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Unlockable Content

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You know there's more where that came from...
"So, I collect shit to unlock shit, then I get shit. Got it."
Sergeant Rex "Power" Colt, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Unlockable Content can simply be described as extraneous content that was not available to the player from the start. The hidden content can be anything from Concept Art Galleries, to a hidden character, even the game's Golden Ending. Methods of "unlocking" can be based on challenges, progress, time spent, or sometimes just plain money.

Unlockable Content is not content that a player is required to unlock in order to complete the game. It's unrelated material. For instance, "unlocking Level 2 by completing Level 1", is just well... just playing the game (although this is, to an extent, on the way out — qv Alone in the Dark (2008), New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Guitar Hero, post-World Tour. After all, movies and music don't have to be played in order).

Unlockable Content is basically the game developers showing off, and giving the player a little something extra for fun. Or forcing you to Earn Your Fun as the case may be if most of the good parts of the game are locked. Or (in the case of console games) forcing you to buy the game rather than rent it. Many hundreds of gamers may have played the game and not unlocked the content. Or they may have unlocked it and never used it. Sometimes a character is unlocked at the very end of the game, just to give the player some Replay Value.

Due to the increasing capacities/abilities of game systems, game developers and game engines, this sort of content is quickly becoming a Universal Trope.

A Super-Trope to Double Unlock, Post-End Game Content, Secret Character, Secret Level, And Your Reward Is Clothes, Unlockable Difficulty Levels.

Compare 100% Completion, Golden Ending, Missing Secret, Downloadable Content.


    open/close all folders 

  • Judge Dredd featured the debut of "Supergame", where players could use an extra credit to play the table with extra modes and an expanded set of rules.

