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Videogame Caring Potential
Your call.

Not all games inspire base cruelty in players; some games make you feel like a Mama Bear or Papa Wolf to the little AI bots in your virtual world. You'll go out of your way to save Sgt. Chavez because his Final Speech is just too heartbreaking to bear, or Mecha Mook #27 who bravely got the Plot Coupon when all his unit died... and is just so darned cute!

In short, the game presents characters in such a way that you actually try to save the little buggers rather than do the sensible thing and use your Mook Maker or Clown-Car Grave to replace them like the Red Shirt Army that they are. Don't underestimate human sentimentality; even if the character is "just" a Companion Cube, their death will often inspire a Player Punch reaction which only gets more intense if the units or NPCs were thanking you on doing a good job. Games designers might choose to do this to inspire loyalty, discourage Zerg Rush strategies, and get the player emotionally invested in the game, and generally to make gameplay less cerebral and more visceral. Failure to achieve this may lead to apathy and even cruelty towards the Small Annoying Creature with the dumb AI. You know the rest.

God games are usually a strange mix of both, with players gleefully massacring some characters while carefully protecting others. If a mission objective requires you to protect someone, it becomes an Escort Mission.

Can lead to a chronic case of Save Scumming, especially if the Non Player Characters to be protected are Made of Plasticine.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • Heavy Rain will likely make you seriously sympathize with the main characters and propel you to make sure they stay alive. But on the other hand, maybe you'll be tempted to use the saw during the Lizard Trial..
  • Hitman Absolution has two. In "Rosewood", you can rescue a man being tortured by a pair of Wade's men, and in the "Attack of the Saints" mission, where you can save the hotel manager from being executed by the search team, and have him profusely thank you in response.
  • Pandora's Tower has Elena. You can keep her company, chat with her, give her gifts, and in exchange she will make medicine and translate the documents you find, even if you do nothing of the above.Also, even though beating a boss resets the progress of her curse, you really don't want to see what happens to her if you let the meter drop below red because you really had to finish the dungeon in one run.Even though you can easily heal her back, the moment is still heart-wrenching.
  • ADOM: You get this message even if your character is a bloodthirsty trollish berserker or dark elf necromancer:
    The cute dog attacks the ogre. The cute dog misses the ogre. The ogre attacks the cute dog. The cute dog is killed! You are direly saddened about the death of the cute dog.
  • A Boy and His Blob for the Wii features a Hug button just for this purpose.
  • Cannon Fodder is particularly mean with this. Each and every one of your 200+ soldiers is individually named, with their ranks and kills, and any soldier surviving a mission will be promoted; those who don't survive are recalled by name at the end of each level, and possibly added to the honours board. The first four - Jools, Jops, Stoo and RJ - are beloved by game players everywhere; they're also ShoutOuts to the main game developers. And you will give everything to try and keep them alive, because that Lost In Service list scrolling up between the poppies is devastating. The game satirises pretty much every single last one of the Military and Warfare Tropes. Oh, and all the characters are about nine pixels high.
    • Not to mention that the screen between missions is a war cemetery featuring a little grave stone for each man you have lost. In the foreground a long, winding line of men queue up for the chance to give their lives for your cause. The more casualties you take, the more men need to be admitted.
  • Cave Story has an NPC named Curly who sacrifices her life to save yours. But if you do exactly the right things, you can save her. Incidentally, this is the only way to access a bonus level and the best ending.
  • This is the purpose of Creatures, more or less.
  • The semi-sentient AI population, Darwinians, in Introversion's Darwinia. Though, if you move fast enough you can 'revive' them endlessly, unless they get annihilated by a Soul Destroyer, in which case they leave saddening ghostly echoes of their bodies behind. And then there's the Biosphere level, where most of the methods of winning involve sending wave upon wave of the cute little guys against their virus-corrupted kin. Made worse because the Darwinians are voiced by one of the developers' pet cat and meow very sweetly as they die.
  • A cute game is trying to keep the AI-controlled player second player in Final Fight. And punishing them for their stupidity when they don't get out of the way. This is actually somewhat useful, as having two players means double the powerups.
  • The Godfather the game. You can get away with blasting a few innocent citizens, but every single person has a name that you somehow know. It's not so fun seeing Eduardo Mellini bleeding out in the middle of Fifth and Ten. Occasionally they will also shout things like "Don't do this! I have a wife and kids!"
    • Made worse by their lack of survival instincts! GET OUT OF THE WAY, SAL! THERE'S A HIGH SPEED CHASE TAKING PLACE HERE!
    • Also, the security guards at banks. They're not even mob affiliated, they're just doing their jobs! For the small banks, you can get away with robbing it and not killing any of them. Doesn't work for the big banks....
    • There's also your Corleone allies who always help you out whenever they see you in trouble, and the guys you hire to help take down enemy strongholds. It's rather sad to see them get killed in action on your behalf.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The nameless Grove Street mooks you pick up to assist in missions will chatter with C.J. on the way to the goal, giving him shit like all his named friends. Makes it hard to watch them mowed down like wheat. Of course it doesn't help they tend to fire wildly at every cop that comes by.
    • An even better example is this story of a four-year-old whose father let him play San Andreas, only to discover that the innocent kid used the Wide Open Sandbox potential to arrest criminals, help firefighters, and drive the wounded to the hospital in an ambulance, refusing to steal any cars or drive recklessly because that would be wrong.
  • Ico is all about this. You spend the entire game worrying about how Yorda is doing. Her ability to open doors certainly helps as well.
    • The first time Ico calls her across a gap she can't possibly leap, and she jumps anyway, trusting Ico to catch her and pull her up.
      • Although still images don't do it justice, you can get a good idea of the heart-in-throat moments from this picture.
    • Heck, Ico calling for Yorda and leading her by the hand through hordes of Dark Spirits. Or Ico fighting his way through those hordes to pull her out of their grasp with all the ferocity a ten-year-old boy can muster.
      • All of this is made even more interesting because Yorda speaks an unknown language; Ico (and the player) haven't a clue what she's saying, and they have to communicate via body language. That she's so darned important to you when you can't even understand her is impressive, to say the least.
    • It's safe to say that the developers pulled this off well enough that there's plenty of people with fond memories of the game despite most of it being one giant Escort Mission, which are normally the bane of many a gamer.
  • Of course, the main inspiration for Ico was Another World, which has a similar caring relationship with a mute alien who looks exactly the same as your average mook. But it's easy to forget this when you run down a corridor from a deadly laser cannon and are about to be cornered by enemies you have no hope of defeating, only for him to reach a hand out to you from a hatch above. And then there's the ending...
  • Surprisingly, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction of all games has this trope. If you press the special button (Y in the GameCube version) while holding someone Hulk normally slams them into the ground. But if you do so while holding a civilian, Hulk just puts them down gently and pats them on the head.
  • In Limbo, the protagonist is just a silent little kid in a freakish monochrome world where Everything Is Trying to Kill You. If you don't have any platformer or puzzler skills at the start, you will develop them just to get him through.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, for the N64. You have to complete a sidequest which revolves around reuniting a separated couple because the man, Kafei, has been cursed to become a child. You actually have to complete the quest twice to get all the items for game completion, but to get one of the items (the Postman's Hat) involves not helping Kafei reclaim his mask he was going to give to his girl Anju. This of course means that Anju is going to wait in Clock Town alone, until the moon crashes down on her...
    • It helps to remember that every character will only experience the True Ending, since Link will reset time until he gets it right.
    • You can totally get the Postman's Hat and reunite Kafei and Anju on the same run. Be sure to get the Letter to Mother, warp back to town after helping Kafei, go straight to the post office and give the postman the Letter. Receive Postman's Hat. Run back to the inn. You're welcome.
    • Romani. Dear god, Romani. Until the player gets the Goron Mask (enabling them to blow up the boulder blocking the path to the Ranch on the first and second days), showing up at the ranch on the Final Day, you'll find Romani sitting outside the barn, traumatised and catatonic. Turns out the 'Ghosts' that abduct the cows on the night of the first day did... something... to her. Cremia's horror at what has happened only increases the desire to help Romani.
    • The entire game is based around manipulating this trope. Termina is a world as alien to Link as it is to the player. By the end of the game, his burgeoning care for the people of Termina is mirrored by the player's growing familiarity with the world and its problems.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has your grandmother become sick and delirious. You have the ability to cure her with a fairy. (Plus, after you do, she'll give you homemade soup- 2 doses of the most potent healing item in the game.)
  • Ōkami allows the player, in their role as a benevolent goddess, to perform good deeds ranging from making trees and flowers bloom to finding water for reservoirs to battling demons. One good deed was to buy some charcoal for a little girl to play with- AWWW!
    • Feeding the animals gives you a little cutscene of them eating. Afterward they'll have little hearts floating around when they see you.
      • In fact, Okami breathes this trope. As a benevolent goddess, you earn Praise (for leveling up) not just by heroic deeds and beating the bad guys, but by feeding those animals, making trees bloom, turning dead land into fertile ground, and taking other totally non-violent actions to simply improve people's lives. It restores life and a sense of wonder to the world, enhancing your divine strength.
    • But in your own hour of need, will they remember you? Yes they will, and you just might weep.
  • Overlord can enter into this at times - your Minions are ultra-expendable, but the basic (brown) ones can pick up pieces of equipment from fallen enemies... (actually, they all can, but while the other variants just get generic graphical upgrades that reflect how good their equipment is, you can actually SEE what the Browns are carrying). Since certain pieces of equipment are unique, gained from defeating specific bosses or one-time-only encounters - or just plain rare - you can easily end up wanting to protect the one who's wearing a golden crown and wielding a giant fondue fork, partially because they're unique and powerful items (which will be Lost Forever if he dies) and partially because they serve as souvenirs of an interesting boss-fight.
    • Of course, some of them can also become valued simply for comedic value, such as the one wearing a tophat and wielding a bouquet of flowers, or the one wearing a full beard (the previous owner didn't need it anymore).
    • The sequel encourages players to keep their minions alive more, since the Minions now have names, personalities, manageable equipment, mounts, levels, and the ability to raise favorites from the dead at a graveyard. However as an Evil Overlord you're mainly motivated by the fact that you don't want powerful Minions carrying special equipment such as BFSes, Gladiator Helmets or one-of-a-kind hats to go to waste.
      • Course in the sequel if you really care about your favourite Minion you can bring him back to life. At a cost, to save a level 10 Minion for example will require you to kill 100 in trade.
  • Losing Pikmin can cause players to feel bad. Something about their screams is upsetting, and then there are those water vapour ghosts to remind you how badly you let them all down. It's even worse if you just leave some behind after dark. Not to mention they're basically dying for capitalism in the second game.
    • Pikmin don't have graves, you know.
    • Which makes the massive Pikmin carnage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl somewhat of a Player Punch for those who also played Pikmin.
    • Also, in the first game, Olimar himself, as an extension of the player, becomes attached to the little critters, as evidenced in his log entries. He amusedly notes their various quirks as the days go by, and he berates himself if they get caught in a bomb blast or if the Pikmin race dies out.
  • GLaDOS spends an entire level in Portal trying to make the player bond with the Companion Cube, only to tell you at the end of the level that you must euthanize it by tossing it into a furnace in order to complete the test . She brings this up at the end of the game when you fight her, admonishing you for killing your "best friend." After praising you for being the quickest of all test subjects to do so, no less.
    • In the sequel, you encounter a turret-bot reclamation facility that is called "The Turret Redemption Line." Among the piles of scrapped turrets, there is one that was scrapped because it won't kill, easily spotted due to its active laser sight. If you pick it up and carry it off, it says "Thank you" in that strangely endearing robotic voice. You even get an achievement for saving it.
    • Generally, the turrets talk to the player in a very endearing way. "Please put me down,", "Where are you?" and "Good night," are all great examples of this. And then you remember that they're trying to kill you...
  • The first level of Psychonauts gives you the option of escorting Dogan across a mine field safely in the very first level. As long as you don't go too far ahead, it's pretty easy, you get a few arrowheads, and you feel like you've just started on your way to become a hero. Then he explodes. (Well, his mental personification explodes. If it helps, Dogan probably wanted to leave Coach Oleander's mind anyway.)
    • There are also articles of emotional luggage scattered throughout all the mental levels. They are all so sad and crying because they miss their tags...yeah...and, oh, so lovely rejoice when you reunite them.
    • It's not hard for fixing Fred, Gloria, and Edgar to end up feeling like a personal responsibility. They start off more funny than anything but interesting, then you get to know them personally and you're bound to really get attached to at least one of them, and from there you gradually find out the rest. Sometimes it's easy to forget you're doing this to get a Plot Coupon because the satisfaction of helping them seems a better reward.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, the trusty steed named Agro helps the player get from point A to point B. The player eventually bonds with her. Heartbreaking when after riding across a collapsing bridge, Agro throws you safely to the other side before falling to her death...only for you to find out during the credits that she is still alive, but with a broken leg.
    • Sadistically, the game manages to make you care about practically every other Colossus you kill. This doesn't keep you from being pulled along, with the character, on his grim path, or being perversely thrilled by the challenge even while knowing you will be devastated by your own actions in a moment.
      • Some of them you can't feel bad for killing, like that damned boar, but yes, about half of them make you feel like you've destroyed something ancient and majestic.
    • Go up to Agro without a weapon out (with your hand showing as the cursor) and tap the attack button. Wander will stroke his horse's flank lovingly. No reason, just a sign he cares about his mount.
  • In Shadow Of Destiny, the player can take the time to fetch a kitten and let a small girl adopt it. There's no reward for doing so, just giving a child a kitten.
  • The point of Yoshi's Island to babysit Mario, and being Mario of course you want to protect him...but if he ever gets knocked off Yoshi you'll either want to kill him yourself or redouble your efforts to not get hit if ONLY to not hear that crying again. Yoshi's Island DS adds Baby Peach, Donkey Kong, Wario and Bowser to the mix... you can probably guess who has the LEAST tolerable sounds.
  • Scarface: The World is Yours. Some of the mooks that will fight by your side get unique conversations with Tony; a nice bit of character development. Of course, the fact that they kick so many kinds of ass will also inspire the desire to keep them alive. See how many missions you can do with the same minion!
    • In addition, Tony Montana himself invokes this trope: If you try to fire on civilians unprovoked, he simply refuses to respond to the players press of the trigger button, muttering to himself things like "Naw, I ain't gonna do that, mang."
  • This happens once or twice in the introductory level of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. If you act quickly enough, you can save the lives of various Galactic Federation marines when the GFS Olympus comes under attack by Space Pirates. You'll receive a reward for saving one in particular, who is injured and firing at his aggressors from behind a crate.
    • Saving the Etecoons and Dachora in Super Metroid is a completely optional and easily missable event. Once you learn that it exists, though, good luck finding the urge to ignore their plight unless you're specifically doing a speedrun.
  • In the Sonic Adventure games for the Dreamcast and Gamecube, the player can partake in a mini-game to raise Chao, which are essentially tiny (and cute) alien-like creatures. Powerups acquired in the main game can be brought back to 'Chao World', and used to raise the chao's stats and change their appearance, among other things. The joy a player gets when their Chao evolve from a baby to their next form is hard to reproduce. The mini-game can also be a source of cruelty potential, if you're really feeling sadistic.
  • A guy on YouTube going by the name of Burning Dog Face created a full Let's Play of American McGee's Alice and sounded quite genuinely distressed at one character's death at the hands of the Red Queen. It was quite a Player Punch.
    BDF: Oh my God... No. Not the Cheshire Cat!
    • He also sounded very pleased at the end when Wonderland is restored along with all the characters and Alice is finally able to leave the asylum... You can't blame him!
    • All of Burning Dog Face's videos have a bit of this trope. He generally goes for the villains with the most morally questionable or cruel behaviour first, and leaves the ones with more sympathetic motives until last.
  • The AI partners in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 aren't good for much aside from distracting enemy aces. However, it feels good to help out your partners and hear them express their gratitude. Mission Mode encourages you to do this, as having friendly relations with other pilots can unlock bonus missions, and there's even a set of missions specifically for improving relations with them. Conversely, when you're on opposite sides with the character you like, they'll express horror and rage when they see you're their enemy now and thoroughly guilt-trip you. To top it off, Kamille's path in Mission Mode allows you to reverse the Downer Ending of Z Gundam by saving Henken, the Radish, and Emma.
  • Assassin's Creed II uses this to build up the Player Punch, by having you spend the first hour interacting with Ezio's family. This includes defending his sister's honor against a philandering boyfriend, doing favors for his sick little brother and his mother, and in general getting across the message that the Auditore are a very close and caring family. Later on there's a Quick Time Event that allows you to hug Leonardo da Vinci, who at this point is Ezio's best friend. Players have been known to go back and reload a previous save if they miss the prompt for the hug the first time.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood allows the player to build up a crew of assassins that you recruit from the oppressed citizenry. You can outfit them with kit and send them out on missions. Also, destroying the Borgia oppression leads to the revitalization of Rome, and eventually The Renaissance.
    • As you progress through the game, the background chatter of NPCs will include statements like "things are really getting better" and "there will be a special throne in Hell for Cesare Borgia when this is all over."
  • Assassin's Creed III has Connor interacting with members of the Homestead in various ways. From assisting Myriam in hunting a rare animal at the risk of your own life, to delivering a farming couple's baby, to assisting Norris win Myriam's affections, to rushing to the defense of the newest resident's abusive husband, you will grow to love and care for these residents as if they were one of your own friendly neighbours you'd chat with over the fence.
  • In the last part of the first God of War, in a very intense battle, you must protect your wife and daughter from an army of Kratos. If they get hurt, you can heal them, by sacrificing your own health.
  • You could say one objective of Dead Rising 2 is all about this. You play as Chuck Greene whose daughter, Katey was bitten by a zombie, to prevent her transformation into one of the walking dead, she requires a shot of Zombrex every 24 hours. Seeing how this is...well, Dead Rising, it's another thing you have to neatly fit into your schedule. You have to find Zombrex while finding the truth, then also administer a shot to save her. It's really easy to start caring for little Katey, you can even bring her gifts for experience points and achievements! However, you CAN ignore this fact and let her die, since this is...well, Dead Rising, but it condemns you to Ending F, which ends on an absolutely tragic note, not only that, but you'll feel like a complete bastard.
  • You can't save most of the guards slaughtered by the Joker and his goons in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but everyone you do save thanks you profusely, and the other surviving guards express their gratitude for you just being there. You even get an achievement on one level for saving all the guards and an escaped prisoner.
    • This is made somewhat worse, however, when you return to the same areas and find the bodies of those same guards.
  • Among the inmates of Batman: Arkham City are any number of innocent political prisoners. You'll hear them long before you see them, screaming and pleading for help as they're assaulted by criminals. And while you don't have to stop what you're doing and save them, it's very satisfying to dive in, kick their tormentors to the curb, and hear them thank you like only someone trapped in a war zone can.
  • The last chapter of Telltale's Tales of Monkey Island ends in a brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by the Big Bad on the happy-go-lucky main character, Guybrush Threepwood. It looks extremely painful and brutal but it's made even worse when you can hear the pain in Guybrush's voice every time he talks. Being a zombie at the time, he can't even die to escape the pain. The idea was that as he's getting thrown all over, you're suppose to come up with a way to get him out of it. In the commentary, the creators said a lot of people had trouble playing because they felt so terrible for Guybrush.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV actually gives you the chance to spare several targets that you've been assigned to kill. Some of them even show up with little sidequests you can follow if you proceed to do so.
  • Grand Theft Auto V has several moments of these: often you'll randomly encounter people in trouble, such as being held hostage, having their valuables stolen, or even trapped in a car wreck. You can ignore 'em, make things worse, or even go out of your way to help them out.
  • Red Dead Redemption has this in spades. There's several chances for you to help out the random bystanders, from saving a woman who's about to be stabbed to death, preventing innocent people from being shot down, or even helping a guy recover his stolen horse. Not only that, but you're even given the means of acting in self-defense through lethal or non-lethal means thanks to your lasso, which means if you work for it you can really build yourself up as a man of honor. It certainly feels rewarding when your fame goes up enough so that random citizens you pass by actually start saying "hi" or even praising you for your efforts. And that actually makes it all the more tragic when your character gets killed at the end and the Manipulative Bastard behind it gets you remembered as a monster.
  • Space Marine has this through raw storytelling; there is neither in-game reward nor punishment for allowing the Imperial Guard units to be slaughtered by rampaging Orks or daemons, short of having that much less fire support as you carve a bloody swathe through that portion of the green tide. You do, however, start to feel for the plucky little guys, not just for the fact that they look upon you in awe like literal angels from heaven come to save them (with bits of NPC chatter making some seem like their lives are now complete and would be satisfied if they died fighting alongside you), but from the way the genetically enhanced, gigantic One-Man Army main characters praise them for holding out a last line of defense against seemingly insurmountable odds. You will end up rushing headlong into those xenos scum, just to make sure that many more brave Guardsmen don't get crumped while you hang back and shoot at things.

