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Lazy Backup

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In RPGs with an Arbitrary Headcount Limit, your traveling party may sometimes be too large for the game. However, when you fight with your arbitrarily reduced team size, and then you lose, you still get a game over even though the rest of the characters are still up. Sometimes the characters you do put in your party are Lazy Backup as well; in this case, you lose if the Player Character is killed, even when the rest of the party is still alive and possesses means of resurrection.

Some games make the backup more lazy than others. In addition to losing the game if the on-screen characters are defeated, there may be arbitrary rules for switching characters:

  • You can't switch out characters that are currently unconscious or dead (permanently or otherwise).
  • You can only switch characters when not in battle.
  • You can only switch characters in certain locations, such as towns, the world map or in Player Headquarters.

For those with a need of logic and explanation, however:

  • The group of monsters that have attacked the party is more than shown on screen, and ensures that that the entire team is facing combat than just the player's party. If the player's party is wiped out, this means they are easy pickings for their foes as the rest of the party is preoccupied trying to protect their own lives.
  • Plotwise, the player team is the one set with the priority/combat mission, while the rest of the team executes auxiliary and support missions before reuniting.
  • The group in question who faces the upcoming foe is all that crucial or has some very personal business to be done with, making it a battle that they cannot avoid. This is especially notable if this is a one on one battle with no support from the team.

A sister trope to Can't Drop the Hero.

Video Game Examples:

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    Action Adventure 
  • In Drakengard 2, you only control one character at a time and can switch between your four party members pretty much whenever you want. If your currently-controlled character falls in battle, it's Game Over...even though one of your party members literally cannot die and actually regenerates health while he's on the sidelines.
  • Mega Man X7 lets you choose two Maverick Hunters and lets you switch between them on the fly. If one of them runs out of health, though, you lose a life and have to restart the stage. Where did the other Hunter go? Mega Man X8 fixed this by simply switching to the still alive hunter while the defeated one slowly recovers.

  • In Guild Wars, a wipe is triggered if all PC members of your party are dead and no NPC members have a resurrection skill they can use. While this is normally alright because those NPCs aren't going to last long on their own anyway, it can be annoying in situations where finishing off the enemies you were fighting (which may not be beyond their capability) would trigger a cutscene and/or recharge their Resurrection Signets.

    Role Playing Game 
  • 7th Dragon triggers a Game Over if the current party is wiped, even if you have reserve members back at the guild hall. Gets pretty dumb in 7th Dragon III: Code VFD, where even after you gain access to a rear-line team of up to three that can provide battle support and later a second rear team, both of which can follow you at once (in other words, you have twice as many members following you as you have fighting as part of the front team), it's still mission failure if the front line kicks the bucket, even if you die to early enemies and your rear teams are composed of level 99 members who should be able to curb-stomp whatever killed the front line and then revive those fallen comrades.

  • In Abomi Nation only one Abomi will fight at a time, even though the rest of the team is visibly present in battle. Backline Abomis can even be targeted by long-range attacks and suffer from Damage Over Time, but won't do anything to defend themselves, not even use items.
  • In Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, the game even warns you the minute you get a fourth party member that "If all team members get knocked out in battle, it counts as a loss even if other members are available," with "even if other members are available" presented in Rainbow Speak to drive home the point.

  • In the Baldur's Gate series, the game ends instantly if the main character dies, regardless of how many characters in the party happen to be capable of casting Raise Dead or Resurrection. This may be justified when you actually die because as a Bhaalspawn the divine part of your soul rejoins your father and presumably cannot be retrieved (like what happened to Sarevok), meaning even if you're revived, you can no longer affect the outcome of the prophecy and thus the game is effectively over. This would explain why setting a contingency to resurrect yourself works just fine, but ends the game anyway. Reviving the main character would also require a Resurrection spell at minimum since your body disintegrates, and Raise Dead requires a mostly intact body. However, the same thing happens when you're petrified or Imprisoned. That it doesn't happen to Imoen is another discrepancy.

