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The author has a fascinating character in mind - it is unquestionably his story - but for one reason or another, getting into their head just wouldn't pan out for the reader. Normally this is because:

  1. The character is dead at the end of the story.
  2. The author wants to keep the reader wondering what the character is thinking, or the character has a secret the author wants to keep from the audience.
  3. The character doesn't understand the events of the story, and the author wants to provide a clear perspective on them.
  4. The character didn't personally change much. In fact, the events of the story were more significant for the character as an observer than a participant.
  5. The character's heroic abilities are such that it's hard to show them from his point of view without his coming across as conceited instead of cool.
  6. More rarely, it's not clear what the character is, exactly.

Enter the First-Person Peripheral Narrator, a character who is not the main character or protagonist, but is chosen as the Narrator because he has an excellent view of the action surrounding the real focal characters.

See also The Watson, whose job it is to merely set up exposition, and POV Boy, Poster Girl, where the boy often resembles this. Compare and contrast with Designated Protagonist Syndrome. When a Biopic is made in this fashion, it is called a Sidelong Glance Biopic.

Examples of First-Person Peripheral Narrator include:


Literature

  • Ishmael in Moby Dick. He's arguably the least interesting character in the book, we're given much more information about almost every other characters' backstory, and he stops participating in any of the events in the story entirely half way through the book, describing scenes that he couldn't possibly have been present to witness, and only becomes involved with things again in the book's epilogue.
  • Sane man Duncan Idaho acts as an First-Person Peripheral Narrator to the title character in God-Emperor of Dune.
  • Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby
  • The narrator in Ishmael is, coincidentally enough, an Ishmael. That's not his name, though.
  • The book version of Shane.
  • Dr. Watson is First-Person Peripheral Narrator to Sherlock Holmes, in addition to being - appropriately enough - The Watson.
  • Dostoyevsky's The Posessed (aka "The Demons") has an unnamed narrator who has a minor role in the events, but he knows everyone and described a lot of scenes he hasn't witnessed... ahem.
    • Dostoevsky likes this technique. The Brothers Karamazov uses the same shtick, with an unnamed narrator implied to just be someone who has lived in the town for many many years and knows all the local gossip, but for all intents and purposes is effectively omniscient.
  • The so-called "protagonist" of the book version of The Island of Doctor Moreau does nothing but get thrown overboard, land on an island and watch more interesting people do experiments; Moreau and his experiments are the actual protagonists.
    • The various film versions tend to give him a more active role, sometimes as Moreau's final experiment (and success)
  • Weirdly, Lockwood and Nelly in Wuthering Heights. The main story (about Cathy, Heathcliff, Edgar and that lot) is being told to Lockwood - an outsider to the area - by Nelly, a servant whose active role in the story varies a lot.
    • Even more weirdly in the same novel, by Isabella, who writes a note about her time with Heathcliff later found by Nelly and recited from memory to Lockwood. Also, the contents of the entire novel are really Lockwood's diary. That's right -- the reader reads a diary of a man who faithfully records lengthy monologues by a character who in turn faithfully relates a pages-long letter she herself read years ago. Lampshade Hanging?
  • There are two main viewpoint characters in Men At Arms; neither of them is the real protagonist of the story, Carrot.
    • Originally Carrot was going to be the viewpoint character, but then Pratchett decided it would be more interesting to leave his thoughts out of the narrative, and shifted the viewpoint to Vimes. This ended up having very interesting results. In fact, in the entire series, there is exactly one page written from Carrot's point of view, even if the story is revolving around him. Sometimes the book spends some time on other characters' thoughts on what Carrot is thinking, because he's like a well: both extremely simple, and extremely deep.
  • John Dies at the End is narrated by the titular John's best friend David, who, while quite interesting and conflicted and well-designed in general, is nothing compared to John's utter insanity. John is generally considered the protagonist.
  • The Name of the Rose is narrated by the apprentice of the protagonist and investigator.
  • The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Utterson
  • Robert Graves' historical novel, Count Belisarius is narrated by a servant of Belisarius' wife.
  • Happens with moderate frequency throughout the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
    • Herbert West Reanimator, The Dreams in the Witch House and The Thing on the Doorstep are noteworthy examples.
  • Captain Hastings in Agatha Christie's first Poirot novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
    • She used a First-Person Peripheral Narrator again in The Clocks, albeit with a one-time character.
    • Also the vicar in Murder at the Vicarage, where one of the three superficially similar, gossiping old ladies in the congregation solved the case. Miss Marple had a few other First Person Peripheral Narrators over her career.
  • The Horrible Harry series of books are narrated by the main character's best friend, Doug, who acts as a foil to a lot of the characters.
  • "Chief" Bromden from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, who takes center stage over the hero McMurphy because his hallucinations highlight the symbolism of the book, and because we have to look up to McMurphy. We can't be him.
  • Some of John Wyndham's works use this, most notably The Midwich Cuckoos, which is told by a fairly uninspiring and relatively uninvolved observer. If the book can be said to have a protagonist, it would have to be Zellaby.
