A fair amount of games tend to have one story with one playable character. Other games have multiple playable characters but one story that they share. Finally, there are games where each character has their own separate story mode.
In a fair amount of cases, their stories are obviously connected. For others, not so much. Most people are likely to play through one character's campaign. After beating the game with that character, they will move on to another to look for the connection. What do you think would happen if you were to beat every character's campaign?
If you took your time to do so, you may be given one more campaign to clear. This campaign has the protagonists of the other campaigns brought together for one true final showdown. You could be using all of the characters you have played as back to back, or you could be using just one of them. In any case, you haven't beaten the game just yet.
In some cases, you actually have to do more than just clear every character's story. These requirements may vary between games, but most games that have an unlockable final story will often have it unlock just by beating the game with everybody.
If the final campaign chronologically follows all other campaigns, it is also a case of Branch-and-Bottleneck Plot Structure, with the other campaigns being the branches, and the final one being the bottleneck tying them back together.
Sometimes, this final campaign can have Multiple Endings. Which ending you get depends on what you choose to do in the final campaign.
This will often result in the True Final Boss coming into play. Compare Omega Ending, which involves unlocking a game's true ending by getting all other endings, but not involving multiple campaigns. Related to Unlockable Difficulty Levels, where you can play the same campaign in a harder level after beating it once for the first time. Not to be confused with Post-End Game Content, which would come after clearing the final campaign in this scenario.
Due to the nature of this trope, spoilers will not be marked.
- BlazBlue: In the first game, you have to finish all characters' story modes in order to unlock the final parts of the whole story. In the second, it's downplayed as you only have to finish certain characters' story modes to do the same.
- In Dead or Alive 4 only some of the roster is available when it is first played — unlocking others requires completing the storylines of certain other characters. The last one, Helena, is available only when all the others are completed.
- The Jin campaign was this in the initial releases of Dynasty Warriors 7, with the player having to complete the stories of the main Three Kingdoms in order to play their story. This was due to Jins story being the final one chronologically, as they were the ones who won historically. The Australian release, and later re-releases worldwide changed this, and had Jin available from the start, though when selected before the other stories are complete, it tells the player that the story is meant to be played last, and asks them to confirm the choice.
- A good number of games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series have their stories set up this way. Most of their final campaigns involve playing as Super Sonic and an additional character.
- To start off, Sonic Adventure features six different characters with their own stories. While the characters interact during certain segments, it takes beating each story to unlock the Super Sonic story, which is the true ending.
- Sonic Adventure 2 starts off with two stories: the Hero story, where you play as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles; and the Dark story, where you play as Shadow, Eggman, and Rouge. Beat both stories, and you unlock the final story where you play one long level as all the characters (except Shadow), fight a powerful boss using Shadow, and then the True Final Boss as Super Sonic and Super Shadow.
- In order to unlock the final story of Sonic Heroes, not only do you need to complete all four of the team stories, but you also need to collect all seven Chaos Emeralds (who you collect them with doesn't matter). Doing so will unlock the final story in which the four teams unite to battle the true Big Bad, Metal Overlord.
- Shadow the Hedgehog takes this Up to Eleven: there's only one story, but it branches into Hero, Dark, and Neutral paths, depending on whose objectives you complete in each level. There's a total of ten different endings, and you have to see them all in order to unlock the final campaign and the True Ending.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) has three different stories: Sonic, Shadow, and Silver. Beating all three campaigns will unlock one last story which has Mephiles successfully fuse with Iblis and become Solaris by killing Sonic. All the other playable characters (except Blaze) gather the Chaos Emeralds to revive Sonic, and the three hedgehogs take off for one final battle.
- Sonic Rush starts off with just Sonic's story. Upon completing the first zone, Blaze's story becomes available. Beating both stories (and collecting all the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic's story) unlocks one last campaign in which Super Sonic and Burning Blaze face off against a powered-up mech piloted by Eggman and Eggman Nega.
- In Puyo Puyo 20th Anniversary, clearing all 24 of the individual characters' stories will unlock the Final Story, which pulls everyone together for one final showdown against the final bosses.
- Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars features a campaign for each of the two factions, detailing both sides of the Third Tiberium War. Then, midway through the campaign, an Alien Invasion occurs lured there by the detonation of a Liquid Tiberium Bomb, and after fighting off the aliens and concluding the war for both factions, you are then returned to the menu screen.. which promptly assumes control, selects 'campaign', and reveals the third campaign, detailing the third side to the Third Tiberium War: That of the Alien Invasion itself
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep features three characters by the names of Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. Each of them has their own story to go through. Clearing all three stories and getting all entries to Xehanort's Report will unlock one more campaign focused on Aqua. The Final Mix version takes it a step further by having an additional campaign after that one, which has requirements dependent on difficulty.
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories features a one of these called "Reverse Rebirth" in which the player is put into Riku's shoes and he has to navigate his own plot. While it is unlocked by default (thus it is not a "Secret mode" as originally suspected), the player must beat Sora's campaign before they can play Reverse Rebirth.
- Live A Live: After completing the stories of the seven available characters, an eighth story is unlocked that focuses on a knight named Oersted. Playing through his story will reveal him to actually be the big bad while also giving you one last campaign. In an interesting variant, you can actually choose who to have as the protagonist for the final campaign. There is even a Golden Ending which involves some exploration. If you choose to have Oersted as the protagonist on the other hand, don't expect a happy ending.
- Mana-Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy, after beating both Raze's and Ulrika's story modes, you then can proceed to the third campaign, where the playable casts of both team unite to go fight the True Final Boss.
- NieR: Automata has you start with Route A, which is the basic campaign as the main character, 2B. After completing A, the game unlocks Route B, which is a Perspective Flip where you play as 2B's partner, 9S. This story is followed by Route C, which acts as a sequel to the first two routes and alternates characters along the path to the Golden Ending.
- In Odin Sphere, after you beat all five of the character campaigns, you unlock the sixth campaign. It's a Boss Rush consisting of five bosses, and you need to choose which character fights which boss. Choosing the correct combination will result in the Golden Ending of the entire story, while getting every possible bad ending unlocks the Golden Ending's epilogue.
- Octopath Traveler combines this with Brutal Bonus Level and True Final Boss, which acts as a definitive conclusion to the game's Metaplot. In order to unlock the game's true final chapter, you must complete all eight of the Traveler's individual storylines.
- In Ys Origin, beating the game with both Yunica and Hugo unlocks a third route starring The Claw / Toal Fact. The route has a True Final Boss and completing it leads to the true ending of the game.
- Trauma Team: After finishing the missions for all six characters, a seventh campaign unlocks at the end to take on the super disease of the game.
- Resident Evil 2:
- Completing both scenarios (i.e. as both Leon and Claire) unlocks a mode where you play as an Umbrella operative named HUNK. It's effectively a challenge mode where the player must complete a portion of the game with limited ammunition and healing items, and no save points.
- Resident Evil 2 (Remake) has a free DLC called "The Ghost Survivors". It presents three What If? scenarios involving characters who died in the course of the main game and the For Want of a Nail that might have saved them (at that moment)note . After completing them, a secret fourth scenario is unlocked, where the player must Hold the Line as Sheriff Daniel Cortini, the officer in the gas station opening sequence (who decided to shoot the zombie which overpowered him when the Player Character of the main game meets him, instead of restraining it).
- Resident Evil 6: After beating Leon, Chris, and Jake's campaign, Ada's campaign is unlocked. Ada's storyline provides many revelations about what was going on behind the scenes during the main story. This trope is averted in the Playstation 4 and Xbox One re-release, where Ada's campaign is unlocked from the start.
- This is the intention of the Revelation campaign in Fire Emblem Fates. To help support this, it was released as a DLC a few weeks after Fates (in order to give players time to beat one or both available campaigns). Given that the mode is also much more difficult than Birthright and the plot assumes you have played at least one campaign, it's not recommended to do it first even if you obtained the limited edition or have downloaded Revelation.
- Heroes of Might and Magic III: Both Restoration of Erathia and the Shadow of Death prequel expansion has a secret campaign unlocked by loading the save made when you completed the last mission of the campaigns that were visible from the start. Specter of Power follows up on the other Shadow of Death campaigns and acts as a bridge setting the stage for Restoration of Erathia. Seeds of Discontent takes place after the other Restoration of Erathia campaigns, and shows some of the aftermath of the conflict, though later games indicated that the actual events of the campaign didn't happennote . The first expansion, Armageddon's Blade, was also going to have a secret final campaign, but the somewhat rushed development when the originally planned new town and the campaign associated with it had to be scrapped led to it being repurposed as the final visible campaignnote .