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  • While Karma Meters that punish the player for performing evil actions are rather common now, Ultima IV, the very first game to use a Karma Meter, was already doing so in 1985. Video Game Cruelty Punishment is ubiquitous, the game cannot be completed unless you max out all your virtues, and the game's plot revolves around the journey to become a true hero. The whole thing was intended to explore the consequences of the player's actions and the nature of right and wrong and an experiment to see if a video game could encourage good moral values in players.
  • Final Fantasy:
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    • Final Fantasy II:
      • Between its unreasonable difficulty level and brutal death count, this 1988 game takes the usually cheerful standard 90s JRPG story of La Résistance out to fight The Empire and makes it as gritty as the NES can. Your plucky orphans are depressed young adults who have nowhere else to go, no idea what they're doing, and admit it, while the other resistance members insult your characters for it. The heroes win many important victories against the Empire, but once The Emperor gets his hands on the Cyclone, he devastates much of the world before the heroes can stop him, unlike other main antagonists, who might be thwarted before they do any significant damage. Part of your quest involves arming the kingdom with a spell so powerful that it's a clear analogy for a nuclear weapon. Even at the end of the game, Maria fails to reunite with her brother, and Firion, rather than trying to stop Leon from leaving, says the war has changed them, although he holds out hope for Leon's return. This was the first Final Fantasy game that had a proper plot and defined characters.
      • Note also that the Final Fantasy gender roles appear subversive here, with a male White Mage (who's even given a plot about sacrificing himself to unseal a spell that would be later associated with romantic heroines like Aerith and Yuna), and Maria, a warrior with the kind of subplot about her evil brother that would later be exclusively associated with Mangsty male heroes like Cecil and Basch - but only because the gender roles hadn't been written yet.
      • Mechanically, this is one of the first games with an "improve by doing" system. So how do you improve your HP? By hitting each other.
      • Everyone knows you're supposed to Talk to Everyone in a JRPG. Not so much in FFII, where most early areas are populated by genuinely dangerous guard enemies who will slaughter you for talking to them.
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    • Cloud (from VII) and Squall (from VIII) were two of the first 'cool'-type JRPG protagonists, abandoning more idealistic, fantastical character flaws in favour of dressing in punkish modern outfits and acting like modern edgy teens - something shocking and innovative at the time and done to death ever since. However, both Cloud and Squall use their cool mannerisms as an affectation (Cloud is presenting a false image and Squall is pretentious and lonely), and are presented somewhat as being flawed, ridiculous Jerkasses rather than as flat 'cool guys'. The romantic, aspirational "chuuniyoubu character" approach associated with this character type was always a feature of Misaimed Fandom, but only began to appear in actual works in The Noughties (with an early example being both Cloud and Squall's cameos in Kingdom Hearts).
      • Cloud wasn't the first stereotypical spiky-haired angsty JRPG hero, but he is most certainly the first one people think of. However, viewed backwards, Cloud is a deconstruction of that exact stereotype, in that while his serious issues are treated sympathetically, his attitude is supposed to come off as being adolescent and irritating, and the other characters view it as an annoyance or a big joke if they buy into it at all. The sheer absurdity of his BFS and Anime Hair comes across as parody, especially in his Character Tics using them. While his Angst Coma is dramatic, it's played for slight Black Comedy, and results in him spasming in a wheelchair rather than any sort of prettier or more romantic visual. Then there's the main twist: he's not even supposed to be The Hero; that guy (Zack) got killed, and now his friend (Cloud) is trying to take his place. He's literally role-playing a hero to escape from his own self-loathing.
      • Cloud Strife is frequently viewed as the codifier of the angsty pretty-boy JRPG hero, but his dialogue is far less angsty in his game than many remember. If anything, Tifa and Sephiroth wear their neuroses on their sleeves much more openly than him.
