Interestingly, with The Amazing Spider Man 2 being a video game adaptation of the film instead of a sequel, Gwen never shows up on screen, the Green Goblin's role is demoted to only his fight scene, Norman is already dead, and the Max Dillon/Electro subplot is given only slightly more attention than the Goblin.
Jessica got this in the second Another Code game. While her role was never huge to being with, mainly getting Ashley to go adventuring either by getting kidnapped or talking her into it, she at least provided some exposition in both her appearances in the first game. In the second game, she only has lines in her second time on-screen via a phone call that serves more as a recap that really moving anything.
Many playable characters from the first Baldur's Gate game make cameo appearances as NPCs in the sequel.
In the Super Robot Wars pastiche game Battle Moon Wars, this is transferred from Sacchin to Servant Assassin instead. All Servants made it to the game, even True Assassin, who only appears in one route and is obviously less popular. Sacchin is at least playable and can be acquired. But Assassin wasn't even included in any of those series, not even as Caster's Servant. Kotomine is also conspicuously absent, even though the plot explains why he isn't there. Then there's the representation of Kara no Kyoukai... we only got Ryougi, Touko, and Araya.
In Devil May Cry the romantic nature of Trish's relation to Dante was completely toned down once Hideki Kamiya was no longer at the helm of anything Devil May Cry-related; at the end of Devil May Cry she and Dante grew to be very close (their final theme tune that plays over the staff roll is even called "Seeds of Love Trish & Dante") and in Viewtiful Joe they appear to pretty much be a Battle Couple. Everything after that, however, gave a new angle to their relationship. In Devil May Cry 2, Trish isn't in the story at all, Dante is alone, and she is merely an one-note unlockable character. The anime (set before 2) made Trish work far away from Dante very often and played the fact she weirds him out due having his mother's appearance. Devil May Cry 3 (a prequel in which Trish isn't present) introduced the fact Dante is not very lucky with girls despite his appearance, and in Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition Trish even teases Dante about his inability to "get the girl" at the end (contrasting him with Nero and Kyrie), showing the two are mostly just good partners currently.
Squawks in Donkey Kong Country Returns is demoted from his role in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!. In those previous two games, Squawks was controllable and could fly around and shoot enemies. In DKCR, he's reduced to sitting in the corner of your screen and letting you know when there's a puzzle piece nearby to be found. Incidentally, Squawks as a playable character actually made him an Ascended Extra from the very first DKC where all he did was hold a flashlight for you in one level... before eventually being demoted again.
In the original arcade versions of the first two Double Dragon, Machine Gun Willy was undoubtedly the main bad guy, as he was the final boss in the first game and the guy who shoots the Lee brothers' girlfriend Marian in the second game. In the NES version of the first game, he is simply the last guy Billy faces before the final battle with his brother Jimmy and is a complete no-show in the second NES game. The people who made Battletoads & Double Dragon, aside from demoting him into a lackey to some made-up new villain, didn't even bother to get his name right. His Big Bad status was restored in the GBA version though.
In the first game, Jowan was meant to be a companion who would have joined after Redcliffe and taught the Blood Mage specialisation, but was cut early in development and his role in the story reduced to simply appearing in the Mage Origin and the Redcliffe questlines.
The Grey Wardens in Dragon Age II. While some of the fandom complained, this was actually justified. With the Blight defeated in the first game and the Darkspawn driven back into the Deep Roads, what exactly was there left for the Grey Wardens to actually do?
Any unchosen Origin character. All Origin stories involve Duncan, the Warden-Commander of Ferelden, coming to the aid/rescue of the main character due to some reason or another. In every playthrough, there are various hints through dialogue as to what happened to each unchosen Origins character, all of which are significantly less fortunate circumstances than the chosen Origins character.
Arl Rendon Howe, who conquered Highever while a majority of Teyrn Cousland's forces were away at Ostagar, most likely ended up killing the Human Noble alongside his/her parents, since Duncan was not there to whittle down Howe's forces and protect Teyrn Cousland alongside the hidden servant's passageway.
The Dwarf Noble, who was not fortunate enough to have Duncan come to their aid when captured by his traitorous brother, Prince Bhelen Aeducan, was exiled for the 'murder of his brother' to the Deep Roads, with only a slim chance of reaching the Legion of the Dead for safety.
The City Elf, who was not lent Duncan's sword, was most likely killed during his infiltration of the Arl of Denerim's Estate trying to save their brides, as well as the City Elf's cousin Shianni. This is backed by Shianni's hostiles attitude towards a non-Elf Warden during the Unrest in the Alienage quest, as well as both Soris and Vaughan being alive, albeit inside the Arl of Denerim's private dungeon.
The Dalish Elf most likely died in the same ruins as his/her friend, Tamlen, as Duncan was not there to bring the Dalish Elf out of the ruins to the safety of his/her clan's village.
The Mage, human or elf, most likely died during the events of the attempted Libertarian rebellion, and possibly became one of the many abominations that were slaughtered during the main quest-line involving the magi.
The Dwarf Commoner is revealed to have died in a cell in Beraht's hideout; this is confirmed by Leske, his friend, who was also in captivity. Leske claims that the Dwarf Commoner stopped eating, all for a "stupid bet". The events of the Dwarf Commoner's Origin story is referenced during the events of the Dwarf Noble's story that takes place a week later; when in the Proving Grounds, dialogue can lead to a recounting of a Proving that was infiltrated in the form of a "castless bruiser" winning while disguised as Everd.
While Sun Quan was often overshadowed by his father Sun Jian and (to a lesser extent) his brother Sun Ce in the series, DW6 ups this to the point where his father gets a story mode over him, the actual ruler of Wu. Keep in mind that only five characters (plus two in the special edition) per faction as well as "other" characters Diao Chan and Lu Bu have their own stories. Practically, Wu itself could be considered this compared to Wei and (especially) Shu.
And in DW7, with the addition of new faction Jin, guess which one of the three kingdoms will be focused in the earlier eras instead of the later eras?
Pang De. He debuts in DW5, and was quite the welcome addition. In DW6, he was turned into a generic officer as Word of God thinks he's not unique enough, and his weapon and personality got transferred to Zhang Liao, but then again lots of characters were cut. In DW7, most of the cut characters return... and still no Pang De in sight. Although Pang De made it back for the Xtreme Legends expansion, making the only one not yet cured from this trope being Zuo Ci.
Zuo Ci made a reappearance in DW8, although he only has one personal stage to his name.
Even if he appears in all games since his debut, Guan Ping has been suffering this since 7. First, the most canon appearance he gets will be just about Fan Castle, where he will be unplayable and proceeds to die doing a failed You Shall Not Pass!. And with the inclusion of Liu Shan, his budding romance with Xingcai, which was introduced in 5, vanishes out of thin air as Xingcai focuses more on babysitting Liu Shan (may be historically justified as Guan Ping would've died far before Xingcai would come to age). They still give teases like they're still close friends in case of free modes, but that's it.
The Qiaos (Daqiao and Xiaoqiao) and Cai Wenji of Wu and Wei respectively suffer through this. In 7, it's best described that the Wu and Wei stories took place in a universe where neither existed while in 8 their only appearance in the story (let alone as playable characters) is in the Hypothetical path.
Zhou Tai gets a demotion in the Hypothetical route of Wu in 8. In the Historical route he becomes an increasingly important character, but in the Hypothetical route he doesn't appear at all.
Jiang Wei was another character to suffer removal from the story altogether in 6 due to Word of God.
In Fallout 3, Paladin Vargas, right-hand man to Sentinel Lyons and an essential ally during "Following in his Footsteps", is reduced to an expendable Red Shirt during "Take it Back!".
Although Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is meant to be a sequel to the original game, practically nobody other than Cloud, Vincent and Tifa get any screen time, so practically the entire cast falls into this trope. Ironic in Vincent's case, as he was an Optional Party Member in the game while his role in the film is much larger than regular characters like Barrett, Cid and Red. Dirge of Cerberus fixed this for many characters; while Cloud and Tifa were given nary more than a cameo, Barret unfortunately was grouped with them. Red XIII meanwhile was by far the least shown named character in both installments and can barely even be called an extra at all by now.
In Final Fantasy IX, Freya features rather prominently in the first disc after her introduction, but pretty much as soon as her race is massacred, she only appears in battle until the epilogue. Painfully ironic given that her character quote is "To be forgotten is worse than death."
Final Fantasy XII winds up doing this to the so-called "hero" Vaan and his girlfriend Penelo a quarter of the way through the game once the other party members join and steal the plot. You'll hear nary a peep out of them for many hours until the end of the end, where they only finally get a starring role again in the epilogue. Word of God is Basch was supposed to be the main character, which makes more sense considering the vast majority of game events revolve around him. All things considered, Vaan's really more of Audience Surrogate than a true protagonist, even if he figures into Ashe's character arc.
Prior to the release of the game, Jihl Nabaat was given quite a bit of attention for an extra from the Final Fantasy XIII trailers and information released on them. Just when you think she would play a major part in the game and fight you, she gets killed off in a rather unceremonious fashion by Galenth Dysley before she has the chance to do so. Talk about getting taken out like some punk. They do get their own battle in the sequel's Coliseum area (via DLC) and can be added to your party if defeated, but that's a small consolation.
Final Fantasy XIII was also originally meant to have seven party members, but implementation problems led to Serah being reduced to an NPC. This led to Lightning becoming a more serious character which then led to Fangbecoming a woman.
In Final Fantasy XIII-2, the entire original cast suffers from this, but especially Sazh. While the others make either physical appearances (Hope, Snow, Lightning) or are significant to the backstory (Fang and Vanille) Sazh is only referenced a few times in passing, last seen flying an airship and mysteriously disappearing. (Though one of Snow's temporal messages implies he saw him floating around in the Historia Crux...)
The only way for Sazh have an actual physical appearance in the game is via DLC.
Also done in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII where the focus is obviously on Lightning for majority of the game. She's the only playable character, although Hope plays a somewhat important role as her Mission Control. The rest of the characters are turned into NPCs, some of which you fight, team up with or just talk to. Sazh, once again, gets the shaft by isolating himself in the game to seem to be doing nothing (unless you glimpse him walking around a city).
Most characters cease to have dialogue by the first 1-3 chapters after you've recruited them. Although slightly subverted by the revolutionary character development advent of Support Conversations in the majority of later games (including almost every game released in English, save for a single oddity and a sequel), as well as the base conversations of FE9 and FE10 (which incidentally served the character development purposes in FE10).
Evident in Path of Radiance, where the mysterious Volke tells Ike the truth after getting 50,000 gold. Results in a Didn't See That Coming where Volke was originally hired to kill Ike's father if he lost control, and to do research on Lehran's Medallion. After that, Volke has little to no relevance in the entire game aside from being a good unit.
Even worse in Radiant Dawn, where Volke is hired to do research by Count Bastian himself about the feral potion, because apparently, Elincia's uncle has been turned feral in Part 4. Which ends up not being relevant at all, because the person in question gets healed by a heron and ends out fine. Volke shows up the last chapter before Endgame, despite apparently having been doing this for the entire game.
Downplayed with Lyn in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. She's not exactly irrelevant after her tale, but she doesn't hold quite as much importance to the overarching plot as Hector or Eliwood. She still contributes greatly to the army, however, and remains a valuable member of the group.
The same game also does this to a few characters from Binding Blade. Fae and Sophia, both playable characters, are reduced to cameo appearences in Blazing Sword, while Murdoch, The Dragon from Binding Blade, shows up in Blazing Sword for a role so minimal it could have been filled by a Mook. Justified since Blazing Sword is a prequel, so these appearences were more intended as inverted Early Bird Cameos.
The Second Generation characters became this in the 3DS games. When it was first introduced in the Japan-exclusive Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the children characters became the main characters after the first 5 chapters of the game. In Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates, they are mostly optional characters who have little relevance to the story of those games. While Awakening does have plot-related reasons to include the second generation due to time travel, and one of the second gen characters, Lucina, is actually a main character and thus avoids the "extra" role most of the game, Fates makes the children completely irrelevant, and seems to be somewhat mishandled in how the concept of it in that game.
Toy Freddy and Toy Bonnie are only present in Five Nights at Freddy's 3 as shells in a box. They don't receive phantom hallucinations, nor do they appear in minigames with BB, Toy Chica and Mangle.
Bonnie zig-zags this; while he's the only original animatronic who only appears as decoration around Fazbear's Fright and doesn't have a phantom counterpart, the Big Bad of the game, Springtrap, is a predecessor/variant of him originally named "Spring Bonnie".
The Toy animatronics are only present as toys in the after-night minigames (though Mangle does get a Nightmare counterpart in the non-canon Halloween edition).
Despite being the Greater-Scope Villain of the series with increasing prominence as the games went on, the murderer is only seen in an Easter Egg cameo in the minigame after Night 2, making no impact on the plot whatsoever.
Isn't it sad, Justice? After the first game, sure it's understandable you're dead, but you barely had any lasting impact beyond possibly being Dizzy's mother. Even this wiki has forgotten it was YOU who was the first to use the Gamma Ray move in a GG game. There's also Kliff Undersn, who's only canonical appearance in GG1ends with him dying at the hands of the aforementioned Justice. When they do appear, they're probably only added due to fan demand and are usually removed due to balance issues. Likewise, when given their own story paths in these appearances, these tales are retellings of either the first events of the first game or the specific dates from the Crusades prior to GG1.
The series' resurgence in The New '10s with Guilty Gear Xrd provides an interesting wrinkle to the above example. Justice is still an NPC, but factors greatly into the plot of both -SIGN- and -REVELATOR-; the main villains of both titles seek to merge with her (mostly) vacant body for their own purposes. Additionally, flashbacks and other revelations throughout both installments heavy focus on Justice's former human identity, Aria. If that wasn't enough, while the Valentines seen throughout Overture and Xrd are all but said to be genetic copies of Aria (with the original even regaining some of "her" memories upon her deathbed), -REVELATOR- newcomer Jack-O' turns out to more or less be the woman in question, essentially serving as a backup copy of Aria holding half of her soul after Aria/Justice was corrupted by her contact with the Universal Will in the backstory. The ending of -REVELATOR- sees Jack-O' merging with Justice to revive Aria, who will presumably pick up the slack for her myriad previous identities in the next iteration of Xrd.
Dizzy doesn't fare much better than her mother despite being the arguable tritagonist of the series since her X debut. While she's understandably targeted by the series' Ancient Conspiracy in X and XX due to her status/abilities as a Commander Gear and connection to Justice, the entries following Accent Core Plus see Dizzy's plot signifance significantly reduced. She spends all of GG2 in stasis due to Ky (her "husband") needing to freeze time around her to prevent Dizzy from undergoing sublimation, a fate that isn't reversed until the late stages of -SIGN-. Though the newly resuscitated Dizzy does play a keyrole in defeating Justice once her corpse is "reactivated" by the Conclave and gets to reunite with Ky and their son Sin, she's once again noticeably absent for the majority of -REVELATOR- save for joining in on a mass Big Damn Heroes moment near the end... despite the narrative being centered around who gets to resurrect her mother first. At least REV 2 gives Dizzy her own story path in Episode Mode, lessening the sting a little.
In Halo, the Arbiter goes from being an intriguing character in Halo 2 to a one-line-wonder whose in-game A.I. has the intelligence of a slug in Halo 3. That said, player two still gets to play as him in 3's co-op mode, allowing the Arbiter to establish a respectable position as the Chief's erstwhile ally and badass-in-arms. While the Arbiter has never regained a protagonist role, his importance has been reemphasized in later media, to the point where he's become one of the main Big Goods, showing up as an important Supporting Leader in Halo 5: Guardians.
Cinderella Girls: Rei was first released on November 2011 (when the game launched), but didn't get a new card until the Halloween Party gacha in October 2013. She's the idol who has spent the longest time having only one card.
Dearly Stars: Yumeko. Hello and goodbye, Ms. Relatively Minor Character! No albums for you! By the time Ai and Eri make cameos for Ryou's day off card in SideM, she's demoted even harder by virtue of being too booked to show up.
SideM: In-universe — Nao was the star of the show he and Shiro were originally castmates on, but Shiro is the leader of their idol unit.
All the characters from Jump Start (that weren't eliminated entirely earlier) had this happen to them in the massively multiplayer online game that's now the series' main product; only Frankie remains prominent.
Kessen II is likely the worst standing culprit to the above. The story opts for a fictional angle depicting Diao Chan as Liu Bei's primary love interest and completely focuses on his and Cao Cao's conflict. Wu is only seen twice in the entire game.
Naminé and Axel were major characters in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, but their roles were greatly reduced in Kingdom Hearts II (probably because, once Roxas was gone and Sora's memories were restored, Naminé didn't have much else she could possibly do except remergewith Kairi, and Axel was supposed to die in the prologue as a tutorial boss, but he was Saved by the Fans and his role extension had to be small or it would clash with what was already plotted out).
Also after Kingdom Hearts II, Kairi was dropped from all importance while just Sora and Riku received further focus. Even in Kingdom Hearts III, despite being trained as a Keyblade wielder, she still gets sidelined by being killed by Xehanort yet again.
A Disney example would be pretty much everyone Frozen. Even though Arendelle appears as a world in Kingdom Hearts III, Sora only interacts with each of the Frozen cast once which has no bearing on the plot before they are relegated as background characters where the plot goes on exactly like the movie without Sora's further input to the point that he might as well not be there in the first place. Special mentions to this trope however goes to Prince Hans in that despite being the main villain of Frozen, only appears in two brief non-speaking appearances before randomly turning into a Heartless as the world's Boss Battle.
The series demotes the protagonist of the previous arc for the following arc. Kyo's importance to the plot during the Orochi Saga was downgraded to make room for K' in the NESTS Chronicles and then K' himself moved down to make way for Ash Crimson in the Tales of Ash arc. After being demoted the character continues to add to the story (Kyo was used as a base for a series of clones in the NESTS arc and K' got to fight Mukai in 2003) but it's the current main character who gets the spotlight and wraps up the saga.
The American Sports Team from The King of Fighters '94, only returned as playable characters in one game and that was KOF '98. Their other appearances in the series were mostly just background and ending cameos. Even worse, the team is reduced to Butt Monkeys; officially, they get mugged for their invitations every. Single. Year.
Ryuji's the only surviving member of the Hakkesshu, not that he gives a shit or anything about it. With Orochi's justifiably minimal presence after the climax of the Orochi Saga, Yamazaki has only seen two non-Dream Match appearance since '97 (KOF 2003 and XIV, the latter of which coming some thirteen years after 2003).
Happens to Kensou in some of Athena's games, specially the Dating Sim ones where the player character assumes the role of her manager or just an average guy seeking for love. Since said games are from the player character's POV, Kensou serves only as a cameo, in a continuity where apparently he won't compete with the given player character regardless of his feelings, or actually such affections aren't romantic at all. Exception goes Awakening from the Ordinary Life, as mentioned in this page before, Kensou gets the chance to be a great support to Athena.
Speaking of Kensou, both he and 2003 newcomer Duo Lon received a form of this come XIV. '99 introduced a plot point about a great power of mysterious origin residing within Kensou (and also shared with fellow Psycho Soldier Bao) known as the Dragon Spirit, with the following installment introducing the Hizoku, a group of Chinese assassins. Their former leader, Ron, appears as a Striker for Zero in 2001 and expresses an interest in Kensou's power and his apparent mastery over it come XI, with the reveal that he's also allied with Lin (a Hizoku member first seen in 2000 who was hunting down Ron) and Misty (the lover of Igniz, the Final Boss of 2001 who tried to usurp command of the NESTS cartel). Ron's son, the aformentioned Duo Lon, is brought into the KOF tournament while looking into leads on his father, and XIII even suggests that Saiki, the Arc Villain for that leg of series, has been in contact with Ron. If you were expecting that XIV would finally bring these long-teased plot threads center stage, you'll be disappointed: Kensou has no greater amount of plot importance than he usually does, and Duo Lon isn't even present for the events of that game's tournament. However, as XIV appears to be a standalone installment, it is possible the next arc will "remedy" the situation.
Knights of the Old Republic: Bastila and Carth, the two main romance options and the most plot-relevant party members in the first game, become this in the second. Carth is only seen during cutscenes and a brief meeting with the Exile near the end of the game. The only time Bastila appears in person is a cameo near the end of the game, provided the player makes the PC from the first game a Light Side male. Otherwise she only appears as a vision in Ludo Kressh's tomb and if the first game's PC is Dark Side, as a hologram of a Sith holocron in the abandoned Sith Academy. Depending on the first game's PC's gender, Bastila or Carth also appears as a hologram of their message to T3-M4.
Juzoh and Mukuro/Shikyoh are reduced from playables to just mini game-only characters in the GBC version of the game. Musashi just disappears completely.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III demotes everyone from Class VII, sans Rean, into supporting casts to make way for the new Class VII. Meanwhile Altina Orion, who was originally an antagonist in Cold Steel II, is now promoted to main character status.
Impa. According to the Hyrule Historia, originally Ganon was just the bad guy and it was Link, Zelda, and Impa forming a Power Trio that protected Hyrule. Then Ocarina of Time came around and Ganon became the third member of the trinity.
She's really only seen in the joined game of the The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games, although the manga indicates that she's the one who sends Link to the aid of Din and Nayru.
The only reference to Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is that Link briefly mistakes Marin for her. As with Majora's Mask, justified since she's back in Hyrule and the game takes place outside its borders.
There were initially going to be three The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games with Farore playing a large role in the third, but the developers decided it'd be too complicated to link three games so they made her the Oracle of Secrets instead.
Vaati in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures gets shunted to the side very early in the game. While he is freed by Link due to him pulling out the Four Sword and breaking the seal, it turns out it was all a ruse by Ganon. Ganon used the Dark Mirror to create Shadow Link so it could cause chaos and have Link pull out the Four Sword to release Vaati and trick Link into thinking Vaati was the one behind everything. Vaati not only has the standard boss battle theme when you fight him, but he also has absolutely no dialogue at all.
There's also Zetta's original body. Zetta loses his original body in the beginning of the game and turns into a book. He regains his original body at the end of the game, but in his subsequent appearances in other Nippon Ichi titles he only appears in book form. This is finally averted in Disgaea 4
The entire hanar race in Mass Effect 2. There are zero conversations with them and only background references.
In Mass Effect 3, most party members from Mass Effect 2. While Garrus and Tali are the only ones to return as party members, Mordin, Thane, Legion and Miranda play important roles in the main game. The rest appear in side missions.
Harbinger, the Big Bad of Mass Effect 2, despite still being the leader of the Reapers in Mass Effect 3, only briefly appears once at the end of the game. He doesn't get any lines, and the only actual indication that the Reaper who tries to kill Shepard (again) is Harbinger is because you're specifically told that it's him and his appearance is unique among the other Reapers.
Wrex, Liara and Kaiden/Ashley, who all were party members in the original game, become extras in Mass Effect 2, forced to undergo their own missions parallel to Shepard's quest. They all become important again, come Mass Effect 3, depending on who you've left alive. Wrex becomes a major ally (and a Guest-Star Party Member in the Citadel DLC), while the others are available to join as permanent party members again.
For that matter, even Captain/Councillor/Admiral David Anderson receives this treatment in the second game. Although not a party member, in the first game he does serve as a major driving force for Commander Shepard and plays a pretty important part late in the game. In the sequel, he only really has one scene with Shepard, and even then, it's optional. In the third game he again becomes a major figure, serving as a Guest-Star Party Member early on and again playing a key role in the climax.
Legion and Morinth from Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC were the only two squadmates without their own lines. Somewhat justifiable as Legion's appearance in the game was tied into the Rannoch arc which resulted in his death, either way, while Morinth is said to have been on the run and likely had been turned into a Banshee by this point. Mordin gets this treatment to an extent too, though he gets some recorded lines found on a holopad next to your bed after the party. However, he doesn't make a physical appearance, since he's either dead or faking his death.
In a non-character example, the Citadel itself somewhat becomes this in the second game. In the first and third games, it somewhat acts as a secondary Hub Level after the Normandy and was the scene of several important plot developments, while in the second game it's only briefly visited to accomplish a few sidequests, the most important ones being the loyalty missions of two characters. Depending on how the player plays the game, they may be able to accomplish everything they need to do in the Citadel in just one visit!
One of the reasons for the demotion of the Citadel in 2 was due to the introduction of Omega as the new secondary Hub Level, rather apropos as Shepard is forced to work with the Evil Counterpart of the Alliance, on their Evil KnockoffNormandy and make berth in the Citadel's Evil Counterpart in the Terminus Systems.
Omega in turn gets this in Mass Effect 3, due to having been invaded by Cerberus between games. While Shepard eventually allows it to be retaken in the Omega DLC, it's sadly not visitable afterwards.
It seems like Capcom's once beloved mascot, Mega Man, has now suffered from this. After a series of games starring the "blue bomber", Zero, whom was first introduced in Mega Man X has seemly taken over. By Mega Man X4, Zero had the storyline with more Character Development, while Mega Man was portrayed as one track minded. Then followed a series of handheld games starring Zero called Mega Man Zero. This alone wouldn't be a problem, but then you had Capcom cancelling the much talked about Mega Man Legends 3 which received a huge backlash from fans. And in the Marvel vs. Capcom series of fighting games, Mega Man was once a playable character, but he once again was replaced by Zero, whom as of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is easily one of the best characters in the series. Then there was the promise to put Mega Man in Street Fighter X Tekken, only for Capcom to use the crappy American box-art version from the original 8-bit NES game, which again received hateful responses. The streak of bad luck finally ended when the original 8-bit Mega Man was revealed as a playable character in the fourth Super Smash Bros. game. Later on down the line, Capcom themselves would introduce Mega Man X as a playable character in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, but all remained quiet on the platformer front... until Mega Man 11 was officially announced for a 2018 released during the 30th anniversary stream.
Pat Sprigs (AKA Gemini Spark), from Mega Man Star Force, is a major character in the first game, to being an optional boss in the second, to only having a few references in battle cards in the third game.
Kitana got a much smaller role as a simple cameo in Mortal Kombat 4 in Liu Kang's ending (though she was intended to be playable and remains Dummied Out) before being restored as a playable character in Gold.
Several characters who were only playable once or twice (like Stryker, Kintaro, Kai, Fujin) returned as NPCs in Deception's Konquest Mode.
In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks the Secret Characters from II Smoke and Noob Saibot were demoted from hidden AI-only characters to an optional quest giver and a minor cameo respectively. The third secret character, Jade, averted it however.
Happens to Chou-Chou in the sequel to Mugen Souls, Mugen Souls Z. In the beginning of Z, she loses her powers and gets shrunk down to a chibi sized version of herself. From there, she's practically useless except for being the supporting guide for Syrma, the game's main character, who she rides on.
Odin gets this pretty bad in Odin Sphere, despite being the title character! Despite making a decent role in everyone's storyline (except Cornelius', where he essentially just cameos early on), and all of the truly massive amounts of storyline hyping he gets, Odin gets knocked off rather easily at the end of the game, where he gets overwhelmed by the undead and killed by a Halja.
Since the games are Non Linear Sequels and each new generation introduces a brand new region filled with new characters, this is inevitable in Pokémon. Only a handful of human characters are reoccurring, and almost all of these are just NPCs. The Pokemon themselves fare better, but their availability fluctuates from game to game: a Pokemon species may be all too common or be the main focus of the plot in one set of games while being virtually non-existent in the next.
Granny Riddleton started off as a mysterious secondary character in the first two games, but was replaced by a talking bee, and later by her granddaughter in the third game, though she did get a small appearance near the beginning of the third game. In the fourth, however, she simply appears as a cameo before being replaced by a cat. She does come back in full force for the fifth game, under the guise of Elizabeth, only to once again be replaced by the cat in the sixth, making only a brief cameo to introduce said cat.
Poor, poor Rayman. Originally the star of his self titled franchise, he has slowly been getting shoved to the sides by those damned Rabbids. This hijacking has gotten to the point where an entire game is a Katamari-like game starring the Rabbids. Rayman is nowhere to be found, even in the title. Luckily he got back in the spotlight in Rayman Origins.
The series has always been known for bringing in and kicking out new and old characters like a revolving door, but even then, the five characters with the biggest stage presences (Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Leon S. Kennedy, and Ada Wong) aren't immune from this. Claire gets the worst of it - after being a major player character for two games (Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica), she's off the map until the CG film, Resident Evil: Degeneration. While she's still in the fight against bioterrorism, she takes a passive role at the company TerraSave. Chris also has less presence in favor of Leon in Resident Evil 6, but his status as the hero of RE5 and Revelations might have something to do with that.
Luis from Resident Evil 4 isn't playable in mercenary mode, despite the fact that he showed himself to be capable of using a gun in story mode and a total badass, yet Hunk, who has no bearing in the main story, appears.
In Robopon 2, Lisa, Cody's girlfriend, has a bit part compared to the first game, which she lampshades.
Rosenkreuz Stilette: Spiritia and her fairy Lili are kidnapped at the very beginning of Freudenstachel, and not seen again until the Final Boss leaves her Brainwashed and Crazy in the finale. And she's the main heroine! Justified as Freudia was always planned to star in her own game, and her main goal is to bring her back.
SaGa Frontier's Fuse is much like Sacchin; he was supposed to have his own quest route and be a playable hero and so on and so forth, but when time constraints ate the development team, that got dropped entirely (along with a lot of the playable characters' sidequest material - the game wasn't exactly a polished work). He's recruitable by any/all the other characters but all that remains of what would've been his storyline is a few debug rooms. Woe!
The Silver Saint Sagitta Ptolemy was one of the bosses in Saint Seiya Ougon Densetsu, but appeared briefly in the prologue introduction of its sequel game.
Several characters in the series, including Earthquake, Wan-Fu, Genan, Sieger, Jubei and Cham Cham (although a few of them returned as playable characters in later games, and Jubei was included in certain ports of Samurai Shodown III).
Ukyo Tachibana, despite appearing in nearly every game, is this. He was first introduced as The Rival for Haohmaru (being based on Sasaki Kojiro while Haohmaru is based on Miyamoto Musashi). Then in the second game, they introduced Haohmaru's true rival with the story connections to go: Genjuro Kibagami. Afterwards, Ukyo became more irrelevant to the main storyline, going so low as being beaten like a Cannon Fodder in Haohmaru's ending in IV, but still appear in the games due to fan demand.
Because the SD Gundam G Generation games obviously can't include everything, something inevitably has to be removed in the end. Generation of C.E. is an interesting example; it was released around episode 39 of Gundam SEED Destiny, and so only covers the MS up to Strike Freedom, meaning Infinite Justice, the Akatsuki, and DOM Trooper aren't included. For that matter, neither is the Legend Gundam, despite the fact that it did appear before S-Freedom.
Sonic and All Stars Racing did this to NiGHTS who is demoted to a cameo. Which is better than nothing: originally NiGHTS wasn't to appear at all, and it was only after an extensive emailing campaign by a fan site that NiGHTS was placed in as the flag-bearer.
The sequel added NiGHTS to the playable roster, with Ristar taking its place as the flag-bearer.
Kojuro becomes an NPC once again in SB3 after only becoming playable for an expansion and PSP game. Then he's playable once more in Utage.
Also in the Ranse Ranbu manga, at least in the first volume. Partially justified as it was based on the first game (and he appeared in the second one).
Toshiie like several others, Sengoku Basara 3 made him into an NPC, but was made playable in Utage. He's back to being an NPC in the fourth game.
Matsu joins her husband in NPC land in Sengoku Basara 3, but became playable in Utage. Like her husband, she returns to NPC status in the fourth game (at least until the expansion).
Keiji hasn't been a poster boy since his debut in 2, and these days even Masamune and Yukimura's second-in-commands Kojuro and Sasuke as well as Motonari and Motochika get far more merchandise released for them in comparison.
In Devil Kings, Mitsuhide/Reaper got demoted to an NPC. Then, when he becomes Tenkai in SB3, he's an NPC once again, before becoming playable in Utage. And now Mitsuhide is an NPC again in SB4
Oddly subverted in SB4: Mitsuhide himself is a NPC, but his alter ego, Tenkai, is playable.
Shingen is an NPC in 4, but isn't Put on a Bus, unlike in 3.
As of Sengoku Basara 4 Yukimura's no longer a poster boy, with the more popular Mitsunari taking his place as main character and Masamune's rival. Eventually subverted, since the rivalry is still very much present, and it even gets an exclusive.
While prominent in some of the promotional material, Yukimura starting to suffer from this in SB3. He is less important to the overall storyline than some of the unplayable characters. When fought in other characters' story lines, he is usually a filler opponent that does nothing to advance the story. Even in Masamune's story line, where Yukimura would be expected to feature more prominently, his role is pretty minor and serves very little role in the story.
Like Kojuro Sasuke's an NPC in Sengoku Basara 3. And back to a PC in Utage.
Kenshin goes from PC to NPC in Sengoku Basara 3 due to Shingen's absence. He returns to PC status again in Utage along with Kasuga, but returns to NPC status in 4.
Like Kenshin, Kasuga's an NPC in Sengoku Basara 3. She returns to PC status in Utage along with Kenshin as well as returning to NPC status in the fourth game (at least until an expansion comes along). She has one scene in "The Last Party". And she's unconscious when it happens.
In 7th Dragon (2020-II) Rin is largely outside the spotlight. The personal drama now centers around Emelle.
Brahma, despite being equal to Shiva and Vishnu in Hinduism, makes very few appearances in the franchise. The second Digital Devil Saga game does make use of his appearance...and gives it to Brahman, a totally different concept, while Shiva and Vishnu are high-end Bonus Bosses.
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Beelzebub's role as Dragon has also been taken over by Lilith, and only appears as a Bonus Boss. Also, Belial is fought as a boss in Lucifer Palace, the final dungeon in the game on the Neutral and Law routes. However, Nebiros is simply a random encounter found earlier in the game. In addition, while Metatron can be fused, he sadly plays absolutely no role at all in the plot. Finally, Mastema, who played a major role in the previous game, plays very little role in the main game. DLC, however, gives him an expanded role.
Willie Trombone is only briefly present in the intro and ending cutscenes of Skullmonkeys. And as a power-up.
This happened to Spyro the Dragon with Skylanders. While originally launched as a new Spyro game it quickly became its own franchise, being more of a spinoff than an actual reboot. Spyro himself does not play a role larger than any of the other characters, and only the first game has Spyro's name in the title.
For the first Skylanders Spyro came with every copy, had three variations, and was in the title. In the other installments, he's dropped out of the title and Spyro isn't available with a copy of the game.
Hugo appears in the introductory scene of Giants to give the Skylanders their mission, but doesn't come along on the adventure.
In Swap Force, Cali only appears once in an early cinematic.
Dimitri in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, who goes from playable character to informant for the gang as they time travel. Which is strange seeing that he has his old voice actor in the credits.
In The Smurfs 2, the Winslows are only given a brief cameo contained entirely within a cutscene, where Papa and the others briefly pop into New York to learn Gargamel's whereabouts before immediately leaving them behind.
Characters such as Robert Garcia, Mature, Daimon, Yang and Andy get only passing mentions, assist roles, or cameos, in the entire Capcom vs. SNK series. This is very noticeable in the SNK side, because most of the KOF teams (sans the Women Fighters Team) are incomplete in the games. For example, the Art of Fighting Team lacks Robert, the Fatal Fury Team lacks Andy, the Japan Team lacks Goro Daimon, the Villain Team lacks Billy Kane, and so on. Chang also shares his moveset with Choi in Capcom vs. SNK 2, but Choi got into SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos with Chang only getting cameos.
In SOCOMUS Navy Seals, Kahuna returns as a member of Bravo Element in SOCOM Tactical Strike (Even though he was the protagonist in the first game), while Sandman gets demoted to being under Wraith's command. Let's not forget Lonestar, who gets killed off after being your main ally in the first two Fireteam bravos.
Even Tails isn't immune to this despite the above paragraph. Granted, it's not as pronounced as he does get substantial time as a supporting character even in the games he is not playable in, but considering in-story he is Sonic's partner in heroism, his gameplay role still seems limited. For example in the standalone Sonic & Knuckles, he only appears in the closing cutscene if the game is played as Sonic note It's averted if you play the full game however, which gives you the option of having Tails accompany Sonic for the entire game barring the True Final Boss and in games like Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations he mostly just hangs around while Sonic is taking care of business.
The Chaos Emeralds also go from being a central plot point of the series to an optional extra sidequest in both versions of Sonic Colors. Averted for Chaos Emeralds on the DS port. Gathering all of them allows you to access the True Final Boss and also to witness the Golden Ending.
Poor Amy gets this pretty bad. She's more or less the fourth semi-main character along with Knuckles and Tails, but rarely gets much focus outside playable games. In the Game Gear spinoffs she appears in the two Drift games, and in the first Adventure and Heroes, she becomes a main character. In Adventure 2 she has an important role helping Shadow follow his HeelFace Turn, but otherwise spends her time lamenting she doesn't have much to do and is an alternate skin in multiplayer. 06 gives her a minor role, but otherwise ever since that game she gets non-playable cameos in Unleashed, Generations, and briefly Lost World, but that's it.
Cream has it even worse. Outside of Heroes as part of Team Rose, the second and third Advance games, Battle, and the uncanonical Chronicles, she's not had any playable appearances, and is lucky to get side character status. Sonic X was unusual in that it made her a frequently reoccurring supporting character and had at least a few lines in every episode. Even in Team Sonic Racing, a game that brought back Big the Cat of all characters, she was overlooked for Team Rose in favor of... Omochao.
Berserkers, Assassins and Lizardmen in Soulcalibur II. The characters they're based on (Rock, Hwang and Aeon respectively) do return in III thoughnote Though in Hwang's case, it was in the updated arcade version.
Soulcalibur III began the shift of focus more towards certain storylines, even as it fleshed out all of them. As a result, certain characters who were present since the start of the series faded more into the background as it went on.
Soulcalibur V's redesigned Story Mode received criticism because only the main characters, Patroklos and Pyrrha receive any kind of backstory and characterization. Most of the new characters have an average of only five lines and contribute minimally to the advancement of the plot. Two returning characters actually have NO dialogue and leap out of nowhere in order to be fought. Nine of the returning characters don't make a single appearance in the game's story. Made worse by the fact that it's no longer possible to read character bios in the game. In order to learn what the rest of the characters have been up to since the 17 year time skip, one has to view their official online profiles. Additionay, two major and fan-favorite characters, Talim and Zasalamel, were removed from the story entirely. Unlike others who at least had mention of what they did after Soulcalibur IV, their profiles just stop. There's also Algol, but averted with the artbook, revealing he is The Man Behind the Man. While everybody else is caught up in destroying the Soul swords, he's secretly corrupting the world's energy flux in the hopes of conquering it when everybody is weakened.
Previously in Spelunky, the Damsel and the Tunnel Man were secret playable characters, but were removed from the available roster in the remake.
Victor Coste serves as a partner in the tutorial for Splinter Cell Blacklist, but is put into critical condition by a grenade by the end of it, and remains in the hospital for the game's duration until the ending.
Kachinsky was supposed to have his own mission chain but it was scrapped. He does get to be the default profile picture for people who haven't earned avatar achievements yet, and is seen wandering around every room on the ship, as well as being the voice of the short-lived committee debating mutiny against Raynor.
Scout is seen a few times as a campaign unit but is otherwise replaced by the Phoenix.
Liberty from the StarCraft Novels, was going to the one behind the news reports in Wings of Liberty, but the developers decided his anti-Dominion bias would limit the scope of his stories, so he was replaced with Kate and Donny.
In earlier versions of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Lassara was to be initially hostile to Kerrigan, remembering all she did as the Queen of Blades, but seeing Kerrigan show mercy to the other colonists softened her and she began to speak more familiar and openly to her. This entire subplot was dropped from the final game and Lassara is little more than a Protoss to talk two for all of two missions, before she gets turned into the host for a Zerg Larva so Kerrigan can sabotage a shuttle headed towards Shakuras and prevent the Protoss from alerting the Golden Armada.
About half the cast of playable characters in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time falls into this. Nel, Albel, and Mirage are fairly important characters in disk 1, then in disk 2 fade into obscurity. Adray, Peppita and Roger do this as well, though they never had a particularly major hand in the plot to begin with (Roger being the only 100% optional character). Since you are only allowed to bring along two characters out of Nel, Albel, Roger, and Peppita, the game has to fit their dialogue in rather awkwardly, and the other characters rarely if ever acknowledge their presence. Mirage is perhaps the most painful example, however - she doesn't even get this courtesy, since she was added in a version after the original released in Japan, and as such essentially gets no dialogue at all after she joins the party!
Chancellor Martok and Admiral Sela in the penultimate campaign in the first game of Star Trek: Armada. You control their ships but they have no lines or actual role in the plot.
In Season 8 of Star Trek Online. Most of the EMH's part of the tutorial was cut for the redesigned tutorial.
On a bigger level, the Federation and the Klingons have special Bridge Officers who are meant to be part of the big crew. However, after major backlash over the Romulan addition, Tovan Kiev, they were rendered optional.
The Star Trek SupremacyFan Sequel to Birth of the Federation (a Star Trek Master of Orion-clone) does this on a civilizational level — the Ferengi are demoted from a playable major civilization to a minor faction to woo or conquer. Their place as a major faction is instead taken by the Dominion.
In between Final Fight and Street Fighter Alpha 3, Cody was demoted to background cameos and the occasional mention.
Happened to most of the Street Fighter II cast during the Street Fighter Alpha series and the Vs. series, as most of them (such as Balrog, Vega, Fei-Long, and E. Honda) only appeared in ending or stage cameos. But each new Alpha and Vs. game gradually brought back characters from II until the console version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 featured all the remaining characters needed to fill out the entire Super Street Fighter II Turbo roster. On the other hand, the arcade version of Street Fighter IV only had the original twelve from the first Street Fighter II in addition to all the new characters (and Akuma) and it wasn't until the console version (and the later Super editions) that characters from the Alpha and III games (along with the "New Challengers" from Super Street Fighter II) were included in IV as well.
Despite the fact that Alex is the true lead character of the Street Fighter III series, both the cover art and the E3 trailer for 3rd Strike: Online Edition show very little of him. By contrast, Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li (the franchise's three most prominent characters, all of whom were initially never supposed to appear in the series at all) have more presence in both.
Too bad most of the time, it's just Yun as the player character, with Yang appearing as an Assist Character at best.
Sean was originally supposed to be the only shoto fighter, but due to fan backlash Ryu and Ken were added. This most likely changed Sean from something else completely and since 3rd Strike he's rarely been mentioned in any form.
A handful of characters have never been in any main platformer apart from being playable characters in sporting/party/smashing games. Since their one-time role as the Big Bad in Donkey Kong and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins respectively, Donkey Kong and Wario have stopped playing any meaningful role in the Mario franchise, but have gone on to bigger things in their own Spin-Off franchises, to make up for it. Others such as Daisy or Waluigi, however? Nope.
Donkey Kong was a main playable character in Mario Party until the fifth installment, since which he became a Mini-Game sponsor. And in Mario Party DS, he was just a statue adorning the third board (enchanted to be such according to the Story Mode), and didn't appear at all in Island Tour. He's Promoted to Playable again in 10, though. A Koopa Kid was a playable character for a couple games as well, but lost his playable status in Mario Party 7, and vanishedin favor of Bowser Jr. afterwards.
Boo was also playable starting with Mario Party 5 up to Mario Party 8, before Boo was removed from the roster in Mario Party 9. However, in Mario Party: Island Tour, Boo was put in the roster for one last party with Mario and Company...or so it seemed, until Star Rush, where he is exclusive to Mario Shuffle, and although he does not participate in the minigames, players can use his amiibo and "haunt the competition".
In Super Mario 3D World, Yellow Toad (and the rest of Captain Toad's brigade) now pass out items in the Toad Houses.
Luigi undergoes this in Super Mario Odyssey. In foursuccessive3Dgames in the series, he was a fully playable character. In Odyssey, he is only the host of a minigame that's available only after beating the Final Boss, and one that was added in a post-release update at that.
Super Robot Wars: Since the franchise is a Mega Crossover between dozens of Humongous Mecha anime, this happens in pretty much every single game because it would be impractical (if not outright impossible) to include every single character and sub-plot from the constituent anime.
Macross 30 has Only 3 units (out of 5), and no plot..
Super Robot Wars Classic: Ever since Original Generation 2, Ring has yet to rejoin the playable roster. Justified that she's all tied up with her duties as the CEO of Mao Industries. Made more unlikely for her to reappear in a Huckebein for future events, given the entire destruction of the Huckebein series in the Second Original Generation.
In spite of being the titular character and more or less the hero of his series, Betterman Lamia's reduced to a handful of roles in Super Robot Wars Compact 3 and always is a NPC ally on missions he appears.
Super Robot Wars Original Generation Gaiden hammers this trope to one of Duminuss' Homunculi, Laliar, the only male. In his origin game (SRW R), at least he gets to get involved in the grand schemes along with his siblings, joining some factions to screw them up. But in OG Gaiden... Tis gets to deal with the Wendigo and G Thunder Gate, Despinis gets to guard a brainwashed Lamia, and later ends up surviving, unlike in the original series... and Laliar? He's relegated into just contacting Tis and Despinis from afar in case they're about to screw up, and doesn't do much in the grander scheme (obviously, he had a bigger role in his original game). Makes this editor wonder if Duminuss prefers an Improbably Female Cast for her main Homunculus.
A similar case can be seen with the Bridge Bunnies. Early in OG 1, Rio becomes a pilot and stays that way until the end of OG 2. After Daitetsu's death, Eita and Tetsuya end up taking charge and commanding the Kurogane to the best of their abilities. And poor Eun, best friend to the Hiryu Kai's captain Lefina? She is just there to give bits of information every so often, lacking even the hint of A Day in the Limelight. However, this is subverted beginning in 2nd Original Generation where she is now one of the "sub-pilots" of the Hiryu Kai.
Warrior Roar is unavailable as a "sub-pilot" for Kouta in the Second Original Generation, in contrast to his previous appearance in Original Generation Gaiden.
Fiona Gureden is rendered as a sub-pilot for the Excellence Rescue in the Second Original Generation. Moon Dwellers brings her back as a pilot with the new Excellence Gunstriker, alongside Raul who has his own.
Marvel (also Cham), Lunamaria, and Athrun did not get any new lines at all this game. Especially sad for Marvel since she barely has any recorded lines at all. Lunamaria also has no unique battle lines, while Athrun has a few reused ones from Z (lines for fighting humans and the final boss lines seen here).
Dimitri Magarov from Linebarrel appears only once to be trashed by three Jinrais in an event.
Mamoru if he survives, he can only be swapped with Hiroto as the pilot of Mark Funf. Even though they could just remodel the Mark Elf for Mamoru's use.
Vespasianus who only gets one event map appearance with his Deus Machina, though he is around in conversations.
Usually in the previous games that featured Martian Successor Nadesico and/or The Prince of Darkness, all of the Three Angels were playable. Here however, only Ryoko Subaru and her Aestivalis Custom are playable, while her friends Hikaru and Izumi only show up for the Formation Attack.
Speaking of which, this is the first game to feature The Prince of Darkness that does not include Kusakabe as a boss; despite being the Big Bad of the movie, here he only appears in a few cutscenes, whereas Hokushin is given more prominence. And this was after BX, which featured on the original TV series, had him as the final boss of the Nadesico storyline.
Viscount Pygman, just like in BX, only makes a cameo in a cutscene before getting killed. This time around, Tetsuya does the deed.
After decades of being the premier Captain and unofficial leader of numerous SRW armadas, Bright Noah finally takes a step back, and Okita leads Earth Fleet Tenku instead. There is even a scene where Okita tells Bright to take over command of the fleet should he die before completing their mission.
The ELS are reduced to an afterthought compared to the other games where they appear, only appearing in two scenarios (one scenario if you didn't pick their route).
Minerva X got hit with this hard, turning from the heroine of the manga to an NPC that only appears in two scenes and never interacts with the protagonists. Effectively making her appearances Big Lipped Alligator Moments for those who never read the manga.
A variation, where material (characters, missions, etc) for Gundam SEED are fairly scarce. Aside from a skirmish against Mwu La Flaga, a later mission where you get to play as him, and a couple of cameos, SEED's events and stories don't even appear until halfway through the game, and even then, are mostly passed over in favor of it's spinoff Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray. A particularly glaring example being the Artemis Base battle. When the Zaft forces show up, the Archangel actually leaves as soon as it exits the base, leaving the Nadesico B and the Junk Guild and Original Generation crew to deal with them.
In an odd way, Tomoru Shindo get's something like this. The other major characters of the series, Youko, Dr. Kanzuki and Orgun, along with some of the villains, show up multiple times in the first half of the game, with Orgun himself being a major presence, while Tomoru himself doesn't show up until about the last third of the game.
Despite being one of the most powerful leaders and Newtypes in Universal Century, Haman Khan gets shafted into playing second-fiddle to Paptimus Scirocco and Durandal in Z. When it seems she's about to make her move, she's suddenly Put on a Bus, unless the player takes the secret ZEUTH Route split, allowing her to be recruited (or more accurately, lets her force her way into ZEUTH).
Tengoku-hen also pulls a variation of this in regards to Full Metal Panic!. This game was the first one to use the complete storyline from the original light novels, whereas all previous SRW appearances used the Animated Adaptation that only covers five out of the twelve novels. However, none of the characters introduced in the latter half of the story appear in battle, because Banpresto didn't want to cast voice actors and make the producers of the eventual anime version feel beholden to keep their casting choices. As a result, the only named antagonist to actually be fought is the Big BadLeonard Testarossa, and even then it's only because he put in a brief cameo in The Second Raid and therefore already has a voice actor.
GoShogun, Zambot 3, Vigna Ghina, the F91 Gundam, EZ-8 Gundam, Apsalas II and their respective pilots are the only characters that show up from their respective series in Super Robot Wars 64. Daitarn 3 at least gets its supporting characters.
Pichu and Mewtwo were both playable characters in Melee, but were demoted to trophies in Brawl. Mewtwo, at least, returns in the fourth game's DLC.
Super Mushrooms in Melee made Giant Donkey Kong obsolete; as such, stage 6 in Classic Mode is you plus two allies against any random character (even Ness or the Ice Climbers), giant-sized.
Metal Boxes in Melee made Metal Mario obsolete; as such, the final fight in Classic Mode before Master Hand is against any random character (even Kirby or Pichu), metallized.
The Fighting Alloys don't have as big a presence in Brawl as the Wireframes.
Dr. Mario was demoted to a sticker and two songs in Brawl, one of which was just a carry-over from Melee. Wii U/3DS, however, promotes him back to playable.
While the others were reduced to trophies in Brawl, Roy was nothing more than a sticker and unused playable data.
Lucas and Wolf went from playable characters in Brawl to regular trophies in U/3DS (Lucas was later announced to return playable via DLC), and some of their moves instead appear as customization options for Ness and Fox respectively. The Ice Climbers were likewise demoted to a simple trophy. Snake has it the worst of the cut Brawl veterans, with his entire series being completely removed.
While all the playable characters above got brought back for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, this fate befell the Subspace Army — the primary antagonists of Brawl's adventure mode — in the World of Light adventure mode. Aside from Galleom serving as a boss fight, the Subspace Army's soldiers, including Tabuu himself are reduced to spirits.
With the release of Joker in Ultimate, it's only natural that the other Phantom Thieves would show up in his home stage, as well as taking part in his Final Smash alongside him. The sole exception to this is Goro Akechi, who instead gets relegated to a Spirit and an alternate costume for Joker.
Renji and Vegeta were originally planned to be full characters in the sequel, but they were demoted to Assist Trophy and background character respectively.
Super Sonic is a Final Smash instead of a separate character in Super Smash Flash 2.
By the 2nd season of Sword Girls, the four heroines of each faction are nearly unmentioned in the story. Its only main focus was Iri joining Vita and befriending Sita.
"If destiny exists, the girls will meet again. They have no say in it"
Strategy RPGs with Loads and Loads of Characters such as Tactics Ogre or Knights in the Nightmare do this, and they have reason for it. Due to some of them having Final Death, the story is purposely written so that they could have been killed off at any point in the story after recruitment, whereas the characters whose death will result in a game over (namely the player character) will remain in the story at all times. In some JRPGs, particularly those where you can change the makeup of your party, characters often stop developing after you recruit them, particularly because they do not necessarily have to be present at any given scene.
Woodrow gets considerably less spotlight than the other four Swordian masters. This spreads even to his Swordian, Igtenos, who remains deactivated for a majority of the game, and thus not having a speaking role in any of the scenes or skits until near the last stretch.
Swordian Berselius doesn't even get any speaking roles, though this is justified since it was being possessed and its original personality is dead.
Loni Dunamis is the least likely playable Tales of Destiny 2 character to make cameos or get shout outs in other games, and he was the only one who didn't appear in any escort or spin-off titles between Narikiri Dungeon 3 and Radiant Mythology 3. Also, Swordian Chaltier is with the party the whole time, and yet only speaks to the party right before his death.
Veigue Lungberg's the frigging hero of Tales of Rebirth, yet he's mostly not included in spinoff games while his friends get in first. Case in points: Radiant Mythology 1 and Versus.
Spoofed in the Tales Series Drama CD Viva Tales of! to promote Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology. It got Veigue Lungberg of Tales of Rebirth, being the protagonist and all, in the interview. Then he finds out that he's not in the actual game (with other characters like Eugene Gallardo and Annie Barrs actually in). Cue to him crying and shouting CLAAAAAAIIIIIRREEEEE!!!!!!! (He got in the sequel, though).
In Tales of Xillia 2, everyone from the original except Jude and Milla. There's still the Character Episodes, but aside from that, don't have a major involvement in the story arc itself.
Alisha from Tales of Zestiria has most other examples beat. In early promotional materials, she was given the spotlight right along side the lead Sorey. She even got her own figure and a Pre-Order Mystic Arte. So naturally fans assumed that she was the heroine of the game. But as the game got closer to release, fans began to notice that she was becoming less and less prominent in the promotional materials. Then come the actual game, Alisha drops from the party (and plot) partway through, and doesn't really matter much from then on. She does get A Day in the Limelight thanks to dlc, but it's still a far cry from fans' expectations.
Eddy Gordo became an extra costume for Christie in Tekken 4. It's a shame because this meant that the storyline he had in Tekken 3 was cut off far too soon in favour of one which also included Christie. Many people complained and so he returned as a separate character in Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection, and later in Tekken 6.
While the original games saw Paul Phoenix as a legitimate rival to Kazuya, and a formidable presence in the tournament, all of the games from 4 on have seen his story become more silly and less tied to the overall plot with each subsequent game.
Really, it set in as early as 2. In the first game, he is The Rival to Kazuya, the main character and son of Heihachi; in the second, he is The Rival to Kuma, Heihachi's pet.
Rikimaru, the main protagonist/playable character in Tenchu, was demoted to the NPC Master of the player's character in Tenchu Z.
Tesshu went from being a Secret Character and third leg to Rikimaru/Ayame in Wrath of Heaven, to a meager small cameo appearance in Fatal Shadows. Gets (somewhat) better in Time of the Assassins, where he gets his own Prequel story.
Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, and Pluto in Toontown Online.
All characters in Touhou (except protagonists Reimu and Marisa, of course) get shunted to the side after their debut game is finished. The exceptions to this are the occasional player characters (Sakuya, Youmu, Sanae, and the other playable characters in the fighting games) and the characters who appear in the side materials (covering everyone who don't appear or have appeared already in the main games).
In general, any character that debuted in either the first or second stage of any game. Expect Cirno, who is treated like a mascot.
Both Flandre Scarlet and Ran Yakumo were Demoted to Extra after their debut in their respective Extra Stages. Flandre was basically a one-shoot character, and Ran was, after her debut, almost exclusively shown in the shadow of Yukari Yakumo as a helper.
Yuuka Kazami, from all the Windows games, has a prominent role only in Phantasmagoria of Flower View, as an extra character, and was serving basically a role of a reminder to PC-98 era.
Sakuya got that treatment after Scarlet Weather Rhapsody was released in 2008. Since then, her only main appearance was in Double Dealing Character, released in 2013, as the playable character. It's today unknown if whether she will appear in a prominent role again.
Eientei residents (Tewi, Reisen, Eirin, Kaguya) were pretty much out of focus after side works dedicated to them ended.
While the gameplay of Touhou Mother leans decidedly towards the MOTHER side of things, the characters from said series are for the most part pushed to the wayside - even Lucas and Claus are mere side characters. There's a reason for this. Not so on the sequel though, where Ness enters the scene proper as a playable and important character.
Victor Sullivan in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, who was a major character in the first game but only accompanies you for two chapters of the second before deciding he wants out. In "Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception," Sullivan becomes a main character once again, only for the main female leads of 2, Elena and Chloe, to be demoted to extras.
Sadly Elena Fisher in Drake's Deception, she's not seen until the middle of the game when she tags along through most of a single chapter. When Drake goes after a captured Sully, he tells her stay behind so as not to risk her welfare. Unlike the first game, she completely understands and helps Drake one more time by helping him get on Talbot's plane, then bows out until the ending.
In early promotional materials for Valiant Hearts, the British pilot George was billed to be one of the playable main characters. However, in the game itself, he only shows up as an NPC for a single mission as an aerial spotter.
Hrist has not been the central character of any Valkyrie Profile game yet; she only makes a brief appearance in the first game's Golden Ending (and a mention of her name in the worst ending), and she spends much of the second game hunting her sister's Soul Jar. Her appearance in the third is restricted to complaining about not having a starring role in the Bonus Dungeon.
So far, Celia's never been playable in any game, and it's heavily implied that her fate was to be destroyed in Ragnarok along with every other mortal.
Wolf has a self-contained arc in the anime, but largely unconnected with the major arcs of the stories. Lastly, he doesn't appear in the final battle of the anime, best he got is a mention in recognition of his past arc.
Jeffry. Much like Wolf above, although his treatment is a tad better in the second season, where he and Lion are blackmailed into fighting each other, in Jeffry's case to save his family.
Nick in The Walking Dead. If he survives Episode 2 he is noticeably less involved in the story of Episode 3 and only makes a brief appearance in Episode 4 before being found as a walker.
Ogres suffered this in the series. In Warcraft II they were the most important part of the Horde next to orcs and the only non-orcs who led orc clans and there were several important ogre-mage characters. In Warcraft III they were no longer part of the Horde, and now had the small role of neutral mercenaries and hostile creeps. They were also inexplicably weaker compared to the powerful units they were in Warcraft II and resorted to using clubs rather than Good Old Fisticuffs. In the expansion pack a half ogre was introduced, and an ogre/goblin Hero Unit was introduced. Most importantly they rejoined the Horde in the story hinting at a greater role in future games. But then, in World of Warcraft the ogres' home is destroyed by blackdragons and they show up for a minor role in one zone. As of the extension Cataclysm they are the only race from Warcraft II not playable in some form.
Happened to the Blood Elf race - except for Kael'thas - in the Frozen Throne expansion of Warcraft III. The "human" campaign largely on the plight of Kael'thas and his Blood Elf remnants... for about two and a half missions. Then they grew Out of Focus as the story importance shifted to Illidan and his Naga (the fact that the Blood Elf forces were completely irrelevant compared to the much stronger Naga didn't help). By the middle of the Undead campaign, the Blood Elves were out-and-out Mooks with the exception of Kael'thas himself.
While trolls in general seem to be the go-to race for evil mooks, troll heroes tend to either vanish into obscurity or be Driven to Villainy. And the playable Darkspear tribe?a late (and somewhat rushed) addition to the baseline game to begin with?have been largely sidelined.
The draenei have pulled up even with trolls in that regard. While they did get quite a bit of focus in the beginning of the Burning Crusade, they were overshadowed by the blood elves after the Black Temple. Like the trolls, they didn't do much of anything in WOTLK. And finally, in Cataclysm, they're the only race to not get a new class?despite rogue, druid, and (if you stretch a point) even warlock being at least theoretically possible. At least they make up a decent percentage of the Earthen Ring faction...but seeing as shamanism is canonically a tiny and new splinter of their culture, that's not saying much.
Gnomes, considering their lore, have quite the potential for sad or bittersweet storylines. Instead, they're almost strictly comic relief.
Worgen, who despite being the new Alliance race in Cataclysm, are shipped off to Darnassus at the end of their starting zone and promptly forgotten about. Their only other major appearance is in Silverpine Forest, a Horde leveling zone, where they are the antagonists. Alliance side, they make only a few token appearances as generic Non Player Characters, most of who could be changed to a human or a Night Elf without impacting anything. Their induction into the Alliance as well as the effects it had on the Worgen and the other races was instead put into the Expanded Universe novel Wolfheart, much to the annoyance of Alliance players.
Anub'Araks first appearance in Wrath of the Lich King was as a level 74 dungeon boss, which outraged many players. Then the Argent Coliseum was completed, and he turned up again, just a wee bit harder.
This has mostly to do with Blizzard scrapping the idea of Azjol-Nerub as an entire underground zone.
Compared to Illidan and especially Kael'thas, Vashj receives very minimal attention in Burning Crusade. It consists of a directionless plot in Zangarmarsh that goes entirely unresolved and then, seven or eight levels later, of returning to the area and killing her.
She doesn't even make a cameo appearance in the Arthas novel, despite having helped lead the failed Illidari campaign in Northrend.
Tyrande Whisperwind in World of Warcraft. At the end of Cataclysm she makes appearances in the time-traveling adventures leading to Deathwing's demise, as a boss in End Time and as an ally in Well of Eternity
Vol'jin essentially did nothing but hang out with Thrall after turning Rexxar and Rok'han into spirit wyverns in Warcraft III : The Frozen Throne, until taking back the Echo Isles just before Cataclysm.
Rokhan is just a quest giver who helps players taking down a frost wyrm in Wrath of the Lich King.
After leading the Horde forces in Hellfire Peninsula and setting up Thrallmar in Burning Crusade, Nazgrel has more or less faded into the background in World Of Warcraft. He isn't mentioned as a candidate for Warchief despite being Thrall's close advisor and he never gives his thoughts on Garrosh's appointment.
Rehgar Earthfury is a major character in a few novels and comics, but has never actually appeared in any of the Warcraft games.
Famously, being able to play as a Revantusk Troll is one of the most popular demands of Horde players (Next to being able to play as a Mag'har). While the Revantusk tribe have a very large role in the Hinterlands questing, unlike their Alliance counterpart, High Elves, they are practically unknown outside of it.
Many of the Warcraft Mangas were written about Trag Highmountain, 6 issues, but he's only an NPC in game. His gossip text claims he wanted to join in on the Ashen Verdict's assault on Icecrown Citadel, but he was never present.
Roanauk Icemists a very important figure in the Horde's side of Dragonblight questing. You rescue him from Icemist Village, which has been overrun by undead Nerubians. You save him before he's sacrificed, and you and he work together to slay the Crypt Lord that's spearheading the assault, leading to the very emotional speaking of the Blood Oath. After this, he's never heard from in anymore quests.
Lor'themar Theron had a somewhat important role in the comic as the Secret Keeper, but nothing ultimately came of it, though he casts off the trope in Mists of Pandaria.
While ultimately not a super-important player, Nathanos Blightcaller being demoted from being quest-giver and target of two extensive questlines in vanilla to a simple class trainer is pretty damn degrading.
Cairne Bloodhoof played a big role in Warcraft III but doesn't do much in WoW. And when he finally plays a major role, he dies.
Mike, despite getting his own Image Song, seems to do nothing now besides show up in scenes with the Crygors in WarioWare. He does get to host a multiplayer minigame in Game & Wario, though. Penny is kind of on the fence between this and Ascended Supporting Character, considering she has a considerable presence in DIY and actually interacts with Wario on a significant level. In the tutorial.
Mercy's role in The Warriors is far smaller and less significant than in the movie. As her subplot with Swan is removed in the game, she barely does anything throughout her time in the game.
Joseph DeMarco, one of Aiden's main targets in the trailer for Watch_Dogs, ends up as an illegal auction organizer in the game. You kick his ass at the end of the Human Trafficking sidequest.
By the time Disc Two rolls around, Fei, Elly, Citan and Bart are the only playable characters who are really important to the plot anymore. By that point in the game, the villains get more dialogue than most party members.
This fate eventually befalls most of the secondary playable characters, but a notable example involves the NPC Hammer. During the Kislev story arc, Hammer is almost omni-present. His network of black-market goods, information, and mechanical skill are vital in eventually helping the main character escape imprisonment. After the escape, Hammer virtually disappears for twenty-odd game hours, only re-appearing near the end of the Solaris arc. He understands that he has been Demoted to Extra, and the knowledge drives him to cross the Moral Event Horizon at a certain point.
Xenosaga has MOMO Mizrahi, a little Realian girl. In the first two games she was one of the most important characters because her father/creator Joachim placed the "Y-Data" (which included coordinates to a planet that EVERYBODY wanted to get to) inside her mind. One of the main points of the first game is to get MOMO to a research facility where this data can be analyzed, and in the second game that actually occurs. She also serves as a foil and love interest for Junior (she was modeled after his old romantic interest, Sakura, who happened to be Joachim's biological daughter, effectively making MOMO her sister). And...then the third game comes, and she has very few lines and one or maybe two scenes that actually give her any real attention. It's as if she lost any real importance once they got the Y-Data out of her and just stayed on as a playable character because people were used to her being around.
Emma Frost. Playable character in the first game, NPC in the second. Still, that's better than some other characters who were playable in the first game (such as Jubilee) who don't appear at all in the second game. Probably to make room for the Brotherhood characters.
Beast himself suffered from this in the first act until he's captured and Brainwashed and Crazy, then returned to this after being defeated, which also undoes the brainwashing.
Poor Magma only ever gets mentioned in a trivia question in the second game, despite being the main character from the first.
Kai is a major character as a romance option in his origin games (the Anime Sim Dates and Memory Days), but has only a supporting role in Xolga And Mr Toko. However, it's not as bad as other examples, since his perspective of the story is shown in episode three.
Xonotic demoted most of the weapons which made the cut from its Spiritual Predecessor's Nexuiz to "Toy" status, only available through a mutator, such as the HLAC, the Mine Layer, the Rifle, the T.A.G. Seeker, the Grappling Hook and the Port-O-Launch. Inverted with the Fireball, which instead was given the Superweapon status.
Sohei Dojima in Yakuza. We still know almost nothing about him, despite being awesome enough to have both his wife and son be accepted almost automatically as Chairmen of the Tojo Clan.
He's actually implied to be quite the bastard. For one thing, he cheats on his wife with multiple women (including Yumi, which sets off his own murder at the hands of Nishiki).
Luciana Rune Artwaltz is very important in Yggdra Union (although she appears under her sister's name for most of her appearances), but does almost nothing in its prequel, Blaze Union, instead shifting the focus onto the aforementioned twin sister Aegina. Then again, you can't do all that much on an injured leg. Aegina herself falls out of the spotlight in two of the three Multiple Endings - but in the third one, Luciana dies.
Nessiah, Marietta, and Nana-chan in the original; in the remake, Nessiah finally has a role in the story (and is an unlockable player character), but Marietta and #367 still don't even get so much as a mention.
And in the drama CD, most of the cast that doesn't join the Royal Army in Yggdra Union, along with half of the Imperial Army. The fact that Elena seems to be absent has been met with many complaints from the fanbase.
Pamela, Gordon, and Nessiah aren't even in the key visual.
In an amusing aversion, this is about the only game in the whole of the Episode II part of the franchise where Luciana doesn't get shafted for once. She even gets her own story in the drama CD.
Schmitty, who hosted TV, part of The Ride, Louder, Faster, Funnier, 5th Dementia, Mock 2, and The Lost Gold, was reduced to the announcer of each episode's Wrong Answer of the Game prize in 2011. note On the other hand he was the announcer for "Sports", Volume 2, "Movies", Volume 3, and Offline.
Same goes for Buzz. After Volume 2, he only has a little participation in The Ride. Also Bob.
Happens to Adol's partner Dogi in Ys: Memories of Celceta. Averted for most of the other games, as he was originally a One-Scene Wonder who randomly shows up to bust Adol out of prison in the first game, and an optional Easter Egg if you do a little Backtracking. Both the creators and the fans took a liking to him, making him one of the few reoccurring characters.
Lilia, the hero's love interest in Ys II, was reduced to a minor supporting character in Ys IV, and completely forgotten afterward. Semi-justified as Adol spends his time traveling, and it's an unusually large world in the Ys series.
The island of Ys itself, and by proxy goddesses Feena and Reah. While they only show up near the end of the second game, they're over all fairly important for the first two installments, but rarely appear after. They do however show up in Ys Origin, as it's a prequel and Feena makes the occasional guest appearance in side works and remakes.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule GB has probably the only instance of Ryou Bakura getting more screentime than Yami Bakura. The Spirit of the Ring doesn't appear in person at all until after the game is beaten.
Yugi. A painful example since the story still revolves around Marik seeking the God Cards and destroying Yami Yugi, yet you're the one who faces all the Rare Hunters and Yugi is basically not in the game until the finals begin.
Joey, too, since you defeat all of the players that he dueled in the manga/anime.
Crow in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's:World Championship. In 2010, He was suposed to be the fifth Signer, but was scrapped so the Player can become it instead. And in 2011, he is injured through most of the final chapter (Alongside everyone else, minus you, Yusei and Jack), forcing you to take his place.
Deadra, Ghat's partner/love interest from Zeno Clash, is absent for most of Zeno Clash 2. She left Ghat after his sulking about the Golem's laws became unbearable, hoping the Golem could bring prosperity to Zenozoik. She eventually becomes disillusioned with the Golem's laws, though, and leaves for the wilderness to start her own town. You briefly meet her about halfway through the game, and you can recruit her as part of an optional sidequest near the end.
Leo goes from being the main character in the first game, to a supporting character in The 2nd Runner
Early on in the The Fist of Mars, if you decide to spare Nadia, you begin a process which will lead to her having a HeelFace Turn. There could have been a virtual goldmine of tension between her and the Eviler Than Thou newcomer Amante, or at least something about her learning and growing. Unfortunately, she doesn't even get twenty more lines in the whole game.
Nohman is the Big Bad of the entire series, serving as a Post-Climax ConfrontationHopeless Boss Fight in the first game, and the primary antagonist for the whole of the sequel. But in Dolores, i? He's just some cocky jerk who shows up to mock Pleminger's BAHRAM unit. It's revealed in backstory materials that Nohman was running his own gambit to take over Bahram via the chaos Radium's plan created.