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Image by Kaigetsudo. Used with permission.

"There's something terribly retro about all this, besides the fact that you're saving your kidnapped girlfriend, which as game stories go is only slightly newer than 'you have to shoot the thing.'"

The defining Excuse Plot of the 8-bit era. A Damsel in Distress (whether it be the princess, your girlfriend, whatever) has been kidnapped and put in a tower, and you (and you alone, unless it's a 2-player game) must fight your way through a veritable army of evil minions, dodge horrific death traps, etc. to save her from the Big Bad. Your only reward is probably going to be a Smooch of Victory, unless you get the Standard Hero Reward. Hope she's worth it!

Your Princess Is in Another Castle! can also be a part of these games. Occasionally, the damsel might not be genuinely innocent. Once in a rare while, the villain will decide to Hypnotize the Captive and marry her.

The trope derives from the ancient concept of "Princess and Dragon", where The Hero must save a woman from an invading monster. This is usually used as a metaphor for real-life conflict. Modern settings may substitute the princess for the president's daughter or the like.

Sometime after the arcade era, it became a Dead Horse Trope. While video games still feature the occasional princess in peril, rescuing them is only part of the overall plot; either that, or it's covered by the Grandfather Clause. In his book Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life, Chris Kohler credits this progress to some Girl Gamers who wrote to Nintendo in The '80s to say they were tired of saving princesses; Nintendo eventually announced they'd stop using it as a final goal except in the Super Mario series. The trope's inversion, Princess Protagonist, where the princess is the main character, has grown in popularity as a way to keep making games about princesses while avoiding these criticisms.

This plot has become quite a popular target for variants and newer references to it in popular culture can be classed with Pac Man Fever. For a similarly overused plot, see Fake King.

Named because it's often a princess. As such, a subtrope of Gratuitous Princess. For other types of stories revolving around princesses, see Princess Stories.

Examples from Video Games:

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda: The eponymous Princess Zeldas are put in danger more often than not.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The plot of the game revolves around Link trying to rescue Zelda from Ganon, for which he must retrieve the Triforce of Wisdom. All the games after that, though they usually do have Zelda kidnapped at some point, do not make it the major driving force of the plot (and in certain cases she's only in need of being saved late in the story, and in one case it's only her physical body that needs to be retrieved); other games do not even feature Zelda at all.
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: A unique case, as Link has to help another Princess Zelda wake up from a spell that causes her to sleep eternally in the North Palace. She remains safe otherwise.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past:
      • Zelda starts out already kidnapped at the beginning of the game and you rescue her during the game's opening sequence. When you get the Master Sword after completing the first set of dungeons, Zelda gets kidnapped a second time and placed in a crystal.
      • Played with in one instance: one of the maidens you need to save turns out to be the leader of a band of brigands, Blind The Thief. Once you defeat him you save the real maiden as usual, though.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: Part of the story relating to Woodfall involves a kidnapped princess that is the basis for reaching the first dungeon. However, you can finish the game without needing to free her from her prison.
    • Both The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, are kicked off with the kidnapping of a young lady — your sister in the first, and the actual princess in the second; much of the story centers around their rescue. In both games, though, the plot carries on well after you've saved the ladies in question. Four Swords also has very little plot beyond this.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks both averts and lampshades this. While Zelda's body is stolen, she, in spirit form, sticks with Link. When she realizes there's a Big Bad to be defeated, she promptly tasks Link with the entire task, claiming that sitting around and waiting for the hero to rescue her is a "family tradition". Soon after, though, they discover that Zelda can be useful in combat and they work as partners from then on.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes parodies the trope utterly in that, while Princess Styla is in fact safe in her own castle, the peril she has to be saved from is a cursed onesie that she is stuck in. Yeah...
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a subversion. Zelda does need to be rescued, but she isn't held captive. She's the lynchpin keeping Calamity Ganon from escaping.
  • A variant occurs in ICO. Rather than the hero fighting to get to the princess, both the hero and the princess are prisoners in the same castle, so they work to escape together. Played straight near the end of the game when the queen captures Yorda and Ico goes to rescue her.
  • Shining Wisdom's first half is basically just to save Princess Satera, who gets kidnapped, turned into a swan and replaced with an impostor. The rest is stopping the destruction of the world.
  • Subverted in For the Frog the Bell Tolls. Initially played straight when the protagonist hears that Princess Tiramisu has been kidnapped by Delarin. However, it becomes apparent later in the game that no one really knows where she is. At the end of the game, Mandola, the witch who had turned everyone into frogs, reveals herself to be Tiramisu.
  • The second Tak and the Power of Juju game involves Tak being sent on a quest to rescue the princess of the Dream World from a evil monster that is holding her captive. That's what you're told. In reality, there is no princess; the monster is actually a guardian spirit that rules the Dream World, the sage who sent you on the quest is the Big Bad in disguise, and the princess was made up by him to manipulate you into defeating the guardian for him so he can steal its power.

