• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Certain games have a drawing of a character's face, usually in a portrait style. In RPGs or other games with menus, these are usually displayed next to the character's name. Also, in some games with talking NPCs where one can't directly see characters' faces, a portrait may be displayed next to their text box. If they don't, then they may be of Nominal Importance. (Some games may try to give everyone a portrait, but there are usually unique ones for important characters, making this an example of You All Look Familiar) Prevalent in RPGs, since there tend to be a lot of NPCs in them.

Certain games may also have different portraits for the same character to indicate facial expressions and the like. A few facial expressions, anyway.

Examples of Character Portrait include:

Action Adventure

  • Cave Story. There's some interesting variations: Balrog's head is so large that his character portrait can only show half of his face, and Misery's hair is a different color in the portrait than it is on her sprite.
  • Solatorobo has portraits for most every character, excepting the absolute most minor of NPCs, and most characters have at least one alternate portrait for different moods or facial expressions. Some major characters not only get face portraits but also full-body portraits that show up for dramatic moments or soliloquies.

Adventure Games

  • Seems to be pretty common in adventure games. The Quest for Glory series, some of the King's Quest games, and Gabriel Knight all had text boxes with pictures of the characters' faces. Quest for Glory IV (which had very detailed pictures featuring most of the character's upper body) and Gabriel Knight had pictures whose mouths moved when they spoke.
    • King's Quest V was one of the earliest games to feature these, with close-up images of Cedric, Icebella, and Beetrice, among others. King's Quest VI featured 16- and 256-color versions, and they were even voiced and animated in the talkie edition.
  • Most CING games like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Trace Memory.
  • The only way you see characters in Phoenix Wright. When investigating (or talking to someone on the witness stand) they look right at the camera, where as in court, you and the prosecutor are on either side of the room. (You will sometimes also give your assistant a stray look, who's positioned to be looking at the middle of the court room.) Notably, all the characters have unique animations, ranging from sweating, waving, bouncing up and down, and, upon proving someone guilty, a "freak out" animation.
  • The PC adventure game Secrets of Da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript shows an interactive portrait of Valdo, the protagonist, on the inventory screen. It indicates what he's wearing and is where the player changes his outfit. After Valdo meets the character Marie, she also appears in his portrait, and their relative position to one another indicates the current state of their relationship.


  • Banjo-Kazooie actually uses this despite having the characters in question in clear view, right next to the heroes and with their faces visible. They do this for the bosses as well as certain other characters.
  • Metroid Fusion.
  • Mega Man X used them in the first game onwards, and passed it on to the Zero and ZX games. Classic Mega Man followed suit in the SNES and Play Station titles (one of which was later ported to GBA stateside). Legends used them in places (not necessarily for dialogue, though). Battle Network and Starforce, by virtue of being RPGs, use them the most extensively.

Puzzle Games

  • Panel De Pon and Tetris Attack both use them for dialogue. Both games animate blinking; PdP animates mouth movements, TA does not.


