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Spoiler: It wasn't the butler.

Trinity: It's the question that drives us mad. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
Neo: "What is the Matrix?"
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No, not, "What's this third pedal do?" or "Who Is Driving?", a Driving Question is when a core element of the plot is a mystery. The most common variation would be a detective murder mystery (where the question is most often "Whodunnit?"), but also very popular in Noughties Drama Series, Jigsaw Puzzle Plots and Survival Horror. In many cases the question is equivalent to, "What the hell is going on and why?" which taken far enough makes for an Ontological Mystery.

See The Unreveal and The Reveal. Fan-Disliked Explanation is what happens when the answers aren't all they are cracked up to be. Failure Is the Only Option to answering the question in a TV series where the question is central to the show. Too many can lead to a Kudzu Plot. The Chris Carter Effect is what happens when fans give up on the writers' ability to answer these questions.

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See also Central Theme, Detective Drama, Mystery Fiction, The Unsolved Mystery and Mystery Literature.

Compare What If? for another kind of driving questions.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Beastars: For the first half of the series the question is "Who killed Tem?" In the second half the question is "How can Legoshi defeat Melon?"
  • Dorohedoro: The story starts with three questions. Who was Caiman before he lost his memories? Who put the lizard head curse on Caiman? And who is the man inside of Caiman's mouth? (Is it his former self, or the one who cursed him, or somebody else entirely?) The search for answers to those questions turns up even more questions.
  • Odd Taxi: Where is the missing girl? Who is the missing girl? (And after those are answered Who killed her?) Who, or what, is in Odokawa's closet? Is there something wrong with Odokawa's brain?
  • In Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea, featured a Manaphy and the question, "Why is Manaphy called Prince of the Sea in the first place?!"
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Due to the series' Kudzu Plot, we have a few, but only a few get answered thanks to the Gainax Ending. What are the Evangelions, really? What happened to Yui Ikari? Who is SEELE? What REALLY caused Second Impact? Turns out they have the same answer.
  • 20th Century Boys: Who is Friend?
  • Ergo Proxy: What are the Proxies?
  • Monster: What does Johan want?
  • Spiral: What are the Blade Children?
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Where is Nagi Springfield, and why has he been MIA for the past decade?
  • Ghost in the Shell:
  • Paranoia Agent: Who is Shonen Bat/Li'l Slugger?
  • Code Geass: In the first season, who killed Lelouch's mother and why? In R2, it's what exactly is C.C.'s wish and, ultimately, where does Geass itself come from?
  • Death Note: In-Universe, the driving question is "who is Kira and how does he kill people?" Since the audience already knows who Kira is, the real driving question is "how will Light be caught?"
  • Dragon Ball Super: While Dragon Ball has never been known for this kind of arguments, Dragon Ball Super has been playing around with these ideas. The Future Trunks saga: Who or what is Goku Black, and what is his relationship with Zamasu?
  • Samurai Champloo: Where is the Sunflower Samurai?
  • Digimon Tamers had a few: What is Culumon's purpose? He's the embodiment of Digivolution and why are Digimon appearing in the real world? The result of a research team's development gone awry and fleeing from the D-Reaper, an archaic simplistic deleting program that becomes an Eldritch Abomination.
  • CLANNAD: What is this girl we keep on seeing, and what is her purpose? What are these Light Orbs we also see? And how are they connected?
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Why is Hinamizawa stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop? Why do the main characters keep on going batshit crazy and murderous? Who or what is Oyashiro-sama, the one who everyone claims is behind the town's annual deaths? Is it really the work of a deity or a human conspiracy?
  • Umineko: When They Cry: For Ep 1-4 the question is about who the killer is. Is it one of the 18 family members or servants, is it a 19th person or is it the Golden Witch Beatrice? For Ep 5-8 the question changes into Who is Beatrice?
  • Naruto:
  • One Piece:
    • What is the true nature of the mysterious treasure left by GOL D. Roger, known only as One Piece?
    • For Robin, "What happened during the Void Century, and why is the World Government hell-bent on keeping anyone from uncovering it?"
    • For Ace, "Did I deserve to be born?"
    • What is the "Will of D."?
  • Arisa: Who is the King?
  • Popotan: Who are we looking for, and what does this person want with us?
  • A Certain Magical Index: What exactly is the Imagine Breaker?
  • Armored Trooper VOTOMS: For what purpose does the Secret Society need the Prototype? In the second half, it's who is manipulating Chirico and why?
  • The Haruhi Suzumiya series: What is Haruhi Suzumiya? Where do her powers come from? What exactly happened during the mysterious event three years ago that drew most of the SOS Brigade members to her?
  • The Big O: What happened 40 years ago that caused everyone to lose their memory?
  • Queen's Blade: Who is really the Swamp Witch?
