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The Binding of Isaac: Repentance doubled its character count by adding Tainted versions of everyone. Here's how to unlock these characters and their traits.

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance Tainted Characters Guide

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance doubled its character count by adding Tainted versions of everyone. Here's how to unlock these characters and their traits.
This article is over 3 years old and may contain outdated information

It can be extremely difficult to keep track of new additions to The Binding of Isaac when updates are added, and that’s especially true of large DLCs like Repentance. We’re currently playing our way through the newest (and supposedly final) addition for The Binding of Isaac, and one element that could use some explaining is the inclusion of Tainted Characters.

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Every playable character in The Binding of Isaac: Repentance has a “tainted” version. Even though they look like reskins of Cain, Isaac, Lilith, and the rest, most of them start with new items and abilities, effectively doubling the way you can begin a new run once they’re unlocked. Here’s how to unlock each tainted character and what makes them special.

How to Unlock Tainted Characters

Unlocking tainted characters is simple to explain, as the process is the same for each one. However, it is time consuming if you want to catch ’em all, and you need to string together a good run in order to reach the point where you can access them. Here’s how you do it.

Defeat Mother

You’ll need to defeat Mother at least once. This is a new boss added to the Repentance DLC, and you’ll find her at the end of the Corpse II biome.

Find Dad’s Note

You’ll need to find Dad’s Note on another run. This is a special item you’ll be able to grab in the biome Depths II. To find it, you’ll need to defeat the boss and then teleport out of the room. Look for a slightly different skull somewhere in the level and bomb it in order to find a Fool card if you don’t have teleportation.

Return to the starting room after defeating the boss, and you’ll find a door that can be opened with The PolaroidThe Negative or the Faded Polaroid. You’ll find Dad’s Note inside this room and you’ll begin your ascension.

Reach Home

Go all the way through the Ascension and you’ll reach a new area called Home. It isn’t randomized like the other areas of The Binding of Isaac, so work your way through the few rooms and you’ll get to Mom’s Room. Open the chest here to find the Red Key item, unlocking it for future runs. You can now use this item to unlock Tainted Characters.

Use the Red Key

Go into the hall outside of Mom’s Room and use the Red Key. It will open a hidden room with the tainted version of the character you are playing as inside. Touch that character to unlock them for future runs.

Find the Cracked Key

Unfortunately, you won’t continue to find the Red Key in Mom’s Room in later runs. You’ll either need to carry it to the area or find the Cracked Key item, which is a consumable that has the same effect as the Red Key.

A good tip for finding the Cracked Key is to drop any trinket item inside a boss room after you’ve defeated your enemy. When you are going through the Ascent after finding Dad’s Note, you’ll take a trip through each boss room you previously visited, but any trinket you’ve left behind will be transformed into the Cracked Key.

It’s certainly a process but, like many things in The Binding of Isaac, you’ll find a rhythm as you start working your way through. Take each character through the Ascent to the Home area and use the Red/Cracked Key in the room before Mom’s Room to get all the tainted characters.

Tainted Character Traits

Most of the tainted characters have similar traits to their regular counterparts, but they generally all have an extremely powerful ability balanced by a significant drawback.

They all have varying levels of starting stats and the like, but here are the main things that separate each tainted character from their regular versions.

  • Tainted Isaac: Every item pedestal cycles between two options, but you can only hold eight passive items at a time.
  • Tainted Magdalene: Has a powerful melee attack that triggers when an enemy touches her and leaves a trail behind her that damages enemies, but her health slowly drains down to two red hearts.
  • Tainted Cain: Starts with the Bag of Crafting item, which stores pickups and transforms them into a passive item when used. However, Tainted Cain can only obtain items through this method.
  • Tainted Judas: Starts with the Dark Arts active item instead of the Book of Belial. This active item gives him an invulnerable charge attack.
  • Tainted ???: Starts with the Hold active item and nearly every pickup is replaced by poop variations. Hold allows Tainted ??? to store his leftmost poop (he can hold up to nine) for later use.
  • Tainted Eve: Starts with the Sumptorium active item instead of Eve’s regular items. When active, it drains Eve’s health to summon Blood Clot familiars while she is shooting tears.
  • Tainted Samson: Has a similar Berserk effect to regular Samson, but it restricts him to a powerful melee weapon and also has a timer that refills as he kills enemies.

  • Tainted Azazel: Has a fullscreen beam attack that does low damage, and also has a high knockback, close range attack that leaves enemies vulnerable to his beam. Tainted Azazel cannot fly.
  • Tainted Lazarus: Swaps between his living and dead form after each room. Each form has different stats and abilities, making this a tricky character to master.
  • Tainted Eden: Starts with random stats and items, and they are all rerolled each time Tainted Eden takes damage.
  • Tainted Lost: Starts with the Holy Card consumable, which will shield you from a single damage source. The drop rate for Holy Cards is much higher when you play as Tainted Lost.
  • Tainted Lilith: Starts with the C Section passive item, which replaces Tainted Lilith’s tears attack with a baby attached by an umbilical cord (!!!!). The babe deals damage and can also fire tears at enemies.
  • Tainted Keeper: Every item is acquired by coins, and Tainted Keeper also uses coins for health. Defeating enemies drops temporary coins that quickly vanish if they aren’t picked up.
  • Tainted Apollyon: Begins with the Abyss item, which sucks in every item in the room and spawns an attack fly familiar for each item that you can fire at enemies.
  • Tainted Forgotten: Has a skeleton familiar that you can throw at foes, dealing heavy damage. Cannot obtain red hearts.
  • Tainted Bethany: Begins with the Lemegeton active item, which grants a random passive item. Tainted Bethany cannot obtain red heart health, instead using red hearts to power her active item usage if it isn’t fully charged.
  • Tainted Jacob: Begins with the Anima Sola item, which restricts actions from the closest enemy for five seconds. You’ll need it, as Tainted Jacob will start being chased down 30 seconds into each floor by Dark Esau. If Dark Esau catches Tainted Jacob, he transforms into a character similar to The Lost, and one more hit will kill him. If you make it to the next floor as this ghostly figure, Tainted Jacob will be returned to his “living” state.

All these tainted characters add unique spins on the game, and a few of them will dramatically change the way you have to play The Binding of Isaac in order to succeed. Good luck surviving the basement, and check out our game page for more on The Binding of Isaac: Repentance!

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Jordan Baranowski
Jordan has been gaming and geeking since he was a wee lad. He is a freelance writer and content creator, contributing to AMC Theatres, SVG, Looper, and Feast Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter for article updates and Instagram for (mostly) pictures of food and animals.