      • Similarly, Cloud is credited with kicking off the tendency for JRPG leads to be amnesiac and/or phlebotinum rebels, but he actually reads like a deconstruction of how those tropes usually go down. His memories are screwed up, but when the truth comes out, rather than turning out to be some sort of plot-relevant badass, he was a mook before the plot went down. He got experimented on which gave him the Super Soldier augmentations that allow him to wield his preferred weapon type properly, but also fed into his delusion that he was the experienced badass he presented himself as instead of the common nobody grunt he actually was. Cloud also wasn't some sort of Chosen One or a unique subject for experimentation - it's shown that hundreds of other people got the same experimentation that Cloud did, some of them far more effective and/or more intense. The cost of the augmentations was deteriorating mental health that later became outright insanity because of the psycho-emotional trauma he endured, and the ability to be mind controlled by Sephiroth. Contrast with Tifa, Cid, or Yuffie - none of them were augmented at all, and could more than match the augmented SOLDIER members, and it just seems that the cost for the abilities Cloud wanted for years simply just weren't worth the suffering he had to go through in the first place. And his amnesia? His memories weren't rewritten by the Big Bad at all. He did it to himself as a coping mechanism for all the trauma he had to endure for four years, capped with the death of his best friend before either could reach Midgar. To say that Cloud was a mess is an understatement.
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    • Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII was designed to resemble Cloud and her game contains multiple lines and details pointing this out ("You were a soldier, weren't you?"), but she's presented seriously as the kind of cold-hearted badass Cloud wished he was rather than The Mentally Disturbed dork that he actually is. The result is that Cloud comes off as a Deconstruction of her, even though he's the character she's based on. Pointed out in Dissidia Final Fantasy where Cloud tells her he sees her as 'the real warrior' when compared to himself.
  • SimCity is arguably the Trope Codifier for Construction and Management Games. However, much of the lasting appeal of the classic 1989 title, as well as the sequels, comes from the disaster scenarios, and the ability to unleash disasters upon a thriving city. Most later titles in the genre (at least not city-builders) play the concept straight, and neither have disasters, nor the humor of SimCity. SimCity is, literally and figuratively, a Genre Deconstruction made by the first widespread game of the genre. As the 2015 Spiritual Successor of the series, Cities: Skylines, had no disasters in the core game; players took effort to find methods to destroy cities, until a dedicated Natural Disasters expansion was added. SimCity also averts the Command & Conquer Economy of nearly all management games which come later, and while you do need to designate specific zones for things like residential districts, once you do they'll build up on their own.
  • Railroad Tycoon, released in 1990, is the first Tycoon Game by name, and among the first successful business simulation games for the PC platform. While many Tycoon-titled games, as well as the Spiritual Successor Sid Meier's Railroads! are intended for a young audience, with cartoonish graphics, and a simplified economic model, the Railroad Tycoon series has a real-world setting with an elaborate economic system, and gave an early example of a Wide Open Sandbox.
  • Mons started with Atlus' apocalyptic Shin Megami Tensei RPG series, 10 years before the trope codifier Pokémon even existed. In this case, your character and others recruit the services of demons, angels and gods. However, cosmic power in the hands of imperfect humans ends up causing social collapse, mass murder and nuclear war. Furthermore, the battles aren't about a sports league, a criminal syndicate, or even Duels Decide Everything, but a struggle for survival and power in a ruined world, with the explicit goal of most games being obtaining the power to decide the fate of the world. Pokémon would get a "proper" deconstruction by way of the SMT series with Devil Survivor, which was released thirteen years after the release of the original games.
    • Trainer battles in Pokémon are joked to be muggings, because the NPC trainers challenge on sight and the loser has to give the winner their money. In Shin Megami Tensei I, enemy summoners have no compunction against ambushing and murdering another summoner for their computers (demon summoning tools), and give up valuable items as a plea for mercy when they find themselves defenseless.
    • The very first entry in the franchise, Megami Tensei, is a licensed game of the Digital Devil Story trilogy, which deconstructs the summoning of evil demons. Nakajima, the first summoner, writes and uses the program for revenge instead of self-defense or any grand goals. His demon, Loki, is only playing along so that he can get enough Human Resources to manifest, betraying Nakajima the second he no longer needs him.
  • The First-Person Shooter genre has plenty of Acceptable Breaks from Reality, such as Bottomless Magazines, Regenerating Health, Respawn on the Spot and an automatic Level-Map Display, regardless of setting. Imagine an FPS game made to deconstruct the genre; it would have a more realistic, historical setting without superpowers or superweapons. Ammo would probably be limited, and the player character would be nearly as easily killed as in Real Life, with the possibility of Game Over. In other words just like Wolfenstein 3D, released in 1992, which is the Trope Codifier for the genre, and the first mainstream title.
