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Video Game / The Dark Pictures Anthology

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From Supermassive Games (the creators of Until Dawn), in collaboration with Bandai Namco Entertainment, The Dark Pictures Anthology is an Anthology series of Survival Horror Adventure Game stories following different casts of characters in various genres of horror. The player controls them and the choices made affect the outcome of the story for good and ill.

One of the key elements the stories share is The Curator, a timeless being that appears to the player at times. He acts as an observer of stories and will provide insight into the actions taken throughout the game.

At least eight games are planned in total, with Supermassive initially aiming for two releases a year. However, due to various production hold-ups (surely not helped by the COVID-19 Pandemic, but actually predating it), new entries have been released annually. To date four games have been released, making up the first "season" of the anthology. In 2022, the first trailer for Directive 8020 released, referring to it as the "season two premiere." A spin-off for the PSVR2 called Switchback VR has also been released.

The games include:

Season One:

Season Two:

  • Directive 8020 (TBC)
  • The Craven Man (TBC)
  • Winterfold (TBC)
  • Intercession (TBC)


The Series Gives Examples of...

  • Aborted Arc: An unfortunate side effect of the branching story format. Unless you know the game inside out, you will most likely make decisions that lead to at least a few dropped plot points per playthrough. Chekhovs Guns can be established without being fired, character arcs and relationships can end abruptly if a character dies, the wrong combination of decisions sometimes lead to no payoff, and so on.
  • Action Survivor: All of the playable characters in Man of Medan and Little Hope count. The former features a group of divers and the captain, and the latter features a college class and their professor. Averted in House of Ashes, as all of the playable characters are trained military personnel. The Devil in Me makes a return to form, featuring a crew of documentary filmmakers as the main playable characters.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The player controls multiple characters throughout the games, giving different perspectives to the story. In addition, the Theatrical and Curator's Cuts allow the player to play through as two different people (or two players).
  • Anyone Can Die: The USP of the entire series: every playable character has a number of potential scripted deaths, and if a character dies the story will continue without them. Man of Medan is so far the purest example: there are over 60 potential deaths for the five main characters, and Static Role, Exchangeable Character comes into play depending on who makes it to the final chapters. Averted to some degree in the other three games, where one or multiple protagonists have Plot Armor for most of the game.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • On average, most of the endings are these where at least one of the characters have died.
    • Confirmed in House of Ashes and implied in Man of Medan in the Everybody Lives endings of both games, as The Curator in the former claims that while none of the main cast died, they're all left traumatized by their experiences. In the latter's case, the achievement/trophy the player receives for getting said ending is titled "That's something, I suppose", which suggests that the main cast will never fully get over their traumatic experience and that it will most likely take them quite a long time to recover.
  • Butterfly Effect: Like Until Dawn, the choices the player makes can and will affect how the story plays out.
  • But Thou Must!: Just like in Until Dawn, nothing the player does will affect how the prologue plays out in each game:
    • The whole plot of Man of Medan hinges on everyone on board the ship dying so that it can drift for 70+ years, until the main game in the present day. Unsurprisingly, you can't save either of the soldiers you play as in the 1940s-set prologue.
    • It even gets Lampshaded by The Curator in Little Hope, when he assures the player that nothing they could have done would have saved the Clarke family.
    • The prologue characters' eventual deaths are even more of a Foregone Conclusion in House of Ashes, since the intro takes place in 2200 BC. Surprisingly, choices made as Balathu and Kurum do actually have a tiny impact on the story, but all it really boils down to is which of them is taken down to the ship and coated in time-resistant slime, and which one becomes the Ancient One.
    • Jeff and Marie have the misfortune to check into H.H. Holmes' murder hotel for their honeymoon, which goes about as well as you'd expect. Granted, this happens in 1893, so they could easily have escaped and gone on to live full and happy lives and still departed well before the present-day plot kicks in; but what sort of a demonstration of Holmes' evil would that have been? Nope, the only thing you can influence is how hard they fight, but they remain doomed either way.
  • Closed Circle: The cast of each story ends up trapped in a single location with the general goal being escape.
    • Man of Medan has the cast being taken hostage by Ruthless Modern Pirates who sabotage their boat, keeping them from escaping.
    • A bus crash strands the characters in the titular Ghost Town of Little Hope with a mysterious fog that (literally) keeps them from leaving.
    • House of Ashes sees its cast becoming trapped in an ancient, long-buried temple while searching for an underground weapons silo.
    • The Devil In Me has the cast being lured to and trapped in a replica of the 'Murder Castle' by a serial killer.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Each game has a different and diverse cast of characters, so far featuring young adults, a college class, special forces, and documentary filmmakers.
