Video Game: The Stanley Parable

Stanley worked for a company in a big building where he was employee number 427.
"This is the story of a man named Stanley."

The Stanley Parable began life as a modification of Valve Software's Source engine. It is now also a standalone release on Steam, colloquially known as the "HD Remix", which was released on October 17, 2013. While the standalone release expands on the formula, the idea behind both releases is largely the same.

The game follows the story of a man named Stanley, who spends his days pushing buttons as commanded by his boss, who issues orders to his workers via a system of monitors. However, one day Stanley notices that he hasn't been given any orders in hours. What follows are events that change his life forever.

Without giving too much away (because it's a comedy game at its core and we don't want to spoil the jokes), the game is an interesting exploration of interactivity and makes comments on the idea of freedom. The Narrator is the sort of character you love to hate, like GLaDOS from the Portal games, and his light-hearted but sometimes dark dialogue makes the game not just thought-provoking but also fun to play. You can download the original Source mod here, and buy the HD Remake here.

It is prudent that you play the game before you read this page, as there are unmarked spoilers in this article. You have a choice in the matter, of course. Doesn't really matter though, in the end. The tropes are still here.

This is the story of some tropes such as:

  • 20% More Awesome: In the Raphael trailer, in response to Raphael's comment that he is both a logical and emotional being, the Narrator purports to have added sliders in the settings menu for Logic and Emotion and encourages players to set both to maximum to experience Raphael Mode.
  • Action Commands: Stanley's day job is pushing whatever buttons on the keyboard his computer tells him to, and he loves it. Sound familiar? It's a send-up of video games in general, but particularly is reminiscent of quick-time events.
  • Adult Fear: Some endings make you question your own life, and not just the game. Are you as confined as Stanley?
  • Alien Geometries: The Confusion ending in the HD Remix features a few, including halls that allow you to turn more corners than should be possible without crossing your original path, areas where doubling back reveals that the entrance has gone away, and one case of a passageway that is clearly much longer the first time walking through than it appears to be from the outside.
    • The game in general makes liberal use of portals to connect parts of the map together. The office changes.
  • The Aloner: Stanley is the only person left in the office building.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The Narrator may or may not be evil depending on the ending. In some endings he's the Big Bad and in some he's a helpful if somewhat irritable ally.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the Real Person ending, the game doesn't restart until the player has gone down both possible paths, likely because the developers didn't want players to have to sit through the cutscenes from that ending twice.
  • Arc Number: The number 'eight' seems to be pretty big in the game. There were eight endings in the original mod note , the demo at one point puts you into a room with a button that simply says "eight" every time it's pushed, there were supposed to be eight restarts for the Confusion ending according to its schedule, the announcer for the instructional video during the Real Person ending suggests you make at least eight choices per day, and pressing the '8' button on the keypad in the boss' office eight times will give you an achievement note .
  • Arc Words: "...And Stanley was happy" is said by The Narrator during the intro and at least in a few of the endings, ranging from being sincere to sarcastic, depending on what happens.
  • Ascended Glitch: There were two Game Breaking Bugs in the original mod; you could close the door to your office, trapping you inside, and you can kill yourself by repeatedly jumping off of the scaffolding in the Mind Control room. Both these eventually became fully fledged endings in the HD Remake (Reluctance and Stop Moving, respectively).
  • Ascended Meme: If you key in "8888" in the boss' office, it will make the same sound the infamous 8 button makes in the demo.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the Real Person ending, the Narrator gets what he wants, which is to remove the player's influence. But, without a player to influence him, Stanley can't do anything, and the Narrator doesn't seem to immediately understand why.
  • Bigger Bad: Some endings imply that there's an unknown, higher force pulling all the strings, and that The Narrator is just as much a puppet as Stanley.
  • Big Good: The second Narrator. She cares about both the Narrator and Stanley and encourages the player to quit the game to save Stanley during the Futile ending.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Some of the endings fit into this, mostly because your attempt to establish your own freedom ends up with Stanley dead, or worse. Some of them don't end well for the Narrator either.
  • Boss Battle: Played with. On the Countdown ending it looks like it: The Narrator even teases you with a timer and many buttons in the room where you're in, even with some music. And then he reveals that it's actually a Hopeless Boss Fight... No, not even that, actually. It's not even a battle, you never had any chances of actually surviving.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In the meeting room at the HD Remix, a presentation slide presented a chart of charts in a slide, consisting of charts, slides, and charts and slides.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At one point, if Stanley disobeys the narrator enough, he will arrive in a room where the walls contain the default dev texture, and there's a big box replacing the sky, with the Source skybox texture. The narrator even mentions it. Of course, it gets better. Really, this crops up all over the place - it's integral to the nature and impact of the piece.
  • British Stuffiness: The game wouldn't be as great without British VO Kevan Brighting's dry narration, particularly when you go against his story.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Parodied in the HD Remix. The Narrator tells the player to look at a fern and study it closely, telling him it will be very important later on in the story. It never comes up again, nor is it mentioned for the rest of the game.