  • Chrono Trigger: Given that you can switch party members anytime out-of-battle, why can't you do that after three of them get knocked out in battle? (If this is justified by their having to use the Gate Key, then why can you switch party members anytime out-of-battle anyway?)
    • If Frog challenges Magus for the second time and loses, you'll get a game over even though the other two party members just walked off a short distance.
  • Normally in Chrono Cross you can only switch party members at save points, unless the plot calls for a certain character, at which point they just walk on from offscreen. This leads to some strange moments, such as the fight with Optional Boss Dario. Depending on your party composition, up to two extra party members will walk up right before the fight to explain the plot, but then will just stand there as your party gets slaughtered without doing anything. A very sad example, given both this particular plotline and the fact that he's That One Boss.
  • In Cosmic Star Heroine, not only you can have a reserve party almost twice the size of your Arbitrary Headcount Limit that you can freely exchange with your active party outside of combat, you also have a loyal crew on your Cool Spaceship which includes armed security officers, yet once your active party enters combat, they can only count on themselves (and one support member who doesn't participate but provides passive bonuses). Lose them and your only option is to restart the battle or go back to the title screen.
  • In Cross Edge, there is a potential cast of over 20 characters; but you can only ever have 4 at a time in your party, and if you die, it's game over. Regardless of the large group that is there, watching.
  • Cthulhu Saves the World lets you use in battle only 4 out of 7 (potentially 8) party members that you can change at any time outside of battle, yet if that quartet gets thrashed the rest won't lift a finger to chime in. It's all the more jarring because despite this being a parody game full of Lampshade Hanging, this issue isn't addressed at all.

  • In Devil Survivor you can deploy a maximum of four characters in a given battle. This isn't particularly bad for most of the game (as it spans 7 'days' and only up to 5 characters can be recruited in the first 6, meaning at most only one unit will sit out at a time). On some of the final routes though (Day 7) specifically the most difficult one, up to ten characters can be recruited. More then double the deployable limit.
    • Well, in Shin Megami Tensei I, II, and Strange Journey, there's a reason for the lazy backup. Your COMP doesn't have enough RAM for that. And even if it did, demons have to be physically summoned — if your character is dead, there's nobody around to summon the backup out of your COMP.
    • Also, the majority of demons only respect strength, and are essentially hired mercs anyway. If you get beat up, why should they bother saving your weak ass from death at the risk of their own? You simply weren't tough enough, and they aren't getting paid enough for that kind of crap.
    • Same problem in Devil Survivor 2. There at least part of the time you don't have more than four party members or the game tries to justify it with a cutscene showing the backup doing something else while you're on the front lines, but by the midpoint of the game you can have far more than four characters available but still only able to deploy four. Then again, it's made clear that the whole group isn't actually together most of the time - implications are that the main character phones up his battle party and tells them to meet him when he sees a fight breaking out.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Played straight by some, averted by others, especially the immensely useful system in Dragon Quest V where your Mons and characters not in the active party would jump out to fight for you if the entire main party was knocked out.
    • Generally, this is averted if you have a wagon around, which will allow idle party members within to come out if your active party members are wiped during a battle. But this is only if your wagon is out; if the wagon is not available (which is usually when it comes to caves, castles, and dungeons), they will not show up. Interestingly, if the Player Character is wiped and you're out on the overworld, the other party members will automatically revive them at a town if you go to one.
    • Dragon Quest IV: Averted here. If your current party is wiped out, and you have your wagon with you, the reserve party members will all leap out to carry on the fight. You can even then switch out some of them for the dead bodies and revive them. Especially notable because the treasure at the end of a sidequest dungeon is the Baron's Bugle/Horn, which lets you summon your wagon to an outdoor area where you couldn't normally take it. Like the cliff where you fight the last boss!
    • Dragon Quest XI: Averted. You can switch out party members, even dead ones, at any time on your turns, though those who are switched in must wait until the next round to act (except in the Switch version's 2D mode, where combat turns function as they did in previous entries and party members can only be switched in at the start of turns, but are able to act immediately). Should your entire active party be wiped out, reserve party members will automatically hop into the fray.

