Money for old tropes
For all that gaming has progressed, it still falls back on far too many hoary old cliches. Too many design elements and plot traditions that are long past worn out. They make modern games feel old, and innovative titles feel stale. If you've ever played a game and, for some reason, couldn't put your finger on the thing that made it feel like an archaic mess, odds are it was that the developers simply relied on too many tired cliches.
While there are many to choose from, we've whittled it down to 16 of the worst offenders. Join us as we poke our fingers derisorily and tell them to get with the times. The tedious old gits.
The last-ditch helicopter escape
Its the end of the level. Youve completed your objective, or maybe your objective has gone completely wrong. Either way, its a dramatic time. How can you tell? Because stuff is exploding all over the place and mooks are swarming after you. But you can escape (and make things even more dramatic) if you can just make it to that hovering helicopter in time.
Cue a last-minute QTE press to launch yourself into a perilous but entirely risk-free jump to the open door. An open door which enemies cannot shoot or throw grenades into. Once youre in there, even the mooks with rocket launchers will decline to shoot the helicopter down. Because the door is the Hallowed Door of Safety. They respect that.
Mid-game ability loss
Hey Mr. Badass, been getting pretty badass over the last few hours, have you? Developed loads of new abilities, acquired loads of new equipment, and got really good at using all of them, have you? Well lets see what you can really do. Because now you havent got any of them, because youve been knocked out and forgotten everything, or a boss has a Special Final Attack Beam of Ability Unlearning.
But well make you a deal. Make it through this forced stealth level and youll find all your skills and gear scattered throughout the level after it. The enemy knew it was important to weaken you, but they didnt bother taking your powers very far. Or really hiding them at all.
The unwelcome vehicle bit
Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot and now you're driving a slidey tank all over a semi-open world deathmatch arena with big instant-death tar pits all over the place? This is not what you signed up for.
The desperate crashed vehicle escape
The dramatic end to the previous level has led to the dramatic start of the current one. Perhaps one of the mooks did manage to shoot down your helicopter, after all (after waiting respectfully for you to officially finish the playable escape bit and enter the between-levels cutscene). Or maybe your jeep has driven over an anti-tank mine just as your C.O. was leaning over the front seat to detail the objectives of your next mission.
Either way, youre upside down and semi-conscious in a blown-up vehicle and the enemy is approaching in huge numbers. But whats this? Your dying comrade in the passenger seat in front has just slid a gun over to you? Better get to work.
The NPC behind the glass
Other people exist in this space station/town-sized nuclear bunker/underwater city/sprawling industrial complex filled with slavering beasts, but youll never quite find yourself in the same room as them. While you can meet, talk, and even take objectives from them, theyll always be just on the other side of a floor-length window or behind an impenetrable armoured curtain.
As a result, theyll never come along to help you out, give you any equipment, or offer you the convenience of shooting them in the face if theyre the bad guy. Because that would involve the nigh-impossible feat of opening a door or walking through cloth. And if it is just a curtain youre dealing with, youll lower your gun on instinct. Everyone knows that stuff is bulletproof. Pointless to shoot through it.
The Its all a dream intro
Its a horror game. You were expecting horror. But youve been thrown right in at the deep end. No backstory. No exposition. No explanation as to how you got here, and already things are horrible. Youre in a scary place, full of scary noises, and oh sweet crap the monsters are already pouring in. And now theyre still pouring in. Actually, this is a Hell of a lot of monsters for this early in the game. How the Hell are you supposed to beat them all Oh youre dead. But youre not. Youre actually waking up in your bed and it was all a dream.
Thank God nothing like that will ever happen in your real life. Thank God you wont find yourself in exactly that same situation in around eight hours, albeit with a longer health bar and a few more weapons. Thank God that dream wasnt* an obvious foreshadowing of specific events to come, thrown right in at the start in order to make the early, quieter, scene-setting bits feel a little more ominous.
The dramatic QTE instead of a last boss fight
Youve fought through legions of mooks. Youve acquired every weapon and artifact required to face the Ultimate Last Boss and stand a chance of defeating him. Youve completed the final, dramatic last push to his dwelling place. You ready yourself for the battle of all battles.
