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No Plot? No Problem!

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"The story we have here is that THERE ISN'T ONE! But that doesn't matter."

Most media have some kind of setting. A world, a time, some characters, maybe some Backstory, or even just a bare-bones Excuse Plot... but not in a large number of Video Games and some traditional games. No frill, no fluff, just an entire experience carried by the gameplay, maybe the sound and visuals in a supporting role. Story will likely get in the way of these games, at worst annoying the player with the interruption; given the chance to skip story, they will. Expect Rule of Fun to be invoked, and often.


In the days of Retro Gaming, limited processing power restricted the amount of storytelling a game designer could employ, so by necessity many games of the era were either this or an Excuse Plot that relied on All There in the Manual and / or environmental storytelling. Today, much of the big money in video game production is aimed at big blockbuster-style story experiences, so this is more likely to be the aim of smaller productions or other games with a limited scope. Sports, puzzle and racing games are also common exceptions to this rule even in the AAA space because of how limiting the gameplay can be on any story they're trying to tell (but some have pulled it off).

Since this is used so often in video gaming, let's not list every single example, just genres, notable exceptions, or inversions. Or specific references to this in other media.


Not to be confused with No Plot? No Problem!, a handbook guide to the very popular (Inter)National Novel Writing Month contest.

Compare High Concept, Play the Game, Skip the Story, Porn Without Plot, and Random Events Plot. Contrast with Excuse Plot, which is when a game does have a plot, if one that is just an excuse for the gameplay- these games don't even have that, focusing solely on the gameplay.



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    Film — Animation 
  • While most segments of Fantasia have a bit of an Excuse Plot to show animals / dinosaurs / mythological beings frolic around to classical music, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, is just abstract figures and colors appearing to the tune of the music with absolutely no coherent plot. The only segment with a solid story is The Sorcerer's Apprentice, also the most well-known segment, somewhat for this reason, probably more due to Mickey Mouse as the apprentice.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Many of the earliest films in movie history made no attempt to tell a story, but consisted solely of the filmmakers capturing scenes they thought were interesting. Some of the Lumière Films (1895-6) consist of nothing more than a train pulling into a station or people getting off a boat. A Trip Down Market Street (1906) is exactly that, a 13-minute trolley ride down Market Street.
  • James Benning's Thirteen Lakes is a film that consists of nothing but 10-minute long static shots of 13 different lakes across the United States.
  • Frank Zappa's directorial debut, 200 Motels, is entirely made up of incredibly bizarre segments and situations with equally strange imagery and editing all taking place on an obviously cheap movie set with next to no connection between any of them. In interviews, Zappa claimed to have secretly recorded his band mates while they were high or drunk for inspiration while writing the script and intended the film to highlight the editing possibilities of videotape. Granted the plot was the result of the film never being properly finished, but considering Zappa's body of work the final cut probably wouldn't have been that different from what was released.
  • Baraka is, quite simply, the incarnation of this trope, in its most highly distilled form. In his review Roger Ebert said it should be the presentation on the "golden record" of the next spacecraft to go outside the solar system, as it is essentially a wordless montage of Earth's greatest sights and sounds. That Ebert included it in his list of the greatest movies ever made is proof-positive that it succeeded with aplomb.
  • The events of Before Sunrise and each of its sequels can be summarized thusly: Jesse and Celine have Seinfeldian Conversations over an Extremely Short Timespan. There's no driving conflict between them (barring a little in the third), just two people opening up to each other.
  • Empire by Andy Warhol is just a shot of the Empire State Building filmed over the course of 8 hours.
  • The Hollywood Revue of 1929 is a feature-length Variety Show in which almost every star signed to MGM at that time appears in a sketch. There is no attempt at a plot, merely a series of sketches and songs until the movie ends.
  • 1929 film Man with a Movie Camera is a visual collage of urban life in the Soviet Union. The opening titles proclaim that the film was assembled "without help of a story", and in fact there is no plot, only a record of regular people about their daily life.
  • Roundhay Garden Scene: This 1888 film is only two seconds long and features some people walking around in a garden. It's the earliest surviving film and almost an example of a tropeless tale.
  • Russian Ark is basically a 96-minute tour of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Faceless narrator and his companion wander from room to room, traveling back and forth through time, observing 300 years of Russian history. There's lots and lots of Costume Porn, Scenery Porn, and talk about art. There's also no story and no plot.


