The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Fourth wall

Specifically in a proscenium theater, the term fourth wall applies to the imaginary invisible wall at the front of the stage in a theater through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play . In an arena theater, or theater-in-the-round, all four walls are in effect "fourth walls." One also speaks of a fourth wall in fictional realms, in literature, movies, television, radio, comic books, and other forms of entertainment.

The term signifies the suspension of disbelief by the audience, who are looking in on the action through the invisible wall. The audience thus pretends that the characters in the story are real "living" beings in their own world, and not merely actors performing on a stage or studio set, or written words on the pages of a book. In order for the fourth wall to remain intact, the actors must also, in effect, pretend that the audience does not exist, by staying in character at all times and by not addressing the audience members directly. Most such productions rely on the fourth wall.

The term breaking the fourth wall is used in film, theater, television, and literary works; it refers to a character directly addressing an audience, or actively acknowledging (through breaking character or through dialogue) that the characters and action going on is not real.

The sudden breaking of the fourth wall is often employed for humorous effect, although opinions differ widely as to how "humorous" this is. Some regard breaking the fourth wall suddenly so jarring that it actually detracts from a story's humor. However, when employed consistently throughout a story for narrative effect, it is usually (and arguably, paradoxically) incorporated into the audience's normal suspension of disbelief.

Examples of breaking the fourth wall include:



  • In ancient Greek comedy, the chorus would sometimes address the audience and give them reasons to give the play first prize. An example is Aristophanes' The Birds, in which the chorus of birds threaten to defecate on the heads of audience members if they vote for another play.
  • In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the character Puck addresses the audience, asking for forgiveness if the story was offensive. Shakespeare's Richard III has asides to the audience also. In addition, Shakespeare ended The Tempest with Prospero asking the audience to set him free with their approving applause.
  • In Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's The Knight of the Burning Pestle, a grocer and his wife in the audience interrupt the play and insist that their apprentice, Ralph, be allowed to be in the play. He is then made the character of Ralph the Grocer Errant.
  • In William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes, the character Holmes is supposed to be sealed in a box. He taps the walls of the "box", including the fourth wall, where sound effects are supplied offstage to indicate the solidity of this imaginary wall.
  • Bertolt Brecht's alienation, or Verfremdungseffekt, was intended to constantly remind the audience that they were watching a show, with the idea that their response would be more thoughtful.
  • Thornton Wilder's stage play Our Town includes the character of the Stage Manager, who stands at the side of the stage and addresses the audience directly. The other characters in the play cannot see or acknowledge the narrator's existence. The play is presented on a bare stage with rudimentary props, such as a balcony scene played on a stepladder.
  • In Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, the fourth wall is not even there to be broken down. Some actors are getting ready for rehearsal when six characters whose author has died, leaving them incomplete, enter the room. The director decides to include the characters in the play they are rehearsing and soon all the lines between fiction and reality have disappeared.
  • In Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound, two actors who play critics sitting in the audience and reviewing the play as it progresses ultimately become involved in the plot.
  • At the end of Branislav Nusic's The Cabinet Minister's Wife , the protagonist orders the audience to get out so that they would not watch her misery.
  • In pantomime, characters frequently address remarks to the audience, and sometimes encourage the audience to become directly involved in the unfolding of the story, as in the rescue of Tinker Bell (see below).
  • There is a style of comedy in which comedians act out a play but "ham it up" pretending to make mistakes, have out-of-character arguments, have accidents and interact with the audience. The audience is left uncertain as to what is really accidental and what is real.
  • In A.R. Gurney's The Fourth Wall, a quartet of characters deal with housewife Peggy's obsession with a blank wall in her house, slowly being drawn into a series of theater clichés as the furniture and action on the stage become more and more directed to the supposed fourth wall.

