In most video games, when you lose a life, you just get defeated in a standard animation, and that's it. This is especially true of older 2D games and games done in that style, in which no matter what happens that kills you, your character would just get a look of surprise on their face and then fall off the screen.
Some games, however, have a large variety of unique ways to die other than the standard "take too much damage and then collapse". These are most likely to be adventure games in which you face a variety of perils, but sometimes action games can have a lot of ways to die.
It's occasionally lampshaded by some of the classic point-and-click adventure games, in the form of Have a Nice Death. When the game has only one or two unique ways to fail that may not always involve death, it's Non-Standard Game Over. If some of the deaths result from pure player stupidity, this overlaps with Yet Another Stupid Death. This trope is instead about the "normal" game overs that just happen to show up in many forms.
The other version of this trope concerns Choose Your Own Adventure-style books, known also as gamebooks. In those books, the reader is the main character, in a sense, and is required to make choices that affect the outcome of the story. In those books, it's possible to die many different ways, some of them quite morbid.
Ever wanted to be broken into pieces and reassembled into the form of a robot? A book in the "younger readers" series called Your Very Own Robot has this as one of its endings. The other endings are not morbid at all. When Your Very Own Robot was re-released you magically changed into a robot in that ending, so at least the editors caught it. Still the scariest ending in the book, though.
Some of the more gruesome deaths from Choose Your Own Adventure are dissolving into a puddle of chemical waste in the aptly-named The Worst Day of your Life and eating honey from some space bees that only makes you think you've turned into a bee yourself in the "super adventure" Journey to the Year 3000.
One particularly horrific ending was a book in which two spirits to whom you owe a debt (or something) take your body as payment — and divide it between the two of them◊. Part of the description included one wrenching a rib from your body.
There's at least one book where an ending is cut off abruptly with "CENSORED DUE TO VIOLENCE."
One of the more horrific ones involved being transformed into a lost soul and being forced to revisit, and take part in, moments of great violence from the past — Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg, etc. — forever.
The Mystery of Chimney Rock
Many truly horrifying ways to die or fail in this one, a couple of which could qualify as Nonstandard Game Overs. One ending has you accidentally breaking a china cat; you promise the angry resident witch that you'll pay for it, to which she responds, "Oh yes, you'll pay." You then start picking up the broken pieces, and continue, and THERE IS NO END.
You can also get shrunken down and eaten by the cat on page 98.
Another ending has you escaping from the haunted house after being told Don't Look Back by a ghostly creature. Of course, if you don't like that ending, you can choose to look back anyway, and the resulting page doesn't even explain what happened... it's just a long scream, trailing down the page, cut off at the end by a THUNK. *shudder*
All the Nintendo Adventure Books particularly exemplify this trope since you die in every ending (complete with "GAME OVER!") except the one correct one in each book. For example, the aforementioned Pipe Down! has an instance where the Mario Bros. must choose between one of three pipes to continue. If you have an item with you (a basketball) it can be used to find the right path. If you missed the basketball and choose blind, the Bros. will either find the right path, go around in a circle, or get eaten by the Piranha Plant waiting at the bottom.
There is a time-travel style CYOA involving pirates, where one of the endings involves you being put on the rack. It talks about your joints and muscles stretching beyond breaking point, and pain, and then everything goes black.
There's a particular CYOA book involving ocean exploration where you can be strangled, killed by a waterspout, executed, crushed by a boat, eaten alive by a squid, ripped to shreds by robots, drowned, fed to a shark, or tied up, gagged, and tossed overboard by pirates. Read up, children!
"Oh, no! You're stuck in a time warp! (turn to page -number-, quick!)" *flip* "Nothing warps the human brain faster than a time warp. (turn to page -number-)" *flip back* "Oh, no! You're stuck in a time warp! ..."
One rather disturbing one had you uncover an illegal poaching operation while hiking in the Canadian woods. If you chose to investigate more closely, you'd be captured at gunpoint, and then taken to the middle of the camp, which had a small warehouse with its own elevator. The poachers would take you to the bottom floor, kick you out, and then simply leave, and never came back. The description of the ending finished by describing how things got very cold....and then very quiet....
There was one that was about a bicycle race, of all the non-threatening things — and they STILL managed to work in a bizarre death. How, you ask? Well, if you choose to take a bath before the race, your radio falls into the bathtub and electrocutes you.Enjoy your next bathtime, kids!
There was this one that dealt with the Revolutionary War. One of the endings had you captured by Indians, killed, and ceremoniously eaten piece by piece.
Vampire Express had you teleported to a slave labor prison planet where a muscular man in a loincloth tells you that you will spend the rest of your life eating nothing but worms and digging for diamonds. This had nothing to do with the story: it was just how a badly-phrased wish could turn out. Rather out-of-the-blue nightmare fuel.
One of the possible endings for The Mona Lisa is Missing has you tied up and left in an apartment building... that the villains light on fire before leaving. *shiver*
Some endings in Secret of the Pyramids include being shot (in multiple ways), your helicopter crashing because you didn't want to stop during a sandstorm, being vaporized by a chamber, and being possessed by something that forces you to step into a sarcophagus and buries you alive.
