You've beaten the first couple of major bosses, you've leveled up, and your character has gone from pathetic to useful. Things are looking up...
... and then your current character's story ends and you have to start with a brand new Level 1 character in a somewhat related storyline all over again. Back to Level Grinding for you, sonny! Prepare to do this several times for The Rashomon-style storyline to be completed. If you're lucky, all the characters will meet and party up for payoff later. If you're not... well, prepare to be annoyed.
Not to be confused with Something Completely Different, which is the non-Video Game equivalent of the Unexpected Gameplay Change. The non-video game equivalent of this is Changing of the Guard.
Tends to overlap with Replacement Scrappy. Can be a form of Decoy Protagonist.
Also see Another Side, Another Story for when a new playable character becomes unlocked upon game completion. For starting back at level 1 in a sequel starring the same characters, see Bag of Spilling.
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This is what happens to Yasha from Asura's Wrath. At least for 3 episodes, 1 DLC episode, part of episode 17 and episode 20 in the Part IV Nirvana DLC.
In The Force Unleashed, the first level is played as Darth Vader, but afterwards the focus switches to his apprentice. As with MGS2, this may be one example where people might actually wish that they could play as the prologue character for longer.
Heavenly Sword has players controlling Kai for a few brief portions rather than Nuriko.
Cubivore: Your character goes through several reincarnations, where they see the benefit of their work in previous lives.
Fahrenheit has you jump from character to character, but never permanently. For an added kick, the primary protagonist Lucas is a wanted fugitive, whereas the other two are cops in charge of capturing him.
Likewise, its Spiritual SuccessorHeavy Rain switches between the four main characters frequently, sometimes in the middle of a chapter. Additionally, in two chapters you also get to control a young version of the Origami Killer in Flashback.
Folklore has two player-controlled characters, Ellen and Keats, whose stories unfold concurrently. The player has some choice in whether to alternate between the two or to play through several chapters with one before switching to the other, but either way, each one's abilities and collected items don't transfer to the other.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance alternates between Kain and Raziel as the playable character. This gets weird when the two of them end up fighting each other.
In Onimusha 3: Demon Siege the player primarily controls swordsman Samanosuke and policeman Jacques. Roughly in the middle of the game they also briefly control Jacques' fiancee Michelle.
This is a main characteristic of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, where you play as four different incarnations of Spidey and must switch among them between levels.
The beginning of Star Fox Adventures has you controlling Krystal for a brief bit, before you control the real main character, Fox McCloud.
Subverted in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. After one level of Nathan Drake getting beaten up in an English pub ala previous games, the second level switches to a kid in South America... but it doesn't take long for the savvy players to notice the Fashionable Asymmetry or Catch Phrase and realise they're now playing as young Nate.
This was one of the more openly touted features in Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals: The player takes the role of Larry in the first part of the game, where he searched for new sexual conquests as usual, and then switches to Passionate Patti in the second part, where she tries to hunt down Larry and his buff, polyester-clad pecks. This mechanic returned in Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work, where Patti assumes the role of an undercover spy in the music industry, and the game takes turns swapping the player's focus back and forth between Larry and Patti.
Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within switched between Gabriel and Grace.
The Story mode of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny does this, with each chapter following a different set of characters from the ones before it until the final one, which allows the player to choose which character from nearly the entire playable cast to fight the Final Boss with. It then switches back to this for the Playable Epilogue, with the player controlling the Final Boss herself.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl does this in the Adventure Mode, where you switch between various groups between levels, until the gang comes together for the grand finale. Unlike the previous examples, levels aren't much of an issue, but you still lose out on sticker bonuses that you applied to the characters. And if they just became playable, you can't use stickers on them until you finish the level, and of course you need to get familiar with the character as well. However, it can be said that the purpose of this is so you get used to the different characters and know which ones you're good with. This counteracts the possibility of people just saying "Hey, I liked this guy's game! I'll use him!" even if it's a crappy character.
A subversion in Konquest mode of Mortal Kombat: Deception. You play as Shujinko throughout the game, but depending on who he trained with, you will participate in fights as a physical manifestation of that character. Basically, it's Shujinko fighting exactly like that character he trained with.
