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Controllable Helplessness

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Push left to struggle. Push right to struggle. Face it, you're screwed.

"That timer isn't a catalyst to keep the action moving along. It's just seconds ticking away to your death. You're only still playing instead of watching a cutscene because I want to watch you for every moment that you're powerless. To see you made humble. This is not a challenge. It's a tragedy."
The Narrator, The Stanley Parable

Video games are all about putting the player in control, right? Not always, actually, but some games do try to go a bit farther than usual, and allow the player to be in control even when you're screwed.

In some games, there is a point at which you can be captured or restrained, and not able to move around, but you can still control your character. This might mean being able to wriggle around in your bonds, walk around in your prison cell, what have you, until you either die or are rescued. Other times, you are able to bring about your own rescue (Button Mashing freeing you from being frozen is actually fairly common).

In certain squad-based games which feature a Combat Resuscitation mechanic, running out of Hit Points may put you in a state of Controllable Helplessness where you can only crawl around, with a few examples also letting you use a pistol to try to defend yourself. In these cases, you'll eventually bleed out unless a teammate revives you... hopefully they're feeling cooperative if it's a multiplayer game, and aren't subject to Artificial Stupidity if it's single-player.

The point of allowing this "freedom" even when the player is helpless is sometimes to drive the feeling of helplessness home. It's one thing to be locked in a prison cell and be told that you lose. It's another thing to be locked in it, be able to move around freely within the cell, and eventually get executed anyway. The latter implies that you could have gotten free, making your inevitable loss hit you hard in a way that an immediate loss would not.

On the other hand, this can be seen as the surest sign of a heavily scripted game when the helplessness is unavoidable. Depending on how the player perceives it, such use of this trope could be seen as little more than a glorified cutscene in which you happen to be in control.

Sister trope to Injured Player Character Stage, in which the player character gets injured in the course of the storyline, affecting their abilities in the gameplay. Often a playable form of Injured Self-Drag, especially if the player's character is too crippled. Compare Hopeless Boss Fight, Fission Mailed and the Unwinnable tropes. An unavoidable loss or disaster is not this trope; that is Stupidity Is the Only Option. See also Expository Gameplay Limitation, in which the player's freedom is restricted in a less dramatic fashion.


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    Action Adventure 
  • In Cave Story — after defeating a certain boss, the only exit from the room closes and the room fills with water. All the player can do is jump around until the character drowns.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot: In the "Trunks — The Warrior of Hope" DLC story, Future Gohan's boss fight against Androids 17 and 18 ends with him using all of his remaining power to try and destroy them with a city-shattering Masenko. Unfortunately, they survive the attack. What follows is another "boss fight" wherein Gohan, exhausted and depleted of energy, tries to continue fighting the Androids, only for his punches and kicks to do pitiful damage and his ki attacks to sputter out as the Androids beat on him with almost no resistance.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail features this at the end of the game when Dust collapses from exhaustion after his battle with Gaius. The only action available is to slowly crawl to where Gaius is hanging from the cliff and trigger the final cutscene.
  • The console version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has a form of this. Dementors enter the train shortly after the fight with Malfoy and Harry's health slowly depletes and his movement becomes restricted and slow. There is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it from happening, so you must wait until his health empties.
  • Illusion of Gaia has scenes in which your character is trapped in a prison cell, and in which your character is adrift on a raft. You can have your character move around, but nothing you do matters very much.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, when you get beaten in Shadow Battle, you can button-mash and spaz across the ground. You can actually interact with switches and trip up other players in this way.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, your first moments with Link as a wolf are when Link wakes up in a jail cell, with one leg chained to the floor early on. You can move around for a bit before Midna appears to rescue you, but it makes no difference what you do in the meantime before she shows up.
  • In Nightshade (1992):
    • When you run out of healt, the villain, Suktekh, ties you into a Death Trap. During this time, you still have control of Nightshade, and can escape from the first four death traps you're put into, giving you another chance. The fifth one, however, fully fits this trope - there is no escape and it's game over.
    • At the beginning of the game, as well, you are tied to a chair and left with a bomb. You can move the chair, and can hide behind a wall, preventing you from taking the damage the bomb deals. (You can't escape from the chair until after the bomb goes off.)
  • Happens in the finale of Shadow of the Colossus: you can futilely struggle while being sucked into a vortex and you can cry and struggle after being turned into an infant. And rather ironically, after being possessed by a god you're similarly helpless—you can attack your enemies or limp away from them, but nothing you do can prevent the aforementioned vortex from being created.
  • In Tomb Raider (2013): Lara goes through this several times throughout the game:
    • The player's control of Lara begins with her hanging upside down in a sack, and requires swinging the sack the right way to burn it and set Lara free.
    • Shortly after, Lara's foot is caught in a bear trap, and while she's stuck the player has to fight off wolves in the woods that try to attack her.
    • At one point Lara's hands are tied behind her back, and you have to hide from enemies with flashlights and avoid being discovered while unable to attack.
    • Midway through the game Lara is captured by an Oni and suspended by her wrists from the ceiling, and as with the beginning of the game, the player must rock her back and forth in the correct pattern to break free.
    • Several times during the game Lara gets caught in a snare and must fight off Solarii cultists while suspended upside down. All you can do is shoot back and are unable to move otherwise (though you can escape by shooting out the winch).

    Action Game 
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum: During one of the Scarecrow parts you get to play as the Joker, and then a strapped down Batman, only able to move your head, as Joker pulls out a gun and shoots your face. The game over screen gives you the (un)helpful tip: Move the middle analog stick to avoid Joker's gunshots. (Or, if you are playing the PC version, "tilt the mouse".)
  • At the start of Batman: Arkham City, Bruce Wayne is tied to a chair and left alone. You're given a single command option: Left stick = Escape. As soon as you dump out of the chair, the guards are on top of you. You can deal with the first but are quickly clubbed in the head by the second.
  • Bayonetta 2 has a variant where the "Helpless" person is the Big Bad. After beating the Final Boss, he's kicked out of his soul and his body is sent flying straight in to Gomorrah, flailing around comically. The player is given control over his body in a Call-Back to the ending of the first game, but unlike the first game, there are no obstacles to steer around, you guide him straight in to Gomorrah's mouth. Downplayed in that it is possible to fail this sequence by veering too far off in one direction, but even on Infinite Climax, the player would have to be actively trying that.
    • Bayonetta 3 has a played straight example, as the prologue of the game sees an alternate Bayonetta facing off against a shadowy foe who's quickly overwhelming her as they eventually leave her severely injured, with the final phase of the fight having the player control a Bayonetta who at this point can barely walk, stand, or fight, with any attacks that do hit get reflected effortlessly before the enemy decides to incapacitate and finish the Umbra Witch off. The final battle between Bayonetta Prime and Singularity also has this phase, but interference from Viola, along with two Bayonetta variants, manages to keep Bayonetta from suffering the same fatal end.
  • God of War II has two examples of this: The first is after you beat the intro boss and face off against Zeus. At this point Kratos has both been drained of his godly powers and been slammed under several tons of hand-shaped bronze while his adversary is wielding a BFS as well as being a god, so it's no wonder that all you can do is take strained steps, flail your weapon around weakly and be unable to jump at all. After your foe finishes you off and the game gives you an Action Command prompt, you can mash Circle to struggle against being impaled with the said BFS, but doing so only delays the inevitable for a second or two. The second example is when Kratos initially faces against Kraken. After a plot event destroys what little trust he had left in the gods, Kratos refuses to fight the tentacled monstrosity and instead stomps around angrily and yells at the skies when you press any buttons until he's grabbed by one of the tentacles.
  • One boss battle in Katana ZERO begins with multiple layers of helplessness. First, every dialogue option available earns you a bullet between the eyes. Only through repeated in-universe Save Scumming unlocks the dialogue options that let you survive. Then you are still tied to a chair as the boss swings his axe down upon you. Wriggling just so tips over your chair as the axe comes down and cuts your rope. And even then you still don't have your katana, so you still can't fight back. Getting your katana back is a whole 'nother ordeal. Good thing you can see the future!
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance:
    • The first chapter has Raiden losing an arm and an eye against Samuel Rodrigues. He's still controlable afterwards, but as you can guess from his state and static filling the screen, he moves extremely slowly and can only perform single uncoordinated slashes with no chance to land another hit on Sam, who spends the rest of the scene casually walking after Raiden and shoving him around and taunting him until he finally hits Raiden with another attack.
    • Another of these occurs when Sam points out to Raiden how most of the cyborgs he's been killing had no other choice than to sign up for PMC work and then proceeds to somehow broadcast their inner thoughts into Raiden's head. Again, Raiden moves much slower than normal and can only perform 2 slashes in a row (yet the game expects you to win a battle against normal Mooks this way or you miss out on ranked battle) until he's finally saved by giving into his Ax-Crazy tendencies just before a boss fight.
  • At the start of NieR: Automata's Route C/D, you get to play as an Android infected with the Logic Virus. Your character sparks and staggers as your "System Corrupted" meter rises, leaving you unable to fight the Machines still in the area. As the Interface Screw intensifies and the background music loses its layers to static and mournful vocals, all you can do is limp as far away as you can from your remaining comrades before you're completely corrupted.

