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Subtitles Are Superfluous

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Game developers often do not bother to include options for subtitles or Closed Captioning in their games that have full voice acting. There are many reasons for this. Written text for each piece of dialog must be added to the game's data. Considering the time pressure game developers are under, it is often not considered an important feature. Also, pre-rendered movies are usually played with simple movie playing libraries; knowing when the right moment to display a line of text to sync with the dialog is not a trivial exercise.

Regardless of the reason, this often makes playing dialog-heavy games more difficult for the hard of hearing and those with an imperfect grasp of the language in which the game's dialog is written, and frustrating for those who might just prefer to quickly read through a text rather than paying close attention to the dialog. In any case, it can get quite aggravating if the sound is muddled to begin with, or if your home becomes a center for lots of noises. Especially as games rarely let you replay cutscenes if you happened to mishear something important.

Sometimes games will go the opposite route and have subtitles that cannot be hidden, which can get annoying in its own right. Other games will simply copy and paste their script into the game, which tends to create inaccuracies if there was some ad-libbing or different drafts.

See also Reality Has No Subtitles.

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Non-Video Game Examples:

    Anime & Manga 

  • A rare DVD example: Retail copies of Disney/Pixar's Up are fully subtitled, including bonus materials. Rental copies of the same movie, however, have no subtitles or closed captions whatsoever— and this was apparently intentional on Disney's part, not just a mastering glitch. Did we mention that the movie's protagonist is hard of hearing, and that dogs who talk through translator collars are notoriously difficult to lip-read?
  • The purchased DVD of the theatrical release of Daredevil (2003) has both subtitles and a speak-along-thing describing what's happening on-screen. Granted, this option for the blind makes a bit of sense, considering...
  • Bitter Lake is entirely subtitled, presumably in case any members of the audience are deaf, because the acting is done entirely in fursuits and the mouths are not puppeteered well at all (nor were they apparently made to be puppeteered in any fashion to begin with).
  • The Google Play version of Frankenstein's Army has absolutely awful subtitles. An entire conversation is missed and saws are said to be "drilling".
  • Most films from The Asylum lack subtitles although many do have Closed Captioning. Whether the captions actually match the film's dialogue is a completely different matter. For example, Hold Your Breath has a dialogue scene which instead had the lyrics of a heavy metal song transcribed over it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The boxed sets for Leverage inexplicably lack subtitles.
  • Weirdly enough, played straight and averted by Stargate SG-1. They have subtitles... for seasons 1 and 8-10 only.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • CHIKARA JoshiMania. No subtitles or other means of translation are provided for the various Japanese women's promos.

    Western Animation 
  • The Invader Zim DVDs come with a single subtitle track, Irken (the alien language of the protagonist). It is turned on by default.
  • The DVD boxsets of Avatar: The Last Airbender are notably without subtitles.
  • The Europeannote  DVDs of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic have subtitles in every language... for the episode commentaries. The episodes themselves? Only French subtitles.
  • While Crunchyroll’s original animated productions like High Guardian Spice and Onyx Equinox contain full subtitles for other languages like Spanish, German and French, they do not have closed captions for English (the language they were originally produced in) despite the option for them being there, making them difficult if not impossible to watch for those who are either deaf or hard of hearing.

Curiously, all of the above examples except for Up do include closed captions that can be decoded and displayed by an NTSC TV — but only if you're using standard-definition cables with the DVD player. Thus, they technically are present, but in an antiquated form that can't be displayed using a modern up-converting player.

Video Game Examples:

    Action-Adventure Games 
  • Advent Rising was weird about this. There is a subtitle option, but it only affects the FMVs, while the in-game speech is left unsubtitled. Oh, and the in-game speech is ridiculously quiet, while the background music is ridiculously loud. Good luck knowing what anyone is saying!

    Action Games 
  • Capcom is a repeat offender; many of their games have featured cutscenes with unsubtitled dialog.
    • Devil May Cry was particularly weird with this; there actually is a subtitle option that defaults to 'on,' but a large part of dialogue is left unsubtitled. The optional subtitles are instead only used for the especially difficult-to-understand and garbled, such as non-humanoid bosses.

