Not every hero has an ArchEnemy... initially. Sometimes, though, a villain will be introduced who ends up being a BreakoutCharacter in his/her own right, and thus a [[MonsterOfTheWeek Villain of the Week]] becomes the villain of the series.

This can be caused by many things, from WriterRevolt, [[SavedByTheFans to unbridled fan response to the character]], to the writers being blown away by the performance of the actor who shows up to play the role.

Note that this is the ''accidental'' creation of an archenemy, not ExecutiveMeddling of "let's make an archenemy for X-character": a Breakout Villain is one who was meant to be a one-shot throw-away that, through fan/author/executive/all-of-the-above response became not only a staple villain, but ''the'' villain of the series.

In some cases, the character may never again appear in the original authors' stories, but because of the popularity of the character, subsequent authors or even [[{{Fanon}} the fans in general]] may make their parts bigger and more integral to the mythos in question, via subsequent stories, adaptations, or simply fanon.

Sometimes, these characters become [[AntiHero antiheroes]] in their own right, [[BadassDecay with all the attendant risks.]] Most often, though, they retain their wonderful BigBad status. Can cross over with HijackedByGanon if they are turned into a GreaterScopeVillain overseeing a lot of plots seemingly masterminded by different villains.

Compare EnsembleDarkHorse, SpotlightStealingSquad. Contrast with TokenMotivationalNemesis, a major nemesis who is killed off as soon as the first story arc ends.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''LightNovel/ACertainMagicalIndex'' had Accelerator, who with his sheer creepiness, snark, creative use of the power to control vectors touching him and an [[EvilLaugh insane cackle]][[note]]he had several[[/note]] was so popular among the fans that Creator/KazumaKamachi brought him back, [[spoiler: albeit as a self-loathing, brought down to normal crippled Anti-Hero (Grade 4-5). He still is the most amazing character of the whole set.]]
* ''Franchise/DragonBall''
** Frieza/Freeza, despite being one of many [[BigBad Big Bads]] in the series, has practically become synonymous with the franchise - likely due to a mix of voice-acting, character design and [[Monster/DragonBall sheer monstrosity]]. He has been featured the most as the main villain of the video games, despite appearing at the series' overall halfway point and being ''much'' [[SortingAlgorithmOfEvil weaker than Cell or Buu]]. As if to cement this, he returns in the Toriyama-devised ''[[Anime/DragonBallZResurrectionF Resurrection ‘F’]]'' and the ''Anime/DragonBallSuper'' arc that adapts it, and he gets a ''humongous'' power boost as well. And he's not done there -- he makes ''another'' comeback in ''Super''[='=]s Universe Survival arc, ''[[EnemyMine now being forced to work with Goku and his allies]]''.
** Frieza's brother Cooler and the Legendary Super Saiyan Broly are Breakout ''Movie'' Villains who appear more than once in the ''DBZ'' movies and are the first to appear in the video games. Especially Broly, who appears more often in video games than any other movie villain, [[AdaptationalBadass gaining more super forms that any villain in the series.]] He is so popular, that Anime/DragonBallSuper decided to make a [[{{Expy}} character based on him]], [[RuleSixtyThree only female]], thus making his transformation sorta canon.
** Vegeta was originally going to just be the BigBad of the Saiyan Saga, but he later performs a HeelFaceTurn and becomes the AntiHero and {{Deuteragonist}} of the series.
* ''Anime/GreatMazinger'' has Ankoku Daishogun, TheDragon of the story and a WorthyOpponent to Tetsuya Tsurugi, who in the original series, only lasted roughly 3/4 through the whole show. However, he is popular enough that he got two movie adaptation that stars him as the main villain. There is a good chance that someone who never watched the original series did not know that he is actually not the BigBad.
* ''Manga/MedakaBox'': Similar to Accelerator, Kumagawa Misogi was originally just a TokenMotivationalNemesis, meant merely as a cautionary tale about Medaka's past. Before his actual debut, the only Arc Villains included a megalomaniac abnormal, and a ten-year old obsessed with justice. Once he debuted, he secured his position as the heroine's ArchEnemy and eventually [[spoiler: made a HeelFaceTurn]].
* Char Aznable from the first ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam'' series. So much that he's essentially become the face of the franchise.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'': Kaworu Nagisa: Few villainous characters have appeared for so short an amount of time (approx. 12 minutes on-screen of the 24-minute episode), yet left such an impression on any one series. Since Kaworu's appearance, and death, in episode 24 of ''Evangelion'', the fan response to his character has been so abnormally outstanding that Kaworu has appeared as a main character in nearly every subsequent incarnation/retelling/sidestory/etc. of the series, including the ''Evangelion'' manga series, ''Manga/NeonGenesisEvangelionAngelicDays'' manga, games, and the ''Anime/RebuildOfEvangelion'' series.
* ''Manga/ThePrinceOfTennis'': Hyotei was originally one of the Seigaku's arrogant rivals. However, their popularity and subsequent development allowed them to be faced a second time in the Nationals. The same treatment happened with Rikkaidai; their popularity meant that they would face Seigaku [[spoiler: in the finals.]]
* The Doronbo Gang from ''Anime/{{Yatterman}}'' of the entire ''Anime/TimeBokan'' franchise. The Doronbo Gang are the main character in the 1993 OVA where they overshadow the others villain groups. More recently they are in VideoGame/TatsunokoVsCapcom also and the 40th anniversary anime for the franchise is not only about Yatterman, but has the descendants of the Doronbo as its main focus!
* ''Anime/YuGiOh'':
** Both Seto Kaiba and the card game, Duel Monsters (Magic and Wizards back then) were originally [[MonsterOfTheWeek going to appear only once.]] Fans got interested, and sent a cavalcade of mail. Kaiba appeared again as the villain of an arc, and played a card game at the end. Fans went crazy. Then the Yu-Gi-Oh Duelist Kingdom StoryArc came out, one thing led to another, and before long, Kaiba was arguably the number-three character after Yugi and Jounouchi, and Duel Monsters was the focus of the series. If you tell someone who hasn't read the manga that Kaiba and Duel Monsters were originally one-offs, you may make [[YourHeadAsplode their brain spontaneously combust.]]
** Maximillion Pegasus reformed after being the villain of Season 1, but got to return as an ally to the heroes in Season 4. He then was one of only a small handful of original series characters to return in the spin-off ''GX'', he got mentioned as a MythologyGag in ''[=5Ds=]'', and appeared in the 10th Anniversary movie where his presence was central to the plot. Comparatively, the other major villains like Bakura and Marik are nowhere to be seen. Somewhat justified in-universe; while Bakura and Marik are just normal people, Pegasus is the creator of Duel Monsters and the owner of the company that makes the cards, so of course he'd be prominent in some degree as long as he's still around. ''[=5Ds=]'' implied he's now dead, which is likely why subsequent spin-offs make no mention of him.
* A very delayed case is Lord Death Man from the 1960s ''Manga/{{Batman}}'' manga. A one-shot villain in the manga, based on a forgotten one-shot villain from the Silver Age ''Batman'' comics called Deathman, he became so popular in the 2000s, after his story was republished in the translated ''Bat-Manga'' anthology, that he was introduced to the main DC universe in ''Batman Incorporated''. A version of the character also appeared in the ''ComicBook/Batman66'' comic series set in the 1960s ''Series/{{Batman}}'' TV continuity.
* Raoh from ''Manga/FistOfTheNorthStar'', he eventually grabbed the title of the de-facto BigBad for the first series and by the end he had the spotlight as a VillainProtagonist. Raoh was developed quite a lot more than many other villains in the series who often suffered from being heinously evil or heinously evil but with a tragic backstory tacked on right at the end. As such Raoh has received more spinoffs than any other supporting character.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Most successful ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'' villains are Breakout Villains.
** ComicBook/TheJoker: Believe it or not, the villain of villains, the Clown Prince of Crime, the one crazy bad guy who can make Satan pee in his pants just by laughing, was not originally intended to be ''the'' Franchise/{{Batman}} villain, let alone one of the most well-known villains in comic history. According to the other wiki: "He was slated to be killed in his second appearance, but editor Whitney Ellsworth suggested that the character be spared. A hastily drawn panel, demonstrating that the Joker was still alive, was subsequently added to the comic."
** ComicBook/{{Catwoman}} has become one of the most iconic characters in popular culture (and arguably Batman's most iconic [[LoveInterests Love Interest]] in turn). She's gotten a variety of action, animated, and video game portrayals, along with an array of merchandise and inspired costumes galore, has given birth to some tropes, and managed to get her own series, elevating her to [[AntiHero Anti Heroine]] status and sometimes part of the Bat-family. Considering she was introduced as an [[EvilIsSexy off the mill villain]] with barely any depth to her and who disappeared for over a decade at one point, she's definitely made her mark.
** ComicBook/HarleyQuinn from ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' (see relative description under) become a CanonImmigrant in the comics thanks to this, and she proceeded to become one of the main characters (if not the main character) of several comic series, such as the ''ComicBook/HarleyAndIvy'' mini-series, her own ongoing and ''ComicBook/GothamCitySirens''. She even became the main villain in the Birds of Prey TV adaptation even though she's not prominent in the original comic. And more recently she got a big role in the videogames of ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamSeries'', became a member of the ''ComicBook/SuicideSquad'', and got a second ongoing which became DC's highest-selling title with a female lead!
** The Riddler was featured in a whopping ''two'' stories in his debut year (1948) before being promptly forgotten for nearly twenty years. After being brought back into the comics (just in time for the [[Series/{{Batman}} 60s show]]), he climbed his way up to the highest tier of the Bat-Rogues almost overnight.
** Scarecrow was featured in only two stories as well, neither of them memorable in the least. Then came a certain issue of ''ComicBook/TheBraveAndTheBold'' comic book that gave him his fear gas... and the rest is history.
** For decades, Mr. Freeze was a joke villain from the 60s in the same league as Calendar Man and Killer Moth. Then the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' episode "[[Recap/BatmanTheAnimatedSeriesE14HeartOfIce Heart of Ice]]" aired, and he instantly became an A-list villain and one of the most haunting and tragic characters in Batman's rogue gallery. Ironically, they had killed him just before the cartoon hit and were forced to pull an AuthorsSavingThrow to revive him.
** In the third ComicBook/TwoFace story, Batman persuaded him to turn himself in and submit to any needed psychotherapy and surgery by loading a coin to land on its edge, and he did it and got better. However, the character's visuals proved so memorable that [[ a number of successors popped up in his wake]], until a 1954 story restored the original's scars and insanity (and took away his MoralityPet wife, to boot). Ironically, the ComicsCodeAuthority would then send the character into a ''fifteen-year'' hiatus (barring the occasional reprint, and [[ one truly bizarre instance]] where ''Batman'' got turned into him), until Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams truly canonized him as a top villain in the 1970s.
