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Some video games have epic, sweeping plots that could easily have been made into an action Miniseries instead of a video game. Others just seem to have a plot because people feel a little silly doing things for no reason, even if the real reason they're playing is because it's fun.
This trope is most often found in games, though there are other places it can be useful. When it is found in a game, there are two approaches. One is to have the plot All There in the Manual (literally), lest it get in the way of the gameplay. The other is to have an Excuse Plot.
An Excuse Plot is, in the simplest terms, a plot that is clearly there merely as a justification for the gameplay, or other form of flashy, show-offy-ness, to happen. In short, the story serves the needs of the gameplay, nothing more. It makes no pretense of intrinsic value, but simply provides some banter so you understand why the purple and non-purple units are shooting at each other.
An Excuse Plot is not necessarily a poorly written, minimalistic, or stupid storyline, only one that has been written to obviously showcase something else. Beware of the Anthropic Principle.
Some games may not even bother with plot at all.
Compare Xtreme Sport Xcuse Plot, Just Here for Godzilla. For the porn equivalent, see Pizza Boy Special Delivery. Contrast Play the Game Skip the Story, where the plot is textually deep and/or complex, but is overlooked by players all the same.
- The Cheapass Games board game Devil Bunny Needs A Ham has a story, which, in all seriousness, goes as follows: "You and your fellow players are sous-chefs working in the town of Happyville. For no apparent reason, you decide to race to the top of the tallest building in town. Devil Bunny thinks that knocking you off will get him a ham. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps he is not." A purer example of an Excuse Plot has yet to be generated.
- The Excuse Plot for Fight City is purer. "It's a city, and they fight."
- Clue's plot is essentially - "Mister Boddy is dead. Find out whodunnit." There is no explanation of who Mister Boddy is, why would anyone want to kill him, or who the guests are and why they're at the mansion.
- Candy Land has a backstory about the King being kidnapped by Lord Licorice and only two children from our world being able to find him, with gingerbread men (the playing pieces) acting as guides. Even as a child, did any of this matter when you were actually playing the game? No.
- Borderlands's plot can be best summed up as this: Something about a vault - Cool! A revolver that shoots shotgun shells! And an SMG that lights people on fire! And - well, you get the idea.
- Combat Arms: Virtually no plot is given, save for little blurbs on loading screens that mention why Team A and Team B are fighting.
- Most games in the Harvest Moon series. The basic plot for these games boils down to this: Friend/Relative X has died and left Player Y with Farm Z. Now go farm on it and steal the village women. The Rune Factory spinoffs vary from this slightly, where the protagonists have Laser-Guided Amnesia... and therefore need to farm and kill goblins.
- Battlefield 2 It is never stated why the war is taking place, although one map hints to it being about oil, but no info as to why the USA is fighting China too.
- Similarly, neither of the games in the Bad Company subseries offers even the slightest explanation for why the United States is at war with the Russian Federation (yes, Russian Federation, not Soviet Union, so communism can be ruled out), much less why the latter is projecting forces all over the Western Hemisphere in the second game.
- Super Monkey Ball 2 fits this trope to a T, with a plot that that goes from exploding an island to making bananas tasting like curry.
- An interesting example of a video game Excuse Plot that is not an excuse for the gameplay is the Time Splitters series, where the time-travelling plot seems to be an excuse to make one giant super-Pastiche of numerous story genres, such as western, horror, cyberpunk, and noir among many others.
- Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business is four bonus levels made with the original TR1 engine. Since the designer had no resources to make cutscenes or a new artifact for Lara to find, or any means of telling a story in-game, the player just starts, plays the four levels, and then they just... end. Lara achieves nothing. It's still great fun though. The actual plot is All There in the Manual (or online, as the case is).
- The later Gaiden Games Golden Mask and the Lost Artifact also apply, although they do try and integrate their story a little, and Lara gets something out of it in the end (the titular items).
- While most of the other games at least have some plot behind the locations, even if it's very small, Tomb Raider 3 essentially uses this trope too, as, right until the last levels the plot is so slim it essentially amounts to "there are four artifacts located in four separate parts of the world; are you a bad enough gal to find them?"
- On that note, why is Lara breaking into the church of All Hallows and why does she need to find a bunch of secret, completely unrelated areas first?
- The example shown in the picture above: the NES game Bad Dudes.
- Never mind the actual premise of the game, which was that the US had recently been hit by a wave of ninja crime, and the White House was their latest target. (As the arcade version phrases it, "RAMPANT NINJA RELATED CRIME THESE DAYS...WHITEHOUSE IS NOT THE EXCEPTION...") Even Tom Clancy never got that farfetched.
- Smash TV's storyline about a kill-or-be-killed game show is largely an excuse to shoot things and rack up points.
- Well, there are piles of cash and prizes to be won, not to mention a grand prize (although you get that before facing the final challenge), but it's not clear how exactly these are implemented...how many "year's supply of meat-s" does one man need, anyway?