  • In Enchanted Arms, this trope makes the Golems largely useless after getting all the human party members. Since you can't switch in battle, you might as well fill the party with the humans so they get more Experience Points, instead of wasting it on a golem that will probably get replaced by another one soon.
  • In Endless Frontier, "those characters you never use" can unleash a support power at any time during another PC's combo, unless the main player character is using a skill or ultimate attack. Or you haven't got the SP. Or you've used all of your support powers already for that combo chain.
  • Eternal Sonata builds your party up to 10 (Xbox 360) or 12 (PS3) characters — provided you brave the Bonus Dungeon, that is — but only allows three active characters in a party at one time. You can switch any time you're neither in a battle nor in a cutscene, but no character will even move to replace fallen characters, and if all three of the ones you chose fall, it's game over. (At least any active character that's not dead can revive any that are, provided they have the right item.)
  • Etrian Odyssey. You have a guild of 30, but you can only bring five people at one time. If that party dies, it's game over. Even if it's a party of fresh recruits, and the rest of your guild is max level.

  • Final Fantasy:
    • If you play your cards right in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, you could have a total party of 22 playable characters available to you when you reach the final battle, but only 5 will actually fight. Right before the final boss, you receive words of encouragement from the other characters while your party is in danger much like the previous game. However, last game was justified in the others not helping you because you were on separate planets at the time. Here, everyone is on the same moon but they instead opt to wait at the Lunar Whale and pray while only five people try to stop the literal destruction of the planet. It's even worse as there are interdimensional elevators that connect the surface to the final area that they can take to easily catch up with the main party but decide not to. It becomes hilarious if you make a party with the most plot irrelevant people to fight the final boss, leaving the main characters on the sidelines to sit out the story and conflict.
    • Final Fantasy VI: Your extra party members are left behind in Narshe or the airship, and you can't switch unless you go back there; no instant switch zones. Until you get control of the airship, switching inevitably involves a very long march most of the way across a continent. A bit strange in the Final Boss fight, where you place all your party members in a queue. After finishing each tier of the boss, unconscious characters are replaced by the next characters waiting in line — but lose all four members at once, and it's Game Over.
    • Final Fantasy X has a sort of "tag team" mechanic, in which you can switch party members during battle, but only on that character's turn. If a character is KO'd, then their "slot" is wasted because you can't bring anyone else in until you revive them. Thus, having all three currently active characters KO'd at the same time is a game over, even though you can have as many as four other characters waiting in the wings. Worse still, some enemies will petrify then shatter your teammates, depriving you of their spot for the rest of the fight — when the space could easily be filled by a back-row ally. (Fortunately, they're only mostly shattered, because they come right back once the fight's over.) The same is said for team members who are literally kicked out of a battle, even if that Kick would not have actually KO'd them. In a similar fashion, party members in Final Fantasy IX that are eaten or ejected from the battle are considered dead and they can't be replaced until the fight is over.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, you can only fight with three party members at a time, but you can swap out a front-liner for a reserve PC at any time (if they are not being targeted by the enemy), AND if all three front-liners get KO'd, the game forces you to switch in at least one of the reserve PCs. You can even target your reserve party-members with buffs and heals, so you can have your secondary party revive your primary after a total-party-KO. In fact, the only way to die is to have all six members of your party KO'd. There is a boss that has instant death attacks — the only way to win against him is to constantly raise the characters who are not in the front line.
    • The plot of Final Fantasy XIII stresses teamwork and the power of True Companions, but you can only have three guys in your party at once in each battle. Paradigms (in-battle class changes) make up for this discrepancy. In a particularly egregious case of lazy backup, you get a game over if only your party leader is KO'd.
  • Steven Universe fangame Flawed Crystals avoids this by also averting Arbitrary Headcount Limit — every character will help you in battle if they can. According to Word of God, this was an attempt at Gameplay and Story Integration by showing The Power of Friendship.
    • This even extends to Non-Player Character Lapis Lazuli, who, despite being unable to fight herself, will extract you from the battle if you lose. In the battle against Jasper in one bad ending, she will actually attack and win the fight for you if Stevonnie falls. Played straighter in the final dungeon, however, where Lapis never participates in battles despite accompanying the rest of the party.