  • Desert Bus viciously picks apart and deconstructs both the idea trying to make video games realistic and of taking video games so seriously long before either became trends, predating games like Spec Ops: The Line; it points out how ignoring both Acceptable Breaks from Reality and the Necessary Weasel just makes a boring and miserable game that the player probably won't waste their time on it.
    • The idea of making video games realistic and taking video games so seriously actually had a reconstruction that is even older than the above described deconstruction in the form of the flight simulator genre (which includes games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator), which shows that acceptable breaks from reality and necessary weasels can be ignored easily if one manages to replicate a real-life process that is in itself engaging. In this case it is the fact that there are plenty of factors that you have to take into account during the flight of the plane (weather conditions, altitude etc.) in order to use several buttons that all result in different effects as well as the fact that there needs to be near-perfect control of the plane during the different phases that the plane goes through (landing being a prime example of that) that make for an engaging experience.
  • The first Clock Tower on the SNES:
    • It is credited as being the first Survival Horror game that made a lot of tropes for the genre, but it also gave the player even less to work with than most games under that label do. Jennifer is an ordinary girl who is way in over her head, and has no way to fight back against the horrors she encounters. The controls are also intentionally awkward and clunky to emphasize how little experience Jennifer has with combat, and the most you can do to escape a threat is to run and hide. The few times Jennifer actually does neutralize a threat, it's either due to sheer dumb luck, or because someone else already figured out how to do it. Finally, no matter what you do, it's impossible to save everyone, with almost all the characters being Doomed by Canon.
    • It also codified the Press X to Not Die trope into mainstream video game media. However, what people didn't realize that the whole point of it being included in the first place was to keep the player on edge; to have it so even in the cutscenes, the player remained tense from the constant threat of death instead of the cutscenes providing a moment for the player to breathe and set down their controller. Basically, the trope played into the game's Survival Horror nature, instead of being included just for the heck of it.
  • Pokémon Red and Blue spawned many concepts and ideas for both the franchise, and the Mons genre, with some reading more like a deconstruction of tropes later games played straight.
    • Team Rocket is the first of several villainous teams, antagonistic groups that come into conflict with the player over the course of their journeys. Unlike later groups, their ambitions are purely criminal and, while they apparently have some sort of master plan, it never gets a chance to start thanks to the player's interference, unlike later villainous teams who continue relatively unhindered, even as the player character defeats their highest-ranking members multiple times, until the plan's gotten to critical levels. In addition Pokémon Gold and Silver features their return as a subplot, showing that beating Giovanni wasn't enough to put an end to their operations - and on the flip side, it deconstructs the way the leaders are presented as the single most important individual, with a Giovanni-less Team Rocket being kind of pathetic (their ultimate goal this time is simply trying to get Giovanni to come back).
  • Utsuge started with the 1999 visual novel Kanon. However, though the game puts you in a standard plotline of All-Loving Hero trying to fix a group of troubled girls, nearly every route reveals that you were the cause of the girl in question's problems.
  • Some of the original cast of Virtua Fighter, the first 3D fighting game, already broke the mold when the game was released. The resident Jeet Kun Do fighter, Jacky, was not a Bruce Lee Clone but a blonde American. The main character, Akira, a Japanese man in a Karate gi, did not practice karate or even another Japanese martial art but a specific style of Chinese kung fu, Baji. On top of that, despite being the main character, he is by far the most difficult to play effectively, and is often a Mid Boss in the arcade modes.