In the self-explanatory War with the Mutant Spider Ants, you can investigate a nest of said spider ants. Suddenly, a swarm of them attacks you and your crew, wrapping you up in their webs until none of you can move more than "mummies in a tomb."
A time travelling CYOA featured many disturbing deaths, though one creepy one had an archeologist discovering your skull in a dig. Brrrr.
Tick Tock, You're Dead! has a bad ending where the villain place you in a room, and some kind of pressure made you combustibly explode. Really that ending was you being Thrown Out the Airlock and suffering Explosive Decompression.
In the series, one ending had the player being turned into an anthropomorphic rat-person.
Even the non-death endings in Zombie School were pretty unpleasant, since most of them resulted in your character being reduced to a Brainwashed, perfectly obedient... well, zombie.
Some more Goosebumps ones included: being trapped next to a radioactive reactor, getting savaged by an attack dog who used to be your best friend, being strangled by a worm-ridden revenant, eaten by a giant Venus flytrap, transformed into the Creature from the Black Lagoon...
Lone Wolf has some beautiful deaths, all followed up with "Your life and your quest end here."
The Rahkos from Book 7, a brain-eating, undead severed hand, is largely believed to cause the most Squick-inducing death...
A searing pain explodes behind your eyes as the hand clamps itself to your head. As the decaying fingers pierce your scalp, forcing their way through your skull, your vision turns red and your body shakes uncontrollably. The hideous claw burrows deeper, feeding on the only source of nourishment that can sustain its existence: living human brain. Your life and your quest end here.
In the spinoff Grey Star, a few deaths result in "Your quest ends here, but your torment continues — forever!"
The same way with the Freeway Warrior series, as one might expect, given that it had the same creator.
The Way of the Tiger was possibly even more so: in the first book alone you could be shot, stabbed, poisoned, drowned, beheaded, impaled on a tree, burn to death as a result of being plane-shifted to the fiery home of an efreet or fall to your death so many times it was easy to forget you were supposed to be this bad-ass ninja.
There is a Jurassic Park book with several strange endings — there is one where the dinosaurs were All Just a Dream — but most of them involve being killed and eaten by dinosaurs. The one that sticks is where you stumble into a T. rex nest, and the parents aren't home. But the babies are, and they're looking at you like you're a cookie. A meaty cookie.
Tower of Destruction let you jump through an archway into direct incineration. If you'd failed to get all the flashy plot bits, you could also find yourself in a nigh-impossible fight, badly injured from the start, with a demon the size of a house.
House of Hell has the ever-popular "scared to death, literally" result.
From the beginning of the Slaves of the Abyss: if you mess around for too long in the city about to be besieged, the scene cuts to a weapon merchant and a peasant bargaining for, as it turns out, your own sword, which he dug up from under the ruins of the city.
The Challenge of the Magi two-player gamebook could get you barbecued simply by being the second one into a room, if your rival was fortunate enough to find the Relics of the Zealot before you did.
Pretty Mistakes by Heather McElhatton is billed as a "Do-Over Novel", essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure book for adults. Every ending, good or bad, ends in your death; for example, you can die at an advanced age holding hands with the love of your life, or die of exposure, alone and confused after the cult you devoted years of your life to gets shut down. Particularly strange and/or cruel deaths include being murdered by a schizophrenic with a ball-peen hammer, pecked to death by ducks, or burned to death by an exploding pressure cooker.
The Be an Interplanetary Spy books might be the best example of all. Almost every two or three pages, you have to solve a puzzle, and there might be as many as two per book where guessing wrong merely gets you mocked for your stupidity and not killed, usually in some bizarre way. This image summarizes the matter perfectly.
The Champ of TV Wrestling has you, as noted, working your way up through the pro wrestling ranks to try and become champ. Your journey could end terribly, though, when you confronted a vampire wrestler, who beat you into immobilization, then slung you over his shoulder and carried you off to the roar of the crowd. And then once you're backstage, he throws you onto a table and sinks his fangs into your neck. Er... end of your career. And life. Other ones from the same book include you being blown to Oz, shoved into a TV camera so hard you come flying out of a TV in someone's living room, eaten alive by an animal-themed tag team, and being thrown through the ceiling of the arena and being mistaken for a flying saucer.
The GrailQuest series has plenty, including an explosion that destroys the entire universe, a room filled with beautiful light patterns that cause you to die of pleasure, and being turned into plum-flavoured jelly.
In yet another time-travel related book (possibly The Return to the Cave of Time), one possible ending is you stuck in the far future: you can choose to get involved in the big war going on (and die in combat), you can try to go back in time, or you can choose to stay in this seemingly idyllic spacecraft-borne society, which basically involves you snoozing most of the day away in a dream-inducing pod and getting up once in a while to exercise... Or rather, BE exercised by machines, before going back into the pod. Oh, also, that war's still going on. And resources are starting to stretch thin. The book spares no detail in the facts that you spend less and less time getting exercised and fed, and more and more time in dream-stasis, until you're basically stuck there forever while your body is kept alive but slowly atrophies into uselessness...
The multitude of ways you can die is actually used as a selling point for Chooseomatic Books. Granted this does make a fair bit of sense considering they're primarily comedic, and the settings in them. In Zombocalypse Now you're a stuffed rabbit trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, while in Thrusts of Justice you're a newly-appointed superhero who's forced into saving the world before you have the chance to get used to your powers.