    Adventure Game 
  • In Disaster Report, if you mess up in one segment, you end up tied up, and have to struggle to escape in face of the constant earthquakes.
  • Grim Fandango includes this as a puzzle in its endgame, where Manny is shot up with Sproutella and falls to the ground in agony while his insides are slowly filled with flowers, and has to use what little strength he has left to remove the plant.
  • In Heavy Rain, if Madison is captured and tied up by the insane doctor there's a brief section where you can't do anything but move the controller to struggle and press X to scream. Eventually you do get the ability to free yourself.
  • King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella: The first time Rosella talks to Lolotte, she has Rosella locked up in her dungeon while she decides what to do with her. The player can have Rosella walk around the room for a few minutes, but that's about it. Later in the game, Rosella is locked up here again, but can escape this time (Lolotte's son helps), and must to avoid a Non-Standard Game Over.
  • King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!: Graham can get captured by thieves. If you didn't do the right sequence of events beforehand, all you can do is wait for the Have a Nice Death message.
  • The Last Express:
    • Cath ends up Bound and Gagged in a train car, unable to do much of anything except roll around on the floor. Doing so enough will eventually cause a match to fall out of his pocket, allowing him to burn through the ropes and free himself.
    • Also, when Cath has a nightmare, you can wander through the Green Car, but you can't leave; trying to go into the hallways will just make you move backwards. Also, every car door leads to compartment 1. The only way to progress is to enter any one of the doors to for a Mind Screw that ends the dream sequence.
  • The Last Guardian:
    • When Trico is affected by the antenna room that makes him turn on the boy, there is no way to escape or wake him up, you have to get eaten by him to progress. Avoid him for three minutes though and you get a trophy.
    • At one point the boy gets stuck in an elevator cage and all he can do is helplessly move around inside of it without getting anywhere until Trico finds him.
    • Kicks in heavily at the end when the companions have made it to the top of the tower and a dozen Tricos appear and starts attacking the main Trico. For a good while of the fight, the boy can only watch as Trico gets horribly beaten and other Tricos swipe at the boy if he tries to get close. Try to reach the shield and a dark Trico grabs the boy, violently shakes him and throws him off the tower, to which he grabs a flying Trico and can only hang on for dear life as it flies through the valley for nearly two minutes. Only when it lands on top of the tower again is the boy finally able to retrieve the shield and progress in his rescue.
  • At the start of Chapter 10 of Last Window, Kyle awakens to find himself tied up. You have to move around the room as best you can to find something to cut the ropes with.
  • In Life Is Strange, after Mr. Jefferson captures Max and takes her to the Dark Room, you can move the camera and look around, but there are very few objects you can meaningfully interact with.
    • In Life Is Strange 2, towards the end of the first episode there's a section where Sean is knocked out by a racist gas station owner and wakes up cable-tied to a pipe in a back room. During this sequence, he can only interact with objects by kicking or pushing them if they're within his reach, or by shouting instructions to Daniel through the wall.
  • Monkey Island:
    • From The Secret of Monkey Island, there's one part where you are attached to a weight underwater. If you fail to free yourself within the generous timespan of 10 minutes, you will drown, and be given options such as "float", "decompose" and "order hint book." Oh, and reload.
    • Even before these 10 minutes run out, you are given a lot of possible options to free you from the rope, with sharp objects all around you, which Guybrush can't reach because the rope is too short, leaving you helpless unless you can think outside of the box. You have to pick up the weight.
    • There's another variant in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, where Guybrush and Wally end up suspended next to each other over a pit of acid, and Guybrush has five minutes to sabotage the Death Trap that will drop them into the acid before it goes off.
    • At the beginning of Escape from Monkey Island, you start the game tied to the mast and have to use your limited mobility to free yourself.
    • This puzzle shows up yet again in Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, where Guybrush has to escape the clutches of a Mad Doctor while strapped to a table.
  • Happens in Myst, if you enter the final area without the means to get out. After a brief chastising by the guy you were supposed to be rescuing, you get to roam the five room sealed prison and watch him scribble in his book, presumably forever.
  • If you die in Oedipus in my Inventory you can walk around the bank of the River Styx before restarting.
  • SOS has a time limit of one hour in real time. If the time limit is reached and your character is still conscious, the ship you are trapped on becomes flooded as it sinks below the ocean's surface, leaving you to swim helplessly for about thirty seconds before drowning.
  • The Stanley Parable Countdown ending: Upon following the Narrator's ironic commands to attempt to free himself from the mind control, if the player prompts Stanley to turn on the Mind Control device instead of following orders and turning it off, the Narrator traps him in the Mind Control Facility with 120 seconds to live before the entire place goes nuclear. He then taunts the player further by adding additional time to the countdown, just to see the player frantically try to find a way out. This is considered a Player Punch, because while the Narrator has been constantly telling you exactly what to do, when you're given the chance to try and escape on your own, the only thing that comes to mind is finding a way out by moving around and clicking on things, just as the Narrator kept telling you to- but, unfortunately, nothing in the facility will stop the timer or allow for any way to escape.
  • In Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, if you take too much time in the final part of the game, you'll miss your lifeboat and will be stuck on the ship, free to walk around until it sinks.
  • Toonstruck has several instances of this:
    • B.B. Wolf wants Drew to find him a bottle of classy wine to serve at a dinner party. Win the Strengthometer game at the Cutopia Arcade to win a bottle of "Fine Chablis" (which actually turns out to be "Captain Blowhard's Prune Wine"). Deliver this to the wolf, and both him and his refined palate will be so upset, that he immediately sics his family upon Drew and Flux. Next thing they know, they find themselves tied up inside of a cooking pot in the wolves' den, where they have to keep swaying the pot back and forth until it eventually topples over, rolling around the den (with them still in it), literally crashing the dinner party.
    • Later in the game, Nefarious sets his henchmen on Drew, so that whenever you enter either the bakery or the costumarama in Cutopia, there's a chance they'll come barging in looking for you. If you fail to hide from them in time, they will seize Drew, take all of his items, and lock him up in a jail cell in the Malevolands. The jail has lush shag carpeting, and an electronic door lock that is preset to automatically release its captive... in just a little under 260,000 years. The only thing you're able to do is pace around helplessly in your carpeted jail cell, causing a buildup of static electricity in your body. Attempt to touch the lock while sufficiently charged, and it will short out and start counting the years down rapidly. Keep doing this, and Drew will be free in no time.
    • Even further on, after finishing the Cutifier, Drew will once again be seized, and find himself locked in Nefarious' dungeon, guarded by a chatty ogre who swallowed the only key to your cell. Talking to the guard will reveal the information that he has a severe dust allergy, giving him a perpetually runny nose. The only thing available in the jail cell is a single dusty welcome-mat. Give it a good beating against the cell bars, and he'll sneeze with such force that he knocks himself out-cold against the wall, and rocketing the jail key out of his stomach.
  • Happens at one point in Trilby's Notes. Trilby is rendered completely helpless, and there is only one command that will have a productive result: "DIE" To elaborate, you MUST "Die", but you can't immediately. You have to try as many commands as you can, struggling in vain, in order to bleed out faster thus actually unlocking the "Die" command. And yes, you want to die quickly enough, given the situation where it happens...!
  • The Walking Dead: The intro has you in the back of a police car. The cop takes his eyes off the road just in time for a walker to lurch into his path, and no matter what you have Lee yell or how fast, you'd better believe you're hitting that walker and going off the road.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Shooting anything other than a target during one of America's Army's tutorials (like, say, your drill sergeant) will land you in a prison cell where you are absolutely unable to do anything, save for restarting the game.