  • Planescape: Torment, released in 1999, featured an influence mechanic long before more mainstream role-playing games picked up on it. It also portrays such a mechanic as deeply screwed up, the result of a protagonist who bears a cursed seal, the Mark of Torment, which draws other tormented souls to him... and that's when he hasn't spent a lifetime manipulating them into following him.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Super Mario 64 was the Trope Maker for the Free Rotating Camera, but also had the justification of it being an In-Universe Camera controlled by a Lakitu member of a news crew reporting on Mario's adventure. They were as much a character in the game as anyone else, serving as the narrator proving exposition on your progress through it. Rare now is the game where a third-person perspective is anything more than a gameplay mechanic lacking any sort of explanation.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • A major tradition in the classic titles is the Fountain of Expies, known in the fandom as "archetypes". These include the the Jagen, the Est and the Navarre. The first Expy of Navarre in the series was Mystery of the Emblem's Samto/Samuel, an in-universe Costume Copycat who was terrible at impersonating the real one, was a sleazy, unlikable wimp and intentionally pathetic in battle.
      • The same game's crutch character, Arran, had terrible growth rates because he had a terminal disease.
    • Throughout the series, there usually are female characters that are Stuffed into the Fridge or otherwise killed off for drama (e.g. Emmeryn in Awakening). Mystery of the Emblem is one of the first to do so and has four such characters in the end: Maria, Elice, Lena, and Nyna. The difference here, though, is that if they are killed off, you are the one responsible for their deaths via Mercy Kill, as they are possessed by the Big Bad; and second, it is actually possible to save some or even all of them from their grisly fate if proper conditions are met.
    • Genealogy of the Holy War featured the first (or second, if Gaiden's Alm is counted) battle-hungry Lord, in the vein of the popular Hector, Ephraim, Ike and Chrom. He is introduced livid that the neighbouring Verdane invaded his territory, intending to fight them off alone. Without taking any regard for strategy beyond "Save Aideen", the momentum of his charge leads to him taking over Verdane and later Augustria by accident, causing massive political backlash that kills his friend Eldigan, brands him a traitor- setting him and his army up to be killed in the Battle of Belhalla- and helps Arvis and the Lopt Sect establish the Empire of Grannvale by subduing those territories, letting Arvis claim them when he kills him. Ephraim is the only such Lord since whose brashness is deconstructed, and not nearly to this extent.
    • Genealogy of the Holy War also features Arvis, who in light of Fire Emblem: Three Houses would read as a deconstruction of the Flame Emperor if he didn't predate them by over two decades. Like the Flame Emperor, he has an association with fire and seeks to create a perfect Utopian society at any cost, and allies with a clearly villainous cut to do so. When Arvis succeeds at establishing his empire halfway through the game, a 15 year Time Skip shows that it came at a great cost: instability reigns over the continent due to most nations not wanting to submit to the Empire's rule, and allying with the evil cult has backfired on Arvis horribly, with most of the power now in their hands and him being reduced to a puppet ruler. By the time the party faces him, Arvis has already lost everything and is reduced to a broken man. By contrast, on one path of Three Houses the Flame Emperor gets a happy ending, and they're able to hunt down and destroy the evil cult they allied with in the epilogue.
  • The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare sub-series has a reputation for being the trilogy that started the wave of obviously-derivative Modern Military Shooters that acted as little more than jingoistic terrorist murder simulators, with heavy America Saves the Day overtones. It's often forgotten that the first game in the trilogy was actually a subversion of these sorts of games. America does not in fact, kill the main terrorist, and all their actions in the Middle Eastern area of the campaign ends in complete nuclear destruction that ultimately accomplishes nothing other than getting thirty-thousand American soldiers killed. Not to mention that the game heavily implies that the Middle Eastern nation was an oil-rich U.S. puppet state, there are several things in their missions named after lines from anti-war movies (with a tank being called "War Pig" after a Black Sabbath anti-war song, and the first level being named "Charlie Don't Surf"), and in the end, it's not the U.S., but the British SAS that manage to defeat the main bad guys. In addition, the game has the player complicit in many morally questionable actions (such as murdering enemies in their sleep and picking them off from an AC-130), and overall paints them in a rather dubious light. To the opposing side, the West seems like little more than imperialistic bullies who can only be brought down by nuclear weapons. Quite a far cry from the overly patriotic and nationalistic tone that the later Modern Warfare games have.