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: What is the Pharaoh's true name?
    • Also, "What is something you can show, but you can't see?" This one pops up in many different situations, and has a different answer each time.
  • Attack on Titan: Exactly who/what are the Titans, where do they come from, and how do we stop them? What's the deal with Eren's father? What's in the basement of their old home?
  • Kill la Kill: Who killed Ryuko's father? Nui Harime, on behalf of Ragyo Kiryuin, who it turns out is the mother of both Ryuko and Satsuki.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: Why does Fate have such sad and lonely eyes? This evolved into "Will you be my friend?"
  • K: Did Shiro really kill Totsuka? If he didn't, then who did?
  • Accel World has a few, but its biggest two were "Who made Brain Burst?" and "What happens when you reach level 10?"
  • Played for laughs in FLCL as it treats "What does FLCL mean?" as a driving question (explicitly bringing it up in both the first and last episodes and periodically dropping it throughout the series,) even though it has nothing to do with the main plot and by the end of the anime nobody's any closer to the answer. A more relevant question is "Who is Haruko really, and what does she want?"
  • Digimon Universe: App Monsters: Will artificial intelligence surpass humanity in The Singularity by 2045, and if so, what will happen then?
  • Dr. Stone: What is the cause of the light that turned all of humanity (along with swallows) to stone?
  • The Garden of Sinners: Who was the culprit of the murders in the year 1995? Was it Shiki? And what happened that put her in a two year coma?

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Austraeoh: Why is Rainbow Dash flying east?
  • Bad Future Crusaders: Who is the Masquerader, and what does she want?
  • Blackened Skies: How are all of the students who were culprits in the previous games even around to participate in this new killing game?
  • Children of Remnant: What is Salem's plan and how do the Claimed fit into it?
  • The Games We Play (Friendship Is Magic): Who is behind the Mare Do Well disguise?
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters has the ongoing mystery of what exactly happened at Carhaiz on the mission where Caleb's father was allegedly killed. Though unlike most examples, this one is resolved in relatively short order, with The Reveal in Chapter 14.
  • Thanks to being a crossover, A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor has the honor of having two potent ones at the very center of its plot:
    • On the Dragon Age end: Who is the one responsible for the Breach in the sky and the ensuing chaos running rampant in Thedas as the result of its appearence?
    • On the Fate end: Just why is Arturia in Thedas when she should have returned to the field of Camlann and be waiting until her next summoning?
  • Light: Why did Pell kill Celestia?
  • The Good Hunter: What happened after Cyril's battle with Gehrman, the First Hunter? Which "ending" out of the three did Cyril get? Why is Cyril disconnected from the Hunter's Dream? And what does him "leaving behind the Dream" mean?
  • Opening Dangerous Gates: What do Zeref and his demons want with the keys that summon Shinigami and Arrancar if they cannot use them?
  • Sins of the Past: What happened fifteen years ago that led to Marinette's disappearance?
  • A Student Out of Time: How and why was Hajime sent back in time? Can he really change the past? Did anyone else come back with him? If so, then who?
  • Team 8: What single decision altered the history of Konoha?
  • the superhero game: Why are heroes from the future being sent back in time?
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Where is Chloe, what do we truly know about her and what can we do to make sure she stays?
  • Feynites Aftermath: Why would Shen Qingqiu decide to love Luo Binghe instead of abusing him? Of course, Shen Qingqiu — and the readers — know the answer, but neither the Big Bad nor the protagonist are aware of it and they really want it.
  • Killing Game Deluxe: How exactly are the dead students alive again?
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    Films — Animation 
  • Meet the Robinsons: Who was Lewis' mother and why did she give him up? Despite that question driving the whole movie, it is sadly never answered, as Lewis ultimately decides not to find out. Also, who is Bowler Hat Guy and why does he hate Lewis?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe: Who or what killed "Jane Doe" in a way that destroyed her internal organs but left her perfectly preserved on the outside?
  • 1974's The Beast Must Die: Who is the werewolf?
  • Citizen Kane: What does "Rosebud" mean?
  • Dude, Where's My Car?
  • Exam: There is one question before you, and only one answer required.
  • The Forgotten: Does Telly's child exist?
  • The General's Daughter: Beyond the Whodunnit of Elizabeth Campbell's rape and murder, Colonel Moore expresses the real driving question of the mystery ("What's worse than rape?") and states that Brenner will truly understand Elizabeth's death once he's discovered the answer. It's personal betrayal.
  • Green Zone: Who is "Magellan"?
  • The Hateful Eight: Who in the stagecoach lodge is trying to free Daisy?
  • The movie version of I, Robot features this with Dr. Alfred Lanning's hologram answering the current driving question with the Arc Words: "That, detective, is the right question."
  • Logan's Run: Where is sanctuary, and is it even real?