  • Borderlands gives you ten seconds to "Fight for your Life" before you die, where you will be given a chance to kill someone within 10 seconds before you die for real, during which you will be lying crippled on the ground, barely capable of moving, with double reloading time penalty. If you actually do kill something during this period, you get some of your health back with a "Second Wind!" message. Notably, the game counts kills caused by other methods for this purpose, so long as you were the cause - for example, if you set someone on fire, are knocked into "Fight For Your Life!", and then the fire kills them, you automatically get a "Second Wind".
  • The Darkness has a harrowing sequence in which the player character is brutally tortured in first person. Though due to your character's unique abilities there actually is something you can (and must) do. When visiting a restaurant in the sequel to meet with two upper-class twin sisters, one of them is shot in the head as a rocket zooms toward your face. Being injured and unable to walk, your best friend give you a gun and begun dragging you across the bloodied restaurant as you shoot enemies trying to kill you. You even get an achievement if you managed to kill a certain number of them.
  • Happens briefly in Deus Ex after J.C. gets captured by Majestic 12. After about ten seconds of walking around your cell, Daedalus opens the door for you.
  • In the final level of the Doom Game Mod Back to Saturn X Episode 1, you walk aboard a ship, only to have it sink beneath you. The ending sequence - instead of a simple text screen - is an entire cutscene-like level where you drown in the water while seeing bits and pieces of the ship sinking around you. You can turn around and shoot, but can't move from the spot, and eventually come to a rest near a crate with "To Be Continued" written on it.
  • Far Cry 2 does this every time the Player Character meets The Jackal.
  • Far Cry 3 has this with a twist where it is actually someone else's life that the player is helpless to save. In the beginning, when Vaas shoots Jason's brother in the throat, the player is given the prompt to apply pressure to the wound. Whether or not the player does this has no affect on the outcome.
  • Half-Life 2 and its subsequent Episodes do this a lot:
    • In the Citadel, where you're first stripped of your weapons in an airlock-like chamber (you can move, but extremely slowly, and look around as your weapons are disintegrated) and later enter a suspended cage... cocoon... thing where the only thing you can do is move your head around.
    • In Episode Two you are able to move only very slowly and move your head after a Hunter brings a building down on you. This is distressing: your companion Alyx is being mauled by a Hunter and you cannot helpnote . At two points later in the game you are held helpless by the psionic power of an Advisor, the first time while it prepares to insert a probe in your brain, the second time at the end of the game when you are forced to watch while it kills Eli Vance.
    • Half-Life: Alyx has two back-to-back instances at the beginning, first when you're held at gun point by a Combine Overwatch Grunt in an elevator, you can press the button but he'll block the door and eventually get fed up and shoot out the button and you can block the lens of the city scanner when it tries to identify you but you're still going to take a stunstick to the face. When you wake up in the prisoner van, you can pace around and bang against the glass but there's nothing you can do until Russel's drone drops a grenade in the driver's cab.
  • Halo: Reach features the 'until you lose' version of the trope in the Playable Epilogue, Lone Wolf. The player, as Noble Six, has been left stranded on Reach, in an isolated farm, with no backup and no means of escape, surrounded on all sides by a small army of Covenant, who are in the process of glassing the planet. You're free to try fighting them off, but the Covenant will literally never stop coming, eventually sending Wraiths after you. The only way to end the level is to get killed - as you take damage, your HUD starts to crack, and eventually a cutscene is triggered in which Noble Six finally goes down.
  • In Hugo 3: Jungle of Doom, Hugo gets locked up in a giant cage inside the Witch Doctor's hut. If you didn't get all the proper items before going in the cage, then it's impossible to escape.
  • In Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity, there is one level each where you are trapped in a small prison cell. In Durandal, you have to punch one of the guards through the cell window, signaling the BOBs to perform a Deus ex Machina and rescue the player. In Infinity, a single drone arrives to kill the guard and unlock the cell.
  • This could be considered a mainstay in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. In order:
    • In Modern Warfare, during the mission "The Coup", you're tied up and thrown into the backseat of a car. The only control you actually have over your character is the ability to look around. The twist? You're playing the President of Unspecifiedistan, on his way to his execution. And you do get executed by one of the Big Bads, sparking the events of the rest of the game.
      • In the mission "Aftermath", in which all you can do is limp across a burned-out wasteland until Sgt. Jackson dies horribly from radiation poisoning and/or internal injuries.
      • In Game Over, after a tanker truck blows up and you're lying on the ground helpless, you see the Big Bad walking towards you, and executing your teammates one by one. While they're distracted after their Hind is destroyed by another helicopter, Captain Price slides you his pistol, and you use it to blow Zakhaev's brains out.
    • In Modern Warfare 2, during the final part of "Endgame", you get to control Soap MacTavish as he lies on the ground, incapacitated by a knife sticking out of his chest. The game gives you control at three points, when Soap is on the ground looking up at Shepherd, when you're crawling to the gun, and when you have to pull the knife out of your chest and throw it at Shepherd.
      • Earlier on, the mission "Second Sun" puts you in the shoes of James Ramirez, an Army Ranger who is trapped in a downed Black Hawk helicopter. Although you can't move, you can fire your weapon, although you only have two magazines. After a flash of light from the sky, you get to control Sat1, an astronaut on the International Space Station who is watching a nuclear device launch from Russia. After you turn your head to see the nuke detonate over Washington, the shockwave destroys the station and sends you spiraling helplessly out of control while a mirror from the station careens towards you.
      • "Loose Ends," which ends with Roach, your PC, being dragged to safety by Ghost... only for both to be shot by General Shepherd, who turns out to be the mastermind behind the whole plot. You can only lie helpless as he and his men douse your bodies with gasoline and light you on fire.
    • Modern Warfare 3:
      • As Yuri, you get to watch Makarov shoot you in the gut for betraying him. You drag yourself into the airport's elevator to stop the massacre that happened in "No Russian", but you don't get close to reaching Makarov's group before you collapse and black out.
      • "Davis Family Vacation" , in which a tourist and his wife and daughter are killed in a Russian gas attack in London.
    • In Black Ops you spend the title screen in this state. Unless you do a certain Easter Egg.
    • A mainstay in World at War as well. A number of levels begin with the player as a prisoner, able only to look around until friendly NPCs rescue them. The game's first mission not only begins that way, but also ends with the player injured in an explosion and being dragged by an NPC to a waiting boat, though in this case the player is handed a Japanese pistol with which to shoot back (largely ineffectually) at the enemy.
  • At the very end of Portal 2, the player gets injured by bombs and is left lying on the floor, only able to do the single thing which will defeat the boss. Before that, once you get into the escape elevator the first time around you're only able to jump, shoot portals at the glass trapping you and watch Wheatley get Drunk with Power and smash you and GLaDOS into a pit.
  • In Star Wars: Republic Commando, you can move your hands around while an infant in a People Jar. During the game proper, if you run out of health and get paralyzed you can call your squadmates for help (or tell them to back off and fight off the enemies first).
  • If you lose an online match in Team Fortress 2, the "humiliation phase" begins- a 15-second period in which your team is forced to drop their weapons and run in circles, making helpless animations, while the enemy team not only retains autonomy but gains guaranteed critical hits on all weapons. You can, however, still kill enemies if your weapon has a taunt kill and you manage the (extremely difficult) feat of catching the enemy off-guard with the perfect timing.
  • Most definitely happens in Quake IV. After being incapacitated by the Makron, Matthew Kane wakes up on a Strogg assembly line and can only move his head and struggle futilely as the Strogg dismember him alive and turn him into one of them. Fortunately, he is rescued by his squadmates before the mind-control chip in his head is activated, so he escapes with both his new Strogg abilities and his free will. The scene can be viewed here.

