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Three Plus Two

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Top: The three original Dino Rangers.
Bottom: The three with the Black And White members.

Common subtype of the Five-Man Band composed by starting with a Power Trio and adding some form of duo or a pair of Extra Rangers. While the five characters will generally still fit into some variation on the Five-Man Band archetypes, three of the characters will get decidedly more play.

In terms of plot, the core trio will generally have a relationship which pre-exists their introduction, while the remaining members are newcomers. Common archetypes for the non-core members include The Ace and the Old Master. Surprisingly, the Naïve Newcomer is rarely one of the peripheral duo (as Naïve Newcomer characters are usually given a more central role), but he can be a member of the core trio.

Even if the relationship between the core trio is not pre-existing, their bond will be immediate and close. You will find them interacting "off the clock" in a way you are less likely to see with the peripheral characters.

The leader is liable to be a member of the core trio, but if he is not, expect the dominant member of the trio to be The Lancer, and expect serious rivalry between him and the leader.

When the core trio works for Heroes "R" Us, the setup will often involve the trio's higher-ups assigning two new members to a long-standing team because they have somehow overlooked the fact that this would cause serious friction. The band may alternatively be formed by the core trio absorbing another group, either rivals with a common goal or enemies making a Heel–Face Turn.

Plots involving The Power of Friendship will focus on the core trio, while plots about teamwork will include the whole band. The two peripheral members may even duck out (via Heroic Sacrifice) before the Grand Finale.

The major advantage of this setup is that it covers the broad range of character types which makes the Five-Man Band a popular ensemble, but by relegating two members to the periphery, it prevents spreading the audience's time too thin, as is often a difficulty with large ensembles.

