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Optional Party Member

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A character that can be recruited into your party, but the method of actually recruiting them may be esoteric. Perhaps they are mentioned directly in the manual, or their weapon of choice is conspicuously for sale before you have a party member who can use it. They aren't required to stay in the party, but may temporarily join you. If you really want them back, some games will let you hunt them down again, often by some non-intuitive and convoluted means.

The biggest problem with these characters that you may only be able to recruit them very late in the game. Although most games are kind enough to have them near the same level as your characters, special skills or weapons that need to be built up are going to take a long time to get. In addition, since they're optional, the majority of the plot can't assume you have them. Thus they'll have less impact. If the game offers more than one of these, they may be Mutually Exclusive Party Members of whom you can only choose a limited number (possibly via some never-explained mechanic or minor choice several hours earlier).

In some cases, the Optional Party Member can potential be a Sixth Ranger Traitor, who hinders you through various means, from purposefully fleeing, to actively backstabbing the other party member.

Similar to the Guest-Star Party Member, the Optional Party Member is commonly either hacked into the party or used as part of a challenge. Sometimes they may be a Joke Character who isn't very useful but other times they may be one of the best characters in the game. They might even be both.

Many Strategy RPGs will use this trope a lot, as in fact the story will often be written with the thought of how the party member may be permanently killed off at any moment in the story. Most of the time it is when they are not mandatory, but there are exceptions.

Compare Guest-Star Party Member.


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    Fighting Game 
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary, every playable character in the game joins throughout the story, except for Wolf, Jigglypuff, and Toon Link, all of whom, like everyone, can be unlocked outside of Emissary by other means. To use them in Subspace Emissary, hidden doors must be found in three levels. In fact, by the time you clear the "Entrance to Subspace" stage, everyone besides King Dedede, Luigi, Ness, Kirby, Sonic, and Bowser becomes optional party members — you just need to collect their trophies during the subsequent two levels (Ganondorf, however, requires both Link and Zelda to be unlocked). And at the beginning of the game, Kirby has the choice of having either Peach or Zelda accompany him until "The Lake Shore" stage.

    Hack And Slash 
  • To beat the game, you don't need to collect any party members in Drakengard. To get the fourth or fifth ending, however, you have to have all of them. This causes some problems for the sequel, which is based off the first ending and has a former party member appear in a position of power eighteen years down the line, even though technically you didn't have to get him in the first game.
  • In Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes you can recruit characters from others sides to your own by choosing the "Persuade" strategies during the pre-battle menu, wait for the option to activate during the battle, and then defeate the specific character. If you don't do that, you kill them instead. Some characters will also require specific characters to be active to recruit them, such as brother and sister Jeritza and Mercedes.
    • Byleth and Jeralt can only be recruited on chapter 10 of Golden Wildfire or chapter 12 of Azure Gleam or Scarlet Blaze by doing a specific strategy which gets Byleth out of the way and doing a Timed Mission to defeat the main boss of that mission before Byleth returns and becomes a required boss again. Recruiting them also unlocks a few more battles that leads to the Golden Ending.
    • Sothis, Serios, Arven, and the Gatekeeper are New Game Plus only recruits. The first two just require a New Game Plus and spending renown, the third requires you recruit Byleth and Jeralt and then spend renown, while the last requires you complete two New Game Plus stories and then you can recuit them after chapter 5.

  • Inverted with Tovan Khev in Star Trek Online. He's literally the only bridge officer in the entire game you can't dismiss at will.note  That, coupled with a variety of other factors (can't change his name because other characters voice-act it, plus a confluence of minor but annoying bugs), led to him being considered The Scrappy.

    Platform Game 
  • In Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, Zangetsu can recruit any of the other playable characters after each level or kill them to absorb their power. The ending will differ depending on the choices.
  • In Yoshi's Story, you can collect special eggs to add Black Yoshi and White Yoshi to your lineup. They have cooler abilities than their brethren.
  • Mega Man X8 allows the player to unlock three extra playable characters, the Bridge Bunnies Alia, Layer and Pallette (Distaff Counterpart to the three established heroes X, Zero and Axl, respectively); for them to be available, you must use an individual Navigator several times more than the other two in one playthrough, then buy her in R&D in a New Game Plus.

    Puzzle Game 
  • In Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords, only three of your potential nine party members are mandatory - Darkhunter, Khalkus, and Sunspear. You'll meet Flicker, Winter, and Elistara along the course of the story and can recruit them via side-missions. Princess Seraphine, Drong, and Patch require side-missions to find at all. If you follow the Plague Lord quest from the iPhone version or the Plague Lords expansion, Galnoth the Dark Elf will join you (or rather, you'll force him to join you). You're also not obliged to have anyone actually in your party for the vast majority of the time, and if you make the wrong choices you can get Darkhunter to abandon you forever near the end.
