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Living MacGuffin
aka: Mac Guffin Girl

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"My gamer's intuition is tingling! The problem this girl's facing is important to the storyline! The kind that makes the powerful go out of their way, that she can't easily share with others! The kind that suddenly gets revealed when it's too late, but could've been easily dealt with if only we all knew earlier!"

They say Helen of Troy had a face that could launch a thousand ships; well, the Living MacGuffin has a similar ability to launch a thousand quests in search of them. She may be a heart wrenchingly beautiful princess whose hand can be won only with miraculous feats, a long lost (or left) parent, sibling, close friend or Love Interest, some variation of The Chosen One who is needed for some greater purpose, or any number of typical MacGuffin functions. Either way, expect her to be female, because Men Act, Women Are.

Subtropes include:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Insane Casca during the Retribution arc in Berserk. Not only does Guts, who was once her lover before the horrible events that took her mind went down and has sworn to be her protector, want her, but everybody is after Casca in this arc, primarily the pagans who want to make her their queen and the Holy See and Bishop Mozgus who want to burn her as a witch.
  • Fairy Tail: Both Jellal and Grimoire Heart want to resurrect and unseal the Black Wizard Zeref, respectively for their own purposes. In Jellal's case he wants Zeref to create a "perfect world" free of suffering, and in Grimoire Heart's case, they want him to create a world where only wizards can survive and flourish. It's too bad that not only is Zeref not dead or sealed, he has absolutely no intention of going along with any of these plans.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind has Trish Una, the illegitimate daughter of the Boss of Passione, and supposedly the only person able to identify said Boss. Bucciarati's team fights to protect her from those who want to use her to get to the boss, and eventually the Boss himself, who wants to kill her to keep his identity secret.
  • Naruto.
    • Sasuke becomes this after he leaves the Leaf Village, and various people either want to kill him or bring him back to the village.
    • Jinchurikis provide a straighter example, as they are the hosts of the Tailed Beasts the Akatsuki want so badly.
    • While not strictly an example of "living", the cells of the First Hokage Hashirama Senju are so prized for their regenerative properties as well as their other properties that it's not an exaggeration to say every Big Bad has used them in some form or another, usually as a Badass Transplant.
  • One Piece
    • Nico Robin is this; she is the only person still alive who can decipher Poneglyphs, through some of which the location of ancient super weapons can be discovered and some others have the truth about the Void Century engraved into them. The Enies Lobby arc was all about saving her from the World Government, which wanted to find said weapons for its own ends and eliminate anyone who could spell its downfall should the truth be made public. This pops later in the Wano arc, where Big Mom wants to replace her daughter Pudding (who is a half member of the Three-eyed tribe, which can read them, but has not awakened this power) with Robin. And then again in that same arc, we have CP0 trying to kidnap her for the WG.
    • In the Dressrosa arc, Caesar Clown becomes this. As the scientist responsible for Doflamingo's SMILE production, which is key to Doflamingo's alliance with Kaido, Doflamingo is desperate to get him back lest he incur the wrath of Kaido. Law, who's Doflamingo's Arch-Enemy, thus plans on using Caesar as leverage against Doflamingo, including demanding that Doflamingo steps down from the Seven Warlords of the Sea in exchange for Caesar's return. Big Mom is also looking for Caesar, since he tricked her into believing that he could turn people into giants (technically he can, but the side effects are always fatal), and she wants him to make good on that deal.
    • In a similar vein to Caesar, in the Whole Cake Island arc, Charlotte Brûlée gets this treatment, where after being defeated by Chopper and Carrot, she's tied up and carried around so she they can use her mirror powers whenever they want. She's understandably not too happy about it, but it's all Played for Laughs.
    • At the climax of Luffy's fight with Kaido, the Five Elders state that Zoan Devil Fruits have wills of their own as they explain that Luffy's Gum-Gum Fruit, whose actual name is Human-Human Fruit, Model: Nika, has been eluding them for 800 years.
    • During the Egghead Arc, Blackbeard sends Kuzan to Big Mom's territory (now that she's been defeated) to kidnap Pudding due to her aforementioned potential ability to read the Poneglyphs, a required skill should one want to reach Laugh Tale or decipher the locations of the Ancient Weapons.
  • In Sailor Moon:
    • The Seven Great Youma, each carrying a Rainbow crystal, are reincarnated into seven mortals (six humans, one cat) who the Dark Kingdom are trying to locate to not only retrieve a crystal but to awaken the youma as well.
    • Chibiusa was being hunted down by the Black Moon clan to kill her to remove her as a threat to their plans.
    • The Dead Moon circus has been stealing dream mirrors in hopes of both finding the one who is hiding Pegasus (Chibiusa) and Pegasus himself.