    Live Action TV 

  • Bad Lip Reading is Word Salad made from re-recording the audio for music videos, so 99% of videos have no distinguishable plot.
  • Songs of the Humpback Whale is an album without any music or lyrics. It only features whales "singing" and consists of just a few selected recordings. It did become a bestseller though and was included in the National Recording Registry for its "historical, cultural and aesthetical significance."
  • A lot of instrumental music that just features an abstract title ("First Symphony, "Concert For Orchestra", "Toccata and Fugue in D minor") and no explanation of a central theme.
  • The most visible shred of a storyline in Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd is in the first five movements, where Endymion worries that Diana has forgotten him in her rush to participate in the birthday celebration. The two eventually resolve to go together, and...that's pretty much it as far as plot is concerned.

  • Prevalent in early pinball machines, due to the technical limitations of electromechanical designs. The pinball's theme would often have little to no bearing on the gameplay itself. The advent of solid-state computers eventually made this a Dead Horse Trope, as pinball designers were able to implement more complex rules and modes in their games.
  • The Atarians is notable for featuring a man and a woman in a futuristic landscape fighting various aliens, and absolutely no indication of who they are or what's going on.
  • Space Riders suggests something about futuristic motorcycles racing in a futuristic city with an attractive blonde in the back, but nothing resembling an actual story.
  • The various Playboy pinballs eschew any pretense of a plot and go straight for the Fanservice. Doubly so with Stern's game, which supports fully nude Playmates as an operator option.
  • Averted with Doctor Who, which has a very detailed (relative to most pinball games) plot involving the Master and Davros teaming up to use a "Time Expander" to destroy all incarnations of the Doctor. Unfortunately, much of it was All There in the Manual, which made it very difficult for some players to learn the game.
  • While Pin*Bot and The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot at least tried to have a story, Jack*Bot gives up and just throws some casino stuff at you.
  • Gottlieb's James Bond 007 takes the details-rich James Bond film series (and specifically, The Spy Who Loved Me), then tossed it all out for an unorthodox timer-based game requiring the player to make key shots to add additional play time.
  • What do alligators have to do with anything in Revenge of the Gator? Who cares?
  • There isn't even any attempt to explain what's going on in AC/DC. When a game begins, the player is simply asked to pick a song, then shoot for certain things on the playfield. It doesn't even have a premise like with Metallica where the band members are characters—the only audio in the game are the music, sound effects pertaining to what's been shot, and a few quick and sparse voice clips of some unknown character unrelated to anything.
  • The Beatles' premise begins and ends at "it's the mid-'60s and the Beatles are sweeping America". There is no real plot to speak of.
  • Guns N' Roses (Jersey Jack) is themed around the band's touring circuit and has no real plot, with the various Album Modes briefly delving into different scenarios loosely inspired by the band's music.
  • Led Zeppelin has no real story, aside from the implied premise of helping the band attain success (as seen in song modes, where the goal is to get as many gold and platinum records as possible, and in the heavy emphasis on concert footage on the display).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chess, Checkers, Go, and other ancient board games—they have the themes of "warfare", "strategy", and "outwitting your opponent", but no actual plot to speak of.
  • In an interesting aversion, Chaturanga, the precursor to modern chess, has a "setting" in South Asia (presumably India) and is named for a battle in the epic Mahabharata.
  • In Citadels, players must build districts and earn points to win, while playing as different characters to help them reach this objective. However, there's no real story to follow, and none of the characters have actual backstories.

    Theme Parks 
  • The vast majority of theme park rides not made by Disney or Universal Studios fall under this; having no story whatsoever and just being there for the sake of a fun experience.

  • The GoGo's Crazy Bones series does not have a plot. This is averted in the Urban Toys set of Gogos, however, whose plot is that the Gogos are aliens that came to Earth to be played with.
  • The first European set of Flick-to-Stick Bungees figures completely lacks a plot. The succeeding set, Bionic Bungees, adds a plot involving some people on a safari who discover the Bungees in the wild and observe their behavior.

