Survivor Guilt

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There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables

Now my friends are dead and gone...
Marius, Les Misérables

You might be the Last Of Your Kind or someone else made a Heroic Sacrifice for you but whatever the reason, you're going to feel a massive sense of guilt. An easy way to generate Wangst. Expect this to occur when the Mary Sue dies or a husband survives the death of his family. Practically a guarantee in cases of Death by Childbirth.

Can also lead to the victim becoming a Death Seeker. May cause Bad Dreams, Drowning My Sorrows, and various other ways to cope. Contrast You Should Have Died Instead, where one survivor tries to evoke Survivor Guilt in another.

Examples of Survivor Guilt include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion suffers from this after killing Kaworu, which helps trigger the Mind Screw of the Gainax Ending.
  • Cosmo in Sonic X falls into this category. Her planet itself had been abandoned centuries earlier and Cosmo, a young plant based lifeform, grew up on board a Space Station which was then destroyed by the Metarex leaving her the only survivor of her clan - and continually haunted by the fact. Though the Metarex themselves later turn out to be members of the seedrian species too - the ones who stayed behind on their planet after the others abandoned it, where they became the space-faring monstrosities the Metarex.
  • Sara Werec of Soukou no Strain is spurred on initially by her survivor's guilt, her Big Brother Worship, and the question of "why?" that arose from both of the above. When Lottie figures out that the Omnicidal Maniac who killed her brother has let Sara live three times, and realizes Sara's true identity, she strikes out at Sara by giving her Carris' present to her, the last thing she saw him with before he was killed, to induce more survivor's guilt in her.
  • In Digimon Adventure, various members of the cast gets this after the death of various allies/bystanders. Digimon Tamers provides a more extreme example with Jeri.
  • Suzaku from Code Geass; his guilt comes from the fact that he killed his own father in a fit of despair (his old man was willing to sacrifice the whole of Japan rather than allow it to be under Britannia's control) and was never punished for it. Naturally, this lead to his becoming The Atoner and a Death Seeker.
  • Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima seems to have some issues stemming from the fact that he, his friend Anya and his cousin Nekane were the only survivors of their Doomed Hometown, while everyone else was Taken for Granite. He's only recently starting to get over the fact that it wasn't his fault.
    • And then it's revealed that the attack on the village was apparently done by a group of evil senators specifically to kill Negi. So, in a roundabout way, it was his fault. He wasn't aware of it, but it didn't stop him from angsting any.
  • After the Kakyuu Princess dies in Sailor Stars, the Starlights, the last survivors of their planet, convene to strike back against Galaxia for no other reason than vengeance, stating that without her, they have no reason to live. Their attack fails and they get battered for their troubles, but not killed, leaving them to lament at how they've survived once more.
    • In the manga, it is reversed: the Starlights die, and then Kakyuu Princess levels up into Sailor Kakyuu to strike back against her killers. However, she still dies.
  • Gintoki from Gintama is more or less a goofy, laid-back Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, but it's also implied (often in the anime opening and closing credits) that he has some of this.
  • Kasumi from King of Thorn has a massive case of this, since she was selected to be saved from a deadly disease by being put into cold sleep while her twin sister Shizuku was not. She even tries to commit suicide so that Shizuku can take her place.
  • Kambei from Samurai 7, who hates the fact that as a leader, he alone manages to survive battles due to his sheer Badass nature even as the rest of his men usually die.
  • Fai from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle was the last survivor of not one but two destroyed worlds, to say nothing of his twin brother sacrificing his life so that Fai could be free of the magical prison they were both trapped in. Neither the first destroyed world nor the death of his brother was actually his fault, but everybody blamed it on him anyway. By the time the second world rolled around he was perfectly capable of blaming himself without anybody else's help.
  • The writer of Grave of the Fireflies must've felt this way because, in Real Life, Setsuko was the only one who died. In the book he wrote and the film, Seita dies as well; showing the writers remorse that he hadn't died along with his little sister...
  • In Clannad, Tomoya was so stricken with guilt and grief at Nagisa's dying while giving birth to their daughter, he a) stayed distant from his daughter while she grew up because of the painful memories, and b) became certain that everything would have been so much better if he and Nagisa had never met in the first place (since she would still be alive (maybe) and he wouldn't have to deal with the painful grief). He comes to realize he was very wrong on both counts, and makes amends with his daughter and makes peace with his memories of his wife. And then, in the anime series version, their daughter dies, and Tomoya drops dead from guilt. But they all get better.
    • Kotomi's situation also fits this trope and narrowly skirts the edges of Deus Angst Machina; her parents died in a plane crash when she was very young, right after she had a fit and told them (untruthfully) that she hated them. And then she burned up an extremely important document, the only remaining copy of the last thing her parents wrote, in an attempt to bring them back. She becomes obsessed with her parents' death, and tries for years to reproduce the document, but never manages to; and she has trouble making friends because she's secretly terrified that she might make some other mistake and cause their deaths, too. She improves, though, when she learns that the thing she incinerated was a teddy bear catalog, and that her parents managed to mail her a teddy bear from the crashed airplane, because it was the only thing she'd ever asked them for.
  • A large portion of the cast of characters in Fullmetal Alchemist fit this trope.
    • Scar, whose brother died in his place.
    • Ed, who got away with the loss of just an arm and a leg while Al lost his whole body.
    • ANY person who was involved in the Ishvalan war and isn't one of the bad guys. Especially Roy, Alex, and Marcoh.
    • Hohenheim, who is the only survivor of a race of people, whose genocide was partially his responsibility.
    • Izumi (more so in the 2003 anime version), in regards to her dead child, who she thinks died twice because of her actions.
  • Gohan and Krillin both suffer this in Dragonball Z after all their comrades are killed in the battle with the Saiyans.
  • Terry Sanders Jr. in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team has it particularly bad: He earned the nickname "Shinigami" ("The Team-Killer" in the English dub, Bowdlerised to "The Reaper" for the daytime broadcast) because every team he was a part of would get wiped out save for him on their third mission together.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, season 4, BIG SPOILER Yami after the duel with Raphael-you know the one.
  • Ranma ½: One of the reasons why Ranma angsts about Akane dying. She dies twice, right after saving Ranma's life each time.