Likewise, Star Wench, set to be released in March 2013, has this as its main selling point — it's a Choose Your Own Death adventure with one hundred ways to die.
Some of the more interesting ways to finish a Twistaplot book include fading into nothingness when the mirage restaurant you'd been working at disappeared, starving to death while trying to stare down a cougar, mutating into a giant vegetable, sleepwalking into deep water and drowning, and being dumped into space by an alien ship's garbage disposal.
The Fictional Video Game in Ender’s Game does this with the Giant's Drink, which kills Ender's character in a different way each time he tries it. Until he beats that part and the Fantasy Game builds new deadly environments, Ender eventually dies his way through until he reaches the last part... where a snake jumps out and kills him. He proceeds to win by kissing the snake.
Bevel Lemelisk in Darksaber. He was the one responsible for the exhaust port flaw on the original Death Star that led to its destruction. Emperor Palpatine had him executed via pirahna-beetles...and immediately transferred his consciousness to a clone body; Palpatine considered him too useful to lose permanently. And every time Lemelisk screwed up after that, he was subjected to a new execution method, courtesy of Palpatine, who revived him similarly each time. When the New Republic finally executed him for good, Lemelisk had only this to say: "Make sure you do it right this time."
Agrajag in Life, the Universe and Everything. Arthur discovers that he is solely responsible for unknowingly killing the same being dozens of times through reincarnation, to the point that Agrajag, eventually realizing this, builds a massive Cathedral Of Hate dedicated to taking his revenge on Arthur, with a multi-armed statue of Athur at the center depicting the numerous deaths of Agrajag: being swatted as a fly, being brained as a rabbit, being stomped on as an ant...
You Chose Wrong is a Tumblr just for the myriad ways to fail in Choose Your Own Adventure books. Just about any of them could be featured in the Gamebooks folder above.
In the YouTube video "Twenty Five ways to Kill Yoshi", the victim is a plush green Yoshi who begins with 25 lives. The deaths happen in live action. Here is a subset: A shovel hits Yoshi. A boulder falls on Yoshi. An electronic blender mashes Yoshi. A microwave oven cooks Yoshi as a "baked potato". Yoshi loses a knife fight against a giant Koopa. Yoshi hangs from a rope and gets X-eyes. A lawn mower runs over Yoshi.
In Die 2 Nite, the players can die in a wide variety of ways: eaten alive by zombies, poisoned, thirst, infected wounds, drug withdrawal, or even 'hanged by their fellow citizens'. Also, the number of times they've died in each way is recorded in their "distinctions" and allows them to unlock titles.
The entire point of Five Minutesto Kill (Yourself). Some favorites include offending a religious co-worker and getting a fistful of Divine Wrath for your trouble, trying to break into the boss's office and being mauled by his attack weasels, the obligatory Shark Pool, and of course the classic face-in-the-paper-shredder.
There's a simulation game called Alter Ego where you can die in many ways, in every stage of life. Committing suicide, a child molester murdering you, getting injured too much, being shot, old age, and various others.
In Vampire Quest, from the Vamp You website, this is the point. The actual ending is A Winner Is You, though it has a decently epic last boss fight, but the number of bad ends are quite enjoyable...and all are hentai.
Which Way? is a flash-based Choose Your Own Adventure-style game where various increasingly improbable deaths are pretty much the norm.
Most of them involve a manticore. Who kills you three times in a row. There is a chance anytime you did anything that you'd get the "killed by a manticore" ending.
In some cases, the following happens: Whenever you die, on the next game the manticore will kill you on your first move, and the game will tell you that "you can avoid the manticore by watching for clues". On the game after that, the manticore will be lying right there on the first screen and will kill you on your first move again. Only after that does the game truly restart and can be played normally.
Don't try to kill Shakespeare with the flamethrower. You'll just end up getting eaten by a zombie.
The Puffballs United Animations have you guide a stick figure's choices in his various efforts to commit acts of questionable legality. Notably, the second animation and beyond not only feature multiple "win" scenarios, but also have "timed" options where you fail if you do nothing in a given amount of time.
The main purpose of indie point-and-click adventure Wilhelm's Escape, where the protagonist can get killed in a unique way by pretty much everything. Complete with Wilhelm Scream, of course.
In The Binding of Isaac, you're treated to Isaac's last will and testament upon death, detailing where you died and what killed you, with unique drawings for every single type of monster and boss.
Elona takes after roguelikes before it, such as NetHack and ADOM, in randomly generated deaths, and considering the humorous nature of the game, you could die from a variety of strange ways such as choking to death by eating too much smelly lettuce, being crushed by the blood of a snail, being stoned to death by an audience that didn't like your musical performance, becoming anorexic and dying of starvation, becoming nonexistent through taking too much damage from existential sources, or becoming depressed and killing yourself. Coupled with this is that the normal death animation shows your sprite exploding into a bloody mess.
Half the fun in some of the old Sierra games was finding all the creative ways to off yourself.
