So you're playing a game and you reach a critical point in the story. Something bad happened, and things got worse. Maybe the hero just took a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from the Big Bad, or maybe the world has sustained massive damage. Perhaps the time has come to take immediate action to stop the big bad from carrying out his plot.
Alternatively, there is a lull in the story (or Exposition Bomb), or another incongruous moment, like after a conversation, when things are about to get worse.
Either way, either something big has happened, or something big is about to happen. And then…
This is the Ominous Save Prompt, and it often looks or works differently from an ordinary save prompt.
Often used in a Downplayed manner: a character says that the game should be saved, (e.g. "We need to double-check our equipment" along with a "Ready to go?" prompt) but the player must still call up the save menu normally.
Getting one of these in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is a sign that the Final Boss is nigh. Granted, these could also show up in the Disc-One Final Dungeon right before you fight the Disc-One Final Boss (or, rather, not fight him.)
Subtrope of Suspicious Videogame Generosity, in this case letting you know you should save before (and/or after) the rough patch. The Strict class of Points of No Return often makes use of this. For most games where saves are usually automatic or handled by checkpoints, the appearance of any save prompt qualifies as Ominous. Some may even opt to create a new save file for a quick and easy failsafe for Save Scumming.
Would you like to save before reading the Examples? You really should.
- Beyond the Edge of Owlsgard: Whenever Finn enters an area where he's liable to die, a large floppy disk icon flashes on the screen with an appropriate sound cue, warning the player that they'd better save.
- In the Interactive Fiction game Firebird, just before the PC is about to set off on the main adventure, he thinks about how this would be a good time to say a prayer for the journey ahead. Cue the unorthodox save prompt: "Would you like to save your soul?"
- The Infocom Interactive Fiction game Wishbringer prompts you to save before playing the "Transmatter" arcade game. Standard for the genre, and not the only situation where the wrong actions make the game Unwinnable, but they ramp up the ominous factor several times by asking if you really want to play and having the other gamers go quiet.
- If Ciel ever asks you if you want to save in a Mega Man Zero game, something is about to go down (assuming it hasn't already).
- Psychonauts: Once you trigger the endgame by helping Mr. Pokeylope take out Dr. Loboto, you see a prompt come up quickly - except it doesn't give you a choice. It just says "Autosaving - Point of No Return" before disappearing once it's done. The autosave doesn't overwrite any previous slots, in fact it has its own hidden slot that appears after the save.
- Shantae: Risky's Revenge: Trying to head to Pumpkin Fields without saving in Scuttle Town beforehand has the way barred by a guard. This is so the player learns how to save, since the game has no Autosave mechanic.
- Shantae and the Seven Sirens: Trying to complete the Arena Town Mayor's checklist by talking to Harmony fails if Shantae hasn't saved before talking to her. This is also so the player both learns how to save and doesn't lose their progress, since the game has no Autosave mechanic:
You haven't saved your game yet!
The SAVE ROOM is nearby...
Please come talk to me after you've saved.
- Played with in Wario Land 3, where the game abruptly saves if you die in the fight against Rudy the Clown, before cutting to the Game Over screen. This is the only way to get a Game Over in the entire game, so the sudden save is a bit startling.
- In the third episode of Xargon, the computer will show you one such message before you enter Xargon's Castle. It will warn you that since you can only save on the world map, this is your last chance to save before the three-part level (the castle, the Xargbot factory, and the Final Boss battle), in which "the only way out is through Xargon."
- Mother 3 prompts you to save at the end of each chapter, after the chapter epilogue has played and the screen has gone black. A couple of the save frogs also have dialogue where they really recommend that you save now.
- The sequel of Touhou Mother, a crossover between the Touhou Project and Mother series, in the first chapter, before battling Ran Yakumo, a save screen will suddenly appear before the boss battle.
- Similarly, Disgaea games allow you to save after every chapter, either after the plot for the next chapter has been set up or before a twist will take place. The fact that there's no music and a mostly-black screen on the between-chapter save menus only adds to the ominousness.
- Parasite Eve prompts you to save at the end of each day, and also does so after a particularly lengthy cutscene (and just before a particularly difficult battle).
- The PlayStation 1-era Final Fantasy games did this at the end of each disc, which were almost always immediately following major plot events (though a very obvious reason for it is simply a failsafe in case something goes wrong during the disc swap.)
- The PC Porting Disaster of Final Fantasy VII seemingly missed that part and set the save-points immediately after the disc swap. Which would often fail thanks to the game's buggy disc-detection, forcing you to replay 15-30 minutes from the previous save point.
- Final Fantasy XII would, at certain save points, recommend that you use a second save slot for that save, instead of overwriting your old one. This generally happens when you've entered a Plot Tunnel since the previous save and there's still some trouble to deal with before you reach the next safe area.