Ranma: It would have been better if it were me. You should have let me die, but you're always butting in... Why did you have to get involved? Damn, Akane. You fool. Why didn't you let me go?

  • Cloud in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. His depression and antisocial tendencies returning is strongly implied to be due not to Aerith or Zack's deaths, but him surviving.
  • Yuya, a Wholesome Crossdresser in the hentai manga Secret Plot Deep, suffers from this along with being The Unfavorite, as his twin sister had died in a car crash and his parents went into deep depression as a result. Then one day, as his back-story reveals, his mother mistook him for his sister when he was coming out of the shower (his having long hair didn't help), and when he came home from school the next day, all his stuff was thrown out and his sister's stuff put back in place instead; he decided to go along with the charade in order to keep his parents happy. When he reveals this to his love interest, he's clearly unhappy with the situation, declaring that it should have been him that died instead of his sister. Said love interest disagrees.
  • Angel Beats! has Yuri, who had to deal with a group of robbers who broke into her house and told her to bring valuables to them quickly, or one of her three siblings would be killed every ten minutes. It took thirty minutes for the cops to come.
  • In the anime, Tokyo Majin has Aoi Misato, who feels bad about being unable to save a friend who got locked in a building that was on fire. It's worth noting that she had also been injured at the time, and has burn scars on her back as a result.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka is so horrified about Mami'sdeath, she goes to her house and says "I'm sorry for being so weak." Taken Up to Eleven with Homura. She saw her best friend die to protect her, and prayed that she was the one to die instead of her. She went back in time and saw it over and over again, so it's no doubt she felt this again at some point.
  • In Naruto, Sasuke has a bad case of this. In his rant to the resurrected Itachi, he reveals that he wishes he had died with the rest of his family.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • An interesting subversion in Paradise X: Hyperion (Marvel's Superman expy) had his alternate Earth nuked (in an expy/alternate version of Kingdom Come), and now he desperately wants to die, but can't find anything that will kill him. Other characters assume he's suffering from survivor guilt, but Hyperion is the last of his species—he's used to it. He just wants to rejoin his lover, Zarda [[[Wonder Woman]]], in the afterlife.
  • Speaking of Kingdom Come, Magog blames himself for the obliteration of millions. Mind, it IS his fault, but seeing the Cable Expy have a BSOD was a little surprising.
  • Smax from Top Ten. The entire reason he left his home, and went as far away as Precinct 10, was that he couldn't save a little girl from a dragon. Her handprint was permanently burned onto his chest, which didn't exactly help matters.
  • Y: The Last Man. So much.
  • Speedball's survivor guilt (plus shrapnel embedded in his spine) over his being the only one of his teammates to survive the Stamford explosion is responsible for his transformation into Penance.
  • Superman has been accused of constantly doing good works partly because he feels guilty for being the last survivor of his entire planet. The extent of this varies on the character's portrayal. The Pre Crisis Superman left Krypton as a toddler and had total recall, so he could remember his childhood home very clearly and always felt horrible about what happened to it. The Post-Crisis John Byrne version had no memory of Krypton, and when he finally learned about it, it turned out to be a dystopia that wasn't worth missing. However, in most incarnation there are other survivors, such as Supergirl and the inhabitants of the Phantom Zone.
    • Spoofed in issue #0 of Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink by John Kovalic and Christopher Jones. A therapy session with Superman Expy Captain Omnipotent ends with the realization that the Captain is a perfectionist overachiever because of his Survivor Guilt, striving for the approval of his dead parents. A jubilant Captain Omnipotent frees himself from his heroic obsession... causing him to ignore a half-dozen crimes and disasters occurring around him.

