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Okay, Hobgoblin Mom Appearing in This One Panel.

Jason: You're not gonna die on the planet, Guy.
Guy: I'm not? Then what's my last name? ...Nobody knows! Do you know why? Because my character isn't important enough for a last name! Because I'm gonna die five minutes in!

In a video game, only people that are relevant to the plot or a sidequest will be blessed with names. Everyone else will be nameless or be referred to with generic or descriptive titles.

For example, if the town guard is named Samuel Winthrop, you should probably make a mental note of him, as he'll very likely wind up being essential to your progress. If his name is Town Guard, however, you can safely ignore him, as he is superfluous and has no bearing on anything. At most, he'll provide some useful exposition, but it's guaranteed that he'll never need to be sought out again.

From a gameplay standpoint, this makes perfect sense and may even be a Justified Trope. By only giving important people names, you can reasonably narrow down the people you need to talk to, which curtails much of the tedium of having to Talk to Everyone.

Corollaries include:

  • Only relevant characters will have voice-overs.
  • If the game gives characters a Character Portrait in their dialogue box (as Baten Kaitos or Chrono Cross do), then only important characters will have unique portraits (or even portraits at all).
    • Conversely, if the character in question does have a name but is still rather unimportant, the portrait will most likely be missing instead.

A common exception that proves the desirability of the rule is when early non-important NPC's have names and faces, but the writers start running out of time or patience and just put in generic people later.

This is the naming equivalent of You ALL Look Familiar, and it is caused by The Law of Conservation of Detail. Contrast with The Dead Have Names (where characters are named posthumously to memorialize them) and He Had a Name (where a dead character's name is invoked specifically to send the message that the deceased wasn't just a bit of meaningless backdrop).

This trope exists to some degree in other media, though movies and television obviously lack the "tells" inherent in things like dialogue boxes to immediately indicate to the audience who is important and who isn't.

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Video game examples:

  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Played straight in many Zelda games, where the people with unique names and character designs usually have a good chance of being one of the sages you need to rescue/assist later in the story. It's most noticeable in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, where literally every uniquely named/designed character you meet in your travels turns out to be a sage in the second half of the game.
    • Notably inverted in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, where most NPCs, even trivial ones, have actual names. The ones that do have generic names like "Traveler" are the ones you need to look out for, because they're Yiga clan members in disguise.
  • Ōkami gives names to most of the characters, as well as a small introduction sequence and their name on a briefly appearing scroll. Each of these names is accompanied by a title, which starts to get silly with minor characters, where the title simply describes what they are no matter how obvious it is or whether you've already been told that. Even some of the monsters have personal names and titles, and there's also "Newly Dubbed: Sleepy", a bear who is, you guessed it, sleepy.
  • Thoroughly averted in The Godfather. Everyone has a name, which you can see by targeting them, so you won't be figuring out importance by name here.
  • Spyro the Dragon series: Every NPC and collectable has a name but the enemies, at least usually, don't seem to. Justifiable in at least the first game, as they were actually made out of gems.
  • Subverted in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. One of the "bosses" Cal will encounter is Rick the Door Technician, who's only differentiated from other Imperial scout trooper mooks by having a name, a boss life bar, and a "Boss Defeated" message once the player deals with him. That's it. Other than that, there's no difference between him and any other scout trooper you've been mowing down throughout the game. Especially not in terms of durability.
  • Kind of done in both the 2D and 3D Super Mario Bros. series platform games. You know whether a character will be important or a boss if their name is in the level/mission title. No guesses who the boss is in Bowser's, Roy's or [other boss name]'s Castle or Fortress. Similarly, it's fairly obvious a mission title like 'Big Bob-omb on the Summit', 'Gooper Blooper Breaks Out', or 'Kingfin's Fearsome Waters' will have you battle a character with said name and you'll at least get a star/shine sprite for doing so.
  • Prince of Persia (2008). There are barely any characters shown to begin with — a grand total of eight — and of those, only two have names: Elika and Ahriman.

  • Even in the character-based Ace Attorney series, there are some characters who do have sprites, but no known names, most obviously the Judge. Of course, any character with a sprite will end up being relevant to a case eventually - even the unnamed Bellboy in the series' second case. There are also characters who are rarely referred to by their names, but have them nonetheless (such as Penny Nichols from the first game's third case), but even they tend to have a piece of information you'll need to know.
  • Amazon: Guardians of Eden consistently inverts this trope in a very odd manner: with the exception of secondary protagonist Maya and minor antagonist Tony Martin, every important, speaking character introduced after the third chapter will go unnamed, while non-speaking and unimportant background characters will be given both full names and strangely elaborate backstories that the player character really has no way of knowing in the first place. This comes to a head with the shopkeeper Arturo Ascension in chapter six, who sells you items you need to finish the game - since they gave him a name, they go out of their way to Third-Person Person all of his interactions with you in an incredibly awkward fashion, rather than just letting him talk to you. Even Hans Stroheim only actually has a name because the game tells you it in interstitial narrations; whenever you actually meet and converse with him, because he has voiced lines and points you in the right direction to continue the game he's been downgraded to just "Archaeologist".
  • Hype: The Time Quest averts this by going out of its way to name almost all the NPCs, down to Maliq, a one-off thug who attacks you. Though there is the exception of a few guards and an executioner.
  • When talking to one of the characters in the flash game Nicholas' Weird Adventure 2, his character portrait doesn't show a picture; he just gets text from the author claiming the character is not important enough to take the time to make a portrait of him. As the discussion goes on, the author changes his mind and adds one.

  • In Soul Calibur 3's "Chronicles of the Sword" mode, a lot of Elite Mooks on the field are named, but all that comes of the names is a strength boost. Regular soldiers just go by the name of their banner.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • In the expansion to Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force the player expands his/her arsenal with a tricorder, which can, among other things, be used to scan various NPCs. In keeping with the series' Red Shirt tradition, important NPCs appear with their name intact, while others are simply called "crewman" by the device.
  • Every single friendly soldier in the Call of Duty series has a name. Characters not important to the plot have randomly generated names, but they're names nonetheless.
  • Regular enemies in the Ace Combat series are identified on the HUD simply with their aircraft model names. However, the rare ace pilots additionally have their callsigns appended to the plane model, marking them as priority targets, since they are usually much more dangerous than regular mooks. The Belkan War, which shifts the gameplay focus from blasting through nameless hordes to more personal one-on-one dogfights, takes this trope to the extreme, with 169 named enemy aces (more than the rest of the series combined), each of whom has a unique short biography unlocked after shooting him/her down.
  • Portal: Even though it's easy to miss her name, as the Player Character Chell survives (and beats) GLaDOS twice, has several depictions of her appearance and has the Canon character traits of being insanely tenacious and a Heroic Mime by choice.
    • Portal 2: At the end of the co-operative campaign, Atlas and P-Body discover a vault containing ten thousand more human subjects in suspended animation. But in the "Peer Review" DLC GLaDOS says she killed them all trying to make them as indestructible as Chell. Clearly, they weren't important to the plot.
  • Played straight in the first TimeSplitters game, where only the player characters and a few of the joke characters get names, but averted in TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect, where almost every random human Mook you fight in the story missions is given a name, and a few of them even get backstories and established personalities (although they can only be seen after unlocking them as playable characters). Future Perfect even gave the zombies names.

