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Video Game / Prince of Persia

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Locked in her room high in the palace tower, the Princess rests all her hopes on you. For when the last sands drain from the hourglass, her choice can bring only a throne for the Grand Vizier...a new reign of terror for his long-suffering subjects...and death for the brave youth who might have been...
Prince of Persia.

The first game in the Prince of Persia franchise, originally created by Jordan Mechner for the Apple IIe and released by Brøderbund Software in 1989.

Prince of Persia follows the story of a traveller from a faraway land who had journeyed to medieval Persia, at a time when the kingdom's ruling Sultan was waging war in a distant land, and his tyrannical Grand Vizier, Jaffar, had seized power. The traveller meets and becomes the love interest of the Sultan's daughter, the Princess of Persia. Not content with this, Jaffar has the traveller locked in the palace dungeons and imprisons the Princess in her room at the top of it, giving her an ultimatum: marry him within the hour, or die. The traveller must thus Race Against the Clock ticking away at the bottom of the screen, and run, jump, climb, and Flynn his way through the palace's Malevolent Architecture, filled with traps and patrolled by guards, to escape from the dungeons, defeat Jaffar, and Save the Princess.

A direct sequel, Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame, was released in 1993.

This game was ported to more systems than any other game in the Prince of Persia franchise. Versions of the game were released for just about anything that was Turing-complete, including the Atari ST, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Sam Coupé, IBM Personal Computer, PC-98, Sharp X68000, FM Towns, Apple Macintosh, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, TurboGrafx-CD, Game Boy, Game Gear and Game Boy Color. This is not counting the unofficial ports to the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Atari 130 XE, the Video Game Remake Prince of Persia Classic, or the numerous appearances of the game as an Embedded Precursor in later Prince of Persia games.


