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Games That Will Actually Delete Their Own Save Files

From the first time we were able to enter a password to restart a section of a game, the act of saving progress has been a huge part in the appeal of playing longer form video games. While there are occasional hiccups that can lead to players losing their save data unintentionally, there are other games that make that danger part of the appeal, sometimes leading us into interesting questions about the very nature of gaming.


Other times, games will dangle the fear of losing our save data in front of us as an incentive to play harder and smarter, ratcheting up the challenge and the tension all in one fell swoop. Yes, there are games that will actually delete their own save files. Even more upsettingly, there are games that will expect you to delete your own save file in order to progress, asking you to go against your better judgement and everything you understand to be true about playing video games.

Below, we'll take a look at some of these self-deleting titles. But beware: spoilers for many of them are unavoidable.

Kill the credits and clear your save - NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata has lot of alternate endings; 26, to be exact. Many of these endings are total downers, but completing endings A through D will unlock Ending E, which begins with a battle against the actual ending credits of the game. It's a wild fight that's designed to be pretty much impossible to complete.  In fact, Game Rant said, "The credits mini-game is incredibly difficult even for seasoned veterans of bullet hell games." In other words, don't feel bad if you can't beat it in your first few attempts. Failing this fight enough times will trigger a message from other people who have finished the game, all of whom join you in spirit and help you complete this final battle.


Afterwards, the true ending cutscene will play, and then the game will give you the option of deleting your save data, adding you to the ranks of former players who can aid someone through the battle you just waged. There's no going back from this decision, making it the ultimate noble sacrifice you can make in this game. 

Delete yourself before you repeat yourself - Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki Literature Club appears like a simple dating sim on the surface, but lurking beneath its initial premise and cutesy character designs is a metafictional nightmare that features seemingly self-aware characters. Preprogrammed "glitches" will occur and characters will disappear or, even worse, speak to you directly. It's a very unsettling experience.


Throughout the game, multiple characters are "deleted" from existence, which can lead to various downer endings and apparent dead ends. However, in order to get the best ending for the game, you'll have to do some actual file deleting of your own. The most common ending is referred to as the "Just Monika" ending, in which the only one of the main characters left standing is Monika, the one character who learned how to manipulate the game around her (it's weird and awesome). To restart from this and have a chance at seeing the proper ending, you'll have to delete the "firstrun" file of Doki Doki Literature Club from your PC, which will restart you with a new chance at the good ending and essentially manipulates the game into giving a happy ending (of sorts).


Grunty's Code Vengeance - Banjo-Kazooie

Despite how much fun it can be, cheating is generally frowned upon in video games. This isn't just the case with other players, however. Every once in a while, a game will catch onto your nefarious playing style and clap back at you. One game that utilizes this tactic is Banjo-Kazooie, though you will get at least one warning before the hammer comes down. In Banjo-Kazooie, Gruntilda the Witch will delete your save file if you enter too many cheats. You will be told of the consequences after entering two cheats, but the third will result in Grunty admonishing you with the line, "You didn't listen, I'm amazed, so now your Game Pak is erased!" And then... you guessed it. 


It should be noted that this doesn't actually appear to have an effect on your saves when playing the version of Banjo-Kazooie on Xbox Live. Also, even if your file gets erased, you can still attempt to finish the game without saving or getting a game over. However, if you're already having to cheat so much, you may need more than a little bit of luck to do so.

Steel Soul Mode - Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is already a masterclass in Metroidvania platforming that is difficult, yet still incredibly fun to play. Naturally, there are a few gameplay modes available to players who have bested Hollow Knight's normal challenges, like Godseeker Mode and Steel Soul Mode, the latter of which is easily the most challenging. 


The biggest change in Steal Soul Mode is that the Knight only has one life, so any death means that the game file is reset and you'll have to start all over. To add insult to injury, the save file you were playing on will now display the word "DEFEATED" in all capital letters; you know, just in case you didn't realize how mean the game can be to advanced players. There are a few other dark changes to the game, including the merchant Tuk now being a corpse that cannot be interacted with. Tweaks like this add to the almost hopeless feeling that comes with trying to beat this game in one go.

Everybody gets one - OneShot

Puzzle/adventure title OneShot is another game that takes a quirky, metafictional approach to classic fantasy games, allowing you to control a character who is very aware that they are being controlled and dropping you into a world that constantly references its own fictional nature. As such, many of the decisions thrust upon you by the game take advantage of you and your character's knowledge of video game tropes and clichés. 