    Video Games 

First-Person Shooter

  • While Doom has an Excuse Plot, probably the majority of custom maps and full-game "megawads" entirely lack a plot or even a defined setting. Many of them actually mock the very idea of a plot in a Doom wad in their readme files.
    • John Carmack, who was the lead programmer on the game, once commented that “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”
    • Downplayed with the 2016 game. Within the game, there is a plot, but it's still pretty thin. Within the Codex, however, is a plethora of information on the history of the characters, the UAC, the monsters, and even the Doom Slayer himself. Fully averted with DOOM Eternal which has a more engaging story and puts an extra focus on fleshing out the series lore.
  • Overwatch: The game primarily shelves the lore in favor of PvP gameplay, so those wanting to know more about the characters and the world will have to look into the rest of Overwatch's media to scratch that itch. However, this has been slowly subverted; they have occasionally dabbled in annual Archives events featuring PvE (back)story-driven missions, and their success and popularity had given Blizzard the confidence to develop a proper story mode in the actual quasi-sequel/expansion, Overwatch 2.
  • The levels of SUPERHOT don't even have any interconnecting theme or context, something which is lampshaded within the game itself. This is justified however, considering that SUPERHOT In-Universe isn't a game to begin with.
  • Splitgate in its current form as of September 2021 simply has no plot explaining why the various power-armored (or casually-clothed) sorts are shooting at each other through portals. The devs have stated before it's some manner of competitive sport, however, but have not yet elaborated.
  • Team Fortress 2 is notable for its success without any single-player component at all for years, until the introduction of a single-player training mode in 2010. An ever-expanding story that went from the Excuse Plot of "Two corporations run the world and employ mercenary teams when they need to apply force" has expanded on the TF2 website to forge personal links between the characters and create an Alternate History that includes bitter dispute among the powerful family behind those corporations and Australia becoming a world power through mastery of Unobtainium and gravel. None of all this has any bearing on the game itself - other than introducing new guns - which pretty much remains plotless.
    • Until the introduction of Mann Vs Machine mode, which dialed things up to the unprecedented new world of Excuse Plot! (Mr. Grey wants Mr. Hale's stockpile of radioactive gold; defend a factory from Grey's Money Spider robots)
  • Team Fortress Classic, unlike its sequel, has no plot to speak of.

Fighting Game

  • While the manuals may contain some Backstory for the characters, frequently, gameplay itself generally consists of nothing more than beating the other player up. Many go for the Excuse Plot of a fighting tournament note ; otherwise, it can be tough to make excuses for why every good guy wants to fight every other good guy, and the game winds up here.
  • The Super Smash Bros. series didn't even have a plot to speak of besides Nintendo toys coming to life and fighting until Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which had a proper storyline of Nintendo characters resisting an interdimensional army invasion across multiple fronts. Then Masahiro Sakurai was dismayed that people could just go watch the cutscenes of Brawl's story mode on YouTube, so on the next go-around he wrote Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's story mode with the Excuse Plot that an evil ball of light makes a World-Wrecking Wave that kills every video game character that is not in the game and transforms their disembodied souls into evil knockoffs of the playable roster for no apparent reason, so off you go killing knockoffs and collecting the liberated souls on your way to the evil ball of light; the amount of cutscenes during your adventure can be counted on one hand.
  • The first Chaos Faction game had no plot whatsoever other than 'just beat the crap out of your opponents.' Chaos Faction 2 had a miniscule subplot revolving around the Big Bad, Vortigon, returning, but it too focused much more on the actual combat, other than the stage-specific scenarios.
  • Once in a while, some franchises also have plotless installments, also called Dream Match Games. This allows them to return fan-favorites who for some reason can't return in canon games.
  • There is no mention in-game in Pocket Rumble, or anything on the description pages where the game can be legally downloaded, of its story or even a premise. You are given 8 characters, Color-Coded for Your Convenience, to fight against other people, and that's about it. Even the single-player mode is completely devoid of plot, consisting of your selected character going up against every character in the roster (including themselves) in a fixed order followed by a shot congratulating the player and then the credits.

.io Game

  • has an Encyclopedia Exposita which describes the background of the setting, items and monsters.
  • has the short audio recordings you can trigger at certain locations, which give wider context to what happened on the island when combined with the environmental storytelling and the info written in the change logs.

Light Gun Game

  • The Point Blank and Police Trainer series were essentially glorified shooting galleries, though the console ports of the former had story modes added in.
  • Friction is an rare case of the gory action kind. There's not a semblance of a plot or even anything to believably discern a plot from. Pressing start immediately drops you into the game without any intro cutscene, the Player Character is never seen, the stages don't have names, there's no dialogue or voice-acting besides the enemy soldiers' dying grunts, and finishing merely gets you a slideshow of all the enemy models followed by credits.

Rhythm Game

  • Especially older ones such as beatmania, Pump It Up, DanceDanceRevolution.
  • While not directly related (or related at all) to the game, the characters in DDR do have backgrounds, though this is most likely an Excuse Plot for the pairings.
  • A notable exception is Cytus II, which goes all out on plot.
  • Rhythm Heaven mostly played this trope straight for the first 3 installments, but it had an actual story in Megamix. Some of the minigames also have a backstory explained in either the description, Reading Materials, or Rhythm Items.
  • There is no background plot in Thumper for why a beetle is flying along a railway at high speed while being confronted by eldritch horrors left and right and avoiding getting killed by obstacles.