Radio and Television

  • The Pirandello play was parodied in a Goon Show episode entitled "Six Charlies in Search of an Author", in which the characters seize the typewriter from one another to write in miraculous escapes, suddenly acquired weapons, descriptions of their own bravery, and the like. All of the Goon Show plots alternated between honoring the fourth wall and breaking it.
  • In Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer, when Swiper the Fox steals something, he sometimes tells the audience where he hid it.
  • The character of Lorne (Angel) in the series Angel would play the part of a narrator, taken to an extreme in the episode Spin The Bottle when the whole episode was told from his point of view to a bar (complete with hecklers). At one point his character, supposed to be unconscious, wakes to address the bar and complain about other characters arguing; he also jumps around to correct errors in the narrative, and returns from an advert break in the show to suggest that "those were some exciting products". At the end the camera zooms out to reveal that the bar is in fact empty.
  • The Jack Benny Show on radio and television often broke the fourth wall, as did The Ernie Kovacs Show, Burns and Allen, Monty Python, the Monkees, Moonlighting, It's Garry Shandling's Show, The Bernie Mac Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Malcolm in the Middle, Hustle, Lovejoy, Life as We Know It, and The Simpsons. It has also been used in countless children's shows such as Taz-mania, Dangermouse and Microsoap .
  • The final episode of The Cosby Show ended with the major characters dancing away from the standing sets and out toward the studio audience, which the camera angle then revealed.
  • A variant on "breaking the fourth wall" that does not involve speaking to the audience appeared in an comedy sketch on the HBO series Mr. Show. In the sketch, David Cross plays an actor auditioning for a role by performing a scene from a play about an actor auditioning for a role. The auditioners are unsure when the prospective actor is "in character" and when he is actually talking to them.
  • In the television show French & Saunders, actresses Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders would frequently break character to address each other within the context of an actual scene. In one example, the two are spoofing the film Thelma & Louise, when out of the blue they slip into their natural British accents and begin questioning whether or not their Southern accents are believable.
  • In the television show Clueless, characters would often inexplicably make references to the fact that they were on a T.V. program without actually breaking character. In a murder mystery episode, for example, character Dionne exclaims: "I know what the murderer's plan is! He's killing off all of the semi-regulars!"
  • In the television show It's Garry Shandling's Show, the fourth wall was virtually nonexistent. The sets were unabashedly artificial. The show included a theme song that referred to itself ("This is the theme to the Garry's show, the opening theme to Garry's show, Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song"), and Garry Shandling repeatedly addressed the audience.
  • A number of police and detective series broke the fourth wall briefly in order to better involve the audience in the episodes. Examples include early seasons of the 1962-1969 series, The Saint, Decoy and the mid-1970s series, Ellery Queen. In the case of Ellery Queen, the fourth wall was broken to allow the titular character to directly invite the audience to help solve the mystery (a gimmick held over from the radio version of the series).
  • The breaking of the fourth wall can cause problems with series continuity and canon. An example is the 1965 Doctor Who episode "The Feast Of Steven", which was Episode 7 of the 12-episode serial "The Daleks' Master Plan" (now one of the infamous missing episodes). At the end of this episode - which takes place in AD 1965, while the rest of the serial takes place in AD 4000 - lead actor William Hartnell breaks the fourth wall to wish viewers a Merry Christmas. This break was apparently scripted this way because the BBC directorate believed few people would be watching (the episode was telecast on Christmas Day 1965); the producer and the editor of that serial were greatly dismayed by its inclusion.
  • On Whose Line is it Anyway?, when the actors play 'Film Noir' they often stop randomly and break the fourth wall to make a funny remark (or not say anything) about what just happened.
  • On the early 1990s Nickelodeon show Clarissa Explains It All, the fourth wall was broken very frequently, with the main character Clarissa frequently speaking to the audience in segments about her current situation in the plot.
  • On Sister Sister, as of 2004 seen in reruns on the Disney Channel, the episodes usually begin with lead characters Tia and Tamera addressing the audience.