  • World of Warcraft manages to avert this trope with most NPCs (except town guards), but there is no risk that you might mistake a NPC as more important: Those that have a quest for you have a golden "!" floating above them, and NPCs with important services have a subtitle such as <Flightmaster> or <Innkeeper>. Some minor NPCs don't even have any dialogue. Of course, most trash mobs still don't have names for practical reasons.
  • Averted in the Hobopolis clan dungeon in Kingdom of Loathing - all hobos have randomly generated names, and as most of them have one or more nicknames in addition to a first and last name, there are millions of possible combinations. This does result in occasionally fighting John Lennon.
  • Played straight in RuneScape. If you see a named NPC, then, even if they aren't plot important, they'll have some humorous interactions available or something. Unlike say, "Ardougne Guard" which you can attack, pickpocket or examine and that's it.
  • Star Wars: Galaxies initially averted this trope, in a sense, by having every single NPC in the game given a randomly generated name, for example, names would be like "Luke Skywalker (a farmboy)". However, not long after release, this feature was disabled as it made server start up after maintenance take too long.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Dungeon Keeper gives each creature a unique random name.
  • Myth: The Fallen Lords and its sequels likewise avert this to give every living creature (excluding the undead and such, who you wouldn't expect to have names at all) a unique name, and even allows you to rename the units under your command yourself; e.g. that warrior Malory with the 300 kills may just deserve to be called Malory the Great, a title he will carry down the levels for as long as he lives.

