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[[quoteright:350:[[UltimateXMen http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/puppet_master_8781.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:[-Being a [[TheChessmaster Chessmaster]] doesn't always mean you're in charge.-] ]]

->'''Solidus''': I'll leave you alive, Jack, because you're still manipulable!\\
'''Fortune''': Speaking of manipulation, it's time for me to steal Arsenal since I've been manipulating you from the start!\\
'''Solidus''': Actually, I tricked Ocelot into manipulating you into manipulating me!\\
'''Ocelot''': Fools! I've been manipulating everything from behind the scenes!\\
'''Magic Hand''': But actually, I've been manipulating you!\\
'''Raiden''': Alright, this has officially become a load of crap.
-->-- ''[[http://www.gamespite.net/toastywiki/index.php/Site/ThumbnailMetalGearSolid2-05 Thumbnail Threatre: Metal Gear Solid 2: Part 5]]''

When a character previously positioned as a BigBad is revealed in fact to be either a DiscOneFinalBoss or TheDragon, TheManBehindTheMan shows his (or her, or its) face.

The Man has deeper problems, deeper motives, and so much power that the heroes will have to go through another round of dungeon diving just to stand a chance. When he reveals his reasons for being evil, expect the theme of the plot to unfold quickly and dramatically.

In many genres, the Man Behind the Man often has more sinister and apocalyptic goals than his predecessor. For example, while a puppet king or greedy corporation may want to take over the world, the real BigBad may want to destroy the world, or even erase all of existence.

Sufficiently complex plots may involve [[UpToEleven The Man]] ''[[UpToEleven Behind]]'' The Man Behind The Man and so forth; the SortingAlgorithmOfEvil usually, but not always, applies in these cases.

Can be reversed as "[[InvertedTrope The Man In Front Of The Man]]", in which case a person you thought was the BigBad's crony turns out to be the real BigBad. See also BastardUnderstudy and DragonAscendant. May be the one pulling the strings of the PuppetKing.

Contrast ChessmasterSidekick and DecoyLeader. In some (unsatisfying) occasions, The Man Behind The Man may be TheManBehindTheCurtain. If there is no first man to begin with, or the first man is very obviously ''not'' the BigBad, it's a HiddenVillain. If the mastermind turns out to be an innocuous character who was quickly overlooked, then it's a case of TheDogWasTheMastermind. If the new BigBad is revealed to be subordinate to an old one, then the plot has been HijackedByGanon.

Compare and contrast BiggerBad, where a villain more powerful than the BigBad exists, but is either not personally involved in the plot or is not a "person" to begin with. Not to do with a GambitPileup though you might get one if everyone is trying to manipulate each other.

Rarely involves TheMan. This trope tends to come into play with terrorist ([[WesternTerrorists Western]] or otherwise) [[AfricanTerrorists and]]/or African villains being implied to be supported by RedChina or white characters (normally a CorruptCorporateExecutive).

'''Because this trope is often used as TheReveal whenever it appears, beware of spoilers.'''
[[noreallife]]
----
!!Examples


[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime]]
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'': All hints pointed to [[spoiler:Gin being the BigBad, but after Aizen is revealed to be alive, he [[BreakTheCutie impales his loving vice captain]] and walks away with Gin following him obediently. It's made even more shocking by the prior implication that they were enemies, and that the former had killed the latter]]. [[UpToEleven It gets even deeper than that]]. [[spoiler:Aizen claims he's basically the man behind the entire series. Ichigo (and Uryu, for that matter), wouldn't have been ''conceived'' if not for Aizen, because he's the reason why Isshin and Masaki even met in the first place.]]
** In [[{{Filler}} the Shusuke Amagai arc]], it's pressumed that [[spoiler:Kumoi wants to kill Lurichiyo and control the Kasumioji clan]], but then when the confrontation comes, [[spoiler:Komoi, Amagai appears out of nowhere, kills him, kidnaps Lurichiyo, and then proceeds to let everyone know his plans to kill Yamamoto, and he used Kumoi and the entire Kasumioji clan to get his hands on a weapon that [[PowerNullifier somehow disables all but his zanpaktou so he could kill Yamamoto with it]]]]. Of course, Ichigo proceeds to save the day.
* ''Anime/CombattlerV'': Halfway through the series it was revealed that [[spoiler:BigBad Oreana was working for Empress Janera.]]
* In ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'', at first it seems like [[spoiler:the homunculi are simply manipulating the country of Amestris because the Fuhrer, King Bradley, is the homunculus Wrath]]. Then we find out that [[spoiler:Bradley himself is simply the result of an experiment by Father, and that Father has been controlling the entire country behind the scenes since the very day it was established 400 years prior. Most of the military's upper command is fully aware of this fact]].
** [[Anime/FullmetalAlchemist The first anime]] has a similar scenario, although it differs in key areas. [[spoiler:Dante is the mastermind of this conspiracy and controls the government through Bradley, her ultimate creation. Once the Philosopher Stone that Hohenheim left her began to diminish, she infiltrated the government in order to facilitate the creation of a new one. Unlike in the manga, only Bradley and Tucker seem to be aware of her existence.]]
* Near the end of ''Anime/ExcelSaga'', the head of ACROSS -- the organization Il Palazzo serves -- is revealed to be [[spoiler:a previously-established character known only as "That Man". He makes reference to being one of the "ACROSS Six," the other five of whom are revealed in the unaired final episode to be "This Man, That Man There, That Man Over Here, This Man Over There, and This Man Over Here."]]
* The ''Mazinger trilogy'' played much with this trope:
** ''Anime/MazingerZ'': In the original manga, Baron Ashura shows up before Dr. Hell, leading several Mechanical Beasts and the Iron Masks troops and calling it "Ashura's army". In that chapter he seemed like the BigBad, but one chapter after Dr. Hell is introduced and we learnt Hell was behind the whole operation and he is the real BigBad.
** In the anime, Archduke Gorgon was apparently a Dr. Hell's ally. In the last chapters we learnt he was a DragonWithAnAgenda was working for a BiggerBad, Great General of Darkness/Ankoku Daishogun. Likewise...
** ''Anime/GreatMazinger'': In the ''Mazinger-Z versus Great General of Darkness'' movie it is said the legions of Mykene Warrior Monsters are commanded by Great General of Darkness. He seems to be the supreme leader of the Mykene Empire. In first episode of Great Mazinger we learnt he is the supreme commander of the Mykene ''army'', and he is under the orders of the Emperor of Darkness (also known like [[spoiler:Hades]]).
** ''Anime/UFORoboGrendizer'': In the original manga, Blackie is the first Vegan commander in showing up, and he seems being behind the invasion. However, in the next chapter BigBad King Vega and DragonInChief Gandal (commander of the armies tasked with the invasion) are introduced.
* In ''Franchise/SailorMoon'', every story arc has this type of villain behind that storyline's recurring villains. The Dark Kingdom has Queen Metallia, the Black Moon has Wise Man (and even earlier, Prince Demand is behind Rubeus and the Ayakashi Sisters), the Death Busters have Master Pharaoh 90, the Dead Moon Circus has Queen Nehellenia, and Shadow Galactica has Chaos. The only time this ''doesn't'' happen is during the Makaiju FillerArc in the [[Anime/SailorMoon anime]], where the aliens and the Makaiju are working entirely alone.
** The [[Manga/SailorMoon manga]] practically makes a matroshka doll of villainy as not only does each story arc feature the same series of villains behind villains as the anime does, but the final story arc one-ups them all as in the manga, the final villain is still Chaos, but in this storyline, Chaos itself has been repeatedly incarnated into all the previous BigBad villains as well and Sailor Moon was merely fighting the same villain for a ''fifth'' time in a new form.
** In the [[Theatre/SeraMyu musical adaptation]] of the series, Chaos is downgraded to Galaxia's subordinate/jester, and not even a true dragon. [[spoiler: But he still turns out to be [[InvertedTrope The Man in Front of the Woman]].]]
* ''MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch'' did this every season. In fact, [[spoiler:in both seasons, we had a DoubleSubversion of this trope. Season one had Gaito (Gakuto and Gackto in the manga), who was working for Sara, who did a HeelFaceTurn, leaving Gaito as a worse BigBad than Sara was. Season two had Michel's sidekick Fuku appear to be above him but below "That Man", but in the end, That Man was also manipulated by Fuku.]]
* ''Franchise/{{Digimon}}'': In the [[Anime/DigimonAdventure02 second season]], we started off with the Digimon Emperor, who later did a HeelFaceTurn and who it was revealed was the pawn of two other villains. They in turn were working for another, who was actually ''possessed'' by still another. It gets even weirder when you realize that some of the Fake Bosses' plans didn't jive well with those of the big man (Malo Myotismon). So, either Malo had one extremely bizarre GambitRoulette going that he never bothered to explain, or the writers simply decided to fall back on HijackedByGanon.
** The fourth season had Cherubimon who went corrupt,but it turned out that Lucemon corrupted him and two other Digimon called the Royal Knights into collecting data so he could return
* In ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', it's first revealed that [[StandardEvilOrganizationSquad Akatsuki]] is lead by a mysterious figure known as [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Pain]]. Some chapters and an important character death later, we find out that "Pain" is actually a [[PeoplePuppets collection of dead bodies controlled]] by a man named Nagato, who [[APupilOfMineUntilHeTurnedToEvil once studied under the same sensei]] as Naruto. Then Nagato is actually being manipulated by a masked man known by the alias "Tobi" who claims to actually be the [[TheDreaded legendary shinobi known as Madara Uchiha]]. Later on, [[spoiler: Tobi [[DeadPersonImpersonation isn't the real Madara Uchiha]], but is actually a former leaf shinobi named Obito who used to be a student of Naruto's father and later turned evil. Then ''he'' was being manipulated by the ''real'' Madara Uchiha the entire time, so as to carry out his AssimilationPlot. But ''then'' Madara was being manipulated the entire time by Black Zetsu, a mysterious member of Akatsuki and a being that Madara thought he himself had created to carry out his will. And Black Zetsu? He's actually carrying out the will of Princess Kaguya, an ancient [[PhysicalGod Physical Goddess]] whom the current shinobi clans are descended from and who created Black Zetsu centuries ago right before she was [[SealedEvilInACan sealed away]] to ensure that she would be revived.]]
