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"In Final Fantasy I, your ultimate objective is to save the world. This objective had never been used before in a video game, and will probably never be used again."
Standard issue final plot point to so many video games (particularly if it's an RPG) that it is more noticeable when it's absent.
You might spend the first several hours of the game Easing Into the Adventure, wandering around the First Town and doing things like delivering a chicken to a neighbouring village or saving Chekhov's Gunman from monsters. Ten hours in, however, your hometown will have become doomed, you'll be trying to Save the Princess, and the angst factor will have increased exponentially. Twenty hours in you'll Get on the Boat or discover the Global Airship, expanding your horizons and allowing you to chase down the Seven Crystals of Destiny. Thirty hours in you'll be reforging the Sword of Plot Advancement, and fifty hours in you'll be on the Amazing Technicolor Battlefield fighting the Big Bad's seventh form with the entire world as the prize.
Did we mention that part? Somewhere along the line, you'll learn that the fate of the entire world — not just your Doomed Hometown, not just The Kingdom, but the entire freakin' planet — is your party's final burden. And, of course, it must therefore be the Big Bad's ultimate goal — be it domination or annihilation. And it may not even be that mundane — there seems to be some sort of arms race among designers to raise the stakes as high as they can go, with the entire universe, or the space-time continuum, or reality as we know it, under attack.
It doesn't matter what the party's original goals were (or those of its members); they're going to end up Saving the World from an unstoppable, inconceivable threat - and since ~You Can't Thwart Stage One~, they will only defeat said threat only when the world is right on the brink of doom. Due to this, the last hours of many such games tend to be pretty similar, ignoring windowdressing.
A corollary is that despite the all-encompassing nature of the threat, no one else in the world will assist you, or even care. Forget about receiving a " saving-the-world discount" from shops, or a few armies to help you storm The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
- Despite being rooted in the effort to Save the Princess, most games in the Legend of Zelda series fit this trope. In Majora's Mask, for example, you're trying to prevent the destruction of the world by keeping the moon from crashing into the realm of Termina. Several of the games involve preventing Hyrule from falling under the control of Ganondorf — or, in the case of Ocarina of Time, wresting it away from his control.
- Particularly galling in Illusion of Gaia, where your goal is generally exploring ancient ruins and collecting mystic statues, until a Diabolus Ex Machina arrives at the very last moment.
- Well, the comet was mentioned several times throughout the game.
First Person Shooter
- Deus Ex subverts this — while your inevitable goal is to prevent Big Bad from taking over the world, you can't actually save the world. It's in ruins and your choice is who to hand the reconstruction contract to a largely insane AI, a "compassionate conspiracy" leader that keeps his mentor in cryogenic almost-stasis in his basement, or global anarchy. If any of that counts as "saved" is largely a matter of opinion (or, as the game would put it, choice).
- The sequel goes one step further and allows you to pick any faction, even the until-then Bad Guys, and hand the world over to them. Or kill them all. Again, your choices more resemble "smite the world," "rape the world," or "trash the world" than "save the world."
- Being epic sci-fi trilogies, Halo and Mass Effect use the scaled-up version: the protagonists are out to save all sentient life in the galaxy.
Hack And Slash
- Drakengard is notable here in that, while the first and fourth endings employ this, the second ending straight-up tells you that Failure Is the Only Option, the third ending is mildly ambiguous as the world still needs saving, and the fifth ending...well, it's hard to tell really.
- In Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, one of the characters, Klungo, creates a horrendous 8-bit arcade platforming game (which he proclaims to be the best ever), titled Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh World, in which you save the world by holding it over your head.
- Jak and Daxter: Jak does this every game. Not that he ever gets a "thank you" lasting more than 30 seconds into the next game...
- Many Mario games mostly focus on rescuing Princess Peach, but a good handful of the RPG spinoffs have saving the world as the main plot. For example, in Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door Mario is tasked with finding the Crystal Stars before Grodus does, otherwise he will use the Crystal Stars to unlock an ancient power to conquer the world with.
- Despite appearances of a plotless pretty-looking Puzzle Game, World of Goo's Wham! Episode sets you down this path when you have to journey down the Information Superhighway and discover you can thwart the enemy by flooding all their inboxes with spam, and not just any spam, all and any messages deleted in the history of the internet..
Role Playing Game
- Xenosaga did this in different quantities at the end of each game. Since the setting of the game is universal, the first game, which merely threatens the existence of a planet, can't really be a "Saving the World" scenario. The second game is rather unclear in whether or not the characters are saving the world or just fighting some bad guys. The 3rd game is phenomenally epic in scale.
- One of the complaints against the plot of Neverwinter Nights 2 is that you aren't saving the world, and the titular city isn't attacked in the Bad Ending, because Status Quo Is God in the Forgotten Realms.
- Frequently the case in Final Fantasy games. The trope is played straight in I - V, VII, VIII and XII and invoked in VI, IX and XIII by the villains and in X by the heroes.
