The Rule of Three in video games.
- Some of the earlier games for the Sega Master System (such as "Safari Hunt", "Ghost House" or "My Hero") only had three levels each. The "fourth" level was usually the repeat of the first, but with stronger or faster enemies, the "fifth" level was the repeat of the second level, and so on, with the difficulty upped every time the three levels were completed.
- In the Ace Attorney series, a trial in the courthouse for a particular case can only last up to a maximum of 3 times before the judge passes the final verdict to the accused. In the third game, Trials and Tribulations, the character Dahlia Hawthorne appeared exactly 3 times in the courthouse for 3 different cases as a witness before she is "permanently retired" for good. The main protagonist also faced Godot in a courthouse battle up to 3 cases in total. The series was originally a trilogy, before the focus shifted briefly to Apollo Justice before settling back on Phoenix.
- In Batman: Arkham Asylum, you're forced into hallucinatory confrontations with Scarecrow three times before the villain has finally had enough and runs off terrified of you.
- Bio Lab Wars: There are three mercenaries to choose to play as, and you start out the game with three lives.
- In Black & White, the Sailors' Quest involves the aforementioned sailors asking for three things by song: Wood, grain, and meat.
- BlazBlue: Each character's story branches (except the true branch) have three endings: True ending, Alternate Ending, and a Gag Reel. Also, there's three main characters (Ragna, Jin, and Noel).
- Commander Keen started as a trilogy, had another three episodes (a duology and a stand-alone adventure), and was going to have another trilogy before it got cancelled.
- Most of the tasks and boss fights in Conker's Bad Fur Day involve doing something three times, to a point where it begins to feel like padding. The inside of the dung beetles' hive takes this to the next level — both summoning the Great Mighty Poo and fighting him involve doing something once, then twice again, then three more times.
- Corridor Z: There are three Player Characters to choose from, and you're usually pursued by three zombies at a time.
- Lampshaded in Darksiders III. One of the puzzles requires you to put three swords (the swords work as keys in this case) on three stones which is going to activate a bridge that will allow the player proceed further into the game. Fury is annoyed to say the least. Ironically, Fury is the protagonist of the third game in the Darksiders' game franchise... much to her expense.Fury: So three swords total?
The Watcher: So it seems.
Fury: It's always three, isn't it?
The Watcher: Pardon?
Fury: Three keys, three stones, three swords... rather predictable, don't you think?
The Watcher: Have you lost your mind?
Fury: No, I just hate it when the Creator takes short cuts.
- Survivors in Dead by Daylight can be impaled on a meat hook only three times. The first time, they are able to try and struggle free. The second time, you only have half the bar to give you less time. Be snagged again, and it is instant death.
- Donkey Kong:
- In Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, each level setting is used exactly three times.
- Each of the playable Kongs in Donkey Kong 64 can learn up to three skills from Cranky Kong's potions: A traditional move that can be performed with an easy combination of button presses, a special move involving the use of a Kong-identified floor pad, and another special move involving the use of a Kong-identified barrel which uses Crystal Coconuts as fuel. In turn, Cranky is one of the three non-playable Kongs who teach abilities to the playable ones; the other two are Funky Kong (who specializes in weaponry) and Candy Kong (who specializes in musical instruments).
- In Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze:
- The walrus and giant owl enemies need to be jumped on three times to defeat.
- Each boss has three phases, and almost all of them need to be hit three times to enter the next phase or defeat them if it's the last.
- Starting from the third consecutive jump, the player is rewarded for damaging enemies by jumping on them without touching the ground.
- Dragon Age:
- Dragon Age: Origins has three dragons. The Archdemon is the final boss; Flemeth and the High Dragon are optional.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third game in the series, has threes plastered all over its design and writing. There are three advisers at the War Table, representing three aspects of the Inquisition's power (Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth), and three Keeps to reinforce each of them. Each of the three character classes is represented by three companions and contains three specializations. The narration shows an implicit Three-Act Structure, with each act spanning three main quests. Three power players vie for dominance in the Winter Palace, and three candidates compete for the Sunburst Throne in the endgame. Lastly, three major DLC expansions have been released: a sandbox, a dungeon crawl, and a story epilogue—mirroring all three of the contemporary Western RPG subgenres.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Sets of three exist in numerous places within the game, all following the Fighter, Mage, Thief breakdown. There are three vampire clans in Vvardenfell (the Quarra as the physical-focusing, the Aundae as the magic-focusing and the Berne as the stealth-focusing), three Imperial Guilds (the Fighters', the Mages' and the Thieves') and three Great Houses with a significant presence in Vvardenfell (Redoran as the warriors, Telvanni as the sorcerers, Hlaalu as the sneaky merchants). And then there is the fact that the local religion centers around three gods (with a corresponding set of three 'Good Daedra'), who outright are referred to as "The Three" in some dialogues... suffice to say that three recurs a lot in Morrowind.