    Fighting Game 
  • This happens twice in the story mode for Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2: Sasuke runs out of strength fighting Itachi, and the player, as Sasuke, is forced to retreat as Itachi approaches slowly but creepily. Later, Pain inflicts a mortal wound onto Jiraiya. As Jiraiya, the player can still fight, but in a diminished way, while Pain has infinite HP and fights with all six of his bodies at once (It Makes Sense in Context), meaning he can create an Unwinnable situation for Jiraiya at will.

    Four X 
  • You can fall victim to this in Stellaris if you sign a covenant with "The End of the Cycle," ignoring the game's warnings "DO NOT DO THIS." Once the 50-year contract is up, your empire is devoured by a Shroud entity save for a single, pitiful colony. The Shroud entity, which has a fleet power rating of one million, will proceed to annihilate all life in the galaxy, deliberately saving your colony for last - assuming one of the other star nations doesn't finish you off first due to the "brought about The End" opinion malus.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • The beginning of Infocom's Planetfall has you stuck on a spaceship until a disaster occurs, requiring you to reach an escape pod before the ship explodes. However, if you do something wrong and get your overzealous superior officer mad enough at you, he'll throw you in the Brig — which you cannot escape from (typing 'escape' tells you that 'Houdini himself would be stumped by this cell'), and you'll be stuck there unable to reach the escape pod.
  • A Mind Forever Voyaging, by the same author, Steve Meretzky, also has jail-themed examples, this time of both sorts. The PC gets to visit several increasingly grim simulations of a dystopian future world. In the less grim simulations, breaking the law results in spending several turns in jail until you're released. In a later, extremely bleak, simulation, you're stuck there until executed. Fortunately, since it's a simulation, getting killed merely returns you to the non-simulation world.
  • Steve Meretzky might very well be the king of this trope at Infocom. In Sorcerer (also written by Meretzky), one has to leave the Guild Hall before the end of the day, or else the Big Bad will show up and send the PC to the Chamber of Living Death. There, the PC will be horribly torn apart and devoured by hideous parasites, only to not die but regenerate, over and over again, being unable to do anything about it because 'Your agony is too great to concentrate on such an action'. The only way out is to restart or restore, and then avoid ever being sent to that place in the first place. Of course, in the game's endgame, the player has to choose which door to open, and the wrong door being opened could also send the player to that chamber. The Hall of Eternal Pain has the same effect as the chamber, except that the hall's disembodied forces suck the very thoughts from the PC's mind, savoring each moment and growing stronger; every second is an agonizing torment, as though thousands of raging fires would be exploding from the PC's skull, filling them with a pain greater than ever imaginable.
  • Another Infocom example: Douglas Adams' game adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984), coauthored by Steve Meretzky, includes sequences where the player character has passed out and stuck in a dark void, and getting out of said void is part of a puzzle. The trick is to see if you can sense anything at all, and then figure out which sense you can actually use to regain consciousness. There are also quite a few 'game over' variants of this trope at work in the H2G2 game. Giving Ford his towel back leaves you with nothing to do but wait for the Vogons to destroy the world. Likewise, being struck by a stray brick leaves you helpless in the back of an ambulance, with any attempted action politely reminding you that you're dead and suggesting you start building up a healthy rigor mortis, until again the Vogons destroy the world. The third and most disturbing occurs later, where you can teleport into your own brain. You have scant few turns to do anything about it before your head explodes.
  • In the climax of Time Quest by Legend (founded by former Infocom designer Bob Bates after Infocom's demise), the PC is strapped to a chair by the villain, and not able to do much except ask the villain a number of questions about the plot, until the PC's past self shows up and the PC has to do the thing needed to complete the Stable Time Loop. Soon afterward, the PC is tied up as the villain and another character kill each other.
  • Unnkulia X: Escape of the Sacrificed by Valentine Kopteltsev contains a bizarre example of this overlapping with Big-Lipped Alligator Moment. After escaping from villagers who wish to sacrifice her, the PC (a village girl named Joan Fleaumont) finds herself in an entertainment park filled with astronomy exhibits, gardens, and auctions. At one secluded corner of the park, the PC can find herself being invited to go into a room to the west by voices over a speaker system. The voices are clearly saying they think she's hot stuff and that she should pose for a girlie magazine. If you accept this offer and go into that room, The PC gets grabbed and then blacks out. She awakes to find herself in a strange room filled with all sorts of bizarre experimental equipment — and to find that she doesn't just have her picture in a girlie magazine, she IS a picture in a girlie magazine! The PC can't move or do anything other than look at the various items in the area for several turns, while a creature keeps wandering into a transmogrifer and emerging in various weird forms. Finally, the creature, in the form of a gorilla, picks up the magazine with the PC in picture form on it, and dumps it into a disintegrator machine. The only way out is to restore your saved position to back before you entered that room (and this time don't do what the voices tell you).

    Mecha Game 
  • In Armored Core: Nexus, the game ends with a sort of superweapon being deployed and you fight it in swarms as the screen fades to black. You are able to control your mech and fight them off, but the implication is that you are unable to prevent the drones from overwhelming you.
  • Fan game Blender Battletech features this if you're shot out of your 'Mech. You don't 'die' per se, and the fight you're in will continue without you, assuming you weren't the last man standing on your team. However, all you can do after your 'Mech is downed is stick your head out the hatch, look around in roughly a 90-degree arc, and hope your AI allies can finish the job. It tends to be a bit of a wait, and you're not guaranteed a view to the action.
  • MechWarrior 2: If your leg is destroyed, your mech is now a stationary turret - if your weapon-containing criticals are also destroyed, you aren't even a turret. The most you can do is turn around, which makes it practically impossible to complete missions where you have to defeat enemies and return to a specifc point. Jump jets could make an exception, but tend to need a recharge.

    Party Game 
  • Mario Party 5: Submarathon is a 2-vs-2 minigame, where the two teams race each other in Cheep Cheep-shaped submarines. One player must propel the submarine by pressing L and R continuously, while their partner has the ability to make the submarine move its mouth and blink... which does absolutely nothing. This is because the game is actually a tag team effort; should the pumping player get tired, they can tag their partner and let them take over.

    Platform Game 
  • In Another World:
    • After being imprisoned by the aliens, you have an option to swing in your cage. Doing so attracts the guard. After a while, the cage falls on him.
    • At the climax, your back is broken by an alien and your controls are reduced to 'crawl forward (agonisingly)' and 'reach'. It's a bad time to be alone...
  • In BLUE GUARDIAN: Margaret, if Margaret is captured once or twice in the Underground Laboratory, she will respectively be roped down to, and hung over a big water tank to be executed by drowning. The player can still move Margaret around during this time, but all this does is make her struggle and burn through her Oxygen Meter faster, leading her to drown sooner than usual.
  • A Downplayed example in the first post-game level of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in which there is a section of falling platforms and there is lower gravity because of the fact. At the end of the section, there is a Barrel Cannon that will be destroyed if left alone for too long. If one lets it get destroyed, then the player has no choice but to let the Kongs fall to their doom and watch as Donkey Kong rides a balloon back to the start of the level.
  • In A Hat in Time, when you first enter the Subcon Forest, you have no choice but to fall into one of Snatcher's traps. You can try and break the trap with your umbrella to no avail while the screen is getting darker and rumbling until Snatcher appears, forces you to sign a contract, and take your soul.
  • In Limbo:
    • At one point you can get wrapped up in web by a spider. However, it turns out that you actually can do something about it: you can hop forward while still wrapped up in web.
    • Sometimes a parasitic worm will burrow into your head, forcing you to move in one direction. You can still jump and control your walking speed.
  • Metroid:
    • Super Metroid:
      • When Mother Brain zaps Samus with her Hyper Beam, she's brought to her knees, panting. If you don't do anything, Samus stays like that, and Mother Brain zaps her again and again until the last Metroid comes along. However, you can press the D-pad to get up on your feet and keep shooting Mother Brain, but only if you have enough health to survive another Hyper Beam: the game actually runs a check against Samus' health and the power of Mother Brain's Hyper Beam. If Samus can still survive a hit from the unavoidable Hyper Beam, she is allowed to stand and continue to fight. If not, she remains fixed in place. While in this state, pressing up can make Samus stand briefly, but she quickly drops back down to her knees. Mother Brain then whittles away the rest of her health until the Metroid flies in and rescues Samus when her health is down to the last energy tank and Mother Brain is about to deliver the final blow. note 
      • Just before the final battle, the last Metroid drains a Sidehopper completely and reduces it to a brittle husk. It goes after Samus for its next meal, and will not stop until Samus's energy goes down to 1, and at the last second, the metroid realizes who it is feeding off of and stops. While it is technically possible to run to the next room before the Metroid attacks Samus, something that is attempted in top level speedruns, it's considered one of the most difficult tricks in the game, and there's nothing you can do to force the Metroid to let go early once it latches on.
    • In Metroid Fusion, the final boss, the Omega Metroid, takes one swipe at Samus and knocks her into the corner with 1 life left, then starts stalking towards her menacingly. While this is happening, you can button mash to make Samus struggle to get up faster, and she might almost go into a standing position before dropping down, but she'll never actually manage to stand up in time. If you press Up, Samus can look up at the Omega Metroid, coming ever so closer, adding more dramatic effect. Before the Omega Metroid can finish Samus off, the SA-X (possibly unintentionally) saves her by attacking it. The Omega Metroid's counterattack reduces the SA-X to nothing but a Core X without a shell, and it is only at this point that Samus is finally able to stand in order to absorbe the SA-X and gain the power she needs to fight the Omega Metroid.
    • Metroid Dread: Samus's first encounter with an E.M.M.I. unit places her in a narrow hallway that's too short to allow her to jump over the robot, with the only other door behind her being locked. This forces Samus to be caught by the E.M.M.I. to teach the player that they can perform a counterattack to escape.
  • Possibly the first example of this ever is the classic Atari 800 game Mountain King. If you fall all the way down to the lowest part of the mountain, a Giant Spider may chase after you and wrap you full of web. Once you're all wrapped up, you can push left or right to struggle in that direction, but you're pretty much screwed. Some time later, the spider comes back and eats you and the web. Really leaves an impression when you are six years old. This makes this trope Older Than the NES.
  • In Rolo to the Rescue, you have a limited number of lives and continues. When you game over and have a continue, you get the choice to walk into the ringmaster's cage and end the game, or exit an open door and continue. If you run out of continues, the door is closed and you can't leave, having you only able to run around the continue screen with depressing music until you walk into the ringmaster's cage.
  • The original (16-bit) Sonic the Hedgehog had something like this: after you beat the Scrap Brain Zone act 2 (i.e after you crossed the Level Goal and had your score added up), the Final Zone music suddenly started and the game let you run to the right, at which point you come upon a bridge and a forcefield in the way with Dr.Eggman on the other side. While you can still move and jump normally, Ratchet Scrolling prevents you from backing off the bridge, and, after a few seconds Eggman hits the button on the other side and drops you into Act 3.
  • In the Wii version of Sonic Colors, Act 2 of Terminal Velocity tasks you with outrunning a black hole created by Eggman's malfunctioning mind-control ray, which will reach him no matter what. Fortunately, the Wisps that he rescued save him at the last second.
  • The game SOS has your character attempt to escape a sinking ship. If you don't manage to get out in time, your character can still swim around the flooded vessel for about a minute until they drown.