  • While it's debatable whether the torches in Shakugan no Shana are "alive", Yuuji Sakai is generally treated as living by the main characters. That's partially because unlike other torches, he isn't going to just go out one day. But it's also because he's managed to validate his humanity, even before he found out he wasn't going to become Ret-Gone.
  • The Firebird from Time Bokan series Yattodetaman. In this series, two royal houses battle for the power to rule the Kingdom of Fir. In order to secure the Kingdom, two representatives go back in time to find the mythical Firebird, which will allow its bearer to become the rightful ruler.
  • If an intelligent computer program can be considered "living," then the AI nicknamed "Ai" on Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS counts. Five years ago Ai sealed away the real MacGuffin, the Cyverse, and now everyone's hunting Ai down so they can steal the coordinates to where the Cyverse was hidden. Except Yusaku, who has no clue about any of this and just wants to use Ai as leverage.

    Comic Books 
  • Hope Summers since Messiah CompleX before really settling into this role with Avengers vs. X-Men.
  • Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire has The Winslow, the oldest known living thing in the universe. It's seemingly immortal, seemingly indestructible, and apparently very important, though nobody who knows why is willing to tell anyone else. To an objective observer, The Winslow is a two foot long fuzzy alligator that speaks (usually just simple things like "Hi") and is so stupid it needs a minder to keep it from trying to eat its own feet. But since the Prime Mover has stated that it is of cosmic importance for unspecified reasons, virtually every race in the galaxy is willing to fight over it.
  • Linkara refers to Ray Palmer (The Atom) in the trainwreck DC crossover event Countdown to Final Crisis as "The Mini-MacGuffin".
  • Kei Kawade aka Kid Kaiju is this in Monsters Unleashed. His ability to summon powerful monsters that can occupy entire superhero teams makes him a valuable strategic asset. Between SHIELD, the Intelligencia, the Poisons, and the Inhumans, everyone wants him on their side. He's keenly aware of this and is reluctant to trust any of them as a result.
  • The Mortadelo y Filemón story Valor y... ¡al toro! has a fighting bull as the MacGuffin, as it carries secret plans in a fake horn. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Wonder Woman: The Origin of Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor regains consciousness only on the final page, but acts as the catalyst for Diana becoming the Amazon Champion and leaving Paradise Island, as his injured self needs to be returned to his own people after being rescued from the ocean off Paradise Island.
  • Yorick in Y: The Last Man is a male example; various factions want him, mostly alive, some dead. Yorick has a Living MacGuffin of his own in his girlfriend Beth.

    Fairy Tales 
  • This is the premise of tale type ATU 550, "Bird, Horse, and Princess" (formerly, "The Search for the Golden Bird"): a king's son takes part in a chains of quests for the titular bird, a powerful horse and a beautiful princess.
    • The Golden Bird: The prince stays awake at night to discover a golden bird stealing apples from his father's orchard, then goes after it. Eventually, he goes after the Golden Horse and the beautiful Princess of the Golden Castle.
    • The Golden Phoenix: In this Franco-Canadian tale, the hero, Petit Jean goes after the titular Golden Phoenix.
    • Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf: in the Russian tale, which belongs to the tale type, Ivan Tsarevich quests for the firebird, a magic flying horse and beautiful princess Helena.
    • The Golden Mermaid (Romania).
  • Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and many other fairy tale heroines were Living MacGuffins in the Disney films and in those iterations of these fairy tales inspired by the Disneyfication. In the pre-Disney versions of those fairy tales, the nameless prince was the Living MacGuffin; for example, Cinderella competed with her wicked stepsisters for the hand of the prince, who is treated as a non-entity who exists in the story only to provide the winner with a castle, title, and wealth.
  • This is also the premise of tale type ATU 531, "The Clever Horse": the hero has a pet talking horse, and he comes across a golden feather in the forest (or a golden hair, in another variants), which the horse advises him not to fetch. This eventually backfires when the king the hero works for discovers the golden feather/hair and demands the hero brings their owner (a bird or a princess).
  • In the European, Latin American, North African and West Asian variants of tale type ATU 707, "The Three Golden Children", of the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index, the titular golden children are convinced to quest for a magical talking bird, unaware it is a trap.

    Fan Works 
  • The Harry Potter fic Apex Predator has Harry become this for reasons outside of the prophecy, which he doesn't know about at this point. After he begins a relationship with Fleur Delacour, it's revealed that he is so fertile he's capable of impregnating Veela with relative ease when it normally requires various charms and potions to ensure pregnancy. Fleur's mother Apolline notes that this ability means Harry could basically turn wizarding society as a whole and Veela society in particular on its head, with the Veela that "controls" Harry thus holding a particularly powerful position in society. As such, Apolline makes sure the Delacours take care to keep Harry safe, because they wish to ensure his emotional well-being as well as his role.