Shoot 'em Up

  • Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Geometry Wars have no plot attached to them.
  • The many, many ports of Centipede usually tried to give it a plot. They had a variety of backstories, but the most commonly used were:
    • You're a Space Marine fighting in a Bug War.
    • You're a garden gnome trying to defend the garden from pests.
    • You're a traveling wizard who gets lost in the "perilous Enchanted Forest" full of monsters led by a Centipede and has to fight his way out. This is the most common variation, with all home ports of Millipede recycling this plot, just replacing "Wizard" with "Archer" (see here).
    • You're an evil wizard who is destroying the mushroom forest for kicks and the Centipede is trying to stop you. This is the least common variation, but arguably the most creative as it deviated from the usual plots and provided an explanation for the fact that the game was Unwinnable.
    • Oddly enough, the 1999 Video Game Remake actually gives its own explanation on the game that utilizes a mixture of the first three stories: you play as a gnome (or gnome-like, the race is known as the Wee) kid who is picked by a wizard to pilot a Magitek tank to defend their kingdoms from the invading bugs, who are led by centipedes, and eventually travel into the bug's own land to kill their leader who is an even bigger centipede.
  • Crimzon Clover, despite bearing many of the staples of a modern arcade Bullet Hell shooter (such as a finite number of stages), has absolutely no plot, even if you check the manual. This trope continues into its arcade and Steam Updated Re-release.
  • Downwell : The protagonist jumps down the well for seemingly no reason.
  • Everyday Shooter, although that might also be a Rhythm Game.
  • Phoenix gives no explanation for the premise in the arcade version. The manual for the Atari 2600 port, does create a reason for why the phoenix birds are hostile (something they clearly were not in Greek Mythology) and why there are so many of them (traditional mythololgy is consistent on there being only one phoenix at any time). Radioactive fallout fell on the phoenix's nest causing them to mutate and multiply.
  • Giga Wing Generations is the only game in the series that has no plot or characters.

Simulation Game

  • Most simulation games often emulate real-world places. However, there are exceptions:
  • Many "resource simulation" games, like SimCity or Rollercoaster Tycoon, will begin with a blank slate.
    • In the case of SimCity, creator Will Wright came up with the term "software toy" for his Sim creations: since you can do anything you like and the "game" doesn't really tell you whether you've "won" or "lost", it's more like a toy (a LEGO set comes to mind) than a game. To be sure, you can be doing "better" or "worse," but then, toys have that function too (e.g., when your LEGO construction falls apart or breaks or just doesn't look right to you).
  • For Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!, the whole point of the game is for the player to smash everything in sight. The closest thing to a plot are the cities, which only have a passing resemblance to their Real Life counterparts.
  • The Wide-Open Sandbox of the X-Universe series easily outshines the games' plots as the main attraction. The developers even included a gamestart where the plots are disabled (though the Custom Start is intended more for testing mods than actual play).
  • Kerbal Space Program has no real story or backstory to the game aside from player fanon. There's just you, your space program, a ton of rocket parts, a solar system filled with planets and moons, and an endless supply of eager would-be rocket jockeys.


