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[[quoteright:286:[[VideoGame/SuperSmashBros http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/unexpected-character_super-smash-bros-brawl_816.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:286:[[Franchise/MetalGear Who]] did [[Franchise/SuperMarioBros you]] expect?\\
[[Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus The Spanish Inquisition]]?]]

->''"I get a lot of new character requests from all over the world, and there are quite an array of Nintendo characters. But I can say, pretty much no one imagined this character would join the battle."''
-->-- '''Creator/MasahiroSakurai''' on the inclusion of VideoGame/WiiFit Trainer, ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros''

Normally when time comes for a sequel or adaptation of a franchise, you can have a pretty good idea of who to expect in the returning cast. TheHero, TheLancer, the EnsembleDarkhorse... no one is surprised by their return. However, creators may want to shake things up and include less obvious characters. They could be a OneSceneWonder, someone who had succumbed to ChuckCunninghamSyndrome, or simply a LivingProp, or even someone from outside the franchise.

In video games, particularly {{Mascot Fighter}}s, Kart Racers, and other {{Massive Multiplayer Crossover}}s, this can also include characters from games that were obscure or [[NoExportForYou never left their home country]], or games whose genre puts them outside that game's purview. Ironically common examples of the latter two include characters from a nonviolent game (or with a nonviolent role in the game) appearing as combatants, or a pilot/driver stepping out of their machine and showing they're just as competent on foot, if not moreso.

Sometimes these character choices are praised, bringing in a previously unknown character to recent audiences, but other times the choice can be seen as a gimmick to increase sales. Very often, it can increase interest if not sales [[ColbertBump in the unexpected addition]], which is actually pretty sound business sense.

Due to the ease of slipping in outside characters in a Fighting Game (both in terms of mechanics and plot), GuestFighter can be considered a particularly common subtrope.

''Remember, ExamplesAreNotRecent.''

----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'':
** No one had expected Robin to join the Straw Hats. Granted, she had helped Luffy and betrayed Crocodile but it made her more of a wild card and after the battle, she had disappeared. Then just as the crew leaves Alabasta, Robin appears out of nowhere and requests to Luffy to join which he nonchalantly agrees. Added to that is that throughout the entire Baroque Works arc, Vivi had been played up as the potential next member of the Straw Hats, until she turned down the offer to stay behind and rebuild Alabasta right before Robin joined.
** Most people wrote Bellamy out as dead, and it's not hard to see why, seeing as his boss ''is'' Doflamingo and he went and pissed the guy off by losing to Luffy. Come chapter 704, not only is he still alive and still under Doflamingo's employment, [[spoiler:he's also a participant in the tournament for the Mera Mera no Mi.]] Also, the appearance of [[spoiler:Jesus Burgess]] was likewise something nobody could have seen coming. Later on, [[spoiler: the [[DeathByOriginStory supposedly long-dead]] ''Sabo'']] has shown up.
* ''Anime/{{Pokemon}}'':
** After the Advanced Generation series ended, it was general consensus that Wallace, Gym Leader in ''VideoGame/PokemonRubyAndSapphire'' and Champion in ''[[UpdatedRerelease Emerald]]'', was another addition to the many game characters that got AdaptedOut in the anime. To everyone's surprise, he shows up in the middle of the Diamond and Pearl series as part of Dawn's story, hosting a special Pokémon Coordinator tournament that bears his name.
** The Best Wishes series has Clair from ''VideoGame/PokemonGoldAndSilver'' showing up. Sure she and the majority of the Generation I-IV Gym Leaders show up at the Pokémon World Tournament in ''VideoGame/PokemonBlack2AndWhite2'', but that's more an optional encounter.
** Ash had Charizard rejoining his team, and not just for a big match like his previous returns, sticking around for the rest of the ''Best Wishes'' series. A couple of the other Pokémon Ash has captured could also qualify. For example, no one was expecting him to catch Muk, since in its debut, it actually received the least amount of focus out of all the Pokémon that appeared in that episode, only appearing briefly in a couple of scenes.
** The Mewtwo from ''[[Anime/PokemonGenesectAndTheLegendAwakened Genesect and the Legend Awakened]]'' is something of a double whammy - few were expecting Mewtwo to return, but ''no one'' was expecting it to be a different individual altogether, due to the backstory (and the logistics thereof) of the first one. To quite a lot of fans, this was ''far'' from a pleasant surprise as a result.
** Clement's fourth Pokémon is Luxio - something no one saw coming. First off, it's a 'Mon from a generation not being actively promoted, and secondly, it's not even in the Kalos Dex (all three of them!).
* ''Anime/GundamBuildFighters'':
** The series caught everyone off-guard with the first animated appearance of the ''G-Savior''. The Mobile Suit from the live-action movie that, for ages, many thought that Sunrise had went out of their way to ignore and even toss into CanonDiscontinuity. The series throws in Mobile suits that viewers thought would never get animated, like the Superior Gundam and Blue Destiny units.
** [[Anime/MobileSuitGundam00 Gundam Exia Repair II]] got in the series due to [[Awesome/GundamBuildFighters 00's five year exclusive clause having expired TWO DAYS before this episode aired.]]
** The series has a large amount of {{Continuity Cameo}}s from characters across the franchise's history. This has led to the series getting the FanNickname "Gundam Valhalla," a reference to [[EpilepticTrees the theory that these are actually dead Gundam characters who now get to live in a world at peace]].
* ''Anime/GundamBuildFightersTry'' continues this trend with the Winning Gundam revealed to be a modified [[Anime/SDGundamForce Captain Gundam]]. [[spoiler:And also, [[Anime/MobileFighterGGundam Domon Kasshu]].]]
* Continuing the ''Gundam'' examples, the manga ''MSV-R: The Return of Johnny Ridden'' features the return of yet another major character, namely [[spoiler:Yazan "I'm Gonna Violate You" Gable]].
* ''Franchise/YuGiOh''
** In ''Anime/YuGiOhTheDarkSideOfDimensions'', poor [[DemotedToExtra Bakura]], after having been left out of every {{filler}} {{arc}}, [[Manga/YuGiOhR spinoff manga]], [[Anime/YuGiOhCapsuleMonsters miniseries]], and [[Anime/YuGiOhTheMoviePyramidOfLight movie]] ever, finally gets to put in an appearance (and apparently as a major secondary character!). [[http://www.yugioh.com/news/sdcc-2015-panel Even the official website is surprised]].
-->In addition to Yugi and Kaiba you will be seeing a lot of familiar faces on screen characters previewed included Joey, Tristan, Tea, and even Bakura[.]
** ''[[Anime/YuGiOhArcV Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V]]'' introducing alternate universe versions of [[Anime/YuGiOh5Ds Jack Atlas and Crow Hogan]] opened the floodgates of speculation on which other characters from past series would be brought back over the course of the show. The news that [[spoiler:Kaito Tenjo from ZEXAL would be appearing in the Xyz Dimension arc]] was not entirely unexpected by the fandom, but the presences of [[spoiler:Ed Phoenix and Asuka Tenjoin of GX]] certainly were, especially the latter due to their OutOfFocus status in their home series.
* Who where expected to see [[spoiler:Captain Ginyu]] return in ''Anime/DragonBallSuper''[='=]s adaptation of ''Anime/DragonBallZResurrectionF''?
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The revival of ''ComicBook/JusticeLeagueInternational'' has Godiva, a very minor DC superheroine mostly remembered for being in the ComicBook/GlobalGuardians, a really minor DC superteam.
* ''Comicbook/AgeOfUltron'', a RedSkiesCrossover, migrates Angela, a Creator/NeilGaiman exclusive character, who was previously part of the ''ComicBook/{{Spawn}}'' supporting cast, into the Franchise/MarvelUniverse.
* ''ComicBook/TrinityWar'': Nobody expected [[spoiler:the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3]] to show up as the series' ultimate villains.
* ''[[ComicBook/TheDeathOfSuperman Reign of the Supermen]]'': [[spoiler:Superman]], ironically, is this. The story was about four mysterious figures claiming to be Superman returned from the dead [[spoiler:except, not really]] and yet, when [[spoiler:the Cyborg Superman]] turned out to be the villain of the piece, [[spoiler:the real Superman emerged from the Fortress without his powers]] and saved the day. As though a god-like figure was in the machine.
* ''ComicBook/AvengersUndercover'' managed to shock ''ComicBook/{{Runaways}}'' fans with [[spoiler:the sudden resurrection of Alex Wilder.]]
* Fans of ''ComicBook/ArchieComicsSonicTheHedgehog'' were taken off-guard learning that Breezie the Hedgehog, a character from ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfSonicTheHedgehog'', was going to make her debut in issue #268, which began an adaptation of ''VideoGame/SonicTheFighters''. The appearance of DummiedOut character Honey the Cat in the same storyline? Not so much.
* ''ComicBook/SonicTheHedgehogMegaManWorldsUnite'' managed to surprise fans by revealing not only Sticks the Badger of ''WesternAnimation/SonicBoom'' and VideoGame/MegaManX, but also a number of various SEGA and Capcom video game franchises. One of them being [[spoiler:''Franchise/StreetFighter'', which has been licensed to UDON for over a decade.]]
* The Eleventh Doctor ''ComicBook/DoctorWhoTitan'' comics reintroduced NinetiesAntiHero Abslom Daak from the ''Magazine/DoctorWhoMagazine'' comics. A doubly unexpected character as he hadn't been used for many years, and also because he came from a completely different Franchise/DoctorWhoExpandedUniverse continuity with different rightsholders.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Fic]]
* An odd example from ''Fanfic/CalvinAndHobbesTheSeries'' - the series finale "Black Rain" features none other than ''[[Franchise/TheSlenderManMythos Slender Man]]'' as a major character. This has caused some rather mixed reactions from reviewers.
* In ''Fanfic/JusticeSocietyOfJapan'', given how [[Anime/CodeGeass Lelouch Lamperogue]] [[ChekhovsGunman appears early on]] one would probably assume that Zero would be one of the first characters from that series to join the team. [[spoiler: WROOOOONG. Shirley Fenette joins instead.]]
* In ''FanFic/{{Horseshoes and Hand Grenades}}'', outside the {{Original Character}}s, all characters introduced are from Kamen Rider series. Hence it comes to a surprise when [[Series/HikoninSentaiAkibaranger Yumeria Moegi]] appears in ''A Month of Sundays'', having been fired and in search of a job.
* ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'' delights in this (something helped by the author appearing to have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of Marvel and other canons) but in particular, [[spoiler: Jack O'Neill]] as the uncle of Carol Danvers? Harry befriending a young [[spoiler: Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar]] and [[spoiler: Diana of Themyscira]]? [[spoiler: Harry Dresden]] as a consultant for SHIELD, the mentor of [[spoiler: Bruce Wayne]] and later, [[spoiler: the apprentice of Wanda Maximoff]]?
** [[spoiler: Namor]], while very briefly alluded to once or twice, is one of the biggest surprises of all in chapter 71.
* ''FanFic/MegaManRecut'' has plans to include every Robot Master in the series, and many appearing Robot Masters were unexpected.
* In ''FanFic/MegaManDefenderOfTheHumanRace'', ''nobody'' expected the Mega Crew's leader to be Tiesel Bonne.
* ''FanFic/ImperfectMetamorphosis'' including [[ChuckCunninghamSyndrome PC-98 characters]] isn't unexpected, as many ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' fanfictions do that. What was unexpected was that nearly ''all'' of them show up eventually, including really obscure ones like Kotohime, Rika and Konngara (the former of which plays a major role). And it was ''really'' unexpected when [[spoiler:Rin Satsuki]] turns out to be a main character, as [[DummiedOut she was never in the games in the first place]].
* The first episode of ''FanFic/FantasyKaleidoscope'' looks to be a straight retelling of ''Perfect Cherry Blossom'', until going OffTheRails at the end with [[spoiler:the appearance of Sanae three games early.]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'' fanfic series, ''FanFic/FacingTheFutureSeries'', many readers were surprised to see [[spoiler:the return of the ghost half that Tucker wished for]].
* In ''FanFic/MyImmortal'', when Ebony is trapped in the past, [[Franchise/BackToTheFuture Marty McFly]], or rather, [[RougeAnglesofSatin morti mcfli]], shows up out of nowhere to bring her back to the present.
* In ''[[FanFic/SovereignGFCOrigins Origins]]'', a ''MassEffect''[=/=]''StarWars''[[spoiler:[=/=]''[=Borderlands=]''[=/=]''[=Halo=]'']] MassiveMultiplayerCrossover, a Holocron loaded with the Force ghosts of canon characters pops up--ItMakesSenseInContext, but nobody saw that coming. Especially since the whole point was that "A long time ago..." had been taken extremely literally to the point where known ''Star Wars'' was considered ancient history.
* ''Fanfic/WeissReacts'':
** The majority of crossover characters originate from ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'', ''[[Franchise/ShinMegamiTenseiPersona Persona]]'' or ''Manga/{{Chobits}}''. Thus, almost nobody expected [[Manga/FruitsBasket Tohru Honda]] to fill in for [[OnlySaneMan Roman]] when he pulled a ScrewThisImOuttaHere due to the antics of the other staffers. Neo, Emerald and Mercury were unexpected, having been introduced long after the fic started. Franchise/{{The Slender Man|Mythos}} is also in the Reactsverse, calling himself Slen D. Man.
** {{Zig Zagg|ingTrope}}ed with the BadassFamily chapter- almost everyone called a [[Anime/CodeGeass Euphemia]] expy as one of Jaune's siblings, but nobody expected [[FireEmblemAwakening Lucina]] to be one too.
