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Sliding Scale of Plot Versus Characters

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There's a malevolent empire threatening to Take Over the World, and only a small pocket of resistance to combat it. However, the protagonists in the resistance have their own backstories relating to why they're fighting said empire, as well as relationships and conflicts with the other characters. So now, the story has two main concerns: the actions of the malevolent empire (the plot), and the personal lives of the rebels (the characters). Depending on how much time the story dedicates to each, it may qualify as one of the following:

  • More Plot Than Characters: The plot is exciting and memorable, but the characterization ranges from there for the sake of it to almost non-existent.
  • More Characters Than Plot: The overriding plot doesn't get much attention and may be generic and forgettable, but the characters are interesting and well developed.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You is largely character driven, with the closest thing to an overall plot being Rentarou's efforts towards pleasing his constantly growing number of girlfriends.
  • Bleach leans heavily on the character side of the plot, with the author suggesting that whenever he encounters Writer's Block, he solves it by adding new characters.
  • Naruto's is slightly on the character spectrum, with some of the characters' main conflicts and personal desires driving the plot.
  • One Piece is slightly on the plot side of the scale. There's a large cast with various personal problems and conflicts, but they largely take a back seat to the plot unless they become relevant.
  • Death Note is heavily on the plot side of the scale. Though characters do undergo development, it is usually very simple and straightforward, so it does not garner much screentime. Their pasts are rarely mentioned and if so, only in passing.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist is about in the middle, with a complex, epic, overarching plot while also being driven by a cast of complex, well developed characters going through difficult personal struggles. The 2003 anime is more on the character side as the plot is simpler and slower paced, giving more screentime to character driven drama.
  • Ghost in the Shell as a whole falls quite heavily into the plot side of the scale, though the there is some variance depending on the continuity.
    • The original manga is pretty plot based as the various chapters are based on whatever threat of the day the characters are dealing with. Their pasts and personal lives are barely mentioned, and they don't have much character development or exploration. Instead, they mostly serve as a vessel to explore various themes and ideas regarding cybernetics and other futuristic technologies with some advanced philosophy on the side.
    • The 1995 movie, and to a lesser extent its sequel, is the most character-oriented, with Motoko's existential struggle and her personal quest for answers to it being the driving point of the film.
    • The anime series is pretty plot focused as aside from few episodes that focus on the personalities of Motoko,Batou, Togusa, and Aramaki, the rest of the show is very much about various missions and plots they have to go through in their futuristic world. The second season makes the main plot more personal to Motoko, but even then, the large amount of the focus is on the plot as a whole, with Motoko's personal investment in it being secondary both to the story and Motoko herself up to a point.
    • The OVA series as a (sort of) origin story is more character based then the anime as it features Motoko's personal issues with characters from her background, who are tied to the plot, and in general features the pasts of the various members of Section 9 in a way earlier works didn't. But much of the running time spent on action scenes and as well as solving the plots of the various OVA episodes, with the character's thoughts and personal motives, besides Motoko's to a certain degree, being more of a feature then a focus.
  • Girls und Panzer falls on the plot side of the spectrum. Some of the cast's personal conflicts and development is shown, but it does not take up much time.
  • Saki is heavily on the characters side of the spectrum. The plot mainly consists of a mahjong tournament, but all the characters have their various reasons for competing shown in depth.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is very character-oriented, progressively so as the series advances (particularly from episode 14 on) to the point that the last two episodes completely reject traditional narrative to display the inner thoughts and feelings of the major characters in a hasty version of talk therapy. Not surprising, given that the series’ creator, Hideaki Anno, suffered from depression himself and read a lot about psychology because of it.
  • Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is largely on the character side of the scale, with the plot mostly revolving around the eponymous character helping people with their personal problems and troubled lives - and the Series Goal is to find out why he has his copying power and what hides in his lost memories so that he can get to know himself better. While several characters are good fighters, major conflicts are almost solely solved with battles of wits and talking.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is initially heavily character-oriented, the earlier parts' plots could be considered Excuse Plots to provide a context for the awesome characters to fight each other, and the story focuses more on how the characters drive the events than the events themselves. Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Jo Jolion is a Quest for Identity where the plot and the characters take an equal part in the overall story.