  • Jenny in Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade. While we get to relate to some of her own life problems and situations, the story is really mostly about Elsie, the overweight girl with significant life problems, whose life gradually improves (via Jenny). Jenny's Character Development is largely based around her relationship with Elsie.
  • Subverted in the first Arsène Lupin story. It begins as a very traditional example of a mystery story using this trope, where a nondescript male narrator is describing Lupin he is actually Lupin himself, and has been spreading to the police inaccurate descriptions of his appearance.
  • The nameless sailor listening to Marlowe tell the story of Kurtz in Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Marlowe himself is also (arguably) an example, as his main role is just to witness Kurtz.
    • Marlowe does this again in Lord Jim.
    • This also applies to Marlowe's equivalent character, Willard, in Apocalypse Now.
  • Thrawn is never, ever the viewpoint character. Starting in The Thrawn Trilogy, where his scenes are witnessed by Pellaeon(who as his second-in-command and sometimes Commander Contrarian has very good reason for watching him), his thoughts and motives are always a mystery. The closest we ever get to seeing how he operates is in the Hand of Thrawn Duology where Pellaeon uses similarly magnificent tactics and in Outbound Flight, where the young-ish, slightly less mysterious Thrawn talks a lot with the First-Person Peripheral Narrator. It gets somewhat awkward in the short story "Side Trip", where Thrawn disguises himself in Mandalorian armor and everyone except one Imperial officer thinks he's a bounty hunter. Zahn has even said that if he ever introduces a Thrawn clone, the clone will know he's not Thrawn and won't be able to do all the same things.
    • The Hand of Thrawn Duology has three Imperials working together to make it look like Thrawn has returned. The viewpoint character for them is Moff Disra, handler of political fallout. Neither Flim, the con artist and physical impersonator of Thrawn, nor Tierce, the tactical impersonator of Thrawn and a clone attempt at replicating his genius, get their thoughts shown.
    • Outbound Flight has First Person Peripheral Narratora for three characters, though the viewpoint characters are all important to the story in their own right. Car'das for Thrawn, Lorana Jinzler and Obi-Wan Kenobi for Jorus C'baoth, and Kinsman Doriana for Darth Sidious. They do mix up in the later parts of the novel, with Car'das and Doriana watching C'baoth and Lorana meeting Thrawn. To a much lesser extent, Obi-Wan and Lorana are also First Person Peripheral Narrators for Anakin Skywalker. Who, it is implied through them, has something deeply, subtly wrong with his mindset. It's one of the rare cases where Anakin is characterized as flawed in a way that doesn't involve his anger issues.
    • In the X-Wing books, the director of Imperial Intelligence and main villain, Ysanne Isard, is also never the viewpoint character, and it is similarly hard to discern her plans. This is different in the X-Wing comics, set before the books, in which she has thought bubbles. In the last-set book to feature her, we get a little from her as the viewpoint character, but she certainly has First Person Peripheral Narrators in the Rogues and Krennel.
      • Notice how, even in her final appearance, she dances around the perennial question: whether she had sex with Emperor Palpatine (a question that sheds quite a bit of light on her mentality). If she had head time, the author would've had to spill the beans.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and its film version (simply called Fried Green Tomatoes) has two perspectives; a woman at a nursing home, and the old lady who tells the woman her story. The old lady's stories are mostly about her adoptive sister and her relationship with another girl.
  • The H. G. Wells novel The Time Machine is set up as a frame tale narrated by another, who relates what the time traveler has told him about his adventures.
    • Similarly, his short story The Door In The Wall is told by someone who's friend is seeking the titular door.
  • Professor Arronax from Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He is placed in the position of the First-Person Peripheral Narrator against his will by the main character (Captain Nemo) and escapes in the end.
  • The Mad Scientist's Club by Bertrand R. Brinley; Charlie serves as the narrator, while Henry Mulligan serves as the protagonist.
  • Captain Alatriste's squire Íñigo de Balboa, although Íñigo sometimes furthers some plots himself.
  • Richard MacDuff in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, whose main purpose is to be completely bewildered by title-character Dirk. In the second book, this device is abandoned, and it turns out Dirk himself is a lot more bewildered than he lets on.
  • Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects has exactly this relationship to Kaiser Sozye...but there's more to it.
  • Susie, the narrator of The Lovely Bones, is dead and in heaven. Most of the book is her following her friends and family as they deal with her death and move on, as well as the man who raped and killed her.
  • Robert A. Heinlein may have been trying to do this in his novel Podkayne Of Mars, with the title character being First-Person Peripheral Narrator for her Evil Genius younger brother Clark. It didn't really work, because she ended up being too strong a character to be overshadowed.
  • Leo Borlock, the narrator of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, is a First-Person Peripheral Narrator for the title character.
  • All four narrators of The Sound and The Fury are intended to be this, as William Faulkner always said the book was really about Caddy. However, it's an unusual example of this trope because Caddy's barely there to be seen even through the eyes of the other characters -- it's mostly about the impact her actions have had on the family.
  • Patrick, the nephew/narrator in Auntie Mame.
  • Danny, the Champion of the World doesn't necessarily come off this way throughout much of the narrative, but it ends like this:

 Because what I am trying to tell you...

What I have been trying to tell you all along is simply that my father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvelous and exciting father any boy ever had.

  • Nanapush and Pauline takes turns narrating Louise Erdrich's Tracks, but the story revolves around Fleur Pillager.
  • Richard Papen from Donna Tartt's The Secret History. The story is unquestionably about the other students in Professor Julian Morrow's clique, all of whom are far more sinister and have way more secrets, but Richard is our narrator.
  • Fanny, the narrator of Nancy Mitford's Love In A Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love tells the stories of Linda, Polly and Cedric and only mentions concurrent events in her own life - such as her marriage and the birth of her children - in passing.
  • Damien Vryce is the main viewpoint character of the Coldfire trilogy, but for much of the series he functions as the First-Person Peripheral Narrator to The Hunter/Garald Tarrant.
  • The Everworld series has four. The primary four protagonists,(David, Christopher, April, and Jalil) are only protagonists at all, or indeed, in Everworld in the first place, because of they are all associated (in different ways) with the witch who binds all of the story and character arcs together, as well as the rest of the two universes. Averted later in the series when the witch in question finally narrates a book, and Subverted in the eleventh when the author Drops A Bridge On Her and focuses on the four First Person Peripheral Narratorin the twelfth book entirely, instead.
  • Phineas is the First-Person Peripheral Narrator in John Halifax, Gentleman, a Victorian novel by Dinah Craik.
  • In The Master Of Ballantrae, the story is told after all the important characters are dead by Mr. McKellar, the steward of the Durrisdeer estate, because he wants to set the record straight and clear the reputation of the late Lord Durrisdeer. McKelllar narrates the events he was present at in the first person, and his actions have some influence on the course of events, but he's not central.
  • Tim Wynne Jones' short story Save The Moon For Kerdy Dickus begins with the line "This is Ky's story." -- Ky being a friend of the young narrator, and her story being about a Stranger who came to Ky's family's house one evening and thought that they were aliens. The friend telling the story was not there for the main events of the story at all. The First-Person Peripheral Narrator perspective is effective here because, as the narrator says flat out in the first paragraph, "In this story, the way things look is really important," and the fact that the narrator is neither as familiar with those things as Ky nor as unfamiliar with them as the Stranger emphasizes the fact that this story is all about the perspective from which it's told.
  • The Silverwing series' third book actually has a character named Ishmael, though he appears near the end of the story, isn't given much characterization, and dies during the climactic battle.
  • Just about all of H.G. Wells' books, including the above-mentioned Island of Dr. Moreau and The Time Machine, fall prey to this. Perhaps the only novel to avert this is The War of the Worlds, where the unnamed narrator is the protagonist by default because no other major characters last for more than a handful of chapters or have any real motives or character development.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has Scout watching her father's heroic attempt to save Tom Robinson's life. Scout does have her own adventures, but Atticus is the real man of action.
  • Death, rather than the eponymous character, narrates The Book Thief.
  • Elmore Leonard's "Hombre": mainly for reason #2, as a big part of the point is John Russell's unwillingness to let anyone else see what he's thinking, or who he really is.
  • Hyperion sequel Endymion has Raul as the First Person Peripheral Narratorto Aenea.