  • Acrofatic: The fat guard at the end of Level 6 is an incredibly skilled swordfighter and the hardest opponent you'll face until you face Jaffar himself.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The SNES version improves upon the original formula by introducing more bosses for the prince to fight and more levels (such as the one level where the Prince is sent to the underworld). Curiously, this version isn't present in the Classic remake.
  • A.I. Breaker: In the SNES version, sword-fighting is a simple minigame where you repeatedly parry, then attack, until either you or the enemy messes the timing up. Easier enemies mess up sooner than harder ones. However, the game always assumes that you are going to attack right after you block, so enemies are programmed to parry first, then immediately attack, which will result in them hitting you if you try to attack twice. However, you can throw the AI off-balance by waiting a split second after parrying before attacking, which will result in your follow-up attack always hitting the enemy, and if they are backed up against a wall or gate, you can proceed to spam the attack button until they die, as they will have no opening to parry your attacks. Knowledge of this is essential when facing off against Jaffar, as he will never mess up the timing.
  • Antepiece: Level 4 has lots of examples that demonstrate how loose tiles and guards can trigger pressure plates to not just open portcullises, but hold them open (since they normally start slipping shut after a few seconds). This is then explicitly demonstrated in level 6 in the room with the Acrofatic guard (the single loose tile falls down a deadly drop and lands on a Pressure Plate that opens the portcullis in the same room). Going out of your way to set this up is required for completing level 9.
  • Barefoot Captives:
    • The Prince is barefoot in some versions, which is presumably part of his being thrown in the dungeon, stripped of all his belongings. Averted in some other versions (like the original Apple II version), where he has white shoes. Notably, the DOS version varies depending on graphics driver; the VGA graphics have him barefoot, but the EGA, CGA and Hercules graphics all give him white shoes. His feet actually use a different VGA palette index from the rest of his skin, implying they'd intended to give his VGA variant shoes as well at one point, but opted not to.
    • The Princess is also barefoot in some versions; she's sequestered in her bedroom.
  • Beard of Evil: Jaffar, the evil vizier, has a beard as shown in console ports with stronger graphics, as well as the intro of the second game.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Princess's pet mouse gets a moment, appearing from nowhere and freeing the Prince after Jaffar traps him in a small room with two locked gates.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Some versions of the games remove or tone down the amount of blood in the original game. Notably, in the SNES version, the Prince's corpse fades away after he dies.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The first enemy you meet on level 8 looks like a regular guard, but is incredibly smart and doesn't get too close to you, instead taking a defensive stance and only attacking when you try to close the distance yourself. It's actually easier to shove him into the spike pit instead of defeating him conventionally. Also an example of Noob Bridge, since this is the first time you are forced to learn to use the "parry" button.
  • Boss-Arena Idiocy:
    • The Skeleton boss from level 3, who can only be defeated by pushing it off of a ledge... guess where it fights the Prince? Exaggerated in the SNES version, where it makes that same mistake twice, and then lets the Prince lead it under a collapsing roof trap to finish it off for good measure.
    • Jaffar makes the same mistake as the Skeleton boss, but only in the original version of the game. In the SNES, he fights in a different arena and cannot be one-shotted in that manner.
  • Boss-Only Level: Level 20 in the SNES version poses no challenges other than the Final Boss.
  • Boss Rush: At the end of Level 19 in the SNES version.
  • Bowdlerise: The versions of the game on Nintendo consoles, and the one on Game Gear and Master System remove all the blood from and tone down some of the death animations.
  • Call-Back: In Level 5, there is a large potion in a room, which increases your max health by 1. However, Shadowman will usually reach and drink it before you do, gaining its effects. As a result, when you confront him near the end of the game, he has 4 health points - the initial 3 the Prince started with, plus 1 from the large potion he consumed.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The princess's pet mouse, seen with her before the start of level 8. It later pushes the trigger needed to open a gate for you that you get trapped behind. And when you're reunited with the Princess, it appears and watches over the happy reunion.
  • Cinematic Platform Game: The Trope Maker for the genre. Most 2D entries in the genre were inspired by this game in some way.
  • Controllable Helplessness: A particularly cruel example: The SNES version of the game does not immediately end if you run out of time. In fact, you can still complete levels and respawn after death as per normal. Where this trope comes into play is at the final level, where the Princess will be absent at the end of the levelnote . Entering the Princess's room will cause a small "Game over" message to appear before the player is sent back to the main menu.
  • Copy Protection: Upon completing Level 1, the player may be greeted with a manual-based copy protection room containing potions with various letters above them. To pass this room, the player must drink the potion with the letter corresponding to a certain word in the manual, with the game telling you what page and line the word is on. Drinking the wrong one two times kills you and kicks you back to the title screen. Drinking the right one causes the exit door in the room to open, allowing you to continue on. Some computer ports and all the console ports omit this room entirely.
  • Counter-Attack:
    • One way to fight is to wait for the opponent to attack, then defend and counter the attack.
    • The first guard encountered in Level 8 actually utilizes this tactic himself; he will patiently wait for you to make your move and attacks only when you try to approach him.