  • In ADOM, if you meet an otherwise normal monster or NPC with a name,they're either important to your quest, or a stronger-than-normal artifact guardian. Have fun figuring out which is which.
  • Dwarf Fortress: All the dwarves have names, as do any visiting humans and elves. But for the monsters to have names they have to slaughter enough dwarves to become important. As creatures which start out with names (dwarves, goblins, humans, etc.) rack up kills, they eventually gain an extension of their original name. Because of this, one can often tell who the local badasses are by looking at who has the longest name(s). This applies mainly to creatures you actually witness; populations in Legends mode and offsite locations when your dwarves are doing missions in Fortress mode are usually number filters and often don't even get names.
  • Something similar happens in Elona: any NPC related to a quest which is identical across all games will have the exact same name in all games. Shopkeepers, NPC adventures and townsfolk will have randomly selected names which vary from game to game.
  • In Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, all the enemies with names are unique and generally much more dangerous than anything you can encounter in the level you're on. Fighting them one-on-one (or running away) is recommended. The exception is Pandemonium lords: four are regular uniques, but since Pandemonium is infinite the game will generate lords with random names and stats as well. Killing uniques is one way to get points in tournaments.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In Final Fantasy IV, Yang is married. In early versions of the game, his wife's name was apparently "Yang's wife". Naturally, she is wholly unimportant to the plot. (Final Fantasy IV: The After Years gives her a proper name, Sheila, which makes it into the PSP version of Final Fantasy IV itself as well. She's still not particularly significant to the plot, though.)
  • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years zigzags this a bit. On the one hand, you get Player Mooks named "White Mage", "Black Mage", "Monk A/B/C", and "Guard A/B/C", who are about as significant as you'd expect. On the other, Ceodore spends all of his chapter and most of Kain's fighting alongside the Hooded Man (Kain's light side), and Rydia, Edge, and Luca wind up tagging along with the Man in Black (Golbez).
  • Final Fantasy VI was especially bad, as the naming screen for every character you eventually got was distinct, meaning there were a couple characters you encountered early on, but didn't use till a while later, that you nonetheless knew would eventually be team members.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics totally averts this. With the exception of some random thieves and brigands, everyone with a speaking part in the many cutscenes gets not only a name, individual character portrait and sprite, but also a several-page-long biography detailing their lives and connections to the plot. Not only you never get to actually meet the grand majority of these people, most of them are thoroughly unimportant, die in their introductory scene or just plain don't ever show up at all and are just referred to.
  • Final Fantasy IX, Played straight and almost Deconstructed with the Black Mages, who are all named numbers, being mass produced. Even after they gain sentience, they still refer to each other as #86 or #147. Even the leader is #288. Only Vivi has an actual name, and learning about the Black Mages, goes through an existential crisis as he wonders if he too has a number.
  • Early on in Final Fantasy XIII, you know that Hope's mother isn't gonna make it out of the prologue when her introductory subtitle says only, "Mother." However, we later learn her name was Nora.
  • Fable II and Fable III do this with every random villager you meet. Every non or semi important/useful villager is given at least a first name and a title depicting either their job(shop owners) or their role, housewife, villager etc.
  • Mostly played straight in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, where pretty much everyone who has a character portrait will have a prominent role in the lore at the very least. Averted with one member of the Belinsk band, Vande, who gets a portrait despite being no more important than the rest of the musicians story-wise.
  • Dragon Quest VIII, for example, only people that are important have names displayed in their dialogue boxes.
  • Lampshaded in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, where someone in the main town claims he is your rival, but then muses that you probably think of him as "some random blue-haired NPC."
  • Jade Empire. The Old Man might be an exception, though, since he's a quest giver with the name of "Old Man".
  • In Mass Effect 2, several mercenaries on side-missions have names and faces, usually the tougher ones. In the Arrival Downloadable Content, this is played with by having Enemy Chatter about how you're massacring their friends.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind goes the opposite direction — nearly all humanoid NPCs have unique names, even bandits who attack you on sight. There are still numerous "Town Guards", though, and although the NPCs have a staggering amount of dialog large enough to feel diverse, their spoken lines are far more limited. It also only applies to the vanilla gamenote  — while non-guardnote  friendly NPCs are named throughout, Bloodmooon has tons of generically named NPC enemies roaming around.
  • Oblivion and Skyrim partially avert this - most NPCs have unique names. There's still a lot of generic "Fire Mage"s & "Bandit Hedge Wizard"s.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: If you encounter a character with a unique sprite and name, and their name isn't Mayl, Yai, or Yuichiro; than there is a 95% chance you will have to fight their Net Navi at some point. Later Subverted with Mayl, whose Net Navi: Roll, finally becomes a boss in 4, but played straight with her Gutsman, and Glyde starting from 4 onward.
  • Shadow Hearts series: everyone has a name which is also a capsule description of them. Not an actual name from the game, but an example of what this means would be "Nervous Man Monterey".
  • Lost Odyssey and Enchanted Arms use a capsule description as well. Scarily enough, Enchanted Arms uses this in a school that SCREAMS 'main setting of the game'... it's blown up before the prologue.
  • All three Star Ocean games do something similar; while some NPCs will have names, some will have just a title, while others will have both a title and a name.
  • In Fallout 2, some characters, - a fair share of the possible party members and the heads of most towns - have full voice acting and a 3-D pre-rendered face with close-up animation. The game's manual warns not to assume someone is important just because they have a face, or that someone isn't because they don't. That is mostly good advice, as the characters most likely to get a face are just the ones with the distinctive looks. In addition, it's often possible to determine which NPCs have some level of importance, either for a quest or simply the ability to converse with the player, by seeing if their description is different from most other NPCs.
  • Pokémon:
    • Since Pokémon Gold and Silver, the series has assigned names to each trainer you meet (and retroactively added them to trainers in the Red and Blue remakes, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen). Random Grunts for the local villainous team are typically left unnamed and just called Team [Name] Grunt, with the exception of Cipher Peons in Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness.
    • The Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure! manga makes fun of this by having a recurring mook refer to himself solely by his assigned number: "K-2". (K-2 is pronounced similarly to "ketsu", or "butt". You can guess what his major identifying feature is...)
    • Played straight in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Every single Jubilian citizen has a name, and the majority of them have their own sidequests to do at several points throughout the story.
  • As in most RPGs, Baldur's Gate II has lots of unimportant characters without names, but provides something of a Lampshade Hanging when the following dialogue option pops up: "You are just a nameless observer. Of what use can you be to me?"
  • As mentioned above, Chrono Cross character portraits: with a note to the strange case of the Element shop owner in Termina who has a portrait and name but no real significance. In addition, Leena's portraited sister Una isn't important to the plot. On the flip side, Solt and Peppor, who are reasonably significant (certainly more so than Lisa or Una), inexplicably lack portraits.
  • Averted in Last Scenario — every single NPC has a name (characters of any importance have portraits, though).
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3:
      • It's easy to figure out that Ms. Toriumi, your homeroom teacher is actually Maya, the Hermit Social Link, by virtue of the fact that she's the only teacher apart from Mr. Edogawa with a character portrait. This is remedied in Persona 3 Portable, when most significant NPCs (including the other teachers) got character portraits as well.
      • On your first day at school, you can talk to several students as you make your way to the teacher's office, some who have portraits and some who don't. Guess which ones end up being Social Links (though none of them are actually named until you start said Social Links).
      • In Persona 3 Portable you can have a strange conversation with a man who, while lacking a name (he's called "Man Drinking Alone"), has his own Character Portrait. It was immediately assumed this man was an Early-Bird Cameo for an upcoming Atlus title. Cue cries of I Knew It! when the game Catherine was revealed, starring the aforementioned man (whose real name is Vincent).
    • In Persona 4, a rather strange looking kid hits on Yukiko rather early in the game, and judging from his character portrait, you get the distinct impression that he becomes important later (and he does; he's a minor villain by the name of Mitsuo Kubo). The same could be said for Taro Namatame, who is introduced early on and, aside from having an affair with one of the victims, has nothing to do with the story until you find out he's the one who's been throwing people into the Midnight Channel. On the other hand, the Moel gas station attendant lacks both a name and character portrait until after the big reveal that she's the Greater-Scope Villain in the true ending.
    • Interestingly, despite having a character portrait, Mr. Edogawa was never important to either the plot or social link system in Persona 3. In Persona 4, however, he gives exposition on the legend of Izanagi and Izanami, helping set up one of the sparse hints as to who's really pulling the strings.
  • Pillars of Eternity plays with this trope, as you can find named NPCs that can have their souls read in order to learn their backstories (and dark secrets), but those are only there for flavor and have no bearing on the main plot or the sidequests whatsoever. The biggest subversion of this trope, however, is with one of the potential companions, who doesn't have a name and is simply titled Grieving Mother. With her, it's also a case of Gameplay and Story Integration, since she's a cipher that uses a Perception Filter in order to apppear as an ordinary peasant woman to most people.
  • Planescape: Torment partially averts this at early stages of the game, as several NPCs in the Hive with generic descriptive names have nongeneric dialogue. For example, one gives you a ring she promised you for killing her husband, while another gives you a minor quest. However, they still have no bearing on the plot, for understandable reasons. There are also a few named ones that still don't do anything - no quests, no information, can't get anything from them. And, of course, the most important character, i.e. the protagonist, does not have a name at least, until the very end.
  • All the Wild ARMs games give names to every single NPC; some even let you change their names!
  • Played with in Wild ARMs 5. Many of the NPC's give fetch quests. All of these NPC's are Shout Outs to the heroes of the first four Wild ARMs games, and all of them are identified with e.g. "Serious-Looking Drifter" rather than their actual names.
  • Averted to some extent in Dragon Age: Origins: The best example is with temporary party members - many people you can get in your party only for about ten minutes in one of the Backstory/tutorial quests have tons of unique dialogue, their own battlecries/snarky lines they say when killing things, and in some cases well-developed backstories and personalities, making it impossible for you to tell who is in line for a Plotline Death. Of particular note are the other trainee Grey Wardens - there really is nothing that will give away the fact that Daveth and Ser Jory are sacrificial lambs while Alistair can be around for the entire rest of the game. Also Jowan, who you can very briefly have in your party, comes with not only his own battlecry, but several, many of which are funny. He's also one of the most three-dimensional characters in the game. You can have him in your party for ten minutes, tops. There was an Aborted Arc in which he could join you, so that's probably why.
    • However, Dragon Age still has generic NPCs - 'Bandit', 'King's Guard', etc. Notably, the two unnamed NPCs who can help you reach the top of the Tower of Ishal are forgotten about the moment the PC is overwhelmed by darkspawn.
  • This makes collecting the 108 Stars in the Suikoden series a bit easier: Does the character have a portrait and a name? Congratulations, you've probably either met one of the villains or a star (or both). For the rare non-villainous characters who aren't stars Stars of Destiny? Don't worry, the game will generally clarify things pretty soon by killing them.
  • Okage: Shadow King:
    • Played with where the citizens have amusing titles in the text boxes in place of names, such as "Man with A Frowning Face" or "Young Man Who Believes in Justice". This may also be used until you find out the person's name, such as with Rosalyn, who was listed as something along the lines of "Hero with A Parasol".
    • Down right Deconstructed during the final act. The Big Bad reveals that this world is a world where everything, everything, is governed by classification, especially people, so that his daughter can live a life exactly the way she wants: full of adventure. The titles are the actual basis and programming for the character, with everyone just going along with what they are expected to do. This includes your team, from "Hero" Rosalyn who valiantly opposes everything bad and injustice, to "Eccentric Scientist" Kisling, who researches ghosts and collects toe nail clippings. Everyone except Ari, who lacks a title and is such a deviant, someone who can force everyone out of their programming. And indeed, once we find this out, the team begins to break free of their descriptions. You can actually see the Foreshadowing, because the game has a weird obsession with classifications.
  • Played straight in Summoner but averted in Summoner 2, in which everyone you spoke to had a name - except in the Realm of Twilight, in which everyone you can speak to has a title. This is because they actually don't have names, not just because you don't know or care about them. It's worth noting that there are far more NPCs in the first game than the second.
  • Averted for the residents of Tazmily in Mother 3, who each gets his or her own name despite many of them being completely unimportant. NPCs from other places, most notably New Pork City, are never named, but later on, you find out there's actually a rather good reason for it.
  • Completely averted in LISA, in which every single enemy, no matter how unimportant, gets a name. It makes it much more difficult to tell who's a recruitable party member as well, since every single character has a unique design. This really drills in the fact that the goons you're fighting are genuine people and are dead and gone once you beat them. In addition, practically every Joy Mutant has a name as well.
    • Played straight with a few examples such as "Man Laying On Grass".
  • Averted for the most part in Anachronox. While guys like guards or monks usually have generic names, most NPCs you encounter in the game have specific names (or failing that, some sort of unique descriptive title).
  • The Trails Series by the same developer does everything it can to avert this. While not all of the over 300 or so NPC characters in the Sky trilogy alone have portraits, the vast majority have names, backstories, and relationships to other characters. Played straight however, with voiced characters. You can tell for example that Josette is more than just a one-off antagonist as she has battle cries, something her brothers notably lack. In their case, they show up later as well, but Josette can be recruited into your party. Or that this Kloe character isn't just a support NPC, she has casting animations and lines, the most spoken lines out of any character, as it so happens.
  • Averted by Dragon's Dogma; every NPC in the Cast of Snowflakes has a unique name, even if they only get to spout the usual "Woe is me, the dragon shall eat us all!" random lines. They also have unique faces and can be romanced, though of course they don't have subplot sidequests like the "main" characters and their gift preferences are determined by where they live rather than being unique to them (travelers prefer stamina potions, Casardis men like steak, Gran Soren men like fish, and women prefer different types of flowers). The random bandits who attack you play this one straight, though, mostly because you can't talk to them and you only see someone's name when having a polite conversation.
  • Mostly averted in Drakensang, where the only ones without a name are usually either mooks or citizens who have nothing to tell you anyway. An example is found in the Moorbridge Swamp: all the members of the militia patrolling the village are named, even when They attack you led by their crazy officer later.
  • In Magical Starsign all the NPCs get their own names and portraits. The game uses multiple types of Theme Naming. For example, the spiny moles from Erd are named after brands of cheeses, the otters from Cassia are named after musicians (mostly rockstars), the inhabitants from Bena Rikishi in Puffon are named after metals and so on.
  • In The Alliance Alive, be sure to remember if a NPC has a name tag on their dialog boxes. It means that you'll be able to recruit them into your guild later. Also be sure to be nice to them if possible, or you might permanently lose the ability to recruit them (until New Game Plus, at least).
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 is pretty blatant about it with NPC name tags. Refugee, Refugee, Refugee, Liza... Guess which one is a quest giver.
  • The Boxxy Quest series: Throughout the series, but differently in each game:
    Maid: Me? You want ME to join your party? But I'm not even a named character! What could I possibly have to offer that would be of any help to you?
    • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm has a unique visual variant – you can easily tell if a character is going to be important by whether or not their sprite’s eyes blink.
  • Completely averted in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, where every single NPC in the game has not only a name but a character bio: all you have to do is ask Goombella. Most of them aren't relevant to the plot at all, save for the Trouble Center sidequest which lists its patrons by name. Goombella even Lampshades it at one point when she's unable to come up with anything noteworthy to say about a Rogueport resident because he's so uninvolved in things around him.
  • Also averted in Baldur's Gate III, where every sapient creature has a name, regardless of importance.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1:
    • Between all the non-plot important NPCs, there's a rather huge group of them that are named. They compensate for their lack of plot importance by forming part of the global affinity chart and tending to play important roles in sidequests and sidequest arcs.
    • When a Mook has a non-generic name accompanied by a fancy name tag, they're a unique monster (usually fought as a sidequest Mini-Boss), and that means they're going to give you one hell of a fight. Battles against these kinds of enemies have their own theme, fittingly titled "You Will Know Our Names."
  • In Xenogears, removing the Limiter of a character who has a name and portrait unlocks their ability to use top-tier attacks. But when the Limiters get removed on all of turns out that nameless, no-portrait NPCs have an alarming tendency to transform into hideously mutated beasts. Good job, Heroes.
  • Many of the Ys games, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, Ys Origin, and most remakes in particular, avert this. Every character gets their own name regardless of their importance to the story. In some games, every character gets a portrait as well.
  • Undertale does a variant of this with its character portraits and Voice Grunting. Most important characters will have one or both uniquely to themself.
  • Similarly to its predecessor, Deltarune also exclusively gives unique portraits and voice grunts to characters who are either important to the story or previously appeared in and had these in Undertale.
  • One of the quests added by Mikeburnfire's NPCs and Quests averts that for the Thief of Kings quest - the NPC you need to approach has a generic name that they share with all the other generic NPCs around them.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • The first six Touhou Project games never bothered to name or give the midbosses profiles. Later universe compendiums continue to act as though they don't exist. Which became somewhat frustrating when one of them recurred... into the only game that didn't include boss names or profiles.
    • The Stage 1 boss of Lotus Land Story is only known by the tag used for her in the coding, "orange". She technically does not have a name of her own, though she does have portraits.