  • On the teen show Saved by the Bell, Zack Morris frequently addressed the camera, especially during the beginning of the episode. He also had the ability to freeze the action of a scene by yelling "time out!", where only he talked and moved as he explained to the audience his current predictament. Action is "unfrozen" once he yelled "time in!"
  • In the Simpsons cliffhanger episode Who Shot Mr. Burns, part one, Dr. Hibbert seemed to address the audience when he faced the camera and stated, "Well, I couldn't possibly solve this mystery. Can you?" However, when the camera backed up, the doctor was actually addressing police chief Clancy Wiggum. Since Hibbert's line was a reference to the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" contest, it was considered breaking the fourth wall.
  • On the sitcom comedy series Dinosaurs, there was an anti-drug episode in which the characters got high by munching on a narcotic plant. While in this altered state of consciousness, one character begins to rave that they are really characters in a television show, watched by "hidden cameras implanted in the walls". He then proceeds to point directly to the camera.
  • The HBO prison drama Oz is narrated by the character Augustus Hill, a disabled inmate who uses a wheelchair, in surrealistic segments that usually relate to an overall theme of the episode. The narrations by Hill are thus a form of breaking the fourth wall, although he did not address the camera during scenes where he was interacting with the other characters in the story.
  • The CBS sitcom Green Acres regularly featured fourth wall elements, including characters seeing the opening credits floating in the air, on the backs of clothing, or on hotcakes. The characters would also hear Yankee Doodle playing while another gave a patriotic, inspirational speech.
  • One episode of Family Guy exhibits multiple characteristics of breaking the fourth wall: Peter Griffin, after exclaiming that there would be "nothing to watch on TV every Wednesday night" if the cast of Dawson's Creek were murdered, turns to the audience and follows up his statement with "...except for the fine programs on FOX," alluding to the fact that the show is (was) aired on the FOX network.
  • In another episode of Family Guy, entitled "Fifteen Minutes of Shame", the character Meg address a reality television camera crew that is filming the family, yelling at them to go away, followed by her brother Chris exclaiming in horror that she is breaking the fourth wall.
  • The PBS show Arthur breaks the Fourth wall on a regular basis. Before each episode, there is an opening segment in which Arthur or other characters speak to the audience, usually hinting to the problem in the episode.
  • The series finale of NYPD Blue broke the fourth wall in its final scene by revealing the squadroom to be a set.
  • The theme song to Jimmy Neutron contains the line "This is the theme song/For Jimmy Neutron."
  • The unaired Angry Beavers finale's plot was that the beavers got a letter from Nickelodeon telling them that the show was going to be cancelled. This episode made Nick mad, as it lampooned many of its practices (including re-re-rerunning their shows). A sound clip that explains it all.
  • Frankie Muniz's character, Malcolm, on the FOX show, Malcolm in the Middle routinely addresses the audience to explain his point-of-view. The actions of the other characters continue in the background, but they are not aware of the breaking of the fourth wall.
  • BBC sitcom The Young Ones often broke the fourth wall. In the episode "Sick", Mike responds to Vyvian's attack on The Good Life by saying "That was a very emotional outburst, Vyvian. I only hope they're not watching". In the same episode, Neil's mother smashes a chair to demonstrate how tatty the boys' home is. Mike replies: "I think you'll find that chair was specially designed to fall apart like that. Rik was going to get hit over the head with it in the next scene". (Rik is then hit over the head with a different chair in the next scene, which surprises the policeman who hit him, as the chair was supposed to break into pieces.)
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Episode 5:The Copycats, Motoko 'Major' Kusanagi breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the viewer about "The Laughing Man Incident".
  • All Made in Canada episodes begin with Rick Mercer making a small editorial comment on modern society which is related to the episode's plot. His character Richard Strong frequently breaks the fourth wall during the show to give the viewers comments on the plot's current developments. The show will end with any one of the characters involved in the plot looking straight at the camera and saying either "I think that went well" or "This is not good" depending on how the character feels things turned out.