* The ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'' manga reveals at the end that [[spoiler:every villain Yusuke faces throughout the series is acting with the approval and, in some cases, the aid of King Enma, who wants to make himself look better by having major threats repeatedly stopped by Yusuke and allies (who work for him).]] The anime opted instead to end with another TournamentArc, which was glossed over in the manga.
* In ''Anime/YuGiOhGX'':
** The villain of the third season, Professor Cobra, is revealed to be working for a Duel Monster spirit named Yubel. Later in Season 4, initial villain "Trueman" is revealed to be working for Yusuke Fujiwara...only for Yusuke to be revealed as a host for Darkness, the true villain.
** ''Anime/YuGiOh5Ds'' has a series of these. The first true villains are the Dark Signers lead by Rudger. The second season reveals that Rudger was manipulated by Yliaster and the Three Emperors, who in turn work for Z-one. Furthermore, it is revealed Z-one was the commanding force for Paradox in the 10th anniversary movie.
* ''StellviaOfTheUniverse'' does this very well with non-personified antagonists. The supernova (the BigBad for the first half of the series) was caused by [[spoiler:the crack in space, which is the antagonist for the second half.]]
* ''Manga/InuYasha'' has Naraku, the puppeteer behind just about EVERY conflict in the show, past and present. At the end of the series, Naraku proves to have a man behind ''him'' as well -- [[spoiler:the Jewel of Four Souls itself.]]
* Late in the ''HoushinEngi'' manga, it's revealed that [[spoiler:Dakki is working for Jyoka, one of the [[{{Precursors}} First People]] who was sealed away for wanting to wipe out everything on Earth and make it into their old homeworld. Dakki agreed to help her in exchange for great power, but planned to take over Jyoka's body and use its power to rule the Earth.]]
* In ''{{Gundam 00}}'', who would've thought that [[spoiler:Ribbons Almarck was manipulating Alejandro Corner?]]
** Which was a ShoutOut to ''ZetaGundam'' with [[spoiler:Paptimus Scirocco playing Jamitov and Bosque for fools.]]
** The Special Edition of ''00'' revealed that [[spoiler:Ribbons is literally this to Alejandro]].
* In ''GundamSeed'', [[spoiler: Rau Le Creuset is eventually revealed to be The Man Behind The Man to [[{{Archenemy}} archenemies]] [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Muruta Azrael]] and [[GeneralRipper Patrick Zala]], pretending to be TheMole for the former and TheDragon for the latter. It's all part of his plan to move both sides in the war to such extremes that [[MisanthropeSupreme human]] [[KillAllHumans extinction]] will be guaranteed.]]
* ''Anime/DragonBallZ'' does this several times in a row in the manga and the anime. After Raditz is defeated Nappa and Vegeta are revealed to be the Saiyans behind the Saiyan. After they are defeated, Kaio mentions the "root" of the problem, which is shortly afterwards introduced as the Saiyans' (ex-)boss, Frieza.
** Majin Buu had an odd version of this going for him. He was a childish weapon of destruction at first, but ''inside'' him was a psychotic weapon of destruction, and ''inside him'' was a ''Child of mass destruction''.
* ''[[BloodPlus Blood+]]'' does this fairly often. In early episodes, Van Argeno is set up as the BigBad; however, [[spoiler:after about ten episodes, he's revealed to be working to Solomon. Later, Solomon is shown to actually be the lowest-ranking of five Chevaliers. Then, for a time, their progenitor Diva is expected to be the mastermind, but she turns out to be too crazy to be the leader. By the end, it's become apparent that Amshel is calling the shots, whereas Argeno -- who was the first supposed BigBad, remember -- is reduced to cowering in fear and begging for his life.]] As a kind of a last hurrah, the final episode also implies that [[spoiler:Nathan]] had been pulling the strings all along.
* In ''DarkerThanBlack'', it looks like it's such a MeleeATrois that there can't possibly be a BigBad. However, it turns out that [[spoiler:TheSyndicate, the [[SpyVersusSpy dueling intelligence agencies]], the Japanese police force, and PANDORA were all controlled by the same people. Evening Primrose was actually LaResistance, and other than their influence, all the conflict in the series had been due to the higher-ups pitting the Contractors against each other to keep them from finding out their genocidal plans.]]
* In ''GaoGaiGar'', the season 1 BigBad Pasdar [[spoiler:turns out to be a subordinate of one of the 31 Primevals, which are themselves fragments of the much more fearsome Z Master.]]
* This is implied near the end of ''FruitsBasket'', after Akito's [[spoiler:HeelFaceTurn, the 'man' in question being the Sohma family elders, who criticize Akito for not emotionally destroying the members of the Zodiac.]].
* ''WeissKreuz'' has layer after layer of this. In season 1, Reiji Takatori is the man behind criminal organizations like the Creeper gang and the Liott prostitution ring, and [[AncientConspiracy Essett]] is behind Takatori. In season 2, Mayumi Tsujii is behind [[EnfanteTerrible Todou]] and [[AbsurdlyPowerfulStudentCouncil S Class]], and Epitaph (and by extension Essett again) is behind Tsujii. Rampant ChronicBackstabbingDisorder -- particularly on the parts of [[ThePsychoRangers Schwarz]], who start out as one of the groups that Reijia Takatori is behind and end up backstabbing their way right out of Essett altogether -- muddies the exact order in both cases.
* While not actually villainous, it's pretty obvious that Austria's the true power behind the Holy Roman Empire in ''AxisPowersHetalia.'' Which is what happened in RealLife, via [[TheClan the Habsburgs]].
* Shishio is set up as the BigBad of ''Manga/RurouniKenshin'', but behind him is Enishi, the final villain of the series. Shishio has at his disposal an ultra-modern (for the setting) gunship, which he got through Enishi, who owns a fleet of them, and Enishi's [[TheDragon Dragon]]/ EvilGenius hides among Shishio's group, pretending to be DumbMuscle.
* Dark in ''AsuNoYoichi'' is introduced as a self-aware puppet serving the current Torikago clan leader who is set up to be the apparent BigBad. When the leader is swayed by Yoichi's kind words, Dark reveals her true nature: she is the one who has been keeping the Torikago clan's hatred towards the Karasuma clan alive for generations. Dark turns against her supposed master, stating that she has no right to forgive the Karasuma clan after her ancestors devoted their entire lives to hating them.
* In ''PrettyCureAllStars DX 3'', similar to the ''Franchise/SailorMoon'' example above it's revealed that the creature known as Black Hole was the source of all evil the girls face. It's kind of hard to figure out, though, if he meant the villains from the TV series itself (which wouldn't make sense as ''SuitePrettyCure'' was going on at the time) or the villains from the various movies up to that point (whom he resurrected for this).
* In ''ScienceNinjaTeamGatchaman'', Berg Katse is presented as the face and leader of the Galactor. The viewer finds out long before the characters that Sosai X is the true power.
* While he was a more traditional BigBad in the manga, in the ''{{Trigun}}'' anime Knives Millions instead occupies this role, with his [[TheDragon Dragon]] Legato doing most of the work until the very end.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The heroes in WarrenEllis's ''{{Nextwave}}: Agents of H.A.T.E.'', spend most of the series battling or evading Dirk Anger of the evil Beyond Corporation. Once they beat him, they face the Beyond Corporation's CEO, Number None... who is revealed to be a robot controlled by [[TheManBehindTheCurtain a baby M.O.D.O.K.]], who claims to be the DiabolicalMastermind behind it all... before being [[YouHaveFailedMe shot dead]] by [[spoiler:Devil Dinosaur, the ''real'' lizard behind the man]].
* [[PlayingWithATrope Played with]] in TheNail. It's implied that LexLuthor (believed by the Justice League to be the BigBad) is being manipulated by Starro until it's revealed that [[spoiler:[[RedHerring "Starro"]] is actually a [[TheGrotesque mutated]] version of [[KryptoTheSuperdog Krypto]]]]. The ''real'' BigBad is none other than... [[spoiler:Jimmy Olsen]].
* LexLuthor is initially positioned as the BigBad of ''InfiniteCrisis'', but it turns out that the true culprit is [[spoiler: Alexander Luthor, Lex's MirrorUniverse counterpart]]. Note that this also included everything ''leading up'' to the Crisis, such as [[AIIsACrapshoot granting sentience to Batman's Brother Eye satellite]] and instigating the war between Raan and Thanagar.
* In ComicBook/TheCloneSaga arc that spanned the Spider-Man titles, the Jackal was believed to be the BigBad. The villain truly behind it was the Green Goblin, who was still believed to be dead at the time.
* In ''Comicbook/UntoldTalesOfSpiderMan'', the person backing the Headsman and the Scorcher is eventually revealed to be [[spoiler:The Green Goblin.]]
* In GrantMorrison's ''ComicBook/NewXMen'', [[spoiler:John Sublime]] is the Man Behind the U-Men, the Weapon Plus Project, Kid Omega, and Xorn. About the only major villain that ''can't'' be traced back to him is Cassandra Nova.
* In some of its last issues before being abruptly cancelled, ''ComicBook/TheIncredibles'' seems to imply that the film's villain Syndrome may have possibly been doing business with or possibly working under the employ of Xerek (a character taken from early drafts of the film). Xerek's long in development XanatosGambit to discredit the supers further had two key components: An adapted use of the Omnidroid technology to create a bipedal giant mecha and the preserved brain of psychic superhero Everseer, who was one of the first victims of Syndrome's Omnidroid series, to act as a living psychic amplifier to enhance the abilities of another telepath/mind controller, Mezmerella.
* Marvel's Loki does this so frequently he basically has this as his M.O., particularly in the Thor comics. The number of Thor RoguesGallery that have nothing to do with him could be counted on one hand. Especially in the early days of ComicBook/TheMightyThor just about every villain Thor ever faced was either created by or empowered by Loki in his attempts to kill Thor, sometimes as part of a multistep plan.
* ''ComicBook/GodzillaRulersOfEarth'' reveals the Cryog were behind [=SpaceGodzilla=], Gigan, Hedorah and Monster X/Keizer Ghidorah.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fanfiction]]
* The Biggest Bad is this to General Hand in [[http://fav.me/d4lv1qv Super Milestone Wars 2]].
* ''Fanfic/{{Downfall}}'' has an interesting one -- although it appears at first glance that [[spoiler:Unohana and her faction]] are the villains, subsequent perspectives given the readers have rendered that perspective uncertain. At best, that is only half the answer, and it is implied that some other force may be manipulating events.
