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Video Game / Death Stranding

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Once, there was an explosion.
A bang which gave birth to time and space.
Once, there was an explosion.
A bang which set a planet spinning in that space.
Once, there was an explosion.
A bang which gave rise to life as we know it.
And then, came the next explosion...

Death Stranding is a game developed by Kojima Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 and 505 Games for the PC. It is the first game Hideo Kojima developed after leaving Konami in 2015 and the first fully non-Metal Gear game he's directed since 1994's Policenauts.note  The game was released for the PS4 on November 8, 2019, with a PC release following on July 14, 2020.

The game stars Norman Reedusnote  as Sam Porter Bridges, a courier in a post-apocalyptic United States following "the Death Stranding", a cataclysmic event that altered the rules of life and death. Cynical and jaded from years of criss-crossing the dangerous wilderness of the east coast, Sam is contacted by his estranged mother, Bridget Strand, the President of the United Cities of America.

On her deathbed after years battling cancer, she asks Sam to help fulfill her dream of reuniting the nation through the Chiral Network, a massive digital system that when completed will allow instantaneous communication between the isolated city-states of America. While initially reluctant, an impassioned plea from his sister Amelie (and some... prodding from the government) changes his mind. And so, Sam sets out on a journey across the continent, working to win the trust of America's disillusioned populace and bring hope to a nation that's lost its way.

Mads Mikkelsen and Troy Baker star as the game's main antagonists, Cliff and Higgs. Léa Seydoux, Lindsay Wagner, Tommie Earl Jenkins, and Margaret Qualley also star, with "special appearances" by Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn.note  Emily O'Brien, Jesse Corti and Darren Jacobs provide voice work.

The game is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi stealth-action-horror-sandbox-simulator title with online co-op elements, running on Guerrilla Games' Decima engine. As a courier, the player must find ways for Sam to carry his cargo — a backpack and floating carriers — through a dangerous environment, and retrieve them if they are lost. He faces various environmental hazards both mundane and fantastic; the beautiful wasteland he navigates is full of steep mountains, sheer cliffs, rushing streams, thieving bandits, shadowy eldritch creatures which hunt by sound, and the "Timefall", a strange rain that induces Rapid Aging in anything it touches.

The "Director's Cut" of the game for the PS5 was announced during the 2021 Summer Game Fest, and was released on September 24, 2021, with a PC version released on March 30, 2022 and an iOS port coming in 2023.

The game has an official novelisation, written by Hitori Nojima (the pen name of one of the game's co-writers, Kenji Yano), that was released in two parts on February 23, 2021, with the English translation done by Carley Radford. It's a re-telling of the game's story that focuses mostly on the characters' psychology and expands their backstories.

At The Game Awards 2022, a sequel titled Death Stranding 2: On the Beach was announced in production for a 2025 release, with Reedus, Seydoux and Baker returning to the cast alongside newcomers Elle Fanning and Shioli Kutsuna, with George Miller and Fatih Akin in guest starring roles. A film adaptation made in association with A24 is also in the works with Kojima acting as executive producer.

Previews: Reveal Trailer, Game Awards 2016 Trailer, Game Awards 2017 Trailer, E3 2018 Trailer, TGS 2018 Trailer, Release Date Reveal Trailer, Director's Cut Summer Game Fest 2021 Trailer, Director's Cut Pre-Order Trailer, Director's Cut Preview Trailer from Gamescom 2021, Director's Cut Final Trailer.

This game provides examples of:

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  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The setting is futuristic, but not unrecognizable. The only true leap compared to current real-world technology is the chiral network's ability to transmit certain types of matter. Deadman mentions that World War II happened over a century ago. It's not clear how long ago the Death Stranding was—the beginning is still in living memory, but by the game's timeframe there's at least one distinct generation of post-Stranding adults. The Death Stranding coincided with Sam's birth. Working backward from Deadman's history lesson and Sam's apparent age (which may be complicated by Timefall), the year is likely 2050 or later.
  • Abnormal Ammo:
    • Anti-BT weapons use Sam's bodily fluids, which have a noxious effect on the creatures. Various conventional arms are adapted to weaponizing Sam's blood, urine, feces, and even bathwater collected from safehouse bathrooms.
    • In addition, Sam acquires a bola gun in the middle of the game, shooting weighted ropes that can bind human enemies when shot at them. For added subtlety, bolas will merely tie up enemies for a time when hitting their bodies, but a headshot with a bola gun knocks them out.
  • Absurdly Short Level: The main game is a lengthy seventy missions spread across a prologue and fourteen chapters. However the chapters are not of even length with half of them being only one mission long. By the time you've beaten chapter 3 (of 14) you're already past the middle of the story!
  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: There are many terms referred to primarily or only by abbreviation, including BT, BB, MULE, PCC, DOOMS, and EE. Not helped by many of those abbreviations rhyming with each other.
  • Aerith and Bob: Characters with normal names (Sam, Amelie, Bridget, John) live along characters named Fragile, Lockne or Malingen. There are also characters who use codenames and whose real names aren't given (Heartman, Deadman).
  • An Aesop:
    • Humanity must come together to survive. The plot is about reconnecting the settlements of America together to avoid an extinction. Gameplay-wise while the players play on their own, they'll eventually be able to indirectly cooperate with other players to make the deliveries easier and pretty much change the landscapes, the interactions being designed to be always positive in nature as emotes can grant small buffs, direct others to a better path, or warn others about hazards.
    • Humanity's greatest strength is its capacity for compassion. The game places a lot of emphasis on being kind to other players even if you can't see them, and you're judiciously rewarded for placing down structures with the intent of helping other people. This is also true within the story, as numerous characters become better people through love and kindness. Fragile's self-sacrifice saves a whole city, and earns her allies in Sam and BRIDGES; Deadman's empathy towards Sam and Lou allow them to go free at the end of the game; and Cliff's love for his infant son ultimately allows him to move on peacefully, and gives Sam a shot at a life he wouldn't otherwise have had.
    • Despite all of the above, Sam learns to accept that humanity will one day cease to exist. And that's not a reason to despair, because they've had one hell of a run. Besides, whatever life forms succeed humanity have the potential to inherit their will and legacy, and succeed where they failed - but that can only happen if humanity takes good care of itself right now.
    • You need to cut some ties to forge other ones. The Chiral Artist leaves her mother's home to come back to her boyfriend and says that she never wants to speak to her again (though that changes later). Sam cuts ties with BRIDGES to give Lou a better future. He also cuts some toxic ties with Amelie to save humanity.
    • You have to accept death and not close your heart for new bonds with living people. Mama severs her connection with her baby to reconnect with her sister Lockne. Heartman accepts the death of his wife and daughter and makes new connections with members of BRIDGES (and finds a new partner, Samantha). Deadman still has an interest in Beaches, but thanks to his friendship with Sam and Lou he appreciates life and is more willing to seek out new relationships.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: The Beach is an alternative universe that the Ka (the soul) of dead people passes through before transitioning to the Seam, the definitive afterlife. Generally speaking, the Beach takes on the appearance of a beach of black sand under a grey sky, but Beaches are said to differ between individuals. Sometimes a collective of violent deaths can create a mass Beach, where several Ka are trapped and forced to relive their last moments repeatedly. For instance, the dead from a warzone will share a Beach looking like a battlefield.
  • Afterlife Welcome: Inverted. Heartman is separated from his family, and uses his temporary deaths to seek his family and be able to reunite with them.
    • Played straight somewhat By the several times spirits of dying people are comforted by BTs: First with Mama's baby BT being comforted by a ghostly figure of her after their umbilical cord is severed, and later on with Lou's passing at the incinerator.
  • After the End: After the titular Death Stranding, actually; something has made it much more difficult for the dead to journey away from their Beach, resulting in an invasion of BTs, who can provoke nuclear-level explosions if allowed to fester. As a result, humanity has reverted to city-states and alliances of such, too understandably afraid of the marauding BTs for higher-level organization.
  • Agony of the Feet: If you let your boots get destroyed and walk around barefoot, Sam's feet will start to bleed, causing you to lose a milliliter of blood for every step (it will always cap at 1Ml remaining, meaning you can't die from this). He will also wince and stumble more easily. If you go to the private room and zoom on his feet, you will trigger an animation of Sam ripping off his crooked toenails.
  • All for Nothing: The reason that dead bodies need to be incinerated is because the resultant voidout from one going necro will irreversibly destroy the Chiral Network, immediately and permanently putting an end to Bridges' objective, rendering theirs' and the players' efforts meaningless. Sam's voidouts are troublesome but can ultimately be bounced back from, but for these, there's no coming back.
  • All There in the Manual: A significant amount of the game's lore and backstory are covered exclusively in the in-game encyclopedia, including some key concepts required to fully understand the game's story.
  • Alternate History: Downplayed. If the 20 Minutes into the Future is of any indication, humanity's technological prowess has increased by leaps and bounds. On a lesser note, there's Bridget Strand, who Deadman states is the first and last female President of the United States.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The final scene of the game shows Sam and Lou, alone in a saferoom sometime after he opened her pod at the incinerator. Did he return to Central Knot? Opening a BB pod is a serious crime, but given Sam's deeds and especially his connections, that may not be an issue. On the other hand, Sam ends the game thoroughly disgusted with Bridges—did he decide to go off grid? We're never told for sure, leaving that aspect of the ending open to interpretation.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • The Beach is symbolized by various dead marine animals, most notably crabs, sperm whales, and dolphins.
    • Spiders, in a reference to "The Spider's Thread", a morality story about a damned thief attempting to escape hell by climbing a spider's thread. When Sam first dies near the beginning of the game, a giant spider's silhouette crosses above the surface of the Seam's waters. Much like the story, Sam must also find his body, linked to the surface by a golden thread. BRIDGES' designs are also spider-themed: their logo is a spiderweb covering the USA, while the ID tags on packages feature spider-shaped circuitry. Additionally, during the boss fights against Cliff Unger, he typically appears on the scene emerging from a spider web made of barbed wire.
  • Anti-Frustration Features
    • Player Data Sharing is an integral part of the gameplay experience, so the developers opted to not require a PlayStation Plus subscription in order to utilize them.note 
    • Your utility pouch lets you hold a few blood bags on your person without taking up extra inventory space.
    • Later on, you can upgrade your backpack with additional slots for grenades and batteries.
    • Episode 3 introduces a fast-travel system to the game, courtesy of Fragile. While you have to leave most of your inventory behind at your point of departure when you use it, your boots and exo-skeleton (if you have one) remain with you.
    • About halfway through the game, Sam gets an upgrade to his Odradek that allows him to cancel out enemy scanner pings by timing an Odradek scan with it. This makes it immensely useful in raiding MULE camps for supplies and especially terrorist camps as they scan for intruders rather than cargo, as they won't be on high alert before Sam gets there. The timing window for this is also rather generous — all that needs to happen is the two scanner pings colliding with each other, which can give Sam several seconds of leeway after a scanner pole has ID'd him, depending on how far away the camp is. This also applies to Higgs's boss fight, who will also attempt to scan for Sam. The same tactics apply, only now instead of a scanner pole doing the telegraphing, it's Higgs taunting Sam about how useless it is to hide from him.
    • Thanks to an update, you can now disable the odradek turning on animation when you enter a BT zone. You can also skip the cutscenes where Sam loads the cargo he brought to the client on the shelf by mashing X, instead of having to press start and then skip every time.
    • When Sam enters a truck, any cargo on his person will instantly teleport into the truck with him, saving you the trouble of loading the cargo manually.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: Most people you have to connect are more than happy to join in, to share their work and discoveries with others and help them avoid the Death Stranding. Some of the preppers are hesitant at first, but they still want to pitch in and help others after you prove your worth. Many of them will happily give you gifts and schematics of things that might be useful on your journey (exoskeletons, weapons, better gear or backpack charms that give you different perks) just out of the goodness of their hearts.
  • Apocalypse How: The world suffered a Class 1: Planetary Societal Disruption due to the Death Stranding and the Voidouts. Civilization still exists, but in a vastly reduced capacity. Higgs seeks to cause a Class 3a Planetary Dominant Species Extinction by destroying humanity with the Last Stranding. If Amelie allows the Last Stranding to take course, it will explode with the force of the Big Bang, potentially causing an X-4 Universal Physical Annihilation.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Death Stranding has devastated the world but it also introduced weird new possibilities for technology, particularly anything to do with "chiral" crystals and the instant transmission of data and energy. Heartman likens it to when humans first discovered fire: it's dangerous and not fully understood, but can be used for all sorts of things impossible without it.
    • Timefall is a dangerous phenomena that rapidly ages anything exposed to it, but it can prove beneficial if controlled properly. The most noteworthy example is the Timefall Farmer, who uses Timefall sprinklers to rapidly grow and harvest crops for beer.
  • Arc Number: Groups of five, often in front of one person. Five vaguely-humanoid shapes which are revealed to be the five previous Extinction Entities appear in the distance before Sam when a voidout is triggered. Cliff appears with four other soldiers whenever Sam has to fight him. Finally, Sam is saved from the Beach by the month-long efforts of Deadman, Fragile, Heartman, Mama/Lockne, and Die-Hardman.
    • Outside of the 5-1 juxtapositions: Bridges uses five in some of its cuff link UI, the Odradek sensor is composed of five "prongs", and can change its shape into a five-fingered humanoid's hand or a small human figure; and John used his security clearance to buy himself and Cliff five minutes to plan out Cliff's rescue attempt of his infant son, and again to allow Cliff to act.
    • There is also 6 (5 + 1). The Q-pid the Sam uses consists of six metal plates; the Last Stranding will be the sixth mass extinction caused by an Extinction Entity, with five other such extinctions having taken place already; and John's handgun holds six bullets, one of which killed the infant Sam alongside Cliff.
    • 28. It's the service number of the BB unit travelling with us, the age at which BB's are taken from their stillmothers' wombs (in weeks) and the week of pregnancy Lucy was in when she commited suicide
  • Arc Symbol:
    • Infants. Sam finds and holds an infant in the first trailer; Deadman is seen holding a device which materialises a Bridge Baby inside it in the second trailer; and in said second trailer, Cliff is connected to four soldiers via a set of wires that resemble umbilical cords. Notably, in the second trailer, Deadman notices a ruined baby doll floating in the water, which then floats (is pulled?) to Cliff and his squad. In the first and third trailers, Sam wakes up on the ground from the fetal position.
    • Hands. Sam is covered in handprint stencils, chiral crystals take the form of creepy grasping hands, BTs are visible from the handprints they leave as they approach, and a massive handprint is left at the bottom of a voidout crater.
    • The trailers heavily feature an otherworldly tar spilling everywhere (even doubling as a cord motif as seen in the stylized title above), dead sea animals scattered around, and handprints appearing on people and other surfaces.
    • Strings or strands are invoked in many different forms in the game, signifying connections, not just amongst people, but also with more sinister concepts, like death, politics, and war.
      • This is often combined with a spider motif, such as the Bridges logo's spiderweb or the revival sequences in the Seam, which are based on "The Spider's Thread".
      • Amelie wears a necklace based on the quipu, a necklace made of dangling knots. Cities in America are all called some variation of "Knot".
      • There also plenty of umbilical cords, like the ones that connect BBs with their users, BTs with... whatever is apparently keeping them in our world, and Cliff with his skeleton soldiers. Severing the umbilical cord usually means death or discorporation, while connecting them imbues some form of life.
      • Much of Sam's equipment is string-based, such as his belaying gear, sticky gun, and ziplines. A default piece of equipment is the "strand", a short length of rope.
      • And finally the word "strand", which is the surname of the President, Amelie, and formerly Sam, all three who are strongly tied to the fate of the rest of the world.
  • Arc Words: "I'll be waiting for you on the Beach." These are Bridget Strand's last words, and her daughter Amelie says the same thing to Sam on several occasions. Both of them using this phrase foreshadows the reveal that Amelie is actually Bridget's detached soul, and the phrase itself is an allusion to how Amelie has been waiting on her own Beach for Sam to come find her and convince her to not go through with the Last Stranding.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The firing range added to the Director's Cut. It's functionally similar to the VR missions from the Metal Gear series, but with realistic environment mockups that can assemble and disassemble as needed and a projected outdoor view.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • One of the key features of gameplay is navigating terrain full of inclines and obstacles like rocks, so many locations are far rockier than they are in real life. Somewhat justified, since accurately recreating the flat plains of the midwest would result in a fairly boring worldspace. It's also justified in game that the terrain of the US was radically altered by the Death Stranding, extensive Timefall, and the voidouts.
    • The U.S.A. is noted to be significantly smaller than it is in real life, requiring a full 24 or so hours of constant travel to go from Miami to New York in real life (longer if you take breaks), let alone from the East Coast to west. Justified because it's an Acceptable Break from Reality, since a hand-crafted setting the real size of the nation would be too massive an undertaking without procedural generation.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • Heartman dies every 21 minutes, and a defibrillator strapped to his chest restarts his heart 3 minutes later. In Real Life, defibrillation only "restarts" the heart by forcing a temporary pause in an arrhythmia, after which the heart will hopefully resume a normal heartbeat. Defibrillation can't restart a stopped heart, and may even cause more damage.
