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Static Role, Exchangeable Character

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In traditional storytelling, every character has a specific role in a plot that is statically assigned to them. In Video Games, however, it is possible to associate specific Narrative Beats with an abstract "role" rather than a certain character, and to let the player decide which one of the available player or non-player characters acts it out in their playthrough. This makes the plot appear incredibly variable and tailored to the player without actually having any Story Branching, since all story beats (character actions) remain essentially the same but different characters can have vastly different reactions to the role they've been given. Often, the selection of characters available for a role will be limited in some way (e.g. only magic-users, only blood relatives, etc.).

A telltale sign of this trope at work is when players or even the game itself start using generic, gender-neutral role descriptors (like "the Specialist", "the Volunteer", "the Love Interest", etc.) instead of character names to simplify walkthroughs. It commonly overlaps with Romance Sidequest (if the PC's love interest, regardless who it is, has a role in the overarching plot) and Mutually Exclusive Party Members (if one such member dies, the other may be called "the Whatever Survivor"). A sufficiently large cast is often required to use this trope effectively. If a particular character is unfairly promoted for a certain role by the game, it may be suffering from Story Branch Favoritism.

When a character who is supposed to play a specific role is replaced by a new character, it's a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, not this trope. If you can pick a character for the role of "the Player Character" at the start of the game, then it's a Schrödinger's Player Character (assuming the other possible PCs then don't appear in the game at all), who may also have a Canon Identifier. Has nothing to do with the Static Character trope.


    open/close all folders 

  • Astral Chain: The player chooses between a Brother–Sister Team as their player character. The one you don't choose is given the name Akira Howard and serves as a secondary character.
  • In Hyrule Warriors' Story Mode, certain character roles will be switched depending on who you decide to play the chapter as. Generally, Ruto appears if Zelda/Sheik or Darunia are chosen on missions where Zelda or Darunia have a story role; Agitha appears for Midna; Fi for Impa; etc. The Temple of the Sacred Sword highlights this, as each of the statues can be activated by two members of the cast, but each default member is playable after the mission is cleared with Link. Also, during a single mission, Proxi and Link take Zelda's place if she (or Sheik) are chosen, leading to the odd hilarity of a little fairy leading the Hyrulean forces.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character is lampshaded in Monster Racers. You choose between a girl lead or a guy lead at the start. The one you didn't pick appears and mentions they could have been you.