  • Lieutenant Hornblower is told from the perspective of one of Hornblower's superior officers, starting with a poor first impression, and proceeding with the increasing awareness of the fact that Hornblower is manipulating him into basically following Hornblower's plan. He goes along with it because Hornblower tends to have very good ideas. Of course, the primary reason for this First-Person Peripheral Narrator setup (Lieutenant is the only book in the series to do this) is because a central plot of the book is a mystery about their unstable captain who was injured and put into a coma under suspicious circumstances, the only witnesses being Hornblower and a midshipman, both of whom suffered abuse at the Captain's hands.
  • One of the popular criticisms of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is that the frame narrator Gilbert Markham should be this trope, but instead, he eventually becomes the protagonist Helen's love interest. Note Gilbert was created by the sister of Lockwood's creator.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Beyond the Black River," Balthus -- until he gets killed near the end. Many of the stories introduce Conan with such a character, who often lasts a long time into the story before we get Conan's POV.
  • Conrad's Fate of the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones is mostly about Christopher. Since he is older than in The Lives of Christopher Chant but younger than he is in the rest of the series, we get to see him be a bit reckless and mess up. Diana hadn't really had much of a chance to explain the mysterious Chrestomanci's thought processes to her readers until then. Conrad himself doesn't do very much more than observe how awesome Christopher is.
  • In Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, Silk is the protagonist but two of his pupils, Horn and Nettle, turn out to be the narrators.
  • Although he's the title character, Beau Geste is told from the perspective of Michael's younger brother because he's the only of the three brothers to survive the entire story.
  • The protagonist of The Lord of the Rings is ostensibly Frodo Baggins, although in fact most of the action is carried forward by other characters. He's not even the one to destroy the Ring in the end.
    • Definitely Played Straight in the odd numbered chapters, where it is from the viewpoint of Merry and Pippin almost exclusively while the protagonists are Aragorn, Gandalf, and Eowyn.
  • Barbara Robinson's three Worst Best novels (most famously The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) are all about the Herdmans, a group of misbehaved siblings with a difficult home life, as they interact with their town's other children. The books are narrated by a girl in their class, however, who relates information about the family and the children's various antics as the plot of each book unfolds.
  • Gil Abad in the Spanish novel series Marijuli & Gil Abad. Despite being one of the titular characters, he's a Watson at best. The (few) chapters that aren't written under his point of view are all in a different font, to make this tope even more obvious.
  • Jack Burden narrates All the King's Men instead of Willie Stark.
  • Jim Burden, in My Antonia, has touches of this. His narration speaks mostly of the fascinating people around him than of his own life, though it is clear from some throwaway lines near the end of the book that he has had an interesting one.
  • Dunstan, the narrator of Fifth Business, could be considered this. He himself doesn't really do much, but the accompanying stories of Percy and Paul detail a story of revenge that takes sixty years to conclude. The title even references this; "fifth business" is a stage term meaning that one character who has no real part to play in the story except for the fact that they know a game breaking fact about the main character.
  • Haldeth of The Master of Whitestorm played this role when in Korendir's company. When apart, Korendir's story was always told in third-person.
  • The narrator in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko doesn't even get a name, even though we're clearly supposed to identify her with Behn herself. Either way Behn spends pretty much the entire novella gushing over the enslaved title character's nobility and strength (to the point where the subtext rapidly starts becoming . . . text) and describing events she couldn't possibly have seen (specifically events occurring in West Africa before Oroonoko and his beloved Imoinda were enslaved, and therefore the narrator would have been halfway around the planet from).