    Action Game 
  • The first two Ninja Gaiden games on the NES has Ryu defeating some form of Cosmic Horror to Save the World while also saving the CIA agent Irene Lew, who becomes his girlfriend at the end of the first game. In the third game, Irene is presumed dead in the beginning but is alive and doesn't require rescuing.
  • Fat Princess turns this into a Capture the Flag game, with the goal being to get to the opposing team's base and carry their princesses back to their side. You can hinder the progress by feeding the Princess cake, which will have her grow fatter and becoming heavier to carry.
  • "The Prince Gilgamesh wore golden armor and attacked monsters to save Ki in The Tower of Druaga." In this case though, Ki (pronounced "Kai") is not actually a "princess" per se, she's a shrine maiden in service to the goddess Ishtar (who lends her name to the game's sequel, "The Return of Ishtar").
    • Somewhat gender inverted in the fact that Gil is a prince and Ki is apparently a commoner.
  • The goal of Penguin Adventure is to find a golden apple to restore the health of the penguin princess. Because of Guide Dang It!, it's easier to get the bad ending in which she dies.

    Adventure Game 

    Beat Em Up 
  • The objective in the first Double Dragon is to rescue Billy's girlfriend, Marian. In the second, it's a little different; you're avenging her death. Although she does come back to life in the ending of the NES version, only to be kidnapped in the third game.
  • In Final Fight, your goal is to rescue Jessica, who is both Cody's girlfriend and Haggar's daughter. And since Haggar is the mayor, Jessica is the local princess, and you are off to rescue her.
  • Bringing back the classics (though in a hilarious, over the top way) through Castle Crashers. This time there are four princesses, and an achievement for getting the Smooch of Victory from all four!
  • All the classic (1989-1994) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games have you rescue April, though only the first and third Game Boy ones have you save her at the end of the game.
  • In Kung Fu Master, Thomas's girlfriend Sylvia is kidnapped, and he has to save her from Mr. X.
  • In Vigilante, you had to rescue your girlfriend Madonna (not that Madonna).
  • Dynamite Dux: A girl who owns two Funny Animal ducks is kidnapped, and the ducks must rescue her.
  • The Attract Mode of Arabian Fight asks players to "save the kidnapped Princess Lurana."
  • The plot of the original Splatterhouse trilogy is to save Jennifer, Rick's girlfriend (and in the third and final game, their son David). In the first game, you fail to do so, and can potentially fail again in the third.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Red Steel featured its One-Man Army hero tearing through the machinations of the Yakuza in an international battle to bring down their new, more violent and corrupt leadership, learning legendary sword techniques along the way, after they kidnapped his fiancée and killed her father, the previous and attempting-to-go-legal Yakuza leader at their engagement announcement dinner.
  • Shadow of the Wool Ball has you fight your way through the entire cat army and eventually visit the gloomy cat planet in order to rescue your imprisoned girlfriend.

    Light Gun Game 
  • Time Crisis has the President's daughter as a hostage of the bad guys who must be rescued.

    Miscellaneous Games 

  • In World of Warcraft, a quest charges you with saving the dwarven princess Moira Bronzebeard from the emperor of the dark dwarves. It turns out she's pregnant with said emperor's child and doesn't want to be saved...
  • While she's not exactly a princess, the Elysion arc of Elsword involves rescuing the El Lady, a goddess in human form.