  • The three The Matrix films all have one each:
    • The Matrix (for the first act, at least): What is the Matrix?
    • The Matrix Reloaded: Will Neo's dream of Trinity dying come true, and how?
    • The Matrix Revolutions: Is there a way to break the Architect's cycle of genocide and reload the Matrix?
      • Alternatively: have Neo and the rebels truly left the Matrix, or just entered another Matrix?
  • The Objective: Where are people disappearing to and why?
  • Reservoir Dogs: Which of the diamond thieves is an undercover cop?
  • The Scribbler: Is Suki, who suffers from Split Personality disorder, killing patients at her high-rise halfway house and making them look like suicides? Or is it — as she insists, one of her personalities, the titular Scribbler?
  • Shutter Island: What happened to the escaped patient, and what is really going on at the titular treatment facility?
    • Also, what actually happened to the main character's wife?
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Who fired the photon torpedoes at the Klingon chancellor's ship, and how does the Enterprise still have all its torpedoes accounted for?
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Where is Luke Skywalker?
  • Thir13en Ghosts: Who is the thirteenth ghost? It's Arthur, if he chooses to sacrifice himself for his children in an Act of True Love.
  • Unbreakable: Is David really a superhero?
  • The Usual Suspects: Who or what is Keyser Soze?
  • The Vanishing: What happened to the missing woman?
  • Werewolves Within: Is there actually a werewolf? And if so, who is it?

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • 13 Reasons Why:
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has three:
    • Who is behind and what is the true purpose of Project Centipede? John Garrett, who works for HYDRA.
    • What really happened after Coulson's "death" at Loki's hands in The Avengers? He was resurrected by the T.A.H.I.T.I. project, which was designed to resurrect a fallen Avenger and involved injecting a serum made from a dead Kree alien.
    • What is the truth of Skye's mysterious past, and how is S.H.I.E.L.D. connected? She is the daughter of an immortal Inhuman woman who was captured and mutilated by Dr. Whitehall in order to rejuvenate him. The village she was hidden in was destroyed as HYDRA, SHIELD, and her father tried to obtain her. The SHIELD agents who got a hold of her started getting killed off one by one, so they decided to quit the organization secretly and hide Skye in the foster system. Her real name is Daisy Johnson.
  • American Gothic (2016): Who is the Silver Bells Killer, and what is the Hawthorne family's connection to him/her?
  • American Vandal: Who spray-painted dicks on all the cars in the teachers parking lot?
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008): What happened to Sam Tyler? (Whilst this was only an actual Driving Question in the third and final series, it had been brought up very briefly in the first episode of the first series.)
  • Arrow:
    • Season 1: What is the Undertaking?
    • Season 5: Who is Prometheus?
  • Babylon 5:
    • Season One: What do you want? (Also: What happened to Sinclair at the Battle of the Line?)
    • Season Two: Who are you?
    • Season Three: Why are you here?
    • Season Four: Do you have anything worth living for?
    • Season Five: Where are you going?
    • According to Word of God, the spinoff Crusade has this as the real driving question: Who do you serve, and who do you trust?
  • Blindspot:
    • Season 1: Who is Jane Doe, and why did someone wipe her memories and cover her in tattoos leading the FBI to crimes?
    • Season 2: What is "Phase 2" of Sandstorm's plan? And why are they so interested in Weller?
  • Bones had two during their first few seasons:
    • What happened to Brennan's parents?
    • Who is the Gravedigger?
  • Bron|Broen: Who is the serial killer? How does he manage what he does? What's the full meaning of his motive(s)?
  • Burn Notice: "Why was I burned?"
  • Carnivàle: Season 1 has lots (the second season answering most of them). "Where is Henry Scudder ?" and "What is an Avatar ?" being the main ones. Not to mention Ben's Mysterious Past.
  • Castle: Who ordered the hit on Beckett's mother, and why?
  • Dark (2017): Is it possible to alter the course of time? And what exactly are the various time-travelers trying to accomplish?
    • Season 1: What happened to the missing children?
    • Season 2: Can the approaching Apocalypse be prevented?
  • Dark Matter: Season 1: Which member of the crew is responsible for their mass amnesia and why?
  • Dexter:
    • Season 1. Who is the Ice Truck Killer?
    • Season 3. What's the deal with Miguel/Who is the 'Skinner'?
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:
    • Season 1: Who killed Patrick Spring, and what happened to his daughter Lydia?
    • Season 2: Who is the Boy?
  • Day Break (2006): Who are the people trying to frame Hopper, and why did they choose him?
  • Doctor Who
    • Series 1: What is the "Bad Wolf"?
    • Series 4: Why do the Doctor and Donna keep meeting?
    • Series 5: What is causing the cracks in time?