Anime and Manga

  • Rock in Black Lagoon. The story is told from his point of view but it's pretty obvious the protagonist is Revy. As if the opening and ending animations being all about her wasn't enough to tip you off. The "Why is he watching her so closely?" angle is played deliberately.
    • Later chapters though are more focused on Rock and he becomes quite an interesting character himself.
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: her name is stamped on the product and her face is everywhere in the opening, closing, and promotional material, but the story is told from the point of view of Unreliable Narrator Kyon.
  • Einar after the prologue in Vinland Saga.
  • Saji Crossroad becomes this during the second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00. The main character is obviously Setsuna F. Seiei. Saji also pilots the support machine for Setsuna's eponymous mobile suit which acts as its catalyst.
  • Tylor in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is inscrutable, as no one can tell whether he's a lucky idiot or a genius. Yuriko and Yamamoto tend to be the viewpoint characters.
  • For the first few eps. of Trigun we mostly see Vash from Meryl's point of view, and don't even get confirmation he is Vash for some time. This doesn't last- we get very deep in Vash's psyche by the end.
  • Simon takes this role in the first third of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, up until Kamina dies. In this case, however, it's not a viewpoint shift, but the viewpoint character becoming the protagonist as he comes into his own.
  • Souryo Fuyumi's manga Cesare is about a sixteen-year-old Cesare Borgia, his servant Miguel, and the games of Xanatos Speed Chess the two are playing with various historical figures. It's actually told by Angelo, some kid who's at school with them (readers usually hate Angelo, which may or may not be intentional). This is one of those uses where it starts to seem like the Ishmael is a little too fascinated, though this too may be deliberate.
  • Rachel from Baccano We mostly find out about the events aboard the Flying Pussyfoot from her report to the President of the Daily Days.
    • Subverted in The Rolling Bootlegs: while it appears that Maiza relating the story about his friend and subordinate Firo to a Japanese tourist, it's actually Firo himself telling the tale, and the tourist just assumed otherwise because Firo never properly introduced himself and was wearing glasses like Maiza's.
  • Sakuno Ryuzaki, and the Freshmen Trio from Prince of Tennis (at least initially). Ryoma Echizen's undeniably the focus of the story, but his personality and development are mostly viewed through other characters due to his aloof nature.
  • Fairy Tail is undeniably Lucy's story. Lucy's story about Natsu and Fairy Tail.