  • Kurama is searching and gathering all the jinchuuriki he can find in Blackkat's Reverse so they can protect themselves from the Akatsuki, who need to capture them to kill them all to take over the Elemental Nations.
  • In Burning Black, Timmy is one to the Pixies, to the point that they orchestrated all the events that took place in Dimmsdale over the past four years after learning something about Timmy that those in the Masquerade have been trying to keep secret, all in order to equal Fairy World's greatest weapon. They even came out in public view of a crowd in order to kidnap an android posing as Timothy Neogene, though they failed to hold on to him and didn't realize the ruse.
  • Child of the Storm has Harry occasionally put in this role, because thanks to the reveal that he's Thor's son, any number of bad guys want a piece of him, something that is met with his vocal displeasure. One day, he's going to be King of Asgard, with all of the power and influence that implies, and probably as much Chronic Hero Syndrome as ever. Pretty much all the bad guys want him now, while he's still in the Person of Mass Destruction stage and able to be manipulated or even killed.
  • In Digimon: Children of Time, the Demon Lords are hunting the members of the Olympos XII in hopes that when they are united, the path to Mount Olympos will make itself known. Those that reach Mount Olympos can then have their desire granted.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Another Side: Aerith; Sephiroth notes that for whatever reason, everything keeps coming back to her, and for those same reasons, everyone is after her.
  • In Future Tense, Carim's sacrifice is required to open the time gate.
  • In crossover fanfiction The Great Toad Sage of Brockton Bay, Tinkers are quite the highly-sought commodity, but Chemist's broad specialization makes him more versatile and as such more valuable. He first appeared when the ABB tried to kill him for stopping the Empire to get a hold of him, and the Protectorate currently eyes him.
  • Lenora Baratheon from Hell Hath No Fury is King Robert's only trueborn child, meaning that any son of her has a claim to the Iron Throne. For this, she's sought by many factions in the war, intent to marry her with the most convenient pawn.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy arc "The Apokolips Agenda", an important subplot revolves around rescuing Orion before Darkseid tortures the Anti-Life Equation out of him and binds the universe to his will.
  • Invader Zim: A Bad Thing Never Ends: Minimoose becomes one when Lex determines that he's the one that the Tallest have dispatched him to Earth to retrieve.
  • Kara of Rokyn's "Last Waltz with Luthor" story arc puts Superman of all people in this role. The Man of Steel went missing shortly after Lex Luthor fell off the radar. Nobody buys both events are unrelated, so Supergirl rallies the whole super-heroic community to find and rescue her cousin.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, Paul and George go on a fairly pointless delivery mission to a small fishing village, only to discover that the recipient of their stuff has been kidnapped by Tayhil. The actual rescue of this man is not nearly as important as the method the two come up with to deal with the Tayhil, or Paul's confrontation with Spectrem, who wants to call in an airstrike on the Tayhil, or the aftermath and the angry reaction of the villagers.
  • Reluctant Hero:
    • The discovery that Zuko is the new Avatar makes everyone frantic to find him and secure his loyalty: the Northern Water Tribe and White Lotus want to train and prepare him to restore balance to the world, the Dai Li wants to brainwash him for the Earth Kingdom's greatness and the Fire Nation wants to make him a Living Weapon to achieve world domination.
    • On a lesser degree, the Fire Nation recruits as much as it can from benders and spiritually aware people to ensure its dominance over its conquered land and keep the spirits appeased. Zuko and Aang were almost kidnapped and sold because of this while Sokka is intended to be given to the Fire Sages for training.
  • In Signs of Snow, Harriet isn't merely the last person able of atomic manipulation, she's also the first and only alien-human hybrid to be born. Archer quickly understands that her existence would likely cause a war between Starfleet and Andoria for her hidden potential, and decides to keep her a secret.
  • Combined with Dismantled MacGuffin in The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments: Twilight Sparkle gets Taken for Granite and is split into a series of crystals (in which Twilight is still completely sentient) spread over The Multiverse. Sweetie Belle must then gather these crystals by traveling through various Alternate Universes, which correspond to various My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics.
  • Vow of Nudity: The author calls this trope out in her notes when one story revolves around a baby prophesized to be The Chosen One. Due to the risqué nature of the series, she assures readers the newborn will remain asleep in its bundle for the entire story, with the plot entirely focused on the various choices and motivations of the other characters because of the prophesy.