Like some of the other meta games on this list, OneShot also features a few different endings. A couple of these will require you to take a serious leap of faith in order to proceed. Namely, once the Steam version of the game has been completed, "you may delete the file Documents\My Games\Oneshot\save_progress.oneshot and relaunch the game to trigger New Game Plus," according to the OneShot Fandom page. The true ending of the game, called the "Solstice" ending, can only be accessed by completing the game in New Game Plus mode. Deleting your game data goes against everything you've come to understand about video games, which perfectly fits in with the themes of OneShot.

The save file that "ghosts" you - Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands features the appropriately-named Ghost Mode, which ratchets up the difficulty in major ways when compared to the game's other PvP modes. As explained by PC Gamer, Ghost Mode "features permadeath, friendly fire, as well as a one-weapon limit on your loadout ... Meanwhile, reloading your weapon before the clip is depleted will see you lose those remaining bullets." If you fall in combat, you can still be revived by a teammate within a short time window. However, if you miss that opportunity, that's it. Your character is dead and your save file for Ghost Mode will be wiped. 


Despite the much higher level of difficulty, fans have responded very positively to Ghost Mode, with the general feeling being that it's added stakes and realism to the game. One fan on Reddit said, "It is still fun, and gives every choice, every bullet, a weight and consequence that previously just wasn't there." Ghost Mode proved popular enough to be used in Ghost Recon Breakpoint, the follow-up to Wildlands.

I Am the Night - Batman: Arkham Origins

Batman: Arkham Origins took some interesting chances with what gamers and comic book fans had come to expect from the Arkham series. Not only did the game reimagine the Dark Knight's first encounter with the Joker and recast the usual voice actors for the two immortal characters, but Arkham Origins also introduced the brutal I Am the Night gameplay mode, which was a first for the series. "I Am the Night" is essentially a permadeath mode unlocked after beating the game's main campaign and New Game Plus. If the Caped Crusader falls in battle at any time, the save file for I Am the Night mode will be reset to the beginning.


As mentioned by IGN, "Considering the difficulty of [Origins'] Deathstroke encounter and the precise timing necessary in some of the Batman action sequences," beating this mode is not exactly a walk in Gotham Central Park. IGN even recommends players use the "restart" function to go back to the beginning of a particular battle or stealth section if they feel like they've made a wrong move. If nothing else, this is one gameplay mode that will give players an idea of how Batman must feel every night.

Look at your life, look at your choices - Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of Eternity is a fantasy RPG from Obsidian Entertainment that both revels in and rewards deep character building and exploration. Players can put together powerful teams and learn to balance on another's skills in ways that open up new possibilities for combat and effects your story in unexpected ways.


As if that wasn't enticing enough, there are a few different gameplay modes that provide even more of a challenge and more investment in your characters' progression. The most intense of these is easily the Trial of Iron mode. While autosaving in this mode is still enabled, you cannot resurrect fallen teammates and your save will be automatically deleted if your base character dies. There are ways to cheat your way around this by copying your save file (which is exactly counter to the point of playing Trial of Iron). However, doing so will reveal a message from the game's lead developer that essentially asks you to rethink your choices, asking, "what does it mean to achieve victory in Trial of Iron if the spirit of the challenge has been broken? ... Think upon this and act as your conscience dictates."


The Darkest of all is Stygian Mode - Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is already a bit more unforgiving than many dungeon crawlers. It constantly expects you to make difficult decisions and necessary sacrifices in the pursuit of justice, while its Stress mechanic simulates the psychological toll that such a life would take on the heroes of these types of games. At first glance, Darkest Dungeon's Stygian Mode appears to be another "been there, done that" permadeath mode designed to increase the pressure on the player. The enemies are tougher and Stress builds quicker in your characters. 


However, apart from the usual difficulty increase that comes with these alternate playing modes, there is one extra wrinkle that really sets Stygian Mode apart: it features a time limit in which the game may be completed. If you go over your time limit or twelve or more of your characters are killed, your save file will be deleted and you will have to start the playthrough all over again. Not only that, but you'll also be treated to a Game Over screen that tells you specifically why you failed. Ouch.

You're not Hardcore, unless you play Hardcore - Dead Space 3

Finishing Dead Space 3 is already a difficult task, what with the constantly regenerating enemies and labyrinthine corridors you have to navigate as you battle a seemingly endless army of the undead. However, if you're a real sucker for interstellar punishment, Dead Space 3 has you covered with its Hardcore Mode. Though previous games in the series featured a Hardcore Mode, the tweaks made to this one make completing the story even more daunting than ever before.


While Hardcore Mode in Dead Space 3 allows you to save plenty, it comes with a catch: if you die once, your save file is completely reset and you have to start over. Again, this seems somewhat doable, but the other new wrinkles to Hardcore Mode make it almost impossible. Not only is the difficulty level jacked up to a ludicrous degree, but fallen enemies no longer drop ammo, meaning you have to make every bullet count. Now that's Hardcore.