    Platform Game 
  • This is the initial premise of Eversion. She becomes a monster and eats you in the bad ending. In the good ending, she still becomes a monster, but you become one as well so no big deal.
  • Done in an antiheroic way in Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, where saving the queen is only Wario's secondary goal, with him being promised treasure at the end. In fact, at the end where Queen Merelda congratulates Wario, he stops her in the middle by grabbing her and tossing her out of his way.
  • At the end of Earthworm Jim 2, it appears that "having defeated the nefarious Psy-Crow, our hero, Earthworm Jim, has won back the heart of the lovely Princess What's Her Name." Except she's a cow wearing a costume. So is the villain. So is Jim.
  • The main plot of the first Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers game on the NES is to rescue Gadget. This notably doesn't start till after you've beaten the first level where the goal is to find a lost kitten (which it turns out was Fat Cat's way of distracting you), and the game goes on for three more levels after you rescue Gadget.
    • This is inverted in the PC game version, where Chip and Dale spend the game collecting screws so that Gadget can finish the Ranger Plane and rescue Monteray Jack from Professor Nimnul.
  • You have to rescue your love interest in Gish.
  • You have to rescue your love interest in Meat Boy.
  • The Clonk level "Dragon Rock" plays this unashamedly straight, right down to the evil mage-with-a-dragon doing the kidnapping. In "Tower of Despair" it's the king, and the dragon itself is the capturer, but otherwise it's the same.
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins and its sequels begin by showing Princess Prin-Prin getting kidnapped by some horrible demon.
  • In Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu, Jackie has to rescue Josephine, who is either his twin sister or his girlfriend, from an Evil Sorcerer who abducts her in a Ghosts 'n Goblins-like opening scene.
  • Crusader, an obscure Platform Game by Compile for the MSX, is the source of the quote: "Princess has been kidnapped! You must save princess."
  • In A Boy and His Blob in: The Rescue of Princess Blobette, you have to rescue Princess Blobette.
  • Averted in Little Nemo: The Dream Master. Nemo has to get to the princess, but she doesn't need rescuing. Her father does.
  • In Hunchback, Quasimodo's objective is to save Esmerelda.
  • In Mighty Bomb Jack, the princess has been kidnapped by a demon, but so have the King and Queen, who must be rescued first.
  • In Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, the title character's objective is to rescue Princess Margo, who is being held captive in the Stone Wizard's castle.
  • Chuck Rock begins with the villain hitting Chuck's wife Ophelia over the head with a club and dragging her off By the Hair. Chuck, of course, has to get off his stone lounge chair and go save her.
  • In The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, the goal is to find and rescue Princess Yuki.
  • Mystic Warriors: There's no indication that she's one of the boys' Love Interest, but the goal is to save Yuri from whatever horrible fate Skull Enterprises has in store for her. That is, if not for the more-than-likely chance that one of said boys becomes a Distressed Dude instead.
  • Nefarious inverts and subverts this trope. Instead of playing The Hero to save the princess, instead you're Villain Protagonist Crow, who's attempting to kidnap them. Meanwhile, Crow's usual nemesis ends the intro stage all but stating that saving the princess isn't worth the effort. In both endings, Mayapple ends up saving herself - either as The Stinger, or to take over the Hero role in the True Final Boss.
  • Phoenotopia and Phoenotopia : Awakening have an inversion where the prince is kidnapped and Gale the heroine must save him.
  • In The Legend of Kage, the title character has to rescue the kidnapped princess, Kirihime.
  • Inverted in the browser platformer Sugoi Princess Ushiko. In the game you control the sugoi princess Ushiko in attempt to save the prince Benedick III.
  • You're saving El Presidente's Daughter in Guacamelee!, but it's effectively the same trope. You're also unable to save her from being sacrificed for the Big Bad's master plan, and whether you can revive her or not depends on whether you got the Golden Ending.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures Buster Busts Loose parodies this in the introduction to the "Space Opera" final stage:
    Buster: I'll fight the evil empire army all by myself. While I'm doing that I'll also manage to save Princess Babs.
    (Babs Bunny walks on)
    Buster: Wait a minute, Princess Babs? You mean I have to rescue you again?!
    Babs: That's right.
    Buster: Well hurry up then. The show's getting ready to start.
    Babs: Okay. Time for me to get captured.
  • In Akane the Kunoichi, Akane's objective is to rescue her samurai lord (with whom she's also in love).
  • Milon's Secret Castle: Technically, you are actually trying to save a queen, but it's the same principle.
  • Rocky Rodent: The Protagonist goes a mission to rescue the restaurant owner's daughter Melody, with free food as a reward.
  • Tiny Castle: In this Minimalist Web Game by Nitrome, you play as a stereotypical knight. You slay monsters, collect treasure, and make your way through a castle towards a princess, presumably to rescue her. Only at the end is it subverted: the damsel is not in distress. She is, however, guilty of tax evasion, and you are the agent come to collect the debt or evict her from her castle.
  • The objective of Rolling Thunder is to rescue Leila, Albatross' female partner, from the secret society GELDRA. A bit of Fanservice of her is shown after each stage, presumably to get players spending more quarters. She's Promoted to Playable in the sequel though.