    Simulation Games 
  • Hometown Story gives names to all villagers in the ledger recording the town population, but only the ones that you need to befriend to progress in the game will actually display theirs when you speak to them, along with a Character Portrait.
  • Averted in Story of Seasons (the 2014 game). While important characters are given a Character Portrait (including potential love interests), there are names for everyone coded in, from the maid staff at Elise's manor home to the random NPCs that can mill about town and compete in festival contests with you—and there's names for the animals they compete with. They even have some unique dialogue.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • Played with in World of Assassination Trilogy. A good third of the NPC's you see in the level have scripted dialog, a unique name and some kind of AI interaction. All the non-filler NPC AI have relatively unique faces (up to a point, of course).
  • Played with in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty with the mask-wearing Genome Army and the Gurlokovich Mercenaries. Every single one of them carries a dog tag that reveals their name and can be obtained by holding them up at gunpoint, but the names are never mentioned in-game and have no actual impact on the plot or gameplay outside of being something to collect for completion. The one straight example is Johnny Sasaki, the Comic Relief Butt-Monkey guard who is featured in the first two games, has a relative in the third, and plays a major role and gets the girl in the fourth.
  • Played with in Yandere Simulator. Everyone you meet in school, even if they're a filler NPC, has a name (usually a punny one) and a unique face (... well, unique hairstyle). However, 'Only important characters get voiceover' does apply- most students just have generic non-voiced subtitles, but Yandere-chan, Senpai, Info-chan, the Rivals, and the Club Leaders all get voiced dialogue. Students will also be voiced when giving you their Friendship Task or when calling you out after having witnessed you murder someone, both of which have serious gameplay consequences.
    • And then that got turned on its head when Sota Yuki and Haruto Yuto (unimportant characters) were given voiced lines as part of a series of background conversations about Magical Girl Pretty Miyuki.
  • Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun mostly plays this straight; mission targets have names and almost everyone else doesn't. But some of the 'importance' isn't in-game; assorted enemies with no actual importance are named as a Creator Cameo.

    Survival Horror 
  • If you play Resident Evil – Code: Veronica's Battle Game, you have a chance of finding "D.I.J.'s Diary", a document chronicling the actions of a character who seems to have witnessed various things Claire Redfield did in the story. But the only people around at those times were Steve, Rodrigo, the Ashfords, and Wesker. So who the heck could "D.I.J." be? If you pay attention during the scenes described in the diary, you realize that he's a mouse. A normal, everyday little mouse.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • In the Fire Emblem series, any named character appearing on the battle field is either an ally, a boss, recruitable, or vital to the plot in some other way. Everyone else is generic. However, all bosses have portraits and names, some can be recruited, most can't. Also, some characters have appeared with portraits despite being un-recruitable (to more or less screw with the player) such as Khosen the manekete and Heimler, both from FE1 and FE11.
    • A subversion is the Gatekeeper from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. This guy is a generic little guard with no unique character portrait other than the same one every Soldier class uses and has No Name Given rather than "Gatekeeper." He isn't pivotal for the plot, but his catchphrase ("Greetings, profesor! Nothing to report.") helped him become a memetic sensation among the fandom that it's thanks to said fandom that he was Promoted to Playable in Fire Emblem Heroes.
      • Surely due to the above, the Abysskeeper - the Gatekeeper's Abyss counterpart - is a thing; a lonely Tsundere guard who starts a friendly relationship with a guard from Garreg Mach. Despite having no name either, he still manages to have his own little fun character arc.
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Princess Elincia's entire family is apparently slaughtered offscreen by Daein early in the game. However, while King Ramon is never seen and Elincia's mother doesn't even merit a name, her uncle Renning has detailed artwork that is featured prominently in one of the game's narrative cutscenes. No points for guessing who later turns out to be Not Quite Dead.
  • Parodied in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness with a Sassy Demon named The Dark Adonis Vyers, er... Mid-Boss, dubbed such by Laharl because he deems him unimportant. His name even shows up as that on his text boxes. He's still important to the plot in the long run.
  • Averted and parodied in Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. Adell's mother is only referred to as "Mom", but is given full body-art and voiceovers like the rest of the main cast. She is also the one responsible for summoning the Overlord so that Adell can kick his ass. As it turns out, she does have a name: Mom.
  • Averted in Tactics Ogre, as all characters are named. While generic troops receive a random name from a pool, even one-off bosses have quite detailed entries in the Warren Report.
  • Averted in Battle for Wesnoth, in which any newly-recruited intelligent living unit will have a random name appropriate to its type assigned to it. (Undead and animals remain nameless by default, though Liches will retain the name they had as living wizards.)
  • Most enemies in the single-player campaign of Telepath Tactics just have titles like "Bloodbeard's bandit". If they have an actual name, they're either recruitable or a boss enemy.
  • Shining Force has the recurring traveler Boken, who is both named and has unique overworld sprites. He is entirely superfluous to the plot. In a straight example, Shining Force II has a battle versus some Pegasus Knights, one of whom is named Jaro and likewise has unique sprites. He defects to the Shining Force midway into the encounter.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. averts this as well, thanks to the fact that just about everyone in the game- friend or foe, and even dead bodies you come across that were planted specifically by the developers, rather than being killed by rival factions or hostile mutants- have first and last names. Most of these names in the U.S. version at least follow a strange convention, however- while the first name is usually something common to the region, such as Sergei or Vasilya, the last names are usually straight from the dictionary. Which is why it's always hilarious to see a guy named Max Dinosaur. It is because stalkers are given the first name and a nickname, not the last name. This is most likely a reference to the custom of organized criminals in Russia. On the other hand, soldiers in the Zone are referred to by their rank and last name.
  • The names of planets in Elite avert this because they're procedurally generated.
  • Averted in Survival Crisis Z where every NPC is randomly generated, but all building owners have names, and your party members also get a randomly generated Backstory (consisting of a name, job and hometown) that they will talk about if they survive long enough.