* In one ''Literature/HarryPotter'' fanfic, Hermione reveals halfway through the story that she is actually adopted. Her real father is... [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Bruce Wayne]]. With no prior indication whatsoever that this was a crossover.
* ''Blog/{{Moonstuck}}'' having Changelings show up was somewhat unexpected, as the comic had started before they were introduced in [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic the show]]. The real shocker however was the BigBad being [[spoiler:Discord]], as not only was he the first character from the show other than Luna to appear, he also completely destroyed the common assumptions about the timeline (pretty much everyone had assumed that the comic was a metaphor for Luna's EnemyWithin struggle with [[SuperPoweredEvilSide Nightmare Moon]], not [[spoiler:Luna and Celestia finding [[EmpathicWeapon the Elements of Harmony]].]]
* The ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'' fanfic ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8636392/1/Heian-Conglin Heian Conglin]]'' is basically a darker version of ''Jumanji'' where Ranma and Shampoo are the players. Early on, Tokyo is evacuated due the game's jungle occupying the whole city, Ranma, Shampoo and Happosai (a past player) are trying to win the game... And then [[spoiler:Panthyose Taro shows up from nowhere to demand that Happosai changes his name]].
* ''FanFic/{{Webwork}}'' has a couple of examples of this, as no one expected oneshot [[VillainOfTheWeek Villains of the Week]] like Nivor and Origami to show up.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory3'' has the title character from ''Anime/MyNeighborTotoro'' as one of Bonnie's toys. He's visible in a lot of shots but he's also completely voiceless.
* Franchise/SuperSentai:
** Bio Hunter Silva, a villain introduced late into ''Series/ChoudenshiBioman'', completely faded into obscurity after the series ended its run. However, around 30 years later, he was added to the roster of a Super Sentai LegionOfDoom during ''Film/KamenRiderXSuperSentaiSuperheroTaisen'', and had something of a major role as well..
** In ''Film/KaizokuSentaiGokaigerTheMovieTheFlyingGhostShip'', one of the villains brought in is Baseball Mask, a simple MonsterOfTheWeek from ''Series/HimitsuSentaiGoranger''.
** Many fans were shocked when it was revealed that ''Film/KamenRiderXSuperSentaiXSpaceSheriffSuperheroTaisenZ'' would also feature other Metal Heroes outside of the three Space Sheriffs.
** After ''Film/GokaigerGoseigerSuperSentai199HeroGreatBattle'', people thought there wouldn't be a crossover movie, because they just had it early on. Cue ''Film/KaizokuSentaiGokaigerVsSpaceSheriffGavanTheMovie'', which brought back the Metal Hero franchise by bringing back Gavan!
** The later Super Sentai team up movies did this. [[Series/SamuraiSentaiShinkenger Kaoru Shiba]] showed up for ''Film/TokumeiSentaiGoBustersVsKaizokuSentaiGokaigerTheMovie'', and the ''Series/KyoryuSentaiZyuranger'' and ''Series/BakuryuuSentaiAbaranger'' teams show up in the crossover movie between ''Series/ZyudenSentaiKyoryuger'' and ''Series/TokumeiSentaiGoBusters''.
* The crossover film ''Film/HeiseiRiderVsShowaRiderKamenRiderWarsFeaturingSuperSentai'' has been dropping jaws with various returning characters. [[Series/KamenRiderDouble Shoutaro]] and [[Series/KamenRiderDecade Tsukasa]]? Awesome. [[spoiler: [[Series/KamenRiderFaiz Takumi]]]]? Wow, that's even better. [[spoiler: [[BackFromTheDead Kusaka]]]]? But... how...? [[spoiler:[[Series/KamenRiderX Keisuke Jin]]?!]] Holy... [[spoiler:''[[Series/KamenRider Freaking Takeshi Hongo]]?!]] This is gonna be the best movie ever!
* The film following that, ''[[Film/SuperHeroTaisenGPKamenRider3 Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider #3]]'', introduces the titular Kamen Rider #3, who is in no way shape or form Series/KamenRiderV3 - instead, he was a Rider introduced in a story written by Creator/ShotaroIshinomori back in 1972 and ''never'' had an appearance elsewhere.
* Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse:
** ComicBook/NickFury visits Tony Stark in TheStinger of ''Film/IronMan1'', offering to tell him about [[Film/TheAvengers2012 "The Avenger Initiative"]].
** Tony in turn makes a cameo at the end of ''Film/TheIncredibleHulk'', asking General Ross, "What if I told you we were putting a team together?"
** During the end credits of ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}'', The Other tells his superior, "To challenge [the Avengers] is to court death." The camera then cuts to the superior, [[spoiler:ComicBook/{{Thanos}}]], giving a PsychoticSmirk.
** The stinger of ''Film/IronMan3'' reveals that [[spoiler:Tony was recounting the adventure to Bruce Banner, who dozed off about a minute in.]]
** [[spoiler:ComicBook/{{Quicksilver}} and ComicBook/ScarletWitch]] show up during the end credits of ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'' as test subjects of HYDRA.
** ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy'' serves as this for the entire MCU. Only those who have read the comics and have the resources know them. Within the film, [[spoiler:ComicBook/HowardTheDuck makes a very unexpected cameo.]]
** Ulysses Klaue and Helen Cho in ''Film/AvengersAgeOfUltron''. The former because he is usually a ComicBook/BlackPanther / ComicBook/FantasticFour baddie - even if serves as {{Foreshadowing}} for the Panther's solo film - and the latter because she is a completely minor, obscure PosthumousCharacter in the comics.
* ''Film/{{Deadpool 2016}}'' features appearances from Colossus, Angel Dust and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, all three of whom have close ties to the ''Comicbook/XMen'' franchise, but none of whom are connected to Deadpool in the comics. And besides Colossus, the two ladies are unexpected for being rather obscure mutants - Warhead in particular was only included because the writers [[AwesomeMcCoolName liked her codename]].
* ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'' includes both [[spoiler: Carol Marcus]] and [[spoiler: Khan Noonien Singh]] as major supporting characters, but it introduces both of them under fake names ([[spoiler: "Carol Wallace"]] and [[spoiler: "John Harrison"]], respectively) to hide their identities from savvy Trekkies who would already know them. Given that the film takes place in an AlternateUniverse version of the ''[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Original Series]]'' era, most fans could deduce that both characters would be around somewhere, but the revelation of their identities is significant because it suddenly makes it clear that the film is really [[spoiler: a loose WhatIf retelling of ''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'']].
* Vernon suddenly shows up in a supporting role in ''Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2014''. He hasn't been seen or mentioned since [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987 the 80s version]] (and wasn't even included in [[Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1990 1990 movie]] where April likewise was a reporter) and thought long forgotten, so it was a surprise to longtime fans.
* ''Film/SuicideSquad'' had several of these in its line-up. While characters like ComicBook/{{Deadshot}}, ComicBook/HarleyQuinn, and Captain Boomerang are either team mainstays or popular characters in their own right, there are also characters like the Enchantress ([[ComicBook/TheMightyThor not that one]]), El Diablo, and Slipknot, who are rather obscure and yet part of the main group.
* The advertising campaign for ''Film/BatmanVSupermanDawnOfJustice'' heavily played up the fact that Creator/JasonMomoa and Creator/GalGadot would be making their debuts as ComicBook/{{Aquaman}} and ComicBook/WonderWoman, respectively, and widely distributed publicity photos of them in costume. While viewers expected to see them, they probably ''didn't'' expect to see [[spoiler: Creator/EzraMiller in costume as ComicBook/TheFlash, with actual dialogue and screen time]]. And though he's only seen in a still photograph, most people probably didn't expect to get a look at [[spoiler: Creator/ChrisPine as Wonder Woman's old friend Steve Trevor]]. In Batman's nightmare vision, [[spoiler: a squadron of Parademons attack Batman's forces, and {{ComicBook/Darkseid}}'s Omega symbol can be seen burned into the ground; [[ComicBook/NewGods Mother Boxes]] also make a few appearances throughout the movie]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Used towards the end of the ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' series. Arbon and Loren, two minor characters who hadn't been seen in years and had little reason to return again, both made surprise reappearances. Weirder still, while Arbron's fate was neatly tied up in the epilogue, Loren wasn't addressed at all, making her a weird case of this character type meeting WhatHappenedToTheMouse
* ''Literature/WarriorCats'':
** Lots of unexpected characters pop up in the ''[[Literature/WarriorCatsOmenOfTheStars Omen of the Stars]]'' finale ''The Last Hope'', such as Redtail, Raggedstar and Mosskit. But almost nobody was expecting Brambleberry's cameo appearance at the beginning where she is one of the first cats to ever successfully give Jayfeather a lecture.
** When ''[[Literature/WarriorCatsDawnOfTheClans Dawn of the Clans]]'', a {{prequel}} series dealing with the founding and early days of the five Clans was announced, lots of theories were made about appearances from the Clan Founders (Thunder, River Ripple, Wind Runner, Tall Shadow, and Clear Sky), original medicine cats (Cloudspots, Dapplepelt, Mothflight, and Pebbleheart), and a few other characters mentioned in the field guides (Gorsefur, Owleyes, Lightningtail, etc.). However, almost nobody predicted Graywing the Wise (a character whose sole mention in the series beforehand was being credited with creating a few [=WindClan=] battle strategies in ''Battles of the Clans'') showing up, let alone his role as the (initial) main character of the arc. To a lesser extent, few expected Half Moon and Lion's Roar to appear in the arc, but they ended up being supporting characters in ''The Sun Trail''.
* [[Literature/SherlockHolmes Sherlock Holmes and Watson]] (though not named, it's obviously them) appear in a segment of a ''Literature/FinalDestination'' novel in VictorianBritain.
* In ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'', Creator/GeorgeRRMartin has a tendency to take minor or antagonistic characters and make them point-of-view characters in later books.
* In the fifth book of ''Literature/VenusPrime'', Sir Randolph Mays, the insufferable PompousPoliticalPundit who seems so hellbent upon exposing the Free Spirit, turns out to be [[spoiler:William Laird, the ''leader'' of the Free Spirit]].
* ''Literature/TheLionTheWitchAndTheWardrobe'' had the now rather infamous scene in which Father Christmas pops up out of nowhere to give the Pevensie siblings their Christmas presents. Despite being set in a fantasy world, his appearance in Narnia is still a little jarring, and it's worth saying that he's never again seen or mentioned in any of the other books.
* ''Literature/GauntsGhosts'' likes to reintroduce minor characters or ones that have otherwise been PutOnABus to play major roles much later. [[spoiler:Sanian]] reappears in ''Sabbat Martyr'', [[spoiler:Sturnn]] reappears in ''Traitor General'', and [[spoiler:Agun Soric]] reappears in ''Only In Death''. It also works in reverse for [[Creator/DanAbnett the author]]'s other books set earlier in the timeline. Heldane and Lilith have minor roles in ''Literature/{{Eisenhorn}}'' and ''Literature/{{Ravenor}}'' respectively, both before they've achieved the rank of Inquisitor.
* Though it's hardly a surprise these days, the original readers of Walter Scott's ''Literature/{{Ivanhoe}}'' would ''not'' have been expecting an appearance from Robin Hood, who spends the first half of the book under an assumed name (back then, "Locksley" would not have been immediately recognizable as one of his aliases).
* The {{Whoniverse}} book ''Literature/TimeLordFairyTales'' pulls this off twice by springing a surprise character on the reader well after a story is underway and the protagonists' plight has been established; moreover, they go on to play supporting roles in the action, albeit important ones. In "Helena and the Beast", it's [[spoiler: the Twelfth Doctor]]; in "The Grief Collector", it's [[spoiler: the Tenth]]. Also, while many familiar Whoniverse villains turn up in these {{Twice Told Tale}}s, the presence of [[spoiler: The Nimon, from one of the classic series' campiest serials]] in "Jack and the Wormhole" will likely surprise those who don't remember their televised appearance and recognize the new story's similar setup.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}'' is a major offender. While [[TropesAreTools sometimes the cool and unexpected DCU characters who have never appeared in live action television may be awesome to watch]] and being a LongRunner may justify some of it, other times it is out of nowhere and somewhat jarring when they were never involved with Superman before. It reached an all time high [[JumpingTheShark after season eight]] in attempts to restore plummeting audience figures.
** The Persuader, whose sole purpose is to teleport in, [[RuleOfDrama smash a crystal to make Clark's life harder]], then getting flattened by the Legion who sent him back to the future in the matter of seconds.
** Some of the Injustice League. Parasite is a long-time enemy, Livewire is from ''WesternAnimation/SupermanTheAnimatedSeries'', but Neutron, a lesser known character from the comics, definitely counts. His role on the show was so minor, he doesn't even have a page on the wiki.
** Some members of the Justice Society is slightly more well-known, but they are usually in an alternate dimension or something.
** ComicBook/BoosterGold. Website/TelevisionWithoutPity sums it up nicely.
-->''"With just three episodes left till the series finale, let's spend some time getting to know Booster [[GoshDangItToHeck Freaking]] Gold."''
** In the second to last episode, "Prophecy", Black Manta, Captain Cold and Solomon Grundy.
* ''Series/{{Merlin|2008}}'':
** At the end of series 4, Literature/TristanAndIsolde were introduced. It felt a little random considering a) they bore no resemblance whatsoever to their legendary counterparts, b) they didn't actually contribute much to the plot, and c) they disappeared entirely after their two episode appearance (Isolde being KilledOffForReal and Tristan disappearing without explanation).
** The GrandFinale saw the return of [[spoiler:Balinor, Merlin's father]] who hadn't been seen since the end of season two (and had been killed off in the same episode he was introduced).
** In season three a character calling himself Taliesin has a minor role; an odd inclusion given that the legendary/historical Taliesin is only tangentially related to Arthurian legend.
