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Video Game / Nancy Drew

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Dare to play.

Kiri Nind: But you're interested in them?
Nancy Drew: I'm interested in everything.
The Shattered Medallion

A series of DRM-free Adventure Games based on the Nancy Drew novels, released mostly for the PC by HerInteractive starting in 1998. The company typically releases two new games a year, to much critical acclaim. However, due to an overhaul of the game engine and (reportedly) internal trouble at the company, over four years passed between the release of Sea of Darkness (the 32nd game) and Midnight in Salem (the 33rd and second-most recent game).

    Titles include: 
  1. Secrets Can Kill (1998; rereleased in a Remastered version in 2010)
  2. Stay Tuned for Danger (1999)
  3. Message in a Haunted Mansion (2000)
  4. Treasure in the Royal Tower (2001)
  5. The Final Scene (2001)
  6. Secret of the Scarlet Hand (2002)
  7. Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake (2002)
  8. The Haunted Carousel (2003)
  9. Danger on Deception Island (2003)
  10. The Secret of Shadow Ranch (2004)
  11. Curse of Blackmoor Manor (2004)
  12. Secret of the Old Clock (2005)
  13. Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon (2005)
  14. Danger By Design (2006)
  15. The Creature of Kapu Cave (2006)
  16. White Wolf of Icicle Creek (2007)
  17. Legend of the Crystal Skull (2007)
  18. The Phantom of Venice (2008)
  19. The Haunting of Castle Malloy (2008)
  20. Ransom of the Seven Ships (2009)
  21. Warnings at Waverly Academy (2009)
  22. Trail of the Twister (2010)
  23. Shadow at the Water's Edge (2010)
  24. The Captive Curse (2011)
  25. Alibi in Ashes (2011)
  26. Tomb of the Lost Queen (2012)
  27. The Deadly Device (2012)
  28. Ghost of Thornton Hall (2013)
  29. The Silent Spy (2013)
  30. The Shattered Medallion (2014)
  31. Labyrinth of Lies (2014)
  32. Sea of Darkness (2015)
  33. Midnight in Salem (2019)
  34. Mystery of the Seven Keys (2024)

Two additional games with a less immersive but more casual format — Lights, Camera, Curses! and Resorting To Danger — have been released under the "Nancy Drew Dossier" heading. Most of the games are available on Steam note , and a digital version of The Curse Of Blackmoor Manor is now available on Big Fish Games also has all releases from 2000-2015 (including the Dossiers).

For trope sheets on individual games, see the recap page. Be warned, all spoilers are unmarked!

Tropes in the games include:

  • 555: To the point where it's lampshaded ("Why does everyone's phone number begin with five five five?"). Even better, in Secret of the Old Clock, the 1930s phone numbers start with "KL5", which converts to 555.
  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • Professor Hotchkiss calls you by a different name every time — even in the same conversation — and it's never "Nancy". She does manage to get your name right in Treasure in the Royal Tower; she just forgets it again when you call her for help in later games. Same goes for other characters' names: "Baxter" instead of "Dexter", for example.
    • Also true (once) for Casey Porterfield in Deception Island, and repeatedly for Lori Girard in Last Train, who is airheaded and indifferent enough that she doesn't really bother remembering Nancy's or the Hardys' names at first. By late in the game, though, she does at least get Nancy's right.
  • Acme Products: Krolmeister products appear throughout the series.
  • Action Girl: You as Nancy Drew (best seen in Danger By Design when you get into a literal fight against the culprit at the end of the game and win), and a surprising amount of side characters as well:
    • Noisette Tornade, who worked as a French spy during WW2.
    • Connie Watson, who in the original Secrets Can Kill does a flying kick at Mitch, even though he's got a gun.
  • Action Mom:
    • Kasumi Shimuzu, who gave her daughters a freaking sword as their inheritance.
    • Nancy's mom, Kate Drew, of course, seeing as she was an exceptional spy.
  • Actor Allusion: The actor that voiced Rentaro (from Water's Edge), a character who built a robotic cat, also voiced Mason (from The Deadly Device), who also built a robotic cat. Lampshaded in Arglefumph's blind playthrough.
  • Adaptation Expansion: While there are several hundred stories in the main series and spinoffs to draw from, somewhere near The Secret of Shadow Ranch, they simply started writing their own stories instead of continuing to directly adapt various books.
  • Adaptational Villainy: To keep things interesting for people who read the books, the culprits will potentially be changed, making the new culprit a formerly Nice Guy and the old culprit genuinely nice.
  • Adventure Game: Except for the Dossier spin-offs, all these games are played in a first-person perspective, similar to Myst.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: You use these to get into or out of locked rooms on a couple of occasions:
    • You have to escape a locked room this way in The Deadly Device. And you might even find out you weren't the first to go that way...
    • You have to break into a locked room the same way in Treasure in the Royal Tower.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Warnings at Waverly Academy's Izzy Romero acts like one to her fellow students. Leela Yadav comes pretty close, too, but she is shown to be an otherwise nice girl (if not a tad obnoxious).
    • Deidre Shannon in Alibi in Ashes is another example. Downplayed in her reappearance in The Deadly Device (well, just as a phone contact) and Midnight in Salem, although she remains especially snarky in both games.
  • Always Close: After completing the last challenge in The Silent Spy, the following cutscene shows that Nancy defused the bomb at the very last second, regardless of how much time you actually had left.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The multicolored glowing cave lizards from Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Iggy the iguana and Isis the white wolf. Most of the named non-primate animals in these games (except Bob the horse and especially Mr. Mingles) fit in this trope, in fact. Casper the squirrel is also a decent example.
  • Ancient Astronauts:
    • Sonny Joon in Secret of the Scarlet Hand believes this to be true, in the sense that he thinks the Maya were spirited away by aliens— despite the fact that roughly seven million Maya people are alive and well today.
    • Jamila in Tomb of the Lost Queen claims aliens taught humans to build the Egyptian pyramids, and cites Sonny Joon as the source of this belief. She's lying to cover up her true reason for being there... although The Shattered Medallion makes that more ambiguous.
  • Ancient Tomb: Locating Nefertari's hidden burial chamber within one is your chief goal in Tomb of the Lost Queen.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Renate tells a story in The Captive Curse, and only reveals at the end of it that the story was about herself.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Carson is furious at you during The Silent Spy's beginning. This is because you are doing the exact same thing that got Kate murdered. He later clarifies that he isn't angry at you, exactly, and cools down after a talk with Ned.
  • Animal Assassin: In Shadow Ranch, Nancy speculates that the rattlesnake in Bet and Ed's bedroom was planted by the villain. Interestingly, it's a mishap the villain doesn't cop to during their Motive Rant, implying the snake just wandered in by chance.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • When Nancy eventually got a cell phone, she was able to select her contacts instead of dialing their number manually.
    • Several games have a "Time" mechanic over several days, and thus certain events have to be triggered over a few days (ie, waiting for something to arrive in the mail, or events that can only be seen at night). In this case, there is a method to make a time skip.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Nancy views all the suspect(s) in The Final Scene as this. Maya gets kidanpped right in the theatre, yet almost nobody EXCEPT her and Joseph seem to even be remotely concerned.
  • Art Evolution: The graphics were never really going to win any awards, and the animations were quite limited (Even for early 00s standards), but as the series progressed, the animations and graphics got more and more detailed, the designs became much more realistic, and the characters started making more and more fluid motions. Compare Sea of Darkness to Message in a Haunted Mansion.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: In The Deadly Device, doing the chemistry puzzle incorrectly results in the bottle steaming and then exploding, even in cases where this shouldn't happen, such as putting pure H 2 O (water) into the bottle.
  • As You Know: Alibi in Ashes has to rely on this a lot, as the game takes place in River Heights, where Nancy and her friends have always lived. They have a lot of information about the people in town, but the player doesn't, so Nancy, Bess, George, and Ned end up making comments such as "Remember— Deirdre's always had it in for you!" or "Remember all of those times that Brenda did something crazy to get a story?" throughout a lot of the game.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Or fangirl. Bet in Secret of Shadow Ranch is an in-universe example.
    Bet: Omigosh. You mean, Charleena Purcell is going to write a book that takes place on our ranch?
    Ed: Be still, my palpitating heart.
    Bet: Ed!
    Bet: You tell her she's welcome to visit Shadow Ranch and do all the research she wants, anytime she wants.
    Ed: Don't I get a say in this?
    Bet: No.
    • Her Interactive also held a contest to get your picture put in Secrets Can Kill: Remastered as students in the high school. Michael "Arglefumph" Gray, one of the most well-known Let's Players of the series, was one of the contest winners.note 
  • The Anticipator: This happens in virtually every game. No matter what, the villain knows exactly when you will finally thwart their plans. They nearly always wait for you in a final area in order to do away with you. Permanently. Some occurrences are:
    • In The Final Scene, Joseph Hughes is waiting for you to enter the attic where Maya is found.
    • In Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, the culprit, Emily Griffin, is waiting for you to solve a puzzle in order to trap you. They even brandish a bone menacingly at you and tries to lock you in an underground safe.
  • Ascended Meme: The fandom has a tendency to make fun of the clothes shown in your suitcase, usually a green shirt decorated with a stylized horse head and what seems to be a pair of mom jeans. Then, in The Silent Spy, you'll discover a letter from your deceased mother telling how you continued to wear the "ugly" horse shirt to school despite teasing because you wanted to be liked.
    • Spy also gives us the following gem:
    Alec: If you're so attached to your mom's jeans, why did you take them on an international flight?
    • Similarly, in the early games, your voice actor says "It's locked" in a very deadpan way. They kept this in future games, so many fans play a game of trying to find all the locked doors they can just so they can hear the "It's locked." voice clip.
  • Asian and Nerdy:
    • Hal Tanaka from Secrets Can Kill could also apply - about the only thing he does through the entire game is study, and he outright admits that his goal is to become a doctor.
    • And, as it turns out in The Shattered Medallion, Sonny Joon. We already got the impression that he was nerdy from the many notes and writings Nancy found from him in previous games, and his surname implies he's of Asian descent, but meeting him in person in this game confirms both traits.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Jake Rogers from Secrets Can Kill. Given that his classmates only remember him as a blackmailer and a bully, it's remarkable that they stop short of saying he deserved his fate. Though in the Remastered version he does ultimately contribute (posthumously) to helping you solve the mystery and bust another criminal.
    • Deconstructed somewhat in one of Thorntons multiple endings, you can leave the Big Bad, a thief and murderer, whose lies have ruined Harper's life, to die in a fire — akin to the one she caused. The following ending is treated as bittersweet even if you chose to save everyone else. The game's stance is that, whether the murderer deserved to die or not, you will feel bad that you essentially killed someone, and your feelings are important, even if Clara's life isn't.
  • The Atoner: Moira Chisholm in The Silent Spy, whose lies to Kate inadvertently caused her death. She deeply regrets this, and tries to make up for it during the events of the game by helping Nancy.
  • Ax-Crazy: Many of the villains' sociopathy is played disturbingly straight.
    • A prominent example goes to Stay Tuned For Danger villain Dwayne Powers, for being the only one so enraged and crazy that he tries to kill you AGAIN in Ransom of the Seven Ships with an elaborate and time-consuming plan of revenge.
    • Thanos Ganas in Labyrinth of Lies is another example. Not only does he have connections to the Greek mafia and multiple past murders on his record, but you find a confession note written by Grigor near the end of the game, which he wrote in anticipation of being killed by Thanos after the heist.
    • This becomes a literal case in Sea of Darkness, although the villain does not actually harm you with the axe, instead using it to trap you in an ice cave.
  • Bad "Bad Acting":
    • In Stay Tuned for Danger, Rick's and Maddie's acting leaves a lot to be desired, especially considering both of them are supposedly famous actors.
    • In the theater troupe from Labrynth of Lies, Niobe doesn't show the same acting chops as the rest of the cast. Justified, since it's a front for an elaborate heist, and she's the least experienced of all her co-conspirators — except probably for Thanos, and he’s very well suited for the role of Hades.
  • Bad Boss: Minette from Danger by Design. She's gone through three assistants, and her current one is revealed to have sent her an angry note after Minette was particularly terrible to her. It doesn't take long for the player to understand why. She will also fire you if you don't answer the phone in time.
  • Bad Liar: In Danger by Design, if you get caught by the police in the tunnels, your response to being arrested on the spinning newspaper is, "You mean this isn't the way to the Eiffel Tower?" (Normally, though, you're a pretty good liar- unless the plot requires otherwise.)
  • Bait-and-Switch: Haunted Carousel has a frequent lawsuit hunter saying he is going to get a big payout and that Ingrid helped him. While it's obvious to assume that this is to point to Ingrid being the culprit, it turns out that he was getting a payout from another lawsuit and Ingrid's help was telling him to rub a natural remedy on his neck to help with the pain.
  • Bald of Evil: Shorty Thurmond from The Secret of Shadow Ranch and Victor Lossett from The Deadly Device.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: If the suspects were actually honest with you, the games would be far, far shorter. Justified for the culprit, of course, and the few suspects who are innocent of the main crime but doing something else illegal and/or against the rules of where they are employed.
  • Bears Are Bad News: One of the "Good News, Bad News" scenarios if you lose the final puzzle at the end of Warnings at Waverly Academy:
    The Good News: The giant pendulum that was about to slice you in half just before the camera cut away apparently missed and struck open the wall..
    The Bad News: Waiting for you on the other side of the wall: Angry bears.
    • Rule of Funny dismisses the Fridge Logic as to how or why they'd supposedly be there.
    • In Tomb of the Lost Queen, Lily tells us that the probability of "contracting" a curse is the same probability that you'd end up "white-water rafting with a hungry bear. Who also has the bird flu. And he's holding dynamite."
  • Berserk Button: Many suspects, villains or not, have them.
    • Mystico the Magnificent's is you asking for anything except for "something very special."
    • When you lose Jacques' medallion, he will get mad at you and not talk to you for pretty much the rest of the game.
    • Elliot Chen will kick you out when you accidentally knock down a can of paint. Alexei Markovic does the same with anyone who breaks one of his antiques.
    • Do not break Colin Baxter's microscope.
    • Do not suggest to Jasmine Ivy from Resorting to Danger that Eda Brooks, from Lights, Camera, Curses!, is her sister. Or suggest that Jasmine looks and sounds like Eda. Jasmine really hates Eda!
    • Abdullah Bakhoum doesn't take too kindly to anyone who dares suggest that aliens built the pyramids.
    • Miwako reacts badly whenever her mother is brought up, and usually will stop talking to you. She will also kick you out of the Ryokan if you ask her about an article that is detailing her mom's death. Justifiable - you're giving her proof that you've been inside her room without permission and pilfering her belongings.
      • Yumi also gets upset whenever her mother is brought up. Even when you know how she died, Yumi will get angry at you and stop talking to you for a moment.
    • While Takae also gets upset when her daughter is talked about, if you ask her to translate the article about her death she will order you to return it to where you found it. This is also justifiable - as this article is one of Miwalo's belongings.
    • One case involves you having to go into someone's briefcase, read his manuscript, and ask him a question about something mentioned in said manuscript. The question itself is so specific, he asks where you heard of it, and mention that you read it in a book, he'll (correctly) deduce you were poking around his belongings and game over.
    • Bring Shorty unripe vegetables one too many times or try to collect the white hen's eggs while she's there, for that matter.
    • Harper gets you to push Clara For the Lulz: the Thornton matriarch doesn't know who her father is.
    • Don't you dare get caught with your hands in Renate's purse. Justifiable - you're stealing things from her purse.
    • Ewan MacLeod's is messing with the temperature controls in the server room
    • Xenia Doukas loses it when you inform her that you discovered that some of the art pieces on display are forgeries.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In nearly every game, the suspect who is the nicest to you turns out to be the villain, though this is nicely averted once in a while to keep the games from becoming too predictable.
    • Sometimes someone who isn't the culprit can go in this territory. A notable example is Daryl from Secrets Can Kill Remastered who gets angry with you when you ask too many questions. It turns out that he had top secret information, which he gave "Detective Beech". Jake used this information to blackmail both of them and you can guess how well this ended for him.
  • Beneath the Mask: Nearly every culprit seems perfectly nice, friendly, and/or harmless throughout most of the game, and some are pretty wacky. But once the ending reveals them to be the villain and they show the true colors, many of them are downright chilling and provide a frightening contrast to the person Nancy thought she knew. Literally with Minette.
  • Big Bad:
    • While the series itself has no real "Big Bad", every game usually has one (Sometimes two) figure(s) that act as this, called "The Culprit" by the developers and fandom. The Culprit is the one committing the game's crime, and sometimes makes attempts on Nancy's life, although some of these happen by mistake. However, there is one aversion (see No Antagonist).
