HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!A type of unlockable content. This is a playable character that is unavailable to the player at the start of the game and getting to play as them requires some sort of specific action on their part. Like any other form of unlockable content, getting the Secret Character is not required to finish the game. If the game's a Role-Playing Game, this character can be recruited to your Player Party, sometimes through extremely convoluted means, sometimes as New Game+ reward. In this case, the fact that they can join you can make them a Walking Spoiler. In a fighting game, uncovering the character may be as simple as holding down a button while you select a certain fighter, or you may have to beat the game on the hardest setting, without using any continues and then defeat the character in a one-on-one duel to get them. In many fighting games, there is also a secondary path to getting characters that usually entails a set number (usually in the hundreds) of versus matches completed or a set amount of gameplay time for those who don't want to play the story mode. Some secret characters are Permanently Missable depending on the means used to unlock or acquire them. See also Optional Party Member, Guest Fighter, if it's an entirely different protagonist in a game with a single playable character, it's Another Side, Another Story. If a secret character is also the most powerful enemy in the game, they double as the True Final Boss.
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- Since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Castlevania has featured unlockable characters, usually the secondary characters. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow 's Julius Mode, besides being a tribute to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, is also a rare example of a Bad End Plus: the reason you're playing as Julius is to kill Soma, who's become Dracula.
- In Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, Vergil is playable after beating the game once.
- Beating Snailiad once unlocks Sluggy Slug, who is the sole player character of Slug Mode.
- After beating killer7 once on any difficulty, you can go back and re-play the game in killer8 mode, which gives you access to the previously unavailable Young Harman character, whose huge amount of health and tommy-gun make him almost a Game Breaker. You'll need him though, since the only difficulty level available for killer8 mode is Bloodbath, where enemies take obtuse amounts of damage, give almost no blood at all, and have invisible weak points.
- Beating Vario in Savant Ascent would unlock the option to wear his mask. Hilariously, this turns all of your shots into Vario and changes your special attack into blocks that you drag around the screen.
- Beating Carrie's Order Up! in one go, or earning $12,000,00 across multiple playthroughs, unlocks Calcia, the lobster running the counter, as a playable waitress. She'll slow down for every plate carried, but can spin past customers as long as the button is held, unlike Carrie, who can only spin in short bursts.
- In Dragon Ball Z The Legacy Of Goku 2, there are 5 podiums by the fountain in Capsule Corp. Upon completing the Cell Games, you get one statue, which appears on the middle podium. As for the other 4 statues, they are hidden behind 4 barriers, one for each playable character except Goku, that require the character to be level 50 before they can access the area behind them. A statue is placed behind each of these barriers, and upon collecting all 5, you unlock Hercule as a playable character.
- Beating Spectacle Fighter Bayonetta on any difficulty unlocks Jeanne. There's also Little King Zero, who can be unlocked by beating the Brutal Bonus Level, Angel Slayer.
- Jeanne makes a return as an unlockable character in Bayonetta 2, again unlocked by just beating the game on any difficulty. Bayonetta's mother, Rosa, can also be unlocked by beating the game on 3rd Climax, the second hardest difficulty in the game. Two more characters can be unlocked in the online co-op mode, Tag Climax, through randomly being challenged by them during play, Lumen Sage, Balder, and Rodin, although these two can only be used on the co-op mode and not during normal gameplay.
- An Open Secret, but in Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star Artoria Pendragon is the final unlockable character possible. And her unlock requirements are a doozy to say the least. Check the Moon Logic Puzzle entry on the main page for Fate/EXTELLA to see why.
- The most famous fighting game example is Akuma/Gouki in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. If the player plays well enough, Akuma will appear at the end of the game and kill the standard final boss, M. Bison. Akuma became so popular that he is now subject to Wolverine Publicity, as he shows up in games which aren't associated with Street Fighter, like Cyberbots, where he appears as a giant mecha.
- SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos had a buttload of secret characters. Some of them were the ones you would expect like Dan or Geese, while others included Zero and Demitri. It also featured an evil version of Ken, called Violent Ken, based off of his possessed self in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.
- Battle Arena Toshinden: In order to play as Gaia and Sho, the two bosses, you had to enter two codes on the title screen before the menu showed up, then select either Eiji or Kayin while holding certain down certain buttons on the D-pad
- Most of the modern WWE games have former WWE talent as hidden legends. Later WWE games can be hacked to unlock WWE management like Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Michael Cole, Lillian Garcia, Mike Chioda and Nick Patrick.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy:
- Shantotto and Gabranth join the heroes and villains (respectively) once their storylines are cleared, adding them to the PP catalog to be purchased.