* Comicbook/BlackAdam: [[Comicbook/{{Shazam}} Captain Marvel]] was such a [[FunPersonified happy, fun, feel-good-superhero series]] at first... then Black Adam came along. Originally intended as a one-shot baddy back in the 40's, Black Adam has [[TheBusCameBack come back in force]] several years before the ''Comicbook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'', to become the most powerful villain/antihero of not only the Captain Marvel mythos, but also one of the most powerful villains in Franchise/TheDCU. In recent years, he's proven to be more popular than the hero he was created to oppose. It is all the more interesting in that Captain Marvel already ''had'' a designated "primary villain" in the form of Dr. Sivana, who debuted alongside him in ''Whiz Comics'' #2, bedeviling the Big Red Cheese with [[CardCarryingVillain a whole deck of Villain cards]] throughout UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks.
* Played with with '''two''' ''ComicBook/CaptainAtom'' villains. Major Force was never more than a secondary or even tertiary adversary for Captain Atom, but he later became a fairly major ''Franchise/GreenLantern'' villain, particularly for Kyle Rayner. Wade Eiling, by contrast, was always intended to be the central antagonist for Captain Atom, but has since broken out to become a major villain for the entire DCU. He has also broken out to be a major antagonist for the whole Justice League in ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeagueUnlimited'', and now seems slated to become a major recurring antagonist for ''Series/TheFlash2014''.
* The Iron Major became a popular recurring villain for Comicbook/SgtRock, despite dying in his first appearance.
* [[ComicBook/{{Deathstroke}} Deathstroke the Terminator]] was just going to be a villain to the [[ComicBook/TeenTitans Teen Titans]] for one story arc. But he had his role extended to being the villain of a much bigger story arc, then later became an AntiHero with his own comic, and when he went back to villainy, he became one of the most famous and prominent villains in the DC Universe who was not just limited to the Titans anymore, clashing with the likes of Batman, Green Arrow, and the entire Justice League.
* ''Franchise/{{Superman}}''
** ComicBook/LexLuthor started out as a minor if powerful villain, with only two comic appearances in the first year he was created. Superman's original arch-nemesis was intended to be the now largely forgotten Ultra-Humanite.
** Though not a character, Kryptonite was first introduced in [[Radio/TheAdventuresOfSuperman the radio series]]. This AchillesHeel became a defining element of the Superman mythos. (Something called "K-Metal", which amounted to the same thing as Kryptonite, figured in a comic book script well before the radio show, but the script was [[WhatCouldHaveBeen never published]] because [[StatusQuoIsGod Lois Lane found out Superman's identity]].)

* Bullseye for Comicbook/{{Daredevil}}. DD had a fairly extensive Rogues' Gallery, but it was considered a pretty poor one. Then Bullseye, the assassin who [[ImprobableAimingSkills never misses]] debuted in issue #131, 12 ''years'' after DD himself appeared, and the great rivalry was on.
* ComicBook/DoctorDoom is this to the ComicBook/FantasticFour; appearing in their fifth issue, he took over their second annual, getting a DeathByOriginStory background for him and his parents, and has since then had his own book, own team-up series, and antagonized most of the Marvel [[TheVerse verse]] by power hoarding {{MacGuffin}}s and being TheChessmaster MagnificentBastard with PoweredArmor. Lampshaded in Doom's third appearance. Creator/StanLee and Creator/JackKirby spend some time discussing how good of a villain Doom wound up unexpectedly being and lament killing him off so fast. Doom promptly storms in, very much alive, and berates them for doing the same.
* Early in his professional career, comic book writer/artist Jim Starlin was offered to pencil and co-write an issue of ComicBook/IronMan. Starlin didn't think his career would last very long, so he took the chance to introduce a couple of new characters for his one-off issue. One of those characters was the issue's villain, ComicBook/{{Thanos}}. Starlin would go on to write many more comic books, and Thanos would become one of the [[BigBad Biggest Bads]] in the Marvel Universe.
* ''Franchise/SpiderMan'':
** The [[Comicbook/NormanOsborn Green Goblin]] was originally a fairly average villain, with possibly the only thing which made him stand out being the fact that his identity wasn't revealed and he kept escaping. Then he found out Spider-Man's identity…. [[ComicBook/TheNightGwenStacyDied then he killed Gwen Stacy]]… He's also an unusual case in that he was dead for quite a long time by comic book standards, but after he was brought back he tends to have some hand in almost every major plot against Spider-Man.
** Comicbook/{{Venom}}. While he wasn't intended to be just another regular villain (he made his debut in a double-sized 300th issue), neither Marvel nor its creator foresaw him becoming the most popular Spider-Man villain and becoming one of the "big three" along with the Green Goblin and Doc Ock. At the beginning, its creator David Michelinie even had plans to eventually kill him off, but his popularity prevented this.
** As a result, Michelinie created ComicBook/{{Carnage}} in order to kill him off in his place. Once again, his plans were foiled when his debut issues quickly sold out despite lack of marketing and the character went on to become extremely popular, rivaling even Venom's fame and prompting Marvel to follow the story up with a [[Comicbook/MaximumCarnage 14-issue crossover event centered on him]].
** [[ComicBook/JMSSpiderMan Joe Straczynski's run]] has Morlun - he was an antagonist only in the first JMS story, but was the only one to be brought back, usually as a part of a big event, as [[KnightOfCerebus his mere presence shows things are getting serious]].
* ComicBook/{{Deadpool}} is known as the famous Merc with the Mouth, one of Marvel's most popular characters, with his movie franchise being even more successful than the ''ComicBook/XMen'' themselves. With his massive following, merchandise, sales and surrounding culture, it might be hard to believe that when he was introduced, he was not the famous AntiHero we know him for, but rather a villain. Furthermore, Creator/RobLiefeld created him as nothing more than a CaptainErsatz of ComicBook/{{Deathstroke}}, being a run of the mill GunAndSword-wielding SuperSoldier mercenary who tangled with the ComicBook/NewMutants and had practically ''none'' of the personality we know him for now. It was when other writers like Joe Kelly began [[GrowingTheBeard diversifying his characterization]] did he become so popular like he is today. Back then, ''no one'' could've expected how popular Deadpool would've ended up being, considering he's now bigger than all the New Mutants put together.

* In the ComicBook/DisneyDucksComicUniverse, Flintheart Glomgold started out as TheRival to Scrooge for the title of Richest Duck in the World. Flintheart only appeared in three stories by his creator Creator/CarlBarks, but by his third appearance, he had ascended to Scrooge's EvilCounterpart and was one of the few villains to demonstrate [[ItsPersonal murderous intent]] against Scrooge and his nephews. The Second Richest Duck in the World was mostly forgotten for the next twenty years, until Don Rosa reintroduced him in "Son of the Sun". Comics, the cartoon series ''WesternAnimation/DuckTales1987'', and video games have since portrayed Flintheart as a step above Scrooge's usual villains to the point of being his ArchEnemy.
** Another breakout villain for Scrooge would be [[CorruptCorporateExecutive John D. Rockerduck]]. He was originally a one-shot character created by Carl Barks, but for some reason Italian duck artists made him a recurring character decades later.
* The Angel gang in ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'' were introduced as villains of the arc, and one by one were killed by Dredd as the "Judge Child" saga progressed. However, fan response was so positive that Mean was ''brought BackFromTheDead'', in one of the exceedingly few occasions that Tharg's rule against resurrections has been ignored. Mean has since become one of the iconic characters of the series.
* ''ComicBook/MortadeloYFilemon'': Ibáñez introduced the rival organization ABUELA only once, as a one-time VillainOfTheWeek in "El plano de Alí Gu-sa-no". This didn't stop other writers to use it as the arch-enemy of the organization TIA.
* If you were to watch any modern incarnation of the ''Franchise/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles'', you would think arch-ninja The Shredder is the end-all-be-all of Turtles baddies. Originally, though? He died in the very first issue of the [[ComicBook/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtlesMirage original comic]], and was later brought back for a handful of issues--as a clone--only to be killed off again soon after, never to return.
* ''Comicbook/TheTransformers'': Bludgeon and Thunderwing were initially unassuming Decepticon Pretender toys, with no real notoriety to them. Once writer Simon Furman took over the US book and included them, however, they became more defined characters, with both of them [[BigBad taking Megatron's job of being the leader of the Decepticons]] at various points. As such, the two have had more homages and new toys than any other Transformer from 1989, and their toys tend to go for higher prices on the second-hand market as a result.
* ''ComicBook/UsagiYojimbo:'' When the series first started, Lord Hikiji was billed as Usagi's ArchNemesis while Jei-san was supposed to just be a one-shot villain. However, Jei made more of an impression on readers. As time went by, Hikiji was DemotedToExtra while Jei took over as Usagi's ArchNemesis.
* Doctor Aphra from [[ComicBook/MarvelStarWars2015 the new Star Wars Comics]] spin-off ComicBook/StarWarsDarthVader became hugely popular practically overnight, getting [[ComicBook/StarWarsDoctorAphra her own spin-off]] and later even won a poll to get a collectible Action Figure made.

* ''Fanfic/PokemonResetBloodlines'' early on mentions off-handedly that the reason for the six-Pokémon limit for trainers is due to a criminal known as Twenty Gyarados Bill who terrorized the coast of the Johto region forty years ago. When the author opened up the door for others [[ExpandedUniverse to write sidestories in the same universe]], one of them took Bill and gave him a background, a StartOfDarkness, a FreudianExcuse to go on his rampages, and his portrayal among readers was pretty well-received, making him perhaps the most popular OC villain in the Reset Bloodlines universe.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* Franchise/DisneyAnimatedCanon:
** ''Disney/SleepingBeauty'': Maleficent was, in [[Literature/SleepingBeauty the original story]], not that important to the actual story and only appears a few times. The Disney adaptation has made it so that now Maleficent is widely considered to be among [[EvilIsCool the coolest villains]] Disney has ever produced, and indisputably one of the most formidable, and has become one of the go to main villains for Disney whenever they do a serious crossover, such as in ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'' and ''Theatre/{{Fantasmic}}'' She also got [[{{Film/Maleficent}} her own movie.]]
** ''Disney/{{Hercules}}'': Hades, despite having no redeeming qualities whatsoever (and being in one of the least well regarded Disney films), Creator/JamesWoods' spirited portrayal of him made Hades one of the most iconic and popular Disney villains.
*** He's even the star of the stage musical ''Villains Tonight!'' That has to say something [[Disney/TheLittleMermaid considering]] [[Disney/SleepingBeauty the]] [[Disney/TheLionKing competition]] [[Disney/BeautyAndTheBeast from]] [[Disney/PeterPan other]] [[Disney/{{Aladdin}} Disney]] [[Disney/{{Cinderella}} villains]].
