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When All Else Fails, Go Right

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Two-dimensional platformers often have a very straightforward start-to-goal direction; usually, you travel to the right. Much of the time, however, there are some options in your path, leading to this video gaming axiom: When All Else Fails, Go Right. In some games (say, Kid Icarus), it's occasionally recast as Go Up; much more rarely, it becomes Go Left or Go Down.

In many RPGs, entrances to sub-maps (towns, dungeons, and the like) are in the west while the goal or some point of significance is in the east. The common exception is to travel south to north, often because of two-dimensional graphical limitations which force "northward" and "upward" to be the same direction; thus the king's castle, which needs "height" to be displayed properly, cannot be placed on the map anywhere but at the north end of town.

Games of the Metroidvania set tend to slip around the edges of this trope from time to time; much of the time, the goal is to the right of the starting point, but it does occasionally find itself on the left hand side of the map as well. In the more level-based games of the genre, this can vary with the stage; in the more free-form games, expect some serious variation.

Most Horizontal Scrolling Shooters progress from left to right.

While there might be something stopping you, at least temporarily, you know (because you're Genre Savvy) that your goal is on the right side of the obstacle.

This may be partially a result of cultural indoctrination, with the assumption that, as text usually progresses from left to right, so should progress through a game stage.

Exploited by many savvy platformer designers who build hidden collectibles into their levels. A collectible is often hidden just to the left of the starting position. Taken even further, a Trickster Game may exploit this trope in order to hide the means to progress or to reach the Golden Ending.

This video gives examples of the trope through the years. Set to music.


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    Action Adventure Game 
  • Averted for a time in Bunny Must Die. At the very beginning of this very Metroidvania game, you are unable to move right at all. Only until you find a specific item known as the 'Gears to the Past' can you move right. Though, there are some gamers who have attempted to do a 'no gears' runthrough, and at least one has succeeded.
  • In Metroid, it's traditional to avert this trope where possible.
    • The original Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission put the Morph Ball to the left of the player's starting position, and you need to get that to progress beyond the first couple of screens in the game. This was deliberate to teach players that, unlike other popular games on the NES, going left wasn't impossible but rather a necessity. Even the tiny detail of Samus's starting pose averts this (she faces the screen, to avoid suggesting that right is "forward").
    • Metroid II: Return of Samus plays this straight — at least until lava blocks your progress and forces you left; after that, you'll generally be travelling down... until the late game starts forcing you back up.
    • Super Metroid blocks off the right path from your ship until after you beat Kraid, dig through Norfair, and get the Speed Booster.
    • Metroid Fusion doesn't even have a path to the right from the starting point.
    • Metroid Dread mostly plays this straight unlike earlier titles, as the only way to go at the beginning of the game is by going right. Most bosses, such as Kraid, are fought left to right.
  • All levels in Iji start on the left with an unbreakable, uncrackable door behind the protagonist, and have their exit on the right of the map.
  • Axiom Verge, as an obvious Metroid homage, places the obligatory first weapon off to the left of the starting room.

    Action RPG 
  • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Link enters all the boss rooms from the left. Most are considerable distances to the right of the dungeon entrance. However, all the treasures in the temples are to the left. So in order to get everything, you have to go left first, then go right.
    • All temples also have you entering from the left, so the first few steps you make are always to the right (and then down an elevator).

  • The final stage of Streets of Rage has you going down a hall to the left.

    Edutainment Game 
  • Inverted in the mansion maze at the end of Pepper's Adventures in Time. The maze seems nightmarish at first, but if you go straight until you reach a fork and then take the left turn every single time you'll reach the goal quickly with no detours or problems (though the Easter Eggs behind some of the doors along other paths can be worth exploration).

  • Most maze games with randomly generated levels tend to start at the left side and have the player trying to cross to the right.
  • In Glider 4.0, the game engine all but forced every house to put a wall on the left side of Room 1. Each successively-numbered room was to the right of the previous room, at least in theory. This was not necessary in Glider PRO, but the player's glider always starts facing right, and only one of the houses on the Glider PRO CD, "Titanic," makes the player move left at the start.
  • In Karateka, the player starts with a cliff to his left, and has no other option but to keep going right.
  • Nidhogg plays with this trope. The game locks two fencers in a bout of "tug-of-war-fighting"; the yellow fencer needs to go left, the orange fencer needs to go right. The game substitutes area being covered for "health", as the two fencers kill each other to gain the rite of passage. Passing the final screen results in victory.

