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Player Death Is Dramatic

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Oh, come on! He only tripped over a shoelace!

"Snake! What's going on?! Snake!? SNAAAAAAAKE!!!"
Otacon, Metal Gear Solid

Anytime the Player Character is killed in a video game, Critical Existence Failure is sure to manifest. Sometimes, the player character just flops dead like a rag-doll or jumps out of the screen. Other times, they explode (normally if they're a robot, but in chunky salsa if they're not), or the enemies start Beating A Dead Player. And if you're particularly unlucky, the game will show in full detail the many creatively grizzly ways your character can be reduced to a pile of flesh and/or bones, and then make fun of you for dying.

We're not talking about those. We're talking about when the death of the player character is treated with some actual drama, as the player themselves would, and takes it completely seriously. It does so by conveying to the player that the player character is truly defeated, and that the game cannot go on without them. This often serves as a Player Punch; and if done well, can be a good source of Nightmare Fuel and/or be a massive Tearjerker. Either way, it encourages the player to not screw up again.

How this manifests itself varies, in some early video games, everything except the player would disappear and be replaced by a black void, removing all distractions from the character's corpse. In more modern games, all entities that are not the player (enemies, bosses, NPCs, etc.) would freeze in place as the player character dies. Dramatic Spotlight may be involved if the work is being showy. Due to the nature of this trope, it's very rare for The Many Deaths of You to apply, but if it does, expect all death scenes to have something in common, even if it's Yet Another Stupid Death.

The nice thing about this trope is that it avoids having to invoke Bloodless Carnage if a character should be reduced to paste, while simultaneously dodging having to give the player character a Family-Unfriendly Death. The death scene is always the same, but what would realistically happen to a character when they die like this is entirely left up to the player's imagination.

It's worth mentioning that the player character doesn't necessarily need to die for this trope to come into play, any type of failure can apply, as long as it's Played for Drama. If the rest of the game world keeps going on despite the player character dying, then it's not an example.

Permadeath is more or the less the ultimate version of this trope, since the dead character will remain dead. This isn't to be confused with It's a Wonderful Failure, as that is for showing the player the dramatic consequences of their failure, often in specific circumstances, while this about the player character themselves dying being dramatic by itself. However, the two tropes work exceptionally well together if you really want to rub the player's failure in their face.

Contrast Have a Nice Death; whereas that trope is intended to make player mortality humorous and even reward curious or sadistic players for torturing the protagonist in creative ways, this trope is very clearly a punishment for the player not keeping their character alive.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Action-Adventure 
  • In Bayonetta, the continue screen is a shot of Bayonetta's body sprawled across the ground. If the player declines to continue, she will be Dragged Off to Hell. If you let Cereza get taken by the Joy or Beloved, however, the girl's doll will be in Bayonetta's place instead.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has the player character dying in slow motion with the screen losing all color. Grand Theft Auto V uses a similar, more stylish death screen with a camera flash at the moment of death, and the word "WASTED" appearing moments later.
  • Hollow Knight:
    • Exaggerated with the Knight, as not only is the Knight's death dramatic, what with them violently disintegrating, but even taking damage is emphasized with a brief freeze-frame and glass-cracking effectnote , a loud thud, and any background music cutting out for a second before fading back in.
    • Played for laughs when you defeat Zote in the Colosseum of Fools. When you land the finishing blow, Zote will freeze with a shocked expression and then be knocked backwards, grimacing as the entire screen fills with white... only to harmlessly land on one of his horns and get stuck.
    • The sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong does much the same thing with Hornet. When she is defeated, she hovers in pain, screaming as her silk fades away from her and she is engulfed in darkness.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Metroid:
    • Every 2D Metroid game after Super Metroid did this. When Samus takes her last hit, she freezes in place & the entire screen turns black, except for her, and her body is exposed. Each game has a slight variance to this animation:
    • The Metroid Prime sub-series has its own share of death animations, some being quite dark thanks to the jump towards 3D. Each game has the visor cut to black like an old CRT television turning off while Samus screams. What happens after is different in each game:
      • Metroid Prime: The game shows Samus with her visor cracked. Once her vitals flatline, her head slumps over. If Samus dies while in ball form, everything freezes in place while her suit detonates in a massive explosion (the same as a Power Bomb) before cutting to black.
      • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes shows Samus going into cardiac arrest and then her heart stops completely. Samus' death in Morph Ball form was made less dramatic by having the ball explode (sans the massive explosion previously) and break apart into fragments like a grenade.
      • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption shows Samus' blood spilling onto a blue screen and then "Game Over" is displayed. If Samus' corruption levels get too high, the game shows the Phazon inside Samus overtake her body completely, transforming her into another Dark Samus. The game over screen then appears, but blue substance/blood is shown instead and "Game Over: Terminal Corruption" is displayed.
    • Metroid: Other M has Samus scream as she collapses and her suit fades out if she dies, leaving her body exposed to her killer(s). Adam screams out her name until he goes missing later on in the story and then the Game Over screen appears. If Samus dies in lava, she reaches out with her hand before it slowly sinks back into the lava.
  • In Star Wars games Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, your player character's death is presented in slow motion through third-person camera circling the protagonist.
  • In Tunic, if the fox runs out of health, a Scare Chord plays as the screen's borders fill with red. The camera zooms in to show them collapse to the ground, defeated.

