Check Point Starvation

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"You go back... to the beginning? No... continues? No... extra lives?"

Check Point Starvation occurs when in a Video Game, the player must go for an extended period of time without Check Points or Save Points. Its purpose, when done intentionally, is to add difficulty to the game.

In the most extreme cases, the player may be required to beat the entire game with one life, though going that far with this trope is mostly unheard of. Outside of Roguelikes, one-life marathon games are almost exclusive to the 8-bit era, and even then it was pretty uncommon - except as Self-Imposed Challenge or the highest difficulty level.

This can occasionally slip in in very story heavy games, possibly by accident. It's particularly common in the introduction for the game, as Exposition can be interspersed with tutorials or gameplay without a save function.

Not to be confused with Save Game Limits, when the game imposes limits on when and where (and how) you can save the game, though these two sometimes overlap.

Compare Marathon Level and Marathon Boss. Contrast Death Is a Slap on The Wrist and Respawn on the Spot.

Examples of Check Point Starvation include:

Video Games[edit | hide | hide all]

Action Adventure[edit | hide]

  • Cave Story: Sacred Grounds. Not only is the level Nintendo Hard, but the player is required to do it all in one go, including its two bosses, one of which has four forms.
  • Metroid Prime: The beginning of Phazon Mines, generally referred to by the fanbase as "The Gauntlet". There's a save station near the entrance. It's the last one for a long time, and getting to the next one requires getting past a gauntlet of shadow troops, mega turrets, wave and ice troopers, and two mini boss battles against an elite pirate and a cloaked drone. The entire segment usually takes an hour or more to complete.
    • Metroid Prime 2 Echoes is infamous for having few life-restoring save points and a dark world that actively drains your life for much of the game.
  • Milon's Secret Castle (referred to in the page quote): Subverted. It appears, at first, that dying once sends you back to the beginning of the game. However, you actually can continue: with a code. It's also the same way in the Game Boy port, but instead of a cheat code, the game gives you a password immediately after a game over.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: After the opening cinematics, the player must go through the first path as a Deku until they finally reach the Clock Tower, which for a beginning player can take around 15 minutes, and is then followed by a segment which, due to the nature of saving in the game, lasts another 60–72 minutes.
  • The first save point in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a remarkably long ways into the tutorial. The problem with this is not in the time it takes to get to it, however, but the fact that the Noob Cave is actually filled with surprisingly dangerous Mooks that are very likely to make mincemeat of someone playing the game for the first time. Dying boots you back to the last save. No save? Have fun going through the 45-minute-long tutorial dungeon again!
  • An Untitled Story: on regular mode and higher, one save point is cut from BlackCastle. On masterful mode and higher, another one disappears. This means you need to complete a good three quarters of this incredibly lengthy area without saving.

Action Game[edit | hide]

  • Devil May Cry: In the first three games, check points must be bought in the form of yellow orbs. They are quite expensive in the first playthrough, and if you run out, any death will send you back to the beginning of the mission.
  • Checkpoints in God Hand are invisible, so you can't tell if there are any in a level until you die. Generally, they're where the game loads a new screen (but not always)... which means that any level where the game doesn't have to load a new area, like "Flying Pyramid", has to be done in one go.
  • Ninja Gaiden for the NES sends you back to Stage 6-1 if you die on any of the final bosses.
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has a few passages involve several long and tough fights without the possibility to save in-between. Most notably the last parts of chapter 13 (including the very grueling stairway fight), 14 (the graveyard fights), and the first half of chapter 16 (a long straight corridor). The latter two have an appearance of Recurring Bosses out of nowhere without the usual auto-save. These passages are stressing in Normal but get really sadistic in Master Ninja.
  • The final stages of certain Castlevania games, such as Super CV IV. The most notable offender was in the international versions of Castlevania III, which if the player died against Castlevania, he/she would have to restart from A-2 instead of A-3 (like in the Japanese version).
  • In the doujin game Crescent Pale Mist, checkpoints only appear BEFORE a boss fight, meaning that dying before reaching the boss results in starting the Chapter all over again. Have fun not dying in Chapters 3 and 4.
  • Dead Rising features a little of this in its main scenario (there are no soft checkpoints between going between sections of the mall or before fighting bosses) but Infinity Mode does not feature a single checkpoint nor way to save your game. As the sole objective of Infinity mode is to survive as long as you can, this can lead to trouble. One achievement requires you to stay alive for the real-time equivalent of fourteen hours - and when the game was released, the Xbox 360 was going through incredibly high rates of getting the RROD. Thankfully, its sequels fixed this problem: Dead Rising 2 introduced checkpoints before going into different areas or fighting bosses, and the updated rerelease Dead Rising 2: Off the Record changed Infinity Mode to Sandbox Mode, adding the ability to save as well as checkpoints.