    • One huge critique of the Modern Military Shooter genre is that it acts as essentially little more than a power fantasy for Western gamers to enact vengeance on caricatures of Middle-Eastern terrorists, when The War on Terror is far more complicated than a black and white situation, and portrays the player character as always being in the right, despite the many questionable actions they could be partaking in. Imagine then, a game meant to deconstruct the genre. This game would have the player character complicit in the murder of innocent civilians, with said action not only being condemned by the game itself, but also end up as the catalyst for even worse situations in the story. America would find itself having its famous monuments and areas desecrated; essentially being the ones who must suffer under an invasion being portrayed by the opposing force as "righteous vengeance". Better still, the main villain would be an American general who allowed all this to happen to drum up patriotism, with the theme being that Patriotic Fervor is ultimately a tool used to manipulate the masses, and killing in the name of it leads to countless suffering that may not have been justified. Indeed, the game would be filled with many quotes speaking out against such ultra-nationalist viewpoints. Such a game exists, even being made before Spec Ops: The Line was released, and it's none other than Modern Warfare 2, the very game that popularized the genre even moreso than its predecessor.
  • Halo is one of the first shooters on the Xbox console, and the Trope Maker for several first-person shooter cliches. However, both the games and its expanded universe are far more serious than you'd expect from a Sci-Fi FPS. Many of the aliens you fight are not actually malicious, but rather simply trying to not get in trouble with their Prophets. Nearly every game has a Bittersweet Ending, with Master Chief losing his friends and allies. Similarly, in-game it is very common to play Big Damn Hero and return to the marines you saved only to find them all completely killed, bringing home the brutality of war. Halo: Reach even ends with almost the entire team dead, including you - the only one who survives (Jun) doing so by simply getting the hell out of Dodge. The "good" guys are willing to kidnap children and forcefully make them Super Soldiers, and the psychological effects of warfare are addressed. Most victories come from lucky flukes like the Elites starting a rebellion against the Covenant and the Expanded Universe also shows that having a One-Man Army on your side is little consolation when your enemy can glass planets.
    • Both The Fall of Reach and First Strike, the original two EU novels, break down the setting before it's even built. The badass Super Soldiers were kidnapped as kids, but not to fight aliens - they were to be used as brainwashed black ops troops in a human civil war, and just so happened to be ready right when the aliens arrived. The endless training and brainwashing takes its toll on the Spartans and absolutely none of them can function as normal humans. Their lack of humanity results in the rest of the UNSC military treating them like freaks. The badass Power Armor can only be used by them due to the Body Horror it inflicts on anyone without Super Strength. The augmentation process is extremely risky, with more than half of the 75 recruits "washing out" (read: horrific side effects or dying). The main character, the Master Chief, isn't even the strongest, toughest, fastest, or best; his main power is explicitly stated as being Born Lucky. If the Covenant detect a human world, its not a matter of if but when they destroy it. The Scary Dogmatic Aliens trait is also, multiple times, noted as being a negative; the humans are able to exploit the Covenant's unchanging tactics and unyielding nature into several victories. By the end of the war, despite the cool shooting and awesome victories seen in the games, humanity is hanging almost extinct, most of the Super Soldiers are dead and useful for little more than propaganda, and had the Enemy Civil War not happened the entire series would have been All for Nothing.
    • The original Halo was also one of the first shooters to do away with health bars and health packs, popularizing Regenerating Health as a staple of first person shooters. Unlike its imitators, though, it actually had an in-story justification for this: the player character (the Master Chief) is explicitly written as an enhanced Super Soldier with a suit of Powered Armor, and his armor is equipped with an energy shield; when the player heals from damage while taking cover, it's actually the Master Chief's shield recharging, and his own, actual health is wholly separate from the shield's integrity. Even when Halo 2 shifted to full-on regenerating health, it gave an explanation for it, that being the Applied Phlebotinum of automated systems that treat wounds with the same contents as the first game's medkits once you've avoided damage long enough for your actual shield to recharge again. Most later FPS games didn't bother with explaining the regeneration mechanic, but just picked up on it because it made for faster gameplay and a more forgiving difficulty level.
  • Wizardry, one of the first RPGs ever written, contains a flood of unbuilt tropes, before works like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy congealed and built up the tropes to what we know of today.
    • While RPGs Equal Combat (and this is no exception), the game doesn't require you to fight every encounter you run into, as there are actually good monsters that do not mind your company. In fact, if you do fight too many of the "good" monsters, you will be the one turning evil.