    Air Combat 
  • Ace Combat games usually have a Redshirt Army alongside the player's plane. While it's possible to go ahead and focus on destroying the targets while leaving the other planes to go down, there's some satisfaction to be gained in helping allies to fend off enemy planes and gain air superiority. Fires of Liberation explicates this by rewarding the player for helping out in secondary operations, such as by letting them call down Macross Missile Massacres.
    • More importantly, your wingmen/-women. If you don't feel sad about PJ in Belkan War, you have emotional capacity of a tree stump, but on the other hand, can you really get yourself mad enough at Pixy, after all you've been through together, can you? And how about Edge, Grimm, and Chopper in AC5—don't you feel really close to them, despite not really knowing anything about them except their names and appearances?
  • In Star Wars: Battle for Naboo, you play a Naboo pilot leading a resistance movement against the Trade Federation occupying the planet. At various points, farmers are being slaughtered and their homes razed by droids. It's hard not to veer away from the main objective to quickly dispatch the metal bastards, especially as you listen to the terrified screams and desperate pleas over the comm channel.
    • Likewise, when you free prisoners from internment camps and lead them to safety. Only one or two of the vehicles have to make it, but it feels terrible knowing that they've suffered in those camps for weeks, only to die just when freedom was within sight. Unfortunately, it's damn near impossible to keep all of them alive.
  • The ancient PC game G-Police inspired a feeling of protectiveness over the nearly helpless ground units that filled the missions. The player character's fellow law enforcement officers that are on the ground need your air support, or they aren't going to last. The small, weak but relentlessly persistent vehicles engender a Papa Wolf feeling.

