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Mutually Exclusive Party Members

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"They’re both fine men and fine warriors, but their villages have been feudin’ for years. You should probably resign yourself to the fact that you’ll only get one of them to join your ranks. Give it some thought: the paladin to the west, or the hero to the east?"

Many games, especially Role-Playing Games, allow you to recruit characters that have little or no bearing on the plot. For some games, you can recruit all of these characters if you want.

However, in some games it is not possible to have all playable characters on your team. Maybe recruiting Eve the Elf prevents Dave the Dwarf from joining, or maybe asking that cute cleric to join your cause makes that badass sorcerer leave the party. It could even just be that the heroic knight is found on a different path than the cool pirate chick. Whatever the reason, the game forbids certain characters from being in the party at the same time, requiring you to boot one out in order to get the other or know ahead of time which of the two you want. Sometimes the exclusivity is limited to a single playthrough, and it is possible to use a New Game Plus to go back and acquire the other character (ultimately having both). Other times, the game will never allow the two to be together without the use of a cheating device.

If the chosen party member then goes on to play a specific role in the plot, regardless of who it is, this trope overlaps with Static Role, Exchangeable Character.

Do note that this trope does not apply if you can't recruit a character because the party has a limit on how many members you can have: that trope is Arbitrary Headcount Limit.


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    Action-Adventure Game 
  • Honkai Impact 3rd, as a long-running gacha game, has so-called "awakened" characters, units who share some of their skills and level upgrades with an older one due to some story-related connection − such as Mei’s early battlesuit Lightning Empress and her later Herrscher of Thunder form. Two such connected units cannot be deployed in the same team, nor can they be used against the same boss in the "Memorial Arena" challenge mode. Interestingly, while the awakened system is still part of the game, it eventually became an outdated artifact and no more awakened units were released after the Herrscher of Sentience in early 2021.
  • In Hyrule Warriors, Zelda and Sheik will never be in a mission at the same time. Because, of course, Zelda is Sheik.
  • Saints Row: The Third gives the player the option to either destroy a zombie virus under the orders of Mayor Burt Reynolds to prevent a zombie outbreak from spreading, at which point he will be able to be called in as an ally, or return the zombie virus so that you can call them in instead. However, if you have purchased and downloaded The Unlockable Pack DLC, you can have both. It's that kind of game.

    Adventure Game 

    Fighting Game 
  • In Soul Calibur 3's Chronicles of the Sword mode, there are 2 sets of 2 party members that will join you after defeat at the end of the level, with the first one of the pair that is defeated joining the party. One interesting effect of this is that when a character joins, you unlock their customization items, requiring the mode be beaten at least twice to get all the items.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Downplayed at the start of Subspace Emissary, in which one of the first battles has Kirby decide whether to rescue Zelda or Peach from Petey Piranha. The saved character travels with you for the next couple of matches, but eventually, the two story paths merge.
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Downplayed in World of Light, in which there's a fork in the road near the beginning with a fighter on each path. After saving one fighter, the paths to the other fighters will be blocked, requiring you to find another route to reach them. This time, the choice is between Sheik, Marth or Villager.

    First Person Shooter 
  • In Paladins, Support Champion Pip has a skin hailing from an Alternate Universe; Pepper. The difference between her and other skins is that Pepper is canonically a different character to Pip in the games' lore, meaning while Pepper is technically just a very fancy skin, she is treated like a new character; To wit, Pepper holds the distinction of having a different icon in the In-Match UI instead of Pip's face, her own Roaming Emote, and an official subreddit icon!.
  • At the end of the first level in Wolfenstein: The New Order, you're given a choice as to which one of your surviving comrades to sacrifice to Deathshead, lest he just kill you all on the spot. It's from this point that the game diverges between the Fergus and Wyatt timelines, with the decision affecting not only who becomes The Lancer for the rest of the game, but also which upgrades, unlocking techniques, and an entirely separate character appear throughout the game. It also determines whose brain gets uploaded into the robot that acts as the penultimate boss fight.

    Hack and Slash 
  • In Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, you can recruit most characters on the battlefield, but certain characters (including the lords, who can never be recruited) can't be recruited away from their home factions:
    • Hubert, Ferdinand, Caspar, Monica, and Manuela are exclusive to the Scarlet Blaze (Adrestian Empire) route.
    • Seteth, Flayn, Catherine, Rodrigue, and all of the Blue Lions except for Ashe and Mercedes are exclusive to the Azure Gleam (Holy Kingdom of Faerghus) route.
    • Hilda and her brother Holst are exclusive to the Golden Wildfire (Leicester Alliance) route.

    Platform Game 
  • In Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, when the path forks for a second time, you have the choice of taking the top route (which leads to Sypha Belnades) or the bottom one (which leads to Alucard); they can't meet each other. Furthermore, if you recruited Grant DaNasty during the first fork, you will have to choose between keeping him or taking Sypha/Alucard in his place.