    • Perhaps the closest that the series itself has to a Big Bad is Dwayne Powers, the only culprit to return.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Thorntons, although not many of them are alive anymore. Just in the present day alone, it's become more screwed-up since Charlotte, the one person in the family everyone loved, died. By the end, it's revealed that Jessalyn's mother caused the death of Harper's sister and then gaslit everyone into thinking that Harper is crazy, and also that Jessalyn and her fiancé aren't really in love with each other, and they break up.
    • The Penvellyns subvert this trope. They live in an extremely scary mansion and many of them are/were interested in science and the occult, but these are all Red Herrings. They're mostly good people- they just have a lot of secrets and consider their heritage very important.
      • An Easter Egg in Thornton (the portrait hanging in Charlotte's bedroom) implies these families may be related.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: J.J. Ling in Danger By Design. Her job as a plus-size model actually requires that she be this.
    • Hollywood Pudgy, since J.J. specifies that she's three pounds shy of a "perfect size 12" like Minette wants. Even worse if Minette is going by European sizes, where a 12 is closer to a US 10.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Holt Scotto in Danger on Deception Island; you've already defeated the Big Bad by the time this person shows up with the Coast Guard, but their arrival means you won't have to deal with the culprit's henchmen.
    • Both Alex and Magnus in Sea of Darkness - Alex catches the Big Bad while Magnus rescues you from being trapped.
  • Big Eater:
    • Professor Hotchkiss in Treasure in the Royal Tower orders fifty chicken wings and eats them all.
    • Also, Bess. Several phone conversations with her mention her continual attempts to diet.
    • To get some achievements, you have to indulge your sweet tooth until you can't take it anymore.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Ironically, the so-called "ghost dogs" in Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake are actually this — when they're not being ordered to act vicious by means of a silent alarm. After their former owner goes to prison, Sally ends up adopting them. Truth in Television. If a dog's acting violent in real life, there are five possible reasons why: the dog feels threatened, the dog is unused to humans, the dog is hunting and/or fighting for survival, the dog's owner is not disciplining it correctly, or the dog is being trained to be violent. And only the last two reasons could explain a dog pack attacking a house.
  • Big "NO!": Near The Final Scene's climax, you get the option to do this in response to Brady insisting that he demolish the theatre despite the fact that Maya could be trapped inside it. You can choose not to, but why would you?
    • In Blackmoor Manor, a statue does this whenever you fail a particular puzzle.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The family's surname in Shadow at the Water's Edge is Shimizu. The Japanese word "shi" translates to "death," and "mizu" to "water." Yes, this is significant.
    • The Shimizu kanji on the doorplate at Yumi's apartment literally means "spring water", using the characters for "clear/pure" and "water". There's no kanji meaning "death" involved. However, this could be a way of invoking the famous Japanese superstition regarding any word pronounced like "shi", instead of directly showing the kanji itself.
    • The Creature of Kapu Cave. "Kapu" is the Hawaiian word for "Taboo".
    • In a morbid-humor example, one of the cemetery zones in Crystal Skull is called "Terra Siesta". Yes, Bruno Bolet actually named one of the final resting places in his custody "Dirt Nap".
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Antonia "Toni" Scallari from Alibi in Ashes: a city official who runs the local ice cream shop. She may smile sweetly and pretend to root for you, but secretly she's pushing the police to railroad you into the ground, just because the cases you solve make her look bad in the polls. It's so bad that towards the end of the game, she keeps her Stepford Smiler face on while refusing to help you stop the real arsonist.
    • Also, Helena Berg in The Phantom of Venice, Emily Griffin from Ghost Dogs at Moon Lake and Anja Mittelmeier in The Captive Curse. All are as friendly as can be and Anja even offers you relationship advice. Yet, Helena turns out to be the mastermind behind the thefts in Venice; Emily is behind the fake ghost dogs so that she can get her hands on buried gold bars; and Anja is pretending to be the monster that stalks Castle Finster to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend.
    • Connie Watson in the original Secrets Can Kill makes for a Double Subversion of this trope. She seems nice and responsible, the most open of the students...but just like the others, she refuses to help you catch the culprit- even after you make it clear that her reluctance may cause another murder. However, she comes through in the end.
    • In The Shattered Medallion, Kiri Nind is the nicest person to you at the beginning of the game, but she turns out to be one big bitch.
    • This trope isn't just confined to female villains, either. Joseph Hughes, Taylor Sinclair, Elliott Chen, Andy Jason, Shorty Thurmond, and Rentaro Aihara are among the male characters who at first appear helpful and amiable to Nancy but wind up attempting to kill or at least foil her.
  • Bladder of Steel: Played straight most of the time, but subverted in The Final Scene: you must make a trip to the bathroom before the game will let you receive an important phone call. In Danger by Design, you can actually develop Dietrich's pictures in the dark room by simply flushing the toilet ten times (if you'd rather not try to work in the dark).
  • Blinded by the Light: In the ending of The Final Scene, you have only seconds to spare to switch on the marquee before the building gets demolished, but are stopped by Joseph. You have to use the "magic" ring you found to blind him.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Some of the culprits tend to do themselves in by gloating about their plans rather than attack or kill Nancy right away or making some kind of escape.
    • The culprit for Treasure in the Royal Tower willingly answers Nancy's questions about everything they've done in the game even though they just sprayed mace in her face and they acknowledge that it won't last for long.
    • The culprit for The Captive Curse explains their motive to Nancy and gloats about how Nancy can't do anything to stop them. In order to defeat the culprit, Nancy has to activate a trapdoor the culprit is standing on while they're still talking or else she will be attacked.
    • When Nancy confronts the culprit in Shadow at the Water's Edge, she is supposed to grab the audio recorder and trick the culprit into confessing everything. The culprit could easily try to force open the door and get out or just attack Nancy, but they choose to talk and give Nancy proof that they were trying to sabotage the ryokan.
  • Book Ends: Nearly every game begins and ends with a letter from you to either Ned or her family.
    • Thornton begins and ends with you being woken up in the middle of the night by a call on her phone. The first time, it's Savannah Woodham, a ghost-hunter who needs you to take her place. The second time, it's a secret agent.
  • Bowdlerization: Romance subplots in the original book versions tend to get dropped in the games, such as between Bess and Rick in Stay Tuned for Danger and between Rose and Louis in Message in a Haunted Mansion.
  • Breather Episode: After the dramatic, tear-inducing The Silent Spy comes The Shattered Medallion, in which you trek across New Zealand to win a contest.
  • Breakout Villain: Dwayne Powers from Stay Tuned for Danger and Ransom of the Seven Ships has become this among a portion of the fanbase - partly because he's the only villain to have been featured in more than one game, partly because of their over-the-top persona embracing elaborate villainous schemes and bombastic character.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • The culprit of Stay Tuned for Danger shouts that "Time's up!" if you fail to finish a timed puzzle before attacking you. This is justified, though, as Dwayne has confused reality with fiction ("Real life is a soap opera.") and thus treats everyone like characters in a plot... which they are. They've just mixed up the villains with the heroes.
    • In-universe, oddly enough, in Labyrinth of Lies where Grigor's lines for the play have him break the fourth wall and lampshade it.
    • Any time Bess & George say they can't give you a hint because you're (playing as) a Senior Detective, or Nancy's notes point out she doesn't have a Task List for the same reason.
  • Brick Joke: In Tomb of the Lost Queen, you just barely remember to release the cobra as you finish your letter home.
    • Early in Sea of Darkness, you can ask Soren about his job at the Cultural Center, and his description includes the line "Nothing says I love you like a new murder tool." Among the possible anniversary gifts you can buy for Ned, the one that produces the best endgame result is the replica Viking sword.
    • In Phantom of Venice, Nancy uses a fake identity from a spy. In The Silent Spy, that person then returns and tells Nancy it's impolite to use other peoples' identities.
    • In Danger by Design, Nancy's luggage gets lost on her way to France. In Warnings at Waverly Academy, her cover story is that she's coming from France... and her luggage got lost on the way.
  • Broken Bridge: If you try to get into Thornton Hall's basement before Harper takes you there, a scythe will drop down from the ceiling and force you to use the Second Chance button.
    • Dangerous animals are a common bridge-breaking obstacle, like the rattlesnake under Zebra Rock in Secret of Shadow Ranch or the eel that blocks a snorkeling Frank Hardy in Creature of Kapu Cave. Neither will budge until the game's ready to allow it.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Ingrid with her obsession with vitamins and home remedies in The Haunted Carousel.
  • But Thou Must!: Nearly every game ends with you either going right into the villain's lair or confronting the villain herself, even when you have enough evidence about their crimes to go to the police. (You can refuse to go, but the plot won't progress until you do.) A Justified Trope in that, well, the series is based off mystery novels, and at the end of mystery novels, the protagonist always confronts the villain. It's more dramatic.
    • In Sea of Darkness, Dagny's heater breaks. Nancy points out that there is in fact a pub right around the corner, but Dagny won't tell Nancy what she needs to do next (and won't budge) until you solve the most blatantly-contrived puzzle in the series. (Hilarious though...)
    • Stay Tuned for Danger was especially guilty of this trope. At the end, Lillian calls you and asks you to met her at the TV studio. At night. With no one else around. And right after that, you receive a note threatening to murder Nancy if she doesn't go back to River Heights now. And you have to go.
    • In Shadow at the Water's Edge, you have no choice but to demand Takae tell you about her daughter's death. Even though you know the memory hurts her deeply. Even though every time you have tried this previously, it resulted in Takae getting angry and refusing to speak with you at all.
    • In Thornton, you have to tell Clara/Wade that Harper is hiding in the basement, even though Harper warns you not to do so.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lamont in Legend of the Crystal Skull. His sole reason for existence is so Bess can do various cruel things to him in order to get a clue for you, much to the player's amusement.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Played realistically. At the end of Danger By Design, Minette's insistence on calling her attacks makes her easier to defeat. In fact, the Ichi-Do book that you read beforehand politely points out that this trope is the "only weakness" of the style.
  • Canon Immigrant: Not really an immigrant, but it took nearly eighty years and numerous untold books, spin-offs, movies, TV series, games and who knows what else for someone to finally give Nancy's deceased mother a name, Katherine "Kate" Drew (nee Austin) — which may just be another Shout-Out to Lost (Evangeline Lilly's character is named Katherine "Kate" Austen)—in The Silent Spy. In any spinoff or adaptation of Nancy Drew (such as TV shows and graphic novels) released since this game came out that refers to Nancy's mom/Carson's wife by name, it's always Kate/Katherine.
  • Canon Welding: Alibi in Ashes does this with a few of the different book series. Brenda Carlton is exclusive to the Files spin-off series, and Deirdre Shannon is exclusive to the Girl Detective series (Simon and Schuster considers Girl Detective an official continuation of the original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories; however, in reality, they fit better somewhere between Series Reboot and Spin-Off.) However, they're both suspects in Alibi in Ashes, which effectively weld both the Files and Girl Detective series to the original Nancyverse. It's especially interesting because they're pretty much Expies of each other (both are the Alpha Bitch that functions as a jealous nemesis to you, although Deirdre is a more straightforward example, while Brenda is more an Alpha Bitch all grown up.)
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
    • While sneaking around and lying to people are perfectly acceptable tactics, neglecting any sort of real-life safety tip (leaving your hotel room without turning off the iron, not wearing a helmet or life jacket) will always get you fired or killed so fast it's hilarious.
    • This is cranked up to eleven in Secret of Shadow Ranch, where if you give Shorty Thurmond unripe vegetables one too many times, you get kicked off the ranch and are told you won't be allowed to return until you gain "the proper respect for produce".
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: It's worth noting that, despite the series developing Cerebus Syndrome, the game went in and out of its seriousness. The video game series started with a murder investigation, then went to much lighter-hearted (and less violent) crimes being committed such as theft and fraud, with a few atmospherically dark games like Blackmoor Manor sprinkled in amongst Lighter and Softer or Denser and Wackier settings like Haunted Carousel or Haunting of Castle Malloy. Then the series took a turn for the darker (see Cerebus Syndrome below). Right after Silent Spy, we have Shattered Medallion which was about... a reality TV show racing across New Zealand, then a forgery ring in Labyrinth of Lies taking The Mafia into account.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Eventually, though no two fans can agree exactly when the series began to get darker.
    • You could probably narrow it down to a few options. It could be Legend of the Crystal Skull, which was the first seriously scary game since The Curse of Blackmoor Manor and came after the extremely silly Creature of Kapu Cave and White Wolf of Icicle Creek. The Deadly Device, which features a murder as the main case for the first time since the first game, is another good contender, especially since the game that follows it - Ghost of Thornton Hall - is probably the darkest game released so far, literally and metaphorically. You could also make a fair argument for the double feature of Secrets Can Kill Remastered and Shadow at the Water's Edge.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The flash paper and ring in The Final Scene: acquired as a seemingly useless prize early on, it winds up being the very last item used, to get Joseph away from the marquee controls.
    • In The Secret of Shadow Ranch, the most random of these is a book that provides vital information about a 19th-century purse Nancy finds ... a book which George, of all people, just happened to buy at an airport because she was desperately bored.
    • A multi-game one: you know how you occasionally mention that your mother is dead? Well, in the 29th game, we get to see her via flashbacks, discover more about her past, and eventually get a good idea of what killed her.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Remember Samantha Quick, the spy whose identity you borrow in The Phantom of Venice? You meet her in The Silent Spy. She's really an American spy named Zoe Wolfe. However, her alias of Samantha Quick is unimportant to the plot of that game, though you will find the false passport in Zoe's hotel room.
  • Clairvoyant Security Force: Paige Griffin the Resident Advisor (Warnings at Waverly Academy) knows when you're doing something you shouldn't be. Especially at 3:00 AM, in the basement.
  • Clear My Name: A variation in Alibi in Ashes. Nancy is framed for arson and arrested at the beginning of the game, and spends the first two-thirds of it in jail. Her boyfriend, Ned, and best friends, Bess and George, are the ones trying to clear her name, though they occasionally call Nancy at the station. They do eventually succeed in proving that she didn't do it, and the police release her, allowing Nancy to track down the real culprit.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Sonny Joon, full stop, especially when he finally appears in The Shattered Medallion.
    Nancy: Do you believe in aliens?
    Sonny: Well, I'm not one of those Area-51 types, but why not? Crazier things have happened.
    Nancy: Crazier things than aliens existing?
    Sonny: Sure, crazier things. Take a word and say it fifty times in a row and at some point you'll be like, "What's that sound I'm making? What's it mean? (increasingly angry) Why don't I speak my own language? Why did I borrow this one?" So... (suddenly calm) In conclusion, all y'all animals and mountains, equally unlikely and insane.
    Nancy: That's an interesting way of looking at it.
    Sonny: Is it? I think it's scary. And then hilarious.
    • Professor Hotchkiss has a broad streak of this trope, as does Casey Porterfield (the maritime historian from Deception Island)
  • Collector of the Strange: Bruno Bolet's collections of glass eyes, scale models, and exotic pets. All of which are plot-relevant.
  • Color-Coded Stones: In Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, the gemstones you must find to operate the steampunk device that reveals the location of Jake Hurley's mine not only look exactly as this trope predicts, but exactly like the pictures of their type in a book you acquire.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: In Resorting to Danger, Nancy discovers documents that show the resort's manager is vastly overcharging guests for various products and services. On top of that, he's falsifying accounting records so he can pocket the extra money. In the ending where he's the culprit, he even admits he's using the bombings as an excuse to get an audit of the resort's finances postponed and raise prices so he can embezzle even more. It also turns out that the Board of Directors knew he was cheating the guests, but didn't care until they found out the manager was keeping a big chunk of the profits for himself.
  • Comic-Book Time: Time passes, yet you apparently stay the same age and are still referred to as a "silly American teenager" ten years after the first game supposedly began.
    • Especially amusing in that the exact same voice actors and silly-teen references are used in Secret of the Old Clock, which is a 1930s period piece!
    • The games have been threaded together since the beginning, however. In the ending for Secrets Can Kill, you mention Aunt Eloise got a letter from a friend about a TV studio and death threats, which led into Stay Tuned For Danger. The last few games like Shadow at The Water's Edge and The Captive Curse have also stated they've occurred one right after the other. What has been ten years for us might actually have only been a couple of months or years in the Nancyverse, in which case she's solved 26 cases so fast she could get any law-enforcement job she'd want.
    • However, in Ransom of the Seven Ships, Dwayne Powers, the culprit from Stay Tuned for Danger, says that he'd been in prison "for several long years", yet you are still a teenager despite the eighteen-game gap. This one could be chalked up to the fact that Dwayne is the only genuinely crazy villain in the series who honestly believed life was a soap opera and was deluded. He could have just been either exaggerating or the aforementioned deluded state he lived in caused him to really believe it had been many years when it had only been maybe a year.