    • Series 6 introduced (or more accurately, brings back to the fore) the first question, the oldest question in the universe, a question hidden in plain sight, a question that must never, ever be answered: Doctor who? The Doctor will eventually be forced to truthfully answer this question, and in doing so... well, let's just say the results would be bad.
    • Series 7, second half: Who is Clara Oswald? How is she possible?
    • _____ of the Doctor trilogy: Doctor Who?
    • Series 8: Is the Doctor a good man? (Interestingly, the expected driving question — Where is Gallifrey now? — was hardly addressed.)
    • Series 9: Who is "The Hybrid" of two warrior races spoken of in a Gallifreyan prophecy? Does it have to do with the Doctor's confession, which others will hear only upon his death...or when he's pushed to the Despair Event Horizon?
    • Series 10: What's in the Vault the Doctor's guarding? Why is he guarding it? Who did he promise to guard it?
    • Series 12: What is the secret of the Timeless Child?
  • The Expanse: Season 1 has "Who destroyed the Canterbury?" and "What happened to Julie Mao?"
  • The Flash: Team Flash deals with time travel and spends a great deal of time trying to figure who the villain is and why they know so much about Barry and the team.
    • Season 1: Who is Reverse Flash?
    • Season 2: Who is Zoom?
    • Season 3: Who is Savitar?
    • Season 4: What is DeVoe's plan?
  • Flash Forward: Who caused the blackout and why? And later, when will the second blackout take place?
  • Fringe: The first season was driven by the question, "What is the Pattern, and what does it mean?"
  • Gotham: Who killed the Waynes and why?
  • Reimagined Hawaii Five-0, second season: Who or what is Shelburne?
  • Rather a driving sentence than a question in Homeland — "An American prisoner of war has been turned." The question is, is it true?
  • How I Met Your Mother: Who is the mother, and how did Ted meet her?
  • How to Get Away with Murder: Each season has several, mostly based around the flashforwards. They generally follow a pattern of one lasting the whole season, one being resolved halfway through and giving rise to another, and another occuring right in the finale as a cliffhanger. Furthermore, the entire series asks whether the cast will successfully get away with murder. By the end of the series: Annalise, Laurel, Michaela, Oliver, and Nate are implicated but acquited; Conner does time but is released; Wes, Asher, Frank, and Bonnie all die.
    • Season One:
      • Who killed Lila Stangard? Answered in the finale: Frank, on Sam Keating's orders.
      • Why did the four law students murder Annalise's husband? He attacked them after Rebecca found information linking him to Lila's murder.
      • The answers in the finale also give rise to a new one: Who killed Rebecca? It was answered in the next season premier: Bonnie, to keep her from talking.
    • Season Two:
      • The case of the season is who killed the Hapstalls? Their son Caleb, revealed in the finale.
      • Who killed Emily Sinclair and who shot Annalise? Also answered by the midseason finale as Asher and Wes respectively. But the latter is replaced by a major new one: what did Annalise and Eve do to Wes' mother? This was in turn answered at the end of the season ( they asked her to be a witness against Wallace Mahoney, but ultimately she took her own life out of fear. It also leads into who shot Wallace Mahoney?
    • Season Three begins with a whole new set of questions.
      • Who is harassing Annalise on campus? Simon Drake.
      • More importantly, who burned her house, and which of the cast got consumed by the flames? The mid-season finale answers this and leaves two major questions: Who killed Wes and how did he die? This was answered in the finale, but left the mystery of why Laurel's father wanted Wes dead. This was answered pretty nonchalantly in 4x06— Antares was going public, so Jorge had Wes killed because Antares' reputation would have been damaged had Wes confessed about Sam and Rebecca's murders.
      • The main mystery throughout the first half of season four involved a series of flashforwards that featured too many different things to be explained as one main question; instead the promotional materials used the question of "what happened that night?" Although, the first flashforward arguably set up the mystery of where is Laurel's baby? It was only in the final moments of the midseason finale that we knew definitively that the baby was even alive.
    • Season 5 gave us a new mystery: who died at the wedding? DA Miller, who was framed for Nate Lahey Sr.'s murder. We also drive further into our main character's back stories with the follow-up questions: Who is Gabriel Maddox? Sam's son before Annalise. And what happened to Bonnie's baby? They were taken by her sister.
    • The last season sets up plenty despite it's short episode count.
      • What happened to Laurel and Christophe in the previous finale? They fled to avoid the FBI.
      • How did Annalise die? Old age. The flashforwards took place decades in the future.
      • Who is the FBI's mole in the group? Asher, revealed in the midseason finale. Of course that leads into who killed Asher? The FBI themselves, to cover their own backs. It also asks how Wes is still alive. He's not—just like Annalise's funeral scenes, these take place far in the future and who audience's were led to believe was Wes is actually Christophe.
