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Times where somebody was Late to the Tragedy in Video Games.


  • Very common in Interactive Fiction, where it forms a subset of the situations described by "Adam Cadre's Theorem" (i.e. That mysteriously abandoned places are common in games since they inherently have mystery and lack any difficult to program Non-Player Characters). Examples include Planetfall, Babel, Glowgrass, Theatre, etc.
  • The 7th Guest and its sequels. The player character in The 7th Guest is late for a literal party—so late that all the guests are ghosts! Only at the end is it finally revealed that he is, in fact, the eponymous Seventh Guest, and was actually on time, as he, too, is a ghost.
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  • The entirety of Alien Legacy involves the colonists of the UNS Calypso waking up from their Human Popsicle state to find that the system they were sent to colonize contains only ruins from the UNS Tantalus colonies (the Tantalus was sent later but had a better engine). Besides establishing colonies all over the Beta Caeli system, the goal is to search the ruins, find the Apocalyptic Logs, and figure out what caused the destruction of the first colonies. The situation is made even more grim, as it's heavily implied that Earth has been destroyed by a vicious alien race (the whole reason for sending out colony ships was to preserve humanity somewhere, as Earth's defenses were being battered down). While many ships were sent out, every captain is given standing orders to assume the worst (i.e. Earth is gone, and so are the other ships) and avoid revealing the location of the colony.
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  • In Alpha Prime, your original goal is to simply travel to a sealed off mining station to rescue a friend. Once you meet him, however, you learn that the asteroid was sealed off in the first place due to the Company who owned it's failure to acquire the MacGuffin they sought. By the end, you learn that not only was the villain only there to make another attempt at collecting Glomar's heart while eliminating any witnesses, but it was the real reason you were sent there.
  • AMBER: Journeys Beyond is built on this trope. Your paranormal research partner has bought an allegedly haunted house and rigged it up with all kinds of barely-tested equipment. You find her unconscious with some of that equipment strapped to her head, the whole house dark, and all manner of creepy stuff going down.
  • In Analogue: A Hate Story the plot begins with a investigator sent to an abandoned and lifeless generation ship to investigate what the hell happened here. The ship's not in the best condition at this point, so there is some danger to the player character as well, though it's fairly low; even if the Mugunghwa explodes you could probably fly away in time. The logs a couple of helpful A.I.s show you all point to societal degeneration before someone wiped all of the population. It's all fun and games until you discover that one of the AI helping you was the party pooper, and that the ship reactor is very close to exploding, so you have to work fast so the logs aren't blown to bits and lost. In the sequel, Hate Plus, we keep digging and discover how the things first degenerated to the state seen in the previous game.
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  • In Another Code, the protagonist goes to an island to meet her estranged father. She finds out that the owners of the island died decades ago, and her father's whereabouts are unknown.
  • BioShock:
    • The original Bioshock (from the makers of the System Shock games) takes place in an abandoned undersea utopia-gone-wrong, which the player character stumbles across, discovering more about what went wrong as they explore. Though unlike System Shock, you do meet a few survivors that haven't gone insane.
    • Quite literally late to the party in this case, since everything went down on New Year's Eve.
    • In Quain's "Utropolis" manuscript from BioShock 2's Alternate Reality Game, it details his arrival at Rapture and discovery of the aforementioned New Year's celebration — at which point he muses that he was "Late for the party."
    • In BioShock 2, there's a subplot of the protagonist of the aforementioned ARG who discovered Rapture looking for his missing daughter who was turned into a Little Sister told through audio logs. Right before you enter one area of the game, you hear - in the actual world and not an audio log - the man screaming to "get away from her." When you go inside, you can find a suitcase full of surprisingly-normal possessions and an audio log. The audio log ends with the businessman screaming the same desperate pleas you had just heard from outside the room. It turns out that you'd been mere minutes behind him for most of the way. You'd think that'd be the end of that plotline, but right before the finale you're late to the party again, because apparently the businessman didn't die there, and was instead dragged off to become a Big Daddy who would serve his own daughter as a little sister. You find an audio log telling you this directly after you encounter (and probably kill) a Big Daddy with a name matching the businessman from the audio logs, right next to an operating table for the creation of Big Daddies.
