(Main series and Spin-offs)
Branching paths are a gameplay mechanic in the main House of the Dead series and its spiritual successor, Vampire Night. The mechanic involves nonlinear level designs that are affected by player actions.
As the player(s) defeat enemies in rail shooter games, the camera traverses a predefined path. The main House of the Dead series and Vampire Night, however, have moments where player decisions alter said path.
Events that influence paths have included:
- A civilian's survival or death.
- The destruction of objects in the environment (trapdoors, locks, statues, control panels, etc.).
- Manipulating elevator switches by shooting them (The House of the Dead only).
- Shooting a shining object, like a key (The House of the Dead 2 only).
- Failing certain "controller shake" sequences in The House of the Dead 4.
- The player's number of lives (House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn only)
Upon game over (and game completion, in the case of House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn), a map of all branching paths is shown. The routes taken are highlighted, with the player characters traversing the map; upon reaching the spot where the game ended, they fall over and die.
The exceptions to this are Vampire Night and The House of the Dead III, the latter of which uses circular icons to mark the player's position; they shed their color when they reach the spot where the player died.
The House of the Dead developer Sega AM1 wanted the branching paths to add replay value and encourage players to discover their preferred routes. The mechanic was originally more complex and influential on the story. and routes could be chosen when the game began. However, Sega AM1 eventually realized this could not be fulfilled within the Sega Model 2 arcade hardware's data limit and the time allotted to make the game; thus, the mechanic was simplified. Rough maps were designed to plan out the routes.
- Wheel of Fate is currently the only House of the Dead boss whose name and type number are absent from the route map; instead, the final area is labeled "Unknown".