  • Golden Sun:
    • By the end of Golden Sun: The Lost Age, you'll have eight characters, but only four active in battle at any time. If your first four are knocked out, the game will automatically switch to the other four characters if any of them are still alive. You can also switch individual party members between turns.
    • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn also brings in the rear guard if the entire front line falls in battle, and allows you to rearrange the party mid-battle. Rear-line characters will also automatically switch in during the Ancient Devil battle after someone falls prey to Demon Sign, and allies KO'd under Demon Sign will be placed in the rear instead of wasting space on the front line.

  • Hero's Realm: Despite sixteen characters divided into four parties, if one party goes down, the other three won't lift a finger to step in!

  • Not only are most of your characters in Infinite Undiscovery stuck off-screen during the action, but if the Player Character dies and the party members' Artificial Stupidity doesn't feel like using the resurrect item/spell in just a few seconds (you can't order it) it's Game Over even if all the other on-screen guys were still going strong.

  • In The Legend of Dragoon, while traveling with a party of 7 characters if your 3 active characters got KO'd it is a game over, despite being able to swap out characters anywhere except in battle, with the exception of Dart.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I and II, if all four party members on the front lines are knocked out, it's an automatic game over even if the player has a few party members in reserve. Cold Steel III does this a bit better in that if all the party members in the front lines are knocked out, then the party members in support will tag in, continuing the fight. But then Cold Steel IV goes right back to this again in that while the characters in support can tag in, whoever is at the reserve spot will not tag in even if all the characters from both the front lines and the support characters are all knocked out.
  • In Legaia II: Duel Saga, there will eventually be five playable characters, and you can freely switch the party order between battles. However, only three can participate in battle, and if those three fall, it's game over.
  • Usually played straight in the final chapter of Live A Live, but subverted for dramatic effect at the True Final Boss - once all four active party members fall against Sin of Odio, the remaining three jump in to fight. Then once they get taken down as well, the final party member enters to strike the final blow - Oersted.
  • Lost Odyssey has this. In this case it's probably for the best since some of the characters are immortal and will always automatically revive after a while, so it would be impossible to lose the game otherwise.
  • In Lufia: The Legend Returns, you have a total of twelve playable characters (well, actually, 13 PCs, but who's counting), of which number you take nine to make you company during battles. Yep, NINE, which means that every time the enemy uses a multi-target spell, you will have most of your buddies right beside you to suck it up with you. And you can only make three moves during your turn. Don't worry about the healing though. Melphis and Yurick have everything you need to put your party back on track in just one spell.
    • In one of the more bizarre examples of this trope, though, if the 3 front line units are defeated, you get a game over despite the fact that the others are not only still up and well, but actively present and fighting.
  • In Lufia: The Ruins of Lore, you can have up to eight characters in your party, with four in battle at a time. Characters can be swapped out for other conscious characters; a knocked-out character can't be switched back into battle. If a Mon falls, it is removed from battle and the next character in line joins, but if all active human characters fall, it's Game Over even if you have other human characters on the sidelines.