"...my never-ending battle with the forces of malice is actually my id and ego clashing with my superego's need for nurturing, matched by an inner struggle with the guilt of being the only survivor of a doomed race!"

  • Some versions of Batman have him as a victim of lifelong survivor's guilt from childhood for surviving his parent's murder as if he failed them in some way.
  • The main reason why Teen Titans' Beast Boy is constantly joking and acting like a class clown? He's got a massive case of this; cracking jokes is how he stays anything remotely sane. Terror of Trigon made hay out of this by having him hallucinate an Evil Counterpart that was ripping the hearts out of and then eating his friends and family.
  • Depending on the writer, X-Men's Emma Frost sometimes exhibits varying degrees of mild depression to full on psychotic behavior for being the sole survivor of the mutant massacre of Genosha.
  • Played with in Preacher (Comic Book), when Spaceman visits the Vietnam Memorial.

So tell me somethin'. How come you shitheads never write?

  • In Fantastic Four's spin-off FF, The Thing and Franklin Richards are suffering from this after Johnny Storm died, something that shocks Spider-Man when he becomes a member of the team, mostly because Ben Grimm is deathly serious..
  • In Ultimate Fallout: Spider-Man No More, The Ultimates are hit with this hard over death of Spider-Man: Tony Stark gives Aunt May and Gwen Stacy a home in Europe to start life away from the tabloids, Nick Fury tells Mary Jane that she has every right to publish the truth and that it was his fault that it happened and, worst of all, Steve Rogers quits being Captain America because he gave him "The Reason You Suck" Speech and he was proven horribly wrong.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The premise of Ordinary People.
  • Zac Hobson has a case of this in The Quiet Earth after discovering that he might just be the last human alive--compounded by the fact that he was part of the research team that caused the mass extinction in the first place- and spends several weeks going insane from loneliness and guilt. He gets better after encountering two other survivors.
  • In Stand by Me, Gordie has a bit of a case of survivor's guilt over the death of his older brother, not because he was involved in it in any way so much as because he is The Unfavorite and thinks his parents would prefer it if he'd been the one who died instead of his brother.
  • Nicolas Cage's character in Windtalkers.
  • In Repo! The Genetic Opera, Nathan Wallace wishes that he had died instead of his wife, Marni. As mentioned in the song "I Didn't Know I'd Love You So Much":

"Sometimes I'd stay up all night/ Wishing to God that I was the one who died"

  • Det. Del Spooner of I Robot has this as a reason for hating robots. During a car accident where he and a girl were trapped in cars sinking into the lake, a robot saved him but not the girl. The robot claims that Spooner had a better chance of survival than the girl (whose odds were statistically non-existent), a reasoning he hates since he believes that a true human would gladly sacrifice their life to save the girl no matter how futile.
  • A deleted scene from Unbreakable has Bruce Willis' character having a Shower of Angst while hearing reports of the train crash, of which, he was the lone survivor.
  • A scene that was never filmed from Superman Returns was to have given this to Superman... as he gazed on Ground Zero in New York City. The writers' idea was that his thought process would essentially be If I had been here, maybe this wouldn't have happened.
  • In Pitch Black Riddick is briefly struck with this near the end after Fry is killed when she goes back to save him, if his screaming protests of "Not for me! Not for ME!" are any indication.
  • In "I Miss You I Miss You" there is a heartbreaking scene where Tina addresses this. She was running just one step ahead of her twin sister when her sister was hit by a car and killed. Afterward she has nightmares where her sister wants them to trade places, and sometimes hears her sister's voice in her head.