  • 2048: You have a 4x4 panel board. You have to slide blocks with numbers on them to combine them into blocks with larger numbers. That's pretty much it.
  • 4X: These games sometimes let you slip into a historical or fantastic scenario with a little scene-setting to kick things off, but for the most part, it's "Here's your starting units and basic knowledge, now go make something happen."
  • 625 Sandwich Stacker: Experiment 625/Reuben is hungry; help him make sandwiches. Don't ask why there's food (fresh and old), smelly boots, and fish bones falling from above.
  • Aerobiz: The goal is to start and expand an airline.
  • All Points Bulletin (APB Reloaded): This game by the developers of Crackdown also looks like this at first. Being a game about cops and robbers in punkish outfits. However, the backstory e-mails and the long carefully detailed backstories of your contacts show that the developers actually tried to make the game world have a story.
  • Antichamber: Has no narrative. Just a minimalist series of hallways full of puzzles, wry observations on the current situation and how it relates to life written on the walls, and Alien Geometries.
  • Bad Omen (Devilish): Strangely averted in this game for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive. It follows the fate of a young couple who have been cursed into animate statues attached to large stone platforms and be used in a breakout clone.
  • In Binary Boy, there is no plot. There is just the Boy who can only walk on one path but can do so upside down, and five levels he needs to be guided through past obstacles and enemies, with a records table at the end.
  • Many games in the Bomberman series lack a plot, as their focus is placed squarely on the multiplayer-centered Battle Mode instead. Examples of this include Bomberman Blitz, Bomberman Blast, and the Fan Game Power Bomberman. Averted with the games that have a more fleshed-out single-player, which sometimes have surprisingly intricate stories.
  • Boomerang Fu is a multiplayer-focused game about a bunch of Anthropomorphic Food characters fighting each other with boomerangs. The game doesn't bother explaining why.
  • Carmageddon played with this, mostly as it was conceived as a Death Race 2000 game but didn't actually get the license. Thus they kept the general idea, but changed the plot to "Plot? Want a plot? Buy a book!" while leaving only vague hints of the "world" in the race maps' description.
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Despair:
    • Abandons all plots so that players can pick one of several heroes of the franchise. Some of which are centuries apart in the Castlevania timeline.
    • The menu is the pages of a book, and there are equipment hotspots that are books. There is a very light excuse plot that Dracula is taking over the book and the other Castlevania heroes, including Dracula himself have to stop him... but it's an arcade-style game, and Word of God states there is no plot.
  • Clustertruck has no plot, just the concept of jumping from truck to truck in various settings.
  • Cobra Triangle: you're a boat. Here's some challenges.
  • Crackdown doesn't have a plot. It has a premise. You are a super-soldier cop, you are thrown into a city full of gangs, and your mission is to kill as many of them and their leaders as you can, evolving into a stronger, faster, higher-jumping cop as you go.
  • Devil World: The intro scene shows nothing more than the game's characters and the message, "Attack the Devil's world!" No actual plot exists beyond this.
  • Dustforce doesn't have anything resembling a plot. Only cleaners and locations needing to be cleaned.
  • Dwarf Fortress: You could pick up on enough procedurally generated history to assume your own plot and come up with a purpose for your fortress or adventurer, but it isn't necessary for most and doesn't change gameplay itself.
  • Electroplankton has absolutely no proper story or goal, instead being a tech demo where the player makes music by manipulating plankton in different ways.
  • English Country Tune is an abstract puzzle game, where you control a square and do various tasks on cubic, (apparently) floating structures.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 1: Early Installment Weirdness, it's just a series of progressively harder fights, but there is an ending, with plot, that leads to the sequel, Epic Battle Fantasy 2, having a plot.
  • Escape Lala: The first game has virtually no plot explicitly presented to the player. There are, however, some subtle hints at lore, such as a room containing three empty suits of armor, each holding weapons or a battering ram, seemingly recoiling in terror at something that was in the room ahead. The second game has a deeper story, but it is told using Story Breadcrumbs.
  • Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout appears to be a Game Show of some sort, but it gives no explanation for its content beyond that. Just slap on a wacky outfit and jump into a 50-to-60-player free-for-all tournament, orchestrated by... someone. It doesn't give any clues as to why all the competitors are bulky bean-people, either, though the fans have plenty of theories.
  • Falling Sand: This "game" isn't really a game - different types of sand falls. That's pretty much it.
  • Fast Eddie has no plot to speak of, Eddie simply run around, collects prizes and avoids Sneakers.
  • There's no story given in The Floor is Jelly, not even on its official website or development blog. Just you jumping around in a very bouncy world.
  • The original Full Auto has no plot or characters. Early press releases told of a cab driver being blackmailed into participating in illegal street races by a terrorist group, but none of this is apparent in the final game.
  • Galaxian: And to an even larger extent, Galaga and its descendants. To this day, there is confusion as to who the Galaxians are. The original game strongly suggests that it's The Federation which your ship (called a Galaxip) presumably represents. But Pop Culture Osmosis has suggested that the Galaxians are the alien invaders. And is Galaga a sequel or a remake/reimagining? Are any of the Galaxian/Galaga games even related to each other in story? Does Galaxian share a universe with Gorf (which has a Galaxian stage)? or Pac-Man (which has a Galaxian flagship as one of the bonus items)? Eventually Namco did some Canon Welding by creating the UGSF Series, which gave some backstory information and confirmed that Galaga was a sequel to Galaxian.
  • Grand Piano Keys: There's no plot or even characters. The only point of the game is to hit the piano keys.
  • Halo's multiplayer maps avert this. They are all canon in some way or another.
    • The multiplayer from Halo 4 onward averts it further: it's justified as combat exercises carried out in the advanced starship Infinity and various other special facilities. The maps are even used in the story-oriented Spartan Ops, and some maps made specifically for Forge are even said to be real locations picked for the potential "War Games" mapmakers could use in them.
  • Helter Skelter: There isn't any explanation for why all the monsters are running around, nor is there any description of what world the abstract level designs are supposed to represent.
  • Infinity Blade: Played with. The first game consists of a Warrior and his descendants trying to slay the God-King. There is little explanation given for this, although if you break into the God-King's lab, you'll get hints that this is a story behind all this. The second game has even more of a plot and explains some more. The third game concludes the story and explains almost everything.
  • Kerbal Space Program, especially in the original Wide-Open Sandbox mode. You get a launchpad, a runway, and a giant box of rocket/aircraft parts to mess with... and that's it. Fans have made up various explanations for why the Kerbals want to go to space, because the game doesn't give you any. Career mode gives you objectives, but they're all randomly-generated and often nonsensical Excuse Plots.
  • Krakout: This horizontally-oriented Breakout game for the Commodore 64 has some Lampshade Hanging about this on the title screen: "Sorry there is no scrolly message but we decided to give you an amazing game instead."
  • Lizard: The only real objective in this game is to explore the world within it. You get no intro cutscene, no NPCs to talk to, no tutorial on how to play. The closest thing there is the the hints in the manual.
  • Marathon: This approach was explicitly disavowed by Bungie (as well as by Double Aught, who did much of the work on Infinity). As writer Greg Kirkpatrick said in response to a Usenet post criticizing Infinity's story as overdone, "Read my lips: Computer games tell stories. That's what they're for."
  • Mario Paint: Just paint anything or compose music. It also has a mini-game where the player swats insects for no reason.
  • Mass Effect 3: Averted Trope by multiplayer missions, which take place in locations Shepard visits in-game (before the expansions, at least) and involve parties of side characters helping with the war effort. They even get mentioned in (and have some impact on) the single-player campaign, and with a DLC you can even meet and overhear some of the participants talking about them.
  • Minecraft:
    • The basic plot is "Wake up on a island. Punch trees, mine, build, kill monsters." Notch has however said that he wishes to include some type of plot in the game later.
