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Story Branching

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326 possible paths. 10 endings. None of them canon.

Although Adventure and Role Playing Games are frequently built on plotlines that progress in only one scripted direction, sometimes a video game developer offers the player a choice about which direction a given segment may proceed, by offering multiple paths that run parallel to each other. Branching plotlines are usually most common in Visual Novels, followed by adventures and RPGs.

Story Branching occurs when the players' choices determine which levels, objectives, and other choices they will face later in the game and which will be lost for good (at least, in the current playthrough). This makes them distinct from optional Side Quests, which do not so much drive the central plot forwards as detract you sideways (though particularly long side-quests can feature story branching of their own); and from Plot Coupons, which you can often collect in any order — but the overall plot only progresses once you have all of them. A chart of the various branched levels and objectives is commonly referred to as a Campaign Tree. For a more in-depth look, refer to Analysis.Story Branching.

It may fall into Story Branch Favoritism if one of the branches receives more focus from the creator than the others. Subtropes include Multiple Endings (where plot branches occur at the finale, or just prior to endgame, leading to different denouements), Multiple Game Openings (where the story starts along a branch), Big First Choice (where the story has a major split after a warm-up period), Multiple-Choice Past (when the history of a character can vary), Secret Level (where the plot gains an additional episode under certain conditions), and Algorithmic Story Branching (where the branching is based on numeric calculations, rather than binary choices). Compare and contrast Gamebooks, the manner in which branching plotlines appear in other media, and Static Role, Exchangeable Character, where the story remains mostly linear, but extremely variable thanks to letting the player assign different actors to different key roles in it.

In games with competitive elements, such as a timer or Scoring Points, this trope quickly falls apart, as there will often be an optimal scoring path that players must choose in order to obtain the best scores.

Compare/contrast Emergent Narrative. The amount of Story Branching determines the degree of plot (non-)linearity. See Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness for the possible degrees of exploration (non-)linearity, and Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth for a way to introduce gameplay non-linearity. See also Story to Gameplay Ratio.

Route Boss is a subtrope, where in certain boss battles are only available on certain story branches. Compare Choice-and-Consequence System.


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    Adventure Games 
  • Maniac Mansion lets you choose two of six player characters to accompany mandatory player character Dave Miller (canonically, Bernard Bernoulli was one of the two, but this does not necessarily have to be the case). Each has a special skill that the others do not; this limits your options for reaching and taking care of the Big Bad accordingly, with five distinct endings possible based solely on who went into the mansion.
  • In LucasArts's Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, early on the player must choose one of three paths: The "Team" path has Sophia Hapgood join Indy as backup, the "Wits" path has a plethora of complex puzzles, and the "Fists" path has lots of action sequences and fist-fighting. Each path has a different plot, including different cutscenes and locations to visit.
  • Heart Of China by Dynamix. At intervals throughout the game there are plot branches, where the action you take determines which path you follow. You can take a different action and follow a different path the next time you play the game.
  • Heavy Rain branches somewhat from the moment the first player character can suffer a Plotline Death. Though aside from having that character's future scenes (obviously) removed if they die, you won't see much change until the final chapter.
  • Blade Runner is famous for its non-linear plot dependent on many player decisions and success at finding evidence, leading to thirteen possible endings.
  • The entirety of Minecraft: Story Mode has branching, but the most notable example is the plot of Assembly Required, which depends entirely on the choices you made in the previous episode. The first half can be about Jesse and Axel's adventure in Boom Town or Jesse and Olivia's journey through Redstonia, and the second half will have either Gabriel or Petra returning, depending on which of the two you saved from the Wither Storm.
  • Detroit: Become Human features a fair bit of story branching, with certain scenes late in the story being influenced by the Relationship Values of the supporting cast, public opinion towards androids, and a few major decisions the protagonists can make. Consequently, there are dozens of different ending permutations you can encounter, from an ending where Everybody Lives to a premature bad ending involving the deaths of the entire main cast.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • Crisis Beat, despite being a straightforward arcade game, managed to pull this off by having players selecting a certain set of heroes by default — on two-player mode, they'll choose either the Battle Couple, Eiji and Julia, or the Badass and Child Duo Keneth and Yan — with each pair going through different levels of the game. For instance, Eiji and Julia will explore the bar in their first level with their first boss being an assassin named Daugh, while Keneth and Yan will search the lower decks and end up facing a mercenary named Gauss as their boss. Late into the game, players using Eiji or Julia will attempt to deactivate detonators, while players who chose Keneth or Yan will instead help with evacuating passengers, before their paths converge afterwards.