    Action RPGs 
  • Crystalis: If the Player Character dies, the entire game world fades to black, and they spin in place before collapsing on the ground dead.
  • Dark Devotion has the world fade to black as the player character collapses with a cry, bleeding out from a chest wound. The phrase "Your Devotion Has Faded" then appears on the bottom half of the screen in stark white letters.
  • Dying in Parasite Eve has Aya collapse to the ground as everything around her fades to black while Game Over appears on screen. Parasite Eve 2 changes it slightly by having Aya make a death cry as she collapses, followed by the whole screen fading to black with Game Over appearing afterwards.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Call of Duty: In the single player campaign, whenever the player character dies, their last moments are shown from their perspective as their vision & hearing fades. Sometimes accompanied by sad music, or in the case of Call of Duty: WWII, blood filling the screen. The games also show either a quote from a famous historical figure about why War Is Hell, or tips that can help you avoid what killed you.
    "You were killed by a grenade. Watch out for the grenade danger indicator."
  • Goldeneye 1997: If James Bond is killed, blood fills the screen from the top (in a Call-Back to the films' iconic gun barrel openings). Then the player is forced to watch Bond be killed in a Repeat Cut as dramatic humming is heard along with a Heartbeat Soundtrack. Finally, the player is booted to the mission briefing screen and they bear witness to all of the objectives they failed.

    Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game 
  • Age of Conan: when the player's character dies, the screen turns black and white and the scenery starts spinning, unless the player starts controlling the camera.

    Medical Game 
  • Failing any operation in Trauma Center and its sequels will have your Player Character quitting their medical careers due to either not being able to handle the pressure (Derek) or failing to live up to their own standards of perfectionism as doctors (Markus and Valerie). They leave behind their resignation letter and completely vanish. In scenarios where the player character is kidnapped by terrorists, if you fail to escape or fail a surgery you're forced to perform, the game over screen will say that the doctors were never seen or heard from again.

