Video Game Cliches image–small

Five Clichés that Video Games Can’t Help but Use

Have you ever played a game and said to yourself, “Wow, I’ve seen this happen a million times before“? Well, you’re not alone. Whether it’s an RPG, a survival horror game, or even a fighting game, clichés can be found anywhere and everywhere! It annoys the hell out of you and frustrates you to no end… but sometimes you actually find yourself expecting a cliché or two. And it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Games can sometimes feel like they’re missing something if they don’t have some kind of cliché or another.

And while there are hundreds of gaming clichés out there, here I’ve listed five of the most common clichés found in a vast majority of video games!

Let’s see which ones you recognize…


5. Water Levels

gelato beach
Easily one of the more frustrating clichés in video games (I included a Super Mario Sunshine image for a reason). Water levels can be debated on whether or not they’re needed in a game, but there’s no denying that we’ve all had our fair share of playing these kinds of levels. They can be tantalizing and slow to play through, but sometimes they can be challenging and fun too. And unless your character’s name is Aquaman (thank god it isn’t), you might find yourself struggling to get through these stages thanks to the one thing your character needs most: Oxygen

The Sonic series is a great example this.

labyrinth zone act 1

I remember playing this level when I was very young.

labyrinth zone drowning
Trying to get through Act 1 alone was a huge challenge for me, and the drowning theme song still scares me in my adult years. It was also the very first time I had watched a blue hedgehog die on screen…

While I didn’t particularly enjoy Labyrinth Zone’s personalized hell, I did like the water levels from the Sonic Adventure series.

Aquatic Mine

Specifically the treasure hunting stages with Knuckles

But even though  we’re faced with the threat of drowning in a game,  there’s so much more to the underwater levels.

We could be searching for hidden treasures,

super mario 64 jolly roger

solving crazy puzzles,

Tomb Raider 2 image

or even avoiding scary creatures

amnesia water monster
Water levels are a huge part of our video games, and I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon.


alien isolation death scene
Unless we theme everything in space from now on…


4. The “Damsel in Distress”

This is something we’re all too familiar with. I’m not saying that it’s the worst cliché ever invented, but it’s definitely one that’s been overused since the dawn of time.

It’s the easiest way to get the “hero’s story” across to the player. If our main male protagonist isn’t saving the world, then he’s probably trying to save some gorgeous, oftentimes defenseless young woman. We’ve seen it in a ton of books and film, and video games are no exception to this rule. But although we keep seeing it everywhere, it doesn’t have to mean that the female characters  are any less important than their male counterparts.

zelda and peach pic
Take these two iconic princesses for example.

Peach and Zelda are kidnapped and saved more times than I can remember.

princess zelda-brawlsuper princess peach
Yet they’ve proven time and time again that they can fight for themselves when they need to!

And despite being “damsels in distress,” they are two of some of the most iconic characters in video game history.

I mean Link can’t even get his own name in the title of his game! And he’s the one we’re always controlling! Not Zelda!

So yes, even though this is a huge (and I mean HUGE) cliché, from time to time, we do get some damn good characters out of it too.

There are videos already on youtube that discuss the issues behind the “Damsel in Distress” theme, so if you ever want to dig deeper into the topic, make sure to check them out.


3. War and Chaos (“Sometimes” Death)

 dynasty warriors 3

This is another very common cliché that actually produces very memorable video games. War, chaos, and death are seriously overused themes in not just video games, but in books, TV shows, and movies too. And just like the water levels, they’re pretty much here to stay. But this doesn’t mean that a game with a war cliché is bad. In fact, what often happens is quite the opposite.

game of thrones image

avatar the last airbender image

avatar movie

A lot of great shows and movies today still use this theme and are very successful for it!


And video games are no exception to this kind of success either. It’s a very simple way to create a serious and powerful setting in the game, and can also help show you what kind of character you’ll be playing as.

assassin and templar
You could be someone who’s willing to fight for the peace/destruction of humanity,

skyrim execution
You could be someone who’s fighting against tyranny and the right to worship whomever you please.

Or you could even be someone who’s plotting to overthrow a cunning ruler in a fantasy land.

