games where you can play as all or most of the characters present, or that have a ludcrous amount of playable characters.
tobal 2 is obviously the poster child here, with an entire rpg sidemode full of animals and other weird things to play as. similarly, guardian heroes lets you play as every enemy from the main game in its vs mode, and the sequel advanced guardian heroes let you play as every enemy in the main mode, too!
wcw thunder had something like 200 playable characters, including wrestlers, other wcw employees, the game’s development team, aliens, animals, mythological creatures, and various others.
r-type final does this with spaceships, giving each one a whole bunch of technical details and loew background, too. i assume r-type final 2 also does this, but i haven’t played it so i don’t know.
dragonball z budokai 3 had a big roster, including lots of lesser-known and jobber characters, though the old “dbz balance problem” ensures that most are useless. i guess you could also say the same for marvel vs capcom 2?
Perfect Dark has a “Counter-Operative” mode for the campaign, where the second player is a random guard somewhere in the level and has to kill the first player before they beat the stage. If they die, then they get yeeted into a totally different guard. So in that way, I think you can play as all the “characters” in the game…but they’re all identical? maybe?
Banjo Tooie has a mode called “Bottles’ Revenge” that is not accessible except with cheat codes/hacking. It’s literally the exact same thing though - a second player possesses any enemy in the game and tries to kill the first player. I like to think this is what inspired Mario Odyssey.
Anyway a better, real answer to this is probably PixelShips which is a side-scrolling shmup where you can collect every enemy ship and play as them. Cool game.
Koukidou Gensou Gunparade March was originally intended to let you play through the whole game as any of the 22 main characters after your first playthrough. They then realized the entire game is a house of cards and that testing this would be absolutely impossible, so they ultimately limited it to 5 characters. You can, however, unlock all 22 characters with a galaxy brain cheat code and experience the game in its untested state playing as any of them.
(If you are unfamiliar, GPM is half school life simulator like that part of Persona, half semi-real time strategy game. That is a gross oversimplification but you’ll see eventually)
this reminds me: timesplitters 2! i’m pretty sure every character model in the game was playable
and THIS reminds me of the amazing debug menu in tenchi stealth assassins, which, amng its many other features, lets you spawn any character in the game, and either let them be controlled by the first or second controller, or even try your hand at programming some ai into them
Another N64 example, this feels like a very N64 kind of thing: Space Station Silicon Valley lets you possess tons of enemies (maybe all of them? I can’t remember) in order to do shonky 3D puzzle platforming. Every robot animal you possess has its own unique moveset. Really captured my imagination when I was a kid!
Smash Bros games have a wild number of characters, but it never seems as terrible because you don’t have to grind like hell to unlock them the way that yu do in Marvel vs Capcom 2 or Capcom vs SNK or any of the truly hateful games made when “time to complete” was a big deal that got listed at the top of the review.
Capcom’s answer to Custom Robo and/or Virtual On - Gotcha Force! Over 200 robots to collect and play as - everything from tiny cockroaches to gigantic death laser space stations - and YES there is a competitive scene that has managed to wittle down the meta to approximately 10 borgs.