Wang Jinrei: That's right. I did die. My awesome existence allowed me to cheat death and stand before you now.
Jinpachi: They were this close to killing off a no-name character like you. The only reason you're still here is because those wussy game developers didn't have the heart to go through with it. You'll never figure anything out until you start facing reality.
Wang: Hmph! That's a lot to say coming from a guy who turned into sand in my very hands that one time.
In a Fighting Game, it is rare to see two competitors go head-to-head without the use of superhuman skill. These fighters also have the miraculous ability to seemingly recover from even the most fatal of wounds. As such, Plotline Death tends to be rare in fighting games.
Sometimes, however, not even being Made of Iron can save characters from kicking the bucket for good, be it in the name of drama or just to ensure that the Big Bad can no longer carry out their evil plans.
This can be problematic, especially in long-running franchises, for fans. In fighting games, a good deal of a series' identity comes from the cast, as well as their fighting styles. Maybe there is a Final Boss who is so undeniably cool that they gained an extremely loyal fanbase and merit a playable spot on the roster. Maybe there is a really badass side character who has become an overnight hit with the fandom. Or maybe there is just a particular character that fans find really attractive. Either way, their exclusion may prove to be an unwise decision.
Usually, a Dream Match Game has no bearing on the main plotline of its series, as the next proper installment will disregard this one to pick up from where the preceding iteration left off. Despite this, it will still contain many nods to the series' mythos. Nostalgia Levels tend to pop up quite frequently in games like these, albeit sometimes in a new form. A Dream Match Game itself may have an Excuse Plot, rarely, but not too often, turning out to be a byproduct of one of the characters' dreams or imagination. It may also be used as an opportunity for various What If? plots and to explore different paths the main story could have taken if characters had made different decisions.
Subtrope of Megamix Game, and tends to overlap with Intra-Franchise Crossover in more extensive and far-reaching cases. See also Fake Crossover (a crossover that has no bearing on either series' plot).
- Named for The King of Fighters '98: The Slugfest (more specifically, its Japanese subtitle, Dream Match Never Ends). The fifth title in a series that up until 2003 had a new game released each year, this KOF was touted as a "special edition" of sorts. The game did not feature a storyline that year, as the Orochi Saga ended the previous year (for the record, the number of casualties had amounted to 8 by this time). Instead, SNK took the time to include (nearly) every character from the previous games, notably SNK Boss par excellence (Omega) Rugal (who died via Superpower Meltdown back in '95), the Oyaji Team (Heidern, Takuma Sakazaki, and Saisyu Kusanagi, who all also last made a playable appearance in '95), Mature and Vice (Iori Yagami's teammates from '96 who he accidentally killed at the end of the game), the New Faces/Orochi Team (who died resurrecting Orochi the previous year), and the American Sports Team, who hadn't been seen since their '94 debut. With its well-balanced, refined gameplay, many video game publications are quick to note this edition as the best entry in the series. To this day, '98 is still fairly popular in Tournament Play.
- Its Updated Re-release, '98: Ultimate Match, took things a step further. Not only did UM include all of the characters from the original game, but it added in the few characters left out: Goentiz and Orochi (the bosses of '96 and '97, respectively), Eiji Kisaragi from '95, Kasumi Todoh from '96, the entire '96 Boss Team (most of all, Geese Howard; alongside him were Wolfgang Krauser and Mr. Big), Orochi Iori and Orochi Leona, as well as various EX versions of pre-existing characters. While not as critically acclaimed as its original version (since it is just '98 with a shiny new paint job), Ultimate Match is still seen as a very technical, very fun game to play.