- The NES Mega Man games. Eventually, it became clear that Capcom was having difficulty coming up with new excuses for their latest Mission Pack Sequel. Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 just openly embrace this.
- Warriors Orochi. The snake god Orochi has brought the warriors of Three-Kingdoms-era China and Sengoku-period Japan together in the same universe to challenge him. Sure, whatever - all we care about is getting to have the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors together at once.
- The ancient Windows puzzle game Maxwell's Maniac was based off a genuine physics thought experiment, known as Maxwell's Demon; the premise being that a magical being could observe individual molecules and sort them to reverse entropy. He can't.
- This is basically ubiquitous in shareware games, to the point where it seems like authors compete to come up with the silliest one.
- Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball makes an attempt to justify transposing the female fighters of the Dead or Alive series into a volleyball tournament/lesbian dating-simulation. They are tricked by one of the male fighters into visiting an island. When they discover that there will be no fighting, they put aside their mortal enmities, play volleyball and other minigames, and buy each other skimpy clothing. And then they fall for it again in the sequel.
- In Xtreme Beach Volleyball, Zack (the least important character, and with no connection whatsoever to anyone else in DoA) builds an island resort with his gambling winnings. No reason given, and before you ask, he has a girlfriend now (in fact, she helped him with this project). It's eventually destroyed by a volcanic eruption. In Xtreme 2, Zack discovers "the treasure of the Pharaohs", which he uses to... hire an alien spaceship to restore his resort. Again, no explanation offered by any party as to why Zack is doing this, never attempted to search for a safer location, is only interested in women he faced in a fighting tournament in the past, etc. Aaaand, it's ultimately destroyed by a second volcanic eruption, culminating in Zack plunging several hundred feet into the flames. This isn't really spoiling a damn thing here, it's really that much more more gratuitous than any softcore porn flick.
- Never mind that, how about the actual Dead or Alive? Lessee...something about a dead rich guy, something about a big nasty corporation, something about French opera, something about a wrestling league, something about bioengineered life forms, something about constantly bickering ninjas...ah, screw it! Bring on the ass kicking, fanservice, and counter moves!
- Arkanoid actually has a somewhat complex plot: The starship Arkanoid is destroyed by (something) and you escape in the ship Vaus, This leads to bouncing a ball off the Vaus to destroy blocks because Vaus is "TRAPPED IN SPACE WARPED BY SOMEONE" mumble mumble mumble DIMENSION-CONTROLLING FORT "DOH". Well, yes.
- The official plot for the FPS Sauerbraten is as follows: "You kill stuff. The end."
- Rayman Raving Rabbids and its sequel: I don't care if your opening cutscene is of obscenely high quality; it's still an excuse to play a bunch of random minigames!
- Alien Swarm. You're drafted into the army to defeat a swarm of aliens and search for survivors.
- Quite a lot of FPSers, especially multiplayer-only ones.
- The opening quote is from the lead programmer of Doom. There was originally a long and complex plot with multiple protagonists. This was cut and the plot was reduced to: "You're the last Space Marine left on Mars. Shoot anything that moves." Obviously this didn't detract from its success. Of course later it adds "Go To Hell and Back". But still doesn't change things.
- Unreal Tournament. You are playing a futuristic Blood Sport, here is your rocket launcher.
- Left 4 Dead, which has the required Zombie Apocalypse Backstory, but it's never really explained, and the developers admitted they didn't want to put in any more plot than that. It's basically just one big "slaughter anything that's not you or teammates before it slaughters you," with only a few hints in design and dialogue about the characters themselves (though that is slightly expanded outside the game, which mostly focuses on the survivors than the zombies).
- Yahtzee described the plot thusly; "'Here are some zombies' pretty much sums it up."
- The wall graffiti found in safehouse exists to provide some background info on the setting as well as possible hints about the infection's origins (more so in the sequel).
- Painkiller. You're in purgatory. Shoot everything until it stops moving. When it does, the exit opens up (also, purgatory is really just every cool environment the designers had time to come up with, regardless of whether it makes any sense to have a modern military base next to an ancient Persian palace).
- Quake III Arena: You are thrown into deathmatches by some sadistic gods. As the game's manual put it: "Frag everything that isn't you."
- Shadow Warrior starts out with you taking down Zilla's men when they try to do a Contract on the Hitman on you for leaving Zilla Enterprises, but then has you taking them down to avenge Master Leep and save the world.
- Team Fortress 2's plot is an explanation for why two armies are at permanent war. Some other information can be found in supplementary material. For a while, this was the entirety of the game's Canon:
"Nine mercenaries have come together for a job. It's the middle-ish part of a century a lot like the one we just had. A simpler time. There are three TV stations, one phone company, and two holding corporations that secretly control every government on the planet. Each corporation administers its half of the world with a multi-disciplined army of paper pushers. For any problem lacking an obvious bureaucratic solution, mercenaries like these are contracted to address the situation through a massive application of force."
