Show Within A Show: Video Games

Examples of type 1 (characters involved in production)

  • A radio show on Fallout 3 featured "adventurer Herbert Dashwood and his stalwart ghoul manservant, Argyle." In each episode Herbert's bumbling landed them in situations Argyle would singlehandedly extract them from. The player could meet Herbert in game, who claimed he wasn't really that big of a fool but admitted Argyle was most certainly a badass.
    • You can find Argyl's corpse in Rockopolis. He fell trying to escape from the slavers, (which Dashwood accidentally led to Rockopolis) and the population of Rockopolis which Dashwood barely escaped from, the news of which will crush Dashwood.
  • GTA Radio in the Grand Theft Auto games.
  • Saints Row 2 has FUZZ, a violent parody of Cops where players impersonate a police officer and apprehend criminals in excessively violent ways (chasing down a streaker with a flamethrower, to name one example).
  • In the Ratchet & Clank series for the Playstation, Clank comes to star in a James Bond-like series called Secret Agent Clank. (Ratchet is consigned to the role of Agent Clank's bumbling chauffeur, to his annoyance.) In the appropriately titled PSP game Secret Agent Clank, Clank actually assumes his television identity to help clear Ratchet when the latter is framed for a crime.
    • In the games preceding it, Captain Qwark also has his own show and considerable celebrity although he sold out to the Big Bad to get it.
  • The setting for the start of the game Final Fantasy IX revolves around the theater troupe Tantalus performing a play called I Want to be Your Canary (Queen Brahme's favourite) for the birthday of Garnet, princess of Alexandria. In actuality, the performance is merely a front, for Regent Cid of Lindblum's order to 'kidnap' Garnet (who, ironically, wanted to run away, anyway).
    • Likewise, Final Fantasy VI had the famous opera scene, where the mother of all contrived coincidences leads to Celes having to play in an opera. It tells something about the skill of everyone involved in that scene that many gamers were moved by the events of the opera, which are fictional even within the fiction they're currently following.
    • Also in Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Aeris(or Tifa or Yuffie or Barret, depending on how you play the game) get to play pivotal roles in a brief play during the Gold Saucer segment.
    • The relevance of the play "Loveless" in Crisis Core
  • Deathwatch, the Lethal Gameshow within MadWorld; Jack is a contestant.
  • In a sense, the entirety of Dynamite Headdy is a show-within-a-show. The entire game takes place in a puppet show that has been hijacked by one of the puppets to tell a different story.
  • Deb Of Night in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.
  • Night Springs in Alan Wake, an obvious parody of The Twilight Zone, which Alan wrote a few episodes of before writing novels, as his manager Barry later mentions. It fits type two as well, as Alan gets to watch the show on certain TV sets during the course of the game.
    • We also get to read two pages from Alan's most recent novel, The Sudden Stop, a reference to Remedy's earlier Max Payne games. The pages are even written in Max's Private Eye Monologue style and read by his voice actor.
    • The sequel/Gaiden Game Alan Wake's American Nightmare plays out like an episode of Night Springs. In fact, it is one of Alan's episodes which he tweaked slightly to help him get back to the real world.
  • Super Mario Galaxy has Rosalina tell a very sad story about a young girl having to deal with the loss of her family. The girl in the storybook is actually Rosalina herself.
  • None of Johnny Cage's movies where actually shown in the game, but plenty were mentioned. A few notable ones were Dragon Fist (which had two sequels), HWAAAAA!! (which won an Oscar, according to Deadly Alliance), Sudden Violence (supposedly award-winning), and Ninja Mime, which was a box-office flop in America; Cyrax loathed this one. He also supposedly stared in movies that were based on his experiences in the first two games of the franchise and Deadly Alliance. (The last one appeared to be his greatest success as an actor, but unfortunately, only existed in his non-cannon ending to that game.)
  • Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 has the Pokéstar Studios (Or Pokéwood, depending on the language) movies, in which the player character acts. Depending on his/her acting, the movie's ending can be good, but predictable, downright crappy, or strange and weird, resulting in a smash hit.