    Puzzle Game 
  • Tower Of The Sorcerer, an indie puzzle game masquerading as a dungeon-crawl RPG, plays this straight, complete with the opening line "A brave man is walking for to save the princess". The plot from there is actually not too bad, but it's clearly an Excuse Plot, as the princess is hardly mentioned thereafter and seen only once before the endgame. Then the trope is subverted in the game's Twist Ending: it turns out that it really was an Excuse Plot. The "princess" is an inanimate statue. The Big Bad's real goal was to get a sufficiently-powerful hero to the top of the tower so as to help him Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • The first Knightfall game has the protagonist literally drilling his way to Hell to save his princess girlfriend from the Devil.
  • The goal in Castlequest is to rescue Princess Margarita from Groken Castle.
  • Kickle Cubicle for the NES actually has four princess to rescue, one at the end of each of the lands.
  • A minigame/side-quest in Catherine involves playing a game-within-a-game at the Stray Sheep called Rapunzel. In it, you solve block puzzles much like the ones in the "Nightmare" segments of the main game, except there's no enemies, and instead of a time limit you have a limited number of moves with which to make a path to the top of a stack of blocks so your Prince Charming character can get to the titular Rapunzel.
  • Gender-inverted in Rescue The Prince - the protagonist, Princess Selene, must venture across unknown lands in order to save fifty different princes who are being held captive by five wicked dragons.
  • The objective of the very cutsey tetris-like puzzle game Trioncube is to rescue a kidnapped princess.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Lampshaded in Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, in one mission you must fend off the alien attackers from Princess Rhianne Burke's personal palace, Mission Control tells you that "You have a Princess to save, Commander."

