When All Else Fails Go Right

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
This page needs visual enhancement.
You can help All The Tropes by finding a high-quality image or video to illustrate the topic of this page.

2D platformers often have a very straightforward start-to-goal direction; usually, you travel to the right. Much of the time, however, there are some options in your path, leading to this video gaming axiom: When All Else Fails, Go Right. In some games, (say, Kid Icarus) it's occasionally recast as Go Up; much more rarely, it becomes Go Left or Go Down.

Games of the Metroidvania set tend to slip around the edges of this trope from time to time; much of the time, the goal is to the right of the starting point, but it does occasionally find itself on the left hand side of the map as well. In the more level-based games of the genre, this can vary with the stage; in the more free-form games, expect some serious variation.

While there might be something stopping you, at least temporarily, you know (because you're Genre Savvy) that your goal is on the right side of the obstacle.

This may be partially a result of cultural indoctrination, with the assumption that, as text usually progresses from left to right, so should progress through a game stage.

Exploited by many savvy platformer designers who build hidden collectibles into their levels. A collectible is often hidden just to the left of the starting position.

This video gives examples of the trope through the years. Set to music.

Examples of When All Else Fails Go Right include:

  • Super Mario Bros provides an early example that actually prevents you from going to the left; the sequels were often more forgiving.
    • Super Mario Bros 3 has only one level where the pathway goes to the left and downward - although the last section of the level goes to the right. It's also the only level with the Kuribo Shoe. World 5, Area 3. It's such a rarity as to be noteworthy.
  • In Kid Icarus, it's often When All Else Fails, Go Up
  • Sonic the Hedgehog, in his first three games, is always travelling from left to right across the various zones; it's understood that, even in the more maze-like sections, the intention is to go to the right.
    • The only exception in the original three (and a half) games is the final Death Egg zone, where the intention is still mostly to go to the right, but much more important than that is going up. This is repeated in the launch rocket in Sonic Advance.
    • There are many examples in Sonic 2 where you go up or left. Particular examples are Chemical Plant Zone and Mystic Cave Zone, which involve you having to go up, down, left and right several times to reach the end..
    • There are several times when he is travelling left in Sonic 3 And Knuckles.
    • The Sega Master System / Game Gear games were not very different. Only two levels in that Sonic1 involve climbing and Sonic Chaos features one special stage where the Chaos Emerald is above you.
    • In Sonic Colors, exactly one of the bonus collectable Red Rings is directly to the left of the starting point, in one act in Aquarium Park. Several others have the player turn around, jump into the bottomless pit, or avoid the finish line.
  • Eversion lives on this trope.
  • All of the bosses in Zelda II the Adventure of Link are faced after entering their rooms from the left. Most are considerable distances to the right of the dungeon entrance.
    • Oddly enough, all the treasures in the temples are to the left. So in order to get everything, you have to go left first, then go right.
  • Kirby's games tend to proceed "eastward" across Dreamland.
  • Most Horizontal Scrolling Shooters progress from left to right.
  • Xexyz
  • Mega Man X 6 plays around with this. As the second part of the Infinity Mijinion level opens, you do have to go right to progress. But directly to the left of the starting point (Behind the Black) is one of the game's upgrade capsules, which most players would miss because of this trope.
    • Also happens in Trine...
    • There's also some variations in other games in the X series: The heart tank for Storm Eagle's level is directly above the player, unreachable from the start point, so you have to go right, then left when you get high enough. In Armored Armadillo's stage, you need to go right to get away from a death machine, then go back left to get a sub tank. In fact, from the very first game, the X series has delighted in hiding things from the player that assumes forward is right.
    • The general case applies as well, starting from the original Mega Man days and carrying forward from there; most levels (if not all) start you at the left end and send you to the right.
  • Role Playing Games are not immune. In many, entrances to sub-maps (towns, dungeons, and the like) are in the west while the goal or some point of significance is in the east. The common exception is to travel south to north, often because of two-dimensional graphical limitations which force "northward" and "upward" to be the same direction; thus the king's castle, which needs "height" to be displayed properly, cannot be placed on the map anywhere but at the north end of town. The Ultima series and the early Final Fantasy games do both of these frequently.