    • Also, we know at least three winters have taken place since the series began. Treasure in the Royal Tower and White Wolf of Icicle Creek both feature snowy landscapes in North American locations, and Sea of Darkness explicitly takes place in early January.
    • This trope also applies to other characters. Bess, George, and the Hardy Boys don't seem to be aging either, and Jane from Blackmoor Manor is still a tween crushing on the same film star three games later.
  • Commedia dell'Arte: In The Phantom of Venice, the gang of art thieves use the names of Commedia dell'Arte characters as code names.
  • Complexity Addiction:
    • Everyone in the Penvellyn family — every second heir, at least. So, let's say you want your family to keep something secret. Forever. How do you make sure this happens? Well, if you're like Randulf, the first Penvellyn, you first build a giant castle out in the middle of nowhere, with multiple hidden compartments and secret rooms, some of which will kill whoever goes through them in the wrong order. And then leave in said castle a hint about how to get through said secret rooms and reach it. Done? Okay, good. Now when your intelligent grandson comes along, tell him about the secret and where the hint is. Then see that he creates another layer of security on top of your own secret passageways to protect the secret and keep it safe, and insist that he leave a sufficiently cryptic hint about how to get through said layer. Then ask that he does the same thing with his grandchild. Now get the Undying Loyalty of another completely unrelated family, tell them about your plan, swear them to secrecy about said plan, and make them promise to train their heirs as mentors and teachers to your own, so that even if a future Penvellyn heir is orphaned, someone will always be around to initiate them into the clan legacy and help them keep said secret. The Penvellyn treasure stayed hidden for centuries, and everyone involved played their parts to a T ... even the people who were born long after Randulf's death.
    • Captain James Lawrence in Sea of Darkness also has some of this. To ensure that only a descendant of his will find his ship's treasure, he not only scatters several puzzle pieces all over his ship and within the town he settled in, he hid the final clue to opening his chest... in the lyrics of a lullaby to be passed on to each child in his line.
  • Continuity Nod: In Alibi in Ashes, Brenda Carlton says that the fire at Town Hall is the biggest thing to happen since Old Man Crowley's will was found, a reference to The Secret of the Old Clock, both the game and originally the very first Nancy Drew book.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Averted in The Captive Curse. Opening the glass furnace without protection will get you severely burned.
    The Good News: You're safe from the castle's monster.
    The Bad News: But not from the furnace's monster. Yes. There is a furnace monster. That's how bad today is going for you.
    • Played straight in Creature of Kapu Cave, where you can freely walk around inside the caverns of a volcano and beside rivers of magma with no ill effects at all.
    • Also played straight in the Hades sets of Labyrinth of Lies.
  • Cooking Mechanics: Used in multiple games, such as:
    • Danger on Deception Island: Nancy Drew, as the Player Character, makes a sandwich, and there's many possible sandwiches the player can choose to made, adding things such as jellyfish, mayonnaise, baking soda, ice cream, tomatoes, mustard, and peanut butter. If a bad sandwich, a.k.a using the expired mayonnaise or adding baking soda, is created, The Food Poisoning Incident, which is a Non-Standard Game Over, results.
    • Danger by Design has a parfait-making minigame, in which the player must pile ice-cream, fruit, cream, and candy into a layered sundae.
  • Cool Old Lady:
    • The reclusive Hilda Swenson in Danger on Deception Island, who knows a lot about the history and secrets of the island and left clues for anyone to find and decipher in order to contact her. When Nancy successfully does so, Hilda grows fond of her and gives her some vital clues.
    • Vivian, a phone contact from Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, dated the gangster Mickey Malone when she was younger in the 1920s, and gives Nancy important information to find his treasure.
  • Cool Train: Where two thirds of Last Train To Blue Moon Canyon is set. It was the private train of, strangely, a failed gold miner, and contains lots of varnish and fancy furniture, as well as a secret passageway and a funky steampunk apparatus.
  • Corridor Cubbyhole Run: When stealing the Sadal Malik sapphire in The Phantom of Venice, you must do this to avoid laser-equipped Roombas, er, security robots wandering the halls of the warehouse where the sapphire is being kept.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Sonny's grandfather, apparently, at the end of The Shattered Medallion.
  • Cuteness Proximity: In Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, your reaction when you meet the eponymous dogs being held in an underground pen is to remark on how the ghost dogs are a hoax, after all...but if you go back to see them again, your subsequent reactions are to Squee and ask them who's a good dog, a good boy, yes they are!
  • Cutting the Knot: In Danger By Design, you need to find a sprig of fresh mint. Unfortunately, there's a shortage of it (since the mint farmers are on strike) and the only place you can find it is at the market stalls, sold at an insultingly high price: 100 euros, which you will almost certainly lack at that point. So you could go off and paint souvenirs to earn the money... or you can order the restaurant's 8-euro ice cream and take the mint on top of it. Also counts as Guide Dang It!, because the game gives no hint you can do this. Unless you see Arglefumph's playthroughs ... or you remember that you'd acquired grease for a stubborn keyhole in exactly the same way in Curse of Blackmoor Manor, by retaining the butter from a meal you'd ordered.
  • Could Say It, But...: Alibi's Chief McGinnis and Alexei Markovic indulge in this. Respectively:
    • "Nancy, I've worked with you for years! Of course I know you're innocent. But I can't help you with this, and I can't let you out of jail. That would be against the law. By the way, do you see this nice new evidence board we just hung up? Pity there's not much on it. Maybe if more evidence about this case appeared on the board, I might just see it. The next time I come out for a coffee. I like coffee. Almost as much as I like catching criminals. (Incidentally, there's the inter-office speaker cops use to call me out of my office. Nice, isn't it?)"
    • "No, I won't tell you kids where the entrance to the town's underground sewer tunnels are! That place is dangerous! Just go off and clear your friend's name somewhere else. But before you go, look at my books. I've been collecting them for years. There's so much information about the town in them, it's really something. You kids should respect history more."
  • Crazy Jealous Guy:
    • Part of Dwayne Powers’s motive for trying to kill Rick is because he harbors feelings for Mattie and doesn’t want them to get back together.
    • Collin Baxter is a downplayed example. He has a crush on Nancy, but she’s dating Ned. During a conversation with him, he asks who gave her the locket and promptly ends the conversation when she answers him. After the theft, Helena accuses him of being glad the locket is gone. This turns out to be true when he calls Nancy in the epilogue and asks if she got it back.
  • Creepy Doll: The late Camille Voulet's dolls in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, particularly Naughty Tina, what with her cracked face.
  • Creepy Good:
    • Blue Moon's cryptkeeper. He's fascinated by graves, and hoarsely warns you that Camille's ghost will be watching over hers...but he's also courteous and completely harmless.
    • Ethel from Blackmoor Manor also counts. She has a habit of popping up at the most unexpected times and is seen performing a creepy ritual with Jane, but is not the culprit and just wants to help Jane preserve the family legacy.
  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle: In the Russian translation of "Danger By Design", Minette's name had to be changed to "Marie", since the word "minet", which sounds exactly like her name, is Russian for "fellatio".
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Dwayne Powers' motivation for his villainy deeds is him being unable to get over the fact that he didn't become an actor and get the girl. He seems a one-off villain in Stay Tuned For Danger, who at times appears rather childish and wimpy. He is also the only character so far to appear twice as a villain of a game and leave the possibility for at least one more appearance.
    • Bess is also this; she's not a moron, but her lighthearted, playful view of life contrasts strongly with your curiosity and Nerves of Steel. All through Skull, she's suggesting that you abandon the scary investigation and have fun with her. But when the situation calls for it, she is badass enough to infiltrate a secret society and accuse someone of murder.
  • Crystal Skull: The main treasure and MacGuffin that Nancy and Bess are trying to find in The Legend of the Crystal Skull, as the name implies.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Nancy's friend Maya is this for the entirety of The Final Scene. She's kidnapped in the opening scene of the game, and Nancy doesn't manage to rescue her until the end.
    • Nancy's friend Katie disappears near the end of Deception Island. Nancy isn't sure if this is because she was kidnapped or is the culprit herself, but the climax reveals it to be the former when Nancy sneaks aboard the real Big Bad's ship and finds Katie Bound and Gagged there.
    • Bess Marvin herself becomes this in Ransom of the Seven Ships, since the game's premise is to save her from being kidnapped. She's missing for the entire game, since Nancy and George don't find her and save her until the climax.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The Ghost of Thornton Hall is probably the darkest ND game yet (not only in terms of scary factor, but also in terms of psychological atmosphere), beating out even Secrets Can Kill. Depending on your actions at the end, you can leave three people to die and two others seriously injured.
    • And before Thornton, there was Alibi. In nearly all of the games up until that point, there was one culprit, one person doing all the bad things to everyone — and when you caught them, everyone could be happy. The series had its fair share of Nightmare Fuel, but most of it was related to the creepy settings and the bad things people had done in the past, not the present. In Alibi, there is quite a strong undertone of Humans Are Bastards, we see firsthand the results of complete social ostracism, and the ending is bittersweet; because even though you've resolved the troubles of both Nancy and Alexei, they still have to live with the knowledge that in their time of need, the people of their hometown abandoned them.
    • The trailer for the 29th game consists of nothing but a phone call to you in the middle of the night, while a heavily filtered voice informs you that your mother is a spy. Holy trailer, Batman!
  • Dark Mistress: In Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, gangster Mickey Malone's girlfriend, Vivian, was this for him for a time in the backstory, though as she tells Nancy, she eventually left him.
  • Dartboard of Hate:
    • Mickey Malone had a photo of his FBI nemesis on the dartboard at his speakeasy.
    • The villain in Alibi has a dartboard with the Nancy Drew silhouette logo on it.
  • Dead Man Writing: In Thornton, you find a note Charlotte wrote in anticipation of her death. Crosses over with Gambit Roulette.
    Please, please, please- never let this fall into the wrong hands.
    If you find this and do not know what it is, please, I'm begging you to put it back and hide it well.
    If you know who I am, then this will help you understand what I did.
  • Deadpan Snarker: You are often this. Bess, George, and their Uncle Ed (from Shadow Ranch) have their moments too.
  • Death by Looking Up:
    • Inverted, oddly enough; looking up when something is about to fall on you is necessary to actually avoid it. Looking down leads to instant death and Second Chance screen.
    • Also played straight on occasion, when the proper response is to step back immediately upon hearing the noise cue that something's about to fall on you.
    • Or, in Kapu Cave, where you must step to the right. Very quickly.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: It is possible to die (or simply "lose," as in make a mistake so egregious that the main supporting character of the game orders you off the case), but depending on what era of games you are playing, one of two things will happen:
    • In the early games, you will get booted to the main menu. However, if you simply click "Second chance," you will get dropped right back to before you died with no consequence.
    • In the later games, after you get the good news, bad news gag, the game will simply ask if you want to try again, at which point you will, again, be dropped back to before you messed up. In both cases, death has no real consequences.
  • Death Trap: Nearly every game features a form of a death trap. Just a few examples include mines with collapsing rocks and TNT if you go the wrong way, Drowning Pits, being trapped and almost suffocating in tight spaces with little air, being trapped in burning buildings, booby traps such as poison darts or giant rocks that crush you if you put a wrong answer into a puzzle, and being locked in the attic of a building that's about to be demolished.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Mitch Dillon in Secrets Can Kill Remastered, in contrast to their appearance in the original. He's still the one who killed Jake Rogers, but he was acting under orders from the real Big Bad, who's around for the entire game and is the one to confront Nancy at the end. Mitch himself becomes The Ghost, only interacting with Nancy via a threatening phone call and a note meant to lure her into a trap — though this is still more presence than he had in the original.
  • Demoted to Extra: Unlike the books, Nancy's friends don't usually accompany her on the case. However, she can contact them over the phone.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Just after Christmas in Skipbrot, actually - Soren's records suggest you arrived in early January - but as Icelanders consider Yuletide to last until Epiphany (Jan. 6), the village holiday decorations are still up. Not that anyone comments on them.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • In The Final Scene, Nancy can't understand how the evidence that she found on Day 2 simply disappeared. If you call Bess and George on Day 3, she'll realize over the course of the conversation that she left Joseph with the job of showing it to the police (one suspect), and mentioned to Brady that she'd found evidence when she ran into him backstage (another suspect). Bess and George call her out on it.
    • The kidnapper in The Final Scene also qualifies. They'd like to have the demolition called off without Maya getting hurt, but their actions lead to everything going From Bad to Worse. Nor did they anticipate the police not taking the threat seriously and insisting that Maya couldn't possibly be anywhere near the scene of the abduction.
  • Didn't Want an Adventure: A basic staple of the games' stories is that Nancy simply plans a vacation and ends up getting tangled in a mystery. At some point she will make at least one comment about how she wasn't looking to risk her life.
  • Disappeared Dad: In Thornton Hall, Jessalyn's father is never even mentioned by any of the characters, even though his daughter is both soon-to-be-married and missing. He's apparently alive, as his name appears without a death-date on the family tree, but that's it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: You can get booted from the games for some downright silly reasons, such as... picking under-ripe vegetables in Shadow Ranch!
    • Holt from Danger on Deception Island will have you arrested if you bring him a female crab. Yeah, catching them are illegal, but it's not as if Nancy ever intended to eat it ... and he's the one who'd insisted you catch one, in the first place!
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: In The Secret of Shadow Ranch, one hen in the henhouse has a sign above her reading "Hey you! Don't even think about taking my eggs when I'm here. It makes me crazy!" If Nancy tries to collect her eggs while she is present, the hen attacks Nancy. If Nancy does it a second time, she gets kicked off the ranch.
  • Drowning Pit: The water tank in The Phantom of Venice; the ship's bilge in Sea of Darkness.
  • Dull Surprise: "Fire". Despite that it has a punctuation mark next to it, Nancy just says "Fire" as if it's something she sees every day.
  • Dumb Blonde: Lori Girard of Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon. Subverted in that she's actually smart enough to believably kidnap herself. She also knows she won't be able to find the game's treasure on her own, and manipulates you into doing it for her.
  • Dumb Muscle: Patrick Dowsett from The Shattered Medallion is a Dumb Jock version, being quite athletic but not having much going on upstairs.
  • The Dutiful Daughter: Miwako Shimizu in Shadow at the Water's Edge, as opposed to her rebellious older sister, Yumi.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first game, Secrets Can Kill, demonstrates a lot of this. Compared to the games that followed it, it has a darker atmosphere, contrasted by the 2D "drawing" animations of the suspects instead of the 3D models from the rest of the series. Additionally, Nancy Drew is investigating a murder, when later games have Nancy investigating less violent crimes such as theft, threats, sabotage, or odd feelings... or just getting caught up in something while on a vacation or staying with friends. Bess, George, and Ned only serve as an in-game hint system instead of providing exposition, and only give one line before hanging up. Bess and George are also separate contacts.
    • Several early games require Nancy to manually dial the phone numbers as cell phones were not common.
    • Stay Tuned For Danger allowed Nancy to actually make accusations as to who the culprit was. This only gets brought back later for Resorting to Danger! and The Captive Curse.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Pretty much every game in the series contains numerous references to previous ones, be it through Nancy's monologue, dialogue with other characters, or objects you can find (like the Koko Kringle bars).
    • Sonny Joon ends up combining this with Chekhov's Gunman; after first finding his old notes in Scarlet Hand, which are needed to solve the case, Nancy finds things that belonged to him or references to him in several subsequent games, before he finally appears in person in Shattered Medallion.
    • Also literal with the physical easter eggs you can find and put into your inventory throughout the games.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Yumi Shimizu in Shadow at the Water's Edge, though her preference for the color pink makes her more of a Sweet Lolita.
  • Engineered Public Confession: The threat of this is what prompts Rentaro to confess for real at the end of Shadow at the Water's Edge.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In Alibi in Ashes, Deirdre dislikes you for several reasons, especially for you seeing Ned. But she states that although she dislikes you, she doesn't hate you enough to accuse you of burning down Town Hall. She even helps you out in a later game, The Deadly Device.
    • In "Creature of Kapu Cave", the culprit actually does try to stop their Evil Plan, actually helps the crew escape, and in the ending, they turn themselves in. Plus, Big Island Mike cares for his daughter.
    • In "The Final Scene", Joseph treated Maya well during her kidnapping, and he wanted to just save the theatre from being demolished. He didn't intentionally put Maya in danger. He also sounds sincerely disgusted by the funeral wreath, which makes sense, as he's not the one who sent it.