    • Sam has a blood bag worth of blood sapped from his body seemingly every night (the game doesn't have a day-night cycle visible in the overworld, but it's safe to assume, at least during the main campaign missions, that whenever Sam falls asleep in a private room, a night passes) and doesn't seem any worse for wear. Ordinary blood donors can't give more than 450 ml of blood at a time, with men not being allowed to donate more often than 6 times a year with a mandatory eight week periods in between. At best, Sam would have terrible anemia and be barely able to move without getting dizzy, at worst he'd be straight up dead. He does keep a jar with cryptobiotes that seemingly restore your blood levels, but eating them is optional.
  • Artistic License – Politics: Bridget had a normal succession, going from Vice President to President upon her predecessor's death in the Death Stranding, but she's been President ever since. After her death, Amelie assumes the office, and Die-Hardman after that, with no indication of the line of succession or any type of election. However, the USA dissolved after the Death Stranding, with the UCA technically being a new state with a separate government. The extreme circumstances of the post-Death Stranding world may also make normal representative democracy a bit difficult.
  • Assist Character: The Buddy Bot, a companion version of the autonomous delivery bot added in the Director's Cut. It can either follow Sam while carrying extra items for him, deliver cargo to the intended destination on its own, or be ridden by Sam to said destination; using it in the latter two ways, however, will cap your evaluation grade to an A.
  • As You Know: A large part of the early game dialogue is pure exposition about the state of the world and the technology that humans are currently able to take advantage of, which is helpful for new players. What makes it this trope is that all of these explanations are being delivered to a character who has supposedly lived and operated as a front-line professional in this very world for decades. Seems to be somewhat justified by the fact that Sam wasn't an official member of BRIDGES until he agreed to go on a quest to save Amelie. He was considered an "independent porter" until then. You can see this in the opening cutscene: the trike Sam uses is clearly battered up, some parts are held together by duct tape and it has various decals on it, like this is a trike Sam has been using for a long time. In the game you're able to manufacture vehicles pretty much on a whim in any place that has a garage. You can also see it in his suit: The one he has in the cutscene has a hood that needs to be manually pulled over his head, while the one he's gifted when he joins unfolds the hood automatically whenever Timefall starts to fall. This could justify Sam not being fully aware of all the technological advances BRIDGES has made since he left.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: At least two in the third trailer: a massive hand-headed humanoid with its fingers replaced by extremely long arms, and a many-limbed aquatic creature who is only seen in a shadow on the water above Sam. Another trailer reveals a sphinx-like BT that Higgs summons from the world of the dead. This is a Boss Battle later on as Higgs summons it to fight Sam at Edge Knot City.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Trucks can carry far and away the most weight per transportation method available, far outstripping even the trike and hover carriers, but the rough terrain of the world means that they are limited in use. Trucks are only really useful on highways and other flat roadways, and taking them off-roading can lead to serious danger- especially if you crash, meaning all the materials you're transporting are now without the ability to be carried. That being said, they turn into Simple, yet Awesome if paired with enough highways, allowing you to cross the wasteland quickly and with a massive load.
    • Safe Houses are custom bases you can build anywhere in the world, which gives you your own custom teleport point, storage locker, garage, and equipment fabricator. However, safe houses have numerous drawbacks. Similar to building a bridge, setting down a PCC only creates the foundation structure. The player will have to return with mass quantities of materials to get the actual house functioning. They have a big footprint, so it's impossible to build them on rocky terrain. Like all chiral structures, they can't be built in uncharted territory with no network coverage, so it's hard to use them when journeying into the unknown. They don't have any reserves of materials, so if you want to craft anything, you'll have to bring and store your own. Finally, they take up a colossal amount of bandwidth: 2000, equivalent to four zip-lines. It's usually easier just to stay in the UCA buildings.
    • Upgrading structures to level 3 gives them the fanciest paint job and the most Timefall resistance. But the amount of resources that structures take to get there is generally not worth it. It's much easier and cheaper to tear down structures at level 1 or 2 and rebuild them from scratch.
  • Bad Black Barf: "Chiralium", a strange gold substance with the crystalline structure of bismuth. Coming from the world of the dead, it serves as the phlebotinum that powers the setting's technology. The game's eponymous "strands" or cords can be seen wrapped through and emerging from this stuff (and is possibly alive in its own right). Shortly after he first repatriates following Central Knot City's annihilation every time after when he repatriates, Sam pukes up some chiralium, and a few cryptobiotes covered in the stuff.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: When Cliff takes out his BB from his pod, John/Die-Hardman turns on him in a moment of Oh, Crap! and pulls out his gun on him, telling him to hand over his BB. Ultimately, though, John hesitates and Bridget reaches over to pull the trigger for him.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: It seems that anyone faced with becoming a victim of the BTs would sooner end their own lives by any means necessary. Igor, after failing with a pistol, tries to stab himself to death as he's pulled towards a BT. This is probably because anyone devoured by a BT causes a nuclear-explosion-like "voidout"; the unlucky Igor is swallowed and the nearest city becomes a massive crater.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: There's no singular primary threat throughout the game. Cliff, Higgs and Amelie all take turns in the spotlight.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bridget/Amelie is revealed to be a manipulator and Apocalypse Maiden, forcing Sam to discard one of his most important connections and leaving him disgusted with the human cost of the UCA project. His BB, Lou, also dies, and while going to dispose of it, learns that he was the BB that Clifford had spent all game pursuing, having been killed by Bridget. With this knowledge, he instead chooses to resurrect Lou and live by themselves away from the UCA, potentially branding himself an outlaw and traitor in the process.
  • Bizarro Apocalypse: The titular event is a prime example — something disrupted the natural process of life and death, causing the Beached Things, Undead Abominations that can cause a nuclear-level explosion when they come into contact with corpses, to infest the world and push society to the brink of collapse. It's eventually revealed that the cause of the Death Stranding was experiments into the workings of "The Other Side" conducted on the orders of President Strand.
  • Bloody Handprint: Inverted. Sam is covered in grime and Black Blood, with the only clean spots being human handprints where the grime has seemingly vanished into thin air from on his body, resulting in "stenciling". After escaping from a BT encounter, his backpack will also be covered in black handprints from the tar-like phantoms.
  • Body Horror: In spades. While not to the visually dramatic degree of, say, a David Cronenberg film, the Death Stranding event has caused the natural order of things to go topsy-turvy, to the point that there's pretty much no natural body process that has stayed the same since:
  • Bomb Disposal: Downplayed. Higgs tricks the player into delivering a minature nuke into South Knot City. Should you rest at the distro center between Lake Knot and South Knot, Sam and Fragile realise what they're delivering before the bomb goes off, and they decide to get rid of it by throwing it into a tar lake. Sam has to be very careful while transporting it there, but it's still kept in the same padded, metal cargo container everything else is.
  • Book Ends: Sam’s first and last deliveries are to deliver a corpse from Capital Knot City to the incinerator nearby, the difference being that the first time he’s delivering Bridget Strand and the last is to deliver his BB Lou. Both times, he saves Lou from the incineration.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The humble ladder and anchor rope are far less glamorous than bridges, bikes or ziplines, but they'll likely be used by you the whole game. Ladders can be used as both an easier method to climb sheer cliff faces and be used as bridges, and unlike PCCs do not require you to be within the chiral network. 2-3 ladders can clear a river the same way a bridge can, and they're far cheaper resource-wise than a bridge ever could be. Meanwhile, anchor ropes allow you to move up and down slopes and cliffs quickly, safely, and without using much stamina. A single fabricated container holds five points, which means you can down a mountainside easily and leave points behind for you to climb back up it just as easily.
    • Trucks and bikes start with the base model, with no extra features but the most cargo space. Upgraded models offer increased defensive protection or a longer-lasting battery, but cut down on cargo room. Yet as the game goes on and the player gets more access to roads and more effective weaponry, shielding and battery life become a non-factor. Cargo space, however, is always important, and so the basic truck and bike are always handy.
  • Bottomless Bladder: Zig-zagged. Sam has a endurance meter that goes down with time, faster if you're carrying a lot of heavy cargo. You can only replenish it by sleeping in a private room, which means you will be forced to sleep sooner or later. He doesn't have to eat or drink, but drinking from his flask replenishes his stamina and eating cryptobiotes restores his blood level, so eating and drinking is helpful, but not necessary. It's a similar thing with showering: you can do this if you so desire (or want more EX 0 grenades), but it's optional. Funnily enough, Sam also has a bladder meter that fills when you drink from your flask or the canned energy drinks in private rooms, but you're never actually forced to pee it out. You can beat the whole game with a filled bladder.
  • Boss Corridor: Downplayed and zigzagged with Edge Knot City, the westernmost destination in the game. It's definitely not an actual corridor, but the topography its ruins form make it function as such, leaving only one fairly linear path for Sam to traverse — a stark contrast from the rest of the game. It's also not strictly "dead space" as per the trope's description, since BTs still infest the place (specifically, a jellyfish-like Action Bomb with lethargic movement), but they're mostly small fry. Rather appropriately, Higgs is waiting at the end of the "corridor" with Amelie and her extinction-level BT in tow, but Sam is able to access a private room to rest in first.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: Virtually all BTs are these, as every encounter with the normal floating invisible ones will lead to you being attacked by a huge monster in a lake of tar unless you can shake off the phantoms. Fortunately escaping from that monster will cause the rain to stop entirely for a while.
  • Braving the Blizzard: Sam has to travel through a snowy mountain range in the Central Region in order to reach Heartman's laboratory, as well as connect a series of prepper shelters to create a relay for the last section of the chiral network. Blizzards occur in this area every now and then, and in addition to introducing extreme winds and zero visibility, they wear down cargo containers and equipment even faster than normal timefall or timefall snow. Using the Odradek to scan the terrain ahead is a must if you intend to navigate your way through one.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Mads Mikkelsen's special "Happy Birthday" flashback has him grab the camera (usually fixed to BB's perspective) and move it through the pod's glass window to directly address the player.
    • Sam frequently makes gestures directly at the camera when alone in his private room—when the player looks at the figures on the shelf behind him, he gets up and seems to grab the camera while pointing at the shelf. If made to drink more than two beers, he shakes the third one up and sprays it all over the camera before taking one sip and throwing it out. If the player repeatedly points the camera at Sam's crotch, Sam will eventually become annoyed enough to grab the camera and punch the player in the face.
    • Heartman addresses a thumbs-up directly to the player at one point.
  • Briefcase Blaster: Sam's weapons, such as assault rifles and bola guns, share this cargo design. Once they're first equipped, they unfold and pop the cargo frames off.
  • The Cameo: Several celebrities lend their likenesses (but not their voices) to NPCs in sidequests. Confirmed so far are a Ludens fan played by TV host Geoff Keighley, comedian Conan O'Brien (who uniquely also actually voices his cameo), director Edgar Wright, horror mangaka Junji Ito, fashion designer Errolson Hugh, a veteran porter played by Sam Lake, and a musician played by singer/songwriter Daichi Miura.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Sam can draw from his own bloodstream to recharge his anti-BT weapons. It reduces his health bar, but Sam may have no choice because the supply of weapons is not always enough to deal with large BTs. Thankfully, these weapons draw from any blood bags you have equipped on you before they dip into your own blood.
  • Casting Gag: English version:
    • Troy Baker playing a psychopathic terrorist leader with associations to ancient Egypt and has delusions of grandeur relating to the reality-warping powers that led to the post-cataclysmic state of the world? Where have we seen this before?
    • Latin American and European Spanish dubs:
      • Sam's voice actors in those versions (Alfredo Gabriel Basurto and Carlos di Blasi respectively) both were the dub voice of Sesshoumaru, another stoic character being more or less forced to be hanging around with a little kid during all his journey, while that kid is helping him along the way.
    • Latin American Spanish dub:
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The discovery of a measurably real afterlife led to the creation of new, "scientific" terms for concepts once relegated to religion and spirituality, most notably "Ka" and "Ha" (referring to the soul and physical body, respectively).
  • Came Back Strong: On a grand scale. In the game's epilogue, Amelie, the Earth's sixth Extinction Entity, theorizes that the reason why her kind even exists is to make the few survivors of each of their extinction events stronger. Or, as she puts it, "extinction is an opportunity".
  • Central Theme:
    • Loneliness. You spend most of the game travelling through the continent by yourself, with the closest settlements with friendly characters miles away from you. When you get to distribution centers or prepper shelters, you never see the people who live here in person, only on hologram. The only humans you interact with in gameplay are hostile MULEs or terrorists, which makes the occasional meeting with a friendly porter NPC feel especially surprising and relieving. One of the most commonly delivered supplies is oxytocin, a synthetic hormone meant to be administered to people who live by themselves in secluded shelters and can't interact with others (oxytocin is a hormone produced during physical contact with another human, like hugging, kissing or breastfeeding). Despite the fact that most porters travel in pairs, Sam is completely alone during all the gameplay sequences (barring the two missions where you transport the Chiral Artist and Mama). All the characters in the main cast are outcasts or alone in some way: Sam's been travelling for ten years by himself after his wife's suicide, is the only known Repatriate (so he doesn't belong to the world of the dead or the living) and has aphenphosmphobia, which makes establishing bonds with other people difficult for him. BB-28's handler, Igor, died in the voidout, leaving it alone and to be disposed. Amelie is the Extinction Entity, who will kill every other living being on the planet, and has to be sealed off by herself to keep it from happening. Die-Hardman is the only one who knows the truth of what happened to Cliff, and can't share it with anyone (until he finally breaks down in the last segment of the game). Deadman feels detached from other humans due to lacking a soul and the circumstances of his birth. Heartman lost his family in a voidout and is so hung up on them that he can't make new connections with the living. He even lives in a secluded lab in the mountains. Mama gave birth to a dead child which was actually supposed to be her sister's, and broke all the contact with her due to the fear of admitting to what happened. She lives in and operates from a lab built in the place of the hospital she "died" in, showing that she still hasn't moved on from those tragic events. Fragile was branded as a terrorist after she was blamed for the voidout that Higgs caused, being shunned by everyone, including her old clients. Higgs had an unhappy childhood, with his uncle (who raised him) abusing him and his mother dying when he was young. That's why he's so desperate to impress Amelie. Cliff, after he mercy-killed his wife to save his son, died alone on the cold floor and is now driven by his instinct to reconnect with the only person he thinks he has left: his son.