  • The Mario & Luigi games avert this trope for the most part, as Mario and Luigi themselves are the two characters who are primarily controlled, and battles are not lost unless both brothers are defeated. In fact, if one brother falls, the other will actively protect him as enemies attack, which makes it harder for them to dodge or counter attacks themselves.
    • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time takes this further. When one of the adult party members is KOed, their junior counterpart pulls them out of the fray and takes their place. If both Marios or both Luigis are knocked out, the other brother has to carry them around, making battles much harder since it takes longer for them to jump over attacks.
    • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story does something similar. Although at a certain point on Mario and Luigi can leave Bowser's body, and both teams can fight pretty well, you have to have at least one character on each screen left alive, otherwise you get a game over. This is made more interesting in one battle, where the boss is fighting Mario and Luigi, but also harms Bowser with some attacks, and you have to keep Bowser alive during the battle as well. A Dummied Out battle item that lets the Bros heal Bowser implies that this was going to be standard procedure.
  • The Citadel DLC in Mass Effect 3 plays with this in one sequence, as the squadmates you didn't take with you will still banter over the radio as they make their way across the field off-camera. This culminates in a final scene where the entire ME3 ground team plus Wrex sweeps the rest of the enemy force in a hail of bullets.
    Garrus: And that's the moment when the universe ran out of ammunition.
  • Mind=Zero only allows three party members to fight at once and gives you a game over if they all fall. However, the other party members are right behind the battling party and apparently are content to leave their fallen comrades if they die.
  • Played with in Monster Hunter: Rise during Rampage Defence quests. The game makes these out to be all-hands-on-deck situations, but only the Hunter and any multiplayer allies actually stick around for the whole defence. Other villagers are armed, but can only be deployed at specific moments, making it look like It's Up to You. However, talking to people after a Rampage will clarify that the Hunter is the very last line of defence - everyone else is out in the field taking on the horde themselves, funnelling as many monsters as they can away from Kamura to keep the load on their ace manageable. One specifically explains other villagers only have short call-in windows because they can only leave their posts to help you if their assigned sector is already quiet.
  • In MS Saga: A New Dawn, you have three front-line fighters at a time but up to six characters in your party total (and, toward the end, you can have seven or eight allies at once!). It's game over if all three of your front-liners die, even if your three in the back are fine (to say nothing of anyone not actually in your party at all).

  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door only lets you have one party member at a time, and if he or she is downed you can swap them out for another (though it uses up a turn). This is turned against you when you're forced to fight an enemy who's accompanied by your party: taking out the party member makes another step up and take their place. Also, if you fall for the poisoned cake in The Glitz Pit, while only your active party member eats the cake, it leaves you unable to use any of your party members for the following fight.
  • Played horribly straight in Persona 3; you are only allowed to have four members in your party, and unlike the exploration implications in Persona 4, whoever you leave behind stays at the base of Tartarus. While Fuuka is communicating from the ground floor and may need protection, only one instance has happened where Shadows have attacked at Tartarus' entrance, and it's for a story-driven boss fight. Also notable is that Fuuka's own Persona surrounds her in an indestructible barrier, whereas Rise, who came after her, is mostly exposed with her own, so the idea of staying behind to keep Fuuka safe loses a lot of credibility.
    • It's somewhat more justified in the final battle, in which the backup members have to stay behind to fight the Shadows climbing up Tartarus.
  • Mostly played straight in Persona 4, though you'll occasionally encounter them standing around in the dungeon, implying that they can't back you up because they're busy exploring on their own. The Golden rerelease also adds Cavalry Attacks, allowing party members to charge in on their scooter/bike/skates and use their follow-up attacks even if they aren't in the party.
  • Also played straight in Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and its sequel; you have a five person party, but events and cutscenes that happen in the dungeon make it clear that all of the Persona-users are present in the dungeon whenever you go. Do they come and step in should your party die? Nope.
  • Persona 5 is somewhat better about this. After the fifth member joins the Phantom Thieves, they continue to operate in a group of four, since it's easier to move stealthily as a small group, but have the backup members follow from a safe distance. However, backup members can participate in battle by performing follow-up attacks, and a Confidant ability allows you to switch them out as needed. In fact, if two or more of your party members die, one of Futaba's abilities can immediately switch them out for backup members.

  • The Reconstruction has a novel justification: Wadassian law restricts your guild to six armed fighters at a time, so other characters aren't allowed to intervene. Although, this still begs the question of why they still don't do anything in the final chapter, where Wadassia has been reduced to ruins and you're fighting to save the entire world.
  • Riviera: The Promised Land also has this. The game does comment on why only 3 characters can fight, but there's no comment on the ones who are not fighting tagging out the ones who are down.