    Video Games 
  • 1080 Snowboarding:
    • When you play the game for the first time, only three standard stages will be available: Crystal Lake, Crystal Peak and Golden Forest (the other two stages available are Air Make and Half Pipe, which are special stages for the score-based modes). However, the last stage of a given difficulty level in Match Race is new, and it's only necessary to reach it (not win its race) to have it available in Time and Trick attacks: Mountain Village (Normal), Dragon Cave (Hard), Deadly Fall (Expert). However, they won't appear in Contest no matter what, as it always ends with Golden Forest.
    • You can unlock a penguin-shaped snowboard, but doing so requires performing all possible tricks in the game, including both the difficult 1080° Air and the unique tricks only the secret panda character can perform.
  • In the original Advance Wars, you start with just four out of ten CO's. You then have to complete the basic campaign once per character, while completing certain specific missions (or sets of missions) with particular characters - with nobody telling you who to use when.
  • AkaSeka: All the Men of Tsukuyomi can be summoned using summoning tokens, moonstones and summoning tickets… except the chosen ones who are part of the company and play an important role in the main story. They can only be obtained after clearing the Story Arcs they are introduced in.note 
  • The Bayonetta franchise offers much in the way of unlockable content; the first game offering not only Jeanne, but also several secret weapons and accessories. Bayonetta 2 continues this trend with Jeanne and most of the same accessories available to be unlocked (with a mix of new and old weapons), but also introduces Bayonetta's mother, Rosa, as a new unlockable character. The sequel also introduces Verse Cards which can be used in the online co-op mode, Tag Climax, which in turn can unlock two additional bonus characters, Balder and Rodin, although these two only be used in the aforementioned Tag Climax.
  • The Beatles: Rock Band features photographs and videos that can be unlocked during the campaign, which are accompanied by trivia and history about the band, song, etc.
  • Bendy in Nightmare Run has characters and outfits that unlock with bacon soup.
  • The Binding of Isaac thrives on unlockable items and characters. These goodies are unlocked by doing runs, and when you unlock them, you can use them in future runs.
  • Castlevania
    • Castlevania: Judgment requires you to unlock a character in story mode, then beat their story mode before you can use them in the rest of the game. If you happen to own Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, you can circumvent this and unlock Shanoa and non-story Aeon (usually the last character unlocked) before playing a match.
    • Castlevania: The Arcade deserves special mention because it was part of an experiment by Konami to introduce Unlockable Content in arcade machines. By using a special pass, you could save data from the game and unlock new stuff, like a third selectable character, a new game mode, and a joke ending.
    • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon has 4 extra modes of play that each enhance one of the player's stats but nerfs the others. Beat the standard mode, and you get "Magician" mode, where you have access to all of the game's magic powers at the beginning, while your offense and defense is cut in half. You must then beat the Magician mode to unlock the next mode, and so on.
  • Auroch Digital's Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night has almost half the equipment unavailable at the start, to get the rest you must defeat the Darkness a certain number of times to unlock a single item or two at a time.
  • Contra 4 for Nintendo DS features a lot of this.
  • Some weapons and costumes in the Dead Rising games. Certain rescue missions in Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop require getting high rankings in the set of missions right before.
  • Both the online and standalone versions of Dino Run have a large amount of content that can only be unlocked with eggs that are saved during missions. These include the soundtrack, Concept Art, wallpaper, cosmetic hats, and an early prototype of the game.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, completing each of the DLC add-ons (The Darkspawn Chronicles, Leliana's Song, The Golems of Amgarrak, and Witch Hunt) unlocks new weapons and equipment in the core game that's extremely powerful. Some of these require completing the DLC on certain difficulty levels to acquire the item; Leliana's Song requires the player to find six scattered pieces of leather armor during gameplay. Once the necessary prerequisites are completed, however, the weapons/armor will be available in the starting inventory of each new game afterward.
  • There's a ton of unlockable content in the free-to-play versions of Everquest and Everquest 2. Almost all of it bought with Station Cash that's bought with real money, although the restrictions are on not-game-killing features like extra classes, storage space and higher end gear so one can reasonably play to the endgame without spending.
  • F-Zero:
    • Since X, the series has a huge number of vehicles to unlock, also has an unlockable Harder Than Hard mode, usually has at least one unlockable cup and, in Climax, had character profiles and a storyboard of sorts that can only be unlocked by completing a set of special-race challenges. To get everything, you had to play though Grand Prix Mode, unlock all the cars through that and then play some 40-odd special races with each character, of which there are over 30.
    • F-Zero GX has little interview questions and answers to unlock. For every character and at every difficulty, there are usually four questions to unlock. And there are up to 41 playable characters.
  • For the King: The reward for completing certain challenges includes "lore" points, which can be exchanged to unlock extra game content, including new character classes, helpful random encounters like traveling salespeople and healers, the Alluring Pools Warp Whistle system, new weapons and other items that might appear in markets and item drops, and a wider range of cosmetic starting outfits.
  • Granblue Fantasy:
    • Main story characters automatically join your party after completing specific chapters.
    • Jewel Resort Casino becomes accessible after clearing Chapter 8 of the Main Story
    • Omega Showdown Raids can only be hosted and joined once the player reaches Rank 30, while the Impossible-difficulty versions are only available to players above Rank 100.
    • Primarch Raids become available after completing element-specific high-level quests.
    • Eternals can only be recruited after fully-upgrading Revenant Weapons.
    • Tier 4 Classes can only be unlocked by element-changing a Class Champion Weapon.
    • EX Classes can only be unlocked by completing specific requirements and trophies.
    • Arcarum becomes available once the player clears The World boss battle.
  • Most Guilty Gear games have an unlockable art gallery. Unfortunately, in order to get most of them often requires beating the majority of 'Mission Mode' which is ridiculously difficult (Poisoned Sol vs Gold Justice anyone?).
  • Hours (2020): The second page of Hosts and Tempos are all characters that can be unlocked by doing special things, such as Word, a tempo that can be unlocked by doing a certain thing after the final battle. That certain thing is driving off the broken path as Hellion and touching the blue button.
  • In Just Dance 3, you get 1 Mojo Point for every star you collect. With enough Mojo Points, you can unlock new songs, game modes and Mashups. As the stars count for each player playing, having four players means getting Mojo Points four times as fast.
  • Katamari Forever has various modes and filters that can be unlocked by meeting various requirements on each level.
  • Akuma, Sentinel, Hsien-Ko, and Taskmaster in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds are unlocked in that exact order by accumulating Player Points. Additionally, there's tons of artwork and cinematics to unlock through beating Galactus with different characters.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has briefcases you have to complete in-mission objectives for, which unlock new moves and a Concept Art Gallery.
  • In the Metroid Prime games, concept galleries can be unlocked by doing long-term achievements like clearing the game, doing so again in Hard Mode, completing the logbook, etc. In Prime 3, as well as in the Trilogy version of the other games, the various credit tokens earned through the campaign can be spent to unlock not only concept art, but also audio tracks and bonus material like stickers, a screen-shot tool and dioramas.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • The latter games had a "Krypt" feature where you'd spend "koins" to unlock, in addition to characters and other gameplay features, enough bonus content to fill two DVDs.
    • Mortal Kombat 3 has Smoke and other features unlocked via a code.
  • In OFF, three of the five elements can be obtained by going through the purified zones, one from defeating Sugar, and one can be bought from Zacharie in The Room. Giving all five to Zacharie in Zone 0 can give the player the opportunity to get the Ashley Bat or the Aries-Card which unlocks the secret end.
  • Prince of Persia's Sands trilogy has a large number of unlockable artworks and a few unlockable blooper videos as well, found in hidden chests throughout the game.
  • Professor Layton: The first game of the prequel trilogy, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, has the bonus game Professor Layton's London Life, which is only available after the main game is completed. It has no connection to the main game; it's a sprite-animation style sim game which features characters from all of the games which existed to that point. It's not available in Europe.
  • Punch-Out!! for the Wii has a secret mode called Champions Mode which is unveiled after the player wins 10 matches in Mac's Last Stand. There are also audio tracks that can be heard via Sound Test when the player completes the challenges in Exhibition Mode.
  • Rockman 4 Minus Infinity: As of version 0.02, clearing the game unlocks a mode which allows you to Speedrun individual levels, a Sound Test, and a Boss Rush mode. Clearing the latter unlocks several more Boss Rushes where you're limited to either the Mega Buster or one of the eight weapons retrospectively. Clearing one of them unlocks a third Boss Rush mode in which you can customize its settings, and a second configurations menu which practically allows you to edit your save file. note 
  • In The Sims Medieval, winning Ambitions and completing other achievements unlocks new clothing options and Buy mode items for your Sins.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Most of the games are especially fond of gallery mode. Sonic Adventure DX even goes as far as to have a playable library of every single Sonic Game Gear game ever by the time all of the emblems were collected.
    • In Sonic Pinball Party, most of the game modes and minigames must be unlocked by playing through the main Story Mode.
  • Soulcalibur 2: A few of the characters and a vast majority of the modified weapons are unlocked through "Weapon Master" mode.
  • Star Ocean: The Second Story allowed you to unlock higher difficulty settings if you collected enough voice clips. This was accomplished by playing through multiple times and recruiting different sets of the twelve available party members, then using them in battle and having them use spells/abilities/die/watch other party members die. The PSP remake Second Evolution changed that to saving at the final save point in Phynal.
  • Getting all 108 characters in Suikoden Tierkreis.
  • In Super Hexagon, beating each of the first three levels unlocks the corresponding "Hyper" level.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The early Mario Kart installments are very humble as far as unlockables go (in Super Mario Kart, the unlockables are the Special Cup and then the 150cc difficulty mode; in Mario Kart 64, it is just Mirror Mode, known in the game as "Extra"; in Super Circuit, it's the 20 SNES tracks). From Double Dash!! onward, however, the unlockable content increased in both quantity and variety within each installment, including characters, Cups (including the aforementioned Special), vehicles and, once again, Mirror Mode. The Wii game goes as far as rewarding players who score well not only in Grand Prix but also in Time Trial.
    • Super Mario 64 lets you fly to the top of the castle, meet Yoshi, and gain 100 lives after you collected all 120 stars.
    • Super Mario Galaxy unlocks Luigi as a playable character once you've gotten all the stars in the game. Downplayed in Super Mario Galaxy 2, as the game does allow you to play as him in a few galaxies, and then unlocks him for full-time play after the Final Boss is defeated for the first time (without getting all the stars, which by that moment is impossible to do anyway). Also, in both games, collecting all 240 stars rewards the player with one super-secret level.
    • Accessing the Lost Levels in Super Mario Bros DX.
    • Getting to world 9 in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
    • In Super Mario Maker, various features in the course maker (such as additional objects, game styles, etc.) are unlocked as you create and edit courses. Completing a run through the 100 Mario Challenge unlocks a random costume to use for the Mystery Mushroom. Completing the 10 Mario Challenge, meanwhile, unlocks the same courses Cosmo and John Numbers played through during the 2015 edition of Nintendo World Championships. Completing those courses will allow you to shake the Super Mushroom and use the Weird Mushroom, which otherwise appears randomly in place of the Super Mushroom.
    • Super Mario Maker 2: A bunch of clothes and headwear can be unlock through progression in Story Mode or various other in-game achievements. Besides those, however, are two special items that become available in the Course Maker: Super Hammer (unlocked by completing the game), Superball Flower (unlocked by playing through the game until Purple Toad appears, then take all three of the jobs Purple Toad offers you, and then hitting the second ? Block that you couldn't hit before). Finally, unlocking the ability to switch to nighttime course themes takes even less effort; all you need to do is select the Angry Sun's alternate form.
    • Super Mario Party: Earning Mario Party Points (by way of playing the various game modes) is useful to buy several goodies from the Party Pad in Party Plaza, such as stickers, game tips and music tracks for the Sound Test.
    • Mario Party Superstars: The player earns Mario Party points by playing party sessions and other game modes, and these points increase the player's level. Every 10 levels, new content like reaction stickers and Encyclopedia stickers become available for sale in Toad's shop (they can in turn be bought with the coins gathered in the game modes). Notably, reaching Level 70 unlocks the game's credits for free, viewable in Kamek's Data House.
  • Super Robot Wars has this in spades Especially the Laftclanz; but since this is Super Robot Wars, it's kind of expected that you play through the game multiple times to see all the route splits and dialogue
  • Super Smash Bros. started out with a mandatory handful of extra characters and a stage. As of Brawl, there are so many things to unlock (stages, trophies, CD tracks, stickers, tools for custom stage building) that the game even has an extra menu to keep track of things (and show you what else to do to get more stuff unlocked). Thankfully, all of the characters can be unlocked either by playing through the Subspace Emissary mode or by playing enough basic matches (the latter is also true for all secret Melee characters).
  • Titan Quest had special codes you could purchase (or look up on the Internet...) that, when used, gave you certain armor sets, including a ninja outfit. Sadly, they had level 30 requirements and definitely didn't provide appropriate bonuses for that level.
  • Every Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game has a series of secret characters, levels, videos, and cheats unlocked the second you beat the career (or classic) mode.
  • Total War: Warhammer III; In a surprise move, two additional Legendary Lords were revealed to be unlockable upon completing parts of the campaign- Tzar Boris Bokha for Kislev, who is unlockable after securing the three major cities in Kislev and winning a special quest battle as either Katarin or Kostaltyn, and Be'lakor the Dark Master for Chaos upon completing the main campaign.
  • Unreal Tournament typically has the character model for the current champion character off-limits until you beat the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Death Room, beating the game (either by surviving or letting someone else escape) will let you play the Special Version, which gives the characters funny Cosplay. It also unlocks a bonus scene called "The Love Room."
  • Once you reach the True End in War: 13th Day, you get a bunch of Behind-the-Scenes content, fourth-wall breaking funnies, and more interesting tidbits about the fantasy world of Virgo Island. You'll also get a post-credits scene, in which Ambrosia explains the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot along with the rest of the cast. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In many dating sim visual novels, it's common to have a bonus ending (typically a harem ending) unlocked after all the normal endings have been seen.

Are you curious as to how you get the Unlockable Content out of TV Tropes? You just have to read every single page of the Wiki. Then it's unlocked! I swear!