    • Averted in BioShock Infinite, however. Both factions are still fighting, and Columbia hasn't been reduced to the horrific crumbling state of Rapture where everything seems to be hanging by a thread and ready to flood at the slightest provocation. It's still going to be very dangerous though. As Yahtzee put it, "this time, you're just in time for the party, because the party is YOU."
  • In the 1997 Blade Runner video game, the player arrives at the scene of a set of heinous animal murders, and has to investigate the crime, along with several other cases which are shown to be related during the course of the game.
  • Reading Blaster: Ages 9 - 12 does this, frequently incorporating the information about what happened into its language arts activities.
  • Bonesaw: The Game: The Game has one of these to help form its premise. The player character took a bit too long gathering some pulled pork sandwiches, and just happened to miss Ref M sucking the rest of his team into an interdimensional penalty box!
  • Dark Fall is another good example: "you" get a telephone Distress Call from your architect brother: "I know what you're thinking: you're thinking, 'He only ever phones when there's something wrong.' Well, something is wrong. Very wrong." You hurry to help him with whatever it is, and find yourself alone in a railway station fifty years abandoned. You get to explore and find out what the strange sounds are, and why the lights turn themselves on and off, and just who it is you hear singing in the restaurant kitchen, and why the star-map you find shows constellations unlike any we know, and what those strange symbols and words are in the bathroom, and what's in the basement...
  • The player character and C. Auguste Dupin frequently fall into this trope in the Dark Tales series. It's generally justified in this instance, because they're detectives and are only called to the scene after something horrible has already happened; in a few cases, however, they simply stumble upon a situation while going about their lives.
  • Deadnaut does this on a larger scale - humanity has finally left the solar system in 2115, only to find out that every civilization out there has pretty much died. It is your job to command a crew throughout the ships and find out whatever information you can from dead bodies, and the ship's flight log.
  • Dead Rising. Frank West enters Willamette to investigate a story... which turns out to be a zombie outbreak. Somewhat of an oddball example, as Frank's mission from the start is to uncover the story.
  • Dead Space does this by the book. You are a literally called in to fix the broken communication system of the mining space ship Ishimura, only to find the crew replaced by hideous necromorphs. Like in Metroid Prime, you can recover sets of video, audio, and textual logs left by various members of the dead crew to piece together how and why the party went down (It wasn't a very nice party).
  • In the Lucasarts video game The Dig, the human protagonists are "kidnapped" by an advanced spaceship and arrive at an alien world whose civilization has apparently become extinct. At first they care only about survival and possibly finding a way to return Earth, but over the course of the game they discover clues as to the cause of the alien disappearance and end up bringing them back.
  • Doom 3 has you both early and late to the party; you're there when everything goes to hell (or hell comes to it) but it's clear a lot has been going on before your arrival.
  • DOOM (2016): Inverted, as the Doom Slayer had already crashed - and torched - the party, then went for a night on the town, torched the town for good measure, then was enjoying an extended stay in the towns drunk tank as a result.
    • DOOM Eternal: The main tragedy is over: Earth has been torched by the Demon invasion, most people have died either as a result of the conflict or from the wheels of civilization abruptly coming to a stop, the survivors barely hanging on, and the Slayer arrives to prevent human extinction.
  • The Golems of Amgarrak DLC for Dragon Age: Origins offers a double dose of this trope. Not only are you exploring the fantasy equivalent of an abandoned laboratory where the researchers were killed by their creation, but you are following in the steps of a previous expedition that attempted to explore the place and were slaughtered, hoping to find at least one survivor.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Played With in Dragon Quest VII; while most of the world has long been lost to darkness, the protagonists discover a way to travel back in time and deal with the disasters in the past. The exact timing of your arrival varies from place to place; in some cases, the locals have been suffering for some time, while at other points you arrive just before things start going to hell.
      • Played straightest in Dialac/Regenstein: the whole village has been Taken for Granite for so long by the time you show up that most of the statues have been worn down by the elements.
    • Played straight in Dragon Quest VIII, wherein the heroes often arrive just in time to see their next lead or target go up in smoke.
  • Echo Night: The Echo Night series uses this in each installment.
    • The first game strands Richard on the Orpheus, a Ghost Ship long lost at sea.
    • In the second game, Richard's search for his missing girlfriend leads him to a haunted mansion.
    • Beyond takes the series into space, stranding the protagonist on a lunar colony.
  • A recurring theme in The Elder Scrolls.
    • For a very long definition of "late", as you explore one Dwemer ruin in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind you find evidence that the Dwarves had a residential district there and were having a peaceful night in when the whole race was simultaneously killed (or possibly ascended). Piles of ash lie together on beds, guards' suits of armor and weapons lie where they fell during their patrols, etc.
    • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: This happens several times, but the most notable instance is a late Mage's Guild Quest, where you are sent to check up on a spy within the Necromancer Cult, and you are outright told "You missed the party- the special guest has already left!" Of course, this means bad things for The Mole.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: many side-missions and places you can find in the overworld and certain dungeons fully engage in this, and you'll often find the bodies of hapless men, mer, or beastfolk who got on the wrong side of some monster or dangerous animal in the wilderness, or the smoking ruins of a house where you'll find the inhabitants have been murdered by bandits. One mission in particular is starts when you walk into a lighthouse in the mountains, where you find the body of a woman and a chaurus and are immediately given the quest prompt to find out what happened. Another occurs when you happen upon an archaeological expedition into a dwarven ruin and find the bodies of the expedition littered through the whole dungeon as you slowly learn what transpired there.
  • Elliot and the Musical Journey: Elliot wakes up one morning to discover his world is quite different from how it usually is. When he finds Tristan in a cage, Tristan informs him that the Skeleton King has invaded during a celebration, stolen all the music and instruments in the land, and kidnapped the princess.
  • Seen in the bonus chapter of Enigmatis: The Shadow of Karkhala, which takes place prior to the main game. As the final terrible scene unfolds, a small plane can be seen flying in the background. This is the plane which the player character and her partner are flying at the beginning of the main game, indicating that the detectives missed the tragedy by a matter of hours.
  • The main story of Eternal Darkness has Alex Roivas trying to discover why her grandfather was killed by reading pages of the Tome of Eternal Darkness he left behind. Several chapters also involve this trope and a paper trail to follow.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: In the Honest Hearts DLC, you travel with a caravan through Zion Canyon towards New Canaan, only to find out from the locals that it was razed by the White Legs, who also slaughtered your fellow caravaneers.
    • The Lonesome Road DLC has an interesting twist on this with The Divide, an area that was rendered dangerously inhospitable years before you arrive due to the detonation of multiple nukes buried underneath it. The twist is that you were directly responsible for that, though unintentionally. Those nukes went off in reaction to a package the Courier delivered to the area before the events of the game.
    • The base game has you enter Nipton right as Caesar's Legion just finished slaughtering it, as the two survivors and the perpetrators themselves will tell you.
  • Fallout 4 has this happen at the beginning of the Automatron DLC, where both Jackson and Zoe have been killed by the hostile robots by the time you find their caravan, and Ada is the only survivor.
  • The Fatal Frame/Project Zero games revolve around this trope:
    • In the first game, the main character Miku is searching for her brother Mafuyu, who disappeared while on a missing person hunt of his own - looking for his mentor, a novelist researching his next novel by visiting the supposedly haunted Himuro mansion. Miku later happens upon the sad tale of a folklorist who moved into the mansion with his wife and daughter, not to mention the failed ritual that made the mansion so maliciously haunted in the first place.
    • The second game, Crimson Butterfly, has twin protagonists Mayu and Mio getting lost in the woods and stumbling into All Gods' Village, a place that vanished off the face of the earth many years ago. The first section of the game revolves around following the trail of a woman who followed her missing boyfriend to the village.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • This occurs a number of times in Final Fantasy VII, usually involving a previous bloody massacre by Sephiroth or the shady dealings of the Shinra organization.
