This is when a character who was computer-controlled (as an NPC
or as a boss) in one installment of a series becomes a potential player-controlled character
through the course of the game, or in sequels. They may be hidden unlockable characters, you might get the chance to recruit them, or they might be presented outright at the character select screen.
Typically they are more powerful than your average "normal" character, though of course they may end up a lot weaker than when they were boss characters (expect their HP to be divided by a factor of 10). This may be due to a Redemption Demotion
or for PVP balancing
. It's also possible that the game has played up a bad guy as such, only for him to become playable near the end of the game. There is no Heel-Face Turn
involved; just the bad guy doing stuff on his own or just passively riding the plot along.
Beating the game with/as one of these characters usually reveals a special type of end-game victory screen. A Fighting Game
series of sufficient length
will almost always resort to this.
- Princess Zelda was playable in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks in certain dungeons and boss battles, being this the first game in the main series where the player gets to control the title princess directly.
- Shiva was The Dragon to the final boss in Streets of Rage 2, notable for having a move set remarkably close to that of the playable characters. In the sequel to that game, he became selectable from a Continue after being defeated in an earlier level — however, he lacked one of his special moves when playable, which was available to a later boss version of him.
- Vergil in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition.
- Yakuza Dead Souls has Goro Majima, perennial madman of the series, and Ryuji Goda, The Rival from Yakuza 2.
- In Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force, Gongs and Kamui were a common enemy and the boss of the fifth stage, respectively. In the PC Engine CD re-release, it featured a much larger Story Mode where players can play as Richard Winston who pilots Kamui and Eve Lurdia who pilots a Gong.
- Any and all NPCs, minor characters, major characters, main characters, villains and supporting characters in the LEGO movie games can and will be unlocked some way or another. Even the ones who have no weapons and can't do anything. You can play as anybody. Newer games let you create your own character using parts from unlocked characters.
- Most Castlevania games after Symphony of the Night let you play as a boss/rival character after you finish the main game. Examples are Richter in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (and Maria in the Sega Saturn version and a reworked version of Maria in the PSP version), Julius in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Julius again with Yoko and Alucard in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Stella and Loretta in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (though Richter and Maria are also unlockable), and Albus in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.
- Oswald the Lucky Rabbit spends Epic Mickey driving the plot and having a Cain and Abel relationship with Mickey Mouse. In Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, he's playable alongside Mickey.
- The Green Goblin is unlockable in the game of the first Spider-Man movie.
- Petey Piranha, Ridley and Porky Minch were boss characters in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. They became playable in Super Smash Bros. Crusade.
- Waluigi, Shadow and Tingle were assist trophies in Brawl before being part of the roster in Crusade.
- Samurai Shodown added Amakusa to the playable roster in the third game.
- Darkstalkers made Pyron and Huitzil playable in the second game.
- Oboro Bishamon was a Bonus Boss in Vampire Savior, but is made playable in Darkstalkers 3, the enhanced Playstation port.
- Many Guilty Gear sequels include a playable Justice. Other bosses in the series were playable in their own games from their introduction.
- Baiken initially started as a secret boss in the original Guilty Gear. Since GGX, however, she appears as a playable character from the very beginning.
- In the Tekken series, the first game had Kazuya as a main character and Heihachi as an unlockable boss. The second game had Kazuya as an unlockable boss and Heihachi as a main character. Then Heihachi recovered his unlockable boss status in the third and Kazuya became a main character again in the fourth, and that's without getting into Jin... yeah, the whole Mishima family is like this.
- Lee becomes a main character in Tekken 5. After being an unlockable Law clone he was greatly improved in Tekken Tag and is a notable part of the story in Tekken 4.
- As a matter of fact, all rival/sub-boss characters in the first two Tekken arcades were unselectable, and thus were promoted for their game's respective PS ports.
- Jinpachi Mishima went from unplayable boss in Tekken 5 to playable in the PS3 port of Dark Ressurection and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (albeit in human form).
- Tekken 6 Bonus Boss NANCY can be used in some missions in the home port's Scenario Campaign mode.