    Role Playing Game 
  • In Breath of Fire II, the Big Bad seals you and your team in the crystals and break your friends away one by one. It won't kill you, but you can't proceed to the final battle without struggling a bit to break free by yourself.
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • When the player is tossed in jail after a kangaroo trial, and you have to sit in your cell for three in-game days before your friend busts you out. However, you can escape before that, but the method isn't very obvious to many first time players, who might not assume that the guards would be lacking the perception to not notice that the main character still has his katana...
    • When Robo is getting trashed by his fellow brethren, you have full control over Crono, but the robots simply swat him away. Your partner just sits there and protests. Finally they finish wrecking Robo and throw him away; now you can fight them.
  • As a game all about bondage, it's only natural that DIDNapper would allow this to happen. This gives the player a chance to escape and continue their mission.
  • Near the beginning of Dubloon, Russel gets locked in a jail cell where all he can do is pace around until another prisoner talks to him from the cell below.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Starting with Oblivion, the series' includes this in its crime and punishment system. If you have insufficient gold to pay your fines when arrested, the guards will throw you in jail if you surrender. There are several methods of escaping, but if such methods fail, you're left with little choice but to hang around in your cell until you "serve your sentence" by sleeping in the bed provided.
    • In Oblivion, you start in the Imperial Prison, unable to do anything except listen to the mocking of the prisoner across the hall and examine your surroundings until the Emperor and his Blades arrive.
    • Skyrim opens with the player character riding a cart to the execution of all aboard, hands bound. All you can do in this sequence is listen to the other condemned on board and admire the pretty scenery. When everything goes to hell, you have to run to Helgen Keep where your bindings will be cut.
  • Happens multiple times in Fallout 3. The very first scene is your birth, where the only thing you can do is press the "Action" button to cry. Later on when you get captured and immobilized, you can look around but not interact until you're released.
  • Fallout 4 has a similar situation to the one in Fallout 3. When you are first awakened in your cryo-pod, you can do nothing but look around as you watch the events unfold.
  • Fable has a version of this. After having been captured in a failed attempt to rescue the main character's mother, the hero is locked in a jail cell with no ability to use his powers and no items. All he can do is walk around the cage till he's sent off to the races literally.
  • Happens a couple of times in Final Fantasy V:
    • The player is forced to cool their heels for a minute or so after getting tossed into the dungeon of Castle Karnak. Trying the door won't even give a dialogue box, nor will attempting to interact with Cid despite him being visible in the adjacent cell. You just have to sit there or pace around until he blows a hole n the wall.
    • After Xezat dies to shut off the Barrier Tower, Galuf insists on waiting in the cavern for him. You can walk around, but you can't reenter the submarine until Galuf accepts what's happened and agrees to go.
    • When Galuf dies and his body vanishes. The most that the player can do is have Bartz interact with Krile, which will result in her sitting up rather than remain sobbing on the ground, but all she will say is "...". This fits in with the Gameplay and Story Integration of the whole sequence; after watching Galuf fight and being unable to heal him, none of them are up to doing anything until his spirit calls out to Krile.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • Cloud is mind-controlled by Sephiroth and made to try to chop Aeris in half. As the mind control takes hold, Cloud's movements are restricted more and more until pressing the d-pad causes him to awkwardly struggle his hips in that direction and pressing the other buttons makes him shake or grab his head. The only way out of the sequence is to press the circle button, which causes him to come at her with his sword. Thankfully, your comrades stop you before Cloud lets his sword drop.
    • Another similar situation arises just after clearing the Temple of the Ancients, when Sephiroth mind controls Cloud into giving away the Black Materia that destroys everything, you get to control what seems to be Cloud's inner consciousness who can run around helplessly while Cloud's body slowly walks to Sephiroth and hands over the Black Materia.
    • The main characters of FFVII break into the Shinra HQ and end up locked in a bunch of jail cells. The only thing they can do is to talk to each other through the walls.
    • Speaking of FFVII, the prequel Crisis Core has a rather cruel example of this trope. We all know how it's gonna end, but rather than making it a cutscene, the game makes you play through the fateful showdown with the Shinra army, and it goes so far to show Zack's life flashing before your eyes! Which still remains awesome, even regardless of the helplessness — something that few examples on this page can claim to be true. Yes, by the end of the day, Shinra is going to win. That doesn't mean you can't make it hell on them.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII:
    • There's a scene in which you're trying to escape a missile base before it explodes. You can run around all you like, but, as you and your characters will eventually realise, the exit is blocked by the boss you just fought.
    • Later in the game, there is a sequence in which the Big Bad temporarily possesses and controls Rinoa. The player, controlling Squall, can't do anything to intervene or stop Rinoa's slow, limping progress across the space station; trying just gets him flung across the room by her sorceress powers.
  • Final Fantasy XV has an example for every player character except Gladiolus, whose DLC episode uses a different trope for much the same purpose:
    • Episode Prompto opens with Prompto walking through a snowfield after getting thrown from a train in Niflheim territory, courtesy of Ardyn's illusions and a suceptible Noctis. His pace is slow, his face is uncovered, and his tundra attire just isn't up to the blizzard. After a minute, he keels over and the game transitions to proper cutscene.
    • Episode Ignis starts its last chapter this way, with Ignis being pinned to the ground by several Magitek Troopers as Ardyn prepares to kill Noctis. The player can change the camera between three different viewpoints (POV, facing Ardyn, and facing Ignis) and has a degree of control in each, but Ignis can't do anything until Ravus gets Ardyn's attention.
    • Episode Ardyn starts off its first chapter this way, using it as part of the tutorial. Ardyn is found in his cell on Angelgard by Verstael Besithia, who has his soldiers take him outside; while he's being escorted, Ardyn can do nothing but look around POV. On the way out, the imperials get shot down by Royal Guard members, who want to get Ardyn back inside; Ardyn now has mobility, but can't do anything to attack before they deplete his health to zero... and the tutorial box appears to tell you that Ardyn doesn't do "Danger" state, he does Overkill state.
  • Fuga: Melodies of Steel has one following the first (forced) use of the Soul Cannon, once the remaining five children discovers that the weapon runs on bio-energy. They are then ambushed by enemy troops and you can only select defend on the battle menu until they get overwhelmed and die. Thankfully, this doesn't stick, and the game sends you back to before you fired the Soul Cannon.
  • In Hammer and Sickle, if you get arrested, you can run around in the cell forever, but there's no way to escape and it's effectively game over.
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • In the beginning, your ship gets attacked and heavily damaged, and you have to make your way through it, unarmed, running through explosions, and then walking through an eerie segment where the entire ROOF has been blown away and the sound becomes muffled.
    • Similarly, a sequence later in the game where the Normandy SR-2 gets attacked and you play as Joker, limping through the ship, watching helplessly as your crew get captured.
    • Mass Effect 3 has a few segments like this as well, though mostly in the dream sequences. The only exception is the final push towards the beam to the Citadel with Harbinger killing allies left and right.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, there's a segment where Ryder's connection to SAM has been disconnected, and they try to limp back to the Tempest, as the Archon taunts them. It lasts until Ryder's health runs out.
  • Persona 5 starts with the protagonist getting arrested, and waking up in police custody and getting interrogated. And one of the officers tells him to sign a False Confession. Cue Hello, [Insert Name Here].
  • In Pokémon games, Magikarp is catchable and can be used like any other pokemon in a battle. However, it will most likely only know the move "Splash", which does nothing when usednote .
  • In Robopon, in the second game, on the day Cody is to be executed, all you can do is wait, walking around your cell until the time machine arrives.
  • Once the nuclear missiles are launched in Shin Megami Tensei I, a 30-second countdown is displayed on-screen. You retain full control, so you can run around like crazy, maybe, for fun, see if you can get out of the building fast enough (or just cast Traesto, if you want to ruin the fun), but, of course, there's nothing you can do to stop the impact.
  • During the infiltration mission in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Nanashi has to fight a boss. The fight goes well until the boss calls in a horde, ending the battle. The player is then given dialogue options to either attack the boss or attack the army; the horde swarms Nanashi if he tries to attack the boss, and the boss attacks Nanashi if he tries to get through the horde first. After picking any option three times, Hallelujah gets his Big Damn Heroes moment by obliterating the army.
  • Star Ocean: The Divine Force: Around the midpoint of Laeticia's route, she goes to Empire, pretending to agree to marry prince Ger'rard in order to buy some time. You can freely explore the location, and even fly around using D.U.M.A., but can't leave the place no matter what. For the whole sequence there's literally nothing to do beyond talking with marked NPCs and returning to the bed to progress the story. The game hammers in the helplessness by counting days spent there, and making the player do a bare minimum of actions on every one of them.
  • In the Tales Series, player characters get themselves thrown into jail or capture under player control fairly often - this has happened in Phantasia, Innocence, Symphonia, and Vesperia. Generally you're expected to wait and/or pace until either release or escape ensues.
  • In Terranigma, after Ark stops fighting the Mud Man boss to do something stupid, he must hang around on a small inescapable ledge while someone else finishes the battle for him.
  • Undertale:
    • When the Player Character is All Webbed Up, they can still turn around in place before the boss fight against Muffet the spider.
    • In one of the final dungeons, a monster approaches the Player Character while they're in a corner. You can run towards or away from the monster as it slowly approaches, but there's no getting away from it.
    • In the Pacifist fight against Asriel, the player is given no option except "struggle" for several turns. The result of struggling is: "nothing happens".
    • Flowey just loves to put you in a tiny box and bombard you with undodgeable attacks, mocking you while you attempt to move out of the way.
  • Willow for the NES has Kael trap the titular character in a jail cell after defeating Eborsisk at Tir Asleen Castle and entering the door it was guarding, and for good measure he steals the Crest of the Spirits before leaving Willow to rot there with Madmartigan. One would be forgiven for thinking they triggered a trap, but it turns out that Franjean and Rool will bust you out through a tunnel they dug; to trigger it you need to touch a specific tile on the south wall.
  • At the beginning of the third week of The World Ends with You, Neku is forced to play without a partner. In-universe, this is an Unwinnable by Design situation. The game integrates this state into the mechanics by having you fight one battle without a partner with all of your pins disabled, so all you can do is dash around and escape. Doing the latter advances the plot, and, fortunately, causes Beat to step in by becoming Neku's partner, making the Reaper's Game winnable again.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • In the video game adaptation of Blade Runner, your character ends up tied in a chair. All you can do is bounce around in the chair until you find the right place to free yourself.
  • Dub Wars is a twin-stick shoot-em-up where the player's weapons fire to the beat. A few songs have breaks with no beats (and therefore no weapons) for nearly half a minute.
  • In RefleX's 7th stage, you can attempt to move or use your shield when ZODIAC Virgo unleashes a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on you, but your shield meter will empty out, and so will your Life Meter, resulting in your death. However, your ship's AI and 11th-Hour Superpower then kick in...

