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11th-Hour Ranger

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"(Sigh) Here I am, a brand new member of the Shining Force... and already we're fighting Dark Dragon. Why me?"
Torasu, Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon

An Eleventh Hour Ranger is any person who joins an ensemble right before or during the endgame/Grand Finale, sometimes even right before the Final Boss fight. There could be many reasons for this:

  1. They were an Aloof Ally who didn't want to join until now.
  2. They were Sealed Good in a Can and their future teammates freed them just in time for the fight that matters most.
  3. They come out of flippin' nowhere for author reasons.
  4. This hero appeared because the others fused or worked together in some way to create them.
  5. The Anti-Hero arrives in the heroes' darkest hour, and steps in to help.
  6. Some last second Enemy Mine or Last-Second Chance, such as when a villain realizes that eldritch horror they woke up is not their friend.
  7. Etc.
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Compare Sixth Ranger for someone who doesn't join the team at its formation but rather mid-adventure.

In Videogames, these suffer from Late Character Syndrome. Compare Last Episode, New Character, Gondor Calls for Aid, Back for the Finale, Changed My Mind, Kid, and 11th-Hour Superpower.

This is an Ending Trope. Spoilers ahead!


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon Fusion features a Crisis Crossover with the past five Digimon series at its finale, but unfortunately they only show up in the last two episodes.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In Wrath of the Dragon, Vegeta does not show up until very late into the film, when he suddenly appears to help Goku, Gohan, Goten, and Trunks defeat Hirudegarn.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, Frieza joins Team Universe 7 very late, as Majin Buu was the original member and needed a last minute replacement, due to him falling asleep.
  • Cobra in Chapter 329 of Fairy Tail, after a request from Jellal for him to be freed from prison to help the other six Dragon Slayers fight against Future Rogue and his seven dragons.
    • An even better example would be Anna Heartfilia, Lucy's ancestor from 400 years ago who was revealed to have traveled to the present day seven years before the start of the story showing up late in the final Story Arc to help defeat Acnologia.
  • In Girls und Panzer, Oarai gets two new tank crews just before the tournament finals. While the Auto Club had been helping maintain their tanks all along, they don't form Leopon Team or crew the Porsche Tiger until the finals. The three gamer girls are a new addition to the team, becoming Anteater Team and leading the others to a Chi-Nu that they crew.
  • Akasaka in Higurashi: When They Cry is introduced about halfway through the series but doesn't become a reliable ally until the final act. Even in the penultimate arc, his appearance only serves as a Hope Spot for Rika but isn't of any use in the end.
  • Happens a few times in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Stardust Crusaders, Kakyoin is badly injured in a fight in the middle of the story, and is sent to a hospital for most of the second half of the part. He rejoins the team in just before entering DIO's mansion.
    • Happens again in Golden Wind with Jean-Pierre Polnareff, who informs the main crew of the whereabouts of the Requiem Arrow, the main key to defeating The Boss. This example is particularly notable within the series in that Polnareff did not appear prior to this within the part, making it a bit of a surprise to fans of the series.
    • Jotaro himself becomes this in Stone Ocean. Towards the beginning, his memories and Stand are stolen and put on compact discs, which puts him into a coma and is unable to wake up until his memory and Stand discs are retrieved. He is successfully revived and joins the team, just in time for the final fight.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Yzak Joule pulls this in both the original series and the sequel. The first time after being confronted by Dearka earlier and witnessing the heroes' willingness to defend his homeland from annihilation. The second time after watching his own side fire Requiem and exploiting what he saw as a loophole in protecting said homeland.
  • Kaworu Nagisa in Neon Genesis Evangelion, coming from nowhere to be the last pilot two episodes before the last episode. He turns out to be a Sixth Ranger Traitor.
  • Pokémon 3: Ash already has a complete team of six at the time of the film. Just when things are going bad for him at the climax of the movie, his Charizard makes a comeback to help in the battle.
    • In the Diamond and Pearl series, Ash's Gible and Dawn's Togekiss were this, having been caught at the end of Galactic Battles and just a few episodes before the Grand Festival in Sinnoh League Victors, respectively.
    • The Sun and Moon series was sparse on captures and boosts after the first year, though during the last season, Ultra Legends, setting up for the Alola League in which all the main characters take part, the protagonists get an overhaul of tuneups. Lana's Eevee "Sandy" and Mallow's Shaymin appear so the girls both have secondary Pokemon to rotate with, while Ash captures his first mythical Pokemon, Meltan (who also evolves into Melmetal just before the finals). Ash's Poipole also reappears evolved into a Naganadel before the exhibition match, allowing Ash to fight with a full team of six.
  • Pretty Cure has a few:
  • In Re:CREATORS, Syo and Blitz jump ship and join the heroes during the Final Battle against the Military Uniform Princess.
  • In Ronin Warriors the Dark Warlords perform a Heel–Face Turn at the very end, serving this function.
  • In the Grand Finale of Samurai Pizza Cats, Bad Bird has a Heel–Face Turn and joins the good guys for the final battle.
  • In the final episode of Symphogear, Miku gains complete control of her relic in time to help clean up the mess Shem-ha left behind.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Lordgenome join the heroes for the Final Battle against the Anti-Spiral. While technically he'd been with the heroes a while earlier as a disembodied head acting as their Wetware CPU, it's only after his bodies regenerates that he officially helps the heroes in the battle with an appropriately awesome Heroic Sacrifice.

     Comic Books 
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    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction, the MUTO Queen and Methuselah only enter stage towards the end, when Mothra calls the Titans to war against Keizer Ghidorah.
  • Terra after she decides to become a hero and try to save Beast Boy. She then becomes one for the Titans in The End of Ends.
  • Shiho, following a Heel–Face Turn, in Perfection Is Overrated.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Dark World has Rainbow Dash, the Princesses, and Minty Pie arrive just in time to help in the Final Battle with Nightmare Paradox.
    • The Shining Armor Arc has Gilda. Having left Equestria for Columbia after her falling out with Rainbow Dash, and having joined up with the military, her unit happens to join up with Shining during the Big Badass Battle Sequence that marks the arc's climax. She then goes along with Shining's Misfit Actual squad into the Final Battle with Makarov and ends up being key to winning it.
  • Shadows Awakening has Captain Black go from Mission Control to actively fighting alongside the J-Team during the last three chapters.
  • The Torchwood: Children of Earth fic "The Champion of the Children" features the Seventh Doctor arriving in the warehouse where Jack is preparing to use Steven to transmit the signal to kill the 456. With the Doctor helping Steven transmit the signal, both he and Steven survive the strain of the transmission, with the Doctor experiencing nothing worse than losing his memory of meeting Jack at this point, and Ace offers Alice the advice that she needs to acknowledge that Jack's actions were based around desperate necessity rather than reflecting what kind of man he is.
  • In the Pokémon fic “The Beginning of a New End”, when Ash makes it to the finals of the Hoenn League, he uses his standard Hoenn Pokemon for most of the battle. However, when he’s down to his final Pokemon after Corpish, Swellow, Glalie, Grovyle and Pikachu have fainted, his opponent confidently assumes that she can defeat Torkoal with her Poliwrath on a water field, but Ash then reveals that he switched Torkoal for Charizard, giving him vital extra firepower that allows him to win.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic "The World As We Knew It", Harry and his few remaining allies are stuck in an alternate reality where Voldemort never fell from power and their only option is to go back home. They have fled all the way to Beauxbatons, where even the still-alive Nicholas Flamel is having trouble with the necessary magical equations… and then the alternate Hermione is revealed to be attending the school, providing the perfect ally to crack the remaining troublesome details of the ritual.
  • In Blue Moon, after the battle between the Volturi and the Slayers has begun, Buffy Summers ends the fight when she arrives via helicopter accompanied by Francesca, the vampire slayer turned by Aro centuries ago, proving that Francesca's apparent insanity was faked and Slayers can be turned without being driven insane.
  • Lantern Prime: In the middle of the final battle Arcee finally chooses to be an Autobot. This enables her to become the first Blue Lantern, and assist the Green Lantern Corps in defeating Unicron.
  • In the endgame arc of Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations, Mr. Belt joins with Samus, Mitsuzane/Ryugen, Gou/Mach, and the three revived bounty hunters in their final mission to storm the Ganma world as Kamen Rider Drive Type Tridoron in Shinnosuke's place.
  • In the climax of Powers of Invisibility, Juleka is forced to accept and wield the Turtle Miraculous to rescue Adrien and Marinette, who have been turned to stone by an akuma.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: While not a Bearer himself, the fifth arc ("Recovery") of six sees the group joined by Tizoc, the Prince-King of the Cuanmiztl Kingdom and Xvital's love interest, who does his best to aid them in their quest to activate the final Element and defeat their hidden enemy.
  • In Steven Universe fangame Flawed Crystals, the last gem you recruit (probably Bismuth) will be this, as at that point the only thing you can use them for is the final dungeon. Fortunately, the non-linear nature of the game means the 11th hour ranger isn't fixed, and you can get more use out of them if you grab them earlier in a different playthrough.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Incredibles: Frozone shows up to help take down The Omnidroid during the final battle. He'd also spent some time working with Bob at the film's beginning, when they were doing unsanctioned superheroics, before spending the bulk of the movie at home and unaware of events on Syndrome's island.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: Masters Croc and Ox refuse to join the heroes, believing that Lord Shen is unbeatable and that their involvement will only make things worse. During the climax, Shifu turns up with them in tow to pull a Big Damn Heroes moment and participate in the final battle.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks has Sunset Shimmer and, to a lesser extent, DJ-Pon3. For the latter, it's revealed just before the climax that she is unaffected by the Dazzlings' music due to always wearing her headphones. This allows her to free the Rainbooms and provide a sound stage for the final battle. For the former, Sunset is the only person with any magic affinity left to fight the Dazzlings when the others fall during the final battle, saving the others and finally becoming an accepted part of the group.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • All of The Avengers films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe feature this.
    • The Avengers: Hawkeye is brainwashed by Loki at the start of the film, and is under his control for most of the movie, until Natasha frees him from it, and he subsequently helps the others battle Loki and the Chitauri.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron: Not only do Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision not even join forces with the team until right before the final battle, but War Machine doesn't even join until the middle of it.
    • Avengers: Infinity War:
      • Most of the Avengers are fighting off Thanos' forces in Wakanda when Thor, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot suddenly arrive to back them up, after having forged an axe that can damage Thanos.
      • Nebula crashes the battle on Titan to help the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers (specifically, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange) try to fight Thanos.
    • Avengers: Endgame:
      • The Time Heist is possible thanks to the team gaining back Hawkeye and Ant-Man, both of whom missed out on the first part of the fight against Thanos in Infinity War because they were under house arrest for the events of Captain America: Civil War.
      • During the climactic battle, nearly the entire MCU arrives to support the Avengers, including nearly everyone who was dusted by the 2018 Thanos. Special notice goes to Captain Marvel, who hadn't had contact with any of the Avengers prior to Endgame and had only minimal involvement earlier in the movie, and Pepper Potts/Rescue, who was a longtime supporting character but had almost never taken part in combat, and the fact that she had received her own Powered Armor was given only minor setup earlier.
  • The Hobbit: Dáin Ironfoot refuses to lend support to Thorin's quest quest in the first movie; then in the third movie, he arrives to back Thorin's claim on the Lonely Mountain after Smaug's death just when Thorin was seemingly seconds away from acquiescing to the Lakemen's and Thranduil's demands — a somewhat antagonistic instance in this case, since Thorin is deep in the throes of Gold Fever at this point, and Thranduil and the Lakemen (the latter especially) are more than within their rights to demand Thorin honor his word to the Lakemen in their time of need. However, Dáin and his army being on the scene ends up being very fortunate for the Free Peoples once Azog's army attacks and the Battle of the Five Armies begins.
  • In Justice League, Superman is absent from the team until the Final Battle, having been dead for most the movie and suffering Resurrection Sickness for most of the second half. Then, in the League's Darkest Hour, he returns, and easily helps to turn the tide against Steppenwolf and save the world.
    • Much the same in Zack Snyder's Justice League, however the team has better teamwork to showcase before Superman's coming here, and he can't prevent the detonation of the Unity that wipes out the League. It is actually Flash who's able to undo this via Speed Force Time Travel.
  • Python: John's brother Brian, who helps defeat the snake when they lure it to the plant at the very end of the movie to trap in the acid vaults.
  • In SHAZAM! (2019), Billy finds himself outmatched by Doctor Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins. To save the day, he shares his power with his foster siblings, allowing them to become superheroes themselves to take on the Sins while he defeats Sivana.
  • The Romulan security forces in Star Trek: Nemesis show up just in time to save the Enterprise's bacon from Shinzon.
  • Transformers Film Series:
  • In Ultraman Saga, Ultraman Zero, Dyna and Cosmos were beaten so badly by Hyper Zetton that they were on the verge of death, but they refused to give up. The lights of their souls merge into one, and from the three's fusion, the titular Ultraman Saga appears to deliver one hell of a beatdown to Zetton.

    Literature 
  • In The Dark Tower, Roland just happens to encounter a character with Harold and the Purple Crayon powers in the final book, just before encountering the Big Bad face-to-face. However, it was set up in Insomnia quite literally ten years before the publication of the Dark Tower.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox: Badger joins Fox and his children in the last quarter of the book, before they raid Mr. Bean's farm.
  • In Oathbringer, third book of The Stormlight Archive, Szeth, aka the infamous "Assassin in White" shows up to help the heroes out during the battle of Thaylen field. Considering it's basically an ongoing disaster at that point, he doesn't really get a chance to explain that he's sworn his third Oath as a Skybreaker to serve Dalinar, but everyone is pretty happy for the help, although they do repeatedly note how odd it is that they somehow ended up fighting alongside "The Storming Assassin in White".
  • In the Sally Lockhart book The Tiger in the Well, Sally's long-time friend Jim Taylor technically fills this role, as he is absent for most of the plot due to being on a trip and is unable to serve as a character witness when Sally is sued for divorce by a man she's never married, only to get her house back and help prove Sally innocent of all charges in a few chapters after he gets back at last.
  • Star Wars: The Corellian Trilogy: Centerpoint administrator Jennica Sonsen and technician Antone show up fairly late in the third book, but work a lot alongside the main characters trying to disarm Centerpoint Station before it can be used for more mass mayhem.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Alister's daughters rescue him at the very end so he can join the final showdown against Evil Overlord Gothon.
  • Villainous example: in The Wheel of Time, Mazrim Taim, who'd been a recurring villain for much of the series, gets promoted to the Forsaken near the beginning of the last book; he's the only new member they get over the course of the series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Illyria becomes part of the team for the last six or seven episodes. As she's replacing Fred Burkle, she is played by the same actress. Since she's very strong (due to being a De-powered Elder God), she is able to help out a lot in the final battles.
  • In the Arrow Season 3 finale, Team Arrow is captured and is sitting in the dungeons of Nanda Parbat, surrounded by Assassins. Then Barry Allen swoops in and shows that the entire League is hopelessly outclassed by the Fastest Man Alive, before freeing the prisoners. It turns out that Oliver asked Barry to rescue his friends (although Barry doesn't participate in the final battle in Star City as he has his own villains to deal with back home).
  • Breaking Bad has Todd and Lydia, both of whom are introduced and become integral parts of Walt's drug empire during the final season.
  • House of Anubis didn't have Jerome join Sibuna in the first season until the very end, after he had been revealed to be working for Rufus Zeno and needed protection from him. In the second season, he helps out earlier on.
    • Eddie doesn't join the team until the very end of Season 2, after he is revealed as the Osirian. Justified, because until the characters found out about his special destiny, he had no reason to get involved, and didn't even know what was going on until after he helped out.
    • Willow could count, as she doesn't get involved until the finale of Season 3, but only because she wasn't a sinner at the time. However, that doesn't last long.
    • Joy, in spite of being very important in the Season 1 mystery, didn't get the chance to join Sibuna again until the end of the second season. Justified again, as she only got involved when they needed her to help them save Nina.
  • How I Met Your Mother waits until the ninth and final season to add the titular mother to the main cast.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Kiva gets a ranger who arrives so late that the main plot is actually over by the time he shows up: Wataru's son from the future, who shows up just as the credits are about to roll to warn everyone about the oncoming threat of alien vampires from the future.
    • Kamen Rider Decade one-ups Kiva by having Natsumi and Kivala combine into Kamen Rider Kivala after the show is over, doing so in the Finale Movie instead.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard gets the three Kamen Rider Mages on his side during the final episodes: they appeared before this, but two of them were Brainwashed and Crazy while the third was entirely focused on her own revenge quest.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid manages to convince his Enemy Without Parado to do a Heel–Face Turn with five episodes left.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O has Tsukuyomi gain Rider powers in the penultimate episode, mostly with the specific intent of hitting her evil brother Swartz's Berserk Button at not being a Rider himself rather than to actually have her do any significant fighting.
    • Kamen Rider Saber has Sophia pick up the Sword of Darkness and become the fourth Kamen Rider Calibur when the team prepares to storm Storious's fortress for the final battle. Since she has training but no significant combat experience, she gets backup from the spirits of the previous wielders.
  • Penny Dreadful introduces the character of Catriona Hartegan only three episodes before the Grand Finale, but she's still a part of the team that finds its way to Dracula's lair to rescue Vanessa.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the finale, the changelings punish the Cardassian people for Kira's rebellion by committing genocide against the whole of Cardassia. The Cardassian fleet immediately flips sides and fights alongside the Alpha Quadrant Alliance.
    • Not long before that is a villainous example with the Breen, who only join forces with the Dominion in the last few episodes.
  • Super Sentai and Power Rangers have a few examples:
    • Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger has Mikoto/AbareKiller, who joins the fight right at the end thanks to a last-second Heel–Face Turn. (For the record, Power Rangers Dino Thunder has his counterpart join the heroes earlier, then an evil clone was created so they could use the footage portraying the character as a villain.)
    • Power Rangers S.P.D. has the Nova Ranger, an ally of the Future Badass person, who arrives in the middle of the final battle while searching the timestream for the time-lost Omega Ranger.
    • Mahou Sentai Magiranger and Power Rangers Mystic Force had two characters join the Rangers' side just in time to face N Ma-sama/the Master: Magi Mother/White Ranger, either presumed dead (in Magiranger) or The Mentor whose powers were out of commission (in Mystic Force) for most of the season; and Wolzard Fire/Wolf Warrior, who had been Brainwashed and Crazy as The Dragon Wolzard/Koragg.
    • Some consider Juken Sentai Gekiranger's Rio and Mele an example thanks to a joint Heel–Face Turn in the last two episodes, despite them never officially being acknowledged as Gekirangers. The reason why it's only "some" is because they die redeeming themselves (Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger made their status as Extra Heroes official, giving them Ranger Keys and having them return from the dead to fight as part of the 199 Rangers). Power Rangers Jungle Fury not only plays it straight, but straighter than straight, having all seven mentors, the Spirit Rangers, and Jarrod and Camille join in the final battle. And nobody dies in this version.
    • Kaoru in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and her counterpart Lauren in Power Rangers Samurai are a subversion. They're introduced late in their respective series and join the heroes, but then get injured and are forced to sit out the final battle. She's officially an Extra Ranger.
    • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger has the team's mentor, Wise God Torin join the team as Kyoryu Silver, the Shining Brave, shortly before the final arc. Averted with his successor Dantetsu who simply fills Torin's place. While Yuko and Shinya had predecessors, Ramirez and Shinya's ancestor Tessai, who showed up to assist the team early on from time to time, the two successors join the team in the final two episodes as the new Kyoryu Cyan and Kyoryu Gray, respectively.
    • Power Rangers Dino Charge utilizes this in the first season finale — Kendall Morgan becomes the Purple Ranger halfway through the episode, and her Zord ends up being the deciding factor in the fight against Sledge. The series as a whole matches Kyoryuger by having Torin's counterpartnote  Zenowing join the team just a few episodes before the end.
    • Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger After fighting for the bad guys during the entire series, Stacy completes his Heel–Face Turn in time to join the heroes for the final battle against the Tozitend Dynasty.
  • True Blood: Bridgette, who would go on to become Jason's wife, didn't appear until the seventh episode (out of ten) in the final season.
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    Podcasts 
  • The Interstitial Actual Play party is joined by two additional members in the final few episodes. Larxene completes her Heel–Face Turn to help them take down the Organization, and Roxanne's somebody Ennora is restored and joins them as well.

    Roleplay 
  • Jay in Ruby Quest shows up and joins the party in the second-to-last-thread. He wasn't even supposed to be one of these. He was found in the water filtration unit impaled by hooks, and Weaver had expected the players to Mercy Kill him. They decided to go Off the Rails and save him instead, so he joined them and escaped the Metal Glen with them.

    Toys 
  • Throughout the first BIONICLE film, Mask of Light, the 6-man team of Toa Nuva are desperately trying to defend their villages from the vicious Rahkshi, Makuta's most powerful troops and a six man band of their own. They overwhelm the Toa, and the Toa's Elemental Powers don't help them much. Luckily, two villagers find the legendary Mask of Light, which prophecies the arrival of a seventh Toa with the power to destroy the darkness. After one of them gets killed fighting a Rahkshi, the other realizes he is meant to be the Toa. He puts on the mask, becomes a Toa, and proceeds to mop the floor with the Rahkshi in about 30 seconds. Then he goes to fight Makuta one-on-one.

    Video Games 
  • Alnam no Kiba has 12 playable characters. 11 of them are a part of the plot for most of the game, even if they're not playable the whole time, but the final party member Ryousui is only introduced and joins the party within the last few hours of the game.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, upon entering the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, you're given the opportunity to recruit several new party members (if by some stroke of fate you entered with none). These include Arronax, the person you've been led to believe is the game's Big Bad. Turns out he's repented of his misdeeds, and it's another of The Void's prisoners that's the one behind the world's chaos. Others are a giant hungry demon, an evil warlord, and a human magically transformed into a dragon.
  • Bioware explicitly averted this trope in later installments of Mass Effect and Dragon Age; all party members are recruited in the first act or the beginning of the second. Dragon Age: Inquisition goes one step further by having most of them seek you out, meaning the player has no reason not to recruit them early on.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, Shrimp and Cornelia spend most of the game as Recurring Travellers, trying to enjoy their vacation and stay out of the conflict. But when the endgame hits, they realize it’s their duty to help out, and join the party in time for the Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • In Dawn of War 2, Captain Gabriel Angelos joins your marines for the final battle, at the end of the last level of the campaign.
  • Depending on your decisions in the two Digital Devil Saga games, Heat can join your party in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • In Disco Elysium, you encounter the drug-dealing, foul-mouthed pre-teen Cuno during the murder the Player Character is investigating. It is possible to befriend Cuno, who proves to be much more intelligent, perceptive and emotionally sensitive that he appears at first, and if you have done so, he will offer to join you as your temporary sidekick near the end of the game, in the event that Kim, your partner for most of the investigation, is put out of comission due to getting wounded in a firefight.
  • Kurtis in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness joins a few battles before the end, on the very last world.
    • In Disgaea 3, Master Big Star and Salvatore The Magnificent join you right before the last two storyline fights against Super Hero Aurum. They leave when the story's over though, and have to be defeated in the postgame to get them to permanently join your party.
    • Likewise, in Disgaea D2 Barbara joins the party on the very last episode of the game, and once that's done you have to go and recruit her in the post-game.
    • Bieko joins the party in Disgaea 6 when you're about three episodes away from the ending.
  • Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins can be recruited into your party just before the final battle if you spare him. Doing so will cause you to lose Alistair though. Oghren isn't quite as bad but he doesn't come up until half-way through the dwarven section, intended to be played just before the endgame plot kicks off and well past the 3/4 mark. It was because of this Oghren returns in the Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening expansion.
  • Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II has the title character, who only joins the playable roster in the very last portion of the game where the Z warriors collect the dragonballs and then fight Cell.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest III: You cannot recruit a Sage when you create your party, since you need find the Book of Satori and take it to Alltrades Abbey to get a Sage. You cannot start with one, but since it's such a powerful class, most players certainly will finish with one.
    • In the remake of Dragon Quest IV, a playable epilogue has a revived and reformed Psaro, the Big Bad of the main game's story join with the heroes and take on The Chessmaster who was the real mastermind behind the events of the main game's story.
    • Dragon Quest IX lets you create your very own customizable party members to take with you on your adventures. However, there are actually 5 characters you meet in the game who will join your party after completing their respective quests. These quests, however, are not only on a DLC schedule, but aren't available until after you've beaten the game.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Ranran and En are usually seen throughout the game as apprentices of Master Wu, the evil spirit medium and rival of Fei who attacks the heroes with jiangshi every so often. If the cards are played right, Ranran and En can make a Face–Heel Turn and join the team in the late game, before the climactic sequences that finish off the Yami Clan and the Dark Force invasion itself.
  • In Fallout 3, you can't recruit Super Mutant Fawkes until after you've dealt with President Eden and escaped from Raven Rock. While you can still explore the world and complete side-quests with him, you're pretty much at the end of the game's main story line at that point.
    • Likewise for Liberty Prime, who only gets activated once the final main quest starts, and you're past the Point of No Return (unless you have Broken Steel installed, and he gets killed in the first quest of that).
  • In Final Fantasy II, Leon joins just before the final dungeon.
  • FuSoYa from Final Fantasy IV. He joins you abruptly a few hours before the end of the game, and then promptly leaves. He exists only to fill the fifth party member slot when Kain's Heel–Face Revolving Door is on the other side again. Made very explicit when you discover that when he gains levels, nothing happens, not even HP gain.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Umaro and Gogo are only available in the World of Ruin toward the end of the game. Relm and Strago are a lesser example, showing up a bit earlier, but still almost at the very end of the World of Balance.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Remake, Red XIII is introduced at the very end of Chapter 16 out of 18 and is only around for about 10 fights throughout the endgame.
  • Gabranth in Final Fantasy XII joins the party as a guest for the Final Boss.
  • Final Fantasy Legend II has Isis join your party for the final dungeon. She's insanely powerful, but you have to fight the final boss without her because there are two of them and Isis has to fight the other one.
  • Final Fantasy Legend III has a Gotoh-like mutant join your party at the end. The game has several guest star party members.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has Alma, who despite being in your roster at one time, only help you fight against the endgame boss.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, similar to Dragon Quest IX below, won't let you have any special character (other than Montblanc) joining your clan until you've beaten the main storyline. The only one member you can get before the final boss is Ezel, via a series of subquests.
    • In the post-game, Judgemaster Cid joins at the start of the final series of missions, which are unlocked by completing all other jobs. By the time you get him, you don't have much of the game left.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The series has an entire Archetype of this, called Gotoh after the first such character. Traditionally, these characters are extremely powerful, and are meant as a kind of insurance if the player made it to the final boss with a party too weak to win (some can even beat the final bosses singlehandedly). Other members of this archetype include Mycen in Gaiden, Sety and Galzus in Thracia 776, Karel in The Binding Blade (who only shows up in a True Final Boss playthrough), Athos in The Blazing Blade, Tibarn, Naesala, and Giffca in Path of Radiance, Caineghis, Giffca (again), and Renning (and arguably also Tibarn, Naesala, and Nailah) in Radiant Dawn (also Lehran on a second playthrough if certain conditions are met), and Nagi in Shadow Dragon (again only if certain conditions are met, and getting her means Gotoh won't join your party) and in New Mystery. (Also Michalis if certain conditions are met.)
    • Fire Emblem Awakening:
      • The game spices this up with a handful of powerful endgame units through Spotpass with several stat focuses: Gangrel, whose main advantage is speed and luck, Walhart, with a high balance yet a focus on strength, Emmeryn, with a focus on magic, Yen'fay, with a focus on skill and speed, Aversa, who's entirely balanced but has access to dark magic, and Priam, who has a focus on possessing high strength and skill coupled with five very useful abilities. Morgan also counts, since s/he can possess infinite potential and have his/her parents be anyone in the entire game.
      • A more classic example from the same game: Basilio and Flavia are introduced in the first few chapters and travel with your army for much of the game, but don't officially join as playable units until the end of Chapter 23 out of 26.
  • Himi in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, and to a lesser degree Eoleo. Subtly lampshaded in the final dungeon when Arcanus shows up — everyone is shocked and outraged except these two, who don't know who he is.
  • In the PSP release of Growlanser: Wayfarer Of Time, you can recruit Tricia, your senior from the academy for the last three battles of the game.
  • .hack games have a tendency to drop new party members into the group right near the finale. Redemption, in particular, gives you an absolutely huge dump of previously unavailable party members just before the last sequences, among them Bordeaux, Alkaid, and Shino.
    • Not only that, you can unlock Natsume and Tabby after the game "ends". (And the Azure Knights.)
  • In Jade Empire, the player character can force Death's Hand to join the party right before the final battle. Though most of your followers won't be happy with your decision.
  • Towards the end of Jak 3: Wastelander, Damas will pull a Big Damn Heroes moment for Jak and Daxter (by driving a large vehicle into several Dark Makers) and become a Guest-Star Party Member after that. Like FuSoYa of Final Fantasy IV, Damas does not stick around for the final boss, as he dies not long afterwards.
  • Kingdom Hearts
    • Kingdom Hearts II has Riku being purified of his darkness, and becomes a playable member for the second half of the final level (and even in the subsequent Final Boss Fights as your only partner).
    • Aqua and Ventus are revived by Sora very late into Kingdom Hearts III as Guardians of Light, with Terra, Roxas, and Xion joining them during the final Keyblade War.
  • At the end of the last dungeon before Doom Island, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals has Dekar rejoin the party, having returned from the Heroic Sacrifice that previously removed him from the team.
  • Although you can recruit Legion in Mass Effect 2 at pretty much any time during the last third of the game, you can only get the game's best ending if you 1.) Hold off completing the relevant mission until you've finished nearly all the other missions and assignments or 2.) Leave all other uncompleted missions and assignments until the post-game. Since the character in question ended up becoming popular among the fanbase despite lacking the screentime of the rest of the party members, BioWare made up for it by giving Legion a large role in the main plot of Mass Effect 3.
  • In Mega Man X2, Zero is revived right before the final boss and assists you in defeating Sigma (assuming you got the good ending).
  • Dr. Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. She'd been in the first game as part of the Mission Control-with-an-agenda, but doesn't really join Team Snake until part-way through the heroes' final mission. Turns out, more of an Eleventh Hour Ranger Traitor. Except not. We think...
  • MS Saga: A New Dawn has Hal. He joins and leaves quite frequently in the beginning of the game, but his notable point in joining permanently is right before the final boss, while piloting a Sazabi.
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, Neku, the progaonist of the first game, returns on the fourth day of the third week, joining the party the following day; meaning he's only playable for a total of three days.
  • In OFF, if you choose the special ending, you assume control of the Judge for the final battle against the Batter, who has served as the Player Character up to this point.
  • Joy from PAYDAY 2 is this, at least as far as the original PC version goes (she was available from the start for the Nintendo Switch port and not added to the PC version until six months later). She was added to the game with the Icebreaker event in August 2018, which, not counting the "No Mercy" flashback, left her with only two heists to canonically take part in before the end of the game's storyline.
  • Radiata Stories has over one-hundred-and-fifty recruitable characters, but the most powerful and competent fighters cannot be recruited until late in the game: Elwen, Kain, Curtis, Nyx and Natalie for the humans and Galvados, JJ and Gruel for nonhumans.
  • In Record of Agarest War every single protagonist and their respective women from the previous four generations come back to you and will help you kick the asses of six gods.
  • Relayer has twenty playable characters. Eight of them don't permanently join until the last arc of the game. In particular, Neptune's recruitment occurs with three missions remaining and quite literally marks the start of the final battles as her awakening causes Aphrodite to break free.
  • River City Ransom EX has Ivan Popov, who, if certain conditions are met, can be recruited literally at the gates of River City High, where Slick and the Dragon Twins are holed up.
  • Ruina: Fairy Tale of the Forgotten Ruins: In the final dungeon, Titus I possesses Chuna's body and fights the party until her body is mortally wounded. If the main character is a rogue, the party only contains three people, and the player has the Iterio Fragment, Chuna will be revived and will join in the fourth slot.
  • The original Shining Force has Hanzou the Ninja, who joins as a hidden character right before the last battle. The GBA version changed this.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Persona:
    • In the original release of Devil Survivor, out of 12 playable characters, 7 of them don't join you until the 7th and final day. In the Updated Re-release Overclocked, depending on whether you complete an optional battle during Yuzu's 8th day, Kaido joins you either midway through or with only a couple of hours left before the final battle; similarly, in Naoya's good 8th day, Yuzu, Midori, and Izuna re/join you with an hour or so before the final showdown.
    • Devil Survivor 2:
      • You get to control most of the heroes by the end of day 4. However, Yamato, Ronaldo, and the Anguished One don't join you until either the beginning of their respective 7th days (for all three) or midway through Daichi's 7th day (for Yamato and Ronaldo). In the Anguished One's route, Joe cannot be convinced to rejoin the party until midway through the 8th and final day with only an hour or two before the Final Boss.
      • In the Triangulum arc introduced in the Updated Re-release Record Breaker, the Anguished One and Miyako don't join you until midway through the 4th and effectively final day (well, unless you count the 3 hours that bleed into the early morning).
  • When you encourage the Yehat in Star Control 2 to rebel against their queen, they spend most of their time fighting the loyalists. Then right before the final battle, they contact you and mention the results of the rebellion.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, Falco is absent for most of the game, until the very final fight against Andross; in which he swoops in to save Fox in the nick of time.
    • And to an extent, James McCloud at the end of Star Fox 64. He is presumed dead in the beginning of the story. But after defeating Andross' Brain and surviving his Desperation Attack, James appears and helps Fox out of an Escape Sequence.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Inquisitor gets their final companion Xalek just before Corellia, the final planet before the endgame for all storylines. As such, he's pretty much superfluous to the storyline since he appears too late to contribute anything to the Inquisitor's plans aside from being around to legitimize your political power. He's never present in group conversations, and none of the other companions ever acknowledge his existance.
  • Stella Glow: Giselle pulls a Heel–Face Turn in the final chapter if you've met the conditions to reach the Golden Ending, though you can still see the other endings in a run where you've recruited her based on your choices during the final battle.
    • To a lesser extent, Veronica. She actually joins fairly early in the penultimate chapter, barely any time at all after the Harbingers who joined at the end of the previous chapter, but she otherwise fits the bill for a late-game powerhouse, having access to magic of all four elements, a Status Buff, and a debuff, an ability that deals bonus damage to the enemy type you'll be facing in every story battle thereafter, and being level 37 when the aforementioned characters that joined a grand total of one story battle earlier were levels 28-30.
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation 1 has Elzam and Sanger join right at the end. The sequel has them join about 2/3's in instead
    • However, OG2 also features Einst Alfimi as an available party member, who literally joins your party for half of the last mission unless you get the Bonus Boss fight, in which case she's available for that as well. In fact, several Super Robot Wars games feature such characters — Alpha Gaiden, for instance, allows you to acquire Sanger just before the game's end, piloting the absurdly powerful Thrudgelmir, if the proper conditions are fulfilled. If the player has enough money on hand to upgrade it fully...
    • OG Gaiden has a slew of them: Axel Almer, Einst Alfimi (again), Despoiniz and Shu Shirakawa (though the latter ends up betraying the team for the final battle)
    • 2nd OG isn't too bad with this as even usual late joiners like Axel and Shu (who doesn't betray you this time) are permanently part of the team by at least prior to the homestretch of the game. Of course there are a few like Alfimi. Touma is an interesting case. He gets Raioh on stage 49 giving you about 13 to 14 stages to use him, which is a decent amount. But he still joins unusually late for a character on the cover and intro of the game, and who was advertised significantly.
    • In Dark Prison, Shu, the protagonist still gets to be the Eleventh Hour Ranger and combines with 11th-Hour Superpower as he unlocks the Neo Granzon. He's joined alongside Monica and Saphine, though this is justified because they just defeated the True Final Boss of 2nd OG. And five turns before they appear, it would be Justine, Zebris and Grofis, aka the Guest generals. Since they never formally join your party, they could also be some sort of Guest-Star Party Member Star Party Members.
    • It's actually common in a number of games to get last-minute reinforcements, starting with Ingram in Super Robot Wars Alpha. Other notable ones include Schwartz, Julia, Zechs (if you unlocked Heero), and Heinel (if you unlocked him) in Shin, Irui Ganeden in Alpha 3, Al-Van Ranks in J, Applicant in W, Xine and Asakim, although Asakim's exclusive to the Rand-route in Z, and Margaret Reeds in Z2-1.
    • Master Therion is the most powerful secret character in Super Robot Wars UX. He has the best default stat in the game (higher than Kuro) as well as the same skill set as when he was an enemy. The Liber Legis also has a default S rank in every terrain too. It's bonus is +300 attack power for both Melee and range weapon, immune to status change and a 35% special evasion. And the most important thing is that he has the "Soul" Spirit Command.
    • In Super Robot Wars V, Full Frontal in his Neo Zeong joins a few stages just before the final battle if unlocked. He boasts an impressive spirit command list, a 2L sized mech, a pretty big sized MAP attack, and can counterattack first before he's attacked on enemy phases.
    • In Super Robot Wars X, the titular Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann happens 1 stage before the end but Kouji inside Mazinger ZERO only happens at the final stage.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Sonic the Hedgehog joins the cast in the cutscene right before the fight against the Final Boss in story mode.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Roy, Dark Samus, Palutena, and Bayonetta don't join you until The Very Definitely Final Dungeon in story mode.
  • In the Japan-only PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia, Flynn kind of takes this role. He joins your team at the end of each arc in the story (with maybe one or two bit exceptions) and doesn't permanently join until right before the final dungeon of the game.
  • Golyat in Tears to Tiara 2 first show up commanding his legions to crush Hispania's rebellion. As he retreats, Hamil offers him land grants for his veterans if he switch sides, something The Empire did in its heyday. He admits the offer is very enticing but it's too late and they'll loose. Fast forward to the final approach on Alba Longa, as the Party wonder if any of The Empire's legions will switch sides, they find him having already put the city under siege and is waiting for them.
  • The single-player campaign of Telepath Tactics has Gunther Lathe, an old foe who performs a Heel–Face Turn right before the Final Battle.
  • The second game of Trails In The Sky trilogy has three: The stranded Sky Pirate Josette Capua, the earlier Guest-Star Party Member Royal Guard Captain Julia Schwartz, and Oliver's associate from The Empire of Erebonia, Major Vander.
  • In Unleash The Light, post-patch, Hessonite is Promoted to Playable right at the end of the game. (Pre-patch, she wasn't playable at all.)
  • Gandar in Valkyrie Profile is unavailable until the final period, and can't be sent up to Valhalla. Suo and Lyseria may also count, being only available as the last einherjar you're gonna to meet.
  • In Wasteland, you can recruit an android robot named VAX in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. He has the best stats of any recruitable NPC in the game.
  • The Wonderful 101:
    • Prince Vorkken only teams up with CENTINELS right before and during the final boss, but he can be unlocked as a permanent party member after getting certain achievements.
    • Luka as Wonder-Goggles joins the team in the Epilogue, which is the only segment where he's normally playable with his unique Unite Morph. Like Vorkken, he can be unlocked with a set of achievements.
  • In the first X-Men Legends Psylocke doesn't join the team until the game's final three missions.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, Obelisk the Tormentor is the last Egyptian God Card and the last overall that you get in the main story.
    • Yami Yugi reappears before you duel Reshef and helps weaken him to the point where he can be defeated.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night's Heaven's Feel Route Rider makes a contract with Shirou and becomes his Servant right before the final confrontation with Dark Sakura.
    • Granted, Rider had been on the heroes' side for most of the route, but she'd never been directly affiliated with them because she was only protecting Shirou because Sakura had ordered her to via Command Seal, which had resulted in a lot of Teeth-Clenched Teamwork and made her seem like a Heel–Face Revolving Door. The final confrontation is just where she throws in with Shirou's faction completely.
  • Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! has Gen-san in the Ryuuzetsuran route.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • At the end of Book 6, Minrah Shaleshoe joins the Order to aid in their quest to stop Xykon. Word of God states that she counts more as a Guest-Star Party Member than a full-fledged member of the Order, however.
    • Oona is a rare villainous example of this trope. She allies herself with Team Evil at the very last Gate, and only has one significant scene prior to Book 7.

    Web Original 
  • NES Godzilla Creepypasta: in the last level of the game, Zachary suddenly has a fifth playable character. However, when he tries to select him, Red outright says "No" and locks him in an unaccesible part of the map. It's not until the final battle, after all the other characters have been killed and the game is at a stalemate, that Red breaks the rules by outright trying to stop Zachary's heart. This allows Melissa to intervene and finally unlock Acacius, whose skills are the only thing that can finally defeat Red.
  • Twitch Plays Pokémon examples:
    • Crystal had Katie the Dratini join at Dragon's Den, just after getting the eighth badge, and still only being a Dragonair at the end of the Elite Four run.
    • Emerald had Annie (Hariyama) join after attempts had already been made on the Elite Four, specifically to fill a need on the team, making her probably the purest example in the series as the E4 was the final goal in that run.
    • Lard Helix wasn't part of the original Elite Four team in HeartGold, joining during the journey through Kanto, and wound up reaching level 100.
    • X had Xerneas join the party after the 7th badge.
    • Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire both had Rayquaza join during the Delta Episode.
    • Anniversary Red had Axemon (Dragonite), Robopon (Victreebel), and Rihanna (Venomoth) all joined after the first Elite Four and contribute to the rematch.
    • Randomized Platinum had Spades (shiny Plusle) join after defeating the Elite Four when it was noticed that only five of Pepe's Pokémon had even battled during the winning run and wound up dealing the final blow to the rematch Elite Four.
    • Sun was almost nothing but Eleventh Hour Rangers. Zydoge (10% Zygarde) and SE (Alolan Raticate) both joined shortly after winning the fourth and final Grand Trial; Nebby (Solgaleo) just before the Elite Four, and Bieber (Buzzwole) in the postgame.
    • Waning Moon again had a late legendary addition that stuck around in the form of Alan (Lunala).
    • Chandelure joined in Theta Emerald EX between attempts at solving the puzzles in the final gym.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Suki joins the Gaang two episodes before the four-part Grand Finale. Zuko joined a few episodes prior.
  • That Beast Wars was going to transition into Beast Machines was sort of an eleventh hour thing and the writers didn't have much notice to wrap up the show's storylines. One consequence of this is that a plot from Season 2 where the characters of Tigatron and Airazor were abducted by the Vok was hurriedly wrapped up in the last episode before the two-part finale, where they return to Earth having been merged by the Vok into one super powerful entity, Tigerhawk, who dies two episodes later in the finale.
  • Sinedd in Season 3 of Galactik Football.
  • And then in The Legend of Korra Book 1 we have Zuko's grandson General Iroh, who assists Team Avatar in the season finale.
  • Ex-villain Jinx joins the party right in the middle of Season 5 finale in Teen Titans.
  • In Transformers: Animated, Jazz (who was already a recurring character) officially joins up with the main cast at the end of the episode right before the finale. Had the show continued, he would have remained as a major character.
  • In Young Justice (2010), Rocket joins the team the episode before the first season finale. She's no longer part of the team when the second season starts... because she joined the Justice League during the five-year Time Skip (the comics reveal that she and Zatanna's first League briefing were just over a month before the events of Season 2's first episode).


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