Although we do have a habit of seeing the same thing done over and over again, game developers have also created something very unique and original from this old cliché.


2. The “Chosen One” a.k.a. The Badass of All Badasses


As cliché as this… cliché is, who honestly doesn’t want to be this kind of character? No seriously, WHO DOESN’T WANT TO BE THIS KIND OF CHARACTER?? You’re the guy (or gal) who gets pretty much everything done in the game. Why? Because NO ONE ELSE can do it! You’re reliable, dependable, strong, intelligent, and the entire fate of the world rests on your shoulders. Talk about pressure!

Not to mention, you look sexy in black!

You’re the kind of character that NPCs prophesize and non-essential characters gossip about. You’re “the one they fear,” a legend among legends, a god among mortals. Basically you’re a Mary-Sue… but that’s quite alright by me! Sometimes, we need that overly powerful, overly confident character in a video game.

There’s nothing more satisfying to me than watching a character face off against a creature that looks like this…

God of War--Hydra Boss 1 God of War--Hydra Boss 2

and then turning it into this…

God of War--Hydra Boss death

Or better yet, I love playing a character who will look at something like this…

colossus 3

And take it down like this…

colossus 3 fall 1 colossus 3 fall 2colossus 3 fall 3

You play as a character who simply can’t and won’t take “no” for an answer. There isn’t a single force who can stop you. You’re too much of a badass to be taken out by a bunch of lowlives and baddies!

Needless to say, I really like this cliché!

I like to feel as though I’m indestructible whenever I play as these powerful characters. It’s just what I need after a stressful day at work: killing and maiming and layin’ down the frickin’ law!


1. Sidequests

Finally, the last of the clichés!

Let me create a scenario for you…

“Oh no! An army of powerful thieves have just stolen a forbidden treasure from my fancy schmancy castle! Help us, brave hero! You are the only one who can get it back for us. But wait! Before you take on this incredibly important task (that’ll most likely kill you), you should help this old woman find her missing locket. It once belonged to a lost loved one. But before you do that, please help this homeless old man! He hasn’t eaten a proper meal in days! But WAIT! You can’t help the starving old man without saving little Linda’s cat first! That feisty feline has been stuck in that tree all day!

This scenario can now go either two ways: 1) You could just ignore these requests and simply go after the bandits… but.. 2) If you choose to help these poor unfortunate souls, here’s what’ll happen:

1. After saving little Linda’s cat from the tree, she gives you a fresh loaf of bread as a reward
2. You then take that loaf of bread to the starving old man, and he gives you an aged locket filled with fond memories
3. You then discover that the locket belongs to the old, lonely woman you met before. Go give it to her and she’ll give you a dagger as a reward. It’s use is limited, and it’s even weaker than your start-up weapon

Wasn’t that eventful? Now go and get those bandits!

Now, all jokes aside, sidequests are found in so many games that there are very few I’ve played that didn’t have sidequests. It’s when the primary task at hand is put on hold so you can do something less important instead. It fills up play time, and depending on how intricate the sidequests are, they can take a really long time to complete.

You could be collecting something in order to gain experience… or you could be assisting lowly people with simple problems that they can figure out themselves.

betty has a lot of work to docamila doesn't like pigs

You’re doing all of this to get something of value in return. Whether it’s to help slightly build your character’s stats, or give you more experience/gold, you’ll do it. God forbid you get nothing in return for all your hard work (which can sometimes happen too).

But where would our games be if we didn’t have sidequests?

Role-Playing Games (especially the free ones) have so many sidequests in them that their games practically never end. They would be in serious trouble without them!

They help us become more involved in the world of the game, its characters and its setting. They send us all over the map to discover things we wouldn’t normally come across, had we followed the main questlines/objectives. They can even sometimes encourage us to explore the world on our own just to see where the game will take us.

skyrim horizon image
And the less linear and restrictive the game is, the more inclined you are to do the exploring yourself!


Now, there are plenty of other video game clichés besides these five I’ve given you, but let Leviathyn know what clichés you‘ve noticed in your games! Which ones annoy you? Which ones make you laugh? Which ones can’t you live without?