* ''Series/OnceUponATime'' is about "story book characters," which the creators consider to be all fictional characters, but the show puts a ''heavy'' emphasis on FairyTale ones, particularly Literature/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs. So it surprised quite a few people when [[{{Literature/Frankenstein}} Dr. Frankenstein]] showed up. And the ''last few seconds'' of Season 3 suddenly introduce [[spoiler: Queen Elsa from ''Disney/{{Frozen}}'']] (although admittedly [[spoiler:Elsa]] is an adaptation of the title character of the Creator/HansChristianAndersen story ''[[spoiler:Literature/TheSnowQueen]]'').
* ''Series/OnceUponATimeInWonderland'' does something similar; upon hearing it was about Wonderland, who would ever expect ''[[Disney/{{Aladdin}} Jafar]]'' as a main character?
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** Davros does this ''all the damn time''; it might as well be his defining character trait. [[Recap/DoctorWhoS12E4GenesisOfTheDaleks "Genesis of the Daleks"]] was unexpected because the Daleks had previously been established as the end result of [[ILoveNuclearPower nuclear-bomb-induced mutations]], not the [[GeneticEngineeringIsTheNewNuke genetic creations]] of one MadScientist. [[Recap/DoctorWhoS17E1DestinyOfTheDaleks "Destiny of the Daleks"]] and [[Recap/DoctorWhoS22E6RevelationOfTheDaleks "Revelation of the Daleks"]] [[JokerImmunity were unexpected]] because, well, he'd ''[[DeathIsCheap died]]'' in his previous appearances. In [[Recap/DoctorWhoS25E1RemembranceOfTheDaleks "Remembrance of the Daleks"]] he randomly shows up as the Dalek Emperor, only to get about three minutes of screen time before exploding. And his appearance in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E13JourneysEnd "Journey's End"]] required him doing something that was explicitly stated to be impossible just to show up (though it was a nice bit of foreshadowing for [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E17E18TheEndOfTime "The End of Time"]]). [[spoiler:His latest unannounced return was [[Recap/DoctorWhoS35E1TheMagiciansApprentice "The Magician's Apprentice"]], having been a well-kept secret by the production team.]]
** In [[Recap/DoctorWhoS15E6TheInvasionOfTime "The Invasion of Time"]], no-one was expecting the ''Sontarans'', of all races, to be the masterminds behind the plot.
** The Master is a frequent subject of this, appearing halfway through to turn out to be TheManBehindTheMan on one alien scheme after another. During Anthony Ainley's tenure the production team sometimes went so far as to conceal his presence in a story by using his current alias as the character name and turning his actor's name into an anagram.
** Omega turning out to be TheManBehindTheMan in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS20E1ArcOfInfinity "Arc of Infinity"]] is unexpected not only from a character standpoint, but from the show's perspective as he hadn't appeared or been mentioned for ''ten years''.
** [[Recap/DoctorWhoS33E1AsylumOfTheDaleks "Asylum of the Daleks"]] starts off with [[spoiler:Creator/JennaLouiseColeman showing up several episodes earlier than expected, seeding her character's story arc]].
** [[Recap/DoctorWho50thPrequelTheNightOfTheDoctor "The Night of the Doctor"]] has [[spoiler:the Eighth Doctor appear after [[LongBusTrip 17 years]]]].
--> '''[[spoiler:Eighth Doctor]]''': I'm a doctor. [[LeaningOnTheFourthWall Though probably not the one you were expecting]]!
** And in [[Recap/DoctorWho50thASTheDayOfTheDoctor "The Day of the Doctor"]], it wasn't much of a surprise when [[spoiler:all the past Doctors show up... but when ''[[Creator/PeterCapaldi Twelve]]'' makes an appearance, a month before the Christmas special where he was supposed to debut, ''that'' turned quite a few heads. On top of that, Creator/TomBaker makes a surprise appearance at the end as the Curator.]]
** The end credit stinger in the Series 8 finale "Death in Heaven", by way of teasing the 2014 Christmas special, has [[spoiler: ''Santa Claus'']] entering the TARDIS!
** The production team can pull this off all the time these days by not listing important characters and actors on pre-released cast lists and only crediting them on the episode itself!
** ''AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho'':
*** "Zagreus" has [[spoiler: the Third Doctor appear through StockFootage.]]
*** "The Light at the End" similarly features [[spoiler: the first three Doctors via [[FakeShemp voice impersonators]].]]
*** Davros ''again'', at the very end of [[spoiler: the Divergent arc.]]
* ''Series/DaVincisDemons'' has the titular character meeting none other than Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a. Dracula).
* ''Series/PowerRangersMegaforce'' has the appearance of the ''Series/GoseiSentaiDairanger'' costumes outside of Kibaranger (who was our White Ranger), along with the assumption that the costumes of the series from ''Series/HimitsuSentaiGoranger'' to ''Series/ChoujinSentaiJetman'' are just alien powers that weren't brought to Earth.
* ''[[Series/TwentyFour 24: Live Another Day]]'' has [[spoiler: [[HijackedByGanon Cheng Zhi]] as the main antagonist.]] Although fans were expecting some familiar faces to show up other than Jack, Chloe, Audrey, and James Heller, he was genuinely the last person anyone was expecting to see.
* ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'', continuing the tradition of the Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse. These include minor comic characters like [[spoiler:Deathlok, Graviton, Lorelei, Blizzard, Blackout, and some of ComicBook/TheInhumans, most notably Mister Hyde and Quake, who was main character Skye all along.]]
* ''Series/KamenRiderGaim'' has a completely standalone villain for its final episode. It is indeed someone from the past, but it being [[spoiler:Kougane, the Big Bad of the summer movie]], came right out of nowhere.
* ''Series/{{Supergirl 2015}}'' combines this with NotHisSled, as the Hank Henshaw we're introduced to turns out to be [[spoiler:the ComicBook/MartianManhunter in disguise]] rather than a cyborg supervillain.
** Though it was announced beforehand, those familiar with canon were probably surprised that Non would appear as a major villain, sans his usual boss Zod. (And this is before he's reduced to DumbMuscle.)
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Music]]
* Large-scale tours and festivals are bound to have this. Obviously everyone will know the headlining act, but when an unsigned band makes the line-up, people tend to scratch their heads (especially if they play the main-stage). For instance, Download Fest 2011, main stage with the likes of Music/DefLeppard, Music/SystemOfADown, Music/LinkinPark and... The Pretty Reckless?
* Mass-artist compilations fall into this from time to time.
* In a media crossover-example, {{Rhythm Game}}s probably get this sort of reaction when they announce the new setlist for their next title, such as with ''[[VideoGame/RockBand Rock Band 3]]'' ("Music/TheDoors, Music/LynyrdSkynyrd, Music/EltonJohn and... Phoenix?"[[note]]The band's logo was used on the back of the case alongside names like Music/{{Queen}}, Music/JimiHendrix, Music/TheWho and the Music/{{Ramones}}[[/note]]).
* One such example is ''VideoGame/JustDance'', in which Top 40 tunes by artists such as Music/KatyPerry, Music/OneDirection and Music/NickiMinaj co-exist alongside the likes of the {{Tetris}} theme, the William Tell Overture, and the [[{{Vocaloid}} Hatsune Miku]] [[CoveredUp cover]] of Ievan Polkka.
* Rapper B.o.B. often has this with his featured artists, which have included Hayley Williams of {{Paramore}}, Rivers Cuomo of Music/{{Weezer}}, and TaylorSwift.
* Music/KanyeWest's albums usually have at least one.
** ''The College Dropout'' had Jamie Foxx, poet J.Ivy and was introduced by Bernie Mac (playing Kanye's high school principal).
** ''Late Registration'' had both Mac and Foxx, but also included LupeFiasco (his appearance on "Touch the Sky" was his mainstream breakthrough), Adam Levine of MaroonFive, and, perhaps most surprisingly, given Kanye's mentor and boss Music/JayZ was feuding with him at the time, {{Nas}} on "We Major".
** ''Graduation'' had Chris Martin of {{Coldplay}}.
** ''808s and Heartbreak'' had two of Kanye's previous collaborators who few expected to fit with the album's style, namely rappers Young Jeezy and LilWayne.
** ''My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'' had EltonJohn, LaRoux, Fergie (of the BlackEyedPeas), Chris Rock, NickiMinaj and BonIver (although the last two are only unexpected because at the time few had heard of them or knew what to expect).
** ''Watch the Throne'' had [[PrecisionFStrike fucking]] OtisRedding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of LaRoux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame.
** ''Cruel Summer'' had most of its' supporting cast like this - RKelly, Ma$e, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef...
** ''Yeezus'' had King Louie and Assassin.
** Kanye is also an Unexpected Character on other people's works. Few expected his collaborations with Music/ThirtySecondsToMars, KatyPerry or {{Music/Madonna}}.
* Music/JayZ and Music/LinkinPark collaborated for the ''Collision Course'' mash-up. Few could've expected one of the biggest rappers in the world working with one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
* Rapper A$AP Rocky's debut 'Long-Live-A$AP' featured Music/{{Drake}}, 2 Chainz, Music/KendrickLamar and... Florence Welch (of Music/FlorenceAndTheMachine).
* Childish Gambino's "Real Estate" suddenly features an ending rap outro by... Creator/TinaFey.
* Music/CobraStarship's "Good Girls Go Bad" featured ''Literature/GossipGirl'' star Leighton Meester.
* Music/{{Drake}}'s "All Me" includes an introduction by... Creator/AzizAnsari.
* Music/NineInchNails turned some heads when the guest list for ''Hesitation Marks'' included Lindsey Buckingham of Music/FleetwoodMac.
* For some appearances in 1994 (including on ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'') TomPetty's drummer was DaveGrohl, previously of {{Music/Nirvana}}. Since that time Grohl has collaborated with many musicians from Petty's generation but at the time it must have been an unexpected lineup.
* Music/TechN9ne and [[Music/SystemOfADown Serj Tankian]] had a very unusual - if compelling - collaboration.
* Music/WithinTemptation's album ''Hydra'' featues, of all people, Xzibit as a guest artist.
* Music/QueensOfTheStoneAge had [[Music/TheStrokes Julian Casablancas]] guest on ''Era Vulgaris'' and [[Music/EltonJohn Elton FREAKING John]] [[WTHCastingAgency of all people]] appear on their newest album. The results are actually [[CrowningMusicOfAwesome awesome]] in both cases.
* ''Film/TheHungerGamesMockingjayPart1'' soundtrack, curated by Music/{{Lorde}}, features mainly mordern female electronic/pop vocalists such as herself along with Music/{{CHVRCHES}}, Music/CharliXCX, Music/ToveLo, Music/ArianaGrande, Bat For Lashes, Tinashe, HAIM, and... Grace Jones? Also rappers [[Music/ATribeCalledQuest Q-Tip]] and Pusha-T appear in Stromae's "Meltdown" alongside Lorde and HAIM for an odd-yet-compelling collaboration. Also featured, perhaps most surprisingly of all given Lorde's feud with Diplo at the time, was Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande with "All My Love".
* Few could've expected Music/TaylorSwift and Music/KendrickLamar to ever collaborate on a song together, but indeed they did in former's song "Bad Blood".
* Music/GaMetal has remixed some pretty weird songs, for example, there's a medley of tunes from ''VideoGame/BionicCommando'' and, even stranger, the FinalBoss theme from ''[=McDonald's=] Treasure Land Adventure'' of all things. Fittingly, the latter one was done as an AprilFoolsDay special, but it is a real song.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* Wrestling/{{WWE}}'s annual Wrestling/RoyalRumble pretty much always features Unexpected Characters in various forms. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one or two returning Legends making a one-off appearance (e.g. Wrestling/HonkyTonkMan in 2000, Diesel\Wrestling/KevinNash in 2011 and 2014), there are bound to be one or two main roster wrestlers making an unannounced return (e.g. Wrestling/JohnCena in 2008, Wrestling/{{Edge}} in 2010), and every now and then there are entrants who are unexpected because they generally don't compete against the main male roster (e.g. Wrestling/BethPhoenix in 2010, El Torito in 2014). Retired or semi-retired wrestlers serving as ringside commentators for the Rumble are sometimes unexpectedly entered into the match, usually resulting in their returning to the announce booth once they're eliminated (e.g. Wrestling/JerryLawler in 1996 and 2012, Wrestling/MichaelCole in 2012, Wrestling/{{J|ohnBradshawLayfield}}BL in 2014). One of the most unexpected (and bemoaned) characters in Rumble history was ''Drew Carey'' in the 2001 match. However, arguably the most shocking (or at the very least, surreal) entry, despite the countless rumors, reports, and even a statement from the Wrestling/{{TNA}} website all but outright telling us it would happen, was the debut of [[spoiler:Wrestling/AJStyles]] at the 2016 Royal Rumble in Orlando.
* Intense Wrestling Inc was the only promotion operating in [[Wrestling/JillianHall Macaela Mercedes]]'s hometown of Cincinnati Ohio. It announced ahead of time that IWI would be booking talent from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. So when she made her debut near the end of 2002 and was matched against La Tigresa, a wrestler she knew nothing about besides being from Puerto Rico, she was caught off guard. Even if they had mentioned wrestlers from Puerto Rico, Tigresa wouldn't have been on most people's radar stateside, given women's wrestling had virtually vanished from the island following her arrest four years prior for a smuggling case that was expected to keep her behind bars for decades.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/StreetFighterXTekken'' includes [[VideoGame/FinalFight Poison]], and exclusive to the Sony platforms are [[VideoGame/{{Infamous}} Cole MacGrath]] and Sony Japan mascots Toro and Kuro.