  • Date A Live is very character-driven and increasingly so as the series goes on. Shido's relationships with the girls are always front and center in every story. Plots involving the world at large do exist, but it's the charracters' emotions and development that move the series forward.
  • Fruits Basket has very little overarching plot and is almost entirely about the Sohma family members (with Tohru's help) overcoming their various internal conflicts.
  • Angel Beats! was supposed to be more character-oriented, but the reduced episode count required it to become more plot-oriented, with only a select few characters receiving proper development.

  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic is on the extreme end of the plot side of the spectrum, in that the author explicitly says that he believes complex characterization is confusing and can hold back the plot.
  • Perfection Is Overrated leans somewhat on the characters side of the spectrum, as most of the Himes' personal conflicts have a great deal of focus, and the SUEs' personality flaws influence their actions, which drives the plot.
  • Team 8 is somewhere in the middle, with characters' personal conflicts getting a fair amount of development, but also being tied to the plot. Naruto is ostracized in Konoha, as a result of a Government Conspiracy against him. Hinata suffers abuse from her father, who is also part of that conspiracy. Kurenai, while mentoring a team of genin, often thinks back to the fate of her old team, and the belief that someone in the village, quite possibly the aforementioned conspiracy, was responsible. Even Shino, who has less at stake, finds himself learning more about his teammates' problems and getting involved in them, such as by learning that Naruto is host of the Nine-Tailed Fox.
  • Necessary to Win lies toward the characters side of the spectrum, as the characters' various conflicts drive the plot. Entire chapters, known as Interludes, deal with characters' backstories, which become relevant in the present.
  • The Stalking Zuko Series leans somewhere toward the character side of the spectrum, with it largely being about Zuko and Katara's relationship.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos is heavy on the plot side, although the rewrite does add more characterization to everyone to help explain the plot.

    Films — Animated 
  • Anastasia leans more into the character side of things. It's mostly about Anya trying to figure out who she is and be reunited with her family, after spending years not knowing where she belongs (we know she's actually an amnesiac Grand Duchess Anastasia, with the interesting part being how and when Anya herself is going to realize this). Dimitri starts out as a conman who just wants to help Anya to get money but starts to genuinely care about her and becomes more moral and altruistic. Evil sorcerer Rasputin tries to kill Anya and her friends several times during their journey out of revenge against her family, but they aren't even aware of him until the film's climax.
  • Frozen is mainly about two sisters, Elsa and Anna, reconnecting after many years apart, and about Elsa's struggles with her magical powers, making it somewhat heavily on the characters side.
  • The original Madagascar leaned heavily towards the characters, specifically focusing on Alex the lion as he comes to terms with the fact that his best friends are supposed to be his prey.
    • The second film was even more character-focused.
      • Alex reunites with his parents and has to deal with the high expectations they have of him.
      • Marty the zebra finds a herd to run with, but is unnerved to find all the other zebras are identical to him in every way.
      • Melman the giraffe thinks he is dying and has to deal with his own mortality, along with his long unspoken love for Gloria the hippo.
      • And Gloria must choose between Moto Moto, the handsome hippo who is attracted to her primarily for her looks, and Melman, who has been her friend for most of her life.
    • The third movie, however, is heavily focused on plot. The four stars are now on the run from an insanely dedicated animal control officer, and the majority of the movie focuses on their attempts to evade her, while trying to revive a struggling circus, which is their best ticket back to New York.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Alien franchise shows that multiple films can fall on either end of the scale:
    • Alien is plot-focused, with the crew trying to get rid of the alien before it kills them all.
    • Aliens is in the middle. The story balances the marines trying to stop the aliens with Ripley's surrogate mother relationship towards Newt.
    • Alien³ is character-focused, as Ripley is forced to contemplate her position in the world as another alien runs wild.
    • Alien: Resurrection is in the middle. The plot is balanced between the survivors getting off the Auriga, and Ripley's split allegiance to the aliens.