Cilla's voice: I don't want to die, Tina. I want to live.
Tina: (sobbing) I want to live too, Cilla. I want to live. Let me be. Let me be. I want to live, Cilla! If I had only watched where I was going. If only I had seen the car.

  • The Guardian has Ben Randall who is feeling this after being the only survivor of a botched rescue.
  • The film adaptation of Schindler's List has shades of this. After his Heel Face Turn, Schindler financially ruins himself bribing Nazi officials in an effort to save Jews from the Holocaust. After he escapes, he forlornly notices that hawking his getaway car could've saved more lives, too, and the Nazi party pin he wore could've bribed someone for just one life.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Harry Potter, Tonks starts becoming Wangsty, and this is attributed to survivor guilt after the events of the previous book where her mother's cousin Sirius Black dies. However, it turns out that she has an unrequited crush on Lupin (as he's afraid of hurting her).
    • Harry goes through this here and there throughout the series; in Goblet of Fire he said, "I told [Cedric] to take the Cup with me." And the enormous guilt he feels in Deathly Hallows over the people who died protecting him.
    • Also in Deathly Hallows, we find out that Dumbledore is a textbook case.
    • This trope is the reason Sirius Black blamed himself for the deaths of James and Lily Potter and the muggles killed by Peter Pettigrew.
  • I Am Legend.
  • An awful lot of people from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, actually. (Granted, recently the novels tend to kill off everything from main characters to Mauve Shirts with impunity...)
    • Specific examples from the X Wing Series. Wedge Antilles has largely, though not entirely, handled this, but it pops up sometimes while he bears The Chains of Commanding and considers the friends he's sent to their deaths. Kell Tainer has incredible angst over failing to save a wingmate and being honored for the attempt. Myn Donos. And Tyria Sarkin is the last of her branch of the Antarian Rangers, sort of semi-Jedi, and she always feels that she's not nearly good enough to live up to them.
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 novel 13th Legion, Kage throws away his pardon by starting a brawl at the end. In the subsequent novels, Schaeffer, more than once, points out that this was what motivated him, as he was the last of the four thousand the legion started out with.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Sister Joaniel's Backstory included being the sole survivor of a direct hit on a field hospital.
  • Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts series is based in this trope. The Tanith Ghosts are the only survivors of their planet's destruction and it motivates and haunts them. The Verghastite Ghosts chose to join the regiment after their hive city was declared a Necropolis and abandoned in the wake of a Chaos attack that many of them fought in as civilian militia.
  • This is the plot of the Lurlene McDaniel book The Girl Death Left Behind, as the main character's family dies in a car wreck (on the 4th of July, no less) and she struggles with the aftermath.
  • Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway watched his friend die in World War I and suffers from hallucinations.
  • In the Last Herald Mage series, Vanyel has a major case of this over the death of his True Love: not only is he heartbroken, he thinks he can never measure up to Tylendel, either as a new mage or in his aunt's affections (Tylendel was a sort of surrogate son for his aunt). He turns out to be quite wrong on both counts.
  • Honor Harrington, frequently. She has a habit of going up against impossible odds, prepared to make a Heroic Sacrifice... and surviving. But that doesn't mean that everyone else who went into battle with her will survive, and she beats herself up over it. As the series goes on, she becomes better at dealing with it.
    • Berry Zilwicki is also said to be dealing with this after surviving an assassination attempt aimed at killing her in At All Costs.
  • Taran experiences this in Taran Wanderer, the fourth book of the Prydain Chronicles, when he's unable to save the life of the shepherd Craddoc.
  • Viciously averted with Baron Harkonnen in Dune, where Leto attempts to poison Harkonnen with a gas in a fake tooth and ends up taking out everyone in the room except for Harkonnen (he managed to evade it at the last second), and his immediate reaction is joy that he survived, and everyone else is dead.
  • In Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, this is explicitly brought up as afflicting Rabo Karabekian's Armenian father, but not his (equally Armenian) mother.
  • Present in full force in Soldiers Live, the last of the Black Company books, largely due to the Kill'Em All mentality.
  • In Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants Robert feels this way after the death of Arvid on the California trail.
  • Word of God is that the main theme of Mystic River is survivor's guilt, mainly from Sean and Jimmy, who avoided being abducted and abused by two pedophiles when they were kids while their friend Dave was victimized, and from Sean because he managed to escape the neighborhood and make a good life for himself as a cop.
  • One of the many things Tina has to deal with after her twin sister Cilla's death in "I Miss You I Miss You". Tina was running just one step ahead of Cilla when she got hit by a car and killed, and it could just as easily have been Tina who died.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In Doctor Who, The Doctor gets darker due to his entire race (apart from The Master, but he didn't know about him at the time) being killed off.
    • Guilt compounded by the apparent fact that he caused whatever destroyed the other Time Lords (along with the Daleks) in the first place, as indicated in the episode "Dalek":