    • The past, present, and future of humanity as a species. The game features a lot of references to early humans (e.g. Sam's wife being named "Lucy", and the handprints covering Sam's body, which are reminiscent of many handprint-shaped cave paintings, like the ones in Argentina, called "Cueva de las Manos"). There are numerous references to various human cultures and their practices, like Sam's dreamcatcher referencing the Ojibwe traditions or the Japanese Teru teru bozu charm Sam can attach to his backpack. The whole plot of the game revolves around Sam and his team trying to keep humanity from becoming extinct and to learn how to live in the world they are in. The future of humanity is represented by the pregnancy imagery prominent in the game: From Sam and Lou's more subtextual example, to the more classic version with Mama and her baby.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early in the game, Sam complains about not having any privacy in his room, to which Deadman admits that the shower stall is the only private spot. Much later, Sam and Deadman have a secret conversation in said stall.
    • At one point in the game, you're tasked by the Junk Peddler to deliver contaminated goods to a bottomless pit. A bit later on you end up having to repeat this process with a nuclear bomb, with little to no prompting from the game.
  • Context-Sensitive Button: The L2 and R2 buttons are linked to left and right hand actions but when Sam’s balance is in danger, the player can push said buttons to shift his weight in the desired direction to avoid tripping. The buttons are still controlling his hands, but instead of picking up cargo, he will grab the straps of his backpack to shift the weight instead.
  • Continuing is Painful : If Sam is killed by a "Catcher" BT, a voidout will occur. An explosion of antimatter creates a crater in the middle of the landscape, destroying any traversable terrain and the infrastructure that was in it, forcing Sam to go around the crater for the remainder of the terrain. This can also happen if Sam kills an NPC and does not incinerate their body. The body will go necro and create a BT which could then make contact with another NPC, which also triggers a voidout. (Albeit a much, much larger one that can possibly cause a Game Over.)
  • Controllable Helplessness: After you convince Amelie to not go forth with the Extinction Event, Sam is sent to his Beach. You can only run around on the sand, with nothing to do or interact with. If you run into the sea, the inflatable collar of your uniform will activate and bring you right back to the shore.
  • Cool Bike: Sam can gain access to a reverse trike that can swap between a three-wheeled mode to navigate difficult terrain and a faster two-wheeled mode.
  • Cool Plane: WWII-era aircraft such as Mustangs, B-17s and Lancasters can be seen flying around when Sam is in conflict with Clifford Unger, presumably piloted by skeleton soldiers.
  • Couch Gag: Of a sort. The third trailer onwards has a shot of the Bridge Baby inside of Sam's throat, with the B.B. looking at the camera and giving it the thumbs-up before said camera is pulled out. Further trailers vary on this shot, including the camera going down the B.B.'s throat, and the B.B. being replaced with the second trailer's Creepy Doll (see below).
  • Crapsack World: The entire world is now Swiss cheese. Society is now down to individual cities dotting the landscape. Emotion demons only really visible to jar babies prey on humans. Humans have mutated into living antimatter bombs. Nihilistic gangs love to use themselves as antimatter bombs. Humanity’s last hope is people cooperating over the internet. Oh, and rain causes rapid aging. Dark times indeed. This becomes a plot point late in the game. The Extinction Entity is working overtime to destroy the world because she doesn't believe humanity can survive the Death Stranding, and wants to hasten the end of the world to end the suffering of mankind quickly.
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: Averted; though there's a hard cap above which Sam can barely move, every kilogram affects him both with its weight and how it's being carried. Death Stranding is the first major game that is centered around encumbrance mechanics, with a highly-detailed inventory system that resembles a Jenga tower on the character.
  • Creepy Doll: A broken baby doll appears in the second trailer with a leg missing, nails on its head and bearing the same scars Sam has. Once the water level rises, Deadman notices it being pulled towards the nearby tunnel by a strange cord. The doll glows red as Cliff approaches, just like his minions, and then its right eye twitches open as it stops by his feet. The same doll also appears in the Release Date Reveal trailer—most notably replacing the B.B. in Sam's throat and doing the thumbs-up in its place. In the game itself, the dolls become a plot point; they can function as Bridge Babies for people aligned with the Extinction Event.
  • Crossover:
    • You can put up holograms of different creatures and the protagonist Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn near your structures.
    • To celebrate the PC launch of the game, Half-Life cosmetics were added to the game, including Gordon Freeman's glasses, a headcrab hat, gravity gloves and a Lambda-themed paint for the trucks, as rewards for completing a series of Companion Cube recovery orders.
    • PC Version 1.05 has one with Cyberpunk 2077 which has Cyberpunk-themed cosmetics, a Yaiba Kusanagi reverse trike replica, as well as odradek upgrades that allow you to hack MULE sensor poles, stun enemies' odradek scanners and short circuit enemy vehicles. All of these are provided as rewards for completing recovery missions for none other than Jackie Welles, under the alias of "J".
  • Cursed with Awesome: "DOOMS" is a disease in the Death Stranding world that makes people more sensitive to The Other Side and BTs. It's considered an affliction because common symptoms are suicidal ideation, depression, mania, psychosis, and allergic reactions. But it comes with a couple benefits, like being able to sense BTs or, in advanced cases, utilize the Beach. Fragile is able to teleport by popping into a Beach and then back out again into the physical world in a different location. Higgs can teleport and also conjure up and control BTs.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Not all BTs are evil; some just live in peace near their living relatives.
  • Death as Game Mechanic: Sam is a repatriate who can come back from dying, but not before his soul pays a visit to the Seam, the realm between the Beach and the land of the living. While in the Seam, he can collect the items that he dropped upon dying as well as interact with the souls of other players who died in the same area in order to form a contract with them, increasing the chances of those players' structures and lost items appearing in the world. Furthermore, if Sam was killed by a Catcher-type BT, a voidout occurs and creates a crater that he won't be able to traverse once he repatriates.
  • Death is Cheap: Played With. Sam is a repatriate, meaning that when he dies, if he is not killed by a BT, he returns to the world of the living with no ill effect. If he is killed by a BT, however, he triggers a voidout, a massive explosion that decimates the landscape where he dies. Other such craters already exist due to people without this condition dying to BTs, among them suicide bombers from Homo Demens; Sam's superiors in BRIDGES tell him to avoid this happening. In addition, for some missions, Sam is carrying critical cargo that is extremely fragile and/or one of a kind and irreplaceable. Dying typically results in the destruction of said cargo which will cause a game over.
  • Death World: The Death Stranding has left humanity in a world where the natural cycle of life and death may have abandoned them. Among the survivors are people who have either their souls or bodies left behind on the "beach" between worlds, which leads to symptoms like Heartman's 21 minutes of life/3 minutes in death and Amelie's inability to age, respectively. More immediate problems manifest in the form of the Timefall, which induces Rapid Aging on any living matter; and the Beached Things, which will drag anyone unfortunate enough to fall into their grasp to a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Dem Bones: Clifford Unger, in almost every appearance he has in the game, is in control of a squad of skeletal soldiers, dressed first in the clothes of WWI soldiers, then WWII soldiers, then Vietnam soldiers, who follow his tactical commands.
  • Determinator: Invoked with the first teaser's music, with the refrain of "I'll keep coming." This also applies to Kojima, who chose this particular song for his first independent project to let his fans know that he won't stop coming up with new ideas, even after his horrible last few years with Konami.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • On your birthday, there will be a cake for you in Sam's room, and you'll also get a message from Mads Mikkelsen (as himself, not as Cliff) wishing you happy birthday and some extra Likes.
    • Sam's various anti-BT weapons are just canisters of his body fluids. You're free to cut out the middleman and urinate directly onto a BT.
    • When transporting human cargo, if you come across a hot spring and decide to take a moment to bathe, the person you're delivering will join Sam and BB and later give you a couple Likes for it.
    • When Sam first gets the harmonica, he's not particularly good at playing it. However, the more Sam plays, the more proficient he gets.
    • During Episode 1, if the player attempts to urinate on Bridget's corpse, Sam will flat-out refuse and ask "What the fuck is wrong with you, Sam?" Sam will be equally disgusted with himself if you attempt to relieve yourself on the unconscious bodies of MULEs.
    • MULEs who are entangled with bola or knocked unconscious into water are saved from drowning by auto-inflating life jacket collars that keep their heads above the water.
    • When Higgs gives you the nuke package, the item description strongly advises you to talk to Fragile, who will tell you how to get rid of it and will set a time limit on the mission. However, you can skip talking to Fragile and get rid of it through the same method, but you won't be given a timer. The only other difference is that you miss out on a cutscene showing more of Fragile's backstory, and Die-Hardman's dialogue after you complete the mission will be slightly longer.
    • You can throw a hematic grenade and shoot regular bullets through the mist to kill BTs, since it coats them with blood.
    • If the player teleports mutliple times in a row, Fragile will become increasingly annoyed.
  • Devious Dolphins: One of the manifestations that BT's can take is the form of a large dolphin.
  • Diegetic Interface: The interface comes from the cuff links and his Odradek scanner displaying critical information to Sam. When the player enters the options menus, it’s only because Sam looks at his cuff links and the camera flies toward them.
  • Divided States of America: The synopsis says that after the Death Stranding, the United States of America fell, leaving only the United Cities of America (composed of numerous "Knot Cities" across the country) in its place. Footage from the Gamescom 2019 showcase briefly shows us a map of the UCA, where there are several huge craters from Voidouts in the Midwest that literally divide the country into western and eastern halves.
  • Double Jump: If he's not too weighed down, Sam can double jump after jumping a first time, allowing him to cross some obstacles more easily. He's not really jumping off the air so much as throwing his weight forward for extra distance. It also amuses Lou, who occasionally gives likes for it.
  • Double Meaning: The word "strand" has its two contradictory meanings constantly referenced throughout the game. It can mean "string", an object that connects and binds different objects. It can also mean to separate something from its natural state and leave it for dead.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Sam carries a Q-pid around his neck. When arriving at a new outpost he will dramatically rip off the Q-pid and use it to connect the outpost to the Chiral network. How he puts the necklace back on after doing this is not shown; possibly it has a magnetic clasp.
  • Dramatic Unmask:
    • Cliff is introduced in the second trailer wearing a helmet equipped with goggles. He lifts the goggles, the helmet fades away, and then immediately holds up a finger as if to say, "Shhhh..."
    • Higgs in the TGS 2018 trailer removes his golden mask right in front of Sam, showing that his face is...still covered.
  • Dug Too Deep: It's revealed that scientists caused the Death Stranding by accident after performing too many experiments with chiral energy and the Other Side.
  • Dungeon Bypass: One of the gameplay elements is taking advantage of all of the tools at your disposal to circumvent areas that would be difficult to traverse, whether it be rough terrain or BT infested zones.
  • Eagleland: The old USA is consistently described as The Beautiful, an idyllic utopia where everyone cared about everyone else, and those preppers who started digging in before the Death Stranding because they didn't think much of it are lightly shaded as eccentrics. Of course, the game takes place after an event that obliterated the US and most of its infrastructure, and revelations about the BB experiments the government conducted Just Before the End are clearly meant to tarnish that nostalgia.
  • Early Game Hell: The first few hours of the game are actually the most difficult, primarily because the player does not have access to all of the tools that would allow them to traverse large distances more efficiently, or any weapons to fight off MULEs and BTs. This means the player is forced to move around on foot and run away from any threats. Options start opening up significantly once the player reaches Lake Knot City, where they finally get wider access to an array of tools and weapons, as well as online access to more player built structures.
  • Endless Daytime: The sun will never set during regular gameplay no matter how much time you spend out in the field - even if more than a day of real-world time has gone by. It's implied that Sam always sleeps at night and only goes out when there's plenty of daytime left. The boat ride from Lake Knot City arrives at night, showing that this trope isn't actually the case in-universe.
  • The End of the World as We Know It:
    • The 2017 premier trailer opens by framing the game as taking place during or after a monumental event that changed the world, and closes on the declaration that it will be "our [humankind's] last".
    • Amelie's plan to end the world — the Last Stranding — is to release an "explosion" of antimatter that will destroy everything in a flash, which she compares to the Big Bang.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The Odradek scanner is Sam's most useful tool for detecting BTs. It is portable device with a shoulder-mounted, star-shaped detector which can detect the closest BT and whose branches shake more violently the closer Sam gets to one. In as much the terrain can become an enemy, it also scans Sam's surroundings and tells him where the terrain is the most stable. Played straight if you unlock an upgrade for it that lets you literally scan for human enemies as well.
  • Epigraph:
    • The game opens on an excerpt from Kobo Abe's Nawa:
      The "rope," along with the "stick," are two of mankind's oldest tools.
      The stick to keep the bad away, the rope used to bring the good toward us.
      They were our first friends, of our own invention.
      Wherever there were people, there were the rope and the stick.
    • The reveal trailer starts with an excerpt from William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence":
      To see a world in a grain of sand
      And a Heaven in a wild flower
      Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
      And Eternity in an hour
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Absolutely not. Timefall, and so potentially BTs, are heralded by the appearance of an upside-down rainbow with no blue in it, even if it's completely overcast. UCA personnel therefore regard rainbows as very bad news. However, rainbows and rainfall turn normal again in the ending, implying that the Death Stranding is finally over.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Zig-zagged. The last leg of your journey takes place in the mountain range, with knee-deep snow and blizzards. Sam doesn't have to wear anything different than his usual porter uniform and chiral printed boots, with likely only his "casual" clothes (a tank top and thin, ankle-length pants) underneath. You can manufacture chemical thermal pads you can attach to your uniform, which mitigate the quicker stamina loss due to cold and allow you to sleep outside without freezing to death.
  • Eye Awaken: In the second trailer, there's a dramatic slowdown as the Bridge Baby held by Deadman opens their right eye. Later, the baby doll that floats towards Cliff and his squad eerily makes the same expression.