  • Kings Quest (2015): Queen Valanice. In Episode Three, Graham meets two princesses named Vee and Neese. The one he chooses to romance is revealed to be Valanice in the present.
  • Super Adventure Rockman: At one point, Mega Man has to decide to go through a river or a mountain. Depending on what was chosen, he'll encounter Bubble Man or Heat Man while the other is defeated by Proto-Man.
  • This was quite a popular trope with the defunct Telltale Games:
    • In The Walking Dead: Season One, the choice between Travis and David in the second episode leads to one dying and the other accompanying Lee and co. back to the motel. It's short-lived, as it really just determines which of them becomes a zombie and attacks Lee a few hours later.
    • In The Walking Dead: Season Two, a climactic fight between Kenny and Jane results in one of them dying, while the other can become Clementine's companion for the remainder of the finale and during flashbacks in the third season (though she can also choose to go it alone).
    • In The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Joan forces Javi to make a Sadistic Choice between Tripp and Ava. She executes whoever Javi tries to save in a show of power, leaving the other character as a companion for the remainder of the season. Whoever survived dies partway through the next episode anyway.
    • The Walking Dead: The Final Season: Two of the season's major new characters are Louis and Violet, both of whom are potential love interests for player character Clementine. At the season's halfway point, during an intense battle with an enemy group, the player will be prompted to choose one character to save, while the other is captured. The one you choose to save will become the Tritagonist for the remainder of the season, while the other will be found alive but be gravely wounded, either at the hands of the Delta during their captivity (Louis) or during a brief Face–Heel Turn fight against Clementine's group (Violet). Ironically, the character who is captured is guaranteed to ultimately survive the season, albeit with a life-changing injury; while the one you save can determinantly end up being the final fatality of the entire franchise.
    • Game of Thrones (Telltale):
      • The penultimate episode ends with a straight-up choice between the two oldest Forrester brothers, Rodrik and Asher: one needs to sacrifice his life to allow the other to escape and continue the fight. Whichever makes it out will be the protagonist of the Ironrath sections of the final episode.
      • You're asked to choose between Duncan and Royland to be House Forrester's new Sentinel and a major ally throughout the game. The one you don't choose will become the traitor who gives House Forrester up to their enemies. Ultimately, both the Sentinel and the traitor can be determinantly killed in different circumstances by the end of the season, regardless of which character plays which role.
      • There's also a noteworthy Aversion in Game of Thrones just for good measure: you're given a choice between rescuing Malcolm or Beshka from a dragon at one point, with everything beforehand hinting that it's going to result in this trope. However in fact, both survive and continue on the story-lines they would have been on anyway — just one of them is a bit mad at Asher.
    • Tales from the Borderlands: In the final episode, your strike team to raid the Vault of the Traveler is missing three additional fighters, so the game lets you recruit them from among the unlikely allies you may or may not have made across the previous four episodes (August, Felix, Zer0, Athena, Janey Springs, and Cassius; you can also hire Claptrap if Fiona can afford it). Each potential ally has a specific Event Flag that had to be raised earlier to secure their help, but once recruited, they all dutifully carry Fiona and Rhys through the Final Battle, regardless of who is chosen. Nevertheless, each potential ally offers unique commentary on the situation as it unfolds, as well as shows off their respective combat specialization when they are roped into piloting the Mecha!Gortys against the giant Traveler.
  • The Rocky Horror Show game lets the player choose Brad or Janet and then rescue the other one who has been kidnapped by Dr Frank N. Further.
  • The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan has two principal variations on the final chapter, depending on how many (and, to a lesser extent, which) characters are still alive by the time you reach that point. Since Anyone Can Die, who fills what role in the finale is extremely variable — not quite every character can fill any role, but it's a close thing.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • One piece of DLC for Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition replaces Grayson Hunt with Duke Nukem, without changing any other character's lines or actions. That this makes no sense at all is constantly lampshaded, with Duke's every other line questioning how and why he ended up in a completely different game.
  • In Rage 2, the protagonist's gender is chosen by having you choose between a male and female soldier. The one who doesn't get chosen gets killed in the following cutscene.
  • In Wolfenstein: The New Order and the sequel, you are given a Sadistic Choice between saving Wyatt or Fergus, which alters the "timeline". This means that the survivor serves as The Lancer to Blazcowicz and, in The New Order, is accompanied by a different NPC (Tekla in Fergus' timeline, "J" in Wyatt's) and some minor gameplay alterations (getting to some minor optional areas by learning to pick locks from Wyatt or rewire fuseboxes from Fergus).

    Immersive Sim 
  • Dishonored 2, player character: Immediately after the opening cutscene, the player decides whether to play the rest of the game as Corvo Attano, the returning protagonist of Dishonored, or his daughter Emily Kaldwin, now Empress of the Isles. Whoever you didn't pick gets transmuted into stone by the Big Bad during her coup, while the other is locked up, only to escape and start looking for a way to save them.


    Party Game 
  • Mario Party 3: In Story Mode, each character has a predetermined stamp aligned with them, except for Luigi, who will fill in the hole in the cast if you choose one of the other characters. Mario's proper stamp is Courage, of course, but if you're playing as Mario, Luigi fills in his spot in the lineup instead. If you'd like, you can interpret this as Luigi qualifying for each stamp (Wit, Strength, Courage, Kindness, and Love) while the rest of the cast only qualifies for one each.

  • A Hat in Time, the Chapter 2 Boss and the Bomb Defuser. The main focus of the Chapter is a rivalry between movie directors The Conductor and DJ Grooves. Players can help one or the other win an award by completing their missions; the winner takes a Time Piece to try and change a previous loss (in The Conductor's case) or several previous losses (in DJ Grooves's case) in the past, while the loser shows up during the boss fight to save Hat Kid from an explosive attack. And despite how different the characters are both in appearance and in mannerisms, the boss fight is functionally the same regardless of who you fight.
  • In SOS. You get the choice of 4 playable characters, and once you pick one, Luke and/or Jeffrey become rescuable survivors.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Dawn of War II, "The Traitor": One team member turns traitor over the course of the game, with the player's actions determining who it is, such as doing some sidequests or not, or equipping corrupted gear, with the role falling to a Mission Control NPC if all members are kept pure. Canonically, Avitus becomes the traitor.