Doctor: Your race is dead! You all burned, all of you! Ten million ships on fire--the entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second!
Dalek: You lie!
Doctor: I watched it happen. I made it happen!

      • He didn't simply cause it. In The End of Time, it becomes clear that he killed the Time Lords on purpose, to prevent them from destroying reality. In a case of Fridge Brilliance, this is obvious in retrospect: after the Doctor ended the Time War, legions of Daleks survived, but only one other Time Lord.
    • This trope is arguably the defining personality trait for the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, although Ten is a lot better at hiding it.
    • The Eleventh Doctor also experiences it from time to time. Unless Gallifrey is restored at some point, it's likely that all Post-Time War Doctors will experience it once in awhile.
  • Surprisingly well-done in Supernatural. Dean's been feeling this since Faith but it was ramped to 1000 when his father died. Season Two bends and damages him so much that, by the time All Hell Breaks Loose rolls around, he's been reduced to a broken, martyred little boy who has a pathological need to keep Sam (who, contrary to his and his Dad's belief, is actually a big boy now who might have been at peace) alive.
    • Also, Sam for Jess in Season One and John for Mary his entire life. While Dean's situation is Survivor Guilt taken to the most extreme level, their guilt was portrayed as no less tragic.
  • Although both Harry and Chakotay survive the destruction of the Voyager in Star Trek: Voyager (at least in an alternate timeline), only Harry really feels this. Or rather, he represents the external guilt, and Chakotay represents the internal guilt.
  • That Family Ties episode about Alex's friend who died when Alex hadn't gone with him.
  • Tyzonn in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive takes the "vengeance" route after his rescue squad, including his fiancée, gets murdered in action. Also "Doggie" Cruger of Power Rangers SPD, who has vowed never to fight again after losing his people and his wife in a genocidal war. (Both women turn up OK at the end.)
  • In House at the end of season four, there is a sense of this after House survives a bus crash.
  • In Caprica Lacy experiences a great deal of guilt and regret over the fact that she was almost on the train that exploded in the first half hour of the pilot, killing her best friend Zoe Graystone (along with two other important characters).
  • Shows up a lot in the Babylon 5 universe; including Crusade, sufferers include Sinclair, Sheridan, Galen and Gideon.
  • Owen on Grey's Anatomy. His unit was wiped out in Iraq, with him as the lone survivor. This gives him PTSD in the form of vivid nightmares.
    • Also Amanda the girl that George pulled out from in front of a Bus. She survives with minor injuries, while George is killed. For a month or so afterwards, Amanda spent every day sitting in front of the hospital, uncertain of how to carry on with her life.
  • In The Twilight Zone TOS episode "King Nine Will Not Return", James Embry feels guilty about not being with his crew mates when their bomber was lost in action during World War 2. He wasn't on the mission because he was seriously ill.
  • "Serenity," the pilot episode of Firefly shows Captain Malcolm Reynolds as a man of faith, smiling in the face of death in the Battle of Serenity Valley, cheerfully telling a subordinate that God will save them because they're too pretty to die. Moments later, this trope hits him hard, and he never fully recovers.
  • NCIS carries the heavy implication that Gibbs suffered from this from his wife and daughter being killed by a Mexican drug dealer (whom he got revenge by killing him in what was heavily implied to be under a felony). The episode "Life before his eyes" alleviates the guilt somewhat when his wife (or rather, a figment of her while he was in Limbo) reveals what would have happened had they survived.[1] Mike Franks also reveals that, had Gibbs not killed the aforementioned Mexican drug dealer, he would have been far worse off (he would have been a drunk recluse who coldly drives away even his friends from helping him) after Riley McCallister points out his earlier felony sending him into a Heroic BSOD in the same episode.
    • Gibbs also for a time carries this when Kate was killed by Ari when Ari was after him, his halucintion litterally yells at him "Why did i die instead of you!?"


