Permanent Death, often referred to as 'perma-death' is an underlying gameplay concept where a character's death results in that character being gone forever, often including his or her significant character traits. It is a concept that is part of what defines a roguelike game. Although roguelikes feature permanent death, not all games featuring permanent death are roguelikes. Because death has high consequences in games that feature permanent death, it often adds tension to playing the game and it encourages the player to stay focused and play more cautiously as opposed to games where the player can restart from the last checkpoint.
Dependent on the type of game, permanent death has various consequences for the current play-through. Following are examples of a few games that differ greatly from each other in the way they handle permanent death.
The 2009 game Torchlight, featured a 'hardcore' mode. Checking this mode was very similar to the base game, except that it added perma-death. Upon dying, the character you created and all of his or her progress in the game, skills, abilities and even loot, is no longer accessible. If the player wants to continue playing, a new game must be started with a new character on a new play-through.
The 2013 game State of Decay, featured permanent death. The player can control one character at a time, but can switch between a varying number of characters to control. Upon death, control automatically switches to an alternate character and the player can continue the current play-through but the character that died cannot be used anymore in that play-through. New characters can be acquired through rescue missions, but are not leveled and any new characters are less effective in certain areas. In addition, each character can have unique skills that cannot be learned, decreasing the likeliness of acquiring a character with the exact same skill-set.
The 2012 game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, featured permanent death in all of its modes. Being a squad based tactical strategy game, the player does not control one, but up to six characters at a time. Any characters that die can be replaced with new soldiers, but any abilities the soldier received through promotion are gone. New, rookie soldiers are dramatically less effective. However, every soldier can be promoted by getting kills on missions and eventually, a soldier with the exact same abilities and rank can be created.
The 2007 game Mass Effect, featured permanent death in very specific instances. The game on it's base operates without perma-death. The player can reload checkpoints and savegames at will without consequence. In specific instances of story progression, it is possible to lose one or more team members depending on the decisions the player makes. Losing these team members at these pre-determined critical story scenario's results in those team members no longer being available for the remainder of the play-through. Additionally, when a save is imported into the sequels, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, these team members will be established as dead in those games as well. Team members can 'die' or be knocked out in regular combat, but this does not result in permanent death.