  • Damsel in Distress: The princess is in danger and must be saved by the prince.
  • Dark Action Girl: In the SNES version, one of the bosses is an amazon.
  • Death's Hourglass: In the intro scene, Jaffar approaches the Princess, raises his arms, and suddenly an hourglass appears. "Marry Jaffar... or die within the hour."
  • Dem Bones: The animated skeleton on level 3. The SNES version also features a number of skeletons as enemies in several levels.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: Level 6 ends with you falling down a pit, and Level 7 starts with you falling and grabbing a ledge (at least you better grab it!).
    • Level 12 ends with you running off the side of the screen, and Level 13 starts with you in the lower corridor leading towards Jaffar, without the Prince going through an exit door first.
  • Disney Villain Death: Guards can be instantly killed by being knocked back at the platform's end, provided that the fall is high enough or situates over a spiked pit. Even Jaffar can be killed this way, except in the Sega CD and SNES versions.
  • Doppelmerger: Early into the game, the Prince has to break a Magic Mirror blocking his path. This inadvertently creates Shadow Man, an evil version of himself. Late into the game, the Prince confronts this doppelgänger, who can't be fought traditionally, due to their connection meaning the Prince takes damage and dies whenever Shadowman does. The solution to this is for the Prince to sheathe his sword, which makes Shadow Man do the same, and the two merge into one.
  • Edge Gravity: When you choose to walk instead of run, the Prince will stop himself from stepping off a ledge.
  • Enemy Without: When the Prince must bypass a magic mirror by jumping through it, a Living Shadow version of himself emerges from the other side of it and proceeds to cause mischief for the rest of the game. It can be defeated only by putting away your weapon and merging with it.
  • Evil Chancellor: Jaffar, who tries to force the princess to marry him under threat of death.
  • Falling Damage:
    • With only one exception in the SNES version, elaborated directly below this example, falling two levels will subtract one from your Life Meter, and falling three or more levels will outright kill you.
    • After the Boss Rush in Level 19 of the SNES port, Jaffar makes the ground below you disappear, causing you to drop off-screen and down two levels. The resulting fall damage is always a HP to One, even if you have more than 2 health before the drop.
  • Fat Bastard: Level 6 has one enemy who is this. He becomes a proper bossfight in the SNES version, with the manual calling him Politician.
  • Final Death Mode: Survival Mode in the remake.
  • Giant Mook: The fat guard from Level 6. He's noticeably thicker and a somewhat better fighter than most of the other guards. He has five hit points, something the other guards don't have until Level 9, but the guards of Levels 10 and 11 have six hit points. Averted in the SNES version where he's a proper boss.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The sawtooth traps will bifurcate anyone standing on them when they shut, killing them instantly.
  • Heart Container: You can find in most levels a potion that restores you to full health and gives you one additional hit point. They are distinct from regular healing potions only by being taller.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The sound of a sawtooth trap shuttingnote , complete with the sound of sliced flesh whenever anyone gets bifurcated by it.
  • Heroic Mime: Played straight with the prince, with the exception of the Sega CD version.
  • Hit Flash: In addition to a Hit Spark, the entire screen briefly flashes red whenever the Prince gets hit by anything or takes Falling Damage.
  • Hit Spark: A small spark appears whenever anyone loses health. On certain systems, the color of the spark when an NPC loses health also matches their clothes.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: A lot of later combat encounters involve you crossing a hazard (such as chompers or a deadly drop) to confront a guard, putting you in the position where you have to fight with your back to the hazard, threatening death if you are forced back by parrying too much. It's quite easy to slip past the guard and swap places with them then force them back into the hazard for an instant kill. You can even do this to Jaffar in the original release of the game, turning him into an Anticlimax Boss.
  • Hollywood Torches: Torches provide illumination for the entire room and never burn out.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Spike traps will impale and instantly kill anyone who drops on or runs into them.
  • Inertial Impalement: You can either run, jump or fall onto spiked traps, or you can force your enemies to step or fall onto them. Death will be instant for you all. This is one of the easiest ways to kill the Boss in Mook Clothing in Level 8.
  • Interface Screw: One of the large potions in the ninth level (it has green vapor on the PC version) inverts the screen. You have to find a second one to correct it again.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: The walking skeleton from Level 3 can't be hurt with stabs. It can only be pushed off the edge.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: The Game Over screen in at least one version of the game describes what happens when you run out of time, complete with depressing music.
    • The Sega Genesis version:
      Final hope destroyed, the Princess has no choice but to submit to the Vizier. Jaffar takes the crown, and Persia is plunged into an age of fear and tyranny.
    • The NES and Game Boy versions also have a text wall when time runs out, although the NES version has no music:
      Despite the brave youth's best efforts, the sands of time have run out. Hoping for another chance, he has already begun to prepare for his inevitable rematch with the tyrant Jaffar...
  • Jump Physics: Pretty much averted in that jumping is portrayed very realistically, a rarity for the time, putting your agility on par with a traceur. A running start will allow you to clear a lot more distance than a standing jump (and even then you still have to hold Shift to grab the opposite ledge sometimes), and you only get enough height to climb a single floor or touch the ceiling directly above you (and dislodge the tile if it's loose).
  • Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: In the SNES version, at the end of Level 19, the player enters the palace throne room after running through an excessively long Boss Corridornote , only for Jaffar to sic the past bosses in the game against them. Once the player defeats all of them, Jaffar causes the floor to disappear, dropping the player two floors down and requiring them to unlock the door to Level 20 so that they can confront Jaffar directly.
  • Knockback: Anyone who is hit will stumble backwards a little. You can exploit this to push enemies over ledges or into traps.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: In the SNES version, the guards are given different colored outfits that roughly correspond to how much health they have. Green guards have the least, blue guards have middling health, and purple guards have the most.
  • Leap of Faith: The game required quite a few, most notably early in level 3 and at the end of level 7 (where you have to guess that the strange-coloured potion you just found would cause you to float down what would otherwise be a fatal drop, rather than just being a poison potion). Not to mention the infamous part in level 12 where you have to run out over an empty abyss, revealing invisible tiles that appear under your feet.
  • Level Goal: The goal of each level is finding the exit gate and opening it with the right Pressure Plate. Said gate opening is Sound-Coded for Your Convenience.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Required many times if you don't want to die from the huge drop below. There's a button that allows you to manually hold on to ledges, and some platform jumps are even calculated or distanced with this mechanic in mind.
  • Locked in the Dungeon: You are locked in the palace's dungeon in the beginning, and from there your quest to rescue the Princess begins.
  • One-Hit Kill: Take a hit from an enemy with your sword sheathed, and the Prince will cark it on the spot.
  • Magic Knight: In addition to being capable of casting a spell that will kill the Princess within the hour, Jaffar, as the game's Big Bad and Final Boss, is an extremely capable swordsman.
  • Magic Mirror: Level 4 has one that can't be broken with a sword and blocks the path to the exit gate. You need to take a running jump into the mirror to pass through, but doing so releases the Shadowman, who proceeds to run wild throughout the palace until you confront him towards the end of the game.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Loose floor tiles, spike traps and chomper traps, not only in the dungeon but also in the palace proper. Players can use them to their benefit, however, by tricking the mooks into falling in said traps. It's required to defeat the Skeleton.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are many bloody ways for the prince to die: impaled by spikes, crashing hard on the ground, stabbed to death, crushed by rubble, poisoned, Half the Man He Used to Be... The Snes version even adds more, althought without a hint of blood.
  • Meaningless Lives: Whenever you die, you just restart the current level. The problem is that the timer does not reset.
  • Mirror Match: You create one at the end of Level 4, when you are required to jump through a Magic Mirror in order to reach the exit gate, and will eventually confront him towards the end of the game. This mirror copy, named Shadowman, has only 4 health, but whenever you hit him, you take damage, and if you kill him, you die as well. The only way to "defeat" Shadowman is to Sheathe Your Sword.
  • Mirror Monster: Shadowman is created when the Prince jumps through a Magic Mirror.
  • Mirror Self: Depending on the version, Shadowman is a ghostly-white or full-black Palette Swap of the Prince.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Ashura, the boss in Level 17 of the SNES version, has six arms. However, he does not actually use his arms in combat.
  • Nice Mice: The Princess's mouse rescues the Prince in one level by opening a gate he gets trapped behind.
  • No Final Boss for You: Fail to reach Level 20 in the specified time limit in the SNES version, and Jaffar won't interrupt you as usual.
  • No Name Given: The Prince and the Princess's names were never revealed.
  • Noob Bridge: See the Boss in Mook Clothing entry for a combat example. For platforming examples, the early levels especially introduce elements that require learning particular mechanics to overcome.
    • On the way back from getting the sword in Level 1, you must climb up onto the pressure plate, walk to the edge and then do a standing jump across, instead of a running jump like in most other cases.
    • The end of level 2 (speedrunning trickery notwithstanding) requires making a jump that necessitates grabbing the opposite ledge and pulling yourself up. You need to know how to ledge-grab by the time levels 3 and 7 roll around.
    • Level 3 requires making a Leap of Faith or otherwise carefully examining an optional part of the level to draw the logical conclusion that the pillars are supporting some unseen platforms higher up. It also stretches out the lesson from level 2 by requiring a ledge pull from a running jump this time, through a closing portcullis to boot.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: If the time runs out in the original version, the final cutscene is of the empty room where the Princess was imprisoned, save for the hourglass with all the sand drained into the bottom section. Did she die? Was she forced to marry Jaffar? It's never revealed.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Jaffar sits on his throne in this way in the SNES version, initiating a Boss Rush.
  • Palette Swap: Many of the guards only differ by the color of their clothes. On the Apple II and some earlier ports, Shadowman's sprites are also created from the Prince's sprites by XOR operation (selective inversion).
  • Pendulum of Death: One of the new traps in the SNES version.
  • Poison Mushroom: The healing potions that restore one unit of your Life Meter look nearly identical to the poison potions that take off one unit instead. The poison potions just emit blue bubbles instead of red ones. The SNES version also has two large potions placed together, one of which will kill you instantly instead of increasing your life.
  • Pressure Plate: Raised floor plates open doors to next levels or raise portcullises. Plates with empty space under them close portcullises.