    Adventure Games 
  • The Adventure Games by Autumn Moon, such as A Vampyre Story and Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island, have no subtitles in cutscenes (subtitles can be toggled on and off during gameplay). Problematic as many characters in these games have comically heavy accents.
  • None of the games in The Journeyman Project series have an option for subtitles. This is especially frustrating because the developers also had a tendency to record the background music and ambient noises at significantly louder volumes than the dialogue— and, aside from the remake of the first game, there are no options for adjusting the audio mix.
  • The obscure adventure game Net:Zone has subtitles for some characters, but not all. And due to a bug, the music volume cannot be lowered, making it almost impossible to hear some of the character lines.
  • In the indie adventure series, Dark Fall, while the first and third games, The Journal and Lost Souls have subtitles (though the first game requires pressing "F1" to do so), the second game, Lights Out, does not. This makes it difficult to understand the Big Bad's speech, as it's delivered in a distorted, computerized manner.
  • The Japan-exclusive Moonlight Syndrome has zero subtitle options for its overabundance of spoken dialogue, which made it a serious pain for fan translators.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Doom³ features lengthy audio logs that often must be listened to to get access codes to lockers containing weapons or medical supplies. There's no way to skip forward and no way to see the logs as text. Luckily, you can listen while you play. Of course, that means if a demon suddenly noisily materializes just when you're supposed to hear the access code, you'll have to start the recording over from the beginning. It's not usually as bad as all that, as the audio logs with codes will usually be just thirty to forty-five seconds long. Special mention, however, goes to the audio log which is five minutes long and conspicuously has the code at the very end. If you miss it (and you will the first time, because you'll get bored and go off to kill something), then you have to replay the whole thing. It's not even a good audio log.
  • FPS S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl suffers quite a bit because of this. The game was originally made in Russian, and the English version has the most important speech dubbed into accented English, while leaving signs and NPC banter untranslated. This is unfortunate, given that much of the banter (like jokes told around a campfire) is quite witty, and makes it more unrealistically difficult for a non-Russophone player to immerse himself in the game world. Your character is obviously supposed to be Russian or Ukrainian himself and have no trouble talking to people or reading signs, but if the player doesn't understand what is being said, his experience is severed from that of his character.
  • Metro 2033 has a similar problem; although it does dub everything, it only subtitles "important" dialogue. If you can't hear or want to play with the truly excellent Russian voice track, you're going to be missing out on a lot.
  • Singularity doesn't subtitle anything, and again causes problems due to the thick Russian accents almost every character has. Singularity also implements the dynamic audio from Half-Life which makes it even worse.

  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location has not a single subtitle. Considering the game is fully voice-acted and very plot-heavy, this can be jarring for people who have played the previous games in the series where almost all the dialogue was text-based (aside from Phone Guy). Not only that, but the dialogue can be very quiet and sometimes completely inaudible without headphones turned up almost to the max unless you have hearing that rivals Superman's.
  • Friday the 13th: The game doesn't include subtitles for any of the characters, even Pamela Voorhes, Jason's mother, who is difficult to hear occasionally.

Multiple Games

  • Hackers have been making "undub" versions of PlayStation 2 games, where the ISO is modified to have the text from the English release and the voice tracks from the Japanese release, so people who hate dubbing can play a version they can understand while keeping the original speech. Except, of course, during cutscenes, where there are no subtitles and the voices are still Japanese, which means most of the plot will still be impossible to follow without resorting to an external translation.

    Hackers have been getting better at this. Most video cutscenes are subtitled before release, and certain games have subtitle options that can be exploited (or implemented, if absent). Games that have dialogue boxes only make it easier. Supposedly, this will become moot with Blu-ray games on the PlayStation 3. International versions of games published by Sony CEA generally ship with the most common languages in the region at least. White Knight Chronicles, for example, has English, French and Spanish languages available in North America.

  • The Viewtiful Joe games have this, unless you are playing with one of the unlockable characters in the first game, in which case the dialogue is just the main story's dialogue played backwards, with subtitles used to make new dialogue for the new character.
    • The first boss in Viewtiful Joe is nigh-incomprehensible thanks to the way he talks and the lack of subtitles.
    • Most of the other bosses either speak with a goofy voice (Making it tough to keep track of what they say), or have sound effects going on as they talk (Like growls and roars for Fire Leo).

