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  • Originally, the most iconic character from Animal Crossing alongside the Villagers was probably Tom Nook. Then came New Leaf which introduced Isabelle, who became almost instantly popular, and suddenly she was the one showing up alongside the Villager, now ostensibly the Mayor-Villager from New Leaf, in games like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. (first as an assist trophy then as a full fledged fighter), and Monster Hunter.
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  • ARMS Character Min Min is a major favorite among the fans and even game producer Kosuke Yabuki, to the point where she ended up as her series' representative in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate via the Volume 2 DLC. For the sake of comparison, not just her but Cover Characters Spring Man and Ribbon Girl were in the base game, but the former's an Assist Trophy, the latter's a Mii Fighter Costume, and both are Spirits along with Min Min, yet Min Min is the only one that made the cut (Though to be fair, Kosuke has stated that the entire Playable Roster of ARMS count as the "Main Protagonist").
  • Imoen from Baldur's Gate II: in the first game, she was a last minute add in order to "fill the lack of a non psychopath thief during early game", with sound lines scratched from previously scraped ideas. She became so popular among fans that she returned in the second game playing a central role in the plot, to the point that she was supposed to die anyway according to first scripts but authors opted anyway to let her live, as people were requesting to have her. This is evident when noticing that she has almost no banters after midgame, as plans changed last minute and time-constraints prevented to develop further her interactions. On the other hand, there is a character (Yoshimo) that plot-dies and has unused lines for later events that could be triggered if cheating and allowing him to stay in the party (this character was supposed to probably be recruited by most players and then carry on, but reintroducing Imoen forced the authors to kill him in order to free a slot in the party for her).
    • Minsc with his hamster Boo was originally thought as a comic side-kick in the first game. He is so popular among fans that not only he comes back in BGII whatever your alignment is, but he is also referred in some easter eggs in other Bioware games and is probably the most iconic character of the entire saga. Mass Effect 2 for example clearly refers to him in two occasions.
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    • Coran also appears, although not as a playable character but only as a cameo. Funny thing is, back to 2000 a user in the Bioware Forums called Lanfear annoyed so much all other users and developers with her requests to bring him back, that an annoying NPC called Lanfear is also in the game, looking for Coran.
  • Handsome Jack of Borderlands 2 proved to be so popular that he received a game that focuses on his Start of Darkness. Even after his death he still has a certain amount of influence in Tales from the Borderlands as a Virtual Ghost. Similarly, Claptrap originally started off as a group of robots involved in sidequests here and there, but eventually became popular enough that he became one of the playable characters of the Pre-Sequel and one of the characters featured in Poker Night 2.
  • In The Caligula Effect, the enigmatic Musician Wicked became well-liked by players because of her sociopathic and insane behavior, coupled with the reveal that she was actually the calm and sweet student Marie Mizuguchi. When the anime was created, she was given a lot more screentime compared to the game, with her frequently hanging around with the Go Home Club and getting a lot of Ship Tease with the anime's protagonist, Ritsu Shikishima. She is also the protagonist of a light novel that takes place directly after the events of the anime.
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  • In the Castlevania series, most of the games focus on the efforts of the Belmont family to do away with Dracula once and for all. In 1989's Castlevania III, we are introduced to Alucard, the Dark Lord's prodigal son. Here, Alucard didn't really amount to much, seeing as he was a generic-looking vampire who threw weak fireballs. However, when he resurfaced eight years later in Symphony of the Night (the series' reinvention into its now-iconic Metroidvania formula), revamped as a badass, stoic Bishōnen with a slew of nifty tricks and weapons (as well as strong, yet conflicting ties to both his father and mother), he instantly became so popular that he's now just as synonymous with the series as the Belmonts, Dracula, and Death are. It doesn't hurt that he's basically immortal, thus meaning that he's the sole recurring hero with the greatest chance to be in any game should his presence be required (i.e. his appearance in the Sorrow games, which are a few decades in the future rather than the typical late medieval setting, as Genya Arikado).
  • Darkstalkers' Morrigan Aensland became not only popular enough to promote herself to the status of protagonist, but she became iconic to the point that there are few Capcom crossover titles that don't include her. By the turn of the 21st century, most gamers easily knew who she was, just not where she came from.
    • To a lesser extent, Felicia also serves this status for the same reasons as Morrigan.
  • Dead or Alive:
  • Varric Tethras from Dragon Age debuted in perhaps the most controversial game of the series but that has not slowed down his popularity at all. He's the only party member from that game to be universally well-received and since then, he was a main character in three comic series as well as being one of the only two party members of the entire series to return as a party member in a sequel, Dragon Age: Inquisition in his case.
  • Final Fantasy has lots of examples:
    • Final Fantasy II has Minwu the White Wizard. He's a Guest-Star Party Member for a short portion of the game and dies mid-way through the story performing a Heroic Sacrifice. He has garnered a lot of fans, especially in in Japan, the remake adds in Soul of Rebirth where he is the main protagonist and appears in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy along with Firion.
    • In Final Fantasy IV, Kain was merely The Lancer to The Hero Cecil, but proved to be an Ensemble Dark Horse. In the game's sequel The After Years, Cecil is Demoted to Extra while his son Ceodore is the protagonist. However, a sizeable part of the storyline focuses on Kain and his battle with his Evil Twin Enemy Without who is masquerading as him. He's also a playable character in Dissidia 012 and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.
    • Gilgamesh, who was a villain, has the most appearances in Final Fantasy games overall. Dissidia 012 even confirms the longtime fan theory that, unlike most other recurring characters, it's the same Gilgamesh in every single appearance.
    • Final Fantasy VI has Mog, who is easily the most popular moogle in the entire franchise. Which is funny considering he is a relatively minor character. Final Fantasy XIV has multiple references to him, and they even named the real money store, Mogstation, after him.
    • As Final Fantasy VII is considered as one of (if not the) most popular entry in the series, it has plenty of its own:
    • Laguna Loire from Final Fantasy VIII is a Hero of Another Story (an in-universe "Dream World" sequence) and can only be played five times. However, he became a very popular character due to his mature, yet light and humorous storyline/dialogues. He surprised many a fan by becoming the game's third representative in Dissidia 012, over the likes of Rinoa or Seifer. He was also going to be in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, (according to the Ultimania), but was cut when SE realized both games would be released at about the same time.
    • Final Fantasy X's Rikku went from a fairly minor member of the main cast to getting a major role in the sequel.
    • In Final Fantasy XI, Shantotto started off as just a rather random NPC with a series of somewhat humourous quests and being involved in the black mage quests. Then she made a cameo towards the end of the Windurst missions and some of the Chains of Promathia missions. Then she was a major character in Treasures of Aht Urhgan and appeared in some minor events (such as being the main enemy in a fight against some of the female characters). Then she represented the game in Dissidia Final Fantasy. Then she got her own storyline expansion centered just around her. With the added bonus that she's voiced by Megumi Hayashibara.
    • Final Fantasy XIV has similar representation with Y'shtola Rhul, the resident Miqo'te of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. While not more significant than the other group members, her popular design and representation of a game-specific species causes her to be treated as the game's mascot character. Like Shantotto, she's the one made playable in the Dissidia series, represents the game in Theatrhythm, and she was one of the first two characters from the game to be added to Record Keeper and was later designated the game's main representative during anniversary celebrations. Fortunately, this allows there to be a White Mage among Final Fantasy's designated lead characters.
  • Fire Emblem
    • Tiki was a prominent character in the first game and its sequel, but it wasn't until she reappeared as an adult in Fire Emblem Awakening that her popularity began to soar thanks to the game's massive success, not to mention her being one of many eligible bachelorettes that a male player character could marry. She's now, along with Anna, become something of a Series Mascot, also appearing in Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, as a playable character in Fire Emblem Warriors, and as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
    • Lucina from Fire Emblem Awakening is enormously popular, thanks to being a princess-style Char Clone with a very sympathetic backstory and personality. So popular, in fact, that she was actually included as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U over her father Chrom, who is the actual main character of the game, and who almost everyone thought was guaranteed a spot in the roster (he had to wait until Ultimate before joining the roster). She also placed second for females in Fire Emblem Heroes' Choose Your Legends poll, beaten only by Lyn.
    • Tharja from Awakening is another example. In Japan, she was the second most popular female character after Lucina, and even had a collectible figurine of herself released despite not being one of the main characters. An Expy of her appeared in Fire Emblem Fates as a playable character from the game's second generation, and she also appeared as the mirage of Kiria in Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE and as DLC for Fire Emblem Warriors.
      • Gaius is also very popular, despite being an entirely optional unit and was one of four characters (the other three being Chrom, Cordelia and Tharja) to get a special swimsuit scene in a DLC and an Expy in Fates, Asugi.
    • To a slightly lesser extent, Henry, one of the most popular characters in the western Fire Emblem community for his humorous and kind nature contrasting with his love of the macabre. He was able to snag the eleventh place in the series-wide popularity poll, and get himself an alternate limited-time draw in Fire Emblem: Heroes, a position usually reserved for more popular or plot-centric characters, before even Tharja.
    • Owain, Inigo, and Severa were the three most popular second generation characters in Awakening after Lucina. As a result, they returned in Fire Emblem Fates as playable characters in the Conquest and Revelation routes, were they served as retainers to Nohr's royal family, and this time as first generation characters and with a DLC campaign explaining how they ended up in the Fates universe. Owain and Inigo also appeared as trophies in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.
    • Female Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates deserves a special mention that despite being the main character, she overshadows her male counterpart by a surprisingly large margin. This could be attributed to fans enjoying her versatile customization options and being unhindered by gameplay oversights such as the short amount of potential spouses leaving out an additional unit to recruit. She became so popular she managed to get a set figurines and remained high in the official poll for Fire Emblem Heroes, while male Corrin crashed out of the top 20 altogether by the time it ended.
    • Camilla and Takumi, while having major roles in Fire Emblem Fates, placed incredibly high on the Fire Emblem Heroes poll, both placing higher than their big brothers (who are more important to the story of Fates overall), and the latter beating out fellow Breakout Character Female Corrin. Both were among the eight mainline Fire Emblem characters promoted for Heroes as well (these characters consisting of three Lords and fellow Breakout Characters), got their own video that plays when you summon them, and even appeared on a promotional poster over either Corrin (the main character of the game they appeared in).
      • Camilla is THE most popular non-protagonist character in the series. In fact, her popularity allowed Camilla to win second place in the Fates Japanese popularity poll on the female's side, and she later won 3rd in the series-wide, international Heroes poll for the females after Lyn and Lucina, meaning she was more popular than all other female Lords. As of the third Choose Your Legends event in 2019, she is the most popular Fire Emblem Fates character and the only one to make it into the Top 2, along with the most recent main series character to do so. Worthy of note is that she is the only character who is not a main Lord or main Villain character to reach the Top 2, and managed to do so even five years after her game was released. Prior to the midterm results revealing that Micaiah had a shot at winning, she was also ranked at 1st Place on the Females' side.
    • Robin, the playable Avatar of Fire Emblem Awakening, appeared alongside Lucina (see above) as playable fighters in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U over the actual main lead Chrom (who was thought to be a shoe-in for a roster spot), helped cement him as a breakout character. In somewhat of a reversal of female Corrin, it was the male Robin who got the raw deal, getting an amiibo of himself which lead to appearances in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Fire Emblem Fates, and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. He was also promoted alongside other Breakout Characters in Fire Emblem Heroes, getting his own video when summoned, and remaining in the top 10 (8th place, beating out fellow Breakout Character Takumi) in the official poll for the same game while female Robin was knocked out of the top 10 by the time it ended.
    • The most triumphant example of a Breakout Character from the Fire Emblem series has to be Ike, protagonist of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and co-protagonist of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. His original games didn't sell very well (both games are excellent and usually considered among the best in the series, but Path of Radiance was released for the Nintendo GameCube and Radiant Dawn, while released on the exponentially more popular Nintendo Wii, proved too dependent on its predecessor in terms of plot to achieve standalone success, and neither game was helped by the general lack of advertising), but then Ike got included in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and proved to be so popular there that it got people going back to play his games. And among the people who played his games, he's extremely popular for his character development and his incredible power in battle, and since Brawl, he's appeared in Fire Emblem Awakening (along with his descendant, Priam), Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U and Ultimate, got an amiibo made, and made further appearances in Fire Emblem Fates, Codename STEAM, and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. On the Fire Emblem Heroes "Choose Your Legend" poll, Ike's Path of Radiance incarnation won the male category, while his Radiant Dawn incarnation placed fifth. He's the only person to appear in either top ten twice. And if you combine his votes, he beats out the winner of the women's bracket (Lyn) by 1500 votes. A huge contrast considering Ike as a "literal who" when first announced for Smash.
      • From Ike's series, the most popular non-main character is far and away Nephenee, who is one of the only Tellius characters to appear in Heroes and has an Expy in both Awakening and Fates - Donnel and Mozu, respectively.
    • Ike's popularity wouldn't soar this high if it wasn't for the character he's based on: Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade's Hector. While he is a powerhouse on his own and not the main Lord of the main story, he broke the mold of typical Lords by being more abrasive and Hot-Blooded and yet also providing good insight and character development (not to mention using axes instead of swords), making him unlike other typical goody-two-shoes Lords and impressing the fans so much that he became sort of mini-archetype amongst Lords in general, the more down-to-earth, hotheaded type of Lords that Ike would become, and Hector usually remains as one of the more beloved Lords amongst the series.
    • While also an example of Popularity Polynomial, Lyn was popular character back in the day as she was the first lord encountered by Western fans in the series. Her popularity would eventually wane in the ensuing years as Hector would eventually emerged as the most popular character in The Blazing Blade as well as later lords in the series being introduced. But ever since Fire Emblem Heroes, Lyn made a startling comeback in popularity, topping the polls for the female side of the "Choose Your Heroes" contest and would come second behind Ike himself when combining certain votes. Even Intelligent Systems admitted being blindsided by Lyn's popularity and since then has given her the spotlight alongside the big names like Marth and Ike.
    • Reinhardt is a very unprecedented case in that he became this solely thanks to his appearance in Fire Emblem Heroes, where he is notorious for being one of the biggest Game Breakers thanks to his unique tome. Prior to that, the majority of fans probably didn't even know who he was, as he appeared solely in Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, one of the most unpopular entries in the series that hasn't even been released in western shores. His infamy in Heroes became such that he rose from 584th to 11th most popular hero, and 5th overall for males, beating many fan favorites like Chrom and Robin in the second Choose Your Legends poll. He was even given an alternate variant in the very first Thracia banner along with his sister Olwen, before several series protagonists such as Alm and especially Marth received such an honor.
  • The Indie game Freedom Planet has Milla, being the Heartwarming Orphan of the team who had very cute moments with Lilac. Originally she wasn't intended to be playable, and she was planned to be killed off after Brevon turns her into a mutant, but the devs couldn't bring themselves to go through with it, and she was later made playable with a kickstarter stretch goal. She's become as iconic as Lilac herself, even having more fanart than Deuteragonist Carol Tea, and just as much as Sash Lilac. Being a favorite among speedrunners doesn't hurt her Memetic Badass status among fans. There's also Neera Li, a popular midboss who got a good amount of fanart and was believed to be a playable character by some thanks to her design. Come Freedom Planet 2, and she's been Promoted to Playable as the fourth main character.
  • Gears of War has the Carmines. In the first game, there was Anthony Carmine, whose entire character was to show that Helmets Are Hardly Heroic and to get shot in the head, receiving two lines of dialogue in the meantime that established him as a naive recruit. As it turned out, the fanbase liked his "inexperienced youngster" characterization and thought his helmet, ironically, looked cool, to the point where he was one of the most picked characters for multiplayer. The next game introduced his brother, Benjamin Carmine, who shared Anthony's earlier characterization but expanded on it, and though he died, he managed to survive most of the game and even managed a Heroic Sacrifice. In the third game, the third brother shows up, an out-and-out muscular super-badass by the name of Clayton Carmine who survives the entire game.
  • Half Life 1's "Barney" Security guards, not only did they get an expansion pack (Blue Shift) where the player takes the role of one, but they are personified in the next game by one of the support cast (Barney, arguably only second to Alyx as a player companion).
  • Sergeant Johnson of Halo: Combat Evolved. Originally intended to be a homage to the Drill Sergeant Nasty stock character type, he became so popular that Bungie retconned his death in the legendary bonus cutscene to add him into Halo 2 and Halo 3. He even got a starring role in the novel Halo: Contact Harvest, penned by one of Halo's main writers. This is largely due to David Scully's hilariously stellar delivery as Johnson's voice actor.
  • The Edutainment series Jump Start has a rare instant in which the "breakout" was not caused by a fandom. Frankie the dog was always a relatively important character, but in the 2001-2004 incarnation of the series, he became the central character as well as the entire series' mascot. Even worse, it seems like Frankie is much more important than any of his friends in the MMOG.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Axel was an important villain in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and was intended to carry over to Kingdom Hearts II as the tutorial boss. However, both fans and the staff liked him too much, and his role was extended into KHII's main scenario. He ultimately went on to become one of the main characters of the series, forming a trio with Roxas and Xion in 358/2 Days, having his original self, Lea, introduced in Birth by Sleep and returning to life as Lea in 3D. To receive a Keyblade no less!
    • For that matter, Roxas. Fans like him for being a sympathetic Troubled, but Cute who is badass as hell (dual-wielding Keyblades? Sure is). It's basically an open secret that Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is an excuse for the gamemakers to put him in the protagonist role. Even though his importance in the story mostly ends after Days, he is such an iconic character that even casual KH players not bothered to pay attention to the story recognize him by name. It's funny to think that the Prolonged Prologue of II was actually lambasted when it was first released because it took a long time to play as Sora again, a reception that fans nowadays consider an Old Shame. His popularity also rubbed off on Ventus. Though he is not without merit, Ven is well-liked mainly because he is a Roxas lookalike.
    • Aqua was one of the three protagonists in Birth by Sleep, but the developers were surprised to find that she was by far the most well-liked of the trio. As a result, she was made the sole playable character in the (albeit rather short) game Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage-, which served as a prologue to Kingdom Hearts III. She was also featured as both a boss and a playable character in KHIII itself.
  • One of the Waddle Dees in the Kirby series has turned into his own character—he's known across the fanbase as "Bandana Dee" because of his signature blue bandana. He originally appeared as a minor opponent in the Megaton Punch Kirby Super Star minigame, but later went on to become the joke boss in Kirby & the Amazing Mirror. He would end up being very popular with the fans after that, so the developers followed up by making him a major character in Kirby Super Star Ultra in the Revenge of the King episode, and eventually promoting him to playable in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, with his primary ability being the spear and being able to simply jump continuously rather than float or fly with wings. Since then, he's been a core part of the series.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter, Kevin Graham is a priest who first appears to lend a shoulder to Estelle after Joshua leaves her at the end of First Chapter because it turns out that he's an Ouroboros Enforcer. He then disappears and then joins up again aboard the Arseille as the Sixth Ranger with the heroes to stop the Liber Ark and at the end of the game, players find out that he's anything but an ordinary priest and has been holding back a lot of his powers. Third goes out of its way to make Kevin the main protagonist while relegating Estelle as a supporting character (and to build up the lore for the succeeding games).
  • Altina Orion in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is an even bigger Breakout Character more than Kevin in that at the start of Cold Steel II, she was an antagonist who kidnaps Rean's sister and the royal princess on his watch. Through a series of events, she becomes an ally of sorts to Rean at the Divertissment chapter (though you don't get to play as Rean during that time; he's even the Final Boss during that section) and can be rendered playable via the Phantasmal Mirrors at the Epilogue. Cue Cold Steel III and she gets top billing alongside Rean and the new Class VII, rendering the old members of Class VII Demoted to Extra.
  • Dekar, the Crazy Awesome Idiot Hero Guest-Star Party Member from Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals. He's had both an Expy in Deckard from Lufia: The Legend Returns and a returning role as a party member even in the Gaiden Game Lufia: The Ruins of Lore. The remake Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals gives him greater presence in the story, including a Pair the Spares romance with fellow party member Tia and returning to the party after his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Mass Effect
    • In Mass Effect, it was obvious the spotlight was supposed to be on your two human squadmates. They both got lots of screentime, were the major romance options (Liara sort of played second fiddle), and were your first two partners. Instead, fans centered on Tali and Garrus. In the sequel, Bioware took notice of their popularity and gave them larger roles in the story, while the surviving human is Demoted to Extra. Garrus and Tali returned as squadmates, gained a lot more character focus, and both became romance options. By the third game, both Garrus and Tali are easily in the category of "top five most important characters in the entire series," as they're the only characters who are squadmates in all three games and Shepard can call them their closest friends. In the third game, Garrus and Liara have the most dialogue with Shepard by far, even though the former can be dead at that point in the story.
    • Wrex, also from the first game, was just as popular as Tali and Garrus. Though his possible death in the first game gave him a reduced role in the second, he returns in the third game as a major character during the Genophage arc. If he survives, he even returns in the Citadel DLC, becoming a temporary squadmate again.
    • Mordin and Legion were both insanely popular squadmates introduced in Mass Effect 2 and this led to them gaining more significant story roles in Mass Effect 3. Since any of the ME2 squadmates could've been killed during the suicide mission, the vast majority of them were Demoted to Extra. Mordin and Legion, on the other hand, return for the Genophage and Rannoch arcs, respectively, with the resolution of their character arcs tied heavily into each story's conclusion.
  • Tron Bonne from Mega Man Legends, the Gadgeteer Genius tsundere member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad. Her popularity not only gave her the starring role of her own Spin-Off game, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, but also led to her appearing in various Capcom crossovers. In fact, she has made the most appearances of any character from the franchise in these fighting games, even more so than the titular Blue Bomber himself, due to the swapping between the different Mega Man incarnations and Zero.
  • Some say Zero, Ensemble Dark Horse of Mega Man X is this, seeing as he was a supporting character in his first appearance, and promoted to main character status as the series progressed, especially getting his own series that further showed his awesomeness. Zero was supposed to be the main character (in other words, Mega Man X himself), but was "demoted" because his creator, Keiji Inafune, was told that Zero looked too different from the original Mega Man.
  • Metal Gear:
  • Monster Rancher has several examples.
    • Moo was a ??? species of Dragon in 2. After being used as the Big Bad of the anime, he appeared in several other games, including Battle Card Episode II as a secret card and EVO and Lagoon as the final boss.
    • The Phoenix, while legendary and fairly easy to raise, was just another monster in 2. After being used as the Big Good of the anime, it reappeared in other games as a highly important figure, most notably Battle Card Episode II and 4.
    • Holly, the assistant in 1, has appeared by far the most times. Besides her original appearance, she's been a main character in the anime, an NPC in 2 and the Battle Card games, your assistant in the Advance games, and an NPC and unlockable assistant in the DS games. In comparison, Colt shows up in 2, a single anime episode, the Battle Card games, and DS, Fleria is seen in 3 and mentioned in 1, and Rio, Nayuta and Cleo don't appear at all after their debuts.
  • Mortal Kombat
    • The early MK games featured Liu Kang as the lead character and the intro of the second game even goes as far as to declare him as the canonical winner of the first tournament. However, the rival ninjas Sub-Zero and Scorpion ultimately prove to be more popular characters (to the point that Midway created Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in response to all the complaints about Scorpion's absence in the original edition) and as the series went on, the marketing for the newer games tended to focused more around them, culminating with their appearances on the packaging of Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X.
    • Johnny Cage certainly wasn't the most popular character in the original MK and its sequels, but by the time of MK9 and the start of MKX he's grown in popularity so much he get can get away with beating both mascot Ninjas Scorpion and Sub-Zero in a two on one match at the start of the game. Johnny pretty much replaces Liu Kang as The Hero of Earthrealm.
      • Johnny Cage's daughter Cassie even outstrips him in popularity as the fans went nuts when she was introduced.
    • Quan-Chi wasn't much more than a manipulating Necromancer in his early games though his fatality was admittedly pretty awesome, but in Mortal Kombat 9 where he is redesigned into a Kratos-looking badass he immediately became way more popular continuing into MKX where he is one of the most played characters.
    • Fair to say Mileena despite being considered a Ax-Crazy Butter Face is far more popular than the rest of the franchise's female characters and is on many top ten sexist female video game character lists as well best MK character lists.
    • Kotal Khan, despite being reminiscent of Shao Khan, became very popular after his debut and was especially given a lot of screen time in the Mortal Kombat X comic.
      • Along with Kotal, D'vorah, Erron Black and Ferra/Tor instantly became popular in X, with fans praising their designs and playstyles compared to previous new characters introduced in Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
    • Much like Kotal above, Geras from Mortal Kombat 11 has gained high popularity, even more so than the actual Big Bad Kronika. Fans appreciated his Noble Demon attitude and his particularly gruesome Fatality.
  • While not more popular than the main characters, Murray the Mighty Demonic Skull was only intended to be in one scene of The Curse of Monkey Island. The beta testers liked him so much that the developers added him to several other scenes and subsequent games (as a bouncer for Planet Threepwood in Escape from Monkey Island and locked up in a treasure chest inside a giant manatee in the third episode of Tales of Monkey Island).
    Murray: "...and the forces of darkness will applaud me as I STRIDE through the gates of Hell carrying your head on a pike!"
    Guybrush Threepwood: "Stride?"
    Murray: "Alright then, ROLL! ROLL through the gates of Hell... Must you take the fun out of everything?"
  • In Ninja Gaiden, Ryu Hayabusa's pretty apprentice Momiji won over a lot of fans through her interesting Miko-inspired design and gentle, polite Nice Girl personality. She quickly usurped Irene Lew as the poster girl for the rebooted franchise, has appeared in every installment since since her introduction in Dragon Sword, and also was included in Dead or Alive and Warriors Orochi 3; she even made a cameo appearance in For Honor. In 3, she was the only girl to appear in the base game: Ayane and Kasumi only appear in the expansion and Rachel is conspicuous in her absence. She was also the only Ninja Gaiden heroine to make an appearance in Z, though she still only played a very small role.
  • Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 also proved popular enough to get a spin-off novel, which was later adapted into a manga.
    • From the same game, Adachi got his own Social Link in the Updated Re-release, a Bad Ending where the main character chooses not to turn in Adachi, and became a DLC character with his own storyline in Persona 4: Arena Ultimax.
    • Aigis from Persona 3 also got her own Social Link in the Updated Re-release of her home game. She also becomes the main character of the new Playable Epilogue The Answer and gains the Wild Card since the Player Character of the main story is dead. Aigis was also one of the first characters from P3 to appear in Persona 4: Arena, whereas most of the main cast of that game wouldn't appear until Ultimax.
    • Elizabeth from the same as Aigis has her role extended in the Updated Re-release as she now can visit the protagonist's home world, and become romantically involved with them. She also became one of the few P3 characters to show up in Persona 4: Arena despite not being a party member for her game. Not to mention how her sister Margaret did not even become playable until Ultimax via DLC.
  • Pokémon:
    • It's hard to remember, but Pikachu wasn't the original mascot of the franchise. Clefairy was supposed to be. The Anime of the Game had Pikachu be the starter of the protagonist instead of one of the original three, and when the series took off so did Pikachu. Pikachu evolved into the series mascot, even getting its own game in the form of Pokemon Yellow Version, and never looked back. This has resulted in a steady stream of unique moves for Pikachu and not for its evolved form Raichu, in an attempt to keep the now-undisputed mascot viable in actual gameplay.
      • To the point that every new generation introduces another Electric-type rodent to keep the trend going: Generation II had Pichu, the pre-evolution of Pikachu; Generation III had Plusle and Minun, two more electric mice who were also designed to show off the newly introduced Double Battle mechanic; Generation IV had Pachirisu the squirrel, plain compared to the rest; Generation V had Emolga the flying squirrel, part Flying-type; Generation VI had Dedenne the hamster, part Fairy-type; Generation VII had Togedemaru the hedgehog, part Steel-type; and Generation VIII had Morpeko, a guinea pig, part Dark-type.
      • Generation VII also introduced Mimikyu, a Ghost/Fairy type that disguises itself as a Pikachu in an attempt to be just as popular. It would also see Raichu being brought back into the spotlight as it is given a regional variant that pays a direct homage to Surfing Pikachu. Both of these are direct references to Pikachu being the series mascot.
    • Sinnoh Champion Cynthia, who went on to appear in Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver, Pokémon Black and White, Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, and Pokémon Sun and Moon. Until Cynthia, the anime always gave Champions less attention than the Elite Four of a region, despite the Champion being a higher-ranking position. Cynthia on the other hand has been a major recurring character ever since her introduction.
    • Each generation of Pokémon has its share of species, however major or minor that become this:
      • Generation I: Charizard,note  Pikachu,note  Jigglypuff,note  Meowth,note  Eevee,note  Mewtwonote , Gengar note 
      • Generation II: Lugia note 
      • Generation III: Blaziken,note  Gardevoir,note  Rayquazanote 
      • Generation IV: Piplup,note  Lucario, note  Darkrai note 
      • Generation V: Zekrom note 
      • Generation VI: Braixen,note  Greninja,note  Goomy note 
      • Generation VII: Rowlet,note  Mimikyu,note  Alolan Vulpix,note  Lycanrocnote , Incineroarnote 
      • Ten characters on this list (Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Pichu, Mewtwo, Squirtle, Ivysaur, Charizard, Lucario, Greninja, and Incineroar) are playable in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, while one other (Rayquaza) is a boss in a previous game, Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
    • Rosa, the female player character from Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, had quietly gained popularity since she debuted, but her popularity really shot up shortly before the release of Pokémon Masters. She is featured on the main promotional artwork for that game and is a major NPC in it, and there has since been a good amount of merchandise of her, topped only by the above-mentioned Cynthia. Compare that to her male counterpart, Nate, who has become mostly forgotten and hasn't had any official merchandise or appearances past Black 2 and White 2 at all.
  • GLaDOS from Portal. She was originally intended to only speak in the Relaxation Chamber at the start of the game; playtesters liked her so much, Valve decided to use her throughout the game. She became synonymous with the Portal franchise and was even the final boss of the first game.
  • Puyo Puyo: Applicable to many characters, as most were mooks in the original games, but especially to Witch. Starting as not only a mook, but a mook that you had to go out of your way to find in the basement level, she eventually skyrocketed to the third most popular character in the entire series (after Arle, the main character, and Schezo) and received her own spin-off game, Comet Summoner, and a supporting role in Madou Monogatari: Tower of the Magician. Fans loudly complained when Sega put her on a bus and she was given a cameo in 7 and finally brought back for good in Puyo Puyo 20th Anniversary.
  • The Rance series contains three major examples:
    • Rick Addison made his debut in Rance III, where he was little more than a Mauve Shirt with a distinct name and design who is introduced very late into the game. When he scored surprisingly high in a popularity poll afterwards, he was made into a full-fledged party member in the following game and received a more distinct characterization that established him as both a reliable One-Man Army and a dorky Nice Guy. Since then, he has gained progressively more prominence throughout the series, regularly scored highly among male characters in popularity polls, and become the second most prominent male character in the series besides Rance himself with the screen time to match.
    • Cessna Benville was introduced in Rance VI as just one in a trio of Mauve Shirt female party members who each receive some characterization but otherwise play no notable role in the overall story of the game. Her cute design, endearing personality, and surprising usefulness in battle caused her to score very high in the game's popularity poll, eventually earning he and her two associates encore appearances in two following games. Of particular note is her appearance in Rance X, in which she and her companions were added to the game through a post-release patch that actually altered story content (specifically the fight against Warg) to make her play a prominent role in it.
    • Reset Kalar, Rance's daughter, was an instant smash; topping her debut game's popularity poll and gaining a surge of tie-in products with her face on them. This popularity continued into the next game, where, despite essentially only making a cameo appearance, she scored at the top of her category in the popularity poll. Naturally, she's given plenty of screentime in Rance X and while not getting first in the poll, is the highest ranked of her siblings.
  • The Rabbids from the Rayman series. Most people don't know about Rayman, while the Rabbids have their own games.
  • Resident Evil:
  • In the Shin Megami Tensei series, several demons have become massively popular, chief amongst them Alice, Mara and Matador. These three have been given more notable appearances than other demons in the series, with Alice reaching main Bonus Boss status in Devil Survivor 2, Mara being one of the franchises most recurring demons to appear in sidequests, and Matador being tied with the Pale Rider as most recurring member of the Fiend race in the main series.
  • When Yacht Club Games was creating their first game, Shovel Knight, during the Kickstarter campaign that helped them along the way, they made several proposals. These proposals included the idea of making 3 knights of the Order of No Quarter playable with their own games and mechanics, and revealing more about their character. To decide which knights would be playable they decided to make a poll called Dig the Vote, where fans would vote for the knights they wanted playable. The most popular knights overall proved to be Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight, who each got their own campaigns; Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment and King of Cards, respectively.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Knuckles the Echidna. He initially showed up as an antagonist tricked by Eggman to oppose Sonic, but he proved popular enough that he headlined his own game the following year, and a few years later, he became part of the "Big Three" along with Sonic and Tails. This even extended to the Archie comics where Knuckles had his own spin-off book that at one point almost surpassed Sonic's in popularity. By the noughties, he appeared in just about every game in a major role up until the 2010's when he began to fall Out of Focus.
    • Shadow the Hedgehog is probably the standout example in the series. He's far from the only Evil Twin that Sonic's had, but his personality and fleshed out backstory proved so popular that several games afterward centered on him in some way, to the point where the last one in his story arc starred him and not Sonic. Even after the series started to downplay the secondary cast into smaller roles, he's still one of the most recognizable characters in the franchise.
    • Metal Sonic went from being one of three different evil robotic knockoffs of Sonic to becoming one of his stand-out rivals, even seizing Big Bad duties from Eggman in Sonic Heroes. He's now the second most recurring villain in the franchise behind Eggman himself.
    • The debut of the Wisps was in Sonic Colors, where Eggman was harvesting their power to use in his interstellar amusement park, and existed mostly as a gameplay mechanic. After the success of Sonic Colors, Takashi Iizuka declared them a staple of the franchise going forward, and they and their corresponding powers have since reappeared in Sonic Generations, Sonic Lost World and Sonic Forces.
  • Star Wars has seen a couple.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic, Token Evil Teammate HK-47 proved to be one of the most popular characters in the game, so much so that in the sequel, there were more HK-47s, who served as the villains.
    • Lana Beniko, in Star Wars: The Old Republic, a supporting character in Shadow of Revan, becomes the first companion met in Knights of the Fallen Empire. One reason for her breakout is that she is a Sith with Light Side qualities.
    • In Star Wars Starfighter, Freeoin pirate Nym had a decent supporting role, but he proved to be such a popular character that he was given a much more prominent role in Jedi Starfighter.
  • In Stellaris, two of the preset empires have come to eclipse the others:
  • Street Fighter:
  • Georg Prime from Suikoden II was just one of the characters of the 108 needed to be recruited. He appeared very late in the game and had almost no impact on the story. However, his backstory by having Richmond investigate him proved to be popular to fans so much that in Suikoden V, set a few years before Suikoden, Georg became one of the main characters. Indeed, the very setting of Suikoden V was chosen specifically to facilitate having Georg as a main character and to show the portion of his backstory that had been the source of the most fan speculation. The rest is history.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation, the canon route is obviously Ryusei Date's. But Kyosuke Nanbu proved to be way too popular that he and his girlfriend Excellen Browning are promoted into main characters by the second game.
  • Leon Magnus from Tales of Destiny was originally just a Jerkass who ends up betraying the party and dying. He had a sympathetic backstory, however, and his popularity was powerful enough to get him resurrected and redeemed in the sequel, get a bonus boss battle in the Updated Re-release of the sequel for the PSP, and have his personality overhauled significantly to make him a Defrosting Ice King who goes through a long Trauma Conga Line in the Updated Re-release of the first game. It's also an unspoken guarantee that he'll be a playable character in spin-off games, he'll have the most merchandise related to him made, and that either his or Judas's outfit will be DLC for any game after Tales of Vesperia.
    • To a lesser extent is Celsius, the Summon Spirit of Ice. She's notably popular compared to her fellow Summon Spirits that she appeared as a playable character in Radiant Mythology 2 and 3 based on her Eternia design.
  • Emilie "Lili" De Rochefort from the Tekken series. Originally appearing in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, she eventually became widely popular. Today, she's perhaps the most recognizable female character in the series, besides Nina Williams. She even makes guest appearances in the Queen's Blade franchise.
  • Kabuki from Tengai Makyou II: Manjimaru overshadowed the title character in popularity, and got his own Gaiden Game besides starring in both of the Fighting Game spin-offs.
  • Touhou has a lot of characters, some of them more popular than others. Probably the most striking example is Cirno, the lovable Baka of the series. From her lowly start as a Stage 2 Boss, her popularity grew to the point where she received her own game: Touhou 12.8: Fairy Wars.
    • Marisa Kirisame, the co-protagonist to Reimu Hakurei, is also one of these; originally she was just another enemy (and a minion to Mima) in the second game, but was Promoted to Playable from the third game on and has since appeared in as many games as Reimu. She also stars in way more fan games (both official and not) as the Player Character, such as Mega Mari and New Super Marisa Land.
  • In most games, the child that the protagonist is saddled with protecting is despised. The developers of The Walking Dead played their cards right with Clementine, however. She's one of the most popular characters in the game.
  • Warcraft:
    • Illidan Stormrage appears in only one level and one cutscene in Warcraft III. The Addon Frozen Throne and the World of Warcraft expansion Burning Crusade are all about him being badass. The latter, by turning him from an Anti-Hero to an Omnicidal Maniac, tried to take the edge off of his popularity but was widely considered discontinuity instead. Legion featured him as The major character, with a major goal of reuniting his wandering soul with his imprisoned body, and then aiding him in his battle against the Legion, while also introducing the Demon Hunter class which lets the player character emulate Illidan's style.
    • Highlord Mograine, AKA The Ashbringer, from World of Warcraft got so popular among fans that now he has his own comic series.
    • Saurfang was just a quest-giving NPC among thousands in World of Warcraft, until the fanbase made him a Memetic Badass. Realising how popular he was, Blizzard subsequently made him a veteran fighter in all three wars, commander of a coalition army, right-hand to the Warchief, retroactively right-hand to the former warchief, second in command in the Northrend campaign, and if he hadn't lost his son, he'd probably be Warchief now. Heck, in Legion he becomes the faction leader of Orgrimmar with Warchief Sylvanas gone missing. Battle For Azeroth, while billed as a faction conflict story, devotes a major amount of its plot, including its resolution, towards Saurfang's disillusionment in the Horde after Sylvanas commits genocide by ordering Teldrassil burned, ultimately dying a hero's death to drive Sylvanas out of the position of warchief, and break the cycle of hatred by fighting for the good of both the Horde and Alliance in doing so.
    • In Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, Vol'jin was a witch-doctor (a very weak, support-only unit) who gave quests to the real heroes of the campaign (Rexxar, Rokhan and Chen) so they could save his people. In World of Warcraft he doesn't do much more at first, besides asking for help to deal with a level 10 mob. Several expansions later, he's leading the rebellion against Garrosh Hellscream, had a novel written about him, and finally becomes the new Warchief of the Horde (and the first non-orc to do so) after Garrosh is deposed.
    • Lord Jaraxxus is just a minor boss in World of Warcraft, so it's questionable why the Warlock Legendary in Hearthstone However, the combination of glorious voice acting by Jamieson Price and unique effect of replacing the hero summoning him makes him stand out, and he's usually considered as one of the most memorable cards amongst the Warlock deck and well-remembered amongst other Burning Legion demons, a lot of them that rank WAY higher than him.
  • Goro Majima became so popular that he went from having a relatively minor role in the original Yakuza to a vastly expanded role in the remake and the sequel's remake, in addition to becoming a protagonist in his own right in the prequel.
  • Yandere Simulator:
    • Oka Ruto. In the finished game, your fourth rival. In the debug builds, a club leader who tests out unique character features (like her 'shy' walk cycle and spiderweb stockings). In all versions, decided to be so cute that she's on her way to being the fan-favorite rival.
    • Kokona Haruka. Initially just the purple Rainbow Girl, she was chosen as a test rival due to her distinctive look. Further characterization in pursuit of the more complex elimination methods gave her a personality, likes, dislikes, and a story arc. While she is no longer a rival as all non-rival-specific eliminations have been implemented, the girl remains a fan-favorite and YandereDev has discussed adding her to the game in a more permanent basis.
    • To a lesser extent, Saki Miyu; the teal Rainbow Girl, who was chosen to have a conversation with Kokona about her domestic issues. This gave her characterization as Kokona's supportive best friend. She was later used as the guinea pig for the mind slave mechanic. While her personal popularity is usually eclipsed by Kokona's, she's still fairly popular for a girl with no real relevance in the final story.
    • Midori Gurin. Initially just a vehicle for the dev to vent his frustration at his well-meaning fanbase that was distracting him with too many e-mails, she has become a popular fandom meme and is used as a more reasonable Audience Surrogate at times.
  • You Have to Burn the Rope: The Grinning Colossus also appears as a boss in other web games; Death vs Monsters 2, Anti-Idle: The Game, and Pickory.

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