- The first game in the Soul Series, Soul Edge, saw Sub-Boss Cervantes playable in its 2nd revision and Final Boss SoulEdge in the PS port; Soulcalibur saw Inferno selectable in the Dremcast port, only to later invert it in Soulcalibur II and Soulcalibur III: Arcade Edition.
- Shang Tsung became playable (and young) from Mortal Kombat to Mortal Kombat II, where Shao Kahn replaced him as the Final Boss.
- All bosses eventually became playable at some point: Goro in the Game Boy port of MK, Trilogy (PlayStation only), home versions of MK4 and GameCube's Deception; Kintaro in Trilogy (PlayStation only), Motaro and Shao Kahn in home ports of MK3/UMK3, Trilogy and GameCube's Deception (Kahn only). And all of them, plus Moloch, Onaga and Sareena (from Mythologies) became playable in Armageddon.
- Unplayable hidden characters as well: Reptile (MK) and Jade (MK2) were added to the main roster in MK2 and UMK3 respectively, whereas Smoke (MK2) and Noob Saibot (MK2 & 3) were first playable "hidden" characters in MK3 (Smoke only) and UMK3 before becoming regulars in Trilogy.note
- Armageddon had everyone. Literally every fighter over the course of the entire series was playable in that one ( except for Human Smoke, and Khameleon continued to be Nintendo exclusive).
- In a rather surprising semi-promotion, the Vita port of Mortal Kombat 9 included an extra Challenge Tower where the player can play as Tremor, one of the bosses in the not-quite finished Mortal Kombat: Special Forces.
- The four Shadaloo Grand Masters (Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison) from Street Fighter II were exclusively computer-controlled in the original game, but were promoted to playable characters in Champion Edition and onward.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Battle of Aces allows you to use the Materials once you beat the storylines of the three characters each of them is based upon (e.g. Nanoha, Vita, and Zafira for Material-S). Needless to say, they are the most powerful characters in the game, except Unison Reinforce.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy made many villains of the series, including the incredibly popular Sephiroth, (though he had already been playable in Ehrgeiz) into playable characters.
- Dissidia 012 does it again, adding Gilgamesh into the mix. Also notably—in the first Dissidia game, many fans wished that the Final SNK Boss Chaos was playable (he wasn't, not without hacks). But his new and altered form, Feral Chaos, is.
- Castlevania Judgment has Dracula and Death as unlockable characters.
- The Marvel vs. Capcom series has a tendency to do this with most of its bosses:
- Bushido Blade 2 saw some of the previous game's bosses become hidden characters: Sazanka, Tsubame and Hongou.
- For Bloody Roar its original Final Boss Uriko was completely retooled when she became playable in Bloody Roar 2.
- Yuri Sakazaki, the Distressed Damsel of the first Art of Fighting game, becomes playable in the sequel and turns out to be a skilled fighter in her own right. She became so popular that she's a mainstay in the King of Fighters series.
- With more information being available in the source material, Darui went from a support-only character in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations to a full-on playable character in Storm 3.
- Metal Mario appears as a boss in Super Smash Bros.., while anyone can be made metal with the green box item in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl. Similarly, the original game had Giant Donkey Kong and Melee and Brawl can make anyone Giant with the Super Mushroom.
- Also, Giga Bowser from Melee becomes playable through Bowser's Final Smash in Brawl.
- Wario, Meta Knight, Pit, Olimar, Squirtle (who doubles as the starting platform in Poké Floats) and King Dedede (who also appeared in the N64 installment as a background character in Kirby's stage) all appeared as trophies in Melee before becoming playable characters, and Charizard was one of the Pokémon summoned in the first two games before it became a playable character itself.
- Special note goes to Captain Falcon and Ness, who demonstrate a variant of this trope: They were unlockable characters in the first game, then ascended into default characters in Melee before being demoted back to unlockables in Brawl.
- If one doesn't count The Legend Of Zelda CDI Games, then Melee marks the first time that Zelda has ever been playable in any game.
- Little Mac was an Assist Trophy in Brawl, and now he's a playable character in the fourth game.
- Palutena first appeared in the background of Pit's Final Smash in Brawl, as well as making a minor appearance in Subspace Emissary.
- Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butouden marks the first playable appearance of King Kai in any Dragon Ball game.
- Persona 4 Arena allows you to play as Labrys from a Drama CD unreleased outside Japan and the Bonus Boss of Persona 3, Elizabeth. The sequel promotes former Mission Control Rise Kujikawa to a playable fighter.
- In the Godzilla Fighting Game for the Turbo CD, Biollante was not playable by any means, but became available to players of the game's Super Famicom successor, Kaijuu Daikessen.
- Bai-Hu, the Final Boss of Breakers for the Neo Geo, can be playable through codes in the CD version and the Updated Re-release Breakers Revenge.
- Happens after a fashion in Gundam Extreme Vs.; the boss of the game is the Extreme Gundam from the manga Gundam EXA. The sequel, Extreme Vs. Full Boost, introduces EXA's protagonist Leos Alloi, who has his own version of the Extreme Gundam complete with melee, ranged, and funnel forms based off the original Extreme's Meta Mecha. Several of Leos' attacks are taken directly from the original, allowing players to be on the delivering end for a change.
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is an Interquel taking place before the second game that features Wilhelm and the Sheriff of Lynchwood (known as Nisha) as playable characters as well as Series Mascot Claptrap and Athena from the General Knoxx DLC of the first game.
- Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik is playable in Sonic Adventure 2.
- The ''Sly Cooper" series made Bentley and Murray playable characters in its second game, while the third finally upgraded Carmelita Fox, and former antagonists, Panda King and Dimitri, to playable status.
- Previous recurring series antagonist Captain Qwark became playable in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Sort of. (In-game, Ratchet is controlling an interactive "vid-comic where the player controls Qwark"). He also had his own playable dream sequences in the Secret Agent Clank game. He was officially made a playable character in Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, alongside Dr. Nefarious as well as Full Frontal Assault.
- Crash Bandicoot:
- DLC packs for Scott Pilgrim added Knives Chau and Wallace Wells as playable characters.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Wario was strictly a bad guy in his first few appearances (Super Mario Land 2, Mario & Wario, and Wario's Woods). He was first playable in Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman!, then got his own series, and now he's both a recurring Mario playable character and a star in his own right.
- Rosalina, after her debut in Super Mario Galaxy, became a regular character in the Mario Kart spin-off series. Eventually, she took a spot in the main series by becoming a Secret Character in Super Mario 3D World.
- New Super Mario Bros. U introduced villain named Nabbit who would occasionally show up for a special challenge. In the DLC New Super Luigi U, he becomes playable - though he can't collect power-ups, he is utterly immune to enemies.
- After years of lamenting the sorry state of modern video games and boasting of his trained-on-the-good-old-hard-games skills in the Donkey Kong Country series, Cranky Kong finally gets to put his money where his mouth is in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze .
- All the bosses from the first Izuna game are playable in the second, including the two hidden ones (Gen-An and Shino).
- Joachim in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
- Magus in Chrono Trigger.
- General Leo in Final Fantasy VI, though only for one battle..
- Sarevok in Baldur's Gate: Throne of Bhaal.
- Teyrn Loghain a.k.a. the Secret Companion in Dragon Age: Origins.
- Kingdom Hearts has the entire Organization XIII [bosses] as playable characters for the first time in 358/2 Days, along with Goofy, Donald and Riku (AI-controlled support party members) and Mickey (he would be playable but only briefly if you died in certain boss fights).
- Valkyrie Profile lets you fight Freya, Brahms, and Lezard Valeth in the Bonus Dungeon, and they join you if you defeat them. You can't use them in the regular game, however, since the bonus dungeon is chosen from the main menu instead of being part of the regular game.
- Bowser, after being an antagonist in the two preceding games, becomes a playable character (and is in fact the driving force behind the plot rather than being a mere joke) in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.
- Bowser also starts becoming playable in the Paper Mario series from the second game and onwards.
- Way before either of those, Bowser actually joined Mario's part- er, "let Mario join his party" in Super Mario RPG.
- In Suikoden, Kwanda Rosman, Milich Oppenheimer, Sonya Schulen, Varkas, Sydonia, the pirate trio, Alen, Grenseal (though technically their boss is defeated to recruit them), and Griffith (defeated in a tactical battle) can be recruited after defeating them. All are necessary to obtain the 108 Stars (best) ending.