See also Cast Calculus.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop starring Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine and Jet Black! Oh, and also Ed and Ein.
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon Adventure 02 inverted it, then played it straight, doing another Two Plus Three. The two were Kari and T.K., the youngest two of the previous season and the only main cast holdovers. In the first episode, three more (and then a fourth) join them to complete their team, but this season was more about these new characters.
    • Digimon Tamers had something more like three plus three - Those Two Guys and the love interest join the team, but the Power Trio never really loses the spotlight. Toss in one more traditional Sixth Ranger (or arguably two more) and another "plus one", and the final result is a cast of Four (or Five) plus Four.
    • Digimon Frontier, however, plays it a little more like Two Plus Three (Plus One). Takuya and Kouji are the first to get their Human Spirits and Beast Spirits, and the only ones to get a Double Spirit Evolution and a Hyper Spirit Evolution, boosting them up to the Ultimate level. It's glaringly obvious in that, while they're in their Hyper forms, the other members of the Five-Man Band can only just stand around doing nothing.
    • Digimon Fusion, however, both played it straight and subverted it at the same time. Taiki, Akari and Zenjirou appear to be the three, with Nene and Kiriha as the Two. However, by the time that Kiriha and Nene have joined Xros Heart, Akari and Zenjirou are stuck in the real world, only being reunited when they return for the Grand Finale. So, in the end, Taiki, Kiriha and Nene serve as the Three, with Akari and Zenjirou as the Two.
  • Doraemon: Nobita's first choice of friends to hang out with are usually his Robot Buddy Doraemon and Girl Next Door Shizuka, so they tend to make a core trio with Gian and Suneo tagging along or antagonizing them. Gian and Suneo also associate with each other more than either of them does individually with the other three. Other times though, the trope is inverted: Nobita and Doraemon as a main duo and Shizuka, Gian, and Suneo as a supporting trio.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The first arc of Dragon Ball originally had Goku and Bulma adventuring together, with Oolong joining them shortly after. After this Yamcha and Puar were introduced, with the two pursuing the trio in hopes of stealing the dragonballs from them. Once Pilaf was introduced (or in the anime's case, became more of a threat), they officially joined into a Five-Man Band for the rest of the arc.
    • During the Freeza arc of Dragon Ball Z, we have originally Gohan, Krillin and Bulma. When Vegeta joins them, we have Gohan-Krillin-Vegeta plus Bulma. Later Piccolo and Goku appear as extra ones, but when Goku joins the battle against Freeza and Vegeta ends up being killed, we have Goku as the Spotlight-Stealing Squad and Gohan-Krillin-Piccolo as the extra trio plus Bulma.
  • Fairy Tail started with Lucy, Natsu, and Happy, but later Gray and Erza officially joined the team after tagging along enough times. To look at it chronologically (and disregard Happy), Natsu, Gray and Erza form the Power Trio, while Lucy and Wendy are the extra two that complete the group later.
  • In Gals!, Ran's main group of friends consist of herself, Miyu and Aya as the primary trio and Those Two Guys Rie and Satsuki who occasionally join in their antics. This is played with in the sense that Rie and Satsuki are actually Ran's older friends who got pushed into the background when Miyu and Aya join the group, meaning that, chronologically, Aya and Miyu are the plus two to Ran, Rie and Satsuki's original trio.
  • Jewelpet Twinkle☆ has the students at the Magic Academy; a Power Trio of girls (Akari-Miria-Sara) that is occasionally joined by two boys (Leon and Nicola) in their adventures.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War introduces second-years Kaguya Shinomiya, Miyuki Shirogane, and Chika Fujiwara right at the beginning, and first-years Yu Ishigami and Miko Iino appear in the student council later on. Much later, in Iino's case.
  • In Kokoro Connect, the Taichi-Inaba-Iori triangle is clearly in the center of the plot, while Yui and Aoi serve as Beta Couple.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh! has Yuri, Wolfram and Conrad, who have a much closer bond and spend more time together than with the other members of the Five-Man Band. When the Five-Man Band breaks up, the most often configuration is the trio going off on a mini-adventure, while Gwendal and Gunter man the castle.
  • The Littl' Bits has two examples within one gang: Willabit, Lillibit and Snagglebit plus Chip and Browniebit, or Snagglebit, Browniebit and Chip plus Willabit and Lillibit.
  • The three in Negima! Magister Negi Magi tends to be Asuna, Konoka and Setsuna. The plus two is usually Nodoka and Yue. That being said, this trope can shift about the cast, given its size.