- The King of Fighters 2002 discarded the "Striker" system found in the previous three games, returning to its roots as a 3-on-3, "last man standing" affair. In addition, its gameplay mechanics were revamped to more closely resemble '98. While many of the characters found in-game came from the current arc, older characters such as the New Faces Team, 97 Special Team (an odd trio consisting of Billy Kane, "Blue" Mary Ryan, and Ryuji Yamazaki), Mature, and Vice made a reappearance. Omega Rugal (now voiced by Norio Wakamoto) even reared his ugly face as the Final Boss. The home ports added Shingo, King, Geese, Goenitz, and Orochi Iori (the latter three only present in the PS2 and Xbox ports and being taken from the technically earlier-released SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos). Although a snazzy tagline ("Be the fighter!") and retooled gameplay didn't earn 2002 the same praise as '98, it does have its fair share of supporters and is seen as one of the series' more notable entries. Not bad considering this was released during the interim that SNK had to pair up with Aruze/Eolith due to their bankruptcy. note
- The King of Fighters: Neowave is essentially a reworked version of 2002 with a few changes. The most significant would be the addition of Art of Fighting 2-era Geese Howard as the Final Boss, a decision that came out of left field for many. This game also added Jhun Hoon and Saisyu Kusanagi, complete with new HSDM/MAX2 attacks for them.
- Its proper Updated Re-release, 2002: Unlimited Match, decided to go for the gusto. If a character was fully playable in '99, 2000, or 2001 (this even includes the alternate movesets of certain fighters), but missed the cut for the original 2002, you can bet your ass that they made it in for this game. Also, Tetsuo Captain Ersatz K9999 was replaced by Nameless, a more balanced character with a tragic backstory who has been better received by the fans than his predecessor. The end result? A whopping total of 66 playable characters, quite possibly the largest in 2D fighting game history. (Not counting the bosses, EX characters, or other characters that were outright banned takes it down to a much lower 52, but that's still a HUGE number in its own right, and the additional EX characters don't hurt.)
- While The King of Fighters XII is called a dream match, it was In Name Only. The roster was scaled back to 20 characters (with 2 additional characters in the home version), many of them comprising the cast of earlier iterations of the series. The game was admittedly lacking terms of replayability, although it was blatantly clear that it was stomping grounds for XIII.
- Fatal Fury Special and the later entries of the Real Bout subseries (Special and 2; the first Real Bout was actually canon, culminating with the death of Geese Howard) brought back the majority of the series' cast. Special also included Ryo Sakazaki as a Bonus Boss, which jumpstarted the idea for the Massive Multiplayer Crossover that was the aforementioned KOF. Real Bout Special, in particular, was infamous for introducing gamers to Nightmare Geese, a nightmare of both the literal and figurative variety. The next (and currently final) title (Wild Ambition notwithstanding), Garou: Mark of the Wolves, picks up 10 years after RBFF.
- Samurai Shodown V Special offers little in the way of a storyline, instead focusing on gameplay. The 28-man roster was heavily composed of series regulars.
- Samurai Shodown VI. All of the cast of V Special returned, as well as seven characters from the first two games that didn't reappear in later incarnations of the series (Genan Shiranui, Cham Cham, Earthquake, Nicotine Caffeine, Neinhalt Sieger, Wan-fu, and Kuroko) and four new fighters (most notably the Ninja Maid Iroha, who became very popular despite only being a One-Shot Character). The game is set in an unknown year in a parallel timeline based upon the previous entries, and the game's producer even called it a "festival game." The title also introduced a gameplay mechanic called the "spirit select" system, which allowed players to choose between six different fighting styles based on all previous installments similar to the Grooves from Capcom vs. SNK 2.
- Tekken Tag Tournament, a game made during the transition from Tekken 3 to Tekken 4, boasted 39 characters (the highest in the series before the release of Tekken 6), many of whom were missing from the third game. Kazuya Mishima, the most heavily promoted character of the game, was highly popular with the fans despite his absence after 2; this status allowed the story to work around his presumed death and have Kaz make a triumphant return in Tekken 4. As more of a compilation of the last three games, TTT was non-canon (although there is the case of Unknown, thought to be a demon-possessed Jun Kazama note ) and noted for its fun factor: new moves were added to every character, you could mix and match several of your faves, and Tekken Bowl Mode was a blast. In a case of What Could Have Been, TTT was originally supposed to be a true sequel to Tekken 3, before being changed in development.