- In the Bloodmoon expansion, you have to kill spriggans three times before they stay dead.
- In Skyrim every dragon shout is comprised of three words of power. Same with the names of dragons- the first one you fight is named Milmulnir, which translates to "Allegiance", "Strong", and "Hunt".
- Fairune has this in both games.. Three Red Gems to enter the Lava Zone, three Green Gems to return from the Lava Zone, three Logs to build a raft in the water ruins of the Underworld and Hope Girl needs to bring three Sacred Icons to the monolith on the Grasslands in Fairune 1. In Fairune 2, every door leading to the fairy requires three orbs of a color and three logs are again cut down and used, this time to complete a bridge across a river. You'll also need three Dimensional Stones to access another part of Sky Land, and three different swords to open the last door before the final boss.
- Final Fantasy
- Some games like (VII, VIII and X2) give you three people per party. Final Fantasy IX gives three early bosses called The Black Waltz, essentially three powerful Black Mages. After the third Waltz is defeated, Zidane comments that the name "Waltz" indicates that there won't be any more of them.
- Notably, every game since IV has had exactly three female characters in the playable cast, regardless of the total cast size. This is explicitly referred to as the 'Three Females Rule' in Squaresoft fan circles. Note that later games have gravitated toward a total playable cast size of 6, thus equalizing the gender balance while still following the rule. Usually, one female is broody and aloof, the other is young and energetic, and the third is usually somewhere in between.
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones features the three famed generals of Grado, who lead the army that opposes the player's party for most of the game. We have the veteran knight Obsidian general Duessel, loyal Fluospar general Selena and honorable Sunstone general Glen. Just before the start of the series they are joined and gradually replaced by three more generals, the sociopathic Moonstone Valter, unscrupulous mercenary Tiger Eye Caellach and the scheming bishop Blood Beryl Riev. Having a total of six generals divides them into the noble original trio and three shady newcomers.
- Ghoulboy: Thulgar starts the game with three lives.
- Goblin Sword: The swordsman starts the game with three hearts.
- Granblue Fantasy applies this to the playable version of Cerberus. True to her namesake, all of her skills work in threes, often referencing threes in name at the same time. Absorption hits three times and heals Cerberus for up to 1333 HP. Disillusion hits three times. Triad Deception inflicts three debuffs on the enemy. Lastly, her triple attack rate is increased by her support skill; Infernal Heaven, and her charge attack; Triple Damnation.
- Heavy Weapon gives you three lives per level, allows you to have a maximum of three Nukes and three levels of Deflector Shields, and you can upgrade your equipment to a maximum of three levels.
- Jet Force Gemini: Three playable characters, each of them visits three planets and, in the third of them, they face a boss. They then go to Mizar's Palace for a first-time confrontation against the Big Bad. Then they have to find twelve ship parts, of which three are hatch keys (one for each of them).
- Jurassic Park: Trespasser has three different tribes of raptors. Also, the neurotoxin dart rifle in one level holds exactly three shots, which, if you take it all the way to the end of the level with you, is exactly how many shots to the head it needs to kill the T-Rex waiting for you.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- The series generally gives you a three-person party of Sora, Donald and Goofy (Donald and Goofy can be replaced by other playable characters).
- In the 101 Dalmatians side-quest in the first Kingdom Hearts game, 99 Dalmatian puppies are found throughout the game hidden in chests. There are always three puppies in each chest, for a total of 33 chests.
- In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, nearly every chapter advances with the use of three Keycards: the Key of Beginnings, the Key of Guidance and the Key to Truth.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- There's the supreme Triforce: Power, Wisdom, Courage. Also the three Goddesses that go with it: Din, Nayru, and Farore.
- Three CDi games.
- Ever since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, there is almost always a twist that comes after three dungeons/MacGuffins: Three Pendants of Virtue (in A Link to the Past itself and A Link Between Worlds), three Spiritual Stones (in Ocarina of Time), three Goddess Pearls (in the Wind Waker), three Fused Shadows and then three missing Mirror Shards (in Twilight Princess, note that the fourth Fused Shadow is already in Midna's possession and the fourth Mirror Shard is still in its place), three Servant Spirits and then three Pure Metals (in Phantom Hourglass), and three Ancient Tablets, three Sacred Flames, three Dragons who know the Song of the Hero and the aforementioned three fragments of the Triforce (all of them in Skyward Sword). To a lesser extent, A Link to the Past also started the tradition of certain abilities, items and tools coming in sets of three (Magic Medallions, Spells, elemental Arrows, etc).