- Many recruitable characters are like this throughout the series, to the point that the game may as well shove forgiveness and Defeat Means Friendship down the player's throats.
- Gaius and Musee become playable in Tales of Xillia 2. Made especially noteworthy by the fact that they were the final bosses in the original game. They also retain every single attack they possessed in their original appearances.
- Ys Origin has Toal Fact. He's encountered several times as an NPC when playing as Hugo or Yunica; completing the game with either of them unlocks him as a player character. Beating the game with him reveals the canon ending.
- In The Sims 2, NPCs can be made playable if you have a high enough relationship score and ask them to move in, or marry them. There are also various Game Mods to do so.
- In Virtual Villagers 5: The New Believers another tribe of 'heathens' appears, which is controlled by the AI. The player can 'convert' them individually using various methods and they become members of your tribe.
- The Call of Duty series has several examples of this, including Sgt. Viktor Reznov from World At War being playable in Black Ops, Sgt. Frank Woods from Black Ops being playable in Black Ops 2 and Declassified, and Captain Price from the Modern Warfare series being playable in the present time in the final level of Modern Warfare 3.
- BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea has you playing as Elizabeth during the second part of the story.
- Touhou does this all the time. Every one of the Windows games has had at least one boss villain reappear as playable in a later game. Including the final bosses. This created some pretty jarring situations in which characters that could manipulate fate, inflict instant death and even warp reality at will became playable characters in their own right.
- It started after the second-game of the PC-98 series.
- With several characters even getting their own games! (to be specific, Aya Shamemaru with what can be most easily described as photography games combined with the bullet hell of the usual series, Cirno, whose game was a bullet hell with bullet freezing mechanics, and Seija Kijin, with what is like Aya's games but with the difficulty cranked up and the ability to cheat)
- Team Fortress 2: The extremely popular custom mod "Vs. Saxton Hale" lets a single player become the larger-than-life Mann Co. CEO and fight all the other players simultaneously.
- Halo 2 makes the predecessor's main enemy, the Elites, a playable race in multiplayer. While they aren't technically more powerful, the altered hit-boxes has led to arguments on which model is superior and standardization in the MLG circuit.
- Played completely straight in Halo: Reach where the Elites have more shield strength and faster movement speed than their Spartan counterparts.
- But for balance reasons, they possess larger hitboxes, slightly slower shield recharge times and less physical health, though the last balance is somewhat negated by their ability to fully recover physical health over time without a health pack. In Halo 3, Elites were more of examples of Confusion Fu, since, despite the dramatically different character models compared to Spartans, they still had the exact same hitboxes.
- Hibachi is an unlockable fighter in the iPhone port of Dodonpachi Ressurection after beating the game (Good luck with that by the way).
- Zero becoming playable as the Mega Man X series went on was pretty much inevitable; first he was an underpowered extra character in X3, but he later became a fully fleshed out alternative to X.
- The PSP remake Maverick Hunter X allows you to unlock and play as Vile.
- The other PSP remake, Mega Man Powered Up, does this with all eight Robot Masters. Of course, only six of them were in the original Mega Man.
- Also in the same game, Roll and Proto Man were also unlockable each with their own stories. Roll was a background character in the first game while Proto Man made his debut as Breakman in Mega Man 3.
- Proto Man (as well as Bass) was playable way earlier, in Mega Man: The Power Battles for Arcades. Though Bass was technically playable in a Fighting Game-esque Easter Egg mode in Mega Man 7, his debut game.
- Inverted in X7 — X himself is Demoted To Unlockable.
- After being X, Zero and Axl's navigator from X5 to X7, Alia is promoted to unlockable in Mega Man X8 with moves similar to X. Unlike X however, she cannot use any of X's armor. Layer and Pallette are also unlockable with moves similar to Zero and Axl, though you have to rebuy the weapons for Layer and Pallete cannot metamorph like Axl.