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • In Rent, Mark uses this as his defense as for why he got Married to the Job: he's one of the few people in the circle that doesn't have HIV or AIDS, and will likely outlive most of his friends.
  • In Les Misérables, Marius suffers from survivor's guilt after being the only one to survive the barricades. "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," his mourning song for his friends, is essentially Survivor Guilt: The Song.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The World Ends With You: The Reapers try to instigate this in Beat over Rhyme. I'm not sure if it works or not...
    • Neku. Shiki? Mm. Joshua? Suuure. Well, when he thought he was dead.
  • Max Payne has this in spades as a result of failing to save his wife and baby girl from being murdered by V-head junkies.
    • In the bad ending of Max Payne 2, he's in for a lot more of this since everyone dies, most of them by his hand. The good ending, on the other hand, has Mona surviving, so he might be pretty okay. Though judging by his state in the upcoming third game, the good ending is non-canon. Or It Got Worse.
  • In the Warcraft trilogy War of the Ancients, Brox has the Death Seeker variation.
  • Fiora in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword is traumatised after losing her whole squad of Pegasu Knights, though her sister Florina quickly helped her snap out of the worse part of it. She still has traces of said guilt in her supports with others, though.
  • Luke in Tales of the Abyss. Somewhat more understandable since he feels guilty for surviving a cataclysm he caused, which wiped out a whole town and all its inhabitants. Ten thousand of them.
    • Anise after the death of Ion also counts. To use Anise's exact words: "I should've...I should've died instead..."
  • Hits on Lamia Loveless of Super Robot Wars, coming off from being the last surviving of the Shadow Mirrors, that she takes part in destroying. She attempted to initiate a self-destruct code in result, but her friends usually come just in time to stop her and persuade her to live out the rest of her life.
  • Important theme in Fatal Frame 3.
  • Otacon in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty after the death of his step-sister, where he laments that he's always the survivor. This also hearkens back to the death of Sniper Wolf in the first MGS, who he had tried (and failed) to protect from combat-related death.
    • Big Boss also suffered from this in regards to killing The Boss.
  • This triggers the Face Heel Turn of Elpizo, Big Bad of Mega Man Zero 2. He's the only survivor of Operation Righteous Strike, a disastrous attack of La Résistance upon Neo Arcadia.
  • Virgil from Xenosaga is this twice over, as revealed in Episode Three. [[spoiler:Turns out why he hates Realians so much was because his squad was destroyed by Realians. Later, he fell in love with a Realian, who was later killed by other Realians. This caused an extreme rejection to love and, by extension, Realians.
  • Between all her psychological problems, this is the biggest one in American McGee's Alice. And in Wonderland, this guilt is personified by the Jabberwock, and the cutscenes make it clear that confronting him terrifies Alice more than any other boss/trauma. Appropriately enough, the player will agree.
  • This shows up a few times in Dragon Age Origins. The mind reading Guardian of the Ashes of Andraste reveals that Alistair feels this way about surviving Ostagar. Alistair straight up admits that he thinks everything would have been better if he had shielded Duncan from the killing blow and died in his place. The Sloth Demon of The Fade Dream even invokes this to keep Wynne imprisoned.
  • Kaidan or Ashley after Virmire in Mass Effect, and Jack in Mass Effect 2.
    • If you play Shepard the right way, s/he also shows this. S/he really suffers from this in Mass Effect 3, no matter what dialogue you choose.
    • In addition to the guilt that she felt for handing Shepard's body to Cerberus, it is VERY heavily implied (especially in a romance) that Liara felt unbearable guilt for surviving while Shepard was killed.
    • Jack from Mass Effect 2 is a huge and Anvilicious example of this. You only get to hear about it if you romancer her, though.
    • In Garrus' Loyalty Mission in Mass Effect 2, Sidonis, the man who betrayed Garrus' team is shown to suffer from this. By giving him the chance, he reveals that he wasn't The Starscream, but was forced into doing so by mercenaries and is filled with incredible guilt over his actions. Upon hearing the story, Garrus is unable to execute him, which Sidonis repays by delivering himself to C-Sec.
    • Han Olar on Noveria, when asked how he escaped the Rachni, says he "killed her", meaning he closed the tram door on a co-worker and watched her die. His letter in Mass Effect 2 also indicates he wished he had died in her place.
    • An Asari commando suffers heavily from this in Mass Effect 3 after killing a young girl who was crying, to avoid attracting the attention of the Eldritch Abomination that infested her farm. There are implications, too, that she thinks Shepard's aware that this girl was sister to one of Shepard's crew. As the war heats up, Shepard can requisition a gun for her, which she promptly uses for suicide... leading the player to feel a touch of Survivor Guilt, too.
    • The krogan as a race suffer from this to an extent due to the genophage leaving 99.9% of their young stillborn.
  • General Alister Azimuth in Ratchet and Clank was left in behind by the Lombaxes as punishment for giving Tachyon access to Lombax technology. He is determined to bring them back, even if it means risking the universe.
  • Implied with Milla in Psychonauts. Straying off the designated path in her Mental World leads you to discover that she used to work in an Orphanage of Love, until it burned down one day when she was out shopping. Going even further reveals that she has a group of monsters called Nightmares locked up in fiery cages, continually hissing things like "help us" and "you let us die". Word of God says she's mostly over it, however, which explains why they're locked away instead of roaming free like in other characters' minds.
  • Getting over this is a major theme in Rule of Rose: first Jennifer had to come in terms with surviving from an airship accident that claimed her parents, and then being the only survivor of the orphanage massacre instigated for her sake.
  • Samus in the Metroid series has a hefty dose of this, exacerbated by the fact that every time she starts to come to terms with the tragedy that is her past, it happens all over again.
  • From Crisis Core- "Men cry not for themselves, but for their comrades."
    • Sephiroth was strongly implied to have suffered through this when his friends had died (or in the case of Genesis, believed to have died).