    Fighting Game 
  • The Subspace Emissary in Super Smash Bros. Brawl branches depending on which princess, Peach or Zelda, you choose to save from Petey Piranha at the beginning. In practice, this mostly affects which cutscenes you see, though it also affects which princess you can play as in a few stages, as well as the opponents in a few Let's You and Him Fight battles. The story converges back into a single narrative once the remaining princess is captured again.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • Marathon was planned to have this based on how many civilians (Bobs) you managed to save, but the idea was dropped (probably because the Bobs are damn hard to keep alive) and the different ending terminal messages praising or criticizing you based on your performance are what's left of the idea. The game engine still had the capability to do it, though, a feature several Game Mods took advantage of, most notably Rubicon.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Used several times throughout the campaign, with results of the decisions sometimes not being felt until the very end of the game. Major choices that affect the ending are finding out about the CIA mole, saving / failing to save Karma, shooting Briggs in the knee or head, shooting Harper or sparing him, shooting Alex Mason in the head or the legs, completing all Strike Force missions and killing or sparing Menendez. Less important decisions include Harper's face being scarred and DeFalco's fate.
  • BioShock Infinite subverts this in a manner that underscores the central theme of the game, namely "constants and variables". At several points, you are offered choices that look like they'd branch the story (like in the original BioShock), but their "consequences" quickly prove to be negligible and largely cosmetic in nature. This is because in every playthrough, you play as an alternate Booker in an alternate Columbia, but the Luteces' "constants and variables" theory dictates that while you are free to change a few events ("variables"), the key beats of your path are the "constants", regardless of what you do. Your Non-Player Companion Elizabeth is actually the one with the Story Branching power.

    Flight Sim 
  • In the Ace Combat series:
    • Ace Combat 2 has one point in which your allies undertake two simultaneous operations against the rebels, with the player choosing which operation to take part in for four missions before they converge back to one path. There's also some missions with a hidden bonus objective leading to an optional alternate mission (destroy a non-mission-critical cargo plane and your allies will find evidence of a hidden enemy base in the wreckage of it, etc.) and three different endings depending on certain other factors: Normal Ending for not shooting down the four ZOE craft across the campaign, Bad Ending for doing so but then failing the next mission, and Good Ending for completing that mission and the real final one).
    • Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere has four major branching points: whether to defect from UPEO to General Resource with Dision; whether to defect with Dision again, from GR to Ouroboros; whether to follow Park's orders and to kill Fiona or to defect with her to Neucom; whether to defect from Neucom with Cynthia to Ouroboros, leading to five different Faction-Specific Endings. There are also minor branchings, which converge back into the main plot after one or two missions.
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War branches off at two different points in the campaign before converging back into the main story. Your wingman Chopper asks you a question in the middle of a mission and your Yes/No answer determines the choice. The questions he asks have nothing to do with anything relevant to the missions.
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has several missions consisting of three different levels representing distinct phases of the same major military operation. You can only choose to complete one of them per playthrough. Additionally, your Karma Meter determines which boss squadrons you fight at three points of the game (in addition to the two mandatory boss squadrons and the Final Boss).
    • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception branches out very often into two or three possible paths, but all branches converge again for the final mission.
    • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation features a subtle branching not unlike in Zero, except that you only have one linear sequence of (very large) levels — but most of them contain up to seven concurrent and largely independent objectives ("operations"). Since completing half of the operations automatically ends the mission, you effectively miss out on all others — but unlike in Zero, you can dynamically switch between operations mid-mission.
  • Escape Velocity: Nova had six major and two minor storylines. Some of these storylines have multiple paths and/or endings and at certain points it's possible quit one storyline and start another.
  • The original Wing Commander had branching paths where the success or failure of your missions determined where you would go next, culminating in either the Confederation's withdrawal from the sector or its victory over the Kilrathi sector command. Not present in the Expansion Packs, where a system-loss after the first has you Watching Troy Burn as you retreat. Returns in the actual sequel, where there is some difference in a given system's missions depending on whether or not you "won" or "lost" the previous system. Also, you get a Non Standard Game Over if you "lose" two consecutive systems, though the first system in these streaks is always the "odd-numbered system"; get on the "winning path" for an even-numbered system and you can enjoy the story.
  • The Free Worlds storyline in Endless Sky diverges depending on if you chose to follow up on a Syndicate defector's claims the Syndicate was involved with triggering the conflict, or allow the Syndicate to take him to preserve the alliance with them. The broad strokes of the outcome of the storyline remains the same due to a later intervening event, but the path there is wildly different, and some of the details aren't quite identical.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • In Choice of Games, most stories have greater or lesser branching based on your stats and previous decisions, though the "conventional" pattern is to have a largely linear story that aggressively merges any short branches back into the main story, with Multiple Endings based on your stats and choices. Some break this down into multiple complete ending branches.
  • There is a minor example in The Perils of Akumos, where the "catch the cat" quest can be completed in two slightly different and mutually exclusive ways, depending on who you choose to return the cat to when you've caught it. You get a different item depending on which ending, although they are both used for the same purpose, and talking to the characters involved in the quest afterwards will get different responses depending on who you gave the cat to.
    • There is a bigger example in the game's prequel, Trail of Anguish, where you have to choose four classes to sign up for. Two are always the same on every playthrough, but you choose the other two from a list of five. Each class has a mission, the completion of which gives you an item required for the endgame; the optional classes each give you different items that can effectively be used interchangeably.