** ''Disney/OneHundredAndOneDalmatians'': Cruella de Vil, Cruella de Vil... What does it say that the 1961 animated version treated her simply as the villain, but the '90s live-action films were essentially a VillainBasedFranchise focused on Cruella? In fact, Cruella was the only human character to return in the live-action sequel. Of course, this was compounded by the dogs not talking in the live-action versions, although they still had AmplifiedAnimalAptitude. Ironically, the [[Literature/OneHundredAndOneDalmatians original book]] had a sequel in which Cruella only had a small role.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Franchise/StarWars'':
** [[EnsembleDarkhorse/StarWars Boba Fett]]. Boba Fett's presence in the movies was… minimal, at best. But oooooh, has he become a staple of the Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse.[[note]]This was actually a bit of an accident. Though Fett's popularity with fans played a role, when the Expanded Universe got its start George Lucas specifically forbade going into the backstories of characters like Obi-Wan, Yoda, Vader and the Emperor beyond what was already in the movies. He had his own ideas for some of them and wanted Yoda to remain a mystery. But he didn't say anything about restrictions on Boba Fett stories, leaving him fair game for EU writers to do with as they pleased.[[/note]] Much contention has been made over his survival after being ingested by the Sarlacc ([[Creator/GeorgeLucas Lucas]] [[WordOfGod says]] he died; Creator/DarkHorseComics along with most fans say he survived), but his popularity cannot be debated. Boba Fett is, to most fans, as integral to the plot as any other characters- in some respects, much more important and likable to the series as a whole. Lucas' opinion later shifted to "[[AscendedFanon Sure Why Not]]," and he actually considered adding in a scene of him surviving in the 2006 [=DVD=] of ''Return of the Jedi''. Tellingly, Boba has a bigger role as a little boy in ''Film/AttackOfTheClones'' than he did as an adult in the original trilogy.
** Emperor Palpatine. Aside from a cameo in ''The Empire Strikes Back'' and a few mentions in ''A New Hope'', he only appears in the latter half of one OT film- ''Return of the Jedi.'' In it, he receives no name, no real motivation, no back story, and little screen time, despite clearly being the GreaterScopeVillain of the trilogy, being mainly a SatelliteCharacter for Luke and Vader's development. But he was so popular for his portrayal of [[LargeHam deliciously]] absolute evil and hate (as well as his major part in arguably the OT's best scenes, the throne room confrontation with the Emperor, Luke, and Vader) that he became a pop culture icon and one of the most famous villains in cinematic history. He went on to appear in a major way in every single film of the prequel trilogy as well as both the ''Clone Wars'' and ''Rebels'' shows. He's arguably the VillainProtagonist of the final prequel (''Revenge of the Sith''), such is his significance, and the main plot of the prequel trilogy and ''The Clone Wars'' is detailing his rise to power. George Lucas even made sure to have the same actor who played him in ''Jedi'' reprise his role for the prequels, much to said actor's surprise.
** Darth Vader counts as well. Because he's become such an iconic character, it's easy to forget that he actually had a relatively minor role in [[Film/ANewHope the original 1977 film]]: he only had 9 minutes of screen time, he didn't have his famous theme music, he and Luke's father were clearly meant to be different people, and he spent most of the film as an enforcer for the real chief antagonist, Grand Moff Tarkin. It wasn't until ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'' dropped [[LukeIAmYourFather a certain revelation about Luke's parentage]] that he became the trilogy's main villain, with Luke's battle with him (and his eventual redemption) becoming a crux of the series.
** [[spoiler: Darth Maul]], despite only appearing very briefly in the films, garnered enough populatity to be SavedByTheFans and appear as a major factor in ''The Clone Wars''. [[spoiler: He survived that too, and his PopularityPower was enough for him to return in ''Rebels''.]]
* Agent Smith from ''Film/TheMatrix'' was originally supposed to be a StarterVillain, but due to his popularity with fans he was brought back and incorporated in the storyline of the [[TwoPartTrilogy next two films]] as the main antagonist.
* Pinhead of the ''Franchise/{{Hellraiser}}'' series was originally just one of several cenobites in the [[Film/{{Hellraiser}} original film]]. [[spoiler:He was even killed off in ''Film/HellboundHellraiserII''.]] But Creator/DougBradley's portrayal of him made him very popular with the fans, and Pinhead today is the de facto villain of the series, and its mascot.
* [[Franchise/FridayThe13th Jason Voorhees]] in the original ''Film/FridayThe13th1980'' was [[spoiler:just a dead RedHerring to his mother, the real killer of the film]]. Then, it was decided to bring him back in [[Film/FridayThe13thPart2 the sequel]]. By the end of the eighties, Jason had become a [[IconicSequelCharacter pop culture icon]].
* Khan from ''Franchise/StarTrek'' started out as just another VillainOfTheWeek for Kirk to defeat. He got to return in ''[[Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan The Wrath of Khan]]'' as one of the series' most notable villains. [[spoiler: He even got to show up in ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'' as [[BigBadEnsemble one of the main villains.]]]]
* Though the first three ''Literature/JohnCarterOfMars'' novels form a loose trilogy, they don't really have a single BigBad- the closest thing would be [[PathOfInspiration the Holy Therns]], but they don't show up until the second book, and their leader Matai Shang doesn't put in a personal appearance until the third. For [[Film/JohnCarter the film adaptation]], both the Therns in general and Matai Shang in particular are {{Arc Weld|ing}}ed into the first novel's basic plot, with the intention of making him the unquestionable BigBad of the potential franchise.
* Three Finger from the ''Film/WrongTurn'' series, the only character to appear in all films. In the original, he and his brothers had about the same amount of screentime, and Saw Tooth appeared to be the leader of the group.
* In the Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse, [[Characters/MCULoki Loki]] played by Creator/TomHiddleston has exploded in popularity as the villain in both ''Film/{{Thor}}'' and ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}'', becoming probably the most popular character in the universe after [[Characters/MCUIronMan Tony Stark]]. [[ In a poll]] published by ''USA Today'' on March 28, 2018, Loki was voted as the most popular MCU character. For a long time, he was the only MCU villain (not counting MythArc antagonist Thanos) to ever return for more movies until [[spoiler:the Red Skull made a surprise appearance in ''Film/AvengersInfinityWar''.]]
* The ''Franchise/{{Godzilla}}'' films first had King Ghidorah in this role. Originally brought for a movie to give Godzilla and Rodan a villain to work together against, his popularity led to him becoming Toho's most used monster aside from Godzilla himself, even appearing as villain to Mothra. The second one was Mechagodzilla. Originally just done using the idea of a robotic EvilKnockoff to Godzilla Toho had done with King Kong, Mechagodzilla providing [[KnightOfCerebus a much more serious threat than anything Godzilla had fought in years]] led to it becoming his most popular and iconic enemy aside from King Ghidorah, and since then every new Godzilla film series has included a version of it.
* The Tremor family from ''Film/SmokinAces'' were all killed off in the first movie, but they proved so popular that the second film became a prequel just so they could show up again.
* Jaws, the famed henchman with the steel teeth from ''Film/JamesBond''. He was originally supposed to die at the end of ''Film/TheSpyWhoLovedMe'', but Creator/RichardKiel's acting made him so likable that they changed the ending so that he survived when it turned out that the test audiences loved him. He returned in ''Film/{{Moonraker}}'', becoming one of the rare villains to appear in multiple ''Bond'' films, and [[WhatCouldHaveBeen would have returned in]] ''Film/ForYourEyesOnly'' too had the producers not ultimately decided to go for a more realistic Bond film. He has since become one of the most iconic villains in the franchise, appearing in multiple video games and even the ''WesternAnimation/JamesBondJr'' cartoon, always as an ImplacableMan that Bond must defeat through creative means.

* The HeadlessHorseman from Washington Irving's short story ''Literature/TheLegendOfSleepyHollow''. The Horseman only had a very brief scene in the already short story just near the end (as in, 1 in a half pages of a story that isn't even 30 pages long), and it's [[MaybeMagicMaybeMundane implied that it might not even be a real ghost.]] In spite of this, the sheer mystique and inherent scariness behind the character ended up making it a horror icon on par with ''Literature/{{Dracula}}'' and ''Literature/{{Frankenstein}}'', with numerous movie adaptations and modern day takes on the character coming out in the years since Washington Irving's story was published.
* Professor James Moriarty, created by Sir Creator/ArthurConanDoyle to be a one-time opponent of Literature/SherlockHolmes, and to bring about Holmes' demise. In fact, Moriarty was only given more than a passing mention ''three times'' in Doyle's work- the story where he appeared, and apparently killed Holmes; and the following story, which brought Holmes BackFromTheDead, and in this it's only Moriarty's men; a third story, written much later but set earlier, uses him as a brief DiabolusExMachina. ''Every'' author, director, fan, etc. afterwards, though, has made Moriarty ''the'' villain of Sherlock Holmes, lifting him to the point of mythical status among literary characters; to the modern viewer, it's inconceivable to have an original Holmes movie or television series with original Holmes mysteries without having Moriarty as the central, most important villain.
** He is now so integral to the mythos that a subplot of the first episode of ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'', revolving around the mysterious and vaguely threatening figure who tries to get Watson to spy on Holmes, only works because the audience ''expects'' this to be Moriarty [[spoiler: and thus be surprised when it turns out to be Mycroft Holmes.]] A later episode of the same series reveals that all Sherlock's cases so far [[HijackedByGanon were connected to Moriarty's schemes.]]
** Another "villain" to become central to the Holmes Universe (i.e. original canon ''and'' adaptations), despite her one appearance, is Irene Adler, who is the ''only'' woman to ''ever'' outwit Holmes. In Doyle's stories, he does make a few fleeting mentions of her as the only person whom Holmes never beat- though hardly as many as one might be led to expect by adaptations
** {{Fanon}} has retconned both Moriarty and Irene into the Holmes mythos. There is now a timeline of cases where Holmes clashed with Moriarty's organization, and it's a popular theme in homages and pastiches that Sherlock and Irene had a tryst during Holmes's absence after Reichenbach.
** Colonel Sebastian Moran, Moriarty's [[TheDragon right-hand man]]. The story that brought about Holmes's resurrection established that he was there when Holmes killed Moriarty, even spontaneously attempting to finish the job, then proceeds to become a Breakout Villain himself. One of the few characters that gets mentioned in several stories, despite only appearing in one, to the point where he's sometimes Watson's full blown EvilCounterpart.
** ''Series/{{Elementary}}'' does us two for one. Holmes' season one character arc and backstory was hinged on Irene Adler, and how he spiralled into drugs after she was killed by Moriarty. They became two very important [[TheGhost ghost characters]] for most of the season, [[spoiler: until the finale, when it's revealed that they are one and the same. Moriarty forged Irene's persona to distract Holmes, then bring about his downfall because he foiled her plans.]]
* ''Myth/KingArthur'': Mordred. In the early mentions of King Arthur in Welsh mythology, Arthur was slain by Medraut, later to be known as Mordred. However, Medraut's importance in the mythos as a whole was almost non-existent, save for that he killed King Arthur. Other villains had come and gone, and it seemed that Mordred was intended to just be another, though the only one who finally got lucky (although Arthur slew him in the same action, so his luck is debatable). Ask anyone in modern times, however, who is ''the'' villain of the story of King Arthur, and the answer you will get is "Mordred" almost all the time (though Morgan Le Fay is another name that also comes up quite frequently, and is, coincidentally, another example of this trope). Mordred has become so integrated into the mythos of Arthur that it is unheard of to ''not'' include him in any story involving Camelot.