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Link has three days to save Termina. Each temple also has three boss fights: A Mini-Boss to obtain the Hero's Bow or elemental arrow (of which there are three), another to obtain the Boss Key, and a main boss to free the giant and end whatever curse has invaded the land. And the final boss is fought in three stages.
- The The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games were supposed to be three (the third game would have featured Farore), but the link system between three games was too complicated to implement.
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, there are three bells tolls in the final dungeon and after the third, Vaati becomes a god and Zelda is permanently turned to stone.
- Several bosses will go down after three sets of attacks from Link. King Dodongo, for instance, goes down after three bombs.
- Link begins every game with 3 hearts.note
- The Metroid Prime Trilogy games frequently invoke the rule of three, with three Temples in Echoes (and each of them requiring 3 Keys for full access), 3 Phazon-infested planets in Corruption (each having one of the three fellow hunters corrupted by Phazon), and the 3 alternate beams and 3 alternate visors in each game. Also, in the second game, Dark Samus is fought a total of three times, as is Metroid Hatcher in the third. In Hunters, each of the eight portals leading to the Octoliths has to be activated by retrieving three Alimbic Artifacts.
- In Metroid: Samus Returns, Diggernaut, the Metroid Queen and Proteus Ridley have three phases each in their respective boss battles.
- The Three Trials in Monkey Island.
- In The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush is told by the Voodoo Lady that he needs three things to get to Blood Island: A map, a ship, and a crew.
- Myst III: Exile heavily uses this trope as much as Riven used Rule of Five. There are 3 Lesson Ages (excluding the final one), which internally hold 3 sections, puzzles, or environments, colors, symbols, and more.
- In the Neptunia games, the oracle Histoire always requires three days to accomplish anything.
- Nexus Clash has three sides — Good, Evil and Free Will. Each side is governed by three Elder Powers that represent various facets of their alignment. There were once four Elder Powers for each side, but one of each was killed/disappeared before the events of any of the games.
- In Nintendogs, you must say the name of a trick clearly 3 times for your dog to learn it.
- Ori and the Blind Forest has the protagonist Ori searching for and restoring the three Elements that sustain the dying forest of Nibel, the Elements of Water, Wind, and Warmth.
- Pokémon has this in spades.
- Generation I has Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres. The second generation has Raikou, Entei, and Suicune. Generation III has Regirock, Regice, and Registeel, as well as Kyogre, Groudon, and Rayquaza. Generation IV has Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina as a trio, as well as Azelf, Uxie, and Mesprit. The fifth generation has three trios: The Tao, Kami and Musketeer trios.
- The maximum number of evolutionary stages for a single Pokémon is three (unless it branches, such as Eevee, who started out with three evolved forms; it now has eight). Apart from Eevee, the only other Pokémon who has more than two branches in its evolution, Tyrogue, has three evolved forms.
- By the end of each generation, there are three non-remake games: Red, Blue, and Yellow in Generation I (in Japan, Yellow is the Trilogy Creep, because there's already Red, Green and Blue); Gold, Silver, and Crystal in Generation II; Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald in Generation III; and Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum in Generation IV. Though with Generation V, they've finally broken this chain by creating Black 2 and White 2.
- There's also three starters in all games except for Yellow.
- Portal 2:
- The game combines this with Department of Redundancy Department:GLaDOS: Well, this is the part where he kills us.
Wheatley: 'Ello! This is the part where I kill you!
Chapter title shown: The Part Where He Kills You.
- There's also the achievement, but it doesn't appear on subsequent playthroughs, making it three.
- The game combines this with Department of Redundancy Department:
- In Quake III: Arena the Quad damage powerup, contrary to what the name would suggest, multiplies your damage by three.
- In the Ratchet & Clank 'series:
- The first game, Ratchet & Clank:
- Most of the planets have three paths, or two paths and a special area (gravity boots, hoverboard race, etc.)
- The final boss fight has three phases.
- Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando
- The Thug Leader of Thugs-4-Less must be defeated three times.
- The final boss fight at the end of the game has three phases, but can be shorter if the player applies More Dakka.
- The first game, Ratchet & Clank:
- Sam & Max: Freelance Police:
- The game series is split into three seasons.
- Max correctly guesses the number of prophecies the Sea Chimps have thanks to the series' use of this trope, with heavy Lampshade Hanging.
- Episode 103 is where the duo is initially given 2 tasks to complete for the Toy Mafia. Immediately after Chuckles says "two things you must do for us." another mafia member alerts him of a new problem that has arisen, causing Chuckles to correct himself and gives the heroes three tasks.