* ''Franchise/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles'':
** ''VideoGame/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtlesSmashUp'' has characters described as "Characters you know in addition to ones you wouldn't expect." True, everybody knew that Shredder, April, Casey, and the title characters would appear, but not an unnamed [[{{Mook}} Foot Soldier]] or an alien in a battle suit that was a one-shot character from [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2003 the 2003 show]] (as an {{Expy}} for Krang from the 80s show). And for established characters, there's the Fugitoid and [[WesternAnimation/{{TMNT}} Night Watcher]] (who has a completely different gameplay from regular Raphael). Finally, there are VideoGame/RavingRabbids.
** Excluding the Turtles and Shredder, almost the entire cast of the SNES ''VideoGame/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtlesTournamentFighters'' is really obscure. War is a very minor bad guy in the Archie comic book series, while Aska is an OriginalGeneration character. The Genesis version had OriginalGeneration Sisyphus, an anthropomorphic beetle with no real backstory, and Ray Fillet, who was unknown to most outside of an action figure and ''ComicBook/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtlesAdventures''. Both 16-bit versions of the game had Karai as the final boss, a character who was still pretty new to the Mirage Comics who still languished in obscurity until 2003 when she finally showed up in an animated adaption.
** TMNT fighting games have this as "par for the course". ''TMNT Mutant Melee'' had a teenage Hun (seen only in flashbacks), Summer and Winter outfits for Casey Jones and April (they were only costumes, but they had their own character slots), Gold Shredder (meant to be a OneWingedAngel for Shredder), Sleeg (an alien that the Turtles met in the Triceraton prison that barely had any screentime at all), and MONSTER. Don't remember the Turtles palling around or fighting a character like this? That's because they DIDN'T. He showed up as the antagonist of a horror movie Michelangelo was watching. Yes, his only appearance prior was in a ShowWithinAShow, appearing only for a few seconds in ONE episode.
* Creator/MasahiroSakurai has [[TeasingCreator gone out of his way]] to include at least a few in every ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'':
** ''Smash 64''
*** In the first game, Ness from cult classic ''VideoGame/EarthBound''.
*** Captain Falcon seemed a strange choice at the time of the first game, as he is from racing series ''VideoGame/FZero'', instead of a platformer. At least ''VideoGame/StarFox64'' has a secret on-foot mode that let Fox [=McCloud=] out of the cockpit.
** ''Melee''
*** The VideoGame/{{Ice Climber}}s appearing in ''Super Smash Bros. Melee'', who had previously only ever existed in a single arcade/NES title and were only added to the roster for their gameplay potential.
*** [[VideoGame/GameAndWatch Mr. Game & Watch]] wasn't even ''a distinct character'' before ''Melee'', and while his home series was significant to Nintendo's history, it is relatively unknown to those growing up after the 80's.
*** The situation that named MarthDebutedInSmashBros; Marth might have seemed more reasonable to Japanese gamers, but [[VideoGame/FireEmblemAkaneia the series he hailed from]] had [[NoExportForYou never been released outside of Japan]] prior to ''Super Smash Bros. Melee''.
*** Roy made his ''[[EarlyBirdCameo character debut]]'' in ''Melee''. ''[[VideoGame/FireEmblemElibe Fire Emblem Sealed Sword]]'' came out a few months later. Even the Japanese were surprised. People were also shocked when in ''[=Smash for 3DS/WiiU=]'' he [[TheBusCameBack returned]] as a DLC character.
*** In Adventure Mode in ''Melee'', Metal Mario's not much of a surprise, as he's also in the original. But after you've unlocked Luigi, you find yourself fighting Metal Mario ''and'' Metal Luigi.
** Even the mod ''{{GameMod/ProjectM}}'' has some unexpected characters:
*** Roy was considered highly unlikely to return until the Clone Engine (a before-then-hypothetical way to add new characters to ''Brawl'' instead of replacing existing ones) was finished. Roy (along with Mewtwo) was one of the first characters added this way.
** ''Brawl''
*** While the idea of having a playable Franchise/{{Pokemon}} Trainer was a somewhat popular choice, many wrote it off as very unlikely to happen. And even within the Trainer's moveset, while Squirtle and Charizard were popular choices, nobody expected Ivysaur, even if it was the most logical counterpart to the other two. Two reasons to make Ivysaur unexpected: 1) It's the middle evolution of a Pokemon. You could see Bulbasaur perhaps or Venusaur at a stretch, but Ivysaur? and 2) It's the first fully quadruped fighter in the series, and the only one in ''Brawl''.
*** [[Franchise/MetalGear Solid Snake]] was confirmed as the series' first third-party character for ''Brawl''. Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog ''would'' have been a major example if Snake hadn't been revealed first, since, really, Sonic was the first third-party character anyone would expect to show up.
*** R.O.B. wasn't even an actual character from a game. He was a gaming peripheral from the NES days that had lackluster success.
** ''Smash 4 3DS/Wii U'' was practically a constant stream of these:
*** With the reveal of the fourth game for both the [=WiiU=] and the 3DS, it was not very surprising when the Villager from ''VideoGame/AnimalCrossing'' and VideoGame/MegaManClassic were the first new characters to be revealed. However, later on in the same day, the female trainer from ''VideoGame/WiiFit'' was revealed to much more surprise. WordOfGod was that she was chosen because ''no-one'' had suggested her.
*** EnsembleDarkhorse Rosalina was announced for ''Wii U/3DS''. The ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'' series already had 4 characters announced (not counting those considered to be from their own universes), another one was unexpected, and if one did happen it wasn't expected to be her due to her relative recency compared to other possible characters.
*** Many expected Charizard to return, but not as a standalone character without the Pokémon Trainer.
*** Many didn't see Greninja coming despite being a very popular [[VideoGame/PokemonXAndY 6th generation Pokémon]] since, unlike Lucario, Greninja didn't have a marketing push and hadn't made a proper appearance in the anime by the time of its reveal.
*** Rather than have Chrom as the ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'' representative, everyone was shocked to see the game would be represented by Robin and Lucina. Chrom spends the trailer face-down defeated and Lucina's intro splash reads "Lucina Wakes Her Blade?!"
*** While everyone knew that other Nintendo games with no fighter/stage reps would be acknowledged via trophies, no one expected that 3rd party games could get trophy only representation. Then a Miiverse update revealed that VideoGame/{{Rayman}} would appear in trophy form. It's also the first acknowledgement of a game series developed by a non-Japanese 3rd party developer.
*** No one predicted that damn ''VideoGame/DuckHunt'' Dog (paired up with one of the ducks) scrapping with Mario and friends. This one was so unexpected that it was taken as proof that the leak it was revealed in was fake.
*** Dr. Mario returning for the fourth game, after not appearing in ''Brawl''.
*** At the end of the "50 Facts" Nintendo Direct about Smash for the [=WiiU=], Mewtwo was announced as a returning character, as DLC for spring 2015. While DLC characters had been a highly plausible theory since Nintendo was entering that field, many had written Mewtwo off since he had a trophy in the 3DS version of the game, on top of his absence from ''Brawl''.
*** Lucas and Roy made a return to the roster thanks to DLC too. Like Dr. Mario and Mewtwo they were unexpected thanks to been removed from the main roster.
*** Virtually no one expected [[Franchise/StreetFighter Ryu]] to be in the game after Capcom already had a representative in Mega Man, even when he was leaked before his official reveal.
*** ''[[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII Cloud Strife]]'' was announced in November 2015, taking ''many players'' by surprise (including those who were wishing to see him included somehow).
*** Corrin from ''VideoGame/FireEmblemFates'', which wasn't even released yet outside Japan when he was announced (plus the series had five Fire Emblem representatives). It's MarthDebutedInSmashBros all over again.
*** ''VideoGame/{{Bayonetta}}'' entered the game by winning[[note]] There's some debate about whether or not the ballot was valid or honest. For some, she was unexpected.[[/note]] the Fighter Ballot. Virtually no-one expected she had a chance for being too dark and suggestive a character, but it turned out she was the most popular voted character in Europe, and apparently one of the top five in the US.[[note]]At least, of the characters that they could get the rights to. [[/note]]
*** With fandom as big as Smash Bros., it isn't a big surprise that some fangames have playable characters that are out of left-field. Some of them, however are just plain ''weird''. Take ''Super Smash Battle'' for instance. The full roster has 8 characters 4 of them are Smash Bros characters who have appeared in the game since day one [[note]] Mario, Link, Pikachu, and Samus[[/note]] two 3rd party characters that weren't in the games yet, but were still gaming icons. [[note]] Sonic and Mega Man.[[/note]] The last two? ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'' and ''ComicStrip/{{Garfield}}'', who aren't even video game characters! Its sequel fared slightly better, with choices like [[VideoGame/ConkersBadFurDay Conker]], Franchise/{{Rayman}}, VideoGame/{{Ristar}}, Franchise/CrashBandicoot, and VideoGame/BanjoKazooie.
** Fan game, Super Smash Flash, has a case of EarlyInstallmentWeirdness. There are more 3rd party characters than actual Nintendo characters in the game! This includes [[VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia Lloyd Irving]], Manga/{{Naruto}}, [[VideoGame/ChronoTrigger Chrono]], [[Franchise/FinalFantasy Cloud]], and [[WesternAnimation/TheIncredibles Mr. Incredible]] (?!). Possible the most unexpected characters are two ''Sonic the Hedgehog'' Original Characters: Blade and Blue. Its sequal also showed signs of this, with newcomers such as [[Manga/{{Bleach}} Renji]], [[Manga/{{Naruto}} Sasuke, Rock Lee]], [[Franchise/DragonBall Vegeta]], [[Franchise/TalesSeries Kratos]], [[Franchise/KingdomHearts Riku]] and three more OCs. The roster has been cut down, with no ocs and only three anime characters (Goku, Naruto, and Ichigo).
* Capcom's 2D fighting game based on the third part of ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure'' has a couple. First up is Midler, the user of the Stand named High Priestess: since she is never seen clearly in the manga, author Creator/HirohikoAraki had to create her character design for the game from scratch! There's also the younger version of Joseph, based on his appearance in the second part of the manga. For downplayed examples, Alessi's Stand has the power to physically regress opponents for a short time, but characters other than the main heroes usually become one-shot extras from the manga.
* VideoGame/CapcomVsWhatever:
** [[VideoGame/DeadRising Frank West]] in ''VideoGame/TatsunokoVsCapcom: [[UpdatedRerelease Ultimate All-Stars]]''. Capcom's choices for their own representatives seem to come from the far corners of their character library. For ''VideoGame/StreetFighterIII'' they went with Alex (a very paced character in his source series and one whose moves don't spring to mind in a hyperactive fighter like the ''Vs. Series'' is known for) instead of someone more nimble (such as Ibuki or Necro). From ''Franchise/{{Onimusha}}'' they pulled Kaijin no Soki, who only appeared in ''Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams'', as opposed to Samonouske Akechi, the protagonist of both the original and the third game ''Demon Siege'' (and ostensibly the "true" protagonist of the series). Saki Omokane, from ''Quiz Narairo Dreams'', might have some presence to Japanese audiences but American players would only know her as that girl who can be chosen as an AssistCharacter in the first ''Marvel vs. Capcom''. And finally they pulled a ''VideoGame/LostPlanet'' [[HumongousMecha Vital Suit]] to represent their "giant" character opposite Gold Lightan, tagged "PTX-40A" and helmed by an unseen pilot. And BigBad is, of ''all possible people'', [[spoiler:Yami, the final boss of ''VideoGame/{{Okami}}'', who is already a GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere in its own game, and no one else from ''Okami'' is in this game]].
** For the ''VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom'' series, we've got [[Comicbook/DoctorStrange Shuma-Gorath]] and [[ComicBook/{{X-Men}} Marrow]]. Jin Saotome from ''VideoGame/{{Cyberbots}}'' had Americans asking, "Who the hell is Jin?" Also, few were expecting [[VideoGame/{{Strider}} Strider Hiryu]] and VideoGame/CaptainCommando to make a reappearance after about a decade in the doldrums.
** ''VideoGame/CapcomVsSNK2MarkOfTheMillennium'' includes [[VideoGame/ArtOfFighting Ryuhaku Todoh]], [[VideoGame/FinalFight Maki]], and [[VideoGame/TheLastBlade Hibiki Takane]], just to name a few. Even more unexpected is Eagle, who's first and only appearance prior was in the original StreetFighterI ([[SequelDisplacement the one no-one rememebers.]])
** ''VideoGame/CapcomFightingEvolution'' features four ''VideoGame/RedEarth'' characters, none of whom are Tessa. [[note]]She previously appeared in ''Super Gem Fighter/Pocket Fighter'' and ''SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom'', herself an example of this trope.[[/note]]
** ComicBook/{{MODOK}} in ''VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom3''. Also unexpected (and before M.O.D.O.K.'s reveal) were [[VideoGame/DevilMayCry Trish]], [[VideoGame/{{Okami}} Amaterasu]], and ComicBook/{{X 23}}. Later, [[VideoGame/FinalFight Mike Haggar]] joined the fray and the manliness levels of the game ''[[RatedMForManly skyrocketed]]''.
** With the UpdatedRerelease ''Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3'', we received [[ComicBook/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy Rocket Raccoon]] and [[VideoGame/GhostsNGoblins Firebrand]]. [[Franchise/AceAttorney Phoenix Wright]] would also qualify if not for the fact that he was so highly requested (and hello again, Frank!).
** Nova was also highly unexpected VideoGame/UltimateMarvelVsCapcom3, compared to the rest of the added cast. Nova had never been a big name Marvel character, surprising many with his inclusion. Not long after, however, he would appear in ''WesternAnimation/UltimateSpiderMan'' as a SHIELD agent, perhaps increasing his visibility some.