Examples of type 2 (characters are fans)

  • Travis Touchdown's favorite anime in No More Heroes is Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly, which appears to be a Magical Girl Mecha series. We never see the show itself, but he has a T-shirt with the main characters on it (and more can be bought), there are posters of it all over his motel room (including one that he presses to and sighs, Moe~), he seems to have stolen his attack names from it, and he plays an upward-scrolling SHMUP based on the series to pass the time on the subway on his way to one of the game's boss encounters.
  • The Max Payne series features shows like the cartoon Captain BaseballBat-Boy, the psychological thriller Address Unknown, the costume drama/soap opera Lords and Ladies, and a blaxploitation send-up of Max Payne called Dick Justice.
  • Sam & Max Save The World features a variety of shows from WarpTV, including the sitcom Midtown Cowboys, talk show Myra!, and celebrity tell-all program Oh, Is He Still Alive?. Turn into Type 1 when the two protagonists get embroiled in them in "Situation: Comedy".
  • In the Harvest Moon series, there are often shows that one can watch on the TV in their farm-house, in addition to weather and news channels.
  • Mario Party Advance has a show called Toad Force V, which is about a robotic Toad named Jack and his partner, the heroine Britney, who is more popular. Together, they fight villains such as the Spore King and Toxic Toad Z. The show is so extremely popular that there are a few quests related to this show. It is also mentioned several times in the game.
  • In the Pokémon games, there are several shows that can be watched on the TVs, in NPCs houses.
  • One of the shadow dungeons in the RPG Persona 4 is "Void Quest", an RPG-themed castle straight out of the 8-bit Dragon Quest days, complete with blocky graphics, chintzy beeping music, and menu options just floating in the air at the entrance. The bitter, angry young man who subconsciously created it makes himself the hero he could never be in real life. Mind you, Persona 4 is one of those games where you control a Heroic Mime, and have plenty of leeway for projecting your own personality onto him, turning the whole scenario downright meta.
  • The Deb of Night in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines gets a special mention for being a radio show within a video game. You can hear it on any radio you find in the game, which plays pre-recorded dialogues (which ones, depends on how far your progressed with the main quest) between the hostess Deb and people who call her.
  • Tokimeki Memorial 2 is the host of several Shows Within a Show: "Super Dragon Warrior" (Chou Senshi Dragon, a Hot-Blooded Super Sentai series), "Go-Driller" (a Hot-Blooded Super Robot anime), "Space Idol Love-Love Star" (Uchuu Idol Love-Love Star, a Magical Girl series), and "Protuding-navel Kero Kero" (Kero Kero Debeso, an anime). Homura Akai is a big fan of the first two, to the point of mimicing the Dragon Warrior's special kick and wielding drills just like Go-Driller ; Mei Ijuin likes the second too ; Miyuki Kotobuki is an avid fan of the third ; and Miho Shirayuki adores the fourth.
    • This overlaps with Type 3, as "Go-Driller" and "Space Idol Love-Love Star" become plot points in the storylines of the Substories games Leaping School Festival and Dancing Summer Vacation respectively.
  • In Super Robot Wars Alpha, Ryusei Date is fan of mech simulator game call Burning PT, which is actally used by military to recuit pilot. It's only mention in dialogue and players never actually see the game until anime adaption of Super Robot Wars Original Generation though. In the end of Super Robot Wars Original Generation Gaiden, he end up watching his favourite anime Banblade with his Unwanted Harem, but players never actally see how the anime look like. Also in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, he give Mylene Jenius a rare copy of Macross: Legend of Lyn Minmei as birthday present.
  • Some of the Grand Theft Auto games have a number of different (all rather raunchy) shows that the player can watch.
  • In Skullgirls, Peacock and Parasoul (secretly) are fans of the kid's show Annie: Girl of the Stars.
  • Pritchard from Deus Ex: Human Revolution appears to be a fan of Final Fantasy XXVII (the franchise exists, but the actual game doesn't), and has a poster of the main character (some kind of Black Magician Girl, from the looks of it) in his office.
  • Matt Miller from Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV is a fan of Nyteblayde, a cheesy action-drama adapted from a comic book about a vampire-hunter turned vampire. Overlaps with Type 1 as one of the major NPCs from The Third, Josh Birk, plays Nyteblayde on TV.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 comic "Ring of Fired", The Demoman and his possessed ghost sword, the Eyelander, are watching a show called Ghost D.A. It's hilariously bad, from the protagonist being a prosecutor, not a defense attorney, to the cliche dialogue, to the fact that he phases out with a "doodily doodily doot" noise. The two of them (especially Eyelander, who has developed its ability to speak, and has become a Cluster F-Bomb) comment on how awful and inaccurate it is.
  • Attack of the Friday Monsters features a kaiju show that is filmed in the protagonist's hometown. The protagonist and his friends are fans of the show, and you have to play the tie-in card game to advance the plot at some points. The protagonist's next-door neighbour is a scriptwriter for the show, and you can visit the studio and talk to the producer (type 1).

