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This is when a character who was computer-controlled (as an NPC or as a boss) in one installment of a series becomes a potential player-controlled character through the course of the game, or in sequels. They may be hidden unlockable characters, you might get the chance to recruit them, or they might be presented outright at the character select screen.

Typically they are more powerful than your average "normal" character, though of course they may end up a lot weaker than when they were boss characters (expect their HP to be divided by a factor of 10). This may be due to a Redemption Demotion or for PVP balancing. It's also possible that the game has played up a bad guy as such, only for him to become playable near the end of the game. There is no Heel–Face Turn involved; just the bad guy doing stuff on his own or just passively riding the plot along. (Unless there's a storyline twist, like Another Side, Another Story or A Day in the Limelight.)

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Beating the game with/as one of these characters usually reveals a special type of end-game victory screen. A Fighting Game series of sufficient length will almost always resort to this.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action-Adventure 

    Adventure Game 
  • Brian Westhouse is an NPC in The Longest Journey, an ends up being playable in the prologue of the sequel Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • Clementine becomes the playable protagonist of Seasons Two and Four since Lee eventually succumbs to the plague or is Mercy Killed by Clem at the ending of Season One. She's also the secondary playable character of Season Three, though the player controls new character Javier for the majority of that game.
    • AJ becomes playable towards the end of the fourth and final episode of The Final Season, with control switching between him and Clem after the latter is bitten by a zombie and slowly succumbs to infection. After her apparent death, AJ becomes the sole playable character, mirroring Lee and Clem's fates from the first season. However, it's later revealed that Clem survived (thanks to having her infected leg amputated), but she never becomes playable again, with the player controlling AJ for the whole last chapter of the finale.
  • Gabriel's assistant Grace from the first Gabriel Knight game was enough of an Ensemble Dark Horse that she became the second playable character in the two sequels, receiving equal screen-time (and a bigger fan-base) than the title character by the end of the trilogy.
  • Nico in the Broken Sword games was George's companion/love interest in the first game, and became the second playable character from the second game onward.
  • Chloe, the Deuteragonist of Life Is Strange becomes the player character in the prequel Life Is Strange: Before the Storm.
  • A Zigzagged example occurs in Life Is Strange 2 and its short companion game The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. Captain Spirit was released a few months ahead of the first episode of LiS2 as a teaser featuring Chris as the playable character, with the main game's protagonists Sean and Daniel appearing in a cameo; Sean is then the playable character in the main game, so he technically follows this trope. However, playing the game post-release leads the player to be prompted to play Captain Spirit only after Chris is introduced as an NPC in Life is Strange 2, so if you play the game in this order then it's Chris who's (briefly) promoted to playable.

    Card Battle Games 
  • In Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Illidan Stormrage was originally (besides his appearance as a tutorial boss) a Legendary card in the original card set, and the game did not do justice to Illidan well... at all. His effect of summoning a measly 2/1 token minion whenever you played a card was simply awkward and not very rewarding to use and was immensely held back by his high cost and subpar health, and even his niche as a neutral Demon was irrelevant as no Demon-based deck found a good use for him. Come Ashes of Outland expansion, the game introduced its first new class, the Demon Hunter, with Illidan representing the class, and to fully transition his promotion, his card was replaced with Xavius, who has the exact same crappy stats and card text as the original. In his case, Illidan became both literally and metaphorically playable.
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    Driving Game 
  • Many characters from the Mario Kart series games, including Bowser who trope-named Go-Karting with Bowser.
  • Many characters in Crash Team Racing, of which most of its cast was formed by the bosses of all 3 previous games in the series. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled turns Nitros Oxide into a legitimately playable character, available either through an Adventure Mode unlock or as part of the game's Special Edition. In the original game, he's the only boss character who can't be accessed through normal means, leading to all kinds of false rumors surrounding how he could be "unlocked". The bosses from Crash Nitro Kart, who were only selectable in its Game Boy Advance version, are also made fully playable in this game. The game's first Grand Prix event later added Isabella, Megumi, Ami, and Liz, the trophy girls from the original game.
  • In Jak X: Combat Racing, it's your allies who become playable.
  • Twisted Metal:
    • Minion is the final boss in the first game, in subsequent games he's usually featured as a mid-game boss and tends to be unlockable, and generally is as strong when playable as he is when he's a boss.
    • Twisted Metal 2 Final Boss Dark Tooth became an unlockable car in Twisted Metal: Head-On.
    • Oddly inverted with Darkside, who was fully playable in Twisted Metal but removed from the second and only appears as a boss in Twisted Metal 3. Especially odd in that he's fully functionally playable in 3 with a cheat device and certainly isn't overly Game Breaking in any way (unlike Primeval, the Final Boss who has overpowered stats and a devastating special, Darkside has overbalanced stats putting him between a regular vehicle and Minion with a special that simply fires a freeze missile and a flamethrower simultaneously).
  • Amy Rose and Dr. Robotnik/Eggman made their first playable appearances in Sonic Drift, years before they would become playable in the main series in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 respectively.

    Endless Running Games 
  • Justified in Bendy in Nightmare Run: It's a spin-off of Bendy and the Ink Machine, which takes place in an old animation studio. The Player Character there is one of the former animators, Henry; and some of the inky creatures he comes across are based off the old cartoon characters. However, Nightmare Run is supposed to be based off the Bendy episodes that studio produced. Thus, all its characters, not just the playable ones, are Toons, not staff.

    Fan Games 

    Fighting Game 
  • Divekick allows Saints Row fans to play as the Johnny Gat for the first time ever, as he's a guest character.
  • Samurai Shodown added Amakusa to the playable roster in the third game.
  • Darkstalkers made Pyron and Huitzil playable in the second game. Oboro Bishamon was a Bonus Boss in Vampire Savior, but is made playable in Darkstalkers 3, the enhanced PlayStation port.
  • Many Guilty Gear sequels include a playable Justice. Other bosses in the series were playable in their own games from their introduction. For instance, Baiken initially started as a secret boss in the original Guilty Gear. Since GGX, however, she appears as a playable character from the very beginning.
  • In the Tekken series:
    • The first game had Kazuya as a main character and Heihachi as an unlockable boss. The second game had Kazuya as an unlockable boss and Heihachi as a main character. Then Heihachi recovered his unlockable boss status in the third and Kazuya became a main character again in the fourth, and that's without getting into Jin... yeah, the whole Mishima family is like this.
    • Lee becomes a main character in Tekken 5. After being an unlockable Law clone he was greatly improved in Tekken Tag and is a notable part of the story in Tekken 4.
    • Jinpachi Mishima went from unplayable boss in Tekken 5 to playable in the PS3 port of Dark Resurrection and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (albeit in human form).
    • Tekken 6 Bonus Boss NANCY can be used in some missions in the home port's Scenario Campaign mode.
  • The first game in the Soul Series, Soul Edge, saw Sub-Boss Cervantes playable in its 2nd revision and Final Boss SoulEdge in the PS port; Soulcalibur saw Inferno selectable in the Dreamcast port, only to later invert it in Soulcalibur II and Soulcalibur III: Arcade Edition.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Shang Tsung became playable (and young) from the first game to Mortal Kombat II, where Shao Kahn replaced him as the Final Boss. This is repeated with other boss fighters: Goro in the Game Boy port of MK, Trilogy (PlayStation only), home versions of MK4 and GameCube's Deception; Kintaro in Trilogy (PlayStation only), Motaro and Shao Kahn in home ports of MK3/UMK3, Trilogy and GameCube's Deception (Kahn only). And all of them, plus Moloch, Onaga and Sareena (from Mythologies) became playable in Armageddon.
    • Unplayable hidden characters as well: Reptile (MK) and Jade (MK2) were added to the main roster in MK2 and UMK3 respectively, whereas Smoke (MK2) and Noob Saibot (MK2 & 3) were first playable "hidden" characters in MK3 (Smoke only) and UMK3 before becoming regulars in Trilogy.note 
    • Armageddon has everyone. Literally every fighter over the course of the entire series is playable in that one (except for Human Smoke, and Khameleon continued to be Nintendo exclusive).
    • The developers deliberately flipped this on its head for Mortal Kombat 9, by relegating Goro, Kintaro, and Shao Kahn back to non-playable territory.note  They said they were trying to bring back the feeling of impossible, unplayable bosses from the arcade days.note 
    • In a rather surprising semi-promotion, the Vita port of Mortal Kombat 9 included an extra Challenge Tower where the player can play as Tremor, one of the bosses in the not-quite finished Mortal Kombat: Special Forces. Tremor was later confirmed as the fourth kombatant in Mortal Kombat X's Kombat Pack, alongside with fellow fan favorite Tanya and two iconic guests, Jason Voorhees and the Predator.
    • Mortal Kombat X inverts the trope with Rain, Sindel and Baraka, who all become AI-controlled opponents exclusive to Story Mode. Tanya was originally among these characters, but DLC promoted her back to playable status.
  • Street Fighter:
    • The four Shadaloo Grand Masters (Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison) from Street Fighter II were exclusively computer-controlled in the original game, but were promoted to playable characters in Champion Edition and onward.
    • The Street Fighter Alpha sub-series received 4 of the CPU-only characters from the first Street Fighter: Gen, Adon, Birdie and (much much later) Eagle.
    • Akuma (aka Gouki) was originally the True Final Boss in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, playable only via a cheat code. He became a regular playable character in Street Fighter Alpha 2, with an alternate "Shin Akuma" version as a secret boss (who was only playable in the PS1 and Saturn ports).
    • In a sort of cross-series example: Final Fight bosses Sodom and Rolento became playable in the Street Fighter Alpha sub-series; Hugo (Andore) became playable in Street Fighter III and Poison became playable in Street Fighter X Tekken. Though Poison and Hugo (together with Edi.E, Thrasher and El Gado) were first playable in the Sega Saturn fighting game Final Fight Revenge.
    • Street Fighter V:
      • The roster of the game has veterans from old entries of the SF series and newcomers that made their debut in said game. However, while Season 2 DLC featured a veteran like Akuma, the 5 remaining characters from said Season were pre-existing NPCs that are now playable:
      • Kolin AKA Helen (Gill's secretary) made minor appearances in the Street Fighter III series. She first appears in Dudley's ending in SFIII: New Generation and 2nd Impactnote  and stands alongside Gill prior to his boss fight in 3rd Strike, then walks off-screen. Before becoming playable, she had a larger role in SFV during the Cinematic Story "A Shadow Falls".
      • Ed first appeared as a nameless child in Rose's ending in the original version of Street Fighter IV and Balrog's ending in Super SFIV. In the latter's ending, he came across as a failed replacement body for M. Bison that had no powers whatsoever, until the Shadaloo emblem faintly began to glow on one of his palms. And with that, there were definitely plans for him in the future. Surely enough, he returns in SFV, making more NPC appearances in several Story Mode campaigns before finally becoming playable.
      • Abigail was seemingly a one-shot character that appeared as the 5th boss of the original Final Fight game. Between then and SFV, he only reappeared in several ports of FF1 and made a background cameo in the Mad Gear Hideout stage of Street Fighter X Tekken and Ultra SFIV.
      • It didn't take long for Menat to become playable, since she was created much later. Debuting in SFV during Ed's Story Mode campaign, she makes an appearance as the mysterious "Fortune Teller". This is more of an Early-Bird Cameo.
      • Finally, we have Zeku, who debuted in Guy's ending in Street Fighter Alpha 2. Prior to SFV, his video game appearances were limited only to the same scenario in subsequent ports of SFA2. He also made a minor flashback cameo in the SF comic series by Udon.
      • In the case of Season 3, one of the new playable characters is Falke. She was briefly seen walking alongside Ed at the end of his Story Mode campaign.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Battle of Aces allows you to use the Materials once you beat the storylines of the three characters each of them is based upon (e.g. Nanoha, Vita, and Zafira for Material-S). Needless to say, they are the most powerful characters in the game, except Unison Reinforce.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy made many villains of the series, including the incredibly popular Sephiroth, (though he had already been playable in Ehrgeiz) into playable characters. Dissidia 012 does it again, adding Gilgamesh into the mix. Also notably—in the first Dissidia game, many fans wished that the Final SNK Boss Chaos was playable (he wasn't, not without hacks). But his new and altered form, Feral Chaos, is.
  • Castlevania: Judgment has the recurring villain Carmilla playable from the start, while Dracula and Death are unlockable characters.
  • There are several characters who had background cameos in Injustice: Gods Among Us that were promoted to playable status in the sequel. These include Darkseid, Doctor Fate, Deadshot, Scarecrow, Gorilla Grodd and The Atom (though in this case it's the successor of the guy that had a cameo in the original).
  • The Capcom vs. series has a tendency to do this with most of its bosses:
  • Bushido Blade 2 saw some of the previous game's bosses become hidden characters: Sazanka, Tsubame and Hongou.
  • For Bloody Roar its original Final Boss Uriko was completely retooled when she became playable in Bloody Roar 2.
  • Yuri Sakazaki, the Damsel in Distress of the first Art of Fighting game, becomes playable in the sequel and turns out to be a skilled fighter in her own right. She became so popular that she's a mainstay in The King of Fighters series.
  • With more information being available in the source material, Darui went from a support-only character in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations to a full-on playable character in Storm 3.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Melee marks the first time that Sheik, Ganondorf and (if one doesn't count The Legend Of Zelda CDI Games) Princess Zelda have ever been playable in any game. Also, whereas Metal Mario and Giant Donkey Kong appear as unplayable bosses in Super Smash Bros. 64, from Melee onward anyone can be made metal or giant with the Metal Block and Super Mushroom items respectively.
    • Wario, Meta Knight, Pit, Olimar, Squirtle (who doubles as the starting platform in Poké Floats) and King Dedede (who also appeared in the N64 installment as a background character in Kirby's stage) all appeared as trophies in Melee before becoming playable characters in Brawl. Charizard was one of the Pokémon summoned in the first two games before it became a playable character in Brawl, Red made a cameo in the N64 game's intro before becoming playable as Pokémon Trainer and Wolf became playable in Brawl after making a cameo in Melee's intro. Also, Giga Bowser from Melee becomes playable through Bowser's Final Smash in Brawl.
    • Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U has Palutena and the dog and duck from Duck Hunt becoming playable after appearing as NPCs in their own series. Little Mac also became playable after being an Assist Trophy in Brawl.
    • Several characters became playable in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after being referenced in earlier games: the Inklings,note , Chrom,note  Dark Samus,note  King K. Rool,note  and Isabelle.note  DLC also added a Piranha Plant as a fighter, which has appeared in both Smash and Super Mario Bros. but had never been playable in either.
    • The finale of Ultimate's adventure mode, World of Light, marks the first time that Master Hand is legitimately playable.
    • Ridley. In the first game, he sometimes appeared in the background of Planet Zebes. In Melee, he briefly appears in the opening cutscene fighting his arch-nemesis Samus and also appears as a trophy. Brawl has him appear as a boss, in both his regular form and his Meta Ridley form from Metroid Prime, while in 3DS/Wii U he is a stage hazard on Pyrosphere. Finally, after years of fan's cries to make him playable despite him being "too big," he debuted as a full playable character in Ultimate, which also marks his first playable appearance in any game.
  • Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butouden marks the first playable appearance of King Kai in any Dragon Ball game.
  • Persona 4: Arena allows you to play as Labrys from a Drama CD unreleased outside Japan and the Bonus Boss of Persona 3, Elizabeth.
  • Persona 4: Arena Ultimax allows you to play as Rise Kujikawa, Tohru Adachi, Margaret, Marie and Sho Minazuki, all of whom had NPC roles in earlier games.
  • In the Godzilla Fighting Game for the Turbo CD, Biollante was not playable by any means, but became available to players of the game's Super Famicom successor, Kaijuu Daikessen.
  • Bai-Hu, the Final Boss of Breakers for the Neo Geo, can be playable through codes in the CD version and the Updated Re-release Breakers Revenge.
  • Happens after a fashion in Gundam Extreme Vs.; the boss of the game is the Extreme Gundam from the manga Gundam EXA. The sequel, Extreme Vs. Full Boost, introduces EXA's protagonist Leos Alloi, who has his own version of the Extreme Gundam complete with melee, ranged, and funnel forms based off the original Extreme's Meta Mecha. Several of Leos' attacks are taken directly from the original, allowing players to be on the delivering end for a change. Also happens with some mecha (such as Char's Geloogo, Deathscythe Hell or the Strike Rouge going from Assist Characters to playable over the course of the franchise. It also happens in reverse, with playable units being bumped down to Assists.
  • In Eternal Fighter Zero, we have the final bosses Unknown and Kanna:
    • Unknown was originally the Final Boss, later, in the Blue Sky Edition, Kanna took her place and Unknown became a Secret Character instead, till finally, she became fully playable from the beginning in the Bad Moon Edition. Although her moveset was toned down, her boss version remains as powerful as before.
    • Kanna started as the unplayable Final Boss in the Blue Sky Edition; she later became playable in Memorial, however, unlike Unknown, her moveset was not toned down, and she's so overpowered that she's banned from tournaments.
  • Croagunk in Pokkén Tournament was just a Support Pokemon at first that lowered the opponent's defenses. A later update made it a playable character while also retaining its Support Pokemon status.
  • Body Blows: Max, who was unplayable in the first game and also a weaker version of T-17 prior its Robotic Reveal after losing one round its opponent, was made playable in the sequel Ultimate Body Blows. T-17 remained the unplayable Final Boss of that installment.
  • Each BlazBlue game promoted at least one NPC from a previous game:
    • Continuum Shift promoted Hazama and Tsubaki Yayoi, although Tsubaki only appeared in The Stinger of the first game. Further DLC promoted Makoto Nanaya and Valkenhayn R. Hellsing. The Updated Re Release, Continuum Shift Extend promoted Relius Clover.
    • The console version of Chronophantasma promoted Kokonoe, Yuuki Terumi and Kagura Mutsuki, the latter of whom first appeared in the arcade version as an NPC. From the wider franchise, it also promoted Celica A. Mercury.
    • Almost all the new characters in Central Fiction were this: Hibiki Kohaku (Kagura's attendant), Nine (one of the Six Heroes), Izanami (the other Big Bad) and, nine years after his initial appearance, Ragna's mentor Jubei. From the wider franchise, it also promoted Naoto Kurogane, Mai Natsume and Es.
  • Under Night In-Birth does this with its major updates.
    • The arcade release of the game's first update, Exe:Late, added Chaos, the de-facto second-in-command of Amnesia, as well as the first NPC to physically appear.
    • The second update, Exe:Late[st], added Phonon, a previously scrapped character, and Mika Returna, a Licht Kreis Executor who appeared in Orie's Arcade Mode ending, while the console release added Enkidu, a member of Amnesia who wanders the Hollow Night to seek out worthy opponents that made an Early-Bird Cameo in Hilda's Arcade Mode ending, and finally Erika Wagner, one of Licht Kreis' most prominent and feared Executors, as well as a prominent NPC who was bought up in the Arcade scenarios for both Gordeau and Chaos.
    • The latest update, Exe:Late[cl-r], adds Londrekia Light, a member of Lich Kreis' twin organization, Ritter Schild, who first appeared properly as an NPC in the Chronicle Mode of Exe:Late[st], and much like Phonon, was originally a scrapped character.

    Party Game 
  • Zig Zagged Trope: After not being playable since the fifth game in the series, Donkey Kong finally becomes playable again in Mario Party 10. Bowser also becomes playable for the first time in Mario Party 10 in Bowser Party and amiibo Party modes (if one does not count his playable appearance in Mario Party 4's Beach Volley Folley minigame). Bowser becomes a fully playable character like everyone else in Super Mario Party.
  • In previous Animal Crossing games, the only playable character was... The playable character. In the Party Game spinoff, amiibo Festival, fifteen of the animal NPC characters are playable themselves: Isabelle, K.K. Slider, Tom Nook, Mr. Resetti, Lottie, Kapp'n, Blathers, Celeste, Cyrus, Reese, Digby, Rover, Mabel, Kicks, and Timmy and Tommy. Many more are playable through the card-based minigames.
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    Platformer 

    Puzzle 

    Real Time Strategy 

    Rhythm 

    Roguelike 
  • All the bosses from Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja are playable in the second, including the two hidden ones (Gen-An and Shino).
  • The Binding of Isaac: Zigzagged with The Keeper. It's not directly the same character, but his attack style, unique life mechanic, appearance, and unlock method are obvious references to fan-favourite Mini-Boss Greed.
  • Enter the Gungeon downplays this trope with The Resourceful Rat. He is one of the many NPCs encountered throughout the game, but in Advanced Gungeons and Draguns you can "transform" into him by collecting certain items which are available after defeating a Bonus Boss. However, since he's technically not a standalone playable character, the Rat is missing unique HUD sprites and doesn't have his own past to kill (the Ammonomicon justifies the latter part by explaining that he doesn't have any regrets from his past).

    RPG 
  • Joachim in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
  • General Leo in Final Fantasy VI, though only for one battle.
  • Sarevok in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal.
  • Aria T'Loak is a temporary companion in the Omega DLC for Mass Effect 3. She comes with the unique biotic power Flare, which contrary to its unassuming name is a staggeringly powerful ability. Mass Effect Multiplayer then made heroes of Batarians and Vorcha, species you could only encounter as enemies in Mass Effect 2. They were followed by the Volus, who had never been used in combat at all, and eventually joined by playable Geth Juggernauts and Collectors.
  • DanMachi: Memoria Freese: In the first run of the Date A Live crossover, ‘’Ais Catastrophe’’, Kotori was merely an assist character while Shido, the main protagonist of Date A Live, was neither featured as an adventurer nor an assist. The rerun addressed that by making them both adventurers with Kotori being in her spirit form.
  • Isabela, an NPC in Dragon Age: Origins, becomes a party member in Dragon Age II. Also, Merrill was a tutorial NPC in Origins with not a lot of personality and without her characteristic accent; the sequel expanded her role significantly and added her to the main party.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
    • The game added Cassandra Pentaghast as a playable character. Dragon Age II only featured her in cut scenes, interrogating a friend of the protagonist.
    • It also adds Cole, who first appeared in the novel Dragon Age: Asunder.
    • The Dragonslayer DLC promotes the Avvar Sky Watcher met in the main game to a playable character in the multiplayer mode.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Riku had an entire campaign to himself in Chain of Memories, and later in Dream Drop Distance. He is also temporarily playable during a certain stage of the Final Boss in Kingdom Hearts II (with a limited moveset), 358/2 Days's Mission Mode as an unlockable character, and at two separate points in Kingdom Hearts III.
    • 358/2 Days promoted every member of Organization XIII (bosses) into a playable character in Mission Mode from the getgo, not counting Roxas (the initial player character of II) and Xion (an unlockable character who debuted in this game). The game also promotes Donald and Goofy (AI-controlled support party members), as well as Mickey (who is playable in Kingdom Hearts II, but only briefly if you die in certain boss fights), all as unlockable characters.
    • The Bonus Boss of Kingdom Hearts II is a set of Animated Armor called the Lingering Will, which is Terra's armor brought to life by his sheer hatred of Xehanort. During Terra's scenario in ''Birth by Sleep, players take control of the Lingering Will after Xehanort hijacks his body in their Final Boss fight.
    • After only being promoted to temporary AI party member in Kingdom Hearts III, Kairi is given a fully playable role in the Final Boss battle of the game's Re Mind DLC expansion.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance:
    • Nightcrawler appeared as an NPC in the first game, and was later made playable as DLC and on the Xbox 360 port. He and the rest of the downloadable characters were also included in the subsequent Updated Re Release for the PS4 and Xbox One. The same goes for Cyclops, who was a sub-boss in the game before being made playable as a DLC character and in the various aforementioned rereleases.
    • Psylocke was a sub-boss in the first game, and became playable in the second and third installments.
    • Crystal of The Inhumans appeared as an NPC in the first game, before becoming playable in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.
    • Loki is a boss enemy in the first game, but is playable in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.
  • In the Epic Battle Fantasy series, this happens fairly regularly:
    • NoLegs was a boss in the first game, a summon in the next three, and became a playable character in the Bullet Heaven spinoffs before finally becoming a fully-fledged party member in the fifth instalment.
    • Lance, the Big Bad of EBF2, joins the party after you defeat him and is a player character from EBF3 onward.
    • Anna, a random NPC who appears in EBF3, is effectively the main character of EBF4, and is the character you start off as. She also bears a striking resemblance to the shopkeeper from EBF1.
  • Valkyrie Profile lets you fight Freya, Brahms, and Lezard Valeth in the Bonus Dungeon, and they join you if you defeat them. You can't use them in the regular game, however, since the bonus dungeon is chosen from the main menu instead of being part of the regular game.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • In Suikoden, Kwanda Rosman, Milich Oppenheimer, Sonya Schulen, Varkas, Sydonia, the pirate trio, Alen, Grenseal (though technically their boss is defeated to recruit them), and Griffith (defeated in a tactical battle) can be recruited after defeating them. All are necessary to obtain the 108 Stars (best) ending. Many other recruitable characters are like this throughout the series, to the point that the game may as well shove forgiveness and Defeat Means Friendship down the player's throats.
  • The Tales Series tends to do this with its remakes and sequels.
    • Tales of Phantasia has Suzu Fujibayashi going from minor NPC in the Super Famicom version to fully playable in the PlayStation and beyond.
    • Lilith was dummied out as a playable character in the PlayStation Tales of Destiny but got full status in the PlayStation 2 remake.
    • Flynn is a minor example in Tales of Vesperia, going from Guest-Star Party Member in the Xbox 360 version to a fully party member in the Playstation 3 version. The same happens to Richard in Tales of Graces in the transition from the Wii to the PS3.
    • Chalcedony in Tales of Hearts from goes from enemy and summonable character to fully playable in the VITA version.
    • Gaius and Muzét become playable in Tales of Xillia 2. Made especially noteworthy by the fact that they were the final bosses in the original game. They also retain every single attack they possessed in their original appearances.
    • Tales of Berseria, a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, has two straight examples and one inversion.
      • Eizen is a minor sidequest boss in Zestiria, and becomes one of the main characters of Berseria.
      • Laphicet turns out to be a young version of Maotelus.
      • Zaveid inverts this, going from a playable character in Zestiria to a recurring NPC in Berseria.
  • Ys
    • Ys Origin has Toal Fact. He's encountered several times as an NPC when playing as Hugo or Yunica; completing the game with either of them unlocks him as a player character. Beating the game with him reveals the canon ending.
    • In the original versions of Ys IV, Duren and Karna were NPCs. They are completely playable in Ys: Memories of Celceta.
  • Histoire finally became playable in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 via DLC.
  • Lufia: The Legend Returns has two recurring NPCs join the party: Milka as the final main party member and the Egg Dragon as a Secret Character.
  • Papa Louie Arcade:
    • Papa Louie, the main protagonist of the series, regularly does this to his loyal customers. Either he will abandon them (in Pancakeria and in Pizzeria), will hold a contest (in Burgeria and in Taco Mia), or flat out give the job to someone (in Freezeria). Usually, the customers pulled into these schemes are not pleased, but end up liking their jobs. This has not stopped with fictional customers. Mandi and Tony Solary, who are both inspired on real people (one of which is the co-founder of Flipline Studios, the creators of the games) both have jobs in the Papa Louie universe (in Wingeria and in Donuteria).
    • Willow and Rudy have the distinction of being chefs after their debut appearances (in Hot Doggeria and in Donuteria, respectively).
    • In real life, Flipline Studios has held a challenge called "Papa's Next Chefs", which is a contest held by fans to determine the chef at Papa's next restaurant. The winners were:
      2011
      Cooper and Prudence
      2012
      Taylor and Peggy
      2013
      James and Willow
      2014
      Tony and Scooter
      2015
      Rudy and Scarlett
  • Final Fantasy Record Keeper allows you to add characters to your party that were not playable in their original Final Fantasy game. Yes, even Sephiroth.
  • Reno from Final Fantasy VII holds the honor of being the first playable character in Record Keeper to have not been playable in a prior game.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse: Flynn, Isabeau, Jonathan, and Walter, the main character and three main partners from the original game, are fully playable during the Peace Route's final battle, while Flynn fights with Satan in the Anarchy Route's final battle. In addition, Merkabah and Lucifer, the original game's final bosses and thus unable to be fused as per series tradition, can be summoned in New Game Plus since they are only bad ending final bosses now.
  • In the original version of Eternal Sonata, Prince Crescendo and Princess Serenade are royalty who your party interact with at various points in the game. The PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release makes them both playable and adds a new dungeon, Lament Mirror, that cements their playable status.
  • Trails series:
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC makes many important side characters playable, including Josette, Mueler, Julia, and Anelace.
    • The Third adds several more, to the point where the heroine Estelle loses her spot as protagonist! The game more or less exists to give Character Development to the side characters and wraps up plot threads unresolved by the end of SC.
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II makes a whopping number of characters playable that weren't originally, and adds a significant amount of time for two that were only very briefly playable in the original title. This includes fan favorite Towa Herschel, one of the most requested characters thanks to being the most approachable girl in her Bonding Events.
    • By the time Cold Steel IV's final battle commences, players would have a whopping 39 characters to choose from to take into the True Final Boss fight. Although only 24 characters are allowed in the roster with Rean locked onto the A Team.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, Orcs and Imperials became this as of Morrowind. Prior to that, the Orcs were generic Mooks in Arena and, while they got development toward becoming Blizzard Orcs in Daggerfall, they weren't actually playable until Morrowind. Also prior to Morrowind, The Empire was considered to be a melting pot of all the other races. The spin-off game Redguard defined Imperials as a distinct race, but they were not yet playable.Morrowind then made them playable.
  • In the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VIII, you can recruit fan favorite characters Red and Morrie — the former during the plot after the Pirate's Cove, the latter as an extra reward for beating Rank S in the Monster Arena.
  • Persona 2: Katsuya, Ulala, and Baofu, all non-player characters in Innocent Sin, become party members in Eternal Punishment.
  • In Final Fantasy XV, Gladio, Prompto and Ignis were made playable in their own DLC. A later update allowed you to switch between the party members in the main game itself, with each character retaining their unique gameplay mechanics. "Episode Ardyn" deals with main villain Ardyn and the events that led up to the game.
  • In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, your beginning party is Felix, Jenna and Sheba, either willing or unwilling members of the antagonists' group in the first game. Jenna was briefly playable early in Golden Sun: The Broken Seal, while Felix and Sheba were NPCs.
  • Battle Chef Brigade: In the "Deluxe" update, Ziggy is turned into an extra playable character. It's worth noting that him and Kirin were both originally meant to be playable, before time constraints stopped the production from doing it.

    Sandbox 
  • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell has the first time Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington are playable in a Saints Row title.
  • In Agents of Mayhem, Pierce Washington and Oleg Kirrlov are playable as "Kingpin" and "Yeti". Gat and Kinzie also return as playable characters in the form of DLC.

    Simulation Game 
  • In The Sims, most NPCs can be made playable if you have a high enough relationship score and ask them to move in, or marry them. (There are also various Game Mods to do so.) This is possible in all the main series titles, as well as most spin-off games.
  • In The Sims 3, Kaylynn Langerak - who was an NPC maid with a minor story role in The Sims 2 - is included as a playable pre-made character with her own household due to her popularity with fans. And because it's a prequel, The Sims 3 has fun including some lore characters who existed as ancestors in the family trees of the playable characters in the first two games. Notable examples include Zo and Notzo Curious (grandparents of the Curious brothers from The Sims 2) and Skip Broke (Brandi Broke's husband, who was deceased by the start of The Sims 2) - all of whom had Ensemble Dark Horse status - though some more obscure characters (like the grandparents of the Monty and Capp families) are present and playable as well.
  • In Virtual Villagers 5: The New Believers another tribe of 'heathens' appears, which is controlled by the AI. The player can 'convert' them individually using various methods and they become members of your tribe.

    Shooter 
  • The Call of Duty series has several examples of this, including Sgt. Viktor Reznov from World At War being playable in Black Ops, Sgt. Frank Woods from Black Ops being playable in Black Ops 2 and Declassified, and Captain Price from the Modern Warfare series being playable in the present time in the final level of Modern Warfare 3.
  • Part 2 of BioShock Infinite DLC Burial at Sea has you playing as Elizabeth.
  • A Splicer with a unique character model show up in cut-scenes early in BioShock 2. She's Naledi Atkins, one of the playable characters from the (now defunct) BioShock 2 Multiplayer mode, placing her somewhere between this trope and an Early-Bird Cameo. As a group, Splicers go from being the fairly interchangeable enemies of the first and second games to the playable character class in the multiplayer mode.
  • Touhou does this all the time.
    • Every one of the Windows games has had at least one boss villain reappear as playable in a later game in some way shape or form. That includes the final bosses and some Extra Stage bosses.
    • Being the Stage 5 boss is something of an exclusive club that seems to guarantee promotion to the role of "main protagonist", especially in main games. As of Hidden Star in Four Seasons - the sixteenth main installment - there are only two previous Stage 5 bosses who have never been the main playables of any main series games or any Gaiden games: Rin Kaenbyou and Shou Toramaru.
    • Hidden Star in Four Seasons breaks the trend by adding the playable characters Cirno (the Stage 2 boss from Embodiment of Scarlet Devil) and Aya Shameimaru (the Stage 4 boss from Mountain of Faith).
    • Several characters have gone on to get their own Gaiden games in the series canon, two of which would later be promoted to "main protagonists":
      • Aya Shamemaru in both Bunkachou games, with what can be most easily described as photography games combined with the bullet hell of the usual series
      • Seija Kijin in Impossible Spell Card, whose game plays like Aya's but with the difficulty cranked up and the ability to cheat through special items.
      • Cirno in Fairy Wars, whose game was a bullet hell with bullet freezing mechanics.
  • Team Fortress 2: The extremely popular custom mod "Vs. Saxton Hale" lets a single player become the larger-than-life Mann Co. CEO and fight all the other players simultaneously.
  • Halo:
    • Halo 2 makes the predecessor's main Elite Mooks, the Elites, a playable race in multiplayer. While they aren't technically more powerful, the altered hit-boxes has led to arguments on which model is superior and standardization in the MLG circuit.
    • Elites are also playable in Halo: Reach where they have more shield strength and faster movement speed than their Spartan counterparts. But for balance reasons, they possess larger hitboxes, slightly slower shield recharge times and less physical health, though the last balance is somewhat negated by their ability to fully recover physical health over time without a health pack.
    • In Halo 3, multiplayer Elites are more of examples of Confusion Fu, since, despite the dramatically different character models compared to Spartans, they still had the exact same hitboxes.
  • Hibachi is an unlockable fighter in the iPhone port of DoDonPachi Resurrection after beating the game (Good luck with that by the way).
  • In Brothers in Arms, Hartsock is an NPC in the first game, but is the main playable character in the second.
  • Borderlands 2 inverts this trope by making the previous playable characters, Lilith, Roland, Brick, and Mordecai, NPC's assisting the players.
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is an Interquel taking place before the second game that features Wilhelm and the Sheriff of Lynchwood (known as Nisha) as playable characters as well as Series Mascot Claptrap and Athena from the General Knoxx DLC of the first game. Even Handsome Jack counts in a way- a DLC allows you to play as a body double of him. The only exception is Aurelia, who is a new character introduced to the series though she is connected to a previous character (being the sister of Sir Hammerlock).
  • In Splatoon, the elites of the Octarian army in the game's campaign mode are octopus versions of Inklings called Octolings. In Splatoon 2, the biggest feature in the Octo Expansion DLC is the ability to play as an Octoling for the first time.
  • The Death Knight was originally an enemy in Quake I with an ability to swing his sword and create flaming projectiles that the player killed by the dozens. In Quake Champions, a Death Knight is a playable Champion, complete with that same attack as his Active Ability.

    Side Scroller 
  • The three main cartoon characters from Bendy and the Ink Machine are the protagonists in Bendy in Nightmare Run, with Bendy as the default character and Boris and Alice as unlockable characters.
  • Mega Man:
    • Zero becoming playable as the Mega Man X series went on was inevitable; first he was an underpowered extra character in X3, but he later became a fully fleshed out alternative to X.
    • The PSP remake Maverick Hunter X allows you to unlock and play as Vile.
    • The other PSP remake, Mega Man Powered Up, does this with all eight Robot Masters. Of course, only six of them were in the original Mega Man. Also in the same game, Roll and Proto Man were also unlockable each with their own stories. Roll was a background character in the first game while Proto Man made his debut as Break Man in Mega Man 3.
    • Proto Man (as well as Bass) was playable way earlier, in Mega Man: The Power Battles for arcades, though Bass was technically also playable in a Fighting Game-esque Easter Egg mode in Mega Man 7, his debut game.
    • After being X, Zero and Axl's navigator from X5 to X7, Alia is promoted to unlockable in Mega Man X8 with moves similar to X. Unlike X, however, she cannot use any of X's armor. Layer and Pallette are also unlockable with moves similar to Zero and Axl, though you have to rebuy the weapons for Layer and Pallette cannot metamorph like Axl.
    • Done in an odd way in the Mega Man Battle Network games:
      • All fightable enemies ended up as a Battle Chip to use.
      • 4 and 5 added Double Soul, which allowed MegaMan to imitate other Navis that he formed bonds with under the right conditions, which included series classics like ProtoMan, NumberMan, and FireMan.
      • 5 and 6 played this straight, allowing you to play as the Navis themselves as well as Double Soul (5) and Cross Fusion (6) with characters such as ProtoMan, NumberMan, HeatMan, and AquaMan.
  • The enigmatic swordsman Meta Knight received his own campaign mode sub-game, Meta Knightmare, in Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (which happens to be a remake of Kirby's Adventure, Meta Knight's first appearance). This mode returns in Kirby Super Star Ultra and Kirby: Planet Robobot.
  • The Red Arremer that just spent the past few lives terrorizing you in the Ghosts 'n Goblins series? He's not nearly as nimble when under your control in the Gargoyle's Quest subseries, though his fighting game appearances in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 show greater shades of his abilities.
  • Hiryu's rival in Strider 2, Hien, became playable in a special "Hien Mode" in the PS port of the game.
  • Bravoman enemy Pistol Daimyo became the star of his own Spin-Off Shoot 'em Up game, Pistol Daimyo no Bouken.
  • The main villain from Contra: Hard Corps, Colonel Bahamut, appears as the main character in the prequel, Hard Corps: Uprising.
  • In the Ganbare Goemon series, Sasuke first appeared as a boss in the first Super Famicom game (which was translated as The Legend of the Mystical Ninja), but became playable from the Japan-only sequel onward.
  • Rosenkreuzstilette has Freudia Neuwahl, who was originally a boss in the first game, but later returns as the protagonist and main playable character of the sequel, Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel, where Freudia has the mission of rescuing Spritia, who has been kidnapped by the Church.

    Sports 

    Stealth 
  • Assassin's Creed: Chronicles has three protagonists who while not having been NPCs in the earlier titles were prominent in the Franchise's Expanded Universe.
  • Metal Gear:
  • Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven marks the first playable appearance of series' regular bad guy Onikage, in the game's Co-op Versus mode. Some of the bosses from Fatal Shadows (plus a few from older games) became playable in the PSP game Time of the Assassins for its Level Editor.
  • The Dishonored franchise makes frequent use of this trope:
    • The first game features two story-based DLC episodes, The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, during which the player takes control of Daud (one of Corvo's antagonists from the first game) during his Heel–Face Turn.
    • In Dishonored 2, Emily Kaldwin, the first game's Distressed Damsel, becomes one of the playable protagonists of the game alongside returning PC Corvo Attano. Thanks to a Time Skip she's aged up from ten years old to twenty-five to support her new Action Girl status.
    • The standalone spin-off Dishonored: Death of the Outsider has Billie Lurk, a major supporting character in the Daud DLC and the sequel, becoming playable and sole player character.

    Survival Horror 

    Strategy 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The original rules always featured humans and human-like fantasy races with the "core" type of classes. However, official and fan-made rules sprung up early and often to allow players to play things like dragons, ogres, vampires, orcs, and so on. Examples from various editions include Council of Wyrms, Savage Species, Reverse Dungeon, The Advanced Race Guide, and many more.
    • It happened to the settings Ravenloft and Planescape, where both settings originally existed as a thing "normal" characters got pulled into (such as in the Manual of the Planes and the earliest Ravenloft adventures). Eventually, this was (mostly) eschewed for having characters be natives of those settings.
  • Pathfinder made the Goblin race Laughably Evil in the first installment, to the point of having a special module with goblin protagonists ("We Be Heroes!"), and eventually included them as a base race in the second edition of the game.
  • The World of Darkness, old and new, pulled a similar trick. Often, the "core" faction in the game had enemies who were both related to and opposed to them, such as the vampiric Camarilla and their enemies, the vampiric Sabbat. Sure enough, it wouldn't take long for a Splat to make that faction playable. Later editions would just stick them right in the core rules like any other player option. Examples include the Technocratic Order, Marauders, and Nephandi from Mage: The Ascension, the Sabbat and Independent Clans in Vampire: The Masquerade, and the Shadow Court and Nunnehi in Changeling: The Dreaming.
  • In the original editions of Trinity, full Quantakinetics (psychics with power over energy and inanimate matter) were off the table, deemed appropriate only as NPCs, although the Trinity Players Guide made their first-level powers available to other psions as secondary powers they couldn't raise higher, and fan supplements gave them full PC writeups. For the reboot, Trinity Continuum: Aeon, full Quantakinetics were made available as PCs in the main book.

    Visual Novel 
  • Monster Prom: The original game was about 4 monster students trying to hook up with one of 6 (later 8) potential love interests and take them to prom. Monster Prom: Reverse makes 3 of these romantic options playable (plus another character): Damien, Zoe, Calculester, and Dahlia, and the goal is the same, except that the dateable characters are now the former playable characters.

    Other 
  • In The Adventure Zone: Amnesty, when Clint's character Ned dies, instead of making a new character, Clint instead chooses to take over NPC-character Thacker.

Alternative Title(s): Promoted To Unlockable

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