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A Story Overwrite happens when you accomplish some mission in a video game—be it beating a boss, rescuing a friend, or saving the world—only to have your handiwork suddenly retconned by a following cutscene, or perhaps a future plot summary of some sort. A Story Overwrite occurs whenever the storyline overwrites something the player did in-game.

Beat a boss? Cut to a fully rendered scene showing the battle happening all over again, and this time you're getting horribly massacred.

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Beat the first form of a boss in two seconds flat without losing HP? Cut to a cinematic showing your hero on his knees and gasping for breath as the Big Bad unleashes the ultimate ancient demon.

Did your rocket launcher reduce the enemy to a pile of Ludicrous Gibs? Cue a cutscene of you walking up to the Not Quite Dead villain and delivering the finishing blow with the protagonist's silver pistol.

Killed off all but one of your party members in order to conduct a Solo-Character Run? The end titles will refer to all of your characters as renowned heroes that saved the world.

Completed the Timed Mission with several minutes to spare? The following cinematic will have you succeeding just barely in time.

Game developers don't always know how you're going to be playing their game, so sometimes all they can do is take their best guess and run with it. It also partially happens because a game's gameplay and story just aren't the same thing. The truth is that the game's writers already have the script plotted out, and anything the player does in-game to diverge from that will inevitably be overwritten or ignored.

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Many games manage to avoid this trope for major plot events by having branching storylines. The rare games which avoid this trope on a smaller scale tend to feel highly immersive, by making the player feel like they actually have an effect on the world.

A form of Gameplay and Story Segregation. Also see But Thou Must!.

For specific instances of this, see:


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Examples:

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    Action-Adventure 
  • Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver: The final battle ends with Kain, beaten and bloodied, fleeing Raziel into the past. The sequel's opening cutscene retells the confrontation, except Kain bats Razzy away effortlessly before calmly stepping through the chronoplast portal. It likely would've helped if Raziel wasn't suffering from Plot-Induced Stupidity in the retelling; apparently he forgot that he had a soul-devouring ghost sword permanently attached to his arm. You know, the thing that he needed to win in the first game.
  • Emperor Ing's heart in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes alternates between dark and light. Regardless of the colour when he is actually killed, it will always be light in the death cutscene, as this is the case if the player performs optimally.
  • Averted in Psychonauts, if you get arrested during the Milkman Conspiracy level, one of the questions the G-Man asks is "Why did you punch that little girl?" - but only if you actually did.

    Action Game 
  • In Yo-kai Watch Blasters, while you can change your team members freely during the game, most cutscenes (the ones that open and end each mission are the only exception) and even dialogue during missions will still show the default team you begin the game with, which is formed by Jibanyan, Hidabat, Sandmeh and Noway. This creates weird situations with Jibanyan complaining that he has to go on mission instead of sleeping all day while he's not part of the actual team in the mission. Made even more baffling in the Illoo sidequest, when he creates illusionary copies of the default team and the game will behave like it's a Mirror Match even when it's not.

    Adventure Game 
  • Homestuck has a few interactive segments, where you can collect items and such. However, there couldn't possibly be a separate branch of the comic for every configuration of items, so some of the player's actions will likely not end up being canon. Occasionally, the comic will follow up an interactive segment with a non-interactive panel summarizing what was supposed to happen.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Far Cry 3 has two endings, both of which seem to irrevocably end your time on the Rook Islands. However, after the credits have rolled, you find yourself back on the islands and free to explore and finish side quests as if nothing had happened.
  • In Goldeneye a cutscene replaying your death is shown every time you die. However, possibly due to engine limitations the scene is set a few seconds after your death, so if you were clipped by one soldier's stray bullet, the cutscene might show several people who have since come in surrounding you and spraying you from all angles, implying massive incompetence on the player's part. If you were killed by a crate exploding, you'll be shown suddenly dying with smoke around, crate already exploded.
  • In Halo 3, it is possible to drive a small quad bike (Mongoose) for the final level. After a massive Leap of Faith it changes to a cutscene, which features a Warthog vehicle. This is particularly jarring because the cutscene kicks in whilst you're flying through the air.
  • In Heretic, the final fight against D'Sparil takes place in a giant open field where the boss summons large amounts of his disciples. The hero, Corvus, fights D'Sparil with an arsenal of ancient artifacts and D'Sparil takes a large beating before finally going down. The introduction of Heretic 2, on the other hand, places the fight in a small room with just Corvus and D'Sparil, who is taken out with a single shot from the Phoenix Rod.