    First Person Shooter 
  • BioShock's Little Sisters sit on the thin line between this and Video Game Cruelty Potential. Yes, they are creepy little wretches, but you feel like a Big Damn Hero when you save one of them.
    • A sequence in the end turns it Up to Eleven when you become personally responsible for protecting a little sister who's been made into a normal girl. Usually the Little Sisters are invulnerable, but not anymore... meaning that she has no survival instinct. But she trusts her daddy to keep her safe....
    • Even moreso in the sequel. You'd be shocked how much more incentive you have to protect them when they call you 'daddy' and all the creepily cute dialogue they have is directed at you.
    • In BioShock 2, Mark Meltzer and by extension his missing daughter Cindy. Anyone who followed the ARG Something In The Sea is very familiar with Mark, and you can find audio diaries detailing his search for Cindy in the game. Many players became obsessed with the idea of helping Mark. Horribly, horribly subverted when you later kill what seems to be a run of the mill Rumbler Big Daddy - only to approach his corpse and discover that it was Mark, who chose to be turned into one in order to protect Cindy. And God help you if you harvested the Little Sister who was with him...
    • It's not just the Little Sisters. There are players who actively try to find a way to collect and cure the girls without harming the Big Daddies...or failing that, get through the game without collecting any Little Sisters except the ones the storyline forces them to.
    • Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite was designed for this. The player character is tasked with finding and protecting her, and she's very powerful. She's also very cute, has Of Corsets Sexy, her head proportions and hair seem to make her look younger, and the early stages of game's development had a feature where overusing her powers actually harms her.
    • Apparently, melee attacks will upset Elizabeth, causing here to cringe or whimper. A lot of gamers have stopped doing it as a result out of concern for her.
    • Another, minor instance in Infinite occurs right at the beginning, at the sick raffle doubling as the public stoning of an interracial couple. You have the option to try to bean the guy running it with the baseball: it doesn't work, but it does kick off a chain of events that help the couple escape. The couple appears later to thank you if you take this option.
  • Your squad members from Call of Duty would probably count if the interesting ones weren't immortal for plot reasons.
    • There are achievements for saving certain soldiers in Call Of Duty 4 and World at War.
    • The first game strips Private Elder of his invulnerable status after Sergeant Moody gives you the explosives during the assault on Brecourt Manor, meaning he'll usually buy the farm about the time you reach the last gun. Screw that, says I.
    • In Call Of Duty 4, you get an achievement for saving an innocent farmer in one of the missions from being gunned down.
    • In the Vorkuta level in Black Ops, you'll face several times your prisoner allies being clubbed down by the guards. You've the potential to try to save them by stabbing the guards with your shiv to death. The sad part however is that no matter as fast as you try to be, the prisoners dies anyway.
  • Far Cry 2. Keeping your buddies alive and doing what they ask gives instant return any time you are gunned down by the enemy mercenaries. Your health drops to zero, you fall to the ground, black out... and instead of being treated to a load game screen, you come to a 48-year-old Kosovar Papa Wolf shooting people left and right and dragging your bleeding hide to cover in one of the most movie-like moments ever pulled off in a 1st perspective game.
    • Not to mention they can sometimes die for real, while you continuously give them your healing items to ease their suffering.
  • The resistance soldiers that join you in Half-Life 2 ("Follow Freeman!") are infinite in number and they die easily. They're more or less supposed to be cannon fodder, making your life a little easier, but there is something inspiring about losing as few of them as possible. Especially the ones that look like Gordon Frohman.
    • Which also happens to look just like John Freeman, making them even more worth saving.
    • On a more specific note, you will become very attached to Alyx. She's arguably tougher than Gordon is thanks to her insane health regeneration (thankfully sparing you the normal pain of an Escort Mission) and can fight off zombies at close range, but you will go out of your way to protect her regardless. And when she's near-fatally wounded by a Hunter at the beginning of Episode 2 you will do anything to save her.
  • Jet Force Gemini: The ants. Although most of them are heartless monsters and shoot you or even the tribals without hesitation, there are some ants which are just throwing their weapons away when they see you and capitulate because they want to live further. Made it cruel when you have to kill them all to open an energy door...
  • In Mercenaries 2, most of the various factions are either idiots or complete jerks to you. The sole exception is the PLAV, who actually act like nice guys, and it becomes hard not to think of them in a positive light when they yell things like "Viva la Mercenario!" and "The Merc's on our side, we can't lose!" or even "The Mercenary is here! We're saved!" Everyone else is an asshole, but these guys like you and make you feel welcome and give you the impression that you're doing some good. No wonder everyone favors them over Universal Petroleum's jackass mercenaries.
    • The Chinese General somehow fits, too, as he gives you the final nuke without hesitating, thanking you for your assistance. Unlike the UN dude.
      • This is not surprising considering Peng is the leader of the Chinese faction in "Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction" but his helpfulness is even more endearing to the player assuming they were previously on good terms with him.
  • The single-player campaign of World in Conflict continually emphasizes that you're leading an undersized, overworked company of troops in desperate last stands and daring blitzkriegs. It feels like you must keep tabs on the health of all units and minimize losses, but in reality, you get as many reinforcements as you need, and a decent number of objectives let you Take Your Time.
  • The Halo games. Especially the first three, with such amiable and go-get-em Marines, you can't help but feel bad when they die. And then Legendary Difficulty happened.
    • The Huragok. They, alone, pose no threat; instead they shield the nearby Covenant. However, in ODST, if you defeat the Covenant they're shielding, the Engineer/Huragok will...explode. It's...a bit of a lose/lose situation. It can end up either I Have to Leave One Covenant Alive Caring Potential (there's an achievement for not killing a single Huragok, explosions included) or Screw It They're Going to Die Anyways But I'm Still Sad Caring Potential.
    • In Reach certain troopers will join you as fireteams which now means the people who are essentially Red Shirt now have names making it more tragic when they eventually die.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War the entire Leila Nassif mission involves you finding a young girl, establishing that they're safe from the evil man who is killing the students who don't meet his extreme views, then telling her father that she's safe. There is no difference in the end result, but if you didn't stop at the police station first then expect to feel like crap.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution - who would follow Malik the VTOL pilot's advice to leave her to attacking mercs after being shot down? Players have outright abandoned their pacifist runs without regret to save her, either because non-lethal takedowns weren't getting the job fast enough or because those bastards deserved it.
    • Similar rampages have also occurred upon players finding Malik's body in the Harvester hideout (assuming she wasn't saved) and/or witnessing the absolute massacre of terrified, innocent civilians in the Alice Garden Pods hotel.
    • HR gives you the option to talk several people out of suicide, and one man into releasing a hostage. You don't have to, but you get a nice bonus (Silver Tongue achievement) if you do.
  • While Team Fortress 2 is, at heart, a game about blowing up as many members of the opposite team as possible, it still highly encourages you to protect your own team-mates. That's why you can air-blast or douse burning players in Mad Milk or Jarate at the expense of your own ammo/weapons. Similarly, many players will sacrifice themselves to protect their Medic or Engineer over themselves.
    • The characters have various automatic responses depending on what's going on around them. One of these is the 'thanks' response after being healed by a friendly Medic or traveling through a friendly Engineer teleporter. Many Medic and Engineer players attest that it's those little shows of appreciation that keep them playing even if the job itself is horrifically stressful.
    • One of the Pyro's weapons, the Manmelter, actually rewards you for utilizing caring potential. It has the ability to extinguish burning teammates, similarly to the airblast. But doing it with the Manmelter rewards the player with a free Critical Hit. This can prove very useful against the enemy team.
    • One of the best things you can do with the Heavy's Sandvich is...give it to your teammates so they can eat it (and heal!). One of the most common recipients of the Sandvich is the Medic. He can heal everyone except himself, so it's only fair that you return the favor by healing him with the Sandvich while he heals you with the Medigun.
  • Depending on what game you're playing and what mods you have installed, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games allow you to sell weaponry and equipment to NPC's. If you sold them good stuff like a primary weapon and some ammo to go along with it, they will equip it right then and there. In vanilla, you can also approach wounded stalkers that are neutral or friendly to you and hand them a medkit to heal them, which also makes the neutral a friend of yours. In a place as unfriendly as the Zone, few things are as satisfying as getting a badly-armed rookie back up and handing him an Abakan so he can survive a few days longer.

    Horror 
  • Fatal Frame II gives you a twin sister to protect. She's a bit of a hassle because her knee is permanently injured, so she's slower, but what you soon learn is that she's like that because of Mio's (the playable character) fault, yet she never blamed her for it. Mio, however, is overwhelmed by guilt over this, so she is very protective of Mayu. These feelings are well transmitted into the player during the game, and so, Mayu's safety becomes an indisputable priority.
    • This is true unless you read the fanbook for the game or look in between the lines, where you will figure out that Mayu purposely fell and broke her knee, intending to use it to keep her sister close.
  • In Haunting Ground, you pair up with a white German Shepherd named Hewie early on. He becomes your main defense as you try to escape from your deranged pursuers. A major contributing factor towards what ending you get is how well you treat Hewie. You are given the option to praise him at any time, and can heal him if he is injured by giving him dog-only restorative items. If Hewie becomes so injured to point where lies incapacitated on the ground, you can go over to him and press the 'praise' button to comfort him and get him back on his feet. There is also a part later on in the game where Hewie is shot after he runs off in a forest. The player must search for him, their only clue being his whimpers of pain. If the 'call' button is pressed, Fiona will say Hewie's name in a very sad and concerned voice.
  • Left 4 Dead can be this way sometimes when it comes to the survivor AI. Sure, they may get in the way sometimes when you are shooting and they may always snatch up health items first, but it's hard not to care about them when they are so willing to give up their health kits and pain pills to keep you alive, even if they are on the verge of death themselves. On the other hand, many players find the AI so intolerable ("What the hell!? You could have saved me from that Smoker, you were standing right next to it!") that they punish the computer players by withholding assistance and letting them suffer.
  • Averted in Resident Evil 4, with Ashley. You're supposed to care for her and watch her, but it occasionally falls into Video Game Cruelty Potential when after she causes you to restart one too many times, you spend time trying to shoot her with rocket launchers, mine darts, and sniper rifles.
    • Played straight with the dog caught in the Bear Trap at the beginning. You'd have to have ice in your veins not to free him with the whimpers he makes.
  • Resident Evil 2 has Sherry Birkin, a twelve-year-old girl whom player character Claire Redfield must protect. Sure, she's not as handy as Leon's partner character (Badass Lady in Red Ada Wong), but she's just so adorable. What's more, when you walk through a level with Sherry in tow, and you stop long enough for her to catch up, she walks up and holds Claire's hand. It's hard not to feel at least a little protective of her.
  • Shows up on occasion in the Silent Hill games.
    • Silent Hill 2 has a very insidious subversion of this trope. Being caring and protective of Maria is the wrong choice, and nets the player the worst ending, since Maria is a demonic creation of the town designed to test James' faithfulness to Mary.
    • Likewise subverted in Silent Hill 3. The game has a invisible Karma Meter that works in the background, with every monster killed netting ten points and every point of damage taken worth one point. Getting more than 4,000 points leads to the "evil" ending, in which Heather is possessed and kills Douglas. The single greatest thing you can do to get the "evil" ending is to... go into the confessional and forgive a woman who exacted vengeance on the girl who killed her daughter, later realizing what she had done. This single act nets a thousand points.

      What really pushes this into a subversion is that the true meaning of Heather forgiving the woman isn't made clear until you play through a second time. By forgiving the woman for her crime, Heather isn't merely soothing her fear and guilt. She's accepting the responsibility of forgiving her or not, which Heather, as the reincarnation of Saint Alessa, has the divine right to do. Forgiving her means embracing who she really is, while saying nothing is a rejection of that and a decision to remain on the side of good.
    • Played straight in Silent Hill 4, which ends up with you playing lonely Henry protecting his next-door neighbor, Eileen. With Henry having been trapped in his hellish room for five or six days and counting, Eileen having been beaten within an inch of her life and limping around pitifully behind him, and the player being terrified (this IS Silent Hill), it's hard not to go out of your way to keep Eileen safe and healthy, either out of sympathy for one or both characters, or simply out of not wanting your lone companion to lose her mind and leave you braving the Otherworld all alone.
  • A rather bizarre example with the old Infocom text-adventure The Lurking Horror. At one point you pick up a dead hand. At another you encounter a vat of liquid which reanimated dead tissue. Drop the hand in the vat and, it comes to life, clambers onto your shoulder, and just sits there. It will occasionally point you in the right direction if you're lost, and it can scare the crap out of an irritating NPC. Since it's one of the only friendly things in the game, many players get extremely angry if anything (re-)kills the dead hand.
  • Deadly Premonition - You play as an FBI agent visiting a small town afflicted by a series of murders. You first meet up with the sheriff and his deputies, who are very unhappy with your interference. Later on they get to know you, and you genuinely start to like them; they take you out to dinner, romance blooms with one, and you help them and the other different and likeable characters around town with their own individual problems. This is almost heartbreaking when you reach the end of the game.
  • The Walking Dead has this in spades in the form of the Morality Pet, Clementine, a 9-year-old girl that Lee finds in an abandoned house near the start of the series. Aside from that, you can opt to feed others without taking any food of your own in the second chapter, and take burdens on yourself to spare others a Sadistic Choice throughout.