The Quest for Glory series had some memorable ones, such as pinging yourself to death on the jester's door in IV (you vaporize and he opens the door like "huh, guess no one's there"), smoking from the hookah three times in 3 (you become a strung out junkie), and throwing something at the tree woman in 2 (it rebounds and breaks your monitor). Also, if you play as a thief and try to "pick" your nose with the lockpick, our Hero of Spielberg will deftly shove the lockpick up his nose, into his brain, and die. (Although if you have enough lockpicking skill, he won't die, and you'll get a message that says "Success, your nose is now open!" Hilariously, once your skill is high enough that you can pick your nose reliably, you can use it to build your lockpicking skill.)
Interestingly, some of the things that kill you instantly in earlier games in the series (for instance, casting Calm in battle in QFG1) are things that the protagonist has learned not to do in later games. If you (the player) try one of these, your character knows he'll die and won't do it! It would be an aversion if it weren't for all the new ways to buy the farm in each game.
Quest for Glory V has a special one for mages. You can buy the spell Thermonuclear Blast. You are told the spell is centered on the user, and that it will kill you if ever cast. Using it at a certain point of the game does what you expect - except that the game counts it as a valid ending. Sure, all your friends are dead, as are you. But you took theBig Badout too!
The Many part of the trope's title is lampshaded in Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, where Larry can die in the very first screen... and if you do, you get to watch as Larry's carcass is lowered into an underground cloning facility, where you get to see Larry's old body being disposed of, and another prepared for a new game.
But even more so than Leisure Suit Larry, none of Sierra's heroes has as many amusing ways to die as Space Quest's Roger Wilco. The fact that practically all of his deaths result in hilarious Have a Nice Death screens turns finding all these lethal permutations into an obsession...so much that there is an entire website dedicated to depicting these deaths in all their macabre glory.
Shadowgate, Uninvited, and Déjà Vu, the most well-known of the "storybook" genre, which combined point-and-click adventure gameplay with a text narrative, had tons of ways to do this. You could use any weapon on yourself and read the description of what happens next. You could jump out windows and off cliffs. You could be dissolved by slime (painlessly) or acidic water (very painfully, "you open your mouth to scream, but you no longer have a throat, let alone a larynx!"). You could set yourself on fire. You could... you get the idea. Easily the worst "Stupid Death" is trying to use the anti-ghost spray, only to get the message "you forgot to open it first!"
Gears of War 3 has a unique cutscene showing the submarine exploding and its gun pods detaching with relevant protagonists clearly still in them to separately die of suffocation when you lose the submarine level, and one showing the Tempest vaporizing Adam Fenix after busting through the superweapon's casing in the final mission should you fail to stop the Tempest from breaking into it.
Donkey Kong on Game Boy has several different death animations and songs for the various ways in which Mario can get killed — getting hit by an enemy, getting squished, getting burned, falling too far... Mario vs. Donkey Kong and its later sequels kept up the variety.
Notable examples include "death" animations where Crash never actually dies, like, for example, being mounted and kissed by a huge toad who turns into a handsome prince in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.
And getting hit by a sorcerer's attack turns you into a toad. "Ah, so that's why there's so many of them".
Crash Tag Team Racing even featured a set of collectible Die-O-RamaFMVs, which demonstrated the various, comedic ways in which Crash could off himself.
Bubsy had numerous death animations. Being sliced in two (cartoonishly, in a non-violent looking fashion), flattened, drowning (complete with captain's hat and salute), and other Tom and Jerry-esque animations were all over the place. Most deaths, sadly, were just Bubsy smiling and then falling straight down; you almost had to intentionally get the more creative deaths.
Nethack features many ways to die, including, but not limited to:
Or depressingly: "killed by running into a wall." (Recoil from chucking a dagger at some ants while levitating and badly injured.)
When playing online on nethack.alt.org, each and every kill is reported to an IRC channel. Hilarity Ensues.
It also reports the player-bestowed name of the thing that killed you, leading to humorous suicides such as "killed by kicking an uncursed leather drum named the Drum of Misery."
This page catalogues deaths by frequency. Do note that two thirds of the deaths listed have only happened once. Deaths that have ocurred a single digit number of times easily take 90% of the list. The list also includes "ascended" (i.e. winning), which happens less than 1% of the time.
In the annual Nethack tournament, a trophy is given for most unique deaths.
What really makes it this trope is that unless you give each of your attempts unique names (and the frequency of death in the first 10 levels will soon exhaust you of those,) you will come across gravestones with your name on them and descriptions of how your previous incarnations died. Depending on how the bones file rolls, your dungeon crawl could become a tour of all your previous deaths.
Another Roguelike, Ancient Domains of Mystery, features a good deal of amusing ones as well. They include dying by kicking empty space (it can cause damage from muscle strain), death by dungeon collapse (kicking any staircase has a slight chance of causing dungeon collapse), death by grue (if the player is cursed and in a dark place, a Zork reference), death by demonic piranha, death by falling down stairs, death by divine wrath (if one pisses off a god), death by live sacrifice, death by too much stuff in your pack, death by a ricocheting spell, death by malpracticed alchemy, death by banshee, and death by mutation into a puddle of Chaos-tainted goo. The most heroic of them has to be "choked on his own vomit". This fan wiki page has a very thorough list with exact death messages and other details.