  • Fan Disservice: Fragile isn't bad looking herself; however, she has the body of an old woman as a result of Higgs forcing her to run though Timefall naked (actually wearing a tank top and underwear) except for a mask.
  • Fantastical Social Services: Sam is a mercenary postal agent in an apocalyptic United States, whose deliveries are impeded by invisible abominations and time-accelerating rain.
  • Fetal Position Rebirth: In both the first and third trailers, Sam is shown waking up in a way that resembles this position, continuing the heavy emphasis on babies and birth in the game.
  • Fingore: After a mission, Sam pulls out his toenail after it got damaged during his mileage journey. He does that in order to grow it back via Timefall exposure.
  • Flushing-Edge Interactivity: Subverted. In the first hours of the game, Sam can wash himself and go to the bathroom for seemingly no reason. But then, it is discovered that Sam’s bodily fluids ward off BTs, so now private rooms' toilets can be used to collect “ammunition”.
  • Formerly Friendly Family:
    • Sam, Bridget and his wife Lucy seemed to get along well, at the very least, until Lucy's suicide, after which Sam broke ties with Bridget and treats her rather coldly when they meet.
    • Mama and her twin sister were incredibly close, so close in fact that Mama agreed to be the surrogate mother for Lockne and her husband's baby without hesitation. After the terrorist attack on the hospital Mama was supposed to have a C-section in and the subsequent death of the baby, Mama stopped talking to her sister due to guilt, making Lockne think she ran away with her baby.
  • Four Is Death: Subtle example. Sam's opening monologue goes over three metaphorical "explosions": one that "gave birth to time and space", one that created the Earth, and one that brought about life on Earth. Sam then continues about a fourth explosion—"[a]n explosion that will be our last"—which references the Death Stranding, which has changed the rules of life and death as humankind knows it.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You:
    • The second trailer ends with Cliff smiling, pointing, and holding a figure to his lips in a "shush" gesture while staring directly into the camera.
    • Sam interacts with the player when sitting in his room in the different ports. If you stare at his crotch too long, he'll punch the camera.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are multiple signs showing that Amelie never actually existed in the world of the living. For starters, it makes no practical sense to live on a Beach in an immaculate red dress and equally clean high-heels. In the world of the living, none of the Bridges I expedition members you come across have ever actually met Amelie in person, and the ones who could verify her existence are all conveniently dead. Even Higgs, the only other character seen physically interacting with Amelie, joins the list, leaving Sam as the only witness to Amelie's "existence".
    • The cutscenes that play when Sam leaves his room show the flashbacks to Cliff being preceded by the camera "blinking" and zooming into BB. During the supercell levels where Sam fights Cliff, the flashbacks occur with the blinking and zooming happening on Sam, hinting at how the BB whose point of view we've been seeing these flashbacks through was actually him.
    • When Sam teleports to the Beach to face Higgs, you can see Higgs kneeling in front of Amelie, as if he were worshiping her. This is one of the early clues that Higgs hasn't taken Amelie hostage, he's merely serving her will.
    • The first time we meet Higgs, he unambigously tells Sam that Amelie is the Extinction Entity, which blatantly gives away the ending, but at that point in the game, the first-time player will either not understand what Higgs is talking about, or will assume he's lying.
    • Higgs makes it no secret that those inflicted with DOOMS receive their abilities directly from Amelie. This should make you question why Amelie allowed Higgs to be so powerful in the first place. In addition, the moment he's defeated by Sam, Higgs loses all of his DOOMS abilities, further demonstrating that such abilities can be taken away. All this further suggests Amelie and Higgs were working together, until he was no longer useful to her.
    • Amelie and Bridget are never shown together, or interacting with each other. Amelie doesn't make an appearance as herself until after Bridget passes away; and when Bridget utters the line "I'll be waiting for you on the Beach" to Sam, the camera suddenly cuts to a younger Bridget's face speaking. Regardless of this face being either a younger Bridget's or Amelie's, this implies that they are the same person.
    • Bridget's introduction/death scene has Bridget, moments from dying, fiddling with Sam's cuff link. Even on her deathbed, she's not above manipulating her son.
    • In Die-Hardman's recording that Deadman finds, he says that Bridget's uterine cancer would mean Amelie can't be her biological child. He doesn't say that this would also mean Sam can't be her biological child either... because he already knows that. Which begs the question of why Die-Hardman would know this.
    • Whenever Sam plugs into BB-28, he gets flashbacks that seem to go back several decades, despite Deadman telling him that BBs are usually only active for one year before decommissioning. This is a hint that the BB memories are actually Sam's.
    • When setting up the network at the Distribution Center on the Western coast, Sam is told to deliver to and hook up the city with an irreplaceable key. The key looks suspiciously like a BB pod, which hints at the Powered by a Forsaken Child nature of the chiral network.
    • After Cliff and Sam's final battle, the latter engage in a weird exchange. Sam willingly gives up BB to Cliff, believing Cliff should be with (what Sam believes) to be his kid. When Cliff whistles a tune though, Sam is the one who finishes it, seemingly on reflex. Cliff then stands up, gives BB back, hands Sam his necklace, and hugs him before being shot and dissappearing. Initially, players and Sam are led to believe this is Cliff Passing the Torch to Sam, entrusting him to take care of BB, but during the climax of the game its revealed this is a re-enactment of a conversation the two of them will have later. The nonlinear nature of time in the Other Side means that Cliff could even be experiencing both events at the same time.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: Fragile is stated to have been forced to run through the Timefall naked, even though she's shown wearing a tank top and panties. Though, given what Timefall does to people who aren't wearing proper protective gear, she might as well have been naked for all the good what modesty Higgs let her preserve did for her.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • The entire theme of building bridges between people is not only one of the main goals and themes of the story, but it's a crucial element of both the singleplayer and multiplayer elements of the gameplay. In the single-player, it's obvious and mostly direct: you're building the chiral network and allowing the NPCs to connect to each other to advance the plot. Even the multiplayer elements, however, are about benefiting from what others who came before you left, and in turn leaving things behind for those who come after you, creating mutually beneficial bridges between the players and the world.
    • Fast Travel is handled through Fragile's teleportation abilities; she is able to transport other people to any place with sufficient chiral density, such as chiral network nodes. She can't transport more than the clothes on a person's back when teleporting other people though, forcing you to deliver goods the hard way. This is why she couldn't just grab the nuke, jump to the tar lake to get rid of it and jump back—it'd be left behind, and she wouldn't have the time or capacity to become emotionally attached to a nuclear explosive, especially since she'd unwittingly delivered such a nuke to a city already. Sam's lack of access to fast travel near the end of the game is also justified — Fragile is exhausted from evacuating all of the important characters to Capital Knot City, and even if she wasn't, Heartman explains that everyone's Beaches have started to coalesce, which would make traveling through them dangerous.
    • Post-End Game Content is justified by simply moving the story back two weeks before the events of the epilogue, framing 100% Completion as Sam passing the time before having to attend President Die-Hardman's inauguration.
    • Die-Hardman cautions Sam to try and avoid dying to BTs as even his ability to repatriate doesn't prevent voidouts. This is not an idle warning — dying in such a manner actually makes a crater near where he died and an Invisible Wall around the crater so the player can't simply walk through it. As an added detail, true to the game's lore, this event doesn't occur through other means of death like fall damage or at the hands of MULEs.
    • During the Final Boss fight, if Higgs bites Sam's right ear, he'll lose part of it for the rest of the game.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • In the prologue, it's shown that Sam can sense BTs without a Bridge Baby, and they're rendered as faint silhouettes in cutscenes. This is decidedly not the case in-game, however — when he doesn't have control over the Odradek (his BB goes into autotoxemic shock or doesn't have it at all in at least one episode), he's unable to sense BTs except for when he gets goosebumps stepping into their territory, which isn't particularly helpful as it's a vague hint at best.
    • It takes about 48 hours for a corpse to necrotize into a BT. In your first incineration mission (AKA incinerating Bridget's corpse), if you take that long to do it, nothing will happen, presumably because it could be considered an un-failable tutorial mission. However, this is subverted and there is an in-game spoiler as to why this is.
    • In snowy areas, Sam's face could potentially be caked in snow due to blizzards. Despite the fact that Timefall (even in snow form) causes rapid aging in anything it touches, this won't affect him at all. In a similar fashion, if Sam moves in and out of Timefall cover too fast, Sam's automated hood won't be able to keep up with it, pelting his head with the stuff. Even so, he comes off no worse for wear.
  • Genre-Busting: Death Stranding takes inspiration from a menagerie of genres for its gameplay and story, being a little bit of everything but also none of them, resulting in a unique experience that's tricky to neatly summarize.
    • In terms of gameplay, it's a Wide-Open Sandbox single-player game with asynchronous co-op elements that dips its toes into stealth, third-person-shooter action, and survival horror, but features a core gameplay loop based around making mundane deliveries across difficult landscapes, meaning it's closer to a simulation game of all things. The Other Wiki identifies Death Stranding as an "Action Game", but with an understanding backed up by Hideo Kojima that it's basically a tentative title in place of something more properly illustrative of what the game is about, similar to how Kojima's earlier Metal Gear was also called an "action game" before "stealth game" caught on among audiences and developers. Kojima personally proposes that Death Stranding is the first of its kind of what he christened the "strand genre", characterized by its elements of distant, yet relevant social interactivity and cooperation.
    • As for the story, it's a post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror mashup with murder ghosts, Body Horror, and an equally bleak and surreal apocalypse looming over humanity, with sprinkles of political intrigue and military combat.
  • Ghost Invasion: The world of the living and dead have blended together, allowing the ghosts of the deceased to roam the Earth as BTs.
  • Global Currency: If it can even be called currency. The primary reward Sam gets for helping people is more Likes on a meter that functions sort-of like experience points and the few times you can do something bad (like killing a guy, or scratching Heartman's record) you get docked Likes. But your tangible rewards are usually from individuals you've helped whose communities have grown; they give you resources for completing orders and schematics for new "Connection Levels". If in-universe money is changing hands, we don't see it (though it gets mentioned occasionally).
  • Gradual Regeneration: As a repatriate, all of Sam's lethal wounds heal over time, but only if he has enough blood in his circulatory system. If Sam loses too much blood, he dies and must return to life by finding his body through the Seam, after which his blood will have regenerated itself to stable levels. In-game, there is a healing delay from damage before his Cuff Links can slowly resupply blood from a Blood Bag back into Sam's bloodstream, effectively regenerating HP.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Enforced, given the game's nature as a Stealth-Based Game.
    • BTs can't see Sam and depend on hearing to detect Sam. This work fine... until Sam gets armed with Hematic Grenades as the first weapon can effectively kill them. Watch how they follow into the death trap upon their fellows' demise!
    • MULEs and terrorists see and hear, but has their shortcomings. MULEs in Eastern America suffer in numbers and Mook Chivalry. And them all have No Peripheral Vision and Conspicuously Selective Perception. To be precise, they gain alert seeing or hearing things out of place, but dismiss it as nothing unless such stimulus is strong enough or persists long enough. Should it does, they will stare at the distraction or go to investigate the source of sound, and panic if it proves to be Sam himself, then go to attack. While doing aforementioned, they are insensitive to any weaker stimuli (until their guard is lowered again), sometimes to the point you have to try to make them focus on Sam. An aforementioned Hematic Grenade is enough to make them deaf to Sam's yelling.
    • Parodied with terrorists, given their partition's name Homo Demens (literally mad men).
  • Hand Wave: The Death Stranding is said to have disrupted humanity's sense of time, thus explaining the lack of a day/night cycle and the absurdly short time it takes to cross North America from east coast to west coast.
  • Hammerspace: Inverted. Yes, objects take up more space when you store them, because Sam puts them back in their packaging when he stuffs them on his back. This means that otherwise small objects like a blood bag have to be suspended in a crate unless he's got a utility pouch to put them in. He also has an animation for breaking a fresh assault rifle out of its packaging when he first uses it. Could be justified in that his backpack is designed for containing box-shaped cargo and a loose blood bag would just fall out of the sides, but it still results in him having a huge stack on his back if he comes even moderately prepared for a future encounter.
  • Happy Rain: In the very last scene of the game, signifying that Timefall is gone, Stranding is averted and humanity can start rebuilding for real.
  • Harmful to Minors: It's bad enough that Sam has to face against terrorists and horrifying BTs, but to do so at the same time while carrying a baby?! It's enough to horrify any parent.
  • Healing Potion: Technically, capturing cryptobiotes counts, since you can capture them from any cryptobiote coral nest and use them in battle to replenish Sam's blood. However, they only heal minute amounts each and you can go through hours of collecting in one use. The real healing potions are the D-Cryptobiotes, which act as an X-Potion and replenish all of Sam's blood in one pop, but they can only be acquired from the Novelist's son in small quantities.
  • Healing Spring: There are hot springs scattered here and there in the map. If Sam stumbles upon one of them, he can take a brief bath to replenish his strength, regaining stamina. Some springs can also recharge his equipment’s batteries.
  • Heal It with Blood: Sam's blood levels take the place of a more traditional health bar and can be depleted in various ways, ranging from taking fall damage to walking too long while barefoot or with worn out boots. Blood bags, which can be equipped to steadily restore his blood levels, serve as the game's primary healing item.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • Invoked with the first teaser, which uses the discordant bass and mechanical clicking in the song "I'll Keep Coming" by Low Roar to add to the trailer's unnerving atmosphere.
    • Any growls and other sounds from the Beached Things.
    • The mechanical radio sound your comm makes when it receives a message.
  • Hell Is War: When many people die on the same place in a short timeframe, their beaches might merge together into a reconstruction of the place they died in, and force them to relive their last moments indefinitely. This usually happens to soldiers, who died during great battles, effectively invoking this trope.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic:
    • In a world where the rain can kill you through rapid aging, you would think it would be prudent to always wear a face mask in addition to a hood, but then we'd be dealing with people whose faces we can't see most of the time. So Sam makes do with just his automated rain hood and Fragile has a funky angular umbrella. Plus, the characters who do wear helmets are the MULEs and Homo Demens, two factions who aren't the most glowing examples of human decency.