  • The Baldur's Gate series.
  • The Castlevania games, at least since Symphony of the Night.
  • Chrono Cross has portraits in text boxes and menus, though Chrono Trigger only has them in the menu.
  • Most Final Fantasy games use them on the menus; the only ones that use them in dialogue are the Final Fantasy Tactics games and the Game Boy Advance re-releases.
  • Golden Sun. If they have a portrait, they're either important to the story or selling you stuff.
  • Grandia II. Perhaps vitally important as the character models don't even have mouths.
  • In The Granstream Saga, all character emotion is depicted via portraits as the 3D models don't even have faces.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
    • Not just Chain of Memories - 358/2 Days has them too in conversations. It has to, since outside of FMVs the models always have the same blank stare going.
    • Also done with Re:Coded, but in order to avoid the jarring effect of the 358/2 Days example above, the developers blended the way dialogues were portrayed in The World Ends With You with the well known 2D pics of the 3D renders of the characters. It works.
  • The Lunar series.
  • The MARDEK series uses character portraits for every single talking character in the game. With expressions and all!
  • Mega Man Battle Network.
  • In Neverwinter Nights, you have to choose a portrait for your character. It doesn't have to be even remotely connected with your actual appearance, though. The same goes for all the NPCs, who all have portaits from among the few dozen stock ones available in the game, only a small handful of the most iportant ones getting unique portraits. Given the repetitiveness and unavoidable occasional inappropriateness of the portraits, it doesn't exactly make each character a unique snowflake.
    • However, in Neverwinter Nights 2, the portrait is rendered directly from your characters 3D face, including whatever equipment you currently have on.
  • The Persona games.
    • Of particular note, Persona 3 Portable gives several characters portraits who didn't have them them originally.
  • Planescape: Torment.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. In the first, only story-important NPCs and the starting forms of the Hero and Partner had portraits. In the second, every Pokemon has a portrait, but again only certain NPCs and the starters' first evolutions have alternate portraits for different moods.
    • Also done rarely in Pokémon Black and White, only used when characters are talking via the X Transceiver or when talking with N.
  • Most RPG Maker games.
    • Last Scenario has different portraits for facial expressions and emotions for certain characters, as well. So does The Way and The Reconstruction.
    • Completely averted in Visions & Voices. There aren't even menu portraits.
    • Exit Fate uses very large portraits, featuring not just the face, but usually the character's entire upper body as well.
  • Suikoden. In particular, Suikoden Tactics gives generic characters eyeless portraits.
  • Skits in the Tales (series) series.
    • Most of the games also have these by each character's status in and out of battle. In the latter case, they're often animated and have their expressions change based on what's happening to them.
  • The Ultima series from VI on, until it goes 3D in IX and just zooms in on people.
  • Valkyrie Profile has portraits which take up approximately half of the screen when dialogue boxes are present. There are several portraits for each playable character which help reflect the emotional aspects of the dialogue.
  • Inazuma Eleven has a unique face portrait for every single character in the game. All 1000+ of them. Although only characters important to the story have multiple portraits for different facial expressions.
  • In Wild Arms 2, you can name every storyline-important NPC you meet, but only a very few of them have portraits when you name them or talk to them. Tim is a seemingly unimportant NPC you meet early on, but it's obvious he'll end up being important since he has a character portrait. It's even more amusing since you meet the "leader" of Tim's little circle of friends first - who doesn't have a portrait.
  • Xenogears uses basic portraits in the dialogue boxes.
  • The PSP remakes of Star Ocean 1 and Star Ocean the Second Story featured this.

Simulation Games

  • Harvest Moon uses the "multiple portraits for different emotions" version, when it's not using Going Through the Motions. You can tell how important a character is by how many portraits they have; Love Interests will have five or six, while minor characters will only have one.
  • Mitsumete Knight R: Daibouken Hen uses the text box version of this trope for all voiced characters of the game. Their facial expressions however change in real time as the dialogue is unfolding, instead of waiting for the dialogue to finish to change the expression, and instead of using the swapping a new portrait method.
  • The Trauma Center series, with multiple portraits for different emotions.
  • Warship Gunner 2 uses portraits whenever someone's speaking.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Most Japanese strategy games have this, at least in the menu, to make it easier to recognize who or what class they are.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
  • Most of the Fire Emblem games use these.
    • Interestingly, these ones have a few different expressions, move their mouths when speaking, and blink, even if their portrait isn't currently the "active" one. They also have a tendency to move around to simulate the person they represent moving.
  • The Shining Force series use these for all the characters in your party. The Shining Force Gaiden games also used them for cutscenes. Only characters who are in the eponymous force or have speaking roles got portraits, though.
  • Tactics Ogre the Knight of Lodis
  • Super Robot Wars, being based on anime and manga, uses this to an extend.

Non-Video-Game Examples

Web Comics