Similarly, Alpha Man shows what killed you on your tombstone, which is humorous enough because many of the dangerous creatures are harmless in real life (ex: killed by tortoise, killed by slug, killed by housecat, killed by rosebush), but also the game didn't come with a loading screen, so to load a game, you had to start a new game then quickly kill yourself. The fastest way to do that was by overeating spam.
Peasant's Quest has many deaths in the Sierra style. Some of the "deaths" are... unique, like this one:
"WRONG! You are hereby cursed to write corny folk songs for the rest of eternity! The kind that only OLD PEOPLE LIKE!!" Well, you're not exactly dead. But you certainly can't face Trogdor after writing "Wheat Grows Sweet, But My Gal's Sweeter". Your quest ends here. Thanks for playing.
Getting killed by the enemy while within the "critical" point of your lifebar (most, but not all the time) in the first Devil May Cry game could result in a variety of deaths, depending on your enemy.
Every Infocom game ever has had quite entertaining descriptions of how your character dies.
Especially doing dumb things like "burn the block of plastic explosive" in Wizard of Frobozz. Which is artistic license, as generally it's safe to burn plastic explosives; they can only be set off with a proper detonator.
The first game has a gruesome cutscene if you got killed by a Disintegrator.
Fade to Black, the sequel, has many gruesome pre-rendered cutscenes featuring your character dying in a variety of ways. You could be sliced up by lasers, have your bloodstream sucked dry by leechlike things on the walls, fly out into the vacuum of space after shooting the windows too much, or wither away from radiation poisoning, among numerous other ugly ends.
A game created by Eric Chahi, the Nintendo Hard 1998 Heart of Darkness, features highly varied deaths at the hands of carnivorous Living Shadows (such as having your legs torn off followed by your chest being slowly devoured before screen fadeout, random hung skeletons animating and clubbing you to death, having your neck slowly wrung before your back is broken and you are eaten alive, various giant plants all suddenly turning into fanged origami-like demons that devour the player alive while he desperately struggles to escape, and on and on and ON). See the compiled deaths montage for some high-grade horror. It's even nastier considering that the main character is a 11-year old boy. All this in a game rated "G", and rendered with obvious care and attention to detail. The protagonist is climbing a stone wall, with holes in it. As he gets too close, a (very big) cyclops worm bursts out, latches onto his face, and yanks him back into the hole. The boy's legs struggle for a second, then suddenly go limp, before disappearing into the darkness. Not to forget the crunch of snapping bones. Thanks, I didn't plan to sleep that night anyway!
Heavy Rain holds the record for this trope, not so much in quantity, but in the sheer intensity of the deaths. There is one instance where you can be handcuffed to a car which is dropped into a compactor. In another part, which incidentally has you play as a woman, you are tied down to a table where a sadistic man "operates" on you with a power drill. It is doubtful that any game in history has had such freakishly morbid exterminations. And let's not forget, all four of the main characters can be Killed Off for Real in this game, and some way before the final chapter
Clive Barker's Undying has the camera go 3rd-person and play a standard animation of whatever enemy dealt the finishing blow performing some kind of gory fatality on you.
The Tomb Raider series is noted for the wide variety of deaths Lara can suffer.
And in the director commentary of Anniversary, the makers of the game complain of how the ESRB made them resort to limp ragdoll-style death instead of the good ol' days' gruesome violence if they wanted to keep the game a Teen rating.
Despite the bloodless deaths and ragdoll effects, failing a quick time event results in some of the most gruesome death scenes in the series, such as being eaten alive by a T-Rex, getting stabbed in the chest by a knife, etc.
One of the Fear Effect games had a Shout-Out to Lara's "gold statue" death. In an area filled with piles of gold coins and other treasures, if Hana touched any of the gold pools one too many times, she would be turned into a gold statue in almost the same way as Lara.
Continued in the 2013 reboot, to the point that combat deaths have unique animations depending on what killed you. Some of Lara's deaths in this game jump into full-on Nightmare Fuel due to both their extreme brutality and the fact that Lara is now a much more realistically rendered character than her more cartoonish previous incarnations.
In Elvira II: Jaws of Cerberus, after you die, you can see your protagonist's dead head, but it looks different depending on how you died: scalded if you were burned to death, frozen if you were killed by a cold ghoul, green if you died by poison, and so on.
Same for its prequel. Get killed by the falcon tearing your eyes out, cue eyeless corpse. Get killed by the spectral cook? Cue scene with a boiling pot, and your head bobbing to the surface.
Dead Space revels in this trope. From simple decapitation all the way up to a massive hulk of flesh and claws tearing you apart like a child would a fly... yeah, it doesn't flinch away from the nasty stuff. It's even possible to be decapitated by a severed head, which then promptly re-capitates itself on your body. If you leave the game sitting at the start screen long enough, it even goes into an Attract Mode featuring the many various ways you can die. In case you want to see all of the ways you can die, look no further. The sequel goes even further. (Warning:Contains spoilers.)
Dragon's Lair. Dirk the Daring dies so many types of deaths that the game is almost worth playing just to see them all. That's what Youtube is for! This, along with Space Ace, Dragon's Lair II, and a number of other laserdisc games (especially with similar gameplay like Time Gal).