    Role Playing Game 
  • The in-universe book in Brave Hero Yuusha, The Hero & The Demon, has this as the premise- the titular Brave Hero Yuusha must save Princess Glynn from Demon Lord Volza, who has kidnapped her and taken her to his castle. Within the game itself, they have been doing this forever- until the Puppeteer comes along and takes the story Off the Rails. The Hero and Glynn are forced to team up with Volza to set things right.
  • For much of the plot of Breath of Fire IV, Nina and Cray are traveling about with the goal of saving Princess Elina, the former's older sister and the latter's wife-to-be. This lasts until the end of the penultimate dungeon where it ends in failure. As it turns out, the Fou Empire - mainly Yuna - conducted experiments that turned her into an artificial Endless, and the added bits have grown so large that she cannot leave her prison even if she wanted to; only the Dragonslayer sword, made to kill Endless, can end her suffering, and she asks that Cray be the one to do it.
  • While the main plot of Bug Fables doesn't even have any princesses, a stage play the three protagonists can act in involves the princess of a desert kingdom (played by Vi's friend Chubee) getting kidnapped by an evil prince. The trio play the knights tasked with saving her, though at the end the princess is the one who deals the final blow against the villain.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest I essentially has only two objectives: Save the Princess, and kill the Dragonlord. Unlike most Save the Princess games, however, you actually rescue the princess from a dragon (usually the first one you kill) in the Marsh Cave long before you beat the Big Bad.
    • Dragon Quest IV: In Alena's chapter, the 'princess' you have to save is a fake. Pretending to be Alena herself, in fact. Later, Alena also saves Princess Veronica (Mia in the NES version) from having to marry Psaro the Manslayer.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Your very first objective in Final Fantasy is to rescue Princess Sara of Coneria/Cornelia/Corneria, who has been taken by good-knight-gone-bad Garland.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, the play at the Gold Saucer casts Cloud and Aerith as the Legendary Hero and the Princess, the latter being held by the Evil Dragon King. You can play this straight if you like, in which case The Power of Love conquers the Evil Dragon King, or you can go off script, in which case the Princess will hilariously defeat the EDK herself and become the new Legendary Hero.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics starts off with you needing to rescue Princess Ovelia. Then it gets complicated.
    • Final Fantasy IX: Zig-Zagged at the start; your task is to kidnap Princess Garnet, but when you confront her, she actually requests the kidnapping - making it clear this is more of a rescue mission. Later dialogue with Regent Cid reveals that he had commissioned the kidnapping as a cover for the rescue, as taking Garnet away openly would cause quite a political stink.
      • Much later, Queen Brahne orders Garnet's execution, and Zidane and the rest of the party must storm the castle to find her before it's too late.
    • Final Fantasy X: At one point Yuna, daughter of High Summoner Braska - a princess in all but title - is kidnapped by the Corrupt Church and kept in the castle-like (and gigantic) Bevelle Temple. Oh, and she's forced to marry Seymour. The party arrives to intervene. Subverted when Yuna reveals she was using the wedding to try and Send Seymour, already had an escape planned, and the party's intervention has royally screwed up her plan by giving the villains hostages.
    • Final Fantasy XII: To recruit Ashe - your fifth permanent party member, and you guessed it; a princess - you have to cross an enemy's heavily-guarded airship to reach her cell after she'd been taken into custody a good 3-4 game-play hours ago.
    • Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light begins with the king telling Brandt, the first Player Character, to save his younger daughter Aire from a witch. When she is rescued (with no small amount of complaining), however, the rest of the kingdom is put under a curse that kicks off the plot.
  • There is a mission in Valkyria Chronicles where your squad has to quite literally save the princess after a kidnap attempt.
  • Being an Affectionate Parody of RPG cliches, The Bard's Tale naturally uses this as its main plot. Being the Jerkass that he is, the Bard isn't interested until he's offered access to the princess' panties as a reward.
  • One segment of the main plot in Dragon Age: Origins has the Warden breaking into Arl Howe's estate to rescue Queen Anora, who is kept there by her father against her will. The Rescue the Princess aspect is really overshadowed by the Fort Drakon escape following it and the fact that Howe finally gets what's coming to him.
  • Your first real goal in Knights of the Old Republic is to rescue Bastila from the swoop gang that recovered her from a crashed escape pod and is now offering her as a prize in an upcoming swoop race. Then, two-thirds of the way through the game, Malak captures her... (Of course, the movie in whose universe KotOR takes place had Save the Princess as a good chunk of its plot as well.)
  • Live A Live starts off with a textbook version of this in the Middle Ages chapter. The Lord of Dark had just kidnapped Princess Alethea and the kingdom of Lucrece's champion and future king Oersted sets out to rescue his bride alongside his friend Streibough as well as to bring the previous two heroes Hasshe and Uranus out of retirement to help them. This goes completely wrong when after defeating the Lord of Dark, Alethea is nowhere to be seen and the events that follow lead to both previous heroes dying, Oersted getting framed for killing the king by Streibough who faked his death prior. One Duel to the Death later, Alethea appears and admits her love for Streibough and kills herself. That pushes Oersted off the deep end and has him declare himself The Lord of Dark, Odio, thus setting off the events of the previous chapters.
  • Your first real objective in Chrono Trigger is to retrieve the girl who has fallen through a time warp; and sure enough she turns out to be a princess. Subverted in that when you get back, you're put on trial for kidnapping her in the first place. You end up having to dive through another time warp in order to evade the guards, and that's where the real adventure begins.
  • Hydlide combined this with Fetch Quest, with the Big Bad somehow having transformed the princess into three fairies.
  • In Faria, the first mission you receive is to rescue a princess from a tower. However, you can't marry her because you're a girl. Moreover, this princess is a fake, and you find the real princess in a later tower.
  • In A Witch's Tale, Liddell must save all six princesses before she can meet Queen Alice.
  • In Dark Souls of all things, while it's not the main focus of the game (or even mandatory for that matter), you can rescue Princess Dusk of the fallen kingdom of Oolacile when you find her imprisoned within a crystal golem. To show her gratitude, she teaches you a variety of the unique illusion-based spells of her kingdom. The trope was played even more straight in the 'Artorias of the Abyss' DLC adventure when you are dragged back in time to Oolacile itself, where your ultimate objective is to rescue Dusk again, this time from Manus, Father of the Abyss.
  • In Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse, the caliph's daughter, Princess Kara, goes missing shortly after the start of the game. After being rescued, she marries the protagonist (although the two were already in love and engaged when she went missing, so it isn't a straight case of Rescue Romance or Standard Hero Reward).
  • The main subplot of the Greenhorne region in Miitopia is to save its Princess, whose face has been stolen by the Dark Lord.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • Your primary goal in Abadox is to enter a planet-devouring parasite to rescue a princess (the PC's girlfriend in the Japanese original) who was inside a ship the monstrous being had eaten. Genre conventions were presumably why they felt the need to dangle the "Save The Important Lady" carrot in front of the player, even though "Save The Galaxy from an Enormous Planet Eater Trying to Consume It" is already pretty good motivation.
  • In the 1988 Shoot 'Em Up Last Duel developed by Capcom, the goal of the game is to rescue Queen Sheeta, the ruler of the planet Mu.
  • The objective of Video Game/Sheriff is to save a damsel in distress from some bandits. Actually the first instance of a Nintendo game using this trope.
  • The goal of the 1989 Shoot 'Em Up Phelios is to rescue Artemis from the titan Typhon. She's subjected to some Fanservice between levels, with her being stripped down to her underwear. She has a bit of a Rescue Romance going on with the Player Character Apollo—who was actually Artemis' brother in Greek mythology, but the developers clearly weren't too concerned with mythological accuracy.