      • The finale itself manages to have one self-contained within the last episode: who killed who at Annalise's court case? Frank arranges Jorge Castillo's death and killed Governer Birkhead but he and Bonnie were caught in the crossfire.
  • Lost thrives on this. The Myth Arc is about the protagonists getting dropped in the middle of these strange, inexplicable and in some cases scientifically impossible occurrences and trying to puzzle out the answers to these questions. And there are many questions: "Where are we?" "What is the monster?" "How are people being healed?" "Will we ever escape the Island?" "What is the Island?" "Who are The Others?" "What's in the hatch?" "Should they keep pushing the button?" "What crashed the plane?" "What are the Whispers?" And due to the focused viewpoint, a lot of them don't get explicit answers. Season 6, however, cuts to the heart of it and makes it clear that the show's Driving Question is actually "Why are these people on the Island?" The answer has many facets that touch on both the A-story of the show and the thematic drive of the show.
  • The Mentalist: Will Jane ever catch Red John? Patrick Jane does find out who Red John is, and kills him.
  • Season 6 of M.I. High has: Who is Zoe?
  • Million Yen Women: Who are the women? Who invited them into Shin's house?
  • Monk: Who killed Trudy?
  • NCIS: Los Angeles:
    • What happened to Callen's family?
    • Who is the mole?
  • Night and Day: Where is Jane Harper; is she dead; and if so, who killed her? Further related mysteries pop up later on to help drive that main narrative – such as who got Jane pregnant, who sent her creepy text messages, and who sent Roxanne the poison pen letters?
  • Open Heart: What happened to Richard Blake? Who is the woman in the ugly coat?
  • Pandora: Who destroyed New Portland, and why?
  • In Powers season 2 the question is "Who killed Retro Girl?" and more importantly, "How?"
  • Pretty Little Liars: "Who is A?" (this one has been answered twice, only for a new A to pop up) and "What happened to Alison?"
  • The Prisoner (1967): Who is Number One? Who runs The Village? Why did Number Six resign? (This is an interesting example, because whoever runs the village knows who Number One is and wants to know why Number Six resigned, Number Six knows why he resigned, but doesn't know the answers to the first two questions, and the audience knows pretty much bupkis ... and it's never explicitly cleared up either.)
  • Prodigal Son: What happened during the period of Malcolm's childhood that he can't remember, between when he found an abducted girl in his father's kill room and when he made the call to the police turning him in? And what happened to the girl, as the police never found her?
  • Riverdale: Who killed Jason Blossom?
  • In the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the Driving Question was how to find and destroy the Turk. By the second season, the question instead came in the form of a Room Full of Crazy drawn by a dying resistance soldier, and the cast's attempts to figure out the meaning of all the names and places written there.
    • And the overarching Terminator question: How can SkyNet be stopped?
  • Star Trek: Discovery:
    • Season 2: What's causing the Red Signals?/ Who is the Red Angel?
    • Season 3: What caused The Burn?
  • Star Trek: Picard: Who was behind the synth rebellion?
  • Supernatural:
    • Season 1: What killed Mary Winchester and Jessica Moore?/ Where is John Winchester?
    • Season 2: Who are the Special Children?/ Why are they being targeted?
    • Season 3: How do you break a demon deal?
    • Season 4: How do we stop the Apocalypse?
    • Season 5: How do we stop the devil?/ Where is God?
    • Season 6: Can angels be trusted?
    • Season 7: How do you defeat Leviathan?
    • Season 8: Can you close the gates of Hell?
    • Season 9: Who is Metatron?/ Can angels survive on Earth?
    • Season 10: How do you remove the Mark of Cain?
    • Season 11: How do you defeat The Darkness?/ Is the Darkness more powerful than God?
    • Season 12: Why are the British Men of Letters in America?/ Can hunters trust them?
    • Season 13: Is Jack destined to be evil?
    • Season 14: How do you defeat Michael and save Dean?/ Is Jack really okay?/ Can we really trust God?
    • Season 15: How can you defeat God?
  • Taken: What do the aliens want?
  • Twin Peaks: Who killed Laura Palmer?
  • Veronica Mars:
    • Season 1: "Who killed Lily Kane?" and "Who drugged/raped Veronica?"
    • Season 2: "Who blew up the bus?"
    • Season 3: Both "Who is the serial rapist?" and "Who killed Dean O'Dell?"
  • WandaVision: Who made the sitcom reality and why?
  • The Watch (2021): How is Carcer Dun still alive despite seemingly having fallen to his death 20 years before, and as young as the day he disappeared?
  • The Wheel of Time: For season one: "Who is the Dragon Reborn?" Moiraine's information points to one of the five Emond's Fielders: Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, or Nynaeve, with hints appearing throughout the season to indicate it might be any one of them.
  • White Collar: What happened to Kate?
  • The X-Files:
    • What happened to Mulder's sister?