- In Scribblenauts, if you feed an animal something three times, it goes to sleep.
- Shatterhand requires three alpha/beta powerups to activate the robot companions.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Sonic 1 and Sonic CD had three acts per zone, and so did the five Sonic games released on the Game Gear.
- In later games, there are usually teams of three, shown in Sonic Adventure 2 with the Heroes (Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails) versus the Dark (Shadow, Rouge and Eggman). Further built upon with Sonic Heroes, where each team is a team of three: Team Sonic (Sonic, Tails and Knuckles again), Team Rose (Amy, Cream and Big), Team Chaotix (Espio, Charmy and Vector), and Team Dark (which is Shadow and Rogue again, but with E-123 Omega in place of Eggman).
- Also another example from Heroes is that Metal Sonic has three forms, his normal "hedgehog" form, then his Metal Madness (a gigantic metal dragon-ish form) and his final form, Metal Overlord.
- In Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, the goal of Knuckles' (and Rouge's) stages is to find three Master Emerald Shards (or Door Keys or Chaos Emeralds) hidden in them. There's a radar at the bottom of the screen which lights up and beeps whenever Knuckles (or Rouge) gets close to a Master Emerald Shard (or Door Key or Chaos Emerald). The closer he (or she) is, the redder the color is and the faster the beeping is.
- Lampshaded in Spider-Man: Edge of Time, when Amazing Spider-Man has to retrieve three time gate parts, each controlled by three consoles.Spider-Man 2099: The part will be safe to take after all three consoles around it are deactivated.
Amazing Spider-Man: Why do these things always come in threes?
Spider-Man 2099: I have no idea.
Amazing Spider-Man: You know, that's going to bug me the rest of the day.
- Starcraft has 3 races: Terran, Zerg and Protoss.
- The online driving game Sugar Rush Speedway has three types of course; it has three championship rounds, one for each course type, plus a final championship round featuring all three types in each course; each championship has three courses, and hence three races; the third and fourth have three-lap races; and initially, three racers are unlocked.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Almost all bosses in non-RPG Mario games contain some relevance to three, be it the amount of hits it takes, or the phases it goes through, or a combination thereof.
- Each world in Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Land has three levels, except the last world in the former (which only has two).
- Super Mario Bros. 3 has threes hidden in various maps. One is three threes of coins in World 5-1. Also, the king of World 3 lives in Kyoto (where Nintendo's headquarters are).
- Mario in Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario Odyssey can take three hits before he dies. The only exceptions are if he finds a Life Mushroom in the former two, or a Life-Up Heart in the latter one, both of which give him three more hits as long as he gets coins to replenish any hits; or is doing the Daredevil Comet Challenge, which gives him one hit.
- There are also three parts to the Miracle Toadley Cure.
- In Super Paper Mario, World 7 contains many mythological references, many of which invoke the Rule of Three.
- In the Mario Kart series, as well as the games inspired by it, use three laps as the standard duration of a race, occasionally wavering only if the track is very long or very short.
- Sword of the Stars has three classes of FTL-capable starships, with each being thrice the length of the previous.
- Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death: Sydney Hunter starts the game with three lives.
- The Virtues were organized in overlapping threes; three Virtues are based directly on one of three Principles, three were based on a combination of two Principles to form another trinity, and one Virtue is based on all three Principles. One Virtue stood as a Unity of the three groups of three.
- The games themselves are organized into three trilogies. The first three are the Age of Darkness, when most of the land is filled with monsters and dominated by the evil Triad. The second three are the Age of Enlightenment, as Lord British cultivates civilization and an ethical foundation based on the Virtues; in this arc the Codex of Infinite Wisdom is first brought from the Void, and then returned to share with another civilization. The final trilogy, involving the Avatar's nemesis the Guardian, is actually spread over five chapters, including VII Part 2 and Ultima Underworld II.
- In Undertale:
- Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Heretic each started out with three episodes. The latter two each have episodes consisting of nine (three squared) missions (counting the optional secret levels; Wolf3D's have nine when not counting those).
- World of Warcraft:
- Three talent trees/specializations (Mists of Pandaria bucked the trend and gives Druids four specializations).
- Three roles: Tank, Healer, Damage
- Three kinds of pets: Cunning, Tenacity, Ferocity
- Many, many 5-player instances feature three boss fights. And if their entrances don't have a singular quest giver (who usually comes with two bodyguards), it's usually a group of three.
- Even in questing, more often than not when you come to a new town or area, if you pick up all the quests and go out to do them all before you turn them in, you may end up doing that 3 times before someone sends you to a new town or area. And often one quest giver will give you three different tasks one after another and the third one is usually the most important.