And instead youre just required to press A a couple of times while maybe lining up a cross-hair, while the game decides that rather than being involved in the climactic drama, youd rather it just present it all on screen for you in the form of a cutscene.
Supposedly dramatic QTEs that you have to repeat 10 times
Youre walking slowly down a dark, dank corridor. Everything is quiet, too quiet maybe. And then suddenly OH MY GOD MONSTER, ITS GOT YOU, ITS GOT YOUR LEG, MAN, MASH A TO ESCAPE NOW!
Oh youve failed and you are dead. And with no alternative outcome for the QTE youre dropped right back at the start of the corridor. Ten failed attempts later and the monster is no longer scary, and is instead a tedious bore. That monster might as well be a door that needs opened instead of an abomination.
Because writing backstory and finding smart, deft ways to allow the player to bond their own personality with that of a pre-written character is nowhere near as much fun as letting them be an orphan with no memory of anything before the opening second of the game.
One day, an amnesiac hero will be born (and immediately orphaned) into a kingdom that isnt neighboured by an evil empire plotting to harness a long-lost magical artefact in order to attain supreme, unholy power. One day that empire will not be comprised of standard-issue enemies inhabiting all regions of the game (because inhabiting lots of regions is conveniently the sort of thing that empires do). One day...
The conscientious murderer
Largely indigenous to open-world games. S/he has been through a hard time, has seen a lot of the wrong things, and is utterly dedicated to non-violence and clean living from this point onward. But there are a lot of crack dealers around here. And cops getting in the way of a good time. And occasionally rude people. And old ladies. And s/he does have a lot of grenades...
The door-opening siege
Hey, its going to take me five minutes to open this door. I do hope no more enemies decide to attack while Im opening this door. They probably wont though, as weve already killed all the enemies in this level and there definitely wont be about a thousand more just waiting around to attack as soon as I start opening this door. Ill just start opening this door
Plant five charges to initiate exciting escape sequence
Because the devs have designed a small environment and really want to get the most out of it by making you explore every last square inch of it before everything explodes and you run away and probably jump into a helicopter.
Our princess is in another castle
Not limited to Mario games any more. And again, very common in open-world games. If theres a large environment to explore, a lot of easily-deployable fetch-and-carry quest-types available, and even the most tenuous excuse for sending the player travelling for miles for a story-furthering reward (which will inevitably be directions to another fetch-and-carry quest for someone else, who will do exactly the same thing), then thats the games running time expanded by another five hours right there. Easy. Whos free for lunch?
Cutscene power fluctuation
Maybe youre an unstoppable badass whos slaughtered legions of worthy enemies while breaking barely the mildest hint of a sweat, but now that youre in a cutscene that slightly larger than average mook has managed to knock you out (and probably steal all of your skills and equipment) with a mere flick of the wrist.
Or maybe youre having a tough old time fighting your way through the mobs, but as soon as youve ground your way through to the end of that mid-game boss fight you find yourself with all the supernatural slaughtering powers of Azrael himself, and vanquish your nemesis in a devastating, exaltedly cinematic fashion that youll never be able to achieve in real-time gameplay. Either way, cutscene power fluctuation has screwed you over.
The boss resurrection of narrative furthering
Whats this? Youve run into the guy being set up as the games Ultimate Final Boss a bit early? And hes already having a pop at you? Early encounter boss fight is on! And it looks like youre going to be able to take him down. Maybe theres something less predictable going on here. Maybe youre going to have your perceptions of the big boss bad guys identity excitingly subverted. Maybe theres some huge plot twist coming at the end of this fight.
Oh no, you have indeed succeeded in wiping out his entire health bar but hes just ignored the rules and run off, claiming that hell get you next time. What next time? Youve just beaten him. And hes cheated. The prick.
Brave new world?
So that's our list of tedious old video game tropes we want to see excised from the design handbook. But how about you? Are there any other cliches you're sick to death of playing through every... single... time? Let us know.
And while you're here, why not check out some of our related stuff? The Top 7... Lazy Character Clichs would be a good start, as would The most annoying fighter cliches (that we still totally love)?