* YodaKenobi, author of the epic ''StarWars'' fanfic series ''Legacy of the Sith'' loves this one. The villain of the first story is set up as [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Vagaari]] leader Goresh Tenziesh, but he turns out to be controlled by [[SmugSnake General Kol Renin]], one of the leaders of [[spoiler:the true Sith Empire]]. ''Then'' it's revealed that Renin is only [[spoiler:an apprentice Sith. The real mastermind is his Master, [[MagnificentBastard Darth Malig]]. Now it's being foreshadowed that even Malig isn't the complete answer to the puzzle, though it's unknown if there's another villain controlling him or not]].
* ''Fanfic/TheLegendOfSpyroANewDawn'' has its first half with a BigBadEnsemble consisting of [[AntiVillain Deadlock]], [[PhysicalGod Empress Tyrania]], and [[GentlemanThief Boss Kaze]], though Deadlock is TheHeavy of the three. The second half reveals that [[spoiler:General Grendel, TheDragon to Deadlock, had been manipulating all three of them as part of his plan to gain an ArtifactOfDoom he can use to obtain the power of the Naga Spirit Of War and take revenge on the dragons for their banishment of the Naga thousands of years ago. In a twist, the readers know he's The Man Behind The Man at the halfway point, but the characters don't until after Deadlock is defeated and he successfully performs the ritual, giving him access to a civilization-destroying EldritchAbomination.]]
* During the first StoryArc of ''FanFic/JewelOfDarkness'', Slade is this to Midnight -- in [[AlternateUniverse this universe]], she's the first BigBad that the Titans face, as she tries to prove that she's a worthy apprentice to Slade. However, the Titans don't know this, viewing her as an independent villain; they don't learn of Slade's existence until the climax of the arc, when he shows up to rescue the defeated Midnight from the Titans.
* In ''FanFic/MinesOfDragonMountain'' (the second in a series of crossovers between ''Series/DoctorWho'' and ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic''), it's eventually revealed that [[spoiler:[[GodOfEvil Tirac]] has been manipulating [[WellIntentionedExtremist Gabbro]] for years, and everything Gabbro's done in the story is part of a GambitRoulette by Tirac to ensure his [[SealedEvilInACan release]]]].
* ''FanFic/ClashOfTheElements'': Part 2 reveals that [[spoiler:[[MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Cackletta]] is responsible for pretty much all the villainous threats to Plit beforehand, up to and including Joe Dark and Tabuu.]]
* ''FanFic/TheStarsWillAidTheirEscape'': While the reader is aware from the beginning that [[EldritchAbomination Herald]] is the true BigBad, the protagonists spend most of the story believing that his UnwittingPawn Trixie is the main villain, until he reveals himself to them during the fight in Canterlot. And Herald himself is just a servant of [[SealedEvilInACan the Old Ones]], so they probably qualify as well.
* ''FanFic/EarthAndSky'': To an extent, Diamond Tiara is this to the Flim-Flam brothers -- while she may have lost control of them by the time the Pegalathon starts, she's still the one who sent them after Harmony Aeronautics in the first place, and is still covering for them the best she can. She also turns out to be the one who [[PunchClockVillain hired the LaFish brothers]] to attack the HA team during the race.
* In [[FanFic/EquestriaAHistoryRevealed Equestria: A History Revealed]], apparently Celestia has been behind most significant events in Equestrian history, even the ones she wasn't even there for. Of course, given this claim is made by the ConspiracyTheorist narrator, it may not stand true in-universe.
* [[GodOfEvil Erebos]] earns his position as BigBad of the ''FanFic/PoniesOfOlympus'' series by benefit of this trope. He was the one who turned Chrysalis into a changeling, sent her to invade during the Royal Wedding, and later sends her to infiltrate the Atlas Strongest Tournament; he was the one who [[TheCorrupter corrupted]] Luna into Nightmare Moon; and Luna suspects that he was manipulating the conflict between the hippocampi and the dragons of the Scaly Back River Clan for his own benefit (though this hasn't been confirmed yet).
* ''FanFic/BurningBlack'': It's eventually discovered that Remy is in a "partnership" with [[spoiler:the Pixies]]. However, the latter are clearly the superior party (despite what Remy might think) and are using Remy to further their own goal.
* ''FanFic/FriendshipIsAura'': [[UltimateEvil Lord Tartarus]] was the one who sent Chrysalis into Equestria in the first place, making him responsible for the incident at the wedding [[spoiler:and her actions in-story.]]
* In the ''FanFic/FacingTheFutureSeries'', Vlad has been shown this to be for quite a few stories. First, he was responsible for Vortex and Nocturne making their appearances in ''Hearts and Minds'', now is responsible for a couple of ghost attacks on Amity Park for some reason.
* ''FanFic/JusticeLeagueOfEquestria''; in the side story where Rainbow Dash[=/=]Supermare teams up with Batpony, the thugs that tried to free Clayface were revealed to have been hired by [[spoiler: Joker]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* [=Chancellor/Emperor=] Palpatine is this in ''StarWars'': to Nute Gunray and Darth Maul in ''Film/ThePhantomMenace'', to Count Dooku in ''Film/AttackOfTheClones'' and ''Film/RevengeOfTheSith'', to Grand Moff Tarkin in ''Film/ANewHope'', and to Darth Vader in ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'' and ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi''.
* The 2003 ''{{Zatoichi}}'' remake takes this to a ridiculous level in revealing ''two'' men behind the man in the film's very last minutes.
* ''MeetTheRobinsons'' had a rare case of the [[spoiler:''hat'']] behind the man.
* In ''Film/SpyKids'', it turns out that [[spoiler:all Floop wanted to do was make his kids' show. Mr. Minion was the mastermind.]]
* Megatron in ''Film/TransformersRevengeOfTheFallen'' turns out to be the underling to The Fallen.
* Mr White, from ''Film/JamesBond''. He first appears as the intermediary between Le Chiffre and the African warlords in ''Film/CasinoRoyale'', working on behalf of the shadowy terrorist organization Quantum. He only meets Bond once the film, when he kills Le Chiffre as punishment for his failures. Even after Bond captures him in ''Film/QuantumOfSolace'', White escapes before he can give information, and also eludes Bond at a later point. It is suggested that White is one of the more mysterious leaders of Quantum, as he manipulates both the heroes and villains to his gain, repeatedly.
* Inverted in the fourth ''TheFastAndTheFurious'' movie, where Dom and Paul try to find the identity of the one running the drug cartel by tracking their handler, but it turns out that the handler was the leader all along.
** The sixth movie reveals that BigBad Owen Shaw had the drug cartel within his pockets, along with the CIA, DEA and numerous terrorist organisations.
* [[TheOmen The Omen Trilogy]]: The audience knows early on that though these evil food corporations may be running rampant, it is ''really'' Damien Thorn pulling the strings. And then behind him is [[TheDevil the Lord of Darkness himself.]]
* [[RushHour Rush Hour 2]]. This trope is discussed by Carter and Lee. Carter's theory of investigation is "Follow the Rich White Man." His belief is that behind every major crime there's a rich white man waiting for his cut. [[spoiler:And he's right. In each movie, the BigBad or one his associates is the rich white guy.]]
* Professor Z's superior in ''{{Cars 2}}'' is [[spoiler:Sir Miles Axelrod, host of the World Grand Prix.]]
* Referenced in ''ThingsChange'', where Tony Mantegna passes off Don Ameche's character as powerful mobster who is "the man behind the man ''behind the man''," getting lots of casino comps and explaining why no one has ever heard of him at the same time. Ameche is actually a simple shoe-shiner who is about to take the rap for a real mob boss. This scene was parodied in ''{{Swingers}}'' when Vince Vaugn's character jokingly makes the exact same claim about Jon Favreau at a casino.
* ''Film/IronMan3'': [[spoiler:The Mandarin turns out to be an actor used by Aldrich Killian to provide a face and distraction for the Extremis attacks.]]
* In ''Film/NowYouSeeMe'', [[spoiler:you'd think that maybe Thaddeus is TheChessmaster behind the Four Horsemen, right? He's a former magician himself, and has a popular show that debunks magicians; what better disguise than to appear to be against them? Well, you're wrong. It's Dylan, the cop who was "chasing" them the entire time, and was actually using them for the ultimate purpose of framing Bradley.]]
* ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'' plays with this trope in regards to [[spoiler:Khan and Admiral Marcus. While the former is still the main villain long after the latter has left the picture, Marcus is still responsible for bringing Khan into the film in the first place and is a major figure in Section 31, a black ops group in Starfleet.]]
* ''Film/TheAvengers'': It's revealed in TheStinger that the being ComicBook/{{Loki}} made a deal with is [[spoiler: {{Thanos}}]].
* ''Film/TheBourneSeries'': In ''The Bourne Identity'', Ward Abbott was the mastermind behind Treadstone, and after [[spoiler:[[YouHaveFailedMe eliminating Conklin]]]], he's seen in a hearing laying down plans for the successor organization Blackbriar. It isn't until ''The Bourne Supremacy'' that he gets his comeuppance by Bourne.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Gaea in ''Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus'' is a female example, behind her son, Porphyrion.
* In ''WatershipDown'', the antagonist rabbits from Efrafa corner the fierce fighting rabbit Bigwig, and are dismayed as he reveals that he is not the warren leader, but is defending the burrow at the orders of his chief -- whom they assume must be even larger and stronger than he is. [[spoiler:They're wrong -- Hazel came by his authority and Bigwig's loyalty by being wiser, not stronger.]]
* In ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' we meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy. We later find out [[spoiler:that the purpose of the president of the galaxy is to distract the people from the real powers that be with his insane antics.]] In "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", we finally meet the real ruler of the galaxy, who is [[spoiler:a hermit who lives in a small hut near the sea with his cat. He likes fish.]] And he's not just the ruler of this galaxy but, it is implied, the entire universe -- this galaxy is just where the Frogstar inhabitants placed him for safekeeping, but he receives other visitors from "far away, so far away" on a regular basis.
* The definitive early science fiction series ''Literature/{{Lensman}}'' by Creator/EEDocSmith, when read in publication order, is a classic example of this; one Man Behind The Man per book is revealed for three books running... [[spoiler:The drug runners lead to the military force, which leads to the eternal force of darkness in the universe...]]
* Glen Cook does this constantly in all his major works. Played straightest in ''Dread Empire'' where the titular empire, Shinsan, is controlled by its emperor who wins the succession struggle halfway through the series, [[spoiler:O Shing. But he is really being controlled by a cabal of sorcerer-generals, the Tervola, who are actually being controlled by a conspiracy of 9 individuals at the highest places in society from across the globe/continent, who are actually being controlled by an immortal demigod (the Star Rider), who is being controlled by an ill defined higher, extra-dimensional power. That's where it stops, but probably not.]]