** ''VideoGame/NamcoXCapcom'' made some unusual decisions for its cast. On the Namco side, many of the characters are from old UsefulNotes/{{Arcade Game}}s, the most recognizable being Taizo Hori, the protagonist of ''VideoGame/DigDug'' (complete with [[AdaptationalBadass Badass Makeover]]). The Capcom side is just strange; one of the playable characters is the shopkeeper from ''VideoGame/ForgottenWorlds'', and the ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'' and ''Franchise/MegaMan'' franchises are represented by ''[[VideoGame/ResidentEvilGunSurvivor Resident Evil: Dead Aim]]'' and ''VideoGame/MegaManLegends'' -- hardly the first choices for either series. In addition, Capcom's ''VideoGame/RivalSchools'' is represented by minor characters.
** ''VideoGame/ProjectXZone'' is better at choosing more mainstream characters (by this time, we all saw Frank coming). [[VideoGame/SpaceChannel5 Not that it's]] [[VideoGame/ZombieRevenge completely free]] [[{{Anime/Yumeria}} from this trope]]. Raise your hand if you expected the main character from ''Dynamite Cop'', aka ''[[DolledUpInstallment Die Hard Arcade]]'', or a mecha-less [[VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsOriginalGeneration Sanger Zonvolt]]. ''Project X Zone 2'' caught everyone off-guard and made people squee for joy when ''Advertising/SegataSanshiro himself'' was announced as a playable character. Then it happened again with Fiora from ''[[VideoGame/{{Xenoblade}} Xenoblade Chronicles]]'' and Chrom and Lucina from ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'', as there were no hints at all of Nintendo characters participating.
* ''VideoGame/MarioKart'':
** [[UsefulNotes/NintendoEntertainmentSystem R.O.B.]] showed up as a secret character in ''Mario Kart DS''. For ''Mario Kart Wii'', surprises include [[VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry Funky Kong]] and [[VideoGame/NewSuperMarioBros Dry Bowser]]. And in ''Mario Kart 7'', we have a Lakitu, a Wiggler, [[VideoGame/SuperMario64 Metal Mario]], and [[VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy Queen Bee]]. Before all those, we had [[VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine Petey Piranha]] and [[VideoGame/LuigisMansion King Boo]] showing up as unlockable racers in ''VideoGame/MarioKartDoubleDash''.
** ''Mario Kart 8'' has the 7 koopalings as playable characters after being regulated to being boss characters in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'', ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'', ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga'', ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBrosWii'' and ''VideoGame/NewSuperMarioBrosU''. Pink Gold Peach, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin a pink, metal version of Princess Peach]], also came as a huge surprise since a metal Peach character never existed until now. ''8'' is the first game to include DownloadableContent, and Nintendo surprised everyone by revealing that Link from ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' and the Villager and Isabelle from ''VideoGame/AnimalCrossing'' would be part of paid DLC packs.
* The ''Franchise/MarioParty'' series had a pretty standard roster up until the fifth game which promoted Toad, Boo, and Koopa Kids who had traditionally been board {{NPCs}} in the previous games, into playable characters. But it was the seventh installment that really took fans by surprise when Dry Bones of all people was announced as a playable character, which cemented him as a main-stay in most Mario spin-offs during the DS and Wii era. Later, no one ever expected to see ''Blooper'' in ''Mario Party 8''. The tenth game took players by surprise with Spike, which no one really expected either as they had never really been that prominent in the series (aside from a giant-sized specimen who served as a MiniBoss in ''9'').
* Among the new playable characters in ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndSonicAtTheOlympicGames Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games]]'' are [[VideoGame/NewSuperMarioBrosU Nabbit]], who had only made two playable appearances beforehand, Ludwig, Larry, Roy and Wendy, who had previously never been seen without their other siblings, Dry Bones, who, while appearing as a rival in previous Olympics titles, is a nonspecific {{Mook}} character, [[VideoGame/SonicLostWorld Zavok and Zazz]] had not made any previous playable appearances before this game, [[VideoGame/SonicRiders Wave]], who had never appeared outside of the ''Riders'' series even as a cameo, and '''[[WesternAnimation/SonicBoom Sticks]]''', a character from a completely different continuity than the other Sonic characters.
* ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'':
** [[VideoGame/SonicAdventure Tikal]] and [[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2006 Mephiles the Dark]] are unlockable characters in ''VideoGame/SonicRunners'', the former having not made a physical appearance since ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2's'' battle mode, and the latter having never reappeared since his debut game at all[[note]]Outside of a blink-and-you'll-miss it screenshot of him during the credits of ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations''[[/note]].
** [[VideoGame/SonicAdventure Chaos, an orca whale, the Tornado 2,]] [[VideoGame/SonicAdventure2 King Boom Boo, a Chao walker,]] [[VideoGame/SonicHeroes a Gold Cameron,]] [[VideoGame/SonicStorybookSeries Erazor Djinn, Shahra, Caliburn, Merlina, King Arthur's Ghost, the Dark Queen,]] [[VideoGame/SonicUnleashed Chip, some Gaia minions,]] and [[VideoGame/SonicColors the Mother Wisp]] are all "Buddy" characters in ''Sonic Runners'', each of them having made minimal appearances beforehand.
* Creator/{{SNK}} examples include the many Another Striker cameos in ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters 2000'', to such characters as [[VideoGame/MetalSlug Mars People]], [[VideoGame/GhostsNGoblins Red Arremer]] and the title character of ''VideoGame/{{Athena}}'' in ''VideoGame/SNKVsCapcomSVCChaos''. Nobody expected a ''VideoGame/KingOfTheMonsters'' character (Cyber Woo) in ''VideoGame/NeoGeoBattleColiseum'' (Shermie could also be one since, despite the pivotal role she played in ''The King of Fighters '97'', the team she represents, the Orochis, are more known as a collective unit than by themselves). Then they show [[VideoGame/FatalFury Hwa Jai]], who has not been in a proper fighting game since 1991. And in regards of ''SVC Chaos'', Zero was a surprise to begin with, but an even bigger surprise was he was based on his ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'' incarnation rather than the more popular ''VideoGame/MegaManX''. [[VideoGame/SamuraiShodown Earthquake]] hadn't appeared in a game in nearly a decade and wasn't particularly popular then. Choi Bounge has been a fixture of ''The King of Fighters'', frequently appearing as a team member of Kim Kaphwan's Korea team, but he's always seen with TheBigGuy, Chang Koehan (to the point he was an AssistCharacter to Chang in ''Capcom Vs SNK 2''). Kasumi Todoh may be as well (as she never really stood out in the cast of any game she's appeared in and her father, Ryuhaku Todoh, did show up in ''[=CvS2=]'').
* ''VideoGame/KirbyTripleDeluxe'' has two surprise bosses! Who are they? [[spoiler: Masked Dedede and Dark Meta Knight of all people!]]
* ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' is not above doing this. In addition to the usual legendary series and hits, any HumongousMecha that exists in any medium, no matter how obscure it is, has a chance to be included. ''Anime/{{Xabungle}}'' and ''Manga/{{Zeorymer}}'' are two such examples.
** Prior to ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsJudgment'', the term "robot" implied only series featuring HumongousMecha can be included. When ''Anime/TekkamanBlade'' and the subsequent ''Anime/DetonatorOrgun'' in ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsW'' and ''[[Anime/{{Iczer}} Iczer-One]]'' in ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsK'' made their debut into the franchise, this was totally out of the blue, as these series are centered around PoweredArmor, not robots. In a sense, this was developer Banpresto's way of letting loose with formula, but also their willingness to redefine what exactly encompasses the terms "robot" and "{{Mecha}}".
** The ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsOriginalGeneration'' series mostly features [[OriginalGeneration original cast members]] from other [=SRWs=]. When the bonus chapters of the compilation/VideoGameRemake ''Original Generations'' was unveiled, it caught everyone by surprise when it included Fighter Roar, a character from another MassivelyMultiplayerCrossover by Banpresto named ''The Great Battle'' series.
** In the case of GaidenGame ''EndlessFrontier'', its sequel ''Endless Frontier EXCEED'' featured Mark Hunter from a more obscure Banpresto ActionRPG called ''Gaia Saver''. At this point, anyone from any Banpresto-developed game has the possibility to appear in ''Original Generation'', be it the main series or {{Spinoff}}s.
** ''[[VideoGame/VirtualON Cyber Troopers Virtual-On]]'' surprised players when it appeared in ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsAlpha 3'', mostly because it was a video game series. But that was nothing compared to ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsUX'' and Fei-Yen HD. This version of Fei-Yen had never appeared before in a game. In fact, it's an action figure based off an official piece of ''artwork''. What really pushes it is that it's actually a giant robot version of [[{{Music/Vocaloid}} Miku Hatsune]]. That's right, ''a Vocaloid has appeared in Super Robot Wars''. Additionally, having the cast of ''Toys/BBSenshiSangokuden'' in the same game wasn't entirely expected, either. Yes, the series' visuals are usually SuperDeformed, but this is probably the first time it was ever ''by default''.
** Played with regarding ''Gundam AGE'' in ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsBX''; despite the series' divisive reception, [=SRW=] fans more-or-less anticipated its debut in a future installment. The real question about ''AGE'' was how the inter-generational {{Story Arc}}s would be used in a crossover, to wit not everyone believed developer Banpresto would skip the first two in favor of third-generation protagonist [[Anime/MobileSuitGundamAGE Kio Asuno]].
* The ''Franchise/DragonBall'' games:
** The ''Budokai Tenkaichi'' games have, among others, ''Grandpa Gohan'', [[Manga/DoctorSlump Arale Norimaki]], General Blue, [[{{Mooks}} Frieza Soldier, Appule]],[[note]]his appearance was used for a quick joke in ''WebVideo/DragonBallZAbridged'' in which he's playing the game as himself, beating up Bardock[[/note]] Spopovich, [[SquishyWizard Babidi]], and Nail. The [[EnsembleDarkhorse more popular characters]] are usually expected or asked for, but some of these are just unexpected.
** The original Budokai trilogy had this, especially Budokai 2 which featured [[FusionDance Gok]][[ImagineSpot ule]] as an unlockable fusion, and even WhatIf characters, specifically Tiencha (Tien and Yamcha after doing the Fusion Dance) and 4 different forms for Super Buu after absorbing Tien and Yamcha, Vegeta, Frieza and Cell.
** The arcade game ''Dragon Ball Heroes'' includes a ton of characters first appearing in games (Kid Krillin, Pirate Robot, Anime/BioBroly, Paragus, Kid Vegeta, Young Nappa, Lord Chilled, GT Satan, GT Goten, Beerus, Whis, Hell Fighter 17, Oceanus Shenron, etc.) as well as new transformations. (Super Saiyan God Goku, [=SSJ3=] Trunks, [=SSJ3=] Future Gohan, GT Gotenks, Super 17 Cell Absorbed, Baby Janemba, etc.).
** ''Super Dragon Ball Z'' takes the cake, featuring Chichi as a playable character.
** ''Xenoverse'' gives us Raspberry, a minor mook who first appeared in episode 59 of the original Z anime, where he got defeated by a GiantEnemyCrab. DLC also gives us Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, who is the star of a minor manga Akira Toriyama made in recent years. On top of being playable, Jaco is also a master who can train you.
* ''VideoGame/MeltyBlood'', a fighting game based on ''{{Tsukihime}}'', had Miyako Arima, a character barely mentioned to have existed, and even then not by name. Not to mention Neko-Arc, Mecha-Hisui, and Neko-Arc-Chaos.
* VideoGame/SoulSeries:
** While both [[Franchise/StarWars Yoda and Darth Vader]] were constantly advertised as playable characters in ''Soulcalibur IV'', having Vader's apprentice from ''VideoGame/TheForceUnleashed'' was not expected by many, particularly since [[EarlyBirdCameo his game had yet to be released at the time]].
** And [[Manga/SgtFrog Angol Moa]]- sorry, [[{{Expy}} Angol Fear]] as a bonus character? Even more unexpected...
** ''Soul Calibur II'' kicked off the tradition with a unique and wildly out-of-left-field guest fighter for all three major console versions. The PS2 got [[{{Tekken}} Heihachi Mishima]], the X-Box got {{Spawn}}, and the UsefulNotes/NintendoGameCube got [[Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda Link]].
* ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'':
** People assumed early on Seymour would be in as the villain of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'', but instead Tidus' father Jecht, who was more an {{Antihero}}[=/=]{{Antivillain}} than a real antagonist, got in over Seymour. Square actually [[WordOfGod decided to explain this one]]--Seymour had more of a rivalry/connection with Yuna, so having him in the game as the representative villain would have meant there was little going on between Tidus and Seymour story-wise, whereas Jecht provided a deeper father-son[=/=]rivalry dynamic.[[note]]Though, in a strange case of an character playing the role of ''his own {{expy}}'', FFII's Emperor Palamecia, to whom Seymour bears a very strong resemblance, was placed in the role of Yuna's main opponent in ''Duodecim''.[[/note]]
** In the prequel ''Dissidia 012'', who did we get new from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII''? Not [[TheRival Seifer]], or [[TheChick Rinoa]], or even [[BrainwashedAndCrazy Edea]]. No, we get [[BadassNormal Lag]][[TheGunslinger una]] [[{{Cloudcuckoolander}} Loire]].