Visual Novels[edit | hide]

  • Shirou of Fate/stay night, though it only really becomes prominent in UBW when people actively question him about why he wants to save everyone, if that's what he really wants to do and what he does that he has fun doing. Relevant part of this trope is that he feels guilty about being unable to save anyone else at the fire, had given up and was saved by a fluke when no one else was. He feels he doesn't actually deserve to have fun and instead what he should be doing is more training that nearly kills him every night.
    • Because of that, unlike normal people, Shirou is unable to create his own happiness and feels "happy" only if people around him are also happy. Which leads him always putting the needs of others before his own.
    • Shirou's Survivor Guilt is so powerful that it manifests as his Reality Marble "Unlimited Blade Works". A normal person could never accomplish something like that.
  • Hanako of Katawa Shoujo also survived a fire at the cost of her family, but for a slightly more... personally traumatic reason than Shirou.

"The fire happened when I was eight years old. It was night, and I was sleeping when it started. I... curled up into a ball... when the fire swept over me. My mother... tried to shield me. Th-that's the only reason... I lived."


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Gunrunner was a Transformers Autobot commander. His entire squadron was slaughtered, except for him, due to his pretender shell. Worse, he promised them all they would get out alive.
    • Depth Charge from Beast Wars was the only survivor of a Maximal colony destroyed by Ax Crazy Predacon, Rampage. Rampage slaughtered everyone else and even ate some of them. As a result he made it his personal mission to hunt Rampage down and kill him.
    • Nightscream from Beast Machines displays signs of this, particularly in the episode "Survivor." Within the episode, Nightscream and Optimus discover an underground, organic cave within Cybertron that houses numerous fossilized animals. Optimus is overjoyed, as it implies that Cybertron was once an organic world. Nightscream, on the other hand, becomes enraged/heartbroken, commenting that there were enough fossils for the entire Maximal population to scan, which would have saved them from Megatron's takeover (Megatron's scanners cannot detect Cybertronians with beast modes).
    • G1 Bluestreak is described as the only survivor of his city, and presumably developed his nervous habit of constant chatterboxing to fill the silence.
  • On Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang goes through this phase in the episode "The Storm".