  • Arrival ties its plot of Louise trying to communicate with two Starfish Aliens following their First Contact on Earth to Louise's own personal journey, mainly her relationship with Ian and her daughter, her connection to the aliens, and coming to terms with the path that lies ahead of her.
  • Bagdad Cafe is an extreme example of a film being driven by characters. It's largely disjointed and episodic, focusing almost entirely on the quirky resident's personalities, interaction and development.
  • The Best Years of Our Lives is on the character end, examining the mental states of soldiers returning from World War II and how they can't fit into a society that's moved on without them.
  • Dazed and Confused and its Spiritual Successor Everybody Wants Some!! are entirely character-driven stories getting to know the various people who pop in and out of the story.
  • The Florida Project is heavily character-focused - being about the lives of people (particularly children) living a poverty-based life in Kissimmee, and it's not until the last 20 minutes or so of the film that the plot really starts to kick in.
  • A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is on the character side. The plot of both the past and present portions - the gang war in Astoria and Dito reconnecting with his family - is mostly flavouring. Far more time is spent with Dito and the supporting characters like Laurie and Antonio.
  • Interstellar falls into the plot end of the scale. While some characters like Cooper and Murphy do have their moments, the movie's main focus is their respective plots — finding life on other planets and solving the unsolvable equation.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe is overall pretty firmly on the character side of the scale; virtually all of the films and associated television/streaming series are primarily focused around character-to-audience engagement and character interplay versus narrative momentum in order to drive the storytelling. This has become more increasingly obvious starting with The Avengers (2012), wherein even the characters In-Universe seem to be somewhat aware that the specific details of each adventure are interchangeable contrivances and MacGuffin hunts that don't really matter distinctly because they're all really excuses for the audience to spend time with the characters, watch them spend time with each other, interact in various ways, and vicariously enjoy the action/suspense/comedy/drama/horror/etc. Or, to put this more laconically, the MCU is more focused on adapting Marvel characters to the big (and small) screen than adapting Marvel storylines.
  • Midnight Special is plot-focused - with the entirety of the film about getting Alton to where he needs to be. All the other characters are introduced in contrast to that.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Original Trilogy falls in the middle of the scale, being about more than just about a small group of rebels doing battle against the Galactic Empire, a force several times larger and more powerful than them. It was also about several issues that were smaller than the rebellion itself, two of them being the most vital of them all (Luke's quest to become a full-fledged Jedi, and Han and Leia's relationship).
    • The Prequel Trilogy lies mostly in the middle, but a bit more skewed towards character, seeing as its an Origin Story for Anakin Skywalker and how he became Darth Vader. Anakin's growing darkness and his relationships with Obi-Wan, Padmé, Palpatine etc. all contribute directly to the main plot about the fall of the Jedi and Republic, and the rise of the Empire.
    • The Sequel Trilogy is considerably more mixed than either of the previous trilogies.
      • The Force Awakens is rather like the originals, with equal focus on both the plot of getting the map to Luke Skywalker to the Resistance before the First Order, and individual character arcs (Finn's journey from a defected Stormtrooper running away to a hero, Rey learning to let go of the parents who are never coming back and setting out on her Jedi journey, Han confronting his past, Kylo Ren's struggle with the Light and Dark).
      • The Last Jedi is largely character-driven, at least with the A and B plots; Rey, Luke and Kylo spend a lot of the movie just talking with each other and uncovering more about their characters, while Poe is stuck in a Stern Chase, butts heads with Admiral Holdo and learns lessons about good leadership. The exception is the C plot; while Finn and Rose's relationship plays a part in this, it's more focused on their wacky adventures trying to find a codebreaker.
      • The Rise of Skywalker is almost entirely plot-driven; there is some focus on Rey discovering the truth about her past and angsting about it, but it's mostly concerned with the plot to find Exegol and stop the enemy fleet.
    • The anthology movies, Rogue One and Solo, both lie in the middle; the quest to steal the Death Star plans in the former is tied up in Jyn's relationship with her estranged father and her becoming less apathetic to the Rebel Alliance, while the latter serves as an Origin Story for Han Solo and how he got into the smuggling business, exploring his relationships with his crew-members and how it impacted his character, whilst they're trying to steal stuff for a crime lord.