  • Everybody Did It: All four of the theatre troupe members in Labyrinth of Lies are involved with the art heist. Xenia is the Big Bad; Thanos, The Dragon, Grigor, the grifter with connections to move the art out (who is also Xenia's intended fall guy); and Niobe was forced to actually copy the art.
  • Evidence Dungeon:
    • The culprit's lair in Alibi in Ashes. A bag in the room you have to inspect even prompts Nancy to say that it contains all the evidence she needs, and it really does contain everything.
    • In Resorting to Danger, the villain has set up all their bomb-making equipment inside an old bomb shelter, along with a journal detailing their efforts to sabotage the resort. Downplayed, as nothing that's lying around in the open immediately identifies the culprit — the only evidence tying the bombings to a specific person is hidden in a locked box, and in invisible ink for good measure. This makes sense, as there are Multiple Endings and the culprit can be one of six different people depending on your choices.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Happens in Labyrinth of Lies. As you near the end of the game, Xenia changes from her pretty white robe into one that's black and red and patterned to look like a lava flow. This makes her suitably sinister-looking when she later reveals herself as the Big Bad.
  • Evil Redhead: Several villains fall under this category, namely Lisa Ostrum from Treasure in the Royal Tower, Marion Aborn/'Jane Willoughby' from Secret of the Old Clock, and Minette from Danger by Design.
  • Exact Time to Failure: In The Final Scene, you have exactly three days to find Maya.
  • Exact Words: In Midnight In Salem, Frances Tuttle's will turns out to be hidden within a dollhouse in the Hawthorne House's basement. While it may not make sense at first, one should recall that the letter from Frances found earlier in the game said "The will is in the house". It didn't say it was in the Hawthorne House.
  • The Faceless: Multiple:
    • Nancy, as the games are in first-person perspective. Bess and George were faceless until Ransom of the Seven Ships. The closest we've get to seeing Nancy's face has been a photograph in the ending letter of Shadow at the Water's Edge, where Nancy's facial features are blocked out by cartoon fruit. We also see Nancy from the back at the very end of Labyrinth of Lies. In Sea of Darkness, a picture of a girl makes her remark that the girl looks like her.
    • Carson also doesn't show physically in the games. His only appearances are through phone calls to his daughter. The Silent Spy is the best example of Carson's non-physical appearance. There's a flashback where he is having an argument with his wife without showing him and his profile picture on Nancy's phone is blank.
    • Minette in Danger By Design. She wears a white mask so no one can she her face (and, no doubt, to give the animators some time to slack off). Turns out she was hiding her lame alien tattoo. The same goes for Enrico Tazza in The Phantom of Venice, who always wears his Carnivale mask when you meet him.
    • Plus, all the people you talk on the phone with, old people who left secret passages behind. Oh, and Sonny Joon — until The Shattered Medallion came out.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The player can invoke this on Nancy. In Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, you will burn down the forest if you don't put out the fire in the shed. A similar situation occurs in The Haunted Carousel where you can burn down the hotel if you leave the iron on in your room.
  • Faking the Dead: The Reveal at the end of Lights, Camera, Curses! shows that Lois Manson was doing this when they supposedly died on the set while filming the original Pharaoh decades before the events of the game. Nancy speculates that the person was probably a spy or otherwise important to the federal government based on how many people had to be in on the scheme.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: In Message in a Haunted Mansion, this is how you can trap the villain at the end; untie it any earlier, however, and it's a game over.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Henry Bolet wears a fingerless glove on one hand.
  • Fatal Flaw: The Penvellyns get very lonely. So lonely that they purpose-built an entire manor, from the ground up, to remind themselves at every turn that they belong to a loving family. This comes from several factors- the isolation of their ancestral land, their tendency to get obsessed with esoteric hobbies, the usual generation gap between ancestor and descendant- but generally they just find it really difficult to convey their feelings. Heroic Penvellyns dealt with this problem, by adopting orphans, taming pets, or otherwise using their skills to bring people together. Bad ones let it define them, resigning themselves to bitterness and ostracizing everyone they deem unworthy.
    • The Thorntons also share a flaw- their tendency to use people. While they have grown out of the practice of literal slavery, their mentality has not, which angers Nancy (their newest pawn) several times. Not that the Thorntons care, because if she goes against their wishes at a certain crucial moment, they will kill her.
  • Fetch Quest: AKA "Nancy does everyone else's chores" cliche. Numerous times in nearly every game, a suspect who has the object or vital info you need to continue won't give it to you or allow you to access it unless you do something for them, bring them something, or beat them in a game.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Multiple:
    • The Koko Kringle bars.
    • Danger by Design has Pricsy Colors, the cases of which look a lot like Prisma colors.
  • Fishing Minigame: Multiple, necessary to the plot:
    • Secret of the Old Clock
    • Creature of Kapu Cave. Can catch other things as well.
  • Foreshadowing: Multiple:
    • A bit of Gameplay and Story Integration, too. In Warnings at Waverly Academy, you find Rachel in her room after talking to her earlier and for some reason, she doesn't recognize you as much. And if you had seen Arglefumph's Let's Play or had played the game before, you'd notice that she has a lock of hair on the left side of her face. Most people would have simply chalked this up to the fact that she might have been under a lot of stress and hadn't recognized the "new girl" as much as her other floor-mates. It's actually because you're not talking to Rachel — you're talking to Kim.
    • Also, the villain of "Warnings at Waverly Academy" is supposed to be the ghostly Black Cat. I'll give you three guesses as to what race the real villain is.
    • In The Captive Curse, Anja initially tells you that she sent in her resume, crossed her fingers, and hoped. Turns out she'd lied on the resume, giving new significance to her "crossing her fingers" (which some kids do when they lie, to ward off being found out).
    • In Stay Tuned for Danger, cracking open a fortune cookie in Dwayne's office reveals this (coded) message Even though revenge should be sweet/Jealous acts will end in defeat. Very fitting for a foiled Yandere.
    • In The Final Scene, Simone Mueller suggested a stage name for Nancy, which is "Samantha Quick". It wouldn't be until The Phantom of Venice when Nancy uses the name.
    • Most of Jane's doodles in Blackmoor Manor are her gushing about Brady Armstrong, but one from the "Norse Runes" pamphlet translates as "Mom", and is surrounded by little hearts. Guess who she misses terribly and hopes will come back to live with her father if she can chase Linda away?
    • In "Secrets Can Kill: Remastered," Nancy asks Detective Beech what their cover story should be, to explain why she keeps meeting up with him in Maxine's Diner. Although it's a perfectly legitimate question, he acts confused and flustered before coming up with the "Uncle Steve" persona. That's because he's not really a detective. He's the partner of the man who actually killed Jake.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: If you make a bad sandwich in Danger on Deception Island.
  • Food Porn: The cooking minigames would be far, far more annoying if they didn't have this. (Someone made a Tumblr blog dedicated to all the series' instances of this. Some were even featured in a scrapbook you can find within The Shattered Medallion!) In particular, Danger by Design has the parfait-making minigame, in which you must pile ice-cream, fruit, cream, and candy into a delicious layered sundae.
    • Not a minigame, but just reading the menu description of a Fundae in Carousel will make you gain a few ounces.
  • Friendly Enemy: In Alibi in Ashes, Deirdre is ultimately this toward Nancy. She admits that she hates the teen detective—but she doesn't hate hate her, and in fact enjoys disliking her so much. Nancy seems to return the favor.
  • Gambit Roulette: The culprit tricks you into helping them with their Evil Plan in Ransom of the Seven Ships. It counts as this trope because there are too many damn ways to die. If you had reached one of the many possibilities to get a game over, if you hadn't gotten past the carefully-set traps, or if you had figured out the true identity behind Johnny Rolle/Poole too early, the culprit's plan would have failed.
  • Game Over: There are various ways that you can encounter this. Some result in Nancy's death while others lead to her being relieved of the case. Thankfully, you always get a second chance and make the correct choice.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Bess and George usually serve as the "hint line" over the phone, to help you out whenever you are stuck. They tend to give information they shouldn't be aware of at all, especially because they aren't there and don't know about the secrets any more than you.
    • The first two games are particularly bad about this; there are random word puzzles all over the place (for example, some where words are upside down or the spacing is incorrect) that give some sort of hint about a puzzle somewhere in the game, including those that are part of the end game. There is absolutely no logical explanation as to how they could be there at all, and are pretty much there more for a gameplay element than for plot development.
      • While other games tend to have the puzzles more integrated into the plot, Sea of Darkness features a very blatantly contrived puzzle that is Played for Laughs. Nancy's reaction sells it.
    "That was the strangest wiring panel I've ever seen."
  • Game Within a Game: Shadow at the Water's Edge features a pachinko parlor, there are some nautically-themed games in The Haunted Carousel, Jane Pennvellyn in Blackmoor loves playing board games, a millionaire in Old Clock built his own golf course... There are lots of examples, you get the idea. Often leads into Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer.
    • Such minigames must often be completed once to advance the plot, no matter how illogical that might be. As with Venice's mob boss, who demands that anyone doing business with him must beat him in a game of Scopa.
    • Your cell phone has come "pre-loaded" with a few minigames as well, should you wish to take a break from the investigation.
  • Game Show Appearance: The Shattered Medallion focuses on Nancy and George competing on George’s favorite game show, Pacific Run.
  • Gaslighting: The culprit, a con woman, does this to Nancy's client, Emily, in Secret of the Old Clock by moving objects on the wall, taking things from around the house and putting them back to make Emily think they're "appearing and disappearing", and whispering from secret passageways around the house, all to make her believe she's going crazy and can't run the Lilac Inn properly.
  • Genre Shift: The Silent Spy quickly changes from "mildly scary investigation game" to "tense spy thriller where the fate of Glasgow is at stake." The shift is not permanent, though, the next game being set along more traditional lines.
  • Get Out!: More often than not, Nancy may say or do something that upsets a suspect so much that causes them to ask her to leave their area.
    • Abby in “Message in a Haunted Mansion” yells at Nancy if she’s caught snooping in Abby’s room.
    • Elliot Chen from “The Haunted Carousel” asks Nancy to leave his workshop twice. Once after she accidentally knocks over some supplies as she enters his area. The second time after she asks why he’s been buying lumber in bulk.
    • Ryan in “The Deadly Device” will get upset with Nancy for suspecting her of threatening Niko when she claims that her messages were warnings. Justified as a lot of people, including the ones at her workplace, believe she killed Niko and she’s tired of being treated like a walking hazard.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The culprit in The Haunting of Castle Malloy seems to be a banshee, but we all know banshees aren't real! Instead, it's a feral old woman flying around on a jet pack! Duh.
    • Surprisingly, there's not as much a "culprit" as in other games.
  • Good News, Bad News: The good news: there just might be a way out of a "Game Over" scenario after all. The bad news: Just kidding! The bad news will always be there to dash those hopes!
    • Except in Ghost of Thornton Hall, to preserve the atmosphere, and every game before The Phantom Of Venice, which didn't have the good news/bad news yet and just took you back to the main menu. This has been dropped starting with Thornton Hall.
  • Gold Digger: Henry Bolet's girlfriend is one. Henry admits that he knows this, but won't break up with her because he's afraid of being alone.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Because you're playing in first person, you don't get to see the details in the more gruesome Game Over scenarios, which is actually a good thing, considering the more horrific ways to die — for example, one way to die in Treasure in the Royal Tower is by not pre-setting the elevator, not solving a puzzle in time, and thus getting crushed by an elevator. Or in the final trap on Warnings at Waverly Academy, which references Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • French in Danger By Design, Italian and German in The Phantom of Venice, Hawaiian in Creature of Kapu Cave ("Kapu" means "forbidden", "Pua" means "flower", and you get addressed as "wahine" at some point).
    • Which often leads to some Genius Bonuses when certain puzzles require you to translate something. For example, in "Danger by Design," if you know how to speak French, you don't have to purchase a dictionary to translate Dieter's list of stock photos.
    • Shadow at the Water's Edge. Good God, Shadow at the Water's Edge. Takae's butchering of the English language is somehow supposed to sound authentic, but in reality, it just sounds sloppy. No real Japanese person, no matter how old, would pronounce "always" as "ala-ways". Also in this game, if you already know the kanji for "man" and "woman", you might not make the mistake of trying to use the men's bathroom!
    • Curse of Blackmoor Manor: If Nigel sneezes, Nancy will say "bless you" in one of several foreign languages and he will respond in the same language.
  • Greed: A common motive for the culprits' actions is money.
    • In Message in a Haunted Mansion, the culprit is intentionally causing accidents so they can look for Diego Valdez's gold.
    • In Secret of the Scarlet Hand, the culprit's goal is to open the monolith and take the Whisperer's writings, which would be sold on the black market.
  • Grid Puzzle: In "Shadow at the Water's Edge", the puzzles to solve are a master sudoku, a giant nonogram in the Senior Detective mode, and five connected sudoku puzzles in the Junior Detective mode.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Bill Pappas in Stay Tuned for Danger, Red Knott in Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, Gunnar Tonnisson in Sea of Darkness.
    • Renate in The Captive Curse is a female example, though she warms up to you.
  • Guide Dang It!: Admit it, you've had your own moment with at least one puzzle per game. If not the puzzles, missing one small item or detail from a rarely-visited area will drive you to the brink of frustration.
  • Gypsy Curse: Various villains have given them to you, but they didn't have any magical backing. Except maybe Mystico the Magnificent's...
  • Hacking Minigame: Found in Lights, Camera, Curses!, wherein you have to view encrypted security camera footage.
    • Also shows up in The Deadly Device.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold:
    • Bess Marvin, one of Nancy's best friends, who is usually available as a phone contact in most games (if she doesn't appear in person). She may come across as a bit scatterbrained, but she's a loyal Nice Girl who greatly cares about her friends.
    • Joe Hardy as well. Like Nancy, he and his brother Frank are detectives who are passionate about helping people, and The Captive Curse states that he's the kind of guy to try to cheer his friends up if they're feeling down.
  • Hard Head: By now, Game-Nancy isn't all that far behind Books-Nancy for the world record on "average number of times knocked out per adventure", yet she generally bounces back fine. Subverted with the occasional Game Over when she's clobbered worse than usual, and in Kapu Cave when Joe Hardy ends up in the hospital for observation.
  • Helicopter Parents: If Carson had his way, you would never leave the house period. In The Silent Spy, after finding out you have sneaked off to Scotland, Carson has a meltdown.
    Carson: YOU'RE IN SCOTLAND?!
    Nancy: How did you know?
    Carson: You don't have my permission to be in Scotland!
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Nancy and her friends and family aren't shown for most of the games. Nancy's friends—namely, the Hardy Boys, Bess, George, and Ned—do eventually get physical appearances and pictures for their contacts. Nancy, on the other hand, is never fully shown in any of the games. The audience is teased by the possibility of seeing her face, but we only get glimpses of it. This is also true for Carson (her father) and Hannah Gruen (her housekeeper and Parental Substitute), who are never seen in person and, in the former's case, doesn't have a profile picture to go with his phone number.
  • Hell Hotel: The main setting for Shadow At the Water's Edge: a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) that is losing business because it's supposedly haunted. Nancy is called in to find out what's really going on.
  • Hellhound: The eponymous dogs in Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake have glowing eyes and teeth.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: In The Deadly Device, Gray Cortright and Niko Jovic.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: A database in The Silent Spy reveals that Logan (a temperamental, somewhat bumbling one-time assistant to Savannah Woodham) is a Cathedral informant. Suffice it to say that they are not the kind of person you'd expect to be mixed up in espionage — which is probably why they were chosen in the first place.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Subverted; Dagny Silva from Sea of Darkness is the first explicitly lesbian character in the video game series.
  • High-Voltage Death: Happens to Nancy in two games:
    • The Final Scene if she attempts to disarm an electrified gate without rubber gloves.
    • Secret of the Scarlet Hand if she takes the tube out of the HAM radio and then puts her hand inside it.
  • Hint System: Games use different methods for this, including calling Bess and George, an in-game hint hotline, unlockable hints in the task list, and Madame Isibéal from Castle Malloy.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Late in Labyrinth of Lies, Thanos Ganas traps you in a cage in Tartarus. Some time after you escape, you see Thanos coming after him, and have to trap him in that same cage. It doesn't hold him long though.
  • Hollywood Hacking: In Lights, Camera, Curses!, Nancy picks up a device that allows her to do this. It sees plenty of use for everything from looking at security footage to retrieving sound files from a defunct audio tour.
  • Homemade Inventions: Miles the Magnificent Memory Machine, whose visible components include bike handlebars, smokers' pipes, a gramophone's trumpet and an old oven.
  • Hope Spot: The fourth danger route in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon. The cart flies off a gap in the tracks and sticks the landing. All seems well until boxes of TNT come into view...