  • If your character grows very old in The Guild you can no longer control your businesses. You can however watch them slowly fall into pieces when the contracts of your curators end, see yourself drop down the status ladder with each year, and in extreme cases, outlive all of your heirs or have them grow old enough, that they are equally helpless once they take over. The Gold Edition of the game added a suicide option for this scenario.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • Assassin's Creed does this when you're not travelling through time with help from your DNA, as you are technically a prisoner of Abstergo. In fact, the game ends this way, leaving you in a room full of bizarre markings with no way to get out. There is also a version of this in the semi-cutscenes in which you're speaking with NPCs or obtaining information about a target; you can move Altaïr, but you can't move more than a few steps nor do any high-profile actions until the conversation/scene ends. No one ever seems insulted when Altaïr stares at a wall while they're speaking to him, although this might be because, initially, Altaïr not bothering to pay attention is sort of par for the course.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has this as well, in the ending. When you've finally found where Ezio hid the Apple, you, Lucy, Rebecca, and Shaun go to retrieve it before finally meeting with the other Assassins. The trip to the chamber has Desmond seeing visions of one of The Ones That Came Before, Juno, who no one else can see. Finally, you reach the apple, and Desmond reaches out to grab it... and time stops. Juno informs Desmond that someone would cross the threshold with him, or some other, equally clear and helpful advice... then she takes control of his body, whips the Hidden Blade out, and makes him face Lucy. Every time the player attempts to make Desmond do anything else, he only takes another step, or brings the blade up to strike. Guess how that ends.
  • Assassin's Creed III:
    • Near the start of the game where Connor tries to save his mother from burning alive/being trapped in a burning building. The game tells you to push a button, but no matter what you do, he fails. Made even worse by the fact that less than a minute ago, you performed the exact same action with a log that succeeds.
    • Later, when Connor is being taken to his execution, the player has control, but all they can do is walk forward slowly.
  • Assassin's Creed Origins has Bayek, while hunting for the Scarab, buied up to his head in the desert, only able to wiggle his right arm out. All he can do is be haunted by mirages of Ptolemy and the Order of the Ancients until he gets his mount to pull him out with some assistance by Senu.
  • The various Metal Gear Solid games have lots of scenes where you're somehow restrained or incapacitated, but can still look around from a first-person perspective.
    • The worst of all possibly being from Metal Gear Solid 3, where you've just fought and defeated your mentor and mother figure and as Snake sadly realizes he has to finish the job he went there to do which is kill her, Snake aims his gun, the dramatic music comes to a pause, the camera pans out and you realize that you, the player are in control, and the only control that works is the one that pulls the trigger.
    • Another variation occurs in 3. The "Snake gets captured and tortured" scene begins with the screen completely black, and we only hear what others are saying. However, it's not quite a "blank cutscene," because we still see Snake's health bar and camo index... and we can't do anything about it as it goes down while we're getting punched by Volgin. However, you can trigger a Good Bad Bug: Holding the shoulder button to keep the item window open will keep Snake's health from draining as Volgin beats him.
  • Splinter Cell:
    • The last level in Chaos Theory has an area like this - a specific zone has guards with Less-Than-Lethal ammo that can take you down in a shot and, upon getting shot, you wake up in an interrogation room with everyone on full alert. Whilst it is possible to escape your captors, you're initially in a sequence where you can attempt to pick your handcuffs, but have to restart every time the interrogator slaps or strangles you (i.e. every couple of seconds).
    • In Conviction, during the Flash Forwards to the next-to-end part in the White House and later the White House proper, you see Sam being held at gunpoint by Grim. At these points, you can either advance without being prompted, or try to stall for time by looking around, shortly after which your captor will make you advance anyway.