    • You can manufacture an oxygen mask very close to the end of the game, and it allows you to get into ravines filled with gas, and is also helpful during BT encounters, since it muffles the sound of Sam's breathing. The drawback is that it uses battery power extremely fast, so using it for long stretches of time is discouraged.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep":
    • Most of the station managers for Bridges facilities have on-the-nose surnames, like "Jake Wind" for the wind farm or a guy named "Lake" for Lake Knot City. It seems like the characters' surnames are pretty flexible and can be changed at any moment; Sam used to go by "Sam Strand", but after his falling out with his family he refers to himself as Sam Porter. Then, after joining BRIDGES, he adds that to Porter, making him Sam Porter Bridges. It seems akin to how surnames worked in the middle ages, where surnames were typically based on occupation, such as a metalworker named Smith.
    • Taken to the extreme where Amelie's full name (who becomes President of the UCA for a while) is Samantha AMERICA Strand.
  • Hit Stop: Whenever Sam downs a human enemy, time slows for a bit. It mostly allows Sam to take whatever cargo the enemy had midair and then use it as an Improvised Weapon.
  • Holler Button: Pressing the DualShock 4's touchpad makes Sam call out, mostly asking if anyone can hear him. The only time he gets a reply is if he's near an online object, whose Likes counter starts blinking and calling back to Sam in response. When he's near BTs or MULEs, however, the callouts become decidedly hostile, which catches the enemy's attention. You can also greet the holograms of preppers and directors of distro centers when you arrive or are leaving. The callouts also change depending on plot: In chapter 6, You will be temporarily traveling without your BB, and Sam's callouts will sometimes mention how he misses them, that it's not the same without them and that they'll see each other soon. During the segment where you're stranded on Amelie's beach near the ending and credits roll, Sam will show annoyance and frustration if you press the button.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Sam and BB can find various hot springs to relax in that give you buffs. Mama or the Chiral Artist can join you during their respective Escort Missions.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: When it's clear that he's about to be abducted by the BTs, Igor tosses Sam his Bridge Baby before attempting to shoot himself.
  • Improvised Weapon: Anything Sam can grab with his handsnote  can be bashed against a human enemy, but this will drastically damage the item. Using a destroyed item's case as a weapon will cause it to disappear after one hit. This is the main method of attacking Higgs during his boss battle.
  • Improvised Weapon User: Sam (and the player) has the ability to knock enemies down and take their possessions to use as temporary weapons, with a short time-freeze as the enemy is knocked down so the player can steal the held cargo of the enemies before they fall. Sam can punch out one bandit, take the case he drops, and hit a second bandit with it. This feature becomes important during the boss battle against Higgs where Sam's only available weapons are his strand and destroyed cargo beached in the arena.
  • Incest Subtext: Amelie and Sam have a bizarre relationship - she's his adoptive sister and his adoptive mother who basically raised him, but there are also significant romantic overtones between them that multiple characters, both major and minor, pick up on. The game leaves it ambiguous exactly what they are to each other (and introduces a number of other little complications like her being a conflicted Apocalypse Maiden and a President Evil who may or may not have a Literal Split Personality), but it doesn't exactly rule romantic love out of the complex, mysterious soup of emotions that is their relationship.
  • Informed Equipment: Averted. Everything is displayed on Sam's outfit, from cargo containers, to his equipment like unfoldable ladders, ropes, and weapons.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: While Sam has his own well-developed personality and story, his mannerisms and appearance are borrowed heavily from Norman Reedus, especially in interactions like his behavior in the Private Room that aren't directly linked to the main plot.
  • Invulnerable Civilians: You only interact with other characters in cutscenes, and the bunker characters only talk to you via hologram, not in person. The only NPCs that roam the world and can be interacted with in gameplay are MULEs, terrorists, and freelance porters.
  • Implicit Prison: Sam's situation can be likened to this. He has cufflinks put on him without his consent, that constantly monitor his location and vitals, even when he showers or sleeps, and it seems like they constantly record audio. He can't take them off himself and requires a permission from a higher ranking member of BRIDGES (like Deadman or Mama). The cuffs seem very sturdy and nigh-indestructible, and can withstand the temperature and humidity of a hot spring. They serve multiple purposes, like a map or a hacking device, but it still seems like they were put on him first and foremost to make sure he won't escape before he completes his mission. Sam lampshades his situation a couple of times, asking the BRIDGES staff if he's a prisoner (to what they answer avoidantly) and likens the cufflinks to actual handcuffs.
  • Interface Screw: Later trailers, and the TGA Day 1 gameplay footage, use the Bridge Baby's blinking as shot-to-shot transitions.
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism: The central conflict of the game, with "collectivism" clearly being more favored.
    • On the "collectivism" side we have the entirety of UCA, with Amelie as their leader. They believe humanity cannot survive if everyone is just out for themselves and people need to join forces and face their problems together. You spend the entire game connecting isolated settlements to the chiral network, to allow the people that live in them to use the ideas and research of others, and put up their own in turn. Players can indirectly help each other thanks to the social link mechanic. The downsides are pretty small in comparison, mostly having to do with privacy and trust in government.
    • On the "individualism" we have preppers, who prefer to live alone and need to be convinced to join the network. They're not portrayed as evil, however, mostly just cautious. Homo Demens, the terrorist faction led by Higgs, causes voidouts on purpose and believe that people should remain separated. They focus especially on Edge Knot City, desperate for it to stay disconnected. We also have Sam, who doesn't believe in the chiral network succeeding, and wanting to be left alone. He only joins BRIDGES because he wants to save his sister (and because he has no other choice after the personnel puts cufflinks on him when he's unconcious). He changes his mind as he keeps meeting and connecting new people, however.
  • Insecure Protagonist, Arrogant Antagonist: Downplayed. Sam isn't outwardly insecure, but he is submissive and socially awkward, allowing both his allies and enemies to do whatever they want with him, be it bleeding him while he's asleep, taking his waste for research, spy on him or disregard his physical boundaries. Higgs, on the other hand, calls himself "the particle of God that permeates all existence".
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • Invoked. At one point, Higgs tries to trick you into delivering an unmarked package to South Knot City. Checking your UI is the only way to figure out that what you're really carrying is a portable nuclear bomb. It even explains that if you let go of the package for too long, the bomb will detonate.
    • If Sam dies in the prologue before obtaining BB, the cutscene that plays when he repatriates shows a doll in his throat giving a thumbs up. It's revealed all the way in the epilogue that Amelie uses these dolls as a stand-in for BBs when people connect to her Beach, somewhat spoiling a major plot point about Sam and Amelie's true relationship.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: The game places a great emphasis on managing one's cargo. There's a weight limit on what Sam can carry on his back before it becomes impractical and he gets exhausted. Moreover, that weight must be distributed correctly; for example, if more weight is placed on Sam's right side, he'll list to the right and have trouble balancing. On the other hand, there's a button to automatically optimize the management.
  • Invisible Monster:
    • During the 2018 E3 trailer, while resting in a cave, Sam and Fragile have a brief encounter with a Beached Thing, an invisible creature that leaves human-like handprints wherever it goes in the corporeal world.
    • The floating "Gazer" BTs that appear during gameplay can only be seen if the player is standing still. When they sense Sam, the "Hunter" BTs make themselves known by an approaching trail of black handprints shooting up from the ground.
  • Jitter Cam: Much like MGSV, the first three trailers have a lot of Alfonso Cuarón-esque handheld-camera action going along with the use of long takes.
  • Just Before the End: The Last Stranding is quickly approaching, and humanity has to come together to stop it.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Sam is a "repatriate", meaning if he dies in gameplay, he comes right back. There are four segments where dying is mandatory, explaining why nobody else can do his job.
  • Kill It with Fire: Corpses need to be incinerated within 48 hours or else they will necrotize—that is, release loads of chiralium that adds one BT to the world in addition to attracting other BTs (and greatly increases the likelihood of a Catcher eating someone and making a voidout). BRIDGES has special facilities known as Corpse Disposal facilities, which contain incineration chambers. These facilities are located in mountain ranges far from settlements, to ensure that inevitable BT swarms stay away from civilization when the body is incinerated, in addition to decreasing the likelihood of Timefall in settlements due to the chiralium smoke that gets released.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • In one of the trailers that first introduces Amelie, it ends with her asking "You have no idea who am I, do you?", referencing both her Mysterious Waif nature and that the target audience would be unfamiliar with her actress Lindsey Wagner's most (and arguably, only) significant role, The Bionic Woman.
    • Almost all of Higgs' confrontations with Sam has him cheekily wink at the player about how his scenes break the monotony of the game's grindy delivery premise.
      Higgs: So how 'bout it? Aren't you getting tired of the grind? Isn't this what you've been waiting for this whole time? ...A game over?!
  • The Magic Goes Away: A rare positive example. In the epilogue, Sam travels to the incinerator without getting attacked by any Beached Things, despite it usually being their territory. He also ends up walking out into the rain with his hood down while carrying a naked baby Lou with neither suffering any effects from Timefall, and when the rain clears we see a normal rainbow with all its colors, when rainbows previously shown in the game have all been inverted and noted for lacking any blue. All of this heavily implies that the Death Stranding is over.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Heartman goes into cardiac arrest and dies every twenty-one minutes, but after a three-minute delay, a defibrillator strapped to his chest restarts his heart. This situation exaggerates the trope to the extreme; not only is a defibrillator useless or even harmful when applied to a flatlined heart, but it is shown to be perfectly reliable in every death, brings him back with a single jolt, and bypasses additional resuscitation.
  • Magitek: The discovery of the Beach was rapidly followed by technological innovations that utilize it, such as the Bridge Babies. One of the biggest, most obviously supernatural "technologies" in the world of Death Stranding are the highways you can build with automated printer-pavers. The edges of the road have weird pebbles that float upwards and the undersides of the highways are covered in creepy black tar tendrils.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Fragile and Sam, though mostly due to their personalities than looks or interests. Fragile is determined, hellbent on revenge, and has no problems with standing up for herself. Sam is more passive, submissive and seems to just go along with whatever is happening to him, and every time he tries to fight back or disagree, he fails. The difference is also seen in their interactions with BB: Sam bonds with them immediately and quickly becomes their caretaker of sorts, while Fragile is friendly but more hesitant. After Sam's final fight with Higgs, Fragile gives BB back to Sam while saying that "babysitting sucks".
  • Meaningful Name: Virtually everyone, whether named after the locations in which they live, their role in the story, or some oblique reference that comes into play later
  • Mercy Kill: Igor is forced to shoot his fellow CD worker after the latter gets exposed to Timefall and is dragged away by the Beached Things. This is less to spare him a painful death and more to prevent the explosive voidout that would happen if his buddy got eaten by a Catcher BT.
  • Mental World: The "Beach", a person's path to the afterlife; Sam has the tech and the abilities to enter his own to evade certain dangers.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Amelie. She's being held in Edge Knot City, but is allowed full, unrestricted communications with the UCA government by her captors. They claim that they don't want to hurt her and are only holding her hostage as leverage to ensure their continued independence. As it turns out, Homo Demens isn't "holding" Amelie captive at all; they are serving her, counting on Sam reconnecting the country to save her to enact the Last Stranding.
  • Mind Screw:
    • From the debut trailer, which features Sam naked with a cross-scar on his stomach holding a baby amidst whale carcasses on a beach. The only thing anyone could get out of it... was this is definitely a Hideo Kojima trailer. The rest left people too confused to comprehend the majority of it. The Game Awards 2016 trailer offers even fewer answers, if anything.
    • A user on Reddit noticed that if you play both the E3 2016 trailer and Video Games Awards 2016 trailer at the same time, the baby in Sam's hands disappears at the same time Deadman activates his machine and reveals the baby inside to us. YouTuber YongYea later tested and seemingly disproved this theory, as the "exchange" only occurs by offsetting the videos by about 27 seconds. YongYea did, however, find that the effect happens if you make both trailers the same length.
  • Monsters Everywhere: America is riddled with zones of high chiral density and Timefall rains, thus Sam has to cross zones infested with BTs on a daily basis to make his deliveries. Unlike most games, Sam is not really equipped to fight these monsters for most of the story, so he has to use the map and weather forecasts to plan routes that have the least chances of going into BT territory.
  • Mook Chivalry: MULEs play this straight in the early stages of the game, attacking one at a time with very telegraphed polearm attacks. However, the MULEs in Central America onwards have more devious tactics, like appearing to charge in for an attack only to kick Sam in the gut to mess with parry attempts (or not attacking at all), attacking Sam while he's in the middle of binding an enemy, coming to battle armed with Sticky Guns and stealing cargo at range, and even attempting to hijack any cargo-loaded vehicles Sam may have laying around while he's distracted.
  • Morality Pet:
    • Insomuch as Sam is more of an antihero than a villain, but if he starts killing people (which in the Death Stranding universe is an even bigger no-no than normal) he will not only get chewed out by Die-Hardman but his BB will show its disapproval by getting stressed out, to the point of suffering autotoxemia if Sam continues killing people in quick succession. It helps that throughout the game, BB helps Sam grow as a person, so extra points there.
    • Sam himself is one to his "sister", Amelie. The main reason she decides to delay the Final Stranding at the end of the game is because Sam talks her out of it.
  • Motif: Strands. Strands are in the logo of the game; strands are part of the characters designs, for both the main character and the antagonist; strands can be seen on item descriptions relating to items and data involving other players; and Kojima has hinted that strands are intended to be used as metaphorical elements to relate to the themes of connection in the game.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • One settlement, the Timefall Farm, uses carefully calculated Timefall predictions to grow crops at high speed and harvests them before they rot. What's one of the things you can deliver, that becomes a feature in Sam's room? Beer.
    • Another example is using Hematic Grenades (Anti-BT grenades filled with Sam's blood) for another purpose — typically Smoke Grenades obscure the enemy's vision and causes those caught in the smoke to cough, rendering them vulnerable to takedowns. Hematic Grenades just so happen to act in a similar manner, meaning Sam can use clouds of blood in a pinch to disable human enemies too!