    Platform Games 
  • Subverted in Epic Mickey, where the player's Exposition Fairy explicitly hints that they may solve puzzles and defeat Bosses in multiple ways (typically with either Paint or Thinner) and the player must pick a course of action; this affects NPCs' opinions of Mickey throughout the adventure, but it has zero effect on the adventure itself, nor its ending (though ending cutscenes do reflect the actual choices made).
  • Shadow the Hedgehog features five alternate paths: Pure Hero, Semi-Hero, Neutral, Semi-Dark, and Pure Dark, and each path has two alternate endings, depending on your actions in the final stage. You can switch to a different path at any time by completing a level's Hero, Neutral, or Dark objective, allowing for up to 326 possible variations. Completing all ten endings unlocks the game's canon Omega Ending.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • StarCraft:
    • Brood War's Terran campaign branches briefly during the invasion of Korhal based on whether in the previous mission you destroyed Mengsk's missile silos or his physics labs. This has the effect of accordingly denying Mengsk use of either nukes or battlecruisers in the next mission, though he'll use the remaining option in an Alpha Strike against your base.
    • The two Enslavers bonus campaigns fork based on choices made during the second mission.
  • StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty allows you to choose to either free the Spectres from The Alcatraz at the end of Tosh's mission line, or side with the Dominion and prevent a jailbreak. This results in gaining either Spectres or Ghosts as playable units.

    RPG — Eastern 
  • In Chrono Cross, there are three ways to sneak into Viper Manor early in the game, depending on which character the player asks for assistance. Each route progresses through a different area and gives the player a different party member in the process. Afterwards, another branch happens when you must choose whether to save Kid at the cost of destroying an ecosystem. Again, the choice you make will determine the characters at your disposal.
  • Every Deception game has some sort of story branching, often reliant on whether the player wants to remain a Villain Protagonist or to make some attempt at redemption.
  • Drakengard has a unique way of handling the branching paths. Each time you unlock an ending, you unlock an alternative version of some mission, which leads to divergent path from that moment that ends with another, radically different (and usually worse) ending. Usually, you have to fulfill a secondary condition too (such as beating a boss under certain time limit) to go the alternative route once it is unlocked. The final branching is unlocked by 100% Completion.
  • Downplayed in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter. On your trips through Zeiss, Bose, and Grancel, you can pick either Schera or Agate. The dialogue mostly remains the same, but there are some additional conversations. This is taken further in the last chapter of the game. When you fight the Enforcers, you can choose an appropriate rival in their fights. This leads to extra scenes between them. In some cases, it's the last bit of Character Development they get in the game.
    • Downplayed once again in The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki where the "Law, Gray, and Chaos" Alignment (or "LGC Alignment" as it is referred to in-game) only affects which group will the protagonists join for only a specific part of the game. Otherwise, the game's story mostly plays out the same.
  • Subverted in the second chapter of Final Fantasy X-2, the player is required to hand an important MacGuffin over to one of two rival factions before the plot continues. While this has only a cosmetic effect on the main plot, it does affect the availability of certain (faction-specific) sidequests available later.
  • Persona games all have some degree of Story Branching, for example, the SEBEC route in Persona, and the Female Protagonist Route in P3P.
  • Not just Persona but a number of Shin Megami Tensei games have branching paths where you choose between Law, Chaos, or Neutral allegiance.
  • Radiata Stories splits into two very different stories depending on a choice made mid game.

    RPG — Western 
  • Fallout was the first Western RPG to feature extensive story branching: until then, RPG plots were mostly linear affairs, even when the games themselves were pretty open ended in regards to exploration. Fallout changed that, altering the story progression based on the PC's decisions, stats, Karma Meter, etc.—and setting up the expectations for RPG plots ever since.
  • The Witcher has a major story branching in chapter 5, depending on which faction (if any) Geralt sides with. The branches only converge again towards the end of the Epilogue.
  • Alpha Protocol has much story branching all throughout.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings also has a major choice, but it is made fairly early in the game. Based on your choice there, the storyline develops in one of two rather different ways which only come together again in the final chapter.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 offers you a choice when you get to Neverwinter. You can either side with the Watch or with the Shadow Thieves. Either choice eventually gets you into the nobles' section of the city to advance the plot, and gives you different defense options during your murder trial in Act II.
  • In the original Gothic, you could decide which camp to join after starting the game, opening up different quest lines which eventually converged back into a single plot.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Although Dragon Age: Origins follows BioWare's Strictly Formula "Find-Four-Plot Coupons" for the most part, there is a notable, if minor story branching at the end of Redcliffe Village quest, where, depending on your resolution of the Broken Circle (another plot coupon quest), you may be either forced to make a Sadistic Choice or able to Take a Third Option. If you haven't started the Broken Circle yet, you can even put the Redcliffe quest on hold, save the mages, and then take the third option.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition is the first game in the series to feature major story branching:
      • In the first act, you are forced to side with either the rebel Circle Mages or the rogue Templar Order to stop their on-going hostilities. Doing so locks you into one of two mutually exclusive level sequences (one involving a freak time travel accident and the other, an unwilling Journey to the Center of the Mind), after which the faction you supported becomes your allies for the rest of the game, while the other side is completely enthralled by the Elder One and proceeds to attack your Player Headquarters head-on.
      • The late-game story quest "The Final Piece" plays out very differently, depending on whether you or Morrigan drank from the Well of Sorrows and on whether Morrigan had given birth to a child carrying Archdemon Urthemiel's soul. Depending on these factors, the quest takes you either to the Fade, or back to the Arbor Wilds, and you may or may not have to fight a High Dragon Secret Boss.
  • Might and Magic VII branches off into two separate paths at mid-game, based on if you align with the Necromancers of Deyja or the Wizards of Bracada. They do not merge again (though several quests are mirrors or mostly identical), leading up to Multiple Endings.
  • Three the Hard Way has the story branch off to three different paths to reach Dillon: the ferry route (lets you recruit Roper), the Arcadia route (lets you get North, Clifton and Fayette, among other things), and the mountain pass route (the shortest route, but also the least rewarding). None of them really affect the ending, though.
  • This is a very significant design element of Tyranny — for an RPG of its type it is relatively short (and the developers were quite open about that), but there are a lot of differences that come from earlier choices — even ones made during character creation, so seeing everything Tyranny has is not possible in a single play-through. Or two. Or three.
  • The Personal Story of Guild Wars 2 inverts the typical storyline, with many beginnings but a single ending. To see every mission involved would require thirty characters due to the different combinations of race and personal history. Only the player's personal story is limited in this manner, however; all the possible plots in the Personal Story chain are considered to have occurred and run to completion. Characters and events from unplayed missions will appear in the player's story later on.
  • Skyrim has this for some of the questlines. For example, you can choose whether to side with The Empire or the Stormcloaks in the civil war plot.

    Shoot 'em Ups 
  • While the original Star Fox for the SNES uses different difficulty-defined campaigns,note  Star Fox 64 uses this trope, as achieving the secondary objectives/defeating a level's secret boss allows you to choose between two paths; achieve only the primary objective and you only get one path. If Peppy says "Never give up, trust your instincts", then that usually means that the secondary objectives are out of reach.
  • After completing the game once in Star Fox Command and receiving a relatively mundane ending, the game unlocks alternate story paths the player may select after completing each mission - these progress through different areas (with different party members), branching and interleaving to yield a total of nine distinct Multiple Endings.
  • The Darius series is all about branching levels that take you to one of several Multiple Endings. The opportunity to choose a level occurs at the end of the level that you are currently playing.
    • In G-Darius, each stage is further split into two paths at some point. On some stages, this leads to different bosses. On some other stages, this occurs at the beginning of the boss and dictates how you approach the boss.
  • Like Darius, Night Striker (another Taito game) has a similar branching level mechanic that takes you to one of several Multiple Endings.
  • In Contra: The Hard Corps, at the end of the first stage you have the choice of either going after Deadeye Joe or saving the alien cell. At this point, the only impact it has on the game is the second stage (which depends on the choice you make) and whether or not Deadeye Joe appears at the end of the fourth stage. Afterwards, you have the choice of surrendering or fighting to the end. This choice, along with the choice at the beginning of the game, determines how the plot unfolds for the rest of the game. Also, there's a secret story path that doesn't regard the first decision, and it is hidden in the third stage.
  • Hellsinker averts this trope at first, but after completing Segments 1-4 on one credit, subsequent players will ask you before each of the first 3 segments whether you want to choose the "Lead" path, leading your allies, or the "Behind" path, following them instead. Each branch of each Segment tends to be significantly different from each other. After Segment 3, all future stages only have one path.
  • Raiden V is the first game in the Raiden series to have this feature, almost reminiscent of the Darius series, but is more of a Roguelike.
  • In ESP Ra.De., the first stage is determined by which character you pick; Yusuke starts at Houou High School, J-B 5th starts at Shopping Mall at Night, and Irori starts at Bay Area. After the first stage, you go through the remaining two of those stages, with the order decided by which button you use to pick your character; shot randomly picks between the two, power shot gives you "Route B", and Guard Barrier gives you "Route C". Also, the difficulty of the stages and bosses is based on when you encounter them; for example, since Yusuke goes through the High School first, he has the easiest variant of it with Satoru having 3 lifebars, while the other two non-secret versions will play harder versions, with the hardest variant featuring a 5-lifebar Satoru being used if the player saves it for the last of the initial three stages. Alice Master in Psi can freely pick the order of all three stages. The stage order also dictates when the stages take place; the game takes place on December 24 until you play through the Shopping Mall, and after that stage the calendar rolls over to December 25.

    Simulation Games 
  • Stardew Valley has a single major branching point. If at any point you sign up for a JojaCorp membership, the community center will turn into a warehouse and you'll be able to rebuild the town by spending gold on the JojaCorp Community Development Program instead of completing bundles.

    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil: Outbreak had several scenarios where the plotlines would branch and you could take a different path of escape.
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has several scenarios where you have to make a choice on how to proceed. It usually boils down to whether you have to fight some enemies or finding a way to escape from them. There is one choice near the end of the game that will determine whether or not Nicolai gets away or dies, which also determines what ending you'll get.
  • Dino Crisis has some situations where your companions want to progress in their own way. Choosing Rick's option will usually have you deal with little to no enemies while solving puzzles. Going with Gail bypasses the puzzles in exchange for encountering more enemies. The story doesn't change a lot other than some character encounters and conversations being slightly different. The final choice selection near the end of the game will determine what ending you get, though there's also a hidden Take a Third Option that has its own ending as well.

    Tactical RPGs 
  • Tactics Ogre, Ogre Battle, and Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis all have branching stories that terminate a single final mission. While Tactics and The Knight of Lodis originally had a single ending, Ogre Battle gave you Multiple Endings based on your end-game alignment and reputation, who you recruited, and, in some cases, either whether you obtained all of the MacGuffins or the gender of your Player Character. When Tactics Ogre was remade for the PSP, the "Wheel Of Fate" was added, allowing the player to see the shape of the story so far, and upon completing the game, allows them to go back and remake key decisions to see how it would have affected the story.
  • Der Langrisser has three points where you can branch the story. If you behave with honor toward the Empire in the intro, then you'll be offered the chance to switch sides to join the Empire or remain aligned with the Light. If you join the Empire, then under the right conditions depending on how you answer the questions in one chapter, whether Elwin personally takes the Langrisser, and possibly a choice at the crucial moment, you can betray the Empire and take Langrisser for yourself. Do this, and the Demon Tribe will join with you. After that, there's one more choice when the Langrisser attains its full power, and you can decide whether to support Bozer's evil, or kill him and fight to free the continent from all of the warring factions.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 was the first game to feature one of these, although it was fairly minor. At one point, you choose between a direct assault on The Empire (which is a lot harder, but more rewarding) or a more stealthy infiltration.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones branches after the first third, where you must choose whether to follow Eirika or Ephriam, each sibling having their own set of 5 maps. The branches appear to meet up after Chapter 15, but the story turns out to have some major differences depending on whose route you're on: on Eirika's, Lyon is fully possessed by the Demon King, who is the sole Big Bad. On Ephriam's, Lyon resists the Demon King's possession and does a genuine Face–Heel Turn.
    • Fire Emblem Fates features this as its main selling point: the path the story goes depends whether you ally with the kingdom of Nohr or Hoshido, or neither.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses has the Big First Choice of choosing a House to teach, which leads to the protagonist joining that House's side when the war starts at the game's midpoint. There is also another choice before the midpoint on the Black Eagles' route: if you have reached C+ Support with Edelgard and accepted her invitation to Enbarr earlier, you can decide whether to remain loyal to The Church, leading into the Silver Snow route, or to side with Edelgard after she's revealed to be the Flame Emperor, unlocking the Crimson Flower route; otherwise, you are locked into the Silver Snow.
  • Triangle Strategy has the dialogue options a player makes influence an invisible Karma Meter which determines if their character is more aligned with the conviction of morality, utility, or liberty. These then decide how strongly you can sway your court in voting on major issues — the higher the conviction, the easier to convince them, but if it's too low you might not be able to convince them at all — the outcome of those votes result in drastically different consequences and paths. How strongly you're aligned with a certain conviction also determines what optional characters will join you throughout the game.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Battle for Wesnoth: Some campaigns have branches where the next scenario or two will be different depending the choice that the player takes before converging again. Each choice usually gives different gameplay bonus (gold, item or free unit), but doesn't affect the story significantly.
    • The South Guard has the biggest branching in the game as a choice made in the aptly-titled "Choice in the Fog" decides who will accompany Deoran and co. for the rest of the story and what the final three scenarios will be.
    • In Northern Rebirth, whether you manage to keep Elenia alive or not turns out to be important later as it will decide how the elves will help Tallin (become a permanent ally or just give some gold).
  • Shadow Watch: The game features a degree of randomization and was marketed as being a different game every time one played it (the manual claims that each campaign can proceed 162 ways depending on randomization and player choice). In practice, however, the randomization didn't affect the actual gameplay all that much.
  • The campaign mode of Panzer General and its spinoffs determine your next mission, as well as your "prestige" allowance, on whether you get a Major or Minor victory or a Loss. To get the Mission against Washington in PG, you must get a Major in one of the two Sealion missions and one of the three Typhoon missions; otherwise the best you can do is to force an armistace on both fronts.
  • Super Robot Wars uses route splits in nearly all installments to showcase how the on-going conflict is occurring on different fronts. Players can choose which route to take, with the Massively Multiplayer Crossover cast splitting up appropriately so their respective plots from their home series can be resolved, alongside the plot of the Original Generation for the game. In most cases, picking a certain route is a prerequisite to unlock secret characters, parts and units, while some games automatically determine the route players must take, thanks to specific choices made throughout a play-through, the total number of turns taken or whether optional objectives were achieved from previous scenarios. This ultimately affects the type of ending players will get.
  • Chroma Squad features two different branches. The first branch, determined in Season 1, determines the kinds of monsters you contend with in Season 2, depending on whether you pay royalties to your old director, hire him, or take him to court. The second one at the end of Season 4 has a larger impact, determining whether you recruit a Sixth Ranger, your team's Leader becomes a Kamen Rider expy, or your team receives aid from a Metal Heroes expy.

    Visual Novel 
  • Story branches are most common in Visual Novels, where they are known as "routes". Story branching is usually the main gameplay mechanic, and for some, the only kind of gameplay there is to them. As such, visual novels tend to put a greater emphasis on story branching, with choices having a greater impact on the narratives than in other genres. See Visual Novel for examples — the majority of them feature story branching of some kind or another.
  • The Portopia Serial Murder Case is the Ur-Example. It is a murder mystery game that allows the player to take several different paths, with several possible ending scenarios based on who the player suspects to be the murderer, though only one leads to the true ending.
  • Fate/stay night, based on choices made early on, lead down three entirely different story paths, each one having their own branches. In total, there are up to 46 alternate endings.
  • 428: Shibuya Scramble contains multiple characters with many different choices and branches. In total, there are 85 alternate endings.
  • In Reflections on the River, the game starts out with a Big First Choice, and continues to branch within each path. Different routes reveal different things, and no matter which one you go down, you'll only get a partial picture of the overall plot. To learn everyone's secrets, you need multiple play-throughs.
  • Minotaur Hotel: Aside from the main three routes, there are various choices you can make that will affect the path of the story, with one of the earlier ones being whether you picked Kota or Luke as the manager for the hotel's restaurant. These choices decide which routes you can go through, and how certain interactions play out.
  • Mystic Messenger is a notable example in that the game explicitly warns you whenever it's about to branch with Caution messages, thus giving you a heads-up on the best times to save. In general, the branching occurs at the end of Day 4 where the game decides which character route to put you on and also on certain points on your chosen character route where it checks to see if you fulfilled the requirements for an ending or not.
  • The Letter notably has an in-game Branching Tree menu dedicated to showing every story branch. Each of the game's seven chapters has its own tree diagram, and the trees of the last two chapters are very large.
  • YU-NO has a time traveling mechanism which allows you to instantly hop between distant parts of the storyline branches, letting you carry items between unrelated scenes. There's a catch, however: you can only travel to moments where you've "dropped" beforehand a "save-jewel", a magical jewel. There's a limited amount of these, 8 in the PC-98 and Windows versions and 10 in the Sega Saturn and remake versions. This system is in place of a conventional save-load system. The timeline is extremely complex, with dozens of confusing branches, loops and U-turns, and some of the routes require items from the end of another route. It's important to leave jewels in important moments so you can return to them later. "Loading" a dropped jewel also automatically puts it back into your pocket, so you may have to remember to instantly drop it again to keep the moment easily accessible. Furthermore, to view the in-game map which you use for loading jewel-saves, you must have at least one unused jewel in your possession. Screw up, and you may have to replay a significant chunk of the game.
  • The story of Steam Prison forks in several places, beginning with a split into the "Bodyguard Route" and the "Prisoner Route." The Bodyguard Route in turn splits off into Eltcreed and Ulrik's paths, while the Prisoner Route divides into Ines and Adage's paths, and each love interest's path has at least one more significant fork based on your decisions before finally splitting off into the various possible endings. Additionally, completing the "Ferrie" ending of Ulrik's path unlocks Yune's route, a whole new story branch with six possible endings.
  • Thousand Dollar Soul provides two choices for each scene. A few of them don't matter, but most of them cause the plot to branch out into 35 endings. There's a button to go back and check what the other choice would do.
  • Zero Escape:
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors features several branching paths in the form of choosing which doors to go through. All told, there are fourteen possible routes through the game, but only five endings. Two of these endings are based on the entire route you take, while the other three are based only on the last door you go through.
    • The sequels Virtue's Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma are more straightforward, with each branching path leading to a different ending without any convergence.
  • AI: The Somnium Files shares a creator with Zero Escape above and functions similarly, with each storyline being divided into branching paths that loop into one another, requiring you to finish other storylines to reach a conclusion.

Alternative Title(s): Campaign Tree