    RPG — Eastern 
  • Biomotor Unitron starts with the player selecting their race out of five options, each of which has different starting elemental affinity. You then pick whether to play as a boy or a girl, and whichever gender you don't pick becomes the protagonist's engineer, who upgrades their Unitron and gives words of encouragement whenever they win a tournament at the arena.
  • Dragon Quest V: There are three possible wives for the hero, and while they have very contrasting personalities and dialogues, their role is the same: get married, bear children, get kidnapped and turned into a stone statue for a decade before being rescued by her children and husband. The kids also have their mother's hair color, but have the same lines in every case.
  • In Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and The Blight Below and the sequel, you're given a choice between a male or a female as your main character, with the one who you didn't choose functioning as The Lancer.
  • Final Fantasy VI, late-game party leader: After Terra's re-inclusion to the party, the players can arrange the fourteen-member party however they like, barring one or two places where a certain character is fixed for plot purposes. The character in the "party leader" slot is assigned the same lines regardless of who's placed there, which can result in some wildly out-of-character dialogue. Though sometimes, putting certain party member in results in unique dialogue, that while largely the same, is credited and more in character.
  • Golden Sun: The Colosso tournament (a multi-stage obstacle course ending in a duel) allows you to place your 3 party members (Isaac is the only one to fight) at various points in the course where they can cheer Isaac on (read: use their Psynergy to create shortcuts across the stage, like creating a bridge or stopping a conveyer belt). As each party member has unique Psynergy and others that are given by items, the courses can have more than 3 stages, and you can only neutralize a single obstacle per character deciding who does what is a surprisingly complex puzzle. The fact that this is, for all intents and purposes, cheating, is glossed over afterwards (but with a password save, the gladiators beaten by Isaac show up in Golden Sun: The Lost Age are of the opinion that he cheated and demand a rematch).
  • Live A Live
    • In the Imperial China chapter, the Shifu recruits three apprentices. Whomever he ends up training the most will end up being the heir after the dojo gets attacked by The Indomitable Fist and the two others are killed and become the Earthen Heart Master in the endgame.
    • The final chapter has you choose from one of the seven protagonists to be the Main Hero, with the others being recruitable party members. Choosing Oersted however leads to a very different experience.
  • Miitopia uses this as its core mechanic. Many, if not all, roles in the game can be played by the player's choice of their custom Mii characters. It even facilitates casting Miis of your house pets and plants, with the Cat and Flower jobs.
  • In Octopath Traveler, there are eight main protagonists with their own stories, and the choice of which one is the "initial" protagonist doesn't affect much. However, these protagonists have access to "Path Actions", with half of them functioning near-identically to the other half; the "Noble" version requires higher levels or spending money, while the "Rogue" version has a chance of failing that leads to (temporary) penalties. For all of the game's sidequests, it doesn't matter whether it's the Noble or Rogue protagonist doing the deed; for example, Alfyn's "Inquire" and Cyrus' "Scrutinize" will provide the exact same information about a target.
  • The Pokémon games have the player choose between a male and female avatar at the start, with the unchosen avatar occasionally having some story role:
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (and their remakes) has Brendan/May take the role of Professor Birch's child and one of your rivals, though they ultimately stop pursuing battling to focus on research work by the time you get to Lilycove City. Also, depending on your game the main antagonists will either be Team Aqua or Team Magma.
    • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, has Lucas/Dawn appear as Professor Rowan's assistant, who you'll occasionally run into over the course of your Sinnoh journey. They don't play any sort of rival role, with that being fulfilled solely by your friend Barry.
    • In Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, Ethan/Lyra is a friend who is also the grandchild of the couple who run the region's Pokémon Daycare, and likewise is a non-rival encountered on occasion as you travel through Johto.
    • Pokémon X and Y have Calem/Serena as the unofficial leader of your new friend group. While all your friends are fought to varying degrees throughout the game, your unchosen character is your main rival and is faced the most throughout the game.
    • Similar with the starters. Whoever ends up as your main rival will always end up with the starter whose main type is super-effective against your ownnote , and outside of the Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn games, the third starter will end up in the hands of another NPC. Horrifically/hilariously explained in this fan video. But more likely, Professor Oak keeps the third starter with him, as a Dummied Out battle with him shows. There are actually three versions of this battle programmed into the game, one with each of the starters (fully evolved) as the fifth Pokémon on the team; presumably, you would fight the version with the starter neither you nor your rival chose.
  • In Trials of Mana, the characters you pick and the order you pick them in determine who gives what dialogue, and who appears in various scenes. The second character always joins you when you break the seal at Cascade Cavern (unless it's Charlotte, who, when picked second or third, always joins in the same location), and the third is the one who helps you break out of Jadd's prison (if Charlotte is your third character, someone you didn't pick will break you out instead). While the final dungeons depend on your first character choice, most of the game plays out the same up until then, so quite a lot dialogue can be given by any (or almost any) of the playable characters in major cutscenes.
  • Downplayed in Uncharted Waters: New Horizons: To have more than one ship in your fleet, you have to hire named sailors in ports and appoint them as additional ships' navigators. If you have surplus mates, you can additionally appoint three of them as First Mate, Book Keeper, and Chief Navigator. While mates appointed to these roles will participate in specific dialogues (e.g. the Book Keeper will chime in during market negotiations), their impact on the plot is negligible.