    Platform Games 
  • Crash Bandicoot (1996): Several of Crash's death animations involve him dying against a black background. Though it's mostly Played for Laughs.
  • Die in Donald in Maui Mallard and you're treated to a scene of him getting dragged into hell by a demonic hand. Dramatic enough to make a native hold his wig as a sign of respect, but not dramatic enough to stop him from simply shrugging it off a few seconds later and happily moving on with his life.
  • The Kirby series usually only uses Death Throws, but in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, dying while playing as Kirby or King Dedede causes them to stumble around dizzily and pass out as the screen fades to black. Even the death music is remixed to sound dramatic. Some amusing Mood Whiplash ensues in Kirby’s case, as he shouts his usual hit noise before he falls down, an overexaggerated “OUCH!” This death animation is reprised in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, but with the standard musical sting.
  • Dying in The Lion King results in the screen turning black while Simba sways and collapses. This feels slightly less serious when you're still playing as cub Simba in the first part of the game, as he sports a goofy smile on his face while dying. However, adult Simba's death is appropriately dramatic. That said, in the 16-bit and Master System/Game Gear versions, it is heralded by an incredibly sad four-note stinger.
  • Mega Man (Classic)
    • In the first, seventh, ninth, and tenth games, whenever Mega Man is defeated, the game pauses for a brief moment to place emphasis on your failure.
    • Mega Man 11 kicks it up a notch, by having Mega Man clearly in visible pain during the pause, and proceeding to scream in agony upon death.
  • Pizza Tower: Considering how most of the misfortune that can befall Peppino is Played for Laughs, it's a bit surprising this is played straight. However, there are 2 variants of this.
    • If the player runs the clock out during Pizza Time, and Pizzaface catches up to Peppino, everything except for the latter vanishes into a black void while he has a shocked expression. Then the words "Time's Up" fall on top of him, sending him falling down off of the screen.
    • If the player runs out of life during a boss fight, Peppino is sent flying before falling down to the ground as everything else fades to black. He is left crumpled on the floor covered in bruises.
  • When Spark the Electric Jester's eponymous character dies, he collapses pale and wide-eyed into a black void as the soundtrack cuts off. When playing as Fark, the robot instead malfunctions and comically falls offscreen, but still on a silent black void.
  • Super Mario 64: While Mario was no stranger to dying in his games, in the games before Super Mario 64, he just fell off the screen if an enemy or hazard killed him. In Super Mario 64, Mario does not do that, instead he falls onto the ground and tries to get back up before dying, and you can see his corpse has X’s in his eyes when he dies. When the games before this one were not as scary when Mario died, to see your favorite Video Game hero die in this fashion when he just fell off the screen in the earlier games is quite unsettling. Not to mention what happens when he drowns or dies of toxic gas in this game.

    Racing Games 
  • While Death Is a Slap on the Wrist in Burnout Paradise, the player crashing hard enough triggers a "crash cam". This means the music suddenly stops, the camera cuts to a favorable angle and time slows down to show body panels deforming and breaking off as the player's vehicle is turned into a crumpled wreck. By contrast, A.I.s the player wrecks are shown with a brief shot of their destroyed car in real time.
  • Every game in the F-Zero series has this in some capacity.
  • Stunt Race FX features sentient cars for you to play as. If you take too much damage, your player car will crash and burn while the screen fills with red as an ambulance is heard approaching. If you fall in water, the screen fills with blue instead as your player car drowns.

    Rhythm Games 

    Roguelike 
  • Enter the Gungeon: If your gungeoneer dies, the entire Gungeon's color is drained and they fall to their knees in pain (or if you're playing as the cultist, they collapse to the ground outright). The Gungeon's clock then rewinds time to the moment that the run was started, and a gunshot is heard as the gungeoneer finally falls to the ground and dies (of if playing as the cultist, their body fades away).
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, when enemies die, they silently keel over, collapse, or explode. When your crew dies, their deaths are audible, including sound effects such as human death grunts and Engi clanking.
  • Hades: Whenever Zagreus is killed, the game cuts all enemies and backgrounds out to a black void, as he dies and is dragged back into the underworld. Even when he has Death Defiance charges remaining, the game will slow down and all sound will go quiet while the Defiance restores him to life.
  • Rogue Legacy: Every time you die, everything disappears into a black void except for your character, who has a Hollywood Heart Attack and collapses, their spirit departing from their body. Complete with Dramatic Spotlight.
  • Sundered has the screen fade to black except for Eshe, who then screams as numerous tentacles restrain her and pull her into the ground.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • EarthBound (1994) and EarthBound Beginnings have Ness/Ninten in a black void with a spotlight over him if he and his friends are defeated in battle. Mother 3 does the same thing, only with the lead character collapsed on the ground instead.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI: If the party is defeated, the lead party member is seen disappointed in the middle of the screen against a black background.
    • Final Fantasy X has the camera focus on the last character that was knocked out as Game Over fades into view. Depending on where you lost the fight, the dying character may express their last words (usually in regret). Final Fantasy X-2 has a similar function.
    • If the player dies in a solo duty or fails an objective in Final Fantasy XIV, a harsh tone plays followed by "DUTY FAILED" appears on screen before they are booted out of the instance. This can also happen in certain content involving grouped players.
  • Paper Mario 64 has Mario spin in place and collapse when his HP reaches zero, followed by showing him in a black void hunched over in exhaustion with a spotlight on him as Game Over is spelled out on the screen. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has a similar Game Over screen, only with Mario's unconscious body sprawled out on the ground as the curtains on stage come to a close.
  • Starting with Persona 3, whenever the Player Character dies, the party's Mission Control will panic before the screen fades away.
    • Amplified in Persona 5 where the camera zooms into a dying Joker, trying to get up, until he drops to the floor as Mission Control desparately calls for him to get up and the screen turns red before fading to black.
  • Having all of your Pokemon knocked out in any Pokémon game will have the game exclaim "You blacked/whited out!" or "You were overwhelmed by your defeat!" (depending on the game), followed by a short narrative of you rushing back to the nearest Pokemon Center to get your party healed while shielding them from further harm. The first two games would have the opposing Pokemon shaded in complete black to further dramatize your defeat. In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, if your player character takes too much damage directly, they kneel down as the screen slowly fades to black before you're rescued and revived at the nearest camp.
  • In Tales of Phantasia, letting your party fall in battle will switch the screen back to the overhead exploration screen where all the scenery fades, your party's leading character (most likely Cress) collapses, and the narrator says no one ever found out what happened to your party.
  • Games by Toby Fox tend to have this.
    • Undertale: During battle, the human's SOUL (represented by a red heart) is visible when fighting monsters. If the human's HP hits 0, then all monsters on screen, along with the entire interface, vanish. Only the human's SOUL remains visible before cracking and promptly shattering into pieces, signifying the human has died. The Game Over screen also features text begging the player not to give up.
    • Deltarune does much the same thing, however you will either simply be asked to try again in Chapter 1, or in Chapter 2, Susie and Ralsei will beg Kris to get up and try again.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • If your shields are completely drained in Star Fox, you get to watch your Arwing spiral out of control (if in outer space) or tumble across the ground (if on a planet with solid ground) before exploding. In Star Fox 64, this is followed by your teammates screaming Fox's name or letting out a Big "NO!". If you happen to die while fighting Andross, you get to hear Fox scream instead since he is fighting alone.
    Slippy/Peppy/Falco: "No!!!!"