  • Stop-Loss looks like it's going to be on the plot end of the scale - a soldier trying to avoid being sent back to Iraq due to Loophole Abuse in his contract. But the plot takes a backseat to his PTSD and examines the general feeling of the soldiers coming home from the war - and how they can no longer relate to their peers.
  • Sunshine is on the character side of the scale. The journey to restore the Sun isn't focused on too much, and more emphasis is on the characters' reactions to certain situations.
  • Sunshine Cleaning, despite its gimmick of sisters cleaning up after murders and crime scenes, is entirely character focused. The story is more of a Slice of Life showing how the business causes Rose and Norah to grow as people.
  • Titanic (1997) is an interesting example in that the first half is character-driven and the second half is plot-driven; the former focuses upon Rose feeling depressed and suffocated by her family and life-style, and learning to break free when she meets and falls in love with Jack, while the latter focuses upon her and Jack trying to the survive the sinking of the RMS Titanic. This even applies to the Framing Device; everyone starts out fixated on finding a valuable diamond necklace that went down with the ship, only to get distracted by Rose telling them her deeply personal story of surviving the sinking.
  • The Warriors is mostly focused on the plot of the titular gang trying to make their way from the Bronx back to Coney Island while every other gang plus the cops are after them, due to mistakenly believing they assassinated the leader of one of the most powerful gangs in New York City. The movie gives Swan a little bit of character development, mostly via his relationship with Mercy, who is also revealed to have some Hidden Depths (namely that she’s a Thrill Seeker because her life sucks and she's got nothing better to look forward too, which is implied to be true of all of the Warriors as well), but other than that it's entirely devoted to the Warriors just trying to survive and get home.

  • Literary fiction tends to be more character driven then other kinds of fiction. The average literary story is driven by the internal life of a point view of character, with the plots being simple and existing to drive the emotional lives of the characters. Hard science fiction is often the opposite, as the central plot and worldbuilding are intended to be the focus, not the interpersonal relationships. This helps preserve the Sci-Fi Ghetto because English professors and other literary readers and writers tend to see character-driven storytelling as deeper and having more artistic substance.
  • The Catcher in the Rye is almost completely about the characterization of its main character, Holden Caulfield. There isn't a plot inasmuch as there are a series of events that Holden goes through.
  • Earth's Children is largely character-focused. While the books do have plots, there isn't usually an obvious objective for the protagonists to achieve beyond survival. The stories revolve around how people may have lived in prehistoric times, their relationships with each other, how they fit in (or don't fit in) with their society and so on. The only book that has a clearly defined goal is The Plains of Passage, where the protagonists have to cross Europe and make it over a glacier before winter ends, and even then the story is largely focused upon how they work together to survive and their interactions with people they meet along the way.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Heavily character-focused; although there is an overarching plot(s) that's quite important – different noble factions fighting over the throne while an army of mythical ice monsters called the Others threatens to invade – the story is largely focused on how the numerous characters drive or react to these events (most of the POV characters aren't even aware the Others exist, let alone the threat they pose, at this stage), what motivates them, how they change and develop, and their interactions with other people. The fact that the series often employs the Sympathetic P.O.V. and Unreliable Narrator tropes means the reader may have to understand the characters and their experiences to more fully understand the plot.
  • Warrior Cats is very plot focused, with a lot of time spent on fulfilling prophecies. The character interactions are actually quite lacking often times.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 and J. Michael Straczynski seek to defy this. As JMS tells it, he had two ideas for TV shows bouncing around in his head: a grand, sweeping epic about the rise and fall of empires on a galactic scale, and the day-to-day lives of people living in a spinning tin can in space. Then he was in the shower one day, and the thought struck him: they're the same story. His commentaries on individual episodes of the show will frequently point out that he feels "plot-driven" versus "character-driven" is a false dichotomy: put the same characters in different situations, they'll react differently; put different characters in the same situations, they'll react differently. Plot drives characters who drive plot which drives characters. As a result, Babylon 5 falls squarely in the middle, indeed being simultaneously about the rise and fall of empires on a galactic scale, and the day-to-day lives of the people who live in the titular spinning tin can. Both plot and characters are remarkably complex, and unfold gracefully over the course of five years. . . and seldom in the way the viewer expects them to.