    • Another inversion: in the demo, when you get to the "8" button, the narrator claims that there's no part of the full game where you press a button and a voice says "Eight". However, in the real game, you can actually do this on the keypad in the boss's office. (Though he did say that that particular button wouldn't have been part of the full game.)
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: Every choice you make can result in the story taking a completely different, unexpected turn.
  • Controllable Helplessness:
    • During the Countdown Ending, you are unable to do anything but just wait for inevitable doom, as the Narrator gleefully lampshades.
    • You are unable to leave if you go for the Phone Ending; if you attempt to do so, The Narrator will point that out in a rather sinister way and block your path.
    Narrator: Sorry, but you're in my story now.
  • Copy Protection: Parodied in the "Raphael Trailer", where the Narrator claims that the "Raphael" version of the game will start deleting stuff from your hard drive because of the possibility that you downloaded the game illegally.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: A certain feeling of hopelessness and dread might set in upon having it hammered into your head by an intangible entity that you have never been and never will be the master of your fate, that none of your choices matter, and that your very existence is utterly pointless.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The dulcet tones of the reassuring voiceover start out pleasantly, at least if you do what you're told, but if you read between the lines of its congratulations for doing so, you see constant reminders of your lack of autonomy and puppet status, and the subtle wrongness of the situation comes into sharp relief the moment you disobey.
  • Creator Cameo: The voice of the "eight" game in the demo and in an Easter Egg in the main game is the writer and creator of the original mod, Davey Wreden.
  • Crossover: A Stanley Parable announcer pack is available for Dota 2.
  • Deconstruction Game:
    • Of linear games that tell you exactly what to do while giving the illusion of a living, explorable world.
    • Also of games that inspire a last second Heel-Face Turn Rebellion, Solve the Soup Cans, Game-Breaking Bug, Screw Destiny and the issue of who controls who in a game.
    • It's also a rather nice deconstruction of Narrators and the whole idea of plot in a story.
    • The demo of the HD remix is a deconstruction of demos where the Narrator spends the entire demo fretting about getting you to experience the purported actual demo. Very little of the demo is in the game but, in spite of that, it manages to represent the the core appeal of the game using the same style of humor and its own plot that is thematically similar to the game.
    • Meanwhile, the "save the puppy/baby" game is a Take That towards and deconstruction of games with You Bastard messages like Spec Ops: The Line and OFF. It points out how such games often force the player to do what it's accusing them of and than insult you for it, while also engaging in those activities itself.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything:
    • A lot. It's pretty impressive how far ahead the creators thought about what actions the player might take. The game has a fairly small possibility space and the dev team takes advantage of that to anticipate every last possible player impulse and plan for it. It's part of the game's deconstruction of player impulses. More than one Let's Player has thought they could buck the game's intentions, only to be shocked that, yes, they thought of that too. There's also responses from the Narrator based on just about every possible choice Stanley can make.
    • Probably the most notable is a broom closet Stanley passes by while walking down the hallway. The player can enter said closet and stay there, refusing to go any further. This causes the Narrator to become confused and left aghast that you're just staying there like an idiot. Eventually he just assumes that you've died and asks for someone else to play the game. Enter again on the same playthrough, and he laments that he is at the mercy of entire species of invalids. If you enter the broom closet on a subsequent playthrough, he basically gives up, waits for you to finish, and boards the closet's door shut on future playthroughs. Nor is the Broom Closet just there - on the whiteboards in the room before, there's a stated objective to "Get Chris out of the Broom Closet."
    • If you know the code to the bosses' office beforehand and use before the Narrator says the code, he'll berate you for cutting him off, tell you to calm down, and play some relaxing music to that effect. If you go back to the boss's office later in the same sitting after you've done this, he just leaves the door open for you in frustration. Or alternately, you can refuse to enter the code, which causes the Narrator to continue shouting the code at you with increasing annoyance until you input it, eventually giving up and mentioning the emergency override kicked in and opening the door without your code.
    • Another example from the remake is the "baby game", which requires the player to simply hit a button frequently to keep the crude image of a baby out of a fire. The Narrator suggests that the player enjoy the game for four hours to understand how the game is art. At this point, the player may be tempted to set up some type of automatic key presser tool to keep hitting the button, allowing them to walk away for the four hours implied. However, the dev team thought of this too: if you get to the two hour mark, the Narrator considers the possibility that you have actually done this, and modifies the game to introduce a second button that is several steps away to prevent an image of a puppy from being lowered into a pool of piranha, chastising the player for using automated tools to get this far. Of course, the dev team also thought of someone actually playing the game for four hours, in which case, a hidden ending is triggered where you meet the self-proclaimed essence of divine art.
    • A common trick in Portal speed runs involves throwing Companion Cubes towards targets in ways designers typically don't account for. In the Portal section of the stand-alone, it is possible to fling the cube through the exit door while standing on the button that keeps the doors open (making the room inescapable) - yes, the devs accounted for that possibility too.
    • In the area with room 417, if you close both doors, you get an Easter egg where the Narrator talks about how much Stanley likes to look at room 417.