- This is the case for Prishe and Gilgamesh, and Feral Chaos in the sequel. Shantotto and Gabranth must still be purchased, but unlike the others the ability to purchase them is from the start.
- A tradition in the Super Smash Bros. series. Typically by fullfilling a requirement, followed by Defeat Means Playable.
- Typically, you first unlock Jigglypuff by beating single-player mode once. Another standout secret character is Luigi, the only other character besides Jigglypuff to have been a secret character in the first three Smash games. Notably, Brawl mixed it up by making Jigglypuff one of the last characters you unlock.
- For other characters, the requirements vary according to the case. Each time you meet the requirements for any character, you will fight him/her/it with whichever one you were playing as at the time, and if you win you will unlock the character. Other typical requirements include beating the game without continues, with a specific character, or completing certain side events. Each game minus the first also gives you the characters if you log a certain amount of multiplayer matches (the minimum required to get them all this way is 1000 matches in Melee, 450 in Brawl, 120 in 3DS. In Brawl and Wii U). Brawl has a unique third method: By getting them to join you in Adventure Mode, they'll be available automatically in all other modes, without the need of beating them in a preliminary match.
- Mewtwo in Melee takes the Guide Dang It to the extreme, you have to play over 20 player-hours (that is, 20 hours divided by the number of people playing) or fight around 700 matches.
- Tekken's "Devil" was unlocked by leaving the game on for 30 hours. Alternatively, one could get a perfect score in the game of Galaga that replaced a standard Loading Screen at the very beginning of the game.
- In the first two Killer Instinct games, the Big Bad could be played as by entering certain button combinations as the fights loaded.
- In the fighting game One Must Fall, it was possible, through a series of button sequences, to play as both the end boss, and use his towering robot (not normally available in the story mode). There were also a lot of secret characters you couldn't play as, but could access for special fights, both in story mode and tournament play—"unranked challengers". In tournament mode, some of these unranked challengers would appear in other tournaments, some were the only appearance of a story mode character in the tournaments, some were references to other Epic Games franchises, and some were just unique characters who only popped out surprise you.
- Guilty Gear is outright vicious about unlocking characters. In XX, to unlock Robo-Ky, Kliff, and Justice, you must do one of the following: complete forty of the game's fifty (insanely hard) missions; complete all the story paths (some of which are Guide Dang It, some of which are outright painful, and some of which are both) for all characters; or complete over 200 levels of Survival Mode (which amounts to seventy or so battles - including twenty much harder "Daredevils"). Or just leave the game running for several days. Then, there are the laternate movesets for most of the characters, which are practically characters unto themselves...
- Lightning Legend: Daigo no Daibouken has four unlockable characters. Defeat Means Playable is the way to get them; it's not a problem for two of them, who are the Mid Boss and the Final Boss, but the other two are Bonus Bosses requiring near-completion of the game and no continues in a playthrough in addition.
- For most of the Capcom vs. Whatever series, this would be commonplace. Examples:
- X-Men: Children of the Atom: Aside from bosses Juggernaut and Magneto, there's Akuma.
- Marvel Super Heroes: Doctor Doom and Thanos, along with the very much broken and incomplete test character Anita.
- Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter]: Several, such as Armored Spider-Man (increased defense but lowered speed), Evil Sakura (Sakura with an Akuma/Evil Ryu-inspired movelist), Shadow (a powerful Palette Swap of Charlie/Nash), Cyborg Zangief (very enhanced defense), U.S. Agent and Mephisto (Palette Swap characters of Captain America and Blackheart), in addition to boss characters Apocalypse and Cyber Akuma.
- Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of the Superheroes: The Marvel secret characters are different palette swaps of the Hulk (gives him his Marvel Super Heroes movelist and properties), War Machine (has incredible defense and armor, now fires missiles instead of lasers) and Venom (becomes the fastest and weakest character in the game), while the Capcom side has Shadow Lady (Chun-Li transformed into a cyborg ala Shadow), Lilith-Mode Morrigan (Morrigan with Lilith's color scheme and properties) and Roll (a Joke Character who has Mega Man's movelist).
- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: In the original version (Cross Generation of Heroes), Saki Omakane, Hakushon Daimao, Ippatsuman and Viewtiful Joe needed to be unlocked by beating the game a certain number of times with either a Tatsunoko or Capcom character, and then purchased in the store. In the updated version Ultimate All-Stars, the above four (save Daimao for licensing reasons) were made into starting characters. Now, Tekkaman Blade, Joe The Condor, Frank West, and Zero are unlocked only by beating the game with a set number of characters from both sides. Beating the game with Blade, Joe, Frank and Zero would unlock Yatterman-2.
- Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Getting a certain amount of points either offline or online will unlock Taskmaster, Akuma, Hsien-Ko, and Sentinel.
- Mortal Kombat is the trailblazer for secret characters in fighting games. For the first two games, they were simply unplayable, but far stronger and faster palette swaps of the ninja characters. Starting with Mortal Kombat 3, they could be unlocked.
- First up is a roboticized version of Smoke, the first ever unlockable character in the series which you could unlock by entering the "Ultimate Kombat Kode", which used a total of ten slots, divided up by inputs from both players.
- In the update following that, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 adds three new unlockables each with their own UKKs which includes "Classic Sub-Zero", Mileena and Ermac. Smoke is relegated to a normal playable character, but by inputting a code before any round, he will change into his much faster human form, which is basically a faster silver colored swap of Scorpion.
- The original arcade version of Mortal Kombat 4 has a rare player-exclusive version in Meat who uses the skinned corpse model utilized in a couple of Fatalities but uses other characters' moves instead and can be unlocked. The console versions add Goro and Noob Saibot, both of whom were playable by selecting Shinnok or Reiko respectively while using the Hidden option. For some reason, Reptile became this in the Game Boy Color version. MK Gold added Sektor to the mix by doing the same with Cyrax.
- Many of the characters in Deadly Alliance can be unlocked by purchasing their Koffins, which have both a specific koin count and type of koin but two in particular are only available after clearing everyone's Konquests; Blaze and Mokap. However, neither have a weapon style or Fatality.
- Deception continues this but the characters and costumes now require a key to open. There's an especially infamous example in the case of a zombified Liu Kang whose key can only be found a very specific date and time and in an obscure location. The payoff is worth it since he actually deals twice the damage against Onaga. You also technically play as one through the entirety of the game's adventure mode until you cleared the main story where he will be available in all modes but the size of his moveset, which is taken from most, if not the entire cast, is dependent on how many keys you can unlock, including his Fatalities.
- In Mortal Kombat 9, Quan Chi is unlocked after the story mode is fully cleared.
- Mace: The Dark Age features Pojo the Chicken. Ned the Janitor (who's just a reskinned Xiao Long) is also available in the N64 port, and Ichiro and Gar Gunderson are relegated to secret character status by only being accessible through cheat codes.
- Xenophage Alien Bloodsport has Blarney the dinosaur, an utterly broken (as in, he will actually crash the game under certain conditions) Dummied Out character only accessible via editing the game's .ini file.
- Touhou: The spin-off fighting games have a few of them:
- Immaterial And Missing Power has Remilia Scarlet and Yuyuko Saigyouji, who can be unlocked when you find them and defeat them in story mode; and, provided you haven't used any continues, you can also unlock Sub Boss Yukari Yakumo and Final Boss Suika Ibuki. It is also possible to unlock Hong Meiling after installing a special patch, and completing the story mode at least once with any character.
- In Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, you can unlock the bosses Iku Nagae and Tenshi Hinanawi if you find them and defeat them in the story mode.
- In Melty Blood Act Cadenza Version B, you can unlock Neko-Arc Chaos (A Super-Deformed version of Nrvnqsr Chaos) after completing the arcade mode at least once with any character; he also has a special arcade route where the Final Boss is a giant version of him called Neko Chaos Black G666, created by Kohaku of all people. However, although the giant Neko does not become playable, you can unlock "Giant Mode" that allows you to challenge him with any character.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future's secret roster depends on the version. The initial release (dubbed JoJo's Venture in English) makes the player beat the game to unlock DIO; the updated version (in English, simply titled JoJo's Bizarre Adventure) instead had six characters that (in the original arcade, at least) could only be activated via a code in the service menu.