  • Band of Brothers was in the middle. Despite dramatizing events in the second World War, a lot of time was spent emphasising the soldiers' reactions to the events going on around them. Notably the miniseries has a Rotating Protagonist to document a certain soldier's character growth in one particular event; Albert Blithe is depicted as a reluctant soldier who Took a Level in Badass during the battle of Carentan, Eugene Roe is shown having trouble connecting to the men until the Battle of the Bulge etc.
  • While Bones usually balances crime solving and character development quite well, there are some episodes with a bigger focus on the story (basically any serial killer episode), and some episodes more about the characters' interactions (like the wedding in Season 9 and the finale).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is in the middle of the scale. There is a strong plot to all of the episodes, seasonal and even series-long story arcs. There is also a lot of character development, for all of the characters, and some of the plots, small-scale and large, even focus on character development. Angel is in a similar space, but slightly more plot-driven most of the time.
  • Charmed zigzagged through this. Earlier seasons - particularly the second - followed more character-driven plots, and the supernatural stuff was only a bit of flavouring. Season 5 in particular was more plot-based, with various Monster of the Week storylines. Seasons 6-8 were a mix - featuring arc-based plots that still helped the characters grow.
  • Criminal Minds is mostly on the plot side, although the show does try to flesh out its characters somewhat and does have character story arcs, like Hotch and the Reaper, Reid and his girlfriend, "Profiler, Profiled"/"Restoration" and the Prentiss/Doyle arc.
  • The two major HBO blockbusters, as of 2019, sit mostly on opposite sides. Westworld focuses more on plot, being more akin to a mystery story which the viewer has to unpick (the show is very fond of flash-forwards and flashbacks, scatters foreshadowing in background props and music choices, and any of the characters could be replaced by a ridiculously human robot at any point). Meanwhile, Game of Thrones tends to take its time building up to setpiece battles and plots which affect the whole realm, instead focusing on the lives and interpersonal relationships of its very, very large cast. Of course, this isn't to say that Westworld is devoid of compelling characters, or that Game of Thrones isn't afraid to surprise the viewer with sudden plot shifts.
  • Gossip Girl is on the character-centric side of the scale. The plot is there, and it is important, but what it really does is drive the character development. What's happening is important because of what it does to the characters and how they react to it, feel about it, and grow from it.
  • House of the Dragon is very character-driven. The show dedicates a lot of time to exploring the complex relationship between characters under Westeros' vicious feudal system, and how their own flaws, pride and misunderstandings can lead to a continent-wide civil war. Many characters from Fire & Blood are given Adaptation Personality Change and become more prominent and expanded on.
  • Law & Order is on the plot-centric side of the scale. The focus is on the plot of each episode, and there's not much character development. In fact, all of the main characters are replaced, and nothing about the show really changes.
  • Lost turns this into a pretty monumental task due to its huge cast. Almost every one of the many main characters has a heavily layered backstory to accompany the main plot of the series, and they are represented in flashbacks, flash forwards, and their own invention: flash sideways.
  • For about the first half of its run, Once Upon a Time was more character-focused like Lost, which its creators had worked on. But for the second half, it became more plot-oriented, with the characters mainly reacting to whatever wacky curse or Big Bad came to town rather than making things happen themselves or growing in any significant way.
  • Roswell moves around on the scale. The first and last seasons are very character-driven, despite the sci-fi plots. The second season is much more plot centered. Both styles work, too.
  • Skins was pure characters, with scarcely an overarching plot at all; any plots it may have had (growing through school, Sophia's death in series 4 and its consequences) were entirely examined through the characters' own reactions to them. Indeed, part of why the seventh series was so disliked is that it seemed to want to focus more on plots.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series was powerfully renown for this, as while the show's trademark trio, including Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, face a huge variety of external conflicts in each episode, they also internally argue amongst each other on how to resolve each external conflict. The calm and intelligent Spock would often pick the logical-yet-immoral choice, while the brash and emotional McCoy goes for the illogical-yet-morally-correct choices, leaving Kirk to either side with one of his two crewmates, or invent a third option that satisfies both sides.