- The Excuse Plot for Soldier/Demoman War? Kill more of the other side so you can get the super secret extra unlockable: a pair of boots that shield you from Rocket Jump damage. (In-Universe, it's because RED Demoman and BLU Soldier became friends and the Administrator 1) didn't want to risk sensitive information being shared among her peons and 2) REALLY doesn't like friendships.)
- With each successive major update, the absurd, tongue-in-cheek backstory of the game has become more elaborate. It now involves attempts at achieving immortality through technological advancements, family feuds over inheritance, and a mineral element with fantastic properties capable of making Australia into the world's dominant power. That, however, is all on the TF2 website. Load up the game and it's just "Shoot everyone dressed in the other color."
- Virtually any Shoot'Em Up. The best you're likely to get is "The [enemy name] is attacking [us]! Shoot anything you see!".
- Einhander has an Excuse Plot of pointless neverending war right up until the Wham Level. That, at best, one player in twenty survived to reach.
- Ditto for Do Don Pachi; even The Reveal is something of an excuse. Still pretty awesome though. "See you in hell!" However, should be noted that Donpachi and subsequent games are a Deconstruction of this trope.
- All your trope are belong to Zero Wing. The ending involves dancing potatoes though.
- The official plot of R-Type is "Blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!" Later games elaborated on what the Bydo are and why they are attacking, but the games in general still amount to this.
- From Crystal Crazy's instructions: "Although it might be possible to think up some contrived scenario like you're a ship raiding somebody else's crystals while some nasties try to stop you, it wouldn't really be worth it."
- The "Lost Viking" minigame in Starcraft II parodies this trope.
- The Kid, protagonist of the freeware game I Wanna Be the Guy, wants... well, to be The Guy. Good luck, kid, you'll need it.
- Freeware game PixelShips justifies the Pokémon meets Defender gameplay with... nanotech, I think.
- Jeff Minter's Andes Attack justified similar gameplay with good aliens fleeing bad aliens by landing on Earth and living with the ancient people there. One of the aliens got bored, and used a timescoop to collect "a Commodore 64 and a study Kempston joystick" from the future to play games on. Unfortunately, the bad aliens picked up the RF transmissions from this, and attacked Earth. Plot was never important to Llamasoft games.
- Katamari Damacy: The King of All Cosmos went on a drunken bender and knocked all the stars out of the sky. You're his son and you have to fix it by gathering balls of roughly equivalent size and mass as replacements.
- God Hand doesn't even bother to hide how it's mainly all about beating the living hell out of thugs, demons, robots, and the occasional gorilla in a wrestling mask. The story's actually kind of neat, but it never gets in the way, serving instead to flimsily justify the next level. Even the characters joke about how ridiculous it is.
- Pokémon: The point of the game is to get you to collect all the Mons, train them, and perfect your team for battling all other trainers in the land, and, eventually, other players. Having the goal of becoming the master of the Pokemon League and fighting the local evil team is just the framework for you being able to do all this.
- The spinoff games avert this, although this is mostly for Pokémon Colosseum and XD, as well as Pokémon Ranger and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. Others like Pokémon Snap, Pokemon TCG and Pokemon Trozei? Excuse Plot to justify it all.
- Averted wonderfully in the main series with Pokémon Black and White, where the "evil team" storyline, which was usually confined to the Excuse Plot, is now the main plot of the game, advances within each and every major location visited, and it's conclusion is the conclusion of the game, subverting the usual "beat the Champion and become master of the Pokemon League" ending.
- Conkers Bad Fur Day has actually been considered to be an outright parody of an Excuse Plot: Conker gets drunk at a pub, wanders off into the night, wakes up hung over in a place he doesn't recognize, and sets off on a quest to get back home. Meanwhile, the Panther King schemes to kidnap Conker because a red squirrel is the exact height needed to replace the King's broken table leg, which he uses to hold his milk. The plot later thickens as it is revealed that the King's right hand scientist has been incubating an Alien life-form in the king's stomach, and his attempts to capture Conker are to ensure that the King won't go without his milk.
- Every single bit of plot in Contra is just an excuse to let you go and mow through enemies with your gun.
- Invoked in Contra: Rebierh
- Jon Ritman freely admits of Head Over Heels that he "made the whole game up then added the bullshit in the last fifteen minutes".
- One of the earliest examples: Donkey Kong, from 1981, although this only partly counts, since it was one of the first attempts to make an actual story in the game.
- And let us not forget the Super Mario Bros and Zelda series: Are you a bad enough plumber/elven expy to save our princess in another castle? Increasingly averted in later games, though, when the Mario series started to makes witty caricatures of themselves while the Zelda series got more complex and darker.