First-Person Shooter[edit | hide]

  • Nightmare Mode in Aliens vs. Predator disables the checkpoint system, meaning you get bumped back to the very beginning of the mission if you ever die (which, given the enemy's increased damage output, happens a lot).
  • Battlefield 3 has a few levels with a severe lack of checkpoints. The worst few involve playing a cutscene or introductory section before the actual combat.
  • BioShock (series) allows you to disable the Vita-Chambers (in the first game, you needed the DLC first, in the second, you can do it out of the box). Though it was this trope in theory, in practice the game also let you save anywhere and disabling Vita-Chambers didn't affect that.
  • Some levels of the Halo series.
  • Originally, Left 4 Dead would have the players start at the beginning of a campaign if they failed. Yes, a usually hour-long campaign consisting of 3-5 sections and one Tank can send you all the way back. Thankfully, Valve caught on to how frustrating it was from play testing and added checkpoints at the beginning of each section.
    • Brought back for a while in the sequel for the Mutation game mode, dubbed Iron Man. Not only the game is under Realism rules (no glows, no respawning in closets, Witches kill instantly), but if the whole team wipes out, the team is kicked back to the lobby.
  • The first three Medal of Honor console games had no in-level checkpoints. This was a major problem with the longer levels in Frontline.
    • In Rising Sun, you often go two or three whole levels between checkpoints to save the game.
  • Perfect Dark Zero has only 2 checkpoints per mission; one at the very beginning, and one about 3/4ths through or before the end level boss fight. This is fine for the shorter missions, but very noticeable on the longer ones.
  • Tron 2.0: Autosaving only occurred at the start of a level, no matter how large said level was. Saving did not exist at all during the lightcycle matches.
  • Resistance: Fall Of Man: each level only had 1 or 2 checkpoints, with many major firefights between each checkpoint. Given how quickly you can go from full health to completely dead in this game, it's very common to get booted back 15–20 minutes of progress just as you're about to hit the next checkpoint. The sequels used a much more conventional and forgiving checkpoint system.
  • The original Call of Duty did not have checkpoints nearly as often as its later sequels, which made things all the more difficult considering it was also before the series used Regenerating Health. Fortunately, the first game also still allows you to make traditional saves and quicksaves whenever you want.

Miscellaneous Games[edit | hide]

  • None of the Action 52 games have checkpoints, so you start from the beginning of the level if you die.
  • Plenty of the old 8-bit games on the ZX Spectrum and the like had no save points (48K was barely enough RAM for the game, never mind save states, and saving on the tape was normally impractical). Most egregious in the space shooter cum word puzzler cum history lesson Starion, a 243-level (counting each time zone as one level, a fair measurement) marathon with, in the original version, a Game Breaking Bug somewhere around the 200th. Allowing five minutes a zone - easy when the cargo is "D", more difficult when it's "OBERAMMERGAU" - you're still looking at the better part of a day's solid play. With no saves.