    Puzzle Games 
  • Big Fish Games has taken some flack for not captioning the videotapes (or providing a transcript in the in-game diary) in Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove. To be fair, the complainers have a point — while most of the tapes are just Backstory of what happened to the students, one of them has the only hint about how to beat the final puzzles unless you're reading the strategy guide as you play.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • An odd Double Subversion happened in Command & Conquer: Generals Zero:Hour: digging into the files reveals that subtitles were planned for the banter during the Generals Challenges, but the programming makes no use of them, so they were all commented out. We are speaking about more than 1200 written lines here.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria was a good example of this. Of course, being an RPG it wasn't exactly much of a problem... except for one cutscene, where the villain from the first game, Lezard Valeth, up to this point believed to be just a fanservice cameo, betrays the party and utters an absolutely BADASS incantation that ends up with him metaphorically EATING Odin that NOBODY can understand. On the other hand, most cutscenes are subtitled...

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • Assassin's Creed has many lengthy conversations and absolutely no subtitles. A portion of the game requires you to listen to a conversation through an air vent in a tiled bathroom, and acts as if you could make it out. Uh, Ubisoft? Nobody has any clue what plot-important stuff those NPCs just said.
    • Ubisoft games in general suffers from this, all the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon games suffer because there's absolutely no subtitles, combined with the fact you can't up the voice volume and tone down the sound effects like you can do with most games.
    • Assassin's Creed II, at last, has subtitles. There was much rejoicing. The subtitles and menu text in the game even follows the system settings (at least the 360 version) thus averting the usual "five major European languages subtitles" treatment that most PAL releases get. The PAL versions of Assassins Creed 2 even have the option to select different languages (Italian!) and then have them subtitled in your native language.

    Strategy Games 
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has no English or Japanese subtitles for its FMV cutscenes. The voice acting in them is also notoriously quiet, so good luck figuring out what the characters are saying.

    Tower Defense Games 
  • Orcs Must Die! has some very funny dialogue at times, but no subtitles. The Sorceress' lines are all too easy to miss, seeing as she whispers them all right at the starts of waves. Which is when the Orcs are yelling, and all your traps are going off.


    Action-Adventure Games 
  • Brütal Legend provides subtitles for everything, even grunts and yells.
  • The French version of Tail Concerto, which retained the Japanese voice acting (unlike the U.S. version), includes French subtitles in all anime cutscenes, as well as in the opening.
  • Assassin's Creed II, which takes place in Italy has an option to include translations of the Gratuitous Italian in the subtitles in parentheses.

    Adventure Games 
  • Torin's Passage, a Sierra adventure game from 1994, not only features (optional) subtitles for all spoken dialog and audio cues, but also allows you to scroll back through them in the manner of a TelePrompTer at any point in the game. Sometimes it subverts it though, by having the narrator of the spoken subtitles go off into tangential rants.
  • The adventure game The Last Express makes subtitles part of the gameplay. The action takes place aboard one of the last Orient Express journeys before the outbreak of the first world war. The player character is an American who knows French, German and Russian. If the player overhears conversations in these languages, they will be subtitled to demonstrate that your character understands what is being said. If conversations in other languages are overheard, there will be no subtitles because your character does not understand what is being said.
  • Since Code 7 is a modernized Text Adventure, it obviously averts this. While all dialog (except for Alex's) is voice-acted, it is also displayed in an output log on the screen, so the game can easily be played without sound. It also has a German version, where the voice acting is still in English, but is translated in the subtitles.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Many of Valve's games using the Source Engine feature not only subtitles, but full closed captions of sound effects.
    • The Half-Life 2 series feature closed captions for both the regular game and the commentary feature in Lost Coast and the Episodes, making it significantly easier to catch plot-relevant information that might otherwise be drowned out by other sounds.
      • This is an extraordinary blessing, considering the unusual way Half-Life handles spoken dialogue. Face a character when he's speaking, and you'll hear him loud and clear. Turn away while he's speaking, however, and his words become soft and almost unintelligible.
      • There's also one notable point where Barney says "And if you see Dr. Breen, tell him 'Fuck You'!" The "fuck" is drowned out by a large crash of metal, though it's quite obvious what Barney is saying. The subtitles and captions, however, all say "...tell him * crash* you!"
    • Left 4 Dead also has full subtitles and closed captions. This is a great help, as the player can often see captions related to the special infected before actually hearing them or their leitmotif.
  • The No One Lives Forever games feature many funny conversations that can be overheard. The subtitles make it significantly easier to catch them.
  • In the original Perfect Dark, when eavesdropping on an executive, the subtitle box fades or gets brighter as you move away from or closer to the door.
  • BioShock had subtitles. Too bad they would scroll through lines much faster than the characters actually spoke them, resulting in seemingly random sentences flashing up, and then the characters speaking. They were more distracting than helpful, which can get annoying when other things are happening during dialogue, or when the character's accent was especially thick. The Playstation 3 version "fixes" this by instead merely showing entire paragraphs at once, rather than one sentence at a time like normal subtitles.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay has many options for what the player want or doesn't want to be subtitled. You could turn off the subtitles for the Enemy Chatter and still have text in the cutscenes.