    Puzzle Game 
  • In Angry Birds 2, Hal, Stella, Bubbles and Leonard are classed as Extra Birds, and only one of them can be in action at a time.
  • In Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition, the Leader and Helper slots in the party work differently than in other PAD games and only specific characters can be assigned to them. Mario and Luigi (and later, Peach and Rosalina) are Leader characters that can be assigned to either slot, but you can't use two versions of the same character in both (for example, if Fire Mario is your Leader then you can't use Cat Mario as your Helper). Toads, Yoshis, and Bowser are Helpers and can only be used in the Helper slot, and so using one excludes all the others.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has two pairs of functionally similar but opposite-aligned characters (Smythe vs. Geoffrey and Raven vs. Z'an) who won't stand each other unless you have maxed out Charisma and master training in Persuasion. Magnus will object to recruiting the undead Torian Kel due to a previous incident.
  • In Aveyond 2, you cannot recruit both Nicolas and Gavin unless you use the Party Goodie, in which case a spell will allow them to work together.
  • Prevalent in the Baldur's Gate games. Characters of wildly disparate alignments will sometimes snipe and argue through dialogue at certain points, growing more and more hostile until you're forced to choose which one to keep aboard. Fail to make a choice and combat will break out until one or the other is dead. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to figure out which party members will have this reaction, and you'll often have the option of refusing someone into the party if someone on your team objects.
    • Baldur's Gate III had an interesting case with the Sixth Ranger Halsin/Minthara. Both were recruited in Act II by killing the other in Act I, but on release it was possible to recruit them both through Sequence Breaking. However, a later patch enforced this by making it so that upon recruiting one, the other simply drops dead if left alive.
  • Caligula Overdose has a case where two characters, specifically Eiji and Kotaro, become mutually exclusive on the Musician route. If Eiji has not already been exiled from the party by the time the player reaches the boss fight with Shadow Knife, Kotaro will save Shadow Knife from falling to his death only to fall himself.
  • Chrono Cross, with its large cast, has a few examples. Early in the game there are three ways to sneak into Viper Manor, each of which nets you a different party member. Immediately afterwards, you can acquire one of two groups of party members depending on whether you choose to save Kid or not. It's only possible to get everyone on the team at once with multiple playthroughs.
  • Darkest Dungeon had the Abomination, a class with a werewolf-esque Superpowered Evil Side that "Religious" classes (the Vestal, the Leper, the Flagellant and the Crusader) refused to party with, at least until the developer finally coded in the oft-modded in ability to take them with said classes. Flagellants additionally refuse to party with other Flagellants, saying "the burden of suffering cannot be shared".
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, Alistair will leave your party if you spare and recruit Teyrn Loghain after besting the latter in a duel between him and a party member of your choosing. If you choose Alistair as your champion for the duel you won't even get to choose what to do with Loghain, as Alistair will just kill him outright.
    • Siblings Bethany and Carver are mutually exclusive at the beginning of Dragon Age II, and one will be shot down by Schrödinger's Gun; if Hawke is a mage, Bethany dies. Otherwise, Carver dies. At the end, Anders and Sebastian become mutually exclusive. If you refuse to kill Anders, Sebastian will not only leave the party, but promise to raise an army against Kirkwall.
    • Late in Act I of Dragon Age: Inquisition, you will only be able to have either Dorian or Cole in your party. Whichever party member is available depends on whether you go after the mages or templars respectively. This changes after the attack on Haven, as the party member that wasn't picked will join you after Act I is over.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • The first two potential companions you encounter, elf archer Faendal and Nord bard Sven, are mutually exclusive, as the sidequest that involves recruiting one of them will cause the other one to hate your guts for the rest of the game. Generally speaking, both are lower-tier companions, though Faendal's stats and skills are generally better than Sven's, and Faendal is an archery skill trainer whereas Sven is merely a bard.
    • Dawnguard has you to choose between Volkihar Clan's two Death Hounds and several Fort Dawnguard members, including huskies and an Armored Troll. Since the Dawnguards and Volkihar Clan are hostile to each other, you can only side with either of them.
  • Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City: Roughly halfway through the game, you're forced to choose one of the two endgame paths, influencing (among other things) which of the game's two unlockable classes you earn after defeating the next boss. If you sided with Armoroad, you unlock the Shogun, while if you sided with the Deep City, you unlock the Yggdroid. Fortunately, they stay unlocked on a New Game Plus, which means you can ultimately have both classes in the same party.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Odin and Raiden are mutually exclusive in Final Fantasy VI. Raiden is more or less an upgrade of Odin, so getting Raiden means losing on Odin. And while Raiden teaches much more useful Quick spell to Odin's Meteor, Odin's stat bonus provides x1 Speed, which is arguably more useful that x2 Strength of Raiden. Pick your poison.
    • In ''Final Fantasy VII Remake',' Barret and Aerith are for the most part mutually exclusive due to Cloud meeting Aerith after separating from Barret and Tifa, and only getting Barret back when Aerith is taken by Shinra. The only times Barret and Aerith are playable simultaneously are the battle against the Arsenal at the end of Chapter 17, potentially the final battle against Sephiroth if you use them both more than Tifa during the preceding fight against Whisper Harbinger, and in the post-game Shinra battle simulator.
    • In Final Fantasy VIII, it is impossible to have both Odin and Gilgamesh as summonable Guardian Forces. If you get Odin before the end of disc 3, he is replaced by Gilgamesh during the battle against Seifer. If you wait until disc 4 to get Odin, Gilgamesh is lost. Gilgamesh is more useful since he can cause damage even to enemies that are immune to instant death, but he's unreliable since you have no control over which of his 4 swords he'll use... one of them being a Joke Weapon that does only 1 HP worth of damage.
  • In Jade Empire, you are forced to kill either Chai Ka or Ya Zhen early in Chapter 4 if you've spoken to Wild Flower and learned about Ya Zhen. The two spirits, struggling for control of the body of the girl named Wild Flower, battle each other, and you must fight with one of them against the other.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords:
    • PC gender determines availability of the Handmaiden or the Disciple. The former is available only to male PCs, the latter only to female ones.
    • Light/Dark side meter selects between Mira (light) or Hanharr (dark). If the player is precisely neutral, Mira will still join.
  • A somewhat unusual example in Legend of Mana: If you complete the Matilda/Irwin arc, you reach a point where you must fight either Daena or Escad with the help of the other. Though you can bring either one along with you for most of the arc up to that point and switch freely, the one you fight is Killed Off for Real and is lost for the rest of the game (in fact, it's possible for both characters to be gone, but it will always be at least one of the two).
  • During the Imperial China chapter of Live A Live, the Earthen Heart Shifu picks up three wayward youths as students, and has to determine their training regimen for the next few days. The training does improve the stats of the one you choose to train. Unfortunately, a hostile martial arts school attacks the dojo while you are away on business, and the student you favored most winds up surviving... barely. The other two are flat-out dead. You are thus locked in to that surviving student both for the rest of the chapter and for the Final chapter.
  • Taken to the extreme in Marvel: Avengers Alliance - you can take two characters with you on each mission. The only exception is Doctor Doom with whom every single other character, including other villains refuses to work.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect goes for the Player Punch by making you choose between Ashley and Kaidan, your two human squad-mates, on Virmire. "Virmire Survivor" has become an accepted fan term for whoever you pick, as they have similar routes in the rest of the series - chewing you out for working with Cerberus in the second game, then becoming the second human Spectre and (potentially) rejoining you in the third.
    • In Mass Effect 2, during Samara's loyalty mission, if you have a high enough Paragon or Renegade score, you can choose to recruit Samara's daughter Morinth, who will functionally serve the same role. However, whichever character you don't choose will end up dead by the end of the mission.
    • In Mass Effect 3 you can decide between Drs. Karin Chakwas and Chloe Michel to serve as the Normandy's medical officer. It's purely a case of personal preference in this instance, as neither character has any exclusive missions.
  • In Mount & Blade, the player can pick up various unique and named companions in addition to generic soldiers. These companions each have two other possible companions that they can't stand, and (at least in Warband) the feeling is always mutual. Recruiting two characters who hate each other will cause both of their Morale to steadily drop, and recruiting a companion and both of their enemies causes their Morale to drain rapidly; in either case, eventually someone (potentially everyone involved) is gonna leave the party. They can be picked back up again after a little time has passed, but doing so without removing their enemies from your team means the Morale issues will continue.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2:
    • For the penultimate boss battle of the base game, Sand or Qara will join the enemy, depending on how high your influence is with the former. If the former stays with you, the latter will not due to their mutual antagonism.
    • In Mask of the Betrayer, One Of Many can only be created by using Okku's dead body.
  • In the Persona series:
    • In Persona:
      • Yukino can never be in the party at the same time as Maki, since Maki only joins you after you commit to the SEBEC route (by which point Yukino has already left the party and can never return). She also becomes mutually exclusive with Masao since they both leave shortly before the route split and only one of them will return depending on which route you take.
      • Reiji is an Optional Party Member who joins shortly into the SEBEC route and is totally unavailable in the Snow Queen Quest. Thus, he can never fight alongside Yukino (exclusive to the prologue and Snow Queen Quest), Eriko, Hidehiko, and Yuka (all optional party members who take up the same slot he does).
    • Persona 2: Eternal Punishment: When rumors start to become reality, the protagonists decide to spread a rumor that someone is investigating The Conspiracy in an attempt to gain a new ally. The player must choose whether the rumor states that the investigator is a man or a woman, which respectively leads to Kei Nanjo or Eriko Kirishima joining the team.
    • In Persona 4 a variation exists with the Strength and Sun Social Links, which involve you joining a sports team or culture club. In the former, if you choose the basketball team, you'll spend time with Kou Ichijou, while if you join the soccer team, you'll spend time with Daisuke Nagase- granted, since the two are fairly close, you'll see both of them fairly often in each version of the Social Link. In the latter, you spend time with Yumi Ozawa if you choose the drama club, and Ayane Matsunaga if you choose the band. Neither choice has any impact on the benefits of developing that confidant, but some scenes in the Moon Social Link (which is unlocked midway through the Strength Social Link) will vary based on your choice.
  • The Pokémon series is replete with this trope when it comes to its Mons. Breeding and trading with other players notwithstanding:
    • There are three elementally-themed starter Pokemon, which you get to pick just one to start your party from.
    • Every set of games within a generation has some Pokemon that can only be found in one of the versions. Pick up Pokemon Red, and you're trading access to the Pokemon Blue-only Sandshrew line for the Ekans line, for example.
    • There is usually a pair of fossils, and you can choose only one to revive into a Pokemon. This is subverted in Emerald Version, where choosing one of the two fossils will cause the Mirage Tower that contains them to sink into the sand with the other, seemingly gone forever. However, after the Elite Four is beaten, one can travel through the Desert Underpass in which the other fossil can be found.
    • In Pokémon Red and Blue (before the introduction of breeding) you can pick either a Hitmonchan or Hitmonlee by defeating the master of Saffron City's fighting dojo. You also receive one Eevee which can evolve into only one of three final forms.
    • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, you can only get one Fire Stone, one Water Stone, one Thunder Stone, and one Leaf Stone from Bill's grandfather. This means that the groups of Ninetales/Arcanine/Flareon (Fire), Poliwrath/Cloyster/Starmie/Vaporeon (Water), Raichu/Jolteon (Thunder), and Vileplume/Victreebel/Exeggutor (Leaf) are all mutually exclusive. Fortunately, Crystal, HeartGold, and SoulSilver allow you to farm these stones from NPCs.
    • In Pokemon Ruby and Emerald, you only get one Moon Stone from Meteor Falls, meaning you can only have one of Wigglytuff or Delcatty. Sapphire isn't so unlucky, as Moon Stones are rarely held by wild Lunatone.
    • In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, Kyurem can merge with either Zekrom or Reshiram into either Black Kyurem or White Kyurem using the DNA Splicers. However, even if you have more than one Kyurem in your party, you won't be able to have both Black Kyurem and White Kyurem in your party because the DNA Splicers will reject the second fusion.
    • In Pokémon X and Y, the Mega-Charizard and Mega-Mewtwo form you can get, as well as several other Mega-Evolution stones, are unique to one of the two versions, with only 1 of each type of stone present per game.
    • In Pokemon Sword and Shield's Crown Tundra, you have the choice between two new Legendary Titans, either Regieleki and Regidrago, depending on which of the two's pattern you light up with the panels on the temple's floor. Also, in Calyrex's storyline, you get to choose if either Glastrier or Spectrier was Calyrex's steed depending on where you plant the Carrot Seeds, which will cause either an Iceroot Carrot or a Shaderoot Carrot to grow.
  • In Quest For Glory V: Dragonfire, you can bring back Erana or Katrina from the dead. Both are Arch-mages. Erana sacrificed her life to save the world. Katrina was a villain, or at best a Well-Intentioned Extremist running on Blue-and-Orange Morality and bad advice... On the other hand, she sacrificed her life to save you. It also blends into Gameplay and Story Segregation; Word of God is that canonically, the Hero was so bad ass he was able to rescue both.
  • In Radiata Stories, which party members you get depends on whether you side with the humans or the nonhumans. However that choice doesn't occur until halfway through the game. Before that, you can recruit humans and nonhumans alike, though there are many on both sides that remain unrecruitable until after the split, and the allies you recruited of the opposite faction are no longer usable.
  • Romancing SaGa:
    • You can't have Albert and Diana at the same time. The two of them are constantly looking for each other, having been separated during the fall of Isthmus Keep, and short of exploiting a glitch with a very specific set of steps, it's impossible to reunite them in your party.
    • Playing Jamil's scenario makes it impossible to recruit Farah. She's allowed to be in the same party as Jamil as long as somebody else is the main character; the reason she's barred from joining in his story is because her choosing to wait for him is a critical part of his ending.
    • One unique case that's only accessible after a few playthroughs is Darque and Aldora. In this case, it's as they're two souls sharing a body, and the only way to recruit Aldora is to help along her Split-Personality Takeover.
  • In the original version of SaGa Frontier, most party members can be recruited via the same specific methods, no matter who the main protagonist is. However, there are a few exceptions, most prominently player characters Red/Alkaiser and Blue: they are only playable when you choose their stories, and cannot be recruited in others. There's no real reason why Red is left out, but Blue is presented to be the "evil" sibling between him and his brother Rouge; in fact, a point of contrast is that Rouge can be recruited in almost all of the other scenarios, whereas in Red's scenario, you can run into Blue and he'll refuse to join you solely because of Red's name. In the Remaster, Fuse's scenario does let you have nearly every formerly mutually exclusive character in the same party, with the sole exception of recruiting both Blue and Rouge due to their competition.
  • In Septerra Core, you can recruit all the possible characters, but if you try to put Selina & Corgan or Led & Lobo in the same party, they'll occasionally shoot at each other instead of the enemy. However, you can do a sidequest to befriend them.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • In Shin Megami Tensei I, the Chaos Hero and Heroine are never playable at the same time. The Chaos Hero breaks off with you to fight Ozawa right before the Heroine joins for the first time, the Heroine sacrifices herself to save you from the nukes (it doesn't stick) before the Chaos Hero rejoins you in the Diamond Realm, and the Chaos Hero permanently abandons you after you defeat Ozawa for the final time before the Heroine rejoins you for good after you exorcise Arachne from her mind.
    • Enforced in Shin Megami Tensei V. Archangel Michael and Belial will only join on the Law and Chaos routes respectively, as a reward for a mission to kill the other. Normally, killing a boss demon unlocks their fusion, but an ally of the target demon knows this, so they stop the fight before the protagonist can deal the finishing blow. It's still possible to have both demons in your party on a New Game Plus.
  • Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood makes it impossible to have both Dr. Eggman and Shade in the party at the same time, since Eggman leaves the party during the same chapter Shade joins.
  • In Soul Hackers, summoning demons into your party shifts the total party alignment, limiting what other demons you can add. So if you have two Chaotic demons out, you won't be able to summon a Lawful one. The DS Updated Re-release comes with an option to turn this off.
  • Due to the way party creation is handled in both The Spirit Engine and The Spirit Engine 2, every party member is mutually exclusive with two others. Each group of three has similar personalities and fulfills similar roles in the story to each other (for example, in 2 Ionae, Mericious and Kaltos all function as the Token Evil Teammate), and thus having more than one of each in the party would be redundant. Notably, while the game stops you from choosing people with similar personalities, it doesn't stop you from picking people with identical classes; so while a party of Ionae, Mericious and Kaltos couldn't happen, a party of Ionae, Charlotte and Grace is perfectly doable, if lacking in flexibility.
  • There are several examples throughout the Star Ocean series.
    • Star Ocean:
      • If you choose Cyuss, you can't recruit Ashlay, and vice versa. In the remake, recruiting Cyuss also means you can't recruit Erys.
      • Recruiting either Cyuss or Ashlay means that Phia is not recruitable in the early game outside of serving as a Guest-Star Party Member, though you can still get her later permanently if you have six or less characters.
      • In the remake, if you recruit Erys, you will lose Mavelle. Because Mavelle is Erys, just in another body. She'll reclaim her original body if you recruit her.
    • Star Ocean: The Second Story:
      • Ashton and Opera are mutually exclusive, with Opera requiring the player to trigger a couple of easily missed Event Flags. Both have quests hinging on a particular dungeon; however, visiting this dungeon is required as part of her recruitment, while for Ashton it's merely a Side Quest. In addition, Opera is required for recruiting Ernest, making him also incapable of traveling in a party with Ashton.
      • While Precis is easily picked up once you reach her hometown, Bowman will not offer to join if she's in the party.
      • Leon and Dias are also mutually exclusive, though not because they cancel each other out; Dias will only offer to join if Rena is the main character, while Leon remains a Guest-Star Party Member unless Claude is the main character.
    • In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, there are ten total playable characters, six of which are required. While you do get to use all ten at some point, you can only choose two of the four non-required party members (Nel, Roger, Pepita, and Albel) to permanently join you later.
    • In Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Arumat joins the party to replace Faize. In a New Game Plus, you can keep the old party member in your battle party instead of replacing them...but Arumat will still be in their place in cutscenes to keep the main plot consistent.
    • In Star Ocean: The Divine Force, similar to Leon and Dias in Second Story, J.J. will only join the party if Raymond is the main protagonist, while Theo will only join if Laeticia is the main protagonist.
  • In a series which is famous for encouraging you to recruit everyone you can, Suikoden II comes with a few examples.
    • The first is when you are asked to choose between Valeria and Kasumi, both of whom are returning characters from the first game who the player would probably love to have on their side for continuity's sake. Not to mention that they both have storyline connections to other characters you'll recruit (the other two ninja for Kasuminote , Anita for Valeria), making it particularly annoying that you can't have both. Official artbooks and the Suikogaiden Visual Novels indicate that both of them did join the Allied Army, despite this being impossible in the actual game.
    • The second comes when you are given two Listening Crystals. These allow you to recruit monsters. You only get the two, and there's four choices of monsters, one of whom isn't even a Star of Destiny.
  • Just after the halfway point of Suikoden V, you can access a rather difficult bonus dungeon that upon completion nets you the very Mysterious Waif Eresh. If you do not recruit her, then at the very end of the game, you can recruit Euram Barrows to occupy that position in the 108 Stars of Destiny. Eresh has no plot relevance, while recruiting Euram is necessary to complete his character arc...but Eresh is much more useful and it's impossible to fully explore the bonus dungeon if you recruit Euram.
  • Tales Series:
    • In Tales of Symphonia, there is precisely one dungeon during which you can use both Kratos and Zelos at the same time, after which Kratos leaves (again). Later on, there is a way to have Kratos join your team for good, removing Zelos in the process: spend time with him in Flanoir, which results in Zelos fighting you as a boss and dying, and Kratos rejoining the party after giving Lloyd his sword.
    • In Tales of the Abyss, Guest-Star Party Member Asch is only playable at times when Luke is not. This is even enforced by Luke on one sidequest, since they're functionally almost identical, and the party doesn't need two people who fight with their style.
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera has your starting companions, Aligern and Callistege. They had just gone through a bad break up and by the time you leave the initial area, will get into an argument and refuse to be in the same party together.
  • In Ultima IV, who can or can't join you depends on the class you chose at the start of the game, e.g. if you are a mage, then Mariah the Mage can't join your eight-person gang because it can't have two mages. Essentially, the Avatar is mutually exclusive with the potential party member of the same class.
  • In Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, there are multiple possible Einherjar for most such weapons you find; you get only one of them, so you'll never have, say, Phyress and Ehrde (both archers from the same bow) in the party at the same time.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: Phog and Frye Christoph are brothers who are opposites in every way and had a major falling-out over a past tragedy. You recruit Phog first, but Frye's recruitment mission requires Phog to be recruited but not in your active party. Afterwards, both of them will refuse to join your party if the other is present. Until they resolve their differences in the "Blitzkreig" mission (unlocked after raising your Relationship Values with both of them to a certain level), you can't have both in your party at the same time. Different examples can be found regarding Celica and Mia; these two characters become recruitable only after the point where Lao becomes permanently unavailable as a party member.

    Tabletop Games 

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • In Devil Survivor:
    • If you screw up events on Day 4, you are placed into a situation where you can only prevent one of Keisuke or Mari's Plotline Deaths, not both.
    • In the original release, Naoya and Kaido only join on their own route, which is the most restrictive one in terms of party lineup. As such, they are mutually exclusive with everyone save Atsuro, Mari, and Black Frost. In Overclocked, everyone except Keisuke and Gin can join on Naoya's good Day 8 while Kaido joins on Yuzu's Day 8, meaning that the only remaining pairs who can never fight alongside each other are Kaido/Gin, Gin/Naoya, and Naoya/Keisuke.
  • In Devil Survivor 2, Yamato, Ronaldo and Al Saiduq are this. While it's possible to get both Yamato and Ronaldo in one route, you can never have all three at once. This is because the latter will only join in his own route, and in that route neither Yamato or Ronaldo are recruitable. This is no longer the case in Record Breaker, where all three can be recruited during the Triangulum Arc.
  • The Fire Emblem series does this from time to time.
    • In Chapter 16 of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, there are two villages that are right next to each other. One contains Samson, a fairly powerful Hero, while another contains Arran, a Crutch Character Paladin. If Marth is sent down to those villages and enters one, he can recruit one of them. However, doing so causes the other village to close its gates, preventing him from getting the other character.
    • Halfway through Chapter 3 in Fire Emblem Gaiden and its remake, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia there are two bosses, Sonya and Deen, that each control their own armies and both block different routes to another boss, Grieth. After fighting and killing one of the bosses, the other will retreat and can be recruited later, after the group defeats Grieth.
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War:
      • In Chapter 6, the player can recruit either Iuchar or Iucharba, but because these two hate each other and have a crush on Larcei/Creidne (who is needed to recruit either of those two, anyways), it will enrage the other and make them unable to be recruited.
      • There's something of a long-term case in regards to the children characters and their replacements; in the first generation of the game, you could pair up certain characters and have them marry. If this is done, the second generation would consist of children of the characters from the first generation, barring certain exceptions. If this isn't done, the player instead get a set of "replacement characters" who for the most part were unrelated to characters from the first generation. While it is possible to have some sets be children and others be replacements, it is obviously impossible to have the replacements meet the children they're replacing (even though the replacements exist even if they're not in the party; two of them are even the cousins of two "main" children). Most of the replacements are inferior to the children in terms of stats, usable items, and skills, so it isn't much of an issue.
    • In Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, recruiting Ilios requires you to not have recruited Olwen a few chapters before, and recruiting Ced causes Saias to leave the party. The branching paths in the story also determine which of two sets of party members can be recruited: Sleuf, Misha and Amalda in the A route, or Shannam, Princess Miranda and Conomor in the B route.
    • Branching paths make it impossible to recruit Bartre and Echidna in the same playthrough of Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, and a second branching path will prevent the player from getting either Juno or Dayan. While Elffin and Larum are also locked to the first branching path, respectively, they are both Quirky Bards who play identically so it doesn't really matter.
    • One can't re-recruit Wallace in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade without giving up the opportunity to get Geitz. Similarly, certain actions you take in the chapter "Pale Flower of Darkness" determine whether Harken or Karel will appear.
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, there is a Duel Boss against the Black Knight. If the player fails to win but survives for five turns, Ena joins the party. If the boss is defeated, Ena's grandfather Nasir joins instead. Then, during the final level, you are given the option to recruit one of three powerful new characters. After one is chosen, the other two are unavailable for the rest of the game.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn there are three herons. A heron can give multiple units an Extra Turn, so if the player had two of them together, they could give each other extra turns perpetually while also giving other units the ability to attack again. Instead of an Obvious Rule Patch not allowing Herons to get an extra turn this way, they're made to follow this trope.
    • In Shadow Dragon:
      • Doing the sidequest to recruit Nagi both requires Tiki to have died earlier in the game and also prevents Gotoh from joining the party. (While the Aum Staff can bring Tiki Back from the Dead, it's impossible to recruit Gotoh no matter what). Due to being a remake of the first game (and thus the first book of the third), the Arran and Samson example from above returns.
      • Shadow Dragon has several other examples, in that the players can only access certain sidequests by having a maximum of 15 living units at the time. This is doable if one spares only the characters you use most frequently, but many players have issues with letting even one of their party die.
    • Fire Emblem Fates splits the game into three routes. On the first two routes characters unique to each kingdom (e.g. Ryoma for Hoshido or Xander for Nohr) are the only ones recruitable, with the characters not chosen becoming characters the group has to fight at some point in the campaign. The third route allows the recruitment of most of these characters, but exceptions still remain: Yukimura is only available on the Birthright route while the Nohrian characters are only on the other two routes, Scarlet is primarily exclusive to Birthright and suffers an unavoidable Plotline Death before Flora and Fuga can join in Revelation, and Izana is available only on Birthright and Conquest while Fuga is exclusive to Revelation.
    • While it's possible to recruit most of the students in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there are exceptions to this. Edelgard and Hubert cannot be poached from the Black Eagles, Dimitri and Dedue cannot leave the Blue Lions (and Gilbert will later serve them as an attendant), and Claude cannot leave the Golden Deer note . Moreover, in addition to devoted Rhea supporters Cyril, Catherine, and Seteth being unable to join them, Flayn will become mutually exclusive with both Edelgard and Hubert before the Time Skip on the Crimson Flower route — if you choose to side with the Church over the Empire, the latter will leave the party, and if you instead choose to side with Edelgard, the former will leave. A post-launch patch makes Jeritza/Death Knight also exclusive to the Crimson Flower route.
  • Jagged Alliance: Some mercs will refuse to work with others, either turning down your offer on the ground that you have their personal enemy or leaving the party. Though this feeling is not always mutual, so hiring people in right order you can sometimes hire both of them.
    • In the first game, failing to listen to the complaints of your mercs can have terrible consequences: Fidel does not like working with Hurl, for example, and failing to fire one or the other will result in Hurl disappearing in the middle of the night (the implication is that Fidel killed him), and you'll lose all Hurl's equipment.
    • In the second game, if you manage to hire two mercs that do not like each other, they will (grudgingly) work together for the duration of their contracts. However, when the option to renew their contracts comes up, both of them will refuse to extend their contracts, meaning you'll lose two mercs instead of just one.
  • In Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle's story mode, the player's three-character party has a caveat on what characters can be on the team. This being that Mario must be on the team, plus at least one Rabbid, since the name is called... well, you know. This makes Luigi, Peach and Yoshi mutually exclusive as a result. You can freely mix and match in the multiplayer modes, however.
  • In Odium, if you go into an optional side-area to recruit Slavsky, one of your teammates, Medusa, goes insane first and must be killed. Technically, that's the Arbitrary Headcount Limit in play, since having both Medusa and Slavsky would exceed your limit of 5 members.
  • Ogre Battle:
    • In the original Tactics Ogre, the path you take will determine which party member you will get:
      • Choosing the Law route will let you re-recruit Vyce, and also gives you the option to recruit Xapan, Jeunan and Ocionne the Dragon Tamer. The PSP remake also includes Ravness and Ozma as your exclusive characters in your party.
      • Choosing the Chaos route will let you recruit Arycelle the Archer (although in the PSP remake she can be recruited in the Law route), Folcurt, Bayin and allows you to complete the Four Phoraena Sisters roster as it lets you recruit Cistina and Cerya.
      • Stay in the Chaos route and in the original version, you get to keep Arycelle, and in the PSP version you can recruit Cressida.
      • Move to the Neutral route and you can recruit Oelias and Dievold. However, Gildas, who's available in every other route, is unavailable here, while in the original version, Arycelle leaves your team(in the PSP version, her approval is just set to extremely low levels, meaning she will likely abandon you shortly if you can't raise it back up quickly).
    • In Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, the player can, at a certain point in the game, decide between two paths. On one path you recruit Shiven and Cybil, while the second path has you recruit Orson and Rictor. Then, later in the game on both paths, you are given the option to recruit either an Angel Knight or a Lesser Daemon, which locks the other from you, but if one of them dies or be turned into Infinity +1 Sword you can still do the event of getting another (only if you didn't complete Lesser Daemon event with alive Angel in your party).
  • Rondo of Swords has a plot split halfway through the game, based on whether you spare or kill Marie. Alicia (and, of course, the potential sacrifice) are only available if you spare the sacrifice's life, and Naji is only available if you kill the sacrifice.
  • In Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs, the diplomatic missives you get between two opposing factions (Shedu vs. Lordemar, and Alfheimr vs. the Empire) give you a party member once you reach level 3 with that faction. Since you can only have four Reputation points in total between factions, you can only ever have one of the two extra party members from each set (Esther for Shedu, Henrietta for Lordemar, Valen for Alfheimr, and Mifune for the Empire) in one playthrough. The Paragons and Pajamas DLC adds an additional two opposing factions and party members (Quinn for Armellise, and Yusuf & Berius from Minwe).
  • In Shining Force II, when you go to Creed's Mansion, you are given a choice between four characters: Karna, Tyrin, Randalf, and Eric. After you pick one, the other three become unavailable to you. Later in the game, it's possible to recruit the characters you missed.
  • Being a large series, Super Robot Wars has quite a few of these, dating all the way back to Super Robot Wars 3.
  • TearRing Saga, a Spiritual Successor to the earlier-listed Fire Emblem, also has a few examples:
    • Early on, you get to choose one of Narron, Lee, Luka or Ezekiel to join your party. You get a second pick later, although this time Lionel becomes an option (replacing whoever you picked first). In all, you can't have more than two of these five characters in a single playthrough.
    • There's an Inversion later on: if you fulfilled the Guide Dang It! requirements to recruit Leteena, she will inevitably leave you at the next route split unless Ezekiel is also in your army. (The only way to avoid this is to kill off Kreiss)
  • Triangle Strategy has several:
    • You can only get one of Rudolph or Corentin, based on whether you traveled to Aesfrost or Hyzante in Chapter III.
    • The plot branches of Chapter XV determine which one of four mutually exclusive characters joins your party. Siding with Benedict has Milo join you permanently, siding with Roland has Cordelia join you, and siding with Frederica has one of Travis or Trish join you depending on how you handled the vote in Chapter XI.
    • In Chapter XVII, this is reversed: One of your party members that have been with you since the very beginning will leave you for the rest of the game following the vote, but which one depends again on who you side with. Siding with Benedict causes Roland to leave, siding with Roland causes Frederica to leave, and siding with Frederica causes Benedict to leave. Averted if you meet the conditions for the Golden Ending, which branches off before this Sadistic Choice.
  • In West of Loathing you're only able to take one of the potential "Pardners" you recruit in the First Town with you. However later on it's possible to recruit a Secret Character as another Pardner.
  • In Yggdra Union, you recruit either Roswell or Rosary after killing one of them. The survivor joins your army.
    • In Blaze Union, your final party member is determined by Road Cone—Baldus in route A, Emilia in route B, and Baretreenu in route C.
    • Similarly, in Gloria Union your REP value determines whether you get Yggdra or Gangr in Chapter 4, and whether Eater or Pamela is available in Chapter 5.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Age of Mythology and its expansion have this in terms of gods. Each individual faction has three starting gods as benefactors, and every time your population advances in age (level), you have to choose between two different gods to advance you each time. For example, when you begin a skirmish in the Archaic Age, if you play the Greek army, you start with either Zeus, Poseidon or Hades as your benefactor, and if you choose Poseidon, when you advance to the Classical Age, you have to choose between Hermes and Ares as benefactors. Given each individual god has their own unique God Power, unique unit upgrades, and unique Myth unit, very often you will have to choose between having one particular legendary creature in your army while excluding the other.
  • Majesty does this with unit types, specifically the non-human races, and the various temples and their priests. If you recruit one of the non-human races, you can't get the others unless the mission starts you with more than one of them already (elves think dwarves are uncouth, dwarves think elves are snooty and corrupt, and both look down on the gnomes). Also, while there are numerous gods, some hate each other, so building the temple of one will lock out two or three others - or in the case of the barbarian war god, all of the others. Then again, the barbarian god's "priests" and only spell are so powerful it's sometimes very worth it.

    Simulation Games 
  • Sierra Ops: Which people join your ship's crew depends on the choices you make during Episode 1. For instance, going to investigate the Rhines distress signal results in Allen Fallauro and Jean Brookes joining the crew in Episode 2.
  • Yes, Your Grace: This happens with some of the allies who can be taken on to get more soldiers:
    • Etton and Lurs, as the former trades in Oracle Dust and the latter is effectively on a crusade against it.
    • Sir Friderick and Noaksey, a famous knight and a Hunter of Monsters respectively, who consider each other to be frauds. If King Eryk takes one of them on as an ally, the other will refuse to help him.

  • In Billy vs. SNAKEMAN, completing the third part of The Trade (a Death Note pastiche) requires you to murder either Right or Anonymous. Whichever you spare will level up (as will your third Trade ally, Lisa Lisa, regardless of who you pick), but the murdered one will, for obvious reasons, not be available anymore. Likewise, the Monochrome Academy questline will culminate with you choosing to side with either Strawberry or Mister Tea, with one being lost forever (or at least until next season) and the other becoming really powerful.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic; some are downplayed thanks to a terminal on Odessen that lets you (unofficially) add the other option to your Alliance:
    • In the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, which faction your character originally belonged to determines whether you can recruit M1-4X (Republic) or Pierce (Empire). This one is not affected by the Odessen terminal; there's really no way to recruit the other faction's character.
    • Near the end of the Knights of the Eternal Throne story, you have to choose one of two companions (Vette and Torian) to save, and whichever one you don't save dies.
    • In the War for Iokath update, when you arrive on Iokath, representatives from the Republic and Empire have come to propose a partnership with the Alliance; the representative of whichever side you support joins the Alliance while the other opposes you.note 
    • Jaesa can be considered mutually exclusive with herself; she has two versions, depending whether you make her fall to the Dark Side when recruiting her or not. The two are coded as different characters with different companion stories, and once the choice is made, there's no changing it.
    • On a meta level, in 2016 a game-wide event was held to determine which of two characters would be added to the game as a companion: Dazh Ranos, a Chiss Jedi Master, or Darth Hexid, a Zabrak Sith. Ranos won. About a year later Hexid was also added.
  • World of Warcraft: In the Legion expansion, the introductory quests for demon hunters in Mardum are commanded by Illidan Stormrage's Lieutenant Kayn Sunfury. Later on, after a Time Skip, you find yourself in the Vault of the Wardens where Maiev herself releases you out of desperation, once the Vault is stormed by demons. Then, you're to release two fellow demon hunters: the aforementioned Kayn and Altruis the Sufferer, who went rogue from the Illidari and gave quests to players in Nagrand, back in Burning Crusade. These two bicker incessantly while securing the Vault and escaping, until by the near-end of the scenario you're given the choice of siding with either of them. This determines whether in one later mission you convince Akama to join your ranks(if Altruis is your follower), or you're forced to perform a ritual to extract his shade from him(if Kayn is your follower).

    Visual Novels