Platform Game[edit | hide]

  • Adventure Island II and III had no checkpoints within stages, in contrast to four for each level in Adventure Island I. However, the stages are shorter.
  • Captain Comic has no checkpoints or save points.
  • Both Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3 have cheats that removes all the Check Points in the levels.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns has a level (Muncher Marathon) that has an Advancing Wall of Doom made of spiders. Once you hit the checkpoint, you can finish the level in 10 seconds. Everywhere before that, if you die, you are back to square one.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the Temples. There are no checkpoints. For any of them. And the majority of them are 5-8 minutes of pure old-school platforming. And when you get to the Golden Temple....
  • I Wanna Be the Guy: The only difference between difficulty levels is how far apart the save points are. "Impossible" mode requires you to beat the entire game without save points.[1]
  • Oddworld, especially the first game, combined this with Nintendo Hard to produce severe cases of controller-snapping frustration. The developers did add more in the second game in response.
  • Prehistorik and its predecessor Titus the Fox give you a code for each level that lets you continue from that level. However, they don't give you that code at the beginning of the level: instead, you have to find it, somewhere in the middle, and quite often hidden in some hard-to-find area. If you almost complete level 4 without finding its code, well, back to level 3 for you.
  • Maple Story: Loves to do this with some particularly nasty Jump Quests, especially the higher level ones (such as the Zakum party quest) which tend to involve roughly five minutes of jumping on platforms barely large enough to walk on, all while dodging falling rocks, poison clouds, energy blasts, indestructable monsters, and the occassional bit of lag. If you fail/fall? Congratulations, you get to slowly walk through lava back to the start of the area.
  • Sonic Unleashed: In the HD versions of the game, one mission involves getting to the end of Eggmanland, a Nintendo Hard stage that indeed is comparable to those of the old 8-bit games—without any usable checkpoints and with a time limit. It is also by far the longest stage in the game, considering the time limit is 45 minutes.
  • |Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 has several stages that lack check points until several minutes into a stage and have little to none afterward. And some, like The End of the World Stage, lack checkpoints altogether.
  • Star Light Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog had just a single checkpoint placed before the boss in act 3. Just to be even meaner, there were no rings near it and the end of the level is a Point of No Return. The checkpoints were probably removed after Sonic Team realized how much harder the zones before Star Light are.
  • Super Mario Bros. series:
    • Super Mario Bros: Had invisible checkpoints near the middle of most levels, except for castle levels and all of World 8. In some later levels, these checkpoints could do more harm than good, as they were often located after the one power-up in the level and you couldn't backtrack.
    • Super Mario Bros. 2 Doorways acted as checkpoints, but they were scarce otherwise.
    • Super Mario Bros 3: In contrast to the previous two games, had no in-level checkpoints. However, the newly-introduced World Map allowed the player to use inventory items or sometimes choose a different level to tackle after losing a life.
    • Super Mario World: Most levels had one and only one midway checkpoint. They were actually visible, though some required the player to take hidden paths to reach them.
    • Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2: Some missions are rather long with no checkpoints in them at all, most notably the Daredevil missions, whose primary objective is to finish the stage as a One-Hit-Point Wonder. The two most infamous ones are for "The Sinking Lava Spire" in the first game, which requires the player to traverse the longest mission in That One Level; and "The Perfect Run" in the second, taking place in by far the hardest stage in a game with a massive Sequel Difficulty Spike.
    • Super Mario 3D Land has S8-Crown, which is even longer than Grandmaster Galaxy, and no easier (unless you bring in power-ups). Even the standard last level (at the end of regular World 8) has this; before the checkpoint is a fairly large castle stage, and after it is probably the longest fight against Bowser in the whole series, certainly the longest in 3D.
    • A lot of Super Mario World ROM hacks contain this due to having Marathon Levels, since by default, Mario World levels can only have one Check Point. Of course players who want to can always use save states, which some developers count on.
    • Space Zone 2 in Super Mario Land 2. There's a checkpoint bell towards the end of the level. If Mario loses a life prior to reaching the bell, he'll have to start from the beginning of that level.
    • Yoshi's Island usually doesn't have this due to multiple middle rings, but there's one point in Endless World of Yoshis/Crazy Maze Days where this is a problem. You see, there's a long falling section with instant kill spikes, and after that, a checkpoint. Problem is, checkpoints work only once, leaving the player with a Sadistic Choice; use it straight after the spikes and then hope you don't mess up the next three or four rooms (and in that time, you have to dodge those spikes another two times), or use it after the tricky section has been beaten all three times and you've got the key, in which case once mess up will put you right at the start of the second area.
  • Due to a bug, if you die against the first Fortress Boss (Mothraya) of Mega Man 4, Mega Man will restart not at the Boss Corridor like every other level, but at the level's midpoint, making the player run through it again.