Comic Books

  • Eva Procorpio has become this in Shakara - while Shakara is undoubtedly the protagonist, the story was primarily told through Eva's narration shortly after she was introduced. Then she started getting more screentime than Shakara.
  • Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta - V is certainly the lead character, but the story follows Evey as exposure to V changes her.
  • Sexton Furnival in Death: The High Cost of Living. Death/Didi is the axis around which the story revolves, with Sexton just having been dragged in after her. But he's the one with real Character Development; hanging out with Death for the day renews his interest in living, rather than committing suicide out of sheer ennui like he wanted to do at the beginning.
  • Lois Lane in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.
  • Dilios telling the story of 300.
  • Johnny Frost in the graphic novel Joker, who follows around the title character for a while. Funny thing is he dies at the end going against what an First-Person Peripheral Narrator is.


Film

  • Stalag 17. The real protagonist of the movie is the Anti-Hero Sefton. The story is narrated and seen through the eyes of his "sidekick" Cookie, a character so bland that his name appears dead last in the IMDb cast list for this movie.
  • Paco (Edward James Olmos) in My Family Mi Familia, who spends most of the film in the Navy.
  • Red from The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Traudl Junge fulfills this role in Downfall in regards to Hitler, which makes sense, since she was one of the few people in Hitler's bunker to survive and tell her story. The movie portrays this very blatantly. Dr. Schenck also falls into this to an extent, except in regards to the general chaos and destruction of besieged Berlin.
  • The hospitalized old lady with the diary in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (She turns out to be Benjamin's love interest from long ago, but Benjamin is the main character, of course.)
  • Mr. Hundert in The Emperor's Club -- he's the narrator and gets quite a bit of character development in his own scenes, but he spends more time observing Sedgewick Bell than doing anything else.
  • Captain Greville in The Madness of King George.
  • Kim and Peg in Edward Scissorhands.
  • Walter in Secondhand Lions and Uncle Garth in some of the in-film stories about his adventures with Uncle Hub.
  • Henry Burton in Primary Colors.
  • David Cronenberg is fond of this trope, often telling his stories from the perspective of the romantic interest of the real lead.
    • Frank Carveth in The Brood. The actor, Art Hindle, isn't even mentioned on the cover, while Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed (who were both bigger-name actors and play more interesting characters) get top billing.
    • Veronica Quaife (Gina Davis) in The Fly.
    • Hart Read in Rabid.
    • Doctor St. Luc in Shivers.
    • To some extent, Cameron Vale of Scanners, who has literally no personality, while Michael Ironside and Patrick MacGoohan get much less screen time but are far more memorable and interesting.
  • Thomas, Marquis d'Apcher in Brotherhood of the Wolf.
  • The unnamed narrator in Withnail and I.
  • 300 has Herodotus as the narrator, despite the main character being Leonidas.
  • Sweet Pea in Sucker Punch.

New Media

  • The viewpoint character in the archaeology segment of the Interactive Fiction work The Beetmonger's Journal is a textbook First-Person Peripheral Narrator; they're largely a complete cipher, and present primarily to chronicle the exploits of the more dynamic Lapot, and the other viewpoint character -- the eponymous beetmonger -- as dictated to them by Lapot from a journal they discovered.

Live Action TV

  • The new series of Doctor Who starts with the episode "Rose", which has the title character as The Watson and First-Person Peripheral Narrator to ease the audience into the series.
    • In fact, the first few episodes featuring any new companion do a bit of this, as the Doctor has to re-explain who he is and what he does. A change in companions is a much better time for new viewers to get into the show than a change in Doctors.
    • Unless, of course, both changes happen at once, like with the Eleventh Doctor.
    • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels are typically all written from the perspective of the companions, or the random characters trying to work out what these weirdos are about. Lampshaded in one novel set in the Land of Fiction, where the Master of the Land of Fiction laments (in the descriptive text) that even in Omniscient Narrator mode, he still doesn't know what the Doctor is thinking.