Examples of type 3 (SWAS is plot point)

  • A major point of Assassin's Creed I is that you are playing as Desmond Miles, who spends most of his time in the game participating in an interactive simulation of his ancestor's memories. In other words, Desmond is playing a video game.
    • Every other Assassin's Creed game turns out to work exactly like that, sooner or later. Sometimes Desmond is the one living through the simulation, at least one time it's one other guy who is later revealed to have died, and in Black Flag it's you!
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Maya is a big fan of the toku series The Steel Samurai (Tonosaman in the Japanese version). The star of the series, Will Powers, is later arrested for murder. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All reveals that toku series are Serious Business in the Ace Attorney universe, to the point one case revolves around an awards show. Ace Attorney Investigations has an embassy host a Steel Samurai/Pink Princess stage show as part of its celebrations its holding. Edgeworth fanboyism for the series also manages to show itself somewhat.
  • Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core has both the book and the play version of Loveless, which has already been established as a play in the original game. Resident Villain Sue Genesis is a huge fan of the book, to the point of basing his rebellion around it and wandering dangerously close to having Otakukin type thoughts regarding he and his friends reliving the story. In an interesting case of Truth in Video Games, the player can meet up with fans of the book who complain about the Adaptation Decay and Misaimed Fandom of the play version.
  • Alan Wake twists this in all sorts of ways: Alan (a novelist) apparently wrote the story-within-the-story, but he can't remember it, and the events of the story-within-the-story start predicting events in the outside story, except it turns out the events of the outside story are happening that way because of the story-within-the-story being written under the influence of an Eldritch Abomination, and then the story-within-the-story starts referencing the story-within-the-story in the context of the outside story and now I've gone cross-eyed.
  • The novel Ardus is working on, "The Tower of Ideals", in The Logomancer. One Sidequest revolves around him refining the manuscript, and it involves pointed commentary on the writing process in general as well. Given a later development, it is also possible that it's a warped version of a real event that occurred prior to the game's story, which Ardus forgot due to Laser-Guided Amnesia but retained subconscious impressions of.
  • Saints Row 3 and 4 (in addition to the Nyteblade show in type 2 example), gives us Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, which is an example of types 1, 2, 3, and arguably 4 all rolled into one. Professor Genki is the host/mascot the show, itself is a Japanese game show similar to Takeshis Castle but with firearms and various mascots trying to kill the contestants as they try to get through a colorful, bizarre obstacle course before the timer runs out. The Saints are fans of the show (type 2), and participation is a gang activity which increases control over Steel port...somehow (type 1), with an entire expansion pack devoted to a Superbowl-esque event in which the Saints Boss participates (types 1 and 3), and, finally, the general bloody antics and anarchy the player gets up to is roughly similar to the regular gameplay, and way past 11 (type 4).

Examples of type 4 (Plot Parallel)

  • The Japanese and European releases of Metal Gear: Ghost Babel features as an Easter Egg a hidden Codec frequency that launches a fictional radio drama titled Idea Spy 2.5, which has an actual Audio Adaptation in 2007 (with Hideo Kojima in the title role).
  • In Mass Effect 2, there is the movie franchise Blasto, an exploitation series produced on the Privately Owned Society planet Illium. A clear nod to the Dirty Harry movies, they star a member of a pacifistic and deeply spiritual race of floating jellyfish as the lead character. In the third game, more advertisements and trailers for the sixth movie can be found, which include members of other often discriminised races in the other roles. In the Citadel DLC, Shepard and Javik guest star in the seventh installment, and are not amused.
    • One advertisement on the Citadel is for a film, Citadel, based on the events of the first game. Unlike many of the above examples, there is no eeriness to this - most of the events of the first game are public knowledge.
  • In the Max Payne series, Dick Justice is a Self-Parody of the first game. Address Unknown is eerily close enough Max Payne's story to feed his paranoia and guilt over the death of his wife; although he avoids making the association to himself in waking monologue, it does haunt his dreams.
  • Mario Party Advance's Toad Force V. See Type 2 above.
  • META is a game about editing the game "Awesmoe Quest", so the latter is a game-within-a-game.