  • In Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse, Umok The Imp is the wizard responsible for the Magic Misfire that dragged Ranma and his associates into the world of One Piece, so the overarching goal of the story is to recharge his depleted powers so he can send them home.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Zuzu Petals in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Everyone Ford meets in the first act tells him to find her, and that's his motivation until he does, at which point it becomes clear she's not even involved in what's going on. After that she's more of an Escort Mission, albeit one attended begrudgingly.
    Ford: Don't worry. If you fall, I'll make it.
  • In Appointment with Venus, Venus is a pregnant cow that the protagonists have to rescue from a Nazi-occupied island.
  • Aravt: A squad of Mongol warriors is sent off by Genghis Khan to find and bring back a "Master Physician" that is needed to treat the plague, but that's only an excuse to get the squad out on an adventure which involves murder and betrayal and a fight with a rival tribe. They find the Master Physician only for the guy to get immediately killed, with the rest of the story playing out almost the same as if he had lived.
  • The entire plot of Chan Is Missing revolves around two Chinese-American cabbies trying to find their friend Chan, who has disappeared along with $4000 of their money. They never do find him, but the plot is really just a means to portray life and culture in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 1980s.
  • The monster in Cloverfield. The movie is mostly uninterested in the monster itself, and more in its effects.
  • In The Darjeeling Limited, the brothers use a trip to find their long left mother to tell her about their father's death and try to bond with each other. Another long lost mother variation of the living MacGuffin is Mike's mother in My Own Private Idaho, whom he never finds.
  • In El Dorado, the evil rancher Bart Jason.
  • The Exception: Wilhelm's exile is the center of the story, with different factions (German monarchists, the Dutch resistance and Nazis) having their plots around him.
  • Luke Skywalker becomes one in The Force Awakens, having disappeared many years prior, and with the main conflict of the film being over a map to his location.
  • Help!: Ringo when wearing the ring, since the cult are not so much trying to take the ring from him as trying to sacrifice him because he's wearing the ring (It's a different religion from ours).
  • Adolf Hitler is this in Inglourious Basterds. Despite being the main leader of the antagonists, he never affects the plot in any big way and ends up as just another target for the protagonists to kill. His role could be replaced with any high ranking Nazi, without the plot of the film being changed that much.
  • Solomon Lane is this for much of Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Lark wants him to trade him for the plutonium. The Apostles want their leader freed. Ethan and co. want him freed to lead them to the plutonium. And MI-6 wants him freed so they can kill him since He Knows Too Much.
  • The hobo in Mystery Team.
  • The whole plot of The Raid 2: Berandal focuses on an undercover cop's efforts to root out a corrupt police commissioner, Reza. However, Reza himself gets very little screentime, and couldn't really be called the main villain of the film. He moves the plot along but doesn't do much else.
  • Much of the plot of Rush Hour 3 is based on a search for "Shy Shen", a semi-mythical individual of great importance to the Triads, said to be hiding somewhere in Paris. Subverted when they later find information that the Shy Shen not a person, but a list of Triad leaders passed down by an informant... only to be subverted again when it turns out it's both: the list is tattooed on the back of said informant's head as part of an ancient Triad ritual.
  • The 2007 film version of Sweeney Todd portrayed Johanna Barker as this, especially as they cut most of her songs and speaking parts from the original musical.
  • TRON: Legacy: Quorra is The Last ISO.
  • Troy is a subversion. It is established early on that Agamemnon is using Helen only as an excuse to wage war on the city. At one point Helen says she would give herself up to prevent further violence, but Hector makes it clear that even if she did, it would not end anything. Agamemnon even says that he didn't come here for Helen, but for Troy.
  • In Under Fire, Rafael, one of the leaders of the rebels in 1979 Nicaragua, becomes this for Alex, Claire, and Russell, the three reporters trying to find him so they can interview him (or, in Russell's case, take his picture). Later subverted when it turns out Rafael is really dead, though Russell ends up faking a picture for rebels to make it look as if Rafael is really alive.
  • Frankenstein's Monster in the Universal Horror "monster rally" movies (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). All four films are driven at least partly by some variety of mad scientist seeking to revive the Monster, who is mostly dormant or weakened for the bulk of the film. All four end up in a rhubarb with the Monster revitalized and the lab going down in flames or explosions.

  • Alice in Wonderland: It could be argued that The White Rabbit is one. The entire reason Alice ends up in Wonderland is her curiosity about the Rabbit. And it's often the Rabbit, constantly hurrying from one place to the next, which brings her from scene to scene.
  • Arthurian Legend: Queen Guinevere is also not in distress, as most versions have her go willingly with Lancelot. The whole kingdom goes down because the vassals have to choose sides, help Arthur get her back, or help Lancelot keep her.
    • Most of the variations have the vassals torn between personal loyalty to Arthur (who would pardon his beloved and his best friend, despite the pain they have caused him) and loyalty to the law itself which demands she and Lancelot be tried for treason against their king (with the lawful side being spear-headed/manipulated by one enemy or another of Arthur's).