  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series, from Sonic Adventure and onwards, have subtitles for every bit of dialogue spoken, whether cutscene or during gameplay, usually in English, Japanese, French, and Spanish. Sonic Generations went above and beyond and not only added Russian, Italian, and German, but brought in voice talent for every language too.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Portal
    • The game has a subtitle track that plays, not just dialogue, but sound effects as well. Although the latter is perhaps too distracting to be worth it in particularly noisy rooms. (Do we really need to be told every time a portal opens or closes? Especially when they do so about every second? And there's several of them?)
    • Even the audio commentary feature in Portal is captioned, impressively enough.
    • Sadly, in spite of this, the turrets' responses are left untranslated.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Most Japanese RPGs seem to have both text and voice in important cutscenes, such as Final Fantasy X, Xenosaga, Rogue Galaxy, etc.
  • Fallout: New Vegas is notable in that one of your companions is a flying robot that communicates via beeps and boops, so if the player wants to hear what it says during the end-credits, they need to have the subtitles on. This also includes Rex from the main game and Roxie from Old World Blues.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon has separate subtitles for the English and Japanese voice tracks, allowing one to enjoy the game with a more localization-focused script or one that better matches the original.

    Stealth-Based Games 

    Survival Horror 
  • Generally speaking, this is also true of "adventure" games such as Resident Evil and Dino Crisis. In those cases, the original Japanese game had English voice actors, making subtitles a necessity. Particularly noticeable in Dino Crisis, with the import version almost playable (item names and such were still in Japanese, making it hard to know what the items were supposed to do).
    • Resident Evil 5 was the first to include full subtitles, whereas Resident Evil 4 only included them during Leon's two-way radio transmissions. The Silent Hill series has always been an exception, however, providing subtitles in all the games.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • The cutscenes of the Grand Theft Auto games are subtitled by default.
    • In Grand Theft Auto 3 there are two cutscenes where the player character picks up and reads a written note. You only find out what they contain through the subtitles.
    • Subtitles are particularly beneficial in Grand Theft Auto IV, as they will translate Niko's Bosnian into English.
  • In Scarface: The World Is Yours, the captions will pick up every ambient line of dialogue during the gameplay.

  • Homeworld included full subtitles throughout, after lobbying from a player in the open beta who was himself completely deaf.

Mixed Examples:

    Adventure Games 
  • Quest for Glory IV has 3 men whose voice acting goes so far off script with various impressions that the subtitles just give the base information, leaving out all the extra jokes.
  • Jazzpunk uses subtitles poorly as a joke, with the subtitle provided often not matching the corresponding line, often times being way too short. For example, a character saying "jackass" will have his subtitle be "jackalope".

    Beat 'em Ups 
  • MadWorld, like Shadow Hearts, has the subtitles deviate from the speech at several points. This is most noticeable with the Black Baron, where it feels like the subtitles are the script and the spoken dialogue is largely improvised by the voice actor.