* Creator/NipponIchi games often have a number of characters from other games appear as [[TheCameo cameos]], which may fall under this trope. For example, Aramis from ''VideoGame/DisgaeaHourOfDarkness'' appears for all of one chapter and isn't even playable in any version of the game. [[AscendedExtra He becomes]] a DownloadableContent OptionalPartyMember in ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 3|AbsenceOfJustice}}''. The strongest BonusBoss in ''VideoGame/ZettaiHeroProject'' is Valvoga from ''VideoGame/MakaiKingdom'', whose only other appearance outside those two games were as part of a ''spell animation'' in ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 2|CursedMemories}}''. ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 4|A Promise Unforgotten}}'' has announced [[VideoGame/DisgaeaHourOfDarkness King]] [[DisappearedDad Krichevskoy]] as a DownloadableContent OptionalPartyMember. [[spoiler:However, it's technically Vyers/Mid-Boss, but with his power returned and the antennae grown back out. Still pretty awesome though.]]
* Harold the ghoul in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 3}}''. He was the only character that appeared in the three first main ''Fallout'' games.
* The MascotFighter ''VideoGame/CartoonNetworkPunchTimeExplosion'' includes the channel's usual stable of characters... and WesternAnimation/{{Captain Planet|and the Planeteers}}, who actually ''predated'' the channel by a few years.
* ''VideoGame/NicktoonsMLB'' has five ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'' characters ([[CashCowFranchise natch]]): [=SpongeBob=], Patrick, Sandy,... Larry the Lobster and the Flying Dutchman? We also get [[WesternAnimation/InvaderZim Gaz]], [[WesternAnimation/TheRenAndStimpyShow Powdered Toast Man and a Yak]]. The 3DS version adds Hiro Mightypaw.
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'':
** ''Phantasmagoria of Flower View'' includes several main and minor characters, three newly introduced ones... and Yuuka Kazami, who hadn't been seen since ''Mystic Square'' seven years earlier.
** Of the three characters to get a story route in ''Hisoutensoku'', Sanae was a main character at that point and Cirno is a major EnsembleDarkhorse, but no-one was expecting Hong Meiling of all people, who had last appeared as a late addition to ''Immaterial and Missing Power'' with no story route.
** ''Ten Desires'' had some unusual casting choices: Youmu returned as playable after being ignored for the last three games, the final boss from six games previous returns... as the ''first'' boss, Kogasa reappeared as a midboss... it was to the point that people weren't really surprised when Nue showed up as the EX midboss.
** ''Hopeless Masquerade'', the fighting game set during a religious squabble. The Buddhist representatives are the head monk and... Ichirin, [[TheGenericGuy The Generic Girl]], rather, say, Shou, the next most important of the group. Meanwhile, the character from ''Mountain of Faith'' isn't from the Moriya shrine or even Aya, but ''Nitori'', a fairly minor character unrelated to the conflict. And ''Subterranean Animism'' has Koishi, who's entire schtick is not caring about things or being cared about.
** ''Impossible Spell Card'' has Seija Kijin, the BigBad of the previous game ''Double Dealing Character''. Even though she had already become a fan favorite, very few really expected her to become a playable character, least of all so soon after her introduction.
** ''Urban Legend in Limbo'' has the first playable appearance of Kasen Ibaraki, the star of ''[[Manga/TouhouIbarakasenWildAndHornedHermit Wild and Horned Hermit]]'' and the first character in ''Touhou'' history to debut in an official print work then become playable, as well as well as Fujiwara no Mokou, a fairly minor character in a long-finished plot arc from a game released eleven years earlier.
** The fangame ''Mystical Power Plant'' (the sequel to ''VideoGame/TheLastComer'') managed to pull this off with one particular character, despite having a cast of entirely original characters apart from the player's shot types. The bosses throughout the main story are based on Japanese mythology and/or history, and just fitting in with the FantasyKitchenSink feel of ''Touhou'' in general, and all of them seem generally plausible. [[spoiler:And then we get to the extra stage, where the boss is '''a Music/{{Vocaloid}}'''. With a [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEXlCiwZhhU theme]] to match.]]
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty'' changed most of its promos to hide the appearance of player character Raiden who unexpectedly replaces Solid Snake. Even the antagonists have no idea who he is during the first half. Due to negative reaction, the character changed for ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4GunsOfThePatriots'' and his reveal happened at the end of the trailer. ''Guns of the Patriots'' itself managed to keep another few characters completely hidden: [[spoiler:Big Boss]] (who did not appear until the start of the credits as the game's final twist), [[spoiler: EVA]] (who is introduced under the alias [[spoiler: "Big Mama"]] to throw off players), and [[spoiler: Major Zero]] (who only appears in the final scene alongside [[spoiler: Big Boss]]).
* ''VideoGame/{{Infected}}'' allows you to play as the members of Music/{{Slipknot}} along with... the vocalist from Music/{{Chimaira}} (who says musicians need to get their own ''VideoGame/GuitarHero'' title to be put in a game?)
* Pretty much any musician appearing in a non-music game counts as this. Was anybody really expecting the ''Film/FightClub'' video game to have Fred Durst from Music/LimpBizkit as a playable character?
* ''Franchise/MortalKombat'':
** While ''VideoGame/MortalKombatArmageddon'' promised to bring back every character that ever appeared in a ''Mortal Kombat'' game as playable, it's doubtful that very many fans (assuming they even ''knew who he was'') would have expected Meat making it to the roster, given that in his appearance in ''VideoGame/MortalKombat4'' he wasn't so much a character as an alternate costume available for any character through a cheat code to make them look like a bloody skeleton.
** In ''VideoGame/MortalKombat9'', [[Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet Freddy]] [[GuestFighter Krueger]] as a [[DownloadableContent DLC character]]. [[VideoGame/GodofWar Kratos]] as a PS3 exclusive character was unexpected as well when he was initially revealed.
** In ''VideoGame/MortalKombatX'', Creator/NetherrealmStudios managed to surprise players yet again by giving us [[Franchise/FridayThe13th Jason Voorhees]], [[Film/{{Predator}} Predator]], [[Franchise/{{TheTexasChainsawMassacre}} Leatherface]], and a [[Franchise/{{Alien}} Xenomorph]].
* Kuina and Zeff from ''Manga/OnePiece'' appeared in ''One Piece: Grand Adventure'', the American made sequel to ''One Piece: Grand Battle''.
* Yugao Uzuki from the ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' series, appearing in ''Clash of Ninja Revolution 2'', has to be one of the most unexpected characters on this list, appearing in the Manga for less then ''five panels'', showing none of her skills in these panels. She is so unknown that many assumed (and still do assume) she was a character created exclusively for ''Revolution 2'' along with Komachi and Towa, the other exclusive ANBU, despite appearing in the Anime and Manga as mentioned before. It doesn't help that she was unnamed in all English versions of the series up to that date (guidebooks referred to her as a generic female ANBU). Even when she received focus in a filler arc in Shippuden and was called by name for once, people think she was only created for that filler.
* Among the [[LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters huge roster of characters]] in ''[[VideoGame/LEGOAdaptationGame LEGO Star Wars]] 3'' is Galen Marek, also known as [[VideoGame/TheForceUnleashed Starkiller]]. While there ''was'' a set made to promote ''The Force Unleashed'' (the Rogue Shadow set), few could've guessed that Vader's Apprentice would actually be in a ''LEGO game''.
* In ''[[VideoGame/LEGOAdaptationGame Lego Marvel: Super Heroes]]'', ComicBook/HowardTheDuck of all characters shows up in a side mission alongside [[ComicBook/SpiderMan Vulture]]. This is [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] with their BossSubtitles: "Vulture and... Howard the Duck?"
* In ''[[VideoGame/LEGOAdaptationGame Lego Batman 3]]'', your guide through the various Lantern Corps home worlds is The Green Loontern from the episode of ''WesternAnimation/DuckDodgers'' where Daffy Duck got Hal Jordan's outfit after a mix up at the cleaners.
* Most of the franchises represented in ''VideoGame/LegoDimensions'' already had Lego tie-in sets released or announced, but it's safe to assume that very few people expected ''Film/TheWizardOfOz'', ''Franchise/DoctorWho'', and ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'' to be represented in the game alongside them.
* In ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity'', the roster included such iconic Batman foes as Two-Face, Catwoman, and the Penguin. More of a surprise was Solomon Grundy; while he's [[ComicBook/TheLongHalloween had a few run-ins with the Dark Knight]], he was a foe of the original Franchise/GreenLantern, and more commonly takes on various DCU heavy hitters.
* ''VideoGame/SegaSuperstars'':
** [[VideoGame/GoldenAxe Gilius Thunderhead]] and [[VideoGame/AlexKidd Alex Kidd]] in ''Sega Superstars Tennis''.
** [[VideoGame/FantasyZone Opa-Opa]], [[VideoGame/BonanzaBros the Bonanza Bros]], and [[VideoGame/{{Shenmue}} Ryo Hazuki]] in ''Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing''.
** NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in ''Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed'', as a cross promotional stunt for the game; the car she's driving in the game is planned to be driven by her in future NASCAR races.
** Also appearing in ''All Stars Racing Transformed'' is AGES, who changes between a UsefulNotes/{{Dreamcast}} controller, a [[VideoGame/DaytonaUSA Hornet]], and an [[VideoGame/AfterBurner F-14 Tomcat]].
** ''All Stars Racing Transformed'' also features racetracks from ''VideoGame/PanzerDragoon'' and ''VideoGame/BurningRangers'', the latter of which wasn't included on Wikipedia's list of Sega franchises before this game's release.
** The ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' characters in the UsefulNotes/{{Steam}} release of the game.
* ''[[VideoGame/CapcomVsSNK2MarkOfTheMillennium Capcom vs. SNK 2]]'' with Eagle, a fighter from the first iteration of ''VideoGame/StreetFighter'' otherwise not seen in years. There's also [[VideoGame/RivalSchools Kyosuke Kagami]] and [[VideoGame/TheLastBlade Hibiki Takane]] (though they're both still fan-favorites in their own series).
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'' is an expert at this. It's a MassiveMultiplayerCrossover of ''all things'' Creator/SquareEnix and Creator/{{Disney}}, which naturally makes it full of surprises.
** ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsI'': Nearly every Disney character you meet is from the Franchise/DisneyAnimatedCanon or the WesternAnimation/ClassicDisneyShorts, ''WesternAnimation/TheNightmareBeforeChristmas'' characters serve as something of a shock especially since it technically wasn't even a Disney film at the time (it was since re-released under the Disney banner).
*** [[Disney/{{Fantasia}} Chernabog]]. You've spent an entire adventure defeating well-known yet cartoony Disney villains, and just when you're about done fighting through [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon The End of the World]], ''[[SugarWiki/AwesomeMusic Night on Bald Mountain]]'' fires up and the Fantasian monstrosity rises before you, with no warning and [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere no explanation]].
*** [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII Cloud Strife]]; though numerous ''Final Fantasy'' characters had appeared, they all seemed to inhabit OriginalGeneration worlds. Cloud, however, was encountered in [[Disney/{{Hercules}} Olympus Coliseum]]. If Cloud wasn't unexpected, the BonusBoss most certainly was: after meeting only ''Final Fantasy'' heroes, having BigBad Sephiroth suddenly assault you (accompanied, like Chernabog, by his theme music) is a nasty sucker punch.
** ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII'': Creator/TetsuyaNomura had previously stated that he'd only feature ''Final Fantasy'' characters who he himself had designed; clearly, someone talked him out of it, because early in the game we encounter [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI Setzer]] and [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX Vivi]].
*** Disney/ChickenLittle appearing as a Summon character; his movie [[EarlyBirdCameo hadn't even been released in Japan]] when the game came out.
*** ''KHII'' debuted characters from ''live-action'' Disney films: first ''Franchise/PiratesOfTheCaribbean'', and then as if to top themselves, ''{{Film/Tron}}''.
*** [[Disney/{{Fantasia}} Yen Sid]]. A fairly obscure character (the sorcerer from ''The Sorcerer's Apprentice''), this game openly used his name and gave him [[SuddenlyVoiced a voice]] for the first time in Disney history. Since then, he's pulled the trope even further by becoming the BigGood and gaining prominence in the series to rival Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.
** ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep'' features Experiment 221 (also known as Sparky) from one of the direct-to-video ''Disney/LiloAndStitch'' [[WesternAnimation/StitchTheMovie sequels]] (and its affiliated [[WesternAnimation/LiloAndStitchTheSeries TV series]]) as a boss.
** ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts3DDreamDropDistance'': The cast of ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'', who practically got their own world in the form of OriginalGeneration HubWorld Traverse Town. Also, 3D's BonusBoss is [[spoiler:Julius, the villain of the obscure seven-minute short film ''WesternAnimation/RunawayBrain'']]. And the final boss of the game? [[spoiler: Sora wearing [[VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep Ventus]]'s armor]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'':
** The game got a sequel, not in the form of the much-desired ''Persona 5'' (that came a year later), but in an arcade-style fighting game ''[[VideoGame/Persona4Arena Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena]]''... with [[PreviousPlayerCharacterCameo Aigis]], Akihiko, and Mitsuru from ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}''. Then there's Labrys, who was seemingly a new character created from the game...until Americans learned she had actually debuted in a ''Persona 3'' [[AllThereInTheManual Drama CD released only in Japan]].
** The fighting game itself got a sequel/update called ''Persona 4 Ultimax: The Ultimate Ultra Suplex Hold'' (shortened to just ''Persona 4 Arena Ultimax'' in other regions), which featured the rest of the ''Persona 3'' cast except for Shinjiro and the main character [[spoiler:since they're both dead]]. Those were expected. What ''wasn't'' expected was a couple of the new characters on the ''Persona 4'' side: Rise Kujikawa, your team's MissionControl and designated non-combatant in every other game, and [[spoiler:Tohru Adachi, one of the main antagonists of the original game.]]
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim'':
** A game of swords, sorcery, dragons, and... the Space Core from ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'', as of an official PC-only add-on.