  • How We Got Here: Phantom of Venice starts off with you getting locked in a room that is filling with water. The rest of the game is a flashback leading up to that scene — and you'd better figure out how to stop that water once you get there.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: How did you manage to carry a cotton picker around Thornton Hall? Or a full wetsuit around Paris?
    • Averted in Scarlet Hand. The calendar stones are far too heavy for you to carry them around like normal, as she immediately tells you. If you carry them for too long, you will drop them. Thing is, they're also very breakable, and of irreplaceable historical value — dropping them nets you a game over.
    • You also refuse to carry Bob's saddle outside the stables in Secret of Shadow Ranch.
  • Idiot Ball/Too Dumb to Live: Depending on how sadistic the player is feeling, this can be deliberately invoked in you in the many methods to get yourself killed or fired.
    • Played painfully straight at the end of Ransom of the Seven Ships without the player having to do anything (or in this case, not being able to do anything). So Nancy, that bum whom you've been helping turns out to be a former culprit out for revenge, not to mention a culprit who proved to be unstable and dangerous in the past and is about to trap you. So what do you do? Stand there and do nothing apart from whimpering "Oh no" when he launches a trap that you have been aware of since you first arrived on the beach. What makes it really outrageous is how the past games at least gave you a chance to outrun the culprit.
    • Sometimes, the suspects themselves can be prone to this. For instance, towards the end of Warnings at Waverly Academy, one of the characters has her term paper erased by the Black Cat. The player has the option of asking if she kept a hard copy, and her answer is..."No! It would've been like printing out a book!" Anyone who has gone to college and written a term paper can tell you why this reasoning is just plain stupid. Possibly a bit explicable in that this is actually high school, but even then, given the professionalism that Waverly Academy expects of its students, you'd think the students would know that.
      • From the same game, most of the girls asking the new girl to do their homework for them. As anyone can tell you, that's a very stupid idea. It may be a case of "It's not cheating unless you get caught", but you could easily get several other girls either expelled or dropped out of the valedictorian running for cheating on their homework.
    • Nancy and the culprit both clutch the Idiot Ball in Message in a Haunted Mansion; there's one point in the game where she receives a threatening note commanding her to leave the mansion (actually an understatement, considering the note is written in a very visibly angry script and in all capital letters). First off, the culprit waits until she's at the door to deliver the note, rather than waiting until she's asleep or away from her room. Second, Nancy completely fails to notice this golden opportunity to figure out who the culprit is and doesn't think to open the door when she gets the note. The game could have been over much quicker if she had just thought to open the door when she got the note.
      • That being said, opening the door to see who the culprit is might be a bit dangerous given that Nancy doesn't know if the culprit may kill her or not once she finds out too much. Or that the culprit can still escape fine especially as he later seems capable of successfully evading the police as seen in the Second Chance sequence where he makes off with the mansion's treasure.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Who the hell would go to a place called Deception Island?
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Sinclair from Scarlet Hand. When even Sonny Joon admits your tie is too garish, you might want to change your look...
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: On the Overcharge Batteries from Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake. Their slogan is "It pays to overcharge!"
  • Informed Ability: In Stay Tuned For Danger, Mattie Jensen, the actress whom you are staying with, is repeatedly stated to be a very talented actress, and has the awards on her home shelf to show for it. And yet in the one scene where you actually get to see her's shown to be Bad "Bad Acting" at best.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: More common in the older games, some of which required the player to learn about certain subjects in-depth, but still recurs now and again. The most notable examples are probably Scarlet Hand (learning about the Mayans), Deception Island (whales and aquatic life), and Shadow Ranch (horses and horseback riding).
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: This Game Over message from Warnings at Waverly Academy if Nancy falls from a tree.
    The Good News: No one saw you fall out of the tree.
    The Bad News: At least not until the surveillance video was posted online. Three million hits? Oh no!
  • Intrepid Reporter: The games have had four of these as suspects, so far: Lisa Ostrum, Helena Berg, Brenda Carlton, and Moira Chisholm. You yourself are like this and have noted that reporters are a lot like detectives—the parallels are especially obvious when you learn that Nancy's mom was a reporter (and sometimes spy) herself.
    • Maya in The Final Scene may also be this. It's difficult to tell though, as she's kidnapped early in the game.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: In Message in a Haunted Mansion, Nancy has to rummage through Louis' briefcase for a book about "gumbo fu". While talking to Louis about it, one of the options is saying that she got it from a book. Louis will know that she looked through his briefcase for said book and get Rose to send her home.
  • Invisible Writing: In the game The Haunted Carousal; she helps out the bookkeeper with some puzzles that would reconnect her childhood (long story). One puzzle involved a piece of lemon scented paper that showed a message when ironed.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: The culprit of Castle Malloy is an octogenarian bog woman on a jetpack who exploded. Depending on the viewer, the context can make this a heartwrenching twist.
  • It's Personal: The story of The Silent Spy is about Nancy's mom, particularly the mystery behind her death.
  • I Warned You: Savannah is careful to warn you about the...nature of the Thornton Hall case. You don't understand Savannah's fear, until you get to spend time in the house.
    Savannah: I didn't call you here just because you're a good detective. I called you because you're a skeptic.
  • Jerkass: Most seemingly jerkass characters turn out to be Jerks With Hearts of Gold, but not Simone Mueller of The Final Scene, who uses the kidnapping of your friend Maya as publicity fodder.
  • Jet Pack: You get one of these in The Haunting of Castle Malloy. The "culprit" (if you can call her that) turns out to be a 70-year-old woman riding around on one of these.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The culprit in Ransom of the Seven Ships, who becomes the first (and so far, only) villain to escape from Nancy.
    • Tino Balducci of Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon claims that anything he did during that case is now all "water under the bridge" when Chantal insists that you call him for help in White Wolf of Icicle Creek.
    • Also, villains who've attempted to kill you, in the course of the game, are often described as going to jail for robbery, extortion, fraud, etc. You'd think attempted murder charges would rate a mention...
    • The culprit in Shadow at the Water's Edge doesn't get arrested or face charges, but it's ultimately subverted, since he still doesn't get off easily. Despite that one of Rentaro's inventions almost killed you, he actually did not intend to do it at all, and probably would have been charged with manslaughter at worst. However, the resolution, depending on what you did, has Rentaro either being fired from his job and never seeing Miwako again, or he gets to keep his job but Miwako is so angry at him that she breaks off their relationship.
    • Not to mention the culprit of Warnings at Waverly Academy. She locks a claustrophobic girl in a closet overnight, sending her into a mental breakdown where weeks later she still isn't speaking. She also puts nuts into food of a girl allergic to them, sending her into the hospital and pulling her out of school for several weeks, the girl even states that she was lucky not to have died from it. Not to mention trying to kill you. Yet the only punishment she gets is to be expelled from the school. Although, there's the implication she's lost any chance of enrolling in another school and respect from her parents.
    • Thanos is said to have gotten out of jail due to connections with the local police.
  • Kimono Is Traditional: In Water's Edge, Takae — the most staid of the characters — is also the only one to wear a kimono.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: A staple of the series. If you can pick it up, you should pick it up, because it will be important later. At this point, you have stolen everything from priceless Mayan artifacts to chewed gum.
    • During Crystal Skull, you are asked to go into someone's room to get a Koko Kringle bar for them. The game gives you a trophy for stuffing yourself with the remaining bars.
    • Alex Trang from Sea of Darkness outright calls you a "klepto."
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • You, surprisingly. Sometimes you have to ask really cruel, invasive questions to advance the game.
    • In the true ending of Resorting, Elwood is apparently so unaffected by his sister's attempt at mass murder that he writes a hit screenplay about it.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Bess pulls off a lot of puns, much to George's dismay.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Several of the above tropes for the book are commonly lampshaded in the games, especially you, staying the same age throughout the games: "Right I forgot, you're celebrating your...seventieth birthday next month?"
    • Professor Hotchkiss, a fan favorite recurring character, calls you her own favorite recurring character in Tomb of the Lost Queen.
    • Nancy from Alibi in Ashes: "I get knocked unconscious and thrown into a dungeon every other week."
    • A phone conversation in Old Clock:
    Nancy: You know how I always seem to end up in these really old houses with secret passageways?
    George: Sometimes I think they follow you around.
    • Amusingly, Bess and Ned also get to have this conversation with you in "Crystal Skull" and "Captive Curse" respectively.
    • Bess and George accuse you of being able to find a secret passage in anything, up to and including a blueberry muffin.
    • Either the Cerebus Syndrome of the last few games or the series-wide tradition of putting you into near-death experiences prompts your character to point out, in Sea of Darkness, that you're "hard to kill."
    • The heating puzzle from Sea of Darkness is... not quite an electrical circuit puzzle. This prompts Nancy to say that it was the weirdest wiring panel she's ever seen.
  • Large Ham: Many of the voice actors have too much fun with their roles (especially the ones voicing the villains when revealed at the end, or the ones voicing the particularly over-the-top suspects), but the culprit at the very end of Stay Tuned For Danger deserves an honourable mention. Justified as Dwayne thinks life is a soap opera. Once in a while, Nancy Drew herself gets in on the action.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness:
    • In Midnight In Salem, Brittany Cox replaces Lani Minella as the voice of Nancy.
    • Also in Midnight In Salem, whether you play in Junior or Senior Detective Mode, there are no hints whatsoever.
  • Lawful Stupid: Jeff Akers, a park ranger in Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, occasionally falls into this trope. His actions include fining Sally for littering because she left a half-eaten ham sandwich on a picnic table and issuing you a citation for destructive behavior after you were locked in a burning shed. However, it's quite possible that he behaves this way to compensate for the fact that his grandfather was a gangster. That or he's just really bored.
  • Legacy of Service:
    • Although only one of their family actually worked for Blue Moon Canyon's Jake Hurley, the engineer's son and grandson continued to obediently preserve and pass along a rhyme that contains key clues to activating Hurley's projector.
  • Lethal Chef: In Danger on Deception Island, at one point, you must make a sandwich. But if you use any expired or blatantly inedible ingredients (such as baking soda and fresh jellyfish) to make this sandwich and give it to either yourself or your hostess, one or the other gets food poisoning and the game ends. Likewise, in Secret of Shadow Ranch, you can get fired for overbaking the cake, or bringing Shorty unripe vegetables three times in a row. It's funny.
    • The former game is a strange example of this — it is not the combination of ingredients themselves that can make you or your hostess sick; rather, it's the individual ingredients by themselves (such as the aforementioned baking soda). As long as you use ingredients that are fresh and are actual food, you can make any kind of combination of different ingredients for a sandwich and it won't make one of you sick, no matter how incredibly disgusting it would be in real life (such as an ice cream and mustard and peanut butter sandwich).
    • You can become a Lethal Animal Chef if you fail to consult online before baking Loulou's cakes in Blackmoor Manor (which will cause her to die while spouting out movie quotes), or if you mix food for the horses in Shadow Ranch incorrectly (which will turn them colicky and get you kicked off the ranch).
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: In one of Shadow Ranch's game over sequence caused if you overbake the cake, this is Aunt Bet's reaction.
    "So what you're saying is, you destroyed my oven, severely damaged my kitchen, and caused my cook to quit?"
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • The first game, Secrets Can Kill, although not spooky, was actually much Darker and Edgier than later installments, as the crime under investigation is a cold-blooded murder and you must point a handgun at the culprit to prevail; the player must even click while doing this, which feels like you're shooting him, even if it's just to confirm where you're aiming so he'll surrender. One instance where going Lighter and Softer for the sequels was an improvement.
    • The Remastered version of the above game, while still keeping certain plot elements from the original, looks like it might be Lighter and Softer than the original... and then this is massively subverted at the end when the culprit holds you up at gunpoint.
    • The Dossier spin-off games are this compared to the main series. In general, the villains and their schemes are less dangerous and the tone is more lighthearted than in the main games. Subverted at the end of Resorting to Danger; the tone takes a slightly darker shift once Nancy finds the culprit's hideout, culminating in a confrontation where the culprit arms a bomb big enough to destroy the resort and kill everyone in it. Then they go the extra step of gloating about how Nancy will have to let them get away if she wants to have a chance of defusing it in time.
  • Locked Door: It's locked. It's locked. I need a key for this. It's locked. I need something to make this work. It's locked. It's locked. ARGH!!!!!
    • Hilariously lampshaded in Trail of the Twister via a radio advertisement:
    Announcer: How many times has this happened to you?
    Nancy: It's locked.
    Announcer: Those days are over with the new Lock Buster Infinity! Made from space age nanotubes, Lock Buster Infinity opens every door!
  • Love at First Note: How Dirk and Frances fell in love.
    Charleena: [talking about Cappy Munger] His establishment contained the only piano within fifty miles. Frances, being as smart as she was, taught herself how to play it. That's apparently how she met Dirk. He heard her composing a song one day and fell in love on the spot.
  • Love Makes You Evil: In Shadow at the Water's Edge, Rentaro scares away guests from the ryokan in hopes that he can convince Miwako, his childhood sweetheart, to move away with him to the city.
  • The Mafia:
    • The Phantom of Venice, which takes place in Italy, features the Italian Mafia.
    • The Greek mafia, Kronos, plays a part in Labyrinth of Lies.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Jolly Rogers from Legend of the Crystal Skull are a group of masked individuals, and they act like this when Bess spies on their meeting and is captured. Subverted, though, when they turn out to not be malevolent and let her go unharmed.
  • Mama Bear: Mama Chicken, rather: the white hen at Shadow Ranch freaks out and attacks if she's present when Nancy tries to collect her eggs.
  • The Man Behind the Man: For most of Labyrinth of Lies, Thanos and Grigor are set up as the most villainous characters, particularly after Thanos locks you in a cage and you spot Grigor carrying a forged vase up a lift. Turns out the real Big Bad is Xenia Doukas, with Thanos as her Dragon and Grigor as the fall guy.
    • There's one mentioned in passing in Secret of the Old Clock when you deliver a telegram to the nursery to a bloke called Seymour. It only bites, but merits a mention.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Many of the suspects get this way, but the only one you seem to get particularly frustrated with is Sonny Joon.
    Sonny: Did you read my papers? Don't read my papers.
    Nancy: Why not?
    Sonny: Because they're fascinating and full of mystery.
    Nancy: You're sending me mixed messages.
    Sonny: No I am.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Nearly all of the strange occurrences are explained away eventually as being from a secret passage, hidden music player, images from a projector... You get the idea. But there's always enough unexplained events that you are left wondering.
    Rentaro: A ghost doesn't need to be real to haunt you.
    • This is most prominent in Thornton Hall, where everything can be explained away as hallucinations caused by carbon monoxide poisoning ...yet even then, certain events, like the moving statue of Charlotte and Nancy's name appearing on a gravestone in the cemetery don't quite add up. Another event that defies logic is any game over where Charlotte appears out of nowhere and kills you, though the writers eventually stated that this wasn't meant to be taken literally and is just a dramatic way of stopping the player from making choices that would break the plot.
      Not every second chance is fatal, sometimes Nancy is simply removed from the case. At this point in the game, Nancy has found Jessalyn. If she doesn’t work along with Jessalyn’s plan, the entire thing falls apart.
    • In Blackmoor Manor, the Penvellyn treasure (a fallen meteor) is valuable because Penvellyn superstition holds that it brings luck. On one hand, it seems awfully stupid to devote your family to protecting a cosmic trinket...but on the other, the Penvellyn family has endured for centuries, gaining both wealth and fame. Their luck may not be supernatural, but they definitely have a lot of it.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of the terrorist organization in The Silent Spy is "The Revenant", which is the English and French word for "ghost". But in its language of origin, French, this word has one more shade of meaning, because there it literally means "the one who comes back", from revenir, "to come back". Coming back is exactly what The Revenant tries to do in this game.
  • Memento MacGuffin: You mention that Ned gave you a locket just before she goes to Italy. There's a picture of the phantom thief holding a locket on the cover of the game. Was there ever any doubt that the locket would become this? Interestingly, the cover's locket looks nothing like yours. You do manage to retrieve it, at least.
  • Memory Trigger: The Haunted Carousel: Nancy has to order the Comfort Food hot fudge Fundae and grab the special spoon in order to rekindle Joy's Repressed Memories.
  • Merry in Minor Key: In The Haunted Carousel, there are two themes for the carousel. Both are intended In-Universe to be Happy Circus Music for an innocent carousel, but both use minor keys to an extent:
    • Zigzagged with "Carousel A." This tune goes back and forth between C Major and C Minor, creating a quirky, dissonant mood.
    • Played straight with "Carousel B." This tune is all minor, being mostly in A Minor with one segment in C Minor. It's stated that this was Joy Trent's favorite song when she was a child. Nancy must learn to play the first six notes of the tune to help Joy regain her memories.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Police detective Tino Balducci in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon and The White Wolf of Icicle Creek. He's a renowned police detective famous for catching some bank robbers, but as Charleena Purcell says and Nancy's experiences with him make clear, this happened mainly due to the luck of being in the right place at the right time rather than actual skill on his part.
  • Monster Misogyny: The monster's victims in The Captive Curse are Always Female.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: Chicken Ridge from White Wolf and Three Finger Rock from Kapu Cave both got their names from their unusual, uncanny shapes.
  • Mood Whiplash: Some of the conversations could come across as this. If the person you talk to gets upset with Nancy, the conversation could end with them cheerfully sending her off.
  • Multiple Endings: Occasionally, a game will feature a tidbit of dialogue that subtly changes your post-game monologue. That is, the end of the game itself stays the same, but what happens in the epilogue will be a little different.
    • About halfway through Danger by Design, you can choose whether or not to get Minette's assistant Heather McKay fired. Though the game goes on either way, if you choose to spare Heather, the ending credits reveal that she lets you model in her spring show. If you tell Minette and get her fired, she instead stays angry with you and you aren't invited.
    • The Dossier spin-offs have two different takes on this. Lights, Camera, Curses! has two possible endings, based on how high your score is at the end of the game. Score low by making mistakes on puzzles and doing poorly in the minigames, and even with the lost footage from the original, the Pharaoh remake will flop. Score high enough, and instead you'll recover the missing Jewel of Karnak along with the footage, generating enough publicity to make the film a massive success. By contrast, Resorting to Danger has six different endings, and the final act plays out differently depending on who you name as your prime suspect at the midpoint.
    • Shadow at the Water's Edge has a minor version of this at the ending. After confronting Rentaro after recording him admitting to the hauntings, he asks you if he can confess to Miwako himself. If you choose not to let him do this, he leaves the ryokan for good and Miwako and Takae remain angry at him. If you allow him to confess on his own, Miwako breaks up with him, but he is eventually allowed to help modernize the ryokan "in small, Takae-approved ways."
    • In what is possibly the most intense version of this trope in the Nancy Drew game series, you have three options for the end of Ghost of Thornton Hall: Save Harper and Jessalyn but let Clara perish, save everyone and get the happy ending, or save no one and allow Clara, Wade, Colton, Harper and Jessalyn to (possibly) die. Sure it's unclear whether or not any of them are okay, and the latter two are hospitalized in the bad ending, but still...
    • When Nancy and her friends are in the judge's office at the end of Midnight in Salem, there are two different branching options Nancy can make in the dialog:
      • The first choice involves a piece of land that's in dispute by multiple parties; Nancy has found two different pieces of evidence to clear up the ownership, and has the choice to mention both of them, or just one or the other. Her choices will impact the futures of two different characters, and the happiest ending overall for everyone is the one where she mentions both pieces of evidence.
      • Nancy also learns earlier in the game that one of the other suspects who is not the Big Bad (specifically, Teegan Parry) was responsible for burning down the Hathorne house, which Teegan insists was an accident. Nancy has the option in her dialog with the judge to contradict this and assert that Teegan actually did it on purpose; doing so will result in the latter not appearing at the house party with the other characters at the end because she was arrested for arson, and Mei, Teegan's younger sister, will be angry with Nancy for this. However, if you have Nancy believe Teegan and reaffirm with the judge that the fire was an accident, she's just ordered to complete 200 hours of community service and will be present at the house party, where she is grateful to Nancy for her help.
      • A more minor one: not long after Nancy learns about Teegan's role in the fire, Olivia asks Nancy to give Teegan a picture of the two of them together with Lauren and Mei. Nancy can either turn her down in light of her discovery, or agree to pass it along anyway. If you choose the latter and also tell the judge the fire was an accident, you can give Teegan the photo at the house party, and she's very happy to receive it.
  • Mythology Gag: Items from previous games pop up all the time, as do occasional references to the book series:
    • Quite a few of the games share the names of and/or are loose adaptations of books from the main series or Nancy Drew Files series. Often, the villains and other suspects of these games will be the same ones from the books, though how much their motives in the games match those of their book counterparts tends to vary.
    • Despite Nancy having a steady boyfriend in Ned, there's some Ship Tease with her and Frank Hardy; it's mostly one-sided on Frank's end, but in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, Nancy's friends ask her which of the Hardys she likes, and she has the option to choose either one (or Ned). In the 80's crossover books between the Nancy Drew Files and Hardy Boys Casefiles, Nancy and Frank share a mutual attraction, and in the more modern 00's crossovers between Nancy Drew: Girl Detective and The Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers, Frank has a similar one-sided crush on her like in the games.
    • In some of their appearances and phone calls, Frank and Joe casually mention working for a secret agency for teenagers called "ATAC" (American Teens Against Crime), which is right out of their Undercover Brothers series. In the crossover books between the two, Nancy and her friends become some of the few people who know about their involvement with ATAC, thus why the boys don't mind mentioning it around her.
    • Professor Hotchkiss's purple ski boots from Treasure in the Royal Tower are in a garden shed in The Ghosts Dogs of Moon Lake
    • It's possible to unearth a broken carousel horse head in a dumpster in The Phantom of Venice. The horse is Glory from The Haunted Carousel
    • Renee in Legend of the Crystal Skull and Mel from Warnings at Waverly Academy both have dolls from Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon.
    • One of the bad guys on the slot machine in Secret of Shadow Ranch, El Diablo, is half of another pair of star-crossed lovers from the backstory of Message in a Haunted Mansion.
    • A statue of Aeolus, the automaton from Blackmoor Manor, is for sale in Lamont's curio shop from Crystal Skull.
    • Jane in The Curse of Blackmoor Manor forces you to play a number of games based on previous HerInteractive releases.
      • Jane herself has a crush on Brady Armstrong, an actor who appears in The Final Scene.
    • Jane seems to be designing games herself, eventually, as "Jane's Game Portal" in Danger By Design would suggest.
    • All of the guests in the seating plan puzzle in The Haunting of Castle Malloy are characters from previous games.
    • In addition to this, suspects will return in later games for phone cameos — you can phone Last Train To Blue Moon Canyon's Tino Balducci in White Wolf of Icicle Creek and the aforementioned Professor Hotchkiss (a fan favourite) in The Legend of the Crystal Skull and Tomb of the Lost Queen. Charleena Purcell does this in reverse; you can phone her in Secret of Shadow Ranch, and in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, she returns as a suspect. Dwayne Powers from Stay Tuned for Danger is the most striking example, as he returns to be the culprit in Ransom of the Seven Ships, almost twenty games after his debut. In addition, in Ransom of the Seven Ships, he's the first culprit to actually escape from you, leaving it open for him to return a third time.
    • And, in the more recent games, if you use a bathroom, you will make a comment referencing a previous game.
    • On occasion, this is lampshaded; you ask Bill Kessler in White Wolf of Icicle Creek if he's related to Rolfe Kessler, the carousel horse maker, from The Haunted Carousel. The man cheerily replies that he has no idea.
    • If you give Mystico the Magnificent a "wrong" answer, he will say "Ack! What do you think I am?" and then he lists the descriptions of characters of previous games who could give you what you asked for.
    • One of the telegram recipients from Old Clock gives you a "hot tip" in exchange for his message: a clue for succeeding at a challenge from Blackmoor Manor.
    • Also in Old Clock, the opening speech references your friend Helen Corning, who was in the first few Nancy books then Put on a Bus in favor of Bess and George. Since the whole game was a period piece from the very first Nancy story, referencing her was a cute, appropriate case of Shown Their Work.
    • A portrait of Penelope Penvellyn (from Curse of Blackmoor Manor) can be seen in Charlotte's bedroom in Ghost of Thornton Hall.
    • Savannah Woodham, the author of a book on paranormal phenomenon from Shadow at the Water's Edge, is called upon for her expertise again by you in Ghost of Thornton Hall.
    • Moira Chisholm from The Silent Spy knows Dagny from Sea of Darkness - she's the one who recommended Dagny to hire Nancy.
    • Sonny Joon is this trope personified (finally, definitively so in The Shattered Medallion).
    • In the Dossier game Resorting To Danger, the animals in Helfdan's lab are Iggy the Iguana (Crystal Skull), Casper the White Squirrel (Waverly Academy), a black cat (Waverly also), and one of the monkeys from Seven Ships.
    • Near the end of Midnight in Salem, an letter of acception from Waverly Academy to Mei Parry can be found, she even gets a scholarship!
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Watch out for Bernie, the alligator from Crystal Skull.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Rentaro in Shadow at the Water's Edge gets caught largely because of the advanced sound recording system they set up and even showed you how to use.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lori Girard, your hostess in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon is an obvious stand-in for Paris Hilton.
  • Non-Human Sidekick:
    • Suki, a robot cat owned by Miwako Shimizu, in Shadow At the Water's Edge. Her boyfriend is trying to craft a robotic dog counterpart.
    • Miles the Magnificent Memory Machine is this for Joy in The Haunted Carousel.
  • No Antagonist:
    • Haunting of Castle Malloy turns out to be this. The 'kidnapping' was a complete accident and the 'villain' did nothing but try to help the imprisoned victim.
    • Played with in Lights, Camera, Curses!. The game starts with a typical investigation, but doesn't end with anyone going to jail (though an unsympathetic character gets some Laser-Guided Karma after trying to sabotge you). Instead, once you've confronted the person responsible for sabotaging the set who faces no real repurcussions for doing so, the conflict shifts to revolve around finding the lost footage from the original Pharaoh before the studio goes bankrupt.
  • Nobody Poops: In Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, the cast travel for two days on a Closed Circle luxury train, yet at no point are they seen eating food, nor does the train have anything resembling a kitchen note .
  • No Indoor Voice:
    • Also Dr. Malachi Craven from Creature of Kapu Cave.
    • You at some points. Just try clicking on an item on the to-do checklist during a quiet moment.
    • Red Knott lampshades this in Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, telling her that she'll drive all the birds away by talking so loudly.
    • In Danger on Deception Island, while finding Katie kidnapped in the culprit's boat, you and Katie literally yell at each other.
    Katie: Nancy, I was afraid no one would ever find me!
  • Non-Player Companion: You have one throughout the majority of Midnight in Salem. Though you're playing in the first person and usually don't see them, when the character you're controlling turns around, this person is standing there behind you, and they'll frequently chime in to share dialog with your player character or other suspects. When you're playing as Nancy, Deirdre Shannon acts as this on the first and third days. (During the second day, she's off investigating something else, and Nancy is alone.) For the segments where you play as Frank Hardy, his brother Joe becomes this instead.
  • Noodle Incident: We never find out if Brendan Malloy worked for the Nazis or not, or what made people think so.
    • Or that furless, scurrying molerat... thing that scurries around occasionally in Thornton Hall. It's never explained or commented upon by you.
    • Played for Drama in Thornton Hall. The developers intentionally cut out several aspects of the setting and backstory (what the Thornton 'family business' was, why no one ever talks about Clara's father, why Colton went to a therapist, what exactly happened the night Charlotte died...) to preserve the game's age rating. We get varying levels of information for each incident (for example, Word of God and multiple hints in-game confirm that the Thorntons were slavers) but most of them are never explained. This actually works in the game's favor.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Even by "rotting old mansion" standards, Thornton Hall is a dangerous place to be. Specifically, its cotton processing room has a scythe. A scythe that hangs innocuously up by the ceiling, until you try to get through the secret door there, or say the wrong rhyme when trying to summon Charlotte. Then it swings down and kills you. Then again, the Thorntons have always had a bad reputation when it comes to worker safety, so...
    • Rotten floorboards, toppling trees, hanta-infected mice in the cellar, and arsenic in the well waterTo Be Fair... haunting or no haunting, Sally from Ghost Dogs got ripped off badly when she bought Malone's cabin.
    • In "Secrets can Kill", the diner has a gas pipe held up by a pair of bolt cutters then later on a ladle.
  • Not Me This Time: While one suspect is always the villain, multiple games reveal that at least one of the strange happenings wasn't the villain's fault. Some examples:
    • In The Final Scene, the kidnapper is not the one who sent the funeral wreath, and is in fact disgusted that anyone would do so.]] Nancy and her friends can even comment on this, wondering when they would have had time to arrange it in the first place.
    • In The Haunted Carousel, the one who shut down the roller coaster was Joy and it wasn't related to the actual crime taking place.
    • In Stay Tuned For Danger, the nasty chocolates and hateful version of a Shakespeare sonnet weren't sent by the culprit; the person who really sent them serves as a Red Herring.
    • While the Hathorne House almost burning down is what gets Nancy involved in the case in the first place in Midnight in Salem, it was actually an accident by one of the suspects who's not the main villain. As long as Nancy truthfully tells the judge that this was not intentional, said suspect gets off with just community service, to her relief.note 
  • Not So Above It All: Mattie freaks out after Rick is almost murdered with a stage light.
  • Not So Stoic: In Danger by Design, normally, Heather is patient and courteous — the ideal secretary, especially for someone like Minette. Several characters comment on how odd it is that she's put up with Minette for so long... Then you find out that, before the game started, Heather snapped and sent her an anonymous, threatening letter. She only did this once, and Minette never knew it was her. By the time the game begins, she's long since put the mask back up.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In the games that really sell themselves on being scary - like Haunted Mansion, Water's Edge, Blackmoor Manor, Captive Curse, and especially The Ghost of Thornton Hall, you will spend a lot more time wandering around in the dark while spooky music plays than actually seeing ghosts or monsters. And that makes it so much worse.
    • When you encounter the "Culprit" in Haunting of Castle Malloy. She is a 70 year old feral woman who wordlessly reaches out to you and pushes you down a hole.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Hilda Swensen in Danger on Deception Island is believed to have been gone insane after her husband’s passing. However, it turns out she pretended to have gone mad in order to deceive people. She left objects around Snakehorse Harbor for Nancy to find and use to uncover the culprit’s plot. The messages in bottles are coordinates for Nancy to use to locate objects and the letters on her three gifts are an anagram, which spell out “telephone number”.
  • Obviously Evil: Thanos in Labyrinth of Lies is clearly set up to look like this, what with his cold, dismissive attitude, constantly trying to send you away, the fact that he's playing the God of the Underworld and likes hanging out in the Underworld set AND you learn pretty early that he may have killed someone before and may be part of a pretty shady group (as in "mafia" kind of shady). He's also fascinated by death, going off his commentary about Hades and the Underworld and he's never happy or amused. Almost immediately, he's the most obvious candidate for the culprit. Somewhat surprisingly due to the series habit of making it always the nicest person as the culprit, the game plays the trope straight for the most part, though he's The Dragon and not the Big Bad.
  • Occult Detective:
    • One of the Last Train suspects is a ghost-hunter on a TV show, who at least fancies himself to be this. Although he’s also a scientist and thus uses more scientific explanations than many other ghost-hunters might use.
    • Played with in Ghost of Thornton Hall: a rational explanation for the hauntings is given in both the "bittersweet" or "happy" endings — an old furnace leaking carbon monoxide — but it is never stated outright, especially in the bittersweet ending.
  • Oktoberfest: Played straight at first in The Captive Curse, which is set in Bavaria. However, conversations with the employees reveal that their boss, Marcus, forces them to wear lederhosen and dirndls because that's what tourists expect of Germany. And of course, being a game with a mostly teenage demographic, there's no alcohol involved.
  • Old, Dark House: A classic trope of the series, and for good reason; the best entries are usually set in one. (A rule of thumb is that, if the game's title mentions a house, this trope probably applies to it.)
  • Older Than They Look: Jane Penvellyn, who is said to be 12 in the game's opening, but looks like she's closer to 9 or 10.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Alexei in Alibi in Ashes is this way whenever somebody breaks one of his antiques. Also, Alexei himself suffered from this. He was a detective as a teenager, just like you, and was accused of theft by a man he'd busted.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with pets of all things: both one of Mickey Malone's dogs and Bruno Bolet's iguana are named Iggy.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Nancy's ordinarily quite polite and laid back, until things get serious. Except in The Final Scene, where she is much more confrontational, frustrated, and angry considering the nature of the crime. Lani Minella did a very good job of conveying Nancy's frustration with Apathetic Citizens and the useless sergeant.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: As your journeys begin taking you to new and exciting places in the later games, they also subject the player to new and horrific fake accents. Among the most egregious examples of this are Kyler's spotty "British" accent in The Haunting of Castle Malloy and Yumi's inconsistent Japanese Ranguage in Shadow at the Water's Edge.
    • Yumi borders on Not Even Bothering with the Accent. Were it not for her occasional swap of "r" and "l," you'd think you were back in River Heights.