Puzzle Game[edit | hide]

  • The Impossible Quiz: There are over 100 questions with no checkpoints or continues, meaning that a mistake sends the player back to the beginning of the game. The game contains a lot of Trial and Error Gameplay, and many of the questions are timed, with the timer running out on a question counting as a loss. The game does provide "skips" so that the player can get past any question that they think they cannot answer until the last question, where the player must use every skip that the game offered to pass the question.
    • The sequel goes out of its way to mock the player for even wanting Check Points.

Roguelike[edit | hide]

Role-Playing Game[edit | hide]

  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter: This trope can be invoked with some discretion to the player, unless they are going for the highest D-Ratio, in which case the trope applies for the whole game playthrough.
  • Final Fantasy III: The final tower. After the last save point in a small outdoor area after the third to last dungeon, there are 8 or 9 floors of the Crystal tower, followed by a boss, getting warped to the World of Darkness where there are 4 more tough minibosses, gaining equipment and experience for the final battle, the final boss battle, the entire closing sequence before the player is given another chance to save their game.
  • The Northern Crater in Final Fantasy VII has no save points, but it gives the party one unique item that can create one.
    • However, the item is glitched and can make the dungeon unwinnable, so it's just best to ignore it.
    • Earlier, the whirlwind maze: After the save point, you have a timing puzzle, a few long cutscenes, and a FMV before the next save. There's nothing particularly dangerous in-game there, but this area had a high crash rate in the PC version.
  • The Mons game Jade Cocoon has you going through the 4th forest without being able to save the game nor fusing monsters due to story elements, namely that everyone in your village has been Taken for Granite. The king... sovereign... some-guy-who-seems-to-be-in-charge in the next hub comments on your endurance.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario: The Pit Of 100 Trials, a 100-room dungeon that provides no way to save progress during an attempt at beating it.
  • The infamous Chrysler Tower in Parasite Eve.
  • Star Ocean the Second Story and Star Ocean 3: Part of the difficulty of the Cave of Trials is the complete lack of save points throughout. Especially Egregious in the second game, whose variant is far longer and filled with random encounters throughout.
  • In the Very Definitely Final Dungeon of Ys V, you have to fight three very tough bosses, with no save points in between. Unlike previous games where you could save anywhere, this one only allows you to save at inns in town.
  • This is a major part of the difficulty in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. Save spots are plentiful, but are always set at extremely long distances between each.
  • The World Ends With You:
    • The game forces you to play through the entire first twenty-minute (tutorial) chapter before it lets you save... and then for about another ten minutes before you can save freely.
    • It also features a number of difficult bosses at the end of the game with no opportunity to save in between, although if you die, you can try again without having to repeat battles you've already won. The character Neku Sakuraba remarks beforehand that there may not be any save points for awhile, thus Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Final Fantasy' series:
    • Final Fantasy IV, which requires a lengthy cutscene, a non-controlled battle, another lengthy cutscene, some wandering around, another lengthy cutscene, and finally the prologue before being able to save.
    • Final Fantasy IX has that whole ship thing at the beginning, with the cinematic, then the first battle tutorial, etc... and then the game proper starts, and even then it's a good few minutes before you reach the Save Point.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has several long cutscenes and two battles before the player can save the game.
  • Persona 3 makes saving difficult because it requires exiting your current level of Tartarus to do so, which means you need to start the current branch over again. However, trying to push too hard could mean getting in over your head, dying, and losing quite a bit of progress. This was changed in the Updated Rerelease Persona 3 Portable: by walking up the staircase in the entrance lobby of Tartarus, the player will be given the option to start at the highest floor reached so far.
  • It takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes from starting Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness before you are allowed your first save, not counting the fact that the pre-credit cinematic is unskippable the first time you boot up the game.
  • The Paper Mario series:
    • The original game has saving by use of Save Blocks, which you hit from underneath, thus activating them. In the original Paper Mario, you go from getting the invitation to going to the castle to finding Peach within the Castle to the Hopeless Boss Fight with Bowser to lying there near Goomba Village to waking up in a Toad House before you can go outside and find a Save Block. Contrast with the sequel, which has you receive the letter and go to Rogueport. You step onto the dock, and can immediately go over and hit a Save Block.
    • Then Super Paper Mario has multiple cutscenes and some gameplay lasting at least twice as long as Paper Mario 1's. Plus, you can even get a Nonstandard Game Over right as the Info Dump is nearing its end. Genre Savvy players are expecting a But Thou Must! situation when you're asked to save the world, but as they're sitting there hitting "No" and watching the characters' reactions becoming increasingly incredulous, they might hit "No" one too many times and have to watch all those cutscenes again.
  • In Jade Cocoon, the initial save point vanishes once you choose to go to sleep, which kicks off a Dream Sequence, a Hopeless Boss Fight, loads of exposition, a tutorial fight, another Hopeless Boss Fight, and still more exposition. Sleep to save time? Twenty-four minutes. You can even see the save point at around the 20-minute mark for an extra bit of cruelty.
  • Dark Souls is downright brutal with bonfire (checkpoint) placement at times. You generally only get one or two per level, and some levels have none at all. While you can usually open up shortcuts on subsequent runs through areas and minibosses don't respawn, getting to some bosses can be incredibly difficult. Then after that, most bosses can kill you in one or two hits.
    • A particularly cruel example is the Taurus Demon, the second boss. There are no shortcuts to open up to reach it more easily, so you have to play the whole level again when you get killed by it. And this is at the start, so the dozens of relatively weak enemies you have to fight are all life-threateningly hard.
    • While you don't have to play through the whole Tomb of the Giants to get to Gravelord Nito, you still have to go through a large chunk with some Demonic Spiders such as the Pinwheel copies and skeleton dogs, which will take longer than actually fighting Nito.

