Third-Option Adaptation
That's more like a Fourth-Option Adaptation.

An interactive work is being adapted into another, non-interactive form — a video game into a TV series, for example. The original required the audience to choose one option above the others, such as picking a member of your Harem in a Dating Sim. As such, in the adaptation, there will be an active move by the writers not to have any choice evident, so that no portion of the audience is validated or invalidated in their choice. Sometimes comes out of an adaptation of a work with Multiple Endings.

This can also be done if it's an adaptation of a non-interactive work, by refusing to pick any one of the Loads and Loads of Characters to have more spotlight or importance than the others if the audience is divided on which is best and there's no main character.

Contrast Cutting Off the Branches, which does choose one and leave the others in the dust, and Merging the Branches, which combines options in a way not possible in the original rather than creating a completely new option. Original Generation might be used in conjuction.


  • Pokémon has a number of examples, as players have two or three options given to them when a new game comes out, and various adaptations have to account for all of them.
    • Pokémon Red and Bluenote  required the player to choose among Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. The Pokémon TV series adaptation started with Ash having overslept and, as a result, all the starter Pokémon have been picked by other trainers already when he shows up. He ends up with a spare Pokémon the professor happened to have on hand, a Pikachu (an outside fan favorite by that point), instead. He would later get all three of the game's starters as part of his team, and as the series went on the starters from the game sequels would also appear and join the cast under either Ash or one of his friends; though their exact level of prominence and how far they would evolve would vary.
      • They then rolled this back into the games in the Recursive Adaptation Pokémon Yellow, where the player started with a Pikachu but the rival, who normally selects one of the three starters that the player character didn't, also got a third option starter, an Eevee. And then back in the anime even that Eevee is subject to this: in Yellow, the rival's Eevee could evolve into Flareon, Jolteon or Vaporeon based on how often you beat him in your early battles. In the anime, Gary gets an Eevee like his Yellow counterpart, but since he never battles Ash until much later his Eevee was revealed to have evolved into an Umbreon, which was introduced in the sequel.
      • For another case of games taking a third option, Pokémon Gold and Silver feature battles against Red (Red and Blue's player character) and Blue (Red and Blue's Rival). Red's team features all four possible starters (which includes a Pikachu to represent Yellow Version), with the remaining two Pokémon being forced encounters (one of the route-blocking Snorlaxes) or gifts (either the free Eevee from Celadon in the original versions or the free Lapras from Silph Co. in the remakes) in Red and Blue. Blue uses the same team he used in Red and Blue with one exception; in Red and Blue he'd have his starter in place of one other Pokémon of the same type, while Gold and Silver makes no such substitutions.
    • Outside of starter Pokémon, adaptations also have to account for the choice of male and female player characters starting with Pokémon Crystal. Pokémon Adventures generally takes both options and The Rival and makes them a Power Trio of co-protagonists, splitting up the starter Pokémon equally between them. Zig-zagged by the anime: the main character, Ash, was based on the Red and Blue PC where male was the only option available, and many of his traveling companions are either gym leaders from the games (such as Misty and Brock in the original series) or original characters (Tracey taking Brock's place for the Orange Islands); however, starting from the seasons adapting Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the female PC would also usuallynote  be selected to travel with Ash, leaving the male PC out. Only Pokémon Chronicles used both player options (from Gold and Silver).
    • Plots can also differ due to the games' use of One Game for the Price of Two; often resolved in canon by releasing a third version of the game combining elements of both of the first two. Did Brendan/May save Hoenn from Team Magma, that was going to make volcanoes erupt by resurrecting the ancient Kaiju, Groudon? Or did s/he save Hoenn from Team Aqua's plan to literally drown everything by resurrecting Kyogre? No, s/he defeated both evil teams and stopped Groudon and Kyogre's battle with the help of Rayquaza. Did Cyrus try to use the ruler of Time, Dialga, to destroy and recreate the world? Or did he try to use the ruler of Space, Palkia, for that? Well, he used both and was then defeated by Giratina. In the anime and Pokémon Adventures, both Aqua and Magma were enemies of the protagonists, and the arc ended with a Kyogre/Groudon clash; also, Cyrus summoned both Dialga and Palkia, but was defeated without Giratina's involvement.