    Platform Games 
  • Action 52 Owns has Non Human, where the player can only face right, most enemies can only move or attack leftwards, and in order to advance, they have to move right, although it's possible to move left, there's nothing special.
  • Athletic Land, later turned into Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures In The Park, appears at first glance to follow the trope, but you're actually welcome to go left instead. The obstacles are naturally flipped around to accommodate this, although any spawning balls and bees still come from the right, meaning you're typically just outrunning them instead of dodging them.
  • In Bug, it's more like "when all fails, go 'into the screen'". It's still averted in many levels.
  • Castlevania:
    • Castlevania for the NES definitely fit this — though in Vampire Killer going left was often not only counter intuitively possible, but could be a quicker way to get the stage key.
    • Invoked in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest: If you go left from the start, you hit the Beef Gate. And then you die. Don't worry, it won't be the last time.
    • Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse for the most part.
    • Super Castlevania IV, as well.
    • Most of the 2D games avert this when you head up to Dracula's quarters — you almost always climb a staircase going left.
    • The Metroidvania titles generally start you on the extreme west side of the map. Of course, once you get going, this falls apart pretty quickly.
  • The main character's goal in Celeste is to climb a mountain, so your overall direction is up. Many chapters have you zig-zagging right and left in the process, though.
    • There's also a cheat to unlock all the levels if you go left from your starting position in the prologue.
  • The first trilogy of Commander Keen tends to follow this rule more often than not, but the second trilogy inverts it about half the time: the levels are just as likely to proceed to the left as they are to go right.
  • Inverted in the "Down The Hole" level of Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure. The stage plays the trope straight at first, and then subverts it when you actually go underground by placing the exit on the far left (the only instance in this game). However, whoever remembers "Dino Might" from Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped has nothing to cringe about, as this time there's nothing to run away from. "Down The Hole" is still That One Level.
  • In Eversion, the Level Goal is always towards the right, though much backtracking is required to get all the Plot Coupons. The revised World 8 actually prevents you from going left at the loop points.
  • All Donkey Kong Country levels direct you to the right. As the games also like to hide bonus games and items all over the place, it's generally worth your while to check to the left of the starting point anyway. One level in the first game actually has a shortcut to the end of the level just by walking in the door to the left of the starting point!
  • Discussed in Fancy Pants Adventures: World 3 when an enemy comments how Fancy Pants Man won't get past the Broken Bridge because level designs standardize this trope. Of course, heading left from the start of the level leads him to an underwater tunnel where he can collect the weapon that allows him to progress.
  • The Jumper games, where the goal for every level is to literally reach the right side of the screen.
  • In Kid Icarus (1986), it's often When All Else Fails, Go Up. Only the second world's first two levels are traversed from left to right, as is the solo level from the fourth world due to being an auto-scrolling shmup stage.
  • Kirby's games tend to proceed "eastward" across Dreamland.
  • Usually played straight in most LittleBigPlanet levels, but some actually avert this, and not just in the community. Examples from Story Mode are "Endurance Dojo" (where you're going left) and "Tutu Tango" (where you zig-zag as you go down).
  • From the beginning, Mega Man has the general case of starting the player at the extreme left of a level and sending him to the right. The Mega Man X series in particular likes to play around with this, though.
    • In the first Mega Man X, the Heart Tank for Storm Eagle's stage is directly above the player, unreachable from the starting point. You have to go right and up, then leap left and back down. In Armored Armadillo's stage, you need to go right to get away from a death machine, then go back left to get a Sub Tank.
    • Mega Man X6: As the second part of Infinity Mijinion's stage opens, you do have to go right to progress. But directly to the left of the starting point (Behind the Black) is one of the game's upgrade capsules.
  • Pac-Man World usually requires Pac-Man to go right to win the level, though there is some occasional backtracking in some areas with switches and unlockable doors. Pac-Man World 2 and Pac-Man World 3 both avoid this with dynamic camera angles.
  • Played straight and inverted in Pac-Land. If you’re in a new level, your goal is to get to the right. If you’ve been through the level before, you need to go left.
  • While it's possible to do this in Pitfall!, the manual recommends that you go left. The rolling logs roll from right to left and when you die, your next life drops from the left side of the screen.
  • Rastan begins with a big wall preventing the player from going left.
  • Cleverly subverted in one stage of Rosenkreuz Stilette. In Schwer's stage, if you go to the right like in any other stage, you get treated to an inescapable deathtrap disguised as a typical level starting area. If you go to the left at the start, which isn't normally possible, you enter the stage proper. This is only the first of many such devious tricks and traps in this stage.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog is almost always traveling from left to right across the various zones; it's understood that, even in the more maze-like sections, the intention is to go to the right. Going or staying upwards, generally done by maintaining momentum, also enables faster routes through levels in many games
    • There are many examples in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 where you go up or left. Particular examples are Chemical Plant Zone and Mystic Cave Zone, which involve you having to go up, down, and all around left and right several times to reach the end.
    • In space shuttle stages, such as the Death Egg Zone of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, or Egg Rocket in Sonic Advance the intention is still mostly to go to the right, but much more important than that is going up.
    • The Sega Master System/Game Gear games were not very different. Only two levels in the first Sonic the Hedgehog involve climbing, and Sonic Chaos features one special stage where the Chaos Emerald is above you. One act in Sonic 2 has the goal at the left of the level.
    • Sonic Advance also has the priority "up, then right" in the launch rocket.
    • In Sonic Colors, exactly one of the bonus collectible Red Rings in Aquarium Park is directly to the left of the starting point, in one act in Aquarium Park. Several others have the player turn around, jump into the bottomless pit, or avoid the finish line.
      • Asteroid Coaster Act 3 contains a special path immediately to the left of the starting point, accessible after Super Sonic is unlocked. This path doesn't even require Super Sonic to be used, but instead skips most of the zone and makes it clearable in under 3 seconds.
    • The 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog had a 1UP hidden in plain sight directly to the left of the start point of Bridge Zone Act 3.
  • Spelunky employs the rare philosophy of "when all else fails, go down".
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros provides an early example that actually prevents you from going to the left; the sequels were often more forgiving.
    • Super Mario Bros. 3 has only one level where the pathway goes to the left and downward — although the last section of the level goes to the right. It's also the one level with Kuribo's Shoe.
    • Super Mario Maker requires the goal to be right from the starting point. This hasn't stopped some level makers from making open or maze-based levels, however.
  • This trope is referenced in Theta vs Pi 7 as part of the game’s official history which says “Theta doesn’t know exactly where or when the final confrontation will come, though the law of side-scrolling platformer games tells him it will be somewhere on the right.”
  • Thomas Was Alone even went so far as to make this a part of its Arc Words: Up... and to the right.
  • Hiding something immediately to the left of the starting point also happens in Trine.