  • This tends to differ in the multiple incarnations of Super Sentai. Some of them are very episodic and tend to focus more on the characters than an overarching plot. Examples of this are Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, Engine Sentai Goonger and Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. Other series have an overarching story, in which character development takes a backseat. Examples are Juken Sentai Gekiranger and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters.
  • For the first eight or so seasons, Survivor focused more on the players day to day lives at camp, but in later seasons, it increasingly focuses on game strategy and twists to the point where most of the characters are flat out ignored.

  • Weapons of the Gods: Pretty much in the middle. Incidents surrounding the First-Grade Weapons form much of the main plot, but the characters all react to them in different ways due to their backstories (not to mention the sheer number of flashbacks showing how they came to be who they are).

  • One the (many) reasons that Hamlet is considered such an important work of literature is that it was one of the first English plays ever to make a deliberate decision to focus on character over plot, when the dominant trend in Elizabethan theatre (largely thanks to the influence of Aristotle's Poetics) was to do the reverse. Though the play never completely wavers from its overarching plot-Hamlet's quest to avenge his father by killing Claudius-its exploration of Hamlet's troubled mental state dominates the play proper, with Hamlet regularly stopping the action to soliloquize about his existential angst and his emotional confusion.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VI starts balanced between the war against the empire and the development of characters, but after the second visit to Narshe, it slowly skews towards being more about the characters. By the time the map changes to the world of ruin, Kefka is a complete afterthought (since it's up to you when to start the final battle), and the rest of the game's narrative is about uniting the cast for the final battle while helping them resolve their own personal struggles.
    • Final Fantasy VII is somewhat character-driven, with many of the characters' personal struggles against their own pasts and weaknesses driving the plot.
    • Final Fantasy XII focuses more on the overall plot of The Empire after it invaded Ashe's kingdom and how the takeover affected everyone. The protagonists aims to bring the empire down while several key players from said empire are looking for a way to wrestle fate from the controlling Ocuria so that people can define their own fates instead. While the main characters do get some development here and there, it's very light and everyone is already in their given roles with their backgrounds made clear.
    • Final Fantasy XIII is almost entirely character-driven until chapter 12 or so, when the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits finally sort out their issues and personal differences and become True Companions. After that, the overall plot kicks into full gear, but the characters still remain the most memorable aspect of the game.
    • Final Fantasy XIV focuses more on the plot than the characters, but there's still some form of character development that occurs over the months and years of patch updates and expansion packs. The main story mostly focuses on dealing with the Garlean Empire looming over everyone with possible invasion, the Ascians aiming to sow discord and chaos on the world, and primals that can suck up the life energy of the planet. The side quests teeters between having more focus on the characters and having a balance between characters and plot.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has more emphasis on character development with all the main characters dealing with their inner struggles and finding a way to deal with them in both the real world and the fantasy world while the main plot doesn't change much beyond "find a way to get back home", which is the main driving force of the main character's actions. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 shifts it more towards the plot a little bit and shifts it further towards that side in several side quests, many which have a long chain of quests to develop their stories with. The characters are more or less already defined, but some of them go through a few struggles and learn how to cope with their problems.
  • The three games in the Mass Effect series are on different points of the scale:
    • Mass Effect is in the middle of the spectrum. It had a clear main plot (stop Saren's plans) throughout, while also developing the characters in your party with long-term discussions and sidequests that explored their pasts.
    • Mass Effect 2 falls heavily on the character side. The focus is on character development of a large group of playable squadmates who have little connection to the main plot (stopping a mysterious race from kidnapping human colonists). The majority of the game is spent helping them dealing with issues from their respective pasts to help them focus on surviving the final mission.
