Another good example is Fire Emblem where each unit cannot be revived if killed in action. This lead to a number of resets for me when trying to recruit one enemy, but it became inevitable that at least one named unit would have to die to allow me the leeway to successfully recruit my target.
Currently in the majority of games the worst thing we have to fear is a lengthy reload after your character dies. Rarely am I ever playing a game hoping that I don’t die because of my investment in the character, the story and the precarious situation. We are often left feeling uneasy like how I personally feel very antsy when playing Condemned or even Doom 64, but that’s more because of the ambient sounds and the thought of getting attacked by some crazy homeless dude or an invisible pinky demon, and has less to do with my investment in the character and the fear of permanent death.
One thing that I was thinking about in the matter of death, is to make a game where death isn’t undermined and is respected. You do not kill hundreds of enemies. You are not always in a position where you will certainly die from failure just to be resurrected. Those things would make the world feel more “real” and thus the consequences of death would and could be far more dire.
Heavy Rain is one of those games that attempts to make you care about the characters and the game doesn’t revolve around killing enemies and staring at your own limited mortality every few seconds. Many things can happen at every juncture and at times I felt for the characters because occasionally you have to go to hell and back (or even sever a limb) to solve a riddle. But there are so many characterization, acting and terrible cinematic issues that really just kept you from fully losing yourself in the fear of death or that it wasn’t just a game. A good example of this is the time where the first characters kid “dies” in the most unspectacular recreation of a car accident EVER. This first moment where death is undermined because it is portrayed in a rather comedic manner sets up the game to never allow me to respect it’s power to kill again.
Mass Effect 2 has a suicide mission where 1 or more of your permanent crew can die if your decisions aren’t sound in deciding which character does which tasks and who is loyal to you as a captain. And if you made too many mistakes, your whole party can die and you as well. This is more along the lines of what I have been thinking of and is definitely moving in the right direction.