  • Decoy Protagonist/Dead Star Walking: The Inksuit Actor who appears on the cover of each game doesn't necessarily portray the true protagonist, though of course due to the branching nature of each story anyone can be the sole survivor depending on player choice:
    • Conrad in Man of Medan is the first character who can be killed. He can also be Put on a Lifeboat before the titular location is even reached at the end of the first act, and end up sitting out the majority of the game as a result.
    • Rachel in House of Ashes is the second character who can die and one of the more difficult to keep alive to the end.
    • Kate in The Devil in Me is one of the easier characters to keep alive at least until the finale, but that's mainly because she's the Love Interest of the actual main character, Mark.
    • Andrew in Little Hope is so far the only character to appear on the cover art who is inarguably the central protagonist of their game. Not only is he the only character that CAN be the sole survivor (as Andrew can only die if all other playable characters are dead), it's taken up to eleven in his case, since he's the only playable character who's even real.
  • Dialogue Tree: The games have a stylized, pared-back take on the idea, with the player choosing between a colder, more sensible response associated with the "head", or a warmer, more emotional one associated with the heart. There's literally a brain pictogram on one side and a heart one on the other, with a patterned circle (different in each game) between the two until you make your decision. Taking a cue from Telltale, you can opt to say nothing.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Implied to be the direction the series is going:
    • In Man of Medan, the seemingly-supernatural events are revealed to be the result of a WWII biochemical weapon causing hallucinations.
    • The mysterious happenings in Little Hope are revealed to be the combination of head trauma and Survivor's Guilt, all happening in one character's imagination.
    • In House of Ashes it's downplayed. No hallucinations this time, the monsters are entirely real. However, one could consider the eventual explanation for them to still adhere to this trope, as the monsters are not magically supernatural, but aliens from a crashed spaceship infected with vampiric (but technically natural) parasites.
    • Possibly inverted for The Devil in Me. The game never claims to have any supernatural elements, with the threat being a human serial killer. However, Grantham Du'Met seems to have the power of teleportation, especially during the boat finale where he somehow catches up to a speedboat while swimming underwater. Additionally, he is an Invincible Villain, as he can never be killed no matter what the characters do to him. There are also multiple hints throughout the narrative that he might be the literal reincarnation of H.H. Holmes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The Golden Ending where the player manages to get everyone out alive after whatever hell they went through each story.
  • "Everyone Dies" Ending: One of the possible endings, where the player’s choices can lead to the entire cast dying.
  • Foreshadowing: Players can find certain objects (the titular dark pictures) that will given them, and possibly the character, a flash of the future that may or may not come to pass based on choices made.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Certain choices will cause the story to deviate and branch off. Some are obvious and others are as simple as a choice in dialogue.
  • Genre Roulette: Or, rather, subgenre roulette. Each game in the anthology is an homage to a different type of horror movie.
  • Greek Chorus: The Curator, who makes comments on the story so far and gives hints to choices the player can make.
  • Horror Host: Pip Torrens plays the sardonic yet helpful Curator, who can provide you hints if you accept them to the plot of the game. He will also provide commentary between acts, which can change depending on the choices you make and who lived or died at any point.
  • Informed Attribute: Character profiles will list personality traits that can be in complete contradiction to the choices the player makes.
  • Inksuit Actor: Unlike Until Dawn, which used relatively well-known Inksuit Actors in almost every role, The Dark Pictures games fill out the rest of their main casts with in-house character models that are frequently re-used between games, creating the impression of a returning Production Posse (even though they are in fact voiced by different people every game). Rather, each game features exactly one well-known TV or film star voicing a character whose appearance is based on their own:
  • Jump Scare: Used often, as one expects from a Horror game.
  • Once per Episode: Just like in Until Dawn, the characters find a radio and can call for help. The Dark Pictures solidified this so firmly as a Supermassive trope that it even recurred in their next non-series game The Quarry.
    • In both Man of Medan and House of Ashes, calling for help can actually ensure a worse ending, as it leads to the authorities capturing the protagonists and implicitly taking various extreme measures to keep them quiet about what they saw. This is a stark contrast to Until Dawn where getting a message out via radio was a positive outcome for the protagonists, but could potentially lead to trouble for the rescuers.
    • Little Hope contains a gag where Andrew finds a broken radio in the police station and wryly states he'd believed it would be their salvation. This is the only game in the series where you can't actually signal for help no matter what choices are made.