    • Mass Effect 3 is extremely plot oriented, since the nature of that plot (finding a way to save every species in the galaxy from being exterminated by sentient spacefaring machines) forces the personal lives of the characters to take a step back. A contributing factor was how any of the Mass Effect 2 characters could have died on the final mission, making it difficult to incorporate character development for them in the plot. Within the game itself, the Citadel DLC shifts the balance the other way, placing the characters and their antics into the limelight one final time.
  • While the Resident Evil franchise was more well-known for the external conflict against Umbrella Corp's T-Virus zombies, that doesn't mean it had no character-driven internal conflicts of its own, either. These internal conflicts mostly revolve around the characters' various interactions with each other, rather than their respective backstories, or lack thereof compared to Umbrella.
    • Resident Evil, for example, had multiple endings that changed depending on the player's actions. To get the best ending, the player has to rescue both Barry and Chris if he chose Jill as his character, or both Rebecca and Jill if he chose Chris.
  • Neil Druckmann who's the creative head at Naughty Dog has said the studios's approach to storytelling is "simple stories, complex characters". The Uncharted series is more about protagonist Nathan's relationship with his friends & family than about treasure hunting. The stories just happen to take place in whatever exotic location they happen to be in looking for treasure. The Last of Us is a simple story of smuggling a girl who's immune to the zombie outbreak across America to take her to get the surgery to make a vaccine as a backseat to the emotional, slow-burning Parental Substitute relationship between protagonists Joel and Ellie as they go through hell and back together.
  • Tales of Symphonia is more on the characters side of the spectrum, being chock-full of characters facing difficult internal conflicts throughout their quest to resolve the external conflict of uniting both worlds back to one.
  • Compared to Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II is much more character-driven, with almost every party member being the driving force behind one or more overarching plotlines, rather than serving as the support team and occasional distraction from the central conflict, as in the first game. It serves well to emphasize the game's ongoing theme of many minuscule, unrelated factors adding up to the major disaster that is foreshadowed right from the opening shots.
  • Due to being set After the End, Bastion only has four named characters, the rest being dead with the exception of The Ura. The game has an external conflict, but as the game goes on it is revealed that almost everything that happens in the plot can be traced back to the internal conflicts between the characters. (Rucks working on The Calamity and Zia's father causing it, Zulf reading the journal which leads to the second half of the game, etc.)
  • Blazblue: Its a series that goes through the entire scale, that started off more character-driven given that the plot hadn't really kicked in yet, but slowly became more plot focused as the series went on. Its generally divided as followed:
    • The first game introduces and establishes the characters and their distinct personalities through their own individual story routes. There's very little plot to speak off until the game's True Ending, which reveals the series` most recurring antagonist. Which leads to...
    • Blazblue Continuum Shift: The villains begin making themselves known and what their plans are and have now started directly opposing the protagonists. Additionally, many of the characters experience their own personal struggles that they strive to over come and still retains the previous game's individual character routes.
    • Blazblue Chronophantasma: The villain's plans have nearly reached completion and most of the lingering character plots from the previous game are resolved, so most of the plot is dedicated to the series` setting and backstory and stopping the End of the World as We Know It. The plot structure in this game is more streamlined, with some characters getting less focus than in the previous two games.
  • Genshin Impact: Archon quests usually leaned on the plot side early on, but have becomes increasingly character driven over time. The character specific quests are also explicitly meant to be character driven as well.
  • The Saints Row series gradually progressed from the character-focused to the plot-focused end of the spectrum: the original Saints Row and Saints Row 2 were very character-focused, with a bunch of named Saints and just as many rival gang lieutenants who had numerous, if somewhat flat interactions with each other. The overall narrative was also very nonlinear, thanks to focusing on different sets of characters. From Saints Row: The Third onward, the series became a more tightly scripted and linear affair, focusing primarily on the over-the-top power trip fantasy of being the Boss, while reducing named enemies to one (at most, two) per faction. This culminated in Saints Row IV and Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, where the devs had to pull (dead) characters from previous games into episodic roles, just to pad out the straightforward and linear antihero vs. villain plot.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 skews heavily toward the plot end but spends a lot of time trying to make the player care about the characters, despite the fact that, with very few exceptions, unless your name is "Matoi", "Hitsugi" or "Hariette" you never experience any meaningful character development that makes you anything other than a stock anime character.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The series tends vary depending on the form of media, the various comics tend to favor the plot over the characters, while the video games are the inverse. Starting with Sonic Adventure however, the games began to lean towards the plot, which continued until Sonic Unleashed where the scale started to lean back towards the cast again.
