You might never actually meet some of the best characters in video games. In the age of monetization, we don’t see secret characters as often as we used to — it makes sense, why go to all the extra effort to include characters most players will never actually see? Secret characters add a level of mystery that’s often missing from the huge modern franchises — when we were kids, anything seemed possible when we played a game. And secret characters are coming back with a vengeance thanks to the rise of indie developers.
To celebrate secret characters, we’re going to share some of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) methods for unlocking characters. When you look at some of the requirements for unlocking the characters below, you just might lose all nostalgia and decide secret characters were a mistake all along. These are the unlock methods that we’d never find without a guide — lots of these characters I didn’t even know existed before doing my research! And I’ve played all of these games. Maybe I’m just ignorant. Or maybe some of these secret characters are just way too dang hard to unlock.
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#1. Yuffie / Vincent [Final Fantasy 7]
Probably the easiest characters on our list, but Yuffie and Vincent are so iconic we couldn’t pass them up. And they’re both still a pain in the butt to unlock — even if you’re likely to encounter at least one of them as you progress through the game. Vincent can even be unlocked pretty early on if you’ve got instructions. And they’re both ridiculously strong with the right upgrades… in Vincent’s case, that requires unlocking each hidden Limit Break, which means you’ll need to follow even more guides…
Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Yuffie is a special character that appears in random battles in any forest area. The further you are in the game, the more likely you’re going to run into Yuffie. After she appears, you need to select an exact series of responses. If you get any of them wrong, she’ll immediately disappear and you’ll have to try again. Instead of appearing randomly, Vincent is found in the Shinra Mansion (Nibelheim) — if you can crack the locked safe’s code, you can get the key to his burial chamber in the basement. They’re two fan favorite characters, there’s no way we can leave them off a list like this!
#2. The Crystalmen [FTL]
Now here’s where the really tough secrets come on. FTL is a game most people will probably never beat — not even once. Only a tiny fraction of players know there’s a secret recruitable alien species that more powerful than anything else you’ll encounter in the randomly-generated universe. The Crystalmen are modified Rockmen with more base health, tougher hides, and absolutely OP weaponry. The only way to get the Crystals on your side is to find their hidden homeworld, which is a lot easier said than done.
To find the Hidden Crystal World, you’ll have to also discover a special random event quest called the Ancient Device. First, you need to find a Damaged Stasis Pod (randomly appears in Dense Asteroid Distress Call Event), then take it to a Zoltan Research Facility, and finally the Ancient Device Event will appear on any normal Beacon. Taking the device, you’ll reach the Hidden Crystal Worlds sector, which is separate from the rest of your journey — in this area, you can recruit Crystals, buy their weapons, and even complete a quest to unlock their special ship.
#3. Dragonkin Reis [Final Fantasy Tactics]
Everyone knows about Cloud, the FF7 protagonist that’s a hidden playable character in Final Fantasy Tactics — and a tricky one that’s impossible to get without a guide. Well, here’s a secret character’s that so obscure I didn’t even know she existed. Reis has a powerful hidden job called Dragonkin; a human with the ability to tame dragons and unleash dragon abilities. She’s also one of the most powerful characters in the game, with the highest stat growth out of all the job classes.
To get her, you’ll have to witness a special missable scene in the Clockwork City of Goug in Chapter 4. After that, you can hear rumors at a tavern of a haunted mine. Travelling there leads to a battle where you can rescue (and recruit) a special character called Holy Dragon Reis. Once you’ve acquired the cursed Reis in dragon form, you’ll need to complete more steps to cure her and get her true form. This is one of those secrets even Final Fantasy Tactics die-hards don’t talk about.
#4. Roo [Streets of Rage 3]
Another easier character to unlock, but I can’t pass up a good beat-em-up. Roo is a fighting kangaroo that’s both a mini-boss and an unlockable character in Streets of Rage 3. In the game, you’ll fight Roo alongside his handler Bruce — everytime you knock down Roo, Bruce rushes into the arena to whip Roo, forcing the poor animal to fight more. If you can defeat Bruce without downing Roo, the grateful kangaroo will join you as an adorable animal buddy / bonus character.
Roo can’t pick up items (or throw) but he does have the most powerful kicks in the game. This is one character we absolutely have to unlock every time we play. And Roo even makes a cameo in Streets of Rage 4! As he should.
#5. Reiji [Persona 1]
One of the truly most difficult characters to unlock in any game. Characters like this were designed to sell strategy guides in the days before widespread internet access, because literally no human on this Earth ever unlocked Reiji without a guide. He’s also (basically) the best character in the game, you just have to make about 10~ exact choices as you progress through the game. Do something wrong, and Reiji is locked off forever.
You’ll have to find him hanging out in the Empty Classroom, select exact dialogue options, and talk to his mom — if you talk to his mom more than once, you’ll lock yourself out. If you select the wrong character for your team you’ll lock yourself out. If you talk to people in the wrong order, the events won’t happen like they’re meant to. There is literally only one path to success here. I think I see why so many fans struggle to get into Persona 1 / Persona 2.
#6. Skelly [Chrono Cross]
There are 45 playable characters in Chrono Cross, and some of them are an absolute nightmare to unlock without a guide — and in some instances, they’re still a nightmare, even with a guide. To get one of the fan favorites of the game, Glenn, you have to choose a story option that nobody would ever choose or you’re locked out of the character forever. But we’re not talking about Glenn. We’re going to talk about Skelly, a colorful clown-slash-skeleton that I love, but he is such a pain to recruit.
To get Skelly on your side, you need to find all the broken pieces of his skeleton body. Each of the pieces is hidden in a different area of the game, and you’ll have to search corners where it doesn’t seem like you’ll find anything — but rest assured, Skelly’s lost bones are totally there. Find all six of his lost bones, put them all together, and he’ll actually leave your inventory and reappear in Termina later. You’ve got to meet up with Skelly’s family one final time for a teary reunion between reanimated skeleton structure and grandma.
#7. King Chicken [Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled]
Here’s another one that’s definitely on the easier side of things — but who’d even guess this existed without a guide? The King Chicken playable racer is only available in the Crash Team Racing remake, which is otherwise totally faithful to the old games. The only major difference is the graphics are better and the framerate is way smoother. But now if you search around the hub, you can actually unlock two hidden playable characters.
King Chicken was only added in a post-release update, so even early players would miss this guy. You need to find 5 hidden golden eggs to get him — and King Chicken isn’t the only bonus unlockable character you can get in the hub world. You can also unlock the Iron Checkpoint Gate as a playable character! You just need to smash all the Beenox Boxes in the hub. This is one of the few entries on our list that was added way later. That’s basically cheating.
#8. Nordom [Planescape Torment]
Planescape Torment is a classic RPG for a reason. The characters are incredible, and most of them are completely optional — but one of the most optional is Nordom, a weird robot guy that only makes decisions via excessive logic. He’s one of the community’s favorites, and getting him is also incredibly fun — definitely not the hardest, and for once it is possible to discover his location without a guide. You’ll just need a lot of patience and a stomach for trial-and-error puzzles.
Nordom is a member of a species of robotic creatures called Modrons from the plane of Order. They’re Order taken to the furthest extreme — automatons that can’t think for themselves, and only work as part of a hive-mind with no individuality whatsoever. Due to the location you meet Nordrom in, he’s been cut off from the collective and slowly gains a personality. He’s just a fun little character, and getting him is one of our favorite quests. You start by purchased a seemingly useless Metallic Cube from the Curiosity Shop. After talking to one of the few Modrons (or a knowledgeable person) you can discover the item is actually a secret portal to a special dungeon. By manipulating the limbs on the Modron model, the portal will open. You’ll find Nordom inside, and he’ll always stay loyal to you thanks to his complete lack of morality. Whatever you do, Nordom sticks with the party!
#9. Chompy [Bug Fables]
Bug Fables is an adorable bug-themed Paper Mario game where you quest with a small band of insect misfits. Like those games, you’re party is pretty much set very early on and you’ll stick with them until the end of the adventure. Except, in a huge surprise, there’s actually a fourth member of your merry gang you can recruit! Nothing like this every happens, like, in the entire Paper Mario series. Or any Mario RPG. We never even though to look for a fourth character!
In Chapter 4, the party can enter the Chomper Cave, a dungeon that’s packed with biting plants. Defeating the Mother Chomper boss rewards you with the Chomper Seed — which can be taken to a professor to sprout into a baby chomper monster. It takes a little more effort than that, you’ll also need to get some stuff for the professor, but completing his side-quest gets you Chompy! When you’re playing a game with only three party members, nobody expects a surprise fourth. Chompy isn’t exactly a full party member — she can only perform very basic attacks. She doesn’t have HP, because enemies don’t attack her. She’s just around to help out!
#10. Stefan [Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance]
Okay, let’s end this list with a real doozy of a secret character to unlock. The infamous Stefan is one of the most powerful characters in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance — he’s one of the great swordmaster heroes of the world. To recruit him, you have to defeat the Mad King, then return to a desert map (Grann Desert), then travel to a very specific spot on the map with one of two specific characters (Mordecai or Lethe) — like, literally, just one random nondescript square on a vast desert map. If any other character accidentally lands on that spot, they can pick up the item there, locking you out of Stefan’s recruitment.
Even worse, those two characters aren’t thieves, so they might not find anything when they step on the exact, precise spot they need to. Even worse, the exact same trick is pulled in the next game, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn — again, you have to enter a desert map and step on an exact specific tile on the map with certain characters. Use the wrong character and you’re locked out forever. Stefan, why do you do this to us? We just want to recruit you! And this isn’t even the worst of the character recruitment struggles in the Fire Emblem series. Certain games only allow so many characters in your party, so you literally have to murder members of your own team just to recruit certain heroes.
That’s just a few of our (least) favorite characters to unlock in video games. Hidden characters are absolutely one of the very best rewards in gaming, and we might just be slowly returning to the glory days of hidden characters. Secrets like this add so much exciting mystery to a game! Even if only a fraction of the people playing will ever see… that just makes it even more special.