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  • Originally, the most iconic character from Animal Crossing alongside the Villagers was probably Tom Nook. Then came Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which introduced Isabelle, your assistant helping you in your duties as mayor in that game. She was instantly popular and has since become the other face of the franchise, becoming a mainstay in all future entries, "running" the social media accounts for the games, and showing up in other franchises like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., 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").
  • Ezio Auditore from Assassin's Creed made his debut in the second game as a young Assassin from the Italian city of Florence who wants to avenge the deaths of his father and brothers at the hands of the Templars. Ezio was positively received by the fanbase and critics, allowing him to continue as the main protagonist for two sequels as well as stories set before or after the events of the mainline games. To date, he is the only historical Assassin character to have an entire trilogy.
  • Baldur's Gate II:
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    • Imoen. 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 scrapped 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).
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    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Kanna from Blaster Master Zero II immediately drew a lot of... attention by simply showing up on screen during the game's reveal on a Nintendo Direct for about a second. Her popularity didn't go unnoticed, and Inti Creates threw a few bones at her. They added a "Kanna Raising Simulator" DLC where you can create your own different form of Kannas, and she's the only MA pilot Jason revisits in Zero III.
  • 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 screen time 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.
  • 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.
  • Dead or Alive:
    • Ayane became popular enough to become the Deuteragonist in Ninja Gaiden and later make multiple appearances in other games like Senran Kagura and Fatal Frame.
    • Similarly, Honoka and Marie Rose proved extremely popular, becoming the faces of the Dead or Alive Xtreme sub-series.
    • As a result of their popularity, the three aforementioned girls were the ones to make a guest appearance in Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash, getting picked over main character Kasumi.
  • 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.
  • Destiny: Cayde-6. In Vanilla Destiny, Cayde was little more than a glorified merchant and questgiver. After some light Flanderization into a wisecracking ace of a Hunter, he ends his tenure in Destiny 2 as the star of his own expansion. Before that he had the honor of playing a major supporting role in nearly every major story event in between and becoming the face of the franchise.
  • Detectives United has Agent Dorian Brown, who has turned into one of these for Elephant Games. The developer's social media manager openly admits that Brown has a lot of fangirls, due to being a Sharp-Dressed Man with a charming voice and witty personality, and they're happy to exploit his popularity, especially in Facebook posts. Their other breakout character is Brown's adorkable friend James Blackthorne, of Haunted Hotel, although since that series has ended James's popularity has waned a bit.
  • Devil May Cry: Vergil originally appeared as a boss character in the first game where he was the dark knight Nelo Angelo. After revealing himself, he was later presumably killed by Dante. However, his re-introduction in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening as Dante's Sibling Rival led him to become an important character in the series; he would even go on to be playable in the Special Edition of 3 onwards. In Devil May Cry 4, he was speculated and hinted to be the father of Nero, which was later confirmed by the devs, the 3142 Graphic Arts artbook, and officially canon in Devil May Cry 5 where he appears as two separate entities known as V (the Human half) and Urizen (the Demonic half). Vergil appears in almost every entry in the series but is only playable in every Re-Release of a game, even making it into Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3. Fans consider him to be the second best character besides Dante, as well as becoming hugely memed in the Internet.
  • Dragon Quest IV: Party member Torneko would later become the main star of the Mystery Dungeon series, a Roguelike spinoff series where he adventured in the "Mysterious Dungeon" for items and riches.
  • Mai Shiranui from Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters franchise is one of the most popular if not the most popular SNK character. She first appeared in Fatal Fury 2 as the sole female fighter. She gained popularity largely due to her being the resident Ms. Fanservice as well as filling in the role of the Ninja (which is mandatory in almost every fighting game). She's also been a Guest Fighter in the Dead or Alive series.
  • 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.
      • Faris is the most popular female character in the game and is often second or third in line for crossovers after Bartz. She even received a base NV unit in Brave Exvius with a CG limit break and she's the first non-original generation character that isn't the main character or antagonist to receive one.
    • 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:
    • 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).
    • 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.
    • A particularly prominent example of a Breakout Character from the Fire Emblem series is Ike, protagonist of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and co-protagonist of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. When Ike was first announced for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, most of the Internet's reaction was "Who the hell is Ike?" But he would later prove 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 unique status as a non-Lord main character, 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.
    • From Ike's series, the most popular non-main character is far and away Nephenee, who not only appears in Heroes, but has expies 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.
    • 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.
  • Guilty Gear:
    • Axl Low started out as a recurring comic relief character and Homage to Axl Rose with tenuous connections to the rest of the cast and the story, but starting with Overture, several massive revelations about the true nature of his existence and his Time Travel abilities turned him into a Walking Spoiler for the entire setting.
    • Baiken has always been among the most recognizable characters the series has but never too much around the cream of the crop like Sol, Ky, Dizzy, etc. However, over the years she has grown more and more popular for reasons sometimes unrelated to her role in the story or gameplay style, her design and personality has earned Baiken a lot of fans by the time of Xrd, where newcomers and outsiders were taken into Guilty Gear solely for Baiken alone, to the point ArcSys is very confident in lending Baiken for other video game series as a guest, and a selling factor for separate DLC in Guilty Gear itself.
  • 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.
  • 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 game makers 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, and was also the playable leader for Team BBS in Melody of Memory.
  • One of the Waddle Dees in the Kirby series has turned into his own character. 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 abilities being the spear and being able to simply jump continuously rather than float or fly with wings, and he acquired an Uniformity Exception-inducing bandanna. Since then, Bandanna Waddle Dee has been a core part of the series.
  • 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.
  • Mega Man:
    • 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.
    • Zero of Mega Man X is an unusual example. He was a supporting character in his first appearance, and was 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. His positive reception led to him later becoming the main character after all.
    • From Mega Man Battle Network, we have Bass.EXE. Bass is a moderately popular character in the classic series, and a simple Bonus Boss in the first Battle Network game. He would gain plot relevance in 2 and 3 due to positive reception from fans and even the game's staff. Oh yeah, and in each of the six games, he's always the strongest encounter.
  • Metal Gear: Originally, Big Boss is the Big Bad of the first two games. After the release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, he became an ultra-popular Tragic Hero-turned-Anti-Villain and went on to star in his own prequel games to show that transition.
  • 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.
    • 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 sexiest female video game character lists as well as best MK character lists. Her sheer popularity's led to her return after dying in MKX, which lampshaded during her long awaited return in Mortal Kombat 11 specifically, her reveal trailer with Erron Black.
      Mileena: A coin for your thoughts, Erron?
      Erron Black: Just trying to reckon why the hell you're back.
      Mileena: A million souls cried out for my return.
    • Kotal Khan became very popular after his debut and was especially given a lot of screen time in the Mortal Kombat X comic.
  • 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.
  • Of Orcs and Men had Styx, a wily and snarky Goblin and the self-proclaimed "Master of Shadows". He became so popular despite technically being the deuteragonist to the determined and heroic Orc protagonist, Arkhail, that he was given a spin-off game to expand on his history before meeting Arkhail. That game ended up making him even more popular resulting in a sequel, and it's now to the point that the original game has experienced Sequel Displacement and is remembered mostly for being Styx's debut.
  • Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 also proved popular enough to get a spin-off novel, which was later adapted into a manga.
  • 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 Pokémon 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 becomes the most popular Champion in the series among fans, leading to her going on to appear in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, 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.
    • Dawn, the female player character from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, was initially just a Distaff Counterpart to Lucas, who was featured more prominently in the early trailers of the games. But she gained popularity with fans when Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl promoted her as a co-lead protagonist alongside Ash, complete with a well-defined character journey revolving around Pokémon Contests. In the post-Diamond and Pearl series, Dawn has the most guest-starred episodes out of all of Ash's former travelling companions, surpassing even the likes of Misty. Her popularity in the anime eventually bled into spin-off games like Pokémon Masters, where she became playable within the first year of the game's release, while her male counterpart, Lucas, did not even appear in the game at all until January 2022, more than two years after the game's release. When the first trailer for the Diamond and Pearl remakes arrived, Dawn is the first character seen and many news outlets gave her top-billing over Lucas. Even Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which doesn't feature Dawn, made sure to mention Akari (an ancestral character who resembles Dawn) first before Rei (the ancestral Lucas).
    • 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 the first 5-star character who joins the player for free. Since then, there has 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 hadn't had any official merchandise or appearances past Black 2 and White 2 until he was also added to Pokémon Masters, well over a year after Rosa.
    • Gloria, the female player character from Pokémon Sword and Shield, has achieved overwhelming popularity from the day she was introduced. It was such that she not only was the subject of multiple merchandise pieces, official art, and trading cards, but she became the very first Generation VIII character to be playable in Pokémon Masters, months prior to other fan favorites such as Piers and Raihan.
    • 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 , Magikarp/Gyaradosnote 
      • Generation II: Lugia note 
      • Generation III: Blaziken,note  Gardevoir,note  Rayquazanote 
      • Generation IV: Piplup,note  Bidoof,note  Lucario, note , Garchomp,note  Darkrai note , Arceus 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, and a stage hazard in Wii U and Ultimate.
  • GLaDOS from Portal was originally intended to only speak in the Relaxation Chamber at the start of the game; but 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 Player Character 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 her 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.
  • Resident Evil:
  • Much her partner Leon, Claire Redfield rose to high popularity thanks to RE2 as she quickly got a sequel in Code Veronica. She’s still remains one of the most celebrated female characters in the franchise and despite appearing in less games than fellow female protagonists Jill and Ada, only starring in one other game Resident Evil: Revelations 2. Claire still appears in heaps of other RE media such as Resident Evil: Degeneration, Resident Evil: Heavenly Island and the upcoming Resident Evil Infinite Darkness series.
  • Rebecca Chambers was a fairly minor character in the original Resident Evil but she garnered steady popularity in both Japan and the West making a cameo and RE2 and getting a bigger role in the Gamecube remake of RE1 and then her own game Resident Evil 0 (where she's much more badass compared to other titles). Since then Rebecca has made appearances in RE5's Mercenaries Mode, the live action Resident Evil Stage Show and Resident Evil: Vendetta. Rebecca's popularity is also highly ironic given her own creator Shinji Mikami actually dislikes her and only put her in the original game due to his staff demanding it.
  • Jack Krauser. He originally appeared in Resident Evil 4 as a Remember the New Guy? before he dies, but his badassery led him to getting expanded on in a prequel mission in The Darkside Chronicles.
  • HUNK was just a masked goon from Umbrella in RE2 who was killed by the mutated William Birmingham, however thanks staring in a Mini-Game where he survives and fights his way to freedom, HUNK gained immense popularity. HUNK much like Wesker found his way in subsequent titles despite having little to do with the main story.
  • Nemesis from RE3 originally was more of a Monster of the Week and simply called “Pursuer” and in Japan wasn’t even in the title of the game note . But Nemesis quickly became as synonymous with the franchise as the zombies thanks to his Implacable Man behaviour and appeared frequently in other RE and Capcom media as well as a hotly anticipated remake.
  • Nemesis’s predecessor T-103 aka Tyrant wasn’t particularly popular but thanks his revamp in RE2make became so popular that he found his way into Monster Hunter: World (alongside Leon and Claire) as well as a playable appearance in Resident Evil Project Resistance.
  • Jack Baker from Resident Evil 7 was just one of the recurring antagonists in the game, but thanks to his Large Ham Ax-Crazy one-liners and being a particularly persistent foe, he soon eclipsed the rest of the Bakers in popularity and even overshadowed the game’s Big Bad Eveline. Unsurprisingly Jack features heavily in the RE7's mini-games, it’s End of Zoe DLC and even a playable appearance in the multiplayer Resident Evil Re:Verse.
  • Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Village is probably the only RE character who became a Breakout Character before her game was even released. When she was first shown she didn’t causes much of a stir, but when later screenshots and gameplay revealed she’s a Statuesque Stunner who will be hunting the player down like Mr X and Nemesis, the internet collectively exploded with excitement. Fan Art and Cosplay of Lady Dimitrescu quickly ensued.
  • 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. His popularity seems to have revived in lieu his debut in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) film, where not only is a significant part of the marketing surrounding the film was his initial rivalry with Sonic. To the point where even before the film came out, a spin off series about him was already announced. The Japanese title for the film is even called Sonic vs. Knuckles, giving him equal billing as the main character themself.
    • 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.
    • Blaze The Cat is one of the few characters that both classic and modern fans like which is saying something when it comes to this fanbase. Her debut in Sonic Rush was well received for being one of few female characters in the series who could go toe to toe with Sonic and she's even the only female Sonic character with a super form. She continuously appears in future games, mainly as a playable character in spin-off games. Her stages in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) are often regarded as the best ones in the game due to being the least broken compared to everyone else's stages. A lot of fans wished she would have her own game that would explore more about her backstory and her world.
  • Krystal from Star Fox started out as a hold-over from Dinosaur Planet before it became Star Fox Adventures and while intended to be a playable deuteragonist as with the former, a Christmas Rushed production led to her being benched as a Damsel in Distress for the game's majority. This didn’t stop Krystal from cultivating a following due to her design, and intriguing origins as a Last of Her Kind drifter whose prescence added fantasy tropes to a Sci-Fi setting. Krystal would go on to become a core member of the titular team in Star Fox: Assault, and much of the plot of Star Fox Command focuses on her and her relationship with Fox, with a few story routes outright making her the protagonist. Her abscence in the reboot Star Fox Zero was a surprise, but Krystal’s long-awaited debut in Super Smash Bros. in Ultimate (albeit as an Assist Trophy) more or less confirmed she’s here to stay in the franchise.
  • Star Wars has seen a couple.
  • 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.:
  • Axel Almer, in context of the Original Generation series (in his debut at Super Robot Wars Advance, he was always one of the protagonists). When he was introduced, he was designated as The Rival and antagonist of the aforementioned Kyosuke, whereas his original rival and co-protagonist, Lamia Loveless, got saddled with the more heroic role like if she was picked as the protagonist in the original game, and worse, he accidentally got a dose of Adaptational Jerkass (or the Atlus translation made him a lot more jerky than he originally was), which didn't make a good impression and it seemed like Banpresto wanted to push Lamia as the main representative of Advance (and to an extent, it worked, since Lamia had strong popularity overall). Then come Original Generations where Axel was rerailed into more of his old antagonist self with more touches of a Noble Demon and proved to be really well received, which made him survive the events of Original Generations to appear in Gaiden, definitely pulled a Heel–Face Turn there, and his more 'lone wolf' personality means he's more eligible to appear in other spin-offs like Endless Frontier (where his previous amnesiac lovable goofball personality in Advance when picked as protagonist resurfaced) and more freedom to appear in other medias. As a result, Axel has truly broken out from his fate to be second fiddle on Kyosuke and Lamia, he has proven that he is the independent face of Advance.
  • Tales Series:
    • Tales of Destiny:
      • Leon Magnus 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.
    • Tales of the Abyss introduced one of the most popular chracters of the entire Tales Series, Jade Curtiss. Jade the Necromancer is the oldest playable character whose actions have significant impact on the world he lived and his personality is also notable. He is so popular that future polls banned him and the following character because they take the top spots for years to come.
    • Tales of Vesperia: And that character in question, the protagonist Yuri Lowell. He is what you get if Jade was a protagonist swordsman, and like the aforementioned Jade Curtiss, Yuri ended up being so popular that he gets banned from popularity polls for topping them for years to come.
  • 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:
    • 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.
  • Goro Majima was introduced as a borderline Ax-Crazy rival to leading man Kazuma Kiryu. As the series progressed, his popularity grew as his character developed into one of the most complex and likeable members of the Tojo Clan, eventually granting him a starring role alongside Kiryu as a playable character in Yakuza 0, along with a side-story campaign of his own in Yakuza Kiwami 2.
  • Yandere Simulator: 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.

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