    • This gets ludicrous throughout the middle of Final Fantasy IX, wherein nearly every city the protagonist comes across is obliterated literally moments before he arrives. The list of console RPG clichés actually names this "curse" after the main character — who, granted, was created to bring destruction, but not by arriving five minutes after every plot-related catastrophe.
  • A Flash game called Found Lost is pretty much the whole trope. You as the character get lost in the back country on a way to a Halloween party and break down in front of an old house that beckons you in. Some scattered news clippings, a journal, and some scary imagery later, you find out exactly what happened to the previous owner. And it ain't pretty.
  • Ghost Trick plays with this trope. Your character is regularly late to any party, leaving someone dead, but his abilities include traveling back to 4 minutes before the person's death, making you catch the party after all.
  • God of War:
    • In God of War, Kratos can find several journal passages from the architect who constructed Pandora's Temple. They don't serve to forward the plot at all, but it's very interesting nonetheless.
    • In fourth game, once Kratos and his son Arteus are forced to leave the safe isolation of the Wild Woods, they travel the Nine Realms and discover almost everything is in ruin. There’s ongoing war between the Light Elves and Dark Elves, Odin is corrupting the surviving humans and Jötnar (Frost Giants) are all dead. What makes that last past is disturbing is we never learn who or what killed the Jötnar, especially when it becomes apparent not even Odin could’ve pulled it off.
  • In Gone Home, you return home after a year abroad and your family isn't there. Something clearly is not right. Finding out what that tragedy was is the point of the game.
  • Half-Life 2 has an overarching plotline of the player being late to the tragedy for the subjugation of Earth. There's a nested trope in the Ravenholm portion of the game, where the player walks in on the aftermath of the much more recent slaughter of an entire town.
    • Played with, however, in the first Half-Life. Gordon Freeman, the main game's protagonist, directly/accidentally causes the resonance cascade, and the main game and its expansions take place as everything goes to hell. However, the cascade, the resulting Xen incursion, and the military's intervention cause a lot of smaller mishaps and catastrophes to happen offscreen, leaving only the aftermath for the player to find as they progress.
    • Half-Life: Opposing Force plays this straight, as by the time Shephard arrives at Black Mesa, the Xen invasion has already gained the upper hand over the military hold of the facility. And by the time he recovers from his injuries from his transport's crash, the rest of the HECU are already giving orders to pull out, with aliens crawling all over the facility.
    • Black Mesa plays the trope straighter in the later levels, where Gordon is arriving late to a related but distinct tragedy that happened some time before the resonance cascade. There are several abandoned outposts where teams of scientists had been studying the alien world of Xen until they fell afoul of hostile wildlife... and attracted the attention of Nihilanth.
  • Halo 3: ODST has the Rookie trying to catch up with the rest of the squad after being unconscious in his drop pod for several hours. The subplot with the audiologs would probably also count.
  • Heretic 2 has you arrive at your hometown some time after a magical plague has been unleashed.
  • Hollow: By the time the Player Character wakes up in the docking bay, the ship is experiencing power outages, there's emergency klaxons blaring throughout the place, and most of the crew us either dead, or reduced to the monsters that now roam the halls.
  • Happens fairly early in Homeworld. After the first Kharakian hyperjump and battle with the Turanic Raiders, the Mothership returns to Kharak to find that it has just been destroyed by The Empire. The only survivors of your race are aboard the Mothership and several cryo-containers in orbit... which are in the process of being destroyed by a few Imperial ships. After capturing one of the ships, you get the "pleasure" of watching an Apocalyptic Log of your planet's desperate fight against the vast Imperial armada, and the use of an unthinkable WMD against Kharak.
  • In stage two of Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, Sir Walter finds the eponymous Lost Colony, only to find it has been devastated by local swamp creatures which proceed to give him a very ballistic welcome. Among the ruins, he manages to find Virginia, the first human born on Mars who is determined with finding Joachim, her father and the only other survivor.