The same example resurfaced in the story mode of Mortal Kombat 9, minus the whole 'pick a side' option of the previous game.
First Person Shooter
BioShock 2: while Delta is trapped by Sofia, you get to control a Little Sister as she harvests ADAM and collects the pieces of the Big Sister suit for Eleanor.
Call of Juarez was built around this shtick; alternating between the stealthy Billy and the heavily armed Reverend Ray in a game of cat and mouse where you play both feline and rodent. Generally, you'd play most levels twice: Once, sneaking around the area avoiding detection from bandits and the like, and then again while blowing away everyone. While quoting Bible verse.
This is commonplace in the Call of Duty games. You'll often switch viewpoints between characters fighting on different parts of the world. Considering the series (especially the Modern Warfare games) often pulls the "Anyone Can Die" trick on you, some of them may not last long.
An interesting example in Black Ops 2. If Karma gets captured, you can rescue her in one strike force mission called Second Chance. If you save her, you can play as her during the mission. Unlike the strike force soldiers, don't expect a respawn to save you though.
Another to note: The Zombie games in World At War, Black Ops, and Black Ops 2 has a habit with pitting you with at least one totally different group of characters, either canonically or non-sensibly, such as the generic US soldiers to the four unique characters, to the executives (JFK being one), to famous action actors, etc.
Win Back 2 has you play each mission from two different characters' points of view.
Hack and Slash
Chaos Legion has one stage playable for Arcia Rinslet, the gun-toting young girl that Sieg befriended earlier. She can't summon Legions but can use super-charged shots in place of that. However, an unlockable feature is to play as her in all stages (though she lacks a majority of the cutscenes).
Subverted in Devil May Cry 4. Newcomer Nero gets run of the game's first part, then series lead Dante takes over... And then, for the final parts, back to Nero. Lucky for the player, though, all Proud Souls (the currency used for leveling up abilities) gathered as Nero transfer to Dante, as do vitality levels and Devil Trigger orbs, and Nero gets a truckload of Proud Souls when you switch back to him after seven levels of Dante.
At one point in Mischief Makers, you must play as Teran instead of Marina. Teran has dramatically different abilities and controls.
The Pinocchio video game has players controlling the puppet for most of the game, but the second level actually has them taking control of Jiminy Cricket.
In the indie game Psychosomnium, whenever you die in sight of another NPC, you gain control of that NPC. Serves for a few interesting twists.
Like Ratchet and Clank, it's commonplace in the Sly Cooper series. In fact, it's not only always used, but also used more and more with each installment.
In the original, you mainly played as Sly but there were a few levels where you controlled Murray driving the van.
In the first sequel, Murray and Bentley are both playable characters, it stars using the practice of switching characters within story missions (for example, you may start one mission as Sly and then after a certain point automatically switch to Bentley).
In the third game, you not only had the main trio but five other playable characters as well.
And the fourth game looks to be following this pattern with the inclusion of Sly's ancestors.
The Ratchet & Clank series is another trope where this is commonplace. In nearly every game the player mainly controls Ratchet, but at times must directly take control of Clank for various reasons (for example, in the first game at one point there's a planet with a hazardous atmosphere so only Clank can head out on his own while Ratchet must stay behind). The spin off Secret Agent Clank inverts this: Clank is the one played as for the majority of the game while Ratchet is the one the player briefly controls at various points.
Sonic Adventure 2 features two intertwining storylines in Hero and Dark; hero has the players switching between Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails, while Dark has them using Eggman, Shadow, and Rouge. All six characters are used in the final ending.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) has three main storyarcs for Sonic, Shadow, and Silver, though other supporting cast members in the Sonic series will briefly take over as minor playable characters during each story (Tails and Knuckles for Sonic; Rouge and Omega for Shadow, and Amy and Blaze for Silver). Sometimes even one of the main three characters will be playable in another character's story mode: for example, in Sonic's story the player briefly controls Silver at one point.