** Modern depictions of Mordred usually bump him up to being King Arthur's son with Morgan, which has a number of neat effects. First of all, it ups his status from being a random evil knight into LukeYouAreMyFather. Second, it gives him an actual motivation- he wants to be recognized as the rightful heir but Arthur refuses. Third, it makes Arthur the architect of his own demise, directly. Fourth, it ties him in with Morgan Le Fay, the other popular Moriarty of the series, so everything's wrapped up in a neat little package.
*** This is TheThemeParkVersion by way of the OneSteveLimit. Originally, Mordred's mother was Morgan's sister Morgause, which ends up giving him a supporting cast in the form of his (half-)brothers at court- Gawaine, Gareth, Gaheris, and Agravaine. In Malory, at least, they're a bit of a FiveManBand. The earliest mention of Mordred is a reference to "The Battle of Camlann" where "Arthur and Medraut died". From the context (or lack of same), it's not even clear that they were on opposite sides!
** The Welsh Triads include Mordred in a list of ''heroes''. The first unambiguous mention of Villain!Mordred is in Geoffrey of Monmouth's ''Literature/HistoriaRegumBritanniae'' (1100s). From there, Mordred got [[AdaptationalVillainy steadily more villainous]]: in Geoffrey he only speaks twice, in the Alliterative ''Morte Arthure'' (early 1300s) he's an angsty WorthyOpponent, in the Stanzaic ''Morte'' (late 1300s) he's distinctly worse, and by Malory's ''Literature/MorteDarthur'' (1470s) he's all the way into ForTheEvulz. As Malory's is the only version most non-medievalists have read, that's the characterization that held.
** In the end, calling Mordred a "breakout villain" is strange, to say the least. You go back far enough, and he isn't even a villain, but ever since Geoffrey brought him in his function has been constant: he kills Arthur. And, interestingly, that's ''all'' he does in most versions. He spends the entirety of Malory hanging around the background, getting constantly mentioned but never doing anything. A byproduct of the fact that there are no "tales of Sir Mordred" since all he ever did was stab his uncle and/or father in the back and try to force Guinevere into marriage.
*** Post Malory, however, there are some works that try to make Mordred into a full on BigBad for the whole of King Arthur's story.
*** As stated before, Morgan La Fey is another example. She goes from healer who preserves Arthur's immortality, to minor level evil witch, to full blown BigBad in a great many modern takes on King Arthur.
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'': Sauron originated as a relatively minor villain from the earliest version of the legend of Beren and Lúthien, and the proto-Sauron was a giant {{cat|sAreMean}}. The character subsequently morphed into the EvilSorcerer Thu, and from there into the demonic being known from ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings''. In the process, he got promoted from one-shot villain to the GodOfEvil's [[TheDragon Dragon]] to the DragonAscendant and BigBad of the most well-known part of the mythology and the second most significant villain in the Middle-earth {{Verse}}.
* ''Literature/TheWonderfulWizardOfOz'': The Wicked Witch of the West, thanks to the popularity of [[Film/TheWizardOfOz the classic film]], has become the most recognizable of Oz's villains and the BigBad of most adaptations of the Oz series (i.e. the 1980s cartoon). In the original novels she only appeared in one chapter in the middle of the first book, during which she was KilledOffForReal; the closest thing [[Literature/LandOfOz the Oz books]] have to a BigBad is actually the Nome King, who appeared in several books to cause trouble for the land of Oz. In particular, [[AdaptationDisplacement it's the 1939 film version everyone remembers]]. This is noteworthy because that adaptation actually changed the character quite a bit -The book Witch wasn't green, didn't ride a broomstick, and was not the Wicked Witch of the East's sister (though they were allied). But [[LostInImitation the success of the film has caused those traits to be adopted by many subsequent adaptations]], even ones that are ostensibly based on the books.
* ''Literature/AliceInWonderland'':
** The Queen of Hearts only appeared in the last third of the first ''Alice'' book and wasn't really as much a villain as she was a temperamental yet comic battleaxe, whose executions were never really carried out. However, ''Alice'' spinoffs like ''VideoGane/AmericanMcGeesAlice'', ''Literature/TheLookingGlassWars'' and the 2010 Creator/TimBurton [[Film/AliceInWonderland2010 film]] have made her the main villain, transforming her into an evil dictator who rules Wonderland with an iron fist and Alice's greatest nemesis. Oddly adaptations will also often combine the distinct, if thematically similar, Queen of Hearts and Red Queen characters into one when doing this.
** Likewise, The Jabberwock, who only appeared in a poem in ''Through the Looking Glass'' where he was quickly killed, has become a significant villain in things like the aforementioned ''VideoGame/AmericanMcGeesAlice'' and Burton film, as well as a television adaptation in which it stalks Alice throughout.
* Guy of Gisbourne originally appeared only once in the ''RobinHood'' legend as a bounty hunter who gave Robin an extremely tough fight but was ultimately defeated and killed. He has overtime been elevated to TheDragon or even BigBad status in retellings.
* ''Franchise/ConanTheBarbarian'': Thoth-Amon makes only a passing appearance in a few stories, but both comic adaptations make him Conan's ArchEnemy.
* ''Literature/ArtemisFowl'': Opal Koboi was originally just part of a BigBadDuumvirate with Briar Cudgeon (an antagonist, but not really the main villain of the first book) in the second book. Then she returned in the fourth book, [[spoiler:[[HeroKiller killing Holly Short's superior]]]] and generally establishing herself as [[KnightOfCerebus one of the most vicious villains used so far]]. After that, she became the closest thing to a BigBad in the series as a whole, being the main antagonist in the [[spoiler: sixth and eighth book]].
* [[DemonicDummy Slappy]] of the ''{{Literature/Goosebumps}}'' series was a minor character in the original "Night Of The Living Dummy". [[spoiler:He wasn't even the actual villain of the book.]] Despite that, he was brought back for a sequel book, and took off as the series standout villain from there. Even getting to be the main baddie of the [[Film/{{Goosebumps}} movie version.]]
* [[Literature/FactionParadox Faction Paradox]] from the [[Literature/EighthDoctorAdventures Eighth Doctor Adventures]] first appeared in "Alien Bodies", in which they were just one of the villains. They become the closest things to the BigBad for much of the series and eventually got a spin-off, though set in an alternate continuity.
* Graham [=MacNeill=] originally created Acting Captain Honsou as a one-off villain for ''Storm of Iron'' whose only real notable factor was being the most interesting of the recurring bad-guy viewpoints [[spoiler:and the only one to survive to the end, after the other major Iron Warriors viewpoints were killed messily]]. Then he needed an Iron Warriors villain for ''Dead Sky, Black Sun'' and Honsou popped up. Since then, Honsou and his vendetta against Uriel Ventris have produced enough material for a second appearance as a major villain in the Ultramarines books plus a full Literature/IronWarriors omnibus, and the introduction to said omnibus has [=MacNeill=] admit that Honsou has taken on a life of his own and is likely to be back for more at a later date.
* Creator/HPLovecraft's Cthulhu is only one of many Great Old Ones featured in his stories. It is neither the most powerful nor most frequently referenced deity in Lovecraft's works. However, because "Literature/TheCallOfCthulhu" became Lovecraft's most popular work, Cthulhu became the icon of Lovecraft's fictional universe, to the point that it's called the Franchise/CthulhuMythos.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/LawAndOrderCriminalIntent'' we have Nicole Wallace, AKA That Evil Aussie Chick. Now, this being a crime show, she doesn't get that many appearances, but if you can outwit [[CrazyAwesome Goren]]...
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The Daleks: Despite challenging the TARDIS for the title of the most iconic element of ''Doctor Who'', they were created in defiance of co-creator Creator/SydneyNewman's insistence on writing a non-traditional ScienceFiction series which would avoid [[AliensAndMonsters Bug-Eyed Monsters]]. This explains why they ''died'' at the end of their first story with no hint given that they might possibly return. Now these motorized pepper-pots have had more than twenty appearances and posed a threat to the Doctor exceeded only by other Time Lords and similarly {{Sufficiently Advanced Alien}}s.
** In turn, Davros, the creator of the Daleks, made such an impression in "Genesis of the Daleks," that all the remaining Dalek stories in the original series are basically Davros ones to some degree with the Daleks largely reduced to his flunkies and rivals.
** A lesser but still relevant example: The Autons. They appeared twice, in 1970 and 1971, but are still remembered as one of the Doctor's iconic villains. When the series was revived in 2005, Creator/RussellTDavies and co. were deliberating what classic Doctor Who-monster would be used in the first new episode to relaunch the series. The Autons were given that honor.
** The new series has the Weeping Angels, whose first appearance didn't even have them fighting the Doctor directly, but after subsequent appearances they're on their way to joining the show's showcase of most iconic monsters.
** Another lesser version is the Zygons, who only made one appearance in the Classic Series. Despite this they are among the most popular Doctor Who monsters and ended up being the main villains for most of the 50th anniversary special.
* ''Series/{{Lost}}''
** Benjamin Linus, or rather actor Michael Emerson, was originally scheduled for a three episode stint in Season 2. His performance won the producers' everlasting affection and it was expanded to the rest of the season, and then into a regular in Season 3. If this isn't reason enough to include him, in Season 4 one of his fake aliases happens ''to be'' Moriarty.
** Dean Moriarty, though, making this an ''On the Road'' reference, as well as a nod to ''Sherlock Holmes''. (The character from ''On The Road'' was named as a reference to the Holmes villain, it still works as a reference to both.)
* Sigfried from ''Series/GetSmart'' was originally meant to be a one-time villain, but then popped up again a few times, and is now considered the main villain of the series, even appearing (well, InNameOnly) in [[Film/GetSmart the 2008 feature film adaptation]].
* Cavil on ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}''. In his original appearance, he actually seemed to be one of the nicer Cylons. Turns out he was lying about not supporting the genocide and was its main instigator. Then it turns out that [[spoiler: one of the Cavils introduced was a nice Cylon not supporting the genocide, and the other Cavils introduced was the mastermind. Alas, The Plan...]]
* Scorpius from ''Series/{{Farscape}}'' was ''supposed'' to be a one-shot first-season villain but the performance was so effective that he returned and quickly usurped the then-BigBad.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''
** Spike. Originally meant to be a one-season villain, and a DiscOneFinalBoss at that, [[EnsembleDarkhorse/LiveActionTV he quickly went on to be one of the show's most popular characters]], converting to full-fledged AntiHero by the fifth season, and continuing into ''Series/{{Angel}}'' after the series ended.
** Also, [[UltimateEvil the First Evil]] was originally set to be the GreaterScopeVillain--evil, but so vast that it wouldn't really show up. It eventually returned as the BigBad of the final season due to its ability to appear as all the other dead (and undead) villains from seasons past.
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine''
** Although Gul Dukat appeared in the pilot episode, he was never intended to be a recurring character...but Marc Alaimo just played him so ''well''.
