In single-player video games
A player, having died in NetHack
, is asked if they would like to know more about the unidentified possessions they had been carrying
Most arcade games (such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man, for example) have permanent death, so the term is usually used in reference to role-playing games where it is less common. Few single-player RPGs exhibit death that is truly permanent, as most allow the player to load a previously saved game and continue from the stored position. The subgenre of roguelike games is an exception, where permadeath is a high-value factor of these games. While the player can save their state and continue at a later time, the save file is generally erased or overwritten, preventing the player from restarting at that same state. Players can work around this by backing up save files, but this tactic, called "save scumming" is considered cheating. The use of the permadeath mechanic in roguelikes arose from the namesake of the genre, Rogue. Glenn Wichman and Michael Toy, the developers of the game, initially did not have save capabilities, requiring players to finish the game in one session. When they did add a save feature, they found that players would repeatedly reload a save file to obtain the best results, which was contrary to the game design—which they "wanted to make it realistic"—so they implemented code to wipe the save file on reloading to prevent this. This feature is retained in nearly all derivatives of Rogue as well as more recent "roguelike-like" titles like Spelunky and FTL: Faster Than Light.
Implementations of permadeath within roguelikes may vary widely. Casual forms of permanent death may allow players to retain money or items while introducing repercussions for failure. This can reduce the frustration associated with permanent death. More hardcore implementations delete all progress made. In some games, permanent death is an optional mode or feature of higher difficulty levels. Extreme forms of permanent death may further punish players, such as The Castle Doctrine, which has the option of permanently banning users from servers upon death. Gamers may prefer to play games with permanent death for the excitement, the desire to test their skill or understanding of the game's mechanics, or out of boredom with standard game design. When their actions have repercussions, they must make more strategic and tactical decisions. At the same time, games using permanent death may encourage players to rely on emotional, intuitive or other non-deductive decision-making as they attempt, with less information, to minimize the risk to characters with which they have bonded. Games using permanent death more closely simulate real life. Games with a strong narrative element frequently avoid permanent death.
Permadeath of individual characters can be a factor in party-based tactical role-playing games, including the X-COM series, the Fire Emblem series, and Darkest Dungeon. In these games, the player generally manages a roster of characters and controls their actions in turn-based battles while building their attributes and skills, and specializations over time. If these characters fall in combat, the character is considered dead for the remainder of the game. It is possible to return to a previous save game state in these games before the death of the character, but requiring the player to repeat the battle to continue, risking the loss of the same or other characters.
Some games require an optional permadeath mode to be turned on to provide a more difficult challenge to the player, often associated with earning additional achievements. For example, Egosoft's space combat simulator X3: Terran Conflict and its expansion pack X3: Albion Prelude each have a small number of Steam achievements that require playing in "Dead-Is-Dead" mode, while Paradox Development Studio's grand strategy titles Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, Hearts of Iron IV, and Stellaris all require "Ironman" mode to earn any achievements. Each of these cases also require an unmodded game as well as a sustained connection to a central server, and even a momentary connection loss costs the playthrough its ability to earn achievements. Doom (2016) has a difficulty setting called "Ultra Nightmare" that, once the player dies, ends their playthrough and forces the player to restart the game from the beginning.