Sonic Riders Zero Gravity, like Sonic Adventure 2, has two intertwining storylines- the heros and the Babylon Rogues. The heroes team has (again) Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, while the Babylong Rogues team has Jet, Wave and Storm. Amy gets a level for herself- though, oddly, her level is in the middle of the Babylon Rogues' story, even though she spends most of her time with the Hero team. And her objective is to outrace a computer-controlled Babylon Rogue.
Portal 2 has this for community created puzzle maps made by players via Steam Workshop. In single player mode, you play as Chell. In co-op, you play as a robot (Atlas or P-body). When you play a community created map, you play as... one of the stick figures from the Aperture videos. The character in question had no name for a while until a patch release notes dubbed him as Bendy.
Real Time Strategy
Starcraft's campaigns follow a logical story and difficulty order, but the first few Zerg and Protoss levels spoon-feed the new base and unit concepts.
Subverted in Total Annihilation : Kingdoms, which caused this to be viewed by some people as a negative trait, in spite of the fact that you are learning all four factions equally.
Warcraft 3 does this several times, sometimes multiple per section. The most aggravating uses the same character, combining this trope with Bag of Spilling, in the change between the Human and Undead campaign. There Arthas goes from a max-level character with a collection of powerful artifacts and an Infinity+1 Sword to a level one character with a healing potion. He also loses the effect of the sword, despite it being a very important plot point that he is still using it.
In Rhythm Thief And The Emperors Treasure, while you'll use Raphael/Phantom R most of the time, you will occasionally control Fondue, Marie, Charlie, or Vergier. Each of them also receives a bonus chapter starring them, with Charlie and Vergier sharing one.
Role Playing Games
Betrayal at Krondor: This happens a few times, actually, but the most egregious is the beginning of Chapter 5, when you lose Owyn for the first time and instead get Patrus, whose stats are...well, he's a very old man.
Then again, as the story switches back and forth between the two groups, you don't really lose anyone for long.
Ryu tours through two city-dungeons on his local continent before arriving at Winlan where the game switches over to Nina, who is at a much lower level, as she goes off on a quest unrelated to the Dark Dragons. And then you have to save her.
Later on in the same game, you switch to greedy fish-merchant Gobi after the heroes are stranded on a desert island; he's the only one who can venture underwater and pick up the MacGuffin needed to escape.
Chrono Cross does this with both main character and party members, but in an unusual way. Your antagonist body-swaps you. Your old party members stay behind with "Serge" and you're forced to recruit and equip a new party as Lynx. Your level, equipment and elements are carried over, hopefully. Your allies's equipment? Not so much.
Cosmic Fantasy 2 for the PC-Engine / Turbo Duo starts out with Van, but after he is sent forward in time by the main villain, the game switches to Babbette, a member of the Cosmic Hunters. The change causes a brief difficulty spike because Babbette starts out at Level 1 and is very poorly equipped. After meeting a second character and dealing with a fairly tough dungeon and boss, the focus changes back over to Van, who ends up rescuing an imprisoned Babbette.
Dragon Age: Origins has this as an option for a sequence in Denerim. You get to choose which two party members come for you. Also, during the Final Battle, you briefly control the party members whom you left at the Denerim gates (i.e. did not put into the active Player Party for the final push), as they Hold the Line against the encroaching Darkspawn.
In Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku 2 and Buu's Fury, you change between characters constantly. There are doors that only certain characters above level X can open. And you have to level ALL of them separately.
Dubloon temporarily switches point of view to Riley and his monkey Ricky when Russel and Anne leave Outcast Island, until they cross paths with each other.
Dragon Quest IV started this all the way back on the original Famicom. You went through 4 chapters, each focusing around different characters before you got to control the main hero.note The DS remake added a prologue where you played as The Hero.
Partially used in Final Fantasy IV, when Cecil changes class. On the way back down the mountain, the same monsters that provided meager returns now cause the new Cecil to level up rather quickly. Cecil's old equipment is useless at this point, but there's an opportunity for "Reversed 'So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear'" if you happened to buy the unusable equipment at the earlier town.
Final Fantasy V has a moment where Bartz, Lenna, and Faris are all taken hostage, and Galuf must fight solo to free them all
Final Fantasy VII has a moment on Disc 2 where Cloud is temporarily out of commission, so the player controls first Tifa and then Cid.
Final Fantasy VIII does this multiple times where it switches out control of Squall for someone else. Late on Disc one you switch perspectives to the trio of Quistis, Zell, and Selphie. On Disc 2 you start out with the protagonists in prison and the entire missions switches between the viewpoints of Zell, Squall, and Irvine. Then right after this there's a mission where you control a party lead by Selphie. On Disc 3, there's a mission where you have Zell lead a party while Squall is currently in outer space.
In Final Fantasy XII the player starts off controlling a character called Reks. However Reks's involvement is little more than a tutorial and it doesn't take long before you're given control of the real viewpoint character, Vaan.
Final Fantasy XIII spends the whole first half of the game party switching; the first 2 chapters are the most jarring, but since you don't have many accessories at the time, it's not exactly a loss. After Chapter 3, this trope is zig-zagged; characters develop as you use them (frequently, you're stuck with parties of 2, so there's no choice in who you use); when you eventually reach the point where you have the entire party at your disposal, most characters' abilities overlap (e.g. five of your six characters will have the Ravager Role, four of six with have Commando, etc), so its up to you who you use and what roles they focus on (they all become unlocked at this point).
In Dissidia: Final Fantasy you play as the mains from I to X and a bit of XI and XII to unlock in separate character storylines. However, characters make appearances in each others' storylines, and you end up all together at the climax. The Museum section allows you to see a video of the whole story in chronological order
In Final Fantasy IV, there's a brief scripted boss battle where the player controls Edward rather than Cecil.
Due to its ensemble nature, Final Fantasy VI doesn't have one locked protagonist and you can pretty much just have your favorite characters form a party. You start out with Terra, but then she falls unconscious and you control Locke. Then you use the both of them and get Edgar and Sabin. Then the characters are split up and you switch between their own viewpoints. Once they reunite eventually you just have to use Locke and Celes at one point with two party members of your choice, and then after the next couple dungeons you can use anyone. Then you automatically have just Terra and Locke again, and then its back to your choice. And then the WHAM Episode comes and you're left with just Celes and have you get your party members back. After you get more than four you can then start switching out anyone you want for the rest of the game
Final Fantasy IX also has several times where control is switched from Zidane to someone else. After the introduction, you actually start the game out playing as Vivi before regaining use of Zidane. Later on in the disc, the viewpoints split between the parties of Zidane, Vivi, and Freya, and Dagger, Steiner, and Marcus, and the game switches between the two all the way up to about 1/3 of Disc 2. Disc 2 also notably has a mission where Dagger becomes the main character even while Zidane is still in the party. Disc 3 again starts out with the player controlling Vivi, and later on your party splits up and Eiko is the default character to lead the Desert Palace group, if you included her as you're expected to do.
Final Fantasy X features a brief moment where the player controls Yuna rather than Tidus.
Final Fantasy X-2 actually starts the game out with the player controlling Rikku rather than Yuna, with Yuna actually acting as a boss. Turns out it's an imposter and the real Yuna is currently waiting on the sidelines.
The Sacred Stones has a single bonus chapter where the player controls another group briefly.
Radiant Dawn uses this, where the player will bounce between the Dawn Brigade/Daein Army, the Greil Mercenaries and the Crimean Royal Knights (the last 2 later get lumped together). It actually makes the game somewhat unique compared to the others, and allows a Let's Split Up, Gang near the end.
Front Mission 4, which bounces the story back and forth between Venezuela and Europe seemingly at random (though the prospect of something major happening in one branch can facilitate the switch... but mostly it's random).
Although the switch takes place during the break between the two games, the two games are still two halves of the same story and thus still count: In the first Golden Sun, you play as Isaac, Garet, Ivan, and Mia, on a quest to stop Saturos and Menardi's attempts to light the lighthouses. In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the sequel, control switches over to Felix, Saturos and Menardi's right-hand man and Isaac and Garet's former friend, and you continue the quest to light the lighthouses for far nobler reasons than Saturos and Menardi indicated. Once they discover this fact, Isaac's group ends up joining forces with Felix's.