    • Make whatever you wish from the NPC villages, strongholds and abandoned mineshafts.
    • Now there's a general structure to the game with a long sequence of tasks necessary to "finish" the game. First you learn to make wooden tools, then stone tools, then iron tools, then diamond tools. Then you use the diamond tools to build a portal to another dimension called The Nether. Then you find a Nether fortress and kill a bunch of blazes for their powder. Then you combine the blaze powder with Ender Pearls dropped by Endermen, and use the resulting item to locate a stronghold and activate a portal to another dimension called The End. Then you slay the Ender Dragon. Technically, all this is just an optional side quest, and the real objective of the game is to have fun, whatever that means to you.
  • Monster Hunter: While the series has lately gone for more complex stories, it started out without any single one.
    • Monster Hunter (2004): As the first game, it lacks a real story and all you have to do in the story are quests unrelated to each other. The closest thing to a plot is your slaying of the Monoblos that is treated as surpassing the retired Kokoto Chief in hunting ability, but even that hardly impacts your experience if you don't pay attention to the dialogues. The Updated Re-release Monster Hunter G and portable adaptation Monster Hunter Freedom/Portable are likewise devoid of any real plot
    • Monster Hunter Frontier: As a fully online MMO it lacked any single-player story or plot. Like the first game, all you did was hunt monsters for a living without having to care about the reason why. The main draw to the game being the online and social-heavy nature of the game.
  • None of the Need for Speed games before Underground had any semblance of plot; you simply drive high-price exotic cars in scenic locations, sometimes while running from cops.
  • One Step From Eden: Like most Roguelikes it doesn't present a plot or story, but even by genre standards there's very little lore for the game. The amount of Story Breadcrumbs in the game is minimal and not nearly enough to flesh out the world and items and enemies don't follow a particular unifying design.
  • The Pedestrian is about a black image of a person navigating drawings.
  • People Playground doesn't have any plot. You have a huge free space and can spawn characters like humans or androids, and things like weapons, firearms, electronics, or vehicles. Then brutally kill the characters you spawned with various methods!
  • PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds drops around a hundred players from a C-130 cargo plane onto an abandoned island arena filled with random weapons and equipment to fight one another to the death, till only one comes out on top. Why? No one knows, and frankly no one cares.
  • While most Pokémon games have an Excuse Plot at the very least, Pokémon Dash and the second Pokémon Trozei! game don't even have that. Pokémon GO has the usual Professor handing out starter Pokémon, but that's pretty much all the story you get—no reason is ever given for why there are Pokémon in the real world, or why the Valor, Mystic, and Instinct teams are endlessly fighting to control gyms.
  • Pong, being the second earliest form of virtual table tennis game, there is no story or plot for it.
  • Proteus: Guess what? You're on an island! Why? Who cares, look at those pretty hills!
  • Puyo Puyo: While the series has a vibrant universe and quirky (though often one-dimensional) characters, and most games have a story mode with a mostly-coherent plot, there have been exceptions where there is no plot at all:
    • Puyo Puyo for the MSX/FDS/Famicom, which most of its gameplay is just the Marathon mode, like Tetris.
    • Nazo Puyo 1 and 2 had objective-based puzzles with nothing else really going on.
    • Puyo Puyo Champions is a heavily multiplayer-focused game. There's battling with AI, local and online multiplayer, but that's about it. Even with 24 playable characters, with some either returning after years of absence or appearing in the main games for the first time after being exclusive to the mobile game Puyo Puyo Quest, there is no in-universe explanation as for why they're there.
  • Played with in Rimworld, which bills itself as a "story generator", complete with a Storyteller who controls the game's random events. The game itself doesn't have a plot beyond "A handful of people survived a spaceship crash on a dangerous planet. Good luck!", but the idea is that each playthrough will evolve into a story of its own.
  • Puzzle Game: Tetris, Bejeweled - at least, the first game. The later games revolved a Captain Ersatz of Indiana Jones solving puzzles to win back his girlfriend, uncover treasures, and defeat villains.
  • Qwak is fast-paced and simple enough that most players probably won't notice the absence of a plot. "Games this good rarely need a story" is how the manual of the Amiga version put it.
  • Rayman: while Rayman 2: The Great Escape' and Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc have elaborate plots, Rayman, Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends'' just briefly tell you that the world is in danger and then you're off joyfully jumping around jungles, forests, Band Land and a giant Mexican kitchen.
  • Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers had no story whatsoever, and barely even any presentation. No pre-battle or win quotes, no intro animations, a quick victory animation only at the end of a fight, no stage transition, a very quick and generic vs. screen and an equally generic ending. You don't even get to knock Geese out of his high-rise for the umpteenth time.
  • The first two Scribblenauts have no real plot to speak of, although the prequel Scibblenauts Unlimited and DC Crossover Unmasked do.
  • Sauerbraten: The official plot for this FPS is as follows: "You kill stuff. The end."
  • SD Gundam Capsule Fighter: Created for the entire Gundam franchise, virtually has no plot.
  • Snake: You are a snake. You eat things. Try not to crash into yourself or a wall.
  • Sonic Dash. You run, jump, duck, kill enemies, collect rings, and occasionally fight a boss.
  • Spore:
    • Doesn't have a story in the main game when you take your creature from the five game modes, and there will be no conflict that can build up as a plot (well, things do happen in the creature stage and you can fight with animals, tribes, cities and empires but it still doesn't add anything to it).
    • Some users actually thought outside of the Core Spore aspects and gave their races a backstory and their creatures do things that weren't possible in the main game.
      • This trope somewhat counts in Galactic Adventure because some user-made adventures have an arcade feel to them and only focuses on gameplay, while most of them do have a plot.
  • Star Ruler: The goal is this: Conquer the galaxy. With no hint of plot, just set up a game and take over the galaxy.
  • Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation gives players bios or info for most of the characters but there is no in-game plot whatsoever.
  • Super Monkey Ball: With the exception of "Banana Blitz", the Challenge Mode of each game is basically your monkey is hungry and wants to get bananas by navigating deviously designed obstacle courses inside a clear plastic ball.
  • Sydney Hunter and the Shrines of Peril: There's no real plot to this game besides "get Sydney though the screens to the shrines".
  • Tetris traditionally lacks a plot. The closest it has to an actual canon is Puyo Puyo Tetris, and even then it's obviously a crossover with another game, one that uses new characters to represent Tetris. And even then, they're technically Puyo Puyo characters since they don't appear in any other game.
  • Tony Hawk's Underground: Averted, with one of the most developed plots that had so far ever been seen in a sports-oriented game, about two friends slowly growing to hate each other as each follows a different path to stardom. Many later games in the series have taken to including a solid story.
  • Trigger Knight: It is anyone's guess why the knight is running through a field, beating up monsters, with a limited amount of time before she fades away.
  • Warlight: as an Indie Risk adaptation, it doesn't provide much more plot than the original tabletop game.
    • Some games do avert this through Emergent Gameplay elements created by players though.
  • Worms:
    • Worms are trying to kill each other with nasty weapons. Why? Who knows? More to the point, who cares?
    • Amusingly enough, if one sits on the menu screen for long enough in almost any of the games, the background music reveals itself to be an incredibly long intro to a voiced ballad. Sung by Bjorn Lynne, both versions (Wormsong and Wormsong 2003) detail a single event of mortal combat in the near-eternal cycles of wormy war. Still no real plot for the actual game, though.
  • Wrecking Crew: This game is about two Palette Swapped brothers walking around demolishing walls while a foreman and some monsters try to get in their way. Not even the manual tries to explain why.
  • Rolling Sky: Swipe along the screen to make the ball you’re controlling avoid pitfalls & traps. The App Store description has something about conquering the world, but that was never mentioned again. Interestingly, its In Name Only sequel is an inversion. See below for more details.

