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Games/franchises with their own subpages:

Individual examples:

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In general:

    In general 
  • Pretty much any musician appearing in a non-music game counts as this. Was anybody really expecting the Fight Club video game to have Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit as a playable character?

By franchise:

    Kingdom Hearts 
Kingdom Hearts is an expert at this. It's a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of all things Square Enix and Disney, which naturally makes it full of surprises.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
  • Kingdom Hearts II:
    • Tetsuya Nomura had previously stated that he'd only feature Final Fantasy characters who he himself had designed; clearly, someone talked him out of it, because early in the game we encounter Setzer and Vivi.
    • Auron. As in THE Auron from FFX. Auron and Hades hate each other and Sora in the midst of it finds a trinket which has actual lines from FFX vocalized. Before then, the FF characters were implied to be AU versions.
    • Chicken Little appearing as a Summon character; his movie hadn't even been released in Japan when the game came out.
    • KHII debuted characters from live-action Disney films: first Pirates of the Caribbean, and then as if to top themselves, TRON. TRON especially stands out due to his surprisingly noteworthy role, with his world actually being located inside of Hollow Bastion/Radiant Garden's security system, instead of just being another world entirely (though The Grid itself would make an appearance sometime later).
    • Yen Sid. A fairly obscure character (the sorcerer from The Sorcerer's Apprentice), this game openly used his name and gave him a voice for the first time in Disney history. Since then, he's pulled the trope even further by becoming the Big Good and gaining prominence in the series to rival Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep features Experiment 221 (also known as Sparky) from one of the direct-to-video Lilo & Stitch sequels (and its affiliated TV series) as a boss that Terra fights. Granted, Kingdom Hearts II's version of Agrabah was based on another sequel, so it's not entirely unprecedented. It is, however, unexpected due to its Adaptational Early Appearance, appearing in what's essentially the opening act of the first movie, instead of any of the sequels.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]:
    • The cast of The World Ends with You, who practically got their own world in the form of Original Generation Hub World Traverse Town.
    • One of the new worlds, Country of the Musketeers, is based on Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. While not the first time the medium was representednote , the fact that a world would be based entirely on a direct-to-video film took many by surprise.
    • This game's Bonus Boss is Julius, the villain of the obscure seven-minute short film Runaway Brain.
    • The final bosses of the game? A younger version of Xehanort who's revealed to have been manipulating events since the start, and Sora wearing Ventus's armour.
  • After been Adapted Out for so long, the appearance of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast in Kingdom Hearts X[chi] threw some people. The medals used as this game's ability mechanic also feature characters from Disney and Final Fantasy who have never appeared in the series before like the protagonists of Zootopia and characters from World of Final Fantasy.
  • Kingdom Hearts III:
    • The game features the first time in the series that Pixar films have been included in the roster, with Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. getting their own worlds (and the latter taking place after the first movie, with Boo and Randall coming back for good measure) and Remy from Ratatouille making an appearance.
    • The ranks of the new Organization XIII turn out to include Marluxia and Larxene, the traitorous members of the original Organization, and Vanitas, a major antagonist in Birth By Sleep who was thought to be a one-shot character.
    • While many expected Marshmallow, the giant snow monster from Frozen (2013) to appear as a boss, which he does, he's also quite unexpectedly the Guest-Star Party Member for that world.
    • Considering that the team behind Einhänder worked on the game's Gummi ship segments, the Endymion's appearance as a Gummi Ship blueprint was somewhat expected. The Schwarzgeist as a Bonus Boss on the other hand was a huge surprise.
    • Many naturally expected the Winnie the Pooh characters to make a comeback appearance in the game. Practically no one anticipated Lumpy to make his first appearance in almost a decade, especially since the direct-to-video movies seemed highly unlikely after the shutting down of Disneytoon Studios. This was also the first appearance of Gopher in any medium since Kingdom Hearts II 13 years earlier, and thus the first time Lumpy and Gopher ever interacted.

    LEGO Adaptation Games 
Traveller's Tales' LEGO Adaptation Games love to spring surprise characters on the players.

    Project X Zone 
Project X Zone is a series that brings together some of the most well-known video game characters from three companies. Not that it's completely free from this trope.
  • Namco × Capcom is rather imfamous for this.
    • On the Namco side, many of the characters are from old Arcade Games, the most recognizable being Taizo Hori, the protagonist of Dig Dug (complete with Badass Makeover).
    • Meanwhile, the Capcom side is just strange:
      • One of the playable characters is Sylphie, the shopkeeper from the little-known game, Forgotten Worlds. While she never became playable again, she did reappear in Project X Zone 2, refilling her role as shopkeeper whenever Chizuru Urashima or Miyuki Chan (from Ordyne) are unavailable. The same also applies to the protagonists of her game, the two Unknown Soldiers.
      • Resident Evil is represented by Bruce McGivern and Fong Ling from Resident Evil: Dead Aim, characters that not even fans of the franchise are too familiar with.
      • Mega Man Legends is the only Mega Man series to have representation in the game, featuring Mega Man Volnutt, Roll Caskett, Tron Bonne, and her Servbots as playable units. This was surprising since this was before the sub-series became a Cult Classic and even then it's still not the first thing people think of when they hear Mega Man.
      • Oddly, Rival Schools is represented not by its protagonists, Batsu and his team, but by relatively minor characters, Hideo Shimazu and Kyoko Minazuki.
  • Project × Zone 1
  • Project X Zone 2:
    • Due to him being a character exclusive to commercials, not many people were expecting Segata Sanshiro himself to appear as a solo unit. Didn't stop fans from squeeing for joy when he was announced.
    • Due to no hints for Nintendo representation, many were caught by surprise when Fiora from Xenoblade Chronicles and Chrom and Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening were confirmed to be playable.
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    Sonic the Hedgehog 
  • Tikal and Mephiles the Dark are unlockable characters in Sonic Runners, the former having not made a physical appearance since Sonic Adventure 2's battle mode, and the latter having never reappeared since his debut game at all note  due to being erased from existence.
  • Chaos, an orca whale, the Tornado 2, King Boom Boo, a Chao walker, a Gold Cameron, Erazor Djinn, Shahra, Caliburn, Merlina, King Arthur's Ghost, the Dark Queen, Chip, some Gaia minions, and the Mother Wisp are all "Buddy" characters in Sonic Runners, each of them having made minimal appearances beforehand.
  • Chaos appears as a major villain in Sonic Forces in its "Chaos 0" form, the first time it did so since Sonic Battle...except this time you never actually get to fight it.
  • Sonic Dash/Sonic Forces: Speed Battle:
    • Hello Kitty of all franchises was available as an unlockable character for a limited time in Dash.
    • Likewise, Pac-Man and Red, Chuck and Bomb from Angry Birds (in their Angry Birds Epic iterations) also got unexpected limited time crossovers.
    • The above mentioned Tikal and Chaos are playable characters in Speed Battle.
    • The Babylon Rogues are available individually as playable characters in Speed Battle, the first time they've been playable in a non-Olympics game (or in the case of Storm, playable at all) since 2010.
    • There's also Longclaw from the Sonic movie, who was added in both games to promote its home media release. While the inclusion of both "Teen" and Baby Sonic was expected, the inclusion of their guardian was not given that she had only little over a minute of screentime at the beginning of the movie before being seemingly killed off.
    • The most unexpected characters in both games, however, are definitely Tangle the Lemur and Whisper the Wolf from the IDW comic series, considering that, barring nonplayable cameos from the Archie cast in Sonic Spinball all the way back in 1993, characters from the Sonic comics had never featured in a Sonic game before.
    • Excalibur Sonic, and later Sir Lancelot, from Sonic and the Black Knight in Speed Battle was an unexpected addition on par with Tangle and Whisper, considering that Sega has barely brought up that game at all since it brought the brief Storybook Series to an end.
    • Dr. Eggman himself, especially considering that both Speed Battle and the game it gets its title from heavily involves fighting Eggman’s Badnik forces.
  • Sonic Mania Plus adds Mighty and Ray as playable characters, neither of which have been seen outside of cameos in decades.
  • Team Sonic Racing has several unexpected choices as a result of how small the initial roster is:
    • Very few expected a group of Chao to be the third member of Team Rose, especially in lieu of team mainstay Cream, who is nowhere to be seen in the game. Even more unexpected is that Omochao, the series' resident Annoying Video Game Helper, is part of the group in question as well as essentially the group's mouth; before this, he's usually been depicted as an announcer or referee instead of a full-on playable character. This also marks the first time that Omochao has been made playable in anything since hia debut over 20 years prior (the Chao itself was playable in Sonic Adventure 2 via the Chao Walker).
    • Zavok for Team Eggman. While Metal obviously makes sense, there is little justifiable reason as to why Zavok would be on Eggman's team; Lost World made it clear the two hate each other, and the Zavok seen in Forces is a mere clone made by Infinite.
    • Sand Road is a case of Unexpected Level: it's based on Sand Hill from Sonic Adventure, a short sandboarding sequence in Tails' story that's more of a minigame than a level, and was overshadowed by the snowboarding sequence in Ice Cap. Other than a passing (and likely accidental) mention in Sonic Forces, this is its first appearance in a Sonic game since Sonic Adventure DX was released in 2003.