- The first The Legend of Zelda actually tried to justify the Dismantled MacGuffin premise by stating that the Triforce of Wisdom was required to defeat Ganon. No explanation as to why, of course. The only indication is that if you enter Ganon's fortress without the completed Triforce, the room immediately after the entrance will have an old man who says "THOSE WHO DON'T HAVE TRIFORCE CAN'T ENTER" and prevents you from going further. Okay, it's understandable that the NES had limitations, but it's still just a bit unsettling that the real reason you need the completed Triforce is, essentally, "Because I said so!"
- New Super Mario Bros Wii almost has to be parodying this in its intro scene. Basically, Peach gets a birthday cake. Bowser Jr and Koopalings jump out of it, throw cake at Peach and carry Peach off into an airship while chased by Mario, Luigi, etc. And Toads fire items out of cannons across the kingdom.
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 is about as simple: Bowser captured Peach, became giant and took over much of the universe. Stop him. Or, from the manual, Princess Peach wanting Mario to come to the Star Festival so she can share cake with him.
- Super Mario World: Mario, Luigi, and Peach are on vacation in a land of dinosaurs. Bowser has hidden seven dinosaurs in eggs. Even if you use the Star World to warp straight from Donut Plains to Bowser's castle, you will have saved all seven.
- Super Mario World 2: Baby Luigi gets snatched from the Stork. Yoshi and Baby Mario must rescue him.
- Super Mario 64: Peach invites you to her castle for cake. Bowser's kidnaps Peach and imprisons everyone. Go collect the Stars and kick Bowser's ass.
- Super Mario 3D Land: Mario is walking along happily when he's suddenly informed that Bowser has Princess Peach again. Go get her. In 3D.
- River City Ransom deserves special mention: The Big Bad kidnaps Ryan's girlfriend. He makes you face all the gangs in the city, including "evil bosses" (Yes, he actually calls them "evil bosses".) But the real hero is Karma Jolt.
- The freeware game Stair Dismount has a plot involving a superhero who needs to prove that he incurred physical damage in order to pay for the widespread mayhem he inadvertently caused while saving the day. This is surprisingly deep for a game that's pretty much entirely about shoving a ragdoll down a flight of stairs.
- Most Roguelikes are pure dungeon crawlers with a few lines about retrieving an artifact or defeating a mighty demon as an excuse for traversing the dungeons.
- Columns, of all things, has some blurb in the instruction manual about it being a game played by jewel traders in the Near East or somesuch.
- Defense of the Ancients, supposedly, is about a war between the Sentinel and the Scourge. Ignoring the Big Hero Little War issues, it is little more of an excuse to get a bunch of heroes into teams and beat on each other while trying to reach the Instant Win Condition. There are some bits of Backstory in the item descriptions, but that is all we really get to know about the world's past.
- At one point, main developer Icefrog added a third "neutral" faction to "spice things up", he went as far as making a convocatory to allow players to write the backstory for the characters in the neutral faction. Sometime later, when he was running out of space for placing new heroes he simply deleted the neutral faction and relocated the heroes back into the two main factions, he didn't even brought up the issue, not like anyone cared anyway.
- The old Windows and Atari Lynx Game Chip's Challenge had a storyline as an excuse for its puzzles. Chip wants to join a club, and all the levels take place inside a magic clubhouse which serves as the entry test.
- None of the Kirby games have much of a story, but quite possibly the best, excuse-iest plot by far would be the story for Kirby: Squeak Squad. Kirby's strawberry shortcake is stolen. He decides this is obviously the work of King Dedede (it isn't) and sets off to defeat him. The entire remainder of the game consists of Kirby's relentless pursuit of his cake, completely oblivious to everything else that happens.
- The majority of the plots of the subgames in Kirby Super Star could basically be described as "X is causing trouble, go stop them." Which is only slightly better than the plot for The Great Cave Offensive, which has a plot that can basically be summed up as "Kirby fell down a hole, might as well look for treasure while you're down there, amirite?"
- It's really a let down for Sins of a Solar Empire that in interviews the developers talk about how the three factions come to fight against each other, and that none of them are actually evil, and there are reasons for it. But in the game, the story are just background and use as justification for technology/look of the ships, but no campaign. Fortunately, the developers promised a full campaign some time in the future.
- In fact, it goes ALL the way up until you start playing... they have an opening Cutscene and everything that is narrated by the same TEC character that did the promos - with the set up for the three factions and their conflict... and then, it's just you vs. whoever...
- Postal reputedly had a complex, layered story to explain why you wanted to kill everyone from ostrich farm to military base, but buried it to streamline the slaughter.
- In Postal 2, it's plainly obvious that the "plot" is nothing more than excuse to run around committing mayhem. Your missions each day include tasks like buying milk at the store, and returning a library book.
- Crackdown has a plot involving gangs and genetically enhanced soldiers. It's really an excuse to tear up a city with your super heroic gunslinger.