** Weyoun is this as well. Killed off in his introductory episode, the creators quickly noticed the fan response to Creator/JeffreyCombs portrayal of him. So, the Vorta were quickly rewritten to be a race of clones. Meaning they could bring him back as Weyoun 5.
* ''Series/KnightRider'': [[BetaTestBaddie K.A.R.R.]] was originally a one-episode villain. He was introduced as K.I.T.T.'s EvilCounterpart and ultimately destroyed at the end of the episode. He was brought back in a second episode, "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R.", due to his popularity. Despite only appearing in two episodes, he's widely remembered as the heroes' ArchEnemy and plays a prominent role in both the video game and the recent reboot of the series.
* Murdoc the MasterOfDisguise assassin on ''Series/MacGyver1985''. Originally a one-episode villain, his use of creative schemes and {{deathtrap}}s made him a good foil for master-of-improvisation [=MacGyver=] himself, so they kept bringing him back about once a season (due to his NeverFoundTheBody and StayingAlive tendencies), and he's now remembered as [=MacGyver=]'s ArchEnemy.
* Sylar on ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' was originally planned to be the series' StarterVillain, who would be KilledOffForReal at the end of the first season. However, due to the character's popularity with fans, he was made into a main character and "The Face of Evil" for the series, to the point that every following BigBad ends up getting [[HijackedByGanon Hijacked By Sylar]] in their season's finale.
* In ''Series/{{Sliders}}'', the Kromaggs (an evil AlternateUniverse version of humanity that had evolved differently) eventually become this. Unfortunately it also marks the point where they become the MalignantPlotTumor, since the show's original WalkingTheEarth appeal had to be down toned to make place for more action scenes.
* Barabas, the Demon of Fear, was a MonsterOfTheWeek villain who appeared in the 13th episode of ''Series/{{Charmed}}''. He proved popular enough that the writers ended up bringing him back several times (about once every other season). He never became a seasonal BigBad, but is probably the show's most frequently-occurring nemesis right behind the actual Big Bads.
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}'': [[TheChessmaster Lionel]] [[ManipulativeBastard Luthor]], [[LonelyRichKid Lex's]] CorruptCorporateExecutive AbusiveDad was originally meant to appear in only a few episodes of Season 1 as a way of making [[MadDictatorsHandsomeSon Lex's]] FreudianExcuse seem more poignant. Creator/JohnGlover's performance was excellent, however, and the fandom embraced the [[FanNickname Magnificent You-Know-What]] as a LoveToHate character of the first degree. Lionel was written into Season 2 as a major antagonist and RecurringCharacter, and became the BigBad of Season 3. In the process he gained new dimensions to his character and his own FreudianExcuse becoming an EvenEvilHasStandards ArchnemesisDad who was himself the product of AbusiveParents. He was later [[DemonicPossession possessed]] by Jor-El and made a HeelFaceTurn, becoming a dark {{Mentor|s}} figure to [[TheHero Clark]]. KilledOffForReal in Season 7 by [[SelfMadeOrphan Lex]], Glover and Lionel returned to the show in Season 10 as [[AlternateUniverse Earth-2]] Lionel, an [[EvilTwin Eviler Twin]] of our Lionel, who was TheHeavy for most of the last part of the show. In some ways Lionel, and not Lex as was originally intended, became ''Smallville'''s defining villain.\\
Lionel, and Glover's portrayal of him, resonated so well that he was written into the comics as Lex Luthor's canonical (and deceased) father. While Lex had obviously always had a (deceased by the time of the "present day") father, this character had never had a consistent name or physical appearance and usually had no importance. But ever since ''Smallville'', Lex's father is explicitly named "Lionel Luthor" and flashback scenes have depicted him as looking very similar to actor Creator/JohnGlover. A zombiefied, Black Lantern version of Lionel even showed up for revenge against Lex in ''ComicBook/BlackestNight''.
* Creator/EmiliaFox as Morgause from ''Series/{{Merlin|2008}}'' was only supposed to be around for a couple of episodes, but ended up being so integral to the episodes she featured in that the writers kept her around for longer.
* Klaus from ''Series/TheVampireDiaries'' quickly became this despite the fact his influence was originally not going stretch far into season 3, much less into season 4. However his character as well as the other Originals (Elijah gets a special mention as someone who was going to die within one episode), became very popular in addition to the writers just loving writing for them. Klaus is so popular he may in fact get his own spin off.
* On ''Series/{{Batman}}'' The Riddler quickly came to be one of the Dynamic Duo's most popular adversaries, likely because of Frank Gorshin's amazing performance as the character.
* On ''Series/StargateSG1'', Ba'al is obviously intended to be a villain of the week, but Cliff Simon's performance became a fan-favorite, particularly in later appearances where his character becomes very savvy.
* On ''Series/ICarly'', Neville was originally going to be a one-shot villain, but he had since become a recurring villain out and the gang's ArchEnemy. Creator/DanSchneider even called him ComicBook/TheJoker to Carly's Franchise/{{Batman}}.
* On ''{{Series/Alias}}'', Mr. Sark was originally just a gofer for the Season 1 BigBad, [[TheSpook The Man]]. He was such a hit with the fans that he became TheDragon in Season 2, then became the DragonAscendant to [[BigBadDuumvirate share]] the Big Bad role in Season 3, went back to being the Dragon in Season 5, and, in fact, eventually managed to [[spoiler:be the ''only'' recurring villain on the show to make it all the way through the finale alive and free]].
* Dr. Miguelito Loveless debuted in the third episode of ''Series/TheWildWildWest'' and ended up getting captured. But he made such a memorable impression (and his actor, Michael Dunn was [[MeanCharacterNiceActor good friends with]] lead Robert Conrad in RealLife) that he'd turn up again and again (his second episode would be the only other time he'd get captured) to become Jim West's undisputed archenemy.
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'': [[MagnificentBastard Crowley]] was originally just a minor character aiding the Winchesters against [[{{Satan}} Lucifer]] in what Eric Kripke intended to be the final season. After it [[PostScriptSeason continued beyond that]], he was popular enough to come back and he's since become the show's most recurring and recognizable antagonist, eventually being promoted from recurring character to main cast in Season 10.
* The RoguesGallery of {{Mascot Mook}}s in the various entries of the ''Franchise/UltraSeries'' always start off as a MonsterOfTheWeek in a certain show before becoming popular and iconic enough with the fanbase that they end up reappearing regularly in many later series (especially if the come from [[FirstInstallmentWins the early shows]]).
** In the original ''Series/{{Ultraman}}'', there's [[InsectoidAliens Baltan]], [[AntlionMonster Antlar]], [[DumbMuscle Red King]], [[{{Shapeshifter}} Zarab]], [[ThisIsADrill Gubira]], [[EverythingsBetterWithDinosaurs Gomora]], [[TheChessmaster Mephilas]], and [[HeroKiller Zetton]].
** ''Series/UltraSeven'' has [[PsychoElectricEel Eleking]], [[StarfishAliens Metron]], [[HumongousMecha King Joe]], [[BirdPeople Guts]], and [[MultipleHeadCase Pandon]].
** ''Series/ReturnOfUltraman'': [[WhipItGood Gudon, Twin Tails]], [[BigEater Bemstar]], [[BrainsAndBrawn Nackle, and Black King]].
** ''Series/UltramanAce'': [[TerribleTrio Velokron, Vakishim, Doragory]], [[EvilKnockoff Ace Killer]], [[TakenForGranite Hipporito]], and [[MoonRabbit Lunatyx]].
** ''Series/UltramanTaro'': [[FeatheredFiend Birdon]], [[GalacticConqueror Temperor]], [[HybridMonster Tyrant]], and [[GloryHound Valky]].
** After ''Taro'', these become rarer: ''Series/UltramanLeo'' has [[BladeBelowTheShoulder Magma]], [[ManipulativeBastard Babalou]], and [[TeruTeruBozu Nova]]; ''Series/UltramanTiga'' has [[TheJuggernaut Golza]]; and ''Series/UltramanGaia'' has [[EldritchAbomination Gan Q]].
* ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'':
** Raina was originally intended to be a minor villain, but the writers and fans found the character so entertaining that she was given a greatly expanded role in the plot, until pulling off a memorable RedemptionEqualsDeath.
** Grant Ward is an unusual case in that he was on the show as a regular from the pilot, but ostensibly as one of the heroes. Then around two-thirds of the way through the first season, it's suddenly revealed that he was a member of HYDRA and TheMole on Coulson's team. By WordOfGod, the point of the character was to add weight to the reveal HYDRA had taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. by having a close and personal betrayal amongst the main cast, there were no long-term plans for the character and as originally scripted he would have died in the season 1 finale. However, after seeing the impact the twist had on the show, the character's [[DracoInLeatherPants newfound popularity]], and Brett Dalton's CreepyAwesome portrayal of Ward post-turn, they decided to keep him around as a recurring antagonist for season 2. Eventually he was killed off in season 3... Only for his body to come back possessed by the GreaterScopeVillain. And then in the S3 finale, his possessed body was blown up ''in orbit'', finally stopping him from ever reappearing in the show...[[spoiler: until in S4 the characters venture into a virtual alternate reality, and guess who's back '''again.''']]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'':
** When [[GodOfEvil Yawgmoth]] and [[ANaziByAnyOtherName the other Phyrexians]] first appeared, they were barely a footnote in the flavor of the Antiquities expansion; eventually, they morphed into the centerpiece of Magic's RoguesGallery. After Yawgmoth's defeat, the Phyrexians made a comeback in the ''Scars of Mirridon'' block.
** [[TheChessmaster Nicol Bolas]] was one of the five elder dragons in ''Legends''. Due to his card having a more powerful and unique mechanic than the others, he was reprinted 12 years later in ''Time Spiral'' and was one of many characters from the past to appear in its novels. While most of the old planeswalkers were either killed off or depowered in those novels, Bolas remained as a planeswalker. He appears again in the ''Alara'' block, and has since taken over the position of BigBad from the Phyrexians.
* Asmodeus of ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' started out as a brief mention in 1st Edition as the ruler of Hell. Then 3rd put the spotlight on him in the Book of Vile Darkness, and he became one of its most popular villains as the game's SatanicArchetype. Recognizing his popularity, some of the last books of 3.5 featured Asmodeus heavily and [[MagnificentBastard let him get one over on the entire pantheon twice]]. When the game upgraded to 4th Edition, he jumped up from an archdevil to the GodOfEvil... and just to solidify it, ''TabletopGame/{{Pathfinder}}'' featured their own version of Asmodeus as the GodOfEvil.
* In ''TabletopGame/LegendOfTheFiveRings'' Dragon Clan Champion Hitomi, who had been corrupted by the [[ArtifactOfDoom Obsidian Hand,]] was slated for a brief run as a main antagonist which would end in her lieutenant, [[TheStarscream Kokujin,]] killing and usurping her. Fan response to Hitomi proved so unexpectedly positive that she was retooled into more of an anti-hero who [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu defeated]] Onnotangu, the GreaterScopeVillain of the setting and [[YouKillItYouBoughtIt took his place as god of the moon.]]