    Western Animation 
  • Much of early animation is this, with many an animator simply reveling in the idea that, yes, we can make these drawings move like magic. As such, you find yourself with a bevy of what could now be considered experimental short films, where bizarre events occur for no rhyme or reason beyond the creators wanting to play around in this new medium.
  • The two Animusic films are similar to Fantasia but have even less plot, being just a bunch computer animated music videos of animated instruments, machines, and robots playing songs.
  • The 1942 War Time Cartoon Any Bonds Today? has Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd appear to sing and dance in an effort to convince people to buy war bonds. That's all that happens in this very short (1 minute, 38 seconds long) propaganda cartoon.
  • The Mind's Eye series. Its primary purpose was to showcase animation technology and talent of the early '90s, and it is composed of clips of computer animation from hundreds of animators, so there was very little thought given to any sort of plot. The sequences act just like the segments from Fantasia above (set to electronic music, of course), but there are a few attempts at a story. Both The Mind's Eye and Beyond the Mind's Eye feature whole sequences that have a self-contained story because the story was already planned out by the studios who submitted them. The Gate to the Mind's Eye attempts to form a coherent story, but it's largely lost if you don't read the box or DVD case.
  • The animated films of Norman Mc Laren. Most of his films, such as "Le Merle", "Synchrony", and "Boogie Doodle" have absolutely no story, narrative or characters at all. They used minimalistic animation that aimed for abstract, emotional experiences.
  • Norman Normal, a 1968 short from Warner Brothers-Seven Arts, doesn't have much of a plot, just a series of scenes from the everyday life of a white-collar pushover named Norman.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons, where we see the first appearance of Scratchy in the short film "That Happy Cat." It consists of about ten seconds of Scratchy jovially walking down a street, then stopping at the curb and whistling. This is in contrast to Itchy's first appearance, which is far more elaborate and features an actual (if simplistic) narrative.
  • Pigtail Rag is a Short Film by Shawn Siegel that has no real plot. It stars an anthropomorphic pig leaving his apartment building, jumping into a poster at a travel agency and meeting a lady pig at an outdoor concert. That's pretty much it.
  • Soupe Opéra. Fruit and vegetables, in a dark room, cut themselves up to form animals. While listening to creepy music.
  • Walking is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, namely, a five-minute motion study of people walking.