    Miscellaneous Games 
  • In the PC game Pathologic, all of the main characters and important side characters are given names, while minor characters are named by their description. In addition, when you talk to any of the characters, an icon with a black-and-white photo appears in the corner of the screen. With storyline characters, it's a person resembling the model. With random people, it's a creepy ragdoll.
  • An odd variation appears in Enemy 585 (by Nitrome). The only "named" character is Enemy 585, who was just another mook in a platformer than finished before the real game started (which was to rescue Enemy 585 after he was trapped in the boss' castle after the "game").

Non-video game examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • Played for Laughs in The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: Rentarou's friend in Chapter 1 is only ever referred to as Anonymous Friend "A". Not only does this establish his insignificance to the overall story, it also sets the tone for the manga as a whole.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, if anyone has a name, s/he will get involved in a plot in someway or another. If anyone has a full name, watch that character, because without exception, they will have a supernatural power. Notably, we never learn the narrator's name—"Kyon" is just a nickname that everyone uses.
    • Averted with the computer club president who is important enough to have one episode that features him as the main antagonist and one which focuses on his disappearance.
  • Simoun averts the voiceover corollary in its first episode, which is narrated by a nameless Red Shirt pilot who dies (playing the main trope straight) in the episode's climax.
  • Project A-Ko parodies this by naming the three main characters like extras (at least, if you ignore their surnames).
  • One of the things that made Mobile Suit Gundam really stand out is that they played with this trope a lot, to often heartbreaking effect. Many enemy pilots got names and a bit of characterization, despite the fact they usually just ended up getting wasted by the Gundam in the end, anyway.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, Akito gets replaced by an unnamed female pilot about halfway into the series. No prizes for guessing what happens to her in her first fight.
  • One Piece:
    • There is a power referred to as Conqueror's Haki, said to be usable by only one person in a million (although we've met nine of them so far, but that's a trope for a different time). It supposedly knocks out all people in the vicinity of the user, with only those of abnormally strong will being able to resist it; in practice, it only seems to affect anyone whose name the audience doesn't know.
    • Parodied during the Enies Lobby arc. Sanji mocks Zoro when a marine calls him a henchman. Zoro retorts that at least they know his name and Sanji is just "Pirate A".
  • Defied in Maoyu, where none of the characters, not even the protagonists, are referred to by anything other than their position and/or occupation.
  • An odd variation in the official English translation of the Case Closed manga, where if a character has a Dub Name Change, then you can expect them to be important.
  • Any monster with a given name or special title in C'mon Digimon and Digimon V-Tamer 01 is almost guaranteed to be plot relevant. These were the first two works in the Digimon franchise(the first work ever and the first adaptation after the release of the virtual pet, respectively) and nothing released since them has really followed this trope, preferring to call almost all monsters by their species name, for whatever reason.
  • Overlord (2012): Climb, Brain and an unnamed thief go to rescue Tsuare from the Eight Fingers. Surprisingly enough, the thief doesn't die, he's even an important factor in Climb beating Succulent and gets his name dropped at the very end (Lockmeyer).
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Part of the world. Monsters don't normally have names, but powerful monsters can give them names for a small amount of magic power. Rimiru discovers that this small amount adds up quickly, though, and passes out halfway through trying to name every goblin in a village. When he wakes up, he finds out that everyone he has named is much stronger and healthier than they were before.

    Comic Books 
  • Brave Chef Brianna: Out of Brianna's several brothers, Hans is the only one who has meaningful interactions with her and the only one whose name is known to the readers.
  • New Avengers (2015): When Moridun attacks the Knights of the Infinite, he's found eating two of them. Wiccan is implored to try and save them, but only the one named (Varra) pulls through.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool: In issue #9, the eponymous medium aware protagonist demands the previously-unnamed Officer Gray to tell her her name to promote her from being an extra, additionally claiming that "by the laws of the narrative that drives our existence in this fictional world... we will meet again." They eventually do.
  • X-Men: Subverted by writer Chris Claremont who famously liked to give unnamed extras names and detailed back stories...right before killing them off. As a rule of thumb, if you are in an X-Men book and you aren't a Hero or a Villain you're better off being a nameless extra.

    Fan Works 
  • In Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità, the rude chef, the homophobe, and the bully were never actually given names. Not that Germany and Japan would have cared to learn them.
  • In Discworld fic Gap Year Adventures, six-year-old Bekki Smith-Rhodes acquires two kittens of a unique pedigree. Her mother is not greatly happy with the new pets. But Bekki is shrewd enough to realise that giving her cats names very quickly, and getting her mother to accept the names, is a good insurance policy to ensure parental acceptance of the new status quo. Named animals, she reasons, will be harder to dispose of.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Downplayed in the original version. The mooks of the Black Dogs, being mooks, are generally not named and hence exist to be disposed of. However, there are a few exceptions. Although they have little to no bearing to the plot, they are given a name and serve a small, specific purpose before getting killed off. Here are two examples.
      • Chapter 10 has Genji the Slicer. Receiving little characterisationnote , his purpose in the story is to show how the Good Hunter's conducts his investigation in the Wretched Hive of Ansur. And to show off his tendril-power.
      • Chapter 11 has Black Dog recruit Anders Bleu. Like many of his peers, he is offed by the Good Hunter (by a backstab-visceral attack no less!) merely four paragraphs after his introduction. Right before his untimely demise, however, the story gives him a P.O.V. that characterises him as a Harem Seeker eager to be part of the Sex Empire so he could take any woman he pleased. His purpose in the story is to be a representative of the many Black Dog mercs.
    • Played Straight in the remastered version.
      • Named members of the Black Dogs include: Kyril (The Protagonist and new recruit), Vault (head honcho), Vault's lackeys Kin and Hicksnote , and the ones who turn out to be Defectors From Decadence (Boris, Oliver, Soren and Fredrick). The rest are simply there.
      • Among the forces of the Black Fortress, there are only two plot-relevant characters: Olga, whom the main character is tasked to bring to the South in order to resolve the current Story Arc; and Chloe, who accompanies Olga during the journey to the South due to her importance to the former. The rest are unnamed mooks.
      • New characters are introduced as the setting switches to the town of Baskerville. The named ones are: Grace (P.O.V. character), her friends Anna and Ian, Morgan (antagonist), Brandon Irons (later revealed to be working for Morgan), and the Rat (mysterious ancient entity). The rest are either bar-goers or mooks, hence unnamed.
  • In Not as Planned, the only characters with names are canon characters from The Lord of the Rings, such as Elrond. The girl who is the main character has no name in the story. She meets no named characters, except Elrond. This shows that the girl and her associates are not important persons.
  • Shadow Realm: Fifteen explores this trope in depth, and is a major plot point. Most Duel Monsters in the Shadow Realm are known by their numbers rather than having names, as multiple members of the same monster can exist. Having a name outside of the monster name given upon creation is seen as unusual. While some Duel Monsters are either unique enough or powerful enough to be known by their monster name from a glance (For example, Blue-Eyes White Dragon or Exodia The Forbidden One), ordinary monsters having a name isn't. Which is why the Witty Phantom protagonist is surprised to find that the Magican of Faith he meets goes by a name rather than a number.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Kurya's dragon, Kudret, is the only Pecheneg dragon to be given a name (that the audience knows of, anyway), and the only one to really be a character rather than simply a steed.
  • Averted in Tiberium Wars. Many characters have their full name and rank stated, and some even have a decent chunk of a chapter focus on them. And several of them are casually killed off without impacting the plot or any of the central cast.
  • Vow of Nudity: Invoked by Haara when a ruthless pirate crew takes everyone on board her zeppelin hostage. Right after admitting to the captain that she's the only person on board not worth a ransom, she points out that it's tougher to kill someone after learning their name, and introduces herself.
  • Averted in What Lies Beyond the Walls. Dozens of characters have first and/or last names, and many members of the Long Patrol even have their rank stated. But many named characters serve as nothing more than being Mauve Shirts, some of whom are never mentioned again.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Secret of NIMH:
    • Jenner's henchman who has a Heel–Face Turn at the last minute is named Sullivan, although it's only visible in the credits. This was the name of director Don Bluth's business partner when making the film.
    • Brutus, however, doesn't actually serve much plot purpose, and fades into obscurity almost immediately after being given a name, save for a single shout-out towards the end that you will barely notice due to it being a muffled background noise.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Averted in That Thing You Do!: the bass player in the Wonders is a plot-important character who remained unnamed through the movie, eventually listed in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue as "T. B. Player".
  • Played for laughs in Austin Powers in Goldmember:
    Nigel Powers: Have you any idea how many anonymous henchmen I've killed over the years? And look at you, you haven't even got a name tag! You've got no chance. Why don't you just fall down?
    (the henchman falls down)
  • Galaxy Quest: Discussed. Guy played a nameless Red Shirt in the show, so now that he's on a real adventure with all the more famous actors, he's constantly terrified that he's going to be killed off at a random moment to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation. At one point he gets so panicked that he forgets his own last name, claiming that he probably doesn't even have one. When he tries to pull a Heroic Sacrifice (under the logic that he might as well go out in a blaze of glory), Fred manages to convince him he's the Plucky Comic Relief instead. Notably, in the alternate timeline that Jason manages to avert, Guy is the only one not killed by the Big Bad. At the end, he's a major crewmember on the revived show, and his full name is revealed.
  • In The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, the gaming group meets Random Peasant Here to Advance the Plot. When Daphne asks him his name, it's revealed that the GM hadn't bothered to give him one. He has to quickly do so.note 
  • The Postman: The first characters to die are left unnamed, or only get named in the credits.