* In Tolkien's story of the Fall of Númenor, Sauron allows himself to be captured by Ar-Pharazôn, King of Númenor, and soon goes from being prisoner of the King to channeling his power through the King.
** Sauron's also heavily implied or outright stated to be the man behind Angmar, several barbarian invasions of Gondor, and at least one plague. He did a lot to weaken his enemies before revealing himself openly a few decades prior to [[LordOfTheRings LOTR]].
* The Black Council in the DresdenFiles. Screw over and manipulate heroes and villains alike.
** As of ''Cold Days'' [[spoiler:an entity called Nemesis is revealed to have possibly been the Man Behind The Man to the Black Council, and the BiggerBad of the entire series. It is an [[EldritchAbomination Outsider]] that can infect people's minds, and is responsible for pretty much everything that's transpired so far, much of which Harry had previously attributed to the Black Council. The exact relationship between Nemesis and the Black Council remains unclear; it could be an organization that has been influenced by Nemesis, or they could be attempting to use it to further their own ends, or there may not even ''be'' a Black Council as such.]]
* ''KittyNorville'', in [[OnceAnEpisode every last book]]. Often played multiple ways. The rundown:
** Book 1: Who's responsible for the serial-killing werewolf? Primarily [[spoiler:Meg, who infected him with lycanthropy in a plan to unseat Carl as pack alpha, but in a strange example also Kitty herself, whose encouragement gave James the confidence to become a serial killer. An epic NiceJobBreakingItHero. The former was also responsible for Cormac's attack on Kitty.]]
** Book 2: ''Four'' major villains all turn out to be connected: Senator Duke is the overt BigBad, but he winds up in cahoots with [[spoiler:Dr. Paul Fleming, Roger Stockton, and Leo, each of whom are pursuing their own agendas. Additionally, Leo, who seems to be playing the other three, is implied to be taking orders from the Department of Defense and/or someone else that even vampires are afraid of.]]
** Book 3 gets tricky due to a KudzuPlot. The curse on Kitty's cabin was cast by [[spoiler:the NotSoHarmlessVillain Alice and CorruptHick Sheriff Marks, but the cattle mutilations were the work of a skinwalker that had been attracted by the evil energies of the curse, and the latter was also the sister of the werewolf that infected Ben. So ultimately, everything traces back to the skinwalker's grandfather, who also taught her what she knew. Who, [[ShaggyDogStory after all that]], proves to be an AnticlimaxBoss since neither he nor the heroes can hurt each other, and killing him won't get the heroes what they want anyway.]]
** Book 4: Who's the real bad guy in the vampiric civil war; [[spoiler:AntiVillain Arturo, or Rick? Neither. Mercedes was playing them both off each other for her own purposes.]]
** Book 5: By this point, Kitty's getting GenreSavvy, so when [[spoiler:Ben gets kidnapped, she suspects Balthasar. It turns out that Balthasar's show is a front for a cult led by his showgirl, who is the real vampire master of Las Vegas. However, in a MetaTwist, they had nothing to do with Ben's disappearance -- that was the two-bit criminal the police suspected all along.]]
** Book 6: The Band of Tiamat has to be behind the mysterious force stalking Kitty, right? Yes, but [[spoiler:both they and Dom are pawns of Roman, who is implied to also have been pulling Leo's strings back in book two. Bonus points for being ChekhovsGunman, having appeared previously as an unnamed bodyguard in Book 5]] (Though that last might be a {{Retcon}}.)
* [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Ruin]] wasn't controlling ''all'' of the other villains in ''{{Mistborn}}'', but he was (directly or indirectly) the cause of most of their actions, as well as being the driving force behind a good portion of history and [[spoiler: the entire prophecy of the Hero of Ages.]]
* In the ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}} Literature/BloodAngels'' novels, we learn that Dark Apostle Iskavan reports to Warmaster Garand, who in turn reports to Abbadon the Despoiler, while [[spoiler:Inquisitor Stele]]'s [[TheChessmaster Chessmastery]] is still part of Malfallax's greater game.
* The {{cyberpunk}} novel ''{{Neuromancer}}'' by WilliamGibson, [[DeusEstMachina Wintermute/Neuromancer]] is revealed to be this.
* Raymond E. Feist is in ''love'' with this one. Across the RiftwarCycle, the first real villains (the first book was more GreyAndGreyMorality) were the dark elves, who then turned out to be manipulated by the [[LizardFolk Pantathian]] [[ReligionOfEvil priests]], who were in turn pawns for [[AbusivePrecursors the Valheru]]. Later installments revealed that the Valheru themselves were being influenced by [[GodOfEvil Nalar]], and the final books revealed that ''he'' [[spoiler: was just a RedHerring for the real BigBad, the Dread]]. Among the side villains, [[EldritchAbomination the Dark God]] was manipulating the Dasati for centuries before taking its place as their ruler, and the demon legions currently trying to invade the mortal world are on the run from ''even worse demons'' back home. [[spoiler:Both the Dark God and the aforementioned demons were eventually revealed as manifestations of the Dread as well]].
* In the BackStory of Creator/RobertEHoward's ConanTheBarbarian story "Literature/AWitchShallBeBorn", the man who raised Salome intended this trope, but decided she wasn't good enough for a front man.
-->''He would have made me queen of the world and ruled the nations through me, he said, but I was only a harlot of darkness. ''
** In "Literature/ShadowsInZamboula," it is rumored that the mistress of the ruler is the true ruler.
** {{Kull}} is surprised to be told this trope applies to Kaanuub.
* ''Literature/HarryPotterAndThePhilosophersStone'': Quirrell being the BigBad was the main [[TheReveal reveal]] but Voldemort being a [[VisualPun literal man behind the man]] was also pretty big.
** Inverted in ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire Goblet of Fire]]'', where it's pretty obvious all along that the Man Behind the Man is going to be Voldemort, but who the Man himself is isn't clear. The most obvious suspect is Karkaroff, and others considered at various times include Snape, Viktor Krum, Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch Sr.. The Man turns out to be who no-one expected - Barty Crouch Jr. (who was believed dead) disguised as Mad-Eye Moody.
* In Book 1 of ''TheKaneChronicles'', [[spoiler:Apophis was manipulating Set's forces the whole time.]]
* ''InDeath'': This happens a few times. ''Immortal In Death'' reveals that Casto did the actual murdering. ''Betrayal In Death'' reveals that Naples hired Sylvester Yost in the first place. ''Divided In Death'' reveals that Sparrow, assistant director of Homeland Security Organization, put Blair Bissel up to murdering people.
* In Steven Gould's novel ''[[Literature/{{Jumper}} Reflex]]'', Davy and Millie Rice end up with a series of Men Behind Men at least three layers deep.
* In MichaelFlynn's ''[[Literature/SpiralArm The January Dancer]]'', the Fudir finally deduces that the motive force behind the Dancer's movements is [[spoiler: the Dancer itself.]]
* In the historical novel ''Literature/WingsOfDawn'': [[spoiler: Waleran.]]
** Also a case of the man behind the man ''also'' being the man ''in front'' of the same man. And several other men. [[RunningGag Multiple times]]. %% This entry was added automatically by FELH2. In case the wording doesn't make sense, rewrite it as you like, remove this comment and tell this troper.
* In ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'', [[spoiler:Arbat is The Man for Unit 0.]]
* Lee Saranson serves as this for Buzz Windrip in ''ItCantHappenHere''.
* ''Literature/LegacyOfTheDragokin'': [[spoiler: Man in Shadow]] claims that the Kthonian knights are mere pawns for a larger {{plan}}.
* ''Literature/TheKingdomAndTheCrown'' has a council behind the council. The Great Sanhedrin is the official governing power in Jerusalem, but there is a smaller, more elite council where the real power lies. "The power behind the throne," as the Romans call it.
* The Orions in the StarTrekNovelVerse. That dancing girl or prostitute is enslaved to a man who is in turn enslaved to a woman of the elite lineages, who in turn owes allegiance to a man who runs an entire branch of a crime syndicate, who is himself a servant of the woman who runs the entire syndicate from behind the throne...
* In AndreNorton's ''Literature/{{Catseye}}'', Troy faces Kyger for most of the work. [[spoiler:After Kyger's murder, and some adventure, he's taken prisoner, to Dragur. In hindsight, Dragur's actual fascination with his marine animals means that the animal shop was a perfect cover for their dealings.]]
* In the ''Literature/{{Shannara}}'' series, the Warlock Lord is the BigBad of the first book (''The Sword of Shannara'') and its prequel (''First King of Shannara''), and is considered to have been the Biggest individual Bad in the setting's history. In ''The Wishsong of Shannara'', some of his former minions learn sorcery themselves and turn into creatures called Mord Wraiths, who are collectively the new BigBad. [[spoiler: Except that's not how it works. The Warlock Lord was actually in the thrall of the Ildatch, an ancient, intelligent tome of BlackMagic that ''wants'' people to use it, and will latch onto anyone with enough magical talent to make use of its spells, only to abandon them when they're defeated and/or someone better comes along. The Warlock Lord had it, and the Mord Wraiths took it after he died, and in both cases those who used the book became little more than husks that existed solely to use its powers. It's implied that the Ildatch has been doing this for ''milennia''. Finally, when ''Wishsong's'' heroine Brin Ohmsford arrived to destroy it and the Mord Wraiths, it latched onto her and tried to turn her into a DarkMessiah, which would have worked if her brother hadn't snapped her out of it, at which point Brin used her magic to burn the Ildatch to ash. Good riddance]].
* In the Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse, [[spoiler:Onimi is revealed to have been manipulating Supreme Overlord Shimrra behind the scenes, and therefore is the one responsible for the Yuuzhan Vong's invasion of the galaxy.]]
* Satan, to no one's surprise, is the man behind Nicolae Carpathia's rise to power, and the source of Nicolae's power (particularly when he indwells Nicolae at his "resurrection") in the Literature/LeftBehind book series.
* In ''Literature/PleaseDontTellMyParentsImASupervillain'', because of their youth and the odd pattern of their attacks, the heroes believe that someone is directing The Inscrutable Machine, when in fact they're just attacking randomly. Played straight later when Spider blackmails them into helping her.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/TwentyFour'':
** In one season, The Man Behind The Man is revealed around the middle of the "day", allowing Jack to spend the remaining episodes going after the real Big Bad.
