A new challenger approaches!
There's nothing better than adding a new face to your ranks. Whether you've recruited a new knight or unlocked some special character mode, it's a great feeling knowing there's more to a game than the starting roster. Nothing spices up a skating game like a Sith Lord, and nothing makes a survival horror game more intense than playing as a piece of food.
Even though fighting games are famous for expanding rosters, there are new characters to uncover in platformers, adventure games, and RPGs too. Get ready to recruit new party members and fight some hidden badasses, because we're starting with...
Reptile (Mortal Kombat)
There's no better way to start talking about secret characters than with Reptile: he was literally the first unlockable boss character in fighting game history. All you had to do was win with a Double Flawless Victory without blocking and finish the fight with a Fatality, all when a certain object flew past the moon in the one very specific level. Pssh, easy.
The master of the Pit has appeared in all the Mortal Kombat games since, alternating between a human form in green garb and a full-on lizard man. The scaly dude has quite a legacy; David Icke would be proud.
Tofu (Resident Evil 2)
So you're playing Resident Evil 2. You could play as Claire Redfield or Leon Kennedy and enjoy the thrill of narrowly escaping death at the hands of zombies or you could play as a floppy, larger-than-life block of tofu.
Finish all parts of the game with A rankings, and he's yours. He was originally just meant to test the game's collision physics, but Capcom wisely made him playable - starting with just a knife and few herbs. Sure, he can take more damage than other characters, but that doesn't save him from being eaten by fellow operative Hunk at the end of the game. Poor, delicious friend.
Mewtwo (Super Smash Bros Melee)
Oddly enough, Mewtwo isn't considered that good of a fighter in the Smash Bros. series. Sure, he can dodge better than most, but it's his status of being the only playable legendary Pokemon that makes him, well, legendary.
Originally meant for Smash on the Nintendo 64, Mewtwo didn't make the cut until Melee on the GameCube - where you had to play dozens of hours and hundreds of matches to unlock him. After fan outrage at not being included in Brawl, those same fans freaked the hell out - in a good way - when he was announced as DLC for the Wii U and 3DS versions. Yay, Pocket Monsters!
Akuma (Street Fighter II Turbo)
There are Ryu and Ken, and then there's Akuma. While the two Street Fighter posterboys battle for good, Akuma exists only to defeat others with his dark arts. Funny, considering he's actually Ryu's adoptive uncle.
The coolest thing about Akuma is his conception. An April Fool's Day joke in an old issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly hinted at unlocking Ryu and Ken's master Shen Long in the original game. After massive disappointment from their fan base, Capcom threw the kids a bone by including the evil master Akuma. And with Street Fighter 4, they finally revealed Gouken, Ryu's adoptive father and Akuma's older brother. Ah, family.
Devil Jin (Tekken 5)
'Evil' versions of characters are nothing new, and palette swaps usually satisfy the fanboys (I'll take purple suit Luigi for as long as I have to, Nintendo). But there's something extra special about Devil Jin, who is Tekken's main protagonist consumed by the evil genes inside him - just look at those wicked wings!
He showed up in Tekken 3 and 4 in cut scenes, but we finally got our hands on his horns in Tekken 5. While Jin fights with traditional karate techniques, Devil Jin pounds foes with the high-level Mishima fighting style, full of dragon punches, tsunami kicks, and 10-hit combos. Bad to the bone.
Toriyama Robo (Tobal No. 1)
If you're a fan of manga like Dragon Ball and Sandland but haven't played Tobal No. 1, shame on you - all the characters are designed by mangaka Akira Toriyama. This is important, as Toriyama includes a "Tori Bot" in most of his work; it's a little robot that represents himself in funny situations. And that bot is playable in Tobal No. 1, going by the nickname Toriyama Robo.
The best part is that you won't even know Robo exists until you finish an especially difficult 30-floor dungeon in the game's Quest Mode. "Who's this fool?" you'll ask until you beat him and realize he was a secret character all along.
Donkey Kong (Punch-Out!!)
The NES version had Mike Tyson, so Nintendo knew it needed another celebrity final boss for its Wii revival. It went internal, setting up the great ape Donkey Kong as the ultimate boss. Even better, you can spot DK in the audience in multiple Punch-Out games.
You'll have to complete the game a few times over to reach the fight, but when DK finally hops into the ring, it's on like something, I can't remember. Anyway, the red-tied tank can take you down with pretty much any attack, arguably making him the most difficult fight in Punch Out history. Where was that verse in the DK rap?
Luigi (Super Mario Galaxy)
Poor Luigi, always living in his brother's shadow. In Super Mario Galaxy, he gets literally lost in space and is taken prisoner at some point. Mario has to rescue him from the Ghostly Galaxy, at which point the green brother will assist him in collecting three stars.
A total of 120 stars and a Bowser fight later, and you can actually play as the other brother. Luigi runs faster and jumps farther, and his Cosmic Form is much smarter than Mario's. The weird part? Luigi can also rescue Luigi from the Ghostly Galaxy, though his imprisoned twin looks a little 'off.' At least he has his own mansion...
Darth Maul (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3)
Tony Hawk, Bam Margera, Bob Burnquist - these are real, professional skaters. Who better to join them on the halfpipe than Star Wars' totally out-of-Lucas'-head Darth Maul? Kickflips and grinds are only made cooler with a double-ended red lightsaber in hand. What's extra cool is that when you select Darth Maul inside the skate shop, the shopkeeper will actually be choking from the Force in the background.
So how do you unlock the Sith fiend? It's a simple matter of completing all the game's goals and getting every gold medal as Tony Hawk. Too much? Just use the cheat code YOHOMIES instead.
Grim Ripper (Guitar Hero)
"Rock 'n roll is the devil's music!" the old folks cry. And considering this guy's wicked shredding, they might be right. He does steal his audience's souls, after all. This reaper can be purchased in every Guitar Hero game up through number three, and he brings the hot rock of hell with him every time.
His instrument of choice? His own scythe with six strings strung across the blade and spine. In fact, the only way for him to play another instrument (or for another rocker to use his trademark scythe) is with a cheat code. You literally have to break the game to take the metal out of this guy's hands.
Julius Belmont (Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow)
The Castlevania series contains a cluster-suck of a family tree thanks to the Belmonts. Trevor, Simon, and whoever else came into the family make the series' lore pretty dense. That's what's strange about Dawn of Sorrow having protagonist Soma Cruz - you just know the Belmonts are going to show up too.
And they sure do. If you receive the game's 'bad' ending, Soma gives into the darkness and becomes Dracula himself. Julius Belmont then enters the castle to slay Soma-cula, a promise he made should his friend fail to stop the curse. When Julius shows up with a crucifix, holy water, and an axe in hand, everything just feels right.
Vergil (Devil May Cry 3)
Dante initially rejected the demonic Sparda blood inside him; his brother Vergil did not, and embraced the Devil Trigger. This makes Vergil a darker, more powerful warrior--one so powerful his opponents don't realize they've lost until he sheaths his sword.
All this power can be yours in Devil May Cry 3. Vergil is the main antagonist in that one, but finishing the game unlocks his own story mode. Take Vergil through the game's numerous difficulties, and you can eventually unlock Super Corrupt Vergil, a special version of the character with unlimited Devil Trigger abilities. A fully powered version of a supreme swordsman? Deadly.
Dante (Viewtiful Joe)
You can't include Vergil on a list like this without having Dante too. You see, Viewtiful Joe was created by Hideki Kamiya - the same man behind Devil May Cry - so the cameo makes sense. Finish the game, and you can play through again as the white-haired half demon.
Sadly, Dante is nothing more than a new skin for Joe; the story plays the same, just with a different model and scrambled audio. Even so, Dante feels right at home in the high octane beat 'em up world of Viewtiful Joe, and the special VFX attacks like slow-mo and close-up feel extra stylish in Dante's chibi form.
Young Harman Smith (Killer 7)
Truth be told, killer7 is a little tough to explain, What you need to know is that wheelchair-bound Harman Smith can transform into one of seven totally different assassins - these are the game's seven main characters.
Things get weird later on. You see, Harman is actually a transformation himself, and all eight forms belong to a guy named Emir Parkreiner. Completing the game unlocks killer8 mode, which makes all eight of these forms playable, including a young Harman Smith. The whippersnapper is armed with a juiced-up Tommy gun, and you'll need it, considering killer8 mode only allows you to play under the game's hardest difficulty.
Magus (Chrono Trigger)
Turning a villain to the light is one of gaming's most rewarding - and tricky - experiences. It usually involves side questing and special items and dialogue trees and whatever else the devs decide to add as an obstacle. Luckily, Chrono Trigger's Magus can join the party with just one decision.
After the death of Chrono, the remaining party can either fight big bad Magus or walk away. Walk, and he'll reluctantly join the party. Better yet, you can return to the Last Village Commons with Magus, and his pet cat will follow the party around. Adorable!
Gogo (Final Fantasy 6)
Final Fantasy 9's Quina wasn't the first gender-ambiguous character in the series. Gogo the mime can be recruited in Final Fantasy 6, and s/he is full of mystery. Found only after the destruction of the world, s/he is dressed in what appear to be pieces of the other characters' clothing. S/he may even be a reincarnation of the Famed Mimic Gogo boss in Final Fantasy 5. Weirder still, s/he only speaks when first meeting the party.
The only way to initiate that meeting? Letting yourself get swallowed whole by a Zone Eater on Triangle Island. Inside one of these beasts is a whole dungeon, full of rare items - and Gogo.
Morinth (Mass Effect 2)
First, a bit of Mass Effect lore: Samara is a party member in Mass Effect 2 tasked with hunting down her own daughter, Morinth. Samara's other two daughters live in seclusion because of a fatal (to other species) genetic deformity, but Morinth ran.
When you finally track her down, Morinth and her mother feud inside the Normandy, eventually hurling biotics at each other in a cold-blooded battle. Even though you've spent most of your journey with Samara up to that point, you can side with the rebellious child and kill her mother. The creepy part is that thanks to their familial resemblance, Morinth finishes the game impersonating her dead mother - only Shepard knows the truth.
Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker)
It's nothing new for Kojima to insert real people into his Metal Gear games. Thing is, they're usually in portrait form or something just as minor. But in Peace Walker, Kojima upped his game by including several members of his voice cast as recruitable soldiers.
Members of the voice cast and Kojima himself. Simply select a certain truck in the Crater Base garage - the license plate reads CENTRO AMERICA 63824 PEACE SENTINEL - and he's yours. Funny enough, you can actually fire and rehire Kojima as much as you want since it's so easy to recruit him. "Do you like it?"
Colonel Sanders (Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity)
Much like KFC chicken, this character is 100-percent real. OK, one of those might not be true. Thing is, KFC is huge in Japan - to the point where people make reservationsfor that famous fried chicken on Christmas day.
Infinity launched during the 40th anniversary of KFC, so cross promotions were in full effect (don't get me started on the Pizza Hut shield in the original version). The classy colonel isn't just some costume; he's a complete character with his own attacks and cane-walking animations. I'm just hoping his ranged attack fires popcorn chicken. That would be finger lickin' good.
And just like that, you've unlocked everyone. If you wanted more, your best hope is DLC, I guess. How many of these guys have you unlocked? Did I miss some big secret and not discover someone on this list? Let me know in the comments!