  • Averted in Animorphs. Many inconsequential characters, such as Ax's parents and the Hork-Bajir that Aldrea morphs, have full names, while many major ones have No Full Name Given (eg: most of the Animorphs and their families, Arbron) or No Name Given at all (Tom's second Yeerk).
  • Count Olaf's henchmen in A Series of Unfortunate Events are usually referred to with descriptive terms like "the white-faced women" and "the bald man" (they sometimes use pseudonyms derived from anagrams of "Count Olaf", though). However, at the time the hook-handed man gets some Character Development and a backstory in Book the Eleventh, we learn that his name is Fernald.
  • In The Blue-Nosed Witch, only Blanche—the main character—her friend Josephine, and complainer Minnie Max have given names. The other nine witches in Scurry 13 are not given any names or even descriptions and are described as "rather ordinary" who merely add cackling at appropriate moments during the scurry's midnight flights. They are lightly mentioned again at the end as part of the group that Blanche splits her Halloween treats with, with most of her conversation being with the Grande Madame, and are still unnamed. The little pirate of the group Blanche trick-or-treats with is also given a name (Butch) but it's not actually important, and the others are referred to by their costumes alone.
  • Inverted in Small Gods. At one point, a nameless Red Shirt is killed off, only for his name to be immediately revealed. He's still unimportant to the story though.
  • David Drake likes to avert this and made extensive use of Tuckerization in one of his RCN books for this purpose (as well as to salute his friends). He explained this in the acknowledgments to the book and noted he was using the names but not the personalities and this was, in many cases, "a Good Thing" — because (he didn't spell this part out) some of the people he named after his friends were total wastes of skin.
  • Averted in The Wheel of Time. A large number of characters, a large chunk who are not important to the plot at all, others are relevant only to their connections to a more plot-important character, and everyone else is a Chekhov's Gunman waiting to fire.
  • Very averted in the Honor Harrington series. Weber has been known to introduce a character, give them a name and cursory Backstory, then kill them off at the end of the chapter, if not the end of the page. This is done mostly (but not only) to make the war feel real; Honor and other major characters can only be so many places at once (and are not likely to be on the losing sides of absolute massacres off in the boonies, but then again...), so giving a name to, say, the LAC pilot who will be killed shortly helps to make the reader realize the human implications.
  • This is invoked in Discworld, as it runs on the Theory of Narrative Causality. In Interesting Times, Ponder Stibbons notices that the magical supercomputer Hex is starting to think for itself, and reflects "We should never have named you. A thing with a name is a bit more than a thing".
  • Invoked literally in Play to Live, the randomly generated "soft" AI never respawn unless a "hard" AI or human names them and/or gets to know their quirks.
  • Played with in the Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) novels, which usually take care to name every member of every Redshirt Army Cain brings with him in the climax. Their survival rate appears to be somewhere in the lower thirties overall. Most people who die during the battle sequences do so unnamed, however, to say nothing of the mooks Cain, Jurgen and said Redshirt Army mow down by the dozens each book compared to the longer-lived named villains. In one book Cain visits a memorial to a battle from a previous book (set decades earlier) and is rather disturbed to realize he remembers their names, but not their faces.
  • In Redshirts, Hester points out that he has neither an interesting background nor do his friends even bother to find out his first name, and is therefore just there to be a placeholder character.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has an in-universe case with the Gand species, whose beliefs hold that you have to earn a name by accomplishing something that proves your importance.
  • Somewhat averted in The Millennium Trilogy. Many of the minor characters have names and descriptions, and even some background. At one point in the third book, Larsson devotes two pages to profiling a hospital orderly whose only role in the plot is that Blomkvist bribes him to smuggle in a cellphone for Salander.
  • Invoked in A Song of Ice and Fire. While arguing whether or not to sacrifice Edric Storm the pro-sacrifice side refers to him as "the boy" or "the bastard." Davos, who opposes the idea, resolves to use his name as frequently as possible.
  • Subverted in Stephen King's The Langoliers, where in the first chapter, protagonist Brian Engle meets a stewardess who introduces herserf as Melanie Trevor. At this point, a reader starts to see foreshadowing for a Romance Arc, but after just a couple of lines, the book explicitly states that Engle never saw Melanie Trevor again.
  • LARP: The Battle for Verona gives absolutely every character a name and short backstory, even if their only relevance is to say a single, unimportant line. It gets very distracting very quickly, as the few times the characters come up again, they get referred to once again by name, making the reader pause and try and remember who they are.
  • Averted in Harry Potter, where the majority of the characters have names, whether they turn out to be important or not. In the first book, there are names mentioned in the Sorting ceremony that don't really do anything until later books, like Blaise Zabini. Even the Riddle estate's caretaker who gets killed by Voldemort in the first chapter of the fourth book, and an Arab wizard who smuggles magic carpets and never shows up again in the story after the conversation about him, have names. Exceptions can be counted on one hand and include Hermione's Invisible Parents and the Muggle Prime Minister.
  • Invoked in InCryptid: Sarah gives Greg the Giant Spider a name, reasoning that humans find it harder to justify harming an animal once it has a name, especially a human one.
  • Zigzagged in Vampire Academy, in most of the series several extras receive names. In 'Blood Promise'', however, those not named tend to play no importance in the overall plot. Those few that receive names are all involved with Dimitri's new existence as a Strigoi.
  • Journey to Chaos: Averted on two occasions:
    • Kasile posts two guards outside her castle to prevent Eric from entering at night. Neither one is named and yet they do their job with minimal effort.
    • Two of Nunnal's labratory assistants are named and yet they have as much importance as the ones who remain unnamed.
    • A group of adventures contain Grendel when he goes on a rampage but the author never names them. The adventurers pick up on this and it's why they refuse to identify themselves.
  • Jack Sprat lampshades this in The Fourth Bear, when he yells at a woman who is clearly there to be an Obstructive Bureaucrat with no backstory. The woman is horrified, and Jack makes one up for her.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Tourists will feel sorry if Fellow Travelers who have names are killed-otherwise they won't.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign:
    • Materials don't have names because humans think of them as...materials, and the Materials themselves don't really socialize with each other. Instead they have titles describing their appearance and abilities. One Material was given a name, but the only living person who knows it stopped using it after she went on a murderous rampage. That Material would do anything to have it back.
    • A side effect of Kyousuke's sister being Ret-Gone out of existence is that he literally can't remember her name. In the last book, his friends help him find closure by digging through civil records until they find it. Also, she is given a new name after being resurrected as a Material.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played around with in Battlestar Galactica (2003). Lots of one-shot characters without much importance have names, but (more importantly) several characters—most notably Diana Seelix—were promoted from near-extras to significant recurring characters simply because someone on the cast (usually Aaron Douglas) gave them names and the writers decided to Throw It In!.
  • Burn Notice abuses this like crazy, though not the way you'd think. Most anyone with a line is given a name of some sort, generally because they're relevant to the plot of the episode. However, the show will occasionally bring back old characters as main characters.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fridge Brilliance section has a reference to "Midnight" — where a monster controls people by forcibly repeating their dialogue and mentally turning them against one another. Nobody believes the Doctor when he tells them his usually fake name "John Smith". In the end the person who actually beats the villain of the week is the Hostess of the trip — and the cast realize, in the aftermath, that they never knew her name.
    • Doctor Who writer and Being Human creator Toby Whithouse has said in a Doctor Who Magazine interview that he always gives the Red Shirts and minor characters names, simply because it looks better on the actors' CVs.
    • There are a handful of Doctor Who characters who actually have names but they're never mentioned in the story itself for various reasons (short screen time, situation means it never comes up, etc.). They're named in the credits though.
  • Played with in House with "Thirteen", number 13 out of however many potential people were in the pool to take over the assistant jobs with house, and who continues to be called "Thirteen" for the entire run of the series except in very rare circumstances. Her real name is Remy Hadley. The first time she's actually addressed by her name (Cuddy calls her "Dr. Hadley"), everyone just looks around in confusion.
  • The aptly named Nanashi Renju from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. Their title literally means "nameless grunts"!
  • Played around with in Star Trek. Many unimportant characters, even the Red Shirts, are given names, while sometimes the Monster of the Week will kill unnamed ensigns and lieutenants throughout the ship or on the planet. Although, even when red shirts were given names, they were rarely given both first and last names.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Transporter Chief O'Brien didn't even have a name or a job title in the first season. He occasionally had a few lines of dialogue in the show's first three seasons, but was not a pivotal character in his own right. Early in Season 4 he is given a first name, Miles. Shortly after that he's given a Backstory, a wife (Keiko), some serious character development, and then is made a major character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • The Animal Planet series Too Cute follows various litters of kittens and puppies through the early stages of their lives. In the larger litters, only a couple are actually named and focused upon; the others' names simply aren't mentioned.
  • Inverted in Veronica Mars in which almost all major and minor characters have first and last names that may be known by greater fans of the show. However, given that the large arcs of the show tended to included a large number of characters, this may not be surprising.
  • Saturday Night Live: Parodied in the "Kevin Roberts" sketch, in which an FBI recruit questions why a firing range dummy needs a name and storyline.