"The Fire Nation attacked our temple. My people needed me, and I wasn't there to help."

  • The Justice League Unlimited episode "Hereafter" features an interesting version. Superman is flown far into the future; where the Earth is a wasteland. The sole surviving human is the Immortal Vandal Savage, who reveals that he ended up destroying humanity in one of his plans for world domination. Guilty for what he did, he assists Supes in returning to his own time and stopping him.
    • From the same episode, back in the present day, the League and Toyman think that Superman is dead. Superman got hit by shoving Batman and Wonder Woman out of the way of Toyman's ray. Wonder Woman gets homicidal over survivor's guilt, and Toyman only survives thanks to The Flash.
  • Demona from Gargoyles is the poster girl for this trope. Surviving the near extermination of her kind, compounded by her being immortal so she can't even join her dead kin unless she lets Macbeth kill her, has left her with the need to use humanity as a scapegoat because facing that sorrow and guilt scares her.
  • Cleveland from The Cleveland Show, when his ex-wife Loretta dies, it forms a rut between him and his wife because of how broken up he is over it, eventually he figures it must be survivor's guilt because Loretta died due to something Cleveland survived multiple occasions (Peter destroying his house, which caused his bathtub to slide off the second floor and shatter, he survived this three times, the first time it happened to her, it broke her neck, killing her).


Webcomics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Anyone who wins a Survival of the Fittest game, for obvious reasons.
  • Tasakeru: In the first month of his service as a samurai, Zero's squad of rookies was ambushed by a fanatical Death God cult. Seventeen died and more were injured, but Zero survived without a scratch. This resulted in his fleeing to Tasakeru and becoming a Ronin.
  • Homestuck's Wayward Vagabond has this in spades.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Four words: Post. Traumatic. Stress. Disorder.
  • Anne Frank often wrote about having nightmares of her friends imprisoned in concentration camps while she felt safely hidden. Now consider that Frank's family did end up in those camps eventually. Now go a step further, and remember that her father survived, but she did not. Nor did anyone else that was in hiding with her. Nor any of their friends or family who didn't escape before the German occupation.
  • A lot of war veterans experience this.
  • Family and loved ones of those who commit suicide.
    • And people who attempt suicide and fail may get a VERY twisted form of this, because either they couldn't even manage to DIE properly, they feel like they've been cheated out of relief, or they feel they "chickened out" and have now burdened their loved ones with financial and emotional stress—the exact thing they wanted to avoid.
  • Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy, suffered this after the JFK assassination. He revealed in an interview how much he regretted not moving a second faster and taking the third (and fatal) bullet himself.
  • You. Statistically, you will have a conversation with a loved one that goes south, and you will get chilly and distant. Both of you wait for the other one to come to their senses, and then something will happen to prevent you from ever making it up. You get to dwell on the pointless, petty nonsense that divided you in those remaining days, and always get to wonder whether you could have saved them by doing things just a little different. Here's what Xkcd has to say on the matter.
    • Inverted with one widow whose husband was killed coming home on their anniversary with vacation tickets in his pocket. They had made a habit of saying "I love you" to each other every day, and that day the husband had tried to slip out without waking her. She chased him down, and said that the reason she could go on was that her last words to him were "I LOVE YOU[sic]!" *sniff*
  • Actor Telly Savalas, before his rise to fame, worked as a lifeguard, and never forgave himself for the drowning death of a man on his watch.
  • The Arlington National Cemetery was created in the aftermath of the American Civil War, intentionally invoking this trope: it was built in the backyard of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
  • One of the workers trying to shut down Chernobyl's nuclear reactor had, through some fluke of genetics, a seeming immunity to the radiation that gradually killed all his coworkers. These men were simple workers, and did not understand how radiation could kill, so the survivor chalked it up to luck. Baffled Soviet scientists found him healthy, and sent him home to an understandably relieved family. Don't look under the spoiler if you want to believe in a happy ending. He gave his son his "lucky" hat that he wore during the event, but sadly his son did not inherit his immunity, and died of a brain tumor brought on by the souvenir.
  1. The alternate flashback ends with the mom, upon being called by her daughter, discovering two marine officers at her door, strongly implying that Gibbs would have been killed on duty in the Gulf War had they survived.