Shoot'Em Up[edit | hide]

  • The developers of Super R-Type did not put any checkpoints whatsoever in levels.

Simulation Game[edit | hide]

  • In Animal Crossing series, the player can save sometime before halfway through the Justified Tutorial. Start a game, create a character, choose a house, and talk to all the villagers and the mayor, and this takes about 20 minutes on a new town file.

Third-Person Shooter[edit | hide]

  • Dead Space 2: This trope is used deliberately in "Hardcore Mode" . Specifically, it only allows the player to save three times in the whole game, and there are no checkpoints, other than at the disc change on the Xbox360 version.
  • Hitman: Blood Money: Depending on the difficulty level, you can only save a certain amount of times during a single mission. You get 3 different save spots and even if you overwrite the same save spot, it still counts as a save. The previous games allowed saving anywhere, or in the case of Codename 47, gave two extra lives for a stage.
    • Hitman: Silent Assassin limited your number of saves at higher difficulties (with none at the highest), but did avert this trope at one point: On the game's one Marathon Level, it awards you a free save halfway through, even on the highest difficulty.

Wide Open Sandbox[edit | hide]

  • The Grand Theft Auto series has a lot of this, and it's actually gotten stingier in the more recent games than in the old ones. In some cases, the one save is at the place where you're first assigned a mission (which can be quite a ways away from where you actually begin the mission, in a series that disdains any form of fast-travel.)
    • The Ballad of Gay Tony DLC for IV finally addresses the issue by adding checkpoints, they are still quite scarce, though, each mission usually having one checkpoint.
  • The first Saints Row game had no checkpoints within missions. The hardest missions always, always, without fail, started out with a long, boring drive across the whole city before the action started. Have fun doing that over and over.

Other Media[edit | hide]

Game Shows[edit | hide]

  • Greed had no checkpoints to fall back on; being incorrect on a question meant losing everything.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  1. There actually is a way to save on Impossible. The "evil" save point that appears near the end of the game is still there on Impossible, and due to a glitch you have exactly 1 frame of animation to save on it after its death.