- There are a few secret characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
- The Super Mode versions might count, but there's also Metal Sonic in Sonic Adventure DX, who is available after getting all 130 emblems (though he's only available in trial mode and can't do Sky Chase), as well as Amy in Sonic Advance 2 after beating the game with all the Chaos Emeralds with the previous 4 characters.
- The Xbox Live Arcade/PSN version of Sonic CD allows you to play as Tails after you beat the game once.
- The first Viewtiful Joe game lets you play as Sylvia, Alastor, Captain Blue and even Dante (who, unfortunately, is only unlockable in the PlayStation 2 version of the game) by beating the game's multiple difficulty levels. The PS2 version also lets you use all the characters (including the PS2-exclusive one) with a button code.
- Super Meat Boy has a whole host of entirely optional secret characters from other various indie games, including Commander Video, Naija, a headcrab, The Kid, Captain Viridian, the Alien Hominid...
- Luigi has become this in many later Super Mario Bros. games, usually because his abilities tend to overshadow Mario's gameplay-wise. In Super Mario 3D World, Rosalina is unlocked in the second level of the first secret world.
- In The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures, the Guitar Guy, Mike Matei, and the Bullshit Man are all found in Secret Paths.
- Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo: Scrolling off to the side on the character select screen revealed a few secret characters, including Dan. Also, holding down a button while selecting certain characters turned them into others.
- Shift 3 lets you unlock Fancy Pants from Fancy Pants Adventures.
- Wrecking Crew '98 had four original secret characters: Onigiri, Onnanoko, Oyaji and Dogu. As with the normal opponents, Defeat Means Playable, but they might not even be seen on a normal playthrough.
- Harvest Moon Frantic Farming lets you unlock the Witch Princess after completing the rest of the stories.
Real Time Strategy
- In Warcraft III, you can recruit a Hydralisk unit from Starcraft for one mission, hidden behind trees. In the expansion pack it is possible to receive an extra hero unit for one mission providing you first triggered a secret mission in the preceding mission and then completed said secret mission.
- The Age of Empires series features a plethora of secret units that can only be unlocked via cheat codes. The second game alone has an AC Cobra armed with a machine gun, saboteurs (powered-up versions of the Petard unit,) Furious the Monkey Boy (who is one of the strongest units in the game, but can be taken out in only 9 hits,) penguins and "Villager Male Dave Lewis", a naked, gibberish-spouting villager named after an Ensemble Studios employee who has the fastest movement speed in the game, but can't do anything except move.
- Valkyria Chronicles had five playable soldiers, one for each class, unlocked through various means: one for beating the game (Mussad), two for having a specific character get KO'd during a mission (Lynn and Emile), one for getting enough in-game medals (Audrey), and one for having a large amount of unspent funds (Knute).
- In racing games, you often have secret vehicles rather than secret characters. Though some games like the Mario Kart series are character driven enough to have actual unlockable characters. In the case of Mario Kart Wii, not only you can unlock characters by acing the Grand Prix Cups, but also by unlocking ghost racers (not playable, they're simply leftovers of previous races) in Time Trial, for which your times have to be exceptionally good.
- In Diddy Kong Racing, Drumstick: To unlock him as a playable character, you must get all four Grand Prix trophies then run over the frog with the rooster crest on it's head. In the DS version, it's a slightly different task: you must use your stylus to flip one of the frogs up into the pond above, then run it over. And T.T. to unlock him, you must race his ghost in time trial mode on every track (including the bonus space world), and beat him.
- The Cheer Girls and the Divas in Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents aren't particularly secret; they have their own bios in the manuals and everything, they're just really, really hard to unlock.
- Space Channel 5 Part 2 somewhat does this. By completing Reports with 100% and by doing other things, you can play as other characters in the game, including the Big Bad.
- In NetHack, certain demon-lords have no "fixed" lair and only turn up when/if summoned. It is entirely possible to finish the game and never meet them. And in the case of Demogorgon, this is mostly considered a good thing.
- The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth has two unlockable characters that are very hard to play: The Lost can fly and shoot through projectiles, but is a literal One-Hit-Point Wonder. Unlocking him requires you to do something you wil never accidentally do. Keeper uses money for health, dies in two hits, and fires tears much more slowly, and unlocking him takes a very long time.
- In Nuclear Throne, there are two characters that can't be normally selected and require jumping through some hoops to play as them. To play as Skeleton, you need to get Melting killed then have him get revived inside a Necromancer circle, and it only lasts until that run. Playing as Frog requires you to get a Frog Pistol by going into post-Loop Sewers and hit Mom with a golden weapon at least once then kill her, store that pistol in a Proto Chest in a Crown Vault to turn it into a golden version, then pick a character to go back there and store that in their loadout. Once you do perform that lengthy task, it will replace the character that holds the Golden Frog Pistol.
Role Playing Game
- SaGa Frontier: Sei required you to finish a sidequest in an optional dungeon; Time Lord and Kylin required you to get two gifts of magic first to even access the quest to recruit them (or buy their magic); Suzaku required you to defeat an obscure miniboss who randomly appeared if you fight a certain monster in the previous screen; and Rei was another Guide Dang It character available only in Asellus's quest and was unobtainable if you forgot to do something or did something you shouldn't have done at the start of said quest.
- Wild ARMs: In the second game, you recruit Marivel in a completely optional dungeon. Alter Code, the remake of the first game lets you recruit Zed after a Bonus Boss fight and after you give him an item acquired in the last dungeon.
- Suikoden II lets you recruit the overpowered main character of the first game as a non-Star. It required a last dungeon save file from the first Suikoden and a Side Quest.
- Suikoden Tactics did something similar for the main character of Suikoden IV. Also, considering the Suikoden games always have around 100 Optional Party Members, (There's always 108 characters, but some are automatic, permanent members) there's often a boatload of difficult to get ones.
- Planescape: Torment: You can get a special character, the Rogue Modron Nordom, only by exploring a bizarre pocket dimension where the inhabitants are trying to understand the concepts of dungeon-delving. The result is a randomly generated maze, creating by opening and shutting various doors between the myriad chambers, and Nordom can only be found in a specific chamber. To even get to the pocket plane, you buy a specific item (the "Metallic Cube" - a poseable Modron figurine) from Vrichika's Curiosity Shoppe. Then, after talking to the Modrons in the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts to discover that it is a portal, you have to figure out on your own the specific pattern you need to alter the figure's limbs into to activate it (extend left wing, extend right wing, rotate right arm). Once there, you first have to fight your way through a randomly generated maze (fortunately set on "Easy" difficulty) to find the control room. Then, from there, you have to set the maze to "Hard" and then try and find the room where Nordom is waiting. And, on this difficulty, the maze is filled with powerful enemy constructs, which can make this a Bonus Level Of Hell if the party doesn't time Level Grinding on either the Easy or Medium settings. And as this maze is randomly generated, you may need to reset it over and over before Nordom's chamber becomes accessible.
- In Chrono Trigger, near the end of the game, you are presented a choice. Take one path and you can recruit Magus. Take the other and the mystery character is unobtainable for the rest of the game.
- Breath of Fire II: Bleu/Deis. You must walk over a specific panel in a random desert with nothing else in it after reading a certain book. The book both unlocks the panel and tells you, if obtusely, which one it is.
- The Final Fantasy series has a few:
- Final Fantasy VI: Gogo the Mime was found in a small optional dungeon which you accessed by fighting an enemy that only appeared in one place, and letting it eat you instead of killing it.
- Also from Final Fantasy VI was Umaro who can be found by jumping off a cliff where the Esper Tritoch/Valigarmanda was and having Mog in your party.
- Final Fantasy VII: Yuffie appeared as a random battle, and the player must select certain dialogue options to get her to join. The game was merciful, though, in that she would appear later until the player gets it right (justified as she stole from you each time you got the sequence wrong). Also Vincent, who involved solving puzzles in a haunted house. After finally finishing the puzzles, you have to fight a boss. The boss was very tough if you didn't know what you were doing, and there's still little indication on what you're supposed to do to actually recruit Vincent.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door had Ms. Mowz, who makes several appearances as an NPC but won't join unless you do a certain sidequest.
- Time Stalkers has Marion. Although not a secret by any stretch (she's listed in the manual with all the other characters), the method for getting her is convoluted and relies entirely on luck—you have to find her as a randomly generated item.
- In the Pokémon games, there are a few secret Pokémon in every game that can only be caught via real life events (or cheating, since for older games those events have long since passed). Fortunately, none of these are required to complete the Pokédex (though you may not be happy with having obvious gaps in it). In recent times, these have been known as "Mythical Pokémon", with new ones added every generation:
- Generation I introduced Mew, though it can be caught thanks to a glitch.
- Generation II brought Celebi onboard, which was only available through a GS Ball-related event in Japan. The games' remakes made it a downloadable worldwide event (which unlocked a Secret Boss fight with Giovanni), while also adding a Spiky-Eared Pichu.
- Generation III had Jirachi and Deoxys (as well as Mew, but the required item to access it was never released outside Japan). Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, however, make Deoxys catchable normally. Lugia and Ho-Oh were also rendered this for a time (thanks to no ability to transfer Pokémon from older generations), but could later be obtained via Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness and Pokémon Colosseum respectively.
- Generation IV added Manaphy (and to some degree its offspring Phione), Darkrai, Shaymin and Arceus. Then again, the last of those being the equivalent of God in the Pokémon universe kinda justifies his status as an event exclusive. Since Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were released before the Gen II remakes, Lugia and Ho-Oh aren't needed to complete the Dex in them.
- Generation V included Victini, Keldeo, Meloetta, Genesect, and Zorua and its evolution, Zoroark. The latter two didn't stay event-exclusive for long, as they since became catchable in later games.
- Generation VI adds Diancie, Hoopa, and Volcanion. The former two of whom have Super Modes currently only available in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
- Generation VII includes Magearna, obtained via a special QR code, and Marshadow, which has yet to be officially revealed or released.
- Natsume in .hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption. She only appears if you've defeated all the Chaotic Player-killers, and even then, you can't actually get her in the party until after you beat the final boss. Tabby from Roots is similar, as you find her on the 50th floor of the game's Bonus Dungeon.
- With high enough Paragon/Renegade skill in Mass Effect 2, it's possible to kill Samara during her loyalty mission and replace her with her daughter Morinth.
- Futomimi and Sakahagi in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. In Hell's Maze, you can encounter two souls; one that's red (Sakahagi) and another that's green (Futomimi). Talking to both of them causes a corpse to show up in Zoshigaya Cemetery, which is holding the Afterlife Bell. Bring the Bell to the two souls and ring it to bring them Back from the Dead as their former selves. That alone won't unlock them, however; you still need to fuse a pair of demons to get them. Dante and Black Frost also count, but they join you instantly regardless of your level.
- Persona has Reiji, who is infamous for this. From Persona 2, there's the Custom Personae, which can be unlocked by certain dialogue choices, and Durga, which needs a certain choice as well. Also, from Eternal Punishment, the Ancestral Personae and Lugh.
- "Secret Companion" is the Dragon Age fandom's established term for a particular Walking Spoiler companion who may join the Warden's party in Dragon Age: Origins under very specific circumstances—namely, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, The Heavy of the game. In addition, there are some less spoiler-y secret Guest Star Party Members in that game, such as First Enchanter Irving (who only joins if you forgot to bring a mage to the resolution of "The Arl of Redcliffe" quest) and the nameless Tower Guard, Soldier, and Circle Mage, some of whom may join you depending on your Origin during "The Tower of Ishal" to balance out your party.
- Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity lets you at random find a KFC in dungeons... and recruit Colonel Sanders as a party member.
- Many of the Legendaries in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. They don't appear at all unless you have either the Secret Slab or the Enigma Part, and from there, you'd need a strategy guide to figure out where exactly they appear.
- The Hellfire Expansion Pack for the original Diablo came with two secret, "unlockable" characters: the Bard and Barbarian. The Barbarian has since reappeared in the sequels.
- In Arcanum, while not many characters are hidden per se, most people will never know that certain NPCs are can actually be recruited, mainly because some require special dialogue options and/or quests to be accomplished before they even consider joining.
- Another character, called Dog, requires that you find him within a time limit as soon as you enter the town he's found in.
- In Lufia: The Legend Returns, defeating the Egg Dragon will lead to them joining your party as a thirteenth member.
- There are two in Lunarosse. One is Izumi, a scythe-wielder who can only be recruited in a Journey to the Center of the Mind sidequest. The other is Princess Zelda, who you can't recruit until just before the second-to-last dungeon even if you've already cleared the dungeon she's in before then, but already has her strongest weapon and excellent stats.
Shoot Em Up
- Star Fox Assault 's Multiplayer mode lets you play as the core Star Fox team, but Wolf O' Donnell can be unlocked. He has the same total stats as Fox, but with three maxed out skills (a maxed out speed in particular that lets him run around all the other characters), he is considered by some to be a Game Breaker.
- Raiden Fighters Jet has the Slave and Fairy planes, unlockable by holding the bomb button when pressing Start at the title screen. The Slave will replace whichever plane you select, inheriting its movement speed and bomb; the Miclus is replaced by the Fairy instead.
- In Phantasmagoria of Flower View you can unlock Merlin and Lunasa Prismriver if you complete the Nintendo Hard Extra Mode with Komachi and Eiki Shiki. Given that this game is from Bullet Hell genre, many casual players won't even try this (it's like the story mode, but with number of bullets on Lunatic standards, both you and opponent having one hit point while she has the invincibility time for the beginning of the fight, and without any spare lives or continues).
- In the iOS port of DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu you can unlock Hibachi as a playable ship. It is just as powerful as its boss counterpart.
- Mercenary Force has the Tanuki, who also counts as a Sixth Ranger. To get the Tanuki, you must have the mystic as your leader and try her luck at the shrine in level 2. Then in level 6, you must have an empty slot in your party and a mystic present.
- This is a fixture of the Tokimeki Memorial series. Each game contains at least two of them :
- Tokimeki Memorial 1 : Miharu Tatebayashi and Rei Ijuin ;
- Tokimeki Memorial 2 : Maho Shirayuki, Maeka Kudanshita, and Sumire Nozaki ;
- Tokimeki Memorial 3 : Kazumi Watarai and Hotaru Izumi
- Tokimeki Memorial 4 : Rui Nanakawa, Haruna Mizuki, and Miyako Okura
- Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side : Aoki Chiharu, Tendou Jin (for the DS Version 1st Love)
- Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side 2nd Kiss : Akagi Kazuyuki, Majima Tarou and Komori Taku (for the DS Version 2nd Season)
- Lucky Rabbit Reflex, a Dating Sim heavily inspired by the aforementioned Tokimeki Memorial, has Perth (who can be met only by attending a certain club and picking specific choices) and Mardi (who, like many Tokimeki Memorial secret characters, requires a lot of shopping trips to unlock his route).
- True Love 95 has Anze, who requires you to go shopping at night during a period of time in August. Nothing hints towards this, nor is there much of any reason at all to go shopping in the first place.
- Moebius One, the Player Character of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, appears as the True Final Boss of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, only if you play the Brutal Bonus Level on the highest difficulty level and beat the penultimate boss in under the record time. No wonder most players never even know about his presence in the game.
- Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns has two, Oracle is unlocked in year two and can easily be missed, and Alisa, who you must befriend Nathan to unlock.
- SimEarth has two unlockable species that can evolve on your planet, both of which can become sentient if given enough care. Neither of them are available to freely place unlike the other life forms, and in the biosphere map, while most are on a sliding complexity scale from green (prokaryotes) to red (mammals), these two are marked by a single shade of blue.
- Carniferns will sprout up if you have an abundance of insects. These are difficult to cultivate even after evolving, so getting them to sentience without the use of a Monolith is a Self-Imposed Challenge.
- Robots will appear if you drop an atomic bomb on a Nanotech-age city, killing the hundreds of millions of sapients within. Unlike the other secret species, they need no help establishing a foothold; they will spread rapidly and eliminate any other life form they find until they're the only thing left on the surface of the entire planet. Nice going, player.
- The Backyard Baseball series has secret characters ranging from Mr. Clanky to the announcers to freaking Babe Ruth.
Stealth Based Game
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops allowed you to unlock a whole bunch of characters (usually through a New Game+, with a code as an alternative). A couple are from the Alternate Continuity Metal Gear Ac!d, and are only unlocked if you have a save file from the Ac!d games (or, again, through using the right code).
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker ups the ante with unlockable crew members for your base, chief of which is HIDEO KOJIMA. And yes, some of the unlockable characters are playable. Bonus points for having a Halfling Catgirl from the Monster Hunter series act as your liason for the Isla Del Monstro challenges.
Turn Based Strategy
- Super Robot Wars:
- Many secret mechs in the Super Robot Wars series. The methods for getting them vary from the simple (kill X number of enemies with character Y, especially easy when character Y is a walking engine of death) to the Guide Dang It, (beating a certain enemy with a single character, not attacking a particular unit in a fight, or reassigning a character to an incredibly weak robot before a certain mission, or winning a Hopeless Boss Fight).
- Due to the nature of the games, this may not be so much Guide Dang It as All There in the Manual.
- And quite often, there will be two or more hidden mecha/weapons that cannot be gained in the same playthrough (ex: Hyperion Gundam and Tekkaman Rapier in W, which are achieved on different sides of the same route split), making 100% Completion impossible.
- Final Fantasy Tactics: Cloud. An incredibly long series of actions and optional maps before getting him, Guide Dang It. The PSP port/upgrade, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of Lions, included Cloud and all of FFT's unlockable characters, as well as Final Fantasy XII's Balthier (as a secret character) and Final Fantasy Tactics A2's Luso (met in the story).
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: 4 characters offer to join your party if leaving with certain mission items, 4 others from completing certain missions.
- Final Fantasy Tactics A2 had Frimedla Lotice, gained from doing five separate quests. The game also had Vaan, Penelo, Al-Cid Margrace and Montblanc as optional party members.
- Nippon Ichi games, such as Disgaea or La Pucelle, often allow you to unlock characters from their other games.
- Shining Force was horrible with these, and it extended to the sequels.
- The game Vantage Master by Falcom allowed you to play as characters from their other games, by answering the questions to get a specific class, then naming the character appropriately. For instance, becoming a knight and naming him "Adol" lets you play the knight from the Ys games, while naming the swordsman "Mail" gives you the title heroine from the game Popful Mail.
- Fire Emblem:
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has various characters join during the post-game "Creature Campaign" while exploring the bonus dungeons or battling monsters on the field, including some that had died during the main plot.
- Path of Radiance has Stefan, who is very, very vaguely hinted at... and nowhere in the hint is it mentioned that you can only unlock him with two specific characters (neither of which are the main character, whom you use to recruit about 85% of the recruitable units). He's very much worthwhile, and would be even if he didn't come with the second best sword in the game, losing only to the Eleventh Hour Superpower sword Ragnell (which only Ike can wield anyway).
- Radiant Dawn:
- Stefan returns as even more of a Guide Dang It, especially as you only get your vague hint after he's unobtainable. But even worse is the other Secret Character, Sephiran a.k.a. Lehran. You have to go through several convoluted steps (hinted at nowhere in the game), one of which can be completely impossible if you were unaware of it several chapters beforehand (or even just had bad luck with the Random Number God). And if you finally do unlock him, guess what? You get him for one chapter. Namely the final boss battle. In which he comes with no weapon, meaning you just went through all those steps for practically nothing. Admittedly he does make a good white mage, but you should already have two of those (and possibly more).
- If you're willing to give up Micaiah or Pelleas (if you got him) for magical attackers and give Lehran Rexaura or Balberith, turns out, he's actually fast enough to double attack the Final Boss. For added fun, and possible symbolism, have him team up with Micaiah and perhaps Sanaki to bring Asherah down. Nothing quite like happy god-slaying family bonding time, right?
- Fire Emblem Fates:
- Certain characters can only be recruited if certain buildings or structures are upgraded all the way. And all of those characters are only available in certain paths. Izana can only be recruited if the Hot Spring is upgraded in Birthright and Conquest, and in Revelation he's replaced by Fuga. Yukimura is only available if a puppet is upgraded and only in Birthright. Flora is available if a turret is upgraded and only in Conquest and Revelation.
- Midori is a rather special case, as she's a secret character only in Birthright: in Conquest and Revelations she can be gotten the same way as any other child character, but in Birthright Kaze not only has to be married, but have an A-Support with the Avatar by chapter 15 before Midori can be unlocked. If that second objective isn't fulfilled by chapter 15, Kaze dies and Midori is gone.
- Advance Wars has Nell, and the sequel adds Hachi. Both are gamebreakers.
- In Frozen Essence, not completing the requirements for any character's path unlocks Zareh's path.
- In Magical Diary, Big Steve now has a partial romance path as of the latest patch. Reaching it is much more difficult than any of the other characters.
- In Under the Moon, Unan, a character introduced as an impartial messenger of the king of the demon world, becomes a potential love interest after clearing all previously available routes.
- Cecil of Uta no Prince-sama is unlocked in the original game after finishing the routes for the other boys. He still makes a cameo in all of them, though.
- DRAMAtical Murder lets you play Ren's route only after you've completed all other characters' routes.
- Dracu-Riot!, you cannot pursue Nicola's route unless you finished at least one other route.