** For his part, Kokujin did enjoy a lengthy tenure as a memorable recurring villain for several more story arcs.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'':
** Bowser. Before ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros1'', the portly plumber tangled with a lot of nasty foes. VideoGame/DonkeyKong, Foreman Spike, and random unorganized critters (though some did look similar to Koopas). But once ''Super Mario Bros.'' hit the scene, it was Mario's defining moment, and from that day forth, the Koopa Troop and its fearless leader would be his most prominent nemesis. This seems even more dramatic in America, where Bowser was in fact absent for [[VideoGame/SuperMarioBros2 a game]] before making a triumphant reappearance in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3''. In this case it was the unforeseen popularity of the game that caused Bowser to become a Breakout Villain. The Koopa King has also got an increasing number of playable appearances; from being a party member in some of the [=RPG=]s, as the main character of ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiBowsersInsideStory'' and the Bowser-centric ''Bowser Party'' in ''VideoGame/MarioParty 10'' and, finally, [[spoiler:to being a playable Capture enemy in the last segment of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioOdyssey'', marking the first time he's playable in a main series title.]]
** VideoGame/{{Wario|Land}}. The ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand'' games felt like {{Gaiden Game}}s to the main franchise, and then part 2 featured this fellow, and the next one starred him, and he turned AntiHero. Since then he's been a mainstay of the Mario franchise.
* In the original UsefulNotes/PlayStation version of ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil1'', Albert Wesker was just a standard horror movie stock character (the obligatory traitor who gets eaten by the monster in the end, Paul Rieser's character from ''Aliens''). However, following his return in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvilCodeVeronica'', he managed to pretty quickly be built up to be the BigBad of the entire series over the course of the following decade up until his last appearance in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil5''.
* ''VideoGame/MetalGear'':
** Revolver Ocelot in the original ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' was notable for being the sole surviving member of the renegade FOX-HOUND unit by the end of the story and a mole under the service of Solidus Snake, although there was not much to suggest that he was anything other than a double agent. Each subsequent entry in the series would reveal more about Ocelot's past and motives, having him shift from one allegiance to the next and outliving the main antagonist of each game until becoming the main antagonist himself in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4GunsOfThePatriots''.
** Psycho Mantis from the same game is also very popular, thanks to his [[BreakingTheFourthWall fourth wall-breaking]] MindScrew abilities. He ends up coming BackFromTheDead briefly in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4GunsOfThePatriots'', and is seen as a child in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidVThePhantomPain''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}}'':
** Sargeras started out as little more than a footnote in the lore, as a SealedEvilInACan demon lord whose powers [[EvilSorcerer Gul'dan]] tried to harness. The revelations of his origins as a fallen [[PhysicalGod Titan]] and creator of the [[TheLegionsOfHell Burning Legion]] elevated him to GreaterScopeVillain of the ''entire franchise''.
** Also the OldGods (a race of {{Eldritch Abomination}}s), originally a tangential source of the mythos based on the Franchise/CthulhuMythos, they were used to add some creepy side stories used in the expanded ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' storyline, and also used as DiscOneFinalBoss for the original version of the game (pre-expansion), the Old Gods consistantly appear as the ultimate source of all evil, to the point it has a become a RunningGag to blame things on them.
* [[MadScientist Wilhelm]] [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast "Deathshead"]] [[RetCon Strauss/Strasse]] of the [[{{Ghostapo}} SS Paranormal Division]] returns as the eventual BigBad in ''VideoGame/{{Wolfenstein 2009}}'', mainly due to his status as being the sole surviving Nazi of any prominence in ''VideoGame/ReturnToCastleWolfenstein'' besides [[DoomedByCanon Himmler]]. He's even more prominent in ''VideoGame/WolfensteinTheNewOrder'', being the primary source of the Nazis' [[StupidJetpackHitler mechs and other super science]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Diablo}}'': Old game it may be, there are some bosses that becomes really memorable that they may end up getting re-used for future titles.
** The Butcher is just the first boss of the game, but he's become nearly as iconic as Diablo himself as far as villains go, thanks to being the first really difficult enemy to contend with (and his "Aaah, Fresh Meat!" sound byte considered really terrifying for its age), so much that he returns in ''VideoGame/DiabloIII'' with new designs and tricks, and is a playable hero in ''VideoGame/HeroesOfTheStorm''.
** Likewise, next in line of those bosses is King Leoric the Skeleton King. He also returns in ''III'' and in ''VideoGame/HeroesOfTheStorm''. He's also popular enough by fandom to get included in ''VideoGame/DefenseOfTheAncients'' and Blizzard cared enough for his image, leading to the lawsuit against Valve and the latter ends up having to change their Skeleton King into [[VideoGame/{{Dota 2}} Wraith King.]]
* Bishop Ladja of ''VideoGame/DragonQuestV''. In the original SNES game, while he did have some presence in the plot, he was ultimately a minor villain who showed only a mild evil and [[spoiler:dies less then halfway through the game]]. The DS remake propels him into this, giving him a unique appearance, replacing King Korol with him as TheDragon, giving him much more screentime.
* SHODAN was so much of a standout villain in the first ''VideoGame/SystemShock'', that she was brought back for the second, where she became one of the most legendary villains in gaming history.
* Vergil, Dante's {{Aloof|BigBrother}} [[EvilTwin Elder Twin]], from ''VideoGame/DevilMayCry''. In his first appearance, he was simply [[spoiler:a BrainwashedAndCrazy servant of the game's BigBad known as Nelo Angelo]], although he made a good impression by serving as a [[WakeUpCallBoss challenging]] MirrorBoss [[RecurringBoss several times over]]. Then, he reappeared in ''[=DMC3=]'' (a prequel chronicling some of Dante's backstory and early demon-hunting days), giving players a glimpse of his more complex character quirks and motivations, revamping him into an even more challenging opponent that stands in Dante's way, and [[spoiler:giving him a somewhat pitiable send-off of sorts]]. Needless to say, this not only made Vergil the most recurring boss in the series (with a total of 6-7 battles), but cemented him as the most recognizable villain as well. As such, Vergil joined the lineup of ''[[UpdatedRerelease Ultimate]] VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom3'' alongside Dante and Trish (herself something of a BreakoutCharacter), much to the delight of ''DMC'' fans.
* ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}''
** The [[NinjaPirateZombieRobot Dragon Cyborg Space Pirate]] Ridley is so popular that he appears in almost every single game in one way or another. In the [[VideoGame/Metroid1 first game]], he's simply [[CoDragons a Co-Dragon]] with Kraid to the main villain, [[AIIsACrapShoot Mother Brain]]. In ''VideoGame/SuperMetroid'', he returns as a Co-Dragon with Kraid and a few other bosses, but this time [[TheVillainMakesThePlot he also has an early boss battle and steals the Baby Metroid at the start of the game, which kicks off the entire story]]. During Metroid's hiatus, he just happened to get two [[TheCameo cameos]] in ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'', first flying in the background of Samus's stage Planet Zebes in Smash Bros. 64, then reinacting his early fight with Samus in Super Metroid during the intro of Super Smash Bros. Melee. During the production of sister products Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime, his EnsembleDarkhorse popularity among fans caused the developers to include him in both games. In ''VideoGame/MetroidFusion'', he appears throughout the game frozen in storage among the [[GovernmentConspiracy Galactic Federation's many questionable projects]], and is then possessed by an X-Parasite at the end of the game to be fought as the third-to-last boss. In ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime'', he's back as Meta-Ridley, a half dragon, half robot version of the original Ridley. Once again, he starts the plot by leading Samus to Tallon IV at the start of the game, and is then fought as the last boss before the [[VeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Impact Crater]], serving as TheFace of the Space Pirates' forces overall. In ''VideoGame/MetroidZeroMission'', the GBA-remake of the original, Ridley appears TWICE: First as a Co-Dragon with Kraid as he was in the original game, then as the new FinalBoss of the game in the form of Mecha Ridley. Around this time, [[Manga/MetroidManga The manga]] also established him as Samus' ArchNemesis, having killed her parents. In ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'', he first returns in his Meta Ridley form from Metroid Prime 1 as an early boss, and then reappears at the end of the game as Omega Ridley, a Phazon-corrupted, highly deformed and much more powerful version of the good old Ridley. In ''VideoGame/MetroidOtherM'', his Backstory is expanded on with more details about both his rivalry with Samus and his species' evolution. After Metroid's second hiatus, he was added in as three-stage FinalBoss of ''VideoGame/MetroidSamusReturns'', a remake of the second Metroid game which did not include him originally. FINALLY, after all of this, his immense popularity that had accumulated over the years led to his first ever [[PromotedToPlayable playable]] appearance on the roster of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, despite the developers discounting the possibility many times before until finally giving in to the overwhelming demands of the Metroid fanbase.
** Another example would be Dark Samus from the ''VideoGame/MetroidPrimeTrilogy''. In ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime'', it first appears in the form of the Phazon radiation, transforming Samus's suit into the Phazon Suit. Then, when Samus defeats Metroid Prime, the final boss in the first Prime game, Metroid Prime sucks up all the Phazon on the planet, including the Phazon suit. However, the Phazon Suit takes over Metroid Prime's personality and Samus' shape as Samus leaves the planet, essentially becoming a living empty shell. In ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime2Echoes'', it appears as Dark Samus, who has 4 scan-entries in total, even though its visual design doesn't change between encounters. Finally, in ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'', it appears once again, and turns out to be from Phaaze, a living, sentient, evil planet consisting 100% of Phazon.
** The minor boss, Nightmare, from ''Fusion'' was clearly popular enough to get a second appearance in ''Other M''.
* ''VideoGame/LiveALive'': Oersted’s whole story and significance to the game’s overarching plot became ''the'' main attraction of the title in the opinion of many fans, due the extreme tragic nature of his character and what drove him into villainy; indeed it is as Oersted is the reference of choice in ''Final Fantasy Legends'' and ''Theatrhythm Final Fantasy'' for smartphones to celebrate Live A Live’s 20th anniversary, a boss fight against him is the feature in Legends and a stage featuring Oesrted in the background in Theatrhythm with 2 songs from the game, Odio’s themes.
* The Materials in the ''VideoGame/MagicalGirlLyricalNanohaAsPortable'' games were originally one-dimensional [[EldritchAbomination Darkness of the Book of Darkness]]-based EvilTwin copies of the three Aces, and were unceremoniously destroyed by the end of the first game, ''The Battle of Aces''. Except it turns out that the fans liked the Materials, so they were revived in the sequel, ''The Gears of Destiny'', and had the game revolve around them, expanding their personalities, backstories, and importance. Oh, and they also got an [[ official manga with them in the starring role]]. And they return in another AlternateContinuity as the main foreign rivals team of the Card Game-focused ''Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha INNOCENT''. Not bad for LicensedGame SpinOff villains who were supposed to just show up and get killed on their first appearance.
* ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'': Similar to Ridley, Metal Sonic was originally just TheDragon to Dr. Eggman, appearing only as a boss in Sonic CD, and just one in a long line of [[RobotMe robotic ripoffs of Sonic]]. Eventually, his popularity skyrocketed to the point where [[spoiler: he was made the BigBad of ''VideoGame/SonicHeroes''.]] He's generally considered the second most prominent villain after Eggman himself.
** This also seems to be happening with Zazz and Zavok, two members of the Deadly Six from ''VideoGame/SonicLostWorld''. Zazz appears in ''VideoGame/SonicDash'' as the only boss other than Eggman, he also appears in ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndSonicAtTheOlympicGames Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games]]'' as a playable alongside Zavok, and is also the focus of an event in ''VideoGame/SonicRunners''. Zavok also returns as one of the main villains in ''VideoGame/SonicForces'', [[spoiler:even though he is actually a fake projection]]. Thereby making them the only two members to appear in other subsequent games so far.
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'':
** Both Axel and Xigbar have had their roles expanded since their debut game thanks to their popularity. The difference is Axel undergoes a HeelFaceTurn and becomes an anti hero, then later a straight hero [[spoiler: with his own Keyblade, no less.]] Xigbar turns out to be the main Dragon for Xehanort and [[spoiler: as of 3D shares BigBad status with him as one of his 13 vessels.]]
** To a lesser extent, Chernabog was so well received (being an awesome boss to fight, and having his own theme from ''Disney/{{Fantasia}}'', ''Music/NightOnBaldMountain'', playing in the background) that he came back as a boss fight for Riku in ''Dream Drop Distance''. His appearance is very close to a Heartless, and he has the privilege to be one of the only enemies in the [=KHverse=] to not have a entry in Jiminy's Journal, which only reinforces his aura and mystery.
*** Chernabog is an interesting case, as he was [[WhatCouldHaveBeen originally meant]] to be the final boss, before Ansem was created. However, the creators liked him so much, they [[ThrowItIn kept him in]], anyway.
* From the ''Franchise/SilentHill'' series, Pyramid Head from [[VideoGame/SilentHill2 the second game]] left such an impression on everyone that he's often seen as the series' mascot, of sorts. Despite the original [[EnemyWithout nature of his character]], he appeared in a somewhat different form in ''VideoGame/SilentHillHomecoming'', and appeared in both of the [[Film/SilentHill film]] [[Film/SilentHillRevelation3D adaptations]] of the games.
* [[spoiler: Adachi]] from ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' was just yet another antagonist in the series, but his AffablyEvil personality and some memetic lines resonated with fans and he ended up slowly but surely making his way to major character status. First he was given a social link and his own ending in the games remake, then he was given a major role in the ''VideoGame/Persona4Arena'' sequel [[spoiler:and played an explicit role in defeating the main villain.]] He may not leave the Persona 4 verse, but he has gotten the most attention out of perhaps any other villain in the series.
* ''Franchise/StreetFighter'' has a handful of examples, some more arguable than others.
** Most notably is the evil Dictator, M. Bison. Bison was originally meant to be killed off in his final canonical appearance, but by the time that happened he had already cemented his status as one of the most iconic villains in all of gaming, and had become extremely popular throughout both the games and other media for his unique style and twisted sense of humor, as well as for his immediately recognizable special moves. After sitting out on VideoGame/StreetFighterIII, Bison made his triumphant return in VideoGame/StreetFighterIV, with Capcom utilizing his ability to store his soul in artificial bodies as an outlet to bring him back. Bison returns yet again in VideoGame/StreetFighterV, more unapologetically evil and megalomaniacal than ever. He's also made many appearances in crossover games, including non-playable cameos.
** Another example is Akuma. He instantly made a huge impression on gamers with his debut, not only being the one to kill Bison in the first place but also for the shock and mystery he brought as one of the first hidden bosses in fighting game history. In his initial appearance, his portrait was covered in shadow and he didn't even have his name displayed. He returned in the VideoGame/StreetFighterAlpha series, where he would eventually make his first playable appearance in a toned down form. Since then, Akuma has become a massively popular character both for his mysterious, dark aura and for his DifficultButAwesome fighting style that puts a homicidal new twist on Ryu and Ken's classic style, and of course for introducing the world to the Raging Demon, one of the most famous attacks in all of gaming. Akuma has since appeared in every single Street Fighter series to date where he almost always has a super-powered boss form as a hidden opponent, and you can count the amount of Capcom crossovers he's missed on two fingers. [[note]]That would be VideoGame/TatsunokoVsCapcom and VideoGame/ProjectXZone.[[/note]]
** Most recently, we have Juri Han, who made her debut in VideoGame/StreetFighterIV. Juri brings uniqueness all around to the series, as its first truly evil female character, its first Korean character and its first character to utilize Taekwondo. She's also a KnightOfCerebus as most SF characters, including the aforementioned Bison and Akuma, have some kind of humorous or goofy quirk no matter how serious they are. Juri's maliciousness is played frighteningly straight. As a result, she's made the most guest and crossover appearances of any character from the IV series, having appeared in Project X Zone and VideoGame/StreetFighterXTekken, and being the only IV newcomer thus far to make an appearance in SF V, where she is a DLC character.
* ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' has fantastic villains throughout the series:
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII'', the BigBad was Xande, an EvilSorcerer who wanted to destroy the Crystals to regain his lost immortality by stopping time. The final boss that appeared when he died, Cloud of Darkness, was a GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere that was your typical OmnicidalManiac. But the Cloud of Darkness was a more interesting, climatic boss with a striking design, which, combined with the game being a vague memory at best for most fans and the vagueness of the plot, meant that she was much better remembered. This became official with ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'' where the Cloud of Darkness is III's sole villain representative, even after the sequel adds to the cast.
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyV'' produced not one but ''two'' of these. In the game itself, BigBad Exdeath was seen as a fairly flat character in comparison to his outstandingly [[LargeHam hammy]] [[TheDragon Dragon]], Gilgamesh, who as a result ended up traveling the Void and winding up in various other Final Fantasy games. And then came ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'', where thanks to the power of [[{{Mondegreen}} incomprehensible battle quotes]] and [[LargeHam hickory-smoked lines]], Exdeath became a [[FountainOfMemes Sealed Meme In A Tree]] and went from one of the most-overlooked villains in the series to one who gave longstanding fan-faves like [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI Kefka]] and [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII Sephiroth]] [[EnsembleDarkhorse a run for their money]]. It's unknown how attentive Square Enix was to his overnight surge in popularity, but given that [[PowerOfTheVoid VOID!]] jokes [[AscendedMeme run abundant]] in ''Duodecim'', it's a safe bet that they knew. On top of this, [[spoiler:[[TheManBehindTheMonsters his control of the]] [[{{Golems}} manikins]] led to the ''[[KilledOffForReal permanent deaths]]'' of every newcomer ''not'' named Gilgamesh or [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyXI Prishe]], as well as [[TheBadGuyWins Team Chaos' victory in the 12th cycle]].]]
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXV'', the true BigBad of the game is Ardyn Izunia. Initially TheDragon to Emperor Iedolas in the game's early concepts, Ardyn evolved into the main villain: A scheming MagnificentBastard with a fascinating backstory, terrific voice acting by Darin de Paul, incredible foresight and intelligence who also manages to be incredibly entertaining whenever he's onscreen and carries off the vast majority of his plans without a hitch. Ardyn quickly became a favorite of players to the point where practically nobody has complained about his massively expanded role and he's frequently cited as one of the best parts of the game.
* ''VideoGame/FireEmblem'' has a few examples throughout the series:
** [[VideoGame/FireEmblemTellius The Black Knight]] is the most popular villain in the entire series, with his only competition being [[VideoGame/FireEmblemTheSacredStones Lyon]] and [[VideoGame/FireEmblemGenealogyOfTheHolyWar Arvis]]. Not only did he get to return in the sequel, he made it into ''VideoGame/FireEmblemHeroes'' before many other iconic antagonists (and he even got a variant of his true identity), and is usually considered the UrExample for the series on how to judge a villain's overall quality.
** [[VideoGame/FireEmblemTellius Oliver's]] [[SarcasmMode great]] [[{{Gonk}} beauty]] won over the hearts of fans everywhere, even though he was unjustly depicted as a minor boss rather than the heroic protector of all things beautiful. He was so beloved that he was chosen to grace ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'' and ''VideoGame/FireEmblemHeroes'' with his wondrous presence.
** Despite only making a few appearances thoughtout ''VideoGame/FireEmblemThracia776'', Reinhardt received a huge boost in popularity following his [[UnexpectedCharacter surprise appearance]] in ''VideoGame/FireEmblemHeroes''. Prior to his inclusion, Reinhardt placed 584th out of 791 units in the first Choose Your Legends Poll. In the second, he was 5th among the males and finished 11th overall, a full 574 spots higher. This would lead to him getting a variant when the Thracia banner came around, making him the only villain besides the Black Knight to get a variant.
* Springtrap from ''Videogame/FiveNightsAtFreddys3'' was just the game's only animatronic at first, [[ArtifactTitle despite not even being Freddy Fazbear himself]]. However, he wound up becoming a fan-favorite, and reached almost the same heights of prominence as the main four animatronics of [[Franchise/FiveNightsAtFreddys the series]], getting a smaller iteration of him in Plushtrap in ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys4'', an appearance in [[Literature/FiveNightsAtFreddysTheSilverEyes both]] [[Literature/FiveNightsAtFreddysTheTwistedOnes novels]], and [[spoiler:a cameo at the end of ''[[VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddysSisterLocation Sister Location]]'']]. It probably helps that [[spoiler:he's also the GreaterScopeVillain of the franchise (though ''Sister Location'' throws some doubt over this)]].
* Hazama from Franchise/{{BlazBlue}}. Originally an NPC in the first game, he revealed his true colors at the ending as the manipulator of all of the events thus far, and goes on to become TheHeavy in the second game. Despite being only one member of the series` large BigBadEnsemble, fans loved his stylish design and fighting style as well as his {{Troll}} nature, and would go on to become a more prominent character in later titles. WordOfGod even considers him the unofficial fifth main character of the series. And many fans will admit to you that they only play this game [[JustHereForGodzilla because of him.]]
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'': Vaati, the BigBad from the "Four Swords" subseries and the only other recurring main villain besides Ganon, only appears in these games. Though not released in chronological order, the games depict Vaati, a former member of the Minish, who rose to becoming an evil who sought to take over the world before losing his memory and devolving to [[IHaveYouNowMyPretty kidnapping beautiful maidens because they caught his fancy]], once kidnapping Zelda [[AndNowYouMustMarryMe to be his bride]]. However, a quick search on the internet shows that fans like him and want him to make a return. It's not uncommon to find fanfiction that plays up the wanting Zelda aspect to the point of being a StalkerWithACrush.

