Both of the stories written thus far feature a group of sixteen all-American students, each considered to be the top of their respective fields. Known as All-Stars, these students were set to attend Success Summit, the USA's equivalent of Hope's Peak Academy, until strange events led to them being trapped in a twisted prison, run by the sadistic Monobear. The evil bear tells the students that the only way to leave their predicament is to kill somebody else and not get caught.
The first installment of the series, Universal Despair Sale, takes place in the Mall of Monomerica, in which sixteen students are trapped against their will by Monobear.
The second installment of the series, Despair Run Wild, is set in the entirely different location of Camp Monomono, and features another set of sixteen students forced to play Monobear's sick game.
- Anyone Can Die: A given for any series affiliated with Danganronpa.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Just as in the original games, some of the killers are given this treatment after their motives are revealed. Although it's averted in the case of the first three culprits in UDS: Delilah, Randolph and Elizabeth, as well as the first three culprits in DRW: Tina, Shu and Rosa.
- Big Bad: Monobear
- Cruel and Unusual Death: As in the canon games.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set: Just as in the original game, the events that take place within Monobear's games are broadcast to the outside world via the security cameras. With the help of a world-famous magician, as well as an extensive satellite network, Ultimate Despair is showing live footage from each of the four mutual killing games all around the world.
- Dark Secret: Several characters are hiding one.
- Randolph, the seemingly-harmless monk, is actually a member of a cult that worships chaos and the end of days.
- Theo, the group's resident Nice Guy, once killed an innocent woman in order to save his own life.
- The End... Or Is It?: The story ends on a cliffhanger as the four surviving students from the Mall of Monomerica are released, not to the outside world, but to yet another mutual killing game, likely joined by the survivors from the other games.
- Man Behind the Man: The Mastermind of the Shopping Spree of Mutual Killing, Cimber Tillius.
- Never Suicide: Averted in Chapter 5, with Jordan's apparent murder having really been self-inflicted.
- Mythology Gag: During the second trial, Shu attempts to dodge the guilt of his murder by claiming he has an alternate personality inside his head named "Killer Joe". This is clearly a reference to Touko Fukawa and her serial killing alter ego, "Genocider Syo".