    • Final Fantasy I starts by sending you northwest, to the Temple of Fiends. Then it sends you northeast across the bridge to begin the game proper. After that, you go pretty much every direction. In dungeons, however, you frequently go right (except in Mt. Gulg, where you go left on every floor). The Temple of Fiends Past is largely a matter of northeast.
  • Jumper games, where the goal for every level is to literally reach the right side of the screen.
  • Most maze games with randomly generated maps tend to start at the left side and have the player trying to cross to the right.
  • Inverted in the "Down The Hole" level of Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure. The stage plays the trope straight at first, and then subverts it when you actually go underground by placing the exit on the far left (the only instance in THA). However, whoever remembers "Dino Might" from Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped has nothing to cringe about, as this time there's nothing to run away from. "Down The Hole", however, still - and arguably - holds the title of That One Level of THA.
  • Inverted in the mansion maze at the end of the Edutainment Game Pepper's Adventures in Time. The maze seems nightmarish at first, but if you go straight until you reach a fork and then take the left turn every single time you'll reach the goal quickly with no detours or problems (though the easter eggs behind some of the doors along other paths can be worth exploration).
  • Castlevania for the NES definitely fit this (though in Vampire Killer going left was often not only counterintuitively possible, but could be a quicker way to get the stage key), and Castlevania III for the most part. And Super Castlevania IV, as well.
    • Invoked in Castlevania II: If you go left from the start, you hit the Beef Gate. And then you die. Don't worry, it won't be the last time.
    • Averted in most of the 2D games in the series when you head up to Dracula's quarters. You almost always climb a staircase going left.
    • The Metroidvania titles generally start you on the extreme west side of the map. Of course, once you get going, this falls apart pretty quickly.
  • Averted for a time in the game Bunny Must Die!. At the very beginning of this very Metroidvania game, you are unable to move right at all. Only until you find a specific item known as the 'Gears to the Past' can you move right. Though, there are some gamers who have attempted to do a 'no gears' runthrough, and at least one has succeeded.
  • Cleverly subverted in Rosenkreuzstilette. In Schwer's stage, if you go to the right like in any other stage, you get treated to an inescapable deathtrap disguised as a typical level starting area. If you go to the left at the start, which isn't normally possible, you enter the stage proper. This is only the first of many such devious tricks and traps in this stage.
  • EarthBound Hangs a Lampshade on this trope in the Dungeonman dungeon, in which a sign informs the player that when given a choice, almost all video game players will go right. Also, there's an inn just out of sight to the left, so if you follow the trend...
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery starts you in the East side of the map, but you do cross towns from West to East.
  • In Bug!!, it's more like "When all fails, go 'into the screen'". Although it is averted in many levels.
  • In Glider 4.0, the game engine all but forced every house to put a wall on the left side of Room 1. Each successively-numbered room was to the right of the previous room, at least in theory. This was not necessary in Glider PRO, but the player's glider always starts facing right, and only one of the houses on the Glider PRO CD, "Titanic," makes the player move left at the start.
  • All Donkey Kong Country levels direct you to the right. As Donkey Kong Country games like to hide bonus games and items all over the place, it's generally worth your while to check to the left of the starting point anyway. One level in the first game actually has a shortcut to the end of the level just by walking in the door to the left of the starting point!
  • In Metroid, it's traditional to avert this trope where possible. Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission put the Morph Ball to the left, which is necessary to progress much in the game. Super Metroid blocks off the right path from your ship until after you beat Kraid, dig through Norfair, and get the Speed Booster. And Metroid Fusion doesn't even have a path to the right. Played straight with Metroid II, however.
  • Averted in Choplifter, where every level starts out heading left from the base.
  • Discussed in The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 3 when an enemy comments how Fancy Pants Man won't get past the Broken Bridge because level designs standardize this trope. Of course, heading left from the start of the level leads him to an underwater tunnel where he can collect the weapon that allows him to progress.