    • In fact, all of your good-aligned party members will leave if you release the necromancer, then follow the path suggested by Bane.
  • In Puyo Puyo Chronicle's story mode, in addition to the required plot characters and recruitable enemies, 5 characters (Harpy, Suketoudara, Klug, Ocean Prince, and Serilly) can only be encountered in optional side missions in each of the 5 main areas. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 also features a single optional party member in Ally.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Warcraft III: In the special campaign of "The Frozen Throne" expansion, the RPG-like campaign is centered on half-ogre Rexxar who may be joined by other characters, and one option is to include Chen Stormstout, a humanoid panda, a kind-of Easter Egg character. Since he's optional, he doesn't have a single line of dialogue since his recruitment, nor any action specific to him.
    • There's also a panda appearing in the Blood Elf campaign. He'll be with you for one mission if you beat the secret level.
  • The Ogre Battle series was excellent in that while most of the party members are optional, most provide interesting dialog and many scenes play out differently with different combinations of NPCs. Even the mandatory party members usually give you the "option" of killing them.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • In Trials of Mana, all six of the main characters are optional. You can only choose three of the six heroes when the game begins (one main character and two secondary characters); you can't recruit the other three you don't choose. While the story intersects with the other heroes at some point so that the player eventually meets all six heroes, a character won't join your party if you have all three party members already recruited.
  • Beyond the Beyond has Tont, Lorelei and Percy. Tont is basically thrown into your lap, and Lorelei is easily missed. Percy actually joins your party early on in the game, but doesn't return until much later under the guise of the Black Knight. To get him to rejoin, you have to actively avoid attacking him when he fights you.
  • Star Ocean games feature these en masse. Many of them are obscure, but there are also typically more optional party members than you have spaces in your party, requiring players to go through the games multiple times if they want to see everyone.
    • In the initial Star Ocean, there are 4 party members who are required. Roddick, Millie, Ronyx and Ilia, giving you a balanced default party. The rest are optional, although while most are hidden very well, a few like Cyuss the player will run into and offer to join during the course of the story, and will have to intentionally turn them away.
    • Nobody in Star Ocean: The Last Hope is optional, but in New Game Plus you can choose between Arumat and Faize for who you want to stay in the crew during the midpoint. Faize does not participate in PA past that point, however.
    • Everybody except for the two primary protagonists in Star Ocean: The Second Story is optional. This had the unfortunate side effects of them having to be absent from all of the animated cutscenes in the remake, and also keeping their dialogue to a minimum outside of sidequests and private actions. Some of them were also mutually exclusive, which makes the fact that all of them show up the direct sequel as mandatory characters a little awkward.
      • Though While Celine, Noel and Leon/Dias depending on the main character are optional in the end you will still run into them and have them in the party briefly in story so the player will have deliberately choose not to recruit them.
    • In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, you can pick any two of the following: Albel, Nel, Roger (of these 3 at least 1 has to join you, usually Nel unless you trigger sidequests for the other 2) and Peppita.
      • It's not unheard of to go the entire game without ever seeing Roger at all. His introduction and event chain kick off at a certain cabin in the woods which is easy to bypass the first time you visit. Complete the quest in the woods without ever visiting that cabin and his appearance will disappear completely. No outside dialogue will ever point to him, and for the rest of the game you'll wonder in mystery who this entire class of unequipable weapons in all the shops you find is meant for.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Mog, Umaro, and Gogo are optional characters in Final Fantasy VI; you also could try to defeat the last half of the game without picking up the majority of the characters you had in the first half. (In fact, it's technically possible with only three of them!)
      • There's also Mog, who appears more than Umaro or Gogo, since Mog appears and fights with you at the beginning of the game.
      • You can optionally recruit Shadow at certain points in the first half of the game, but he'll always leave your party sooner or later, sometimes even randomly after a battle. He does join your party for two plot-related events though. In the second half of the game he can only be found again if you wait for him on the Floating Continent. If you do, you can recruit him permanently from that point forward.
    • Yuffie and Vincent in Final Fantasy VII were subject to this trope, and did not appear in the closing FMV of the game. This was eventually explained in the spinoff game Dirge of Cerberus.
    • Final Fantasy IX: Quina is a permanent party member (s/he officially joins just before Fossil Roo), but is optional before you enter Gizmaluke's Grotto on Disc 1. And also optional, Gizamaluke is easier with Quina helping you, and he's still a pain even then.
  • The entire SaGa (RPG) series of games (The Final Fantasy Legend trilogy, Romancing SaGa, Sa Ga Frontier, Unlimited Saga) are filled with optional characters you can recruit, often at almost any time during the plot.
  • Paper Mario:
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • Magus, who starts out as a boss; however, you can choose whether or not to fight him at one point, and if you don't attack, he joins your party. In addition, Crono at one point dies, and it is entirely optional whether you take the sidequest to bring them back. Obviously, these two won't appear in the ending if they're dead.
    • Robo can also be made optional, as you don't have to get him back after leaving him during the Fiona's Forest sidequest. You have to make a conscious effort not to get him back, but it does mean you can finish the game without having Robo, Crono, or Magus.
  • Chrono Cross has an impressively long list of optional characters, and each has dialogue parts in his/her own dialect and speaking style, even in the game's ending. With New Game Plus, it is more than possible to have even certain villains as party members. In fact, you need to play the game at least three times to be able to recruit everyone.
  • The Suikoden series has 108 characters, only a fraction of whom are required to actually finish the game. About half of these optionals barely differ in appearance to normal townsfolk.
  • Virtually every NPC in Radiata Stories can be recruited into the party in some manner. You end with a cast rivaling Suikoden in size, filling your party with the entire ranks of every guild, most townsfolk, and a number of monster characters.
    • However, unlike Suikoden, the only use for these characters was in battle. Combine this with an inability to change the skills and equipment of anyone but the protagonist, and at least 100 of them are just Joke Characters. Additionally, several party members are mutually exclusive.
  • Cream and Omega in Sonic Chronicles, though they're pretty easy to unlock.
  • From the first remake of Tales of Phantasia onward, Suzu Fujibayashi can be unlocked as a playable party member by completing a sidequest involving her parents late in the game.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest IV has Laurel and Hardie, a spellcaster and a mercenary who can be hired by just 600 gold coins. Torneko's chapter is entirely beatable without them, but they're useful additions.
    • Dragon Quest V:
      • Tuppence is easy to obtain, but he's also easy to miss, as he looks almost like a regular NPC soldier and you have to talk to him before he'll join.
      • This game introduced recruitable monsters in the franchise, several years before the birth of Pokemon.
      • You can recruit Dwight Dwarf in Chapter 3 after making it back to Faerie Lea, but you don't need to.
    • Dragon Quest VI has a couple of these. The first one is Amos, who is cursed to become a monster every night; if you can get him a special seed, he can control the transformation and joins you. Additionally, if you have the Beastmaster class, you can actually recruit some of the monsters you come across and make them join you as permanent party members, who all have their own unique ability sets. This is removed in the remake, but in its place, several types of Slimes can be recruited. Finally, in both versions, Lizzie the Hackasaurus is available after Terry is recruited, and unlike the other monster units, she has plot significance and in the remake, proper Party Chat dialog.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance has several optional party members, but Blade is the oddest by far. He joins the party after you save him from a giant claw vending machine in Murderworld, but the real question is why he's there in the first place. He has no dealings with the park's operator Arcade—an X-Men villain—in the comics, and there's no explanation for his kidnapping in the game (he just blacked out and woke up there). Even when you fight Arcade, he makes no comment on kidnapping Blade at all. Even worse, he is outclassed by Deadpool in the Sword and Gun department.
  • Almost every companion in the Fallout games.
    • Fawkes is required for part of Fallout 3, but soon leaves.
      • He returns to assist you during the destruction of (and your escape from) Raven Rock, though like other companions, he requires a specific karma alignment (Positive).
  • Most of the party members in Baldur's Gate, though getting rid of Imoen and Jaheira (aside from having them die) is next to impossible, particularly in the first game. In general, though, it's harder to get specific combinations of characters to 'stay' in your party (Minsc and Edwin, for example, or Keldorn and Viconia)—just having them join is easy enough.
  • Planescape: Torment has Ignus and Vhailor, both true Optional Party Members, and a Secret Character, Nordom.
  • Knights of the Old Republic. Most of the party members are mandatory and probably few people actually go through without getting them all, but Juhani can be killed on your first encounter, HK-47 does not need to be purchased and in the sequel, you do not have to repair him. Also in the sequel, there are two pairs of characters who are interchangeable, depending on your gender and alignment.
  • In the .hack series of games, following plot points in The World's Message board — especially those related to finding rare quest items — will often reward the player with the poster of said messages as recruitable allies. Examples include Natsume, Sanjuro and Gardenia.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • There are four in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne; Black Frost, Dante, Raidou Kuzunoha, and Samael. Black Frost can be recruited a while after you defeat him as an Optional Boss, Dante / Raidou automatically joins you in the Fifth Kalpa (which is entirely optional, but unavoidable if you're going for the True Demon Ending), and Samael will only join you if you chose to side with Shijima.
    • Your party members selection in Devil Survivor differ before and after the route split. In any case, the only party member you're guaranteed are the main character and Atsuro.
      • Before the route split, your party will always consists of the main character, Atsuro and Yuzu. Midori and Keisuke will join your party if you manage to make the correct choices.
      • After the route split, your party will consist of whoever mandatorily join in that route. Yuzu, Midori and Keisuke stays in the party if they like the route you've chosen, otherwise they leave. Mari will join you on all routes except the bad end if you've completed her Sidequest in the previous chapters. Black Frost will also join on two routes if you've seen an optional scene concerning Midori and a Jack Frost.
    • In Devil Survivor 2, party members availability again differ before and after the route split:
      • Before the split, you have 11 potential party members. Only 5 of them are unkillable, including the main character. For the rest, you need to make the correct choices when you're shown their Death Clips, or you won't be able to save them and they'll be lost.
      • After the route split, the player characters all split into factions, and you need to choose which faction to join. Your party will then consist of the surviving members of that faction. After you defeat the other factions, you can talk with their members, and if you have enough Fate ranks they will rejoin the party.
    • Persona:
      • The SEBEC route of Persona only allows you to take one optional party member out of an available four (Brown, Elly, Ayase or Reiji), while the Snow Queen route lets you take two out of three (Brown, Elly and Nanjo). This means you'd have to play the game fourteen times to see all the different characters and interactions in every ending.
  • Wild ARMs 2 lets you recruit Marivel, a odd vampire like girl that helps you out on the sidelines through out the main story. She's found in an optional dungeon called the Crimson Palace that can only be reached after getting the Global Airship.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Many of the characters in Dragon Age: Origins can be considered optional. Some can simply be avoided or refused entry into your party, and some can turn against you in some cases. The most notable example is Loghain in that accepting him will actually cost you one of your teammates (though not necessarily his death). Perhaps the most easily missable is Sten - who is tucked away in a cage and freely admits he's a murderer.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, you can wind up without any party members by giving Anders to the templars, refusing to let Oghren and Justice join the Wardens, ordering Nathaniel to be hanged, killing Velanna and refusing to let Sigrun accompany you into Kal Hirol.
    • In Dragon Age II, it's possible to miss Isabela simply by not bothering to go back to the Hanged Man. And if you refuse to help a dwarf get his cargo of illegal lyrium back, you'll never discover that that secondary quest was actually a ploy to help (and meet) Fenris. During the last portion of the game, depending on your choices, you may end up losing (and even be forced to fight) about half your team.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, you're pretty much forced to stick with your initial squad through the whole game, but the other six party members are completely optional. Interestingly enough, Solas always leaves you at the end of the game, where you can keep playing to explore most of the side content you've skipped. That makes this the only point in the game after the prologue where you could end up with fewer characters than you need for a full squad.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, it's not necessary to recruit both Wrex and Garrus, as the player can proceed with the game after recruiting one and leave the other behind.
    • In Mass Effect 2, the player can progress to the endgame after recruiting Tali, Thane or Samara, skipping the other two characters entirely, and it's possible to either sell Legion to Cerberus and/or not wake Grunt from his tank. You can also recruit Morinth, who joins you only if you let her kill Samara during her loyalty mission. There's also DLC characters Zaeed and Kasumi, who can also be ignored. Of course, it's very likely that people will die during the assault on the Collector Base if you skimp on party members, as some of their skills and ship upgrades may be necessary. Interestingly, Thane appears on the box art despite being the most optional of them, since neither him nor his ship upgrade fill any role in the final mission.
    • In the third game, you can turn both Tali and Ashley / Kaidan down when they offer to rejoin. Or, alternatively, get them killed. Garrus has to join you if he's alive, but you can do something about that in the second game. You can also pass up Javik by not doing his mission, though as with Kasumi and Zaeed, it's unlikely a player would buy a DLC pack and deliberately not use the content.
    • The interesting result of all these shenanigans is that there are only three characters who actually can be recruited in all three games, and with careful maneuvering you can actually set it up so that none of them are with you from start to finish. In fact, you can play the series with certain characters simply not appearing at all (Samara, Thane and Wrex are good candidates). And again, this is before DLC kicks in. Furthermore, through a series of careful choices (and rushing through the main quest), it is possible to kill off every single permanent and temporary squad mate from all three games, including DLCs.
    • For non-squadmate crew members, Dr. Chakwas becomes optional in 3 if she survived the suicide mission, as you can actually turn down her offer to the return to the Normandy (she becomes a War Asset instead, helping the Crucible project); if you do this, you can hire Dr. Chloe Michel as the ship's medic in her place. Furthermore, Ken and Gabby can be brought aboard by using the Spectre terminal to give them official pardons for the Cerberus employment.
  • Valkyrie Profile:
    • The original game only has two party members that you must recruit, Arngrim and Jelanda, both of which you get in the prologue. Recruiting anyone past this point is optional. Due to how the game is set up, you need to recruit at least a couple people to send to Valhalla to not get the C-ending, which is effectively a game over for failing your mission. The A-Ending does require you also recruit Mystina and Lucian because both characters are involved in this ending.
    • Einherjar in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (not sure about the other games) are entirely optional. Although you do get some stat growth items for leveling them up and releasing them from the party.
    • Covenant of the Plume has a choice early on, which determines which group of two or three allies out of seven will join you (not that the game points this out). From then on, one or two character a chapter will join you, depending on which route you're on.
  • Bleu/Deis of Breath of Fire II
  • Trinity Universe has four, a third of the cast.
  • Nearly all the party members of Paladin's Quest and its sequel Lennus II are recruitable mercenaries.
  • The Last Remnant union system is made of this trope. You have 49 'unique' leaders, each with their own voice acting and backstory (8 of whom are important to the storyline). On top of this are 118 'ordinary' leaders and over 200 common soldiers that can be hired. Every single one has a unique combination of stats, weapons and fighting styles: all this for a game where you can have a maximum of 6 leaders and 12 soldiers in your party. The main character Rush is the only one who has to stay in the party; everyone else eventually becomes optional.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean, a game based very loosely on the movies has a field day with this. With the exception of two characters who are mandatory (and also impossible to kill) in the last part of the game, all characters are optional, randomly generated and fully expandable.
  • In Earthbound Beginnings, Ana isn't required to finish the game, nor do you ever have to let Teddy into the party. Have fun with that.
  • Death's Hand from Jade Empire. After he is defeated, the Spirit Monk has the option to bind his soul, thus gaining him as a party member.
  • Every Pokémon. Except your starter, and even then you're allowed to catch something else and get rid of it if you so choose. And in Pokémon Black and White, Reshiram/Zekrom, unless you took the extremely tedious route of filling your entire PC before fighting them.
  • In Drakensang some characters (like Rhulana, Gladys, Forgrimm and Traldar) are practically vital to the game and can be found along the main quest. Other characters like Dranor, Nasreddin and Jost can be hired only after completing optional sidequests (or, in Nasreddin's case, pay him enough cash). Alternatively, you can get all the possible party members but keep them unused at home in Ferdok.
  • Everyone except for the character you created at the beginning of the game in Might and Magic VIII, with only a few short exceptions during specific quests (there's twonote  in the main quest, although one is designed so you don't need to go to any dungeons, and with the right timing you don't even need to risk any fighting) — although in practice party members don't really start being optional until you hit Ravenshore (as that is the point when you start having more available characters than you have free slots in the party). Fortunately, any excess characters recruited just end up in the Adventurer's Inn, ready to be switched in if needed.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2:
    • The original campaign has the Construct, a defunct Illefarnese blade golem that requires you to complete a sidequest to activate.
    • Mask of the Betrayer:
      • Whether you acquire Okku or One of Many hinges on whether or not you use the Spirit-eater to consume Okku after defeating him. If you restrain your hunger, you will impress Okku and he'll join you. If you eat him, the pelt he leaves behind can be given to a conglomeration of spirits in the Plane of Shadow, which will allow them to assume physical form as One of Many. You can also consume Okku but not use the pelt, missing out on both Okku and One of Many.
      • A What Could Have Been example with Ammon Jerro, whom you discover in a hospital ward in Thay with his soul missing. He was originally supposed to rejoin you, but there was apparently trouble with his voice actor and they didn't want to The Other Darrin a major supporting character.
      • During the attack on the City of the Dead, you can choose to change sides. Should you do this, Kaelyn the Dove will leave the party in anger, and Araman will take her place.
    • In Storm of Zehir, you can technically play the entire campaign solo. You don't even need to build a base party of four, never mind hiring any cohorts. It's not a good idea unless you've minmaxed out the wazoo, but it's mechanically possible.
  • Just under half of your possible party members in Xenoblade Chronicles X are completely optional. This makes sense, as they're simply fellow BLADEs, and "recruiting" them just involves doing an assignment together, after which they're impressed enough to offer you backup in the future.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, only a small number of the rare Blades are necessary for the party. Most are received at random from Core Crystals or rewards for side quests. Wulfric and Aegaeon are noticeable examples, as the party obtains their Core Crystals during the story after defeating the former's Elder Arachno Driver and latter is given to Mòrag after Emperor Niall is revived from his Heroic Sacrifice, but it's entirely optional to awaken them once their Cores regenerate. There's even an example with story Blades, as the final form of Poppi is locked behind a optional sidequest near the end of the game.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Heroes can be recruited as your seventh party member. Out of the 17 Heroes in the main game, only four are mandatory. The rest require you go out of your way to unlock them. There's an additional one that introduces you to the concept, but they leave the party shorty after and requires you to go out of your way to unlock them again.
  • With a cast of 90 possible party members, you aren't going to get everyone in Rakenzarn Tales automatically. Some are determined by your Character Alignment while others are exclusive to one path or another.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, you get one for completing the hidden Deep Web dungeon – a player avatar with the same name and gender you entered for yourself at the beginning of the game. They can use any weapon and know more skills than anyone else, but suffer the drawback of being unable to equip accessories.
  • Lunarosse has two. One is available in a side quest involving one of your party members and the other is in a hidden dungeon that you either need everyone else or a secret code to open. Neither is needed for the best ending, but they can help.
  • In The Banner Saga, most characters can die, only a few can be avoided altogether. Hogun and Mogun can be avoided by siding with the their town leader. Nid requires that you let Oddleif train women to be archers. Tryggvi is only available to those who helped kickstart the game. Griss only joins if you confront him then let him join on one of two opportunities. Onef you can let join after leaving Frostvellr, and if you did, Ekkil comes shortly after. Sigbjorn you can bypass completely. In the sequel, The Banner Saga 2, you can kill Bak as soon as you meet him and as long as you side against Rugga, you can't have Dagr fight with you.
  • Exit Fate, drawing inspiration from the Suikoden series, has 75 playable characters, but only about a third are recruited through the main story. Interestingly, not a single one of them is mutually exclusive; it's possible to get all 75 in one playthrough.
  • Not counting the early Ultima games where you create your own characters, and Ultima IV which requires a full party of 8, every Ultima between Ultima V and Ultima VII Part II offered you a few optional choices in addition to the mandatory ones.
    • Ultima V gives you Iolo and Shamino in your initial party, but you can ditch them at an inn if you wish. More than ten other characters can be chosen from for the remaining two slots, although one obvious traitor will turn on the party and make the game Unwinnable.
    • Ultima VI has four mandatory party members and one more who's needed only briefly. There's another ten party members to choose from for your remaining three slots.
    • Ultima VII starts you with Iolo, who will leave if asked. Two other characters join you temporarily. The remaining eight characters fill the rest of your slots, though the game is easier without them.
    • Ultima VII Part II has three mandatory party members and a few Guest Star Party Members. Only Boydon can really be added, and he can't be resurrected if he dies. You do, however, gain the option to create automaton party members to carry extra gear.
  • LISA: The Painful has over thirty party members, but only a handful of them are required to progress through the game. To "make up" for the several potential party members, the game also has a feature where all of them except Brad can be permanently killed off by certain attacks from stronger enemies.
  • Cadence of Hyrule:
    • Yves the Deku Scrub. Unlocking him requires you to give Tingle a total of 20 Deku Seeds in a single playthrough.
    • Cadence herself technically counts as this in the Story Mode. If you don't interact with her on the overworld at all four locations she appears in after finishing the tutorial section, she won't show up again as a playable character until the final dungeon of the game.
  • Theia - The Crimson Eclipse: All guest characters that don't fully join can still be recruited in the endgame by acquiring their action figures. They will still have their guest status and all the limitations that come with it, but their skills are all upgraded to level 3 or higher. Gallian, Elvett, and Nimrod have in-story reasons to join , but Alison, Demiya, pre-timeskip!Nion, Horus, Var Nell, Sophet, Neval, Grant, and Mishra are all recruitable from the Extremordeal as deliberate story-defying paradoxes.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon has Eri Kamataki, the president of Ichiban Confections and your clerk in the business management mini-game. You can get her quite soon after starting the mini-game (in Chapter 5), as long as you break into the Top 100 companies. She serves as the only other female party member in the game, getting access to the jobs only Saeko can get. Even if you get Eri as early as possible, she is completely absent from the story outside of her introductory cutscene and the scene where she joins the party.
  • Octopath Traveler:
    • By the strictest definition, anyone. While you can recruit the eight playable characters when you first encounter them, nothing forces you to do so. On the PC version, there's even an achievement for going through a character's story with just that character and no one else.
    • The initial eight characters are the only ones that can be in the main party. However, after completing a character's story, the most prominent people from their adventure can be encountered as NPCs across the world, now capable of being Guided/Allured.
  • Bug Fables: Completing a miniature side-dungeon will lead to the growth of Chompy, a "pet" version of the Man-Eating Plant Chomper enemies that acts as a fourth party member.


    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Battle for Wesnoth:
    • After winning the second scenario of A Tale of Two Brothers in the Easy difficutly, an Iron Mauler will appear and offer Arvith his service. The player is free to choose whether to bring him along or not as it doesn't affect the story at all.
    • The Rise of Wesnoth: Burin the Lost can only be added to Haldric's party if you capture a conspicious village in the third scenario. Similarly, Minister Edren can only join if (1) you choose to go to the swamp for the fourth scenario, and (2) enter one of the temples in said scenario.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: A number of optional party members are available depending on decisions made throughout the game:
    • Daitoku Igor can be a powerful ally if Alien Tech has been studied earlier in the game, as they inspire Platinum to repair one of the piloted mechs that Daitoku previously used. Pulse Head especially makes him a phenomenal long-ranged attacker for the late game.
    • Ranran and En can join the party if Fei Huang Rong has been generous with them over the spiritual water they have fought over. Take too long though, and the opportunity slips away.
    • While King Leo is a member of the party from the start of the game, keeping him is entirely optional from the point where Zophy can choose to embrace becoming a Flame Warrior. If he does, then he and King Leo function as one unit on the battlefield. If he does not, King Leo can be kept as a separate unit for the rest of the game. Although Zophy's full potential will not be unlocked this way, promoting King Leo to permanent party status means keeping one of the most durable tanks in the game.
  • Technically, everyone but Ramza is an Optional Party Member in Final Fantasy Tactics as you can kick anyone out of the party at any point and even refuse them when they try to join up. The game has five actual optional characters (Cloud, Beowulf, Reis, Worker 8/Construct 8, and Byblos), and one more (Balthier) in the PSP version.
  • Super Robot Wars has tons of these in every game, usually people who normally died in their respective show or some way should leave you. Or villains that fans liked or were especially sympathetic. They also have a habit of adding in Gundam mecha or Mecha Expansion Packs that only exist in model form, such as Hajime Katoki's version of Wing Gundam in Alpha 2, or the Strike Gundam/Strike Rouge's IWSP pack.
    • Likewise, in Battle Moon Wars, you can unlock Sacchin in Takumi's route, kill her with Shiki two out of three times she appears, and Mech-Hisui in Haruna's route, get a combined total of 50 kills with Hisui and Kohaku.
    • In Super Robot Wars Compact, Shin Getter is unlockable if you reach Scenario 28 under 250 turns.
  • Shining Series:
    • Shining Force II: The Sword of Hajya had a small handful of these, one of which was hidden in the most obscure possible place: the third bottom pillar on the right of the entrance to the throne room in a specific mission. You attempt to talk to the pillar, and out pops, not a Ninja (that would make too much sense), but a samurai. Seriously.
    • In Shining Force III: Scenario 1 for example they do the same ninja trick, twice in Part 1. If you're Japanese and lucky enough to own all three parts of the game the decisions you make in the other parts affects which characters you gain in all parts, which becomes a massive mess of carefully setting it up in one part just encase you want them in the next. If you're not Japanese you can still go to all the trouble but gain none of the reward.
    • In Shining the Holy Ark, Doyle, the kick-ass Werewolf Ninja that helped you out and stalked you at the beginning of the game can be found pretending to be a tree in the first village near the middle of the game.
    • Sheena can be found hiding behind a waterfall in Shining Force II.
    • A significant portion of the later characters in the original Shining Force game.
  • Due to how Fire Emblem games work, all but a handful of the cast have no dialogue after they are introduced. They can die forever without affecting the plot, and one can miss them entirely without noticing.
    • Some games have the ability to earn NPCs or villains as party members by doing something post game, such as completeing the game multiple times.
    • However, the only time where that character is obviously missing is in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn: No dark magic users are available until the New Game Plus, despite dark magic tomes being available. And that dark magic user? None other than Pelleas, who as said above can only be saved from the Blood Pact in a New Game Plus.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, the first of only two recruitable Dark magic users in the game, Canas, joins in one of the Gaiden chapters. The only other recruitable party member capable of using Dark magic is the extremely versatile archsage Athos, but he only joins in the very final chapter, and the players pick up a lot of Dark magic tomes before then.
    • Similarly, in the remake of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, the only character who is a dark mage by default is available only in a Gaiden chapter more than halfway through the game (said chapter requires the player to kill off most playable characters to access). Of course, in this game, most characters can switch classes, but almost no one else is actually designed to be a dark mage.
      • Not that it really matters since magic isn't really specialized in Shadow Dragon beyond the point of "tomes" and "staves". And normal mages are better anyway, as they tend to get much better growths.
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, it's possible to turn down Heron Prince Reyson's offer to join. The player would have to be a total idiot to do so however, as not only is Reyson incredibly useful, but one also misses out on two other characters (his bodyguards), and the cast is forced to fight an incredibly tough boss in the next chapter. (Reyson can talk him out of fighting the group) All that the player can get out of refusing him is a Renewal scroll, which is practically useless. (And in the Japanese version, it actually was useless, as the only two characters compatible with it already knew the skill.)
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening takes this to extremes, with the majority of the cast being technically optional. Donnel and Anna are only found in optional missions, but recruiting them requires more than simply completing their sidequests. Gaius, Tharja and Libra can all be killed off in battle before one can recruit them. Kellam can be missed if Chrom doesn't talk to him in the early chapter where the group first encounters him. Then there's the children characters who are recruited through side missions one may not even unlock. And then there's the SpotPass characters who only appear in optional missions near the end of the game if the player downloads certain content.
      • There are also a number of characters from previous games who can be recruited via SpotPass, though they have no support options (and are completely devoid of any real dialogue at all outside of parley and combat with them), and in order to recruit them, one needs to either spend hard-earned money or defeat them and their squad in combat.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates there are plenty of characters that are this trope: Anna is only recruitable through DLC, the amiibo characters can only be gotten if the player, well, uses their amiibo, certain characters can only be recruited if certain buildings or structures are upgraded all the way in My Castle (and often those characters are only available on certain paths), Mozu is found in an optional mission, and, like Awakening, children characters are recruited through side missions one might not even unlock. And in Birthright, Midori is a particularly special case of this as you have to have Kaze up to an A-support with the Avatar before chapter 15, or else he will die and Midori becomes lost, regardless of whether he's married or not. Two others also are particularly special: Kana and possibly Nina will be lost if the female or male Avatars exercise their respective Bi Options, Rhajat and Niles.
    • Not even Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is free from this. Out of the Ram villagers, only two of them (Gray and Tobin) join Alm no matter what; the other two, Faye and Kliff, can stay put (and if this is done, they will only join in if the player makes Celica go outta her way to recruit them in Ram). The Whitewings and Atlas will not join in if the player has Celica to a certain place rather than another (though they might be re-recruitable later). Also, one cannot recruit Sonya and Deen at the same time: it's either one or the other. Last but not least, if Alm and Co. don't check Nuibaba's dungeons after defeating her, the player will miss recruiting Tatiana, and if she's not in the group her boyfriend Zeke won't be recruitable either.
    • Nearly every student not a part of your chosen class and the staff, teachers, and knights of the monastery in Fire Emblem: Three Houses can be recruited into your class before the timeskip. The students can be recruited starting in chapter 2 by leveling up the player in their preferred skills and gaining their desired stats (which can be reduced by increasing your support level with them) or by getting their support level to B and waiting for them to come to you. Staff, teachers and knights only need a certain level for the player and only after certain chapters. There are some exceptions:
      • The lords of other houses and their retainers are Mutually Exclusive Party Members, with the exception of Hilda, who can join other houses other than theirs excluding a Black Eagles route where you side with Edelgard during chapter 12 and Dedue who is Killed Offscreen if you didn't do their Paralogue before the timeskip.
      • Certain party members are also either automatic, optional, or mutually exclusive depending on the route chosen. They include Catherine and Cyril, who automatically join in chapter 12 if you sided with the Church during the Black Eagles route, unavailable if you sided with Edelgard, and optional in other routes.
      • Flayn and Seteth are mutually exclusive, with the former joining automatically after chapter 7, but the latter only joining (automatically during chapter 12) on any route where you side against the Empire, with both of them unavailable for those who side with Edelgard.
      • Lorenz, Ashe, and Lysithea can be recruited again after the timeskip. Lorenz and Ashe must have been recruited prior to the timeskip (and only on Azure Moon for Lorenz, Verdant Wind for Ashe, or Silver Snow for both). Lysithea doesn't, but all three must be defeated by the player character in battle.
      • Ferdinand and Caspar have their B supports locked behind the timeskip, requiring the non-Black Eagle players to focus on their required skills and stats to get them, while Sylvain can automatically be recruited if the player is female, regardless of supports or stats. Recurring Character Anna is available for all routes starting in chapter 3, but only if the player has bought the third DLC pass.
  • In Nippon Ichi games, optional party members tend to be recruitable in the post game, in actions that lead to Non Standard Game Over, or as DLC.

    Turn Based Tactics 
  • Slavsky from Odium. To get him, you'll have to fight an optional boss, go through a Scripted Sequence where you lose Medusa and finally use a stun grenade on the door where he's hiding. Whether he's worth it or not is arguable.
    • If you didn't use the stun grenade and keep walking toward his shelter, he'll kill himself: you just lose Medusa and won't be able to replace him.
  • Minor villain Cosette Cosmos from Sunrider can be recruited—or rather, captured and pressganged—into the player’s crew in Liberation Day if you were nice to her during Mask of Arcadius. If you weren’t, she gets killed off at the end of Liberation Day’s opening mission.