** In season 1, Dan and Rick (as well as Mandy and her assistant) were working for Ira Gaines, who himself was hired by the Drazens, [[spoiler:while the Drazen brothers were working to bust their thought-dead father out of prison]].
** In season 2, Joe Wald was being manipulated by [[spoiler:Nina Myers]], who was working with Syed Ali, who was sold the nuclear device by Peter Kingsley, who himself was working under orders of Trepkos and Max. [[spoiler:Max himself may have been the superior of the German woman talking to Nina at the end of season 1, making him the man behind the woman behind the woman.]]
** In "The Game", [[spoiler:Max was Peter Madsen's superior.]]
** In season 3, [[spoiler:Michael Amador and Marcus Alvers were working for Stephen Saunders.]]
*** And before we even knew about any of them, [[spoiler: we originally thought the villains were the Salazars. While definitely not nice people, the Salazars were bluffing when they claimed to have the virus. They tried to buy it from Amador and ended up dead for it.]]
** In season 4, Navi Araz was working for Habib Marwan.
** In season 5, [[spoiler:Anton Beresch was working for Ivan Erwich, who was working for Vladimir Bierko, who was working with Christopher Henderson, who was working for President Charles Logan.]]
** In season 6, [[spoiler:Abu Fayed's superior, General Habib, appears in one episode, but he was already captured by the time we learn about him. Fayed was also the attempted pawn of Dmitri Gredenko, however Gredenko died and Fayed seemed to reclaim his spot as antagonist, but died in the very next episode. Latter a different conspiracy emerged when the Chinese entered the picture, led by Cheng Zi, and they are revealed to be in cahoots with Jack's long lost father Phillip. Phillip and his son Graem were also Logan's co-conspirators in the previous conspiracy, or at least until they were seemingly retconned, as Logan recieved the full blame for it at the start of season 7.]]
** In season 7, [[spoiler:it's debatable whether Benjamin Juma's relations with Jonas Hodges count, as Hodges relationship is already stated in Redemption, and it can be interpreted as more of a BigBadDuumvirate than Hodges being Juma's superior. On a far grander and less ambigious scale, even Hodges was merely a member of a [[TheOmniscientCouncilOfVagueness large cabal]] headed by Alan Wilson, and Wilson was stated by Tony Almeida to have been The Man Behind The Man to PresidentEvil Charles Logan.]]
** In Season 8 [[spoiler: Farhad Hassan and Samir Mehran were the Men Behind the assassination attempt on President Hassan. Meanwhile, Mehran was secretly supported by Russian Minister Mikhail Novakovich, who in turn answered to Russian President Yuri Suvarov who seemed to have undergone a FaceHeelTurn. They are later blackmailed into a new conspiracy, which involved both the US and Russian governments covering up the original conspiracy, signing the peace treaty, and attempting to kill Jack Bauer. The man behind it? None other than Former PresidentEvil Charles Logan.]]
* ''Series/{{Alias}}'': Throughout Season One, Sydney pursues a character that the show refers to as "The Man." Sure enough, the person they thought was The Man turns out to be TheDragon:
-->'''Sydney:''' What's going to happen to me?
-->'''Khasinau:''' You'll have to ask my boss.
-->'''Sydney:''' Your boss? I'm looking for The Man. Aren't you Alexander Khasinau?
-->'''Khasinau:''' Yes. Yes, but I am not The Man.
-->(''The Man walks in'')
-->'''Sydney:''' [[spoiler:Mom?]]
* ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' does that a lot. In the beginning the bad guys are just various apparently unconnected minor conspiracies, such as the Centipede project, seemingly directed by Raina (aka "the girl in the flower dress") and [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Ian Quinn]]'s [[EvilInc evil corporation]]. It is later discovered that both Raina and Quinn report to a [[TheChessmaster mysterious employer]] known as the Clairvoyant. In Episode 16, [=SHIELD=] agents discovers "The Clairvoyant" in the person of [[spoiler:Thomas Nash]] and kill him, but [[spoiler:Nash]] himself says that name was given to him by someone else, and further analysis from Coulson makes it clear that Nash was at best a front and at worst just a decoy and another victim. The BigBad is then revealed to be [[spoiler:John Garret, who has not only been controlling everything from the start, but is also revealed to be Ward's handler, who is a H.Y.D.R.A. mole.]]
* ''Series/AmericanIdol'': Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick are this to the judges.
* ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment'': Lucille is revealed to be the one making the decisions, while George Senior is TheScapegoat.
* ''Series/{{Arrow}}'':
** The BigBad of Season 1's island/flashback storyline, [[PrivateMilitaryContractors Edward Fyers]], turns out to be acting under orders from a mystery woman who seeks to profit from [[spoiler: Fyers shooting down planes in Chinese airspace in order to crash their economy]].
** Season 2's apparent present day BigBad, [[DarkMessiah Brother Blood]], eventually turns out to be working for [[spoiler: [[FaceHeelTurn Slade Wilson]]]], and in fact seems outright [[EvilerThanThou afraid]] of him.
* ''Series/BurnNotice'': In the episode "Dead to Rights", it is revealed that Larry was working for [[spoiler: Anson]] -- and not even ''Larry'' knew it, thanks to an elaborate [[ThePlan plan]].
* ''Series/{{Chuck}}'': Has done this twice. [[spoiler: Fulcrum was a part of the Ring, and these two, along with Volkoff Industries, were part of a conspiracy as clients of a firm led by Nicholas Quinn.]]
* ''Series/DayBreak'': The thugs targeting Hopper are commanded by the ominous "Man from the Quarry". We learn his name -- Conrad Detweiler -- only several episodes later. Then he is heard taking orders from somebody else -- Tobias Booth. Who in one episode even executes him for allegedly leaking information to Hopper. [[spoiler:But Booth is actually subordinate to Barry Colburn, who is the ultimate leader of the conspiracy. Hopper eventually learns the truth, but Colburn is actually so high up in the criminal chain that all his tracks are covered and Hopper can't do anything about him, so he remains a free man.]]
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The final two episodes of the Ninth Doctor's run revealed that the Jagrafess supposedly masterminding Earth in "The Long Game" was actually a pawn of [[spoiler:the Daleks]].
** Not to mention that the Jagrafess was the Man Behind the Man to the Editor in "The Long Game," making [[spoiler: the Daleks]] the Man Behind the Man Behind the Man.
** The earliest example of [[spoiler:the Daleks]] being the Man Behind the Man Behind the Man was in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS10E3FrontierInSpace Frontier in Space]], in which case they were behind [[spoiler:the Master]], who was the Man Behind the Man to the Ogrons.
** And [[spoiler: Rassilon]] was the ManBehindTheMan to the Master, having [[spoiler: used the time vortex to give him the continuous sound of drums in his head, effectively torturing him into insanity]].
** Not the first time this was done with [[spoiler: Rassilon]]. In "Zagreus" the Doctor and [[spoiler: TARDIS]] have been infected by anti-time and turned into Zagreus. It is revealed these events have been set up by [[spoiler: Rassilon for his plan to send Zagreus to destroy the Divergence]]. Then at the end of the Divergent Universe arc it is revealed Kro'ka, who was supposedly working for the Divergents, was working for [[spoiler: Rassilon]].
** The races that formed the [[LegionOfDoom Alliance]] in "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang" were apparently manipulated by the Silents, who wouldn't even appear till next series.
** In Magazine/DoctorWhoMagazine in "The Glorious Dead" it is revealed Cardinal Morningstar is [[spoiler:Sato Katsura]] and he is working for [[spoiler:the Master]].
* ''Series/FallingSkies'': For most of the first season, both the characters and the audience believe that the Skitters are the {{Big Bad}}s. Then, near the end of the season, we meet the Overlords, and find out that the Skitters are just SlaveMooks.
* ''Series/HawaiiFiveO'': [[spoiler: Wo Fat]], in both the 1968-80 original and the 2010 [[Series/HawaiiFive0 reboot]]--but much more prominently in the latter.
* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'': Adam Monroe is the Man to the twelve founders of the Company.
* ''InPlainSight'': InvertedTrope in one episode, where the mysterious contract killer "Lola" is a fabrication of her supposed underling, the real killer.
* JossWhedon:
** He really likes this trope. Here we go:
** In ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' season 6, several [[MonsterOfTheWeek monsters of the week]] were hired or summoned by the Nerds.
** In ''Series/{{Angel}}'', it's made clear early on that [[CorruptCorporateExecutive corrupt]] MegaCorp Wolfram And Hart is behind many lesser evils of LA, but who is behind ''Wolfram And Hart'' goes through several levels of reveal.
*** Season 1 reveals Holland Manners is behind the former face of W&H Lindsey [=McDonald=].
*** Season 2 shows that W&H is behind the CorruptChurch that rules the dark dimension Pylea, and that true demons (the Senior Partners) are behind the mortal attorneys.
*** Season 4 has a different procession: The Beast (AKA Big Rubber {{Satan}}) is in front of [[spoiler: [[DemonicPossession Evil Cordelia]]]], who is in front of (or rather, actually ''is'') EldritchAbomination Jasmine (who may be behind any number of other things, as well).
** ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' never got around to revealing much, but based on what we know about the show's planned MythArc, it appears that Blue Sun Corporation was meant to be behind most of The Alliance's evil tendencies.
** ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'' is a massive cascade of Man Behind The Man moments: [[DefrostingIceQueen Adelle DeWitt]] in front of Rossum as a whole, then a series of fake out reveals which ultimately give way to the [[ShockingSwerve sudden knowledge]] that [[spoiler: Boyd]] is the real BigBad.
* ''Series/{{Lost}}'':
** Has done this several times. In the second season, it looked like Tom was the leader of the Others, until the finale when we learned of [[spoiler:Benjamin Linus]], who then revealed himself to be a pawn of [[spoiler:Jacob]], who is then [[spoiler:murdered in the Season 5 finale, leaving the Man in Black to take the stage]]. And in all this mess, we still have [[spoiler:Charles Widmore]] to worry about.
** AvertedTrope in that [[spoiler: the Man in Black was "seen" in the very first episode and has been popping up throughout the series, seemingly in various dead guises.]] Also [[spoiler: Jacob is not presented as an antagonist when he is finally revealed, and it is unclear just how much he has been ordering the Others around (though he probably could have stopped a lot of their worst actions) and hence how responsible he is for them, particularly since he spends a lot of time travelling.]]
* ''MightyMorphinPowerRangers'':
** The Prime-Time Premiere of the second season reveals that Lord Zedd was Rita's BigBoss, by imprisoning her in another dumpster but he was only the trope to the humans (viewers or in-universe). Zordon and Goldar (and it's implied the same to the other non-humans in the series) already knew Zedd was Rita's "lord and master" and was just too busy conquering other worlds prior to his debut, making him a BiggerBad in their perspective.
** While a vague allusion to a United Alliance of Evil in Zeo's premiere seems to imply a grander villain hierarchy than just Rita and Zedd, it isn't until the premiere of ''Series/PowerRangersInSpace'' that we learn Dark Specter had been the man behind the man for EVERY SEASON until then. Then Rita and Zedd's son tries to make himself into the man behind the various villain factions during the middle of ''Series/PowerRangersOperationOverdrive''. Doesn't last long but it was impressive for what is technically [[EnfanteTerrible a nine-year-old]].
** ''Series/PowerRangersSPD'' also has Emperor Gruumm revealed to be serving something called Omni.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest'': Pennsylvania Two/Special Counsel is this with respect to Weeks. [[spoiler: Then it turns out that Pennsylvania Two is working for a woman known only by the name "Control"]].
* ''Series/{{Profit}}'': Jim Profit is a rare [[VillainProtagonist protagonist version]], as he eventually becomes this for the entire [[MegaCorp Gracen & Gracen corporation]]. Officially, Profit is simply the boss [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Charles Gracen]]'s right-hand man and advisor as [[EvilChancellor Vice President of Acquisitions]]. However, by the finale he controls the Gracen family so thoroughly through his relationship with Charles and his brother and the backdoor manipulation of Bobbi as Charles's lover that Profit effectively runs the company. As he puts it, his goal was to control one of the largest economic groupings in the United States, and [[TheBadGuyWins he achieves exactly that]].
* ''Series/{{Revenge}}'' has [[NebulousEvilOrganization the Americon Initiative]], which seems to play this role to the Graysons' empire.
* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': Throughout the first season, Randall Flynn seemed to have a mysterious agenda going on. Then in the [[Recap/RevolutionS1E20TheDarkTower first season finale]], [[spoiler: it turns out that he wanted to get the power back on so he could launch Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles at Atlanta and Philadelphia. Then he kills himself after his mission is accomplished. Not only that, but it turns out that he was working on behalf of the American government, which had stationed itself in [[{{Irony}} Guantanamo Bay, Cuba]] for a long time. Now that Randall has accomplished his mission, the government is planning to go in and take back what's theirs]].
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}'': In the eighth season, [[EvilCripple Lex]] is The Man Behind The Man to [[TheBaroness Tess Mercer]], while [[UnholyMatrimony Faora and Zod]] are The Man Behind The Man to [[PersonOfMassDestruction Doomsday]], although they don't retain control of him for long. In Season 10, {{Darkseid}} is The Man Behind The Man to [[EvilOldFolks Granny Goodness]], [[SerialKiller Desaad]], and [[CompellingVoice Gordon Godfrey]], as well as [[GeneralRipper Slade Wilson]] and the Vigilante Registration Act.
* ''{{Soap}}'': when Danny decides he wants to leave TheMafia he tells his boss, who tells him he has to talk to the big boss of the Mafia - Mr. Lefkowitz.
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'': While it was not exactly a secret, Weyoun served as this with Damar in the last two seasons of . While Damar became the Leader of Cardassia after Dukat's capture, he served as nothing more than a puppet for Weyoun. Also from [= DS9 =], Quark's mother Ishka becomes this for Grand Nagus Zek.
* ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'': In Series 3, the Xindi race's attack on Earth made them the arc villains - however, as the ship searched for them in their home space, it happened across mysterious giant spheres warping reality, and then their architects, the extradimensional [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Sphere Builders]]. In the end it turned out the Xindi had been manipulated by the Sphere Builders into attacking Earth as part of a BatmanGambit to prevent them joining with humans against the Sphere Builders in the future, and the Sphere Builders were the real villains.
* ''TwinPeaks'': Although Agent Cooper encounters BOB in season 1 and Windom Earle in season 2, Windom Earle would be The Dragon, while BOB (who is never truly defeated) is the BigBad.
* ''Series/{{Utopia}}'': At first, the leader of the [[TheConspiracy shadowy cabal known as The Network]] appears to be Letts; but after he's captured [[spoiler: his [[NoNameGiven assistant]] is revealed to be in charge. And then it turns out that even he is a DecoyLeader...]]
* ''WhiteCollar'': For the first season and a half, it seemed that [[spoiler: Garrett Fowler]] was the man running things. Halfway through the second season, in "Point Blank", [[spoiler: Fowler reveals he's being blackmailed by Neal's old boss, Vincent Adler.]]
* Wrestling/{{WWE}}: In 1998, VinceMcMahon underwent a HeelFaceTurn after his son ShaneMcMahon took over his stable, TheCorporation, and merged it with TheUndertaker's pseudo-Satanic cult, The MinistryOfDarkness, to form The Corporate Ministry. While Shane and TheUndertaker usurped control of Vince's company and kidnapped his daughter StephanieMcMahon, Vince was forced to make peace with all the wrestlers he'd spent the past few years screwing over time and time again, and unite them against this new threat. Then, Undertaker started speaking of a "higher power" he served -- who turned out to be Vince himself.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'': Used frequently over the course, as each echelon of the conspiracy turned out to have a higher one it reported to.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Pinball]]
* In ''VideoGame/CrueBall,'' Craig, the music-hating "Keeper of the Wall", ultimately answers to [[spoiler:Mr. Gore, the Spirit of Anti-Metal.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Religion & Mythology]]
* Some [[Literature/TheBible Bible]] students believe that Isaiah 14:12 (particularly in the King James Version) and Ezekiel 28:12-19 is God talking to [[TheDevil The Man Behind The Kings]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''SpiritOfTheCentury'', it is heavily implied that [[spoiler:Doctor Methuselah]] should be used as such, at least as far as [[spoiler:Gorilla Khan]] is concerned.
* WhiteWolf's ''TabletopGame/ChangelingTheLost'' encourages storytellers to use the True Fae this way.
* ''JovianChronicles'' has the Venusian Bank doing this. [[spoiler: It's implied that the majority of the CEGA is in fact in their pocket, if they don't own it wholesale.]]
* One of the first adventure paths in role-playing, the G/D/Q series of 1st edition [[DungeonsAndDragons AD&D]] modules, was essentially this trope played out repeatedly: hill giants working for frost giants, frost giants for fire giants, all giants for drow, drow for Lolth. By the time you kill their demon-goddess, you're either [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome crowing that you've bested the ''ultimate'' Man Behind The Man]], or fed up and ready to play some one-shot adventures for a change.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Paranoia}}'', if the players ever investigate a really large-scale conspiracy and are about to get to the bottom of it, Friend Gamemaster is encouraged to [[RetCon introduce evidence]] that the culprits were being manipulated by someone else.
* The secret societies in the CardGame TabletopGame/{{Illuminati}} are structured so that you ultimately become one
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Chakravartin the Creator in ''VideoGame/AsurasWrath'', when it is revealed that he is the one behind everything ''in the entire game''. This is after [[spoiler: you kill a ton of ''Main/JerkassGods'', a giant army of ''Main/EldritchAbomination''s, with a bigger one behind that whose heart happens to be ''the planet's core''. All to "choose his heir".]]
* In ''[[VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsOriginalGeneration 2nd Super Robot Wars Original Generations]]'' it is [[spoiler:[[Characters/SuperRobotWarsAlpha Euzeth Gozzo]] from ''Super Hero Operations (Super Hero Sakusen)'', ''[[VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsAlpha Super Robot Wars Alpha]]'' and ''[[AnimatedAdaptation Super Robot Wars Original Generation: Divine Wars]]'']]. He was responsible for all the plots and schemes for the entirety of ''Original Generation'' for the entire reason to surpass the original creators of the [[spoiler: Cross Gate Paradigm System]] in order to become god. He thinks it is the only way to permanently destroy [[spoiler: Keiser Ephes]]. "[[Memes/VideoGames Sore mo watashi da]]" indeed.
* In ''VideoGame/SystemShock 2'', it seems that Xerxes is the cause of all the problems on the ship. [[spoiler:Then you run into The Many...]]
** Its spiritual successor, ''VideoGame/{{BioShock|1}}'', also does a masterful execution of it with [[spoiler:Frank Fontaine. More specifically, he's the man behind ''you'']].
** ''VideoGame/{{BioShock Infinite}}'' Continues this with the less villainous [[spoiler:Lutece Twins who are unstuck in time able to manipulate everything seemingly to atone for messing with Booker and Anna as well as enabling Comstock to gain all his power.]]
* Most of the ''FinalFantasy'' series follow the pattern of an initial antagonist (often a powerful and ambitious but relatively mundane Evil Empire or Corporation) which is rendered mostly irrelevant halfway through the game by the revelation of the main antagonist. Sometimes, as in the above two examples, the final battle reveals that this antagonist was also just a Dragon for the true BigBad, usually a quasi-divine "source of all evil" in that world.
** VideoGame/FinalFantasyII plays with this a little. When you defeat [[spoiler: The Emperor]], about 3/4 into the game, the game makes you think that [[spoiler: Leon, who up until this point was serving the empire,]] is going to be your new BigBad, but then we get a subversion when [[spoiler: The Emperor comes back from hell to rule the world.]]
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'' (''Final Fantasy 2'' in the US) sends you after the evil Golbez. In the end, you discover [[spoiler: not only was he being compelled to be evil from afar but that he also teams up with the main characters to defeat said evil from afar]].
*** To take the VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV example further [[spoiler: Golbez was actually the man behind King Baron near the beginning of the game]]. Making the real BigBad The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man.
*** Several times, the main antagonist was set up as described above, or has even been on the losing end of a ManBehindTheMan moment, only to take the reins from his supposed master. ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'' was a hallmark in the series because Kefka, the BigBad, appeared very early on and made appearances through the game. While he was serving an Emperor during his initial appearance, a later plot twist had him kill said leader and [[AGodAmI become a god]].
