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Player Death Is Dramatic

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"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. For many games designed for children, if done well, this can be a good source of Nightmare Fuel and/or a Tearjerker.

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.

This isn't to be confused with It's a Wonderful Failure, as that is for dramatic failure in specific circumstances, while this encompasses dying in normal circumstances during game play. Contrast Have a Nice Death.


Examples

  • The Legend of Zelda
  • 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 Trilogy 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 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 makes a massive explosion before cutting to black. Said explosion is the same animations used for the Power Bombs.
    • 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 unless 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.
  • 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.
  • Crash Bandicoot (1996): Several of Crash's death animations involve him dying against a black background. Though it's mostly Played for Laughs.
  • 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. Otacon provides the page quote.
  • 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.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Non video game example: When Gideon kills Scott in their first round, he falls to the ground and collapses. Everything except for Scott fades to black, and "DEAD" is written in chalk as Gideon taunts him.
  • Starting with Persona 3, whenever the Player Character dies, the party's Mission Control will panic before the screen fades away.
  • Undertale: During battle, the human's SOUL 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.
  • Yandere Simulator: Another rare 3D game doing this, 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..."
  • 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.
  • Earthbound 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.
  • Sundered has the screen fade to black except for Eshe, who then screams as numerous tentacles restrain her and pull her into the ground.
  • This trope was one of the things that made Donald In Maui Mallard a surprisingly creepy game about the short-tempered duck. Die and you're treated to a scene of him getting dragged into hell by a demonic hand.
  • When the titular character of Spark the Electric Jester 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.
  • 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 death screen with "WASTED" appearing moments later.
  • If your shields are completely drained in Star Fox 64 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, 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!!!!"
  • Every game in the Fire Emblem series plays this trope completely straight with Lord class characters (Marth, Roy, Ike, etc.) as when they die, they say their Last Words and another character is either saddened or freaked out by the fact that their leader has just died. If any other unit dies however, it's a subversion, as the game does take it seriously, but just keeps going anyway.
  • 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.
  • The Kirby series usually only uses Death Throws, but in Kirby 64, 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.
  • Crystalis: If the Player Character dies, the entire game world fades to black, and they spin in place before collapsing on the ground dead.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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