    • Takae from Shadow at the Water's Edge is also atrocious at this, unfortunately. She consistently calls you "Nanacy-san", when a real Japanese accent would likely have pronounced the name "Nanshi-san" instead. (There is an actual N sound in Japanese — it's the only consonant sound that doesn't have a vowel after it.)
    • Jamila from Tomb of The Lost Queen, who is supposed to be an Egyptian Arab, doesn't even try to make up an accent, either. Also, Egyptians pronounce her name like "Gamila".
    • In The Phantom of Venice, the German-speaking Helena Berg pronounces the German name of her magazine, Eurowelt, not the way it's pronounced in German (OH-y-roh-vehlt), but rather the way a French speaker would pronounce it (oh-roh-VEHL).
    • Played for Laughs with White Wolf's "Mystico the Magnificent", who temporarily drops his Lugosi-esque stage accent when he chides you for not calling him "the Magnificent".
  • Opening The Floodgates: Nancy can die this way in Ghost Dogs if you don't drain the water tank where the gold is hidden first.
  • Optional Traffic Laws:
    • Trail of the Twister, wherein you can cause ten-car pile-ups without any penalty. Until your health meter runs out, and you get a Good News, Bad News screen.
    • Weaving back and forth or driving on the wrong side of the road is often the only way to avoid potholes or mud in Old Clock.
  • Opposites Attract: Ranch's Framing Story is that of Dirk and Frances. He was an outlaw who stole gold and she was a sheriff's daughter who liked to garden and play the piano. Of course, they're also Star-Crossed Lovers, and their story doesn't end well- but the game makes it clear that they really did love each other.
    • Ranch also has another example: Tex and Mary. One is a distrustful, perpetually grumpy ranch hand, the other is a courteous, shopkeeping history buff. It works out.
    • Elísabet Grimursdóttir and Magnus Kiljansson from Sea of Darkness. She's descended from hometown legends, and accordingly has very close ties to its people and traditions. He's a restless, daydreaming explorer who dreams only of captaining his own ship and being able to travel the world.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Several of your cases start out as these, although she generally winds up Doing In the Wizard when she solves them. John Grey in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon is the host of a ghost-hunting TV program that does these.
  • Perky Goth: While not outright perky, Mel from Warnings at Waverly Academy is revealed to not quite be the stereotypical goth she appears to be at first (for one thing, she loves milk and cookies but has to hide that because of her "goth image").
  • Phony Psychic: Richard Topham from Old Clock. It's unclear whether he actually believes in his own psychic abilities or is just really good at pretending he does. He's definitely lying when he claims to have discerned Nancy's identity via paranormal means.
  • Player Nudge: If the player is about to make Nancy do something that could kill her, she will instead say something like "I don't think that's such a good idea." This only happens the first time; on the second she performs the action that results in the game over.
  • Plot Lock: Try replaying one of the games and trying to do something before you have acknowledged (or written in your journal) how to do it — never works. This can be very frustrating as some Plot Locks can only be unlocked through extremely obscure triggers.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Downplayed. Loulou and Coucou can speak, but their utterances consist of three to four word sentences and pop culture references.
  • Police Are Useless: Zig-zagged. Ordinarily police vary between helpful and obstructive bureaucrats. Played straight however, in The Final Scene. Nancy reports the kidnapping, only for her to be told Maya needs to be missing for 24 hours before they will consider it because it might be a "student prank". Nancy is audibly frustrated.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The games that are based on actual books tend to be this. Characterization and the length of time it takes you to solve the mystery receive the most cuts.
    • In the novel of Stay Tuned, for example, Nancy defeated the culprit by tackling him and fighting him till the police arrive. But that wouldn't make a good ending for a puzzle game, so the finale was made more puzzley (and, sadly, less awesome).
    • Danger by Design actually had combat in its finale. Puzzley combat, but combat nonetheless. It was a pretty good ending.
  • The Prankster: Lukas Mittelmeier in The Captive Curse is known for constantly pulling pranks on others, which leads some of the characters to suspect he is responsible for faking the monster attacks as part of an elaborate prank.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: In Ghost of Thornton Hall, Nancy's name appears on a previously-blank tombstone once things start getting creepy.
  • Press X to Die: Most of the Second Chances. You're faced with something potentially dangerous and/or lethal (i.e. a space too wide to jump) but get the option to try it anyway. You usually comment with something like "I don't know if this is a good idea" when you first try to make Nancy do it, but you'll do it obediently the second time... and promptly fail and/or die entirely.
  • Pretty Boy: After spending most of the series only seeing his name and never knowing what he looks like, Sonny Joon, of all people, turns out to be very handsome in a "pretty boy" way when you meet him for the first time in The Shattered Medallion.
  • Promoted to Playable: In most games in the series (including all the earlier ones), you play exclusively as Nancy. However, in some of the later games, other characters become playable for various amounts of time (either in small roles, or with almost as much screentime as Nancy herself). Notably, whenever you can play as someone else, it's always when Nancy is in a completely different location, so you never see her in third person. In some games, it also doubles as Switching P.O.V., as you have the option to swap between multiple player characters at will.
    • Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon: You play as Frank Hardy very briefly (for one minigame) when he's working in the kitchen to eavesdrop on a source of vital information.
    • The Creature of Kapu Cave: You can switch back and forth between Nancy and one of the Hardy Boys regularly. The first time you switch to the Hardys, you're playing as Joe to search an office; at the end of the scene, you-as-Joe get knocked unconscious and switch back to Nancy, with Joe ending up in the hospital. In all subsequent switches, you play as Frank.
    • Legend of the Crystal Skull: You occasionally switch to Bess at Lamont's antique store, and repeatedly have to incapacitate Lamont in order to find a clue to pass on to Nancy.
    • Ransom of the Seven Ships: You can switch to George, since she and Nancy are in different locations while searching for the kidnapped Bess.
    • Alibi in Ashes: Nancy is framed for a crime and kept in jail at the police station for more than half of the game; as such, you play as Ned, George, and Bess to clear her name and free her so she becomes playable again. You can switch between Bess, George, and Ned freely, but some of them work better or worse for questioning certain suspects than others. (E.g. Alexei is much less cooperative with Bess because she accidentally breaks something the first time she enters his store, and Deirdre is more willing to talk to Ned because she has a crush on him.)
    • Midnight in Salem: There are two different segments of the game where the Hardy Boys make discoveries that contribute to Nancy's investigation. You play as Frank Hardy yet again for these portions, while Joe acts as a Non-Player Companion.
  • Public Service Announcement: Parodied in Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake. A cartoon skunk dressed in a ranger outfit will give a Spoof Aesop if you leave the burning shed and don't put out the fire in time, ultimately burning down the forest.
    Ranger Stinque sez: "Hey, kids! Remember: After you've been knocked out, tied up, and left in a burning shed, be sure to put out the fire!"
  • Pun: When you start delivering telegrams in Secret of the Old Clock, Tubby tells you that you will get tips from the different recipients. What he means is that you'll get tips for the game instead of money.
  • Punny Name: Nancy follows a chain of such names around the cemetery in Crystal Skull.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Chief McGinnis in Alibi is this, as is Alexei Markovic, who knows how it feels to be framed for a crime you didn't commit and wants to help you-as-Nancy. The assistance of both is vital to solving the case.
  • Recorded Audio Alibi: In the "The Final Scene", Nancy realizes Joseph is the culprit when she stumbles upon a recording of the sound check he supposedly did when Maya was kidnapped.
  • Red Herring: Since everyone is a suspect until proven innocent, you may encounter one or two until The Reveal. One notable example is that in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, the person who pulled the brakes isn't the culprit.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Some of the things you can get killed are downright hilarious because of this.
    • Haunting of Castle Malloy. The a freaking 70-year-old feral woman riding around on a jetpack. And yet, it works.
  • Refusal of the Call: In the opening cutscene of Last Train, Lori mysteriously disappears, prompting all the passengers to start searching for her... except for Charleena, who believes that Lori staged her disappearance to get attention, and spends the entire trip typing on her laptop. She is exactly right.
    Charleena: (to Nancy) You can afford to look foolish, dear. I can't.
  • Revenge Is a Dish Best Served: In Stay Tuned For Danger, you eventually discover that the poisoned chocolates Rick received weren't really poisoned, just coated with castor oil to make them taste disgusting. The sender is Lillian, who still has a chip on her shoulder over Rick dumping her.
  • Riddle for the Ages: We never find out whether Harper really was committed to an insane asylum or not — she certainly didn't deserve it, but the family's Evil Matriarch may have done it to conceal her crime.
  • The Rival: Hugo Butterly to Minette in Danger by Design; they both compete over the same slice of the fashion market.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Pretty badly at the end of The Silent Spy. After you solve the last puzzle, she proudly states that "I diffused the bomb," which is pretty much the opposite of what you want to do with one of those.
  • Rousseau Was Right: In Kapu Cave, the culprits weren't bad people, they just had some financial problems and were quite smart in forming their plan. They also turn themselves in right away - and according to your monologue, it takes a while for the authorities to figure out what to charge them with. This is subverted, though, if you fail the last puzzle; they will quite happily leave you to die in an underground cavern.
    • Haunting of Castle Malloy does not actually feature a culprit with malicious intent at all — she was just a 70-year-old feral woman flying around with a jetpack. It Makes Sense in Context. Somehow.
    • The culprit of Shadow at the Water's Edge didn't actually want to hurt anyone, just scare people away so the ryokan would close and he and Miwako could do something that he thought wouldn't hold them back. The ghost pinning Nancy underwater happened entirely by accident.
    • And in Curse of Blackmoor Manor, the culprit is a young girl who imagined scaring off her new stepmother would get her parents back together. There's a lot of nightmare fuel and game over sequences in that game, but it's not her fault the eponymous manor is a deathtrap.
    • Ghost of Thornton Hall has Clara having started the fire at her feelings of jealousy toward Charlotte, though she never meant to hurt anyone. The guilt eats at her for years.
    • Downplayed in Lights, Camera, Curses, where the culprit didn't want to hurt anyone and was only sabotaging the set in a desperate attempt to generate publicity so the movie wouldn't flop and bankrupt the studio. Once Nancy confronts the saboteur, he confesses and begs for her help finding a reel of lost footage that could save the studio. Most of the other problems were just due to bad luck or personal conflicts between members of the cast and crew, most of which get resolved once they actually talk to each other about them.
  • Ryokan (inn): A supposedly-haunted one is the setting of Shadow at the Water's Edge. Nancy is brought in to find out what's really going on.
  • Scenery Porn: One usually agreed upon thing is that the games are absolutely gorgeous, with mansions, castles, theaters, and Orient Express-style trains abounding. Add to that the locations she visits: New Orleans, San Francisco, Paris, Tokyo, Hawaii, England, Egypt...
    • Scenery Gorn: Thornton Hall is falling apart, and is still absolutely gorgeous.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Lots of them, as well as a few inversions in which "hauntings" are staged as publicity stunts. Deconstructed in Captive Curse, in which it's a hoax of an inverted "Scooby-Doo" Hoax, as the culprit wants the castle's unwitting owner to be blamed for a dangerous publicity stunt.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: At the end of Thornton, you have the option to do this twice, for different reasons. But doing so does not end well. Specifically, it ends with the death of multiple people, the surviving people refusing to talk with you, the family grounds being left an empty, fire-ravaged wasteland, and lack of clarification about whether Charlotte's ghost was real or not. Oh, and you get one hell of a guilt complex about all this, judging by your ending letter.
    • Most of the games are set up to prevent the player asking why you don't just do this (i.e, your car broke down, there will be serious consequences if you don't solve the mystery, it's for a job, the phone lines have gone out, you investigate For the Lulz while waiting for something else to do...) and in some instances, to punish her for trying.
  • Secret Squatter:
    • In Message in a Haunted Mansion, Charlie, a handyman hired to renovate the titular mansion, has been living in one of its secret passages for some time. In fact, he got the job because he overheard the owners when they decided to start hiring. But he's not the saboteur Nancy has been looking for- just a good kid down on his luck. If Nancy confronts him, he apologizes and promises to tell Rose- who presumably forgives him, given the tone of the epilogue.
    • In Warnings At Waverly Academy, Rachel's identical twin Kim lived in a secret passageway off her room, swapping out with her whenever it was needed, while everyone thought they were only talking to one person - "Rachel".
    • In Ghost of Thornton Hall, Harper has been hiding - and living - in the basement of Thornton Hall for an unspecified period of time, unknown to anyone until she alerted Jessalyn that she believed Clara had killed Charlotte.
  • Self-Defenseless: You get pepper-sprayed in Royal Tower, and while your vision does go blurry and you cough a bit, there's no indication that you're actually in pain.
  • Self-Deprecation: "Whrak! Polly is a stupid bird, Polly is a stupid bird!"
  • Serious Business: Any of the extremely mundane things that can get you fired/kicked off the case/expelled/etc. The number one fan favorite of all time has to be picking under-ripe vegetables in Secret of Shadow Ranch too many times. Perhaps fitting, as Shorty definitely sees cooking as serious business:
    Shorty: Day in and day out I cast my culinary pearls before ungrateful, uncultured swine!
  • Ship Tease: In The Captive Curse, The Deadly Device, and Midnight in Salem, it's heavily implied Frank Hardy has feelings for Nancy.
  • Shout-Out: Later games contain shout-outs to earlier games.
    • Not to mention there are shout-outs to other real life stuff. The culprit in "Secret of Shadow Ranch" even uses a variant of the "Here's Johnny!" catch phrase from The Shining.
    • Curse of Blackmoor Manor has a few with the variety of deaths for Loulou the talking parrot. These can turn into Black Comedy since, you know, these lines are her last words.
    • Many of the telegram recipients from Secret of the Old Clock are shout-outs to pop culture, referencing everything from Shirley Temple to Jason Voorhees.
    • The dream from White Wolf heavily features a moose and squirrel.
    • The Captive Curse is obviously based on Frankenstein and its gag reel contains shout-outs to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and appropriately, Young Frankenstein.
    • The Ichi-Do book you use in Danger by Design used to be a library book... and apparently, the last two people to check it out were named "B. Lee" and "C. Norris"...
    • One of the phone numbers in Jean Mi's PDA is 4 8 15 16 23 42. Even the owner of the number is a Shout-Out to the same show: "Anne-Lucie Croix" is sort of a French play on "Ana-Lucia Cortez", the character played by Michelle Rodriguez.
    • Yanni's home country in White Wolf is called "Fredonia," and his hometown is "Eladsaet" - "Teasdale" spelled backwards.
    • In The Phantom of Venice, the address on one of Helena Berg's postcards says "Nina, 99 Luftballoons". Yes, they decided to spell it that way, for some reason.
    • The appearance of the ghost in Shadow at the Water's Edge, the way it moves and the mysterious CD are so reminiscent of The Ring, it almost feels like an homage.
      • Actually, the appearance and movements of the ghost are more like a case of Shown Their Work — the ghost is based on the Japanese Yuurei.
    • In Warnings at Waverly Academy you take the pseudonym of Becca Sawyer, which is a combination of Rebecca Thatcher and Tom Sawyer.
    • Bakhoum, a second name of a wannabe archeologist Abdullah, just may be a Shout-Out to Dahoum (real name Selim Ahmed) who was an assistant and a very close friend of a certain famous archeologist.
    • It's probably not a coincidence that a person with a name like Josiah Crowley was interested in the occult.
      • Or that two of the characters in White Wolf, Lou Talbot and Bill Kessler, share their surnames with two of the best-known werewolves in film history.
    • In The Silent Spy, the caption for the 'Unlocker' award is "I AM THE ONE WHO UNLOCKS!"
    • At the end of the credits for The Silent Spy, Nancy and Carson are talking about their favorite memory of Kate:
    Carson: That's easy. The day I met her.
    Nancy: I haven't heard that story.
    Carson: Sit down. It'll take about nine seasons to tell it correctly.
    • One of the cell phone charms that can be gotten in the special pre-ordered version of Shattered Medallion, which takes place in New Zealand, is nothing but a single, golden ring, which is rather plain for the usual charms.
    • More likely a coincidence, but when you ask Alex Tranh why you're "here" (meaning here in Iceland) in Sea of Darkness, Alex responds with "Woah. Deep. I gotta think about that one. I mean, what are any of us doing in this crazy, messed-up world, you know?
    • Mystery of the Seven Keys has a book in the background of one of the scenes called "Shot and Missed", with an image of a popsicle, a reference to a joke the Game Grumps made during their playthrough of The White Wolf of Icicle Creek. The book is attributed to "G.G. Oryoz", with "Oryoz" referring to Oryozema, who made an animation based on the joke.
  • Shown Their Work: Many games use quite a lot of factual information and details (such as eg. using real Mayan symbols and numerals, as well as describing a real Mayan ruler, Pacal, in Secret of the Scarlet Hand, using actual hobo code in Secret of the Old Clock, and so on.)
