Press Start to Game Over

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Two minutes into the game and you're already dead! Is there something in your family tree that causes dysfunctional locomotion?
Space Quest II, if you walk off of the space station into deep space

These are games that can be lost on the very first turn or two, or very shortly after you begin a level.

This can be deliberate through a Kaizo Trap, Schmuck Bait like a suicidal dialogue option or Press X to Die, or an "Impossible" difficulty level; and may or may not result in a Nonstandard Game Over. It can also be accidental, due to a Game Breaking Bug, bad starting positions in Randomly Generated Levels, or simply taking an action that the designers never accounted for.

Note that it's always possible for extremely contrived stupidity to result in a player death - mundane cases like failing to properly jump or steer your vehicle around elementary obstacles during the tutorial level are People Sit on Chairs unless the designer thought to put in a special Have a Nice Death message or Nonstandard Game Over for it. In the same vein, Unwinnable user-created content isn't worth mentioning unless the deaths are funny or interesting.

Examples of Press Start to Game Over include:

Video Games

  • Stuart Ashen has two separate videos on the subject.
  • Uninvited starts you off inside a car on fire. You have only a few moves to open the door and get out before the car explodes with you inside.
  • Karateka: At the beginning, get into a fighting stance, then stand back up. You fall off the ledge behind you. Game over.
  • In Nethack it's possible to die on your first turn. There's even a special message for it: "Do not pass Go. Do not collect 200 zorkmids."
  • Slouching Towards Bedlam lets you jump out the window as your first command. Depending on your point of view, this is the best ending, and definitely one of the best two.
  • In the Kongregate Game Don't Shit Your Pants, you normally type in "play" to start the game. But instead, you can type "shit" to immediately soil yourself. There's an achievement for that.
  • In Super Paper Mario, repeatedly declining Merlon's offer at the start of the game will result in a Nonstandard Game Over.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla has one where if you attack your brother in the first mission, you get a game over screen complete with "WTF, you killed your Brother!?!?!?!?!"
  • In Suspended, selecting the Impossible difficulty level causes the sun to go nova a few turns in, destroying the planet.
  • In the original Wing Commander, when you started the game, you immediately, and without warning, found yourself in the cockpit of a starfighter, with cheezy arcade-style music playing. No matter what you did, you died within seconds, only for the game to reveal that this was your character messing around in the flight simulator.
  • In Grand Chase, one PVP map has a layout where, if you're unlucky enough to be in a certain position, you lose a life immediately after spawning. (You still have 4 lives, but you're at a serious disadvantage.)
  • In King's Quest I, it's not unusual to die by falling into the moat on the first screen because you can't navigate the small, wooden bridge properly while adjusting to the controls.
  • Pretty much everyone who tries Don't Shoot The Puppy for the first time is going to Shoot the Dog almost instantly.
  • In Jet Set Willy 2, most first-time players inspect the toilet they start right next to, and promptly find themselves Down the Drain in an inescapable Death Trap.
  • Subverted in Bastion. If you fall off the path in the opening level the Lemony Narrator will say "...and then he fell to his death... only foolin'" before The Kid lands nearby and takes damage from the fall as would happen at every other point in the game.
  • In Elite and its Fan Remake Oolite, beginning players must dock with space stations manually until they can afford to buy a docking computer for their ship. The catch is that all orbital space stations rotate, making said docking a hair-raising experience at best the first time it is attempted and causing a number of new pilots to plow into the station instead of flying into the docking bay. Engaging pirates before being upgraded with advanced weapons, armor, scanners, or fuel injectors also tends to lead to disastrous results.
  • The dark colors of Another World's first screen, in which the protagonist suddenly appears in a body of water inhabited by an unseen, tentacled monster, does not make it at all clear that the best choice of action is to immediately swim upward to safety. (In fact, it doesn't make it clear that the opening cutscene has ended.) If you don't move quickly enough, you'll be killed within the first five seconds of game play.
    • Succeeding in that, if you don't leave the second screen immediately, the monster will reach up and snatch you back down, killing you anyway.
  • In Dragon's Lair, every room is basically Press X to Not Die, so one's demise can occur in a hurry—even if you DO start out with three lives.
  • In Sonic Heroes, certain stages start with your team falling onto the first platform. If you try moving in a direction before the team hits the ground, you can miss the platform, keep falling and die.
  • Kings Field The Ancient City: Walk forward for about five seconds from the start.
  • Action 52 had one—in StarEvil (a vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up), there's an obstacle at the very start of the game. Not dodging it might seem like People Sit on Chairs—except it's so close to the start that you literally have less than one second from exiting the title screen to dodge it.
  • The first Leisure Suit Larry game: Walk south on the road. You become an instant pancake. Game over. Walk into the alleyway to the west, get beaten to death by a mugger. Game over.
  • The first Space Quest (original) game on a modern computer: Set speed to "Fastest". A few seconds later, the Arcada explodes and it's game over.
  • In the second Space Quest game, you can die earlier than shown above: Walk east on the first screen and fall in to Xenon's atmosphere. Naturally, no one helps you and you are DEAD.
    • In the third game, you can die on the first screen by cutting yourself on a piece of metal trying to pick it up, or fall into the shredding machine shortly after by not jumping off the Conveyor Belt O' Doom in time. In the fourth game, you may run into the Cyborg and subsequently Droid of Death on the first or second screen; both also randomly appearing based on hardware speed.
  • In the second Police Quest game, you can die in a similar fashion as Leisure Suit Larry above by crossing the road in front of the Lytton PD.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, at the beginning of the game you can try to head directly north to New Vegas from Goodsprings. Just ignore those signs saying the area is infested with deathclaws and that you should stay the fuck away. You'll probably make it just fine.
  • Start the boss battle against CFW Judge in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, he goes first, moves up to your party, and kills off your entire party before your first turn in some cases. The player could, however, get lucky and only have half of their party taken out. In a New Game+ or after grinding, however, this is no longer an issue.

CFW Judge: To ashes!

  • At least one of the Kaizo Mario World hacks tries to kill Mario in the opening scene.

All Others

  • In Chess, the Fool's mate ends the game in two moves, the Scholar's mate in four.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons module Tomb of Horrors places its first inescapable Death Trap at the entrance door, so a lot of parties die by TPK before they even manage to enter the dungeon.
  • In Traveller, character generation is done in stages. The first part of each stage is rolling to see if your character is still alive. Yep, your character can die before the game even starts.
    • This measure, apparently installed to weed out characters too weak to survive the actual game, is optional in the most recent editions of the game, in which it is called "Iron Man Character Generation".
    • deadEarth seems to follow a mechanic where you have to roll for "Radiation Manipulations", which can actually kill you or cripple your ability to use certain skills before you even start playing. You roll for the manipulations after you've done the rest of the character generation work (i.e., after you've rolled your stats and skills), so you can't create your character in anticipation of how badly he/she will be affected. And depending on how strictly the rules are followed, you might only get three character sheets ever.
  • Spoofed on an episode of The Simpsons with an arcade game based on Waterworld. The player takes one step and the game asks for more quarters, as a Take That on how expensive the movie was.

Game: Game Over. Please deposit 40 quarters.
Milhouse: What a rip! (hesitates a second, then deposits more quarters)