    • What is the truth about the aliens and the government's conspiracy?

    Podcasts 
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: What is the true identity and motivation of the Red Robes, and what happened during the timespan that neither Merle, Magnus, nor Taako can remember?
  • Alice Isn't Dead has several driving questions, including "Where is Alice and why did she leave?", "What are the thistle men?", "What is Praxis?", "What is Bay and Creek?", and "What are the oracles?". Some of these questions get answered and others do not. During Part 2 of the story, the biggest question is "Why am I still alive?", the answer to which turns out to be "Because they haven't killed you yet."
  • Dice Funk:
    • Season 1: What is causing all of the odd events in Stoneroot?
    • Season 2: What caused the waters to start rising? Where did all of the portals come from? who is the mysterious voice?
    • Season 3: What created the barrier around Illium and how do you leave? Later this becomes why are the gods trying to keep the barrier in place?
    • Season 4: "How do you make Valentine a better place?" is a more thematic one than normal. Later the question of what is Solomon Luna hiding becomes the driving force.
    • Season 5: What happened to the Maxwells? What destroyed the Reigar homeworld? What is Cassius planning to do with the Maxells?
  • The Magnus Archives:
    • Season 2: Who murdered Gertrude Robinson?
    • Season 3: What is the Unknowing?
  • The White Vault: What happened to the five disappeared members of the repair team sent to Outpost Fristed?

    Tabletop Games 
  • Apocalypse World: "What caused the Apocalypse, and how can we fix it?" is recommended, though the answer of course is up to the MC and the players.
  • Cluedo: Who killed Mr. Boddy?
  • Eberron has several questions that are left with no canon answer because it is up to the Game Master to make up their own answers. Some of these questions include "What caused the Day of Mourning?" and "Why does the number thirteen minus one keep popping up?"

    Theatre 
  • "Is Hamlet mad?" is a question scholars of Shakespeare have wrestled with for centuries, and is a popular essay question put to literature students. Is he pretending or has he genuinely lost it? Suffice to say that Hamlet's mental state is very open to interpretation depending on who is directing the production, and this ambiguity is one of the reasons why this play is considered one of, if not the finest work of English literature ever written.

    Video Games 
  • Outer Wilds. A game in which the only powerups are better driving questions. Your first question is likely to be "how do I avoid crashing my ship into the moon?" but once you've answered this you're bound to ask "What is the Ash Twin Project"?" "Why am I stuck in a time loop?" And "how does the eye of the universe tie into all this?" The game's set up so if you can answer all three questions you can win from a new game in five minutes. Unfortunately, like all the best mysteries, it can only be experienced once.
  • Planescape: Torment. You wake up without knowledge of who you are, what you're doing here, and why you can't remember anything. The first order of business is to fix that, and it takes most of the game.
    • The Arc Words "What can change the nature of a man?" would also qualify. Also a double subversion. Ravel tells you that she was never interested in the answer, but only your answer, and then regardless of the answer you give, she dismisses it anyway. It's only at the very end that the Nameless One realizes that the answer is Belief.
    • Torment: Tides of Numenera: What does one life matter?
  • Baldur's Gate: Who is the "armoured figure"? Why is he trying to kill the Player Character? What do all these dreams and portents mean? And what is the Iron Throne trying to do and what does that have to do with any of the other questions?
    • In the sequel it's "Who is Jon Irenicus and what does he want from you?"
  • Neverwinter Nights mod The Bastard of Kosigan: Who is killing off the Kosigan family? And what can you do about it?
  • Knights of the Old Republic: What and where is the Star Forge? Also, What did Revan and Malak find that caused them to fall to the Dark Side?
  • Jade Empire: Did Death's Hand have the Emperor's backing or has he taken over? Who is the scaly blue lady that keeps appearing to me in visions? How can you rescue Master Li?
  • Dragon Age: Origins: Where is the Archdemon and how do we kill it?
    • Awakening: Why are Darkspawn still attacking even after the Blight ended - and how are they suddenly talking?
    • Witch Hunt: What happened to Morrigan?
    • Dragon Age II: How did Hawke become the Champion and what does it have to do with the downfall of the Chantry?
    • Legacy: Who or what is Corypheus and what is its connection to the Hawke family?
    • Mark of the Assassin: What did Hawke do to sour Kirkwall's relations with Orlais?
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Who is responsible for the chaos in Thedas and the tear in the Veil?
  • Silent Hill: Several of the games run on one over-riding question.
  • Team Fortress 2: What are the sordid secrets of the Mann Family and their inheritors? Who is the Unseen Man in the photograph? Why is the Administrator involved? What are Dell Conagher's motives? What, or who, is The Pyro?
  • Metal Gear has several, the most prominent being "Who are the Patriots?" and perhaps "Who is Ocelot really working for?"
