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Video Game / Fatal Frame

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Logos from the three different localizations.

Fatal Frame (known as zero 『零』 in Japan and Project Zero in Europe) is a series of Survival Horror games developed by Koei Tecmo, and which have been co-produced by Nintendo since the fourth entry. In contrast to other major horror gaming franchises, the series takes most of its inspiration from Japanese supernatural horror films and folklore, rather than the works of Western writers and filmmakers.

Taking place in 1980s Japan, the Fatal Frame series explores a territory that surprisingly few survival horror games approach: ghosts. Each game takes place in a haunted locale that had been victim to a supernatural disaster in the recent past, with the protagonists visiting the area due to a desire to investigate the history or because they themselves are linked to it in some way. Their only source of defense against the copious amounts of spirits haunting the mountains and abandoned homes being explored is the Camera Obscura, an occult item created in the 1800s that uses special film that grants it the ability to exorcise and pacify violent spirits. Of course, you can't just take a picture of them from across the room, as to deal maximum damage to a ghost, the player must let them get as close as possible before getting a photo.

While most installments are numbered outside of Japan, every entry is a standalone game. However, they do all take place in the same continuity, with references being made to previous installments, and some characters and plot points regularly reappear and are expanded on.

    Games in the Series 

Main Series


    Other Media 

Light Novels

  • Zero: The Novel (2002)
  • Fatal Frame: A Curse Affecting Only Girls (2014) — The basis of the live-action movie.


  • Zero 3: Comic Anthology (2005)
  • Zero: Shadow Priestess (2014-2017)


For tropes applying to specific games, go to their respective page.

The Fatal Frame games share these following tropes:

  • 1-Up: The Stone Mirror, or Mirrorstone in later installments, refills the health bar completely after it gets depleted and prevents a Game Over. However, it doesn't work on certain ghosts.
  • Action Survivor: All of the playable characters.
  • Alliterative Title: The series is released as Fatal Frame in the US.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Camera Obscura was created before film existed, and has never used it. It's merely a handheld box that reflects light and needs to be traced to capture a picture. What they likely meant was a View Camera, but that doesn't sound as cool.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Obtaining certain endings or completing the game on various difficulties unlocks various clothing and costumes for characters to change into.
  • Anyone Can Die: Nobody in the game is safe, with many dying through human or ghost hand.
  • Apocalyptic Log: One of the collectibles in the games, often in the form of articles, scraps of paper, notebooks and similar to discuss local legends or the location itself. There are also diaries and gemstones depicting the last days and thoughts of the various ghosts.
  • Asshole Victim: Most of the people involved with the rituals, with very few exceptions.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Type-Zero film hits for a ton of damage, since it's the strongest film in the series. But it also has the slowest reload time compared to other offensive film, and is extremely rare in supply. One playthrough may net merely 5 or 6 pieces in total.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Most of the large, notable families connected to the rituals.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The series is released under the title Project Zero in Europe. 'Project' is usually used as a company-intern way to refer to the project name and the team currently working on it.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Literally so in this series. Photo-shots centered around the target ghost's head will destroy the ghost quicker. Unfortunately, this usually means you're staring right at the ghost's face as he or she is about to touch you.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Type-14 film is a decent strength of film (even as the second-weakest type in the entire series) and is the go-to film for most battles. Additionally, type-14 is easily found in large amounts.
    • Type-07 film is the weakest film, and loads even slower than Type-14. But it's unlimited, which makes it the best film to use for non-battle shots, and will always be there in case the good film's used up.
  • Bragging Rights Reward:
    • The camera function that allows the player to take pictures without using up any film. Depending on the game, it's called None or Infinity, and its ways of unlocking are different, too. Either by completing Mission Mode with the highest rank or by finishing the game on Nightmare difficulty. In the fifth game, it's unlocked upon completing the game on Normal and Nightmare difficulty with 100% mission completion, including Ayane's story.
    • The Festival function is the second-toughest camera function to unlock, and it gives the player a constant, full charge that makes any shot deal tons of damage. Though in the fifth game, it makes every shot a Fatal Frame shot. It's obtained by completing all missions with the highest rank, with the fifth game requiring this to also be done on Nightmare difficulty. In the remake, it requires a full Ghost List, which requires at least two playthroughs.
  • Break the Cutie: The antagonists tend to already be broken cuties. The protagonists get broken.
  • Cap:
    • Each type of film has a cap of 99 to carry around at all times.
    • The player may only carry around 1 Stone Mirror. Though this cap was removed in the fifth game.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: Several of the games have the last save point occur just before reaching the point of no return, but the player still needs to traverse through long hallways filled with hostile ghosts before reaching the final boss.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The camera's filament will glow blue when non-hostile ghosts, items, or strange presences that need to be photographed are nearby. The filament turns red when a hostile ghost is around.
    • Ordinary ghosts are pale and grayish in color. If a ghost seems to contain some color in their clothes or hair, they are likely much more important. This includes ghosts like the Big Bad of the game or helpful spirits that elaborate on the story.
  • Collection Sidequest: Each game has the Ghost List, a tally of every spirit sighting that can be photographed. Completing it is often the way you unlock extra features for the camera, and many benign ghosts have a small window of opportunity for photos.
  • Creepy Doll: All the games associate at least some horror themes with dolls.
    • The Doll Room in the first game.
    • The dolls of the Kiryu House in Crimson Butterfly, especially some that look almost exactly like Akane and Azami Kiryu.
    • All Doll Altars in The Tormented have a type of doll called a Kushimi doll. In each altar there are hundreds of them staked to the walls.
    • Downplayed with Miya and played straight with Watashi in Mask of the Lunar Eclipse.
    • The Effigies of the Doll Shrine in Maiden of Black Water. Especially when Yuri is presented with one that looks similar to her by Shiragiku.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Several ghosts are adorable, like Chitose Tachibana and Amane Kuze.
  • Double-Meaning Title: 零 (pronounced "rei") indeed means "zero" as in the term for nothing, but it also means "ghost".
  • Deadly Lunge: Ghosts do this to harm the player.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Getting a happier ending generally involves playing the game on a harder difficulty or by performing certain actions, some of which are very obscure to complete.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts: Ghosts tend to cause radios, tape players, televisions, telephones, and other kinds of electronics to act up.
  • Emergency Weapon:
    • Type-14 was this in the first game. It was the weakest, but was also always possible to have resupplied to a good amount at any available save point.
    • Type-07 film in every other game. The weakest type of film, but there's an unlimited supply and it's capable of getting the job done, if all the good film is used up.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The Camera Obscura's filament turns color around the presence of ghosts.
  • Ethereal White Dress: Several ghosts are dressed in white.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Majority of the ghosts in photographs are merely given descriptive titles, rather than actual names. The Ghost List ends to give descriptions that include the ghost's name.
  • FaceĖHeel Turn: This happens to nearly all the hostile ghosts. Vice versa is mostly implied, but are usually confirmed for major ghosts.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Several canon endings involve having failed in some form.
  • First-Person Snapshooter: The weapon for most protagonists is a camera.
  • Flashback Echo: Non-hostile ghosts are brief images of people repeating actions from life.
  • Floating Limbs: The Nintendo-era of the games include ghostly limbs having a chance of grabbing at the protagonist's arm while reaching out for an item. Getting grabbed results in health being lost and the ghost needing to be fought.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Most of the antagonists used to be simple shrine maidens or young women, but they turned dangerous upon their rituals failing, and some became corrupted by supernatural forces.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: It is noted that women are much more likely to develop a spiritual sixth sense, though there are rare cases that a man gains one. This is used to justify why the majority of the games' protagonists are female. The game also uses a ridiculous version when it claims that women are too weak to move furniture out of the way, as an attempt to justify a few Broken Bridges.
  • Ghastly Ghost: Since this is a ghost-fighting Survival Horror series, they're EVERYWHERE.
  • Ghostly Chill: Used throughout the series, indicating that a place is haunted.
  • Ghostly Wail: Many ghosts that are not Whispering Ghosts moan and wail loudly.
  • Girly Run: Several of the female protagonists run slowly and with delicate gestures. Itís zigzagged in Black Water where the female characters can haul ass while outside, but indoors they maintain the same dainty, feminine jog.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Attempting to complete the Ghost List or sidequests without a guide is incredibly difficult. Not only do several ghosts only appear upon completing sidequests or going in the opposite direction of where the plot demands, some ghosts don't appear unless it's a consecutive playthrough and a certain camera function is activated.
    • Obtaining certain endings in some games require certain requirements to be fulfilled, usually in the form of obtaining an item or by observing certain scenes that most players won't know exist.
  • Haunted House: The games include haunted houses, manors, hospitals, and islands.
  • Hellgate: Most games have one nearby that needs to be sealed or unspeakable terror is unleashed.
  • Human Sacrifice: Most of the games have at least one ritual that requires one. Several games have the background events being that a woman was to be sacrificed to the local hellgate, but something caused the ritual to fail, and the hellgate was opened, unleashing the horror within.
  • Implacable Man: All of the Big Bads and Dragons cannot be defeated, until the final encounter with them.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The player uses either a camera or a flashlight to fight ghosts.
  • Incest Subtext: Several games are no stranger to hinting or outright confirming incestual connections.
  • I See Dead People: People with a sixth sense can see spirits.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Expect at least one ghost to look like this.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: No matter what the ritual was meant to hold back, upon reaching the last truths about what originally went on, nobody will feel sorry for the initial targets.
  • Late to the Tragedy: By the time the protagonists reach the haunted place, whatever event may have occurred to doom the location, it had already taken place long ago.
  • Leitmotif: Each ghost has its own encounter music, though it's more white or ambient noise.
  • Magical Camera: The Camera Obscura.
  • Male Gaze: Several of the games focus the camera on female bodies.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The mortality rate for male characters, playable or non-playable, is high.
  • Menacing Mask
    • In Fatal Frame, the Himuro Family Master wore a featureless "Mask of Reflection" before the event known as the Calamity, when the ritual failed. His mask then began to look more demonic, and he eventually killed everyone in Himuro Mansion, and lastly himself.
    • Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse: Masks are one of the prominent motifs of the game. Some instances include:
      • Shigeto Haibara, director of the Haibara Hospital, wore a golden/yellow mask with a pained expression during the failed ritual (in the game's backstory).
      • Souya Yomotsuki, protagonist Ruka Minazuki's father, also becomes a ghost after the failed ritual. When he is encountered through the game, he is seen with a scary mask and attacks with masks.