- Crono from Chrono Trigger wants nothing more than to go to the Millenial Fair, but ends up roped into a time traveling quest to save his planet from annihilation at the hands of an incomprehensible Eldritch Abomination.
- Skies of Arcadia spends most of its time as a charming adventure revolving around exploration and piracy... until the final ten hours or so, when The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is raised from the depths of the planet, a devastating superweapon is unleashed, a country is leveled, and Heroic Sacrifices abound.
- Shadow Hearts Covenant shows why it's important to save the Save the World element for last. Being told that the end boss is going to destroy the world loses a lot of kick when you've already saved the world twice; even once before the halfway point of the game.
- The Elder Scrolls games have actually managed to avoid this trope for a long time. The closest they've come is the last two games, ignoring the fact that Mehrunes Dagon's forces don't understand the concept of invasion too well, and Dagoth Ur was in no rush to do anything (his racist religion powered by the heart of god might not have even done anything in another thousand years ...).
- Dagoth Ur was preparing to seize control of Morrowind from the Tribunal and the Empire. Although he operated on a long time-scale, he was getting his forces into position for the all-out conflict. This makes Morrowind's objective saving a small part of the world. Oblivion, however, plays this trope straight, with the entire world of Nirn being threatened by the encroachment of Mehrunes Dagon's plane of Oblivion.
- Every Wild Arms game.
- Star Ocean. All of them. 3 and 4 replace "world" with "universe".
- Most of the Pokémon films. And in the Diamond, Pearl, and Platnium games, replace "the world" with "all existence".
- One of the (many) notable aspects of Planescape: Torment was that the plot had nothing to do with saving anything, be it city, world, plane etc. Rather, your main quest involved an amnesiac immortal trying to figure out who he is, who took his mortality, and eventually die.
- On one occasion you do have to save a town that had literally gone straight to hell. Or, more strictly speaking, it restores itself to its rightful place once you defeat the local villain.
- Similarly, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of The Betrayer. While there is a (in the grand scheme, rather small) danger to the world involved if you fail, but the majority of your motivation is that solving the spirit eater curse prevents you from dying, the fact that it no longer terrorizes the world at large is only casually mentioned. This is due to many shared developers.
- Averted by the real evil ending which has the player devouring the curse thus becoming the curse itself, getting him/herself expelled from the City of the Dead, then cleansed countless githyanki cities by devouring the souls of all the adults and then delivering their children to their mortal enemies, the brain-sucking, mind-raping mind flayers aka Illithids. If that's not enough, he/she devours the spirits/souls inhabiting the land where he/she once helped (or screwed depending on your playing preference), turning it into a wasteland filled with the walking dead. As if that is still not enough, the player then travels to the planes of existence where the souls of his/her dead former treacherous companions are now resting...and eats them. Whoa. Understandably, the gods get so pissed off, they assembled a humongous army to kill the player and guess what? He/she eats some of the gods too! Now that is what this troper calls an evil ending.
- Ironically Averted in The World Ends With You. The world never even comes close to being destroyed. The plot of the game is about getting Back From the Dead. A more appropriate title would have been A Small District of Tokyo Ends With You.
- Except for the fact that the title refers to the fact that Neku needs to expand his horizons and stop being a gloomy loner
- Dragon Age plays with this trope. While technically you are saving the world by stopping the Blight (i.e. a vast horde of evil monsters led by a corrupted Dragon-God), the game's codex makes it quite clear that failure on your part will not actually lead to the end of the world. Blights reoccur every few centuries in Thedas, so people who dedicate their lives to stopping them have created a military organization, the Grey Wardens, just for that purpose. If you do not succeed, then one of the other members of your organization, which is thousands strong, would finish it in your place. By stopping the Blight, all you really do is keep the country that you live in from being destroyed before the other Wardens could act. Your victory simply means that the threat ended before the rest of the world noticed the problem.
- Persona 3's Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World plot really only involves saving random people in your city, but the heroes act as if they've saved the world. Then it turns out that the entire world really is at stake, the heroes' lives included, and they freak out.
- One of the driving plot points for both Parasite Eve games. The other point is trying to figure out why a bunch of animals are mutating and attacking people.
- In the RPG parts of Half Minute Hero, saving the world is so mundane task that while the hero is busy killing the boss to prevent it from catching world destruction spell, he will do other things like put out forest fires in the meantime.
- The Shin Megami Tensei games twist this around: the world is already destroyed, and you get to "save" it by choosing how the pieces are put back together.
- Ultima IV averts this entirely, as there is no threat to the world whatsoever. Ultima VIII kind of subverts it, as you wind up doing a great deal of damage to one world in order to have the opportunity to try to save another. The rest of the main Ultimas play this trope varying degrees of straight.
- In Black Sigil, your ultimate goal is prevent the world from being destroyed by The Forbidden.