- And for some reason, the creator of the genetically enhanced soldiers is not just a mad scientist, but a devil worshipper?
- Gundam Vs. Gundam has the Devil Gundam come to live and take over arcade machines for games representing all of the franchise's 30-year history, forcing the characters to work together and save their virtual existences. No, really.
- The plot of Marvel vs. Capcom goes like this: Onslaught does evil things. Use characters from the Marvel Universe and Capcom to beat him.
- In Marvel vs. Capcom 3 it's basically Doctor Doom teaming up with Wesker and gathering villains from both companies to take over both Worlds. That said, they are giving a little more effort than in 2.
- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is even worse: Characters live in TV Land. They beat up each other. The end.
- Ultimate All-Stars elaborates a bit: Yami pulls multiple characters from both sides into a mishmash of dimensions; They beat each other up until they realize what happened, then go to settle the matter in the final boss fight.
- The plot of Magical Battle Arena involves how all magical worlds are connected to a single magical source that lets them exist and how said source is verging on collapse, requiring the Big Bad to force several powerful magic-users of different worlds to fight one another so she can select one to act as a Barrier Maiden and prevent the destruction of the multiverse. This plot, of course, only exists to justify why Lina Inverse, Sakura Kinimoto, Nanoha Takamachi, and several other Magical Girls and female mages are blasting the crap out of one another.
- Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe: Freak accidents involving Shao Kahn and Darkseid fuse the two Big Bads into a Bigger Bad named Dark Kahn and consequently, cause the Mortal Kombat and DC universes to merge together. The inhabitants of both worlds believe those of the other to be invading their own and thus (surprise, surprise) they beat up the everloving shit out of each other, which said Bigger Bad amplifies by infecting everyone with Unstoppable Rage because, yes, he admits to loving nothing more than the kombat when you confront him at the end.
- Super Smash Bros and it sequel Super Smash Bros Melee. Super Smash Bros Brawl, surprisingly has a well thought plot, however.
- In Yoshis Story, the plot is something about collecting fruit to restore the Happiness Tree and save the adults who have been zapped with some kind of spell.
- The Interactive Fiction game For A Change has quite a lot of plot, but it gets a mention for its iconic intro.
The sun has gone. It must be brought. You have a rock.
- Although the plot for Oneechanbara is surprisingly interesting, it ultimately boils down to little more than an excuse for attractive girls to kill zombies. Not that anyone's complaining.
- Wario Land in pretty much all games in the series can be summed up as 'Wario wants to get more treasure and money by beating up the enemies that get in his way and coming into world saving situations almost entirely by accident. The latest game actually makes the intro and ending completely optional movies that can only be watched from the media room after seeing them once.
- Wario Ware is another example, in that the plot has hardly anything to do with the gameplay, with said gameplay being 3-5 second micro games, and said story being short random adventures of Wario and friends.
- The latest one, Snapped!, is actually more excusable than the preceding -- all of the story can be found in the opening.
- Gunz: The Duel. The actual plot is only a couple of paragraphs, and considering there are no cutscenes, it's barely noticeable ingame. Made more ridiculous by the fact that it calls itself an MMORPG.
- The Korean version has PVE questing and dungeons, but nobody plays this side of the game.
- Quest mode basically has you blasting up goblins and other mobs until the map is cleared, and occasionally fighting a boss along the way.
- The Korean version has PVE questing and dungeons, but nobody plays this side of the game.
- Donkey Kong:
- Donkey Kong Country: Crocodiles have stolen your bananas. Get your bananas back. Of course, Cranky Kong had to point this out.
- Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest.: Donkey Kong has been kidnapped by crocodiles. Are you a bad enough monkey to rescue Donkey Kong?
- Donkey Kong Jungle Beat: DK wants to be King of the Jungle, so he tracks down and beats up all the biggest animals he can find, claiming their territory until he eventually meets up with the Cactus King, who had brain washed the game's bosses. Not that Donkey cares, he just beats the king up to prove he's the baddest Gorilla in all the land.
- Let's not forget the original Donkey Kong game - "Some big, weird animal from a distant land has stolen your girlfriend. Get your girlfriend back." The big weird animal in this case being Donkey Kong, and Mario has to do the saving, so maybe Donkey Kong as a Jerkass makes a bit more sense?
- An often overlooked fact mentioned in the manual is that the Donkey Kong you play in Donkey Kong Country is actually Donkey Kong Jr.. Cranky Kong is the original Donkey Kong, as evidenced by his comments about in his day they didn't have screen scrolling, and they also say in the game manual as well if I recall correctly. So, it may just be accurate to say Cranky Kong(original Donkey Kong) is a Jerkass, but Junior is more the pacifist type.
- Retro Game Challenge. You get sucked back in time to play 8-bit video games with a young gamer geek. Good luck, and keep on kickin'!