    MMORPG 
  • World of Warcraft slightly invokes this trope in the Death Knight starting quest line when you have to execute a member of your own race that you knew way back after he/she pleads with you to come to your senses.
    • And again in the quest The Mosswalker Savior, which can very suddenly turn around the player's feelings about the Oracles.
    • You get decent XP for the quest line, but that's not why you will go through hell to help little Pamela Redpath find her daddy.
      • While the Redpath questline is less intensive in Cataclysm, now the Eastern Plaguelands has an entire group of NPCs you travel with. Hearing things like the two paladins are childhood friends, or the Argent Crusader has been having trouble the last few years with his duties due to age, or even just that Gideon wants to kiss Fiona all make the player more attached to them. Which makes it so that Gideon's kidnapping results in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. At the end of the extremely long questline, Fiona gives the player a rare item, saying that it's something the entire caravan worked on for you and tells the you that you're welcome to join her caravan any time.
    • The game invokes this in a TRINKET with the badlands quest reward Rhea's Last Egg. Especially with the descriptive text "Please take care of him for me."
    • The craft skill Inscription has 'Forged Documents' as one of the higher level items. Once per day, you can make them and get a quest to turn them in to one of about six random people in the major city. One of them on the alliance side is Thomas Miller the baker, but if you give them to him you will probably feel like you just kicked a blind kid's one legged puppy. "My bread made someone sick? I hope my meager savings will help..."
    • There is a zone in the Hillsbrad Foothills where the player can find humans buried by a Mad Scientist in the ground with their heads sticking out, while surrounded by man-eating ghouls. The player, who at that point has done a good number of dog-kicking and killed plenty of humans, can choose to use a shovel to set them free - or to Mercy Kill them with a Shovel Strike.
    • A minor example for Alliance players in the Twilight Highlands is the "Small Comforts" sidequest. You're sent to retrieve various trinkets for dwarves who've lost their home. While it does mean you have to fetch them all over again, you can choose to give them to the dwarves in question instead of the quest giver. One of them insists that there will always be a spot for you at his dinner table after giving him back a hammer that had been in his family for generations. A very young dwarf asks if you've lost your home too and offers to let you sit next to her before you even give back her bear. The last is a widow who thanks you profusely for retrieving some dried flowers her husband gave her.
    • The quests in Westfall as of Cataclysm all revolve around clearing the zone of hostile beings, gathering supplies, and feeding the homeless. In other words, you're helping these people get back on their feet and stay there. It's very satisfying.
    • One of the Tillers dailies has you collect debts from various npcs around town. Every day two of them have trouble paying. While a couple of the npcs just don't want two pay, one is saving up to leave town and the other needs the money to either repair her inn or feed her family. Players can choose to threaten them into paying or pay the debt themselves.
  • Invoked in Star Trek Online: A lazy or selfish player could send his away team ahead on ground missions to do all the dirty work for him, and if they die there's very little in the way of penalties. Similarly, Tactical Captains gain a power to summon Red Shirt security officers; as one might expect, they have very low health and their primary usage is as cannon fodder. It can be quite satisfying to keep them alive, though.
    • For the space segments, there are a few missions with NPC ships that are under attack when you warp in. In particular, the Deferi sector has a repeatable mission which involves stopping an attack on a convoy of weakly armed transport ships. There's absolutely no reward for saving them, aside from a little extra firepower throughout the rest of the mission, but it's hard to let them just get destroyed.
    • Also in Deferi sector, there's an optional encounter with a Breen starship. Your tactical officer will detect Deferi lifesigns aboard, so you're given the option to hail the ship. The Breen will let you talk to the (Obviously scared) Deferi captive, who pretends to be an exchange officer. At this point, there are several choices: You can buy the Deferi slave outright with Latinum, you can destroy the ship with the Deferi still aboard, or you can employ a sensor-disrupting tactic to beam the Deferi straight to your ship. In an especially unusual twist, you can then either destroy the Breen ship or take the Deferi and leave the Breen ship intact. This is one case where not only is it wise to show compassion for your allies, but for your enemy as well. Unfortunately for the Klingons, the only option to rescue the Deferi is to buy them with Gold Pressed Latinum. If you destroy the ship (which Klingons would suggest doing anyway) while the Deferi is on board, then you blame them for being weak enough to get captured in the first place.
  • Invoked in Vindictus. Ellis, who happens to be an annoyingly naive cadet who follows around an army official and happens to eventually grow on you. Eventually, in Ainle, where you are supposedly exploring a dungeon with him, you watch his face get smashed in by a boss. Against the camera.
  • Ever lose a cat in Runescape? A kitten becomes a cat after ten real-time hours of being fed and petted. Alongside loving being stroked and enjoying play, a cat is the key to at least three quests. One of those quests involves mucking around inside a pyramid without being able to set the cat down. Since the rules concerning item loss-on-player death are linked to the price of items (your armor is more expensive than your cat) and you can only lose what you are actually holding, this can be frustrating.
    • Hell, it's easy to get attached to any of the pets. You'd be surprised how much you can like a giant crab.
    • When players die in Runescape, all of the items they lost on death are kept under a short-lived gravestone. Given that the most dangerous areas and a long way from the nearest respawn, it's not unlikely that you'll lose a lot because you couldn't get back in time. However, other players can repair your gravestone, giving you precious minutes so you can get your armour back... or they can just watch the gravestone wither away and take what used to be yours...
  • BioWare follows their usual standard in Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you do a good turn for the various NPCs you meet during your quests, they'll frequently send you an in-game email with their heartfelt, and heartwarming, thanks. (And some are served with a side of Moment of Funny)
    • Likewise, each of the eight character classes has five Companion Characters. Being a dick to them usually makes you feel like an utter heel. Win their affection, though, and you can get bonuses to crafting, unlock new quests, or even trigger a romance subplot.
  • Guild Wars second chapter, Factions, has a mission on the Luxon side, Gyala Hatchery. Normally, escort missions can be a pain, particularly if the AI you are guiding is prone to wading into combat (I'm looking at -you-, Rurik). Gyala Hatchery inspires players to go for the Master-level mission completion due to the fact that you must protect 3 newly hatched Seige Turtles, which waddle around in the middle of the group. Sure, they'll grow up to be artillery-carrying weapons of mass destruction, but it's hard not to feel bad when one bites the dust.

    Other 
  • Touched upon in this Kotaku article about "The Daddening of Video Games".
  • 100% Completion in Lemmings seems like a moral imperative. The lemmings' cute character designs don't help.
  • Used during the "Years of Yarncraft" storyline from Sluggy Freelance, when Torg and Zoe play a MMORPG and save some virtual puppies from being drowned. Then they discover that the bad guy they stopped just comes back to drown more puppies, only now they can't stop him because they already completed the quest. Eventually the mountain of dead puppies blots out the sun.
  • Die Anstalt. These poor little fluffy animals are so screwed up, you can't help but feel for them and genuinely want them to get better. Especially the alligator. Dear God. The poor thing cries when you finally help him.
  • In Sabres Of Infinity You may choose to be an honourable soldier and a fair, generous leader, abiding by the rules of engagement, with your men's best interests at heart.
  • Heavy Rain makes it very hard not to get attached to the characters. Especially considering all the horrible things they go through. Ethan is the most obvious example considering the death of Jason, and how determined the poor guy is to get Shaun back despite the trials. Just try not to care about him. And then there's struggling FBI profiler Norman, especially as you can help him get over his drug problem (not to mention it's painful watching him getting beaten up so many times). Even Shelby really wins you over with his heart-warming ways (we're talking about scrambled eggs and saving suicidal mothers, not drowning children here).
    • Ethan's interactions with Shaun and Jason can also make you rather protective of them.
  • In the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games, your partner Maya may be an annoyingly naive, burger demolishing bundle of energy, but it still feels like a punch in the gut every time she's accused of murder and/or kidnapped. Which happens an awful lot.
  • Journey. By the end of the game, the strange other character you've been wandering around with will be your best friend ever. (Of course, you could also leave them behind...)
    • Some clever folks have figured out how to send messages to the other player by drawing lines in the sand at the end of the last level. The most common symbol drawn? A heart. Aww.
  • The Minoto version of "The Little Match Girl" is all about undoing the story's Tear Jerker ending by saving the eponymous girl. It begins with her lying frozen and apparently dead on the ground... but a nearby snowman will donate his arms to use in building a fire to save her. After you've built the fire, she wakes up and kisses the snowman out of gratitude, giving him Blush Stickers. From there you move on to giving her a decent meal, and then to buying so many matches that she can move into a castle.
  • Numerous players in Minecraft have adopted pet slimes, since a bug prevents them from despawning. The recent addition of wolves and cats also encourages this, since they can be tamed and will subsequently fight alongside you or shun creepers respectively as long as you can keep them healthy.
    • The Let's Play'er Snap Wave adopted a pet creeper he named Mr. Creepy, which saved his life on numerous occasions. He almost started crying after it died.
    • Someone once rounded up Testificates to give them a nice new home.
      • Giving Villagers happy, safe, monster-free dwellings is also rewarding, since a grown village will eventually spawn friendly, powerful iron golems that will attack hostile monsters.
    • Being nice to noobs (more often just new to the server than just multiplayer) is not the norm as they are usually characterized as all being thieves and griefers. Many players will even try to scam them out of what little they have or raid their dirt and cobblestone houses. However if you let them stay at your large manor house or secret underground base they will usually be more than grateful, (so long as you made sure they weren't a thief) and it can be rewarding to have another person help out. And come on, everyone is a noob once.
    • Tamed wolves. Part of the appeal is having them serve as attack wolves to do your hunting and fighting for you. The other half is getting together a small entourage of those cute puppy-eyed critters and either keeping them home safe or taking them on adventures with you. The same can be done with the Creeper-repelling cats.
  • Catherine gives you plenty of opportunities to encourage, teach and save from themselves other guys in the same situation you are in. In fact, they'll even thank you for it. In fact, discouraging them from continuing the climb will result in their deaths. Some dialogue options actually make it very hard to tell which is which, so Save Scum early and often.
  • The Christmas 2007 event on Gaia Online had users fostering adorable shabby orphans, who would hang out by the user's avatar. The goal was to respond to the orphan's occasional requests and improve their (Dickens-esque) living conditions a little before returning them to the orphanage (and receiving an item as a reward for every few orphans so helped). Many users decided to "unofficially adopt" their orphans by never returning them to the orphanage. Then, when the event ended and the orphans went away anyway, the users stormed the forums to demand them back.
    • This led to the February 2008 Chance Item... adoption forms for said orphans.
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's second mission involves the Ghosts hunting down a warlord who has taken over a refugee camp. You get Challenges to avoid civilian casualties and kill every last one of the warlord's mooks terrorising the people.
  • Scribblenauts. You can sit in a level writing item after item to make NPCs happy and safe. Helping characters out is the entire point of Scribblenauts Unlimited.
  • Sparadrap from Noob cares about his pets enough to go berserk when they get killed in front of him and goes an extra mile by trying be friendly to enemies whose sole purpose is to be killed by players. This is also the reason for which the name of the Player Killer guild should really be Player, Mount and Pet Killer guild.