  • "Near and Dear" Baby Naming: In one of the storylines, Sam is tasked with delivering a medical machine that will help a neighbourhood doctor with assisting a woman and her husband living in a shelter in the high mountains with her difficult birth. In one of the emails the player receives later, the husband says that his wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, who they plan on naming Sam out of gratitude.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Elder mentions that the president before Bridget was obsessed with building walls, a Take That! at Donald Trump (the president at the time of the game's production and release).
  • No-Gear Level: The final showdown with Higgs takes place on a Beach, and Sam uses Fragile's help to get him there. Fragile can't teleport more than the equipment and clothes on a person's back when she takes them somewhere, and Sam doesn't feel like using a gun to take out the trigger-happy Higgs, so he shows up to the fight armed with some climbing rope, a high-tech raincoat, and his fists.
  • No-Harm Requirement: Most weapons you are given are non-lethal, as the last thing anyone wants is to have a dead body that turns into a BT lying around. The human enemies in the game similarly start out use shocking weapons to stun you, though later ones are reckless enough to use actual guns. You are given some lethal weapons, but they are considered last-resort options, as any dead bodies you create will inevitably have to be disposed of before "going necro". Most players will save a lethal weapon to use with hematic rounds (rounds which can force a BT back to the other side), as they are more effective against BTs than non-lethal weapons using hematic rounds.
  • Non-Heteronormative Society: While we don't see it in the game directly, in the addendum to the "An Asexual World" interview added in the Director's Cut of the game, it's implied that while predjudice towards non-hetero/cisnormative people existed in the past, it's virtually unheard of today, and the UCA and its people are accepting towards gender and sexual minorities.
  • Noob Cave: The outskirts of Central Knot City in the prologue. Bonus points for featuring a literal cave less than five minutes into the actual game. It's the only area where players can get used to the balancing mechanics without getting harassed by enemies or Timefall, and players lose access to the area when it gets wiped off the map by a voidout at the end of the prologue.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Director's Cut is, on its face, an absurd title. The term implies a struggle of vision and/or funding between a creator and their corporate patron, but Kojima founded his own studio and then directed Death Stranding himself. Another confusing layer is the fact that Kojima himself doesn't care for the "Director's Cut" title.
  • Non-Standard Game Over:
    • Near the end of the game, if Sam doesn't figure out in time how to stop Amelie, she will trigger the Last Stranding, a Big Bang-sized antimatter explosion that will destroy the Earth and everyone on it.
    • At one point Sam is given a portable nuclear bomb. If this package is destroyed or delivered to its intended address, Die-Hardman informs Sam (presumably after he comes back to life) that the bomb's detonation has knocked down the whole Chiral Network, making Sam's efforts up to that point All for Nothing.
    • Sam will deliver Antimatter Bombs twice in the game. Failing to keep the unstable, fragile carrying case intact causes it to detonate, dealing even more damage than a nuclear weapon and ending the game with an "ORDER FAILED" screen.
    • Some of Sam's deliveries are non-replaceable and will trigger a non-standard game over, known as "ORDER FAILED" if destroyed.
    • A downplayed example: If a player is unfortunate enough to get swept over the edge of a large enough waterfall, they get treated to a cutscene from a now-panicking Sam's point of view as he falls over the edge before he has to repatriate as usual.
    • Letting a killed NPC necrotize instead of disposing of it properly causes one of these, under the assumption that the BT it spawned ended up devouring another NPC, causing a voidout and destroying the Chiral Network.
    • Angering a white-colored humanoid BT will summon Chiral-gold BTs in addition to the usual tar. Chiral-gold BTs will drag Sam into the tar with no BT fight or respawn.
    • Dying by being devoured by Higgs' summoned BTs or killed by Higgs himself in the Final Boss fight will trigger a true "GAME OVER" screen, unique to him and him alone.
      Higgs: Game Over!
  • Now Allowed to Hug: Sam is not only an asocial loner, he also suffers from aphenphosmphobia and appears to have a genuine allergic reaction to physical contact (simply touching his skin with a bare hand is enough to bruise it). However, his massive journey to reunite the post-apocalyptic remains of America gradually defrosts his cold, untrusting exterior, and his increasing willingness to connect with others pays off in a big way during the climax: as Amelie — who Sam has known as his sister — is revealed to be the final Extinction Entity, Sam thwarts the Final Stranding by putting away his guns and hugging her, convincing her that there's still much for Earth and humanity to live for through love and forming connections, successfully delaying the end times.
  • Ominous Fog: The first three trailers have taken place primarily in either thick fog, overcast rainy grey skies, or both. In the prologue, the hands-headed giant, and its fellow BTs, are only seen through heavy grey mist that obscures all but the basic silhouettes.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Music of this type is heard when Higgs uses his Level Seven DOOMS abilities to summon a Catcher BT.
  • Once More, with Clarity: Near the end of the game, most of the fragmented BB flashbacks are put together into a coherent cutscene. At the end it's revealed that the flashbacks were actually Sam's memories.
  • The Oner:
    • The first 3 minutes of the TGA 2016 trailer are done in a single, unbroken camera movement, similar to the cutscenes from Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain.
    • For the Game Awards 2017 trailer, the first 6 minutes are done as one continuous long take.
  • One-Steve Limit: Amelie's government name seems to be Samantha, and Amelie is only her nickname. There's another Samantha, the woman who Heartman starts a relationship with at the of the game.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Beached Things, the souls of people who have been caught on their "Beaches", their personal pathways to the afterlife. Many are benign, but more than enough are viciously angry that they caused an apocalypse.
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: The guns you eventually unlock are all rather plasticky, boxy affairs that look like they've been 3D-printed out of the cheapest materials around, which is because they were, using the chiral network's ability to share 3D-printing information. When you deploy a fresh one, Sam even breaks it out of its packaging like snapping a plastic model off its frame.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: As you would expect of a Kojima game, there's quite a few. Urinating directly on ghosts is an option. Urinating elsewhere makes mushrooms grow that health-restoring cryptobiotes eventually grow on. Throwing a hematic grenade leaves behind a blood cloud, and you can shoot bullets through it at any remaining BTs to turn them into blood bullets for additional damage. And late in the game Sam has to find a way to cross an impassable lake of tar...and the solution is to trigger a BT fight, because of the buildings that randomly appear to climb on during said fight.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Since Higgs is wearing masks on a daily basis it would make him easy to disguise himself except he acts so over the top and barely changes his voice when he acts as a BRIDGES agent it's obvious to connect the dots. He even lampshades in an email that he couldn't help but write "thermonuclear bomb" on the tag because he (correctly) assumed no one read those anyway.
  • Path of Most Resistance: Raiding MULE camps can provide you with a bonanza of supplies and lost cargo. Players can take this trope even further by carrying an entire camp's stockpile on poor Sam's back to an allied storage unit.
  • Photo Mode: The one in this game lets you change poses and expressions for Sam and BB.
  • Playable Epilogue: The ending is rather definitive, since Sam destroys his UCA handcuff and goes off-grid. For the playable epilogue, time rewinds to a point perpetually two weeks before Die-Hardman's presidential inauguration.
  • Player Data Sharing: Much like Dark Souls and its successors, players can indirectly cooperate through the "Strand system", which is available after the first time a player connects to the BRIDGES national network. Players can leave behind informational signs, equipment, constructed objects, and even lost cargo for other players to discover (and optionally give Likes to, like a social network). In boss battles, the Strand system gets a bit more involved by having holograms of other players tossing weapons and equipment to Sam.
    Hideo Kojima (translated): (during a battle against a Catcher) "You're not alone. You may be fighting alone, but You Are Not Alone."
  • Playful Otter: The "otter hood" accessory Sam can get from The Cosplayer transforms him into one of these, allowing him to swim better and do barrel rolls in the water. He will also knock on BB's pod in a way reminiscent of an otter trying to crack open a clam. The hood also makes a cute sound when it folds and unfolds when you leave and enter an area with Timefall. Otters are a common symbol of motherhood/parental devotion, so it's perfect for Sam. It also fits with the marine animal theming the Beach has.
  • Playing God: Bridget/Amelie explains that they split into two because of some unspecified incident (relating to experiments relating to chiral energy) when they were twenty. When she and her colleagues realized they could study chiral energy and learn how to use it in order to see the memories of all life that ever existed, perhaps even to the birth of the universe, it led to the first voidout in America. Things went downhill from there.
  • Playful Pursuit: In Episode 9, after defeating Higgs, Sam ends up happily chasing after his sister Amelie on her Beach.
  • Pocket Dimension: The terrain during BT fights shifts into a chaotic, surreal mess of black tar, buildings and wrecked vehicles that emerge from nowhere (even if the area was formerly a pristine forest) and dead fish and other sea life raining from the sky. It seems as if the fight arena is a sort of smashed-together crossroads of dimensions, which may be why you can end a BT fight by running out of the zone as well as by killing it.
  • Power Floats: Chiralium, which effectively exists outside of time and space, is capable of levitating and producing levitation. Chiral crystals found in the world can be spotted by the bits of matter detaching from them and floating upwards, floating carriers are powered by said crystals, and the Q-pid, which contains high concentrations of chiralium, is perpetually unaffected by gravity. Furthermore, whenever Sam uses the Q-pid to connect a facility to the chiral network, the resulting surge of energy causes him to float above the ground for a few moments.
  • Precautionary Corpse Disposal: Monsters called BTs roam the Earth. Any corpse left in the open will inevitably turn into one. If a living human is caught and eaten by the BTs it will cause an Anti Matter explosion. It's heavily implied that the initial wave of deaths/explosions more or less wiped out most populated areas. The only solution is to incinerate the corpses as soon as possible (with nobody present but the courier team who brought them to the crematorium). This also serves as a gameplay mechanic; should Sam Bridges die under certain circumstances, the explosion leaves a crater in the game world.
  • Product Delivery Ordeal: The core gameplay. Your goal throughout the game is to deliver precious cargo through the obliterated, ghost-infested remnants of America from outpost to outpost, ensuring both Sam and his deliveries remain intact and on time. Gameplay is greatly centered around logistics and personal management — you want to deliver as much cargo as you can, but how you navigate around the challenging landscapes and various antagonists (supernatural and mundane) as cleanly, safely, and efficiently as possible is up to you to figure out.
  • Product Placement:
    • The most egregious example is Monster. The energy drink is the game's main stamina recovery item, and while your canteen automatically converting rain into Monster is odd, it's easy to ignore—it's not like the canteen is branded. Private rooms, on the other hand, are stocked with enough of the classic cans for a college party, and the camera will show them in close-up if you decide to drink one. If this feels a little too obnoxious for you, some deliveries for the Timefall Farm can switch them out for an in-universe microbrew beer. In the Director’s Cut, the cans of Monster are replaced with an in-universe Bridges Energy drink.
    • Whenever you defecate, Sam’s body is censored by an advertisement for AMC’s Ride with Norman Reedus. The best reverse trike in the game is also themed after the show, and Sam even talks about the show while riding it.
      Sam: This should be on an episode of Ride with Norman Reedus. Fuck yeah.
    • Amongst some of the collectibles that can be delivered include Kotobukiya's model kits, in particular both the Frame Arms and Frame Arms Girl Baihu. Looks like Kojima is paying respects to both Koto and his favourite designer Shinkawa.
    • You can also find hologram data for characters from Horizon Zero Dawn, as well as a man-sized hologram of a Ludens Nendoroid.
  • Psychic Powers: The Japanese script calls those with DOOMS 能力者 (nōryokusha), a term typically translated "ESPer". Indeed, those with higher DOOMS levels can pull off stunts that seem like psychic powers, like Fragile's teleportation and Higgs's control over BTs. Even those with level 2 DOOMS like Sam, who can only sense BTs without a BB (he can only see them while connected to BB), are still seen as exceptional to normal people, as evidenced by the reactions of the corpse disposal team in the prologue.
  • Purposely Overpowered: Just like in real life, none of the gadgets or items come even close to being as useful or significant as a functioning network of roads. Rebuilding the roads turn MULE camps, BT infestations, Timefall, and hostile terrain from unavoidable hazards into optional diversions. With all of the roads set up, most standard delivery orders become easy driving missions that resemble real life delivery jobs.
  • Quest to the West: Sam is tasked by Bridges to go West and cross America to connect each of the remaining settlements to the chiral network. That way, the knots will be able to communicate, share information and cooperate and the American nation may rebuild itself. The further he gets, the more challenging things become as terrorist influence grows and the people are less cooperative, and the terrain gets even rougher.
  • Rapid Aging: Caused by Timefall. In the intro, the driver who gets stuck under the broken-down car ages significantly over the span of a few minutes, with his hair greying and ultimately balding as he becomes more and more wrinkled. This is the effect on anyone who doesn't have the proper protections from Timefall (e.g. the porter suits' automated rainhoods), and even that equipment can get damaged beyond usability. Fragile was forced to run almost naked through a Timefall, aging everything but the face that was covered by a mask.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: In the game's story, Earth's five major mass extinctions were caused by previous Death Strandings and the current one happening would be the sixth.
  • Reality Is Out For Lunch: Part of what makes the game's After the End scenario unique is that it takes this approach rather than a conventional, comprehensible type of disaster. Between time-altering phlebotinum in the rainwater, abominations formed from the souls of the restless dead, and people capable of entering and leaving the afterlife at will, the post-Stranding world is as dangerous as it is weird.
  • Red Herring: Sam and the player are initially led to believe that the visions he sees of Clifford when he hooks up into his Bridge Baby are its father. Deadman outright states that this occasionally happens with BBs and that Sam's particular BB had some redacted history. It's also quite special as it's apparently the only DOOMS compatible BB. At the very end of the game, it's revealed that those were actually Sam's memories and apart from being DOOMS compatible, there wasn't anything particularly special about Sam's BB.
  • Replay Mode: You can replay Cliff's boss battles (as well as plot-related BT battles in the Director's Cut) from any Private Room. After completing the main story, the option to rewatch BB's memories of Cliff also becomes available.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Everywhere in the game.
    • Sam's relationship with BB comes across like an unwanted pregnancy for a single parent, with Sam being saddled with a delicate fetus that he has to carry around and handle very carefully, frequently stopping his work to nurse or placate the thing when it gets upset and demands attention. Over time, the relationship grows more loving, until the end, where Sam pretty much gives birth to Lou.
  • Scenery Gorn: There are several ruined and abandoned settlements, structures and wreckage strewn around the map, and the scenery during BT fights is a surreal mish-mash of floating ruined buildings and wreckage that sink and rise out of the ground.
  • Scenery Porn: The game offers breathtaking landscapes of large lush plains, high snowy mountains and valleys to cross, and a few alien yet gorgeous places, highlighted by the soundtrack. This is kind of a given because the gameplay is about walking through these places so they might as well be nice to look at.
  • Schizo Tech:
    • The Game Awards 2016 trailer showed what looks like undead soldiers in World War II-era gear, with a detailed character in modern military gear. Compare the juxtaposition of a World War-era tank leaking animal organs with the futuristic incubators and high-tech handcuffs worn by Sam and Deadman, in addition to the wrecked personnel carrier, robotic motion detectors, and protective hazmat gear worn by Sam and his coworkers in the third trailer. It turns out it is only because the characters are drawn into a Beach recreating a World War II era battlefield.
    • In the game proper, the technology is fairly even with high tech scanners, 3-d printers who can create entire roads, holograms so precise one could be mistaken for a real person and so on. Nonetheless, humanity is still relying on people to carry cargo from settlement to settlement. Justified in that Chiral Printers can only replicate inorganic matter, and automated drones aren't terribly reliable.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: During the confrontation with Amelie, the player is given a gun. However, shooting Amelie does nothing, and instead the player has to unequip the gun (as you are otherwise locked into an aiming stance) walk up to Amelie and hug her in order to progress.
  • Shock and Awe: EMP grenades can render enemies unconscious and temporarily disable vehicles. The Maser Gun, added in the Director's Cut, serves an identical purpose.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Cliff's third and final boss fight features him rising out of a tar pit that's identical to the famous shot of Martin Sheen doing the same in Apocalypse Now.
    • Plenty to Metal Gear, Kojima's previous IP:
      • When the hazmat-suited bandits spot Sam in the gameplay trailer, their sensor devices light up red accompanied by a Scare Chord.
      • In Episode 1, when Deadman says "Game over, man" to describe the Voidout-decimated Central Knot City, the Game Over splash screen from Metal Gear Solid appears on the world map, although it's altered to have orange text and slimmer letters.