  • In the first season of Ojamajo Doremi, Doremi, Aiko and Hazuki were the main trio, while Pop later came as a Tag Along Kid and Onpu as a Dark Magical Girl. Next season, Onpu became part of the main roster as the series went on. Pop, however, stayed in her position.
  • Downplayed in One Piece. The story starts out with Luffy recruiting Zoro then Nami shortly after (The live-action adaptation plays this straighter, with both of them joining around the same time), forming a trio. This trio was enough to form their own complete dynamic, with the first noncanonical OVA starring only the three, as it was produced very early into the manga's run. Usopp and Sanji are the plus two, however they each join in their respective arcs, not at once. This is reflected by Luffy, Zoro, and Nami being the main focus in the Whiskey Peak arc, the first arc after entering the Grand Line, while Usopp and Sanji sleep through it. Also by the first opening of the anime, which splits the crew into two shots, with the first containing Luffy, Zoro and Nami, and the second containing Usopp and Sanji. This dynamic would ultimately be short-lived, due to the characters being grouped in every way under the sun combined with the expanding cast, the Luffy, Zoro and Nami trio would rarely be focused on after that point.
  • Outlaw Star, where Gene, Jim, and Melfina were the main crew of the Outlaw Star, and Suzuka and Aisha tended to act more like people who just happened to be traveling on the same ship.
  • Pretty Cure:
    • Fresh Pretty Cure! was previously a Three Plus One show, and for a while, fan theories have spread like wildfire as to whether there would be a fifth. It becomes Four Plus Two, because of Westar and Soular's Heel–Face Turn.
    • Both HeartCatch Pretty Cure! and Suite Pretty Cure ♪ wound up becoming Two Plus Two shows.
    • This trope was played straight (for once) in HuGtto! Pretty Cure, with Cure Macherie and Cure Amour being the Two added to Cure Yell, Cure Ange, and Cure Etoile's Three.
    • Delicious Party♡Pretty Cure is a Four Plus Two, starting with main members Cure Precious, Cure Spicy, and Cure Yum-Yum and support member Rosemary as the Four, then adding Black Pepper and Cure Finale as the Two.
  • Played with and Zig-Zagged in Puella Magi Madoka Magica which starts off with Madoka, Sayaka, and Mami as the trio, and there is one Dark Magical Girl named Homura around. They remained like that until Mami dies and a new Magical Girl named Kyoko shows up. Sayaka and Kyoko hate each other the minute they meet making any chances they have at teaming up slim and then nothing after they both die. All hopes seems lost for this trope until we learned that Homura has been resetting the timeline. The original trio has been different with each new timeline, though there is at least one timeline where this trope was played straight but was quickly ended after Mami had a Freak Out over the Awful Truth and killed Kyoko before she herself was killed. By the end of the series the trope is ultimately averted because Madoka would Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and Sayaka is the only one who stayed dead making any chance for this trope to happen impossible.
  • The first season of the 90s Sailor Moon anime spent an inordinate amount of time with just Sailor Moon, Mars and Mercury. Jupiter and Venus came later. Of course, as the season progressed, the five became a true Five-Man Band. (Note that this is not the case in the manga, the Crystal anime remake or in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon; these other versions had a trio for only a handful of episodes, added Jupiter quickly, and spent most of the arc with four before Venus showed up.)
  • The Tokyo Mew Mew anime has Mew Ichigo, Mew Mint and Mew Lettuce gathered by the third episode. A few episodes later, they're joined by Mew Pudding and then Mew Zakuro. This is only in the 2002 anime since the manga and the 2022 anime reboot introduce the five girls at the beginning and each girl joins the team one after another.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's follows three plus two, then added a third to the main cast. In the beginning it was Yuusei, Jack and Aki, with the two being the twins Rua and Ruka. Later on, after Crow was introduced, it became Yuusei-Jack-Crow, with Rua-Ruka-Aki serving as their own trio.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Pokémon Crossing generally focuses on three main characters: Benedict, Kidd and Tank. Later chapters will have Champion Apollo and/or Frank join them in fighting against the villainous teams Cottage and Pastel.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Harry Potter series naturally focused primarily on the Power Trio: Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Starting in Order of the Phoenix, Ginny, Luna, and Neville became more involved in the central plot.
  • Part I of Kill time or die trying has a Five-Man Band consisting of three first-year students and two much older guys.
  • For the first half of Remote Man, the main characters are Ned, his cousin Kate and his best friend Rocky. Their investigation leads them to make two further contacts, Cleverton from Jamaica and Yvette from France, thus cementing the Five-Man Band. Worth noting that, Ned and Rocky excepted, person-to-person contact between them is minimal - Ned spends a few weeks with Kate in Wakwak at the beginning, and she joins him and Rocky in Concord at the climax, but otherwise most of their communication is via chatrooms.
  • In the Power of Three arc of Warrior Cats, Jayfeather, Hollyleaf and Lionblaze form a Power Trio because they think they are three cats all-powerful cats spoken of in a prophecy. At the end, Jayfeather realizes that Hollyleaf is not the true third. Then in the Omen of the Stars arc, the true third Dovewing and her sister Ivypool team up with the others.
  • In Worm, the Undersiders fit this mold once Taylor joins. She, Grue, and Tattletale not only handle most of the planning, but interact more frequently with one another in their everyday lives than Bitch or Regent do with the others or one another. This dynamic gets more complicated over time, due to Taylor and Bitch becoming friends, and due to Imp (Grue's little sister and later a romantic interest for Regent) joining the team.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: The series started with the 'Original Team Arrow' of Oliver, Diggle and Felicity. From the second half of Season 2 several others characters join the team, starting with Roy and Sara and by the end of Season 3 they've left and been replaced by Thea and Laurel, respectively. Then Thea and Laurel leave, and they get replaced by Rene, Curtis, and Dinah. However the central trio are still much closer. This actually causes problems in later seasons, as the whole "team within the team" thing starts to piss the others off.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978) has the warriors Apollo-Starbuck-Boomer plus Sheba-Bojay in "The Living Legend".
  • Bizaardvark starts out like this in a way, starting with Paige and Frankie, with Bernie being their manager, and then Amelia and Dirk being part of the gang, all in the first episode. However, Dirk was Put on a Bus permanently and replaced at the start of the third season with best friends Zane and Rodney, who are also fans of Paige and Frankie's work (Which in turn makes Paige and Frankie becoming Cool Big Sis to the two), making it a "four plus two" deal.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer started out with the Power Trio of Buffy, Xander, and Willow, adding and subtracting various others (Oz, Cordelia, Faith, Anya, Tara, Riley, Dawn) at varying levels of "insider-ness" over the seasons. At any given point there were usually five or six Scoobies, but only Buffy, Willow, and Xander remained constant throughout.
  • Bunheads has a pairing off within the group of four students of Sasha with and Melanie with Ginny, with the first pair getting far more attention. Then of course the foursome is seperate from the adult grouping of Michelle, Fanny and sometimes Truly.
  • Charmed was like this in the middle of its run, with the main power trio functioning as The Hero, The Lancer, and The Heart, going in birth order, while Leo and Cole were The Smart Guy and The Big Guy respectively.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021), much like the original anime, stars Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine and Jet Black. Ed and Ein are instead last episode additions.
  • Firefly uses this trope, especially in Whole Episode Flashback that discusses how they met. You have two (Mal and Zoe, old friends) plus three (Wash, Jayne, and Kaylee, who join the crew). But later, they add four more (Inara, Simon, River, and Book) who aren't technically part of the crew.
  • Sibuna in House of Anubis. What first begins as a club between three students (Nina Martin, Fabian Rutter and Amber Millington) eventually expands to include two other students (Patricia Williamson and Alfie Lewis).
    • This happens again in the second season, as the original trio recreate Sibuna but only have Patricia and Alfie come in later when they really need the help.
      • Happens AGAIN in Season 3, as once Nina never comes back and Amber leaves it's down to Fabian, Patricia and Alfie as the remaining original members, and the new trio, with the addition of Eddie Miller and KT Rush.
      • Throughout Season 3, it becomes clear that the Nina-Fabian-Amber trio has been replaced by the Eddie-KT-Fabian trio, with Patricia and Alfie seeming like the added/background two once again.
  • Flashbacks from How I Met Your Mother shows Ted, Marshall and Lily having the Two Guys and a Girl dynamic in their college days right before meeting Barney. They met Robin at the series premiere.
