10 Best Games Where The Protagonist Is Forced To Compete In A Deadly Game

With Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp having just been released towards the end of 2021 and Your Turn To Die -Death Game By Majority- currently being released episodically, it’s obvious that the “deadly game” trope is still a popular video game concept. This trope features characters who are forced to play a “game” where losing means death.

Although this originated from gladiator fights, modern iterations typically have a more “game show” setting with specific rules rather than simple battles. Out of the many video games that use this trope, examples like the Zero Escape series still stand out.

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Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (2012)


One of the main promotional images for the game Sweet Fuse: At Your Side

One of the only Japanese otome games that was translated and released on the PSP was the 2012 visual novel dating sim Sweet Fuse: At Your Side. On the opening day of a new amusement park, 18-year-old Saki Inafune, the niece of the park’s creator, attends the celebrations to support her uncle. But during the festivities, a mysterious person in a pig suit named Count Hogstein takes over the park and kidnaps Saki’s uncle.

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To save her uncle and the park, Saki and six men volunteer to participate in a week of deadly challenges. While solving various puzzles in the video game-themed attractions, Saki will fall in love with one of the other characters. Video game producer Keiji Inafune, who is best known for his work on the Mega Man series, helped develop this game and is the in-game heroine’s kidnapped uncle.


Smash TV (1990)


A screenshot from the arcade game Smash TV

Inspired by ’80s dystopian science fiction films such as The Running Man, Smash TV is a 1990 shoot-em-up arcade game where either one or two players become contestants in a deadly television show. Taped in front of a live studio audience, the players must shoot their way through hordes of challengers in order to achieve fame and fortune.

Along with one of the best PS1 action horror games, Alien Resurrection, Smash-TV was one of the first games to use a dual-stick control scheme before it became the standard. Eugene Jarvis, who co-created this game, had also co-created the 1982 arcade game Robotron: 2084which is known for popularizing the dual-stick shooter.


Drive Time Radio (2022)


A screenshot from the game Drive Time Radio

Although it’s an incredibly niche genre, there have been many great driving horror games in recent years. One of these unique titles is the 2022 short surreal indie game Drive Time Radio. Released on Itch.io, this 20-minute comedic adventure game follows an unnamed protagonist who falls asleep at the wheel during a traffic jam and wakes up in a liminal space between dimensions.

While driving down this endless nighttime road, the protagonist discovers that they are now a contestant in a radio quiz show hosted by “beings of entropy.” If the protagonist answers all the questions correctly and avoids the spikes in the road, then they will be transported back home with VIP tickets to the Beach-A-Palooza Spring Break Beach Blowout. But if they fail, their soul will be consumed by the hosts.


Lost Dimension (2014)


A screenshot of Sho and The End talking in the game Lost Dimension

Originally released in 2014 for the PS3 and PS Vita and later ported to PC in 2017, Lost Dimension is a tactical JRPG with visual novel elements that follows a group called SEALED, which consists of individuals with super powers. Using their unique abilities, they must defeat a mysterious man known as “The End” who plans to destroy the world. But to battle him, he forces the group to climb a multi-story tower where the characters can only progress if they play his game.

During each playthrough, five of the 10 party members will be randomly selected to be traitors, and the group must vote on and kill one possible traitor on each floor to access the next. The main protagonist, 18-year-old Sho Kasugai, must use his ability to see visions of the future in order to determine the traitors. Lost Dimension‘s luck-based gameplay idea would later be utilized in other “Werewolf”-esque visual novel games like RagingLoop and Gnosia.


Mad World (2009)


Mad World Wii

Created by PlatinumGames, who are best known for developing the Bayonetta series and Nier: Automata, MadWorld is a 2009 cel-shaded monochromatic beat-em-up hack-and-slash that was released for the Wii. After a deadly virus was released in the fictional Varrigan City, a group of terrorists called “The Organizers” created a game show called “DeathWatch” where residents could fight for their lives and win a large amount of prize money.

The game follows Jack Cayman, who is a former marine with a chainsaw arm, as he kills his way through the game in order to uncover the mysteries behind the virus, the terrorists, and this game show. While MadWorld didn’t sell well, it did receive critical acclaim.

Ratchet: Deadlocked (2005)


A screenshot from the opening cutscene to the game Ratchet: Deadlocked

Released in 2005 for the PS2, Ratchet: Deadlocked is an action platformer shooter and the fourth title in the popular Ratchet & Clank franchise, which was developed by Insomniac Games, who also created the spyro and Marvel’s Spider-Man series. Unlike previous installations, Ratchet: Deadlocked has a darker tone and doesn’t have Clank as a playable character.

After getting kidnapped, Ratchet is forced to compete in “DreadZone,” which is a deadly game show where captured heroes must battle and kill each other in tournaments across the “Shadow Sector” of the Solana Galaxy. With help from Clank and Al, Ratchet must survive “DreadZone” and find a way to free the heroes and stop the show.

Your Turn To Die -Death Game By Majority- (2017-present)


Sara Chidouin at the start of the game Your Turn To Die: Death Game By Majority

Beginning in 2017, Your Turn To Die -Death Game By Majority- is an episodic visual novel horror adventure game series. While on their way home from school, the protagonist, high schooler Sara Chidouin, and her friend, Joe Tazuna, are abducted and taken to a large facility where they are forced to solve deadly puzzles and challenges. After beating the first challenge, they meet multiple individuals who are also trapped.

After the group begins working together, they soon discover that they will have to kill each other in order to escape. Inspired by iconic franchises such as Danganronpa, Zero Escape, and Ace Attorney, this ongoing game has quickly gained popularity and already has official manga and light novel adaptations.


Zero Escape Series (2009-2016)


The player character, Sigma, talking to Phi in the game Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

Starting with the DS game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in 2009, Zero Escape is a trilogy of science fiction visual novel adventure games. While each game features different characters, settings and gameplay elements, they all focus on nine individuals who are kidnapped by a mysterious person known as “Zero” and are forced to play deadly games.

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Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was originally created as a standalone title that was meant to help visual novels reach a wider audience by incorporating Escape Room puzzles. But, the success of this first game in North America led to two sequels. This trilogy takes the time travel gameplay elements introduced in the historic PC-98 title YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World and brings them to the next level, which inspired other modern visual novel games.

The World Ends With You Series (2007-present)


A screenshot of Neku and Shiki fighting noise in The World Ends With You Final Remix

The World Ends with You is a 2007 action JRPG that was specifically created to utilize the features of the DS. Since its release, the game has been critically acclaimed for its important themes, vibrant art style, extensive soundtrack, and incorporation of its unique gameplay into the narrative. The game’s recent sequel, Neo: The World Ends with Youwas one of the best RPGs of 2021.

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Both games follow a group of teenagers who are forced to compete in Shibuya’s “Reapers’ Game,” which is a game where people with potential who have recently died are given a chance to either live again or work in the afterlife. If they fail, however, they are erased from existence.

Danganronpa Series (2010-present)


Danganronpa S Shuichi Kaede Makoto Komaru Hajime

Beginning in 2010 with the PSP title Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa is a popular mystery visual novel adventure game franchise that has had multiple games, mangas, anime, and more. Generally, the series centers around an elite school called Hope’s Peak Academy that recruits “Ultimate” students, which are talented high schoolers that are at the top of their respective fields.

These students are then forced to murder each other by a mysterious bear-like entity named Monokuma. While solving the murders, the students try to uncover the truth behind the events and escape the deadly game.

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