  • Every level in Killer7 amounts to this - the titular assassin group arrives to perform a job, and Travis fills them in on why, exactly, someone has to be killed.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords Starts with the player being Late to the Party aboard the Peragus Mining Facility. After finding the culprit, the player promptly has his own party which makes the first party almost completely irrelevant.
    • And the first game had the Hrakert Rift station. You know something happened, but then you and yours walk right into a survival horror mess with a bunch of crazed Selkath, chewed-up bodies, and if you're really unlucky, Darth Malak's excuse for an apprentice.
  • Zig-Zagged in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Link was present when Calamity Ganon began to destroy Hyrule. He would be mortally wounded protecting Princess Zelda and placed into a rejuvenation chamber to recover. By the time Link awakens, he no longer has any memory of what happened, it has been 100 years since he was placed in the chamber, and the near entirety of Hyrule has been laid to ruin. The player learns about the whole thing as he does, as he slowly regains and pieces together his lost memories.
  • Sierra's own Myst clone, Lighthouse, runs on this trope as well. Professor Jeremiah Krick calls you at the start of the game to come over and babysit his infant daughter Mandy while he's away, but a strange creature breaks in and kidnaps her only minutes later, and Krick himself is nowhere in sight. When you activate a teleporter in his lighthouse, this trope extends to a parallel world, which is almost devoid of life, and an old man Krick met earlier is long dead.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Happens several times in the Shepard trilogy, most prominently when investigating the Collector attacks in Mass Effect 2 and during the Sanctuary and monastery missions in Mass Effect 3.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the Andromeda Initiative studied their target planets in real time using mass effect telescopes before setting out. They arrive in Andromeda 634 years later to discover that in the interim a Negative Space Wedgie has broken out across the target star cluster, and worse, the kett have invaded the place.
  • Then there is Mega Man Zero 2. Arriving at Neo Arcadia 2 only to find every soldier involved dead (with the exception of one).
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid Prime sets Samus on the planet Tallon IV without any clue as to what happened there, and then does two of these at the same time: the Chozo Lore tells you how things got this way, and the Pirate Data explains what has happened since the original Metroid and what the Space Pirates are doing there. As the pirate entries catch up to the present, Samus becomes the apocalypse.
    • The sequels do it too. Echoes has you landing on Aether in search of a lost platoon of Federation Marines; you find them all dead. You then have to single-handedly reverse the outcome of a just-completed war that had been going on for at least the past several decades. The third game, Corruption, has four instances of this trope: three planets and the wreckage of a battle cruiser. This is at least a bit better than the other examples, as the three planets were recently attacked, and Samus didn't go there immediately because she was unconscious from a previous attack.
    • In Super Metroid you receive a distress signal from the Ceres Space Colony, only arriving to find all the scientists already dead.
    • In Metroid Fusion you arrive at the BSL research station after a mysterious explosion. Then the zombies show up.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Deception, Jade wanted to help the heroes fight the Deadly Alliance from the previous game but by the time she gets there the fight is over, the heroes corpses litter the ground and the new Big Bad is just showing up.
  • Myst. You, the player, find yourself on an abandoned island. After exploring a bit, you build up a picture of something dire that happened there before you arrived.
    • In Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, the party you're late for just happens to be the first four Myst games. And you'd just pre-ordered them, too... *sniff*
  • The Mystery Case Files series tries out this trope, complete with video Apocalyptic Log, in Dire Grove.
  • The Neverhood starts off with the protagonist sleeping on the floor of a locked room with no explanation as to who he is or how he got there. The story is told bit-by-bit through little discs recorded by another character.
  • In Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi, the protagonist is late for the wedding of his sister. He arrives at the castle at 10 PM, and has until midnight to find out what happened.
  • Obduction, by the creators of Myst. You, the player, are whisked away to a human colony on another planet on lockdown. As you explore and unlock everything you find out where all the other humans have gone and why everything is on lockdown.
  • Odium. All contact with a Polish city has been lost some time ago. Now, the city is in ruins and bizarre monstrosities roam the streets. There is actually practically no exposition as to what happened until the very end.