    • Playfully Zigzagged in The Devil in Me, where the player character will see something that looks like a ham radio set-up in the lighthouse keeper's house and exclaim with joy — before picking up the boat keys that were resting atop it. (However, the light in the lighthouse itself actually does go on to be the key item the protagonists use to signal for help.)
  • Plot Armor: Despite the anthology's marketing claiming that Anyone Can Die, this is only absolutely true for Man of Medan. Other games in the series feature playable characters who are guaranteed to make it to the finale for story reasons:
    • Little Hope: Andrew takes this trope up to eleven, since him dying any time before the very last scene of the game would by necessity give away the twist. John is a more ordinary example, since he's guaranteed to at least make it to the burned house where the game's final showdown takes place; and if he's Andrew's only surviving companion by that point, he actually can't die until the end of that sequence, due to the plot calling for Andrew to have someone to talk to.
    • House of Ashes: Nick having the bombs needed to set off the explosion in the creatures' hive prevents him from dying until the final few chapters. Also, neither Jason nor Salim can die until the escape from the cocoon vault in the penultimate chapter, presumably since their interactions underscore the game's central theme and they're both needed up until this point to provide a satisfying narrative conclusion. Furthermore, if there are fewer than two other survivors left by this point, one or other of them is guaranteed to make it to the surface for the final chapter regardless.
    • The Devil in Me: Mark cannot die until the final chapter, as Du'Met wants him to be the next ferryman like Morello. Either he gets his way and forces Mark to do just that by using Kate as collateral, or he nixes the idea when the police are signaled and tries to kill Mark on the speedboat. Kate also only has one potential death before the finale, presumably since her removal from the game locks out the ending where Du'Met recruits Mark.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: It's sometimes possible to reach the end with all characters alive, only for them all to die in the finale anyway.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Every game features five playable characters in the main story, meaning that unlike in Until Dawn it's not possible to have a Gender-Equal Ensemble. Man of Medan and Little Hope both utilised this trope instead; although theories that it would be true in every Dark Pictures game going forward were disproven when House of Ashes mixed things up and featured just one female protagonist alongside four men. The Devil In Me switches it up by having three women and two men, making it the first game in the series where the women outnumber the men.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Choices made early in the game can often have unforeseen consequences later in the game. Perhaps the two biggest examples of this are Julia resurfacing immediately and then drinking a beer in Man of Medan (which dooms Julia to die, as even if she makes it off the ship, she dies of decompression sickness afterwards), and Eric requesting air support in House of Ashes (which locks out the best ending of Salim returning home to his son, as he is instead captured by American forces as a POW). Both of these take place VERY early on in their respective games, before danger has even been established.
    • Some characters are this regardless of player choice, in order to get the plot moving. In Man Of Medan, Conrad flaunting his wealth at the pirates convinces them to rob the group, which causes them to get trapped on the Ourang Medan. In House of Ashes, Eric deciding to venture to Iraq in search of chemical weapons indirectly leads to the Iraqis ambushing them and causing the firefight that ultimately leads to the cave-in that traps them underground. In The Devil in Me, Charlie accepting Du’Met’s invitation and pressuring his crew into accompanying him, leaving them stranded on Du’Met’s island and at the latter’s mercy.
  • Wild Card: Each game has a protagonist who’s different from the other protagonists, labeled the “odd one out”:
    • Fliss from Man of Medan is the captain of the boat that the others have chartered for their vacation. The other four characters are all tangentially related — Alex and Julia are a romantic couple, Brad and Conrad are their respective siblings — and though it's established that some of them are meeting for the first time, Fliss is the only character who has no prior relationship to any of the others.
    • John from Little Hope is a university professor, while the other four characters are his students. Downplayed though in that Angela is a mature student who's actually a few years older than John, so the divide is often between the older characters (John and Angela) and the younger ones (Andrew, Daniel, and Taylor). Notably, unlike Fliss, Salim, or Charlie, John is never regarded as suspicious by the others in his group. The Reveal further shows that John and Angela's real-world equivalents were a married couple and the other three were among their children, with John in no way being the odd one out in that scenario.
    • Salim from House of Ashes is an Iraqi soldier who is initially fighting on the opposite side to the other protagonists, all of whom are U.S. military and/or intelligence operatives.
    • Charles from The Devil in Me is the director and showrunner of the Architects of Murder television show, as well as owning the production company that makes it. The other four characters work on the show in various capacities, but are all decades younger than Charlie and regard the show as an early-career stepping stone to greater success, while for Charlie it's likely to be the culmination of his life's work.

Alternative Title(s): The Dark Pictures Series, The Dark Pictures