or appears to coincide better with the plot as a whole, as if the author wanted the players to follow this path and added all others as mere diversions
. This is an example of Story Branch Favoritism
on the developer's part, where a particular branch of the story features more content or is better developed than others—but does not render any of the other branches as non-canon
One common variation is the Golden Ending
, which is considered the best overall ending a player can achieve from the creators' perspective. Alternatively, some games employ Relationship Values
to let the Player Character
pair off with any of the cast member they choose, but one particular Love Interest
seems unfairly promoted over others
Cutting Off The Branches
is a Sister Trope
, which can be an ultimate expression of Story Branch Favoritism
, wherein the author outright removes the unfavored branches from later continuity. Related tropes also include Railroading
and Follow the Plotted Line
, where the writer forces a character to follow a specific path regardless to what other options are available. A Golden Path
can be one of the most noticeable consequences of this trope.
Not to be confused with But Thou Must
scenario, where only one option is viable. Does not apply to Fan Work
for obvious reasons
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- Played with in Marvel Comics' What If? series, where writers were able to print several stories based on Alternate Histories of the established canon. Although most of these were stand alone stories, popular entries such as Spider-Girl gained their own series in time.
- Choose Your Own Adventure novels can become this depending on the writer and what scenes they prefer to write.
- To Be or Not to Be: A choose your own adventure of Hamlet, allows you to chose the storyline of several characters, and King Hamlet the elder has an exceptionally short storyline, which can be read in full on all branches in less than an hour.
- King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow has a branching storyline. Although there are many variables that dictate who shows up at the finale wedding, the choice of taking the "short path" or the "long path" is the most important. As the "long path" is happier, just about everyone (and the official novelization for that matter) chooses that as the "real" one. See the entry at Golden Ending.
- Mass Effect:
- Shepard is often portrayed in the default Soldier class, which by the game's own lore makes the most sense in explaining their prowess in combat. This is particularly true in the first game where it is hard to justify how Shepard can match an asari in biotic power or a quarian engineer in tech skills.
- Liara T'Soni is the only Love Interest who can be romanced in all three games, by both genders, and cannot die under any circumstances except for low-EMS ending of the final installment.
- It makes much more sense story-wise to complete Noveria last since Virmire is added as an emergency mission after completing two storyline missions, also the piece of intel gathered in Noveria ( the location of the Mu relay) would narrow down tremendously the location of the Conduit (this can be handwaved by saying that the Mu relay transports to many systems, but it is clear that with a little extra research they would have been able to deduce the location eventually.)
- In Mass Effect 2, during Samara's loyalty mission, you can choose to kill Samara and recruit her target Morinth if you want to and Morinth will be a loyal squad mate for the rest of the game. The favoritism doesn't show up until Mass Effect 3. If Samara survives her loyalty mission and the suicide mission, then in ME3 she will show up when you do the Ardat-Yakshi Monastery mission and it will make that mission a much richer experience. If Morinth survives said events of ME2, all you get is an email from her at the beginning of ME3, and then during the final mission, you fight her as a Banshee, kill her, and move on.
- The early Freedom's Progress mission in Mass Effect 2 has the player choose between turning Veetor over to either Cerberus or Tali. If you choose Tali, Veetor shows up at Tali's loyalty mission later to help the two of you out. If you choose Cerberus, the Veetor subplot basically ends right there; Shepard loses much rapport with his/her longtime partner Tali, and over nothing, since Veetor's interrogation at the hands of Cerberus fails to turn up any useful information.
- One of the selling points of the second game was that, in the ending suicide mission, anyone in your squad was able to die, ranging all over the spectrum from almost everyone dying to everyone surviving. However, keeping squad members alive near-universally results in better outcomes in the third game. Living squad members enhance the story a bit, keep minor characters in sidequests alive, and sometimes open up otherwise-impossible third options. In particular, it's impossible to make peace between the geth and the quarians if either Tali or Legion dies in the suicide mission.