  • FTL: Faster Than Light has you fleeing from an advancing Rebel fleet coming from the left to the right side of each sector, and the sectors are laid out with you going from sectors on the left to ones on the right. In vanilla FTL, the final sector has you going left to intercept the Rebel Flagship, averting this trope, but in FTL: Advanced Edition, this trope continues to be played straight, having you start on the left and the Flagship on the right.
  • One Way Heroics has you escaping an ever-encroaching darkness from the west, moving east as it advances upon the world.
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery starts you in the East side of the map, but you do cross towns from West to East.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The Ultima series has castles at the north because they need height.
  • The early Final Fantasy games has castles at the north because they need height.
  • EarthBound hangs a lampshade on this trope in the Dungeonman dungeon, where a sign informs the player that, when given a choice, almost all video game players will go right. Also, there's an inn just out of sight to the left, so if you follow the trend...
    • Mother 3 has a section in Chapter 6 (actually, the entire playable part of it) where you must walk left for a length of time.
  • Final Fantasy starts by sending you northwest to the Temple of Fiends. Then it sends you northeast across the bridge to begin the game proper. After that, you go pretty much every direction. In dungeons, however, you frequently go right (except in Mt. Gulg, where you go left on every floor). Another location is largely a matter of northeast; The Temple of Fiends Past.
  • Done in many of the dream worlds in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Except Dreamy Somnom Woods, where the solution to the maze is to go left at the start and through a secret passageway, taking advantage of this trope.
  • In Undertale, you begin in the westernmost area of the explorable world and travel generally east, with the endpoint of the game being in the northeast.

  • Averted in Ether Vapor with the first boss of Scene 6, who is fought while facing left.
  • Averted in Choplifter!, where every level starts out heading left from the base.

Alternative Title(s): When In Doubt Go Right