  • In J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, Peter Pan encourages the good little children who believe in fairies -- in particular, the people reading the story right there and then -- to help make Tinkerbell better, after she drinks Peter's glass of poisoned milk. The scene is derived from audience participation in the original stage version, which has roots in pantomime.
  • Dave Sim's Cerebus features Sim tormenting and speaking directly to his creation on several occasions, most frequently in the collection 'Minds'.
  • Similarly, Berke Breathed's comic strip Bloom County regularly featured characters conversing and/or arguing with an unseen narrator (presumably the writer himself).
  • In many web comics, such as Bob and George, or, notably, One Over Zero and Framed , the author appears regularly as one of the main characters, sometimes openly admitting to the characters that their lives exist solely for the amusement of the reader. In Elf Only Inn and The Order of the Stick, the characters are aware they are fictional role-playing characters but the unseen characters who are running them are not aware that they themselves are fictional. No Fourth Wall to Break exists as though there were no fourth wall at all.
  • Douglas Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach alternates essay-style chapters with a series of dialogues between fictional characters. Hofstadter inserts himself in the final dialogue, admitting to the characters that they are only his creations and apologizing for using them as a voice for his own droll puns and wordplay.
  • Douglas Adams' novel So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish contains several instances of Adams referring to himself as "The chronicler". At one point he reviews Arthur Dent's curious lack of a sex life (as delineated in the three previous novels) and suggests that his readers who are not interested in such matters might like to "skip to the last chapter, which is a good bit and has Marvin in it."
  • At one point in James Joyce's Ulysses, the character of Molly Bloom breaks the fourth wall and addresses the author, "O Jamesy, let me up out of this."
  • Works of Zoran Zivkovic often include the writer as one of the characters, and characters discussing the reader.
  • Paul Auster's novel City of Glass is a detective story in which one of the things being searched for is the author himself.
  • Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being includes descriptions of Kundera's own bafflement at why he feels such strong emotions about purely fictional characters.
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events breaks the fourth wall frequently, as the author addresses the reader, telling them to skip over particularly gloomy parts or stop reading the book altogether. The author also includes himself as a character in the plot, following after the protagonists and chronicling their adventures. The same happens in the 2004 movie adaptation.
  • The Sensational She-Hulk, a Marvel Comics comic book, often included off-hand or not so off-hand jokes that broke the fourth wall, with its titular character complaining about the writers or artists, lampooning comic stereotypes, and even mentioning issues of the comic itself.
  • Many Self-Insert fanfics break the fourth wall.
  • Jostein Gaarder's novel Sophie's World starts as a straightforward story, then descends into a meta-level when a character receives a book called Sophie's World and begins to read it again from the beginning, becoming interlaced with its plot.
  • Michael Ende's novel The Neverending Story is initially about a boy reading a fantasy novel, also called The Neverending Story. The characters in the inner novel gradually learn about their fictional nature and about the identity of the reader in the framing story, who himself becomes an active participant in the fantasy world.
  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance and Death Gate Cycle series contain a character who regularly breaks the fourth wall. In Dragonlance Fizban makes occasonal references to the real world. In the Death Gate Cycle novels Zifnab makes refrences to the real world, other novels by Weis and Hickman, and even novels of other writers. Many believe Fizban and Zifnab are the same person because of things they have said and because their names are acronyms of each other, but the authors assure us they are not.
  • In the final two books of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower, the author (Stephen King) is a character in the novel, and near the end of the last book warns the audience not to read any further if they fear unhappy endings.
  • Italo Calvino's book If On A Winter's Night A Traveler features characters reading a book called "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler" by Italo Calvino.
  • Grant Morrison's tenure on the comic book Animal Man established a metafictional relationship between Animal Man and the "real world".
  • Near the end of Robert Anton Wilson's and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy, the characters become aware of their state as characters in a book.
  • The character of Huckleberry Finn addresses the audience prior to the action of the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to explain that the author, Mark Twain, got most of the facts right in its prequel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
  • In Dave Eggers autobiographical book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the author frequently makes references to literary devices that expedite telling the story rather than presenting personal historical facts. For instance, in two instances, characters speaking with Dave remark how "this isn't really how it went" and Dave explains how this telling makes him look better and the story more readable. Later printings of the book also feature an addendum at the end called Mistakes We Knew We Were Making, detailing some deliberate omissions and composite events.
  • In the 1950's and '60's, it was common for Superman to end adventures by winking to his audience. (See Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?