    • Climbing out of the window near Stanley's office will make the Narrator lampshade that they thought of everything.
    Narrator: At first, Stanley thought that he'd broken the map, until he'd heard this narration, and realized it was part of the game's design all along.
    • Should the player repeat the Countdown ending, possibly in hopes of finding a way to deactivate the timer, the Narrator replace his normal "The Reason You Suck" Speech with a different set of lines.
    Narrator: But you really believe there's an answer? How many times will you replay this bit looking desperately for a solution? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? I look forward to finding out and to watching the bomb go off each time you fail. Just you and me in the wrenching explosion of fire and metal over and over and over for all of eternity. And Stanley died again. And Stanley died again. And Stanley died again.
  • Developer's Room: In the HD Remake, entering the door marked "Escape" on the way to the room with all the monitors, dropping down the hole at the end of the hall it leads to. It also leads to the Futile ending.
  • Downer Ending: Some of the endings fit into this, mostly because your attempt to establish your own freedom ends up with Stanley dead, or worse. Some of them don't end well for the Narrator either.
  • Driven to Madness: Happens to Stanley in the Insanity ending, when the Narrator decides that Stanley decides he can't face his boss.
  • Droste Image: The main menu of the HD Remix, which features a computer monitor displaying the main menu of the HD Remix, which features... well, you know.
  • Dummied Out:
    • Since the HD Remake is built upon the Source Engine build used for Portal 2, several Portal 2 assets are present in the game files, including models for the Turret, textures for the Cave Johnson paintings, and other stuff. Using the console, one can even spawn the Companion Cube.
    • There are a few voice lines that never make it into the final game. Apparently, certain lines where the Narrator becomes separated from Stanley were meant to play in the Games ending, but an error in the script causes the lines not to play.
  • Eldritch Location: The building is often reconfigured as you move through it, sticking you in looping corridors among other things.
  • Empty Room Psych: Stand in the broom closet and Narrator will tell you there really isn't anything to do there, even the player might expect that it wouldn't exist in the game world without a good reason. He'll also become annoyed if you hang around in looking a room for too long and will try to get you back to moving the story along.
    Narrator: Stanley went around touching every little thing in the office, but it didn't make a single difference, nor did it advance the story in any way.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: The elevator plays muzak (and shakes) as soon as you press the button. To stop the music and open the door, press the button again and you're exactly where you started.
  • Emoticons: During the broom closet Easter Egg, if you have subtitles on, the "XD" emoticon appears at one point.
  • Epic Fail: The Narrator considers unplugging the telephone (in a room where answering it was supposed to be the only available option) to be this.
    Narrator: You actually... chose incorrectly? How is that even possible?!
    • The Narrator reacts similarly to getting stuck in the Portal test chamber.
      Narrator: Now how did you manage that? Are you really trapped in here? I'm actually quite impressed! I don't think there's a simpler puzzle out there, and you've still broken it.
  • Evil Laugh: The Narrator does this in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Stanley during the Countdown ending.
  • Exact Time to Failure: The large monitor in the control room in the Countdown ending counts down from two minutes, and the Narrator adds another minute a minute and a quarter in.
  • Exact Words: The 430 Achievement says, "Click on door 430 five times." It never says that's all you have to do.
  • Fauxshadow: Once you reach the Freedom ending in both versions, the Narrator wonders about the fate of Stanley's fellow co-workers, noting that there are more co-workers out there, and that they can be saved somehow. However, none of the other endings make it even seem like that's possible, and that statement is never referenced anywhere else.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: To quote Cakebread, the designer:
    "You will make a choice that does not matter. You will follow a story that has no end. You will play a game you cannot win."
  • First-Person Ghost: Lampshaded. In one of the endings, the narrator questions why Stanley can't see his feet if he looks down.
  • Fission Mailed: Inverted in the Confusion Ending, when eventually the Narrator tries to make the game end already by creating a fake "You Win".
  • Follow the Plotted Line: The story where you follow the Narrator's is this, and The Stanley Parable Adventure Line™ is a literal plot line. Natually, it's not as simple as that.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus
    • The Raphael trailer for the remake has a list of just some of the "emotions" one can experience in the Emotion Booths.
    • The demo has an absolute doozy of a list of possible side effects the player may suffer while playing the demo.
  • From Beyond The Fourth Wall: The only way that Stanley (the player) will know the code to the keypad is for the third-person omniscient Narrator to relate the anecdote of how his boss picked that number. Lampshaded when the Narrator suggests Stanley was just pressing random buttons to get the correct number. In The HD Remake, if you press the buttons before the Narrator says them, the Narrator will berate you, then tell you to calm down. The next time he'll just open it right off the bat, since you insist on rushing. Also, if you don't enter the code after he tells you ("Stanley could not possibly know that the code was 2-8-4-5"), he becomes irritated that you're not taking the hint.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • In the original mod, it's possible to press a button on the elevator, then run out of it before it starts moving, leaving you stranded. This seems to have inspired the "Do It" ending.