  • The standard way to name works of Classical Music was to use some or all of the following: type of composition, order of composition, key, and in modern times, one or more catalog designations (e.g. "Fugue in G minor, K.30, L.499"). The fact that many of the most popular pieces from this time have some sort of additional title to be called by (e.g. Cat Fugue) is likely due to this trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Feng Shui, this is an explicit game mechanic — important characters have names, while others are labeled mooks and use different combat rules to enforce their scrub status.
  • In the RPG of The Dresden Files,
    • The section on creating NPC's references this, sparking a margin discussion between Dresden and Billy. Dresden comments that the random people do, in fact, have a name, to which Billy asks why Harry never writes them down in his case files. Dresden answers that he usually doesn't have time to ask, on account of many of them trying to kill him at the time.
    • In fact, the literal game term for minor non-player characters of not much importance is "nameless NPCs", thus hanging a nice lampshade on the trope. ("Supporting" and "main" NPCs, the other two big categories, get comparatively more comprehensive writeups and explicitly better plot armor.)
    • Similar categories are used in other Fate games, such as Atomic Robo.
  • Many game masters keep lists of random names on hand while running games so as to be able to quickly and efficiently come up with a name to make a random throwaway barfly or security guard or whatever seem more three-dimensional.

  • This is a common trope for theatre in general, where typically a character is only named if they're important to the plot, or if their name is spoken at some point.
  • This is averted in Urinetown the musical, where every single member character has a name, even though only 10 of the names are actually spoken (the rest are only written in the program).
  • Classically averted in the opera Tosca with the executioner Roberti. Not only is Roberti a very minor character (he appears in only two scenes), he doesn't sing, not even in chorus.
  • Largely averted in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, in which every character gets a name (even some extremely minor ones, e.g. Fleta and Salata)—except for "First Yeoman", "Second Yeoman", "First Citizen", and "Second Citizen" in The Yeomen of the Guard. Also, the chorus never get names, because they have no solo work (though some directors change that).
  • Lampshaded in Rock of Ages. Sherrie, the female lead, works in a bar with another waitress, who only appears in a couple of scenes and exists solely for Sherrie to have someone to bounce off. She's referred in the script as "Waitress #1" — and addressed as such in dialogue by the other characters.

    • In-universe, only the Elite- and Leader-Class Skrall are allowed to have names, whereas the Warrior class Skrall are nameless.
    • A real-world example: if a character gets named, it has to be an important player, considering clearing names through legal is a pretttty pricey deal. Which means every name that makes it through the process has to be put to good use.
    • Once the character has been used in the story, however, they may show up only to get killed for dramatic effect. An example of this is Botar, who first teleported in to arrest someone who had done a Face–Heel Turn in the past. He later showed up for the same person's Heel–Face Turn in order to teleport a MacGuffin, but after that event Botar was only mentioned in passing as having been killed by one of the villains. Seeing as the series has been canceled as a toyline, and judging by the number of previously important characters that have died unceremoniously, fans began wondering what would happen to their beloved main characters once the list of new names ran out...

    Web Animation 
  • Murder Drones lampshades this by a Worker Drone who says to Uzi before being sliced apart that he was never introduced to her.

  • Lampshaded in Schlock Mercenary, where two grunts laugh about it, but are careful to give their names.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Lampshade Hanging in this, where the Genre Savvy Elan explains that not having a name means you're just a Red Shirt whose sole purpose is to say "I'll hold them off!" and then get killed. As if to demonstrate, two red shirts manage to survive a battle by revealing that they do have names, with one surviving a severe injury by revealing his first name, and stating that he is saving his last name just in case he gets injured again. This particular Chekhov's Gun is later subverted. He attempts to invoke Nominal Importance by shouting his last name, but only gets to "Daigo Da-" before being hit in the face with a door.
    • Invoked in this episode, where Belkar kills a random gnome for no particular reason (other than that he could). When his companions are horrified by this, he says the gnome was unimportant and "probably didn't even have a name"...even though the gnome had told the group his name 7 panels earlier.
    • Parodied by Belkar in the first arc when he did it to the Chimera as it was cursing the Order. Haley even complained about Belkar killing it mid-speech, pointing out that since it had a name it was probably meant to be a recurring adversary.
    • Played with several times in the prequel Start of Darkness: when Ekdysdioksosiirwo, Viridian Lord of— is killed because he gives his name (it's too long!), and the two main characters survive by giving shorter aliases, and when the named characters Aliyara, Ridiziak and Eriaxnikol, Right-eye's wife and sons are killed, and their unnamed daughter/sister survives. Also? The three main characters are called Right-Eye, Redcloak and Xykon. None of those are their real names.
      • However, Redcloak notes in his preface to On the Origin of PCs:
        I should also mention that as far as NPCs go, I'm one of the lucky ones. I've had a name since OOTS #95, which is more than I can say for most. Before that, I was just another golbin in a long time of disposable goblins. For a moment, imagine the inconvenience of going through life as Goblin #341. You can't vote, you can't get a driver's license, and your letters are always ending up in Goblin #314's mailbox, which is awkward because you used to date his cousin, Goblin #734, but it didn't work out because she needed to "find out who she really is", whatever that means.
    • Lampshaded (by Elan, naturally) in this strip. "Hooray! The people whose names I know are saved!"
    • The page image is taken from this strip, in which Hobgoblin Cleric #2 complains about Jirix being made Prime Minister of Gobbotopia. He could have got the job if his mother had given him a name less generic than 'Hobgoblin Cleric #2'.
    • Also lampshaded in this strip, where the vampire Durkon refers to one of his undead underlings as "the other one". She naturally takes umbrage to it:
      Vampire: Hey, I have a name, you know.
      Durkon: Do you though? Do you?
      Vampire: [looking forlorn] ...No.
  • Used during the "That Which Redeems" arc from Sluggy Freelance. Of the hundreds of Demonic Invaders, about a dozen are given names. Of these, only Bubbamonicus and Mospinispinosp are killed. Demons without names are torn apart like wet tissue paper.
  • Averted in RPG World. Galgarion fires one of his random guards, Evil Soldier #347, and he becomes a regular character set out to get revenge. His name remains Evil Soldier #347 throughout the entire comic.
  • Shape Quest did this when Theo discovered, to his horror, that Lance meet some new characters who actually had names.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: "Don't you get it? I'm a nameless henchman! It means that once I say three lines, I'll be killed off!"
  • Darths & Droids does this in-universe with Anakin, who was supposed to just be a one-off unimportant NPC; the GM only gives the character a name because Sally asked. Of course, circumstances lead to an inversion, with Anakin becoming one of the main PC's.
  • Lampshaded in this Inexplicable Adventures Of Bob strip, where Bob comes to the urgent rescue of two very minor characters who "barely have names."
  • Lampshaded in 4 Cut Hero. The narration box for the panel introducing a particularly dog-kicking demon general who is blatantly about to be killed by a hero reads "Since he's going to die soon, he has no name". The general, side-eying the text box, reacts with a "What?"
  • GF Serendipity:
    • Stan's assistant only appeared in Page 01 but Orangephoenix6 gave him a namenote  out of hope the character will be used later in the story.
    • The only canon characters to be referenced by their names are Stan, Ford, Fiddleford, Tate and Bill.
  • In the card tournament arc of El Goonish Shive one of the people participating is only referred to as "Some Guy". Subverted in that he ends up winning the tournament.