      • In Pokémon Black and White, the first and last gyms each have multiple leaders, of which the player only fights one. In the anime, Ash fights all three leaders in the first gym and neither of the last gym leaders - instead the two leaders from the last gym, Iris and Drayden, face each other (Iris being a regular supporting character and proving herself against her mentor Drayden) and Ash gets his eighth badge from one of the new leaders from the sequel. Pokémon Adventures handled the first gym the same, but for the last gym it made Drayden the leader while Iris was a later opponent during the Pokémon League finals, foreshadowing how she has become League Champion in the sequel.
      • Averted with one of the movies for Black and White, which much like the games comes in two similar-but-different versions.
    • Pokémon X and Y has no third version to reconcile the Team Flare plot, so the anime instead has Team Flare only target Zygarde and not bother with the cover legendaries. It also serves to debut new forms for Zygarde ahead of Pokémon Sun and Moon.
    • The upcoming CoroCoro manga adaptation of Pokémon Sun and Moon has the protagonist partnered with a Rockruff instead of one of the starters.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) has Splinter and Casey Jones, rather than one of the turtles, defeating Big Bad Shredder.
  • The Fallout games allow players to be male or female, any race they choose, and a bunch of other customization features as rudimentary as nose size. How could boxart get all of this represented at once? It doesn't; instead opting for pictures of an undefined character in power armor.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Heart of Gaia, an abortive video-game translation of the pen and paper RPG, had the main character as a redeemed Black Spiral Dancer, thus avoiding using any of the main tribes in the game.
  • The Deus Ex series is an extremely interesting case. The first game (set in 2052) features 3 different endings. The sequel (set in 2072) states that all 3 endings essentially happened. The prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (set in 2027), is an inversion, as it features 4 different endings, all of which could plausibly lead to the events of the original game. Human Revolution's sequel (set in 2029), officially states that none of the endings are canon, with the assumed state seeming like a small combination of various endings (Panchaea was destroyed and augmentation is publicly condemned, but Sarif is alive).
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player character's gender and appearance are customizable, and you have a choice between helping the Republic defeat Malak on the one hand, and overthrowing him as the Dark Lord of the Sith and then turning against the Republic. Although the character is canonically male and the Star Forge is canonically destroyed (a Road Cone example), the second game allows you to retroactively specify that character's gender and alignment via dialogue options, and the rest of the game then reflects the choice. The spin-off comic series also avoids establishing the character's appearance: in all appearances, the Revanchist is wearing a bulky robe and face-obscuring hood, and is never referred to by name or gender-specific pronouns.
    • Oddly, avoiding referring to the Revanchist with a name was only made necessary because of the spin-off comic itself. As the games refer to him, Revan's name before the amnesia appeared to have been Revan. The comics established that no, it wasn't, thus necessitating various tricks to avoid saying what the actual name was.
    • When the events of the second game are referenced elsewhere in the EU, the Exile is noted to be female, but both of the gender-exclusive companions (the Handmaiden for male and the Disciple for female) were in her crew.
  • The Star Ocean series always has mutually exclusive characters, particularly in the second game. The anime adaptation of The Second Story, which covers the events of the first disc, cuts a few corners and has all the disc 1 characters join Claude and Rena. This caused a small-scale Urban Legend of Zelda, where people started to believe that it's possible to recruit both Ashton and Opera in the same game as well as recruit Dias on Claude's route. Neither situation is possible in the game. The sequel, Blue Sphere, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's manual confirm that all ten optional party members were canonically recruited.
  • Tales of Symphonia: None of its endings are possible for Dawn of the New World (as it isn't possible on a single playthrough to obtain the title "Item Collector"- because you normally can only obtain one of the three ending items), rather, its manga adaptation's ending (where all three ending items are given to Lloyd) is canon.
    • However, Road Cones are still there for the pairing: Colette is canonically Lloyd's soulmate. Although a bonus scene in the game allows you to choose even that.
    • There are other differences in the manga's ending, too, like the party taken to the final battle. In the game, because of the limit on the number of party members, you had to take either Zelos or Kratos. In the manga, not only do both of them go along for the final trip to Derris-Kharlan, but so does Yuan.