The series has a different death type for each type of projectile weapon, amongst other things. Lasers would slice a victim into chunks, plasma weapons would melt them into a bloody puddle, shock weapons would frazzle them into ashes via a pretty blue electrocution phase, explosives would blow you to pieces, machine guns would shoot you full of many holes (complete with a brief cha-cha-cha dance as each round tore through your body), gauss guns—or any normal pistol or rifle, with the right abilities—could blow a single enormous hole, radioactive waste would melt you to green sludge, fire would leave a charred corpse... the varieties were endless and often Bloody Hilarious. Oh, and depressing commentary upon your death. Not much in the way of pretty graphics here, but charming details such as pointing out that you are dying a virgin.
By Fallout 3, most deaths just have your body rag dolling (rad poison, normal death), but others include turning to goo (plasma), reduced to ashes (lasers, electricity, and microwaves), limb loss (explosives), and head explosion (concentrated fire and explosives).
In Fallout: New Vegas you also have the option of dying of starvation, thirst and lack of sleep.
The Amiga game Waxworks has a large number of very violent ways to die, with pictures showing a close-up of the result. Note that it's the Spiritual Successor of the aforementioned Elvira games.
Sly Cooper has different death animations (burning, run over by a train...). However, you just lie flay in front of the train and get pushed along. Sometimes, Sly will suffer one death animation only to have his body pushed or fall into another hazard, and miraculously come to life to die again. Also, each boss delivers a one-liner if you lose to them. They range from hilarious (Dimitri: "My suit is GREASY SWEET!") to annoying. ("The black magic of the family Tsao... IS UNSTOPPABLE!")
Brain Dead 13 is an interactive movie game similar to Dragon's Lair above, with nearly a hundred specific animated deaths for every single thing you do wrongly or did not do. Poor Lance can have his spine ripped out of his skin via atomic wedgie, have his skin literally polished off, get ground through by a giant bug, get decapitated from a Sinister Scythe or giant razor, get his soul sucked out of his body and age rapidly, have his blood drained by a vampire, etc. If it weren't for the fact that there is no blood and that there are a multitude of revival animations (getting his blood back, busting out of a coffin, etc.), this game would've gotten a definite T rating.
While there are no death animations in Minecraft, the message that appears after death varies depending on the manner. For example: <Player> was slain by <other player>/<monster>, <Player> tried to swim in lava, and <Player> blew up.
The Crusader: No Regret/Remorse games had many and varied deaths that were, at the time, even more varied than Fallout. Eventually, it just seemed like the new weapons were excuses to show guys dying in new ways: having your skin burnt off by UV light, being reduced to ash, flesh melting off, being turned into a puddle of goo, freezing solid, blown to pieces (several ways)...
The Metal Slug series gives you a new way to die with pretty much every kind of weapon thrown at you. Enemies, too.
Rise of the Triad had many spectacular death sequences, including one Matrix-style camera whirling around your character as he explodes.
While S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has your standard "ragdoll collapse" for death animations, it was very impressive that, if what killed you was an animal, it would actually haul you back to its den and eat your corpse. Not that there's a point in watching that, but still... It worth noting that your character can die or radiation poisoning, heavy bleeding, and even starve to death.
The Glider games had animations for being set on fire (usually after going too close to a candle) and getting yanked through a paper shredder.
Siege of Avalon features a particularly interesting visual form of this trope. When the player character is killed, the ending animation takes the form of a page of the character's personal journal, indicating exactly how the citadel was conquered because of his inability to emerge victorious from whichever conflict killed him. One of which mentions that he woke up in the hospital section of the castle, then cuts off mid-word. With a bloodstain at the bottom of the page.
Fear Effect and its sequel, Retro Helix, had an entire cottage industry devoted to the various ways for Hana, Rain, and their friends to die in various horrible ways: devoured by a horde of rats, crushed to death, burned to a cinder, etc. Arguably worth suffering through for the Ho Yay.
An Amiga classic Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight featured plentiful of graphic ways you could die. Getting beheaded, squished, hanged, impaled, burned, eaten, or even dragged into the ground deep. This guy uploaded most of the deaths to YouTube for those who want to see it.
Another World (a.k.a. Out of This World) had a different, detailed animation for every type of death you could fall victim to, and there were many. This created an interesting variant of Too Awesome to Use, as you had to balance the desire to see if a new death type was possible against the desire not to replay the same perfect-timing-requiring segment yet another time.
The 3D Mario games include various different ways for Mario to die. Unlike most platformers with cartoonish visuals that use this trope, the 3D games disturbingly play the deaths entirely straight. Galaxy has weird swampy stuff. If Mario falls into it, he struggles, sinks in, and the game fades away with one of his arms sticking out.
The Metal Gear series, oh the Metal Gear series. There are tons of ways to die that most people don't even realize, such as shooting a poster of a bikini-clad woman, causing the ship you are on to explode, or getting carried away by a giant Russian monster soldier who has fallen in love with you.
Dwarf Fortress: While not deaths of the player character, the game has a gruesome combat system, and involves dwarves dying in ways ranging from being crushed in a cave-in to being shot by goblins to starving to death to killing each other to being eaten by carp. And that's not even touching magma, or the Hidden Fun Stuff. Add to this the game's immense love of textual Gorn and the absurd physics, and you (or rather your dwarves) will find themselves dying in ways that range from hilarious to tragic. ThisNerf NOW!! comic nicely sums up why fortresses fail: your manic-depressive midget alcoholics are usually responsible for their own innumerable deaths.