- In Persona 3 and, to a much lesser degree, Persona 4 certain characters, particularly the characters representing the Lovers arcana, will show romantic interest in the protagonist during the story, contrary to the rest of the cast, who only will only show a romantic interest in the PC during their Social Links and in specific in-game events.
- Shadow the Hedgehog plays this trope straight, where although the game features up to 11 different endings ranging from Evil to Neutral to Good; only the hidden Neutral ending against the obvious Big Bad is considered to be the games Golden Ending from the creator standpoint.
- Where themes of Law vs Chaos are concerned, the Neutral endings in Shin Megami Tensei where humanity takes a stand and does not commit to a specific faction, are considered to be the best endings from the creator perspective. To say the least the alternative endings are not that desirable...
- The Witcher splits into three distinct paths mid-game, one for the Order and the Scoia'tael and a neutral one. The latter features more content and is actually harder to unlock. This is justified by the eponymous Witchers' code, which forbids them from taking sides in conflicts—so the neutral path makes the most sense in-story.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, the main character Chrom is the only character forced to get married to progress the game, and the only one with a restricted set of possible lovers. He has to choose between Sumia, Sully, Maribelle, Olivia or a female Avatar. However, the game makes it very clear that Sumia or the female Avatar are the preferred choices. Be careful when discussing which is more the case, though.
- In Tales of Symphonia, the ending where your party ends up with Kratos is noticeably less developed than the ending with Zelos. Several sidequests are dependent on Zelos' presence in order to be completed, but there are almost none that are exclusive to Kratos. Kratos also has only a single alternate costume while Zelos has several. Additionally, picking Kratos will also automatically set Lloyd's soul mate as Colette regardless of what his Relationship Values are at, basically forcing you to pick Zelos if you want Lloyd to end up with anyone else. The sequel, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, outright made the ending with Kratos non-canon by revealing that Zelos is still alive.
- Fallout: New Vegas allows for four Faction-Specific Endings: either Caesar's Legion, Mr. House, the NRC or the Courier him/herself will dominate the mojave in the aftermath of the game. Unfortunately for a player interested in being openly anti-NCR and/or pro-Legion, however, there are a ton of NCR quests and locations and only a small handful of Legion equivalents. You can play as someone explicitly opposed to the NCR, but the cost is that a very large portion of the game's content will be closed to you.
- Happened in Wing Commander 4 via over-promising in the advertising. Supposedly players would be allowed to choose whether to stay loyal to the Terran Confederation or jump ship and ally themselves with the Border Worlds. In practice, attempting to stick with Confed past a certain point would spawn a never-ending supply of Border World bombers, and a insultingly short ending sequence once they inevitably killed you.
- Chrono Cross gives the player the option to either look for a cure for Kid's poison or ignore Kid's plight entirely. If you choose the former, you embark on a long quest to find the antidote. If you choose the latter, the results are...a bit less satisfying. Not only is there no exclusive level or quest to replace the one you just skipped, Kid — being a major character — gets saved anyway and by a ridiculous Deus ex Machina no less, and even when she rejoins the party, the awkward "you didn't try to save me" Fridge Logic goes undiscussed. While there are gameplay-related benefits to ignoring Kid and equivalent consequences to saving her — like not being able to recruit Glenn, for example — the story overall is anything but shy about which direction it wants things to head in.
- In White Album 2, while Maruto (the scenario writer) and Leaf are quiet at what the "canon" plot is supposed to be, players of the games seem to favor the timeline that leads from Setsuna's route in Concluding Chapter, to Kazusa's True End in Coda. Not only due to the incredibly cathartic nature of the latter, but because it's counterpart was just too perfect and involved Haruki being reduced to a supporting role.
- Inevitable in most Role Playing Games where the GM will attempt to steer the party towards the story branch they want the game to follow, regardless as to how the party may have handled earlier encounters. If done particularly blatantly, badly or both, we call this Railroading.