     Platformer 

    RPG 
  • BioWare RPGs all feature engaging casts of secondary characters that look up to the protagonist. While you can do mean, terrible things to them if you want, it's usually more satisfying to be nice to them. Most of the games also feature certain scenarios with diplomatic solutions. Sure, it's easy to wipe out a tribe of kobolds or lizardmen, but it's much more satisfying to earn their trust, arrange for peaceful cohabitation with humans, and have them consider you an honored friend.
    • Minsc in Baldur's Gate II. His epilogue will have you shed a tear, guaranteed.
    • Neverwinter Nights gives you Deekin. Anyone who can be cruel to Deekin is a monster with no soul. And those few who didn't care for him probably found themselves attached to Grobnar from Neverwinter Nights 2.
    • Knights of the Old Republic: the dialogue involved in turning Bastila back from the Dark Side.
      • Seeing Carth recover from his paranoia and vow to help you despite The Reveal.
      • Finding out that you were Juhani's inspiration for becoming a Jedi. She can be touchy and temperamental, but crack that and you have an awesome friend.
      • And while you can cross the Moral Event Horizon by killing Mission and Zaalbar the fact that you have to do it playing Dark Side has stopped many players from actually following through.
    • Jade Empire: the Drowned Orphan Quest. The ghosts of the orphans desperately want peace, as does the orphanage keeper, who was unable to save them. The Open Palm ending allows you to be bring peace to the spirits of all parties. Hell, half the fun of Open Palm is being able to settle the restless dead.
      • It's hard to be cruel to cute little Wild Flower...and so satisfying to kick that nasty demon that's bothering her into next week.
      • Kicking Sun Li's ass is very satisfying after hearing him insult Dawn Star (the sweetest, nicest person in your party) to her face. It's also a CMOH to free the enslaved spirit of Sun Kim, who had been forced into being Death's Hand for his corrupted brothers' benefit.
    • Picking the Colonist backstory in Mass Effect results in a sidequest where you find a character who was from the same colony as you, but who was captured and enslaved and became severely messed up. She was rescued, but grabbed a weapon away and hid. She talks about herself in the third person, and you can either rush in and jab her with a sedative or talk to her, approaching slowly, and administer it without spooking her. On the way you can learn some of the details about what happened and tell her it's not her fault. If you play it right, you can convince her to take the sedative herself, then, as she falls asleep in your arms, whisper the following to her:
      Shepard: You'll dream of a warm place. And when you wake up, you'll be in it.
      • That scene in particular is a Shout-Out to Aliens. It's much more noticeable if you're playing a Female!Shepard.
      • In the sequel, you get an email from her with her using the first person, thanking you and saying she's getting better. Yep, Good Feels Good.
    • Mass Effect 2 is replete with these. In particular, Miranda, Thane, Kasumi and Tali's loyalty all have endings that are bound to warm even the hardest hearts. And, of course, the (completely necessary) Paragon Interrupt to hug Tali.
    • After the suicide mission, if you romanced a crew member and they lived, you can invite them up to your cabin to cuddle.
    • If you romanced Tali in 2 and make sure she survives the suicide mission, when you meet up again in 3, she says that she left a present for in your cabin. What do you find? A picture of her without her suit on.
    • Dragon Age: Origins has this both in companion-related quests and in dialogue at camp. Though in one case there's an odd subversion: Alistair's companion quest. He wants to go to Denerim to meet his long-lost half-sister. No matter what dialogue options you choose, there is no way for this encounter to end well, and Alistair is badly upset by it... but if you choose the "some people are selfish" dialogue option afterwards, this turns out to be a crucial turning point that can result in Alistair being "hardened"... which opens up some positive outcomes later on. In fact, if you're playing as a female character romancing him, it's the only way your relationship will survive if you end up making him king.
      • Leliana and Alistair are this in general, especially if you romance one of them. They're both just too damn sweet and Adorkable.
      • The team's resident Dark Action Girl, Morrigan, comes across as a Stupid Evil Jerk Ass to most of the cast. This can also extend to the player. But if the PC shows her respect and treats her well, it is possible to befriend or romance her. Considering what a dick she can be at times, it can be very satisfying to see Morrigan slowly soften up when she's around you and basically tell you that you are the only person she gives a damn about.
      • Your dog. From the way he fetches items for you, fights alongside you, interacts with your teammates, and rolls around happily on his back when you pet him at camp, even the most ruthless Warden will probably be nice to their poochie.
    • Dragon Age II has Merrill, a shy elf girl who turned to blood magic and is now hated by her whole clan. Once she befriends Hawke, she's the most adorable little thing. Heck, even your snarky companions act nice to her!
      • Through conversations that your party members have walking around, it's revealed that Varric is paying money to thugs to leave Merrill alone while she walks around at night.
      • This short comic neatly sums up many player's reaction upon first meeting her.
      • Though Dragon Age II also makes this trope hurt like hell, what with all the horrible things that your characters go through (or do...)
    • Non-Bioware but definitely closely related example: talking to the Handmaiden after Atris nearly tortures her to death with Force Lightning for falling in love with you in Knights of the Old Republic 2.
      • Possibly more so is the speech Visas/Mical (depending on player character gender) gives you after the final trip to Dantooine if you were nice to her/him.
  • Many of Nippon Ichi's game have ending flags based on the number of allies you killed. In particular, the first Disgaea game, Hour of Darkness, locks you out of the best (and ultimately canon) ending if you kill even one of your own characters.
  • Dragon Quest V was built on it.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has given all the NPCs personality, unique quotes, a friendship minigame that will have them fight for you if they like you enough, and they don't come back to life.
    • Well, there's one who comes back to life naturally, but he inspires more Cruelty than Caring.
    • It's also easy to become loyal to causes within the game. Try not to feel proud when you wear a Kvatch cuirass after saving the town.
      • Pillaging your way through Oblivion - especially just after completing the Crusader quest- can bring with it a healthy sense of retribution as you loose a hundredfold the pain and suffering of Kvatch on those poor, poor Dremora. Good for Level Grinding, too.
      • Or sad when your little Imperial Legion helpers run to help (and die)...
    • Baurus, the only other character to survive the attack in the tutorial, will pledge loyalty to the player and accompany him on several quests - assuming he survived the last one. Emerging from the Oblivion Gate onto the Bruma battlefield where Martin is giving a victory speech only to see Baurus among the dead can be quite a Player Punch.
    • One of the quests for the Dark Brotherhood involves you killing an entire family, and the mother herself gives you her children's names and locations when she thinks you're from a professional gift-buying service. It's hard to not feel like a terrible person for what you're about to do.
    • One quest in the Fighters Guild has a woman named Biene Amelion hire you to raid her family's crypt and fetch some artifacts that she hopes she can sell off and clear some debts accumulated by her father. You can choose to forgo that entirely and just pay the debt off yourself.
  • Fable II allows you to marry and have a son or daughter, which will rapidly mature into an adorable child that calls you "dah-dee" or "mum-mee" depending on your gender. Big Bad Lucius kills them at the end of the game. Which hurts less than when he kills your dog.
    • You can get them back though, but you'll lose all that money and sacrifice everybody else who has died. Guess it depends on what you care most for...it's got to be the dog surely!
  • Fallout
    • A great many players developed an attachment to recurring NPC Dogmeat, going to great lengths to keep him alive despite being more of a liability than anything else. (Hell, the AI practically made him play fetch with sticks of thrown dynamite in the first game). Bethesda seemingly took note of this trend, as the Fallout 3 DLC Broken Steel introduced a Perk called 'Puppies!' that specifically lets Dogmeat respawn if killed. He even comes back tougher.
    • Fallout 3 in general can involve a lot of this for a good character. Things like saving Big Town give you a real warm and fuzzy feeling, especially if you don't ask for a reward. Although it makes money a little harder to come by, the role-playing satisfaction inherent in being good to Big Town and Megaton and Rivet City and anywhere else decent people are just trying to get by is one of the best parts of the game for a good character.
    • In Fallout 3, reports of your exploits are also spread by the disc jockey Three Dog, who pays increasing tribute to you. You also get random encounters from inhabitants of the wasteland thanking you for everything you're going for them. It can increase the warm-and-fuzziness.
      • Though sometimes at the cost of sheer rage induction. Try making regular roundtrips to Megaton to maintain your stash when your Karma hits Very Good status (which is actually a lot harder to avoid than you think). The limitations and mechanics of the dialogues will turn your rewards into an unbearable punishment.
    • Both excessively Good and Evil karma will also cause random encounters from either the Regulators or Talon Company. Or both, if you've crossed the line more than once.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas there is ED-E the eyebot, who is also a loyal Companion Cube to a degree, as he doesn't talk unless prompted to (at first) and then only in a series of unintelligible beeps. In the base game he's a pretty useful companion that the player is encouraged to bond with, but then he got a DLC focused around him. In Lonesome Road, ED-E is your only companion in The Divide, which is a post Apocalyptic Hell-scape. ED-Es beeps become more diverse during this time and he reveals more of his backstory through Audio-Logs, and your dialogue options with him become much more conversational and diverse. You can either choose to respond to him with love and acceptance or blatantly tell him that he is a machine and that you don't care about his problems.
    • In the first story quest, you can either protect Goodsprings from the Powder Gangers or help them wipe it off the map. Even evil players tend to lean towards the former.
  • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years puts Calca and Brina (raised out of the Uncanny Valley territory they resided in Final Fantasy IV) in the player's team and has them rescue Rydia and Luca from an attack. After this, they malfunction and Luca is forced to deactivate them. Later, under normal circumstances, Luca is forced to scrap them for parts in order to get her airship off the ground. This can be skipped, actually. The way to skip it is a complete Guide Dang It that involves random drops in a game where the drop rate is simply inexcusably low, but let's be honest, who wouldn't do it?
  • Final Fantasy Tactics
    • That sort of thing happens with Miluda, which is an enemy example. You have to fight her twice and there's no way around it.
    • It's quite the Wham moment the first time you go to the effort of having a Mediator with Invite in the party specifically for that fight, go out of your way to incapacitate all of her allies, and then learn that no, there's no way you can convince her to join your side.
    • Some players will go out of their way to save their generic party members from death (if any character stays at "knocked out" status for too long, they die permanently), even if it means restarting a battle that is almost over.
    • Similarly in Tactics, if you ever try and manually dismiss a party member from the menu screen, they give a "Do you really want to do this" speech. With generic team mates it hurts the soul a bit, and with unique characters it hurts a bit more, but at least they're just sad about leaving. Monsters, however - all but one of which the player will have personally recruited via Mediators - are heartbreaking because not only are they sad at having to leave, they don't understand what's going on.
      "...'expel'? Is 'expel'... good?"
  • Final Fantasy VI
    • There is a segment when you have to take care of another character by feeding him fish. Whether he lives or dies doesn't matter to the story as the game progresses either way, but there's something oddly rewarding in keeping him alive.
    • On the other hand, the emotional impact of the story is much greater if he dies, so some players try to make him die on purpose. Of course, since the mechanics of the fishing minigame are never explained, there's high chance the result during your first playthrough will be random anyway.
    • Perhaps especially notable, as the person you save is in fact the guy who created and maintained the machines that suck the life energy out of magical creatures, and who was utterly furious at you when you turned said machines off.
      • He's also the closest thing the character you're controlling has to a father figure. Just for the record.
    • When you are trying to escape from you first visit to the Floating Continent, there is a timer showing how long you have to escape before a Non-Standard Game Over. Shadow doesn't show up at the end at your airship with the rest of the party, and if the player leaves immediately, he's Killed Off for Real, but they can save him if the wait for the timer to almost run out, giving him time to catch up, allowing him to be recruited back into the party later. As Shadow proved to memorable character even among this game's cast, many players that know that opt to save him. Likewise, while getting most of the character back in the World of Ruin is optional, they're likable enough that you're likely to want to help them.
  • Final Fantasy VII has this trope twice. The most famous one, near the end of the game, is when you confront the Turks one last time. If you did a sidequest earlier in which you teamed up with them, you can choose not to fight. The two sides make peace and go their separate ways. An earlier example is when you steal a submarine and encounter a trio of Shinra goons guarding it... except it's those same goons you befriended earlier in the game when you were undercover. You can choose to simply take the guards prisoner instead of killing them.
    • Also, in an inversion, Rude has a crush on Tifa, as he tells Reno at one point. If she's the only party member left standing, he has a 50% chance of hesitating and skipping his turn! So the game cares about you, too!
  • Final Fantasy IX: During the invasion of Cleyra, you can hurt the Alexandrian soldiers enough to make them flee, rather than killing them. After all, they didn't start the war either....
  • Lost in Blue, which has DS and Wii incarnations, is another game built around this. You play as Keith, a young man who finds himself stranded on a desert island with Skye, who has lost her glasses and is Blind Without 'Em. You must forage for food and water to keep you and your partner alive, and since she doesn't leave the cave you call home unless you're dragging her by the hand a la Ico, you have to plan ahead to leave her adequate food and water while you're away unlocking new parts of the island or hurry back when her stats drop too low. "She's getting thirsty... She's hungry..."
  • Although RPGs can be a mixed bag when it comes to this trope, since most tend to revolve around a group of plucky young adventurers who can go on for days about The Power of Friendship, the later games in the Persona series are rife with it in the form of Social Links. Because it's unlikely that a player will be able to successfully complete all of them in a single playthrough, and there's no consequence for not doing them, the ones the player does complete are probably going to be the ones for the characters they like best (like the little girl whose parents are divorced in 3, or the boy whose sister was murdered in the main plot in 4).
  • Persona 3 and 4 have this in the form of Social Links, each modeled after a particular tarot card. There is something incredibly satisfying in maxing someone's link out, knowing they're going to be alright, 4's Nanako Dojima (Justice) in particular, with the words "I love you, Big Bro!". Nanako almost certainly invokes this, considering what happens to her and what you can do to the one responsible. Persona 3 Portable takes this Up to Eleven with Shinjiro Aragaki (The Moon). Maxing out his Social Link can delay his death by five months.
    • Persona 2: Innocent Sin places the characters and their relationships at the absolute heart of the story, fleshing them and their motivations out so deeply that the decision of which Love Interest you prefer can feel simultaneously like powerful Caring Potential for the one you choose, while equally great Video Game Cruelty Potential for the one(s) you pass over.
  • Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow Version. This version introduced the happiness mechanic, but only for Pikachu- you could look at it and see how it liked you. So you wanted to keep it happy by using it in battle but not letting it faint, not keeping it locked up in the PC, etc. (Or you could just repeatedly use the Potion from your PC on it at full health and get it to love you in two minutes flat.)
    • In the remakes of Pokémon Gold and Silver, HeartGold and SoulSilver, you can have not only Pikachu out and about with you, but any Pokémon you want. So if Pikachu couldn't earn your love, now you've got options.
      • Not only that, but can get to interact with them in a much deeper level. At first they will get angry at you repeatedly, but if you care well about them they will go as far as play with you and look for flowers and things to give to you.
    • Nicknaming your Pokémon will inevitably lead to you caring about them. And getting pissed at enemies who KO your little Pichu. And then you bust out your Level 100 Charizard and roast the NPC's team of Grass-types.
    • Ever since the happiness system was introduced in Gen II, you try to keep your Pokémon happy, even if only for those that evolve because of it. Interestingly, there's a move that increases in power for this (Return), and one for how much they hate you (Frustration).
    • Forging a deeper connection with your Pokémon is pretty much the whole point of a Nuzlocke Challenge run. If a Pokémon faints, it is "dead" and can never be used again, the number of Pokémon you can catch is also limited, which makes you use species that would've been overlooked otherwise, and you also have to name every one you catch. When done right, every lost party member feels like a punch in the gut.
      • Petty, an author of a Nuzlocke comic, just knows how to pull at your heartstrings every time she has a friend die.
    • Something completely unrelated to the Pokémon themselves, however, is an optional side-quest in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and its remake, Platinum. In it, there is a cave beneath Cycling Road named Wayward Cave, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. In the furthest point of the cave is a young girl named Mira, whose sprite looks to be about half the height of your character's. She has a lone Kadabra without Teleport, Dig, Rock Smash (required to get through the cave), or Flash. She begs you to escort her out, which your character does without your input (you'd have to have a heart of ice to refuse, though). What really makes this an example is that Mira really doesn't give you much of a reward for saving her, other than you being able to rebattle her in the Battleground or team up with her in the Battle Tower later, neither of which are very significant in themselves. Saving her is completely optional, too. Fridge Horror kicks in when you think about the real-life implications of being stuck in a dark cave with literally no way of escape, and exactly how terrifying it would be to a little girl.
    • Pokémon-Amie in Pokémon X and Y was made with this in mind, allowing you to interact with your Pokemon by petting them, feeding them, and making faces at them (Which they'll try to imitate), among other things. A Pokemon that's become fond of you through this will also gain numerous benefits in battle, along with the battle text being changed to emphasize the bond they share with you.
    • Metagame example: The internet interaction, also for X and Y. For Wonder Trade, send over a rare Pokémon, or, any Pokémon with perfect IVs, Egg Moves, and/or Pokérus. For O-Power, send your highest O-Power. For the Global Trade Station, offer a rare Pokémon for something more common.
  • The Quest for Glory adventure/RPG series has the character classes of fighter, mage, thief and paladin. Becoming and playing as the latter requires going well out of the way of the rest of the game mechanics to do Right. Some of a paladin's deeds are too rewarding to count as simple altruism (returning a reward, telling a disarmed enemy to re-arm -> Flaming Sword), others likely count (snuggling a rotting undead -> one released spirit, you smelling and waist deep in a lake).
  • In Snatcher, you can reconcile with your wife, or help an elderly Freeman return to his family before death. You are not rewarded for doing so beyond the congratulations of your Robot Buddy.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, you command a small squadron of Militia soldiers in a WWII-ish war. Each and every one of those 50-odd soldiers have their own appearance, traits, skills, backstory, and future life that they will go on to after the ending - IF they're still alive. And thanks to the fairly well-balanced AI, the only way they're going to die, is if YOU screw up. And yes, they have death-sequences with lines, calling out to loved ones, declaring their loyalty to the nation, the unit, or even just to you, as they draw their last breath... which, of course, makes you hate General Damon with the burning intensity of a thousand suns when he starts treating the militiamen as expendable Cannon Fodder.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has a few times where you technically don't need to save the NPC to finish the quest, but it feels so much nicer to pull it off.
    • Zhao, a Chinese ex-gangster, gave you information to fulfill a debt of honor, and now his gang is trying to kill him for helping you; he's so stoic about his fate that it just seems wrong if you can't kill the enemy fast enough to keep him alive, even though you get the information either way.
    • A Japanese girl came to America hunting a demon that slaughtered her master, and you've helped her find that demon; even if she dies in the fight, you can still kill the demon and get the mission XP, but who really wants to see Yukie die after coming so far for vengeance?
    • A confused elderly scholar got kidnapped for his knowledge of an ancient sarcophagus, and you needed to rescue him for that same info. When you find him, he's polite, helpful, scared, clad only in a bathrobe, locked inside a damp corner of a cave, and willing to tell you everything he knows for even a hope of rescue. Once his captors set off the bombs and bring down the entire cave in a last-ditch effort to kill you, you can either sprint off on your own and make much better time, or take the time to lead out Dr. Johansen while trying to ignore that big flashing death timer on your screen.
    • Therese and Jeanette Voerman, two feuding sisters actually two sides of a Malkavian's split personality. If you've come to like both, it can be a Player Punch when you're forced to choose which one of them dies at the hands of the other. If you have high enough social stats and you've been nice to both of them, though, you can talk them into forgiving each other and reuniting.
    • And then there's a dying girl you can save by turning her into a ghoul. The process creates a "blood bond" meaning she falls in love with you (though this is closer to an addiction to your presense and blood), and she will ask to stay with you, offering you her college money and other assistance, including ultimately the best armour in the game. However if you keep her around she will tell she is being followed and will eventually be killed by your enemies in a cutscene. Heartbreaking as it is, it really is better for her to turn her away.
  • In The Witcher, your character is, at one time, entrusted to take care of a young Child Mage who seems to be a minor NPC early on in the game. You're tasked with teaching him lessons about life, morality, and just general stuff which sort of endear him to you over time, especially given the number of times you need to protect him. Which makes his sudden and irreversible disappearance roughly three fourths of the way into the game all the more painful, not to mention the possible Twist Ending that hints at what happened to him afterward.
  • One of the first quests in Ancient Domains of Mystery provides this (along with That One Sidequest): Why would you risk your brand-new level one character going up against giant ants (fast carapace-armored psych-immune killing machines), an underground river (in a world with Super Drowning Skills) and four more levels of early-game hell? Because an adorable little girl admiringly calls you a "true hero" for bringing back her puppy dog. That's why.
  • There's much caring potential in Fallout: New Vegas. First, there's the companions, each of them is well written, well voiced, incredibly helpful, and, thankfully, in casual mode, quite immortal. However, in Hardcore mode, they can (and almost certainly will) die. For this reason, more than a few people avoid taking companions with them in Hardcore mode, seeing as how they couldn't bear the thought of seeing their friends die.
    • Then there's the towns, filled with nice, charming, helpful citizens who will give you discounts and free stuff once you've done them a few small favors. Makes it a hell of a lot harder for you to come back in your next playthrough and murder them all horribly with a chainsaw, doesn't it?
  • In Golden Sun 1, the town of Kolima has all of its residents turned into trees - frozen in whatever position they were in at the time. If you visit the town before this happens, you'll see a group of kids playing by a river just outside of the town. They stand on each others' shoulders to try to get a persimmon out of the tree. When you come back and they've become trees, the children were still standing on each other, and so they collapsed, with one of the children landing in the river. At this point, you can either walk into the water and pull the kid-tree into the shallows, or go on with your business. Once the plot's moved on and the people are restored to human form, the child will thank you and give you a little reward. It doesn't take much effort to save her, and the reward is small. However, if you don't save her, the other two children she was playing with will mope around and give heartrendingly sad statements about the fate of their friend. That alone is enough to make you want to restart...
  • Shin Megami Tensei has this with the demon negotiation system. If you encounter a demon who has a same-species already in your party, you can talk your way out of doing battle with them, which spares the lives of both you and the demon and in some cases rewards you with an item, HP and MP restoration, or Macca. So you just recruited one of the cute little Jack Frosts, and you encounter a wave with another one of them...forget battle, they're too adorable to kill!
    • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey's fifth sector, you'll occasionally find comrades, Jimenez included, who have fallen asleep due to sleep floors. You can kick them awake, which tends to reward you with an item.
      • Some demons will actually beg for their lives if you beat them within an inch of it. It's surprisingly satisfying to have something like a giant snake demon thank you for sparing him, or even join you out of appreciation.
  • Near the end of Bastion, the player is given the opportunity to save Zulf, rather than leaving him to die. If you choose the first option, the Ura become so impressed with your Determinator status that they back down and let both of you leave alive.
  • There's a lot you can do in Planescape: Torment to fulfill this trope, from helping a terrified and mentally shattered woman find her way home after decades of searching to helping a shy guard and a lonely but cheerful woman come together. But what really deserves special mention is playing the very end of the game several times until you figure out how you can save all of your dead companions.
    • Not to mention that it gets a lot harder to let your character "die" frivolously once you've played the game to the end and know the true cost of each of The Nameless One's averted deaths .
    • It's also possible to go above and beyond with Dak'kon's therapy and not only completely restore his self-confidence and courage but make him even stronger than he was before his city was destroyed. Unfortunately, it's next to impossible because it's so buggy and counterintuitive and it's unfinished in the unmodded game anyway.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D has the Dream Eaters, colorful creatures who fight alongside Sora and Riku as they venture through the sleeping worlds. Not only you can you name them, pet them, change their colors, and play training games with them — the higher their affinity for you is, the stronger they are. Alternatively, you can just kill them off and harvest their Dream Fragments to make better Dream Eaters with. Monster.
  • EarthBound: Ness abandoned the cookie.
    • There's also the Bird Men in Magicant. If you get one of them killed on your way to the Sea of Eden, another one will gladly join your side if you go back to their house. However, there's a marked grave just outside of the house for every one of them you let die.
  • In the Suikoden series, sometimes your characters can die for real, be it in a cinematic event or a less-dramatic death on the battlefield. Either way, you do feel lousy for the death of your characters, which are sometimes friends with your other characters, or even family. It also doesn't help that many of the best endings and secrets are unlocked by making it to the end of the game with all 108 characters alive.
    • Certain characters will die outside of your control in final stages of each game. There's absolutely nothing you can do about it; their deaths are part of the ending. But despite the sheer number of characters, the games tend to make you care enough about them that it's still a Player Punch.

