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Unlockable Content

You know there's more where that came from...
"So, I collect shit to unlock shit, then I get shit. Got it."
Sergeant Rex "Power" Colt, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Unlockable Content can simply be described as extraneous content that was not available to the player from the start. The hidden content can be anything from concept art galleries, to a hidden character, even the game's Golden Ending. Methods of "unlocking" can be based on challenges, progress, time spent or sometimes just plain money.

Unlockable Content is not content that a player is required to unlock in order to complete the game. It's unrelated material. For instance, "unlocking Level 2 by completing Level 1", is just well... just playing the game (although this is, to an extent, on the way out — qv Alone In The Dark 2008, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Guitar Hero, post-World Tour. After all, movies and music don't have to be played in order).

Unlockable Content is basically the game developers showing off, and giving the player a little something extra for fun. Or forcing you to Earn Your Fun as the case may be if most of the good parts of the game are locked. Or (in the case of console games) forcing you to buy the game rather than rent it. Many hundreds of gamers may have played the game and not unlocked the content. Or they may have unlocked it and never used it. Sometimes a character is unlocked at the very end of the game, just to give the player some Replay Value.

Due to the increasing capacities/abilities of game systems, game developers and game engines, this sort of content is quickly becoming a Universal Trope.

A Super Trope to Double Unlock, Post-End Game Content, Secret Character, Secret Level, And Your Reward Is Clothes.

Compare 100% Completion, Golden Ending, Missing Secret, Downloadable Content.


Examples:

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    General 
  • An emerging trend is to have the Harder Than Hard difficulty levels blocked until the player has beaten the game on an easier difficulty.

    Pinball 
  • Judge Dredd featured the debuted of "Supergame", where players could use an extra credit to play the table with extra modes and an expanded set of rules.

    Video Games 
  • In the original Advance Wars, you started with just four out of ten CO's. You then had to complete the basic campaign once per character, while completing certain specific missions (or sets of missions) with particular characters - with nobody telling you who to use when.
  • The Beatles Rock Band features photographs and videos that can be unlocked during the campaign, which are accompanied by trivia and history about the band, song, etc.
  • Castlevania
    • Castlevania: Judgment requires you to unlock a character in story mode, then beat their story mode before you can use them in the rest of the game. If you happen to own Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, you can circumvent this and unlock Shanoa and non-story Aeon (usually the last character unlocked) before playing a match.
    • Castlevania: The Arcade deserves special mention because it was part of an experiment by Konami to introduce Unlockable Content in arcade machines. By using a special pass, you could save data from the game and unlock new stuff, like a third selectable character, a new game mode, and a joke ending.
    • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon has 4 extra modes of play that each enhance one of the player's stats but nerfs the others. Beat the standard mode, and you get "Magician" mode, where you have access to all of the game's magic powers at the beginning, while your offense and defense is cut in half. You must then beat the Magician mode to unlock the next mode, and so on.
  • Contra 4 for Nintendo DS features a lot of this.
  • Some weapons and costumes in the Dead Rising games. Certain rescue missions in Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop require getting high rankings in the set of missions right before.
  • Both the online and standalone versions of Dino Run have a large amount of content that can only be unlocked with eggs that are saved during missions. These include the soundtrack, concept art, wallpaper, cosmetic hats and an early prototype of the game.
  • There's a ton of unlockable content in the free-to-play versions of Everquest and Everquest 2. Almost all of it bought with Station Cash that's bought with real money, although the restrictions are on not-game-killing features like extra classes, storage space and higher end gear so one can reasonably play to the endgame without spending.
  • F-Zero:
    • Since X, the series has a huge number of vehicles to unlock, also has an unlockable Harder Than Hard mode, usually has at least one unlockable cup and, in Climax, had character profiles and a storyboard of sorts that can only be unlocked by completing a set of special-race challenges. To get everything, you had to play though Grand Prix Mode, unlock all the cars through that and then play some 40-odd special races with each character, of which there are over 30.
    • F-Zero GX has little interview questions and answers to unlock. For every character and at every difficulty, there are usually four questions to unlock. And there are up to 41 playable characters.
  • Most Guilty Gear games have an unlockable art gallery. Unfortunately, in order to get most of them often requires beating the majority of 'Mission Mode' which is ridiculously difficult (Poisoned Sol vs Gold Justice anyone?).
  • In Just Dance 3, you get 1 Mojo Point for every star you collect. With enough Mojo Points, you can unlock new songs, game modes and Mashups. As the stars count for each player playing, having four players means getting Mojo Points four times as fast.
  • Katamari Forever has various modes and filters that can be unlocked by meeting various requirements on each level.
  • Akuma, Sentinel, Hsien-Ko, and Taskmaster in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds are unlocked in that exact order by accumulating Player Points. Additionally, there's tons of artwork and cinematics to unlock through beating Galactus with different characters.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has briefcases you have to complete in-mission objectives for, which unlock new moves and a Concept Art Gallery.
  • In the Metroid Prime games, concept galleries can be unlocked by doing long-term achievements like clearing the game, doing so again in Hard Mode, completing the logbook, etc. In Prime 3, as well as in the Trilogy version of the other games, the various credit tokens earned through the campaign can be spent to unlock not only concept art, but also audio tracks and bonus material like stickers, a screen-shot tool and dioramas.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • The latter games had a "Krypt" feature where you'd spend "koins" to unlock, in addition to characters and other gameplay features, enough bonus content to fill two DVDs.
    • Mortal Kombat 3 has Smoke and other features unlocked via a code.
  • In OFF, three of the five elements can be obtained by going through the purified zones, one from defeating Sugar, and one can be bought from Zacharie in The Room. Giving all five to Zacharie in Zone 0 can give the player the opportunity to get the Ashley Bat or the Aries-Card which unlocks the secret end.
  • Prince of Persia's Sands trilogy has a large number of unlockable artworks and a few unlockable blooper videos as well, found in hidden chests throughout the game.
  • Punch-Out!! for the Wii has a secret mode called Champions Mode which is unveiled after the player wins 10 matches in Mac's Last Stand. There are also audio tracks that can be heard via Sound Test when the player completes the challenges in Exhibition Mode.
  • Rockman 4 Minus Infinity: As of version 0.02, clearing the game unlocks a mode which allows you to Speedrun individual levels, a Sound Test, and a Boss Rush mode. Clearing the latter unlocks several more Boss Rushes where you're limited to either the Mega Buster or one of the eight weapons retrospectively. Clearing one of them unlocks a third Boss Rush mode in which you can customize its settings, and a second configurations menu which practically allows you to edit your save file note .
  • In The Sims Medieval, winning Ambitions and completing other achievements unlocks new clothing options and Buy mode items for your Sins.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Most of the games are especially fond of gallery mode. Sonic Adventure DX even goes as far as to have a playable library of every single Sonic Game Gear game ever by the time all of the emblems were collected.
    • In Sonic Pinball Party, most of the game modes and minigames must be unlocked by playing through the main Story Mode.
  • Soul Calibur 2: A few of the characters and a vast majority of the modified weapons are unlocked through "Weapon Master" mode.
  • Star Ocean: The Second Story allowed you to unlock higher difficulty settings if you collected enough voice clips. This was accomplished by playing through multiple times and recruiting different sets of the twelve available party members, then using them in battle and having them use spells/abilities/die/watch other party members die. The PSP remake Second Evolution changed that to saving at the final save point in Phynal.
  • Getting all 108 characters in Suikoden Tierkreis.
  • In Super Hexagon, beating each of the first three levels unlocks the corresponding "Hyper" level.
  • Super Mario:
    • The early Mario Kart installments are very humble as far as unlockables go (in the SNES version, the unlockables are the Special Cup and then the 150cc difficulty mode; in Mario Kart 64, it is just Mirror Mode, then known as "Extra"; in Super Circuit, it's the 20 SNES tracks)). From Double Dash!! onwards, however, the unlockable content increased in both quantity and variety within each installment, including characters, Cups (including the aforementioned Special), vehicles and, once again, Mirror Mode. The Wii game goes as far as rewarding players who score well not only in Grand Prix but also in Time Trial.
    • Super Mario 64 lets you fly to the top of the castle, meet Yoshi, and gain 100 lives after you collected all 120 stars.
    • Super Mario Galaxy unlocks Luigi as a playable character once you've gotten all the stars in the game. Downplayed in Super Mario Galaxy 2, as the game does allow you to play as him in a few galaxies, and then unlocks him for full-time play after the Final Boss is defeated for the first time (without getting all the stars, which by that moment is impossible to do anyway). Also, in both games, collecting all 240 stars rewards the player with one super-secret level.
    • Accessing the Lost Levels in Super Mario Bros. DX.
    • Getting to world 9 in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
  • Super Robot Wars has this in spades Especially the Laftclanz; but since this is Super Robot Wars, it's kind of expected that you play through the game multiple times to see all the route splits and dialogue
  • Super Smash Bros. started out with a mandatory handful of extra characters and a stage. As of Brawl, there are so many things to unlock (stages, trophies, CD tracks, stickers, tools for custom stage building) that the game even has an extra menu to keep track of things (and show you what else to do to get more stuff unlocked). Thankfully, all of the characters can be unlocked either by playing through the Subspace Emissary mode or playing enough basic matches (the latter is also true for all secret Melee characters).
  • Titan Quest had special codes you could purchase (or look up on the Internet...) that, when used, gave you certain armor sets, including a ninja outfit. Sadly they had level 30 requirements and definitely didn't provide appropriate bonuses for that level.
  • Every Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game has a series of secret characters, levels, videos, and cheats unlocked the second you beat the career (or classic) mode.
  • Unreal Tournament typically has the character model for the current champion character off-limits until you beat the game.

Are you curious as to how you get the Unlockable Content out of TV Tropes? You just have to read every single page of the Wiki. Then it's unlocked! I swear!