    Fighting Games 
  • BlazBlue has English subtitles in cutscenes... but only when you've set the audio to English as well. Fortunately, there's a gallery feature that allows you to re-watch the cutscenes. Story and Arcade mode plot-related discussions are properly subtitled, but not the pre- and post-battle banter. In addition, the hidden Japanese voice actor interviews are completely unsubbed.

  • The Sly Cooper games have subtitles on by default, with text for every binocu-com chat during missions... but there are points where crucial information is provided during gameplay via radio from Bentley which isn't subtitles, there are points in in-engine scenes where lines aren't subtitles and there is absolutely no subtitles for the FMV cutscenes, which is particularly bad since a ''lot'' of information about characters, plots and missions are dropped during these.
  • Ratchet & Clank have had subtitles since the very beginning, but only in cutscenes. Dialogue during gameplay is completely unsubtitled even when it's crucial information, tutorial stuff, or a particularly funny joke. The earlier games would also display the entire block of text when someone spoke, which lead to scenes such as the pre-final boss cutscene in the first game which features the badguy's monologue taking up 60% of the screen.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • While voiced portions of the Shadow Hearts games often do feature subtitles, the voice actors notably deviate slightly from them. It likely that the written subtitles were taken from the original script, and the deviations were made during the voice recording sessions so that the lip sync matched up.
  • Something similar happens in Final Fantasy XII, although in this case, the subtitles seem to be done so you can catch the most relevant information at a time on one screen, without having the text scroll into another block. This is especially evident when Cidolphus speaks: his mounting insanity makes him talk extremely fast by the end of the game, and particularly just before the final fight against him, but he's also keeping up with a high-end vocabulary, which would make it difficult for most people to be able to completely read each chunk of dialogue before moving on to the next, especially if they're also trying to listen to him.
  • Too Human has subtitles, but they're inconsistent. It seems that skippable cutscenes have subtitles, but the rest of the game does not.
  • Fallout 3 has a couple of these that are Played for Laughs. One is with the robot butler the player gets with their house in Megaton, where he greets you by asking if there's anything he can do for you, before muttering under his breath (metaphorically speaking) "hopefully nothing." That extra bit isn't in the subtitles.
    • The second is the robot receptionist at the Weatherly Hotel in Rivet City (same model of the Mr Handy series as the butler, incidentally) when he gives you directions to your room. After saying the directions he mutters "Or is that the broom cupboard, I always get those two mixed up."
  • Starting with Xilia, many of the recent games in the Tales Series have subtitles for the in-game and animated cutscenes, but they don't indicate who is speaking, leaving it up to the viewer to either see whose mouth is moving or guess based on the context and vocabulary of the line. When the characters are talking at each other in a circle, or the speaker is off screen, guessing the speaker can be somewhat difficult.

    Shoot 'em Ups 
  • All of the dialogue in Sin and Punishment is in English, but due to odd circumstances, the game was only released in Japan. Thus, the game helpfully provided subtitles, which were retained when the game became available via Virtual Console. So for players who have difficulty understanding the muddy cartridge-stored lines, subtitles are helpfully provided... in Japanese.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • The Hitman series has always been pretty good at providing subtitles in cutscenes and gameplay, with the recent Hitman (2016) trilogy offering them for plot-relevant dialogue you can eavesdrop on, and Hitman 3 even provides speech bubble icons that tell you who is speaking. The problem is that all ambient chatter from NPCs and especially guards is untouched, making it difficult to tell if you're allowed in certain areas or how certain characters react to distractions or you invading their personal space.

    Survival Horror 
  • ZombiU has subtitles... but they aren't on by default. Which is rather silly, as the majority of the dialogue in the game comes from a very static-y radio.
  • The old Resident Evil games for the Playstation had subtitles.... for the Japanese release because all of the dialogue was in English from the beginning. English players get nothing.
  • Killer7 had subtitles for the Remnant Psyches (makes sense, since they speech is garbled) but regular cutscenes get nothing. Averted in the Japanese version, which had subtitles for the purely English dialogue.