- You must stop the sun and the moon from fighting by... uh... partying? According to Mario Party 6, yes.
- The original Mario Party game had all the Mario characters compete with each other to solve major problems in order to determine who is the "Super Star". Again, by partying. It eventually ends with you unlocking a secret board and trying to recover the broken pieces of the Eternal Star, with Bowser trying to stop you at all costs with his minions. Bring out the party.
- Lampshaded in Skate It, where there's a live action video of an announcer describing the horrible devastating climate events which have wrecked the world's major cities. The slides he shows are an 'Artist's Impression' of the events, which are drawn childishly and in crayon. Then you go and skateboard around the ruined cities for no real reason.
- Obscure Game Boy game Mole Mania counts. For whatever reason, a farmer with a huge island and more subordinates that outnumber the legions of hell decides to kidnap the wife and children of a mole. As the mole you then go through multiple areas of the island with some fun puzzles, complete bosses like a kangaroo, a legion of hedgehogs, and the sun itself. And in the end, the farmer somehow is an Implacable Man that gives up on his own terms when you beat his challenge.
- Earthworm Jim.
- The official plot in Galaxian is "We are the Galaxians...Mission: Destroy Aliens". Most people don't even realize the game has a plot in the first place.
- Lyle in Cube Sector: Your cat's been stolen. Go rescue him.
- If you want a truly ridiculous excuse plot, look no further than Quiz & Dragons, a two-player 1992 Capcom Quiz Game where you must save the kingdom of Capconia from the Big Bad Gordian, obviously a Satan Expy, who has stolen a mystical seed and used it to enhance his Mooks' wisdom on subjects including, but not limited to, science, geography, and even television! The mooks then go around eating people that get their questions wrong. The sage king has no choice but to send a fighter with a Healing Factor, a wizard who can change quiz categories, a Hot Amazon that can take out one or two choice answers, and a ninja that deals twice the amount of damage to take back the Wisdom Seed and save Capconia. And what do you get for saving the kingdom? Your name on canned soup flavors!
- Glider PRO houses rarely made an effort to provide a justification for the auto-generated opening message of "get every star to win", though a few such as SpacePods tried to work in a flimsy premise. Of course, the game's engine doesn't really allow a different mode of play.
- Online Flash game Powerfox has a little "plot" window during the opening screen that explains the story: "Powerfox, you need to rescue the world!" "Yeah."
- Super Space Invaders -- the Amiga port of the arcade game Super Space Invaders '91 -- adds a story wherein some old arcade machines are jettisoned into space in the year 2061, though a Space Invaders machine broke out of orbit and drifted through space until twelve years later, when an very intelligent alien race got their hands on the arcade machine. Then in 2091, the Invaders, now real and threatening, suddenly show up and proceed to attack earth colonies. After that, you play through was is essentially the same game you've played countless times before.
- Portal is a very interesting Deconstruction of this trope. The plot at first seems to be a thinly disguised excuse for having you run through a bunch of rooms where you play with the portal gun. With cake as the reward. Then it takes a look at how insane players would have to be to work under such conditions and what kind of psycho would expect them to.
- The developers of Carmageddon were forced to come up with a literal Excuse Plot to allow the game's release in the United Kingdom, where the full blood version was refused a rating by the BBFC, effectively banning it. To get around it, they swapped the pedestrian sprites for legions of the undead, tinted everyone visible in the starting FMV a bit green, and changed its voiceover to make the same scenes as in the US release appear to be about a vehicular crusade to exterminate the zombies.
- The early Super Robot Wars games suffered from this. However, by Super Robot Wars Alpha, the story and cross-over interactions hit in stride and it's never looked back since.
- The various sub-games in Half Minute Hero all boil down to one of the following: "You have 30 seconds to save the world/defeat all the enemies before sunrise/get back home before the gate closes/guard the sage casting the kill-everything magic".
- Used and humorously Lampshaded in the flash game Super Mario Defence:
"This gives me a plan, a plan so devious it must have been hastily tagged onto the game after it was complete."
- In Diner Dash Flo Through Time - The plot is as follows: A broken microwave sends Flo and Grandma through time. And apparently a lot of their customers since we have teenagers and jerks talking on cellphones in the middle ages...
- Deadly Towers uses a ridiculously long Opening Scroll to explain that the plot involves a prince about to come of age who has to defeat a devil threatening his kingdom by burning down the seven towers of the devil's castle.
- Canabalt: Run and jump across the rooftops to escape...something. The background featuring Humongous Mecha stomping through a wrecked city show that you don't want to be around here, but that's all you get.
- Sub Terra has two excuse plots. The one on Spiderweb Software's website is fairly simple: there's a mine, you want to steal the gems, and the miners set traps to prevent you from doing precisely that. The one in the game itself explains the main character as being a scientist with ultimately heroic intentions, but neglects to explain why he needs to collect gems.