  • In SaGa Frontier, you can have a party of up to fifteen, but you can only ever have one five-person team battling at once. If everyone in that team dies during the battle, it's game over. Therefore, unless you like to have all your characters evenly ranked, you'll probably only level and use one team, and gather other characters only to experience their stories, see their cutscenes, and use their items in the communal inventory.
  • Avoided in the final battle of Sailor Moon: Another Story. Losing with Sailor Moon's team results in Chibi-Usa's party fighting the boss (which is actually made slightly easier). Winning with them produces a slightly different ending.
  • Sea of Stars: You usually have three characters in the active party, and one or two backups. The backups can be freely swapped with the active characters during combat, but if all of the active characters are knocked out at the same time, then it's Game Over.
  • For most of Shin Megami Tensei IV, Flynn is followed by three of his fellow Samurai, and as long as he's not on a Quest, they'll jump in and help during combat. While it's implied that sometimes they're off on their own adventures, that doesn't explain why whenever they're all fighting the same boss (Minotaur and Medusa), only one jumps in and the others twaddle their thumbs.
  • Star Ocean games allow you to have eight characters in your party, but only an active party of four. However, the inactive characters aren't on an airship or in another city or anything - they are very obviously travelling with everyone else, and you can switch them in and out of the active party at any time outside of combat. And yet they do nothing when your active party get creamed by a powerful enemy, and the game ends with the defeat of the active party even though you literally have a replacement party waiting.
  • In Super Mario RPG, you eventually get a total of five party members, though you can only take three at a time with you. Should your main three die off, the remaining two won't count. There's also the Duel Boss occasions with Jonathon Jones and Dodo. The latter is a bit more understandable, but the former is just egregious because the rest of your party is literally standing at the sides watching you fight. Keep in mind this is one of the RPG's where it normally doesn't matter if Mario dies, either. The remake averts this by automatically tagging in backup party members if any of your current ones barring Mario go down.

  • The entire Tales Series:
    • Vesperia even lampshades this by having members that haven't been in the active party in awhile complain about being left out of the action in skits. They seemingly just stand around watching others fight.
    • Tales of Hearts's Link Attack system lets you call in non-fighting party members to perform attacks or spells. Linked attacks can be guarded but not interrupted, making it often useful to leave one of the healers in the back row.
    • Tales of the Abyss actually offers reasonable explanation and has some plot and gameplay integration going for it:
      • During the last fight with Arietta, a Duel to the Death, the entire party is there, but Arietta sets the terms as herself and her two monsters versus four of the heroes.
      • The player's team is split into two groups of four and two because bunched together, combat is a lot more erratic and would cause tactical cohesion. Dividing and conquer is the name of the group's game, and this leads to how the party wins their battles, as it's implied there are a lot of monsters when the party faces battle. Another is to the world's magic system, as the process of marking party members ensures the downplaying of friendly fire and accidentally helping the enemy.
      • In some parts of the game, the team is separated with great distances and demands a greater deal of self reliance and teamwork to pull through. One example is maneuvering through a nation wide war avoiding both warring sides of the conflict hellbent on the destruction of the other, and each group is on said sides before they can get to the neutral conflict free zone.
      • In the last part of the game, a skit before the final battle establishes that the two party members not fighting the boss will be securing an escape route, as they know well that upon defeating the Big Bad, the area that they fight on will implode upon itself as the main villain has used his powers to create his domain, and upon his demise, it will fall apart instantly. To ensure that they have a safe escape route, the secondary team is to make preparations for their quick departure and clear a path while the main team confronts the villain directly to stop his plans before it's too late. However, some of the party seems surprised at this plan, suggesting that this isn't standard procedure for them, so this justification only highlights the fact that the entire rest of the game has featured lazy backup.
    • In Tales of Graces, a fight with Richard is made exceptionally annoying by first depriving you of one party member slot (instead of 4 characters, you fight him with 3) with no good plot explanation for why Malik or Pascal were sitting this one out, and then by giving you a time limit for a trophy. Needless to say, there would be much less restarting of this fight and all the long cutscenes involved if the dev team hadn't placed such artificial constraints on the player.
    • Finally defied in Tales of Berseria, where reserves can be tagged in by using one point of the Blast Gauge. KO'ed party members will be subbed out automatically if possible, and if their AI is allowed to, conscious allies in critical condition will also swap out voluntarily to start regenerating HP on the back line. That said, it is still game over if your mainline party is totaled, even if your two reserves are still in great shape.
  • Present in Touhou Labyrinth, both because (as usual for the setting) nobody is really in mortal danger, and because your party members are leaving all the time anyway, as they get progressively more bored wandering around the dungeon. ("Motivation to not abandon you" is an individual and trainable attribute.) If you lose your current frontliners, everyone else simply wanders off at once. You can switch out teammates in combat, and it's assumed you'll be doing so.