  • It's amazing the Epileptic Trees that have come from trying to figure out which, if any, endings of the various Geneforge games are canonical. A popular one for the third game argues that the main character died at the very beginning and was replaced by someone else who acted out most of the game's events before getting killed off in turn.
    • The fifth game manages to revive all those trees in theories on the protagonist's identity. All this is probably due to the fact that the canon endings are combinations of multiple endings with some obfuscation thrown in as well.
  • The Resident Evil film series also employed this trope. Rather than focusing on any of the canon characters from the game series, the films are centered around a new character named Alice. Though she interacts with characters and situations from the games, it's clear that the movies are Alice's show, and the rest are just along for the ride. This allows the movies to take many liberties and diverge significantly from the game canon.
    • In the first game, depending on your chosen character, you can escape with the helicopter pilot, Brad, and optionally the other player character and a partner dictated by the plot — Barry for Jill, and Rebecca for Chris. Later games make it clear that all five characters survive the Mansion Incident, although Rebecca has never resurfaced outside of prequels and guest appearances in non-canon minigames.
  • Clock Tower has an ending where one friend (either Anne/Ann or Rolla/Laura) survives along with Jennifer (Ending S). Rather than pick between Anne and Rolla and have one appear in both the sequel and the various spinoff media, the developers decided to use the other endings where Jen survives but no one else does (Endings A, B and C). Ending C specifically is established as canon in the ending of the later game, when Dan's name (which Jennifer only learns in that ending) is mentioned and Jennifer shrinks back. Which is kind of strange, because you'd have to be using some wacky moon logic to get Ending C normally.
  • At the end of Metal Gear Solid, Snake can try to save Meryl depending on a choice made during an Electric Torture at the middle of the game - if the player chooses to resist, Otacon stays behind in an attempted Heroic Sacrifice to hold open a gate for Snake and Meryl to escape through (although he lives), and Snake tells his real name to Meryl; if the player submits, Otacon comes up onto Rex to talk Snake down, having already opened the gate, and Snake tells his real name to Otacon. Both the novel and comic book adaptations went with an ending where Snake escaped with both Meryl and Otacon at once, and told both of them his real name together.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty seems to go with this as well: when infiltrating the tanker in the opening cutscene of the game, he has the stealth camo Otacon gave him in his ending. Coupled with Meryl not appearing at all in the game, this would suggest she died in the first game, up until Snake reveals late in the game that he also has the infinite-ammo bandanna he received in her ending. This one could possibly work as a fourth-wall-breaking joke, as well; the player most likely played through the game at least twice to get both endings and their special items, so it's only logical that Snake did so as well.
    • And then Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots reveals that Meryl living is canon, but with a major part of her story arc being her disgust at Colonel Campbell being her biological father rather than her uncle, something which was only revealed in the ending where Meryl dies.
  • Kind of sort of done in a way with Persona 3 FES. Practically every female social link in the game involves the female in question falling in love with The Protagonist (even the Hermit, who turns out to be the Protagonist's homeroom teacher). However, no matter what you do, it's Aigis who feels the strongest bond with you. As a result, it's Aigis who obtains the Wild Card ability in The Answer. Though, one could make an argument for Elizabeth having the strongest bond, considering how she leaves the Velvet Room to try and revive him, but not counting bonus content in Persona 4, Aigis is always "the one".
    • In the PSP remake, this is altered so that any of the female SEES members (Aigis, Fuka, Yukari and Mitsuru) can have the strongest bond with him and share the final scene with him, not just Aigis. The female can have Aigis or any of the male members of SEES (Akihiko, Ken, or Shinjiro if you saved him), except Junpei, who feels no romance for the main, have the strongest bond. Of course, The Answer isn't in the PSP remake and the Answer wouldn't work the way it was if the female was chosen anyway so how this affects Persona canon is currently unknown.
    • In the first Persona, Its implied that both the main and Snow Queen plotlines are canon...somehow.
      • The ending of the Snow Queen Quest puts it right before the first boss of the SEBEC quest, ending with the gang going to SEBEC to save Maki (who was left there when Mark panicked after being overwhelmed by the demons) Presumably, after reuniting with Maki, things went as they did in the main game, only with Yukino there.