The Sims: Sims can die in many different ways. From 2 on, in particular, the creators started getting inventive. The basics are still there — you can burn your sim, drown him, starve him, electrocute him, or (heaven forbid) let the sim simply die of old age. However, you can also kill him in an elevator crash, have him be eaten alive by a swarm of flies, have a meteor fall on him, have him die via "Rally Forth" (basically exhausting himself through cheering), die from exposure to sunlight (if he's a vampire), and the list goes on.
Ghosts will even be different colors and have various effects applied to them depending on the manner of their death. For example, Sims who died of old age are a boring white, while those who caught on fire are orange and those who drowned are blue and dripping.
The old DOS Platform GameJanitor Joe: Fall too far? SPLAT! Get shot by or touch a robot? Zap! Run out of oxygen (read: time)? Joe turns blue.
The Oregon Trail [Name] died of dysentery. [Name] died of the grippe (flu). [Name] died of beriberi (for lack of meat) or scurvy (due to lack of fruit or vegetables). [Name] died of an accidental gunshot. [Name] died of internal injuries (when the wagon tipped and crushed him). [Name] was mauled to death by a bear. [Name] died of thirst. [Name] drowned (in as little as two feet of water). And the list goes on...
Organ Trail, like its inspiration, has many ways for you and your party to die, including zombie bite, being put down, trampled by zombie deer, getting killed by bandits, wondering off never to be seen again, and yes, even dysentery.
While Sam & Max: Freelance Police (and Telltale adventure games in general) don't usually have ways to die, "The Tomb of Sammunmack" does. You can get eaten by a snake, thrown off a train, and stripped to the bone by touching a Toybox. You just rewind the 'film' to before you died though, as the characters aren't meant to die until the end.
The main character in Limbo can die in various ways, including—but not limited to—impalement, buzzsaws, electrocution, bear traps, and drowning. Sound effects enhance the impact.
The Adventures Of Willy Beamish had lots of these. You could be sent to military school, get carried off by a vampire bat, get dragged off by a gang, turned into artificial sweetener, drowned by the game's antagonists, sentenced to house arrest, and more.
This is used as one of the main features of the flash game Lucky Tower, where it's played for comedy.
In Madworld, Jack is normally dishing out the pain and death, but get too close to some of the deathtraps, and Jack will be on the receiving end of many painful deaths.
Capcom's Pocket Fighter had different KOs in homage of other games, like Mega Man's explosive death or King Arthur's reduction to skeleton death from Ghosts N Goblins.
Resident Evil series: Having your throat ripped out by a dog, being strangled by Plant 42, being decapitated by a Hunter, being impaled by Tyrant, getting your insides chewed out by the G-Creature's spawn, getting your head eaten by an IVY plant, being impaled through the head by Nemesis's Combat Tentacles, being swallowed by Yawn or the Gravedigger worm, and the list goes on...
The original Spelunker had many dumb ways to die, like falling 2 feet (you'd die in midair from the fall), brushing any enemy, getting caught in your own explosion from a bomb, and more. The recent remake Spelunker HDlampshades this in its tutorial, letting you know that you have unlimited lives in the tutorial, so you might as well experiment and find out what kinds of things can kill you! Dying in the tutorial then provides you with an explanation for what you did wrong. It also adds cartoony animations for each death, whereas the original game only had your character flash a couple times.
For a game based around sentient blobs of goo, the flash game Amorphous Plus has multitudes of ways you can die. Getting jumped by the Biters and torn to pieces is probably the most common death. But you can also get decapitated, hacked in halves, melted in acid, burned to the ground, frozen and shattered, shredded to paste, exploded, atomized by a gravity beam, impaled, pierced by a multitude of needles, pierced by one big spike, crushed, eaten, absorbed... All those deaths have specific animations. A couple of the game's achievements require dying in multiple ways to unlock them.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a downright awe-inspiring number of ways to die. It is extremely easy to die by, for example, being thrown into space, being run over by a bulldozer, being hit in the head by a flying brick, being on a planet when it blows up, crashing into a cliff in a speedboat, suffering from protein loss after teleportation, being eaten by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, being eaten by a small dog, falling from a great height inside a whale, having your spaceship attacked with nuclear missiles, being emo-ed to death by entering Marvin's room...
The Banjo-Kazooie series has many...not only for Banjo and/or Kazooie (depends which game you're playing), but for each transformation you can become. Some more humorous than others. Though the regular drowning sequence isn't too pleasant...
Overblood has an interesting set of deaths, all of them actually caused by yourself: being crushed by a floating statue, crushed in a door, exploding pipe, more explosions. All are shown as cutscenes.
The downloadable game Swarm has you controlling a horde of blue creatures who can die in many, MANY ways. Heck, just watching the title screen for a while can give a good idea of what to expect, from poison gas to spikes to being sliced in half...
The SNES version of Space Ace where not being in the constantly-changing safe spot of the screen every few seconds will kill you, making it one of the cheapest and toughest games ever. Also, if you fall on a platform stage, you die. Dexter also has no life bar.
Getting killed in different ways in Temple Run will give different messages on your death. See its entry under Death as Comedy for examples.