    RPG — MMO 
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic, "Havoc Squad Lieutenant": In the end of Act I of Republic Trooper's storyline, you get promoted to Captain and must, in turn, promote one of your two organic companions to squad lieutenant. Both Jorgan and Elara are happy if you pick them, but for different reasons: to Jorgan, this is the restoration of his old rank that he was unfairly stripped of; to Elara, this is the long-overdue recognition of her skills and dedication to the Republic's cause. Regardless of who it is, however, they dutifully serve as your second-in-command for the rest of the campaign.

    RPG — Western 
  • Always Sometimes Monsters: You select your protagonist and their significant other out of the numerous attendants at a party, and most of the ones you didn't pick show up later in the game as NPCs.
  • Baldur's Gate: When you get to the Isle of Balduran, the historian of the village changes according to the protagonist's gender: Delainy for male Wards or Durlyle for females.
    • The same gender swap is enforced in the sequel with the child of Garren Windspear: a young man for female characters, a young lady for male characters.
    • Played for laughs with Biff the understudy, who replaces plot-critical characters in dialogues if you happened to kill them.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: In the sidequest "Second Conflict", the player has to choose if they want to play alongside the drummer Denny or the bassist Henry for the Samurai reunion concert (the two had a rough breakup and can't stand the thought of being near each other again). Whoever you've picked will appear for the concert in the subsequent mission "A Like Supreme". The role of the missing member will always be filled by an NPC named Drausin. Except for the conversation you can have before the show, the concert goes the same way no matter who you've picked.
  • Dragon Age series:
    • Dragon Age: Origins:
      • "Rescue Duo": Towards the endgame, the Warden may be imprisoned in Fort Drakon, and two party members can be selected to try to rescue them. Different combinations have different degrees of success (e.g. Leliana and Zevran will have zero trouble bluffing their way past every guard post, while Sten and Oghren quickly make themselves a laughing stock), but all ultimately reach and free the Warden.
      • "Landsmeet Champion": During the Landsmeet, Teyrn Loghain challenges the Warden to a duel, but you can instead name another champion from among your companions to fight him. Dog will be rejected outright, while any other choice will provoke a number of reactions from NPCs. Furthermore, while most companions will leave Loghain's fate up to you after defeating him, Alistair will always slay him out of hand because It's Personal.
      • "King of Orzammar": The player will decide whether or not Bhelen or Harrowmont takes the throne. The chosen ruler will promise an army of dwarves to the Warden and will be mentioned in future games. The runner-up, on the other hand, will be killed.
      • "Ruler of Ferelden": At the end of the landsmeet, the player will decide who will rule Ferelden: Alistair or Anora. While there are some minor variations to it (such as marrying the two to each other), only one of them will be treated as the ruler of the kingdom by the end. The chosen ruler will give a big speech before the final battle, offer the player a boon at their coronation, give a eulogy at the player's funeral and goes on to make cameos in future games.
    • Dragon Age II:
      • "Hawke Sibling": One of Hawke's younger twin siblings always dies in the prologue (Bethany if Hawke is a mage, Carver otherwise), while the other, often called "surviving sibling", goes on to play a specific role at several points of the plot - most importantly at the end of Act 1, where they contract the Darkspawn Taint if taken to the Deep Roads and can be made a Grey Warden if Anders is present in the party.
      • "Love Interest": Hawke's lover has a minor role outside of the Romance Sidequest, such as when they come over after "All That Remains", or when a mage-Templar alliance kidnaps them.
      • "Rescue Duo": Similar to DAO, in the Mark of the Assassin DLC, when Hawke and Tallis are captured, the other two party members try to break them out — and universally fail, but their interactions during the attempt paint a perfect picture of the convoluted relationships among your party members.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
      • "Grey Warden Ally": Depending on the world state, either Alistair, Loghain, or Stroud from DA2 play a major static role in the "Here Lies The Abyss" plotline. At the end of said mission, one of them or Hawke becomes "the Fade Survivor", whose role is to play out in the future games.
      • "The Dragon": Depending on whether you sided with the Mages or the Templars in Act I, either Samson or Calpurnia will be the villain's chief minion.