    • Also in the original mod, you can also close the door before leaving the room you start in, after which the door cannot be re-opened. This may have inspired the Reluctance ending in the HD Remake.
    • Also, when the narrator wants you to scramble around trying to disarm the detonator, you can kill yourself by jumping repeatedly from the upper ledge out of spite. The Suicide and Stop Moving endings in the HD Remake seem to be inspired by this.
    • In the HD Remake, it's possible to climb up onto a chair in the Monitor Room and then walk off the railings into the void below. Oddly enough, this doesn't kill you, but it does leave you trapped at the bottom with no way out except to restart. Then you find out that, while in a sense game breaking, it's not a bug. The Dev Team really did think of everything.
    • One of the main endings in the HD remake involves the player stepping inside the boss's office then quickly leaving before the doors shut. Once again, this is not a bug. If you go back, it takes you to the Escape Pod ending.
      • However, if you entered the door on the right earlier, before getting back on track, a real Game-Breaking Bug does occur (because a door closes where it should open, trapping Stanley).
  • Game Within a Game: The Narrator's 'baby game' lampoons simplistic Art Games.
  • Genre-Busting: The game really has little in common with almost any other game — you can move around (though you cannot jump), you can look around, and you can interact with the environment. All of the gameplay consists of exploration of the environment using the very limited tools you have available to you. It is set in a first person view (mostly, anyway) but isn't a First-Person Shooter; there are very few objects you can even interact with in a meaningful manner beyond the "use" command.
  • The Ghost:
    • Every other character in the game, but especially Stanley's wife and son, because they don't actually exist. Maybe.
    • Employee 432 is the only other employee of note. Peering very closely at some scattered documents in the Mind Control Facility reveals he's somehow different from everyone else, possibly a control subject that's not under mind control. His desk is mysteriously absent of a computer or files; it just has one pencil sharpener and no chair. One item on the whiteboard in the meeting room is discussing "what to do with 432." And the impossible corridor in the Confusion Ending file room overlooks a colossal repository of "Employee 432 Peer Reviews."
  • Golden Ending: An ironic variant. Stanley can shut down the mind control device and escape to freedom. The Narrator describes how Stanley has thrown off his shackles and demonstrated what he can do when there's no one to tell him what to do. Ironically, the only way to get this ending is to do exactly what the Narrator tells you to do. Worse, the narrator says there was no longer anyone to tell Stanley what to think or feel, and that he is happy. On the other hand, the completely Off the Rails ending may be considered a Golden Ending, since the Narrator basically gives up without killing you.
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence:
    • In the back part of the demo's room with the emotion booths, there's one additional open booth (you need to crouch to get to it). Entering it will play a brief bit of disco/electronica with lights flashing and strobing around you.
    • For the HD version, when you get to the mind-control room while following the Narrator's directions, there will be a point where you press a button and bring down an elevator. If you wait long enough, the gate going back the way you came will open, and you'll be able to return to the button that turned on the lights originally; pressing this starts the entire room with all the screens in a disco-light sequence (as shown here).
  • Guide Dang It: The HD Remix's new path to the Freedom ending, which requires you to make a leap of faith from the moving platform taking you to the Futile ending. If you fail it, you get another ending instead.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The Narrator's story in-universe begins with all of Stanley's co-workers mysteriously disappearing, only to drop this plot thread completely when Stanley stumbles across his boss's secret mind control facility.
  • Heroic Mime: Parodied in the Real Person ending, where the keypad becomes a voice reciever which requires the player to speak the password. Since there's no way to say anything in the game, there's no way to open the door, and the game ends with the Narrator berating the player for not unlocking the door.
    "Stanley had always been taught never to speak up."
  • Hope Spot: In the Confusion ending, the Narrator seems to realize that he's being controlled too, and finally seems to somewhat empathize with Stanley due to feeling the same level of restriction Stanley has, and refuses to go through with the game's plans. The game then hard-resets and things are all back to where they started.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Narrator wants to tell a story about a man throwing off the shackles of control and making his own decisions, but becomes increasingly upset when his protagonist rebels directly against the narrative.
  • I Can't Reach It: Stanley is inexplicably unable to jump, although it's not exactly a useful skill here anyway. There's even an achievement which lampshades this.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: The "choice" video instructs you to use an excuse of this nature if you find yourself in a conversation with an imaginary person.
    "My goodness! Is it 4:30? I'm supposed to be having a back-sack-and-crack!"
  • Insane Troll Logic: During the Confusion ending, when Stanley and the Narrator come to a set of two doors during their own adventure, the Narrator starts using an incredibly bizarre train of thought including "a counter-inverted reverse door's origin" to deduce that they should go through the right door. He ends by calling what he said a victory for logic.
    • However if, by a cheat, we open the left door, as seen here, we see that the left door leads back to the same circular room with the two doors through the right door, which leads to the Schedule...
  • In-Universe Game Clock: Downplayed. One of the achievements requires you to not play the game for five years, but this is easily beaten by just setting the time five years ahead.
  • Interactive Narrator: Probably the most literal example. You are free to follow or completely disobey the Narrator's attempts at telling his story, and watch him try to react accordingly.
  • Ironic Hell: In the final end of the "Real Person" ending, the narrator has become disgusted with your inability to follow his instructions even when you're willing to and the whole thing breaks down, and you're forcibly booted entirely out of Stanley's existence, looking down at him in the two-door room. The narrator's got everything he's wanted, a Stanley who can't disobey at all… because Stanley can't do anything without a human will behind him. The Narrator is distraught and begs Stanley to do something to give the story meaning, but this is where the credits roll.
  • Irony:
    • You get the "Freedom" ending by blindly obeying the narration. It's far from the only ironic thing in the game, but it's the most blatant one by far. It is also by far the most boring story you can get, but it's what the prima donna Narrator is always shooting for, his masterpiece, that nobody else can possibly appreciate.
    • The "Real Person" PSA says that if you ever meet someone who doesn't make sense, they're probably not a real person. Of course, it's fiction where everything usually makes sense, as real life is more complicated than fiction.
  • Jerkass Gods: The narrator will not only blow you up, but will add an extra minute to the countdown mid-way through, just because he's enjoying watching you squirm.
  • Jump Scare: There are several in the HD Remake:
    • The sudden loud buzzing sound accompanying the hard-reset during the finale of the Confusion ending can serve as this. Bonus points goes to the fact that the Narrator gets cut off mid-sentence when it happens.
    • The loud sound and sudden screen shaking that occurs when the game is "turning off" during the broken game branch of the Real Person ending can also startle some.
    • And if you attempt to flee during the Apartment ending, a brick wall suddenly pops up in front of you with no warning.
    Narrator: Sorry, but you're in my story now.
  • Kafka Komedy: The game uses a faceless bureaucratic aesthetic as a metaphor to hammer home the point about all choices you make being illusory, and treats Stanley as a Butt Monkey whether or not he obeys or goes Off the Rails.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: In the Museum ending, when Stanley dies, the second Narrator's lines cut off before she finishes.
  • Killer Game Master: The narrator starts trying to be this if Stanley pushes in the opposite direction too much.
  • Lemony Narrator: Particularly if you do the opposite of what it says you will do.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: In the Pawn ending, the Narrator claims that the game is Stanley's own version of this.
    Narrator: It was such a wonderful fantasy, and so in his head, he relived it again, and then again, and again, over and over, wishing beyond hope that it would never end, that he would always feel this free. Surely there's an answer down some new path - mustn't there be? Perhaps if he played just one more time. But there is no answer. How could there possibly be? In reality, all he's doing is pushing the same buttons he always has. Nothing has changed. The longer he spends here the more invested he gets, the more he forgets which life is the real one. And I'm trying to tell him this: that in this world he can never be anything but an observer. That as long as he remains here he's slowly killing himself.
  • Married to the Job: Stanley; it's said that he loves his job and does it "every day, of every week, of every month, of every year".
  • Mind Control: Stanley's boss has been keeping a machine that controls the emotions of his workers.
  • Mind Screw:
    • The game preys on the psychology, training, and paranoia of gamers, and then does it six times over with the different endings (eighteen times in the full game), each poking a different gaming nerve, and doing a bang up job with it.
    • The Mariella ending has the narrator become self-aware and describe himself. Even before that, describe the limitations of the game (such as Stanley not being able to see his feet or why doors automatically closed).
  • Mind Screwdriver: Deliberately invoked when, in the HD Remix, the Narrator boasts that he's always there to neatly tie up a story at the end and give everyone a happy, understandable ending.
  • Minimalist Cast: Just Stanley and the Narrator. Except for two endings, one which introduces a second narrator, and another which gives us the perspective of a young woman who happens upon Stanley's dead body.
  • Mysterious Stranger: Sometimes Stanley isn't actually alone in his office, as in the beginning of the game, you sometimes happen to see this guy...
  • Mythology Gag: One of the lines from the mod that didn't make it through to the HD Remix was the narrator talking about night sharks, before pointing out rather huffily that all you want to hear is things about yourself. In the HD Remix's Narrative Contradiction Ending, the voice-operated code to activate the secret door in the Boss' office is "Night shark 1-1-5".
  • Narrator: One of few games to have one during gameplay rather than cutscenes, the narrator narrates the action, sometimes before it occurs, assuming you will follow the story he says he laid out for you. Disobeying the narrator and forcing him to change his narrative is part of the appeal.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailers show room layouts that don't appear in the main game, such as the dead end at the bottom of the staircase in the "Let's Play" trailer note . The "Raphael" trailer takes this to full extremes, showing an entirely different game instead called Raphael Presents: The Stanley Parable, by Raphael (although made-up).
    • In addition, the "Raphael" trailer and demo promised "emotion booths", with the Narrator in the demo stating to the player that he has to save a few for the full game. None of them show up in the main game itself.
  • No Fair Cheating: Attempting to activate sv_cheats in the console causes the narrator to take you away into a Serious Room where he locks you away for one hundred billion trillion years. Do it again, and he increases your sentence to infinity years note . It is possible to cheat without being sent to the Serious Room, but it requires you to put all of the game content into another file, so it's a smart idea to backup the content first, just in case. The demo, on the other hand, disallows the cheat all together.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: In the Portal puzzle room, much like in the actual puzzle in the original game, it's possible to trap yourself permanently. The narrator acknowledges that you trapped yourself and will never let you out.
  • Nostalgia Level: In one ending, you're briefly sent into a low-res version of the original mod's first few maps.
  • Not His Sled: The HD remake changes up a number of things from the original mod, most notably the keycode behind your boss' desk (2845 instead of 1957) as well as the parameters for getting the "trapped in another game" ending, including which games you're sent to.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The fact that there's literally no one else in the building except for Stanley is quite unsettling, to say the least.
    • In the Escape Pod ending, the narrator is cut off mid-sentence, and you're left on your own. Walking about without the narrator commentating makes the hallways seem even emptier than before.
  • Nuke 'em: The inevitable outcome of the Countdown ending.
  • Off the Rails: Electing to do the precise opposite of what the Narrator says you will do causes him to get more and more upset. Going Off the Rails too much makes him snap, and he may quit or pull a Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.
    Narrator: Stanley was fat and ugly and really really stupid. He probably only got the job through some sort of family connection, that's how stupid he is. That, or drug money. Also, Stanley is addicted to drugs and hookers.
  • Oh, Crap: Some of the voiceovers can be startling, the measured tones only making things worse.
    Narrator: Stanley decided to punish himself.
  • Ontological Mystery:
    • The start of the Narrator's story comes from trying to find where Stanley's co-workers had gone.
    • Some of the endings (particularly in the HD Remix) form one. In particular, the Confusion ending ends with a rather blatant one.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: The narrator is the most passive aggressive observer since GLaDOS and backs it up with absolute power over the world.
  • Pensieve Flashback: Near the end of the demo, the narrator reminisces about the previous events, and whenever he mentions one, the player is briefly teleported to that location and can move around before eventually being brought back.
  • Playing The Player:
    • There isn't a way to solve what appears to be a Timed Mission puzzle in the Countdown ending. The Narrator all well knows that players will press buttons in hopes of finding a way to stop the bomb, which is an exercise in futility.
    • Another few endings explicitly state that the only way to 'win' the ending is to quit the game.
  • Pokémon Speak: In the shoutout to the Raphael Trailer, a certain cheat code named after the titular Raphael will reduce the narrator's voice to variations of Stanley's name.
  • Post Modernism: The game deconstructs and lampshades plenty of video game and narrative tropes by pointing them out as it uses them.
  • Prequel: The demo acts as this, as it's a very linear experience that causes the Narrator to desire a game about choices.
  • Press Start To Game Over: One of the endings is achieved simply by Stanley not leaving his office right at the start.
  • Product Placement: The Video Games ending in the HD Remake has a Minecraft map and also includes Test Chamber 00 from Portal.
  • Rage Against the Author: The HD remix has a few endings where Stanley gets to stick it to the Narrator — and it's made clear the Narrator doesn't have as much power as he thinks he does over the player or Stanley.
  • Railroading:
    • The Narrator makes sure to nudge Stanley in the proper direction if he dawdles in a room a bit too long. Aggressively so.
    • On the Real Person path, the Narrator realizes that the player is pulling the strings, whereas he'd made the mistake of designing the game for Stanley the character. After that, everything you could do before to go off the rails is locked down except one choice which ends up being a mistake.
  • Reality Warper: The Narrator has the ability to alter the environment as he pleases.
  • Refusal of the Call:
    • In the HD Remix, you have the option to simply close the door, which will prompt the narrator to criticize you and the game to restart.
    • A literal example when the Narrator locks Stanely inside a room, stuck with only a ringing phone the narrator insists you must answer. You can actually unplug the phone, refusing the call and confounding the Narrator.
  • Running Gag: Stanley dies an awful lot during the course of this otherwise perfectly non-violent game. Whenever he doesn't outright die, it's instead stated that he's gonna die.
  • Schmuck Bait: The entire game. The Narrator tells you exactly where to go for the safest and least insane ending, but choosing to do everything else is just... so... tempting. This "everything else" includes such gems as deliberately jumping off a cargo lift, randomly standing in a broom closet for a long time when the narrator says there's nothing there, and continuing to go down a path which the narrator repeatedly tells you will lead to Stanley's violent death.
  • Sequence Breaking: Parodied in one of the paths which takes you to the monitor room out of order in the narrative, causing the narrator to fret that you weren't supposed to discover that yet. As the game encourages defiance of the narrative, little true sequence breaking is possible.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: The Museum and Real Person endings both indicate that the only way to really defeat the Narrator is to stop playing the game.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness:
    • At first, the narrator will talk about Stanley in the third person from an omniscient viewpoint, until you start to derail the story. Then, he'll start talking to Stanley as he's reminding him of his lines, and after that he starts talking to the player.