    Survival Horror 
  • In Resident Evil 4, Leon spends the entire game going through the Big Bad's trap-filled castle, fighting off undead minions, so he can rescue the President's daughter, Ashley. At the end of the game, Ashley offers him a lot more than just a Smooch of Victory, but given he's part of the secret service in that game, that would obviously not have been a good idea, and he rightly turns her down.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation for the GBA is a Turn-Based Strategy game with sci-fi themes and Super Robots. Your squadron still ends up needing to Save the Princess, but at least it's only a subplot that's introduced and then resolved rather quickly.
  • Disgaea plays with this.
    Almaz: I must save the princess!
    Sapphire: *Groin Attack*
    Almaz: The princess! She touched me! I can die happy now...
    • Disgaea 3 also looks at it more seriously with the reasoning behind its Inversion: Princess Sapphire has seen far too many people go off and die all in the name of protecting her. So she became a Pretty Princess Powerhouse capable of destroying anything that might kill a hero.
    • The Cursed Memories take involves Axel kidnapping Taro and Hanako as bait for the 'wild tribesman' Adell so he can "rescue" Rozalin.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Towards the last part of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, there are four barrier maidens who must be de-brainwashed and rescued before the Big Bad devours them to replenish his life energy. Three of them are princesses: Marth's big sister Elice, Minerva's little sister Maria, and Marth's ally/Linde's protector Princess Nyna of Archanea.
    • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the game starts off with one. Princess Aideen of Jungby gets nabbed by Verdanite brigands in a surprise invasion, and rescuing her is the initial objective. Only after saving her in Chapter 1 does the plot thicken and actually go on its proper course. Starting in Chapter 10, one has to find Princess Julia... in classic style she's in another castle every time previous castle is conquered... this lasts until the final part of the final chapter, where she's That One Boss hanging out in the group's way. (Note that she's That One Boss because can't be killed; the game will become practically Unwinnable as she's needed for the Final Boss fight.)
    • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade has two "save the princess" missions, one with Princess Guinevere of Bern (the half-sister of the Big Bad, who becomes Roy's protegé) and the other with Princess Lilina of Ostia (who joins the troupe as a Magic Knight as soon as she's rescued)
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones Princess Eirika is the main character of the first several missions, and is at least initially most concerned with saving herself. Depending on what route is taken there may also be a mission where Princess Tana must be rescued.
      • In addition, after getting to safety and saving Tana, Eirika sets out on a quest to save her brother making this 'Save the Prince'. Except that, in the end, he's the one who rides to her rescue. And in the meantime, she saves another Prince... Tana's brother Innes. And then Ephraim saves all of them.
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, Prince Chrom and the Shepherds must first rescue the noblewoman Maribelle (the best friend of Chrom's sister Lissa and one of Chrom's prospect girlfriends). Then they must save Chrom and Lissa's older sister, Exalt Emmeryn, twice. The first time, she's fine. The second? Nope. And last but not least, they rescue and recruit Princess Say'ri.
  • In Shining Force 2 the Shining Force must rescue Princess Elis from Dark Sol. But in The Sword of Hayja, the trope is inverted and the object is to rescue Prince Nick.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule GB, Mokuba's RPG World storyline is a typical save-the-princess quest.