** Due to the actions of the Akaviri Dragonslayers and their descendant Order, the Blades, Dragons have been rendered nearly completely extinct in Tamriel, with the few survivors not being sighted in thousands of years, leading most to consider them mythical creatures at best. As a result, Dragons have rarely been seen within the Elder Scrolls series... that is until [[BigBad Alduin]] returns and begins resurrecting the fallen Dragons en-masse.
* The much-delayed PC version of ''VideoGame/RenegadeOps'' features... Gordon Freeman of ''VideoGame/HalfLife''?.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII2''[='=]s first North American DLC features a battle with Lightning, and everyone was expecting that. What they weren't expecting was for [[OneSceneWonder Sergeant Amodar]] to appear... and be a Commando-role ''monster''. On top of that, TheUnfought of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'', [[TheBaroness Jihl Nabaat]], followed a few months later.
* ''Franchise/StreetFighter''[='s=] Ryu and Akuma appearing as DLC bosses in ''VideoGame/AsurasWrath'', a game that isn't even a FightingGame to begin with; fighting them changes the gameplay into a 2D fighter for the first half of each fight, meters and life gauges and all ala ''VideoGame/StreetFighterIV'', though Asura's bottom gauges are different and more like his own game.
* In ''VideoGame/BuffyTheVampireSlayerChaosBleeds'' the six main playable characters are [[ActionGirl Buffy]], [[HotWitch Willow]], [[BadassNormal Xander]], [[{{Badass}} Spike]], [[DarkActionGirl Faith]]... and Sid the Dummy. You know, from that one episode in the first season that you totally forgot about. And Creator/JossWhedon is an unlockable character.
* In an example of TropesAreNotGood, one of the reasons ''Series/RobotWars: Metal Mayhem'' was [[TheProblemWithLicensedGames so poorly received by fans]] was because of its bizarre roster choices. It featured robots from Series 3, but runner-up Hypno-Disc, fellow grand finalist Steg-O-Saw-Rus, and fan favourites Razer were all overlooked. Instead, of the game's 16 playable robots, no less than ''five'' had been knocked out in their very first battles, including Crasha Gnasha and Terminal Ferocity, who'd been defeated in [[CurbStompBattle ten seconds flat]].
* ''VideoGame/PlayStationAllStarsBattleRoyale'':
** Nobody expected [[VideoGame/BioShock Big Daddy]] to be among the characters, never mind to be the first announced. Big Daddy has the appearance of a Bouncer model, [[CompositeCharacter but can also use Plasmids, like Subject Delta from]] ''VideoGame/BioShock2''.
** VideoGame/ParappaTheRapper being revealed in the initial announcement was a pleasant surprise.
** ''VideoGame/{{Starhawk}}''[='=]s Emmett Graves and ''Franchise/DeadSpace''[='=] Isaac Clarke as DLC characters also came as a surprise.
** The final boss, Polygon Man.
** Sir Dan Fortesque from ''VideoGame/MediEvil'', a series that ended on the original Playstation.
* In the [[FanRemake fan-made]] ''VideoGame/MegaManADayInTheLimelight'' [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cb4kS1drE7E who is it]] that poor Snake Man finds himself pitted against? [[spoiler:Airman!]]
* ''VideoGame/PaperMarioStickerStar'' was bringing in many characters in the main series and had only a few new, notable characters. Some of the old characters brought in make sense, such as Bowser Jr., Kamek, and Petey Piranha. But there's one odd one: Gooper Blooper, a boss from ''VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine''. Unlike Petey, who also debuted in ''Sunshine'', Gooper Blooper only made a few cameoes after his debut. He's now the third major boss of the game and a DanceBattler.
* The ''VideoGame/GundamVsSeries'' had stuck to animated machines and characters. ''Extreme Vs'' blew that out of the water when [[Manga/MobileSuitCrossboneGundam the Crossbones]] showed up in it, alongside the [[Manga/MobileSuitGundamSeedAstray Astray Red and Blue Frames]]. Later DLC added the Blue Destiny Unit 01 (only appeared in a video game), Hi-Nu Gundam (a variation of Nu Gundam that only appeared in a novel), and the Xi Gundam (another novel-exclusive). ''Extreme Vs Full Boost'' continued the trend, adding the [[Manga/GundamSentinel Ex-S Gundam]], EnsembleDarkhorse [[Anime/MobileSuitGundam00 Patrick Colasour]], and, of all things, the [[Anime/MobileSuitGundamZZ Zeta Zaku]]. ''Extreme Vs Maxi Boost'' shall start at March 2014, bringing in Penelope (the rival MS of the Xi Gundam) and the [[Anime/GundamBuildFighters Build Strike Gundam]] (Which in-universe is only a kitbashed ''model'' of a mobile suit), as well as variation mobile suits like the Avalanche Exia that have never appeared in ''anything'' outside of the MSV books (basically "what-if" mobile suits based on canon ones).
* ''Franchise/AceAttorney'':
** ''[[VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigationsMilesEdgeworth Ace Attorney Investigations 2]]'' had a fairly ridiculous amount of returning characters from past games, but perhaps most unexpected was Frank Sahwit, the murderer of the first case of the first game who essentially serves as nothing more than a tutorial for the player. The developers admitted they added him mostly because it was the series' 10th anniversary. We also get [[spoiler:Penny Nichols, the trading card fangirl from the third case of the first game]], a character so obscure that (to the developers) knowing her name is enough to mark a true fan.
** ''VideoGame/DaiGyakutenSaiban'' is a title that stars Phoenix ancestor who lives in Meiji era Japan, so one would expect a purely Japanese cast created for this game. No one expected the developers getting PublicDomainCharacter Franchise/SherlockHolmes involved in the investigations. Or that the staff would reimagine his sidekick Doctor John Waston as an [[ChildProdigy eight-year-old girl genius]] named Iris Watson. Then it's revealed that only the first case takes place in Japan and the rest of the story in VictorianLondon, making the appearance of Holmes and Watson less jarring, but considering everyone excepted the entire game to take place in Japan, having it take place in London was a surprise for everyone.
* ''VideoGame/{{Rosenkreuzstilette}}'':
** You get a code that lets you play as Grolla in [[AnotherSideAnotherStory her own side-game]], ''Rosenkreuzstilette Grollschwert''. And what happens when you get to the end of her own stage as her? [[spoiler:You meet the original player character, Spiritia, as the boss.]]
** Similarly, in ''Weißsilber'', the side-game to ''Freudenstachel'', playing as Pamela in her own stage introduces you to another unexpected face... [[spoiler:It's Karl Palesch, Liebea's older brother who was only mentioned a few times in the first game.]]
* Few ''VideoGame/TombRaider'' fans were expecting the return of [[spoiler: Natla]] in ''Underworld''
* Several in ''VideoGame/MagicalGirlLyricalNanohaAsPortable: The Gears of Destiny''. The first was the announcement of [[EvilTwin the Materials]], [[SavedByTheFans who were killed in the first game]]. Then they announced [[BadassBookworm Yuuno]] and Alph who fans had assumed the people behind ''Nanoha'' had forgotten about around those years. Then the Lieze Twins were announced, who appeared even less than Yuuno and Arf, and [[TheScrappy aren't exactly high in the popularity lists]]. The biggest surprise though would have to be the announcement [[ParentalSubstitute Rynith]], since not only was she a PosthumousCharacter, but she had also never been shown fighting before ''Gears of Destiny''.
* ''VideoGame/JojosBizarreAdventureAllStarBattle'':
** Shigechi as DLC came right out of nowhere and added yet another Part 4 character to the roster. To further add to the surprise factor, it had previously been made known that a guidebook for the game covered "32 characters + 2 {{DLC}}", when 33 of those characters were already known. Needless to say, people were expecting someone a bit more momentous for the final, single character reveal.
** The same somewhat goes for Fugo. Not only did the man only have one real fight, and thus, not a whole lot to use for a playable appearance, but he pretty much bowed out right at the end of the first half of Part V.
** Still, there are others definitively more unexpected then ''him'', such as a young lad named '''BAOH.''' Baoh's from another manga altogether, but one still made by Araki, that came ''before'' Jojo. This has split the fans between those who don't want their Jojo game to include characters from other works, and those who don't really mind.
* When ''VideoGame/JoJosBizarreAdventureEyesOfHeaven'' was announced, many fans were already expecting Part 7's Diego Brando, and Part 2's Rudol von Stroheim was a pleasant surprise, but no one could've expected Part 1's '''Robert E.O. Speedwagon''', a popular character who was nonetheless a non-combatant in most of his appearances in the series.
* ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigi'':
** In ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga'' the game's BigBad Cackletta [[GrandTheftMe hijacks]] Bowser's body, and when she suffers a loss, she retreats, regroups [[spoiler:and brings in the 7 Koopalings which hadn't been seen since ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld''.]]
** [[spoiler:Bowser Jr.]] in ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiDreamTeam'', showing up as the BonusBoss with no foreshadowing whatsoever. ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiPaperJam'' continues this with [[spoiler:Dry Bowser]], though a pattern is forming here.
* The ''VideoGame/WarriorsOrochi'' series started out as a crossover between ''VideoGame/DynastyWarriors'' and ''VideoGame/SamuraiWarriors''. Then, we started to see all-new characters that had nothing to do with the time periods of either game, such as [[VideoGame/BladestormTheHundredYearsWar Jeanne D'Arc]]. [[spoiler:Then [[VideoGame/DeadOrAlive the ninjas]] [[VideoGame/NinjaGaiden started to arrive]]...and then [[VideoGame/SoulSeries Sophitia Alexandra]], and...[[VideoGame/AtelierRoronaTheAlchemistOfArland Sterkenberg Cranach?!]] ]]
* When it was announced that ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountryTropicalFreeze'' would be getting a fourth character alongside Franchise/DonkeyKong, Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong to be revealed later in 2013, fans were expecting someone like Kiddy Kong or Funky Kong. So people were naturally surprised that it turned out to be SelfDemonstrating/CrankyKong. Also compounded by the fact that Reggie Fils-Aime's VGX appearance was to reveal Cranky rather than the next ''[[Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda Zelda]]'' game like many anticipated.
* The defunct ''Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation'' took the cake for this, with so many unexpected {{Guest Fighter}}s (like several characters from a series of {{Wuxia}} novels, the title character of ''Series/SpaceSheriffGavan'', Krauser II from ''Manga/DetroitMetalCity'') that you'd have sworn the developers just grabbed whatever character rights they could snatch up in about ten minutes. ''Barack Obama'' was made as a never-released DLC character.
* Even the 45th Anniversary game, ''VideoGame/JStarsVictoryVs'' had a few. [[Manga/OnePiece Boa Hancock]] was added alongside Luffy when Zoro or Sanji would've been anticipated, Luckyman from Tottemo!! Luckyman (who was a support character in the previous crossover), and Taro Yamada from Chinyuki Taro To Yukaina Nakama Tachi. There has never been alot of people outside of Japan who has ever heard of him.
* ''VideoGame/StarWarsTheOldRepublic'' not only has [[spoiler:[[VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic Revan]]]] show up, but as a ''villain'', for double "unexpected" points. Twice over in the leadup to [[spoiler: the second expansion, ''Shadow of Revan''. The players are told that the villains of the lead-in material, the "Forged Alliances" arc, belong to a cult called the Revanites, who Imperial players had met way back on Dromund Kaas and dismissed as basically a BrotherhoodOfFunnyHats (strike one). They're led to believe that the two are using the cult to their own ends so they can [[TakeOverTheWorld conquer the galaxy]] using an army of cybernetic super-soldiers, as villains are wont to do. But in the last scene of the arc, after the two are dead, their boss -- Revan himself -- arrives in style to announce that HesBack]].
* Every Wrestling/{{WWE}} game usually has this, [[UnexpectedCharacter/WWEVideoGames here are some examples]]
* ''VideoGame/HyruleWarriors'' has two of them: [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess Midna and Agitha]]. The former wasn't as unexpected because of her large role and due to being very popular, but still surprised many people who expected her to be a one-shot character. Agitha, however, came completely out of left field for most players, as she only played a role in a sidequest, and didn't even show any combat abilities whatsoever.
** No one was really expecting Darunia and Ruto to be playable either, since despite having prominent roles in ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime Ocarina of Time]]'', they were still just NPC characters who hadn't appeared in another game since their debuts.
** [[UpdatedRerelease Hyrule Warriors Legends]] threw fans for an even bigger loop when ''The King of Hyrule'' from ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker The Wind Waker]]'' was announced as a playable character.
** There's also Linkle, a female version of Link who was first seen in concept art of the first game and who the developers had originally thought about including but ultimately scrapped. She is now confirmed to be playable in the new game.
* ''VideoGame/DoctorWhoLegacy'':
** Inverted with the Humble Bundle deal on the game, which came with a code unlocking all of the Doctors except for three. You'd expect the Twelfth (who had only done his regeneration {{Cliffhanger}} at that point) to be absent, but the other missing Doctors were 1) CreatorsFavorite the Fifth Doctor and 2) overwhelming popularist-favourite the Fourth Doctor. And, to make it worse, while you could buy the Fifth Doctor virtually immediately from the in-game store, you can't buy the Fourth...
** Many of the "companions" are obvious in-show companions (Rory Williams, Rose Tyler, Sarah Jane Smith) or non-travelling recurring allies generally considered 'companions' by fans (the Brigadier, the Paternosters, Craig) or helpful major characters in the story they're in (Porridge, Tricey). Then we go digging up very, very niche expanded universe companions like Benny, Molly, and Frobisher, as well as bewilderingly obscure minor characters who say a couple of lines in their serial and die (Punishment Medic) and the occasional inanimate object (Bessie).
* ''VideoGame/SenranKagura'':
** While the series ''has'' had crossover promotional content in the past, ''Estival Versus'' managed to shock fans by featuring guest characters for the first time in the history of the series. Such characters include Ayane from VideoGame/DeadOrAlive, and Sonsaku Hakufu, Kan'u Unchou, and Ryofu Housen from Manga/IkkiTousen.
** Ayame, the shopkeeper from ''Shinovi Versus'', as well as one of the New Hanzo students in ''New Wave'', actually became playable in ''Estival Versus''. Both eastern and western fans didn't see this coming.
* ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'' did this with its upcoming "Delta Rising" Expansion. Since it was centered in the Delta Quadrant, everyone knew characters from ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' would be involved. However, they thought it would just be Tim Russ reprising his role as Tuvok and Garrett Wang returning as Harry Kim. No one expected Robert Picardo, Jeri Ryan, and Ethan Philips to reprise their roles as The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Neelix, though!
* For ''VideoGame/GuiltyGear Xrd -SIGN-'', no-one expected a new character in the form of a young boy permanently affixed to a bed MiniMecha named [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Bedman]]. While the home console port brought back ''[=GG2=]'''s [[IdiotHero Sin]], it also had an unexpected curve in [[GirlyBruiser Elphelt]], an utter cutie-pie with a love for heavy artillery.
* An extended gameplay trailer for ''VideoGame/StreetFighterV'' shows that Charlie, considered dead in-universe since ''Alpha 3'', will return to the series. [[note]] An official Character Relationship chart revealed he was alive shortly after the release of IV, but since it was in japanese, it was less then common knownledge.[[/note]]
* Tendry Dimpalm appears in only one scene in ''[[VideoGame/DeadlyRoomsOfDeath DROD]]: The City Beneath'', making him an unexpected choice for the protagonist of the following SpinOff.
* In ''VideoGame/YuGiOhReshefOfDestruction'', unless you read the manual, it's hard to predict Bandit Keith being the leader of the Neo Ghouls.
* In ''[[VideoGame/YuGiOhTagForceSeries Arc-V Tag Force Special]]'', almost no one expected Ishizu of all characters to be the 5th tag partner for the DM cast.
* ''VideoGame/PokkenTournament'':
** Sure, people were expecting that there would be playable Legendary Franchise/{{Pokemon}}, but a lot of people were surprised when the first one confirmed was the quadrupedal [[VideoGame/PokemonCrystal Suicune]]. True, it's a version Legendary, but it didn't stop some people from going: "Wait, what?"
** A survey asking for more additions to the roster resulted in [[VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite Chandelure]]. That is, you can now play as a chandelier in a fighting game.
* ''VideoGame/{{Do|nPachi}}DonPachi II: Bee Storm'' features series-traditional TrueFinalBoss Hibachi...in a [[WarmUpBoss heavily-depowered form]] as the game's ''first'' boss.
* ''VideoGame/PunchOut'' (Wii) features a large number of returning characters from past games in the series. Then there's [[spoiler:VideoGame/DonkeyKong]] of all characters showing up as a [[WalkingSpoiler big surprise]] for those who manage to [[EndlessGame survive]] long enough in Mac's Last Stand.
* ''VideoGame/NewgroundsRumble'' features [[http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/311761 Samurai Asshole]]. He only appeared in one game back in 1999 that, even by those standards, was laggy and cluttered. His fighting style in the game reflects this, being a MightyGlacier in the game.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Tekken}} Tekken 7]]'' features ''[[Franchise/StreetFighter Akuma]]'' as a playable character. This is especially surprising since he ''missed'' the initial roster of ''VideoGame/StreetFighterV'', and unlike {{Guest Fighter}}s who are usually non-canon; he actually plays a role in the story, serving as TheDragon to BigBad Kazumi Mishima.
* ''VideoGame/SuperMarioMaker'' enables you to play as different characters other than Mario in the ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros1'' setting via the Mystery Mushroom/Mystery Suit power-up, including non-Mario characters such as [[Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda Link]], [[Franchise/{{Metroid}} Samus]], [[Franchise/{{Pokemon}} Pikachu]], and even [[Franchise/FireEmblem Marth]] and Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog. With more than a hundred of these bonus characters, a number of them were bound to be this:
** Waluigi, while he ''is'' an EnsembleDarkhorse in the Mario series, took people by pleasant surprise.
** The eponymous character of ''[[VideoGame/DonkeyKong Donkey Kong Jr.]]'', considering that the character has otherwise seen rare use since early in the [=GBA=] era.
** A mahjong tile. True, mahjong is a popular game in Japan, but a giant walking tile being a playable character in a Mario game turned some heads.
** Dr. Lobe from ''Big Brain Academy'', of all things. Seriously, did ''anyone'' see this coming at all?
** Ashley from the ''VideoGame/WarioWare'' series. Characters from that series usually don't appear in Mario games.
** Nikki, the Mii character host of ''VideoGame/{{Swapnote}}'' was met with a good amount of surprise, especially considering that Swapnote is generally considered to have been ScrewedByTheNetwork.
** Mario. No, not just normal Mario, but [[http://www.mariowiki.com/images/b/b7/Mario_%28Super_Mario-Kun%29_-_SMM.png Mario as he appears in the]] ''Super [=Mario-Kun=]'' manga series as part of a MilestoneCelebration.
** Shinya Arino of ''Game Center EX'' was this to players outside of Japan who were unfamiliar with the show, and because he is the only Mystery Mushroom character based on a real life person.
** [[Manga/{{Nisekoi}} Chitoge Kirisaki]], a character from a Shonen Jump manga series of all places, became a Mystery Suit character in the game to much surprise. And she's not even from one of the flagship series, like ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' or ''Manga/OnePiece'', or even from an action series. ''Nisekoi'' is a romantic comedy.
** An update brought in a bunch of new Mystery Suits, among them being Disk-kun, the mascot character of the Famicom (not entirely unexpected, mind you, but still surprising to see as a playable character in a Mario game), and a volleyball player from the little-remembered NES Volleyball game from Nintendo.
* Even tough he's not playable, [[Movie/TwoThousandOneASpaceOdyssey HAL 900]] makes a small cameo in [[VideoGame/LegoDimensions Lego Dimensions.]]
* ''VideoGame/KillerInstinct Season 3'' features a guest character from the ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' series. In a heartbeat, most would guess it would be the Master Chief because he's the mascot of the franchise, or perhaps Locke since he was promoted as the star of the [[VideoGame/Halo5Guardians newest game prior to the announcement]]. It was actually The Arbiter, who hasn't been playable in the main series since ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'' (where he was [[DemotedToExtra demoted to the co-op character]]). It also features [[VideoGame/{{Battletoads}} Rash]], which was unexpected as well.
* ''Arm Joe'', a fighting game based on the musical Literature/LesMiserables has every major characters playable... and then there's Ponpon. He's based on the stuffed animal Cosette carried around as a child. There's also an evil robot version of Jean Valjean called RoboJean.
* ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIVFinal'': While a few people predicted one or two of them, no one predicted the return of [[spoiler:the original Hero, Aleph, and the Demi-fiend from the pre-''IV'' numbered games]] all at once through DLC. In addition, DLC adds an extra boss to the main game's bonus dungeon: [[spoiler:En no Ozuno, a one-off ally from the first game and minor character from the second]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''WebVideo/SuburbanKnights'':
** [[spoiler:WebVideo/ThatDudeInTheSuede]], for being away on a mission for two years prior to filming this, and secondly because [[LyingCreator he denied being in it in the first place.]]
** In universe, everyone's surprised when WebVideo/TheCinemaSnob chooses to cosplay Franchise/IndianaJones, considering that he's not exactly who one thinks of when the topic is 'fantasy'. Snob justifies it by saying that [[spoiler:[[Film/IndianaJonesAndTheKingdomOfTheCrystalSkull surviving a nuclear explosion in a fridge]]]] counts as fantasy. Likewise, they're surprised that the very tall Handsome Tom chose the very short Film/{{Willow}}.
* [[Creator/PatrickRothfuss Viari's]] return in the second half of ''WebVideo/AcquisitionsIncorporated'' season 8 came as a huge surprise to everyone except himself and [[DungeonMaster Chris]]. Firstly, he was explicitly PutOnABus and replaced by a new intern in the first game of the season. Secondly, there have never been more than four players at an ''AI'' table before (in fact, said table is physically designed for four players)--much less two interns at once. Lastly, the mid-season recap [[RedHerring foreshadowed]] the return of ''Aeofel'', the series' original intern, making no mention of Viari at all.
* ''WebAnimation/DeathBattle'' occasionally brings in little known and unexpected characters to fight for their lives. Two of the more notable examples being [[ComicBook/BuckyOHareAndTheToadWars Bucky O'Hare]], coming from a fairly obscure comic and cartoon series from the 70's/90's and took on [[Franchise/{{Star Fox}} Fox McCloud]], and [[WebAnimation/{{RWBY}} Yang Xiao Long]], who is from a web animation series running from 2013 which is growing in popularity but still fairly small and she took on [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII Tifa Lockhart]]. [[spoiler:Yang defeated her more popular opponent. Bucky wasn't so fortunate.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' gave ADayInTheLimelight to many C-list DC heroes, some of whom had never had a televised appearance before. Things began getting weird in Batman's Strangest Cases, when the Franchise/ScoobyDoo gang show up, but the concept wasn't entirely new. Then WesternAnimation/SpaceGhost got his own episode. For reference, after DC acquired the rights to Space Ghost, he was only used in a single short-lived series in 2005, and the character is only otherwise known for his SelfParody [[WesternAnimation/SpaceGhostCoastToCoast talk show]].
* [[spoiler:Darth Maul]] in ''WesternAnimation/StarWarsTheCloneWars''. Almost everyone, in-universe and out, believed that he was dead after [[spoiler:his [[HalfTheManHeUsedToBe bisection]] in ''Film/ThePhantomMenace'']]. [[WordOfGod Filoni]] even [[LyingCreator said in a Behind the Scenes video]] that they deliberately made [[spoiler:Savage Oppress a SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute of Maul explicitly so they ''wouldn't'' bring him back.]] Also, Darth Bane, who appears as a vision in "Sacrifice", given that he was from the Old Republic era in the ExpandedUniverse and therefore dead.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'':
** [[spoiler:[[WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender Iroh and Zhao]] appear]] in the Spirit World in season two.
** Book Four's greatest irony is that it is [[spoiler:Zaheer]] who helps Korra to recover from her past traumas. Not to mention the unexpected return of [[spoiler:Hiroshi Sato]]. Apparently, Book Four is full of {{Heel Face Turn}}s.
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'':
** Derpy Hooves appearing as Rainbow Dash's replacement in "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E10RainbowFalls Rainbow Falls]]". One of her previous appearances had sparked off a massive controversy and InternetBackdraft that resulted in the character being absent from season three and all the released episodes of season four up to that point, leaving most of the fanbase to assume that she had been removed from the show completely. Compounding the surprise is that aside from one or two extremely vague hints from the staff, ''none'' of the show's promotional materials so much as hinted that the character would be returning.
** [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E14TheLastRoundup Cherry Jubilee]] of all ponies sits among the princesses and delegates in "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E24EquestriaGames Equestria Games]]".
** The [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E25TwilightsKingdomPart1 season 4]] [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E26TwilightsKingdomPart2 finale]] features Tirek, the BigBad of the G1 TV special "[[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyTVSpecials Rescue at Midnight Castle]]", as the main antagonist. What makes him so unexpected is that Hasbro had lost the rights to many of their G1 characters (besides Applejack and Spike), and that the showrunners had explicitly avoided using creatures that looked too human (besides [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirls that spin-off]] [[HumanityEnsues about humans]]).
** Similarly, season 5 has an episode featuring ''the Smooze'', of all creatures. Though unlike Tirek (who is, if possible, even ''more'' evil here than he was in the original) the Smooze seems to be comparatively harmless.
* In the GrandFinale of ''WesternAnimation/SpiderManTheAnimatedSeries'', Spidey went to an alternate universe where he met [[spoiler:Gwen Stacy, who was unexpected because there was no appearance or even mention of any Gwen Stacy in that series until then, her role basically going to pre-Black Cat Felicia Hardy.]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Ultimate Spider-Man}} Web Warriors'' (which airs on Creator/DisneyXD) an episode featured [[Series/{{Jessie}} Jessie Prescott]], a character from a Creator/DisneyChannel ''live-action'' show.
* The addition of Franchise/SpiderMan to ''WesternAnimation/TheAvengersEarthsMightiestHeroes'' might have caught some viewers by surprise, since he rarely makes guest appearances in other Marvel characters' cartoons. (The previous time he had a speaking role in someone else's show happened over 30 years earlier, in ComicBook/SpiderWoman's animated series.) Additionally, none of the previews or trailers for the second season showed him, at least not before the season began. It seemed even more unexpected for [[spoiler:Spidey to become a reserve Avenger]].
* In the animatic preview for the plans for ''[[WesternAnimation/CodenameKidsNextDoor Galactic Kids Next Door]]'' released on [[AprilFoolsDay April 1, 2015]], no one expected [[spoiler:Lizzie, Numbuh One's former girlfriend,]] to appear, and certainly not as [[spoiler:Numbuh Vine, the alien who sent out the warning about the G:KND's plans.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2012'' has its interpretation of Lord Dregg, who replaced the Shredder as the main antagonist in the last two seasons of the [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987 1987 show]]. Since not many fans were fond of Dregg, it is surprising that the people behind the Nickelodeon series would even think of bringing him back.
* In ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerbStarWars'', since it was set as their version of A New Hope, no one expected [[spoiler: Darth Maul]], or at least [[spoiler: Ferb as an expy of Darth Maul after being hit with Darthinshmirtz' Sith-inator]]
[[/folder]]
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