    Platformer 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In the SNES remake of Super Mario Bros., if Mario/Luigi defeated Bowser while small, then a Super Mushroom will fall on top of him, causing him to grow, before the ending starts. As a result, Mario/Luigi will always start "hard mode" (where all Goombas are replaced by Buzzy Beetles, all other enemies move faster, and there are now more enemies in the game) in his Super form, and as a result the SNES remake marks the only time he will get a Fire Flower in the "?" block after the game's was-been first Goomba.
    • The Game Boy Advance remake of Super Mario Bros. 3 has the ending begin automatically after Bowser is defeated rather than having the player manually start the ending in order to prevent a potential Kaizo Trap (in this game, Bowser is defeated by being tricked into creating a hole in the ground, causing him to fall inside of).

    Puzzle Game 
  • In Catherine, it doesn't matter to the story what Vincent's Karma Meter is on. Even if he's heavily on the red side, indicating that the player is going to get a Catherine ending, Vincent will still talk about wanting Katherine and wanting to propose to her after the 7th night, so he breaks up with Catherine. And Vincent's shock and Heroic BSoD when Katherine breaks up with him remains the same. His internal monologue is the only thing that really takes his current position into account, which has no effect on how the scenes play out.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • In Age of Mythology's final mission, you're supposed to complete a set of tasks to power up Arkantos into a demigod in order to defeat the extremely powerful and near-invincible Living Poseidon Statue. However, if you somehow manage to defeat the statue without Arkantos, the final cutscene will show demigod Arkantos dueling the statue anyway.
  • In Creeper World, in the final level, you face an endless swarm of creepers, which you certainly can't fight past (as the characters announce). You have to build Thor, a spaceship, to take them down, and then activate the black hole generator to kill the super creeper. Except you can. By inching forward your towers, and gradually encircling the spawn point, you can block it off, and activate the black hole generator. However, your spaceship was required to close it, so you didn't die. What does it do? The author says well done, and then the black hole explodes, and the plot continues as usual.
  • Starcraft: In the 9th Terran mission, you could put Kerrigan onto a Drop Ship and fly that to a far-off corner of the map, well away from your base, but the Zerg that come in at the end still find a way to capture her. Also, you could make your base's defense strong enough to actually hold off the attack.
  • Warcraft:
    • In Warcraft II, the goal of the last Alliance mission is to destroy the Dark Portal. No matter how you accomplish this in-game, the ending cutscene shows the wizard Khadgar destroying it with a Blizzard spell (in-game it would actually take many such spells to burn the Portal down).
    • Using God Mode in final battle of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos does not protect you from having allies killed by scripted events, even if you destroy all of the undead (since that cheat applies only to the player who typed it).
    • It's not even necessary to cheat if you fortify properly at the human base. Yet as the timer skips down to the last couple minutes Archimonde randomly gets bored and just waltz through everyone's base, leaving the player to wonder what the point of stalling the undead was if Archimonde can take you out singlehanded.
    • Also in Warcraft III, there's that one mission where you're supposed to have your dudes drink demon blood to get powered up so they can kill an otherwise invulnerable demigod. You can win without finding the fountain (it's just a huge pain to do so) but the story continues as if they all drank from it anyway.
    • There are a handful of dungeons and raids in World of Warcraft that later Expanded Universe material would show major lore characters completing, rather than the players who did so in-game. For example: King Varian went through Blackrock Depths, called Onyxia out in Stormwind, and killed her in her lair. Darion Mograine was the one who got Ashbringer from Naxxramas and proceeded to kill the Scarlet Crusade in their monastery.
      • Subverted in the case of the Deadmines. While a flashback did show who canonically defeated the final boss in the pre-Cataclysm version, it was just a faceless bunch of adventurers much like the players.
      • For story reasons, the fight with the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel ends with apparent failure with him instantly killing all the players, who are then resurrected by an ally in a scripted scene, allowing them to finish him. However, the ability he uses to kill the raid actually just does a large amount of damage, far more than was survivable at level 80, for which the raid was designed. At level 90 and above, players can actually survive this damage, but the scripted scene continues as if they died anyway — and the Lich King cannot be killed until it plays out fully, staying at 1 HP.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • In the first Baldur's Gate, Imoen is classed as a thief, but may be dual-classed into Mage. Whether you do this or not, she is a dual-class Thief/Mage at the start of Baldur's Gate II. This is not simply a gameplay issue, as the story requires Imoen to be a mage so she can be arrested by the Cowled Wizards and taken to Spellhold, as part of Irenicus' plan.
    • Similarly, the party that begins the second game with the PC are the same regardless of who the PC used in the first game. The player starts with Imoen, Minsc, and Jaheira; Dynaheir and Khalid can be inferred from Minsc and Jaheira, respectively; they both die offscreen just before the game begins.
    • It's theoretically possible to attack and kill the cultist who steals the Soultaker dagger from you, before she leaves the screen and disappears, thus getting the dagger back. However, the game ignores this and has the cult summon the demon anyway.
    • Zig-zagged with some recurring NPCs in the second game: whatever you did with them in the first game, you may greet them as if you never met them, as if they were your companion, as if they died or even as if you killed them. The following answers all consider valid what you said.
  • Similar to the Pokémon examples, NPCs in various Digimon World games will assume that your victories are thanks to your Digimon liking you. In fact, the final battle of Digimon World is fought to determine whether friendship or slavery makes a better Digimon. While unhappy Digimon aren't as good at fighting as happy ones, it's not impossible to achieve these goals if your Digimon isn't particularly amused.
  • From the Dragon Age games:
    • Oghren will still join you in the Awakening expansion pack even if you didn't recruit him (or dropped his approval low enough to pick a fight and kill him) during Dragon Age: Origins.
    • Also, if you finished the main story with the ending where your character pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to defeat the Archdemon and then import it to Awakening, then your character will miraculously be alive again without explanation in Awakening. Word of God states that they're aware this didn't make much sense, but didn't want players to feel forced into picking certain endings so they could play Awakening without making a new character. This one is actually a kind of a stealthy story Retcon: if you view the resulting save file in an editor, you will see that the import silently and retroactively sets a flag indicating that the PC chose the story option available in Origins that allows them to opt out of the sacrifice. Namely, the game thinks that you accepted Morrigan's offer while you actually didn't.
    • Dragon Age II has a few instances where the previous game doesn't line up with the sequel. Most importantly is Leliana's reappearance. She's very much alive even though more than one option can lead to her death. Fixed in Dragon Age: Inquisition, which has downloadable content explaining that such a Leliana was essentially a magical clone.
    • Ditto Anders, who's a plot-important party member (and potential Love Interest) in II...despite the fact that you can kill him off in several places, return him to the Templars, and/or just refuse to make him a Grey Warden during Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. His "death" at Vigil's Keep could be handwaved away by saying that merging with Justice kept him alive, but that doesn't quite work if you executed him at the beginning of the expansion.