    Simulation 
  • Heck, this is the whole point of "virtual pet" games... Tamagotchi, Digimon, Neopets, etc.
    • And the plaintive pleas to reconsider will make you feel like a real bastard if you ever put a Neopet up for adoption and leave the game.
  • In Black & White, Sable and several similar characters become normal villagers once they stop being important to the game. The player should, theoretically, be able to keep them alive until the end.
    • If you are good or neutral, you can grab an NPC and place him in your village, the game speaks "Live here in peace."
    • You also can pet your Creature and cause him to turn into a puddle of happy goo.
  • Dwarf Fortress names every single one of your dwarves, all the elves, all the humans etc. It also names monsters and animals that kill things, which can lead to situations like having a giant bat called "Bridgebane the Hammer of Pacifism". And who wouldn't want to keep a bat with a name like that alive?
    • The guy who lost half his military to the damn thing. The "batman" creatures (according to the DF Wiki, they CAN breathe in space) are often assigned names because your dwarves feel like it, and are far better for the purposes of this trope because they didn't get that name by butchering your dwarves.
      • This happens because your dwarves have favorite animals. A fortress with a dwarf who likes a certain type of anthro creature will end up with every member of a tribe of, for instance, slug men each having unique names.
    • Nor the detailed relationships between all your dwarves with spouses, children, lovers, friends, acquaintances, enemies, and several levels between.
    • Add to that making personality a factor in behavior — an irritable noble who demands crap you can't produce gets sent quickly to the killing chambers, a laid back noble who requests things you're producing anyway is an unexpected gift.
    • Your original 7 dwarves work so hard to get your fortress off the ground. It's not fun when one of them dies, especially if it's a particularly stupid death. (Which is unfortunately very easy to accomplish.)
    • There is a notable gameplay aspect to this tendency in DF. Even if you don't particularly care about a given entity in the game, your dwarves do. If your dwarf's pet or family member or close friend dies, they can get very upset.
    • All of which lead to some of the most creative Video Game Cruelty Potential as the player tries to build the most inventively vicious deathtraps possible to turn goblin sieges into paste. Or even better, catch them all in cages and let your happy little dwarves use them for sparring practice. Especially once you've lost a few favorite dwarves to the goblins.
    • No matter how long its owner has been dead, a war dog will always keep the title "pet of (name)".
    • Companions in Adventurer Mode can inspire this as well.
    • This DF fan comic has a player caring too much about an enemy kobold to have his dwarves stop it from stealing from him.
  • Just try not to feel any affection for your fake spouse and child in Harvest Moon. Even after every Scripted Event has been shown and there is nothing left to do, it is near impossible to stop playing thanks to the Playable Epilogue.
    • If you played any Harvest Moon game, it's a good bet that you have been in a panic about finding some random citizen's birthday, and saying a prayer that they like the Radish that you didn't sell specially to give to them! And let's not even mention your animals (Everyone else panicked and brought their dog in at the chance of rain, right?)
      • Sometimes, Videogame Caring Potential breeds itself, in that in some games your dog likes you more for holding it when you go to sleep. If you always let your pet sleep on your bed anyway, there's no chance of leaving it out in a storm in the first place.
  • Also played straight in Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim. In an innovative, if sometimes frustrating twist, you do not have direct control over your troops; rather, you are the sovereign of the land, and you hire heroes and they wander about questing on their own. It's like a more interactive version of Progress Quest, really. With nifty sprite graphics. If you want something attacked, either wait for the hero to wander by it, which will cause other heroes to hear the sounds of battle and join in; build a guard tower close by to direct your free guardsmen there; or place a bounty on the object and they will attack until either they destroy the object (for example, the elven buildings in the abducted prince quest) or pick it up and bring it home (for example, the titular items in the "Bell, Book, and Candle" quest).
  • In the iPhone game Pocket God, you control a small tribe on an island. You can kill them in various horrible ways (feeding them swordfish, drowning them etc), but you can also set the sky to sunset and the little looks of wonder on their faces is possibly the cutest thing ever. You can also light a fire, make it night-time, and watch them all curl up in a group to sleep like they didn't just spend all day getting attacked by dinosaurs and ice monsters.
  • This is the major premise of the Princess Maker games. And it works.
    • Heck, even Something Awful was so damn proud of their adoptive brat by the end of it. Helps that she ended up becoming an Enfante Terrible who not only commits regicide but ends up usurping Satan.
  • The Sims is both this and cruelty potential, depending on the kind of player you are.
    • Alice And Kev is an example of just how powerful this can be in The Sims.
    • A creepypasta actually shows this too. A ghost of a child who was abused in his life and died in a housefire uses the game as a second chance at life, and the player grants it to him upon seeing the state that he was in when he played the family.
    • The Sims Medieval balances this and cruelty potential just as the main series does. While you will die if you're too mean and don't complete necessary tasks, the amount you can do to care for your hero sims, their families and even the random civilians caters to this trope. The fact that murder, plague, alcoholism, political tension, etc mean that Sims can have worse problems than in the main games just makes you care for your kingdom more. Notable moments include finding a giant crab-man and befriending it, finding a lost child and freeing a genie.
  • Though not strictly a video game, Vocaloid is a brilliant demonstration of this principle. Think about it: It's a digital voice simulator built on samples of a voice actor or actress' donated data, each with a cute anime-style mascot character, but with no explicit personality. After you've listened to those characters sing, it's hard not to think of them as people and even have incredible loyalty to the programs you use the most.
  • In Choice of Broadsides, you can become good friends (and even lovers if you take the Gay Option!) with Villeneuve, an honorable pirate. If you do so and have high enough combat skills, you can choose to merely disarm him/her instead of outright killing him/her, upon which he/she will surrender voluntarily and say that if he/she has to give up his/her ship, at least it's to you. Tends to be much more satisfying than just offing him/her.
  • Monster Rancher has plenty of this as you work your Mons up to tournament champions. Doubly so if it's a game where they can die.
  • Caring for cute little lambs, ducklings, and puppies is one of the reasons Farmville is so popular.
  • Animal Crossing can bring this up, seeing as it's basically a neighborhood simulator. You can easily get attached to your villagers, who are all cute, colorful animals that you can befriend and snuggy wuggy woogy wub. It can be extremely heartbreaking if one moves away because of your neighbor limit. Sometimes, neighbors will move to friends' towns. This can potentially cause an estranged relationship with that real-life friend.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Gardens runs off this. You create your own Little Pony and can feed her apples, play games with her, brush her hair, teach her how to jump, and generally keep her happy — and then, in the end, let her go free.
  • Kerbal Space Program players often go to great lengths to protect (and/or rescue) their little green astronauts.