    Visual Novels 
  • While technically not a princess (unless you count her as one for being the daughter of the Fey clan's leaderess), poor Maya Fey in the Ace Attorney series has to be saved from death four times! The first two involve Maya being accused of murder and you have to get a not guilty verdict to save her. The third occasion has Maya kidnapped by an individual who uses this as leverage to force Phoenix into taking a case. The last case has Maya being trapped on a freezing mountain. And things just get worse from there...

Examples from other media:

    Anime & Manga 
  • A literal example in One Piece during their Big Damn Heroes, when Luffy and Pell emerge from the sky to save princess Vivi after Crocodile drops her.
  • In a Save the World climax of Negima! Magister Negi Magi main objective was to free Asuna (revealed at this point as a princess of a fallen magical kingdom). Anya even lampshades that for Negi rescuing her is most important, and saving the world is just a bonus. Through zigzaged in that there seems to be more familial than romantic feelings between them (and he is even related to her).
  • Subverted in Magic Knight Rayearth. The three main characters initially believe that they were summoned to Cephiro to rescue Princess Emeraude, which isn't too surprising since the world of Cephiro is already a lot like an RPG (as Fuu repeatedly lampshades). It turns out that Princess Emeraude imprisoned herself willingly, and the real mission is to kill her at her own bequest.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena, as far as Utena is concerned,this is what she's doing for Anthy alias the Rose Bride. She's not: in reality she's treating Anthy like a prop to feel good about herself. She shuts down when she realizes it, and only after she recovers from that slump, she can truly give Anthy the chance to save herself.
  • Played for Laughs in episodes 4-5 of Dog Days. The fact that the princess of Biscotti was kidnapped isn't the issue (the world of Flonyard has specific rules regarding the capturing a head of state, and she isn't actually in any danger). The fact that she's an Idol Singer and has a concert in an hour and a half on the other hand...

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1942):
    • Wonder Woman and the Holliday Girls spend their trip to Zarikan rescuing Princess Allura.
    • During Robert Kanigher's run many of Diana's adventures are traveling to rescue princesses. At one point she even time traveled to rescue a pair of princesses by bringing them to the modern era rather than have them perish with the rest of their people fighting Rome.

    Fan Works 

  • In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker's Call to Adventure is motivated in large part by a message recorded in distress by Princess Leia. He rescues her, of course, but this turns out to be just a small victory in the literally world-shattering conflict between the Rebel Alliance and The Empire.
  • Shanghai Noon revolvs around a group of Chinese imperial guards being sent to America to pay ransom for their captive princess. However, after seeing how Chinese immigrants are treated in America (along with her Arranged Marriage to a homely man back home) makes the princess not so eager to return.

In the Disney Channel Original Movie Princess Protection Program, the inciting incident is Princess Rosalinda needing to be rescued after a military dictator takes over her country.

  • In the Mars and Venus self-help books, a story is told about a knight who saves a princess from a dragon and feels validated for doing so. Then he goes off on an adventure, and she gets attacked by yet another dragon. Only this time, she tells him that the sword won't work and that he'll have to use a noose to slay the dragon. He feels discouraged at the celebratory feast, because he didn't slay the dragon on his own, his own way. Then the princess gets attacked by another dragon, and this time, she tells him that he'll have to poison the dragon, which he does...and that causes him to feel even more discouraged. Later, the knight hears more screams...only they're not coming from his princess, but from another princess. He goes to rescue her, feels validated because she didn't tell him what to do and he did it by himself, his own way, and ditched the first princess to live Happily Ever After with this new princess.
  • In User Unfriendly, the main quest of the game the heroes play is to rescue a princess, Dorinda, after she goes missing and a member of her Royal Guard is found slain by orc arrows. The princess actually turns out to be the Big Bad in the end.
  • In The Lost Princess of Oz, Princess Ozma of Oz suddenly goes missing along with all of the most powerful artifacts of Oz. Search parties are organized to scour Oz for any sign of her. It turns out she was kidnapped by a shoemaker-turned-wizard named Ugu and imprisoned in a golden peach pit, which luckily one of the characters in the search party, Button-Bright, happens upon mid-way through the book, never knowing she was trapped inside until after the villain's defeat.