    Other Media 
  • Sean Malstrom's argument is that most video game plots suck (stating that many game writers wouldn't make it as movie writers), so video games should pretty much just use them as Excuse Plots, stating that stories are why we play games, not what we play games to achieve.

Examples of inversions

  • Breakout was originally seen by players as a variation on pong. With the sequel Super Breakout, the box illustration depicted a man in a spacesuit deflecting a sort of energy ball at forcefield bricks. Even at the time, players had a hard time being convinced that a game like Breakout could represent a hazardous outer space adventure. But then along came Arkanoid which was basically an evolved version of Breakout where your paddle really is a spaceship and you can blast bricks with lasers via a powerup.
  • Minesweeper, a puzzle game where you try to determine which panels in a grid are safe to open, is given the movie treatment in a CollegeHumor sketch, which turns minesweeping on a tiny plot of land into Serious Business.
  • Tetris is given some kind of plot in this movie trailer and possible explanation of its inner workings.
    • Tetris Worlds gave it a shot by turning the Minos (the blocks that make up the iconic Tetriminos) into Animate Inanimate Objects, came up with the idea to have the Matrix (the Tetris game area) take place within "Tetrions", devices which serve as gateways to other planets that can be opened by playing Tetris, and made the plot out to be the Minos using the Tetrions as a means of exodus from their soon-to-be-doomed home planet called Hadar 4.
    • This also occurred in Puyo Puyo Tetris and its sequel, which use a set of characters themed on each of the Tetrimino pieces unique to these games. The seven of them make up the crew of the Starship Tetra; their meeting up with the Puyo Puyo characters become the games' inciting incidents.
  • Unlike its prequel, as seen above, Rolling Sky 2 attempts to have some kind of plot in each level. Some stories include: a puppet trying to escape from his master (Fate), a young boy dreaming about following a star to another planet (Starry Dream & Puzzle), said boy getting sucked into a portal & exploring Ancient Egypt (Pharaohs), two thieves falling in love while stealing a treasure chest (Theft & Theft Prequel), & a clown traveling in a world full of instruments while transforming into a conductor (Fantasia)
    • One of the levels, Jazz, has the least amount of plot, playing this trope straight.

Alternative Title(s): Plot What Plot