Troper Works

Video Games

  • Crono from Chrono Trigger. While he is certainly the protagonist, for the whole game he is a silent protagonist who simply is there to observe the decisions of his party and go along with them. The 'real' characters and character development happens to those around him.
    • Well, minus ...Vainly attempting to stop Lavos from killing all his friends and Magus and dying in a Heroic Sacrifice. That scene alone basically gives him some kind of characterization even if he's Silent, not unlike the Persona M Cs.
  • The various Links act as this, but especially in The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask, where the NPCs are given an unusual amount of in depth characterization.
    • Twilight Princess too. Link just serves as an action guy for the real focus of the game: Midna.
    • When you consider that Link was originally just supposed to be a stand-in for the player (which is to say, being the player's 'link' to the game), this isn't really so surprising.
  • Ninten is simply a stand in for the player, and Lloyd and Ana don't get a lot of development either.
  • Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2: creator Hideo Kojima has stated that Solid Snake still was the real main character of the game.
  • Lampshaded in Final Fantasy XII where Vaan himself admits he's "just along for the ride." (though he is the main character of the story in the Spin-Off Revenant Wings).
  • Tidus from Final Fantasy X is kind of a subversion of The Ishmael, as he seems to be one at first, but it's gradually revealed that he, along with his father, are the ones meant to bring down Yu Yevon and Sin, end the cycle of death, and free the Fayth from their eternal dreaming.
    • In a bit of a twist, when he says the words "This is our story" is the point in the story where he's managed to wrestle the spotlight back from Yuna.
  • Subverted in Infinite Undiscovery, in which the main character, Capell, is a dead-ringer for the hero Sigmund, and mostly tags along for the first third of the game. Then Sigmund dies, and Capell spends most of the rest of the game impersonating him and doing his job for him. Then you discover that Capell is Sigmund's son, whose birth set most of the plot off. In the end, Capell turns out to be as relevant, if not moreso, than Sigmund to the plot as a whole.
  • In the Ghostbusters videogame, you control one unnamed character - but you don't get (almost) any lines, and it's the four movie Busters that are the real stars. They do treat you like an equal later on.
  • Harry Mason, Henry Townsend and Travis Grady may be the playable characters in their respective Silent Hill games, but they're coming into the story as (more or less) complete outsiders, trying to discover what the hell is up with the world around them. Heather Mason, James Sunderland, and Alex Shepherd start out like this, but then discover an unpleasant surprise.
  • In Phantom Brave, the real protagonist is Marona, as is immediately obvious... but the primary viewpoint character, and the one you control during downtime is her companion Ash. At least part of this is that Marona is too naive and too ready to love everything and everyone for her to provide an accurate perspective on what's happening and the prejudices she faces.
    • And Makai Kingdom, by the same people, takes this even farther -- the protagonist, Overlord Zetta, would be no fun to play as he spends most of the game as an immobile book... so it puts you in control of his head underling, who does the work, but has no actual role in the story -- in fact, the underling is just another generic created PC that can be switched out at will.
  • The Wii title Deadly Creatures tells the story of two treasure hunters, but you spend the game playing as a scorpion and a tarantula and the story unfolds through their perspective. The events aren't even cut scenes, they just happen in places that you happen to be passing through.
  • A common habit of Resident Evil games. In Resident Evil 0, Rebecca and Billy are just wandering through the game, while Wesker, Birkin, and Marcus are setting things in motion around them. Resident Evil 2 stars two people who wander into town during the zombie outbreak. Resident Evil Outbreak features eight people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. 1, 3, 4, 5, and C:V are much more personalized.
  • The human campaign of Heroes of Might and Magic IV has the main hero's squire as the narrator.
  • Colonel Parker in Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance: Retribution.
  • Done in the Interactive Fiction game Photopia, where the real main character is only ever seen through others' eyes.
  • Eddie Riggs of Brutal Legend does not fall under this trope... but he initially assumes he does. As a roadie, he figures he's there to play the Hypercompetent Sidekick to the "real" stars, and it takes him a while to realize he is the real star.