  • In Sakura Wars expanded media such as the OVAs, musicals, drama CDs and movie, it never clearly states which girl(s) Ogami has a romantic relationship with. There are usually slight hints toward Sakura (as the poster girl) but since the games have a serial progressing plot and the OVAs and Drama CDS fill in the gaps it wouldn't jive to take control away from the player, and thus in the OVAs Status Quo Is God. The same thing applies for his New York-based nephew Shinjiro.
  • Advance Guardian Heroes combines this with Cutting Off the Branches: it is based on one ending of the original game... but then takes it off into a direction that doesn't actually exist in the original game.
  • The sequel to Heileen makes all of the endings All Just a Dream. Canonically, only Robert and Ebele made it to the island with Heileen even though in the previous game, you always end up with the male love interest if you didn't trigger either of the Gay Options, even if you did nothing but treat him like garbage the entire game.
  • The ending of the Makai Senki Disgaea anime featured an amalgamation of the game's good and bad ending, with Laharl sparing Lamington's life, but still sacrificing his own in order to resurrect Flonne.
  • Some of the spinoffs from the Tenchi Muyo! universe pair him up with an entirely new girl, rather than stick him with a member of his Unwanted Harem.
  • At the time that the MapleStory anime was created, there were already four available classes in the game, so there would naturally be some difficulty in deciding which one the protagonist belonged to. So what do the writers do? Make him a perma-beginner! (explained in the anime as him being a human while the other classes are represented by monsters from the different in-game towns)
  • Breath of Fire IV had a "good ending" and a "bad ending" based on whether Ryu ultimately agrees or disagrees with Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds Fou-lu that Humans Are Bastards - which is complicated by the fact that Ryu and Fou-lu are two halves of a Physical God who was Split at Birth due to a botched summoning, and the choice made dictated how the resulting Split-Personality Merge would go. In the recently completed Comic-Book Adaptation of the game by Mag Garden, they manage to include both endings - first going to what appears to be the "bad ending", then having Ryu conduct a Battle in the Center of the Mind with Fou-lu, culminating in his use of Mami's bells in what amounts to a Humans Are Special psychic bitchslapping, thus forcing the initial Split-Personality Merge apart, then going through the "good ending" sequence.
    • As if this weren't enough, the manga then takes this trope very literally with an ultimate THIRD ending where Ryu and Fou-lu split again, Fou-lu is basically Brought Down to Normal, and the two live/hide out as monks at the Chek monastery where Fou-lu is basically trying to learn why Ryu thinks Humans Are Special. The latter resulted in Much Rejoicing in Japan, among others.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is the unofficial sequel to Civilization, picking up from where that game left off - when the spaceship reaches Alpha Centauri. However, while in Civilization the starship would be built by one nation (it's one of the win conditions), the starship in Alpha Centauri was a United Nations project sponsored by several nations.
    • Which becomes a Fridge Brilliance/Hilarious in Hindsight, once one realizes that the expansion packs to the Civilization IV game allows alliances to build the spaceship as a team effort.
    • In fact, one of the major sponsors was not a nation but a Namibian company, which allowed its CEO Nwabudike Morgan to install a secret sleeper pod onboard the ship (he justifies it by claiming that he, technically, owns part of the ship).
    • It's also a Third Option in a rather meta way: While launching the spaceship is a victory condition in the main series of games, the Transcendence Ending reveals that in this reality, no one civilization "won," as the Earth has been rendered a burned-out, lifeless husk that you're responsible for restoring.
  • The story of the original Bible Black game has two main routes: viewpoint protagonist Minase either keeps the eponymous grimoire and becomes Kitami's apprentice in the dark arts, or (more conventionally) lets it fall into Saeki's hands and winds up trying to save his Unlucky Childhood Friend Imari from Kitami's plot. The anime sacrifices the story's integrity (which, yes, it did actually have) in order to maximize the sex scenes, following the former route up to Minase delivering Imari to Kitami, at which point Kitami abandons Minase for Saeki, prompting an instant Heel–Face Turn in Minase, and the latter route takes over. Now, this combination might actually have made some sense if they'd just included a line or two about Kitami stringing Minase along to get at Imari (although it still wouldn't have excused Minase's just-too-late "change of heart"), but they didn't.