- "princess is kidnapped. you must save princess." That's the entire Excuse Plot for Eversion, complete with (lack of) capitalization.
- The original Tekken had a very dull story, essentially being a tournament to find the greatest fighter in the world. This has been improved in later games, though, and Tekken 6 has a hugely developed storyline.
- Blast Corps: A carrier is carrying defective nuclear warheads. They leaked, necessitating setting it on autopilot to head straight its destination regardless of what's in the way when a single impact could set the nukes off and cause nuclear winter. Your job is to destroy every obstacle in its path.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: An evil scientist is turning cute forest animals into robots; stop him! Sonic 2: Evil scientist is doing it again; stop him, with the help of a mutant fox! Sonic 3 & Knuckles: Evil scientist has duped an echidna into helping him; stop both of them!
- Apparently, the in-game plot was kept to a minimum in the Genesis games so that Sega of Japan and Sega of America would be free to make up mutually contradictory backstories, tailored to their target markets. Then came the Sonic Adventure games and the addition of an actual plot to the series (and with it, the Western backstory was almost entirely rendered Canon Dis Continuity).
- Descent: You are a space mercenary who is hired by an unscrupulous space mining corporation. Apparently the AI controlling their space mines has gone rogue and you need to travel to each mine, destroy the robots, destroy the reactor, and get out safely. Made even more ridiculous because the supposed "mining robots" include a "drilling" bot with an under-mounted chain gun and robots that dig with homing missiles. As the game progresses the makers lose all pretense of designing "mining" robots and explain the spike covered fusion shooting monstrosities as a "top secret military test."
- Well, the briefings do mention the designs being modified and new ones being created by the rogue AIs; take that how you will.
- The plot of Spelunky is so irrelevant, that the blurbs at the start of the game explaining said plot are randomly selected from a list.
- Monster Hunter. There is a village. The village is under Attack of the 50 Foot Monster. Since you are a newbie hunter yourself, you have to start with the small ones. Here's your BFS.
- Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Castlevania has once again risen... inside a book. So the book brings the heroes to life to destroy the castle. Inside a book.
- Gratuitous Space Battles: There's a war on. Go fight it. Hey, it's called Gratuitous Space Battles for a reason!
- Jojo's Fashion Show: World Adventure. Before each level there's a couple of lines of an incredibly boring story about some stereotypical bitchy fashionista drama, w/e. Other than the story being about fashion designers who are going on a world tour, and the game being about you designing outfits to fit different styles from around the world, it's entirely irrelevant. The level titles are ostensibly based on the story, but they have little bearing even on that.
- Lampshaded in the online game Fancy Pants Adventure 2. "You must go in after him! For justice! For humanity! For World 2 to have a plotline!"
- Slime Forest Adventure exists to teach the player Japanese. Everything else is subordinate to that goal.
- Other than a short three paragraph summary at the start of the game, Banana Nababa doesn't really have a complex plot. It mainly amounts to a wizard stealing six jewels and now some guy has to kill six bosses in a tower in order to get them all back.
- The old arcade Whack-A-Mole game First Funky Fighter has a beautiful lady kidnapped as your main reason to punch suckers out of a massive bunch of wacky crocodiles and sharks!!
- This trope is one of the (many) reasons why Soulstorm, the third Dawn of War expansion, is so despised. While the previous three campaigns possessed fairly intricate stories with detailed charcters (though Dark Crusade was pushing it), Soulstorm's campaign is literally "a Negative Space Wedgie attracts nearly every faction in the galaxy to a single system. They fight".
- Castle Crashers: "Four princesses have been kidnapped! You there, color-coded knights! Go rescue them!"
- Fatal Racing (Whiplash in the US): The top eight car manufactures hold Car Fu races every year. The winning company enjoys a massive boost in sales. Represent your company well.
- Let's Go Find El Dorado has a pioneer family decide at the last second to look for the fabled city of gold, instead of taking the Oregon Trail.
- Split Second: You're on a TV show. Now go race and blow as much stuff up as you possibly can!
- The plot of Ivy the Kiwi can be summed up in its entirety as "a baby bird has been separated from her mother."
- Night Walk, an economic British game about walking through graveyard with zombies. The description must be seen to be believed.
- The plot of Warriors of Might and Magic is present but extremely shady and hard to get (at least in some versions). You work your way through a series of totally unrelated dungeons (including a village inhabitated by Orcs, a golem-infested maze, a dungeon city full of goblins and minotaurs and zombies, a temple of demon worshippers and a dark temple-prison inside a volcano) in order to remove a mask. Which happens at 3/4 of the game, leaving you with no reasons why to invade the temple.
- Parodied by the Starcraft II minigame Lost Viking. Basically, the premise is that a Viking fighter is lost and needs to find its way back to Vikingville, but needs to watch out for the evil Terra-Tron. "HE DOES NOT LIKE YOU!"