- It had one rather odd example, though. Just before you head into the Raithwall's Tomb area, the game prompts you to save. It likely does this because there's a boss fight as soon as you step into the courtyard in front of the tomb, but one has to wonder why they didn't just stick a save crystal there instead.
- Final Fantasy XIII gives you the option to save at the end of each chapter. Since there's usually a significant cutscene at the start and end of each chapter, this is just a good idea, especially on the (three-disc) 360 version, which has you swap discs after chapters 4 and 9 (notably, the disc swap happens after you save, just like the PS1 games).
- Final Fantasy Tactics has one just after the first battle at Riovanes Castle. Either save in a new slot or pray you can defeat Wiegraf.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, the item description for the cursed lamp that contains a boss battle with Diablos is: "You should save your game before using this."
- Though Final Fantasy XIV is an MMORPG, and thus does not have save points, it still achieves this effect whenever it warns you that a series of cutscenes will soon take place and the player should set aside time to view all the cutscenes in full. Almost always, when this warning shows up, a major Wham Episode is about to take place.
- Fossil Fighters and Champions has the prompt, "A sinister feeling fills the air... Are you prepared for battle?" before every major battle (excluding tournament matches and level-ups, which both take place in designated facilities). This serves as the last chance for the player to save or swap out Vivosaurs before starting.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords sometimes gives you a "vision" of potential hazards nearby, or has Atton mention he had a bad feeling. It's pretty forthright about how you ought to save when it does.
- The remake of Wild ARMs normally gives you the traditional save points. But there are two occasions in which the act of entering a door causes a save prompt to appear. Both are preludes to fights with the Big Bad, and both of them are definitely warranted.
- Near the end of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, after blowing the Princess Shroob's Flying Saucer out of the air, Stuffwell urges the brothers to save the game before going after the princess, and also announces that he is capable of bringing them back in time to before they entered the final room, in case they wanted to go back to search for missing items. Predictably, after leaving the area with the save block, the final battles begin.
- Glory of Heracles (DS) will stop you at the start of dungeons with a message to the effect of, "You are about to enter a very dangerous area. Save?"
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion recommends the player save as often as possible in the eponymous Another Dimension, since "the planes of Oblivion are a dangerous realm". They aren't kidding — Oblivion has plants that try to stab you when you go nearby.
- In the Wild West chapter of Live A Live, Mad Dog will make a subtle comment telling you to "save this moment" before preparing to search for items to use as traps before the time starts counting down for the boss battle. Also, during the Present Day chapter, after beating the six opponent wrestlers, the game asks if you would like to save. Sure enough, you face down the chapter's final boss Odie O'Bright immediately afterwards.
- Certain dungeons in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers are divided into multiple sections, with a Kangaskhan Rock waiting for you at a 'safe point'. While normally Kangaskhan Rocks let you store and take out items, these variations only permit you to save. In Sky's second bonus chapter, Armaldo explicitly points out that finding one inside a dungeon means there's probably a boss up ahead.
- Just before a major boss battle in the latter half of the game in Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, your Operator contacts you and asks if you are ready, and encourages you not to enter unless you are fully prepared.
- In Octopath Traveler II, the game advises you to save before starting on the final chapter, even suggesting that you use an alternate save slot if necessary. This is largely because the eternal night kicks in, locking you out of certain path actions (Temenos can't Guide NPCs, Throné can no longer steal, etc.). You can still do some level grinding during this time, but any characters who can only be interacted with during the day (of which there are a handful) are off-limits.
- OFF asks you to save the game whenever you beat the guardian of the zone. If you revisit that zone, you will see a very good reason why.
- Dink Smallwood mods do this on occasion, varying by author. One rather strange instance in As Good As Eternity involved a fountain outside a food storage building full of monsters (instead of the normal save machine) and the man on the top floor telling you to "wash your hands in the fountain" as part of food safety procedure.
- The Persona series has a habit of this:
- Persona 4: On December 3, after the last day of second-term finals ends, you will get a message saying "There will be dramatic turns in the story from this point. It is strongly recommended that you save. Save your game now?" This appears shortly before a point in the story where you can easily get locked into the Bad Ending if you make an incorrect dialogue choice.
- Persona 5 does it again with a similar context to the above once the story catches up to the prologue where the Protagonist gets arrested. Again, your choices in the next scene will determine which ending you get. Meaning whether the game will continue or your character dies in a Non Standard Game Over.
"Saving is highly suggested, as the story will progress greatly soon. Would you like to save now?"
- Persona 5 Strikers: Happens here as well, right before you head back to Tokyo at the end of your journey. There's no fear of getting a bad ending if you make the wrong choice, but once you proceed, you're locked into the Metaverse for the rest of the game.
- Kingdom Hearts usually does this before the Final Boss:
- Kingdom Hearts has a save point right before the final boss. Trying to open the door leading to him the first time gives you the ominous message at the top of the page urging you to save.
- Kingdom Hearts II does this as well. This time, you have to choose the option to open it.
"Beyond this door lies the beginning of the end of your journey."
- Etrian Odyssey Nexus: At the end of the 2nd Labyrinth, after defeating the Berserker King, an even stronger boss (Cernunnos) shows up, and you are prevented from just jumping back to town, though Wiglaf shows up to fully heal your party, Force Gauges included; a save prompt then appears, which normally only does in the series when you rest at the local inn or interact with a geomagnetic pole. The game will strongly advise you to save in a new slot and that saving over your existing file could "greatly affect the game", as loading the save back up will jump you to the boss fight right away; you can wedge yourself into a "no choice but to start the entire game over" situation if you don't have a town save to fall back on.
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel games allow you to save anywhere on the field, but will sometimes prompt you with this sort of warning before a lengthy series of cutscenes. Given that these can sometimes run around a half-hour or so before you regain character control, you're probably best off saving.
- In Triangle Strategy, before you go into the final voting session in Chapter XVII, the game warns you that this will have a huge effect on the rest of the story and advises you to save. This is very true, as it determines which ending you get, and in the three "default" bittersweet endings, either Roland, Benedict, or Frederica will permanently leave the team.
- Sigma Star Saga gives you a somewhat-unneeded one of these (as you would probably have remembered to save before heading into the battle in question, anyways).
- Metal Gear loves this trope.
- In Metal Gear Solid, if you call Mei Ling after fending off Sniper Wolf for the first time, she will mention she has a bad feeling and that it's important you save. Sure enough, immediately afterwards is the interrogation scene, and as Ocelot helpfully points out, there's no continue option if you die, so if you didn't save before the fight, get ready to do it all over again.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater even has one instance in which you are warned against saving. If you save while fighting The End, Para-Medic will warn you that she has a bad feeling about this. If you load the data a few days later, you'll be ambushed by The End and thrown in a cell... but, if you wait a full week first, The End will die of old age.
- Misfiction: Right when John is about to chase you for the final time, the game prompts you to save.
- Right after The Reveal, Silent Hill 2 features a long hallway with nine save points right at the end game. The final two boss fights are right through the door past the save point.
- In Silent Hill 3, the room that lies right before the final boss fight features a very conspicuous save point.
- The Nine Save Points are back as part of a Mythology Gag in Silent Hill: Origins.
- The Resident Evil games that use more than one disc had this, and treated it as a "free" save, as it didn't cost you an Ink Ribbon. In Code Veronica, it also didn't count against your rating, so it was the only place you could save and still get a perfect score.
- In Resident Evil 4 (Remake), right before the final bosses of each of the three major areas of the game (the village, the castle, and the island), the Merchant heavily implies that the player should finish up everything they want to do in the area and save.
- Prior to fighting the Black Guardian in Eternal Darkness, the game directly tells you to save.
- The Witch's House: Right when Ellen's ruined body starts stumbling towards you, the game prompts you to save even though the cat's dead body (your save station) was right outside the door. After the save point, you will die a lot. Also, this is the part where you perform the action that decides your ending.
- For most of Hatoful Boyfriend, you can save as and when you please. Your first hint that Bad Boys Love is going to be a real roller coaster is the game's first save prompt appearing.
- In Cooking Companions, the game pops up to tell the player that now would be a good time to save the game before going onward. Particularly in Nightmare Mode, when the game tells you to make sure to save before making a decision regarding a ritual and notes that your choice cannot be undone.
- In the Ace Attorney series, this happens after every investigation or trial scene. It gets more notable when it happens in the middle of a trial, usually when there's a recess. More notable, still, when it happens in the middle of a trial and a recess HASN'T been called. Unnecessary because you can save at absolutely any point in time with very few exceptions, but it still lets you know something's going to come up.
- SOON: Right after obtaining the anti-robot bomb, the narration all but suggest saving the game. Cue Timed Mission.
- Arcade Spirits: Right before the confrontation with Sue in Level 08, Iris will outright say that there is a chance you can fail and have to restart before prompting you to, "back up your data".
Non-video game examples:
- In Scott Pilgrim, being a world run on Rule of Cool and Video Game Tropes, has a save point in a corner right before a fight with the 3rd evil ex. Note that this is the first instance of a save point within the book.
- Scott at first wonders what it is, and is told that "It looks like a save point." He reasons that if it is a save point, he has to go save because something really bad might happen. He doesn't reach the save point in time.
- Marble Hornets (er, sort of) — Jay learns that Jessica has all the symptoms of being stalked by the Operator, and decides that they really need to leave the creepy, apparently-deserted hotel. Unfortunately, he stops to upload this to his YouTube account before getting the hell out of there, leaving the fanbase dreading the next entry. By the time he's ready to go, not only has Jessica vanished into thin air, but the Masked Man has shown up again.