By studio:

    NetherRealm Studios 

    Other Studios 

Other:

    A-G 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 had a fairly ridiculous amount of returning characters from past games, but perhaps most unexpected was Frank Sahwit, the murderer of the first case of the first game who essentially serves as nothing more than a tutorial for the player. The developers admitted they added him mostly because it was the series' 10th anniversary. We also get Penny Nichols, the trading card fangirl from the third case of the first game, a character so obscure that (to the developers) knowing her name is enough to mark a true fan. Last, but not least, you have Regina Berry from the much-maligned third case of Justice for All.
    • The Great Ace Attorney is a title that stars Phoenix Wright's ancestor who lives in Meiji Restoration-period Japan, so one would expect a purely Japanese cast created for the game. No one expected the developers getting Public Domain Character Sherlock Holmes involved in the investigations. And once the game was announced for an overseas release, the localizers got around from dealing with any legal issues with the Doyle Estate by renaming him as Herlock Sholmes, after the Captain Ersatz version created by Maurice Leblanc so he could use him as a rival for Arsène Lupin. Then it's revealed that only the first case takes place in Japan and the rest of the story is in Victorian London, making the appearance of Holmes/Sholmes less jarring, but considering everyone excepted the entire game to take place in Japan, having it take place in London was a surprise for everyone.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, the initial prosecutor for the final trial, as well as the man Phoenix was speaking with on the phone at the start of the game, is none other than Chief Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth.
  • The September 2022 update for Animation Throwdown: the Quest for Cards brought a completely new series to the game: Archer, with Archer himself as a playable hero and Archer, Lana and Krieger as character cards. Given that the game only had five seriesnote  for years since its launch, very few players saw a sixth series joining the roster.
  • Arm Joe, a fighting game based on the musical Les Misérables, has every major characters playable...and then there's Ponpon. He's based on the stuffed animal Cosette carried around as a child. There's also an evil robot version of Jean Valjean called Robo Jean.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the roster included such iconic Batman foes as Two-Face, Catwoman, and the Penguin. More of a surprise was Solomon Grundy; while he's had a few run-ins with the Dark Knight, he was a foe of the original Green Lantern, and more commonly takes on various DCU heavy hitters.
    • Batman: Arkham Knight adds Professor Pyg and Deacon Blackfire as minor villains to the series. The former is a relatively recent villain who isn’t as well-known as some of Batman’s other foes (though no less terrifying), and the latter was the central villain of one short story arc in the 80s and hasn’t been seen since.
  • BlazBlue: Central Fiction contained a number of them in the form of Naoto Kurogane, Es and Mai Natsume, all characters from supplementary material (the Bloodedge Experience light novel, XBlaze and BlazBlue: Remix Heart, respectively) who were never mentioned in the main series proper.
  • BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle:
    • The inclusion of RWBY itself qualifies, seeing as Arc Sys had never done anything with said franchise before. Thus, when Ruby Rose herself hijacked the announcement trailer at Evo 2017, it took everyone present by surprise.
    • The fourth character showcase had curveballs from the BlazBlue and Under Night sides. While Yukiko was expected to be next in line from the Persona 4 Arena cast (as the character reveals so far had followed the order in which the Yasogami High students joined the Investigation Team), almost nobody saw Azrael and Gordeau being announced much earlier than other characters from their respective series.
    • Es was already considered a case of this when she was revealed for Central Fiction for technically being a Guest Fighter who made her way into the main series from a prequel Visual Novel, so seeing her revealed in the fifth character showcase caused some genuine surprise. Compounding this further is the fact that she's still relatively new and isn't as prominent compared to the other three revealed characters (Iron Tager, Makoto, and Nu-13).
    • The showcase for the first batch of DLC (Blake notwithstanding) kicked off with Platinum the Trinity as the next BlazBlue representative. While thematically appropriate in some ways (Platinum was originally introduced as a DLC character), this was a surprising choice for everyone given Platinum's popularity (particularly among the Western fanbase), as more popular and requested characters from her series currently remain unaccounted for.
    • The seventh character trailer for the second DLC pack has two: Aegis, who—as a Persona 3 character—completely breaks the order the previous trailers had been going by with the Persona 4 side (where it was mainly the Investigation Team in order of joining/awakening their Personas), and Jubei, who was only released in Central Fiction—after nearly a decade's worth of fan demand that he be Promoted to Playable—less than a year before this game's release (in fact, his debut trailer even aired alongside this game's teaser trailer).
    • Several of the datamined characters count. To start things off, very few fans expected Izayoi (aka an alternate form for Tsubaki Yayoi) to be in the game instead of the original Tsubaki Yayoi herself. Mika can also come across as this given how she was not part of the original cast of Under Night In-Birth. In addition, some fans didn't expect Labrys to be in the game since some fans thought ASW was only including characters from the mainline Persona games—though this is countered by Labrys making her formal debut in the original Persona 4 Arena; many fans figured she had a shot at being included, just not a better one than various other members of the Persona 4 and Persona 3 casts.
    • From the beginning, the game was touted as a crossover between BlazBlue, Under Night In-Birth, Persona 4: Arena and RWBY. So Heart Aino from Arcana Heart as a Guest Fighter was an out-of-nowhere addition. This also set the stage for more franchises to be represented in the future.
    • Akatsuki from Akatsuki Blitzkampf being revealed at EVO 2019 was kind of surprising, but not too much, since he already appeared as a Guest Fighter in Under Night In-Birth, so he had some connection to the game already. However, what was most definitely not expected was that he'd be accompanied by Blitztank, a literal tank that is not humanoid at all. Neo from RWBY was also a big surprise, since the RWBY characters are the only one who need all-new spritework, so the addition of more beyond the initial 4 was uncertain, and her role in the show is relatively minor.
  • Among the DLC characters introduced for Super Bomberman R are Bomberman versions of Simon Belmont, Vic Viper, and even Pyramid Head and Bubble Head Nurse. Later patches offered even more surprises, including Bomber versions of Goemon, Shiori Fujisaki, Princess Tomato, Jehuty, Anubis, Solid Snake, Naked Snake (complete with new voice lines from David Hayter!), Raiden, Mimi, Nyami, Octopus, and most surprising of all, Xavier Woods.
    • It gets sillier in Super Bomberman R Online: one of the first DLC characters just so happens to be a Bean from Fall Guys.
  • In Bleach: The 3rd Phantom, the ability to recruit Shinji and Hiyori for the final few chapters comes right out of nowhere, given that they had only appeared in a few cutscenes up to that point. Even more unexpected, though, is the postgame unlockable Sojiro Kusaka, when no other anime- or movie-exclusive characters appear in this game.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds the six main playable characters are Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith... and Sid the Dummy. You know, from that one episode in the first season that you totally forgot about. And Joss Whedon is an unlockable character.
  • The Mascot Fighter Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion includes the channel's usual stable of characters...and Captain Planet, who actually predated the channel by a few years.
  • Yugao Uzuki from the Naruto series, appearing in Clash of Ninja Revolution 2, has to be one of the most unexpected characters on this list, appearing in the Manga for less then five panels, showing none of her skills in these panels. She is so unknown that many assumed (and still do assume) she was a character created exclusively for Revolution 2 along with Komachi and Towa, the other exclusive ANBU, despite appearing in the Anime and Manga as mentioned before. It doesn't help that she was unnamed in all English versions of the series up to that date (guidebooks referred to her as a generic female ANBU). Even when she received focus in a filler arc in Shippuden and was called by name for once, people think she was only created for that filler.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert: As the previous game was made with the game's developers as actors, it's no real surprise to see a character portrayed by Kane's actor running around in the background. What is a surprise is the end of the Soviet campaign where it's revealed the character is Kane himself, helping to execute Josef Stalin and then his co-conspirator to set his plans into motion.
  • Crash Bandicoot On the Run! brought back Scorporilla, one of the Titans, as one of the Boss villains for Crash to fight. Not only is it surprising because it's the first Titan to make a return after the infamous Radical Entertainment-Era games, but it was also part of the game's first soft-launch, making it part of the base-release cast! For the sake of reference, the other two Boss villains in the soft-launch were series-staples Doctor N. Brio and Dingodile.
    • The first ever crossover event for the game was with none other than Domino’s Pizza, by adding The Noid, of all things, as one of the enemies.
    • One of the bosses was Mr. Crumb, a villain from a 99X mobile Crash game made in 1998, not even by Naughty Dog.
  • Tendry Dimpalm appears in only one scene in Deadly Rooms of Death: The City Beneath, making him an unexpected choice for the protagonist of the following Spin-Off.
  • Daemon X Machina, a game involving piloting mechas, featured their first collaboration with Geralt of Rivia and Siri as the pilots, in the flesh. Even if it was hinted they've been displaced to futuristic settings before, you wouldn't expect to actually see them in one.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony:
    • Monokuma comes back once again, albeit recast. This was a surprise for fans, since the previous voice actor for him was diagnosed with dementia before the game's production started. He even breaks the fourth wall to state "you can't have Danganronpa without Monokuma!"
    • The new main character, Kaede Akamatsu, was revealed in the second teaser of the game. It was a surprise not only due to her being the first female protagonist in the main Danganronpa series, but also due to the first teaser not even hinting at her existence, and strongly implying that the robotic Naegi Expy would be the player character. For added bonus points, Kaede turns out to be a Decoy Protagonist and dies at the end of the first chapter, leaving the protagonist spot to be filled by Shuichi Saihara, who was the Deuteragonist up to that point.
  • Digimon Masters:
    • The game is based on Digimon Data Squad, so no one expected all the elements from other shows.
    • Having Dorugoramon in the game was a bit of a surprise, seeing as most adaptations after Digimon X-Evolution, despite using Dorugamon's digivolution line, usually have Alphamon as Dorumon's Mega form instead. Having the Raptordramon line in the game, which never before appeared outside of the v-pets, even more so.
  • Disney Epic Quest had Little Yama, a bit character who only had relevance at the beginning of Big Hero 6 before quickly being taken out by Hiro's Megabot, as one of the characters part of the launch roster, alongside bigger-name characters like Mickey Mouse, Stitch, Jack Sparrow, etc., etc.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy:
    • People assumed early on Seymour would be in as the villain of Final Fantasy X, but instead Tidus' father Jecht, who was more an Antihero/Antivillain than a real antagonist, got in over Seymour. Square actually decided to explain this one—Seymour had more of a rivalry/connection with Yuna, so having him in the game as the representative villain would have meant there was little going on between Tidus and Seymour story-wise, whereas Jecht provided a deeper father-son/rivalry dynamic.note 
    • In the prequel Dissidia 012, who did we get new from Final Fantasy VIII? Not Seifer, or Rinoa, or even Edea. No, we get Laguna Loire.
  • Doctor Who Legacy:
    • Inverted with the Humble Bundle deal on the game, which came with a code unlocking all of the Doctors except for three. You'd expect the Twelfth (who had only done his regeneration Cliffhanger at that point) to be absent, but the other missing Doctors were 1) Creator's Favorite the Fifth Doctor and 2) overwhelming popularist-favourite the Fourth Doctor. And, to make it worse, while you could buy the Fifth Doctor virtually immediately from the in-game store, you can't buy the Fourth...
    • Many of the "companions" are obvious in-show companions (Rory Williams, Rose Tyler, Sarah Jane Smith) or non-travelling recurring allies generally considered 'companions' by fans (the Brigadier, the Paternosters, Craig) or helpful major characters in the story they're in (Porridge, Tricey). Then we go digging up very, very niche expanded universe companions like Benny, Molly, and Frobisher, as well as bewilderingly obscure minor characters who say a couple of lines in their serial and die (Punishment Medic) and the occasional inanimate object (Bessie).
  • DoDonPachi II: Bee Storm features series-traditional True Final Boss Hibachi...in a heavily-depowered form as the game's first boss.
  • While it was predicted that Dragalia Lost would have crossover events, no one expected one with the Mega Man series that was announced in the 1-year anniversary celebration.
  • The Dragon Ball games:
    • The Budokai Tenkaichi games have, among others, Grandpa Gohan, Arale Norimaki, General Blue, A generic Frieza soldier, Appule,note  Spopovich, Babidi, and Nail. The more popular characters are usually expected or asked for, but some of these are just unexpected.
    • The original Budokai trilogy had this, especially Budokai 2 which featured Gokule as an unlockable fusion, and even What If? characters, specifically Tiencha (Tien and Yamcha after doing the Fusion Dance) and 4 different forms for Super Buu after absorbing Tien and Yamcha, Vegeta, Frieza and Cell.
    • The arcade game Dragon Ball Heroes includes a ton of characters first appearing in games (Kid Krillin, Pirate Robot, Bio-Broly, Paragus, Kid Vegeta, Young Nappa, Lord Chilled, GT Satan, GT Goten, Beerus, Whis, Hell Fighter 17, Oceanus Shenron, etc.) as well as new transformations. (Super Saiyan God Goku, SSJ3 Trunks, SSJ3 Future Gohan, GT Gotenks, Super 17 Cell Absorbed, Baby Janemba, etc.).
    • Super Dragon Ball Z takes the cake, featuring Chichi as a playable character.
    • Xenoverse gives us Raspberry, a minor mook who first appeared in episode 59 of the original Z anime, where he got defeated by a Giant Enemy Crab. DLC also gives us Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, who is the star of a minor manga Akira Toriyama made in recent years. On top of being playable, Jaco is also a master who can train you.
    • Be honest, how many people expected the likes of Super Kaioken Goku, Candy Vegito, ,Kid Vegeta, SSJ3 Bardock or any of the Dragon Ball: Fusions or Dragon Ball Heroes characters to appear in Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle?
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • A game of swords, sorcery, dragons, and... the Space Core from Portal 2, as an official PC-only add-on.
    • Due to the actions of the Akaviri Dragonslayers and their descendant Order, the Blades, Dragons have been rendered nearly completely extinct in Tamriel, with the few survivors not being sighted in thousands of years, leading most to consider them mythical creatures at best. As a result, Dragons have rarely been seen within the Elder Scrolls series... that is until Alduin returns and begins resurrecting the fallen Dragons en-masse.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2's first North American DLC features a battle with Lightning, and everyone was expecting that. What they weren't expecting was for Sergeant Amodar to appear... and be a Commando-role monster. On top of that, The Unfought of Final Fantasy XIII, Jihl Nabaat, followed a few months later.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade has Jaffar as a recruitable character. He acted as The Brute to The Big Bad, attacking a main character's father, and killing another character's girlfriend. Though Jaffar was given a redemption story, it's still surprising to have him join the army over Anti-Villains Lloyd and Linus.
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn: The Black Knight comes to Micaiah's rescue in Part 1. He's supposed to have perished after Ike defeated him and an entire castle fell on him. Later on in Part 4, Oliver of all people turns out to be Not Quite Dead and can actually join the party, flabbergasting everyone involved.
  • FusionFall had a few examples:
    • The inclusion of Johnny Test in the original caught many by surprise, seeing as the show is owned by Warner Bros., not Cartoon Network, not to mention the show had many haters at the time, so most people didn't think the developers would even consider bringing him in. Fans were even more surprised when Legacy not only brought him back, but included even more characters from the show.
    • Though the developers eventually had to change their plans, the announcement of Chris McLean as an NPC for Legacy caught many off guard, because the show he's from isn't even owned by a Time Warner company.
  • For its first Crossover event, Genshin Impact brought in Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. What makes this especially surprising is that Genshin Impact is made by the China-based miHoYo, while Horizon Zero Dawn was made by the Amsterdam-based Guerrilla Games.
  • For Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, no-one expected a new character in the form of a young boy permanently affixed to a bed Mini-Mecha named Bedman. While the home console port brought back GG2's Sin, it also had an unexpected curve in Elphelt, an utter cutie-pie with a love for heavy artillery.
  • The Gundam Vs Series had stuck to animated machines and characters. Extreme Vs blew that out of the water when the Crossbones showed up in it, alongside the Astray Red and Blue Frames. Later DLC added the Blue Destiny Unit 01 (only appeared in a video game), Hi-Nu Gundam (a variation of Nu Gundam that only appeared in a novel), and the Xi Gundam (another novel-exclusive).
    • Extreme Vs Full Boost continued the trend, adding the Ex-S Gundam, Ensemble Dark Horse Patrick Colasour, and, of all things, the Zeta Zaku.
    • Then Extreme Vs Maxi Boost brought in the Penelope (the rival MS of the Xi Gundam) and the Build Strike Gundam (Which in-universe is only a kitbashed model of a mobile suit), as well as variation mobile suits like the Avalanche Exia that have never appeared in anything outside of the MSV books (basically "what-if" mobile suits based on canon ones).
    • Extreme Vs. 2 added in a Real-Grade version of Knight Gundam. No, not based off of the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam version, but based off of the METAL ROBOT SPIRITS figure based off of that version.
    • In order to give a Boss representative for Gundam Build Fighters, Extreme Vs. 2 XBoost brought in the Psycho GM, the Psycho Gundam-themed GM Gunpla from the Epilogue OVA GM's Counterattack piloted by Mikio Mashita, who's the boss of the Gunpla Mafia. Yes, this is all real.
  • Gundam Battle: Gunpla Warfare:
    • The game caught players off-guard with the inclusion of a Super-Deformed Knight Gundam, making him the first SD Gundam Gunpla to be made playable in the Gundam Breaker series. And just to reiterate, this is the original Super-Deformed version of the guy, not the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam version of him with a more Fullscale design (That already appeared in previous installments).
    • A surprise came when characters from Gundam Breaker 3 started showing up in the story. This was especially notable as it was never established that any of the Gundam Breaker games had a Shared Universe up until that point.
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    H-L 
  • Heroes of the Storm features a plethora of Blizzard's most popular characters to date, but some are less expected than others.
    • Back when the game was a custom map for Starcraft II, Thrall was in the game as a healer. They quickly decided that didn't fit his character, so they gave the kit to a new hero - Rehgar. Rehgar was a very obscure character from the World of Warcraft comics that hadn't even debuted in the games, taking everyone by surprise when he was the first playable orc.
    • The Lost Vikings are a throwback to Blizzard's very early days (So early, they weren't even called Blizzard yet) who were surprisingly added to the roster.
    • Probius isn't even an actual character in his home franchise, but an expendable Worker Unit. He's actually an Ascended Meme from the Legacy of the Void cinematic, where a 'hero probe' warps in a pylon then disappears off screen. It turns out, the probe got sucked into the Nexus.
    • Whitemane was mostly known as a Ms. Fanservice mid-level dungeon boss from vanilla WoW, and wasn't on very many players' radars. To everyone's surprise, she ended up being the first Priest in the game (although she was followed by the much more well-known Anduin a year later).
    • Taken up another notch by introducing Orphea, a Canon Foreigner Original Generation hero from one of the realms of the Nexus itself. The same goes for Qhira, another Canon Foreigner who doesn't even come from one of the established maps (although, fan reactions were more divided on her).
    • And then there's Deathwing. Despite being the most requested hero for years, many people thought he'd never be added (or be added as a map objective) because he's too big. Yet, they found a way to make him work while keeping him as a full-sized dragon permanently.
  • Hyrule Warriors:
    • Midna and Agitha. The former wasn't as unexpected because of her large role and due to being very popular, but still surprised many people who expected her to be a one-shot character. Agitha, however, came completely out of left field for most players, as she only played a role in a sidequest, and didn't even show any combat abilities whatsoever.
    • No one was really expecting Darunia and Ruto to be playable since, despite having prominent roles in Ocarina of Time, they were still just NPC characters who hadn't appeared in another game since their debuts.