    Simulation Games 
  • If Maverick dies in Wing Commander, you're forced to watch as he shields himself from an exploding control panel, followed by his entire ship being vaporized. And for double Tear Jerker points, you then have to attend his funeral.
    Colonel: We are gathered here to pay tribute to one of our own: 2nd LT. Maverick. It is always sad to lose a pilot, but it is especially difficult when he's as young as Maverick. He died without even a chance to prove himself.
    Sargent: Company! ATTENTION! (everyone stands at attention) PREPARE ARMS! (rifle men prepare the three volley salute)
    Colonel: Farewell Maverick, you'll be missed...

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid: Starting with the first Solid game, Mission Control characters who you speak with on the Codec will become alarmed if Snake dies. While the same style was used in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, a notable example comes from Rose; if Raiden dies, Rose calls out for his name before frightfully gasping/holding back tears. Justified since Rose and Raiden are a couple.
  • Yandere Simulator: If anything happens to Yan-Chan or Senpai that makes it impossible for them to be in a relationship, then a heartbroken Yan-Chan is seen against a black background as everything else disappears.
    Yandere-Chan: I can never face my Senpai again...

    Survival Horror 
  • Every game in the Five Nights at Freddy's series has death at the hands of the terrifying animatronics be accompanied by an ear-shatteringly loud Jump Scare.
  • The Last of Us: Whenever Joel or one of his friends die, the game abruptly cuts out with a dramatic hum and provides a tip that can help avoid what killed you. This is especially true for the more violent death scenes.
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 has sad music playing if you die while you spectate the other players. The other characters will also make a sad comment if they find your dead body. If all the survivors are incapacitated, a short dramatic theme plays as you can do nothing but watch the zombies mercilessly pummel and beat everyone as they bleed to death. The screen fades to black before having the game restart everyone from the beginning of the map. The fade out does not happen in VS mode due to the competitive style of the game mode.
  • The first few Resident Evil games treats player death with a Fade to White and slow motion as the player character lets out their death rattle. This is then cut to a black void with the character's dead body as the words "YOU DIED" appears on screen. Depending on the enemy that finished you off (which particularly in Resident Evil 2 is nearly all of them), you might be treated to a special animation of the player character meeting their end. By Resident Evil 4 and later, the player character simply collapses when they die unless their death is from a unique situation such as failing a quick time event. The first and third game had a boss and Elite Mook that could swallow the player character whole, which their body on the "You Died" screen would be completely missing.

    Tactical RPGs 

    Turn-Based Tactics 


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