  • The original Two Worlds has two possible endings: either you choose to join Gandohar and rule the world, or you kill Gandohar and save your sister Kyra. Two Worlds 2 doesn't follow from either ending; instead it posits that you actually lose the final battle against Gandohar, and spend the next 5 years as a prisoner in his dungeon while he takes over the world, which is where the game picks up.
  • Fate/hollow ataraxia is the sequel to a route that couldn't happen in Fate/stay night – most of the Servants and Masters are still alive, even those who died in every route. Turns out the explanation is that Rin did it. She made a mistake that turned the city into a location where all realities are possible and sorta merged all the routes plus various universes we didn't see into one. She's off at Clock Tower at the start of the game to make up for this mistake.
  • In Clue, the board game, the culprit always ends up being one of the players (Mr. Green, Miss Scarlet, etc). In one of the endings to the film version, the murderer turns out to be ALL of the dinner guests (except Mr. Green), as well as an added character, Wadsworth the butler.
  • Amagami SS retells the story six times, each one following a different route from the game.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Gears of Destiny assumes that all the routes in the first game occurred, plus some extra stuff that never happened on-screen such as Fate and her Evil Twin Levi facing one another. This means that canonically, the Materials were destroyed multiple times over the course of that one night.
  • The Legend of Zelda is famous for its odd continuity, but for the several years during which the timeline wasn't known, many fans agreed that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time resulted in a split timeline: one where Hyrule is flooded after Ganondorf makes good on his promise to return, and one where Ganondorf is executed before he can even attempt his coup d'étatnote . All well and good, except that the four previously released games couldn't logically fit in either of these branches or with the games that took place before Ocarina. When Nintendo finally revealed an official timeline for the series in 2013, it was revealed that there is actually a third timeline that takes place if Link dies in Ocarina of Time's final battle.
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation, which combines characters and events from the various games in the series, often does this when dealing with a choice in protagonists from the original games: The Alpha protagonist choices get fleshed out into full characters through Divergent Character Evolution, while all the Alpha 2 protagonists appear. The game chooses one route from Advance, but then lets the other survive and undergo his development from his own route in Endless Frontier EXCEED. The "Born male or female" protagonist options from Reversal become Half-Identical Twins, end so on.
  • Grisaia No Meikyuu leaves the ending to Grisaia no Kajitsu fairly ambiguous, but Grisaia no Rakuen firmly establishes that Yuuji did not pick any girl, date or sleep with any girl, but he did complete all their routes. This is actually a bad thing because he promised Asako in Meikyuu that he wouldn't die until he had saved at least five people. Since he saved all five girls, he now embraces death.
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening, The Hero Chrom could marry one of a five characters: a female Avatar, Sully, Sumia, Maribelle or Olivia. Possibly to avoid the insane Ship-to-Ship Combat over the issue, the Drama CD seems to go with the nameless village maiden as Chrom's wife, the one who, in-game, he only marries if all of the above options are already taken or dead. For each of the above 5, Chrom's Kid from the Future Lucina will have a sibling, which the audio drama also adapts out though the village maiden, making Lucina an only child. There is also one Drama CD with a male Avatar and one with a female one, as well as a Drama CD where both male and female Morgans (the Avatar's child) meet up in the Outrealms. These are situations not possible in the game since both versions of these characters can't exist at the same time.
    • The second example is the child characters' hair colors, which are inherited from their fathers. And since mostly any male can marry any female, that's a lot of possible hair colors to keep track of. To avoid this, official artwork generally despicts the children with their mothers' hair colours. As does Severa, Inigo and Owain's appearence in Fire Emblem Fates.
  • In Civilization: Beyond Earth, there are 5 possible endings, 3 of which depend on the player's chosen affinity. Along comes the sort-of sequel Sid Meier's Starships, whose premise assumes that each of the factions chose a different planet to settle instead of the same one.
  • In the arcade version of the original Double Dragon, the Lee brothers fight each other at the end after both players defeat the final boss to see who wins over Marian, with the remaining player getting a kiss from her. When the game was remade for the Game Boy Advance under the title of Double Dragon Advance, Marian interrupts just when one of the brothers deliver a finishing blow.

Alternative Title(s): Pikachu Effect, The Pikachu Effect