  • Bree Pym is this for Lori and Bill's college chum Cameron; they spend most of the novel Aunt Dimity Down Under pursuing the girl over New Zealand's North and South Islands to deliver the Pym sisters' letter and convince her to meet Ruth and Louise before they die.
  • In Bequin, there are at least seven different factions that want to get their hands on the protagonist Beta Bequin for various reasons. Some of them want her because she’s a pariah who can use Enuncia, some want her because of her connections to the Maze Undue and by extension, the Cognitae, and several want to use her as a weapon against an eighth faction. Toward the end of the book, she privately laments that she’s become the grail which all these people are questing for.
  • A few crop up during the course of The Chronicles of Prydain: Hen Wen the pig in The Book of Three, Princess Eilonwy in The Castle of Llyr, and Taran's long-lost parents in Taran Wanderer.
  • Clockpunk pretends to be one in "Clockpunk and the Vitalizer" to lure The Vitalizer away from the actual MacGuffin's trail.
  • In Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain, Oaxyctl is looking for John deBrun because he wants to torture "the code" to a spaceship out of him. We later find out that John is the code — he has to be bodily present (and alive) to open the spaceship.
  • The Dawn of Yangchen: Yangchen and Kavik learn of a plan called "Unanimity" which if implemented, will give Zongdu Henshe complete control over the city of Bin-Er, but have no idea what exactly Unanimity is, just that it'll have to be shipped there from another city. Kavik hitches a ride on the transport ship and realizes all too late that the shipment crates are filled with worthless stones— the people accompanying the shipment are the Unanimity assets, and their unheard of combustionbending powers make them living superweapons.
  • Kindar Pomma D'ok and Erdling Teera Eld in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green-Sky Trilogy. After they connect with each other telepathically and rediscover important psychic abilities, some lost to their people for many generations, they are literally named Holy Children and worshiped by nearly everyone — except Pomma's brother Raamo, who believes worshiping anyone is harmful — he was a member of a sacred order revered as demigods, since disbanded. Living examples of the Rejoyning of the Kindar and Erdling peoples, Pomma and Teera are the hope of their respective nations. Then they disappear. Have they been kidnapped by dissidents?
  • Happens in all three books of His Dark Materials. The first book had two for Lyra—Roger and her father. The second book for Will had his father while, unbeknownst to either of them, his father was seeking Will. The third book had both Lyra and Will acting as Living MacGuffins for both the bad guys and the "good" guys. A large, deadly battle occurred to try to take them. For Lyra, it was again Roger, though at this point, he wasn't really a living MacGuffin anymore.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Helen of Troy from The Iliad is a prime example. Helen wasn't attacked by Paris or the Trojans during the whole war, and in fact went willingly because she fell in love with Paris. Or was made to, by Aphrodite.
  • The French chef Anatole in P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories; the universal desire to lay claim to his peerless talents led to the hatching of many a Zany Scheme.
    • Jeeves himself is highly sought-after; Bertie notes that plenty of his friends want to steal him and make him their valet, and this is borne out in Thank You, Jeeves when Jeeves quits and Bertie's pal Chuffy snatches him up almost instantly. Later in the book, Jeeves goes to work for American multimillionaire J. Washburn Stoker, who offers him a position, before returning to Chuffy and finally settling down with Bertie again.
  • The Shahnameh: Key Kavous is this for Rostam. After Key Kavous and the Persian army are captured by Deev-e Sepid (the White Demon), Rostam undertakes seven labors to save his king and his comrades.
  • Deconstructed in the Sword of Truth: while fully half of the main cast are some level of this trope, the Confessors have it notably bad. Confessors can't control their ability during moments of passion (read: sex), so they can't have kids with someone they like, or they'll destroy their mind. Male confessors are such a threat that all male children of Confessors have to be strangled at birth, and for their troubles, the Confessors are feared and hated, and since they're raised secluded, have almost no friends. By the time Kahlan met Richard, all of her few friends had been murdered by D'Haran assassination teams. Yeesh.
    • Wizards are able to create these in general; the Rahl bloodline is the result of such an experiment, as are Slides, Dreamwalkers, Mriswith, the Sliph, and a whole host of other exciting pieces of work.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: Used very literally in "The Armageddon Factor", where it turns out that the last piece of the cosmically powerful Key to Time, which has served as a MacGuffin for the whole past season, is Princess Astra herself. This also serves to expose the Black Guardian who had been masquerading as the White Guardian, because the Doctor realizes that the White Guardian would never be willing to sacrifice Astra's life.
  • Towards the end of Maddigan's Quest, it's revealed that Jewel, not the talisman, is what gives Eden his powers.