  • The Legend of Zelda games initially focused on plot (though it was very minimal back then) and characters had nothing beyond their defined roles. Starting with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the shift tilted slightly towards characters where they had their defined traits, quirks, and problems to overcome, but the games still leaned more towards the plot. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask buckled the trend by shifting the balance in the other direction; the plot doesn't evolve beyond "stop the moon from falling", but a lot of the side characters that have no relevance to the plot have their own backstories and problems to overcome and you get to see how their lives are affected by said problems.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses bounces around the scale depending on which half of the game and which story route you're in.
    • The common first half, White Clouds, is mostly plot-driven. Your primary objective is to discover the agenda of the mysterious Flame Emperor and protect Garreg Mach Monastery from them, although the seeds of the main protagonists' character arcs are sown as well.
    • Silver Snow is firmly plot-driven. The primary focus is on the conflict with the Adrestian Empire, Byleth's character arc is behind them, Seteth is a Static Character, and Rhea doesn't leave her bus trip until there are two chapters to go.
    • Azure Moon is firmly character-driven. The overarching plot is fairly stock for the franchise (fallen noble prince reclaims his throne and saves the world from a marauding empire), but it takes a back seat to Dimitri's character development and how the war affects his personality, growth, and relationships.
    • Verdant Wind is firmly plot-driven. Claude isn't quite static, but his character growth is subtle and takes a back seat to his quest to find the hidden truths of the continent.
    • Crimson Flower is mostly plot-driven. The main focus is on the Empire's conflict with the Church of Seiros, although Edelgard does have a notable character arc as she grows from a terrorist and budding warmonger/tyrant into a noble young heroine.

  • The comics of the Buildingverse (Girls Next Door, Down the Street, Superintendent, Meanwhile Upstairs) firmly fall on the character-driven side, which isn't as surprising as most fit under Romantic Comedy / Fantastic Comedy (outside of being Meta Fic and whatnot). Even Roommates which Continuity Creeps in the direction of Supernatural Soap Opera or maybe even Urban Fantasy and so gets more and more serious in the plot department but to date is still more about the characters.
  • Homestuck has the interesting distinction of being almost entirely plot-driven, despite having a wide and interesting cast of characters. The characters are trapped a fate-driven video game and if they don't perform a series of very specific tasks in the right order, they die. End of story. The characters all have very unique personalities, but they have no choice about their actions, so the plot leads the story.
  • Rain is firmly on the character-driven side. Sure, there are story arcs such as the Halloween arc, the New Year arc, and the "haircut" arc, but there really isn't one throughline plot. The comic is mainly just about exploring the characters and seeing how they interact with one another. The situations that happen to them are mostly there to develop them.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe is very much on the character side of the spectrum. While there is a surprisingly dense plot, it's directly tied to the characters' actions, specifically resident Magical Girl Warriors the Crystal Gems. While there were subtle clues easily missed amongst the background scenery, it isn't until the 17th episode where the viewer sees there's a bit more going on beyond Steven's adventures and character growth. By the time the first major Wham Episode of "Mirror Gem" starts, half of the first season has passed, subtly developing the main and secondary cast. Tropes Are Not Bad as the slow pace and strong character focus amplifies the tension greatly when Homeworld Gems do show up. As the series goes on, the plot is revealed to be almost entirely shaped by the Crystal Gems. The Slice of Life themes stay grounded even while the plot majorly picks up. Whereas most cartoons would increase the drama according to how serious the storyline becomes, SU will happily dedicate an episode to a seemingly minor character. Long story short, this provides a massive Mood Whiplash as the Space Opera themes collide with a sleepy beach town grounded in Slice of Life.
  • Teen Titans slides over to the character end more, and while season arcs are there, they are still driven, or at least guided, by the characters and their desires.