  • The Wild ARMs remake Alter Code F has similar problem with aforementioned Final Fantasy X. You have 6 characters; the three originals and three "secret" characters. Only 3 can fight at once, however. These characters always go everywhere together, as evidenced by the fact that you can switch characters in battle. If one character drops in combat, you can swap them for one of the others. However, if all 3 frontline characters downed, it's game over.
    • And the gameplay of Wild ARMs 5 works exactly the same way, unfortunately.
  • The early Wizardry games (I-III and V.) simply didn't have a concept of 'Game Over'. Even if your entire party dies in the dungeon, you can make a new one (composed of people you left at home and / or new recruits) and send them out to retrieve the corpses of your dead heroes for resurrection.

  • In the mech battles of Xenosaga 3, if one mech gets knocked out a backup mech will automatically jump in and replace it. Unfortunately there's only one backup mech so any other KOs are down for the rest of the battle.

  • In Contra Force, the player can switch between four characters, each with three lives. However, if your current character dies and loses his final life, the game will instantly end no matter how many lives the other characters still have. This doesn't apply in 2-Player mode, in which another player can switch to another character if his current character loses all of his lives.
  • In Firefight mode in Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, even if you have ten lives left, you only have as many humans on the ground as you have players (for obvious reasons). Interestingly, though, there's "reinforcements" which brings an ally back even if you have no reinforcements.
  • In Star Fox Command, it's entirely possible to have several characters attack the same base or enemy on the map, but you have to pick only one for the fight anyway, so the only benefit is being able to choose, and having multiple shots at a tough enemy in the same round.
  • In Star Wars: Republic Commando, your squadmates will revive you if you're down, as long as at least one is left standing. Once all are down, though, it's game over.