      • "Mythal's Thrall": Towards the endgame, either the Inquisitor, or Morrigan drinks from the Well of Sorrows, allowing them to neutralize the Elder One's dragon in the Final Battle, but also making them a thrall to Mythal.
      • Divine Victoria: At the end of the game, one of the Inquisition's female human members, Cassandra, Leliana, or Vivienne, is elected the new Divine. While the flavor narration and the off-screen policies each of them implements vary greatly, Divine Victoria's role in the Trespasser DLC is more or less the same, regardless of her secular identity.
  • In Dungeon Siege III, the character you choose is the one that shows up to the invitation to the meeting that turns out to be an ambush. The ones you didn't will show up later at various points in the game with an explanation as to why they didn't go and join you as companion characters.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series' spin-off dungeon crawler game, Battlespire, the story is the same whether you choose to play as male Apprentice (Josian) or the female apprentice (Vatasha). The only difference is that you are now rescuing the one you did not choose to play as.
  • Fallout 4, "Sole Survivor": The game starts off with a married couple preparing for an event later that night, and the player can customize the two of them before selecting one (either army vet Nate or law student Nora). The other then becomes an NPC with a default name who dies at the end of the prologue.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, "Dxun Party Leader": During the Battle of Onderon, you must detach three party members to perform a diversion on Onderon's moon Dxun. Whoever is chosen as the leader of this strike team stars in a minor subplot where an ancient Sith temple tries to tempt them with The Dark Side, and you have to deal with its aftermath after the battle.
  • Mass Effect series:
    • "Virmire Survivor": In Mass Effect, two squad members, Ashley and Kaidan, are separated from the party on Virmire and by the end of the mission, Shepard has to make a Sadistic Choice to save one of them, leaving the other to die. The accepted term for the one who lives is "the Virmire Survivor", and they go on to play an important episodic role throughout the rest of the original trilogy — which is essentially the same, regardless of the survivor's identity.
    • Mass Effect 2:
      • The Action Prologue contains a minor example where the squad member who helps Shepard can be either Ashley, Kaidan or Liara. If Shepard had romanced one of the three in ME1, the Love Interest will take on the role; otherwise the game defaults to the Virmire Survivor. If the player didn't import a save, the game puts the Virmire Survivor of your opposite sex in the prologue.
      • The entire Suicide Mission endgame is built around this trope, with Shepard having to repeatedly assign squadmates to specific roles (the Tech Specialist, the Fireteam Leader, the Biotic Specialist, the Escort, etc.) over its course. In a twist, while every available candidate gets their assigned job done, subpar assignments do lead to minor Story Branching at the end of their respective segments, possibly resulting in their or another squadmate's deaths (see here for detailed analysis).
    • Because of the second game's Anyone Can Die ending, Mass Effect 3 has roles in both the main storyline and side missions that are filled by one of your former squadmates if available and another character otherwise. Some of these fall under this trope, such as the Urdnot clan leader (Wrex or Wreav) and one of the Lawson sisters on Horizon (Miranda or Oriana), while others are a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, e.g. the salarian doctor preparing the genophage cure (Mordin Solus or Padok Wiks) or the geth ally (Legion or, er... Legion's backup copy). Some of these have great difference in plot outcomes and consequences, others, not so much.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the male and female playable characters are twin siblings. The one you don't choose starts off in a coma due to their cryopod being damaged and is later awakened to be a secondary NPC.
  • Path of Exile 2 has a dark take on this trope: the seven playable classes are introduced lined up in the gallows. You choose which one gets to survive.
  • Wildermyth has this as a core mechanic, since its campaigns consist of a number of short Graphic Novel-like vignettes whose main characters have to be plugged in from whichever playable characters are participating in the encounter. Often, the game selects from available heroes based on their traits (e.g. some vignettes only take mages, some romantic couples, etc.), and conversely, their dialogue can change based on their personality tags (e.g. two snarky characters turning a Casual Danger Dialogue into a Snark-to-Snark Combat).