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Remember a certain someone named Jun Kazama? Yeah, she's back. (Again.) The console version brought back even more characters in the form of DLC, among them Kunimitsu, Michelle Chang, Angel, and Ancient Ogre (Ogre's base form from T3). Alex, Prototype Jack, Tiger Jackson, and Forest Law were also brought back. A later update added Sebastian (Lili's butler who employs a variant of Lili's moveset), Miharu (Xiaoyu's gal pal, playable only once before as a Palette Swap of Xiaoyu in 4), Violet (Lee's Charlie Brown from Outta Town stint in 4), Dr. Bosconovich (returning as a playable fighter from 3 with a revamped moveset), Slim!Bob (from his ending in 6, representing how Bob looked before he gained weight), and Unknown (who was previously an unplayable boss in TTT and TTT2).
- TTT2 presents a rare case of a non-canonical game that could possibly influence future main entries in the series, with the several Sequel Hooks running rampant, ranging from Heihachi's regenerative serum to Jun and Unknown being one in the same to Leo's mother Emma being Steve's caretaker/maternal figure, as well as a supervisor for the Mishima Zaibatsu's Devil Gene program. So far, that last one has been revisted in Steve's Tekken 7 Character Episode.
- In a very strict sense, there's Vampire Hunter 2 and Vampire Savior 2, upgraded/alternate versions of the second and third Darkstalkers games that had little more than aesthetic changes to the roster, the more definitive versions including everyone. However, Vampire Savior's port to the PS2 as part of Vampire: Darkstalkers Collection introduced Dee, Donovan's Superpowered Evil Side (as evidenced by his Downer Ending in the second game) which looks like Donovan's head placed on Demitri's body. His story (where he encounters an older version of Anita, the very girl he lost himself to darkness to protect) brings up the theory that there's some sort of timeline split after Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge/Vampire Hunter.
- Mortal Kombat:
- More or less, Mortal Kombat Trilogy. It follows the same basic story of (Ultimate) MK3, but contains all of the characters present in the previous games. You can even pick retro versions of Raiden, Kano, Jax, and Kung Lao.
- Another rare canonical example would come from Armageddon, with 61 of the 63 characters hailing from previous games. The Wii version also features Khameleon from the Nintendo 64 version of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, back by popular demand. The reason for Armageddon's canonicity is that it was supposed to Torch the Franchise and Run with a "new generation" cast for the next game by killing off nearly everyone present at the conflict, but this idea fell through by virtue of Midway going belly-up. Mortal Kombat 9 does start with nearly everyone dead at the end of Armageddon... only for a dying Raiden to push the Continuity Reboot button in an attempt to prevent Armageddon, thus The End of the World as We Know It, from even happening. The new cast would debut in the following game, Mortal Kombat X.
- As a reboot visiting altered versions of the first three games, MK9 qualifies as a canonical example, as its roster is basically Trilogy minus "Cyber" Smoke, Motaro, and the bosses, but with Quan Chi, Cyber Sub-Zero, and new character Skarlet (plus guest fighters Kratos and Freddy Krueger).
- A non-standard example: Onimusha Blade Warriors, which consists of characters from the first three games (plus Guest Fighters Zero and MegaMan.EXE) duking it out. The game is set months after the second game, and 11 years before 3.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy can be boiled down into a simple formula: bring back all the dead-but-awesome bad guys and all the main characters, give some kind of plot about them all being pulled from their respective universes by either an evil god or a not-so-evil goddess, and make a fighting game.
- Castlevania: Judgment does this for the Castlevania series, where newcomer Aeon brings several heroes (Simon Belmont, Trevor Belmont, Grant Danasty, Sypha Belnades, Alucard, Maria Renard, Eric Lecarde, Cornell, and Shanoa) and even a few villains (Dracula, Death, Carmilla, and Golem) into the Time Rift so he can unite them in an attempt to stop an usurping by Galamoth (of Kid Dracula and SotN fame). It's unknown exactly how much leverage Judgment has on the rest of the series; several characters have been pulled from times before, during, or after their quests, and many endings hint at plot points introduced in later games.
