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A Video Game trope. The idea is that once you defeat a character, you can then play as said character. May be a type of Unlockable Content, just as a bonus, or it may be necessary to continue the game.

Compare Defeat Means Friendship. Compare and contrast Power Copying.

Examples of Defeat Means Playable include:
  • After the first game, Shin Megami Tensei generally requires bosses to be beat in order to fuse them.
    • Played with in a way in Persona 4, where defeating a person's Shadow causes that person to join you. Subsequently subverted in the same game, when Mitsuo Kubo's Shadow is defeated, he does not join you because he doesn't accept his Shadow. Not to mention that he's an admitted murderer and is sent to prison shortly after being rescued.
  • Mega Man Battle Network has this in the 5th game. You need to defeat certain Navis before you can control them during Liberation Missions.
    • A much less useful version also appears in the 6th game (though there are a few missions and one boss which must be fought by people you defeated). Also, 4-6 halfway have this through a second track of Power Copying—once you beat certain bosses, you can do the Fusion Dance with them in any battle after that point (including rematches against that same boss).
  • All of the unlockable characters except Dr. Robotnik and Super Sonic in Sonic R.
  • In Total War, after Medieval, you could unlock certain factions by beating them. Alternatively, winning a campaign, long or short, unlocked the entire set, except for some factions who weren't playable. In Medieval 2, you only started with five factions, and had to unlock the other factions (and there were a lot of them) entirely by beating that faction or winning the Grand Campaign. Kind of hard to unlock the Egyptians when you were the English half a map away from them.
  • In Warlords Battlecry 2, when you play on the Campaign Map initially you control armies from the same race with your hero, but by taking over enemy capitals you can control armies from those capitals.
  • The LEGO Adaptation Games prior to LEGO Harry Potter.
  • Plenty of racing games. Like Burnout. Warning- do not expect the cars to be anywhere near that fast when you control them.
  • Naruto Gekitou Ninja Taisen uses this system.
  • Tekken
  • Soul Calibur
  • Super Smash Bros
    • Note that Brawl's Adventure Mode mostly averts this—aside from Jigglypuff, Wolf, and Toon Link (all of whom only appear after the game is cleared), none of the secret characters were required to be fought storywise to get unlocked, though both Mr. Game & Watch and Lucario play with this; Mr. Game & Watch turns into Duon moments after he first appears and you fight him in that form, and when Meta Knight has a Let's You and Him Fight moment with Lucario when the latter is introduced, the player may choose to control Lucario instead.
  • The Sega Genesis game X-Men 2: Clone Wars. Magneto becomes playable after the boss fight against him.
  • OneChanbara
  • Panel De Pon's story mode lets you select new characters as you defeat them (though it's mostly a cosmetic change...the only difference is the color of garbage bricks you dump on your opponent).
  • Many Nippon Ichi Bonus Bosses become playable characters after you defeat them.
    • In the Disgaea series, any monster class that isn't in your party from the start must be defeated once before it can be used. There are two ways to do this:
      • The more common way is to defeat that monster class multiple times and then create a character with mana points (earned by each character for defeating others) - the more you defeat, the cheaper the cost (to a point).
      • The riskier but faster way is, while you're in a battle, to throw an enemy monster into your base panel, where all your characters not currently participating in the battle will attempt to subdue it. If they're successful, that monster will join your team in future fights.
  • Backyard Skateboarding, for the bosses.
  • The two recurring bosses in Sengoku 3 are playable after the game's halfway point, and they retain all of their strength and powers.
  • The King of Fighters XI has five sub-bosses (four from other SNK games and Adel Bernstein) who are unlocked by meeting their requirements (or not meeting any, for Adel) and then defeating them. The home version's challenges allows the unlocking of Shion, Magaki, and several other characters when completed; generally, this is by defeating them. For Hotaru, Robert, Mai, and Geese, however, it's inverted; you control them for the challenges, so Victory Means Playable.
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, Shantotto and Gabranth can be bought as playable characters from the shop after you play through their individual story modes and defeat them at the end.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, Yuffie joins your party after you beat her in a fight.
    • The sequel, Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, requires Prishe, Gilgamesh, and Feral Chaos to be defeated before they can be bought and played us.
    • Chocobo Racing's story mode has you competing against a new character in each race; after beating them you can use them in any subsequent story mode races. In addition, beating the game twice unlocks a hidden course where you race Squall, who becomes playable outside of story mode after you beat him.
  • In Endless Frontier, Reiji and Xiaomu and the Personal Troopers join your group after fighting them as bosses. With the mechs however, that takes a couple tries first.
  • In the NES version of Double Dragon III at least, the bosses of the China and Japan levels join your party once defeated. They can be swapped in and out tag-team style, and are very useful for countering certain enemies.
  • You don't get to play him for long, but when you first encounter the Black Whirlwind in Jade Empire, he attacks you. Then, later, during the Siege of Dirge, you play as Whirlwind for a period. This also happens with Silk Fox, but that part can also be taken while playing as Dawn Star instead (Player's choice). There's also an optional subplot where you can opt to allow the Black Whirlwind (under your control) to duel with Kai Lan the Serpant.
  • Knuckles and Gamma in Sonic Adventure.
    • More accurately, Meet Means Playable. It just so happens that your first run-in with Knuckles is a battle. Your first run-in with Gamma might be a battle, but if you switch to Amy's or Knuckles's stories before encountering him with Sonic or Tails and get to one of the points in those stories where Gamma appears the prison scene with Amy, or returning to the main island from the Master Emerald altar with Knuckles, his story will be unlocked before you battle him.
  • Sheena and Regal of Tales of Symphonia will each fight against the party (Sheena does it twice) before joining you.
