19 of the best unlockable characters

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.

Freelance Writer

Tony lives in Maryland, where he writes about those good old-fashioned video games for GamesRadar+. His words have also appeared on GameSpot and G4, but he currently works for Framework Video, and runs Dungeons and Dragons streams.