  • One of the first movies to tell a fictional story, The Great Train Robbery (1903), ends with a famous shot of a cowboy firing a gun directly at the camera. Legend says that during initial screenings of the film, this scene panicked many members of the studio audience.
  • Some of the first popularized breaking of the fourth wall in cinema was courtesy of Groucho Marx, of the Marx Brothers in films such as the 1929 film The Cocoanuts and the 1930 film Animal Crackers.
  • In the mockumentary Man Bites Dog the characters alternate between talking to the audience of the documentary they are producing and the audience watching the film.
  • In Annie Hall Woody Allen breaks the wall by asking the audience direct questions. He has been often quoted in interviews as portraying this as homage to Groucho Marx.
  • In many animated cartoons, the cartoon characters will suddenly start talking directly to the audience, or encountering a break or tear in the film that the cartoon is being projected upon, or many other ways to remind the audience that they are watching an animated cartoon. Animation director Tex Avery was a pioneer of breaking the fourth wall, and his cartoons often stated, "In a cartoon, you can do anything!"
  • Chuck Jones's Daffy Duck cartoon, Duck Amuck is an elaborate and frantic deconstruction of the fourth wall.
  • In Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson's character Norma Desmond gestures at the camera in her closing scene and refers to "all those people sitting out there in the dark;" though the character herself is a film actress, and she may simply be pining for her past audiences.
  • In the "Road" comedy movies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Hope and Crosby often broke the fourth wall, making such remarks as "At our age? Paramount wouldn't dare!"
  • In Tom Jones, various characters break off in the middle of a scene to look into the camera and address the audience.
  • In Medium Cool, a gas grenade goes off very close to the camera, and a shout is heard: "Look out, Haskell, it's real!" This is a reference to the film's director/cameraman, Haskell Wexler . In the film's last shot, the camera pans and zooms in—on Wexler, pointing his camera at the camera.
  • In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, James Bond (played by George Lazenby) defeats several bad guys in the teaser who are attacking his future wife. The girl then runs off. Lazenby says, "This never happened to the other fellow," referencing former James Bond actor Sean Connery. This is the only time in the Bond series this happens.
  • In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris guides the audience throughout the movie.
  • In High Fidelity, Rob Gordon (John Cusack) discusses his thoughts concerning the events of the story directly with the audience. At one point he is talking to the camera while in bed with a sleeping woman; he whispers and checks to see if his talking is waking her up.
  • Spaceballs features several examples. In one scene Colonel Sandurz explains their secret plan and Dark Helmet then turns to face the camera and asks the audience: "Everbody got that?". Later, Yogurt suggests that the cast might meet again in "Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money". In the climactic fight scene, Dark Helmet accidentally kills a cameraman with his lightsaber.
  • In Blazing Saddles various characters look into the camera to deliver lines, most notably the character of Hedley Lamarr, who asks a rhetorical question while looking at the camera, then says to the audience, "Why am I asking you?". During the climactic fight scene between the townspeople and the bandits, the camera pulls back to show that the town is in fact a set on the Warner Brothers studio backlot. The fight spills over into another soundstage and the commissary. The villain flees the scene and attempts to hide in a theater showing Blazing Saddles until the movie shows the hero outside of the theater. The two principal characters then enter the theater to watch the end of the movie, which consists of themselves dismounting their horses and riding into the sunset in a limousine.
  • The Wayne's World movies feature occasional asides by main characters, where the camera pans or moves away from the scene to focus on the actor. At one point, the owner of Stan Mikita's Donuts begins ranting about—killing a man who romantically rejected him, and the main characters yell at the camera man to focus back on them. There are other examples including an "Oscar Clip" scene where Wayne splashes water in his eyes to simulate crying, Garth launching backwards every time he sees someone (twice), and a debate over which movie ending is the best.
  • Parts of the film Fight Club are centred around breaking the fourth wall, and the narrator is frequently seen addressing the audience directly, or insinuating our presence. For example, the scene in which the Narrator says "Let me tell you a little bit about Tyler Durden" and then proceeds to address the camera directly. Tyler also addresses the audience during this section. Furthermore, the entire concept of the scene appears to be placing the film within its own context - i.e. as a film, where the narrator describes the reel changing process: "If you look for it, you can see these little dots come into the upper right hand corner of the screen" (and Tyler points to the dots as they appear). Additionally, in the rest of the film, things referred to in this scene can also be seen (e.g. the single-frame splices of other images) - encouraging the audience to question the film's role within itself.
  • In The Sum of Us, a character who is unable to speak occasionally addresses the audience directly, e.g. to complain, ironically, about the condition that stops him from speaking, saying 'the trouble with having a stroke is the people that treat you like a fuckwit afterwards'
  • In the Disney animated film The Emperor's New Groove, the excessively self-centered Emperor Kuzco talks persuasively to the audience by narrating and even interjecting dialogue throughout the film's exposition, which adds a comedic element to the film while expanding the bounds of Kuzco's arrogance.
  • In Airplane!, an '80s spoof comedy, Elaine Dickinson tells Ted Striker, referring to their broken relationship: "I can't live with a man I don't respect", and after she goes, Ted turns looking to the audience and says "What a pisser!". This film makes extensive use of camera addressing, enhancing a tendency to the comedy of absurd in cinema.
  • In Truman Show many characters in the show that the film is about routinely break the fourth wall while addressing the TV audience with ads. This confuses the protagonist, who does not realise that he is part of a show.
  • The second Gremlins movie features a scene where the "film" on which the movie is being projected is burned by the projector bulb. Daffy Duck also makes cameos during the credits and explains his point of view on them to the audience.
  • In the Back to the Future trilogy, the villain Biff Tanner in 1955 is played by the same actor as his supposed ancestor, villain Buford Tanner in 1855. In Back to the Future I, the Biff character collides with a truckload of manure; in Back to the Future II the same actor (as wild-west outlaw Buford Tanner) has an unfortunate encounter with a heap of manure again, the line "I hate manure" becoming a running joke starting with Back to the Future II. This chronology makes no sense (a different character, and 1855 should be the first, not second instance, preceding 1955 by a century). It therefore must rely on the fourth-wall-breaking assumptions that the audience not only would have seen Back to the Future I first but would also be aware that the same actor is playing both of these characters.
  • The film Adaptation is a self-referential film throughout, in which the main character of the story is screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.
  • In 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson talks to the audience throughout the film, and in one scene talks about a scene that was deleted out of the final cut, making note of the fact that it will be on the DVD.
  • In Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story there is a stinger at the end of the film where Ben Stiller's villainous character bemoans the tendency for Hollywood films to have happy endings.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail famously ends with a policeman breaking the camera.