    Survival Horror 
  • All Alone With Mannie: You spend the game confined to your bed, all the while being stalked by an Ax-Crazy anthropomorphic mouse out for your blood. From your bed, you can shine your light around, pull up the covers to hide from said mouse, check the ceiling, and check under your bed.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent takes this to its logical conclusion by removing weapons entirely. Daniel, the protagonist, can interact with in-game objects, open and close doors, climb ladders, light candles, hold a lantern, lean around corners, walk and run. This is the entire movelist for the game. You don't get an attack button. The enforced lack of way to manipulate the environment helps foster paranoia.
  • In Baldi's Basics in Education and Learning, if the player-character backs himself into a certain corner within the detention room, he can avoid getting caught by Baldi as long as he remains perfectly still, but once he budges from said corner, Baldi will finally capture him and end the game.
  • In the Boogeyman games, if your flashlight runs out of power, and you don't get a new battery for it, then all you can do is watch the boogeyman slink towards you before it kills you.
  • In the Japan-only SNES game Clock Tower (1995) (not to be confused with the PSX Clock Tower, which is actually its sequel), Jennifer could pass out and wake up locked in a cell. You can move around inside the cell and talk to your fellow prisoner. Depending on your actions and if you have a certain item or not, you may end up being unable to escape the cell and end up killed by your fellow prisoner. Specifically, eaten. And this was just one of many, many, many horrific moments.
  • In Dead Rising:
    • Later in the game, the government sends a task force to the mall to capture and interrogate or kill anyone who is or isn't a zombie. If they find you (and drain your life bar), you will be sent to a minigame of you stripped half naked and strapped to the inside of a chopper. You can attempt to wiggle free, but if the guards catch you trying (they walk in a set pattern) the guard beats the crap out of you and the game's clock skips ahead about six or eight hours.
    • If you manage to free yourself from your bonds, you can walk away scot free, but remember, your entire inventory was confiscated by the government, meaning you'll have to recollect every item you've lost... except your camera, which they never think to take away from you.
    • On the other hand, if you fail to release yourself by the time your chopper is supposed to pick you up, the government will leave with you inside the chopper, netting you Ending D.
  • The first half of Chapter 1 in Dead Space 2 has player character Isaac Clarke reduced to walking around with his hands tied behind his back in a straitjacket, with just a sliver of health on his life bar. He wanders around the station until he finds a doctor who cuts him loose.
  • Fear & Hunger:
    • If the player character ends up losing all their limbs and hasn't died, they won't be able to do anything. An option to quit breathing or hold on will appear, but holding on will do nothing, leading to the option to quit breathing to appear again.
    • If the player character is defeated by an elite prison guard, they will be locked in a special room with their legs cut off. While they can still crawl around, the elite guard will repeatedly beat them to death with a morning star over the next few seconds. There is no way out of the room as the door requires a key, nor can you access the menu at any point.
    • If the player character is defeated by a lizardman, they will be locked in a room where they are flayed alive. The player is allowed to crawl around for about twenty seconds after this, but will inevitably collapse and die.
    • If the player character is hit by one of the swinging axes in the gauntlet, they will be cut in half, but allowed to control their character for a couple more seconds before they die.
    • Jumping into a latrine will have your character fall into a cesspit. The fall will only deal some damage, but the pit is too deep and slick to climb out of, meaning your character will stay down there until they starve, go mad or both.
  • Fear & Hunger: Termina: If the player character murders someone on the train around the other passengers, either Abella or Marcoh will restrain them and tie them up. The player will be left at the back of the train and, while allowed to struggle, won't be able to escape (with the game only displaying messages like "you feel hungry" and "your arms are uncomfortable").
    • In the same game, being beaten by a Villager in a certain area will not kill you, but leave your character with a single point of health and throw them into a pig pen. You can crawl around to avoid the pigs, but can do nothing to escape and they will eventually they will devour you.
    • Similar to the first game, falling into the well outside the Woodsman's house will have you hopelessly trapped on the bottom, able to move around and access the menu but unable to do anything but wait to starve. One certain character can come rescue you if they are still alive, but if not you're out of luck.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • If you let all of your power run out in the first Five Nights at Freddy's game, you're boned. While you can move the camera view left to right, you can't activate any of your defenses and are reduced to desperately hoping the clock ticks over to 6 AM while Freddy plays the Toreador March before killing you.
    • Five Nights at Freddy's 2 has getting your flashlight disabled (no defense against Foxy) or letting the music box wind down (activating the Puppet). You still have a little time to look around, but once your batteries drain, Balloon Boy gets in your room, or Pop Goes the Weasel starts playing, your fate is sealed unless you're really close to 6 AM.
    • In Five Nights at Freddy's 3, triggering the Phantom Puppet will reduce you to this for a while, as it will get between you and the interface and stare at you for a while, rendering you unable to do anything until it leaves. It's downplayed by the between-night minigames, which place you in control of the four original animatronics in the abandoned pizzeria of the first game. There's nothing you can do to stop the Purple Guy from dismantling all the animatronics, but if you go into the West Hall, you can find hints towards unlocking the hidden minigames.
  • The Last of Us has a sequence where Joel ends up snared in a trap and hung upside down, prompting Ellie to have to find a way to get him down. As you can imagine, the noise attracts a group of zombies, which attack the two. Though Joel has his gun and unlimited ammo to fend them off, he can't do much else until Ellie cuts him down.
  • Left 4 Dead has this as a gameplay mechanic. Whenever your health is whittled down to zero, your character will be incapacitated. You will still be able to defend yourself with your sidearm, but you'll be unable to move at all. Only your teammates (or A.I bots) can revive you. Getting attacked enough or being left in this state for too long will result in death (though you can still be brought back to life using a defibrillator in the second game).
  • Neverending Nightmares has you playing as a character exploring his nightmares. A character that just so happens to hate himself. In keeping with the theme of nightmares, you are defenseless in every sense of the word. You can't outrun any of the enemiesnote , you can't fight them in any way; you don't even have shoes, which makes the parts involving walking on broken glass all the more horrible.
  • When you get a Game Over in Night of the Consumers, all the lights go out and you're left to wander the store as Manager sprints toward you like a bat out of hell to fire you. He's much faster than you, homes in like a heat-seeking missile, can't be stunned by boxes, and all the employees-only rooms are sealed: all you can do is briefly wander about and wait for the inevitable Jump Scare.
  • Outlast have no weapons or equipment at all, barring your night vision camera and a notebook. You can hide from enemies in lockers and under beds and try to outrun them if they spot you, but can't engage them in combat. A more traditional version of this is seen in game when Trager ties Miles to a wheelchair and tortures him. He can move his head and look around, but can't escape until Trager leaves the room, having chopped two of Miles' fingers off. The Whistleblower DLC also has a similar sequence in which Gluskin traps Waylon in a locker, drags him to his impromptu "surgery", and knocks him out with sleeping gas. Waylon then spends the next several hours fading in and out of consciousness, watching as Gluskin subjects at least two or three Variants to genital mutilation and murder. He then wakes up, naked and bound, about to undergo a similar procedure. Again, all Waylon can do is move his head around, but cannot escape until a Variant attacks Gluskin, giving Waylon a chance to wiggle free.
  • The Penumbra trilogy by Frictional Games plays with this. All control is analogue, so if you want to fight something you have to take out a weapon from your inventory, hold down a mouse button to grasp it, and then swing it by swiping the mouse back and forth.
  • Getting knocked off your feet in the Resident Evil: Outbreak duo leaves you at the mercy of any enemies nearby if a teammate can't help you up in time, though you're able to crawl around. File #2 lets you use medical aid on yourself to help yourself, including if you find some while crawling, but not so the original game.
  • Early on in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Mia stabs Ethan through the hand with a screwdriver, pinning it to the wall. You can struggle to remove the screwdriver as she slowly advances with a chainsaw.....but avoiding getting your hand sliced off is impossible. Don't worry, though, staples and healing chemicals will take care of that.
  • Twice in Rule of Rose, Jennifer is tied to a pole. The first time, she has no choice but to listen to the taunts and threats of her captor until she is finally freed. During that time, you can use the control stick to wriggle around. The second time, you have to free yourself by calling for Brown three times, and he'll chew through the ropes.
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming treats the protagonist to this on two occasions - first in the very beginning, and then towards the end of the game where you struggle against restraints while an antagonist mutilates you with a power drill. There's also a part of the game where you wake up trapped in a prison cell until one of your dad's friends comes along and questions you about the events of the game up to that point. He seems to think you're involved.
  • Slender: The Eight Pages operates quite similarly to Amnesia. Your nameless protagonist can walk, run, turn your flashlight on and off, and pick up the titular eight pages of A4 binder paper whilst attempting to elude The Slender Man.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • In the mission "Minor Turbulence" in Grand Theft Auto V, Trevor hijacks a cargo plane and plans to sell the weapons on board. However, some military jets fly behind the plane in an attempt to force it back on course. No matter what the player does, the jets will eventually fire at the plane and force Trevor to evacuate from it.
  • In Jet Force Gemini for the N64, you could press the A button to twitch after dying.
  • In one chapter of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Optimus Prime is captured by the Decepticons and dragged before Megatron. You’re given three opportunities to have Optimus resist, but he won’t be able to break free of his restraints or stop Megatron from executing two helpless Autobot prisoners.
  • One chapter of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception features Nathan Drake getting stranded in the Rub'Al Khali desert for days, with nothing for the player to do but wander through one set piece after another as Nathan tries to find any semblance of civilization.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Genealogy of the Holy War, Quan and Ethlyn turn up partway through Chapter 5 (as NPC units) to support Sigurd, but they are ambushed by Travant's wyvern knights. At that point, Quan's forces and the player's are at opposite ends of a desert, which severely hampers mounted units (most of your forces and all of theirs). All you can do is desperately try to hurl your units southward and watch as Quan and Ethlyn are cut down.note 
    • Happens in chapter 4 of Thracia 776. Leif and Lifis have been captured and thrown into a dungeon, along with Fergus and Karin. They have no equipment, so you can only have them move in their cells until your new party members, Machyua, Brighton and the Thief Lara, manage free them and do all the guard-slaughtering work. Then they retrieve their weapons and the fight becomes a little more equal.
    • This is also present in Binding Blade. Somewhat early in the game (8th chapter), Lilina is imprisoned in a four-tile room inside Castle Ostia. The archer ordered to assassinate her will never be able to cover all four tiles in his attack range, so the player has to continually move her from one corner to the next for her to survive (which is highly advisable for plot and gameplay reasons).
    • In Ephraim's route in The Sacred Stones, Tana is already a player unit when Ephraim shows up at the castle she's imprisoned in, so she can be moved around before a unit with a key gets there (although it's not necessary as in Lilina's case).
    • About halfway through Shadow Dragon, you retake a castle in a fight against an enemy army that has imprisoned five of your comrades in a jail cell they can move around in. Unfortunately, they're completely unarmed and nearby enemy ranged units attack them. Careful movements and abuse of the enemy AI is needed to keep them alive long enough for your main force to rush down the jail cell.
  • In Yggdra Union, at a certain point Princess Yggdra is ambushed by some villains, and, while surrounded by them, is just waiting to be beat up and captured. You have the control over other units on this part (not over Yggdra), but the bridge connecting your units to the enemy is broken. So you can advance a little, but only watch as she is beaten up and kidnapped.

