Life is hard, then you die
Video games are built on life systems. We have health bars, life tallies, and various other ways of letting the player know their character isnt immortal. This system is usually put in place to teach the player how to succeed, usually after much rage and countless retries.
But then there are those games that would rather avoid death altogether. You know, the ones that deliberately invent loopholes to keep you alive for important reasons like sticking to the games lore, introducing new gameplay, or just because. In some games death isnt final, and these specific examples manage to avoid acknowledging death as a possibility altogether.
Story-telling avoids death completely in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
When you have a great story, something as small as dying shouldnt get in the way of telling it. At least thats how its framed in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The prince accidentally turns an entire kingdom into shambling monsters (a mistake weve all made once or twice) and then assumes the role of narrator, detailing his heroic quest to Farah. Yeah, shes a girl, and hes trying to impress her.
Because his dying wouldnt make sense in the story--how else would he be reciting his tale if he died halfway through it?--any time he falls off a ledge or is struck too hard by an enemy, he explains the event away by saying No, thats not how it happened. This makes the prince pretty much immortal for the sake of continuity, which Im okay with.
Valkyries dust you off in Too Human
Too Human, a dungeon crawler for the Xbox 360, follows Baldur on his mission to stop the machines that are meticulously eradicating the human race. When he loses all his life energy, which happens VERY often, he collapses and a Valkyrie descends from the heavens to pick up his unconscious body and fly him into the clouds. Then he immediately respawns a few inches from where he fell.
The confusing part is that early on in the game, a Valkyrie flies down and takes away a fallen soldier, with his comrades screaming that hes being taken to Valhalla. The scene when Baldur dies plays exactly likes that, which insinuates Baldur is taken to Valhalla. He obviously isnt. Rather it seems like he changes his mind about the whole dying business and ditches the Valkyrie on the way to heaven (after presumably kicking her in the shins).
Elizabeth drags Booker back to safety
BioShock: Infinite is an elaborate web of secrets, civil unrest, and dimensional manipulation, so its no surprise that dying is not so straightforward. Any time Booker suffers too much damage, he blacks out, only to have Elizabeth pleading with him to not give up and helping him stand and keep on fighting and occasionally injecting him with an unknown serum.
The BioShock universe is all about providing narrative explanations for common gameplay mechanics, like respawning. So it makes sense that--since Elizabeth supplies Booker with health and salts throughout the campaign--she can also bring him back from the brink of death. Though theres also a theory out there that Elizabeth actually brings back another Booker through one of her dimensional tears. But Im still trying to piece together the games ending, so my brain cant handle any more BioShock speculations right now.
Prey brings you back via a Cherokee death walk
Instead of dying, why not try death-walking instead? In 2006s Prey you take on the role of Tommy who finds out about his Cherokee spiritual powers after being abducted by aliens. No, this isnt an episode of the X-Files.
One of his powers is death-walking, which manifests itself as a mini-game in which you shoot down enemies with arrows in order to regain your health and magic after Tommy is downed. In essence death actually serves as a break from the fight you were originally losing in order to gain the upper hand again. Since Tommy's powers are of the spiritual variety, once he enters the Death Realm he, unlike most humans, can see the wraiths of fallen spirits. Killing those wraiths gives him the power necessary to return to the land of the living to kick the alien equivalent of what they have for backsides.
Wario chooses to lose money over death in Wario Land 2
Wario, our beloved Nintendo antihero, causes trouble wherever he flashes that big grin of his. After making quite the impression in Super Mario Land 2 as Mario's antagonist, he eventually starred in his own games. In 1998 Wario Land 2 made a drastic change to the game series, where Wario was now immune to death entirely. Instead of losing his life like he could in previous installments, Wario just stumbles and loses some pocket change.
The mechanical explanation is that the game shifted from its heavy emphasis on action-based gameplay to more puzzle solving, so the penalty of death is removed altogether. I think the real reason is that everyone knows Wario is cooler than Mario so he just deserves to be invincible.
Fireballs and lightning attacks will only make your Pokemon faint
Since 1996 we've been graced by multiple Pokemon games that continue to introduce new creatures and more ways to become a Pokemon master. One aspect thats never changed is how a Pokemon will always just faint instead of dying, no matter how severe its wounds, burns, or poison.
In the television show, there is an entire episode dedicated to keeping Charmanders flame lit because otherwise hed die. Yet in the game he can be hit by numerous water attacks and just faint, to later recover in a nearby Pokemon center. Should all your Pokemon faint, somehow you suddenly blackout and are transferred to a PokeCenter why you ask? Because the bond between trainer and their Pokemon is strong, or something.
Final Fantasy IV makes you "swoon"
There was a time Final Fantasy games never even mentioned death, at least when it came to statuses; it was taboo. Thats why in Final Fantasy IV when characters reached zero HP they were classified as swoon--which is defined as either losing consciousness or fainting from extreme emotion. Id like to think they meant the latter one.
Nowadays Final Fantasy games mention death all the time; its actually strange to not have death as a central theme. Though Id like to forget that instance a certain someone got stabbed and we couldnt bring her back with a phoenix down. Shes just in a permanent state of swooning, and someday well find the cure.