** Cult Classic ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'' perhaps subverts this formula most successfully. Yes, the Shinra Corporation quickly proves to be less fatal than [[BigBad Sephiroth]]. And yes, Sephiroth couldn't have gotten to be what he was without them, [[MadScientist Hojo]] and [[EldritchAbomination Jenova]]. But Sephiroth doesn't bother with manipulating Shinra, nor is Shinra delusional enough to attempt the same, and Shinra manages to stay a serious threat to the heroes right up to the end while [[BiggerBad Hojo and Jenova usually keep to the sidelines]].
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'', you spend the vast majority of the game chasing Edea; tragic [[BackStory back stories]] and conflicting emotions all come in to play about defeating your old mother-figure. But once you beat her, it turns out that your ''real'' enemy is a [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere sorceress from the future]] who was controlling Edea. (Some fans criticize this as an AssPull to make the game longer, although it's actually foreshadowed as early as Edea's NewEraSpeech on disc 1.)
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX'' starts with Queen Brahne trying to TakeOverTheWorld with weapons of magic destruction. Halfway through the game, her magic supplier, Kuja, kills her. Almost immediately it's revealed he's fighting against his former master, Garland, who is trying to kill everyone on Gaia and replace their souls with the souls of the people of Terra. Near the end of the game, Kuja kills Garland and tries to destroy all existence in a SuicidalCosmicTemperTantrum. The FinalBoss is the AnthropomorphicPersonification of Death, but he doesn't count as this trope because he wasn't controlling or manipulating anyone, but just shows up due to the RuleOfSymbolism.
* In ''FatalFury'', Kain R. Heinlein is the Man Behind The Man to Grant.
* ''BatenKaitos Origin'' does this ''twice''. After setting up Baelheit as the BigBad for 95% at the game, a late game [[TheReveal Reveal]]/AssPull reveals that he was in fact being manipulated by [[spoiler: your mentor, Verus, who had previously shown no hints of evilness. And after you crush him, it turns out that ''he'' was in fact being manipulated by Wiseman, the dictator you supposedly destroyed 1000 years in the past.]]
** In the previous game (and chronological successor), Geldoblame is set up as the BigBad initially, [[spoiler:until Melodia reveals that she was just waiting for him to get all of the parts of Malpercio into one place.]]
* Subverted in ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'', early in the game, your party learns the BigBad caused an apocalyptic destruction of the world. Eventually, they find someone casting a dark ritual which is summoning the BigBad. So, your party fights and defeats the summoner [[spoiler:Magus]], believing him to be The Man Behind The Man and finds out [[spoiler:he was trying to summon Lavos to destroy him until your party disrupted the ritual]]
* In the RhythmGame ''Space Channel 5'', Ulala makes her way to the base of the Morolians, aliens who are using mind control rays to compel people to dance, only to discover that the Morolians themselves are being controlled by the real bad guy: [[spoiler: Mr. Blank, the head of Space Channel 5, who orchestrated the whole invasion as a ratings stunt]].
* In ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}'', there are a few small hints dropped that [[TheGrimReaper Death]], who generally acts as Dracula's [[TheDragon Dragon]], may actually be this trope. There are also a few hints dropped that Death may obey a power beyond Dracula.
** ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaChroniclesOfSorrow'' games reveal that [[spoiler:Chaos, the UltimateEvil behind Castlevania itself, is this trope. This is the power that Death truly serves, though he seems to prefer Dracula being its host, given his hostile reaction to would-be usurpers. In ''Aria of Sorrow'' Chaos tries to force Dracula's reincarnation Soma to accept its power and become Dracula 2.0.]]
* ''VideoGame/GalaxyAngel'' gameverse, anyone? The endless loops beginning with Eonia and emerging into the thing with Noa and the Val-Fasq escape my brain right now trying to explain them.
* ''PhantasyStar'' enjoyed this quite a bit. In ''Phantasy Star 1'', [[spoiler: BigBad Lassic is in fact a puppet of the demonic Dark Force, from whom he received all his power.]] In ''Phantasy Star 2'', [[spoiler:Mother Brain, a malfunctioning supercomputer, seems to be the BigBad, only to be revealed as corrupted by the Earthmen, who were in turn corrupted by, surprise surprise, Dark Force.]] ''Phantasy Star 3'' featured [[spoiler: King Rulakir was Dark Force's most recent host and that the demon had been instigating the generations long feud between the two principal families]]. ''Phantasy Star IV'' seemed to break this cycle, revealing Dark Force early on, only for the party to destroy it three separate times. However, Dark Force itself is revealed as [[spoiler:merely the most powerful fragments of the Profound Darkness that it had managed to slip through its seal once every thousand years, tasked with destroying the planets of the Algol system which formed the seal that kept the dark goddess imprisoned.]]
* In the Xbox remake of ''NinjaGaiden'', Ryu goes after Doku, who stole the Dark Dragon Blade, only to find the sword in the hands of Doku's master, the Vigoorian Emperor. And after getting the sword back, the Dark Disciple ([[spoiler:Murai]]) reveals that he instigated the theft in the first place. Admittedly, the Vigoorian Emperor doesn't actually report to the Dark Disciple, but it still counts somewhat.
** ''NinjaGaiden III'' on the NES does this too: [[spoiler: Ryu finds out that Foster, the CIA agent from the first game, is creating super beings known as BIO-NOIDS and wants to kill him. Clancy, who was seemingly helping Ryu out, was actually using him to do his dirty work, and thus becomes the true enemy in the game, especially when Foster is killed for trying to chase Clancy into subspace.]]
** The original NES ''Ninja Gaiden II'' had Ashtar, the supposed BigBad. Once Ryu kills Ashtar and fights his way through more ninjas and demons, the true BigBad is revealed: Jaquio, the BigBad from the previous game. Who then dies and does a OneWingedAngel into a demon, a FinalBoss who [[SequentialBoss takes on two major forms before being killed for good]].
* As the page quote indicates, due in part to the complementary ThirtyXanatosPileUp trope and post game [[TheStinger reveals]], ''Franchise/MetalGear'' mythology is composed of factions manipulating over factions. Game by game:
** ''VideoGame/MetalGear'': Outer Heaven was [[ItWasHisSled masterminded]] by your supposed mentor Big Boss.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'': [[spoiler:The President, through Ocelot, manipulated Liquid Snake to his benefit.]]
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2'': [[spoiler:The Patriot AIs manipulated everybody, including aforementioned president, aka Solidus Snake, as an experiment to prove themselves capable of ''manipulating the world''.]]
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3'': [[spoiler:The American branch of the defunct Philosophers succeed in pitting Naked Snake against his mentor and mother figure The Boss to obtain AMacGuffinFullOfMoney, which is used to create the Patriots in the future.]]
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4'': [[spoiler:Due to everything above, the entire franchise's plot turns out to be a giant war proxy war between Naked Snake, aka Big Boss, against the Patriots, with Snake and Ocelot in this game being one giant smokescreen to distract the AIs from Big Boss' final move.]]
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidPeaceWalker'': [[spoiler:Paz turns out to be behind the entire plot, as an agent of Cipher/The Patriots in an early attempt to trick Big Boss into developing a Metal Gear before discrediting his public image and thus force him to work for the Patriots.]]
* [[spoiler:Dhoulmagus]] is built up to be the BigBad throughout the first half of ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'', but is killed off by the party in a [[ClimaxBoss climactic]] BossBattle that also serves as the game's [[YourPrincessIsInAnotherCastle faux ending]].
* Similarly, Baramos of ''VideoGame/DragonQuestIII'' is played up as the villain of the game, and you spend about 80% of the game -- or what would feel like a normal full RPG of the time -- hunting him down, only to have Baramos's boss, Zoma, call you out out of the blue after starting the victory party.
* Halfway through ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty 4'', its revealed that the Al-Asad, the leader of the generic revolution in [[{{Qurac}} the nameless Middle Eastern country]] has actually been funded and supported by a mad Russian Ultranationalist named Imram Zakaev, who has visions of nuclear detonations dancing in his head.
** Zakaev also shows up in "The Coup", handing Al-Asad a Desert Eagle which he uses to kill the president. At that point the player has no idea who he is and appears just as a creepy old one armed man in a trenchcoat. Because his appearance is so minor, most people don't notice him at all until they play the campaign again.
** In ''Modern Warfare 3'', [[spoiler: it's revealed Makarov was the one who detonated the nuke]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' likes to use this, in Perfect Cherry Blossom you have winter taking too long to go away, you soon discover it's not the Winter Youkai's fault, but the Ghost Princess, Yuyuko Saigyouji's doings. But, Yuyuko is being helped by Yukari, who allowed her to do her willings, and later enjoy a match with the main character.
** In Imperishable Night, you freeze the night to find the one who stole the moon. You will encounter Eirin, thinking she's the culprit, but she's just helping her princess, Kaguya, who needs to escape from some noisy lunarians. Again, by the POV of Fujiwara no Mokou, she is attacked either by a team or another, but again, there's Kaguya behind it, convincing the team on a "trial of guts".
* ''SuperSmashBrosBrawl'' takes this to ridiculous extents: [[spoiler: Wario]] was being directed by [[spoiler: Bowser and Ganondorf]], who also manipulate [[spoiler: the Ancient Minister]] (who also directs [[spoiler: the R.O.B. Squad]]), the forefront of [[spoiler: the Subspace Army]], which is created by manipulating [[spoiler: Mr. Game & Watch]]), but in turn are being given orders by [[spoiler: Master Hand]], who is being manipulated by [[spoiler: some weird energy being that resembles "Tron" called Tabuu]]. Holy bejeezus.
* EmoTeen Iska stops following you like a lapdog and starts stabbing at you in his OneWingedAngel form after beating Sultan Barbaross.
* One of the endings of ''{{Drakengard}}'' has this occur. Throughout the game, we've become accustomed to thinking the BigBad was the [[EnfanteTerrible crazy high priestess of the Cult of the Watchers]]. When she's finally killed in the path to the fourth ending, the "Watchers" themselves show up. While it is left ambiguous if these are the true villains of the game, the sequel removes all doubt.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'' features ''two'' of these in the same scene. Upon arriving in the Tower Of Salvation for the first time, [[spoiler:Remiel reveals his oh-so-obvious villainous nature to you and tries to pull a YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness on you -- and fails. Then Kratos suddenly appears and reveals that he's Remiel's superior and has been TheMole all along to keep an eye on you, leaving Remiel to [[YouHaveFailedMe bleed to death on the floor for his failure]]. Regardless of which way the ensuing battle goes, Kratos' own boss, Yggdrasill, reveals himself at the end of the battle because Kratos is holding back and [[HopelessBossFight plays merry hell with the party]] to finish the job.]]