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* Franchise/{{Nasuverse}}:
** Fujino Asagami became the most popular antagonist from ''LightNovel/KaraNoKyoukai'' thanks to her cute design, tragic story, and interesting powers. She got her own side story in the epilogue, and made it into ''VideoGame/FateGrandOrder'' as an Archer-Class Servant, making her the only Servant besides Shiki to not come from a ''Fate'' work.
** ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'':
*** Gilgamesh is one of the most popular characters in the entire Nasuverse, despite appearing only very late into the ''Fate'' route and dying very quickly in ''Heaven's Feel''. He was given major roles in ''LightNovel/FateZero'',  ''Manga/FateKaleidLinerPrismaIllya'', and ''Literature/FateStrangeFake'' and became the new playable Servant in ''VideoGame/FateExtra CCC'', and in ''Fate/Grand Order'' his new Caster form is a major ally.
*** Saber Alter, despite only appearing in the ''Heaven's Feel'' route, would later appear in [[VisualNovel/FateHollowAtaraxia later]] ''VideoGame/{{Fate|UnlimitedCodes}}'' [[Anime/CarnivalPhantasm works]], sometimes even as her own distinct character. Her design was used in ''Manga/FateKaleidLinerPrismaIllya'' as the basis of the Saber Class Card, beating out her vanilla self. In ''Fate/Grand Order'', she has an additional Lancer variant, two Rider variants, and Berserker variant; the Saber and Lancer variants appear as major antagonists in the story (with the former reappearing as a major ally), while one of the Riders was the star of her own event.
** From ''Fate/Grand Order'' is Jeanne d'Arc Alter, who originally appeared as a Ruler NPC. "Jalter"'s very concept as the EvilCounterpart of the already popular [[LightNovel/FateApocrypha Jeanne d'Arc]] led to her becoming an instant fan favorite, and she was retooled into a very powerful playable Avenger. She got a Lancer form who was the main character of her own event, and the Avenger form remains one of the few Servants in the game with an alternate costume.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* ''WebVideo/AitorMolinaVs'': Doctor Pandemia appeared as a cameo in a video by Celio Hogane before becoming the first recurring villain of the show.
* ''WebAnimation/{{Retropokon}}'': Darkpokon was a fanmade villain for WebVideo/TheJohnShow who [[spoiler:appeared in the third year anniversary special]]. That's the only time it was canon on the show, but it became so popular with its Narm that won a poll in Lawl of the Dead and became the 20th character.
* ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'': Roman Torchwick was originally just a small-time villain for the main characters to cut their teeth on, to the point that his first major scene had him running away from a fight rather than trying to take down the heroine. His classiness, his sarcastic wit, and his ''Literature/AClockworkOrange''-inspired character design lead to him becoming unexpectedly popular among the fans, so he TookALevelInBadass and became a recurring threat over the next couple of seasons, though still subordinate to the ArcVillain and BigBad.
** Heck, if wasn't for Torchwick's popularity, Neo never would have existed (her design was based on a gender-bend cosplay of him).

* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick,'' [[EvilTwin Nale]] was the only member of [[ThePsychoRangers the Linear Guild]] originally slated to escape from the first battle with the heroes. However, fans really liked [[PsychopathicManchild Thog]], so [[FanNickname the Giant]] decided to spare him and, while he was at it, [[HornyDevils Sabine]] as well, developing her and Nale's relationship into a case of UnholyMatrimony.
** Similarly, [[TheDragon Redcloak]] was originally going to be killed off fairly early on (his name was even envisioned as a pun on RedShirt). Instead, he ended up surviving and being fleshed out, becoming one of the most complex characters in the story.
** This trope is a key facet in [[spoiler: Tarquin]]'s XanatosGambit involving Elan. It's his contingency in case his EvilEmpire plot is toppled. The legend of the hero who defeats him will serve to spread his own legend and inspire generations of new {{Evil Overlord}}s to follow in his footsteps. As he puts it, "If I win, I get to be a king. If I lose, I get to be a LEGEND!"

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The main bad guy of the PopeyeTheSailor cartoons, Bluto, started off as a minor oneshot villain in the original E.C. Segar comics, only appearing briefly in a 1932 story. The Creator/FleischerStudios cartoons upgraded him to recurring villain status, and this made him as iconic as Popeye and Olive.
* [[VillainousHarlequin Harley Quinn]], everyone's favorite Hench Wench from ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries''. She was originally invented as a one-shot female henchmen to leap out of Commissioner Gordon's cake (the censors allowed The Joker to do it instead), and an overwhelming fan response turned her into a recurring villain and a CanonImmigrant into the comics. She even went on to be one of the few villains to [[BatmanGambit Out-Batman Gambit]] Batman himself and come ''this close'' to actually killing him. In 2016, she became the breakout star of ''Film/SuicideSquad'' -- Creator/MargotRobbie's performance as her was one of the few things universally praised about the otherwise divisive film, even managing to steal the show from the long-awaited cinematic return of ''The Joker himself''.
* ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible''
** Shego was originally "just a henchman" to Dr. Drakken, but later developed into a [[HypercompetentSidekick competent]] but [[BrilliantButLazy unambitious]] villain who entertained herself (and the audience) with her [[DeadpanSnarker incessant verbal jabs]] at [[PointyHairedBoss Drakken]] and [[IShallTauntYou Kim]]. Drakken's own standing has curiously enough has also benefited from her popularity: even though he gets out-shined by his own assistant on the popularity polls it was thanks to this dynamic that he became the second most important villain in the series.
** Monkey Fist was originally just a crazed monkey themed villain who happened to be one of the few villains Ron Stoppable could actually face. Over time, as Mystical Monkey Power became more prominent, so did Monkey Fist (effectively becoming Ron's ArchEnemy).
* In the original Mirage Comics version of the ''ComicBook/{{Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|Mirage}}'', the Shredder was actually a fairly lackluster StarterVillain who managed to get himself KilledOffForReal at the end of the very first issue. In later issues a colony of sentient worms would take up the mantle of The Shredder (it's a long story), but even they only appeared in a few issues and played a rather minor role in the comics plotline. However, [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987 the 1980's cartoon adaptation]] made him the BigBad, and he's been the Turtles' ArchEnemy in every future adaptation of the series ever since. In ''WesternAnimation/TurtlesForever'' Mirage Shredder shows up for about 10 seconds before he's knocked off a building by the [[LethalJokeCharacter 1980's Turtles.]]
* On ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'' the [[EvilSorcerer Archmage]] was originally only supposed to be a [[MonsterOfTheWeek Villain Of The Week]], but creator Greg Weisman liked David Warner's voice acting so much he decided to bring him back, making him the villain of the three-part "Avalon" arc through a StableTimeLoop and a couple [[ArtifactOfDoom Artifacts of Doom]].
* Mad Stan from ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyond'' was originally a one-shot joke villain thrown in to make Terry miss his date with Dana. The fans [[LargeHam loved him]], and he eventually became a regular member of the RoguesGallery.
* Negaduck from ''WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck''. After the Negaduck I episode, Tad Stones (the Show Runner) said he liked Negaduck and wanted him brought back for more episodes; this resulted in Negaduck II, who the fandom embraced as perhaps not just the most popular villain but the most popular ''character'' on the show, period. When [[Comicbook/DarkwingDuck the revival comic book]] came around, the writer has said that he intended to have a F.O.W.L. story for the second arc and a Negaduck story for the third arc, but sheer fan demand made him swap the order.
* In ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'', [[ThePsychoRangers The Rowdyruff Boys]] were originally one-shot {{evil|Counterpart}} [[DistaffCounterpart spear]] counterparts of the titular heroines that got KilledOffForReal at the end of the episode. Fan popularity ensured that they were brought back several times.
** [[WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls2016 In the reboot]], [[MadScientist Silico]] started off as just another new villain in the Powerpuff Girls' RoguesGallery. However, due to being [[KnightOfCerebus a surprisingly serious antagonist]] in an otherwise LighterAndSofter reboot, he quickly became the most popular new villain, resulting in him getting notably more episodes than his contemporaries.
* Plankton of ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'', while initially a recurring villain, was placed alongside many other antagonists or jerks the cast faced. As seasons passed, he got [[SpotlightStealingSquad more and more spotlight episodes]], and stared in several {{Villain Episode}}s.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheDreamstone'', while Sgt Blob and his minions Frizz and Nug were always the consistant villains, they were merely mooks to the real BigBad Zordrak initially, with the story designed with Rufus as the intended main character initially. Within a short duration of episodes, both the heroes and Zordrak were DemotedToExtra with Blob's men usually acting as {{Villain Protagonist}}s. In later seasons Urpgor also gets larger roles and sometimes eclipsed even the other Urpney squad in screentime.
* Chase Young of ''WesternAnimation/XiaolinShowdown'' was originally a one-shot character- an ArchEnemy to Master Monk Guan, ''himself'' originally a one-shot character. By the next season, he'd become the closest thing to a BigBad for the whole show and remained that way for the rest of it.
* ''Franchise/{{Ben 10}}'':
** [[DarkMagicalGirl Charmcaster]] initially was introduced merely as a niece and sidekick for Gwen's ArchEnemy Hex. In the end, Hex only got a few more appearances where he gradually became less and less important over the course of the franchise, while Charmcaster had several additional appearances, CharacterDevelopment and became more of an ArchEnemy to Gwen than he ever was.
** [[EvilTwin Albedo]] was first introduced as a one-episode villain in ''Alien Force'', who came back for the finale of season 3 and had a few appearances in ''Ultimate Alien''. He was so popular the writers eventually ascended him to BigBad for a whole story arc in ''Omniverse''.
* Tirek from the first of the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyTvSpecials'' was only a one-shot villain who got killed off in his premiere, but he became the most popular villain in the G1 continuity for being [[VileVillainSaccharineShow a surprisingly vile piece of work]]. Fast forward a few decades to ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' and his new incarnation became a SatanicArchetype and the antagonist for the fourth season's finale.
* ''WesternAnimation/TransformersPrime'': Knock Out is one of the most popular characters on the show, his hilarious antics and vanity earned him a lot of fans, even amongst the show-runners. This probably contributed to [[spoiler:him surviving to the end and pulling a HeelFaceTurn]], and he even got [[CanonImmigrant immigrated]] to the IDW comics, debuting in ''ComicBook/TheTransformersWindblade''.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheFairlyOddParents'', Mr.Crocker originally was just a back-up villain, really no bigger than [[TheBully Francis]]. Since Season 7 onwards he seems to have replaced Vicky as the main antagonist, appearing in almost every episode, even if they have to make a side story for him.
* ''WesternAnimation/CodenameKidsNextDoor'':
** Mr. Boss was used in a single episode in Season 2 and had the sole purpose of gathering other recurring villains together. From Season 3 and onwards, Mr. Boss would be used more often until he was the go-to character if a story needed a VillainTeamUp, and he would be much more active in his leadership role.
** Count Spankulot first appeared simply as a punchline for one scene in which he showed up at the Treehouse, spanked the operatives, and fled, never to be seen for a long time. As the seasons went by, he became notable for being the one villain the main characters never defeated and was given CharacterDevelopment as a TragicMonster later on.