      • Finally, the method to create the titular "Mask of the Lunar Eclipse": among other things, it involves removing the face of a person who has Bloomed (an in-game physical condition that affects the face).
  • Miko: Several of the shrine maidens in the games.
  • Minigame: Usually tasking the player to defeat a certain set of ghosts with a specific type of film and in limited supply. The more points the player achieves, the better the score.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Several characters are meant to give fanservice to the player, in appearance or attitude.
  • My Hero, Zero: Type-Zero film is the most powerful type of film.
  • New Game Plus: Loading the game up from a cleared game savefile allows the player to go through the story again, while retaining all their film, healing items, unlocked camera functions and upgrades, as well as Spirit Points. It also adds a function to the camera to make previously-invisible ghosts appear, and gives the player the chance to unlock other endings.
  • Nintendo Hard: Nightmare difficulty was this for most of the original versions, but the enhanced ports added Fatal difficulty. This took Nightmare difficulty and turned it up to eleven, with pretty much any ghost capable of causing a One-Hit Kill.
  • No Canon for the Wicked: Inverted, with several canon endings being the bad ones.
  • Notice This: Objects appear as shimmering dots of light that must be picked up.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Only vague glimpses are ever given to what lies beyond the local hellgate.
  • One-Hit Kill: The Big Bad and The Dragon of the games can kill with just one touch.
  • Painting the Medium: Being a series about both photography and J-horror, expect to see a lot of film grain-style filters applied to the graphics, especially in cutscenes.
  • Perpetual Frowner: All of the protagonists are very rarely seen smiling, as they all have something sad behind their stories. You can count the number of times the protagonists throughout all the games smile with one hand.
  • Personal Space Invader: All of the ghosts, as their touch drains health.
  • Plotline Death: Mafuyu Hinasaki, Mayu Amakura, and Madoka Tsukimori are the canonical deaths.
  • Point of No Return: Some games warn the player when approaching this spot, while others give no indication. They all do have a save point located just before entering it, though.
    • The underground cavern in the first game.
    • The door leading to the Abyss in the second game.
    • The passage to the Shrine of Thorns in the third game.
  • Post Modern Magic: The vintage camera exorcizes spirits as a core mechanic.
  • Save Point: The first game used an old camera as a save point, while the other games used a lantern. The save points cannot be used while ghosts are nearby, though.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Several ghosts will stand around and do nothing, unless the player gets too close or tries to take a picture of them. Then they will approach suddenly or turn hostile.
    • Shiny objects mean new film or healing items to pick up. The Nintendo-era games added the risk of being grabbed by a ghostly arm when reaching for it, though.
  • Sensor Suspense: Occurs when hunting for hidden ghosts.
  • Sidetrack Bonus: Though you'd only have to follow specific routes or objectives to progress the plot, you're still free to roam around the environment and go to the other directions instead (especially in crossroads). Additional item pick-ups can be obtained and optional ghosts can be photographed in doing so. This is also enforced if you want to have a 100% Completion in a game's Ghost List.
  • Smashing Survival: Added from the second game onward, a camera function was added that, when activated, let the player dodge a ghost's attack by pressing a certain button or shaking the WiiMote in time.
  • Spooky Photographs: The core element of the series.
  • Stringyhaired Ghost Girl: Being a series about ghosts in Japan, several ghosts appear like this.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The games tend to be balanced around you using Type-14 to fight the vast majority of ghosts, so stronger films like Type-61, Type-90, and Type-Zero come off as this trope.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Entire villages are guilty of this because they choose to build their village near a local hellgate, and prefer to perform human sacrifices to appease it and prevent a disaster to happen that would only reach the immediate, surrounding area. Instead of doing the sensible thing and not building their homes there or simply moving further away. This is largely invoked Values Dissonance to Western players, but it's an infuriatingly simple solution that makes it difficult to pity the dead people.
  • Tragic Monster: A good portion of the ghosts, with many being simply victims of circumstance, being murdered by other ghosts, or being hostile because they cannot move on.
  • Tragic Villain: All of the antagonists, since none of them were really evil or a horrible person to begin with. Most only became hostile and dangerous upon being driven insane or influenced by the hellgate's powers.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Several bizarre sights get taken in stride by the protagonists.
  • Updated Re-release: The Xbox ports of the first two games add in extra difficulty levels, endings, costumes, and ghosts to capture in the Ghost List. Crimson Butterfly's port also gave the game a first-person mode.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Majority of the rituals required one.
  • When She Smiles: Seeing an actual smile from the protagonists is a very rare sight, but it is a very sweet sight to behold, as the majority of smiles in this series consist of the Slasher Smile or the Psychotic Smirk from the malevolent spirits.
  • Whispering Ghosts: Most of the ghosts never speak above a whisper.

Alternative Title(s): Real Another Edition, Project Zero