Growlanser: Heritage of War is extremely guilty of this trope. It does it not only once but 4-5 times before you get on the main character's story. Although the actions you do with each characters will affect the main story line.
Kingdom Hearts II: During the final boss battle, the player character briefly switches to Riku after Sora is grabbed and starts having his energy drained by Xemnas.
BioWare set precident for this in Knights of the Old Republic: Your Player Character, Bastila and Carth are captured by the Sith, and you have to choose one of your party members to bail you out. Not so difficult with Canderous, Juhani, or the droids, as they get to keep their gear. But for a challenge and a good laugh, pick Jolee or Mission.
The Game ModBrotherhood of Shadow also has frequent moments of this as you play through several Nintendo Hard flashbacks as Channa Mae.
A particularly egregrious case is the Remote's solo mission on Malachor. The thing is level 1, cannot level up, has laughable weaponry and hit points. You can make it easy by first clearing the area, as the main character walks through it first (alone) and can easily handle all its dangers. If you just rushed through it to the area exit while ignoring the monsters, though... well, at least you'll know better on second playthrough!
The sequence where Mira fights with Hanharr also counts. She's not yet part of the team so you hadn't had a chance to develop and prepare her. Fortunately, she has access to the group's shared inventory, so depending on what sort of weapons and grenades you have that you did NOT already put on existing crewmembers, that fight can be really easy, or very problematic... There's also the fact that Mira can be cross-classed into Jedi after she joins your party, so some players may want to save her levels during her fight against Hanharr so she could gain more levels as a Jedi later on, thus makes the fight more difficult.
It only switches to Noa, who has an indestructible (for story purposes) partner before switching back to Vahn, and the two of them unite for the game's first boss. Gala just joins them both at Lv1, no split required.
Live A Live, which was the entire point of the game - seven completely unrelated stories happening in different time periods. It all comes together in the end of course. And it turns out the stories weren't completely unrelated.
Mass Effect 2 does this shockingly near the end, where Shepard and his/her crew leave the Normandy in the shuttle, and in their absence the Collectors invade. You're suddenly and jarringly given control of Joker, who must limp around the ship activating the AI to get the Normandy out of Dodge.
The party is captured and Paula psychically calls another one of the destined heroes to bust you out. He starts out at level one, so he'll need to do some Level Grinding first.
Also happens after Ness eats a magic cake, causing another character to show up.
MOTHER 3 does this multiple times. The prologue starts as Lucas, the hero. Then the first chapter has you play through the game as Flint, Lucas' father, up until the first "big" boss. He's joined about halfway through by Duster. The second chapter has you playing as Duster by himself, later joined by his father, Wess, and Rebellious Princess Kumatora. The next chapter switches focus entirely, to a monkey named Salsa (but which primarily serves to introduce QuirkyMiniboss Fassad). Then, finally, in the fourth chapter, the game switches to Lucas again. And stays there, for the most part.
Odin Sphere does this, as all five of the main characters are part of the same chain of events. After clearing one character's story, you move on to the next character, and so on. For the final confrontation, you then decide which characters fight the final bosses, and selecting them in the correct order is the only way to achieve the best ending. Sadly, selecting them in the wrong order on multiple runs is also the only way to get 100% Completion to earn the true ending, which is uplifting enough to endure the bad endings.
A prevalent trope in the first two Paper Mario games, taking place in between each major chapter. The first and second games had you control Peach in captivity, and the second also had you control Bowser who was on a mission of his own.
Not as pronounced in Super Paper Mario. In the game, after completing the first chapter, you play a short segment as Peach wandering through The Very Definitely Final Dungeon with a Koopa Troopa by her side and no enemies to fight. After Chapter Two, it's the same thing again, except you're playing as Luigi and accompanying you are two Goombas. After that, there's no more of these sequences. Two things of note:
Bowser does not get a similar scene.
While Peach fully retains her parasol ablities in her segment, Luigi cannot perform his high jump in his.
Phantasy Star III, which features multiple generations of the same family as lead characters. Interestingly, Mieu and Wren, who are cyborgs, retain their levels throughout all three generations.
Also made a bit more palatable as you tend to start each generation slightly more Bad Ass than the previous one. Take that, dad!
The Reconstruction features a minor example — after the prologue, where you play as Captain Rehm Sikohlon, the story Time Skips and switches perspectives to the real cast. And stays there.
Every game in the SaGa series after the Game BoyFinal Fantasy Legend games. Special mention goes to SaGa Frontier 2 which is the king of this trope: not only do you have characters who are playable for only one dungeon, one character is actually "playable" only for one cutscene, meaning you never get to do anything with him, and he doesn't even count as having ever been in your party unless you go to the trade city immediately afterwards. At least skills learned are learned for every character in the game, and with no stages after the one you are currently on, there is no reason you'd even want to grind to begin with. This is also a game that will jump years and even generations into the future without warning, and inconsistently at that, since you're following two families separately. Makes your brain hurt, and one can only imagine how far the time gap between them can be pushed.
Happens multiple times in Sailor Moon: Another Story. This is because each of the Inner Senshi—Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter—as well as Chibi-Moon have their own plotlines that they follow, in Chapter 2 of the game. All your characters also start off at level 1 (except Sailor Pluto, who you encounter well into the game), so you'll have to control how you level up if you want to try to level them up evenly.
The Suikoden series is fond of player character changes. Suikoden II and Suikoden V both had sections where you created 3 different teams of characters to complete a section, and there was a small section of the original where you played a lone Dragon Knight.
Suikoden III, in which you get to see a single story unfold from the perspective of up to six different characters (three of which had to be unlocked via certain game events).
Treasure of the Rudra has an interesting variant in that you can switch from one character's story to another's at the drop of a hat.
Vandal Hearts I & II have small scale versions. In the first, several of your party members are thrown in prison and you assume control of The Stoic Clint. In the second, the prologue chapter has you control The Hero Joshua and his two friends as teenagers, but then skips forward into the future and your friends are replaced by Joshua's new criminal buddies.
Wild ARMs 3 started off with the cast going on individual flashback missions, each one showing how they ended up on the train they were riding. Eventually they all teamed up and the game started for real.
The Wild ARMs series tends to open like this quite frequently, introducing us to the characters in separate missions before they all meet up. You can usually choose the order in which you do this, as well. It's part of the series' emphasis on an ensemble cast, rather than one obvious main character and their group of sidekicks.
The developers do know it's annoying, though, and use it to their plot advantage — Joshua initially fights like he has the survival instincts of a lemming as well as lacking any gear, making his assholish behaviour even more aggravating. This ends up making sense, because he's The Man Behind the Man.
The first Xenosaga pulled this on the player a few times, with the only difference being that the item pool and money carried over between parties until all three groups meet up.
Happens multiple times in Xenoblade rather briefly. Though you can always change who the party's leader is, you're forced into using a particular character or group of characters during these moments, which often don't even require you to fight anything.
Chrono Trigger: Right up until 2/3 of the way through the game, Crono is a forced party member and therefore your highest level character. Oh, and he has the most powerful spell in the game. Then he dies and you're forced to continue on as someone else, with Marle and Lucca taking up the role of protagonist. You lose his armour and accessory too, by the way. Luckily, you can get Crono back eventually.
Since the party is broken up frequently in CIMA The Enemy, the player often takes control of either Ivy or one of the combat-capable settlers.
Stealth Based Games
007: From Russia with Love plays with this. Like the film the first half of the Hedgemaze level has the player controlling a Bond impersonator in a mask rather than the real deal. After Red Grant garrotes him like in the film's prologue, the action then switches over to the real Bond being briefed on the Istanbul mission at MI-6.
Manhunt 2 has you playing Danny, but also Leo in the "6 years ago" chapters.
Assassin's Creed III has you play the first three memory sequences (about a fifth of the game) as Haytham Kenway, the main protagonist's father. While Haytham can acquire money and equipment in these sequences, none of it carries over to when you start playing as Connor — but oddly, any exploration or sidequests that Haytham accomplished do.
Connor can get the money Haytham had, however, if the player is able to find the Drunken Dragon Inn (Haytham's base of sorts during his sequences) and picks the lock on the chest inside.
And, of course, you can switch to Desmond in every game.
Metal Gear Solid 2 did this. After about an hour and a half of teasing the player with Solid Snake, he was replaced with Raiden, a completely new character who had never been seen in the series before. The storyline shifted, too, from a band of Russian extremists taking over a Tanker to a loony renegade unit taking over an offshore cleaning facility, two years later. All the player's weapons and items were gone, and if they'd spent time Level Grinding their Grip Gauge it was reset to Level 1. Fans were not happy with Raiden for this.
Its sequel, Metal Gear Solid 3, jokes with this: If the player chooses MGS2 as his favourite of the franchise when starting a game, the player characters starts the game wearing the Raiden mask...which he soon discards after the first cutscene.
Though played straight in the now-defunct multiplayer component, Metal Gear Online. Depending on the team, if allowed, and who is leading/falling, you can take control as either Ocelot (who has superior CQC abilities and can start with the SAA), Raikov (who has a unique CQC move and is somewhat faster), or Sokolov (who is weaker but starts with active camo). In Sneaking mission, the one player can control Snake who has superior health, CQC, and overall abilities.
Continued in the now-defunct Metal Gear Online on PS3. Sneaking Mission gives you Old Snake, who is considerably weaker compared to Snake from MGO on PS2, but has the same stealth abilities he had in Metal Gear Solid 4 and performs better than regular soldiers, with a partner (if there are 11 players in the room) taking control as Otacon who can distract or stun soldiers, and deliver dog tags to Snake. DLC included the ability to play as Meryl (can start with a scoped D.Eagle), Johnny (XM 8 Compact/Anti-Tank rifle, no nano machines), Mei Ling (can call air strikes and can use a sonar device), Liquid Ocelot (manipulate nanomachines, superior CQC and can use the Thor), Raiden (use the sword and is fast), and Vamp (can respawn on the spot and is great with knives), with Snake being allowed to be used in regular matches.
In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, you have the option to play as any of the regular soldiers you recruited, provided you are not restricted from using them in a particular stage (such as if you haven't finished a level you want to play on the first time already).
Clock Tower starts you out as Professor Barton, an Exposition Dropping Character who decides your player character and a few other quirks about the game depending on what you have him do. Then you either control Jennifer Simpson or Helen Maxwell for most of the game. In each of their chapters you'll also control either Stan Gotts or Nolan Campbell for a while.
In Deadly Premonition, after playing through most of the story as York, some sections near the end have you taking control of Emily, Zach, and the Original Raincoat Killer.
Eternal Darkness can feel like this if you play the game without having been spoiled of the plot beforehand. As a rule, it's best not to get too attached to the characters you get stuck with. Fortunately, there's no Level Grinding, and once each character finds the Tome, they have all the spells learned up to that point.
In the first Fatal Frame game, you play the tutorial level as Mafuyu, then switch to his sister Miku for the rest of the game.
Resident Evil: Code: Veronica does this: after playing through most of the first half with Claire, she gets captured by Alexia, forcing the player to take control of Chris to rescue her. Any item left on the storage box can be retrieved by Chris, but items that were carried by Claire before the character switch cannot be used by Chris until the game switches back to her for a brief portion near the end.
There is also a brief segment where the player takes control of Steve Burnside, testing out his sub machine guns.
Resident Evil has you take control of Rebecca in Chris' scenario if Chris gets poisoned by the giant snake. Depending on your interactions with Rebecca, she'll also show up again to make a chemical compound so she can save Chris from a giant mutant plant.
Resident Evil 2 had short segments where you switched control to Ada (Leon's scenario) or Sherry (Claire's scenario).
All three games of the Siren series, have you hop from one character to the next constantly, also hopping backwards or forwards in the game's timeline. Unfortunately, when you return to the same character you'll often find that no matter how what weapons or ammo you finished their earlier level with, they start off the next level with less.
In The Crooked Man, you briefly play as David's best friend Paul, and have to save David from Demonic Possession by the Crooked Man. After that's all over you resume playing as David.
In Ib, under some very special circumstances, you can play as Mary. If you're playing as Mary, you're screwed. You are stuck in the worst ending of the game; you've already lost Ib and Garry and it's only a matter of time for Mary.
If your character dies in Zombi U, he/she gets replaced with a totally different character. You are also forced to start from the safe house and encouraged to reclaim that character's backpack, zombie or not.
Third Person Shooter
The 24 game mainly switches out gameplay perspectives behind Jack Bauer, Tony Almeida, and Chase Edmunds.
The game adaptation of From Russia with Love for the PS2 and GC has an interesting variant. For the second mission you're controlling a notably silent James Bond while infiltrating an enemy fortress. Then he gets killed and it's revealed that the "Bond" you were playing as this whole time is actually a fake in a mask; you then switch over to the real Bond in England for the rest of the level. Anyone who's seen the movie probably will see this switch coming.
A much more straight use occurs in Tomorrow Never Dies, which has you controlling Bond Girl Wai Lin in the penultimate level rather than Bond himself.
Halo 3: ODST. The game starts off as the player controls The Rookie, the newest member of the ODST squad. During the atmospheric drop into the city, a subspace rupture damages your pod and scatters your team across the city. You awake hours later in the middle of the night all alone. The Rookie spends the game exploring the ruined city finding clues as to what happened to his squad while he was unconscious. Everytime a clue is located, the game shifts to the player controlling a different member of the squad. By the end of the game the player will have controlled every member of the squad during their individual mission segments which come together to form the game's ending after the squad is reunited.
In Max Payne 2, two levels are played from the perspective of Mona Sax.
MDK 2 - There are three protagonists, all of them with different gameplay. You can choose who you play as in the last level.
Red Dead Redemption: After John is murdered by Edgar Ross at the end, the game features a playable epilogue that takes place years later where the player takes control over his now grown-up son Jack, looking to avenge his father's death.
Done three times in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials And Tribulations: in Cases 1 and 4, you do a flash-back to early cases of Phoenix's mentor, Mia Fey, and naturally play as her. In case 5 of the same game, Phoenix suffers a nasty accident and convinces Miles Edgeworth to briefly take his place as a defense attorney. In Justice For All, you very briefly play as Maya as well.
Also done in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, where you end up playing as Phoenix in his last trial. After that you play as Thalassa Gramarye playing out Phoenix's seven year investigation through the MASON system
Dual Destinies splits up the cases among Phoenix, Apollo, and new character Athena Sykes, giving each of them the chance to be the viewpoint character.
Corpse Party has this in each Chapter. Chapter 1 has you control Naomi (with Seiko). In Chapter 2, you briefly control Yui-sensei before shifting to Yoshiki (with Ayumi). In Chapter 3, you control Satoshi, then Yuka when the two end up separating. In Chapter 4, you control Ayumi and Satoshi. Finally, in Chapter 5, you can switch control between Ayumi and Satoshi (and briefly control Yuka when she needs to escape from Kizami) in order to meet the requirements to escape.
This trope is the whole point of Disgaea Infinite, in which you play a Prinny who can jump into control of various classic Disgaea characters and turn back time, in order to replay events from different perspectives and solve a mystery.
The Bad Boys Love route of Hatoful Boyfriend begins with the human girl getting killed. For the remainder of that route, you play as Ryouta. The protagonist-shift goes hand-in-hand with a Genre Shift from a weird dating sim to a weird murder mystery thriller.
Not a video game example, but similar: In the novel Cat and Mouse by James Patterson, Alex Cross (who has been the hero and narrator of not only this book but all of them in the series thus far) gets knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital. The next chapter starts with a brand new narrator, who was introduced earlier, while we're still reeling from the removal of Cross. And he turns out to be the second serial killer of the book, the same one he investigated.
In Mummy: the Curse, one of the Frameworks suggested is that the players switch out between usually playing members of a cult and occasionally playing the mummy that the cult worships.