  • Baroque: "Who is the protagonist, and what was his sin?"
  • Chrono Cross: Specific to players who already played the first game - "What's going on and how does it relate to Chrono Trigger?"
  • Final Fantasy X: "What happened to Zanarkand?"
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Who is Aloy's mother and what happened to the Old World?
  • Armored Core:
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl: Who or what is The Strelok? And why should you kill him?
  • F.E.A.R.: Who or what is Alma, and why is Paxton Fettel so obsessed with her?
  • Dead Space: What happened to the crew members?
  • The Half-Life franchise: What is the G-Man trying to achieve? And what does he want from Gordon?
    • Half-Life 2: Episode One: What did Alyx steal from the Combine?
    • Half-Life 2: Episode Two, second half: What does the G-Man's message to Eli mean?
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum: What's the Joker planning?
  • Psychonauts (only the Milkman Conspiracy level): Who is the Milkman?
  • Dark Souls: How can I save the flames that sustain life as we know it? Another question presents itself later: Is saving the flames truly the right thing to do?
  • Bloodborne: What is Paleblood and where can I find it?
  • Shin Megami Tensei loves these.
    • Digital Devil Saga: What is the purpose of the Junkyard?
    • Persona: Who is this girl calling herself Maki, and what did Kandori do to the world?
    • Persona 2: Eternal Punishment: What happened on the "other side" to change "this side"?
    • Persona 3: What caused the Dark Hour?
    • Persona 4: Who's responsible for the killings in Inaba? And what exactly is the Midnight Channel?
    • Persona 5: What is the Metaverse? How did you and your friends become Phantom Thieves? Who or what is Morgana? What is your "rehabilitation" supposed to accomplish? And how did you get caught by the police in a world that doesn't exist?
    • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne: How should the new world be shaped?
    • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: What is the Schwartzwelt, and how do you stop it?
  • Ghost Trick: Sissel has one driving question throughout the story. "Who am I?"
  • Myst games tends to put the player in unfamiliar situations with only one or two questions to drive the player's actions forward.
    • MYST: What happened here and who is trustworthy?
    • Riven: Where is Catherine and Gehn? Who took the prison book?
    • Myst III: Exile: Who is this strange hobo, and why does he have it out for Atrus?
    • Myst IV: Revelation: Who kidnapped Yeesha and for what purpose? Have Sirrus and Achenar's time in their respective prison ages reformed them?
  • BioShock: How did Rapture fall apart, and what is the hero's connection to it?
  • Always Sometimes Monsters: What are you willing to do in order to set your life right?
  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture: What is the titular Rapture?
  • Heavy Rain: Who is the Origami Killer?
  • Guenevere: What kind of queen will you be?
  • Mass Effect Trilogy: How do we stop the Reapers? Each game has its own:
  • Callof Duty Black Ops: What do the numbers mean?
  • Undertale: Don't you have anything better to do? And the "you" in question? Yeah, they're really asking you.
  • Return Of The Obra Dinn:
    • What happened to the passengers and crew of the Obra Dinn, and why did it return to harbor years after its disappearance?
    • A second question arises later on: What happened in Chapter 8 to make the Kraken spare the ship?
  • Mega Man and Mega Man X: Can peace truly be achieved between humans and robots/reploids? The timeframe between Mega Man Zero 4 and Mega Man ZX finally answers "Yes." Zero has the memetic "WHAT AM I FIGHTING FOOOOOOOR!?" Zero 4 also answers this.
  • A good chunk of Yakuza 0 has "Who owns the Empty Lot?" and "Who framed Kiryu for murder?" Also "What happened to Majima that turned him into the Ax-Crazy Mad Dog of Shimano?"
  • The Evil Within has a very simple one: what is going on?
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening has "What will happen when the Wind Fish awakes?"
  • Control: What is the Federal Bureau of Control? What is the Hiss? What is the Board?
  • Spirits of Anglerwood Forest: What happened to Edgar's parents?
  • Crying Suns: Who or what caused the Shutdown? Is there any way to undo it?
  • Devotion: Where is Mei Shin? She's dead, and her corpse is in the bathroom.
  • RuneScape: Who is Rabid Jack? Who is the Dark Lord? What is Zanik's destiny? Is there a way to save Morytania from its Vampyre rulers? What is at the bottom of Daemonheim? Where are the Elder Artifacts? What is Sliske planning? Is there a way to stop the Elder Gods from destroying the universe? What is Zaros up to? What is the player character's connection with Xau-tak?
  • The Five Nights at Freddy's series has several questions, a lot of which never get answered. These include questions like: What happened to the missing children? Are the animatronics actually haunted? Who or what is the Purple Man? What was the Bite of '87? And who even is the player character and why are they staying five nights at Freddy's?
  • Summertime Saga: Who murdered Frank Cummings?