  • In Bungie's Pathways into Darkness, the player is part of an elite special forces team sent with only hours to stop the Sealed Evil in a Can at the bottom of a nightmarish jungle pyramid dungeon from waking up. But your parachute malfunctions before you can land, and your team leaves you for dead. Since It's Up to You, you awaken hours later (also finding that the barrel of the awesome M16 in your Bag of Spilling was bent in the landing, rendering all of your ammo useless) to discover that your team has failed.
  • At the beginning of Portal, Chell awakens in a room in Aperture Science. GLaDOS, the motherly computer-generated voice, promises cake and a party if you successfully complete all the challenges set before you. As it turns out, the party she's referring to does not exist (but the cake does...), the employees are long dead, and Chell won't be getting cake... she'll be getting baked.
  • In Portal 2, considering Chell's been in stasis for years (estimates range from two decades to three centuries), she's really late to the tragedy as far as the fate of mankind goes. She's also late to the tragedy she herself set up by destroying GLaDOS in the previous game.
    • Depending on how long she'd been sleeping, things could be either during or post- HalfLife2.
  • In the 1986 Interactive Fiction game Portal (unrelated to 3D series Portal) one-man interstellar expedition returns to Earth after over a century and finds it empty. He uses a computer terminal to figure where did everybody disappear. See also novelization below.
  • Raft takes place in a post-apocalyptic world flooded by climate change. There are other signs of human habitation, like a radio tower, a grounded cruise ship, or a nature sanctuary, but wherever you go it seems there was some disaster that forced whatever people who were living there to abandon the place.
  • One sidequest in Rakenzarn Tales is about investigating one of these in the form of an inn where people have been mysteriously disappearing.
  • Most of the Resident Evil games. Resident Evil 2, where Leon and Claire show up to a zombie-infested Raccoon City, takes it the most literally: Partway through, you find the party favors and decorations for a welcome party the Raccoon City Police Department was going to throw for Leon. However, Leon showed up late because he overslept due to drinking heavily the night before.note 
    • Averted in Resident Evil: Outbreak since you play as characters who were in Racoon City just as the party was getting started.
    • Also averted in Resident Evil 6, in China. You're standing right there when the bio-bomb goes off that floods the entire city's streets with zombie gas. You get to watch as the innocent screaming civilians all turn into zombies and begin smashing through windows to devour the people who were indoors and spared from the gas itself in one of the most terrifying game scenes in history.
    • Played with in both Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7; something bad as already happened in the respective locations but things only really kick off once the player character comes knocking.
  • The indie game Return of the Obra Dinn has you investigating an abandoned ship that mysterious sails into Falmouth, and trying to find out what happened to the dead or missing crew members.
  • The Asimov-inspired Robot City.
  • Star Control 2. The protagonist is sent to aid Earth and its allies in a war against hostile aliens, only to find that Earth was conquered twenty years earlier.
    • Done again later, when you go looking for the Androsynth homeworld only to find out that the Androsynth were researching something they shouldn't have, and were seen by something when they really didn't want to be seen (well, if you believe the Arilou). There are no more Andryosynth, only Orz.
  • Jenosa arrives at the base in Scurge: Hive after the Scurge itself has escaped containment and infested the base. Notably, the Confederation who assigned Jenosa this mission was quite certain the reason they lost contact with the base was due to containment failure, and as such her mission is to reclaim what data and technology she can get a hold of.
  • Shivers and Shivers Two: Harvest of Souls are both set well after everyone involved is already dead or otherwise cursed.
  • Downplayed in the Silent Hill series — although fitting most of the criteria, right down to the scattered journal pages and the notes written in human blood, you never really find out what's going on. The most you can hope for is some personal closure, a rescued survivor, or maybe a long-lost wife brought back from the dead. The games do drop hints as to why the town is the way it is, and the nature of Silent Hill is explored in detailed in the expanded book "The Book of Lost Memories".
  • Soma boasts multiple layers of this trope. Not only your character is late to the tragedy that wiped out most if not all humanity to begin with, but practically all the underwater scientific stations that you are going to visit throughout the game are completely derelict and/or devoid of life (barring one tiny exception), due to many additional matters that went VERY wrong and resulted in everyone running away for good, taking their own lives, or getting killed (or worse).