    Live Action TV 
  • Black Mirror: The National Anthem is a modern take on the trope, and Played for Drama. An English princess is kidnapped and the kidnapper has only one demand: the Prime Minister must have sex with a pig on live TV or she will be executed. He does go through with the deed, and worse, it turns out he didn't need to: the kidnapper was just a Mad Artist who planned the whole thing as a social commentary, and he had no intention of truly harming her.
  • Game of Thrones: A major motivation for Robert's Rebellion was to recover Lyanna Stark from Rhaegar Targaryen.
  • Kingdom Adventure: For most of the series, the Princess is kept in Lumia Castle, technically under the guard of Pitts (who is one of Zordock's minions), but she's still considered to be safe there. However, Zordock manages to steal the Princess's ring, kidnap her, and take her to the Dark Wood. Pokum, Gigag, Vibes, and Magistrate Kendrick in his Gulp-form go to rescue her.
  • The Last Kingdom: The second half of Season 2 revolves around rescuing King Alfred's daughter, Aetheflaed, after her husband's stupidity gets her captured by Danish raiders, without having to pay a ransom that will allow her captors to finance their planned invasion of her father and husband's kingdoms.
  • In one episode of Red Dwarf, Ace Rimmer sky-surfs an alligator out of an exploding plane, steals a parachute from the baddie in mid-drop, and shoots up an entire base full of Nazis in order to rescue Princess Bonjella. What a guy!
  • Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor occasionally gets a chance to try to do this, but generally fails because Princess Diana saves herself instead.
    • In "Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman", Wonder Woman is captured by the Nazis and taken behind enemy lines. Steve disobeys the order to not go after her but obeys the order to take a he can go rescue her. He arrives just after Wonder Woman escapes and gets captured himself
    • In "Judgement from Outer Space", Wonder Woman is hit by poison gas. Steve does get to take her to the hospital, but she fights off the poison herself.


    Religion & Mythology 
  • In Classical Mythology, Perseus rescues Princess Andromeda from a sea monster after her parents chain her to a rock as a sacrifice to Poseidon. They end up getting married.

    Web Original 
  • TGChan Presents: Princess, I've Come For You! A compilation of what happens when the rescuing knight MEETS the princess. Warning, NSFW (a little).
  • Thomas Sanders subverts this in two of his Vines. In one, the villain admits that he loves Thomas and not the princess and is carried away by Thomas. In another, another princess knocks Thomas aside and saves the princess, then carries her away while Thomas and the villain watch in appreciation.
  • The main quest of ProZD's King Dragon Canon revolves around rescuing someone called Prince Horace from the villainous King Dragon. The prince is never seen and nothing is known about him outside of his abduction.

  • The game that Radd is from in the webcomic Kid Radd has this plotline. Interestingly, due to the premise of game sprites as sentient beings who are created for the express purpose of being in games, Radd has no idea he even has a girlfriend until the narrator tells him so.
  • Swap out "Princess" with "CEO and former Magical Girl Warrior", and we've got the main plot for Last Res0rt. Of course, both halves of the rescuer/rescuee equation are female (and said rescuee is reasonably capable of saving herself), so...
  • In Rusty and Co., their first level has them directed to go rescue the princess. She needs rescuing rather less than it appears at first, being a Pretty Princess Powerhouse.
  • Adventure Dennis, another webcomic inspired by gaming tropes, has its protagonist on a quest of this style, except for a mayor.

    Western Animation 
  • In Barbie: Video Game Hero, Level 2 has Barbie save a girl trapped in a tree by matching three gems.
  • Gender-swapped in The Dragon Prince. Partly inverted as the rescue from a "dungeon" takes place early in the story, and the rest of the series is aimed towards ensuring the Prince's survival.

Alternative Title(s): Rescue The Princess