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A subtrope of the Sixth Ranger. The Sixth Ranger is always someone who joins an ensemble later on and changes it into another type. However, sometimes, they decide to take their sweet time and don't join the group until much, much later. So much later that the term "late to the party" is a gross understatement.
An Eleventh-Hour Ranger is any person who joins an ensemble right before or during the endgame/GrandFinale, sometimes even right before the Final Boss fight.
Anime and Manga
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Lordgenome join the heroes for the Final Battle against the Big Bad. While technically he's been with the heroes after the moon incident, he officially helps the heroes in the battle with an appropriately awesome Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Ronin Warriors the Dark Warlords perform a Heel Face Turn at the VERY end, serving this function.
- Kaworu Nagisa in Neon Genesis Evangelion, coming from nowhere to be the last pilot two episodes before the last episode. He was just pretending and his real purpose comes with deadly consequences
- Pokémon 3: Ash already has a complete team of six at the time of the film. Just when things are going bad for him at the climax of the movie, his Charizard makes a comeback to help in the battle.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon introduces the Wreckers, Autobot scientists near the end of the film. They join the main Autobots for the final battle.
- In Kung Fu Panda 2, Masters Croc and Ox refuse to join the heroes, believing the villain is unbeatable and that their involvement will only make things worse. During the climax, Shifu turns up with them in tow to pull a Big Damn Heroes moment and participate in the final battle.
Live Action TV
- Power Rangers SPD has the Nova Ranger, an ally of the Future Badass Sixth Ranger, who arrives in the middle of the final battle while searching the timestream for him.
- Mahou Sentai Magiranger and Power Rangers Mystic Force had two characters join the Rangers' side just in time to face the Master: MagiMother/the White Ranger, either presumed dead (in Magiranger) or The Mentor whose powers were out of commission (in Mystic Force) for most of the season; and Wolzard Fire/Wolf Warrior, who had been Brainwashed and Crazy as The Dragon Wolzard/Koragg.
- Super Sentai: Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger has Mikoto/AbareKiller, who joins the fight right at the end thanks to a last-second Heel Face Turn.
- Kaoru in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, though she's not actually present for the final battle.
- Some consider Juken Sentai Gekiranger's Rio and Mele an example thanks to a joint Heel Face Turn in the last two episodes, despite their never officially being acknowledged as Gekirangers. The reason why it's some is because they die redeeming themselves.
- Throughout the first Bionicle film, Mask of Light, the 6-man team of Toa Nuva are desperately trying to defend their villages from the vicious Rahkshi, Big Bad Makuta's most powerful troops and a six man band of their own. They overwhelm the Toa, and the Toa's Elemental Powers don't help them much. Luckily, two villagers find the legendary Mask of Light, which prophecies the arrival of a seventh Toa with the power to destroy the darkness. After one of them gets killed fighting a Rahkshi, the other realizes he is meant to be the Toa. He puts on the mask, becomes a Toa, and proceeds to mop the floor with the Rahkshi in about 30 seconds. Then he goes to fight the Big Bad alone. This was the Toa of Light's biggest moment of glory, though, since even after we are introduced to the rest of the Makuta species and their massive troops of Rahkshi he is not too effective in combat and is essentially put aside in favor of the Nuva again.
- Kingdom Hearts II has Riku being purified of his darkness, and becomes a playable member for the very last level ever (and even in the subsequent Final Boss Fights as your only partner).
- In Super Smash Bros Brawl, Sonic the Hedgehog joins the cast in the cut scene right before the fight against the Final Boss in story mode.
- Depending on your decisions in the two Digital Devil Saga games, Heat can join your party in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
- In Jade Empire, the player character can force Death Hand to join the party right before the final dungeon.
- Although you can recruit Legion in Mass Effect 2 at pretty much any time during the last third of the game, you can only get the game's best ending if you 1.) Hold off completing the relevant mission until you've finished nearly all the other missions and assignments or 2.) Leave all other uncompleted missions and assignments until the post-game.
- Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins can be recruited into your party just before the final battle if you spare him. Doing so will cause you to lose Alistair though.
- FuSoYa from Final Fantasy IV. He joins you abruptly a few hours before the end of the game, and then promptly leaves. He exists only to fill the fifth party member slot when Kain's Heel Face Revolving Door is on the other side again.
- Made very explicit when you discover that when he gains levels, nothing happens, not even HP gain.
- Gabranth in Final Fantasy XII joins the party as a guest for the Final Boss.
- In Final Fantasy VI, Umaro and Gogo are only available in the World of Ruin toward the end of the game. Relm and Strago are a lesser example, showing up a bit earlier, but still almost at the very end of the World of Balance.
- Final Fantasy Tactics has Alma, who despite being in your roster at one time, only help you fight against the endgame boss.
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, similar to Dragon Quest IX below, won't let you have any special character (other than Montblanc) joining your clan until you've beaten the main storyline. The only one member you can get before the final boss is Ezel, via a series of subquests.
- The Fire Emblem series has an entire Archetype of this, called Gotoh after the first such character. Other members of this archetype are Sety and Galzus in Thracia 776, Karel in Sword of Seals (who only shows up in a Perfect Run Final Boss playthrough), Athos in Blazing Sword, Tibarn, Naesala, and Giffca in Path of Radiance, Caineghis and Giffca (and arguably also Tibarn, Naesala, and Nailah) in Radiant Dawn (also Lehran on a second playthrough if certain conditions are met), Nagi in Shadow Dragon (again only if certain conditions are met, and getting her means Gotoh won't join your party) and in New Mystery. (Also Michalis if certain conditions are met)
- The original Shining Force has Hanzou the Ninja, who joins as a hidden character right before the last battle. The GBA version changed this.
- River City Ransom EX has Ivan Popov, who, if certain conditions are met, can be recruited literally at the gates of River City High, where Slick and the Dragon Twins are holed up.
- Super Robot Wars Original Generation 1 has Elzam and Sanger join right at the end. The superiour sequal has them join about 2/3's in instead
- However, OG2 also features Einst Alfimi as an available party member, who literally joins your party for half of the last mission unless you get the Bonus Boss fight, in which case she's available for that as well. In fact, several Super Robot Wars games feature such characters - Alpha Gaiden, for instance, allows you to acquire Sanger just before the game's end, piloting the absurdly powerful Thrudgelmir, if the proper conditions are fulfilled. If the player has enough money on hand to upgrade it fully...
- OG Gaiden has a slew of them: Axel Almer, Einst Alfimi (again), Despoiniz and Shu Shirakawa (though the latter ends up betraying the team for the final battle)
- It's actually common in a number of games to get last-minute reinforcements, starting with Ingram in Super Robot Wars Alpha. Other notable ones include Irui Ganeden in Alpha 3, Al-Van Ranks in J, Applicant in W, Xine and Asakim, although Asakim's exclusive to the Rand-route in Z, and Margaret Reeds in Z2-1.
- Kurtis in Disgaea Hour of Darkness joins a few battles before the end, on the very last world.
- In Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice, Master Big Star and Salvatore The Magnificent join you right before the last two storyline fights against Super Hero Aurum. They leave when the story's over though, and have to be defeated in the postgame to get them to permanently join your party.
- .hack games have a tendency to drop new party members into the group right near the finale. Redemption, in particular, gives you an absolutely huge dump of previously unavailable party members just before the last sequences, among them Bordeaux, Alkaid, and Shino.
- Not only that, you can unlock Natsume and Tabby after the game "ends"...and the Azure Knigths
- Final Fantasy Legend II had Isis, the game's Crystal Dragon Jesus, join your party for the final dungeon. She's insanely powerful, but you have to fight the final boss without her because there are two of them and Isis has to fight the other one.
- Final Fantasy Legends III has a Gotoh like mutant join you at the end. The game has several guest start party members.
- Depending on the choices you make throughout Devil Survivor, Amane, Black Frost, Gin, Izuna, Kaido, Mari, and Naoya can join your party on the final day.
- Dragon Quest IX lets you create your very own customizable party members to take with you on your adventures. However, there are actually 5 characters you meet in the game who will join your party after completing their respective quests. These quests, however, are not only on a DLC schedule, but aren't available until after you've beaten the game.
- In Dawn of War 2, Captain Gabriel Angelos joins your marines for the final battle, at the end of the last level of the campaign.
- In Record of Agarest War EVERY single protagonist and their respective women from the previous four generations come back to you and will help you kick the asses of six gods.
- Radiata Stories has over one-hundred-and-fifty recruitable characters, but the most powerful and competent fighters cannot be recruited until late in the game: Elwen, Kain, Curtis, Nyx and Natalie for the humans and Galvados, JJ and Gruel for nonhumans.
- Dr. Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots: Guns of the Patriots. She'd been in the first game as part of the Mission Control-with-an-agenda, but doesn't really join Team Snake until part-way through the heroes' final mission. Turns out, more of an Eleventh Hour Ranger Traitor. Except not. We think...
- Himi in Golden Sun Dark Dawn. They also lampshade this when the party expresses shock and anger at seeing an antagonist, while Himi just asks "Who?"
- In Fallout 3, you can't recruit Super Mutant Fawkes until after you've dealt with Big Bad President Eden and escaped from The Very Definitely Final Dungeon Raven Rock. While you can still explore the world and complete side-quests with him, you're pretty much at the end of the game's main story line at that point.
- In Wasteland, you can recruit an android robot named VAX in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. He has the best stats of any recruitable NPC in the game.
- In Arcanum of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, upon entering the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, you're given the opportunity to recruit several new party members (if by some stroke of fate you entered with none). These include Arronax, the setting's Crystal Dragon Satan and the person you've been led to believe is the game's Big Bad. Turns out he's repented of his misdeeds, and it is another of The Void's prisoners that is the one behind the world's chaos. Others are a giant hungry demon, an evil warlord, and a human magically transformed into a dragon. This first is very much a case of Overrated and Underleveled, since despite being level 50 his A.I. won't use magic or equipment, limiting him to ineffectively punching things. The other three, however, are fairly decent fighters.
- MS Saga has Hal, a Char Clone. He joins and leaves quite frenquently in the beginning of the game, but his notable point in joining permanently is right before the final boss, while piloting a Sazabi.
- In the PlayStation 3 version of Tales of Vesperia, Flynn kind of takes this role. He joins your team at the end of each arc in the story (with maybe one or two bit exceptions) and doesn't permanently join until right before the final dungeon of the game.
- Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai has Gen-san in the Ryuuzetsuran route.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Suki joins the Gaang two episodes before the four-part Grand Finale. Zuko joined a few episodes prior.
- And after Zuko joined, Let's Split Up, Gang! became a common maneuver. So basically, the six-members team existed for a huge hug, a training, but never fight united in battle.
- That Beast Wars was going to transition into Beast Machines was sort of an eleventh hour thing and the writers didn't have much notice to wrap up the show's storylines. One consequence of this is that a plot from Season 2 where the characters of Tigatron and Airazor were abducted by the Vok was hurriedly wrapped up in the last episode before the two-part finale, where they return to Earth having been merged by the Vok into one super powerful entity, Tigerhawk, who dies two episodes later in the finale.
- Sinedd in season 3 of Galactik Football.
- Ex-supervilain Jinx joins the party right in the middle of season 5 finale in Teen Titans.
- In Young Justice Rocket joins the team the episode before the season finale
- In Transformers Animated, Jazz joins up at the end of the episode right before the finale.