    Space Combat 
  • Brilliantly done in the Homeworld series. Each part has a single moment where extra efforts aimed at saving people are more or less optional and are without material reward of any kind but are extremely compelling and self-satisfactory:
    • In the first game you return home after a hyperdrive test run only to find your planet in flames and the Taiidan destroying the cryo trays with the last remnants of your race. One of the trays is already damaged by the time you arrive, and in a "normal" course of events the invaders will destroy it before you can destroy them. There is no reprimand for that and no bonuses for saving the tray, but, goddammit, there is a hundred thousand people in it!
    • In the semi-sequel, Cataclysm, you encounter a civilian convoy under attack by nanovirus delivery missiles. Here extra lengths to protect the transports are more or less justified from the pragmatic point of view, since each converted transport starts launching missiles itself, and once the enemy runs out of clean transports it turns on you. Still you can't help but feel a moral obligation to protect as many transports as possible. Especially once you hear the screams of a ship's crew being "converted" and realise just how many people are supposed to be in there...
    • The finale of Homeworld 2 repeats the tragedy that destroyed Kharak over Hiigara when three Progenitor weapon platforms start barraging the surface of Hiigara with atmospheric deprivation warheads. Intercepting every rocket is a quite difficult as it must be done manually and you'll have to constantly switch between the tactical screen, where the rockets are visible, and the game screen, where all the fighting takes place, but these inconveniences are completely blotted out by a single thought: "Not a single rocket must reach the surface. You hear me? NOT A SINGLE ONE!!!"
  • In Star Trek: Bridge Commander, you encounter a vessel belonging to the enemy who, during a large firefight, has kept out of battle with their shields down. Your crew makes note of it before it turns away and warps out. You encounter the same ship later, guarding your objective, but again, with its shields down and making no effort to attack you. This is where you ought to slow down, take a breath, and think, "What Would Captain Picard Do?" Open hailing frequencies. The result is gaining a new ally and making the last level much easier, your sector admiral giving you huge glowing praise, more detail about what's going on with the plot, and the satisfaction that Gene Roddenberry's view of the universe is still alive and well, even in an action game.
  • Starlancer, a space fighter from the makers of Wing Commander, has an entire squadron of Red Shirt wingmen, none of whom are actually useful in battle and tend to ram things to death (their own). But...they each have their own backstory in the game's information system, like the petite blonde girl who joined the Navy Fighter Corps after being a star in a barnstorming show...in space. Or the bitter little Frenchman, or the black-market dealing Scot, or the sultry Italian chick...the list goes on. Also, when they die, they die screaming in a truly disturbing manner.
    • Speaking of Wing Commander, it's not uncommon for players to replay missions where their wingmen were killed in the first game, in which Anyone Can Die was in full force. Except for Maniac, who can just stay dead.
    • Also, in Wing Commander III, on the later missions where Anyone Can Die comes into play. There's a reason you can take fewer wingmen along the final stretch You get the single ending if you picked the pilot as your love interest and bring her along- all wingmen die at some point along that series of missions. However, if you bring Maniac along, he actually listens, sometimes, and becomes a little more competent, so he's not as bad a choice.
  • NPCs killing one's Player Mooks in the X-Universe games has been known to spark a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the part of the player. That Xenon Q that just blew up a helpless transport has no idea that there's about to be a Boreas-class destroyer dropped on him.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light, there's nothing stopping you from being as caring as possible to your crew, especially denying events that result in crew loss (or using blue options to circumvent them) to the point there's an achievement called "No Red Shirts Here". It's also caring to choose the more caring decisions such as letting enemies surrender, freeing slaves to join your crew, and one event has an Engi ship mistake you for a pirate and offers to transfer goods for it's survival. If you explain you're friendly, it either gets underway without saying anything or gives you the goods anyways for realizing you need every scrap of help you can get.