    Survival Horror 
  • House of the Dead follows this; don't expect much more from your partners than them commenting on the situation if no one's manning the second controller. Washington in OVERKILL is particularly notable, as he drops a Bond One-Liner at most of your kills even though G's the one doing all the work if you're playing solo.
  • In Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, if you have no player two, your so-called "partner" won't lift a finger to stop you from being eaten alive or beaten to death. You can't switch to them either, even though they're supposedly right there and actively conversing with the one you're playing the whole way.
  • Sweet Home (1989): Even though you can only have three characters (out of five) in each party, if one of them is caught in a Random Encounter, you can use the "Call" command to take control of the other party and move them to where the battle is taking place so that all five characters can team up. You only have a limited amount of time to move the backup party before the battle resumes again.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • In Dawn of War 2 you can deploy 4 out of 6-7 available squads in any given mission. Others will not bother going down and helping out even if all your squads are incapacitated, and a dropship is sent after them for emergency extraction. Even worse in the expansion pack Chaos Rising, where for the ultimate battle the entire Chapter drops on the battlefield...except for those you don't select.
  • In Star Wars: Empire at War, during the Empire campaign, you are given several Interdictor Star Destroyers, which can generate a gravity well, preventing the enemy's escape into hyperspace. This ability is used during one important and required space battle. However, while the Interdictors are generating their gravity well, they cannot attack enemy ships and cannot stand up to much fire. You can build more Interdictors if you want; however, if the Interdictors given to you for free by the Empire are destroyed, you automatically lose the battle, even if you have other surviving Interdictors. The Empire only gives you two free Interdictors until both are destroyed - two more are given to replace the destroyed ships.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Like Super Robot Wars, Disgaea lets you switch out current units using the home tile (so long as it wasn't destroyed by a unit you attempted to capture), but every time one is KO'd the party size for the current battle decreases by one.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics you don't have to send Ramza into random battles, but if you send in 5 redshirts and they lose, the game is over - even if it was five nobodies you just hired, in a fight of absolutely no significance whatsoever.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance attempts to avoid the trope by only making storyline battles become a Game Over should everyone be wiped out, but it also still makes no sense for the game to end if Marche gets sent to jail during a non-story battle. One would think someone in his clan could post bail for the kid...
  • Because only so many units can be deployed on the field in the later chapters of any given Fire Emblem game, one has to wonder what all of the units you haven't chosen are doing. Sometimes, this is Hand Waved by saying that they're being given other duties or you have to be sneaky or some such and too many units would blow your cover, but, a lot of the time, it's never explained.
    • Though Chapter 17 of Path of Radiance does more or less avert this trope as you can call in reinforcements of your own (though, since they can do this, it would be pretty cool if they did as more than once as a one level gimmick), but at the same time making the other cases even more egregious since it makes it clear that they aren't doing anything else while you're off fighting.
    • In Genealogy of the Holy War, you can bring all available units into every battle, though this is mainly because you control two different generations of smaller-than-average groups. Also, you'll want a few units defending castles instead of fighting on the front lines.
    • Present in Fire Emblem: Awakening as well. While story chapters are understandable due to the normal "Chrom must be there at all times" requirement, random battles don't force required characters. If everyone you sent out to fight dies anyway (or retreat due to heavy injury in casual mode), it's still game over, even though you probably only sent in a fourth or fifth of your army at most to fight.
  • Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden: There are five playable characters, with only three in the active party. You can only swap characters when out of combat, so The Other Two are no use when your active party are unable to continue.
  • Shining Series:
    • Interesting example in Shining the Holy Ark where you can only hold four members in a fight at any time but you can freely switch between them, switching dead members or live ones. Yet you still lose if all three of your characters die in the main battle.
    • Shining Force II only allows you to have twelve members, and they can only be switched out when using the Caravan. Rhode explains that the Caravan can only carry miniaturized people and items, and thus, are unable to take over for "exhausted" party members.
    • The original Shining Force game A Legacy Of Great Intention has no such handwave. Instead, it has characters on deck wait patiently while you're thrown in jail, while the ship your main 12 is battling on is set fire to, and throughout all the climactic battles. If you talk to them in your headquarters, they'll say they're ready to fight or enjoying the rest period.
  • Some Super Robot Wars games avert this by letting you trade deployed party members via sending them to a mothership. This allowed for a Good Bad Bug in Super Robot Wars Judgment where you could deploy Final Dancouga or Tekkaman Blade + Pegas, separate them and switch them for two units (Not that you wouldn't want to use Tekkaman Blade).
    • There's also the Support Request mechanic, which allows doing a Support Attack or Support Defense move with any unit not deployed. You could only use it a few times per character, though.

Non-Video Game Examples:

    Board Games 
  • An unsual example in Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. You can't have a true Total Party Kill because there'll always be Civilians available to replace characters who are lost during gameplay. However, this does mean that no matter how many characters die during a game, you can't replace them with characters who are still alive and outside the current game.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in the Fred Perry comic S-Guild. The backstory is that the heroes lost, everyone died, except the back-up. Which was comprised of 'those characters you never use.' So, they were under-leveled, etc...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Sometimes occurs in many role-playing games with non-player characters or the characters of players who are absent for that session. Given the choice of forcing the game-master or a player with having to handle multiple characters, one option is to simply say that the characters are there, just doing something else. If the party seems to be fighting six Ogres, maybe it's actually fighting eight Ogres instead, and the characters in question are fighting the extra monsters....somewhere offscreen.

    Web Comics