- Done in an odd way in the Battle Network games. First example is that all fightable enemies ended up as a battlechip to use. Second was games 4-6 added double soul, which allowed megaman to imitate other navis that he formed bonds with under the right conditions, which included series classics like protoman, numberman, and elecman. 5-6 actually played this straight, allowing you to play as the navis themselves as well as double soul, such playable characters included protoman, numberman, flameman, and aquaman.
- The "Meta Knightmare" sub-games in Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby Super Star Ultra (which are Enhanced Remakes of Kirby's Adventure and Kirby Super Star) make Meta Knight an unlockable player character.
- King Dedede was playable in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards as a Powerup Mount then became fully playable in Kirby's Return To Dream Land. As of Kirby Triple Deluxe, he now has his own standalone gameplay mode just as Meta Knight does.
- The Bandana Waddle Dee from Kirby Super Star Ultra ends up playable in Kirby's Return to Dream Land.
- The Red Arremer that just spent the past few lives terrorizing you in the Ghosts N Goblins series? He's not nearly as nimble when under your control in the Gargoyle's Quest subseries, though his fighting game appearances in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 show greater shades of his abilities.
- Hiryu's rival in Strider 2, Hien, became playable in a special "Hien Mode" in the PS port of the game.
- Bravoman enemy Pistol Daimyo became the star of his own Spin-Off Shoot 'em Up game, Pistol Daimyo no Bouken.
- The main villain from Contra: Hard Corps, Colonel Bahamut, appears as the main character in the prequel, Hard Corps: Uprising.
- You can play as Barry DeJay, the announcer from Backyard Basketball, in Backyard Baseball as an unlockable. He is actually in Basketball, too, through a secret code.
- Technically, Big Boss counts in Metal Gear Solid 3, having been the final boss of the series' first two MSX games.
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker has a metric buttload of playable NPCs from the series, from major characters like Ocelot and Dr. Sokolov to minor characters like Johnny Sasaki Sr. and Raidenovich Raikov.
- Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven marks the first playable appearance of series' regular bad guy Onikage, in the game's Co-op Versus mode. Some of the bosses from Fatal Shadows (plus a few from older games) became playable in the PSP game Time of the Assassins for its Level Editor.
- Hachi the shop owner in the Advance Wars series becomes unlockable in Black Hole Rising and Dual Strike. Appropriately, he is one of the game's most powerful COs.
- Hawke and Lash in Black Hole Rising become playable in the campaign of Dual Strike.
- Disgaea 2 does this quite a bit in the PSP Video Game Remake Dark Hero Days, making almost all of the formerly unusable optional boss characters playable, perhaps the most notable of them being Zetta, who's a Game Breaker due to some retained Contractual Boss Immunity, and the absurdly large hit radius on his attacks.
- Guss Tarball from Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games becomes a controllable mercenary in Jagged Alliance 2. He's pretty powerful although quite expensive.
- Fire Emblem
- Some games let you unlock the Big Bad and several of his cronies (And some unrelated villains) as playable characters for Trial Maps. That is, those who don't join you during the main game anyway.
- Of particlar note is the Black Knight from Fire Emblem Tellius. That One Boss in Path of Radiance, one of the coolest characters in the game, now is playable in a few chapters in Radiant Dawn. And he, in fact, kicks even more ass than before, so players can use him to single-handedly inflict beat downs of epic proportions on their enemies. Only problem is that he is a Crutch Character to the max who already has the max level, so using him will cost your other characters much-needed EXP, causing many players not to use Blackie at all.
- Also from the Tellius games, Oliver (the main antagonist for the portion of Path of Radiance that took place in Begnion) turned out to be Not Quite Dead in Radiant Dawn and can be recruited near the end of the game. Statwise he's not very impressive, but his conversations with some of the other characters are among the funniest things in the game.
- There are also several other examples in Radiant Dawn including the previously busy Sanaki, Sigrun, and Caineghis, the previously neutral Kurthnaga, the previously powerless Leanne and Nealuchi, and (probably the most surprisingly) Gareth, Kurthnaga's servant who spoke two lines and five words through the entirety of Path of Radiance. Guess they did give him a name for a reason.
- Fire Emblem Awakening features many bosses and characters from previous games that can be recruited.