    • Danger On Deception Island has a fun one. Deception Island isn't a real place, but the regular hangout of the Snake Horse, Cadboro Bay, is. And they have a statue of Caddy.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Abdullah Bakhoum in Tomb of the Lost Queen and Yanni Volkstaia in White Wolf of Icicle Creek.
  • Snow Means Death: Staying outside in the snow for too long in Treasure in the Royal Tower will result in you freezing to death.
  • Soft Water: Averted in one of the Game Over scenarios in Haunting of Castle Malloy during the "Good News Bad News" script, which explains the flaw behind this trope perfectly.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: The more recent games have become fond of using this, though the earliest example can be traced back to Stay Tuned For Danger which, on top of everything else, imposed a time limit. Fortunately, the game makers took mercy on the players still screaming in frustration (or fear) and created a downloadable patch to give you an infinite amount of time.
  • Southern Gothic: The Legend of the Crystal Skull, and Ghost of Thornton Hall both have this theme, complete with the Southern accents.
  • Spinning Paper: Some game over sequences features one, such as losing the final chase scene in Secret of the Old Clock.
  • Spooky Séance: Abby holds one in Haunted Mansion. It's later revealed to have been faked.
  • Stalker Shrine: In Ransom of the Seven Ships, Nancy finds all sorts of references to her old cases such as newspapers and a US map with certain areas marked. Considering that the culprit is one of the first people she arrested, of course he's been keeping tabs on her.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The backstory providing the fuel for the main mystery in Secret of Shadow Ranch. He was an outlaw, she was the sheriff's daughter.
  • Stealth Pun: Nancy's pseudonym in Warnings at Waverly Academy is Becca Sawyer - or in other words, the name she uses is B.S.
  • The Stinger: Starting with The Secret of the Scarlet Hand, each game ends with a preview for the next.
  • Stock Audio Clip: Nancy's infamous "It's locked" quote uses the exact same recording in every single game.
  • Story Arc: Most games contain hints or references to what case Nancy will solve in the next game. Early in the series, these generally took the form of an in-the-next-episode-type stinger, but more recent entries have started integrating hints about the next game into phone conversations with Nancy's friends or having her mention her next destination in her wrap-up letter at the end.
    • In Icicle Creek's Easter Egg, Mystico says that he sees "a dark figure named Bruno" in your future. In Crystal Skull, you investigate the death of Bruno Bolet.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: One game in the series falls victim to this: Secrets Can Kill, which doesn't even mention the culprit until right before the end. The remastered version fixed this by introducing the culprit earlier and giving them a partner who is present throughout the game and is ultimately the real Big Bad.
  • Strawman News Media: Brenda Carlton of Alibi in Ashes falls into Type IV especially when she turns out to be the actual arsonist.
    • Lampshaded; several characters comment that her methods of gathering information are unscientific and invasive, if not illegal. Brenda herself has tried repeatedly to find a job outside River Heights, but failed — probably because she's this trope.
    • Some of the games with an entertainment-media theme (The Final Scene, Lights Camera Curses!) have in-game glossy magazines lying around that you can read, if you're willing to wade through all the vapid scandal-mongering.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Makes a few appearances in Shadow at the Water's Edge.
  • Super-Speed: In Treasure in the Royal Tower, after calling Bess, she calls Ned about it ridiculously fast.
  • Swarm of Rats:
    • One steals from your inventory while you go swimming in Danger by Design.
    • You have to catch a bunch of rats several times in Trail of the Twister.
  • Tap on the Head: Lampshaded in The Deadly Device by Deirdre, who suggests you get your head examined because it's happened so many times.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: In Stay Tuned For Danger, one reason Mattie is concerned is because someone sent Rick poisoned chocolates that tasted so nasty, even the notorious chocoholic couldn't stand them. Turns out to be subverted, as the chocolates are a Red Herring. They weren't sent by the culprit at all and the person responsible made sure they were disgusting but otherwise harmless.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Lampshaded by you in the beginning of Warnings at Waverly Academy: "I'm about to be thrown, totally on my own, into a world of bright, privileged, clique-conscious teenage girls. This could be my scariest case yet!" She is soon proved right. Though you were proved right long before that, in Secrets Can Kill.
  • The Ace: Charlotte. The cast's fondness of her is the only thing all of them agree on, and she is rarely described in anything but glowing terms. Her death was the last nail in the coffin where family solidarity was concerned.
    Colton: Everyone loved her and everyone wanted her attention, but she still made time for me.
  • Thriller on the Express: Last Train subverts the trope. Lori faked her kidnapping, and aside from that, nothing happens (except for the train's near-derailment) until the finale, when you get off the train.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Your dialogue in The Final Scene is noticeably more impatient and abrasive, probably because your friend has been kidnapped and will die if the theatre's demolition is not halted. It doesn't help that everyone around her is too cruel, insane, or self-absorbed to provide any real help.
    • The game over sequences have some characters yell at Nancy for messing up. This includes Nancy's best friends and boyfriend being unreasonably angry with her. Some sequences involve Nancy being seriously injured and yet, the character shows no sympathy for her.
  • Tongue Twister: The opening narration for Shadow Ranch include a photo of Aunt Bet's clothing shop, with a prominent storefront sign reading "Bet's Best Bets".
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The Creature of Kapu Cave and Ransom of the Seven Ships, set in Hawaii and The Bahamas respectively.
  • 20 Bear Asses: In Crystal Skull, Renee refuses to give you Bruno's shovel until you've collected five conk mushrooms for her. Given that Renee is the culprit and one of the mushrooms grows disturbingly close to a hungry crocodile, this may have been an attempt to get you killed.
  • Twin Switch: Played very brilliantly in Warnings at Waverly Academy with Rachel and her twin Kim. Kim lived at Waverly in secret, and would swap places with Rachel so they could both attend classes.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: There are plenty of times where some Game Over scenes happen because of real-life logic.
    • Untying the chandelier before the climax of Message in a Haunted Mansion will result in Rose getting mad at Nancy and sending her away. Also, Bess and George will get mad at Nancy for being so reckless.
    • During The Final Scene, Nancy can try reaching for an object from a balcony. If she tries reaching for it without the magic wand with gum on the end, she will fall and get hurt.
    • Plenty of things occur during The Haunted Carousel. Leaving the iron at the hotel leads to the building burning down, reaching for the brass ring on the carousel too early or too late results in her falling off and getting injured, and trying to operate the control panel while the power is on gets her electrocuted.
    • If you try to make a sandwich with expired food for Nancy or Katie in ''Danger on Deception Island”, the girl in question will get food poisoning.
    • Nancy can only stay out in the cold for a limited time. To make sure she doesn’t freeze to death, you need to get her in someplace warm when she comments on getting too cold.
    • In Tomb of the Lost Queen, Nancy dies if she drinks too much water at once.
  • Unperson: The nameless medieval fugitive who inspired the "monster" legend from The Captive Curse.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: In Stay Tuned For Danger, it's fully possible to enter Rick's dressing room late in the game (after you watch the security tape) without the screwdriver and wire cutters, both of which you need to defuse the bomb. The game won't let you leave until you deal with this, so if you saved after entering the room, you'll have to start all over.
  • The Unseen: Two significant examples come to mind:
    • Sonny Joon, a doodle-drawing gag character whom you seem to be following around from one game to the next. To date, he's been:
      • Secret of the Scarlet Hand, deputy curator at the Beech Hill Museum.
      • Danger by Design, assistant to Minette.
      • Phantom of Venice, interviewed by Helena.
      • Ransom of the Seven Ships, works at Primate Research Center.
      • Shadow at the Water's Edge, a previous guest at the ryokan.
      • Tomb of the Lost Queen, prominent member of S.P.I.E.D. (Strange Phenomenon Inspectors: Extraterrestrial Edition.)
      • His name is hidden in The Deadly Device as well, as seen in arglefumph's blind playthrough. If you look at all the stickers in the ventilation shaft and order them numerically, the letters on them spell out "SONNY JOON WAS HERE".
      • Sonny himself finally turns up as an actual character - and suspect - in The Shattered Medallion.
      • Sea of Darkness: briefly employed at the Skipbrot Cultural Center, and leaves you a comic book ("The Adventures of Sonny Joon and Cyborg Nancy") in the Missti Skip.
    • Hilda Swenson from Danger on Deception Island is a self-invoked example, hiding away from other people and communicating with Nancy via cryptic messages in bottles, planted clues, Morse code and (eventually) telephone. Nancy's quite disappointed that they never do get to meet face-to-face.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In Alibi, most of River Heights' people are this. A respected, helpful detective who we've known since her childhood has been framed for setting the same fire that almost killed her? Let's deny ever being friends with her and throw a rock through her window!
  • Unholy Matrimony: Xenia Doukas and Thanos Ganas in Labyrinth of Lies.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In Alibi in Ashes, once Nancy finds enough evidence to prove her innocence, Bess, Ned and Carson are very casual about her getting out of jail. George is the only one who's excited to see Nancy free.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Sometimes (thankfully rarely), if you do a particular sequence out of order, you will be unable to solve the rest of the game. One particularly bad example comes from Stay Tuned for Danger: If you don't get two necessary items before going into Rick's room on the day after viewing the videotape (namely: the screwdriver and the wire-cutters to defuse the bomb) and you've already saved after going into his room... you're screwed.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Some of the various ways in which you can get killed or fired are pretty funny, and it gets even more hilarious in the games with the "Good News, Bad News" segments to accompany it.
    • Killing the parrot in The Curse of Blackmoor Manor can be most entertaining.
    • Played for huge drama in the ending of The Ghost of Thornton Hall. See Multiple Endings for details.
    • Cruelty Is the Only Option: Legend of the Crystal Skull pretty much requires you (while playing as Bess) to be cruel to Lamont in order for the game to progress.
      • You also have to steal an article talking about the death of Kasumi from her daughter's room and send it off to be translated.
    • From Danger on Deception Island, there's a place where you must make a sandwich. The first thing to pop into your head will be, "Hm, I think I'll make a sandwich with ancient mayonnaise...Koko Kringles Ice Cream...jellyfish...mustard...baking soda...tomatoes", then "Eat that sandwich, Nancy! Awww darn it, I got a game over!"
    • In Midnight in Salem, you discover about three quarters of the way through the game that Teegan Parry, who is not the Big Bad, is the one responsible for the Hathorne House catching on fire. After confronting her about this, a remorseful Teegan insists it was an accident, and all signs point to this being true. However, in your final conversation with the judge, you have the option to contradict this when revealing that she was responsible and have Nancy claim it was an act of arson; the judge will believe you, Teegan will be absent from the final house gathering at the end because she was arrested offscreen, and her younger sister Mei will be understandably angry and refuse to talk to you.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Hope you're up to date on your WWII codebreaking trivia! At least there's a book sold earlier in the game that tells you how to crack the code. Admittedly, there's no indication of why you would want such a book, and you can't go back to the market by the time you need it, but they tried.
  • Villain Ball: At the end of Stay Tuned for Danger, you are actually able to accuse who you think the culprit is in the final conversation before the finale. However, if you choose anyone that isn't the real one, the culprit outright just reveals themselves instead of letting someone else take the blame for their misdeeds.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Just about all of the culprits in the games. Some are more subtle, some are over the top.
  • Violation of Common Sense: In The Final Scene, you must stay inside the Palladium theatre just as it's about to be demolished, on the off-chance you'll find your friend and get out in the seven minutes before it's destroyed. Police come through it and force you to leave if you don't hide in a closet, and this is treated as a bad thing.
  • Visual Pun: John Penvellyn's coat of arms depicts a parrot and an open mouth. His motto, Per aures ad animum technically means "through the ears to the mind/spirit", but to English-speakers, the crest as a whole suggests "Talk to the animals", i.e. go chat with Loulou for clues!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Deirdre is this with Nancy, as she explains near the end of Alibi. She even becomes helpful as a phone contact in The Deadly Device and Nancy's very reluctant but still helpful detective partner in Midnight in Salem.
  • The Voice: Many of the experts Nancy calls during her investigations, seeking information on everything from wood samples to werewolves, never appear in person. Subverted with Charleena Purcell, who is consulted over the phone in Shadow Ranch before showing up in the flesh for Last Train.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • Eating multiple chocolate bars in Crystal Skull makes the screen tilt and turn green.
    • Done twice in the "Give Nancy food poisoning" game over in Deception Island. If Nancy gives Kate food poisoning, Kate turns around and the camera cuts to the phone where Nancy is explaining what happened.
  • Weaponized Allergy: In Warnings at Waverly Academy, the Black Cat puts tree nuts in Megan Vargas's food, putting her in the hospital.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The culprit, Joe in The Final Scene. He treats Maya well despite kidnapping her, and committed the crime in a desperately misguided attempt to keep the theater open.
  • Wham Episode (overlaps with The Reveal): So, you're just about to finish Ransom. No surprise who the culprit is; there's only one other character on the island, so let's go confront him!...Oh. Nice to see you, Dwayne Powers.
    • Another in Thornton Hall, though it precedes a death scene and thus isn't counted as 'what really happened'- more like what could have happened. Still quite the shock.
    Jessalyn: Good for you, but I came down here not to be found.
    Nancy: Tell me what's happening or I'll tell everyone I've found you.
    Jessalyn: I'm not a bad person. (pleadingly) I'm really not. (angrier) You know, you could have helped. Fire so red-
    Nancy: (afraid) What are you doing?
    Jessalyn: This is your fault. Night so black. Dear sweet Charlotte, please come back!
    Charlotte appears, runs at you.
    Game Over screen: You have made a fatal error.
  • Wham Line: In the 29th game's teaser trailer: "But you know her by a different name. Kate Drew."
  • Wham Shot: The key clue in Secret of the Old Clock: after finding the real will of Josiah Crowley, Nancy discovers a photo of Linda's mother and Jane... except Jane looks nothing like the woman we've interacting with all game.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Some of the Game Overs lead to characters calling Nancy out for her careless behavior, which either caused property damage, unnecessary issues for other characters or the culprit escaping.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Each game ends with Nancy giving a brief overview on what happened to the suspects in the aftermath of the culprit being caught.
  • White Man's Burden: Midnight in Salem is an oddly regional example. Although Nancy is also American, writing contrivances make it so that all the citizens of Salem are just as intolerant as their medieval counterparts, and Nancy can look more heroic by making a big speech about how they should learn from their history.
  • Who Forgot The Lights?: Legend of the Crystal Skull and Ghost of Thornton Hall. A little hard to see the scary moving shadows when they're completely drowned in darkness...
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: In the case of Eda Brooks from the Dossier spin-off Lights, Camera, Danger!, it really is snakes. This creates a bit of a problem between her and the movie's director, as she is required to hold a live snake for the movie's climax.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Egregious in Stay Tuned for Danger's finale. You are in a room with a crazed psycho who has made it clear that they are about to murder you. There is no one to help you, and your only way out is locked by an extremely time-consuming puzzle. And yet, the game will not let you pick up the nearby fire axe and use it to defend yourself. There's even a Damsel in Distress with you who would testify that you'd done it in self-defense!
  • Woman Scorned: In The Captive Curse, Anja dresses up as the monster of Finster Castle in a ploy to get back at the castle's owner, her ex-boyfriend.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Joseph Hughes from The Final Scene is at first content kidnapping Maya with the (admittedly reasonable) expectation that that the police will surely rescue a hostage from a building that's about to be demolished! No such luck. And during the game we find out his only brother, whom he'd been looking for is dead. And all through that he's a genuinely Nice Guy who encourages Nancy to keep looking for her friend. Even in the climax where he's fully prepared to let himself, Nancy and Maya get crushed to death you still can't help but feel bad for him as he was just a man desperate to hold on to the one thing in his life that mattered. Nancy certainly did, to the point where she was hoping Maya would have sympathy for her captor.
  • Wrench Wench: Ryan Kilpatrick in The Deadly Device is a tech nerd who built and modified several parts of the lab herself. Also Unkempt Beauty.
  • Yandere: The culprit in Stay Tuned for Danger is the rare male variety as part of his motive comes from the star he's trying to kill hooking up with the actress the culprit is secretly in love with.
    • Colin Baxter from The Phantom of Venice can also come across as this.
  • Year's Supply Prize: After solving Trail of the Twister, Nancy is gifted shipments for a lifetime’s supply of Koko Kringle bars.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Mel in the ending of Waverly Academy refuses to let Corine leave her room after Corine penters through a secret passage.
    "You just entered my room through the wall! I want an explanation!"

    It's locked.


Video Example(s):


Rollercoaster Mine Escape

You're trapped in a mine, and your only way out is a rollercoaster. Beware of signs with skulls on them.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / RollercoasterMine

Media sources: