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Decoy Protagonist / Video Games

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Decoy Protagonists in video games.

  • Agarest Senki has Leonhardt himself. He is the protagonist of the first generation, but when you finish his chapter, he gets to be sealed in a pillar with the three Love Interests. Then his son Ladius gets to be the protagonist of his chapter but also gets sealed after his chapter is done with his three Love Interests. Same thing happens to Thoma and Duran in the third and fourth generation. Duran's son Rex then becomes THE TRUE protagonist for the rest of the game itself.
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  • Haytham Kenway of Assassin's Creed III, is playable through the first three memories. The kicker is that he turns out to be a Templar, and becomes an antagonist for his son Connor.
  • Done twice in Baten Kaitos, first when it's revealed that Kalas is The Dragon, and Xelha takes over, and then second when Kalas experiences a Heel–Face Turn and rejoins your party.
  • Bioshock Infinite: In the Burial at Sea DLC, where Booker (actually Comstock) once again serves as the hero of Episode 1, only to be killed by a Big Daddy at the end and be replaced by Elizabeth in Episode 2.
  • William Carter in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. The real protagonist is an ethereal you are directly playing as, who is controlling Carter.
  • Despite the name, the titular Cadence in Cadence of Hyrule doesn't see a lot of playtime in a normal playthrough. You play as her during the tutorial section, but after the player chooses between Link and Zelda to control, Cadence bids that character farewell and becomes a recurring NPC trying to return back to her own world. She does rejoin the party for the final dungeon though, and it is possible to make her playable again before that if you find her on the overworld enough times.
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  • Like every other Choices: Stories You Play book, Most Wanted starts with you picking your main character's look, hm, that's weird, its only choice is your gender. Well, you roll your eyes at the minimal customization, pick the character's gender and name, play a scene, flirt with another character...only to die five minutes in and spend the rest of the book playing as cops trying to crack the case.
  • Clive Barker's Jericho starts off with Devin Ross as the only controllable character, who dies within less than an hour of playing the game and then commands his team from beyond.
  • The opening cutscene of Company of Heroes shows a group of American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach. They bravely charge the beach only to get mowed down to the last man. Then a second landing craft comes in, and it's these guys who turn out to be the protagonists.
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  • Crysis: Nomad? Alcatraz? Nope. It was Prophet's story all along.
  • The first four games of the Cube Escape series are each narrated by a different character, with the woman in Seasons having the biggest number of expected protagonist traits (tragic backstory, desperately trying to complete a nigh-impossible quest, a Sequel Hook that implies that her story isn't quite over yet...). It isn't until the fifth game, Case 23, that Dale Vandermeer is introduced as the detective investigating the aforementioned woman's (supposed) death and becomes the most focused-on character in future games.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Sayaka Maizono from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is played up throughout Chapter 1 as the main female lead, becoming Makoto's sidekick and potential main love interest. It turns out at some point she started manipulating Makoto to become the fall guy for when she killed somebody, but when she actually tries it, it backfires horribly and she ends up as the first victim.
    • New Danganronpa V3 first introduced Ki-bo, who was designed to resemble Makoto Naegi down to the Idiot Hair, mentions him as someone he looked up to, had a name that could be read as "Hope", and was put in the first official video and in the first official artwork along with Kaito and Maki to fool the player into thinking he is the main character. Then comes the Tokyo Game Show 2016 trailer, showcasing Kaede Akamatsu as the main character (with her even saying as much in the trailer herself) rather than Ki-bo. And then Kaede got executed in the game's first case, from then the protagonist position is shifted to Shuichi Saihara. And, in Chapter 6, Ki-Bo does end up playable for a short amount of time, so the trope is partially subverted.
  • In Dead Space: Extraction, you first play as a mining employee, who first notices the necromorphs showing up. At the end of the first level, he's killed and his mantle of PC is taken up by the leader of the expedition that killed him.
    • Similarly in Dead Space 3 you start off playing as a new character named Private Kaufman. After the breathtaking opening, Kaufman is murdered and the game shifts to another time and location where the real main character, Isaac Clark, is introduced.
  • Zigzagged throughout Dynasty Warriors 7 and 8, where each kingdom is given their own story campaign. Sima Yi is presented as the face of Jin, but he retires roughly a third of the way into Jin's storyline. His eldest son Sima Shi takes over from there, but dies by the second third of the game, leaving Brilliant, but Lazy younger brother Sima Zhao as the true protagonist of Jin. Likewise, Wu's storyline starts with Sun Jian as the leader until his immediate death, followed by eldest son Sun Ce until his near-immediate death, leaving Sun Quan as the leader of Wu for the majority of Wu's storyline. Liu Bei eventually dies and leaves his son Liu Shan in charge of Shu, but he's alive for 3/4 of Shu's storyline, while Cao Cao of Wei is the only leader to live all the way through his kingdom's storyline.
  • In Everlong, the main character Brad was... well, the main character, until he suddenly vanishes as the evil spirits within him took over him, causing him to because Brainwashed and Crazy, take a Face–Heel Turn and end up being killed by the Big Damn Heroes. Downplayed in the latest version of the game, where he breaks out of his brainwashing and rejoins the party. However, Glen still takes most of the spotlight for the rest of the game.
  • Fallout 4 becomes this if you play as a female character. The opening is narrated by the tough war veteran male protagonist, Nate, giving a monologue speech about his grandfather's service in World War II and how war never changes. Then he's tragically shot and killed 15 minutes in, in front of his mortified wife, and then you play as her instead.
  • In Faraway Story, Pia starts as the main character and seems to fit the role of an Atelier protagonist learning to become strong and independent. However, she's killed by the Dark Lord at the end of Part 1, forcing her mentor, Ellevark, to turn back time and prevent its resurrection. In the partially complete Part 2, Ellevark is the main character who has to re-recruit all of the party members. Pia rejoins in the fifth chapter, but can no longer be selected as the controllable character and Ellevark is still the default character on non-combat maps.
  • Fatal Frame
    • Fatal Frame began with Mafuyu Hinasaki entering Himuro Mansion to find his missing professor and group. He's only playable for the intro chapter and then focus turns to Miku finding the camera he dropped. Mafuyu spends the rest of the game wandering the mansion like a spectral image and finally decides to stay with Kirie at the Abyss.
    • Fatal Frame IV lets the player control Madoka Tsukimori for the prologue chapter. She gets a worse deal than Mafuyu, as she's playable for less time than he is before being killed off by ghosts. Madoka becomes a hostile spirit on Rougetsu Island that the actual protagonists needs to fight.
  • Fate/EXTRA has one of the most tragic uses of this in videogame history. You spend the prologue playing as an average high school student who quickly gets swept up in the Holy Grail War. Depending on how many optional scenes you unlock, he manages to discover several secrets that are crucial to the future plot. Then, when the time comes for his trial in the prelims, he fails miserably. As in, he isn't even able to get a single attack before the enemy Servant effortlessly cuts him down. The prologue ends with the dying student tearfully begging that someone, anyone will remember his name and who he was. The most tragic part is, thanks to how Eliminations in the War work, no one ever will.
    • Not even the player. His name is never revealed, so not even the player can remember him, so he dies as alone as any video game character can ever be: cut off even from the player. Massive Player Punch when you realise this.
  • Fate/stay night opens with a man recounting the point where his Servant, a blue-armored woman, was summoned, but then promptly switches to Rin Tohsaka's narration as she attempts to summon her Servant in preparation for the Grail War. She remains the viewpoint for the first three days (about two hours of gameplay), and, as a likable, manipulative Deadpan Snarker is a fairly classic Urban Fantasy protagonist. Then she and Archer get curb-stomped by a blue-armored woman... and we rewind three days, go back to the start, and see the events leading up to that from the point of view of the mage who summoned that woman, Emiya Shirou, previously a minor supporting character.
  • Locke of Final Fantasy VI, while Terra gets the main focus of the story in the World of Balance, its Locke that is in the traditional protagonist role. He is locked into the party for most of the game's first half and plays a role in both Terra's and Celes's stories. However, Celes becomes the protagonist in the World of Ruin and while Terra gets forced into the ending if you don't recruit her, Locke can miss the ending entirely. He is one of the last and hardest to find party members you re-recruit and his role is diminished quite a bit in the second half. While Kitase said that there is no main characters, it's Terra and Celes that come the closest to it.
    • This could be said a bit about Terra herself, as almost the entire story of the World of Balance revolves around her, even if you're not playing her. When the World of Ruin comes, she has very little role as well- not much more than Locke. All of this is largely because of the non-linear nature of the World of Ruin; Celes is the starting character and re-recruiting Edgar and Setzer is needed to get the Global Airship in order to reach the final dungeon (as well as that being the minimum number of characters possible to advance in said dungeon), but it's possible to do skip everything else or do it in nearly any order the player sees fit. As a result, characters who were essential to the first half the game become incidental to the second half.
  • Final Fantasy X has Tidus say in the beginning "Listen to my story". You then spend most of the game hearing about Yuna and her pilgrimage, Yuna and her Aeons, Yuna's duty and her goal .. until you reach Zanarkand. This is when Tidus really screws the rules and became more the leader. Not insignificantly, Yuna eventually says "This is our story."
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Reks, a level 3 soldier and the brother of the protagonist, is this as you briefly control him through the castle, and fight empire enemies in attempt to save the king during the prologue.
    • This seems to run in his family - while the player spends the rest of the game controlling Reks' younger brother, Vaan, it quickly becomes clear that Vaan is not the protagonist. Despite filling a typical JRPG young plucky hero trope, the story is clearly centered around Ashe, Basche, and Balthier (the latter of whom frequently proclaims himself the leading man.) Vaan even comes to this conclusion for himself eventually. Vaan serves as the player's viewpoint into the other major characters, since he's largely an outsider to the nature of the political and social state Ivalice - something the other characters use for insight into their own problems. The game ends with Vaan eventually setting out on an adventure in his own right. The sequel, Revenant Wings, finally let him have the role of protagonist in earnest.
  • In the Fire Emblem series:
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War takes this up to 11. Sigurd is a decoy for his son, Seliph. Moreover, the most of Sigurd's army dies with him, making your entire army a decoy. The Big Bad pulls a huge win making the chapter a hopeless level.
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn does this as well. It seems that Micaiah is the main character of this game. Then part 2 rolls around, with Queen Elincia and her gang. Then part 3 happens, and Ike shows up and kicks ass, as usual. THEN you get his story, which leads into a plot about killing a goddess. Micaiah is still very much a major character (yes, even despite being a vessel for another goddess half the time) but Ike is given slightly higher billing and treated as The Hero.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you choose between Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude as your co-protagonist. In Chapter 11, Edelgard is revealed to be the masked Flame Emperor who has been acting as the Big Bad up to this point. If you are on her route and don't fulfill the requirements to defect to her side or choose to remain loyal to the Church of Seiros, she permanently abandons you and becomes The Heavy from that point onward.
  • The Prelude to The Godfather game starts with you playing Johnny Trapani, but he gets gunned down within minutes. The real player character is his son after a Time Skip.
  • This is pulled with Golden Sun's Isaac, despite the fact he doesn't die. You begin the first game controlling him as a silent protagonist, only for the second game to shift POV to Felix, revealing that his quest was the one saving the world, making Isaac a Decoy Protagonist who is actually an antagonist (unwittingly). Then, at Jupiter Lighthouse, the whole situation is explained to Isaac, and he joins forces with Felix for the finale.
  • Gone Home has you play as Katie Greenbriar, a college student who's just gotten home from a trip and finds her family's new house completely empty. As you investigate the house, it turns out the story is mainly about Katie's younger sister, Sam, and her falling in love with another girl.
  • Done brutally in Halo: Reach where SPARTAN B-312, AKA Noble Six, has the same combat rating as Halo's protagonist Master Chief John-117 and, like John, is also chosen by Cortana to be her carrier. Unfortunately, Six dies on Reach.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend does this. In the first, sole human student Hiyoko Tosaka is the protagonist for the entirety of the otome segment. Then the Bad Boy's Love true ending story starts with her murder and the game switches over to Ryouta Kawara, who was previously her best friend and one of the titular boyfriends. The swap is marked by a change in the interface: the background of the text box no longer says the game's name, but says Hurtful Boyfriend instead.
  • In Heroes Must Die You is the playable character in the opening but is killed by Lord Murder at the end of the level. His friend Storm takes over from there.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in Higurashi: When They Cry. After Keiichi has been the main character for three arcs, his spotlight is taken away for the rest of the series, with three arcs devoted to Akasaka, Shion, and Rena. Then the first episode of Kai focuses on Akasaka and Ooishi. Then we get an arc centered around Satoko. The eventual main character? Rika Furude, a True Companion who had received the least attention prior to the reveal. Keiichi still plays a critical role, though, as a source of inspiration and courage.
  • Hotline Miami features a hitman ("Jacket") as its protagonist for the majority of missions, but it's Biker, the boss at the phone station who solves the mystery behind the answerphone messages. Given that Richard is an Unreliable Narrator, one assumes that Biker survived their encounter, and went on to kill the villains. the sequel shows that both storylines are canon, with Jacket and the Biker having survived their encounter and both storylines progressed independent of one another.
  • In Hybrid Heaven, you begin the game as Diaz. Except you are not Diaz, you're just in his body and get yours back about an eighth of the way through the game you are really the real Johnny Slater. Diaz is, in fact, a major villain.
  • Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly seems to be another typing adventure starring the eponymous character. At the end of the first episode, however, Icarus is apparently killed, and the rest of the series focuses on robot detective Mark 22 and his investigation on the mystery behind the murder.
  • Supergirl in Injustice 2. The game's opening cinematic focuses on her surviving the destruction of Krypton and one would be lead to believe she is the main hero since the trailers hyped her as the redeeming replacement for Superman, who went evil in this universe. Instead, she is the focus of Chapter 9 where very little happens to advance the plot, except her own character development, and the plot really is about Superman and Batman trying to settle their differences once and for all.
  • In the Flash game Innkeeper available on Kongregate, the player takes the role of Manuel, a young man whose lifelong dream is to build an inn to bring tourism to the island where he lives. His family agrees to help out. The most supportive member of his family is his mother Nanay, who acts as the receptionist. Once the inn becomes a big enough success, their rival visits them and expresses disbelief that his chain of inns is losing business to someone who doesn't even exist anymore. Manuel was Dead All Along, having died at a very young age. His mother Nanay had a breakdown and eventually deluded herself into thinking Manuel was still alive. Nanay was the real protagonist all along trying to fulfill her late son's dream.
  • In killer7, the titular group are seven split personalities all within a crippled man in a wheelchair named Harman, who is the protagonist. Then the ending comes, which reveals that the leader of the seven personalities and the only one who is shown normally exist seperately of Harman, Garcian, is actually the one with the split personalities under his control, and Garcian himself is the split personality of the ruthless assassin Emir Parkreiner, and he killed Harman and the recessive six personalities, gaining Harman's power of invoking those personalities and carrying the weapons of the recessive six in his briefcase. Their counterparts created by the US military work similarly. Handsome Red, the supposed leader of the Handsome Men, fights Harman, the supposed leader of the killer7. The last of the Handsome Men-killer7 duels is between Handsome Pink, the real leader of the Handsome Men, and Garcian, which foreshadows Garcian being the true protagonist.
  • Kingdom Hearts II. Roxas. Provided the cover art isn't a giveaway, anyway.
    • Likewise in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Ven resembles Sora and Roxas in several ways, but the plot actually revolves more around Terra, and Aqua does the more traditional heroic deeds.
    • In Kingdom Hearts 3D, for the most part Sora and Riku share heroic deeds pretty evenly. Then in the last world, Sora is almost corrupted by Xehanort and falls into a coma. In the end, Riku comes to the rescue by facing off against Young Xehanort, then freeing Sora's heart from the darkness by destroying the Armored Ventus Nightmare in a Battle in the Center of the Mind.
  • In L.A. Noire for the last three missions, control is switched over to Cole's fellow marine Jack Kelso, who investigates the Suburbian Redevelopment Group as Cole is stonewalled by the corrupt police department. Cole is later killed in the final mission, and a flashback of Kelso ends the story.
    • One of the rare occurrences where the decoy protagonist is playable most of the game. However, the story is really how Cole's drive as a marine and a detective spurred Kelso to do the right thing and that Jack had a lot to learn from his rival, who was neither his friend nor his enemy.
  • Juna Crawford in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV takes up the mantle of protagonist for the first 30 hours of the game before Rean Schwarzer comes back to take the mantle. This is because at the climax of Cold Steel III, Rean lost control of his powers after he inadvertently kills the Nameless One, causing the curse to spread throughout the entire country and beyond. He is then captured by Osborne (along with Celine) and new Class VII woke up two weeks after the incident. Juna then finds out about Rean's real father but she's angry at old Class VII's inaction of not doing anything while Rean's captured so she rallies everyone to try and look for him.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Although Link is the player character for the entirety of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the main focus of the story is his Exposition Fairy Midna, an exile of the Twilight Realm, and the true Twilight Princess (contrary to a mid-game Title Drop when Midna refers to Zelda by that title) who seeks to defeat The Usurper Zant. Even Zelda and the main villains tend to directly talk to Midna during the important conversations while barely acknowledging Link's presence.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild starts off with an amnesiac Link trying to reclaim his memories as the player character and he remains as the player character for the entirety of the game. However, most of the Memories he recovers (and the story in general) focus on Princess Zelda and her struggles to live up to everyone's expectations of her and her own destiny.
  • In Megadimension Neptunia VII, Neptune and Nepgear shared the spotlight of the protagonist role at the first arc till Neptune is out of the picture to give more screen time for the Ultradimension version of Neptune. At the second arc, it's Neptune, Vert, Blanc, and Noire and when all the routes converge, Neptune's at the spotlight again. By the time the Heart Dimension arc happens, Hyperdimension Neptune realizes that the spotlight has been at Uzume and adult Neptune while she gets stuck with being a side character. She doesn't take it well.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Infamously done in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The game starts with you playing as the familiar hero Solid Snake and investigating the creation of a new Metal Gear - Metal Gear RAY. However, the tanker he is aboard is sunken about an hour into the game and he is presumed dead. After a Time Skip, you control Raiden, a rookie FOXHOUND operative, through the main portion of the game.
    • This is Played for Laughs in "Metal Gear Raiden: Snake Eater", which served as a follow-up to the original teaser for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. In this video, Raiden (after discovering that he will not be the protagonist of MGS4) travels back in time to kill Naked Snake in order to prevent Solid Snake from being born.
    • Played with in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The player is led to believe that the protagonist Venom Snake is the same character as Naked Snake (The Hero of Snake Eater, Peace Walker, and Ground Zeroes), only for him to turn out to be a brainwashed decoy who underwent facial reconstruction, while Ishmael (a character who helps out Venom Snake in the prologue) was the real deal. In a way, Venom Snake is his own decoy protagonist. Extends to the original game as well, with the revelation that Venom Snake will eventually become the "Big Boss" from the end of the original game, while Naked Snake doesn't show up until Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. In the end, Naked Snake decides that both himself and his decoy Venom Snake are the "real" Big Boss.
  • Joseph Allen in Modern Warfare 2, who is killed off in his second playable mission after leaping the Moral Event Horizon. Also implied with Gary 'Roach' Sanderson, whose role as a playable character seems to be to show off how badass 'Soap' MacTavish has become. Confirmed when Roach had a metaphorical bridge dropped on him so the rest of the game could be told from Soap's perspective.
    • The first Modern Warfare game has Sgt. Paul Jackson, who seems like he's going to be a second protagonist for the entire game until he's killed by a nuke. After this, the story focuses entirely on Soap's squad.
    • Practically exaggerated in Modern Warfare 3; the game has four decoy protagonists. The first is Andrei Harkov, bodyguard to President Boris Vorshevsky and his daughter Alena. After Vorshevsky is attacked by Makarov's men, it looks like Harkov's portion of the story will be focused on protecting them which immediately ends after he gets a bullet in the head and Alena is abducted one mission in. Next is Derek 'Frost' Westbrook, who's the decoy decoy protagonist. His missions aren't of any critical importance to the A plot, but he doesn't die along with the rest of his squad by the end of the game. The biggest decoy protagonist is Yuri, who used to be Makarov's partner until his Heel–Face Turn. (Guess what happens in the end?) And then there's Soap, who was the original protagonist in the first two game's after the decoy protagonists were killed. But in this game, he dies before you even have the chance to play as him. So who's the real protagonist in the series? Captain Price. You only get to play as him twice.
  • MOTHER 3 starts with a brief prologue where you play as Lucas, and also control Claus for the first battle of the game. (After the first main chapter, Claus is never seen again until the end of the game, except for as the Masked Man.) The first main chapter has you play as Flint as he looks for his wife and kids, and then for Claus a second time. (Again, Flint is never seen again until shortly before the game ends.) Chapter 2 focuses mainly on Duster, who actually is one of the core protagonists, but not the main one of those four. Chapter 3 is about Salsa, who afterwards, is only seen again at Chimera Laboratories. From chapter 4 onward, after the three-year skip, you play as Lucas, the boy you started the game as.
  • Muramasa: The Demon Blade: While the story selection screen claims Momohime's story is about her, she has little involvement with it. The real focus of the story is on Jinkuro.
  • In NieR: Automata, 2B is the primary protagonist for Route A, while the remaining routes are told mainly from 9S and A2's perspectives. She's briefly playable for the beginning of Route C, but she later asks A2 to Take Up My Sword right before dying, after which A2 and 9S become the protagonists.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has Junpei. Notably, he's still the main character, but just before the final puzzle it is revealed that you have been playing as Akane, not him, for the entire game.
  • Nintendo Wars: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin features Brenner as the protagonist until his Heroic Sacrifice, after which Will is the protagonist.
  • Persona 2 starts out with five protagonists: Tatsuya, Michel, Ginko, Maya, and Yukki. However, Yukki ends up being a decoy protagonist for Jun, a.k.a. Joker, who joins your party near the end of the game.
  • To some, it isn't immediately apparent that you're playing as Chaz in Phantasy Star IV, rather than Alys.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Phoenix has his name in the title and is the first character you control. However, he ultimately takes a backseat to Apollo, who has a far more personal stake in the game's events and is the player character for the final trial.
  • Silent Hill:
    • Harry Mason seems to be the protagonist of Silent Hill at first, but as the game goes on it becomes clear that the main focus is on Alessa Gillespie. Harry actually has very little importance to the plot, until he kills Alessa. In two of the endings, at least.
    • Silent Hill 4 has two examples of this. You start the game playing as Joseph Schreiber, gone mad from The Room's influence. After the prologue, you start playing as Henry Townshend... who still turns out not to be the protagonist, as most of the game focuses on Walter Sullivan. Though you still play as Henry the entire game.
    • Happens again in Silent Hill: Origins. Travis crashes his car at the edge of the titular town and stumbles right into the tangle of events surrounding what happened to Alessa (though of course he does have to deal with his own problems as well).
    • And again more famously in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The game switches back and forth between a first-person therapy session set in the present and third-person gameplay starring Harry Mason, making it look like Harry's reminiscing of Silent Hill while under therapy. The end reveals that the patient was Cheryl, Harry's daughter, and that the third-person PC was but a figment of Cheryl's imagination, distraught over her father's death many years ago. The therapy sessions weren't meant to cure Harry's trauma, but Cheryl's denial over Harry's death.
  • In The Silver Case, the promotional material makes it seem like Sumio is the primary protagonist, but he a side character at best and turns out to be the main antagonist of the third case and vanishes after that. On top of that, it is neither player characters - yourself, nor Tokio, as they don't actually accomplish anything by themselves or really get a grasp of the plot until the end. Instead, the main focus of the plot, and the one who drives it all forward is Kusabi.
  • At first glance, Sonic Battle is about Sonic and his friends messing around with Emerl, a cool robot that mimics their combat abilities. As the cast rotates babysitting Emerl and he starts developing an emergent personality, it gradually becomes apparent that Emerl is really the protagonist. The majority of Cream's and Shadow's chapters near the end of the game are played as Emerl, and the final chapter is his solo attempt to stop Eggman's plot.
  • At the beginning of Star Fox Adventures, you plays Krystal who investigates the destruction of her people in the Krazoa Palace. After releasing the first Krazoa Spirit, she gets sealed in a Crystal Prison and you play as Fox [McCloud] for the rest of the game.
  • In Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2, you start out playing as Luke Skywalker for two and a half missions, but when Luke's Snowspeeder gets shot down in the Battle of Hoth he gets replaced by Wedge Antilles, on Hoth and in subsequent missions. As we know, this is because while Luke survived, he didn't regroup with the others, so it was up to Wedge to lead Rogue Squadron.
  • Steambot Chronicles does a variant of this trope. In the optional tutorial stage, you play as Mallow, the hero's childhood friend.
  • This is also pulled in Street Fighter V's story. Who ultimately destroys Shadaloo and saves the world? Not Ryu, who appears at the start and the end, but spends most of the story training offscreen. Not Nash, who does have a central role but ultimately suicide bombs Vega / M. Bison / "Dictator" to weaken him at the end (so Ryu can finish him off). Instead it is Rashid. Looking for his friend (who doesn't survive the first 15 minutes of the story), he works alongside both the Illuminati and the World Warriors, and he ultimately stops the Black Moons from crashing into the Earth (with some help from his friend).
  • Newcomer Sakito Asagi in Super Robot Wars Original Generation Coffin of the End is the protagonist for the first 30+ chapters of the game. When you finally rescue the four elemental lords, Masaki takes over as the protagonist while Sakito gets Demoted to Extra, save for one subplot.
  • In-Universe version in Tak and the Power of Juju, where everyone thinks the warrior Lok is The Chosen One destined to defeat Big Bad Tlaloc. Considering whose name is in the title, it's pretty obvious to the players who the hero actually is.
  • Telltale's Game of Thrones: Ethan is built up as one of the main characters as Lord of House Forrester, but he is murdered in cold blood by Ramsay at the end of the first episode. Rodrick takes his place as lord after turning out to have survived the massacre. You even play as Ethan until he is killed.
  • Total Overdose pulls this twice. The first level is an older man... who is neutralized mysteriously. Then it's his son, who gets laid up in the hospital. Then it's the twin brother who takes up the guns and starts shooting everything.
  • Reimu, Byakuren, and Toyosatomimi no Miko from Touhou: Hopeless Masquerade are this. The game's premise sets up the three as the main protagonists, trying to gain the faith of the Human Village for their own religions, but in actuality the incident turns out to be the cause of Hata no Kokoro who's on a quest to find her lost Mask of Hope, which her interactions with the other characters help her develop as a Youkai.
  • The Turing Test features an unusual form of this. After Ava finds out from the audio logs that the crew believed that TOM, the AI sent to oversee the mission, was controlling them via their implants, a short while later Ava enters an area where there are signs on the walls declaring "YOU ARE BEING CONTROLLED", "DRONE", and "TOM'S SLAVE". The crew urge Ava to enter a Faraday cage through an area full of EM radiation, designed to mess with Tom's control over Ava. Sure enough, just like you might expect, your control over Ava during this section wanes, as you aren't free to choose your own path and Ava will start gradually wandering along in a certain direction if you don't press any buttons. As Ava approaches the cage, your vision gets more and more full of artifacts and glitches out, finally cutting out entirely when Ava enters the cage. Cue you looking down on Ava from a camera above. Turns out that the AI wasn't taking control over Ava - the AI was *losing* control of her. And you, the player, are *not* playing as Ava - you're playing as TOM, the AI.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Bernkastel actually attempts to hijack the whole setup through her game piece, Erika, effectively weaponizing this concept.
    • Battler also weaponizes it in EP 5. During the final battle against Dlanor, he argues that because he isn't the detective this time around, he has the right to lie and obfuscate facts as an observer. He's a subversion overall, though, as he fights to remain as the protagonist and ultimately earns it.
  • In WWE 12, when the player first starts the "Road To WrestleMania" mode, the first person they plays as is John Cena, who's about to wrestle The Undertaker. Cena comes out... only to get Brouge Kicked by Sheamus.
  • In the XCOM: Enemy Unknown tutorial Delta squad members all have names and talk to each other and command but 3 of them die before the mission ends. And the fourth might be well put in the locker by the player (or die) from the following mission onwards.
  • The prologue of Xenoblade introduces Dunban, a legendary hero who is the only one who can wield the legendary Monado. Then there's a Time Skip, and he's retired after losing the use of his right arm because he wasn't actually the true wielder of the Monado. We then meet Shulk, the game's actual protagonist, who can not only use the Monado but can also unlock many of its hidden abilities that Dunban couldn't. Unlike most examples of this trope, not only does Dunban not die, but later into the story takes further levels in badass and becomes a powerful party member in his own right, using a katana with only his left arm to fight.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: The customizable PC actually falls into this role. You are woken up from a pod at the beginning of the game by Elma, and that's your primary contribution to the plot for the rest of the story. Elma is the leader of the team, makes all the decisions, recruits new members, and is a celebrated veteran and war hero who is central to both humanity's survival efforts and the Ganglion storyline. It's possible to play minor side missions without her, but every story mission and nearly every affinity mission requires her in your party. The PC, on the other hand, is just an ace rookie with amnesia.
  • Yesterday starts you playing as a young, idealistic man named Henry White, the heir to a multi-million dollar fortune who wants to use his money to help the homeless. He gets captured by a crazy bum named Choke who talks to mannequins and wants to subject Henry to a witch trial (either he dies like a good person or survives like an evil and is shot), only to be saved by his friend, who kills Choke. Then, it's revealed that Henry is a serial killer who tortures hobos for fun, while Choke is an immortal who keeps coming back to life as a young man with no memories.
  • Yggdra Union starts out with a princess running for dear life from an enemy army, accidentally costing the leader of a band of thieves his fortress, and begging him to help her take her country back. Although you start out playing as thief Milanor and this looks like your classic Luke-and-Leia setup, Princess Yggdra becomes the player character very shortly after. Milanor himself remains a completely static character until the penultimate chapter, and is shunted into the role of mentor and sidekick. (The player does take control of him during certain points of the story where Yggdra isn't where the action is, however.)
    • Milanor's presence in the story at all, compared to his relative unimportance to the plot, is probably due to the need for a surrogate for male players—who might be uncomfortable at the idea of playing a game from the perspective of a (very feminine) girl.


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