  • The iCarly Power Trio of Sam, Freddie and Carly getting the most screen time, with Gibby and Spencer getting sub-plots, and occasionally being part of the main plot with the trio.
  • Knight Rider (2008): Mike, Sarah, KITT as the core, with Billy and Zoe as the periphery.
  • In My Babysitter's a Vampire; Ethan, Benny, and Sarah have the main plot in the movie while Rory and Erica get less focus, and this format is often followed in the series, with Ethan, Benny, and Sarah often being in the episode's A-Plot while Rory and Erica will often have the B-Plot or appear in barely two scenes, with Erica even being the only main cast member to not be in every episode (as she's missing from The Brewed and Three Geeks And A Demon, although this might boil down to Kate Todd being absent from filming)
  • Inverted with MythBusters; they end up being more like Two Plus Three. For the first season, it was just the Odd Couple of Adam and Jamie getting the focus. The Build Team were later given some of the spotlight, then spun off into their own team of "myth busters". Adam and Jamie are The Hero and The Lancer, with the Power Trio of the Build Team rounding out the band.
  • Orphan Black: Clone Club. Sarah, Alison and Cosima make the Power Trio while the late Beth and Katja round out the Five-Man Band. Felix counts as a Sixth Ranger.
  • Some seasons in the Super Sentai/Power Rangers franchise have started with three rangers instead of the usual team of five, usually a trio composed of Red, Blue and Yellow (and it's usually Two Guys and a Girlnote ), who are then joined mid-series by at least two extra rangers. They typically get just as much, if not more, exposure as the primary heroes, much like the sixth rangers.
    • Before Power Rangers, this practice was done first in the 1988 Super Sentai series Liveman, where the original heroes of Red Falcon, Yellow Lion and Blue Dolphin were joined by Black Bison and Green Sai (Rhino) in Episode 30. The Volt follow a similar arrangement, starting out with three executives (Kemp, Mazenda and Obular) and losing one (Obular) while at the same time gaining three more (Ashura, then Guildos and Butchy at different points) for a total of five.
      • This trope is actually inverted in the first episode. At the beginning we're presented with five friends who it seems like will be the Five-Man Band of the show. Five minutes in, and the two who seemed like The Leader and The Heart are both dead, leaving just their three surviving friends to become the titular team.
    • Hurricaneger/Ninja Storm: The Hurricanegers/Wind Ninjas form the main trio, with the Gouraigers/Thunder Ninjas (two brothers from a rival academy) joining later to form a team of five. An actual sixth ranger was later introduced in the form of Shurikenger/Samurai Star Ranger.
    • Abaranger/Dino Thunder: The extra rangers were Abare Black/Black Dino Ranger, who served as an older brother figure to the main trio, followed much later by Abare Killer/White Dino Ranger, a former villain who underwent a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Gekiranger/Jungle Fury: Geki Violet/Wolf Ranger and Geki Chopper/Rhino Ranger were mentor figures to the main team. The heroes' two main rivals later switch sides, though only at the very end.
    • Go-onger/RPM: The series introduced not one, but two pairs of extra rangers: Black & Green (who were part of the main team) and Gold & Silver (siblings who formed a separate team).
    • Go-Busters/Beast Morphers: The main trio were joined by Beet Buster and Stag Buster / the Gold and Silver Rangers, another pair of beetle-themed extra rangers, who are notable for being the first non-sixth extras who are gold and silver, colors normally reserved for sixth members and above. Much like Abaranger and Gekiranger before it, the team never had more than five members.
    • Kyuranger: Oddly enough, this time the team starts out with Chameleon Green, Oushii Black, and Kajiki Yellow, and gains Shishi Red and Ookami Bluenote  by the end of the first episode. Following Go-onger and Go-Busters above, the next two to join the team are Gold and Silver (Tenbin Gold and Hebitsukai Silver), and after that, Sasori Orange and Washi Pink joined the team separately. After that, the team gains Ryu Commander, Ooguma Skyblue, and Ho'ou Soldier.
    • Ryusoulger: The team starts with Ryusoul Red, Blue and Pink before Ryusoul Green and Black join them a few episodes later. The show later introduces a Sixth Ranger in Ryusoul Gold.
  • The View has Whoopi Goldberg serving as moderator, but has more recently changed things so that Whoopi is absent on Fridays and free to attend to other commitments. Instead, an alternate cohost joins the table and Joy Behar moderates.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Pandavas in the Mahabaratha were the three sons of Kunti (Yudhisthira, Arjuna and Bhima) plus the twin sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadeva).

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Ojamas: Ojama Green, Yellow and Black, then either the Fusion Monsters, King and Knight, or the later Effect Monsters, Red and Blue.
    • Cyberdarks: Cyberdark Keel, Horn, and Edge, followed many years later by Claw and Cannon.

  • An odd example, but there was once a Simon Says-type of handheld game called Bop It that had three commands: "Bop It" ("bop" a large button), "Twist It" (turn a rotating handle), and "Pull It" (pull a telescoping handle on the other end). The follow-up, "Bop It Extreme", added "Spin It" (spin a wheel) and "Flick It" (flick a spring-loaded nub).

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins starts you out with Alistair, Morrigan, and the Warden; then adds Leliana and Sten in the first town. You get even more characters later, but Alistair, Morrigan and the Warden are always the most important party members to the story, at least until you can recruit Loghain.
  • Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight features this with the main cast of its Story Mode. The Fafnir Knight and his best friend Flavio join Princess Arianna as her bodyguards to make up a party of three, and they later meet the duo of Bertrand and Chloe while exploring Ginnungagap.
  • The quintet of characters you end Final Fantasy IV with works like this, with the core trio composed of Cecil, Kain, and Rosa in a Two Guys and a Girl dynamic, with the addition of Rydia and Edge, who are somewhat Slap-Slap-Kiss.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: The initial party members are Matthew, Tyrell, and Karis (the children of the previous game's cast Isaac, Garett and Ivan), who like their fathers are Venus, Mars and Jupiter-aligned Adepts respectively. Later your party is joined by Rief (Mia's son) and relatively shortly after by Amiti (strongly implied to be the son of the Big Bad Alex), both Mercury Adepts (although as there can only be 4 people in battle and the Magic Knight is a much better option than a Squishy Wizard, poor Rief is likely to be sent to the backline until the end of the game). This arrangement continues for quite some time until you meet the other three party members, Sveta, Eoleo and Himi.
  • The high school band High×Joker in THE iDOLM@STER: SideM, while a close group of five, really splits up into this. Jun Fuyumi and Natsuki Sakaki are a pair of Childhood Friends, while the remaining members Shiki Iseya, Hayato Akiyama and Haruna Wakazato form a Comic Trio.
  • The Legend of Dragoon starts off with a Power Trio before adding two more midway through the first disc of the game to form a Five-Man Band.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, the initial number of people in Class VII were three students, Juna, Kurt, and Altina with Rean as their instructor. By chapter 3, Ash and Musse join Class VII (though they also join them in previous chapters by disobeying their instructors orders, prompting the principal to make them be a part of the class).
  • Mega Man Battle Network has two separate groups. Lan, Mayl and Chaud plus Dex and Yai form the first, while MegaMan.EXE, Roll.EXE and Protoman.EXE plus Gutsman.EXE and Glyde.EXE form the second. As the former are partners of the latter respectively, clearly it's a case of like to like.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode initially revolves around three friends — Jesse, Olivia, and Axel. Once the Big Bad shows up, the three are joined by resident loner Petra and rival builder Lukas (who already know each other).
  • In the Magical Girl / Super Robot Genre show/game within a show Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly from No More Heroes, the power trio was Strawberry (on the Shortcake!), Blueberry (Cheese Brownie!), and Cranberry (Chocolate Sundae!). In the sequel No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, they add Gooseberry (Sugar Donut) and Nutberry (no attack given). The new opening to the show highlights the Three Plus Two trope.
  • The action in Persona 3 begins with SEES comprised of a Five-Man Band... but only the three newest members are available to fight at the start. The other two are more experienced members, one serving as your initial Mission Control, and the other recovering from injuries, but both of them join the front lines in relatively short order.
  • The Eeveelutions from Pokémon, not counting Eevee itself from Gen II to Gen III. Interestingly enough they had Sentai like colors attached to them also. The Trio of Flareon (Red) Vaporeon (Blue) Jolteon (Yellow) plus the duo of Espeon (Pinkish Purple) and Umbreon (Black). Now they're more of a 3 + 2 + 2 + 1 with Leafeon (Green) and Glaceon (Whitish Blue) in Gen VI and Sylveon in Gen VI (Pink). Fans anticipate that number continuing to grow until it reaches 17 in total.
    • There is also a group of Olympus Mons called the Legendary Titans, a group of Legendary Pokemon introduced in Generation III. In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the trio are composed of Regirock, Regice and Registeel. However, in the Crown Tundra DLC of Pokémon Sword and Shield, they added Regidrago and Regieleki. The two sub-groups altogether are different from each other, but the members of original trio and subsequently added duo are individually similar to each other. Regirock, Regice, and Registeel are all made of physical material and are defensively oriented, possessing Clear Body as their lone standard ability and have a hidden ability, while Regieleki and Regidrago are both made of metaphysical energy and are offensively oriented, only possessing an ability that boosts the power of moves of their type, without any hidden ability.
    • Likewise, in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, the Forces of Nature introduced in Pokémon Black and White, composed of Thundurus, Tornadus and Landorus, is joined by a fourth member: Enamorus (complete with its Therian Forme in this case).
  • In the classic Sonic the Hedgehog games on Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, the playable characters consisted of Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles 'Tails' Prower, and Knuckles the Echidna, who became a Power Trio by the end of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. They were the only characters to be playable in any of the side-scrolling platforming installments released in the 90's, with the exception of Knuckles Chaotix. In the Sonic Advance trilogy, all three were playable again, this time alongside Amy Rose (making her playable side-scrolling platforming debut after being playable in the Sonic Adventure games) and Cream the Rabbit (who debuted in Sonic Advance 2).

  • Girl Genius has two sets of 3+2 in the same group of five.
    • Agatha, Gil and Tarvek — a Love Triangle, crossed with We Used to Be Friends for Gil and Tarvek, with all three being extremely powerful Sparks — Zeetha and Violetta lack the mad science aspect, and lean towards being sidekicks in the more science-heavy arcs.
    • Agatha, Zeetha and Violetta — Beauty, Brains, and Brawn with a twist — in Zeetha's words, "You've got the brains, I've got the muscle, Violetta's got the sneaky!" In the current story arc, they're the only three of the five to actually still be together — Gil and Tarvek are elsewhere, and occasionally elsewhen.
  • M9 Girls! implies Any, Pato and Clau have been classmates and possibly friends from before the start of the comic, then they recruit Karla for splitting homework. Eventually, Karla's friend Vero joins as the Sixth Ranger.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender starts with Aang, Sokka and Katara, and later picks up Toph and Zuko to complete the band. Suki joins the main cast as a full member near the end.
  • This happens a lot on The Backyardigans. Uniqua, Pablo, and Tyrone appear in almost every episode, while Tasha and Austin are each absent a third of the time. Many episode that feature all five characters have the former three in one group and the latter two in another, notably "Cave Party". The boys are also both a Freudian Trio and a Big, Thin, Short Trio while the girls are a Tomboy and Girly Girl duo, resulting in a few three plus two episodes that are also Gender Separated Ensemble Episodes, notably "The Legend of the Volcano Sisters".
  • In Beast Wars Optimus, Rattrap and Rhinox are the core trio, the leader and his two lieutenants (acting as the Kirk, The McCoy and the Spock, respectively). The three of them are in on all the secrets and will be trusted with things the others aren't. When Optimus is gone, leadership will generally be handled jointly by the two of them. Cheetor and Dinobot (the idealistic new guy and the cynical veteran) are the other two. Cheetor is trusted, but because of his youth and inexperience, he's still on the outside and is not involved in any decisions. Dinobot can't always be trusted because of his Predacon heritage and tendency to do some decidedly un-Maximal things, and is thus also kept at a distance. There's a revolving door of "outsider" Maximals, but the three "insiders" remain Optimus, Rattrap and Rhinox for the whole run.
  • In Centurions, the core trio of Max Ray, Jake Rockwell and Ace McCloud is joined by new members Rex Charger and John Thunder in later episodes. However, this Merchandise-Driven variation of the trope has less to do with character dynamics than the toy company's desire to add new heroes to the action figure line.
  • Code Lyoko jumps back and forth. It starts off with Ulrich, Yumi, and Odd as the only action heroes (Aelita has no attacks and Jérémie is Mission Control). Then in season 3, Aelita Takes a Level in Badass, and later on the team picks up William. For about half of an episode anyway, before he gets semi-permanently possessed by XANA.
  • Futurama centers its action around Fry, Leela and Bender, but at times others have been added: Zapp Brannigan and Kif on a few occasions, but more generally it's Zoidberg and Professor Farnsworth, or Zoidberg and Amy, or Zoidberg (notice a pattern?) and Hermes. In later episodes, sometime Cubert and Dwight too.
  • The Legend of Korra starts out with Korra meeting Bolin and Mako, with Mako's girlfriend Asami joining later. Old Masters Tenzin and Lin make it a full force of six.
  • Lolirock focuses on Iris, Talia, and Auriana, but starting in season 2, they are sometimes joined by Carissa and Lyna.
  • The Owl House does this twice over, both involving Luz:
    • The series started off with the main trio in the Owl House as Luz, Eda, and King, with Lilith being a recurring antagonist and Hooty often being ignored. At the start of the second season, Lilith has made a Heel–Face Turn and develops a friendship with Hooty, and the two are more included as part of the house family. It's downplayed since Lilith soon decides to go back to living with her parents, but Hooty isn't as looked down upon as he used to be, and Lilith is involved in some of the later episodes.
    • Luz quickly formed friendships with Willow and Gus, and the three would spend a lot of time hanging out together. They were soon joined by Amity after her character development made her less of a bully and helped her reconcile with Willow as well as getting a crush on Luz, and later joined by Hunter after his character development and Heel–Face Turn.
  • Phineas and Ferb has two brothers, Phineas and Ferb, plus three friends: Isabella, Buford, and Baljeet.
  • The main team in Voltron: Legendary Defender has Pidge, Lance, and Hunk initially as fight cadets who are later joined by Keith and Shiro.
    • Plotwise, their status is flipped: Keith, Shiro, and Pidge are the Three with the most importance to the story, while Hunk and Lance serve as the less-important Two.
  • World of Quest has Two Plus Three. While all of the main characters except Anna share a past, the show is quite obviously focused on the interaction between Nestor and Quest.
  • Played with in Young Justice's first season: the Team begins with Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad, experienced sidekicks who already know each other. The three rescue Superboy and are later joined by Miss Martian and Artemis, making a case of Three Plus Three. However, it's the newcomers who wind up getting more focus and Character Development by the time the season ends.