Interactive Entertainment

  • Many virtual reality or motion simulator rides, such as the former Thunder Road at Dollywood, break down the fourth wall. Thunder Road had the audience playing the role of a federal agent engaged in a car chase with a cunning moonshiner in the hills of Kentucky.
  • In the Metal Gear family of video games, the player and the player's character are frequently conflated by the other characters in the story line. In Metal Gear Solid, one of the protagonist's opponents (Psycho Mantis) is psychic, and makes reference to how many times you have saved onto the memory card, and what other Konami video games you have saved, as well performing other fourth wall breakers. In the sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2, a character goes berserk and starts spouting gibberish, much of which references past Metal Gear video games. He also berates the player's performance, and tells them to turn the game console off; he is going to finish the mission on his own. Also, Solid Snake, at one point in the game, is asked how he can afford to use up so much ammunition. He merely replies, "Infinite ammo" while pointing to his bandana, a reference to a the bandana received from Meryl in the previous game which granted unlimited ammunition.
  • Many console RPGs have out of character tutorial or help dialogue explaining controller movements, or mentioning game elements when no fictional equivalent exists (hit points, Limit Breaks, etc.).
  • In Final Fantasy VII, in the aforementioned tutorial room, the cursor (used mainly for locating your character and screen exits) has a conversation with Cloud and the player.
  • In the Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer series of adventure games, the player's character often make humorous comments directed at the players behind the screen. In Monkey Island, specifically, many references are made to other games by LucasFilm Games, as well as films from the same franchise, for instance Indiana Jones and Star Wars. At the end of Monkey Island 2, in the Dinky Island jungle, there is a screen with a phone where the character can speak to a LucasFilm Games hint line advisor saying 'I'm stuck in the Jungle in Monkey Island 2!' There is also a section where the player can return to a scene from Monkey Island 1, saying: "This is hauntingly familiar..."
  • In "Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door", an RPG game made as a sequel to the Mario RPG series, a few characters intentionally break the fourth wall. For example, Professor Frankly and Lord Crump, at different points, yell "You, in front of the TV!", referring to the person playing the game. Professor Frankly tells the player to listen carefully to his explanation (after this, the companion with Mario is confused, and is not aware of the player, asks Frankly who he is talking to, to add some humor to the game), while Lord Crump refers to his disguise at the point of the game. There is also a moment in which Goombella accidently breaks the fourth wall while talking about a character: "That's Stewart, the blimp conductor. He checks tickets for blimp passengers. He's what you call a Cheep-Cheep. Normally they don't hang out on land, but... They've actually been around a while in the Mario Bros. series, you know. Oh, gosh, I just broke through the fourth wall, there, didn't I? Sorry, just forget it."
  • In "Earthbound", at one point, Tony calls Jeff on your cell phone and asks you to enter the player's name for a school project. This comes into play in the final battle, where you must use a move called "Pray" several times to win. Each time you pray, a character you've encountered hears you and begins to pray, which hurts Giygas, the final boss. When you pray for the ninth time, it says that "............ heard the call and began to pray." It shows that message over and over again, and each time, 2 or 3 dots are replaced with letters from whatever you entered for Tony's school project. The final result is, say, "John Doe prayed." So, the player is the one who heard the call.
    • In the same game, there is a sign in Moonside that reads "I have a controller in your hands..."
  • A number of games break the fourth wall if the player doesn't perform any action for a set period of time. For example, in the Resident Evil series, the character of Jill Valentine will impatiently tap her foot if she stays in one spot for too long. In some games, the character will say something like "I don't have all day," while other characters may yawn or fiddle with their weapon. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the first game with this feature, which was also followed up on by the Earthworm Jim series, among several others.
  • A running joke in several console RPGs is that a certain character (usually insane) recognizes that the entire world and its populace are merely characters in a video game, subject to the control of a "button-pressing overlord" (the player). This has been seen as a gag in Secret of Evermore and Anachronox, and the concept in a more serious form is central to the plot of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.