  • The player character of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is arguably First-Person Peripheral Narrator for Martin in the main storyline.
    • Well, and Martin's best General, Bodyguard, and "maybe" friend to those who kept him with them as long as possible.
  • The main player character in Modern Warfare 2 (Sgt. Gary "Roach" Sanderson of Task Force 141) acts as the First-Person Peripheral Narrator for his superior, Captain "Soap" MacTavish. To emphasize this point, when Roach is killed in the last act of the game, you take over as Soap for the last few levels.
  • In Halo 3: ODST, the primary player character is the mute, faceless Rookie. For the flashback missions, you take control of his different squadmates, and the real stars of the story are your CO, Gunnery Sgt. Buck, and Veronica Dare.
    • He does become the main character by the end of the game though, when he catches up with the events that happened over the last 6 hours.
  • Most of the actual story in Diablo II is narrated by Marius, a random person whom the Dark Wanderer (Diablo) takes along to carry his stuff or something. He is eventually given the task to enter Hell itself to destroy Baal's soulstone, ie. to actually do something, but understandably chickens out. What's interesting is that if Marius is seen as First-Person Peripheral Narrator, then the main character is Diablo, not the Player Character. But since the latter only runs around killing monsters and misses all the real story, even Marius himself seems more like the protagonist at times.
  • The ending to Valkyria Chronicles reveals that the whole thing has essentially been the scrapbook of Elle, a (somewhat annoying) journalist who had made it her mission to document Squad 7's adventures.
  • The narrator of Narcissu, who is not even given a name in-game, largely serves as a chauffeur and plot-catalyst for the real focus of the story, Setsumi. Justified by reason #1 above. Setsumi herself fits this role to some degree vis-a-vis Himeko in the prequel, but she does at least get quite a bit of character development.
    • He's a bit less of this in the manga.
  • This is probably what Milanor of Yggdra Union was intended to be, but because Yggdra winds up being the viewpoint character of most of the game (right down to our getting her internal monologues), he just winds up being a rather useless side character who gets a disproportionate amount of lines for someone who's not all that important.
  • Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica's main characters are Luca and Cloche. The player, Croix Bartel, is a supporting character who acts as their mental therapist and love interest.
  • Keiichi in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is actually only the second most important character. He's certainly The Hero, but the story isn't about The Hero. The story is actually about the often overshadowed Furude Rika, which is kept a secret until the end because the only thing she doesn't know about the plot is the reason it's even necessary. This makes for an interesting case where Keiichi is not actually a full example of the trope because the actual protagonist is incredibly passive while undeniably being the focus of the story.

Theater

  • In the musical Rent, Mark is an aspiring filmmaker who passively observes the dramas and adventures of the rest of the cast while he films them. His role is to narrate to the audience and reflect on their situations.

Webcomics

Western Animation

  • Pvt. Robert "Paperboy" Higgins from Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles is a FedNet reporter, basically embedded with the Mobile Infantry (except he's an enlisted man, not a non-combatant). Most of the show's narration is him speaking in the past tense, as though writing his memoirs, and he states in the first episode, regarding his comrade and the obvious male lead Johnny Rico, "I know he doesn't look like much now, but trust me, this guy's gonna be a legend."
  • The Narrator (a pudgy snowman) in the famous Rankin/Bass animated adaptation of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Apparently, his only raison d'etre besides telling the audience the story is to sing and perform on the guitar songs that are only tangentially related to the plot. The story's real protagonist, of course, is Rudolph - but since we are viewing everything through the Narrator's perspective, Herbie the Elf and the Misfit Toys also are depicted as well-rounded characters, and arguably alternate protagonists themselves.
  • Several episodes of Batman: The Animated Series do this such as "The Man Who Killed Batman" or "It's Never Too Late," taking place mainly from the viewpoint of a minor or one-shot character.
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