  • Bugsnax: What happened to Lizbert Megafig?

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: What exactly is the Court? (Which in turn is connected to several sub-questions: What was Surma's and Anthony's history with the Court? Who is that ghost in the gorge, and why is she trapped there? What the hell is Zimmy's deal?)
  • Sluggy Freelance: What is Oasis? It doesn't drive the whole comic, but it does several stories in it, and remained unresolved for a long, long time. There are also other questions that drove single storylines but have been resolved, eg. "Where is Teknokon One?" and "What are the ghouls?" (There are also other questions, such as "What is Bun-bun's past?" that are just as mysterious but don't actually drive the story.)
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent has quite a lot of these, although most seem connected:
    • Why does the Rash Illness turn people into monsters?
    • What exactly happened during the last days of Old World?
    • Is magic real, and if so, why is it coming back after thousands of years of absence?
    • What hides in the Silent World? This one drives the main plot of the comic.
    • What exactly is up with the Hotakainen family? Which can be subdivided in several questions:
      • What are the mages of the family hiding from?
      • What was their grandmother's "one mistake" that is stated to have a lot to do with their current situation?
      • What caused both sets of parents to die?
  • El Goonish Shive: Why are the French Immortals amnesic? Who summoned the flame summon and why? The last question drives the New And Old Flames storylines. Other big questions exist but have been resolved, their solutions are not being actively pursued in-universe or are not pondered by the characters themselves.
  • In Inverloch, the plot starts with the simple question "What happened to the elven boy who disappeared 12 years ago?". But even before Archeron can start his journey to find out, the even bigger question is "Why does everyone in his village seem to know exactly what happened, but nobody is willing to tell him before he finds out himself?".
  • In morphE the seedlings have two gigantic ones that fuel their efforts. "Why does Amical want to train new mages?" and "What happened that caused everyone to wake up in crates with no memory of how they got there?". As they are captives in Amical's manor, the first question is the one which drives them through their mage training. The second question is what will drive them beyond there.
  • Homestuck progressed pretty quickly to "What the hell is going on?" and while there are elements of that persisting throughout, more recent driving questions are "who/what are the trolls", "who/what is Doc Scratch", "who/what is Lord English", and "can Lord English be defeated." There's also the lesser questions of "can Jack Noir/the Condesce be defeated", though at least we know who/what they (the Condesce is Betty Crocker, who is actually Alternia-Meenah).
  • Lackadaisy: Who killed Atlas May?
  • Helvetica: The entire comic is essentially this, although in a more lighthearted manner. Who were the skeletons in their past lives, and why do they all wake up there? What has Good Heavens done to make Lucy hate him so much? And who is Niles?
  • Cucumber Quest: What are the Nightmare Knight's motives? What is perpetuating the cycle?
  • The Letters Of The Devil is a Fair-Play Whodunnit, so there are many Driving Questions. The principal one is, "Who is L, and how do they know all of these secrets?"

    Western Animation 
  • Detentionaire:
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • Season 1: What happened to Della Duck?
    • Season 3: What is F.O.W.L.'s ultimate goal?
  • Gargoyles:
    • How did Demona survive the massacre at Castle Wyvern, why hasn't she aged a day in 1,000 years, and how is she connected to Macbeth? These mysteries are finally resolved in the "City of Stone" multi-parter.
    • What happened to the unhatched gargoyle eggs that Goliath left in Tom's care before he was turned to stone? Resolved in the "Avalon" multi-parter.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021): Why is Krass the only Master of the Universe who doesn't have a Nemesis and why can't she perform a Master Strike?
  • The Hollow:
    • Season 1: Where are Adam, Mira, and Kai? And how do they return home?
    • Season 2: How did they end up back in the Hollow?
  • Gravity Falls: "Who is the Author of the Journals?"
  • Jorel's Brother: "What is Jorel's brother's real name?"
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Season 1: Who is Amon?
    • Season 2: Why are the spirits angry?
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Who is Mr. E, and what happened to the original Mystery Incorporated?
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Though secondary to the main plot, the show has "Why did the previous She-Ra turn against the First Ones?"
  • Steven Universe: For the fifth season, the big question is "Did Rose Quartz really shatter Pink Diamond?"
  • Transformers: Cyberverse: Where is the Allspark? What became of the Autobots who went looking for it?
  • Young Justice:
    • Season 1: Who is The Mole?
    • Season 2: What happened during the sixteen hours the Justice League spent under Vandal Savage's control? Also, why are the Kroloteans invading Earth, what do the Reach want with meta-humans, and how does it all lead to a Bad Future?
    • For the series as a whole: What are the Light's ultimate goals?
  • The Zeta Project: What makes Zeta more than a machine? Ro has her own driving question: "Where is my brother?" which actually gets resolved halfway through season two.

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