  • The whole premise of the computer game Omikron is to break the 4th wall. According to the game, the player character is actually the player himself or herself, whose soul has been sucked into the game world by the game, where it exists as a ghost-like entity capable of possessing the game's characters. Defeat in the game world means losing your soul in the real world (although, in reality, you can always reload from a saved game).
  • In Warcraft games and some other strategy games the characters go beyond reacting to being selected with acknowledgement. When clicked several times in a row, they respond with amusing remarks, such as "That tickles", "Why must you torment me?", "Do that again and you'll pull back a stump" and even "Stop that persistent clicking!" [1] There are similar occurences in the first Baldur's Gate game. Prolonged clicking leads to such comments as 'One day Tiax will point and click.' Aditionally, the character of Xzar--an insane necromancer--breaks the fourth wall on a regular basis, quoting Hannibal Lecter and Lenny from 'Of Mice and Men.'
  • In the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Cranky Kong usually breaks the fourth wall to complain about today's current video gaming systems.
  • The game Conker's Bad Fur Day had plenty of fourth wall-breaking moments in which Conker would not just talk directly to the audience but the makers the game itself as well. One mention would be after he sees the Uga Deity for the first time, dramtic music would play and Conker would request that the musician play something "with a bit more of a beat" instead. The game also spoofed various movies such as Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix, Aliens, The Wizard of Oz, and Jurassic Park. The end of the game also shattered the fourth wall in which Conker was able to escape from space and defeat the final boss due to the game locking up.
  • In the game The Lost Vikings for the SNES, the 3 main characters often hint to eachother that they may all be existing in a video game. This occurs when the characters have died several times, when the characters reach a new level, or when the player is idle for too long. On one occaision, Olaf the Stout questions why the supervillain of the game bothered to leave so many compartments, floating blocks, power-ups, and other conventional video game props. This comment lampoons the logic of all platform based games at that point.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, there's a mini-game where you do battle with an old swordsman. After you hit him 1000 times, he will ask you if your left index finger is tired. The left index finger is the one used to press the L button on the Gamecube controller; which, when held, will lock onto your target to make fighting easier.
  • In the Fallout series, the fourth wall is frequently broken. For example in Fallout 2 the player character can, during a conversation in Vault City, allude to the game's developers. When told that he should stay in character he complains that he worked hard to get the high scores in Intelligence and Perception necessary to get that dialog point, which alludes to the system of stats behind the game. Also, other characters will break the fourth wall during battles with remarks like "I need more action points!" or "Wish I had a Limit Break."
  • In "Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean", Kalas will talk to you asking you what to do, it is crucial to the story. You are essentially a character in the story.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Melee one of the possible anwsers you can get from Fox's secret taunt is getting Peppy and Slippy to explain the game's control to which Falco will reply "What? You're just explaining the controls now?".
  • Rayman 3 also broke the fourth wall a few times, one of the most memorable instances being Murphy asking you if you ever played a video game before when you're doing poorly in the intro stage.
  • In Max Payne, one of the game's chapters begins as the villain injects Max with what is supposed to be a lethal dose of hallucinogen. This results in a surreal dream sequence where Max relives several parts of his life in a Salvator Dali style distortion, and while answering a ringing phone he hears Mona Sax telling him "Max, you're in a graphic novel!" where Max spontaneously realizes that he is indeed a character in a film noir story. As an added twist to his hallucination, he goes through the very same sequence with the ringing phone again, this time he's told "Max, you're in a computer game!" which is also true, and Max suddenly realizes that he can see weapon icons hovering over his head (the game's weapon selection controls)

See also

The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy