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Sidelined Protagonist Crossover

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In Crossovers, one of the draws is the main characters of all involved series interacting with each other. This isn't always the case, however. In some crossovers, the main character of one or more series is Demoted to Extra or doesn't appear at all. Then, a secondary character becomes an Ascended Extra and the focal point for their franchise.

This can be because of numerous reasons:

  • The main character is overshadowed by an Ensemble Dark Horse or the crossover itself focuses on non-main characters.
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  • There are legal and licensing issues that prevent the main character of a work from being used. However, there is no problem with the other characters.
  • The main character's actor/voice actor is unavailable. It may be that they have a busy schedule, contract disputes, unfortunately departed, considers their work an Old Shame, or is being The Prima Donna, but The Powers That Be believe that The Other Darrin just wouldn't have the same impact.
  • There are In-Universe reasons, such as if the hero died and the events of the crossover is canonically set after it happened or they're just out of commission.
  • The hero does not fit with the crossover's theme. For example, a male protagonist sitting out on an all-female crossover.
  • If the source material was a video game, and the hero is subject to such heavy Character Customization that they barely have a character outside of player input, making any "official" version unrecognisable for majority of fans.
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  • The Creators and Executives just don't want to use the protagonist, period.

Compare with A Day in the Limelight, which focuses on a secondary character without necessarily being in a crossover. In a franchise where there are tons of characters, there may be those that are Heroes of Another Story but others do not get the limelight until a crossover. Contrast with Spotlight-Stealing Crossover, where one or several franchises demote others to extra.

In some works, there can be multiple protagonists. When not all of them appear or are important to a crossover, it is considered as a downplaying of this trope.

When adding examples from Shared Universes, do observe that some of them have Character Overlap and such a character may be a regular in multiple works. In such cases, only add a secondary character as an example if they crossover to a work in their Shared Universe that they do not regularly appear in (which may be a tricky thing to track in really large Universes).


When a Shared Universe crosses over with works that doesn't belong to it, do note that the characters represent the entire Verse. For example, Doctor Doom, Galactus, and Super-Skrull began as Fantastic Four villains yet they have since undergone Rogues' Gallery Transplant to several other heroes in the Marvel Universe. These villains are playable in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but not the Fantastic Four themselves, yet they are together with members of The Avengers (which has a rotating line-up of almost every Marvel hero) to whom they acted as rogues before. Therefore, it is also considered a downplaying of this trope.

Also see Transplant, when a character is not intended to be a crossover representative but a permanent transferee to a different work.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • This is the fate of most male protagonists of Harem anime and manga if their works are involved in crossovers, given the marketing for the genre tend to focus just on the attractive romantic leads.
  • The Empire of Corpses is a Steampunk Literary Necrophilia (in more ways than one) Crossover of several novels that are set in the Victorian era (and some that are not, which are given Setting Updates). Some of the representatives are not the protagonists in their original novels.

    Comic Books 
  • Mina is the representative for Dracula in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen instead of her former husband Jonathan Harker.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Unite is mainly a crossover between Mega Man, Mega Man X, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic Boom. In Sonic Boom's case, however, the only characters with actual involvement in the crossover are Sticks the Badger, Fastidious Beaver, and Comedy Chimp, as they're the only characters who don't have counterparts in the main Archie Sonic continuity (which is acknowledged in at least one of the crossover's backup humor shorts). The Boom versions of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy have no involvement at all beyond bookending cameos when Sticks leaves and returns to her world, and the Boom versions of Orbot and Cubot are the only counterpart characters to interact with someone from another franchise (specifically, the Mega Man X characters).
  • The Jack Knight Starman series was revived for one issue as a Blackest Night crossover. However, the main character of the book was The Shade, as Jack had retired from being a superhero.

    Fan Works 
  • Comic Book SNAFU: Two of the central characters are Akiza Izayoi and Gajeel Redfox, who appears in place of Yusei Fudo and Natsu Dragneel respectively.
  • Honoka's Bizarre Adventure: µ's Is Unbreakable is a crossover between Love Live! and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, though neither DiU's protagonist Josuke Higashikata nor any of the other Joestars are present while other characters like Yoshikage Kira, Aya Tsuji, and Reimi Sugimoto make an apperance. Justified as the series takes place in Tokyo in the 2010s and focuses on the idol group µ's, far from the small town of Morioh in 1999.
  • Imaginary Seas: While Percy Jackson is the protagonist, the main characters from Chaldea do not. Justified as the story takes place in the Atlantis Lostbelt before Chaldea's arrival.
  • Double subverted in Paradoxus: At first, the prologue follows some Original Character, then the narrative switches to Bloom's shenanigans in Azeroth and makes the reader expect her to slowly piece together the clues to figure it's the Burning Legion (with a brand-new Undead Plague) the responsible of ravaging several Eraklyon cities. Thus, being the subversion of this trope. However, the fic suddenly time-skips eight years into the future — the reader learns Bloom has been assassinated and the actual protagonists of the story are Bloom's and Stella's daughters. On top of that, there are only two plot-relevant characters from the World of Warcraft canon; the rest are only mentioned.
  • There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton
    • Downplayed with the titular character. While Supergirl isn't a minor character by all means and had her own series, this trope applies as she was chosen over her more famous cousin Superman. This was purposely invoked by Doctor Doom and Richard Reed when they created the Krypton-verse, as Superman was the load-bearing pillar of the DC Multiverse even in Earth-16. Kara was selected because she was the closest to Superman they can get and was fated to die in that universe anyway.
    • Supporting character Nico di Angelo is the main representative of The Camp Half-Blood Series instead of the protagonist Percy Jackson.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Pilot episode of CSI: Miami crossed over with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the one of CSI: NY crossed over with Miami, and there was an eventual three-part crossover with all three, but Gil Grissom never appeared in any of them. This is apparently because William Petersen was against the spin-offs and refused to appear.
  • The Bones spinoff The Finder features visits from Bones supporting characters Sweets and Hodgins, but not Booth or Brennan.
  • Happy Days: In one episode, Fonzie needs some help defeating a gang so he calls on his good friend Carmine Ragusa, the Golden Gloves boxing champion and a character introduced in the Spin-Off Laverne & Shirley.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O is a Milestone Celebration and Crisis Crossover for the Kamen Rider franchise's Heisei era (2000-2018), but Toei could only get about half of the shows' stars to return. Kamen Rider Fourze, Kamen Rider Wizard, Kamen Rider Hibiki, Kamen Rider Kiva, Kamen Rider Kabuto, Kamen Rider Drive, and Kamen Rider Double only had secondary characters interact with Zi-O's cast, and appearances by the main heroes were done via Fake Shemp.
    • The Fourze tribute episodes in particular were awkwardly mashed together with the Kamen Rider 555 tribute because Fourze and Meteor's actors were tied up with filming Bleach; that said, Souta Fukushi (Fourze) was at least able to record dialog for his Shemp.
    • Kuuga didn't even get secondary characters to appear. Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER had Kuuga as a focus, but no actual actors from the show appeared; the closest thing to a Kuuga guest appearance was a Posthumous Character appearing as a mummified corpse.
    • Subverted with Den-O in the same movie, as lead actor Takeru Satoh is now a huge star beyond Toei's usual pay-grade and Den-O appearances have used deuteragonist Momotaros - who is a rubber suit character and thus incredibly easy to bring in - for years, but Toei was able to negotiate to have Satoh make a surprise cameo appearance. (A Den-O arc later on in the show itself, however, reverted to just using the supporting cast.)
    • Double never received a proper tribute at all; much like Satoh, Masaki Suda (Philip) had become such a big star that his schedule was booked solid for two years straight and he was unable to return despite being willing.note  Heisei Generations FOREVER ostensibly had Double's tribute, but it was represented by an extremely minor character who was portrayed by a member of the Double production staff anyway. Instead, the show's final arc brought back Double movie antagonist Kamen Rider Eternal for several episodes.
  • Neither Cat (part of the protagonist ensemble of Victorious) nor Sam (supporting protagonist of iCarly) are the main characters of their home shows, but they become the protagonists in the Crossover Spin-Off series Sam & Cat (in which Tori and Carly don't appear).
  • Super Sentai:
  • Sesame Street:
    • In the 70's, the show had a crossover episode with The Wizard of Oz (1939), represented by Margaret Hamilton reprising her role of Big Bad the Wicked Witch of the West so that the show can teach its preschool audience about the concept of fear and "the value of planning by creating and implementing methods of retrieving [her] broom". This has Gone Horribly Right, becoming a Banned Episode because Moral Guardians deemed the Witch too intensely frightening for the little kids.
    • Given the sheer difference of tone between an educational show for preschoolers and a Space Opera, Sesame Street pulled off two crossovers with Star Wars in the 70's-80's by featuring visits from R2-D2 and C-3PO, Star Wars's designated Kid-Appeal Character duo at the time. Not once were Luke, Leia or Han referenced, let alone the Empire or the Galactic Civil War.

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  • Marvel Future Fight downplays this with Nico Minoru, who is part of the protagonist ensemble in Runaways. She was added as a playable character in a December 2015 update (reflecting her role in A-Force at the time), and remains the sole Runaways representative in the game four years on. She does, however, have a team-up bonus called "Runaways"... which she shares with Bucky Barnes, of all characters.


  • Kingdom Hearts has many instances of supporting characters from Disney films overshadowing their protagonists, especially if said Disney films do not feature as full-fledged worlds.
    • The biggest examples are Donald Duck and Goofy being part of the Power Trio, but not Mickey Mouse, who doesn't appear until the final cutscene of the first game. This was after a long deliberation: Square Enix wanted Mickey to become the main hero, but was vetoed by Disney, who preferred Donald instead. Eventually, they decided to Take a Third Option and created an original character, but retained Donald and Goofy in the sidekick roles. The sequels promoted Mickey into a major character, though.
    • Jiminy Cricket, who is part of Sora's team. Though he seldom appears, he has more plot importance than Pinocchio, who stays in his Disney world.
    • Maleficent is much more important than any other character from Sleeping Beauty. With the relegation of the Disney properties to the background, she is one of few Disney characters who still regularly impact the plot.
    • Beast is a party member in the first game and II and is generally a major character compared to Belle.
    • Out of the cast of TRON, only Tron, Sark, and the MCP appear in II. Despite being the titular character, Tron isn't actually the protagonist of his film. This is rectified in Dream Drop Distance, which follows the plot of Legacy and features Kevin Flynn as the hero of his world.
    • Unlike other Disney worlds in Kingdom Hearts III where Sora regularly interacts with the cast, Sora barely has any moment with the Frozen cast. Though Anna and Elsa appear, they do not become party members and Sora interacts with them exactly once each in the game,note  while the plot of the movie goes on without his input at all. They don't even notice Sora in the world's final scene to say goodbye to him unlike all other Disney casts in the same game, despite standing a mere few steps in front of him. The Ascended Extra part? Marshmallow becomes a party member and Hans manifests Arendelle's Heartless Final Boss, Skoll.
  • LEGO Dimensions
    • Although both Aragorn and Frodo appear in cutscenes, neither one is playable (read: has a set) with the job of the main The Lord of the Rings hero going to series Big Good Gandalf. Downplayed for The LEGO Movie as although Wyldstyle is the main hero in story, Emmet is still playable.
    • In terms of non-main universes, The Wizard of Oz has only one set, represented by the Wicked Witch of the West, and Beetlejuice has the titular ghost, who is ultimately the antagonist.
  • The console versions of Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots feature Breakout Character GIR from Invader Zim as a secret playable character, but Zim himself doesn't appear anywhere in the game. Averted in the DS version, which features both Zim and GIR as playable characters.

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    Western Animation 
  • Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue features Huey, Dewey, and Louie to represent DuckTales (1987), but not Scrooge McDuck. Likewise, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) don't get to appear in the special, but Michelangelo does. Finally, Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters shows up, but not the Ghostbusters themselves.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes episode "Crossover Nexus" averts this with K.O. and Ben Tennyson, but plays it straight with Garnet (who is the leader of the Crystal Gems, but not the protagonist; that honor obviously going to the titular Steven) and Raven (whose leader is Robin), not to mention all of the various cameos in the episode.
  • Downplayed in the Star Trek: Lower Decks episode "Hear All, Trust Nothing", which crosses over with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Mariner is present, but she's instead relegated to a B plot and only goes onto the eponymous station at the very end of the episode (previous episodes had established that she had been stationed there in the past, so she had less interest in going than the rest of the crew).