  • Protagonist Title: In a unique twist on this trope, the protagonist isn't actually the prince yet, but a foreign traveller who's arrived in Persia. He only becomes the prince once the game's beaten, when he marries the princess. Otherwise in most manual synopses, he's simply referred to as "traveller" or "youth."
  • Purple Is Powerful:
    • The first guard in Level 8 wears purple, and is surprisingly tough, playing defensively and only attacking when the player tries to close the gap.
    • In the SNES version, guards in purple have the most health out of any standard mook.
  • Puzzle Boss:
    • The skeleton on level 3 is immortal — hitting it with a sword only pushes it away. You need to push it off the edge. Twice. And it becomes active only after you open the door to the next level. Additionally, in the SNES version, you have to push it into a crushing trap to finish it off.
    • The Shadowman. You first meet it by jumping through a Magic Mirror to get to the level exit, which releases it from the mirror. When you meet him next time, he pushes a switch to prevent you from proceeding anywhere but downwards. When you get to fight him, hitting him hurts you too. You need to Sheathe Your Sword.
  • Race Against the Clock: The entire game! At the beginning, Jaffar gives an ultimatum to the Princess: marry him or die within one hour (two in the SNES version). This hour goes by in real time, and while dying simply resets the level, it doesn't reset the time limit. Die too much, and the game could become unwinnable.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The versions of the game that are developed by Arsys Software include in-game music, which the other versions lacked.
  • Resourceful Rodent: The Princess' pet mouse is able to make its way out of her chambers and throughout the palace. After the Prince gets trapped behind a locked gate in Level 8, the mouse opens it for him.
  • Rescue Hug: When the Prince finally finds the Princess after killing Jaffar, they hug each other lovingly. In Prince of Persia Classic and the SNES version, it has a Twirl of Love and a Smooch of Victory thrown in.
  • Ring-Out Boss:
    • The skeleton from Level 3 cannot be defeated in any other way than pushing it into a pit.
    • Jaffar himself can be defeated by simply pushing him over the convenient ledge behind you.
  • Rotoscoping: Used to achieve the smooth animation in the game.
  • Red Is Violent: The Super Famicom boxart has the forces of Jaffar depicted as such, while the Prince, Princess and mouse all show as white.
  • Sequence Breaking: With a well-timed jump, you can bypass the guard blocking the exit gate on Level 1 without picking up the sword. The game assumes that you picked it up, however, and it will still be available to use from Level 2 onwards.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Sheathing your sword is the only way to defeat Shadowman.
  • Shout-Out: The soundtrack takes more than a few cues from Maurice Jarre's score for Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Spikes of Doom: The spike trap is one of the earliest traps you will encounter in the game, as well as the most ubiquitous, and it instantly kills anyone that jumps into or drops onto it. However, you can pass through the trap without dying if you walk into it.
  • Tears of Joy: After Jaffar's defeated in the Sega CD version, the Princess cries in joy before rushing to hug the Prince.
  • Timed Mission: You have unlimited lives but only 1 hour to save the princess (2 in the SNES version); dying subtracts a minute from the timer.
  • Title Drop: In the game's manual describing the plot, as well as at the end of the game.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: If you're playing the game for the first time blind without a walkthrough in hand, you will NOT be able to beat it, guaranteed. Despite unlimited continues, the 60 minute time limit ensured that there was no way you could navigate the mind-bending labyrinth in time to reach Jaffar before the Princess was executed. Finding your way to each level exit (and finding the switch to open the exit door so you can proceed) was a very time-consuming task, even if you could avoid falling prey to the various deadly traps and opponents in your path, not helped by the occasional requirement to make a Leap of Faith (most infamously near the start of level 3 where you need to make a blind jump off the screen to the right to find a pivotal switch). The idea was that you would explore as far as you could in your hour, then after you ran out of time you'd start again, this time going through everything you'd already worked out faster to explore new ground, until you got to Jaffar, eventually forcing you to effectively complete a mandatory Speedrun to beat the game.
  • Uncertain Doom: In most versions, the Game Over screen shown for running out of time only shows the Princess' empty bedroom with the hourglass fully drained. Whether the Princess died or gave in and married Jaffar is unknown, but the mournful music doesn't exactly paint a rosy picture. Though some versions avert this with either text describing her being forced to marry Jaffar (Sega Genesis), or a short cutscene depicting her being dragged off to be executed (Prince of Persia Classic).
  • Unique Enemy: The Giant Mook from Level 6 and Boss in Mook Clothing from Level 8.
  • The Usurper: Grand Vizier Jaffar's goal is to take over all of Persia from the Sultan, seizing the chance to almost do so once the Sultan went to wage war in a distant land.
  • Villainous Valour: To his credit, Grand Vizier Jaffar does not flee, but stands his ground and fights the Prince to the bitter end in the final level, despite the Prince having prevailed over all his other obstacles and henchmen to that point.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Sheathing your sword is a move that will certainly end up with the Prince being One Hit Killed by the guard in front of him, but it is also the only way to "defeat" Shadowman and progress further into the game.


Video Example(s):


Prince of Persia

The end of Level 7 has a drop that's too steep for the Prince to fall down without either losing a block of health or dying. To counter this, there's a unique potion just before it that, when drunk, will make the Prince fall very slowly for a limited time, allowing him to drop down safely.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / FeatherFall

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