    • A more minor example in II: the game fails to recognize if the Warden romanced Zevran during Origins, meaning that he will accept Isabela's offer of casual sex even if he's supposed to be in a committed relationship with the Warden or mourning his/her death. (Needless to say, fans were not happy.) This glitch was never officially fixed, meaning that the only way to "resolve" the issue without mods is to just not have Isabela in your party during that sidequest.
  • In Fable I, the Hero wins a Champion's Seal in the Witchwood Arena; later, the Big Bad shows up in a cutscene to capture him and his mother, gloating that the Seal allowed him to monitor the Hero's every move. This happens regardless of whether the Hero immediately stuck the Seal on a wall in his house and never spent another minute in the same city as it.
  • In Fallout 3, characters you've known from the beginning in Vault 101 tend to somehow immediately recognize you, despite you at that point possibly being kitted out in full Power Armor with your face concealed and your voice altered. You might even have undergone Magic Plastic Surgery and changed ethnicity, and they'll still recognize you.
  • Notably averted in one instance in Final Fantasy VIII: the Dollet mission ordinarily concludes with the player party being chased through the city by a giant robot, complete with FMV cutscene when Squall makes it to the beach. It is, however, very distantly possible to kill the mech and get to the beach within the time limit provided, and if this happens, no FMV plays.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • A minor example occurs in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, where Ephraim will claim to have killed a certain boss "with his own hands", regardless of who you killed him with.
    • Similarly, in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance after you kill a particular boss, Ike tells that boss' daughter that he was the one to take him from her, regardless of who the player killed him with. This could be interpreted as Ike taking responsibility for the actions of the army he is commanding, but if not it's definitely an example of this trope.
    • Sequel games always assume the best possible ending for the entry they follow: everyone was recruited and none of the playable characters died. Most notably, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn assumes Ike won his duel with the Black Knight in Path of Radiance — even if you use an Old Save Bonus where that wasn't the case.
    • They also seem to have been written with certain support combinations in mind, such as Sothe x Tormod, who are good friends in Radiant Dawn despite them only bonding if you reach their A Support in Path of Radiance.
  • Golden Sun:
    • If Isaac (the only one allowed to participate) loses the Inevitable Tournament in Tolbi, you wake up in the infirmary and are told you must have dreamed the whole thing, including the part where you could see your friends look over the obstacle courses and choose the best place to cheer Isaac from (cheat with Psynergy). And once you win, you... wake up in the infirmary anyway thanks to Post-Victory Collapse (although if you lose the very last battle, the game does consider that you lost, and you lose out on a unique piece of equipment and an Old Save Bonus in the next game). Amusingly, the fact that some Adepts are able to see the future is a minor subplot... but only Jupiter Adepts can do that.
    • A major mechanic of the game is switching around Djinn to change character classes and elements, but the story always assumes the characters are in their base classes -For instance, if it's a plot point that someone needs healing, either Mia or Piers will do it, even if they have no healing spells in their current loadout.
  • Kingdom Hearts II:
    • It's possible to either skip Halloweentown or Agrabah. However, after a certain point, you have to go back and do one or the other again. When you go in, the Cutscenes will remain unchanged. So, even though you know now where Riku and King Mickey are, Sora is still yammering on endlessly about looking for them.
    • Despite the fact that she's a downgrade from either of your default teammates, Mulan (as "Ping") gets all the credit for the missions that Sora and company help her with. Arguably justified by the fact that Sora and his friends offered to help Mulan specifically in order to help her gain credibility with the army, and would naturally give her the credit for their accomplishments in order to further that goal... but even after Mulan drops her disguise and becomes a more effective party member, Sora still has to be the one to deliver the final blow to the boss, and Mulan still gets credit for it.
  • The cutscenes for the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance all pretty much center around the original default combination of Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Thor, regardless of what combination of heroes you're actually playing the game with.
  • Mass Effect is generally good about remembering your actions, even fairly small ones. This makes the exceptions more jarring (and some may be due to bugs):
    • One quest has you called in to deal with a hostage situation. No matter how many of the hostages you save, news reports will refer to the resolution as a "brutal massacre;" true enough in that you killed all the terrorists, but no mention is made of the fact that you saved some or even all of the hostages. A news report in the sequel indicates that the corporation is on the verge of folding. The last game tries to make up for this by having a report saying that the company is doing well thanks to large donations.
    • Even if you talk Conrad Verner into abandoning his misguided desire to be a Spectre, he'll show up in the sequel trying to emulate you and claiming you threatened him with a gun. That was actually a glitch. In the first game, the Paragon resolution of Verner's quest erroneously sets both Renegade and Paragon flags in the save game, and the second game only interprets the first flag it checks, which happens to be Renegade.
      • The third game lampshades it with Conrad apologizing for claiming you threatened him with a gun "even though it may or may not have happened" because he was really stressed out that day.
    • More generally, Party members will almost always act as if they personally witnessed the events of a given mission, despite the fact that most of them can't join your squad and thus had to remain on the ship.
    • In the sequels, your teammates will still recognise you in a split second. Doesn't matter if you're wearing a face-concealing helmet. Doesn't matter if you're wearing a suit of armour that disposes of your iconic N-7 badge. Doesn't matter if you changed your facial appearance, including ethnicity between games. You're still instantly recognisable.
  • Pokémon:
    • At the end of every game, somebody will still say that you won because you treated your Pokémon with kindness and didn't just concentrate on pure power. They will still say this even if your Pokémon all have 0 happiness and you constantly ditched every Pokémon you had as soon as something higher-levelled became available. Unlike some other NPCs who can sense your Pokémon's happiness, these people cannot really know how you treat your Pokémon. They only deduced so because you beat the crap out of them.
    • Or refer to your Pokémon in the plural, even if you only ever carried one.
    • Additionally, numerous trainers will remark that you two had a close battle, despite the fact that you can be dozens of levels higher and destroy each Pokémon in one turn with a super effective attack.
  • In the Ultima series, people and lore will mention how the Avatar teamed up with all eight of the Warriors of Virtue in the fourth game, and all eight regard them a close friend. However, you could only team up with seven of them during any one playthrough. (The Avatar occupies one of the party slots, and you can't even recruit the character belonging to the same class as yourself - play as a Bard, and Iolo is unrecruitable, for example.) Since the later games can't take into account which one was left out in the "true" timeline, none can acknowledge it, but if you think about it, one of them should canonically be excluded.

    Simulation Game 
  • FreeSpace and its sequel generally don't let you deviate from the way battles are supposed to go - you simply can't destroy ships you're not supposed to because they'll leave before you're able to, and protecting your own ships is either a condition for mission success or else they're guaranteed to go boom - even to the point of their hull integrity dropping like a rock on its own if you've been protecting it too well. But some of the mission briefings can be a little weird if you do really well; for instance, in FreeSpace 2, after the Colossus has engaged the first Sathanas juggernaut, there's a mention of how the Colossus was heavily damaged and will take months to repair - even if you took out all of the Sathanas's forward weapons and the Colossus doesn't take a scratch.
    • These games also demonstrate how easily such a means of plot convenience can become infuriating. You never know until the debriefing screen if a mission is supposed to be lost or not. Especially bad is the "Mystery of the Trinity" mission in FreeSpace 2: The ships are supposed to be destroyed, should you however manage - usually with cheats or on the easiest setting - to keep them alive the mission will stop dead in its track and becomes Unwinnable. The added tedium of this being one of the longer missions in the game doesn't help if you reflexively go for the restart mission button after the Trinity was destroyed.
  • Some missions in TIE Fighter require a friendly capital ship to be destroyed. Even if you successfully destroy all enemy ships and protect the ship in question, the ship will self-destruct to ensure the game continues as planned.

    Sports Game 
  • Depending on how well you fight in Punch-Out!! for Wii, you sometimes get a cutscene of Mac's final blow to the opponent. It's fairly common for the punch thrown in the cutscene to not match up with the punch that you actually used to finish the fight.
  • The early versions of Tony La Russa Baseball had only one instant replay video for each notable play, and they would be shown regardless of how well they matched the details of the actual play. The Double Play instant replay, for example, was a 6-4-3 play. Got 2 out on a line drive to the pitcher and a throw to third? 6-4-3.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, there's an early cut-scene where, based on your actions in the previous section, Snake will say one of three responses depending on whether you managed to sneak past the guards, alert but evade them, or killed any. The way he describes the third option makes it sound like he slaughtered the whole base in a bloody battle, even if you silently killed just one guy and disposed of his corpse via throwing it off a cliff.

    Survival Horror 
  • In Dead Rising 2, it doesn't matter if you win by a landslide in the opening scene of Terror Is Reality, the antagonists will still make frequent remarks about your humiliating defeat throughout the game.
  • This trope exists in the form of Nicholai in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil 3 (Remake). There are 3 different death scenes for him, and yet he still canonically survives to the end.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume:
    • Whatever path you're on, Chapter 4 contains an escort mission where you have to rescue certain characters, and each have a cutscene showing, despite your efforts, your charges are dead.
    • It also does it in a roundabout way in the prologue. The third fight of the game is supposed to make you use the Destiny Plume on Ancel to defeat the demons. However, with a New Game+, you get to keep your end-game equipment, which makes those demons pushovers. Though the game locks out your commands in your turn until you use the Plume, you can still counter attack, and kill the demons that way without ever using it...and Ancel still dies afterward.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • In a particularly egregious example from Grand Theft Auto IV, you can chase the Big Bad to his getaway helicopter, blow away the chopper with an RPG while it is still on the ground, and the ensuing cutscene will still show him getting away in the helicopter.
    • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in the mission "Dam and Blast", you have to sneak into the Sherman Dam and rig the power generators with explosives. Even if you get in, plant all the explosives, and get out without being spotted by the guards, the following cutscene will still show CJ running away from the police.


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