  • In The Mandalorian, the Child, a 50-year-old Force-sensitive toddler of the same species as Yoda, is a sought after bounty target. After collecting on the bounty, the titular character ends up abiding by his conscience and rescuing the Child from the client he delivered it to and going on the lam with it in tow after facing repercussions from the Bounty Hunter's guild.
  • Oatmeal, Nadia's cat in Russian Doll. At the start of the series, finding and caring for the missing cat seems to be Nadia's only long-term goal in life. As with most cats, it's not entirely clear that he needs the help.
  • Mr. Big in Sex and the City, to the point that they don't even bother to give him a real name. You find yourself wondering what is wrong with Carrie Bradshaw and then you remember ... oh yeah, she's Carrie Bradshaw.
  • The Silent Sea: Luna, the girl that the astronauts find on the otherwise abandoned Balhae Station moon base. Her genetic adaptations with respect to lunar water had made her the station's sole survivor.
  • Elena becomes one in season 7 of The Vampire Diaries, after being put into a magical coma in the previous season finale. Her body is placed into a coffin, which is subsequently stolen and used as a bargaining chip by various characters throughout the series. The real reason for this was because the actress had to leave the show, and thus had to be written out in a way that would allow her to come back (which she did, at the very end) but still have a presence in the series.
  • Murphy on Z Nation is the only person on the planet with a working cure to the zombie virus in him, making him immune to their bites and even their attention. Getting Murphy to a working laboratory makes up most of the plot, and most of the villains on the show are trying to hunt down Murphy for their own ends.

  • In A Midsummer Night's Dream, the conflict between Oberon and Titania is over who gets custody of a changeling boy, who has no lines or characterization. If he appears at all, he's often played by an actual child since he doesn't need to do anything but follow the other actors around.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: In Calamity Trigger, Ragna the Bloodedge is treated this way since he supposedly wields the Azure Grimoire. In the sequel Continuum Shift, Noel gets this treatment after it's revealed that she is the true wielder of the Azure Grimoire and Ragna's Grimoire is a flawed imitation. In Central Fiction, the status returns to Ragna with every character going after him again. Yes, including Noel herself.
  • Brown Dust II: The Warlocks and Cocytus are Lathel's right arm, which is a successful attempt at recreating the Blood Imprint, a medium to store and channel the corrupted Terra.
  • In Crisis Core, Cloud becomes this after the Nibelheim incident. Genesis and Hollander want his S-cells so they can cure Genesis' degradation, Shin-Ra wants him (and Zack) dead to cover up Hojo's unethical experiments, and Zack just wants to keep him safe. He actually borders on being a traditional MacGuffin seeing as his mako poisoning-induced coma has left him with all the personality of a brick.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, Iachesis was the Ritemaster of the Psijic Order, the olderst and most powerful Magical Society in Tamriel. After leading them for over 3,500 years, in order to keep it from being stolen by the Sea Sload K'Tora and the Abyssal Cabal, he hid the Heart of the Transparent Law, the "stone" of Crystal Tower, within himself. Several Daedric Princes formed an alliance in an attempt to take it from him. Nocturnal ultimately betrayed the others, killing Iachesis, but was thwarted from using the heart by the Vestige with assistance of the other vengeful Triad members and Meridia during the events of The Elder Scrolls Online's Summerset chapter.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Emerald, the powerful child telepath, becomes sought after by the Dark Force Army in their search for items of magical power.
  • Here's an evil version of the Living MacGuffin: Sephiroth during the first half of Final Fantasy VII. Both Cloud's party and Shin-Ra are hell-bent on finding the guy, and he acts as the game's main antagonist to boot.
  • Every universe in Fire Emblem has its own version of the titular MacGuffin. In Fire Emblem Engage, "Emblems" are the spirits of past heroes from the series bound to rings. Naturally, one would expect that its "Fire Emblem" would be one of them. They'd be right, but it doesn't come into existence until the end of the story: the protagonist, Alear, after suffering from The Hero Dies, is revived by the 12 Emblems using the last of their power, and they are reborn as the 13th Emblem: the Fire Emblem.
  • In the Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach DLC "Ruin", Cassie is tasked with finding and deactivating the security nodes across the abandoned Pizzaplex in order to rescue Gregory. The final security node is revealed to be Roxanne Wolf, her favorite animatronic, and Cassie is devastated when she deactivates them.
  • In Halo 3: ODST, it turns out that your squad's actual mission is to recover a Huragok/Engineer who defected from the Covenant. Said Huragok also serves this role in the audio logs; Sadie comes to value it because it downloaded Virgil, the last thing left of her father's work, while Kinsler wants to capture it so he can be branded a war hero.