- Blizzard DOTA, another minigame for Starcraft II, is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena that features player-controlled hero characters from various Blizzard games fighting it out in a crossover of several franchises. The story stated in the trailer consists of some mumbo-jumbo about two gods in dire need of some entertainment who kidnap the heroes from their respective universes. The announcer in the trailer then states outright that "these heroes are forced to fight to the death in an endless battle with no purpose other than ladder points!"
- Fury3 does have a plot--rogue bionic warriors are rising again to take over the galaxy (or maybe universe, it's never specified)--but in general, all a player needs to know is that you go to random places on random planets and shoot everything that moves. Except for trees, of course.
- Jaleco's otherwise utterly execrable City Connection had one of the cutest plots ever. You're a tourist whole just stole a ton of paint from a hardware store in New York, and the police have just put out an APB on you. The only way to shake them is to paint every inch of the Big Apple's single-lane, three-level highway system. Along the way you have to either avoid the cop cars or shoot cans of oil at them and ram them, as well as not hit any cats and/or roadblocks that show up out of nowhere. Once you're done with New York, it's on to various other cities around the world with increasingly screwy single-lane three-level highway systems.
- In Real Life, the games made in computer camp game design classes for kids follow this trope. The games aren't usually meant to be sophisticated enough to have cutscenes and the like. It's just gameplay, with a small backstory added with a "show the game information" command.
- Parodied in flash game Robot Wants Puppy, which begins with an opening scrawl that describes a grand intergalactic war. Afterwards, it says "Meanwhile, in a completely different galaxy, thousands of light years away, Robot wants puppy."
- In the flash game Gun Bot, the "plot" is literally being made up on the spot by a developer who was so busy with making the game that he forgot to add in a plot, deciding to just make it up as he goes along. This is the reason why a robot has a bug for a little sister.
- Catacomb 3-D: "You arch rival Nemesis has summoned the dark forces of the underworld to destroy all that is good." That's about it. There's some other background information to be found, but it's mainly about the creepy places you'll be going to, which are in themselves a large part of what this game series is all about.
- It is actually surprising to learn that Linear RPG does actually have a plot. It's kind of in the background.
- Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Instead of just climbing all over a city and tagging, our hero becomes a freedom fighter in a dystopian future enforced by Adam West.
- In the opening of Urban Yeti, a silly Game Boy Advance game, we are told that Yetis surely exist and are among us, therefore they would, like us, want to have a home and family. And so the titular Yeti's journey begins. Get ready to Yeti!
- In Magical Whip Wizards of Phantasmal Forest, two apprentice wizards somehow end up in the eponymous forest. Time to beat up a bunch of monsters and dragons to escape!
- The freeware shmup Hydorah has only bare hints at a plot. Apparently, there's some sort of alien empire ruled by an evil god named Hydorah that is attacking. But half of what little dialog there is (16 lines counting the post credits scene) makes no sense, and some of the missions don't even involve fighting the Hyodrans/Meropticonians/whatever at all.
- In Temple Run, you steal the idol. The demon monkeys start chasing you. Now run. (Good luck.)
- Meat Boy: You are a cube of meat/skinless boy. Suddenly, a fetus in a tuxedo wearing jar suit kidnaps your girlfriend (who is made of bandages). Go rescue her. Ther'se also Buzz saws, lots of them.
- The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout: Bugs Bunny's fan club is celebrating his 50th birthday, but his jealous Looney Tunes co-stars don't like this and do everything they can to obstruct his way to the party.
- Hoard. You're a dragon! Burn kingdoms! Steal treasure! Kidnap and ransom princesses! Dodge the evil knights trying to kill you!
- The I of It. The intro goes as following - "Once upon a time there was an I and a t. 'Bah', said the t, and left. 'Where is t?' I was wondering, and started the quest."
- The games in the Elder Scrolls series are all open fantasy worlds, that give the player a lot of freedom. The premise of these games is basically to let the player do what he wants. Each game has a main plot, but it can be ignored entirely. In fact, even when the main plot tells you to hurry, nothing bad will happen if you don't.
- Alien Hallway: There are aliens in the hallway. Aliens are bad. Shoot them. That's all the plot you need.
- The plot in the average episode of The Goon Show had no actual relevance to what happened, with several episodes existing simply as a 25-minute leadup to an Incredibly Lame Pun.
- This is how clip shows are justified on The Simpsons. For instance, Homer rents Paint Your Wagon one evening for the family, thinking it's going to be a classic Spaghetti western full of gunfights and cowboys (instead of a musical). Once the truth is uncovered, he grows irritated but Marge quickly points out that they actually quite enjoy singing and everyone's dialogue is turned melodic. The initial plot of disliking the movie is dropped and they simply start segueing into clips from previous episodes (with a home invasion subplot breaking in and out as needed).