    Visual Novels 
  • In The Pirate's Fate, should you let Mila become a victim of Grand Theft Me, the dialogue options you desperately want to click are grayed out and can't be selected, leaving you no choice but to take the others. Thankfully, this doesn't last long, as it leads to a Bad End and a reload button.
  • Masterfully used during the end of Chapter 1 of Your Turn to Die, where you are prompted to begin Button Mashing in order to keep the protagonist's best friend alive, but no matter how long you press the button, the meter representing the character's health eventually drains out and they drop dead right in front of you.

    Web Games 
  • In Fallen London, if you attract too much attention during one of the ambitions, you get beaten nearly to the death and put in "a small, velvet lined box". (Some traits may give you an actual way to escape, but otherwise, the only thing you can do is to kill yourself trying to escape.)
  • One chapter of The Several Journeys of Reemus features Reemus and Liam tied up by a Gygax. You have to use his knee-jerk inclination to wallop Reemus to escape.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • In Minecraft, getting stuck on a ravine overhang with no available blocks or water with which to climb back up onto or float down towards a safer place can have this effect, and whenever this happens, you can either let yourself starve to death, wait for a Creeper to explode on you, or simply jump down into a nearby lava pool, thereby killing yourself right there and then.
  • Red Dead Redemption:
    • After being betrayed by de Santa and saved by Reyes from execution, your hands are still tied behind your back. There is literally nothing you can do but run to Reyes who then will untie you and tell you where your weapons are.
    • The ending probably counts too, since all you can do is see how many you can manage to shoot while standing in the opening getting blasted by a whole lineup of soldiers. Answer, not many.
  • In Scarface: The World Is Yours, if you amass too much visibility and then fail to escape police notice before time runs out, the game tells you (literally), "You're fucked!" and goes into a last-stand mode where all your menus and possible escapes are cut off. All Tony can do is hold out for as long as he can before he's gunned down.
  • In the first Way of the Samurai, this happens if you wind up tied up on the railroad tracks. You're given one chance to free yourself, but it's not through struggling: a member of one of the clans walks by and offers to save your life in exchange for your loyalty. Refuse, and he walks off, and the train comes thundering along...

  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, when the Hresvelgr starts bombing the base, you have to wait a few minutes before you're cleared to taxi the runway and take off. All you can do is sit in your plane's cockpit and move the camera around to watch the chaos around you as the bomber flies overhead.
  • Code 7:
    • Being an action text adventure, you can end up in situations where you can reply to characters, but are otherwise not able to interact with them or your environment.
    • The most conventional version happens in the later third of Episode 0: you get trapped inside your mainframe by S.O.L.I. and the only thing you can do is try to argue with it. When it decides to cut the oxygen to your brain, you are doomed to wait and watch...until Sam jumps in and rescues you.
    • Episode 1 starts with one. Alex building the Code 7 antivirus causes the ship to malfunction, resulting in it going into collision course with Mars. You can't do anything about it other than argue with Sam and in the end even get forced to escape with the antivirus to the Mars station while Sam has no way to escape other than hoping to survive in a cryo pot.
    • At the end of Episode 1, you send Code 7 successfully to earth. When that causes another Killer Robot incident, you can neither stop them nor save Zoya from being killed, only being able to resort to try and plead with S.O.L.I. with obvious results.
  • The bad endings of no-one has to die., where you have to watch as Christina and Lionel burn to death.
  • The protagonist of Presentable Liberty is a prisoner in a very small and rather empty jail cell. Escape is impossible, but you can read letters and interact with gifts people send you to help pass the time.
  • [US]SR implies the main character is going to take on the russian invasion, only for the APC to be destroyed, and instead have him crawl all the way to the end (but not too quickly.) Meanwhile, you see the herione in the background fighting against the invaders by herself.

    Non Video Games Examples 
  • Anyone with paraplegia paralysis (where someone can't move his/her legs) or tetraplegia paralysis (where someone can't move both their hands and legs). While they still be able to see, hear and smell their surrounding and still be able to move their heads and (in the case of paraplegia) their hands, they won't be able to go anywhere without the help from other people and wheelchairs.
  • Some of the Mario Party DS Anti Piracy screens allow the player to play a mini-game to try to avoid punishment. These mini-games are, of course, completely impossible. "RUN" disables all controls, while "Host Hoedown" does let the player try to apologize, but has the third template move around so the game will not recognize the player's writing.
    Rules: There is nothing you can do.
    Controls: None
  • In some versions of Tamagotchi, when the Tamagotchi is dying, the user can scroll through the menu icons, but they will do nothing. Averted in other versions where the medicine or phone icon can be used to call an ambulance or the records icon can be used to summon the previously deceased Tamagotchi's spirit to save the Tamagotchi if the user has one.
  • At the end of the Gothic Horror novel Vathek, the title character and his accomplices enter Hell so as to receive omnipotence from the Devil, only to learn, after entering Hell, that they can never leave and that the power they was promised is only a temporary gift. Once Vathek hears this, he crosses the Despair Event Horizon, has a Villainous BSoD, and doesn't use the powers at all, since what is the point if he will suffer an eternity in Hell no matter what?


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Controlled Helplessness



One More Extra Stage forces you to select a specific boss song, and on the hardest difficulty to boot.

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Main / ControllableHelplessness

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