  • Haunting Ground: The main character, Fiona, is treated less like a human and more like an object by all four of the game's stalkers. All but one of them is after Azoth, the mystical essence of life, which Fiona happens to have a lot of. This is emphasised by Riccardo and Lorenzo, who at several points drop her name entirely and call her "Azoth" instead.
  • Kingdom Hearts
    • The Princesses of Heart in were in this status in the first game. Maleficent and her cronies manipulated by Xehanort, wanted them so that they can open the Door to Darkness to take over the multiverse. Turns out this is also a case of Dismantled MacGuffin. The Princesses' hearts being 7 fragments of the X-Blade which as a counterpart to Kingdom Hearts, can be used to open a path to the titular location.
    • Subverted in Birth By Sleep. While Eraqus tells Terra and Aqua that the Princesses of Heart are in danger and the four we see do get attacked by the Unversed, only Aurora gets sought after because she's a Princess of Heart (by Maleficent after being told about them by Xehanort, no less).
    • Ventus in Master Xehanort's first attempt to snag Kingdom Hearts in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. The details are that Ventus was split into two beings in an attempt to artificially recreate the aforementioned X-blade, thinking that an equal amount of Light and Darkness must clash. As such Ventus himself is much like the Princesses of Heart. Because of this, he also counts for Dismantled MacGuffin, and also because of this Eraqus thought it be necessary to kill him, setting off a tragic chain of events that played in Xehanort's favor.
  • Prince Alexander is a sucker for this one. In King's Quest III, he spends half of it trying to find a way to off his Bad Boss before Bad Boss offs him. The second half of the game comes when the Oracle tells him that he's got a twin sister that's soon to meet her end as a Human Sacrifice. In his second game, he's trying to reach the Princess he's fallen for before the Grand Vizier pulls a scheme to marry her, kill her, and take the throne for himself. Runs in the family, as that's how his dad went looking for his mom...
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Despite being the title character, Princess Zelda mostly plays this role in the series. She usually doesn't get to do much, mostly being an untrained noncombatant up against more powerful villains like Ganon, but she is usually pursued by said villains for some sort of power she possesses, whether that be the Triforce of Wisdom or any other power said to be passed down her divine bloodline. It is thus a major goal of most games in the series for Link to either rescue her from the villains or otherwise keep her out of their hands. Word of God says that Zelda is the title character because of how crucial she is in Link's adventures.
    • A humorous variant appears in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. In one of the towns Link must visit on his quest, he is begged to recover a child, who has been kidnapped and may be found in a nearby cave. The reason it's humorous is because the game treats the child like any other inventory item - including having Link lift it over his head in his traditional Item Get! pose. This is not nearly as funny in the Disk System version: To rescue the child, Link must hit him with his sword. The fact that the child is bound in ropes which need to be cut to free him provides the reason for needing to hit him.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the crystals that imprison the Seven Maidens are the second set of collectibles needed to complete the game. After completing all of the Dark World dungeons, they open the entrance to Ganon's Tower.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the additional goal for clearing the first dungeon is to rescue the Deku Princess who was imprisoned by the dungeon's boss. In returning her to the Deku King, Link gets the opportunity to win the Mask of Scents. Humorously, you have to carry the Deku Princess in an empty bottle.
  • Averted with Rachel Amber in Life Is Strange - she's initially presented as this as a motive for Max to join in Chloe's investigation into Rachel's disappearamce which ties into most of the overarching plot of the game, but it's revealed that her influence has greatly impacted the cast.
  • Buddy is this in LISA, being the only female left on Earth after a mysterious event known as the Great White Flash wiped all the women off the planet. However, she is also a Deconstruction of this- the fact that she is treated as such without care for her feelings or mental state forms most of her motivation as a character, especially in the DLC story.
  • In MacGuffin's Curse, Alphonse becomes a Living MacGuffin when he turns into a werewolf himself and goes on a rampage.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Taavos, an angara on Havarl who Ryder goes looking for because he's the ancestor of the only person who knew where the last of the three Remnant pillars needed to fix the planet is, and it's figured they might be able to use him to find that knowledge (angara believing in reincarnation). Problem is, Taavos is also one of the Roekaar, anti-alien fanatics. Fortunately, he turns out to be more reasonable than most of his comrades, and helps.
  • In the Neverwinter Nights fan-made module The Bastard of Kosigan, Alex is a mix of this and Damsel in Distress. And a Chekhov's Gunman at the end. Annoyingly, despite being one of the coolest characters in the series (as evinced by her cunning plan to take over Kosigan by killing the entire ruling family), if you didn't choose to kill her at the end of the second module she dies near the end of the fourth.