    • Not quite the same meaning of "playable", but each summon spirit in the game must be defeated in battle before Sheena can establish the pact to call on them.
  • Streets of Rage 3 offers this for beating the first boss, Shiva (though a code is required). It can get crazy in the end: If you don't save the hostage in stage 6, you may possibly fight yourself on the final stage.
    • This is also the case with Roo, the boxing kangaroo, but without the code. If you beat him and then use a continue, you can choose him as your character.
      • You can only play as him if you defeat his trainer first. If you beat him, you don't get that option.
  • Subverted in Chrono Trigger where you must decline a fight with Magus in order to have him join your party.
  • Space Station Silicon Valley takes this to the extreme in the sense that it's a central game mechanic. Basically, you're the 3D platforming equivalent of a Ditto Fighter, and to play as enemies, you can kill them and take their bodies. To boot, you even start each level already possessing an enemy.
  • The action-game-with-RPG Elements -and-optional-hentai-scenes, 最強御主人様!-Mighty My Master- does this twice, once with the demoness Velda, whom is advertised as playable, and then with Goddess Yect as a game clear bonus.
  • Sarevok from Baldur's Gate. But he's not exactly a standard example, as two entire games pass between the point where you kill him and the point where he can join you.
  • The bosses and "evil" characters in Battle Arena Toshinden 3 can be unlocked after defeating them in battle.
  • This isn't always the case in the original Geneforge, but it happens a lot in an indirect fashion. Rather than directly recruiting Monster Allies, you use magical canisters to learn how to create them out of thin air, and quite a few canisters are guarded by the same type of monster they teach you how to make.
  • Each Esper of Final Fantasy XII and Eidolon of Final Fantasy XIII must be fought before they can be used, though in both cases they're not playable so much as summonable party members.
  • In Jays Journey, Puff and Shade both join after a boss fight (Puff's can be lost a la Hopeless Boss Fight, though, as the misunderstanding is sorted out either way.)
  • Mario Golf has a Get Character mode specifically for this. The sequel, Toadstool Tour has you defeat characters to get the "star" version of that character, which shoot further with a smaller sweet spot.
  • In Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games on DS, this is generally how it goes in the Adventure Tours. However, all playable characters are available from the beginning outside of story mode.
    • In Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, guest characters can only be played as once the player defeats them in their respective sport (though in the 3DS version of Rio 2016, some of the guest characters are available by default). These characters are limited to one sport each.
  • In order to unlock Raiden in Mortal Kombat Deception, you have to fight and beat him in the Orderrealm after beating Konquest Mode. Doubles as something of a Guide Dang It, in that the fight with Raiden is available to you before this as well, but with a different, lesser reward.
  • In Recettear, several of the potential adventurers start as the final bosses of the various dungeons that you must first defeat in order to get them to work for you.
  • In Dragon Age Origins, defeating Zevran and much later Loghain is immediately followed by opportunities to recruit them into the party.
  • This is the entire point of the flash game "Great Dungeon in the Sky". Any enemy you defeat can be played as, ranging from bosses to the chicken.
  • Subverted in Lunar 2 Eternal Blue Complete, where the party clearly expects their Stealth Mentor Ghaleon to join them after his last boss battle. Unfortunatly, he's kept alive by the power of the Big Bad, so now that it's clear that he's a traitor he fades away. Fridge Logic makes that a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, because there's only one way the Big Bad could have found out just then from them saying that they knew he was helping them all along and trying to recruit him instead of playing along.
  • In Time Splitters, the final boss of the third game has to be defeated on the three varying difficulty levels to unlock most of his different incarnations for Arcade mode.
  • In Need for Speed: Most Wanted, you need to defeat a boss to make his or her car available on the car shop. If you're lucky, you can get the pink slip to that boss car, thus getting it free.
  • The same thing in Blur. Defeating a boss unlock the normal version of the car as well as the boss version.
  • In Lightning Legend Daigo no Daibouken, this is the main condition to unlock the secret characters for the Versus and Collection Modes.
  • When you first meet Juhani in Knights of the Old Republic, she's fallen to the dark side and will attack you. You have to fight her to survive, and once you've done a certain amount of damage she will yield. At that point you can either kill her or talk her into abandoning the dark side and going back to the Jedi enclave. If you choose the latter, she will join your party shortly after.
  • In Dr. Mario 64, clearing the story mode on Normal or higher without using a continue gives you one final match against either Metal Mario or Vampire Wario after the final boss, and beating them (still without using a continue on them) will unlock them for multiplayer.
  • It's not exactly an unlock but Peasants in Cossacks will often change sides if there are no friendly soldiers around to protect them from nearby enemies. Anything they build has the style and function of their former faction so is a way of getting other factions special troops to fight for you. Often used to obtain archers as, although they are outmoded as warriors in this pike and musket era game, they are useful for destroying things without using up your gunpowder.
  • In Wrecking Crew '98, every character who isn't Mario gets unlocked by defeating them, except for Peach and Luigi, who appear only in the ending.
  • Pretty much all the characters in Shining the Holy Ark are unlockable after defeating them. The first "boss" is Rodi and soon after he's one of the three main characters. Lisa and Basso are tasked to kill the group but join up with them after a failed attempt and getting lost in a Haunted House. Forte after been missing from your party since the beginning of the game part of a boss fight (although you're actually fighting a demon that's possessing him). You have to fight Doyle at some point, he then goes off to hide and if you find him he'll join you.
  • Shining Force III is an odd one because of the fact the game is split into three different games and what you do in one affects the other. In the case of Spiral you must defeat her once in Scenario 1, then avoid killing her in the second battle, so you can recruit her in Scenario 2.