      • One of Die-Hardman's inspirational speeches to Sam over the Codec talks about footprints eventually giving way to highways, blazing a trail for others to follow. At one point, he says "if you were a spy on a mission, you would have failed" — many a Metal Gear game from Solid onwards featured the player's footprints as one of the methods in which the enemy can detect the player.
      • After finishing the game's very first delivery, Mama tells Sam that he "really kept us waiting". Later on, Amelie asks Sam what took him so long.
      • The final battle between Sam against Higgs is none other than a throwback to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Snake against Ocelot fight.
      • The look and feel of Cliff's boss fights are evocative of the SKULLS Parasite Unit in Metal Gear Solid V, which similarly features the protagonist fighting a squad of Superpowered Mooks. The core difference between the two groups, however, is that Cliff is the primary target and the defeat of the rest of his squad is not a requirement.
    • At one point, Sam compares his relationship with Amelie to be like Mario and Princess Peach… in a game not released for any Nintendo platforms.
    • The Odradek Terrain Scanners are a reference to the short story "The Cares of a Family Man" by Franz Kafka — the Odradek, the creature described in the story, is a diminutive being of unclear origin that leaves a strand of thread behind itself. Its laughter is described as similar to that of a child, but at the same time lifeless. The narrator seems to believe it useless and that this uselessness might make it somehow immortal.
    • In one interview, Deadman recommends The Shape of Water to Sam, a movie directed by Guillermo del Toro, Deadman's Ink-Suit Actor.
    • As Heartman shows Sam around his room, he shows him a copy of Charlie Chaplin's Twenty Minutes of Love, which gets cited by in-game text as the "King of Comedy"'s first directing credit.
    • Peter Englert's final email contains the line "I have the honor to be your obedient servant.", a lyric from the Hamilton song "Your Obedient Servant". The song is sung by Aaron Burr, Hamilton's rival, and the song is about him writing antagonistic letters with fake politeness to him before their final duel.
    • A special hat Sam can wear is a head-crab.
    • One of the structures and a hologram are from Horizon Zero Dawn.
    • The shirt Sam wears in the private room was designed by Acronym, a German utility wear brand, and bears the company's logo on the back.
    • With the Cyberpunk update, you can equip Sam with V's gear and even get a hologram of Jackie Welles.
  • Silence Is Golden: The first two trailers feature no dialogue at all, and the third one features very little.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: The game makes aesthetic use of the entire scale, often going from one extreme to another. Timefall causes time to pass more quickly on surfaces it hits, quickly corroding material that it touches, so any manufactured thing left outside for any significant period of time will inevitably turn into a heavily oxidized former husk of itself, hitting the gritty extreme. However, Bridges' technology adapts for this, covering buildings with a thin protective layer doped with chiralium, rendering it highly resistant to Timefall and gold-plated to boot, and using chiral printers to rapidly recycle and manufacture equipment it needs on-demand, so much of it always appears fresh, hitting the shiny extreme of the scale.
  • The Singularity: Discussed. People in the world of Death Stranding generally agree that robots will never be able to surpass humans, due to their lack of a Ka.
  • Socially Scored Society: The post-apocalyptic USA uses a public rating system of Likes, both as a worldbuilding element and an asynchronous multiplayer mechanic. Likes have an in-game effect of helping boost the player's abilities.
  • Space Compression: Although the map is huge by videogame standards (over 20 kilometers wide), in story it covers the entire continental United States. The Midwest is especially notable for being extremely brief to cross.
  • Spiritual Successor: The game shares many similarities to previous Kojima games, particularly the Metal Gear series:
  • Sprint Meter: Sam has two such meters: the Endurance gauge and the Stamina gauge. The Endurance gauge depletes as he performs actions that exhaust him such as running or climbing. Then the Stamina gauge represents his overall energy level which depletes over time and caps his endurance. To restore endurance Sam only has to stay still but restoring stamina requires consuming Monster Energy or rest.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: After Sam completes his journey through the Central Region, one of the last obstacles between him and Edge Knot City is an ocean of tar, with no clear way across. To cross it, he needs to willingly get himself caught by the nearby BTs and dragged into Catcher territory; as established with previous Catcher encounters, this will cause old buildings and vehicles to emerge from the tar that Sam can traverse.
  • Suicide by Pills: Sam's wife Lucy has a mental breakdown after months of nightmares caused by being pregnant with her and Sam's child, due to Sam being a DOOMS sufferer that likely got passed down onto his child. When she went with that to Bridget, she told her that the nightmares aren't just a figment of her imagination, but the real visions of the upcoming end of the world, which all DOOMS sufferers experience. Lucy decides to kill herself and her child by taking a whole bottle of sleeping pills, with her suicide note saying that she has syringes loaded with sedatives next to her if that won't be enough.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Seeing as this is a game directed by Kojima, this should be expected:
    • Sam can normally take a break and sleep wherever he wants, but attempting to do so in the snowy mountains without thermal pads results in a Fade to Black and Sam repatriating.
    • There is a series of side-quests in which Sam is tasked with delivering a pizza. Naturally, carrying the pizza in any manner other than right side up will ruin the pizza.
    • Most facilities have doors and passages with enough overhead clearance to accomodate the highest stack of cargo Sam can carry on his back. It's possible, however, for a sufficiently tall cargo stack to get caught on low-clearance passages, such as the entrances to tents in MULE territory.
    • Similarly, attempting to hide in tall grass or bushes with a stack of cargo tall enough to protrude through it will cause Sam to be instantly spotted by enemies.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity:
    • You get the blueprints to produce your first lethal weapons mere seconds before you get sucked into Cliff's beach for a boss fight.
    • The blueprint for armor plates becomes available after completing the initial supply run to the Waystation north of Mountain Knot City, as your next few deliveries will have you skirting past terrorist camps.
    • Right after activating the westernmost terminal in Edge Knot City, Sam automatically receives a blueprint for a quadruple rocket launcher to help him deal with the giant BT Higgs brings with him for his first boss fight.
  • Take It to the Bridge:
    • The organization responsible for unifying the United Cities of America is called BRIDGES.
    • In-game, bridges can be constructed to allow people and vehicles to cross large gaps in the terrain where a simple ladder won't suffice. The Director's Cut adds "chiral bridges" which are more material-efficient and can be disabled to prevent MULEs from crossing but won't function in timefall.
    • A flashback shows Higgs and Fragile underneath a bridge in the ruins outside South Knot City, with the latter being forced to make a Sadistic Choice of either allowing the city to be destroyed by a nuke or carrying said nuke away while exposed to timefall.
    • Sam Bridges himself. He effectively acts as a bridge for the remnants of civilization by making deliveries and bringing America onto the chiral network, which is further emphasized by Cliff calling him mankind's "bridge to the future" in his dying moments.
  • Tank Goodness: In a strange Hell Is War "Beach" Sam is drawn into, an M10 tank destroyer is seen moving along with a group of soldiers. Contrary to the trope name, however, it's covered in guts and bones, and is clearly not on your side.
  • Take Your Time:
    • For the first corpse disposal mission, the exposition explains that you need to get rid of corpses at incinerators within 48 hours or else the corpse will turn into a BT, which will catch someone (offscreen) and cause a voidout. However, this will not happen if you take too long to dispose of Bridget's corpse, presumably because this is a tutorial mission. It turns out there's a good reason for this.
    • When you first arrive at your quarters in Edge Knot City, the alarm will go off because "chiral density is increasing", or in other words, a powerful BT is approaching. Except it won't attack until you leave the base, which means you could spend hours checking your mail, showering, and drinking beer with no ambush.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: The scientific confirmation of the existence of an afterlife is what paved the way for the Death Stranding that devastated the world. Bridget instructed the United States' top scientists to perform experiments on it in an attempt to learn the truth of how the universe came to exist, and something went wrong that triggered the first voidout and let the BTs into our world.
  • Timed Mission: Deliveries can have a time limit, which forces Sam to plan out his route to be as short as possible even if it means crossing hostile territory.
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Or, at least, America is. American civilization is used synonymously with human civilization, both in regard to its fall and in regard to its reconnection. It’s true that air travel is impossible now and global communication no longer exists, but no other country is so much as mentioned by name, even to confirm their destruction — even Mexico or Canada, which directly border the US.
  • Touched by Vorlons: It's eventually revealed that everybody who is a repatriate or afflicted with DOOMS has had their abilities granted to them directly by Amelie.
  • Twins Are Special: Mama and her twin sister, Lockne, used to be able to hear each other's thoughts, until Mama was caught in the explosion of a hospital she was supposed to give birth to Lockne's and her husband's baby. Mama actually died in that blast, but her body was kept alive thanks to being tethered to Lockne's deceased daughter's soul. Mama, terrified of Lockne finding out that her daughter died, cuts off all contact with her, making Lockne think that Mama just took her daughter and ran off. During the course of the story, Mama realizes that what she did was wrong, and asks Sam to cut the cord connecting her and Lockne's daughter. Mama slowly starts to die, but thanks to Sam, she manages to reunite with her sister and apologizes to her before her death. When Mama passes on, her spirit fuses with Lockne's, with her saying that they were always one person, just in two separate bodies. They are the only known in-universe example of this ever happening.
  • Uncanny Valley: Although the motion capture work on this game is stunning, the sudden shift in Sam's grief-stricken facial expression directly to neutral in the first trailer comes across as extremely unsettling. The effect is likely deliberate, given the surreal and haunting nature of the trailer and the game as a whole.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • Cliff's boss fight, as befitting of a character first introduced as "The Combat Veteran", takes place at the end of his World War I-themed Beach and plays much like the average Third-Person Shooter, with both sides of the conflict armed with lethal assault rifles and grenades and using them liberally. This also marks the point in the game where encounters with MULEs start to play out in a similar manner.
    • Higgs’ boss fight ends in a fighting game-like brawl between Sam and Higgs with a sideway screen and button prompts to beat up Higgs, much like the final fight of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
  • Unexplained Accent: Many players found it jarring that multiple characters have thick accents in the universe where air travel is made impossible (the most prominent examples are Fragile (French), Heartman (British) and Chiral Artist (Japanese)). It could be justified by these characters growing up in secluded shelters with only their immigrant parents to learn language from, but it's never explained or even acknowledged in-game.
  • Unstoppable Mailman: The Game. The journey from settlement to settlement is grueling and fraught with danger, but Sam is a deliveryman who can come back from the dead so nothing will stop Sam from carrying a package halfway across America, or retrieve them from insane deliverymen, gun-toting psychopaths, and even supernatural monsters. The meat of the game comes from finding ways to preserve the package in these horrible conditions and get it on time, no matter how much it weighs or how far it must go through infested terrain.
  • Uterine Replicator: BBs are harvested from braindead pregnant people (called "stillmothers") at the age of 28 weeks and put in pods, that can be then connected to odradek scanners to allow people to see BTs. The pod simulates the conditions of the womb. Unlike most examples, the pod actually seems to stunt the fetus's growth and was not made with carrying it to term in mind. There's actually a big chance of killing it if the pod is destroyed.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Thanks to the asynchronous multiplayer features, players can use structures and items left behind by other players. This means you can build an entire transportation network to make traversal easier across a given region not just for your own benefit, but for other players that may come after you, as well.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Lethal kills are strongly discouraged since in this world, dead bodies decay into a bunch of chiralium that creates a lethal BT, and that BT can in turn cause a horrible voidout if it gets its hands on a living human. If you do happen to kill someone like a bandit, Die-Hardman expects you to personally deliver the body to an incinerator to dispose of - or deliver it to a base, which gets corpse disposal to deal with the problem but docks you Likes for creating the problem in the first place. And if you take a break in a Private Room or whatever before the body's cremated, you get docked a bunch of Likes. It will also upset BB.
  • Video Game Delegation Penalty: Sam can eventually unlock drones that will perform deliveries for him, but these are way less efficient that he can be: the drones will take more time to complete deliveries and the cargo will invariably get damaged, earning him fewer likes. This extends to the Buddy Bot, which will cap your evaluation grade to an A unless it's used exclusively in Follow mode.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Sam, whenever he repatriates, vomits up a bunch of black gunk similar to that which is found near Beached Things.
  • Warp Whistle: Fragile will offer her teleportation power as a means of fast travel not long after Sam reaches the Central Region. Due to the limitations of her power, however, he can only take the clothes on his back and the boots on his feet with him to his destination; any other equipment and cargo he's carrying will be transferred to the private locker at his original location.
  • Was Once a Man: BTs can mutate in rather horrifying ways from their original origin as ghosts.
  • Waddling Head: The delivery drones are a more realistic example of this; they're basically robotic eyes attached to human-like legs.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: If you kill an NPC but visit a private room before cremating them, the facility's staff will dispose of it for you and Die-Hardman will verbally rip you a new one for your negligence. If you kill an NPC but neglect the body entirely, you get a much worse one - because the resulting voidout just wiped out the Chiral Network, rendering Sam's and Bridge's entire efforts to this point All for Nothing and guaranteeing humanity's extinction...all because you were lazy. Enjoy your Nonstandard Game Over!
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Despite incredibly advanced technology, packages are always transported between cities by people, apparently by foot most of the time. There's no working road network between cities and the terrain is often too rough even for off-road vehicles. It's mentioned unmanned drones operated by AI existed and were rejected because people insisted these jobs remain for people to do in person, even if it's less efficient. It's also explained that ever since the Death Stranding, humanity has largely lost the knowledge to make advanced drones, and the high levels of chiralium in the upper atmosphere make flight impossible (the Timefall would just rust flying vehicles to pieces in seconds).
  • Weird Weather: "Timefall", a supernatural rain that causes anything it touches to rapidly age. It's harmful enough that the packages you carry can be damaged from exposure, so the player will need to use Timefall shelters and cargo-repair sprays to reverse the damage.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: Cryptobiotes are floating, grape-sized tardigrades that have evolved quickly in the world of the Death Stranding. They look weird and taste gross, but eating them quickly replenishes 25 milliliters of blood per bug. They also help deal with the Timefall rain. Fragile continuously eats these throughout the story, and afterwards it's revealed that she does this to keep herself alive after being exposed to Timefall by Higgs.
  • Western Zodiac: At the beginning of the game, it asks you to input your birthday. Afterwards, it says that people born under Aquarius, Pisces, Cancer... and Cetus, Delphinus, and Gigas have higher DOOMs levels (the extent of these effects on gameplay is still unclear other than the game celebrating your birthday). These constellations are all based on aquatic animals.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Deadman and the rest of the Bridges staff have no qualms about incinerating Igor's "defective" Bridge Baby after his death, especially since its apparent failure in the prologue led to an entire city getting wiped out by a voidout. The arrival of a multitude of BTs quickly change the plan.
    • During an altercation with Higgs, BB blocks a couple of bullets aimed at Sam using the Odradek. Higgs responds by firing a couple of rounds right at BB's pod. Luckily, the pod is bulletproof.
  • World Limited to the Plot: The UCA and BRIDGES focus on reconstructing America, while the cast can only wonder about the state of the rest of the world during the Death Stranding. Given that America's various settlements aren't even in contact with each other until Sam connects them, we can assume contact with the rest of the world has also been cut off (if not already dead) too.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside:
    • Upon Sam's first visit to the World War I Beach where he battles Cliff, he finds out that while his experience lasted possibly hours, to those outside a second or less had passed. Heartman theorizes time basically stops for those on the Beach.
    • The 3 minutes Heartman spends dead every "go-around" could potentially be hours, days or weeks to him.
    • Another moment occurs with Sam at the Beach credits sequence where a whole month outside had passed. How long had passed in Sam's subjective perception of time on the Beach? Deadman assures him it's better that he don't know.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Played with. The dead are rising from their graves, but the "zombies" are actually insane ghosts, and they have far more... surreal effects than eating your flesh.

... An explosion that will be our last.


Video Example(s):


Beached Things

The Beached Things (or "BTs") are ghostly things that manifested on Earth after the Death Stranding.

How well does it match the trope?

4.84 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / UndeadAbomination

Media sources: