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Secret Character
aka: Hidden Character

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A secret character is a character where the player has to complete some sort of specific action in order to challenge and/or unlock them. Like any other form of Unlockable Content, doing this is not required to finish the game.

If the game's a Role-Playing Game, this character can be recruited to your Player Party, sometimes through extremely convoluted means, sometimes as New Game Plus reward. In this case, the fact that they can join you can make them a Walking Spoiler.

In a Fighting Game, uncovering the character may be as simple as holding down a button while you select a certain fighter, or you may have to beat the game on the hardest setting, without using any continues. In many fighting games, there is also a secondary path to getting characters that usually entails a set number of versus matches completed or a set amount of gameplay time for those who don't want to play the story mode.

In some games, the secret character also appears as a Non-Player Character. If they appear as a boss, unlocking them may be as simple as defeating them in the boss fight.

Some secret characters are permanently missable depending on the means used to unlock or acquire them.

See also Optional Party Member and Guest Fighter. If it's an entirely different protagonist in a game with a single playable character, it's Another Side, Another Story. If a secret character is also the most powerful enemy in the game, they double as the True Final Boss.


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    Action Adventure 
  • Beating Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis once lets you unlock Aquaman's classic design, and beating the game as him lets you play as Tempest and Black Manta.
  • Astalon: Tears of the Earth: In addition to the three main protagonists, two unlockable characters can be recruited: Bram the Hunter of Monsters and Zeek the Intrepid Merchant.
  • Castlevania: Since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the series has featured unlockable characters, usually the secondary characters. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow 's Julius Mode, besides being a tribute to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, is also a rare example of a Bad End Plus: the reason you're playing as Julius is to kill Soma, who's become Dracula.
  • Devil May Cry 2: You unlock Trish as a playable character after clearing Dante's campaign on Hard mode, although she can be used on both campaigns.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition: Vergil is playable after beating the game once.
  • Beating Snailiad once unlocks Sluggy Slug, who is the sole player character of Slug Mode.
  • There's a plethora of these in The Wonderful 101. In addition to finding members of the team in the game's levels, you can unlock supporting characters for the cast (like Prince Vorkken, Chewgi, and Immorta), and even some of the cast of Bayonetta (though Bayonetta herself requires you to complete the game 100%).
  • In the LEGO Adaptation Game series, most characters are unlocked by simply completing story missions (story-playable characters normally, antagonists and side-characters through the Double Unlock of buying them), and beginning with the introduction of Hub Levels sometimes completing side-quests. But there are times where various characters are only accessible through extra effort or special circumstances, including only being available through the "Extra Toggle" cheat on specific levels, needing to complete minikits to unlock and buy, requiring inputted cheat codes that for other characters only gives them early, and other game-specific methods for letting you use them.

    Action Game 
  • After beating killer7 once on any difficulty, you can go back and re-play the game in killer8 mode, which gives you access to the previously unavailable Young Harman character, whose huge amount of health and tommy-gun make him almost a Game-Breaker. You'll need him though, since the only difficulty level available for killer8 mode is Bloodbath, where enemies take obtuse amounts of damage, give almost no blood at all, and have invisible weak points.
  • Beating Vario in Savant: Ascent would unlock the option to wear his mask. Hilariously, this turns all of your shots into Vario and changes your special attack into blocks that you drag around the screen.
  • Beating Carrie's Order Up! in one go, or earning $12,000,00 across multiple playthroughs, unlocks Calcia, the lobster running the counter, as a playable waitress. She'll slow down for every plate carried, but can spin past customers as long as the button is held, unlike Carrie, who can only spin in short bursts.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation: V.I.D.E.O.G.A.M.E. has Numbuh 86, who is unlocked via a cheat code. She replaces Numbuh One in his missions, and has her own unique dialogue with all of the game's stages and villains.

    Adventure Game 
  • In Dragon Ball Z The Legacy Of Goku 2, there are 5 podiums by the fountain in Capsule Corp. Upon completing the Cell Games, you get one statue, which appears on the middle podium. As for the other 4 statues, they are hidden behind 4 barriers, one for each playable character except Goku, that require the character to be level 50 before they can access the area behind them. A statue is placed behind each of these barriers, and upon collecting all 5, you unlock Hercule as a playable character.

    Beat'em Up 
  • Bayonetta
    • Completing Bayonetta with all Platinum ranks unlocks Jeanne. There's also Little King Zero, who can be unlocked by beating the Brutal Bonus Level, Angel Slayer.
    • Jeanne makes a return as an unlockable character in Bayonetta 2, unlocked by just beating the game on any difficulty. Bayonetta's mother, Rosa, can also be unlocked by beating the game on 3rd Climax, the second hardest difficulty in the game. Two more characters can be unlocked in the online co-op mode, Tag Climax, through randomly being challenged by them during play, Lumen Sage, Balder, and Rodin, although these two can only be used on the co-op mode and not during normal gameplay.
  • An Open Secret, but in Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star Artoria Pendragon is the final unlockable character possible. And her unlock requirements are a doozy to say the least. Check the Moon Logic Puzzle entry on the main page for Fate/EXTELLA to see why.
  • In Streets of Rage 3, Roo becomes a playable character if you don't beat him during his boss fight and instead focus on fighting Bruce, allowing Roo to run off. Continuing after doing so makes Roo a playable character. The original Japanese version also has exclusive Macho Camp midboss Ash as a Purposely Overpowered unlockable character, accessed by holding down A as you defeat him, getting a game over, and then continuing.

    Fighting Game 
  • The most famous fighting game example is Akuma/Gouki in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. If the player plays well enough, Akuma will appear at the end of the game and kill the standard final boss, M. Bison. Akuma became so popular that he is now subject to Wolverine Publicity, as he shows up in games which aren't associated with Street Fighter, like Cyberbots, where he appears as a giant mecha.
    • Street Fighter Alpha also had Akuma, but joke character Dan Hibiki made his debut as a secret character in the first Alpha game. Alpha 2 featured Shin Akuma and Evil Ryu.
  • SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos had a buttload of secret characters. Some of them were the ones you would expect like Dan or Geese, while others included Zero and Demitri. It also featured an evil version of Ken, called Violent Ken, based off of his possessed self in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.
  • Battle Arena Toshinden: In order to play as Gaia and Sho, the two bosses, you had to enter two codes on the title screen before the menu showed up, then select either Eiji or Kayin while holding down certain buttons on the D-pad
  • Most of the modern WWE games have former WWE talent as hidden legends. Later WWE games can be hacked to unlock WWE management like Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Michael Cole, Lillian Garcia, Mike Chioda and Nick Patrick.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy:
    • Shantotto and Gabranth join the heroes and villains (respectively) once their storylines are cleared, adding them to the PP catalog to be purchased.
    • This is the case for Prishe and Gilgamesh, and Feral Chaos in the sequel. Shantotto and Gabranth must still be purchased, but unlike the others the ability to purchase them is from the start.
  • A tradition in the Super Smash Bros. series. Typically by fullfilling a requirement, followed by Defeat Means Playable.
    • Typically, you first unlock Jigglypuff by beating single-player mode once. Another standout secret character is Luigi, the only other character besides Jigglypuff to have been a secret character in the first three Smash games. Notably, Brawl mixed it up by making Jigglypuff one of the last characters you unlock.
    • For other characters, the requirements vary according to the case. Each time you meet the requirements for any character, you will fight him/her/it with whichever one you were playing as at the time, and if you win you will unlock the character. Other typical requirements include beating the game without continues, with a specific character, or completing certain side events. Each game minus the first also gives you the characters if you log a certain amount of multiplayer matches (the minimum required to get them all this way is 1000 matches in Melee, 450 in Brawl, 120 in 3DS and 100 in Wii U). Brawl has a unique third method: By getting them to join you in Adventure Mode: The Subspace Emissary, they'll be available automatically in all other modes, without the need of beating them in a preliminary match.
    • Mewtwo in Melee takes the Guide Dang It! to the extreme, you have to play over 20 player-hours (that is, 20 hours divided by the number of people playing) or fight around 700 matches.
    • Ultimate brings the trope to a new level by making most of its roster unlockable; the starting roster is the same as in the first game, with the addition of Mii Fighters if you decide to create them and any downloadable characters you've purchased. The characters have been made easier and quicker to unlock to compensate: a more traditional way of a preset unlock tree by playing Classic Mode, simply play enough versus matches, or find and defeat them in the game's Adventure Mode: World of Light.
  • Tekken: In the first five games, the series features the standard "beat Arcade/Story Mode [insert number here] times to unlock [insert name here]". However, there are also other characters whose unlock method is a bit nebulous:
    • In the first game, Devil is unlocked by leaving the game on for 30 hours. Alternatively, one could get a perfect score in the game of Galaga that replaced a standard Loading Screen at the very beginning of the game.
    • In the second game, to unlock Roger/Alex, you have to finish stage 3 of Arcade Mode with 5% health or less, which will lead you to fight Roger in stage 4. Beat him, then finish the mode.
    • In the third game:
      • Unlocking Dr. Bosconovitch requires you to beat Tekken Force four times. After the final boss, you will face Dr. Bosconovitch. If you can defeat him, he is yours; if you cannot, you have to replay Tekken Force again.
      • You unlock Gon by either defeating him in Arcade Mode (he appears randomly), getting into the high score of Survival Mode under the name "GON," or beating him in Tekken Ball (he will always be your first opponent).
    • In the fifth game, Devil Jin is unlocked by either beating Devil Within or playing 200 matches.
  • In the first two Killer Instinct games, the Big Bad could be played as by entering certain button combinations as the fights loaded.
  • In the fighting game One Must Fall, it was possible, through a series of button sequences, to play as both the end boss, and use his towering robot (not normally available in the story mode). There were also a lot of secret characters you couldn't play as, but could access for special fights, both in story mode and tournament play—"unranked challengers". In tournament mode, some of these unranked challengers would appear in other tournaments, some were the only appearance of a story mode character in the tournaments, some were references to other Epic Games franchises, and some were just unique characters who only popped out surprise you.
  • Guilty Gear is outright vicious about unlocking characters.
    • In XX, to unlock Robo-Ky, Kliff, and Justice, you must do one of the following: complete forty of the game's fifty (insanely hard) missions; complete all the story paths (some of which are Guide Dang It!, some of which are outright painful, and some of which are both) for all characters; or complete over 200 levels of Survival Mode (which amounts to seventy or so battles - including twenty much harder "Daredevils"). Or just leave the game running for several days. Then, there are the alternate movesets for most of the characters, which are practically characters unto themselves...
    • Then there's the first game, consisting of three secret characters. Unlocking two of them (Testament and Justice) simply requires beating story mode with anyone, but getting the third character (Baiken) requires clearing the game with either Sol or Ky WITHOUT CONTINUING. What makes this especially bad is the downright broken Instant Kill mechanic (one hit will end the entire match, as opposed to just the current round in later games, and the Quick Time Mechanics involved with them don't help matters), which, combined with Justice being an SNK Boss, makes for quite a hard task to fulfill.
    • Both Xrd SIGN and REVELATOR each have a secret character to unlock from clearing story mode: Sin Kiske for the former and Raven for the latter.
  • BlazBlue doesn't usually dabble in unlockable characters, outside of DLC, but Continuum Shift, Chronophantasma and Central Fiction do have an example for each game; Mu-12 (Noel Vermillion's true form), Kagura Mutsuki and Susano'o (the true form of Yuuki Terumi), each of which can be unlocked by completing each game's story mode.
  • Lightning Legend: Daigo no Daibouken has four unlockable characters. Defeat Means Playable is the way to get them; it's not a problem for two of them, who are the Mid-Boss and the Final Boss, but the other two are Superbosses requiring near-completion of the game and no continues in a playthrough in addition.
  • For most of the Capcom vs. series, this would be commonplace. Examples:
  • Mortal Kombat is the trailblazer for secret characters in fighting games. For the first two games, they were simply unplayable, but far stronger and faster palette swaps of the ninja characters. Starting with Mortal Kombat 3, they could be unlocked.
    • In the Game Boy (and only the Game Boy) version of the first Mortal Kombat (1992), you could play as Goro by beating the game and entering a code. While that sounds like fun, the Game Boy version is virtually unplayable, and you can't save your Goro unlock, meaning you have to play through the game every time.
    • First up is a roboticized version of Smoke, the first ever unlockable character in the series which you could unlock by entering the "Ultimate Kombat Kode", which used a total of ten slots, divided up by inputs from both players.
    • In the update following that, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 adds three new unlockables each with their own UKKs which includes "Classic Sub-Zero", Mileena and Ermac. Smoke is relegated to a normal playable character, but by inputting a code before any round, he will change into his much faster human form, which is basically a faster silver colored swap of Scorpion.
    • The original arcade version of Mortal Kombat 4 has a rare player-exclusive version in Meat, who uses the skinned corpse model utilized in a couple of Fatalities but uses other characters' moves instead and can be unlocked. The console versions add Goro and Noob Saibot, both of whom are playable by selecting Shinnok or Reiko respectively while using the Hidden option. As a throwback to his role as one in the first game, Reptile became this in the Game Boy Color version. MK Gold added Sektor to the mix by doing the same with Cyrax.
    • Many of the characters in Deadly Alliance can be unlocked by purchasing their Koffins, which have both a specific koin count and type of koin but two in particular are only available after clearing everyone's Konquests; Blaze and Mokap. However, neither have a weapon style or Fatality.
    • Deception continues this but the characters and costumes now require a key to open. There's an especially infamous example in the case of a zombified Liu Kang whose key can only be found a very specific date and time and in an obscure location. The payoff is worth it since he actually deals twice the damage against Onaga. You also technically play as one through the entirety of the game's adventure mode until you cleared the main story where he will be available in all modes but the size of his moveset, which is taken from most, if not the entire cast, is dependent on how many keys you can unlock, including his Fatalities.
    • In Mortal Kombat 9, Cyber Sub-Zero is unlocked when he's defeated in Chapter 13 of Story Mode, and Quan Chi is unlocked after the story mode is fully cleared. Both characters are unlocked from the start in Komplete Edition and the Vita port.
    • Mortal Kombat X:
      • Beating the story mode unlocks Shinnok.
      • Most characters have a variationless version that can be played by pressing Up, Up, Up, Triangle/Y on the Variation select screen. This is normally fairly useless, since it just gives you less moves, but doing so with Triborg will let you play as Cyber Sub-Zero.
    • Beating Scorpion and Sub-Zero's chapter in the story mode of Mortal Kombat 11 unlocks Frost, or you could buy her in the store.
  • Mace: The Dark Age features Pojo the Chicken. Ned the Janitor (who's just a reskinned Xiao Long) is also available in the N64 port, and Ichiro and Gar Gunderson are relegated to secret character status by only being accessible through cheat codes.
  • Xenophage Alien Bloodsport has Blarney the dinosaur, an utterly broken (as in, he will actually crash the game under certain conditions) Dummied Out character only accessible via editing the game's .ini file.
  • Touhou Project: The spin-off fighting games have a few of them:
  • In Melty Blood Act Cadenza Version B, you can unlock Neco-Arc Chaos (A Super-Deformed version of Nrvnqsr Chaos) after completing the arcade mode at least once with any character; he also has a special arcade route where the Final Boss is a giant version of him called Neco Chaos Black G666, created by Kohaku of all people. However, although the giant Neco does not become playable, you can unlock "Giant Mode" that allows you to challenge him with any character.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future's secret roster depends on the version. The initial release (dubbed JoJo's Venture in English) makes the player beat the game to unlock DIO; the updated version (in English, simply titled JoJo's Bizarre Adventure) instead had six characters that (in the original arcade, at least) could only be activated via a code in the service menu.
  • Shrek SuperSlam has several characters only unlocked by completing certain sections in the Mega Challenge mode: Huff n Puff Wolf, Anthrax, Cyclops, Robin Hood, G-nome, Dronkey, Quasimodo, Luna, Captain Hook and Humpty Dumpty.
  • Dragon Ball FighterZ has three secret characters: Android 21, who can be unlocked by completing Story Mode; and SSGSS Goku and SSGSS Vegeta, who can be earned by getting an S Rank in the Hard Mode version of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber arcade ladder (or purchased from the DLC storefront).
  • In Granblue Fantasy Versus, the Big Bad Beelzebub can be unlocked by beating RPG mode, though the player also has the option to just buy him as DLC.
  • DNF Duel has the Lost Warrior, the Final Boss of both story and arcade modes. He can be unlocked by clearing the story once with any character.
  • In the first Lethal League, the Final Boss Doombox could be selected with a cheat code. However, he could only be used in versus and challenge modes.
  • The M.U.G.E.N game The Black Heart has an unorthodox example in that each character shows a password after beating arcade mode with them. All six are required to get into the files of the game's Final Boss, Final, and unlock him for normal play... or you could just download him off of any site that hosts Mugen characters (to the point where the game's creator eventually put up a regular download for Final on their website). The 2021 Steam release plays it straight and locks Final behind clearing Janos' campaign.
  • Soul Series:
    • The titular final boss of Soul Edge is unlocked by either beating Arcade Mode with the ten default characters, or playing the game for 20 hours. From then on, if you beat the Story Mode with Hwang and Seung Mi-na, you'll unlock Seung Han-myung.
    • In Soulcalibur III, unlocking Olcadan requires you to beat him in Tales of Soul, which sounds fair enough, until you realize that he only appears in the notoriously tricky-to-figure-out Night Terror route. And to unlock Abyss, you will have to beat him in Tales of Soul after unlocking the other proper characters, a category that includes Olcadan (if you haven't, beating Abyss will just unlock the Lost Cathedral Ruin stage and his illustration in the Shop). However, they can also be unlocked by playing a specific amount of battles like the game's other hidden content.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Warriors Orochi:
    • The first game has many characters who can only be unlocked by fulfilling a secret requirement in the optional stages. Listing them all would take up a whole page by itself; all you need to know is that it's a lot of hard work, but if you manage to do so, Orochi will be yours.
    • In the second game, Orochi X is unlocked by clearing all of the Dream Stages, essentially meaning that you will have to do everything in the game.
    • In the third game, Lu Bu is not unlocked by simply clearing a stage. Instead, you'll have to go to the Battle of Osaka Castle with Diaochan in your team, then approach Lu Bu with her as your current character. This will trigger a short dialogue, after which Lu Bu will switch sides, and you can clear the stage as normal. At no point does the game indicate about this, aside from Diaochan making a vague comment about "searching for Lu Bu" when you unlock her (which usually triggers a Redux stage, except it doesn't in this case). There are two other stages where Lu Bu appears (Sekigahara and Tong Gate), but you can't unlock him through that.

    Miscellaneous Strategy 
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms has Lu Bu unlockable after defeating him in battle.
  • Total War: Warhammer III has the Final Boss Be'lakor unlockable after completing a campaign, and Boris Ursus unlockable while playing Kislev.
  • Valkyria Chronicles had five playable soldiers, one for each class, unlocked through various means: one for beating the game (Mussad), two for having a specific character get KO'd during a mission (Lynn and Emile), one for getting enough in-game medals (Audrey), and one for having a large amount of unspent funds (Knute).

    Party Game 
  • From Mario Party:
    • Mario Party 6 has Toadette, who can be unlocked for all modes by paying 30 Stars in the Star Bank.
    • Mario Party 7 has Birdo and Dry Bones, who can be purchased in the Duty-Free Shop, and upon doing so they'll be playable in all modes.
    • Mario Party 8: Blooper and Hammer Bro. Either of them can be unlocked by completing Star Battle Arena once, and completing that same mode with the unlocked character will in turn unlock the other (simply completing it twice with a different character won't work).
    • Mario Party 9 has Shy Guy and Magikoopa, who are unlocked upon completion of Story Mode (since that requires outperforming them in all boards in that mode, this overlaps with Defeat Means Playable).
    • Mario Party: Island Tour: Bowser Jr. is unlocked as a playable character after the player clears Bowser's Tower for the first time.
    • Mario Party 10: Toadette and Spike can be unlocked by buying them at the shop in Toad's Room. Both cost 600 Mario Party points apiece.
    • Mario Party: Star Rush: There are four playable characters that can be unlocked by collecting enough party points to reach certain levels. After being unlocked, the characters will start appearing randomly in Toad Scramble, and will be available from the character select in the other modes. Players unlock Toadette at level 4, Rosalina at level 6, Donkey Kong at level 8, and Diddy Kong at level 11. However, all but Toadette can be unlocked early if the player has access to their respective amiibo figures.
    • Super Mario Party: There are four playable characters that can be unlocked by meeting certain conditions in the game. Once the conditions are met, the character will appear in the Party Plaza, and will become playable characters after the player talks to them:
      • Dry Bones appears randomly after playing certain modes.
      • Donkey Kong appears after three different end levels are cleared in River Survival.
      • Diddy Kong and Pom Pom are both unlocked after making enough progress in Challenge Road. Diddy Kong appears at the end of World 2, while Pom Pom appears midway through World 5.

    Platform Game 

    Puzzle Game 
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo: Scrolling off to the side on the character select screen revealed a few secret characters, including Dan. Also, holding down a button while selecting certain characters turned them into others.
  • Shift 3 lets you unlock Fancy Pants from Fancy Pants Adventures.
  • Wrecking Crew '98 had four original secret characters: Onigiri, Onnanoko, Oyaji and Dogu. As with the normal opponents, Defeat Means Playable, but they might not even be seen on a normal playthrough.
  • Harvest Moon Frantic Farming lets you unlock the Witch Princess after completing the rest of the stories.
  • Petal Crash has quite a good few secret characters to play as. Five of them (Libbie, the Baz, Mimi, Nova and Milla) can be selected simply by holding the right shoulder button on Lilibri, Strelitz, Ore Kid, Yosoti and Penny & Deony respectively. Then there's Arlet, who takes up his own character slot and is unlocked by beating him when he challenges you in story modenote . And then there's Hyper Lilibri, the True Final Boss version of Lilibri, who requires clearing the game on normal or higher without continuing before she can show up. Defeating her will unlock her for normal use.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • In Warcraft III, you can recruit a Hydralisk unit from StarCraft for one mission, hidden behind trees. In the expansion pack it is possible to receive an extra hero unit for one mission providing you first triggered a secret mission in the preceding mission and then completed said secret mission.
  • The Age of Empires series features a plethora of secret units that can only be unlocked via cheat codes. The second game alone has an AC Cobra armed with a machine gun, saboteurs (powered-up versions of the Petard unit,) Furious the Monkey Boy (who is one of the strongest units in the game, but can be taken out in only 9 hits,) penguins and "Villager Male Dave Lewis", a naked, gibberish-spouting villager named after an Ensemble Studios employee who has the fastest movement speed in the game, but can't do anything except move.
  • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, the final GDI stage takes place on a battlefield with a lot of broken husks of old GDI and NOD units. Among the wreckage, are 3 Mammoth tanks - a unit from the first game that had been removed from the game. The 3 Mammoth tanks don't work exactly like they use to (in the first game, the Mammoth tank can shoot a single large missile at ground or air targets, here the Mammoth fires two purely anti-air missiles at airborne targets), but they certainly provide a lot of heavy firepower and durability.

    Racing Game 
  • Mario Kart: Most racing games often have secret vehicles rather than secret characters, but those of this series are character-driven enough to have actual unlockable characters from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! onwards. In the case of Mario Kart Wii, not only you can unlock characters by acing the Grand Prix Cups, but also by unlocking ghost racers (not playable, they're simply leftovers of previous races) in Time Trial, for which your times have to be exceptionally good.
  • In Diddy Kong Racing, Drumstick: To unlock him as a playable character, you must get all four Grand Prix trophies then run over the frog with the rooster crest on its head. In the DS version, it's a slightly different task: you must use your stylus to flip one of the frogs up into the pond above, then run it over. And T.T. to unlock him, you must race his ghost in time trial mode on every track (including the bonus space world), and beat him.
  • Crash Bandicoot:
    • Crash Team Racing has seven of them to unlock; specifically, the first four bosses (Ripper Roo, Papu Papu, Komodo Joe and Pinstripe) are unlocked by clearing the first four Gem cups, Fake Crash is unlocked by clearing the Purple Gem cup, Dr. N. Tropy is unlocked by beating all of his ghosts in Time Trial mode and Penta Penguin is unlocked via a cheat code on the main menu. Despite popular opinion, Nitros Oxide is NOT unlockable by any means whatsoevernote . Its remake has all of the above as well as making Oxide Promoted to Playable, though with some changes (the bosses are now unlocked by beating them in their boss races as opposed to clearing the Gem Cups). Updates also added in two more secret characters: King Chicken (unlocked by grabbing all five golden eggs on the Adventure map and taking them to a chicken mural in the Lost Ruins hub) and the Iron Checkpoint Crate (unlocked by finding and breaking all of the Beenox crates on every track).
    • Crash Nitro Kart has its own fair share of secret characters to unlock: Dingodile, Polar, Zem and Zam are unlocked by clearing their respective Gem Cups, Pura and Fake Crash are both unlocked by doing fifty consecutive boosts with Teams Bandicoot & Cortex respectively in Adventure mode, N. Tropy like before is unlocked by beating his Time Trial ghosts and Real Velo is unlocked by getting 100% in Adventure mode with both teams. Its handheld counterpart however has different unlockables in comparison. To wit: the bosses are unlocked by beating them in their respective races, Oxide is unlocked by getting all gold relics or better in Adventure mode, and Spyro and N. Tropy are both unlocked by beating Adventure mode with Teams Bandicoot and Cortex respectively. And then there's Fake Crash...
  • DreamWorks Super Star Kartz has six unlockable characters: Toothless, Princess Fiona and Marty are unlocked by beating each cup in 50cc, while Knight Shrek, Sailor Skipper and Tribal Alex are unlocked by beating the final cup in 100cc, 150cc and Mirror respectively.
  • An odd example in Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour. There are three of them; original characters Ned Shredbetter and X.U.D. 71, and longtime Disney favorite (and game narrator) Jiminy Cricket. Their faces and character models are blacked out until you unlock them...but not only do they regularly appear on loading screens and as CPU racers beforehand, the manual flat out tells you they're the secret characters, making it nigh-impossible to be surprised by their inclusion.

    Rhythm Game 
  • The Cheer Girls and the Divas in Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents aren't particularly secret; they have their own bios in the manuals and everything, they're just really, really hard to unlock.
  • Space Channel 5 Part 2 somewhat does this. By completing Reports with 100% and by doing other things, you can play as other characters in the game, including the Big Bad.

  • The Binding of Isaac: Most unlockable characters are listed right on the character select menu, but the base game and every expansion except Wrath of the Lamb has added a hidden character who was not visible until after being unlocked. One thing they have in common is that they are all undead variations of Isaac in some way.
    • The first and most simple is ??? / Blue Baby, unlocked by beating the Final Boss ten times. This character cannot get any red hearts and must rely on soul hearts instead.
    • Rebirth adds The Lost, who has a... rather convoluted unlock method involving dying in specific ways. The game's later expansion packs would simplify this so that you only need to die in a sacrifice room while holding a specific trinket. This character can fly and shoot through projectiles, but is a literal One-Hit-Point Wonder.
    • Afterbirth adds The Keeper, unlocked by filling the Greed Mode donation machine all the way to 1000 coins. The Keeper uses money for health, dies in two hitsnote , and fires tears much more slowly.
    • Afterbirth† has The Forgotten, who has the player take a special item down to the Dark Room and use it on a dirt patch... while having the feet of Isaac's mother stomping down at you nearly the entire time, which is easier said than done. They're a melee-centric character that can switch into the Soul (a ghost-like character that is chained to the Forgotten's now immobile body) and back at will.
    • The final DLC, Repentance, takes this to an absurd degree by having 17 secret characters; those being an alternate "tainted" version of each character. All of them are unlocked in the same way; using the Red Key on a specific doorway in the Home floor, unlocking the tainted counterpart to whoever you're playing as (I.E Isaac can only unlock tainted Isaac). Many of them have very unique quirks that go beyond starting items and attributes. For example, Tainted Isaac rolls extra items but can only hold 8 passive items, Tainted Cain can only gain items by crafting them with pickups, Tainted Samson goes into a melee-only berserk mode during combat, Tainted Lazarus switches between two characters every room, etc.
  • Crying Suns has thirteen special officers which the player can recruit during their runs. These special officers are distinguished from generic ones by having more health and an extra skill. Recruiting a special officer unlocks that officer for all future runs, though if they die, you will need to wait five runs before you can use them again. You can only have one special officer in your crew at the start of a run, no matter how many have been unlocked.
  • Dicey Dungeons:
    • The Jester isn't available as a selectable character until you clear seven different runs, with a fight against them always being the boss of the seventh.
    • The Bear can be played as by stealing and using the Alchemist's Bear Potion, or by inflicting Curse? on the Alchemist to cause the Bear Potion to take effect on you instead of them. However, it only lasts for one run and is not selectable on the menu.
  • Enter the Gungeon:
    • The Bullet is unlocked by sparing non-hostile Bullet Kin wearing capes five times when they show up in a room after you kill the past of another Gungeoneer. They start off with a sword named Blasphemy that shoots lasers at full health and a cape that grants them immunity to contact damage to let him get in close with his sword.
    • The Robot is unlocked by grabbing a Busted Television found in the Gungeon Proper’s elevator shaft and taking it all the way to The Forge and giving it to the Blacksmith, who fixes it up for you. They start with the Robot’s Right Hand, an Arm Cannon that gets stronger the more Junk you have, a passive upgrade that electrifies their shots, and an active item that spills out water in front of them. Also, they have six units of Armor instead of Health, which gives them a free blank on taking damage at the cost of Armor being harder to find and dying when they run out, making them Armored But Frail.
    • The Paradox can be unlocked by interacting with a puddle of space-textured void… stuff after killing a Gungeoneers past and clearing a run. They cost 5 Hegemony Credits to play as, but start with a random starting weapon, a random weapon, and a random item. They’re also essential to unlocking
    • The Gunslinger. Unlocking him is a very involved process, as you must first defeat The Lich as The Paradox, which then immediately throws you into a new run as The Gunslinger. Don’t rest easy, as then you need to complete a full run as the new character, and killing his past ( or rather, his future) involves going through Bullet Hell again and facing off against two copies of The Lich, one of whom is The Paradox and is Jammed, boosting health and damage. Only then is The Gunslinger fully unlocked, as he never takes over the Gungeon and becomes The Lich. And by god, is he worth the effort, since [[spoiler: his starting pistol is a powerful revolver with seven shots and throwing his gun on a reload from empty to pull out a new one, and his starting item, his prosthetic bullet eyes, gives every gun he picks up their synergy effects even if he lacks the components of said synergy. Although he DOES cost seven Hegemony Credits to play as once he’s unlocked.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light has a Secret Ship alongside a Secret Race: The Crystals. Crystal crew have 125 HP instead of the standard 100, have a similar movement speed penalty to Rockmen, lose HP in airless rooms at a slower rate than other races, and have the unique Crystal Lockdown ability that prevents anyone else from entering or exiting the room they're in for a period of time. Their ships come in two different configurations: One can fire crystal weaponry that ignore one layer of shields, and the other packs a four-person teleporter allowing the player to more easily defeat enemy ships by way of killing their crew rather than blowing the ship up; both layouts also have a special augment that can randomly fire back crystals at the enemy ship when hit. To reveal the fact that they even exist, one needs to go through a sidequest chain that involves randomly finding a particular item, then coming across another random event, then randomly getting the chance to visit a specific sector in order to reach the Crystal Homeworld sector.
  • In NetHack, certain demon-lords have no "fixed" lair and only turn up when/if summoned. It is entirely possible to finish the game and never meet them.
  • In Nuclear Throne, there are two characters that can't be normally selected and require jumping through some hoops to play as them. To play as Skeleton, you need to get Melting killed then have him get revived inside a Necromancer circle, and it only lasts until that run. Playing as Frog requires you to get a Frog Pistol by going into post-Loop Sewers and hit Mom with a golden weapon at least once then kill her, store that pistol in a Proto Chest in a Crown Vault to turn it into a golden version, then pick a character to go back there and store that in their loadout. Once you do perform that lengthy task, it will replace the character that holds the Golden Frog Pistol.
  • Risk of Rain 2 has four Lunar items in the "Heresy set" (Vision, Claws, Strides, and Essence of Heresy) which changes your active skills. When you collect all four, your survivor transforms into the Heretic, who has a triple jump and higher stats including a massive health pool, but has negative health regen. This change lasts the whole run, and removing all copies of Heresy item will replace the respective skill with a useless squawk.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Dungeon Explorer (1989): The Princess and Hermit (spelled Harmet due to wonky translation) classes can be unlocked via passwords. You can also unlock Hermit by leveling up a Bard until it has 50 HP and taking them to the Hermit House, where they will transform into the Hermit.
  • Game Master Plus: The Joker class is not immediately available in the class selection screen, but repeatedly refusing all the normal options will cause Elsa to be assigned this class.
  • SaGa Frontier: Sei required you to finish a sidequest in an optional dungeon; Time Lord and Kylin required you to get two gifts of magic first to even access the quest to recruit them (or buy their magic); Suzaku required you to defeat an obscure miniboss who randomly appeared if you fight a certain monster in the previous screen; and Rei was another Guide Dang It! character available only in Asellus's quest and was unobtainable if you forgot to do something or did something you shouldn't have done at the start of said quest.
  • Wild ARMs:
    • In the second game, you recruit Marivel in a completely optional dungeon.
    • Alter Code, the remake of the first game. lets you recruit Zed after an Optional Boss fight and after you give him an item acquired in the last dungeon.
  • Suikoden II lets you recruit the overpowered main character of the first game as a non-Star. It required a last dungeon save file from the first Suikoden and a Side Quest.
  • Suikoden Tactics did something similar for the main character of Suikoden IV. Also, considering the Suikoden games always have around 100 Optional Party Members, (There's always 108 characters, but some are automatic, permanent members) there's often a boatload of difficult to get ones.
  • Planescape: Torment: You can get a special character, the Rogue Modron Nordom, only by exploring a bizarre pocket dimension where the inhabitants are trying to understand the concepts of dungeon-delving. The result is a randomly generated maze, creating by opening and shutting various doors between the myriad chambers, and Nordom can only be found in a specific chamber. To even get to the pocket plane, you buy a specific item (the "Metallic Cube" - a poseable Modron figurine) from Vrichika's Curiosity Shoppe. Then, after talking to the Modrons in the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts to discover that it is a portal, you have to figure out on your own the specific pattern you need to alter the figure's limbs into to activate it (extend left wing, extend right wing, rotate right arm). Once there, you first have to fight your way through a randomly generated maze (fortunately set on "Easy" difficulty) to find the control room. Then, from there, you have to set the maze to "Hard" and then try and find the room where Nordom is waiting. And, on this difficulty, the maze is filled with powerful enemy constructs, which can make this a Bonus Level of Hell if the party doesn't time Level Grinding on either the Easy or Medium settings. And as this maze is randomly generated, you may need to reset it over and over before Nordom's chamber becomes accessible.
  • In Chrono Trigger, near the end of the game, you are presented a choice. Take one path and you can recruit Magus. Take the other and the mystery character is unobtainable for the rest of the game.
  • Breath of Fire II: Bleu/Deis. You must walk over a specific panel in a random desert with nothing else in it after reading a certain book. The book both unlocks the panel and tells you, if obtusely, which one it is.
  • The Final Fantasy series has a few:
    • Final Fantasy VI alone has a number of them:
      • Gogo the Mime was found in a small optional dungeon which you accessed by fighting an enemy that only appeared in one place, and letting it eat you instead of killing it.
      • Mog can be found in the Narshe Cliffs in the World of Balance, or the Narshe Mines in the World of Ruin.
      • Umaro can be found by jumping off a cliff where the Esper Tritoch/Valigarmanda was and having Mog in your party.
      • While Shadow joins and leaves the party as he pleases, he can be recruited for good if you wait for him as the Floating Continent crumbles. If you don't, he doesn't make it and can't be recruited again.
      • Technically, every character save for Setzer, Edgar and Celes become this in the World of Ruin, as you don't need to re-recruit them to take on Kefka.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Yuffie appeared as a random battle, and the player must select certain dialogue options to get her to join. The game was merciful, though, in that she would appear later until the player gets it right (justified as she stole from you each time you got the sequence wrong). Also Vincent, who involved solving puzzles in a haunted house. After finally finishing the puzzles, you have to fight a boss. The boss was very tough if you didn't know what you were doing, and there's still little indication on what you're supposed to do to actually recruit Vincent.
    • Final Fantasy X has three hidden aeons:
      • Yojimbo is found in the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth; after going through the dungeon and defeating him, his chamber can be accessed, and Yojimbo can be obtained for a negotiable price.
      • After obtaining secret items in the different Cloisters of Trials and defeating Geosgaeno, Anima can be fought in the Temple of Baaj.
      • The Magus Sisters are found in Remiem Temple and their chamber unlocked with two items, those being the Blossom Crown (obtained after capturing one of each fiend in Mt. Gagazet) and the Flower Sceptre (obtained by defeating Belgemine's Bahamut).
    • Final Fantasy Tactics has a number of them:
      • Beowulf Cadmus can be recruited in Chapter 4 by helping him with a quest in Goug.
      • Beowulf's fiancée Reis Duelar can be recruited as well if you continue along the quest; she's first recruited as a Holy Dragon, but joins the party under her human form after she's returned to normal.
      • Continuing further along the quest nets you the Aquarius auracite, which allows you to recruit the robot Construct 8.
      • A friendly creature named Byblos helps you on the final floor of the Brutal Bonus Level, Midlight's Deep. If it makes it through the battle alive, it can be recruited for good.
      • Cloud Strife, guest-appearing from Final Fantasy VII can be recruited if you buy a flower from a flower girl in Sal Ghidos, then come back later to help him fend off some thugs.
      • Finally, the PSP remake adds Luso and Balthier, both recruitable in their respective sidequests.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has Ms. Mowz, who makes several appearances as an Non-Player Character but won't join unless you do a certain sidequest.
  • Time Stalkers has Marion. Although not a secret by any stretch (she's listed in the manual with all the other characters), the method for getting her is convoluted and relies entirely on luck—you have to find her as a randomly generated item.
  • Pokémon:
  • Natsume in .hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption. She only appears if you've defeated all the Chaotic Player-killers, and even then, you can't actually get her in the party until after you beat the final boss. Tabby from Roots is similar, as you find her on the 50th floor of the game's Bonus Dungeon.
  • With high enough Paragon/Renegade skill in Mass Effect 2, it's possible to kill Samara during her loyalty mission and replace her with her daughter Morinth.
  • Futomimi and Sakahagi in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. In Hell's Maze, you can encounter two souls; one that's red (Sakahagi) and another that's green (Futomimi). Talking to both of them causes a corpse to show up in Zoshigaya Cemetery, which is holding the Afterlife Bell. Bring the Bell to the two souls and ring it to bring them Back from the Dead as their former selves. That alone won't unlock them, however; you still need to fuse a pair of demons to get them. Dante and Black Frost also count, but they join you instantly regardless of your level.
  • Persona has Reiji, who is infamous for being locked behind a very specific set of choices. From Persona 2, there's the Custom Personae, which can be unlocked by certain dialogue choices, and Durga, which needs a certain choice as well. Also, from Eternal Punishment, the Ancestral Personae and Lugh.
  • "Secret Companion" is the Dragon Age fandom's established term for a particular Walking Spoiler companion who may join the Warden's party in Dragon Age: Origins under very specific circumstances—namely, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, The Heavy of the game. In addition, there are some less spoiler-y secret Guest Star Party Members in that game, such as First Enchanter Irving (who only joins if you forgot to bring a mage to the resolution of "The Arl of Redcliffe" quest) and the nameless Tower Guard, Soldier, and Circle Mage, some of whom may join you depending on your Origin during "The Tower of Ishal" to balance out your party.
  • Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity lets you at random find a KFC in dungeons... and recruit Colonel Sanders as a party member.
  • Many of the Legendaries in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. They don't appear at all unless you have either the Secret Slab or the Enigma Part, and from there, you'd need a strategy guide to figure out where exactly they appear.
  • The Hellfire Expansion Pack for the original Diablo came with two secret, "unlockable" characters: the Bard and Barbarian. The Barbarian has since reappeared in the sequels.
  • In Arcanum, while not many characters are hidden per se, most people will never know that certain NPCs are can actually be recruited, mainly because some require special dialogue options and/or quests to be accomplished before they even consider joining.
    • Another character, called Dog, requires that you find him within a time limit as soon as you enter the town he's found in.
  • In Lufia: The Legend Returns, defeating the Egg Dragon will lead to them joining your party as a thirteenth member.
  • There are two in Lunarosse. One is Izumi, a scythe-wielder who can only be recruited in a Journey to the Center of the Mind sidequest. The other is Princess Zelda, who you can't recruit until just before the second-to-last dungeon even if you've already cleared the dungeon she's in before then, but already has her strongest weapon and excellent stats.
  • In Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, every major full character is found during the main plot, and every sidekick is found in a major port town. Except for one sidekick, Rekke. Rekke is found clinging to a random piece of debris on the eastern edge of the map. Worse, most sidekicks have very few dialogue options, and Rekke doesn't even speak a language known to the party, meaning when he's clicked on, his dialogue is incomprehensible, followed by body language to indicate what he means. So the player might think to treat him as Dumb Muscle, but if they keep prodding him, he eventually learns Aedyran and had a surprisingly extensive Dialogue Tree about the unknown land of Yezuha.
  • In Cthulhu Saves the World, there is Dem, the Previous Player-Character Cameo from Breath of Death VII, unlocked after defeating him as an Optional Boss. In "Cthulhu's Angels" campaign, he's replaced with his partner Sara, both as a boss and a party member.
  • In Bug Fables, defeating Mother Chomper allows you to collect her seed and hatch her into Chompy, who serves as a fourth party member.
  • Dragon Quest IV: In the remakes, Psaro can join your party in the sixth chapter if you go through the bonus dungeon and bring Rose back to life.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Kerry Eurodyne's Sidequest Sidestory/Romance Sidequest unlocks after doing the entirety of Johnny Silverhand's storyline, which in itself is optional. The three other love interests' questlines are added through the main plot (Judy and Panam you meet through the main story quests, and River's sidequest gets added automatically after a certain story mission). While you can still miss River, Kerry is by far the hardest to find.
  • Kingdom Hearts typically has few playable characters and less secret ones, but still has a few instances of this.
    • Chain of Memories has the Mushu and Bambi summons as this. The former is found as a Key to Rewards card in Hollow Bastion, while the latter is obtained if the player fully completes the Hundred-Acre Wood.
    • Kingdom Hearts II also has two optional Summons, Stitch and Peter Pan. They're found in chests in Space Paranoids and Port Royal respectively.
    • Birth by Sleep has Pete as the only missable D-Link. The player has a random chance of meeting Captain Justice or Captain Dark in a normal Command Board round, and the D-Link will be obtained after the round if this happens. The Final Mix version also introduced several new Unversed who became playable after you beat their minigames. They were all next to useless in battle.
    • The 3DS version of Dream Drop Distance had a few secret Dream Eaters, which were mainly variants of existing ones. They could only be obtained via AR Cards. The HD version removed the AR Card function and instead gave the secret Dream Eaters recipes of their own. There are also rare Dream Eaters in both versions that require the player to beat specific Special Portals to obtain their recipes and create them, and were missable otherwise, mainly Flowbermeow and Meowjesty.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • Star Fox: Assault 's Multiplayer mode lets you play as the core Star Fox team, but Wolf O' Donnell can be unlocked. He has the same total stats as Fox, but with three maxed out skills (a maxed out speed in particular that lets him run around all the other characters), he is considered by some to be a Game-Breaker.
  • Raiden Fighters Jet has the Slave and Fairy planes, unlockable by holding the bomb button when pressing Start at the title screen. The Slave will replace whichever plane you select, inheriting its movement speed and bomb; the Miclus is replaced by the Fairy instead.
  • In Touhou Kaeidzuka ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View you can unlock Merlin and Lunasa Prismriver if you complete the Nintendo Hard Extra Mode with Komachi and Eiki Shiki. Given that this game is from Bullet Hell genre, many casual players won't even try this (it's like the story mode, but with number of bullets on Lunatic standards, both you and opponent having one hit point while she has the invincibility time for the beginning of the fight, and without any spare lives or continues).
  • In the iOS port of DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu you can unlock Hibachi as a playable ship. It is just as powerful as its boss counterpart. The harder method involves doing a 2-loop clear of the game, and makes the unlock permanent, while the easier method involves a cheat code on the ship select that has to be re-entered every time you play.
  • Mercenary Force has the Tanuki, who also counts as a Sixth Ranger. To get the Tanuki, you must have the mystic as your leader and try her luck at the shrine in level 2. Then in level 6, you must have an empty slot in your party and a mystic present.
  • Crimzon Clover has the Type-Z ship, unlocked by beating the game once and accumulating three million stars in any mode. It's basically the Type-I ship on steroids.
  • Rival Megagun has the Host, who can be unlocked simply by reaching and defeating the True Final Boss on normal mode or higher without continuing.

    Simulation Game 

    Sports Game 
  • 1080° Snowboarding: There are three special characters you can challenge and, by meeting certain conditions, play as: A person entirely made of ice, a person made of gold, and an anthropomorphic panda. In Match Race, they only appear in Deadly Fall, at the very end of Expert difficulty.
  • The Backyard Baseball series has secret characters ranging from Mr. Clanky to the announcers to freaking Babe Ruth.
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 has Justin Timberlake of all people as a secret golfer. Unlocking him requires a password the game provides after defeating The Hustler (a fictional golfer Justin conceptualized, mocapped, and played) in Legend Tour. All of his stats are at 105% and all of his modifiers are at Level 4.

    Stealth Based Game 

    Tower Defense 
  • In Bloons Tower Defense 6, the Cave Monkey can be unlocked temporarily on the map "Frozen Over" by having a Mortar Tower repeatedly fire on the spot where it is frozen. After enough blasts, the ice will break, and the Cave Monkey will appear at a fixed spot on the track, where it attacks by hitting Bloons with its club. It can't be brought to other maps, and has to be unlocked again every time you start the map over.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • Many secret mechs in the Super Robot Wars series. The methods for getting them vary from the simple (kill X number of enemies with character Y, especially easy when character Y is a walking engine of death) to the Guide Dang It!, (beating a certain enemy with a single character, not attacking a particular unit in a fight, or reassigning a character to an incredibly weak robot before a certain mission, or winning a Hopeless Boss Fight).
    • Due to the nature of the games, this may not be so much Guide Dang It! as All There in the Manual.
    • And quite often, there will be two or more hidden mecha/weapons that cannot be gained in the same playthrough (ex: Hyperion Gundam and Tekkaman Rapier in W, which are achieved on different sides of the same route split), making 100% Completion impossible.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: Cloud. An incredibly long series of actions and optional maps before getting him, Guide Dang It!. The PSP port/upgrade, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of Lions, included Cloud and all of FFT's unlockable characters, as well as Final Fantasy XII's Balthier (as a secret character) and Final Fantasy Tactics A2's Luso (met in the story).
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: 4 characters offer to join your party if leaving with certain mission items. Four others- Ritz, Babus, Shara and Ezel- can be recruited by completing certain missions, most of which become available in the postgame.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 had Frimedla Lotice, gained from doing five separate quests. The game also had Vaan, Penelo, Al-Cid Margrace and Montblanc as optional party members.
  • Nippon Ichi games, such as Disgaea or La Pucelle, often allow you to unlock characters from their other games.
  • Shining Force was horrible with these, and it extended to the sequels.
  • The game Vantage Master by Falcom allowed you to play as characters from their other games, by answering the questions to get a specific class, then naming the character appropriately. For instance, becoming a knight and naming him "Adol" lets you play the knight from the Ys games, while naming the swordsman "Mail" gives you the title heroine from the game Popful Mail.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has various characters join during the post-game "Creature Campaign" while exploring the bonus dungeons or battling monsters on the field, including some that had died during the main plot.
    • Path of Radiance has Stefan, who is very, very vaguely hinted at... and nowhere in the hint is it mentioned that you can only unlock him with two specific characters (neither of which are the main character, whom you use to recruit about 85% of the recruitable units). He's very much worthwhile, and would be even if he didn't come with the second best sword in the game, losing only to the 11th-Hour Superpower sword Ragnell (which only Ike can wield anyway).
    • Radiant Dawn:
      • Stefan returns as even more of a Guide Dang It!, especially as you only get your vague hint after he's unobtainable.
      • Even worse is Sephiran a.k.a. Lehran. You have to go through several convoluted steps (hinted at nowhere in the game), one of which can be completely impossible if you were unaware of it several chapters beforehand (or even just had bad luck with the Random Number God). And if you finally do unlock him, guess what? You get him for one chapter. Namely the final boss battle. In which he comes with no weapon. If you're willing to give up Micaiah or Pelleas (if you got him) for magical attackers and give Lehran Rexaura or Balberith, turns out, he's fortunately fast enough to double attack the Final Boss. For added fun, and possible symbolism, have him team up with Micaiah and perhaps Sanaki to bring Ashera down. Nothing quite like happy god-slaying family bonding time, right?
    • Fire Emblem Fates:
      • Certain characters can only be recruited if certain buildings or structures are upgraded all the way. And all of those characters are only available in certain paths. Izana can only be recruited if the Hot Spring is upgraded in Birthright and Conquest, and in Revelation he's replaced by Fuga. Yukimura is only available if a puppet is upgraded and only in Birthright. Flora is available if a turret is upgraded and only in Conquest and Revelation.
      • Midori is a rather special case, as she's a secret character only in Birthright: in Conquest and Revelations she can be gotten the same way as any other child character, but in Birthright Kaze not only has to be married, but have an A-Support with the Avatar by chapter 15 before Midori can be unlocked. If that second objective isn't fulfilled by chapter 15, Kaze dies and Midori is gone.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses plays with this. Nowhere in the game's marketing was it stated that there is a route dedicated to the Church of Seiros. However, this route is the default version of the Black Eagles storyline, and you have to jump through several extra hoops to remain with Edelgard after she declares war on the Church.The Requirements
  • Advance Wars has Nell, and the sequel adds Hachi. Both are Game Breakers.

    Visual Novel 
  • Dracu-Riot!, you cannot pursue Nicola's route unless you finished at least one other
  • DRAMAtical Murder lets you play Ren's route only after you've completed all other characters' routes. The Play Station Vita port adds one more, accessible after every ending in the original has been acheived.route.
  • In Frozen Essence, not completing the requirements for any character's path unlocks Zareh's path.
  • In Machi, you unlock Norio's route after completing the game with every other character. Despite this, the route still takes place at the same time as everyone else's, meaning that some of the other characters' seemingly irrelevant multiple-choice questions, which one might have previously assumed to be just flavor text, suddenly become relevant again.
  • In Magical Diary: Horse Hall, Big Steve now has a partial romance path as of the latest patch. Reaching it is much more difficult than any of the other characters.
    • In Wolf Hall there are several "side routes" that aren't as obvious as the main romance paths. In particular, Raven, Corrinna, and Suki require very specific and unlikely steps to be taken to even be aware that they're possibilities.
  • Togainu no Chi has Nano, the final love interest, that can only be pursued once you've played everyone else's routes. And before him, while Shiki is already established to be one of the love interests based on the opening sequence, his route is only unlocked after the player has completed Rin's route.
  • In Under the Moon, Unan, a character introduced as an impartial messenger of the king of the demon world, becomes a potential love interest after clearing all previously available routes.
  • Cecil of Uta No Prince-sama is unlocked in the original game after finishing the routes for the other boys. He still makes a cameo in all of them, though.

    Other Games 
  • P.A.N.G., a Spiritual Successor to Pong with different playable shapes as paddles, has a secret character called Spenser, playable by selecting one of the asterisks in Character Select instead of the shapes. He comes with a rocket projectile he can shoot to destroy a specific opponent's block, and if he hits the spent rocket with the ball he can retrieve it to fire again.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
  • My Mental Choices Are...: The Dating Sim in the OVA has a secret route (accessed through impressions amassed on the other love interests' routes) where the "male best friend" character comes out as a trans girl.
  • In My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, the fictional otome game Fortune Lover, which is where the story is set, has four men for the heroine to romance — Geordo, Keith, Alan and Nicol. However, "the monkey girl", who later reincarnated as the villainess Catarina, heard about the existence of a fifth capture target from her friend, but insisted that her friend not spoil the plot. The name of the fifth possible suitor is student council president Sirius Dieke, and Catarina realizes, much to her horror, that he's actually a dark magic user who kills Maria and all her friends in the bad ending of his route.
  • As a Game Book, Romeo and/or Juliet has a secret character whom the narrator will only inform the reader of their existence if they reach the canonical ending of Romeo and Juliet, as Rosaline, the secret character, is concerned with the aftermath of the lovers' double suicide.
  • A number of Tamagotchi toys have specific breeds like this, often requiring you to raise the Tamagotchi in unusual ways to obtain them. Others require using rare items, feeding certain foods, or connecting to other Tamagotchis. The series mainstay Kuromametchi debuted on the Version 5 as an example of the latter case, being obtained from feeding sesame pudding to a Hatugatchi.

Alternative Title(s): Hidden Character, Here Comes A New Challenger