    • If you get the Freedom ending straight, the fourth wall is almost completely solid, except for one bit where the player must use knowledge which the character could never have known (and the Narrator points this out).
    • The Dream ending merely leans on it.
    • Doing nearly anything else will cause the narrator to talk to Stanley and/or acknowledge the story as an entity.
    • In places such as the Video Games ending, the employee lounge (if you wait long enough), and the Countdown ending, he will go a step further and acknowledge that Stanley is in a video game or suggest that Stanley is playing a video game about himself.
    • Then there are at least two places where the narrator acknowledges there's a person playing the game other than Stanley and talks directly to the audience (the broom closet and the Ruined/Alone ending).
    • The Futile/Museum ending takes it even further with a second narrator that talks about the first Narrator being a fictional character at the mercy of the game as well (with the Confusion ending in the HD Remix having him forced to confront this.)
  • Smash to Black: One of the endings has Stanley literally getting smashed by a compactor before the screen goes black.
  • Snicket Warning Label: The Museum ending. First the hallway itself, since the Narrator repeatedly warns you that the only place it leads is your death, and secondly when you're trapped in the conveyor with the machine about to crush you and the second narrator urges you to turn the game off before that can happen.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The Stanley Parable Adventure Line™ is a literal plot line.
    • During the Confusion Ending, you get to two doors and the Narrator tries to figure out which to go through while asking you to walk in a circle around the room. He then comes up with a reason with no proper justification for going through the right door—he's using circular logic. (And, of course, this choice didn't matter.)
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Should the player pick up the phone, unplug the phone, or enter the red door, the only way to get to an ending is to go against the Narrator's wishes. Not doing so doesn't further the story.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • The Narrator's main route in the story is incredibly basic, more than a little pretentious, never once answers what happened to the disappeared workers, and is overall very unfulfilling and linear.
    • The Narrator takes the player through a tour of game design in the demo, showing faults in each room that aren't intended to be in the full game—and of course, each of these faults had to be intentionally implemented.
  • Take That:
    • There's a series of videos from the developers, each narrated by the well, narrator. This one is a scathing response to a smarmy, know-it-all misogynist who completely missed the point of the game, and asked for more options. The Narrator proceeds to mock him by talking of a very open-world game where you could literally do anything (like infusing a bike with the soul of your dead uncle and using it to detect mineral deposits), except you can't, because video games are meant to be linear by design. The message of which, oddly, is the direct antithesis of the game's commentary on the linearity of video games. Then, just to annoy the know-it-all, he takes the complaint that he repeated Stanley's name a lot and ends the video repeating it constantly. The trailer also shows an anti-piracy measure that looked to do more harm than good, presumably mocking things like DRM.
    • This trailer seems to be a jab at Let's Plays, but it's presumably lighthearted.
    • The devs sent out two customized versions of the standalone's demo, one to GameGrumps (where, among other lines, the Narrator yells out "Goddammnit Ross!" (one of the Grumps) when they enter the glitched demonstration floor) and another to Adam Sessler of Revision 3 (where one of the compliments compares Adam's charm to his baldness).
    • The Countdown ending seems to be a jab at the final battle from Portal, where you had to figure out how to defeat GlaDOS within a limited time frame.
    • The whole "baby game" in the HD Remix is a little jab at art games (while the Stanley Parable itself could be considered an art game.)
    • There's also a Take That to Karma Meters in the HD Remix when a hypothetical choice is given to dedicate one's life to helping orphans in impoverished third-world nations, or set fire to every orphan in a 30-mile radius from one's house. And it, in itself, is a jab at games that set you up to fail - as with the baby/puppy game - and try to morally pound you into the dirt for failing.
  • Take That, Audience!: The scoreboard in the Video Games ending mocks the player for their spectacular inability to play the game like the Narrator wants them to. Not only are you ranked dead last out of 9328 players (including a dead rat and Adolf Hitler), but the board also informs you only "the worst 3% of players chose the blue door" required to get the Video Game ending, and that 98.9% percent of players are more attractive than you.
  • That One Achievement: Invoked and parodied. The game includes Go Outside, which requires the player to not play the Stanley Parable for 5 years, and Unwinnable, which periodically gets changed by the game developer once people figure out how to get it (and which also is randomized — you only get it by fulfilling the conditions of getting it about one time in 15, meaning that it is hard to tell what, exactly, you did to earn it). 8888888 is easier, but the description is just 88888888 so good luck figuring that out. Commitment is similar, requiring you to play the game for 24 hours on a Tuesday; unlike Unwinnable and Go Outside, which can be cheated in various ways, cheating this one requires a complicated meta work-around involving editing the clock on your BIOS after suspending your computer while the game is running if you want to avoid having to leave the game open literally all day. And then there's an achievement called "Achievement" with the description of "This is an achievement". You get it simply by triggering an option in the Extras menu.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: Discussed. The entire plot is kicked off by Stanley realizing that his coworkers had vanished. The reason for this is only explained in the Countdown ending: The Narrator erased them from the world in order to kick off the plot.