  • In the very beginning of Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter, Roger Wilco awakens in his closet from the sounds of gun fire and commotion as the ship he is on is taken over by the enemy Sariens. By the time he exits the closet, the crew is already dead, the self-destruction sequence is already engaged, and he has to find his way to the escape pod while avoiding the invaders who are still looking for any living souls who they might have missed.
    • In Space Quest V: The Next Mutation, Roger is in command of a starship. One of the planets he visits is supposed to have a small colony. However, no one on the planet is responding to hails, so Roger and his weapons officer Droole beam down to investigate. All they find are abandoned buildings and no trace of the colonists. Then a mutated colonist jumps Roger and tries to infect him with the mutagen. Luckily, Droole shows up and blasts the mutant. A canister found near the colony provides clues as to the origins of the mutagenic plague. Later, Roger travels to the space station, where it was developed, and finds it abandoned as well.
  • Starflight: You're from Planet Arth, whose star is about to collapse, on a mission to find a hospitable planet to which the populace can relocate. Along the way, adrift in deep space, you find a sleeper ship from Planet Earth... which was rendered inhospitable long ago. So long ago, in fact, that your culture lost all knowledge that your civilization originally came from Earth. Eventually you find Earth itself, and on its surface locate 'artifacts' in the form of newspapers vaguely describing its downfall. Eventually you have to use three actual artifacts together to stop a crystalline entity that was the cause of both Earth's downfall and the near destruction of your solar system.
  • In Subnautica, the protagonist is present when the Aurora begins to crash, but gets hit over the head and wakes up after every other survivor has died, with their last moments saved in collectible PDA files. Later, it also turns out that Aurora itself was late to a far greater tragedy - a near-total extinction of all life on the planet, and the massive plague that had ravaged the galaxy thousands of years before. This story is told through ruins and the PDA AI's speculations.
  • In Subterrain, protagonist Dr. Albert West is spared from the catastrophic infection that wipes out the Martian colony because he's stuck in a prison cell for murder. After an escape borne largely out of desperation, he can piece together clues about what happened and why.
  • A few Mario games run on this, specifically Super Mario 64. Princess Peach invites Mario to her palace for a celebration or simply to have cake together. By the time Mario arrives, she is already kidnapped.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary, this occurs right before the final boss fight, when Sonic, the fastest playable character in the game, shows up out of nowhere with no notice whatsoever and damages Tabuu's butterfly wings, weakening his 'Off Waves' ability and allowing a battle with him without dying by default.
  • Syndrome: When The Protagonist wakes up from cryosleep, the ship is infested with insane murderers and killer robots.
  • System Shock and its sequel, both of which have the hero waking from cryogenic suspension and slowly discovering the ship/station he's on has been through some interesting developments while he was out.
    • Interesting to note is that System Shock's development actually necessitated a Late to the Party story, as then-current computers simply couldn't render believable character interactions.
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune does it a few times over - not only the hero and the villainous enemy mercs but also Nazis and Sir Francis Drake were late to the tragedy of a group of Spanish explorers who found El Dorado - and grew to wish they hadn't. In the present, the hero finds himself trawling through the wreckage of these multiple doomed expeditions.
  • Grout's mansion in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is like this: As the main character begins exploring the Malevolent Architecture of the mansion in search of Dr. Grout, they come across tape recordings by the Malkavian Primogen, discussing his condition and history. The further into the mansion you go, the less sane these recordings begin to sound, finally climaxing into some truly epic paranoid rantings that not only turns out to be utterly true, but utterly justified — by the time you get to the inner sanctum, you find his obviously murdered corpse inside.
    • And if that's not creepy enough, wait until you see what he meant by "precautions to protect my beloved wife"—her corpse is sealed inside a huge Victorian bell jar, surrounded by objects from her childhood and their courtship.
  • This is the basic premise of Viscera Cleanup Detail: You go to areas where an ugly, bloody massacre has occurred, usually involving some sort of alien monsters, and as a janitor, it's your job to clean up all the mess and dispose of all the corpses and trash.


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