Oh, Nancy Drew adventure games. Half the reason for playing them is the hilarious Many Deaths of Nancy Drew. You can die by rattlesnake, cobra, poisonous spider, bee, scorpion, crocodile, or chicken. You can fall off balconies, down elevator shafts, over a bridge, off a tree, off a carousel horse, off mine cart tracks, or into an underground river...in someone's basement. You can drown in sewers, coral reefs, kayaks, or a bath while a robot ghost holds you down. You can be crushed by falling lights, bricks, vases, or ceramic puffer fish. You can freeze to death, burn to death, suffocate, or die by sauna. You can be electrocuted by a fence. You can blow yourself up with a bomb or a malfucntioning boat. You can crack your skull by pulling an emergency brake or riding your bike without a helmet. You can poison yourself with a jellyfish and moldy mayonnaise sandwich. Despite the fact that the series is For Kids, it can also get downright gory: You can be crushed by a falling elevator. You can spear yourself in the eye with a piece of wood from a lathe. You can also be speared in the face by a pole when fiddling around underneath the carousel. You can be eaten by a tornado. You can be sliced in two by a pendulum. Not to mention all the wonderful ways the villains kill you, when they don't just run away, including vague strangling motions, clubbing you in the skull with a bone, or by trapping you in a theatre as it is destroyed by a wrecking ball. It should be noted that Nancy actually does survive a few of these - less one eye or suffering a concussion - but they will still get you a "game over" or, in recent installments, a "good news, bad news" blurb teasing you about your own stupidity. It's truly a beautiful series.
Silent Hill: Homecoming's developers obviously enjoyed making death animations for the protagonist, as there are over fifteen different animations for Alex dying. These include such favourites as: being strangled, having your throat ripped out, having your head bitten off by a murderous, blood-drenched doll and being dismembered by an unknown assailant to name but a few.
In Inhumane, the objective of the game is to discover every possible way to die in a booby-trapped pyramid.
Nearly every character dies in canon in Eternal Darkness, but this trope more clearly belongs to Paul Luther, who, depending on which Ancient Pious is serving, can die in one of three different ways, all lovingly shown in close-up in the in-game engine. And because of the multiple timelines in effect, all of them happened.
Like Alien Trilogy, Broken Helix plays out different FMVs, depending on what had killed you. After that there's a large explosion (fire surrounds it), and the words "Game Over" appears on-screen before being engulfed by fire.
Misao: Examining certain objects will lead to a very sudden death for poor Aki. Taken to ridiculous lengths with the phone that startles you enough to whack your head off the wall if you so much as walk past it.
In Save The Date, most of the choices you make lead to your date, Felicia, dying in some horrible way, from being killed by a stray bullet to being torn apart by a Sea Monster.
In the arcade game Kiki Kai Kai besides the standard death animation upon hitting an enemy, there is also a variation of that when you lose your final life, drowning in water, falling into a crevice and emerging out as an angel, being tackled by a baby-like enemy, and one where Sayo-chan is wrapped up by a snake.
Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou uses this as a gameplay mechanic. The game involves Reincarnation, and the player can reincarnate as 9 different people. You have to use the different abilities of each person to solve certain puzzles and then get killed (whether by getting eaten, burned, etc.) by whatever means is most immediately available in order to be reincarnated again.
Dieing in Wolf results in a screen that says "<<Your wolf's name>> has died of <<the thing that killed you>>." Starvation, dehydration, and bullet wounds are the most common. Especially bullet wounds.
The Japanese interactive movie Super Voice World has many ways you can get killed, starting with the very first choice you make (choose wrong and you end up getting run over by a car). Considering that the film is about you doing stuff aspiring seiyuu do in order to become one, it certainly has creative ways of getting rid of you — you can, for example, end up getting shot by Shinichiro Miki when trying to sneak out of a bar without paying, or get eaten by a vampiric Tessho Genda.
Clock Tower, being a horror series, has several deaths the player can suffer. Between getting caught by the scissorman, to being attacked by the dog, strangled by an arm in the mirror, stabbed, falling off the tower, etc., you are not safe at all.
Finding out all the different kinds of "death" cutscenes is a staple and often the whole point of eroge games and/or Visual Novels.
In the eroge/RPG Lightning Warrior Raidy and its sequel, defeat by a random monster just leads to a simple "game over" message. Defeat by a boss, however? Raidy gets captured, is subjected to that boss's favorite sexual deviance, and then comes a message on how she spends the rest of her life as a sex slave. THEN you get "the end".
Tsukihime and Fate/stay night (both by the same developer, TYPE-MOON) have many, varied, and usually lovingly-described ways for their protagonists to die.
Perhaps the most infamous is the Tsukihime death where the protagonist is eaten by a shark on the ninth floor a hotel.
The very first Bad End of Fate/stay night: if Shirou refuses to fight in the Grail War and abdicates his role as a Master, he will encounter Ilya a little later, who laments his lack of protection. She then has Berserker dismember him, and uses her magic to keep him alive. It's then heavily implied that she maintains him in an undying state and repeatedly kills him in increasingly horrifying ways.
Ilya: Onii-chan will stay conscious no matter how much it hurts or how much of you gets destroyed until I crush your head.