  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: On account of various avoidable deaths, there are a few events that can potentially have two different characters fill the same role:
    • During a late-game Vertumnalia Festival, either of Sol's parents can make a vocal comment about Lum's leadership being the kind of thing they left Earth to get away from.
    • If Sol finds a squeedger queen still young enough to be moved while exploring and manages to bring her to the colony so she will anchor in Geoponics instead, both Geranium and Cal can be the one to welcome her while calling her "Your majesty."
    • If Eudicot dies, the character doesn't get replaced for another couple of months, so Seeq fills in for the job in the meantime and is the one to formally hand the position over to the permanent replacement. If Eudicot survives, there is no need for Seeq to fill in and the position is handed over in person.
    • If either of the two first puberty options are chosen, Sol can ask one of their parents for help or have one of their parents figure out what's up if they handle the resulting mess on their own. Which parent this happens with depends on the option chosen, as it will be the parent who went through the same type of puberty.

    Survival Horror 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill, various roles: At the start of a given session, the players pick a scenario and are given random predefined characters to role-play. Half-way through the game, a variety of scenario-specific roles (usually including at least one traitor) are semi-randomly assigned to some characters, putting an additional role-play layer on top of that.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Battle for Wesnoth: In the tutorial, the player can choose to play either Konrad or Li'sar as their side's leader, but it doesn't make any difference to the gameplay and story.

    Turn-Based Tactics 
  • Fire Emblem features many cases of this:
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War originated the marriage system that appears in Awakening and Fates. The mother characters are fixed and their children look and act the same regardless of who the father is; only the gameplay skills are different. If the mother remains unmarried, a pair of substitutes appear instead — they have the same dialogue as the 'canonical' children, but different stats. However, the substitutes also have conversations and events unique to them (many of them about not being as good, status-wise, as the 'canon' children).
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, endgame protagonist: The twin protagonists Ephraim and Eirika follow different questlines, but reunite in the final chapters. The one whose plot branch was followed continues spearheading the plot through the same endgame sequence of events, but with different dialogue and personal scenes.
    • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has a lot of variance in story scenes based on which characters are alive. In general, the dialogue of each scene will be mostly the same, but some characters will take over other characters' lines if the original speakers died. For example, in the epilogue, Zelgius appears as the representative of Crimea's alliance with Begnion if Tanith suffered a Career-Ending Injury.
      • This even expects to certain support conversations. E.g. in Astrid and Makalov's supports, someone always stops Makalov for selling her pendant at a pawn shop, it's his sister Marcia if she's alive and Ike if she died.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening has two separate cases:
      • Various husbands: Intermarrying the characters opens up an extra map where the player can meet a child whose identity is determined by the female half but who is also said to be the child of the male half of the pairing (in effect, for every marriageable female character, there is a static role "Her Husband" that can be assigned to any marriageable male). The child can support with their father, but the main point of the support conversations is always the same (e.g. Nah wondering why her father married her mother, Inigo explaining his Dumbass Teenage Son act, Cynthia and Severa trying to become Daddys Girls in their own ways, etc.), with only the father's speech patterns and rarely personality impacting the way it is presented. Plus the Avatar's exclusive child, Morgan, can have talks with hisnote /hernote  older sibling that, like children and fathers, mostly have the same subject matter regardless of who the sibling actually is.
      • "Chrom's Wife": Chrom is the one character who gender-inverts this. He is the only character who MUST marry in-story, and he can marry one of 5 different characters (or 6, as Chrom marries a nameless village girl if neither of the five girls qualify or they're already married). Regardless of who they are, "Chrom's Wife" fills the same story role in two scenes: appearing with his baby after Chapter 11, and meeting Chrom's Kid from the Future in Chapter 13. Every one of these apart from the generic village girl also has a child of their own in addition to Chrom's fixed child. This child fills the role of "Lucina's Sibling": having a set of support conversations that like Morgan's case, are pre-fixed and with the same subject matter.
    • Fire Emblem Fates features a similar system as the one noted on the Awakening example above, with the difference being that the father is the constant parent and the supports with the mother are the "generic" ones. Azura is the exception, with mechanics similar to that of Chrom in the above example. Also, the servant who joins the group first is dependent on the Player Character's gender; Felicia accompanies male Avatars first, and Jakob for female Avatars.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown, "Volunteer": To trigger the endgame, the player must send one of their organization's psychic soldiers into the Gollop Chamber to contact the Etherial Hivemind. This soldier becomes known as "the Volunteer" for the rest of the game, leads the assault on the final alien base, and must survive said assault because in the final cutscene, they perform a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Earth and humanity.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Paramedium, Nina and Lance appear in both games, but players choose which of them is the protagonist and which is the sidekick.
  • In Spirit Hunter: Death Mark and Spirit Hunter: NG, the player can pick from one of two companion characters to accompany him in various parts of the investigation. While some segments are locked to a character, others are not, and so you can get different dialogue or even different Bad Ends despite the role of companion character being functionally the same.
  • Your Turn to Die: Chapter 2-1 Survivor and Chapter 2-2 Survivor. In Chapter 2, at two points you must perform a Sadistic Choice between the lives of two participants: Reko Yabusame and Alice Yabusame in the former and Kanna Kizuchi and Sou Hiyori in the latter. Whoever lives or dies alters several key scenes, but the main plot remains constant in Chapter 3.
  • Virtue's Last Reward: Invoked and exploited as part of the meta narrative. Specifically the person in K's suit.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey:
    • An unconventional example. The game has two protagonists to choose from: Alexios and Kassandra, Spartan-born brother and sister. Whoever the player chooses to play as will always be the Eagle Bearer; a Mercenary who spent their childhood on the island of Kephellonia under the employ of Markos, and long-lost eldest child of Spartan princess Myrrine. Whoever isn't chosen, however, will appear as Arc Villain of the main campaign, Deimos, a warrior working for the Cult of Kosmos and Myrrine's other long-lost child, long presumed dead since infancy. Although they follow virtually identical scripts and scenes, Kassandra and Alexios are seperate characters with slight deviations in their depictions depending on who is in which role—usually due to differences in the voice direction or animations. As the Eagle Bearer, Alexios tends to be more expressive and boisterous, while Kassandra tends to be more cool and snarky—as Deimos, this translates to Alexios being more aggressive and hot-headed while Kassandra remains coldly sarcastic and measured.
    • The Legacy of the First Blade DLC has Natakas and Neema, Darius' son/daughter and the new Love Interest. Who shows up depends on the player character's chosen character (Natakas if Kassandra and Neema if Alexios), with the other having been killed many years prior to the events of the DLC. Unlike that of Kassandra and Alexios, Natakas and Neema are essentially just gender-inverted versions of each other and are basically identical as characters.
  • Saints Row:
    • Downplayed throughout the series from Saints Row 2 onward, where choosing a particular voice for the Player Character changes not only the accent and tone of their lines, but also the content of said lines (in cutscenes and in gameplay). Because of their different reactions, each voice feels like a slightly different main character without changing the overall plot (since what they say doesn't affect other characters' dialogue or actions).
    • Saints Row IV plays this trope up, but still not as straight as some other examples, in that its endgame subtly imitates Mass Effect 2: the final mission occurs in three phases (delivering the Key, opening the portals, storming the alien ship) and you must choose one of three pairs of homies (Pierce and Shaundi, Matt and Asha, or King and Gat) to go with you on each one, leaving whoever was with you before to Hold the Line. While all of them basically do the same things, their reactions and dialogue are unique to each pair-mission combo, and in the second phase, the AI allies you summon depend on who is with you at the time.
  • In Genshin Impact, you choose your gender by selecting between a brother and a sister. The one you don't choose is captured and your goal is to rescue them.