    Strategy 
  • In the latest Advance Wars, troops now get "Veteran" statuses etc. for defeating troops- making individual units theoretically more unique. This was done to discourage the Infantry Spam tactics from previous games. Unfortunately, with the boosts so meager for the unit's usual unlikeliness to survive for much longer, it doesn't work very well.
    • Game Boy Wars 3, on the other hand, has Materials in addition to the standard Gold for building units. The price gaps with Materials are much smaller in the game than the ones with money in other installments—and with the Gold price gaps being outright immense in Game Boy Wars 3, this does mean infantry spam is weakened, as replacing units is punished, and just repairing them could easily deny you better units. Good thing too, because enemy units are weakened when adjacent to multiple units.
      • As if the EXP system (which was also in Super Famicom Wars) wasn't enough, eh? Add unit promotion in GBW3 and there's plenty of reason to stay alive.
    • The latest Advance Wars also changed how the Technique-rating was calculated. Before, you could spam units towards the end of the game to make your survival look good, but that actually lowers it in the new one. Now, the best strategy is to let many of them live.
      • The method of calculating tries to anyway. Unfortunately, it fails spectacularly the way the formula is handled.
    • None of the above have anything on Arrangement in Campaign mode of Game Boy Wars 3. In Campaign, completing a map puts your surviving units in the reserves and then on a subsequent map, Arrangement will let you send out a unit, with its Experience retained, on an allowed property near your HQ, and you don't have to pay anything for it, just the property's liberty for the turn. You can even promote certain units before putting them out on the field if they are at S Rank. Obviously, the key to succeeding in Campaign would be to plan out your units so as to deal with any possible situation, and concentrate on keeping them alive.
    • Battalion Wars does the same thing by making everything adorable. The first time you take control of a tank and a grunt quietly goes "Take good care of her, sir" may make you go "aww". The trouble starts when you realize that the opposing forces are just as cute, and they have accents.
    • The spiritual hex-based predecessor of the AW series, interface-wise, Nectaris, gives units from 1-9 xp, they earn one for an attack, one extra for attacking with no losses, and of course each xp slightly boosts all combat-related stats. Much like Myth, however, you only get what you have, instead factories are for repairing units that aren't totally destroyed.
  • A semi-obscure open source strategy game for the PC called Battle for Wesnoth turns this up to 11. Not only can you recall units from previous scenarios in the campaign modes, but they also have quasi-unique names and randomized traits such as "Swift" and "Intelligent" which give them certain bonuses. There just has to be at least 1 guy out there who has mourned the death of a unit.
    • Helped by the fact that units can gain experience and level up not unlike RPG characters, which comes into play especially in campaign mode where they take that experience with them from one scenario to the next. A higher-level unit that you've worked to get to that point is naturally easier to feel invested in than just another random new recruit (while on the other hand any such new recruit has at least the potential to get to that point itself in turn...).
  • In all iterations Civilization starting with III (including the console game Revolutions), the "Cultural Victory" path rewards you for building an enlightened Democracy with Cathedrals and Universities to contrast your cruel and warlike Communist neighbors. It makes you go all warm and fuzzy inside to see neighboring cities defect en masse and welcome those poor, oppressed people into your civilization.
    • Also your subjects will occasionally throw "We Love the King/Queen Day" celebrations in your honor, complete with fireworks. It's good to see them acknowledge how great you are
    • In Civilization II (at least; might also be present in some of the others), "We Love the X Days" give celebrating cities some kind of bonus. Usually this is the resource-gathering potential of the next-best government form, but Republics and Democracies, as the top-tier govs, instead give the city in question an additional population point every turn. This effectively turned those two government forms into a kind of Game Breaker for experienced players. Like they weren't already.
    • Democratic-type governments in general are the "grow and make money like crazy" systems in all Civilization-type games.
      • In II and III they give a direct boost to the economy by boosting Trade/Commerce.
      • In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (Civilization in space), Democratic Politics gives a boost to Growth and Efficiency, which you can combine with Knowledge Values and Cybernetic Future Society to achieve a Paradigm Economy (i.e. maximum Efficiency) with pretty much every faction (even the Peacekeeping Forces), meaning you can run a very large empire with far less money lost to corruption than under any other system, or combine with Planned Economics and Eudaimonic Future Society (which is basically Videogame Caring Potential in the form of a Social Engineering option) to get to a state of Population Boom (i.e. maximum Growth), which is a Game Breaker. (The direct boost to income is provided by Free Market Economics.)
      • There's also "Interlude 6 : despair", which the player receives if his first mindworm unit is killed, along with its commander, who's a friend and pupil. "For all the gene splicing and longevity treatments, all the manmade miracles of M.Y. $NUM 0, death remains as final, as capricious, and as desolate as it has ever been. No matter what happens now, no matter what journey of wonder humankind now embarks upon, $VOKI 8 will never see it, never know the end of it. And no matter how many centuries you continue to cheat eternity, you will never again have the company of your student and friend. And you cannot cheat eternity forever." Makes you want to just keep it far from any real battle.
      • In that prompt, you are directed to conquer one of the cities of the faction that killed your protege. When you conquer it, it is automatically renamed "[name]'s Rest"
      • In IV, Representation increases Research and Happiness in large cities, and Universal Suffrage increases the amount of money produced by Towns (the direct boost to income is provided by Free Trade economics).
      • The downside to all of these, however, is that they all reduce your ability to support troops and make war.
    • Early combat units that have accrued a ton of combat veterancy may apply for this. The unruly band of warriors you start off with may go on to fight dozens of battles, eventually going on to become some of the finest formations under your control, having fought for hundreds of years against your civilization's foes.
  • Dominions 3 has both named commanders and generic ordinary units, each represented by individual sprites on the battlefield. Watching enemy heavy cavalry ride down my troops (complete with individual screams), or seeing a veteran commander fall victim to assassination (or worse, disease, which causes them to lose 1 HP a turn until they die), made it -very- satisfying to utterly annihilate the enemy gods responsible.
    • This is exacerbated by the popular supercombatant strategy, where one goes through the process of summoning a select commander, loading them up with hand picked magical items, and sending them off to war. Seeing these guys on the receiving end of a well made trap is just depressing.
  • In End War, you are given a persistent battalion that you upgrade and improve, with unique callsigns, consistent voices in response to your orders (including sounds of abject panic that convey the fact that they're getting ripped apart much better than the dispassionate voice of your XO saying they're getting hammered), and carried over experience... if they stay alive. While a defeated unit will be evacuated if possible, it's still possible for an enemy to kill them entirely. It eventually hits the point where you can get paranoid about using WMDs for fear that the enemy will kill your units with a reprisal. It eventually becomes a fairly major point of Heartwarming when you hear them say they won't let you down, and worrying when they yell for evac or support, and an outright kick in the teeth when their unit card glows with the skull and crossbones that says that the unit is dead instead of evacuated.
  • The Jagged Alliance series always penalizes you if you let too many of your hires die. If named characters lack a proper burial (say, you dumped the body in a river instead of securing the area in order to transport it out) then your reputation will plummet and only the will-work-for-anyone dregs will join you. For generic guards, if too many die it will be harder or more expensive to secure their replacements.
    • If you help the local villagers (instead of trying to use them as meat shields), your reputation in the town (which affects a town tax-rate stat) won't plummet.
    • The actual voice clips of characters when they refuse to work for you, or when they're already working for you and think you're an asshole, just serves to ram it home for how big of a screw-up Jerk Ass you are. Now, in Jagged Alliance 2, hire Raven and her husband, Raider. Have one die. How big of a jerk are you? The survivor will let you know all. The. Time.
  • Medieval 2: Total War encourages the player to be a jerk since gaining money is much easier when being evil. Being a chivalrous general has benefits since you gain a morale boost for your men when fighting the enemy which means they are less likely to rout, while dread bonuses for ruling towns have at times a negative effect on the population. Sadly, most people opt for the crueler option most of the time.
    • All Total War games have an experience mechanic for units, which encourages some players (those that don't just rely on Human Wave tactics) to try to keep their own armies' casualties to a minimum.
    • This can overlap with Video Game Cruelty Potential. "Hmm, the enemy are making their last stand in the city center, but I don't want to lose any more men finishing them off..." So what do you do? Wheel a crude cannon into place and go bowling. Or, if you're taking a castle and the last enemy units are all cavalry, get your archers on the walls of the keep and just execute the helpless horsemen with direct-fire arrow volleys.
      • It is actually ill-advised to do so if you're settling down for a long war, something which is especially likely in the limited-nations expansions. A high command, high morale general, with high valour high morale peasants? Those spearmen and militias are about to get chewed.
    • You should care for your generals and Royal family in all Total War games because the more battles they win the better they become at war, the more likely they are to win if you auto-battle and of course the men are less likely to run from the battle. Oh and at least in Medieval if you lose (or kill your enemies) all your generals and family then you get a non-standard game over.
    • The trait system in general can foster this trope, as it has the effect of making your generals and agents come across like real people.

  • Myth: The Fallen Lords and Myth 2: Soulblighter were some of the first strategy games to have veterans systems. The more kills a unit got the faster it would attack and the more damage it would deal. And since you don't start out with many units to begin with and are always outnumbered quite a bit, you do everything you can to make sure they stay alive.
  • Ogre Battle has several special characters that you can draw into your ranks as you move through the game. Some of them are likable characters and you can feel like crap for getting them killed. Even the generic characters make your heart wrench when they fall in battle. Although, this can be because you spent countless hours leveling them to reach a certain class and you hard work just died out.
  • Original War is built around this trope. Every human unit in the game is a unique individual with RPG-like stats, and when they die, they are Killed Off for Real. It is often better to deploy inferior remote-controlled or computer-controlled vehicles just to avoid risking your precious soldiers. (Honestly this is a lot like the use of military robots in Real Life.)
  • Played straight in the Warcraft clone/superior cousin War Wind, where veteran units may be kept until the next stage for a minor pre-game boost. You may even keep the 'epic' units with you, though most of the time you'll want something faster, or you'll want to bring an extra artisan for resource/build tier boosts.
  • In Halo Wars, it is common to become attached to units with stars, to the extent of not actually using them for fear of their deaths. Especially your starting scout unit.
  • Somewhat averted in CDV games, notably the Conquest series. Despite almost EVERY SINGLE UNIT having its own experience, morale, and even phobias! American Conquest is especially bad for this, as human wave tactics are pretty much the only way to take a fort due to the sheer number of defences. See, even though you have all these stats, non-hero units tend to take damage like the squishy pink fleshlings that they are... Just created or alive since the start of the battle, a few shots from a musket will ruin any militia or trapper's day. The damage indicator is more an indicator of how accurate their weapons are, as you may see if you watch the spot of the impact graphic closely. Bullet impacts seem to deal percents, not numerical, while high health only really helps in melee. Also, cannonballs can mow through troops ridiculously accurate for their time period. One of the largest reasons behind the human wave requirement is how deadly fort cannons can be.
  • In Fire Emblem EVERY character you control is named and has their own head-shot. Add to the mix a bit of Killed Off for Real (minus restarting the game), specific endings for every character, and lots of character interaction, you wind up with players wanting to restart every level multiple times so that no one ever dies.
    • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon introduced a system whereupon the game will provide your army with generic units if your numbers get too low, and secret chapters only accessible if you have below certain numbers of units, finally providing players with the perfect opportunity to take the pain of resetting in earlier games out on their army... yet the overall tendency of players is still often to reset on every death.
      • The amount of self-inflicted butchery needed to hit the secret chapters is something that won't occur naturally to most players. This is especially true for those who played the earlier games, and thus have been taught by experience that losing a unit is a bad, bad thing. In fact, most guides and FAQs for the game strongly urge you to do a separate play-through to see the secret chapters.
    • Games of the series that have a relationship system inspire this in additional ways; you will want your characters to live so that you can see through their own little story arcs. Fire Emblem Awakening takes this to a whole new level with the ability to marry off your party members and even recruit their children, sent to the past through the time stream.
  • Knights in the Nightmare supplies you with 112 loyal knights (plus three additional recruits) whose tragic deaths you're forced to watch. They're your only available means of fighting demons, but if you don't pay careful attention to their vitality, they will die again, permanently — and there is no afterlife for extinguished souls.
    • And because it just needs to be said — you will grow to care for Maria and Meria, who are both built up as incredibly lovable, sympathetic characters. Their inevitably miserable fates lead some players to deliberately miss finding Ancardia in Maria's route so as to let her live her life as herself and save her from becoming a Fallen Hero later on in Dept Heaven continuity, even if you yourself won't be there to take care of her for much longer.
      • Probably because this is what Meria wants most, there's no way to get it for her. Thanks, Sting.
  • In Raiden Fighters, one of the stages has a tank boss firing at houses before proceeding to attack you. If you use your Attack Drones or bombs to block its shots, you'll get a "DEFENDED THE HOUSE!" bonus. Raiden Fighters 2 has a similar bonus involving defending friendly tanks from a medium-sized enemy tank.
  • Men Of War is likely the best WWII RTS for caring potential. Let's review: All soldiers have their own names and inventories. The ability to loot gear off the dead means that a bit of effort makes soldiers much more effective. The ability to loot hats off the dead means personal touches. The AI is helpful beyond contemporary standards, e.g. when an enemy tank rounds a corner, a soldier throws an AP grenade, takes cover in the opposite direction, and tends his wounds. A lack of hand-holding means room for crazy plans. The option to switch to FPS controls for individual soldiers means opportunities for death-defying heroism. A fairly interactive environment means, for example, removing weapons from disabled tanks and adding them to the defensive lines, or some fool driving through a battlefield on a hijacked tractor, hauling machine guns and ammo. Playing the game means sending these people to die by the hundreds. Ladies and gentlemen, video games as a learning tool.
  • Mount & Blade: Your army is comprised entirely of recruits which are rather unique from one another, all of which are trained up by you to be powerful and fearless soldiers. It is not uncommon for even the largest player armies to have a troop that is the "odd one out", either by being a neutral faction troop that you rescued from another lord's captivity or the last survivor of a recruitment run you made while in another faction's borders. It is not uncommon for that specific soldier to survive months worth of fighting under your command only to be unceremoniously listed on the casualty report after a skirmish.
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms gives units bronze, silver, and gold ranks as they rack up kills. And, after awhile, you grow attached to them, to the point where one may send out their whole army of flying dragons of doom to incinerate the enemy if they dare to kill your 'pet'
  • In X-Com, it is extremely hard not to get attached to a few of your veteran soldiers. Sadly, since Anyone Can Die, your favorites will almost inevitably be killed off unless you keep them stationed on the dropship or your base by a blaster bomb into the dropship or an attack on your base.
    • You'll also become attached to your veterans because the rookies are so useless that soldiers who can shoot straight are worth their weight in Elerium.
  • In Sacrifice there are certain missions that reward you for doing good deeds. In one mission where your sent to slay a powerful dragon that's under the control of another wizard; if you spare her and defeat the wizard, the dragon goes with you throughout the game, meaning you get a high tier unit in the earliest part of the game.
  • In Monkey Go Happy, you're tasked with making a cute, crying monkey happy on each level. It's hard not to feel for the little guy, sitting there crying and trembling. The sequels take it further, adding a second, smaller monkey in the second game, and a baby monkey in the third.
    • Welcome Grandpa in number 4!
  • The computer game Star Trek: Birth Of The Federation (think Civilization in the style of Star Trek) can occasionally invoke this trope. When the Borg assimilate a race you know and love from the series (or, you know, Earth), or they get subjugated by the Cardassians or there's a negative planetary shift, your heart aches a little.
  • The Game of Thrones mod for CK II allows you to keep the Starks together during the War of the Five Kings. It's difficult, but most players will want to give it a go.
  • Because of the way scoring works in the standard multiplayer modes, Wargame: European Escalation and its sequel Wargame Airland Battle encourage you to preserve the lives of your soldiers in a somewhat underhanded way: The player gets points for killing the enemy's units, but the enemy gets points for killing the player's, units, too. So a player that spends the lives of his/her men like water in a Zerg Rush early on to take all the objectives will often still wind up losing to a more conservative player who only managed to hold onto one part of the map but kept all his units alive while defending it. Troops also function better with higher morale, encouraging you to keep them from getting too beat up. When you do find yourself having to sacrifice a unit for the sake of victory, it eats at your heart a little every time.
    • Not to mention that, in Campaign mode, when you lose a unit, they're gone. For good. Irreplacably. That means that losing certain units early in-game will cost you an advantage (if not victory) at some point in the future.


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