  • This Loser Is You: Stanley blindly presses buttons, obeying prompts on a screen with no understanding or wider life, depending on others to tell him what to do. Brought home strongest in the "Pawn" ending. It might also be targeted by certain developers, represented in the narrator, who treat their players like sheep, demanding arbitrary actions and expecting responses to events rather than allowing creativity or considering other responses.
  • Timed Mission: Played with. Engaging the mind control device ticks off the Narrator and he starts a countdown to nuclear detonation. He then starts going on about how you're in a video game and how you're probably trying to frantically the stop the timer by clicking on pointless buttons scattered around the room when in truth you cannot.
  • Trade Snark: At some point in the HD Remake, the Narrator has a yellow line show up to show you where to walk, which he calls The Stanley Parable Adventure Line™. From then on, he constantly refers to It™ as the Line™, even when he starts talking to the Line™ itself. After the Line™ turns out to lead you back towards where you ended up the first time, the Narrator tells you "just don't acknowledge It™, and we should be fine".
  • Trapped in TV Land: For some reason, the Narrator thinks this is the case for the player during the Real Person path and believes that resolving his story will send you back to the real world.
  • Troll: Stanley can easily do this to the Narrator by disobeying him and going a different path. Also, in the HD Remake, the Narrator seems to outright become this if Stanley gets onto the cargo lift and immediately steps off again, causing the lift to leave him behind. The Narrator then actively encourages Stanley to jump several stories below to the warehouse floor.
    Narrator: You know what? Looking at it now, it's not that far to the bottom floor, I bet you can make it. Come on, I'm sure you'll survive the jump. Don't tell me you're scared; that's not the Stanley I know. (in various mocking tones) Do it! DO it! DOOO IT! Doit doit doit doit!
    (Stanley steps off and plunges to his death)
    Narrator: Whoops, looks like I was wrong. How clumsy of me.
  • Unreliable Narrator: You can make the Narrator this or not depending on your actions. He tends to not be amused.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: It's possible to break the game's scripting and end up being unable to achieve any of the endings:
    • If you go through the right door, then try to get the escape pod ending later on, the door back to your office will lock and you'll be stuck.
    • It's possible to reach the floor of the lift room by jumping down from shelf to shelf. Since you're not supposed to get down there alive, and you can't climb back up, you'll be stuck.
  • Villainous Breakdown: While probably not fitting the terminology of "villain", the Narrator gets progressively more and more antagonistic as you walk through the game without following the pre-determined story. He outright loses it when you get to the Countdown ending.
  • Wham Shot: Stanley opening his eyes in the HD Remix's Crazy/Mariella ending to find he hasn't woken up from his "dream". Coupled very effectively with a chilling example of Dissonant Serenity.
    Narrator: [calmly] Stanley began screaming.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Most of the endings, including the "Golden" one, give no answer to the very mystery that set the story off: what happened to everyone else in the building?
    • The mystery's addressed (to some extent, anyway) in the Countdown ending. The Narrator made them all vanish, simply to kick the story off. Of course, that's just what happened in that specific instance. The Narrator changes things up every time.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Most of the endings involve the narrator scolding the player for not following directions.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: In the Stop Moving ending in the HD Remake, the Narrator will break down and beg you not to kill yourself, because for once in his life, he's happy. Other endings? If you go against him and his story, he'll joyfully try to kill you, even if he needs to destroy the entire facility to do it. Confusion reveals that not even the Narrator is safe from railroading, that even though he's controlling Stanley and most of the overall story, even he's not in control in the end.
  • World Limited to the Plot: When you repeatedly try to walk through the blue door, the narrator eventually gets fed up and lets you through, showing you that nothing actually exists inside.
    Narrator: You see? There's nothing here. I haven't even finished building this section of the map because you were never supposed to be here in the first place.
  • You Bastard:
    • The "Let's Play" parody video turns into the Narrator taking a shot at the viewer for laughing at the fake LPer's increasing confusion, saying that the viewer is simply alone, and that he'll have great fun in making the viewer feel the LPer's pain. Strangely, the game itself can be seen as an assault on this sort of attitude from developers. In the HD remix's Pawn ending, wherein the narrator exults, pompously, that he's the only one able to make Stanley see that his life is meaningless, dreary, that no one will actually like him, that he's doomed to only follow others, and that only the narrator has the power to force him to understand that he's nothing - and that enlightenment is only possible through him.
    • In the Stop Moving ending, after Stanley has damaged himself a couple of times, the Narrator breaks down when he realizes Stanley intends to force the game to reset.
    Narrator: Please, no, Stanley, let me stay here! Don’t take this from me! My God, is this really how much you dislike my game? That you’ll throw yourself from this platform over and over to be rid of it? You’re literally willing to kill yourself to keep me from being happy?
    • If you let the baby die in the baby game in the HD Remix, the Narrator calls you out on it. This is also a mockery of You Bastard games that chew the player out for playing a game that gives you a situation where the only option is to fail.
    Narrator: Did you do it because you hate babies, or purely to spite me?