    • Hyrule Warriors Legends threw fans for an even bigger loop when The King of Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was announced as a playable character.
    • There's also Linkle, a Distaff Counterpart of Link who was first seen in concept art of the first game and who the developers had originally thought about including but ultimately scrapped. She would go on to be playable in the new game.
    • Marin from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was fairly popular, but not exactly a character fans were expecting to ever see again for multiple reasons, among them the game being All Just a Dream (and in the game's Golden Ending she is implicitly turned into a seagull) and having a more prominent expy in the form of Malon, so it surprised many people when she was announced as a DLC character for Hyrule Warriors Legends.
  • Infected allows you to play as the members of Slipknot along with... the vocalist from Chimaira (who says musicians need to get their own Guitar Hero title to be put in a game?)
  • In Indie Pogo, there is Diogenes. Not only is he one of the 'last' people you'd expect to see in a Platform Fighter, at the time of his reveal, there were already several confirmed DLC characters, so having a new character that recieved little foreshadowing was quite the suprise.
  • Capcom's 2D fighting game based on the third part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a couple. First up is Midler, the user of the Stand named High Priestess: since she is never seen clearly in the manga, author Hirohiko Araki had to create her character design for the game from scratch! There's also the younger version of Joseph, based on his appearance in the second part of the manga. For downplayed examples, Alessi's Stand has the power to physically regress opponents for a short time, but characters other than the main heroes usually become one-shot extras from the manga.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle:
    • Shigechi as DLC came right out of nowhere and added yet another Part 4 character to the roster. To further add to the surprise factor, it had previously been made known that a guidebook for the game covered "32 characters + 2 DLC", when 33 of those characters were already known. Needless to say, people were expecting someone a bit more momentous for the final, single character reveal.
    • The same somewhat goes for Fugo. Not only did the man only have one real fight, and thus, not a whole lot to use for a playable appearance, but he pretty much bowed out right at the end of the first half of Part V.
    • BAOH who's from another manga altogether, but one still made by Araki, that came before JoJo. This has split the fans between those who don't want their JoJo game to include characters from other works, and those who don't really mind.
    • In the All-Star Battle R Updated Re-release, Prosciutto isn't too much of a left-field pick, but the fact the roster managed to squeeze in Pesci by having him team up with him is surprising. Also surprising is the addition of Pet Shop, but not so much because the character is unexpected, but because of his history as an utter Game-Breaker in the last Jojo fighting game.
  • When JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven was announced, many fans were already expecting Part 7's Diego Brando, and Part 2's Rudol von Stroheim was a pleasant surprise, but no one could've expected Part 1's Robert E.O. Speedwagon, a popular character who was nonetheless a non-combatant in most of his appearances in the series.
  • From J-Stars Victory VS we have Boa Hancock who was added alongside Luffy when Zoro or Sanji would've been anticipated, Luckyman from Tottemo!! Luckyman (who was a support character in the previous crossover), and Taro Yamada from Chinyuki Taro To Yukaina Nakama Tachi. There has never been alot of people outside of Japan who has ever heard of him.
  • Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez has members of the Foundation X organization as the antagonists, which is pretty surprising since it was largely left on the wayside after Kamen Rider OOO finished airing and had only previously reappeared in the Kamen Rider Brave spin-off special.
  • KanColle was initially expected to have only ship girls from the IJN, the Kriegsmarine, and the Regia Marina. Until 2016 came and Kadokawa introduced more foreign ships from the United States Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Marine Nationale, respectively, for every quarterly event from Spring of the same year.
  • Killer Instinct Season 3 features a guest character from the Halo series. In a heartbeat, most would guess it would be the Master Chief because he's the mascot of the franchise, or perhaps Locke since he was promoted as the star of the newest game prior to the announcement. It was actually the Arbiter, who hasn't been playable in the main series since Halo 3 (where he was demoted to being the 2nd player co-op character). It also features Rash, which was unexpected as well.
  • Kinect: Disneyland Adventures features several expected Disney and Pixar properties from its release period of 2011, along with all the big names of the park itself (minus licensed properties such as Star Tours and Indiana Jones Adventure)... and then there's Splash Mountain. Maybe not so unexpected on its own, but it brought its animated stars from Song of the South with it, in speaking roles. And they remained in the 2017 remaster.
  • The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact featured Seth and Rock Howard, the former who was a minor character who only appeared in the NESTS Chronicles Story Arc and never became a franchise staple (being Demoted to Extra from within the later games), and the latter who was from Garou: Mark of the Wolves and had never appeared in a main King of Fighters game beforehand. The sequel gave us alternate versions of Kyo (his classic look from the Rugal saga), Ryo (with the Mr. Karate gimmick), Terry (his Mark of the Wolves look, which was his alt in the first game), and Ralf (a high-powered armor version of him). The original character roster ups the ante even more, as it includes Richard Meyer (a forgotten character from the original Fatal Fury), Fio (a lesser-known Metal Slug character), Hanzo (a Samurai Shodown character who never really stood out), Lilly Kane (Billy's younger sister who was only an NPC beforehand), and Hyena (Duke's mook who announced your opponents in the first game's story mode). On the opposite end of the trope, Maximum Impact 2 did bring in two of the original game's most glaring omissions: Kim Kaphwan and Geese Howard.
  • The King of Fighters XIV features the "Another World Team", a trio of time-displaced characters. Aside from Nakoruru (easily the least unexpected of the three), the team also consists of two characters from Japanese-only pachinko and pachislot games, Mui Mui and Love Heart.
  • The King of Fighters XV added a new character named Krohnen, where looking at his moveset instantly gives it away that he's a Suspiciously Similar Substitute to K9999 from KoF 2001 and 2002. As a blatant ripoff of Tetsuo from AKIRA, K9999 was Exiled from Continuity by SNK, even going as far as being edited out of promotion art, it being alleged company policy that referring to him by name was forbidden and has been officially stated as "gone for good". His immediate substitute, Nameless, didn't make any future appearances in the series, either. So seeing SNK bringing back a character who they won't even mention by name in another way is a pretty big surprise. In a shocking twist, it's not only revealed Krohnen is K9999 in disguise, SNK was the one who made up the rumors about K9999 being blacklisted for legal reasons.
  • Kirby:
    • Kirby & the Amazing Mirror has Master Hand of all characters making an appearance as a mid-boss, and in combination with Crazy Hand as the boss of Candy Constellation.
    • Kirby Mass Attack's subgames have an almost ridiculous amount of cameos from obscure characters:
      • Performing an "Awesome" attacks in Kirby Quest will make one of your Kirbies, among other things, roll by in a non-yarn Tankbot, ride a Moto-Shotzo while being chased by a boss from Traxnote , or turn into Kabuki Kirby and fire a massive energy beam.
      • Among the enemies you fight in Kirby Quest are Max Flexer and Chef Shiitake, two monsters of the week from Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. Escargoon and the sword-wielding Waddle Doo also appear in one of Dedede's attack animations.
      • The end boss of Kirby Quest's second chapter is the then-unnamed Dedede robot from a trailer for a cancelled Kirby title for the Gamecube. It would make another surprise appearance a few months later as a boss in Kirby's Return to Dream Land under the name "HR-D3".
      • Kirby Quest's final boss is Dark Matter, both in its swordsman and true forms, its first physical appearance since Kirby's Dream Land 2 and Kirby's Dream Land 3, respectively.
      • Every other enemy in Kirby Quest is either a character from the main game or a character from Super Star Ultra, with one exception: Sweet Stuff, a boss from Kirby's Dream Land 2.
      • If you lose Kirby Quest, Rick, Coo, and Kine appear in a recreation of the game over screen from their debut game.
      • The N.M.E. Sales Guy makes a surprise appearance as the Game-Over Man for Strato Patrol EOS.
    • Kirby: Triple Deluxe has two surprise bosses! Who are they? Masked Dedede and Dark Meta Knight of all people!
    • Kirby: Planet Robobot one-ups Triple Deluxe with three surprise bosses: (clones of) Dark Matter, Queen Sectonia, and Galacta Knight (who is actually the real deal).
    • The spinoff game Kirby Battle Royale features abilities from past games as playable characters, two of which were voted for by fans. The first was the ever-popular Mirror ability, and the second was...Sleep?!
    • Kirby Star Allies has quite a few surprises:
      • Plugg, a minor enemy that only had one appearance beforehand, inexplicably replaces Plasma Wisp as the helper for the Plasma ability. Plasma itself was unexpected given it was combined with Spark starting from Return to Dream Land.
      • Chef Kawasaki making his first miniboss appearance since Super Star is already surprising, but nobody was expecting him to actually be a helper this time, especially since he yields a one-use ability when inhaled.
      • Marx, the final boss of the same game, is one of the playable characters as a dream friend.
      • Pon and Con make a surprise return as midgame bosses, their first appearance since their debut.
      • While it's only a small cameo, Gryll and Brobo (from Kirby's Super Star Stacker and Kirby's Block Ball, respectively) getting a Stone form dedicated to them definitely deserves mention.
      • Thought a playable Marx was unexpected enough? Try having Dark Meta Knight and Daroach as Dream Friends!
      • A lot of people were eagerly anticipating that Adeleine would become added as a playable dream friend, but nobody expected that Ribbon would join her as a two-in-one dream friend as well.
      • Adeleine's summoning moves came with some surprises as well, specifically Waiu and Octacon. The former only had one appearance two years before Adeleine's debut, and the latter was a Monster of the Week exclusive to Kirby: Right Back at Ya! (which Adeleine never appeared in).
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild features an appearance by both the Koroks and the Rito. Their only other appearance before this game was The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (and its remake), fourteen years earlier. Even more unexpected for the Rito as they show up alongside the Zoras; the race Ritos are said to have evolved from in Wind Waker.