    Web Original 
  • To date, the only person in Ash & Cinders to survive an encounter has been Gabrien's wife and the Forest Queen. And they at least had some sort of title.

    Web Video 
  • Joked about in an episode of Critical Role: In Campaign 2 episode 86 (a Halloween episode), the cast dressed up as characters they had voiced in cartoons and video games. Marisha chose to arrive as "Soldier B", the generic female soldier she had voiced for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
    Marisha: Who can forget Soldier B's greatest lines, such as "Grenade! 3 o'clock!" and "Grenade! 12 o'clock!" (chuckling) Soldier B paid a lot of my bills.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: This trope is played with Arnold Wesker, a ventriloquist who developed a criminal mastermind personality which was vented through the dummy named Scarface. In his first two episodes, ''Read My Lips'' and ''Catwalk'', The Ventriloquist is Not Given A Name, Scarface constantly calls him "dummy" and Everyone Else Calls Him The Ventriloquist. Justified to reinforce his Extreme Doormat personality (Scarface has a name. He is the only one who deserves a name). Only in his third episode in the series, ''Double Talk'' is revealed his name, Arnold Wesker, foreshadowing his Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • The Google Play store descriptions of Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes only ever refer to Eustace as "the Farmer".
  • In Frisky Dingo the Xtacles were all Faceless Mooks that always wore their helmets, although a couple were named. In the first episode the Spin-Off Xtacles a bunch of said soldiers take off their helmets and are given independent names. It's then downplayed when a bunch of them die anyway.
  • The original Scooby-Doo series was famous for this to the point that the real person behind the Monster of the Week could easily be identified through the Scooby-Doo Rule: The first new character of the week to be introduced by full name was the guy in the rubber suit at the end. Later series are aware of this and try to muddle the rule's usefulness either by introducing too many characters at once to be able to pinpoint one in particular or by going Agatha Christie on the viewer and having everyone be in on the plot.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man had an interesting variant, where the creators decided that any character important enough to be named was important enough to be taken from some previous version of Spider-Man canon. That being said, the number of named characters was probably more than strictly necessary (though at least some would have probably been important if the show hadn't been Left Hanging).
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • There's a good rule of thumb for clone troopers: An average clone's chances of survival dramatically increase if they a) have a name and b) have a distinct character design. Exceptions to this rule are with seemingly generic clones occasionally surviving (examples include Domino Squad, the clone seen flying the Twilight in "Duel of the Droids", or a random clone bridge officer surviving "Lethal Trackdown" while recurring character Commander Ponds is executed) but in general, named or not, any clone without a unique character model is often the first to die (one instance from "Darkness on Umbara" has two clones getting named only AFTER they are already dead and another in "The Zillo Beast" has two random named clones joining Mace Windu and Commander Ponds when they stumble on the titular beast and the show makes no attempt to specify which one got stomped on).
    • This was also an enforced trope in Star Wars Legends. Before The Clone Wars came out, it was stated only the elite clones (i.e. ARC Troopers, Clone Commandos, or Clone Commanders and Captains who got ARC Trooper training courtesy of Alpha-17) got the privilege of having a name. The lowly infantry clones who are seen wearing identical armor only got a number and that is it. It wasn't until The Clone Wars came out writers came up with the idea of non-elite clones using nicknames as well.
    • On the Separatist side, tactical droids exist because of this trope. The showrunners found it cheaper to replace Separatist bit characters with a droid model they can easily Palette Swap and occasionally give that bit droid a name.
  • In Star Wars Rebels, the named Imperial officers tend to get their importance highlighted by having a unique character model. The one glaring exception is the Jerkass cargo ship captain from "The Forgotten Droid", who is unnamed despite said unique character model and being voiced by Dave Filoni.
  • Somewhat inverted in Transformers: Animated, where Starscream's clones are only ever called "Starscream clones". They're important characters, and they have names in the expanded universe, but it's cheaper to pay someone to voice "Starscream, Starscream clone, and Starscream clone" than it is to pay them to voice "Starscream, Ramjet, and Sunstorm".
  • The Scallions from various episodes of VeggieTales lack names, other than their collective title of, well, "the Scallions". Lampshaded in one of the Silly Songs with Larry:
    Larry: [Singing to the tune of "Funiculì, Funiculà"] ♪ Oh golly... ♫ [normal voice] Um... what's your name?
    Scallion: They've never given me a name. [starts walking off screen] I've been around since show one, and I still don't have a name!
    [Beat, as the music starts up again]
    Larry: ♪ Now what d'ya think o' that? ♫
  • The Venture Bros.: Inverted with the Monarch's henchmen. While the members of the Fluttering Horde have a very low survival rate, Henchman #21 and Henchman #24 manage to stay alive while also taking note of the fact that they've survived in a world where henchmen are as expendable as tissues. The two henchmen who receive names, Speedy and Scott Hall (Henchman #1), are killed in their first episode. #21 and #24 even lampshade the fact that the series does not ascribe to this trope, while managing to invoke He Had a Name at the same time. Eventually, this trope ends up getting played straight: We learn #21's full name (Gary Fischer) and he's since become the Monarch's top enforcer, Scott Hall did survive his Brock Samson beating, while #24, who mocked Scott's "inevitable" death, dies in the season 3 finale without the audience ever learning his name.

    Real Life 
  • If ever taken hostage, experts advise you to tell your captors your name as early and often as possible, even if it's incredibly awkward to do so ("Yes, I will sit over here now, my name is Jennifer.") The theory goes that humans are much less likely to kill or harm someone who they have any degree of familiarity with, even if it's just their name.
  • Stephen Tobolowsky has talked on the Tobolowsky Files podcast about the difference between having a first and last name, only a first name, a last name and title, or just something generic in films/television.
  • The biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest is so vast that indigenous regional languages such as Kichwa don't even try to name every individual species of plant, fungus, or invertebrate found there. Only organisms that are edible, otherwise useful, and/or dangerous to humans rate a distinct name.