    • It is also possible to luck into some of the best equipment early, and some of said equipment (including the Infinity +1 Sword) can break at any time. And this is the only way to get equipment — Boltac's Trading Post has decent starting gear, but due to being the only store in the game, its stock is limited to what adventurers sell to him- your adventurers.
    • Werdna, the Final Boss, is a high-level wizard — and a Squishy Wizard at that. He may have high resistances due to the amulet in his possession, but he does not have Contractual Boss Immunity — it is possible to kill him with an instant death attack or other abilities that are normally useless in future RPGs.
    • The game allows and encourages class changes and it is possible to gain proficiency in all weapons, armor, and all mage and cleric spells. But each class change takes five years out of your life due to the training required. And yes, there are penalties due to age if your character is old enough, one of which being dying of old age.
  • Double Dragon I was the first Beat 'em Up to include Co-Op Multiplayer. It was also a legendary subversion of the trope. Two brothers are fighting to save the Damsel in Distress... but only one can get her, so after they bring down the bad guys, they fight to be the one who gets to claim her.
  • In the ending of Takeshi's Challenge, Takeshi Kitano basically takes a jab at people who dedicate so much of their time just to finish a video game and find all of its secrets no matter how bad the game is, this being before the time of players that play to find every hidden Easter Egg and developers making their games catering to that exact type of behavior.
  • While not the first Wide Open Sandbox First-Person Shooter by any means, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy codified a large number of mechanics found in later sandbox shooters such as the Far Cry series and the later Fallout games, from the morally-grey storyline and weapon degradation to the supernatural powers/lore implications found in those games. However, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy tried to make the sandbox as grim as possible without any of the power fantasy elements or quality-of-life of its successors; the Chernobyl Zone (being based on the real-life Zone of Alienation) is a merciless Death World with Everything Trying to Kill You and the gunplay is portrayed as realistically as possible, making each firefight a harrowing and Nintendo Hard challenge rather than a thrill ride. Trying anything reckless during gunfights will get you killed in less than a second, you need to eat and drink to survive, and the pseudo-magical artifacts that you find around the Zone are just as likely to kill you slowly from radiation as they are to be helpful.
  • Metal Gear Solid was the first video game with the modern "cinematic" aesthetic (rather than use of FMV sequences, which was reasonably common before) to really be a hit. It also has a somewhat fraught relationship with cinema, incorporating Homage Shot after Whole Plot Reference, while at the same time driving home a theme that the fantasies of action cinema are horrible things to want, and engaging in constant fourth-wall references and incorporating weird, funny mechanics that are intended to remind you that you are playing a video game rather than watching a movie. Most of the games it influenced missed the irony and just thought it was cool to run around in a Bruckheimer kitchen-sink.
  • Progress Quest is very likely the first Idle Game, predating the Trope Codifier Cookie Clicker by about a decade. However, it instead reads as a vicious satire of the genre - a game where you literally do absolutely nothing except watch your money tick up, as the game showers you in rewards and accolades that don't actually matter and there is no ending or story aside from "keep your browser open and let the number rise." It was actually mocking MMORPGs in its time, but the parody has only gotten more dead-on.
  • Gumshoe is the Ur-Example of the Endless Running Game, having Stevenson run across the level without stopping until he reaches his goal. In most modern running games on phones, you tap the screen to interact with the character or environment, such as jumping or destroying objects. But on the NES, you have the Zapper and thus a more justified take on this. For example, how do you make Stevenson jump? By shooting him, making him leap almost cartoon-style. And why is Stevenson constantly running? Because he has 24 hours (and each level is timed) or his daughter will (presumably) be killed.
  • Story of Seasons is the Trope Maker for the Farm Life Sim, however the series creator didn't originally intend it to be a farm simulation. The series was about the life of a farmer, with the farm simply acting as a backdrop for the interpersonal relationships. This is hence why Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, the creator's favorite game in the series, has barebones farming but a huge emphasis on life in Forget-me-not Valley. Later titles and the Farm Life Sim genre in general are the other way around: farm sims with an emphasis on relationships.

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