    M-R 
  • Several in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny. The first was the announcement of the Materials, who were killed in the first game. Then they announced Yuuno and Alph who fans had assumed the people behind Nanoha had forgotten about around those years. Then the Lieze Twins were announced, who appeared even less than Yuuno and Arf, and aren't exactly high in the popularity lists. The biggest surprise though would have to be the announcement Rynith, since not only was she a Posthumous Character, but she had also never been shown fighting before Gears of Destiny.
  • In the fan-made Mega Man: A Day in the Limelight who is it that poor Snake Man finds himself pitted against? Airman!
  • Melty Blood, a fighting game based on Tsukihime, had Miyako Arima, a character barely mentioned to have existed, and even then not by name. Not to mention Neko-Arc, Mecha-Hisui, and Neko-Arc-Chaos.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty changed most of its promos to hide the appearance of player character Raiden who unexpectedly replaces Solid Snake. Even the antagonists have no idea who he is during the first half. Due to negative reaction, the character changed for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and his reveal happened at the end of the trailer. Guns of the Patriots itself managed to keep another few characters completely hidden: Big Boss (who did not appear until the start of the credits as the game's final twist), EVA (who is introduced under the alias "Big Mama" to throw off players), and Major Zero (who only appears in the final scene alongside Big Boss).
  • The two Metroid games made by MercurySteam offered a few cases. Metroid: Samus Returns has Ridley even if the original game was one of the few where the space dragon didn't appear. Metroid Dread has some Chozo still alive, when all the previous games indicated the birdmen were extinct, and Kraid, who hadn't shown up since the remake Metroid: Zero Mission.
  • Monster Hunter: World: Many were surprised by the announcement of Behemoth as a huntable monster. Unlike the other monsters added post-release, Behemoth wasn't in a popular leak that included the other added monsters up until then, and until the announcement of the Final Fantasy XIV collaboration at E3 2018, no idea that it was possible to include a character from another franchise in a main-series game. note 
    • It happened again during the crossover with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - after getting over the shock from Behemoth, most people were expecting a monster from the Witcher universe to show up, such as a griffin or a fiend. Cue surprised reactions when it turned out the monster in question was Leshen, a human shaped nature spirit. This was especially surprising because Monster Hunter hasn't had humanoid opponents since the King Shakalaka from the second generation.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 introduced crossover characters to the franchise, to much surprise: the PS 3 version had Kratos, and the final DLC character was Freddy Krueger. The next games offered bonus heaps with sci-fi (Predator, Alien - a hybrid with one of MK's species, no less - RoboCop and Terminator), horror (Jason, Leatherface) and comic book characters (Spawn, The Joker)...plus Rambo.
  • MultiVersus is a Fighting Game centered around Warner Bros. Discovery owned characters; the usual suspects — DC Comics characters like Superman and Batman, Cartoon Network personalities like Steven Universe, and classic animation figures including Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry — are present and somewhat expected (especially since many of said characters have appeared in other fighting games, including the aforementioned Mortal Kombat). Aside from the newly-created character Reindog, there are two major outliers. The first is Arya Stark, whose home series is very much not in line with the general tone of the other properties (to put it mildly), and also originated from HBO (as opposed to Warner Bros., Cartoon Network or DC); the other is Shaggy Rogers...but not just normal Shaggy. It's Ultra Instinct Shaggy, here having gotten powers from ingesting a magical crystal (he thought it was candy).
    • There's also the main antagonist of the game — The Nothing from The Neverending Story, which has now grown powerful enough to not only endanger Fantasia, but the entire multiverse.
    • There's also LeBron James himself. Sure, he's technically a Space Jam: A New Legacy representative, but he's still based on a real person.
  • NBA Jam has some insane secret characters you'd never expect to see on a basketball court, including Prince Charles, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Clinton (no relation), The Beastie Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Scorpion and Sub-Zero. It might as well have been called Unexpected Character: The Game.
  • Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a Crossover that brings together both Senran Kagura and Neptunia. However, it also has a Guest Fighter in Goh from the Shinobido series, now gender-swapped into a woman. For the sake of reference, his series isn't even all that popular, and the last game it had (Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen) released back in 2012, 9 years prior to Ninja Wars.
  • Newgrounds Rumble features Samurai Asshole. He only appeared in one game back in 1999 that, even by those standards, was laggy and cluttered. His fighting style in the game reflects this, being a Mighty Glacier in the game.
  • Nickelodeon Kart Racers:
    • While Tommy and Angelica were obvious choices for playable Rugrats representation, not many expected Reptar to make the cut as well, and over more prominent characters like Chuckie (who wouldn't be added until the second game), Phil, Lil, or Kimi to boot.
    • Grand Prix:
      • No one expected JoJo Siwa to be a playable character since she's not even a Nicktoon, but a real life celebrity, especially over more prominent Nickelodeon characters such as Jimmy Neutron, Timmy Turner, or Jenny Wakeman (especially since the former two were playable in Winner's Cup Racing and Nitro).
      • While Lincoln and Lucy were obvious choices for The Loud House representatives, Clyde came out of left field considering his lesser prominence compared to the Louds themselves and his divisive status within the fanbase.
      • Some were surprised that Ren & Stimpy are in the game, especially in light of the sexual abuse allegations against John Kricfalusi that resulted in Nickelodeon temporarily pulling reruns and merchandise of the show. Both characters appearing in the original Nicktoons Racing does mitigate this quite a bit, though not by a whole lot considering the game was released back in 2000, well before the allegations came to light.
      • Due to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) already having a whopping four characters in the original game, not many saw a fifth representative in Shredder joining the roster as well. In addition, even if a fifth was to be expected, an ally of the turtles such as Master Splinter or April O'Neil would have made slightly more sense; Shredder, by contrast, is a No-Nonsense Nemesis and one of the last characters you'd expect in a racing game, especially alongside the turtles whom he's always trying to kill.
    • Slime Speedway:
  • Nicktoons MLB has five SpongeBob SquarePants characters (natch). Three of them make sense, being SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy, but the other two are Larry the Lobster and the Flying Dutchman. We also get Gaz, Ultra Lord, Powdered Toast Man and a Yak. The 3DS version adds Hiro Mightypaw.
  • In Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds, Drippy from the original Ni no Kuni returns as the Elder Fairy. It's not stated directly that it's him, but it's immediately obvious to anyone who's played the original, albeit his accent is different.
  • Kuina and Zeff from One Piece appeared in One Piece: Grand Adventure, the American made sequel to One Piece: Grand Battle.
  • Paladins adding Rambo (as a skin for Viktor) as part of a promotion for Twitch Prime caught most fans off-guard. People wondered how or why Hi-Rez got the rights to the character when past behavior (such as dropping support for eSports) implied they were gradually losing interest in the game.
  • The PC version of PAYDAY 2 has had several characters show up unexpectedly. The first was John Wick, and from there Jacket, Bodhi, Jimmy and even Scarface have been added as playable characters. Special mention goes to Jimmy, as unlike the other listed examples, Jimmy is portrayed in Payday 2 by the same actor that portrays him in the movie.
    • Rust could count to a lesser extent, too. Not so much for the character, but more for who they got to portray him.
    • On April 1, 2017, Overkill posted an announcement that Ethan Klein from h3h3 Productions was added as a playable character. Considering the day the announcement was posted on, everyone thought it was a joke... except they actually did that a few months later. Unfortunately, the concept of having two YouTubers playing as themselves be bank robbers and the less than stellar quality of the pack's content created a lukewarm reception at best.
  • Persona 4:
    • The game got a sequel, not in the form of the much-desired Persona 5 (that came a year later), but in an arcade-style fighting game Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena... with Aigis, Akihiko, and Mitsuru from Persona 3. Then there's Labrys, who was seemingly a new character created from the game... until Americans learned she had actually debuted in a Persona 3 Drama CD released only in Japan.
    • The fighting game itself got a sequel/update called Persona 4 Ultimax: The Ultimate Ultra Suplex Hold (shortened to just Persona 4 Arena Ultimax in other regions), which featured the rest of the Persona 3 cast except for Shinjiro and the main character since they're both dead. Those were expected. What wasn't expected was a couple of the new characters on the Persona 4 side: Rise Kujikawa, your team's Mission Control and designated non-combatant in every other game, and Tohru Adachi, one of the main antagonists of the original game. The DLC went further with the additions of Marie and Margaret, the Velvet Room assistants.
  • Persona 5:
    • One of the Personas you can use is Bugs/Bugbear, a minor enemy from Soul Hackers, released 19 years earlier. Similarly, the last Persona is Satanael, a boss from from the same game, who never even got a fully original design before this point due to only being fought through a host via Demonic Possession.
    • Morgana's Ultimate Persona is Mercurius. While under a totally different design, Mercurius's only other appearance in the franchise was as an early-game Zero-Effort Boss in Shin Megami Tensei II.
    • While the infamous Mara was expected by all, what wasn't expected was his slime form from Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne to appear as an earlygame miniboss and endgame enemy.
  • Persona 5 Royal:
    • To say the appearance of Biyarky in Kasumi's character trailer surprised people is an understatement, as its last appearance in the entire Megami Tensei franchise also happened to be its debut appearance as one of Nyarlathotep's minions in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, released over a decade before the trailer. This was followed by Hastur, a Persona who also happened to last appear in Eternal Punishment, making an appearance a few trailers later.
    • The reveal of Kasumi's Persona as Cendrillon likewise also caught a lot of people off guard, as Cendrillon isn't a thief like the rest of the Phantom Thieves initial Personas. Likewise, Cendrillon's ultimate form not being a mythological trickster and instead being Vanadis (aka Freya) also came as a surprise.
    • For a non-Persona example, the announcement of the protagonists from the previous two games (Makoto Yuuki and Yu Narukami) as DLC bosses, as the main characters from previous entries rarely if ever appear in-person beyond their own entries in the mainline games. This applies especially to Makoto due to his Plotline Death at the end of Persona 3, although his appearance in Royal is justified as the player isn't fighting the real Makoto and Yu and is instead fighting cognitions of them created in the Velvet Room.
  • Very few people expected the Female Protagonist from Persona 3 to come back in Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth due to her being a non-canon character, and not appearing in Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight making it seem like Atlus didn't want anything to do with her.
  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale:
    • Nobody expected Big Daddy to be among the characters, never mind to be the first announced. Big Daddy has the appearance of a Bouncer model, but can also use Plasmids, like Subject Delta from BioShock 2.
    • Parappa The Rapper being revealed in the initial announcement was a pleasant surprise.
    • Starhawk's Emmett Graves and Dead Space' Isaac Clarke as DLC characters also came as a surprise.
    • The final boss, Polygon Man, is undoubtedly the most obscure of all. His only appearance ever was in pre-launch advertisements for the original PlayStation, after which he was replaced by characters from popular games exclusive to the system.
    • Sir Dan Fortesque from MediEvil, a series that ended on the original Playstation.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon:
      • Previously Rotom had been just your standard average Pokémon that just so happened to possess electronics, but now it possesses the Alola Pokedex, making Rotom your Pokedex.
      • A few characters namely, Red and Blue from uh...Red and Blue were a nice addition, given the games being released in the 20th year of the series. However, a few others are extremely unexpected; Grimsley of the Unova Elite Four, who pops in to give you a Ride Pokémon, and Colress, who abruptly shows up to give you a TM and, later, the Genesect Drives.
      • Possibly one of the oddest has to be Professor Burnet from the Pokémon Dream Radar AR app (she's married to Professor Kukui, no less!), but the one who takes the cake is Salon Maiden Anabel from Pokémon Emerald, who becomes Looker's boss and heads the investigation into the Ultra Beasts. Even her presence in game is put into question.
    • Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon added new Ultra Beasts to the game. What makes them notable is that they weren't in the original Sun/Moon — they weren't even Dummied Out, they didn't exist in any form! This marks the first time brand new Pokémon were added to the Pokédex in the middle of a generation, as opposed to being saved for the next generation.
    • Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! go to great lengths to keep everything contained to Kanto and Kanto-related things. At least, that's what you're led to believe, until you encounter Mina in Vermilion City—the same Mina who lives in Alola and supervises the Fairy-type trial there. Though there are NPCs encountered earlier who will trade you Alolan Pokémon for their Kantonian counterparts, they only refer to themselves as having come from elsewhere. Mina is the first character you meet who directly name-drops the region. Another surprise appearance is Green, the Distaff Counterpart of Red from the Game Boy Advance remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue as a trainer you can battle. Even better is that, much like Red and Blue, she shows up in her planned Gen 1 outfit.
    • Nobody was really expecting DLC for Pokémon Sword and Shield, let alone for it to include new Galarian form Pokémon - but even with the announcment Direct people were still stunned to see Galarian forms of all three legendary birds from the first generation.
    • Pokémon Legends: Arceus, being a spinoff with a more experimental style of gameplay, surprised a lot of people by introducing not just new regional forms, but new regional evolutions—including ones for Stantler and Basculin, two forgettable mons useful for Pokédex completion and little else, and which had been largely neglected ever since their debut generations.
  • Pokkén Tournament:
    • Sure, people were expecting that there would be playable Legendary Pokémon, but a lot of people were surprised when the first one confirmed was the quadrupedal Suicune. True, it's a version Legendary, but it didn't stop some people from going: "Wait, what?"
    • A survey asking for more additions to the roster resulted in Chandelure. That is, you can now play as a chandelier in a fighting game.
    • Another character that caught people off-guard was Pikachu Libre, who is Pikachu in a different clothing.
    • Introduced in the Arcade version and Nintendo Switch enhanced port is Croagunk, who already appeared in the vanilla game as a Support Pokémon.
  • Punch-Out!! (Wii) features a large number of returning characters from past games in the series. Then there's Donkey Kong of all characters showing up as a big surprise for those who manage to survive long enough in Mac's Last Stand. Princess Peach was also planned to appear as an opponent, but was Dummied Out.
  • In Puyo Puyo Tetris, one of the alternate Puyo appearances you can unlock is the Morolian set, based on the race of TV-loving aliens from Space Channel 5. Bear in mind that the Puyo Puyo games rarely, if ever, cross over with anything else (and it's a big deal they did it with Tetris for this one), and SEGA has not made a Space Channel 5 game in well over a decade, relegating almost every character to obscurity. A later update adds a set of Tetrominoes based on SEGA's flagship series, Sonic the Hedgehog, although given the two franchises' history with each other, it's not quite as surprising.
  • Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 goes even further beyond, though- the first post-release update included four new playable characters. Three of them were fairly obvious, those being Lidelle, Ms. Accord and the Ocean Prince, who are all series mainstays. The fourth, though? None other than Sonic the Hedgehog himself! Even when Puyo Puyo games DID cross over with other games, it has only been through small references, and never before has it been a full-blown player character like the Blue Blur (Outside of the spin-off Puyo Puyo!! Quest, that is). Even if one were to actually predict a Sonic character, one would've probably expected Eggman instead due to Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, a game that Sonic didn't actually appear in.
  • Puzzle & Dragons has had plenty of collaboration events in the past, and still gets them to this day. One of these was for the Devil May Cry series, which featured all of the usual suspects from both 4 and 5 (Yes, including Dante)...however, it also had Lucia and Matier, both characters from Devil May Cry 2, which the franchise has constantly shafted before after it got negative reception.
  • Rayman Mini featured one big whammy for its new mode on the February 1st, 2021 update: the return of Mr. Dark, who hadn't shown up in 25 yearsnote  and missed out on Origins before that point.
  • The much-delayed PC version of Renegade Ops features...Gordon Freeman of Half-Life?
  • Resident Evil 3 (Remake) has the return of Lickers, an enemy type from Resident Evil 2 that didn't appear in the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, despite the two games taking place in the same area in an overlapping time period.
  • River City Girls has a good number of characters from the Double Dragon series. Including Double Dragon Neon's Big Bad, Skullmageddon. AS A SHOPKEEPER.
    • It also features Martha, Trash and Bullova, two boss characters and a playable character respectively from the obscure Technos Beat-'em-up The Combatribes.
  • One of the reasons Robot Wars: Metal Mayhem was so poorly received by fans was because of its bizarre roster choices. It was based on Series 3, but runner-up Hypno-Disc, fellow grand finalist Steg-O-Saw-Rus, and fan favourites Razer were all overlooked. Instead, of the game's 16 playable robots, no less than five had been knocked out in their very first battles, including Crasha Gnasha and Terminal Ferocity, who'd been defeated in ten seconds flat.note 
  • People weren't really expecting Rock Band 4 to introduce Sterling Archer as a free DLC character.
  • RosenkreuzStilette:
    • You get a code that lets you play as Grolla in her own side-game, Rosenkreuzstilette Grollschwert. And what happens when you get to the end of her own stage as her? You meet the original player character, Spiritia, as the boss.
    • Similarly, in Weißsilber, the side-game to Freudenstachel, playing as Pamela in her own stage introduces you to another unexpected face... It's Karl Palesch, Liebea's older brother who was only mentioned a few times in the first game.

    S-Y 
  • Given Sumire Kanzaki has been absent since Sakura Wars 4: Fall in Love, Maidens and her titular OVA announcing her retirement, her role as commander of the Flower Division in Sakura Wars (2019) is fairly surprising.
  • Sega Superstars:
  • Senran Kagura:
    • While the series has had crossover promotional content in the past, Estival Versus managed to shock fans by featuring guest characters for the first time in the history of the series. Such characters include Ayane from Dead or Alive, and Sonsaku Hakufu, Kan'u Unchou, and Ryofu Housen from Ikki Tousen.
    • Ayame, the shopkeeper from Shinovi Versus, as well as one of the New Hanzo students in New Wave, actually became playable in Estival Versus. Both eastern and western fans didn't see this coming.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse: While a few people predicted one or two of them, no one predicted the return of the original Hero, Aleph, and the Demi-fiend from the pre-IV numbered games all at once through DLC. In addition, DLC adds an extra boss to the main game's bonus dungeon: En no Ozuno, a one-off ally from the first game and minor character from the second.
  • SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, as a Spiritual Successor to the all-female SNK Gals Fighters, threw fans for a loop when it suddenly started introducing female versions of male characters as well, including Terry Bogard, Skullomania from Street Fighter EX and Fighting EX Layer, and Miss X, Iori's disguise from the original SNK Gals' Fighters. The original version of Miss X that is just regular Iori in disguise is playable as well.
  • Soul Series:
    • While both Yoda and Darth Vader were constantly advertised as playable characters in Soulcalibur IV, having Vader's apprentice from The Force Unleashed was not expected by many, particularly since his game had yet to be released at the time.
    • And Angol Moa- sorry, Angol Fear as a bonus character? Even more unexpected...
    • Soul Calibur II kicked off the tradition with a unique and wildly out-of-left-field guest fighter for all three major console versions. The PS2 got Heihachi Mishima, the Xbox got Spawn, and the Nintendo GameCube got Link.
    • Soul Calibur VI continues the trend with Geralt and 2B. Especially 2B, as at least Geralt is a fantasy character and not particularly out of place in the setting (if anything, his design is too period appropriate compared to the more stylized Soul Calibur characters,) as opposed to the futuristic combat android and her floating robot pod.
  • Endless Mode of Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion has a more interesting case. The monsters in it are all blatantly an Expy of a horror character or trope, therefore nobody was expecting a guest specimen in the name of White Face from Imscared.
  • Star Trek Online did this with its "Delta Rising" Expansion. Since it was centered in the Delta Quadrant, everyone knew characters from Star Trek: Voyager would be involved. However, they thought it would just be Tim Russ reprising his role as Tuvok and Garrett Wang returning as Harry Kim. No one expected Robert Picardo, Jeri Ryan, and Ethan Philips to reprise their roles as The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Neelix, though! Then it was done on a faction-scale with the next expansion, Agents of Yesterday — while the individual characters showing up weren't too unexpected (given the time travel elements of the game, some of them already had shown up), that the fourth playable faction would be the TOS Starfleet (if given a temporal agent spin) was not.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: The first look at gameplay for Jedi: Fallen Order surprised people with notorious rebel extremist Saw Gerrera.
  • Star Wars Legends: Star Wars: The Old Republic not only has Revan show up, but as a villain, for double "unexpected" points. Twice over in the leadup to the second expansion, Shadow of Revan. The players are told that the villains of the lead-in material, the "Forged Alliances" arc, belong to a cult called the Revanites, who Imperial players had met way back on Dromund Kaas and dismissed as basically a Brotherhood of Funny Hats (strike one). They're led to believe that the two are using the cult to their own ends so they can conquer the galaxy using an army of cybernetic super-soldiers, as villains are wont to do. But in the last scene of the arc, after the two are dead, their boss — Revan himself — arrives in style to announce that He's Back!.
  • Street Fighter's Ryu and Akuma appearing as DLC bosses in Asura's Wrath, a game that isn't even a Fighting Game to begin with; fighting them changes the gameplay into a 2D fighter for the first half of each fight, meters and life gauges and all ala Street Fighter IV, though Asura's bottom gauges are different and more like his own game.
  • An extended gameplay trailer for Street Fighter V shows that Charlie, considered dead in-universe since Alpha 3, will return to the series. note 
  • The defunct Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation took the cake for this, with so many unexpected Guest Fighters (like several characters from a series of Wuxia novels, the title character of Space Sheriff Gavan, Krauser II from Detroit Metal City) that you'd have sworn the developers just grabbed whatever character rights they could snatch up in about ten minutes. Barack Obama was made as an alt costume and different head for Ryu.
  • Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania features a host of unusual character choices, both in the base game and as DLC. Sonic, Tails, and Beat have crossed over with Super Monkey Ball before, and Sonic was already in the HD version of Banana Blitz. Morgana is a little more out there, but he is from a popular Sega-owned game and at least fits aesthetically. Kiryu, though, was a shock to everybody, hailing from a dark, mature series that clashes heavily with Monkey Ball's lighthearted tone. Then there's the Animate Inanimate Object versions of Sega consoles. And Hello Kitty. And (perhaps the biggest surprise of all) a Suezo from Monster Rancher, which is not only entirely unconnected to Sega but hadn't seen a new game in almost a full decade at the time of its reveal.
  • At the end of Tales from the Borderlands if you've been saving your money you can hire an "Experienced Vault Hunter" to help take down the Traveler. The character selection screen shows the silhouettes of Lilith, Krieg, and Nisha. If you choose this option the "Experienced Vault Hunter" turns out to be Claptrap.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up has characters described as "Characters you know in addition to ones you wouldn't expect." True, everybody knew that Shredder, April, Casey, and the titular characters would appear, but not an unnamed Foot Soldier or an alien in a battle suit named the Utrominator that was a one-shot character from the 2003 show (as an Expy for Krang from the 80's show). And as for established characters, there's the Fugitoid and Night Watcher (who has a completely different gameplay from regular Raphael). Finally, we have Raving Rabbids as Guest Fighters.
    • Excluding the Turtles and Shredder, almost the entire cast of the SNES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters is really obscure. War is a very minor bad guy in the Archie comic book series, while Aska is an Original Generation character. The Genesis version had Original Generation Sisyphus, an anthropomorphic beetle with no real backstory, and Ray Fillet, who was unknown to most outside of being an action figure and appearing in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. Both 16-bit versions of the game had Karai as the final boss, a character who was still pretty new to the Mirage Comics and still languished in obscurity until 2003 when she finally showed up in an animated adaption.
    • TMNT fighting games have this as "par for the course". TMNT Mutant Melee had a teenage Hun (seen only in flashbacks), Summer and Winter outfits for Casey Jones and April (they were only costumes, but they had their own character slots), Gold Shredder (meant to be a One-Winged Angel for Shredder), Sleeg (an alien that the Turtles met in the Triceraton prison that barely had any screentime at all), and Monster. Don't remember the Turtles palling around with or fighting a character like this? That's because they didn't. He showed up as the Big Bad of a horror movie Michelangelo was watching. Yes, his only appearance prior was in a Show Within a Show, appearing only for a few seconds in one episode.
    • The mobile game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Madness naturally includes many characters from the 80's show (as well as a few from the original Mirage Comics like Karai, Renet and Savanti Romero) for its turn-based clan gameplay, regardless of relevance or public knowledge, so seeing lesser-known villains like Lord Dregg, Skaarg and Dementor was quite a surprise. Then there's season 7's bounty hunter hero being none other then Dirk Savage, who ever only showed up in a single episode.
  • Tekken:
    • Tekken 4 brought back Marshall Law after a one-game absence — even though most people were expecting Forest to have permanently replaced his father in the franchise. And while bringing back Kazuya Mishima wasn't much of a surprise, certainly nobody expected to see Lee Chaolan come back.
    • Tekken 5 may be the king here, as it reintroduced so many characters few fans ever thought would see the light of day (outside of Tag games) again, like Baek Doo San, Bruce Irvin, Roger (well, actually his wife and son), Wang Jinrei, Ganryu, and Armor King (in Dark Resurrection).
    • Tekken 7 features Akuma as a playable character. This is especially surprising since unlike its sister series Tekken isn't known for having Guest Fighters (the only one being Gon from Tekken 3, a character so obscure that many players assumed he was created for the series), he missed the initial roster of Street Fighter V, and unlike Gon and the Soul Calibur guest fighters who are usually non-canon; he actually plays a role in the story, serving as The Dragon to Big Bad Kazumi Mishima. 7 also features the return of Eliza, who was assumed to be a one-off character from Tekken Revolution, a (now cancelled) free-to-play game, to the shock of many fans, as well as a second Guest Fighter in the form of SNK Boss extraordinaire Geese Howard. An even more surprising and unexpected Guest Fighter from within the game itself is Noctis from Final Fantasy XV, whose sudden and shocking appearance was completely out of left field. Considering the fact that he utilizes weapons, Teleport Spam, Summon to Hand, and all kinds of Elemental Powers, there were quite a few comments saying that Noctis would fit in more with Soul Calibur rather than with Tekken itself.note 
    • Season 2 of Tekken 7's DLC is headlined by the addition of The Walking Dead's Negan. At least you could say Akuma, Geese, and Noctis come from video games.
  • Few Tomb Raider fans were expecting the return of Natla in Underworld.
  • The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series is well known for featuring bizarre secret skaters as unlockables, such as Spider-Man in Pro Skater 2; Darth Maul and Wolverine in Pro Skater 3, Eddie the Head and Jango Fett in Pro Skater 4; Iron Man and Gene Simmons in Underground, Shrek in Underground 2; Lil Jon and Billie Joe Armstrong in American Wasteland, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne in Pro Skater 5.
  • Touhou Project:
  • Twisted Wonderland:
    • For a game based on the Disney villains, no one was expecting Mickey Mouse, face of Disney himself, to make an appearance. If Chapter 4's any indication, it's heavily implied that Mickey will be a plot-relevant character instead of being a one-off cameo.
    • A variant with Najma, who is technically her own character, but is spun-off from an obscure character who appeared in a spin-off video game from 2001—more specifically, Jafar's sister Nasira, from Disney's Aladdin in Nasira's Revenge.
    • Due to Yuu being a self-insert Featureless Protagonist in the main game, and their having been Adapted Out of the official anthologies, no one expected Yuu to not only make a physical appearance in the official manga, but to also be male considering the games primary demographic. However, this example is downplayed as this Yuu (or Enma Yuuken) is actually a separate entity from the Yuu present in the game, therefore the game's Yuu has yet to make a real appearence and potentially never will.
  • Ultimate Custom Night, designed as a Serial Escilation of the "Custom Night" modes of the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise, has no less than fifty animatronics available. The (seemingly) final roster shows every character you'd expect...and Old Man Consequences, a character who only appeared in one of the Bad Endings for Five Nights at Freddy's World and, even then, never showed any hostility towards the player. Making this more surprising is that FNAF World is an Old Shame for Scott. Many people were also surprised that Phone Guy made it in, as he hadn't been referenced since the third game and until UCN was a benign character. Technically still is. Even more surprising was that Dee Dee, also of FNAF World, was added and could add unselectable characters to the night. By far the most surprising addition though was that Fredbear, previously The Unfought, finally made his debut.
  • The Warriors Orochi series started out as a crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. Then, we started to see all-new characters that had nothing to do with the time periods of either game, such as Jeanne D'Arc. Then the ninjas started to arrive...and then Sophitia Alexandra, and...Sterkenberg Cranach?!
  • Where's My Water? has more of an Unexpected Crossover. The Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf version of the game probably came as a surprise to a lot of people, as that series is virtually unknown outside of its native China and doesn't have any particularly widespread American releases.
  • World of Warcraft: Legion had numerous characters reappear completely unexpectedly, many because they were thought to be permanently dead or Put on a Bus. Besides former raid bosses like Jaraxxus, Brutallus and the Eredar Twins, Bolvar Fordragon returned as the Lich King, Turalyon is both alive and fighting the Burning Legion, and Magni has returned. Particularly noteworthy is the priest champion Calia Menethil, Arthas' sister who had so little lore that most fans didn't even know she existed.
  • World of Warships has Poland introduced with the Błyskawica. Poland's Navy was minuscule at the start of WWII, so no one expected them to be introduced before Italy and France. However, as Błyskawica demonstrates, what few ships it did have were the best in the world for their time period.
  • Yakuza 5 has a five-chapter story that involve a different character, which include two men associated with the yakuza, a loan shark, a former baseball star, and Haruka Sawamura: Kazuma Kiryu's dear niece and an up-and-coming Idol Singer, whose chapter involves no street brawls whatsoever.
  • Yo-Kai Watch fans were in for a surprise when it was announced that McKraken, the Final Boss of the first game and a recurring boss in the sequels, would finally be able to join your party in Yo-kai Watch 4.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, unless you read the manual, it's hard to predict Bandit Keith being the leader of the Neo Ghouls.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Tag Force Series: In Arc-V Tag Force Special, almost no one expected Ishizu of all characters to be the 5th tag partner for the DM cast.
  • With Yugi and Yami Marik being the only characters in the initial Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links roster that nobody had, many were surprised to see the Paradox Brothers added to the game before their potential events.
    • The existence of an entire area for Dark Side of Dimensions was surprising enough, but nobody was expecting Scud to be playable, given that he appears for about five minutes in the film and his role is to be vaporized by Aigami.
    • The "D.D. Siege" event surprised many people by including Axel Brodie, a minor character from the third season of GX, as an unlockable character. While a number of players had wanted Viper's trio in the game, and he had appeared in a "wandering duelist" event previously (usually a strong sign that the character will soon be playable), most had expected Jim or Adrian to show up first.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist saw Dartz and his henchmen from the Seal of Orichalcos arc make their video game debut as DLC. They were unexpected as Yu-Gi-Oh! games usually feature characters from the Duelist Kingdom or Battle City arcs, and prior to this, any content from filler arcs was limited to occasional appearances of characters from the Virtual World.

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