  • A variant occurs in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Layton knows that he needs to find the Golden Apple of Baron Reinhold. What he doesn't know is that the Golden Apple is really Flora, the Baron's daughter.
  • Lampshaded in Red Dead Redemption where in a co-op mission you must rescue the daughter of "Farmer MacGuffin."
  • The Destined Children from Romancing SaGa 3 The Abyss Lords want them to open the gate to the Abyss so they can escape. Both also serve to summon the Destroyer to end existence if both are in the abyss at once. Abyss Lords used the Devil King for them to rule the world for 3 centuries before the Holy King sent them packing.
  • Ryu from Street Fighter is treated this way for most of his plot involvement. Bison is after him in Street Fighter Alpha to use him as a new host body while Seth wants to use his Satsui no Hadou to complete his bio weapon.
  • Similar to the TRON: Legacy example above, Tron 2.0 had this in the form of Ma3a, who carried the correction algorithims needed for Jet and Alan to get back to the analog world. However, the terrible trio from F-Con were also seeking those algorithims in order to digitize an army into cyberspace and Take Over the World.
  • Ciri in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The main character, Geralt, seeks her because he wants to find his lost daughter, while every other faction after her do so because of her unique bloodline and the powers she possesses.
  • Yakuza 0 has the owner of the Empty Lot, Makoto Makimura, with various Yakuza factions either wanting them dead outright, or wanting to seize control of them for themselves until they can get the property rights to the lot signed over. The heroes, meanwhile, while also having use for the Empty Lot themselves, are mostly just disgusted by how the owner's been treated as a pawn in a larger power game and want to keep them safe.
  • At the beginning of Yoshi's Island, Kamek kidnaps Baby Luigi (who becomes the Distressed Dude), but the stork forces Kamek to drop Baby Mario, who falls onto Yoshi. Baby Mario becomes a free MacGuffin, whose only role is to point the way to Baby Luigi, while the Yoshis perform the Escort Mission that will reunite the babies and rescue Baby Luigi. Then in Yoshi's Island DS, Kamek and the Toadies kidnap Baby Luigi again, and several more babies. The Big Bad (adult Bowser from the future) is searching for the seven star children.note  The villain never gets all seven; some remain free. The star children turn out to be Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, Baby Donkey Kong, Baby Wario, Baby Bowser, and Baby Yoshi. The last two were never captives; Baby Yoshi is still in the egg, and hatches at the very end of the credits.

    Visual Novels 
  • Deconstructed with Izuru in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. He was created to serve as a symbol of hope for the world, and as such has been objectified and used by both sides, with no regards as to how he feels on the matter. The end result has left him broken and bitter with both Hope's Peak and Ultimate Despair alike.
  • Ayame Ootori in the second Fragment's Note qualifies as this. In the original timeline, Ayame dies in the same plane crash as Kyoichi. However, due to Miu's interference in the time stream in the first game, a ripple in the timeline was created, altering the events. As a result, Ayame was saved by an organ transplant from Inori Akikawa. Because she is ultimately an irregularity in the time stream, people from the future like Kazuha can alter the past through her, allowing Kazuha to save Kyoichi's life.
  • Charlie in Shikkoku no Sharnoth serves largely as comatose Macguffin to make Mary go through the plot. Except in the end, when she's actually an opponent.

  • Blue Moon Blossom: The rabbit spirit, a glowy sprite-like being found in a golden temple with the power to turn away evil spirits and summon blue flowers. It can also change beings that have been turned to stone back to normal.
  • In A Moment of Peace, the subject of one of the gods' quests is a glowing entity named Gloria on the Mountain.
  • Unsounded: Alderode, Cresce and the Black Tongues all want Uaid to study the field spreader that allows the Anti-Magic properties of his first materials to be applied to his non first materials parts. Alderode would also accept him destroyed to be kept out of Crescian hands, and all of them view him as a construct and tool rather than a person despite his advanced AI and obvious sentience.
  • In Whither it's a little complicated. Finn is being sought after by both Frost and the witch, because she stole Frost's heart and put it into Finn. Frost wants it back. But at the same time, there are hints that the witch has some other role in mind for Finn. He's definitely got Frost's powerset.

    Web Videos 
  • Played for Laughs on Day 3 of the Limited Life SMP, where Grian spends the entire session AFK due to being sick in real life and tasks Joel and Jimmy, his faction-mates, with keeping him safe. Shenanigans ensue as just about every other faction on the server attempts to "steal" him by hiding him in random holes in the ground, resulting in him getting killed twice in the process (including by pufferfish, of all things).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Presidents Daughter, Holy Child, Mac Guffin Girl


"The Most Ridiculous Power"

As Luffy undergoes an incredible transformation, the Five Elders reveal the true nature of his Devil Fruit.

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