- Street Fighter:
- Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition is a 15th anniversary revision of Street Fighter II that was released for the arcades, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in 2003 (almost a decade after Super Street Fighter II Turbo). It allows players to use the character roster from any of the five previous Street Fighter II installments (The World Warrior, Champion Edition, Hyper Fighting, New Challengers and Super Turbo) and duke it out.
- The Street Fighter Alpha Anthology has a similar unlockable game titled Hyper Street Fighter Alpha. This is a much purer example, as by the time Alpha 3 hit home consoles, the series featured the entire roster from Super Street Fighter II Turbo (Guile and the other "New Challengers" from Super Street Fighter II besides Cammy, were not present in the arcade version), along with all the other characters from previous Alpha installments (both original and from previous games). Some of the characters from the 1987 original were still missing, along with all the new guys from Street Fighter III note and all the original characters from the EX series.
- M.U.G.E.N, naturally.
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2 featured not only the entire roster from the original Marvel vs. Capcom, but it also features nearly everyone from every previous Marvel-licensed fighting game by Capcom (X-Men: Children of the Atom, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men vs. Street Fighter and Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter) along with many additional characters (including a few originals) for a 56-man roster, the only absentees being the Palette Swap Secret Characters from previous Vs. games, guest fighters Anita and Norimaro, and all of the non-playable assist characters such as Thor and the Unknown Soldier, as well as the large bosses Apocalypse and Onslaught; Cyber-Akuma/Mech-Gouki was also noticeably absent. Oddly, there are two Wolverines (one representing his playstyle from Children of the Atom and the other, dubbed "Bone Claw," his original Marvel vs. Capcom style).
- Kamen Rider Climax Heroes:
- OOO sort of qualifies, as its main draw besides the inclusion of Kamen Rider OOO (while retaining everyone from the past two games) is the addition of absolutely everyone from Kamen Rider Ryuki, pulled straight from the game of Ryuki's American adaptation Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, which ran on the Climax Heroes engine and released on the same year as the preceding Climax Heroes game... in America only.
- All Climax Heroes games from OOO onward somewhat qualify, since the roster for each successive game only gets bigger with the addition of newer shows and characters who weren't included in previous iterations. note
- Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations: Along with the "young" version of certain characters being present, there are plenty of playable characters in the game who had already been killed off in the Naruto manga/anime by the time of its release. The most prominent examples are probably Zabuza and Haku, as several advertisements for the game made note of their presence.
- The Gundam Vs Series from Gundam vs. Gundam and onward no longer restricts their roster and plot any single Gundam series, preferring to include the most memorable characters and Mobile Suits, and pit them against each other in a battle royale.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle brings together a large number of characters from the 25-year-long manga of the same name (in fact, it was created for the 25th anniversary of the series) for battles of grand proportions. Possibly a subversion, since the Story Mode actually segregates characters by their part of origin. Double Subversion with the JoJolion Story Mode; since that part is still running, its plot revolves around Gappy running into each of the previous main characters as he investigates the Wall Eyes.
- Played straight in the sequel JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven, though. The story involves the character traveling though time and universe between parts and meeting/fighting each other.
- Body Blows: In this more obscure series that was made for Amiga brand computers, Ultimate Body Blows (the third and final installment) had all the characters from the prior games on a single roster. Considering that Ultimate Body Blows came out in 1994 (four years before the Trope Codifier), it may be the earliest instance of this trope.
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate brings back every playable character from past installments in the Super Smash Bros. franchise, alongside a number of new characters (both as part of the base roster and as DLC) for a total of 80+ characters. Unfortunately, Masahiro Sakurai has stated that Ultimate will probably be the only entry in the series that does this, because it was only possible due to very specific circumstances.
- Killer Instinct 2013 didn't start out this way, but as Seasons 2 and 3 added more characters, the roster swelled to eventually include every character from the previous games, including the two previous final bosses Eyedol and Gargos (though Glacius is explained to be a descendant of the original Glacius). It's also a rare example of a canon dream match game, albeit with the previous two games being given the Broad Strokes treatment.
- BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle combines this with Massive Multiplayer Crossover as it features not only select characters from the BlazBlue franchise, but also throws in characters from Persona 4: Arena, Under Night In-Birth and even RWBY for a total of twenty (later forty via DLC) fighters to throw down with each other.
- Warriors Orochi, Koei's Massive Multiplayer Crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. Yes, there is a plot, but it is really nothing more than a means to bring together a greater portion of both series' stables, even though they exist about a millennium apart. Warriors Orochi 3 ups the ante with Guest Fighters. And coincidentally for this trope's origins, including fighting game characters such as Sophitia, and Kasumi plus a handful of other Dead or Alive characters.
- Similarly, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam does this with all the different Gundam franchises.
- Hyrule Warriors, which does this with The Legend of Zelda. The scope of series representation here, however, was initially more limited compared to other Warriors games: outside of the recurring Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, and Impa (all of whom incorporate traits from various previous incarnations), only characters from Ocarine of Time (Sheik, Darunia, Ruto), Twilight Princess (Midna note , Agitha, Zant), and Skyward Sword (Fi, Ghirahim) were present, with the rest of the cast filled by Original Generation characters. A later DLC pack and the 3DS port, Hyrule Warriors Legends, rectified some of this with seven additional faces (Tingle, Young Link, Skull Kid, Tetra, King Daphnes, and Toon Link, plus a Distaff Counterpart of Link's named Linkle who is vaguely inspired by his Twilight Princess and Link's Crossbow Training self)—eight if Epona is counted. Another wave of DLC would add Medli, Marin, Toon Zelda, Ravio, and Yuga, all but one coming from the handheld titles of the franchise.
- Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is this trope applied to the series' usual Metroidvania shtick. The playable characters are Alucard, Soma Cruz, Jonathan Morris, Charlotte Aulin, and Shanoa, with DLC in the form of Julius Belmont, Yoko Belnades, Richter Belmont, Maria Renard, 8-bit Simon Belmont, and Getsu Fuma. In other words, you have characters from 1476, 1691, 1792, the early 1800s, 1944, and 2035/2036, as well as Alucard (effectively immortal, but theorized to have been born in the 13th, 14th, or early 15th century), all interacting with one another. Bizarrely justified in that the events of the game take place within a cursed book called the Grimoire, where both Castlevania and the various heroes and villains across time have come to life.
- Need for Speed is a car enthusiast's Dream Match Game. Where else does a gearhead get to see the rarest, most ultra-exclusive multimillion-dollar hypercars trade paint and battle for position?
- In Forza, that's where. What can be better than seeing the rarest, most ultra-exclusive multimillion-dollar hypercars trade paint and battle for position? By making them the General Lee and Bandit, or slapping on your favorite motor sport team's colors, or competing with the James Bond cars, or take the cars from Need for Speed and have them go up against the ones from The Fast and the Furious, or Ridge Racer... Heck, Forza 6 actually did just that.
- WWE's games occasionally added "Legend" characters to their rosters but the first straight example of a full "dream match" would probably be Legends of WrestleMania in 2009, which had a lineup of classic WWF characters to play as from the company's heydays as well as the ability to import present-day wrestlers from WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 (which is what vaults it into this territory). The first game to use this concept as an entirely standalone premise (not requiring the player have a copy of a different game to achieve this) would be WWE All Stars, although it was less of a wrestling game and more of an exaggerated fighting game. Nowadays everything is played straight in the core series (currently known as "WWE 2K") where not just legend wrestlers are on the roster but so too are classic venues and classic attires.
- The NBA 2K series has been the mainstay of dream match sports titles that have seeped into other franchises such as John Madden Football where you can have the 72 Bucks, 96 Bulls, 99 Lakers, 80 Lakers, heck the actual Dream Team of your choice complete with throwback and old jerseys.
- Ultimate Custom Night is this applied to the Five Nights at Freddy's series: almost all of the animatronics from the entire series return, most of which utilize the exact same mechanics as the games they debuted in, plus a few new faces to throw a curveball at even the toughest of FNAF veterans. It's telling that, in a series which has never had more than a dozen enemies per game, this one has over fifty.