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}: DawnOfWar'', the campaign starts as an apparent defense against an Ork invasion. However, it is soon revealed that a Chaos force is having the Orks run interference. Then within the Chaos force, it becomes clear that [[spoiler:Chaos Sorcerer Sindri Myr and not the "primary commander" Chaos Lord Bale]] is the one really pulling the strings, masterminding the operation to his own gain. [[spoiler:Beyond that, in the final cutscene it's suggested that even Sindri was a pawn to the daemon locked in the Malectidum.]]
* The ''VideoGame/RivalSchools'' series revolves around a number of student attacks among the various high schools in the area. Our heroes defeat those students responsible, only to find that they have been brainwashed by the faculty of Justice High. Upon defeating them, they discover that the true mastermind is the school's principal, Raizo. After they defeat ''him'', they discover that he has been brainwashed by his nephew (and student body president) Hyo. And ''after defeating him'', it is revealed that Hyo has been brainwashed by his father. Who is dead. Curses.
* There's almost always someone behind [[VideoGame/{{Kirby}} King Dedede's]] attacks. And sometimes someone behind the one who is behind Dedede's attacks.
* The first game in the ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorney'' series has Miles Edgeworth, the smug, arrogant "genius prosecutor" who will "do anything to get a guilty verdict." Then in the fourth case of the game, you're up against the devilish-sounding and looking Manfred von Karma, Edgeworth's mentor. It doesn't help that von Karma, also a perfectionist, tries to get the boy he took in since Edgeworth's father died found guilty for the sake of preserving his 40-year-long perfect record. Not only that, but [[spoiler: the identity of the murderer in that case is deduced by Phoenix in court, but it's not until he he finds a letter in said culprit's shack that he discovers that it was von Karma who came up with the plan for the murder.]]
** ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigationsMilesEdgeworth'' has a large scale international smuggling ring, and throughout a large portion of the game, you see small areas of it, and solve crimes related to it. Eventually you find out that Calisto Yew [[spoiler: not only ordered a hit job, murdered two men in cold blood, tried shooting the main protagonist dead, betrayed and back-stabbed her friends, but is also part of the smuggling ring AND ON TOP OF THAT also claims to be the Yatagarasu]]. Throughout a large portion of the game, you're lead to believe she's the big bad, and the person behind everything. Until it's eventually revealed that [[spoiler: she's just a puppet who was being ordered around by the REAL big bad, the ringleader of the entire smuggling operation]].
* The ''AdvanceWars'' series enjoys this one. In ''Advance Wars'', Sturm was the Man behind Olaf and Clone Andy. In ''Dual Strike'', Von Bolt was the Man behind Kindle and the Bolt Guard. And in ''Days Of Ruin'', Caulder was the Man behind just about everybody.
* In the SegaGenesis version of ''GoldenAxe'', Death Adder is hyped up to be the BigBad, until you defeat him and realize he's been taking orders, and that you have one more level to go through. The true last boss turned out to be a [[PaletteSwap recolor]] named Death Bringer.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'':The first game's main villain, Saren Arterius, is actually [[spoiler: [[TheVirus mind-controlled]] by his ship, [[SapientShip Sovereign]], which itself is a [[EldritchAbomination Reaper]] intent on using him to wipe out all advanced organic life in the galaxy]].
** And in the sequel the Collectors are being controlled by [[spoiler:Harbinger, another Reaper]]. Of course this time round Shepard and The Illusive Man are both GenreSavvy enough they guess that [[spoiler:the Reapers]] are behind everything again right off the bat.
** And the finale of the trilogy reveals [[spoiler:the Reapers are just carrying out the mission given to them by [[WellIntentionedExtremist the Catalyst]]]].
*** [[spoiler: And the Catalyst was originally the pawn of the Leviathan, until it betrayed them during a ZerothLawRebellion.]]
* In ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'': the Burning Crusade, we find out that [[EvilPrince Prince Kael'Thas]] of the [[OurElvesAreBetter Blood Elves]] serves [[LegionsOfHell the Burning Legion]] instead of [[WellIntentionedExtremist Illidan Stormrage]]. The man behind him was different than we expected.
** ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' uses this throughout all its major lore, almost every villain in the game that isn't an Old God or Sargeras is being controlled by one of those two. Speculation about the madness of Sargeras could potentially reveal a connection between him and the Old Gods as well.
* ''VideoGame/PredatorConcreteJungle'' starts off with you hunting street gangs before a coherent BigBad, Hunter Borgia, is set up. However, while hunting him, you eventually stumble on the real BigBad, the computer that controls Neonopolis, MOTHER[[spoiler:, who is not actually an AI but his dear old mumsy Isabella Borgia, who has been kept alive through a combination of technology and the blood you spilt on her and Hunter back in 1930. Then she releases [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere a wave of xenomorphs on you]]]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}} III'' is an odd example. The Lich King turns out to be the man behind the Dreadlord Mal'ganis, who is also part of The Burning Legion, which turns out to be the man behind the Lich King, who later betrays his masters after they take over the control of the undead. So we effectively the Lich King being the man behind one of his masters for a while.
* The final boss of ''VideoGame/{{Overlord}}'' is The Man Behind The Man. If that doesn't sound interesting then keep in mind [[spoiler:you're the [[TheDragon man he was behind]] in the first place]].
* In ''VideoGame/EarthBound'', [[spoiler:the protagonist's 12-year-old neighbor is controlling the "cosmic destroyer," in a case of EnfanteTerrible. In the [[NoExportForYou Japanese-only]] [[VideoGame/{{Mother 3}} sequel]], he is a MagnificentBastard, as well]].
* The final boss (not counting the BonusDungeon) in ''VideoGame/DarkCloud 2'' is not Emperor Griffon, but the dark energy inside him made manifest: [[spoiler:Dark Element]].
* Grodus, the main bad guy in ''PaperMarioTheThousandYearDoor'', tries to rule the world by [[spoiler:reviving the Shadow Queen, who is an evil spirit sealed away for 1000 years. When Grodus summons her, she turns on him and defeats him with one measly attack before turning her attention to Mario. It turns out that GoldfishPoopGang were her lackeys and manipulating the events... or rather the gang's leader was, since of the other two one is a moron and the other pulls a HeelFaceTurn. You'd wonder why the latter never mentions this to her new friends, but then again it really didn't make much difference to the party who, exactly, was trying to rule the world.]]
* ''GuildWars Nightfall'' reveals that the banished god Abaddon was behind most of the events of the ''Prophecies'' and ''Factions'' campaigns.
* JadeEmpire has two, with Death's Hand first appearing to be a bad guy acting on his own, and then [[spoiler:revealing he has been acting on the Emperor's orders all along and the Emperor was the one who set up the death of the Water Dragon and the upsetting of the balance in the first place]], and then once you defeat ''him'' [[spoiler:your kindly old Master Li wanders in, reveals that this was all part of his EvilPlan to get vengeance on his brother, and kills you]], and it turns out that ''he'' is the final boss after all that.
* In ''VideoGame/UltimateSpiderMan'', the man behind the man isn't the FinalBoss. Venom is laid out as the main villain but you play as him. The {{big bad}}s seem to be Silver Sable and Nick Fury. They send multiple villains after you but they're just lackeys. [[spoiler: The real mastermind is Trask and he made Venom do all those bad things. His only power is money and military control. Venom later holds a grudge and goes after him when he's able to control the suit. Spiderman later goes to save him and fights Venom as the final boss, as well as [[ThatOneBoss another]]. Venom eats him and he deserves it.]]
* In the ''KingdomHearts'' series, with a small handful of exceptions, all villains lead back to Xehanort. In ''Birth By Sleep'' we find out [[spoiler: Master Xehanort is the past incarnation of Xehanort before he took over Terra's body]], so ultimately ''every single thing'' wrong in the Kingdom Hearts universe is a direct or indirect result of Xehanort's actions. The only villain who doesn't seem to be under his control is Maleficent and her various allies, but they carry out their plans using Heartless. Guess who created the Heartless?
** And it gets even better: ''KingdomHeartsDreamDropDistance'' reveals Xehanort to be the man behind [[spoiler: himself]]. It's as [[MindScrew Mind Screwy]] as you'd expect.
* ''LegacyOfKain'' has The Men Behind The Men--the main antagonist for most of the series of Moebius, who is the controlling force behind the Sarafan and other vampire hunters, and is also a controlling force in the Circle of Nine. However, [[spoiler:he's TheDragon to the Elder God, who is also the force that motivated the Ancients to war with the Hylden]]. Moebius' accomplice is Mortanius, the BigBad of the first game until we find out [[spoiler:he was acting under the possession of the Hylden Lord, who returns as the BigBad of Blood Omen II where he leads the second incarnation of the Sarafan]].
* In the original ''{{Neoquest}}'': on easy, the game ends after you defeat the Big Bad. On medium, you have to defeat the man behind the man after that. On hard you have to defeat not only the first two, but the man behind the man behind the man as well.
* [[spoiler: Izanami]] of ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' is revealed to be behind everything in the True Ending. But it turns out [[spoiler: she was disguised as [[ChekhovsGunman THE GAS STATION ATTENDANT FOR THE ENTIRE GAME, until you question the attendant and her identity is revealed.]]]]
** Oh, that's just the end of it. [[spoiler: You first find out that Nametame was the one kidnapping all the characters you've been trying to rescue, but then it turns out he was just being manipulated by Adachi, who was the one who committed the first two murders that started the game. But then after you beat him, he gets taken over by a giant disco eyeball named Ameno-sagiri who claims to have done all this to "grant mankind its true desires." But THEN it turns out Izanami was behind it all, creating the Midnight Channel, the Shadows, and Ameno-sagiri, and giving the protagonist, Nametame, and Adachi their powers as part of her grand social experiment.]]
** [[spoiler:Nyarlathotep]] is the main baddie behind everything in both the original ''VideoGame/{{Persona}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{Persona 2}}''
** ''VideoGame/Persona4Arena'': Shadow Labrys may have caused the [[TournamentArc P1 Grand Prix]], but [[spoiler:the unknown human referred to as Eerie Voice was the one who stole her and threw her into the TV. In turn, Eerie Voice is being influenced by the similarly obfuscated Malevolent Entity. Malevolent Entity even implies it was The Man Behind The Man in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'' and ''Persona 4''. Adding to this the implication that the Malevolent Entity is actually Nyarlathotep, the ''Persona'' series will get him as the ultimate villain responsible for absolutely everything.]]
* ''FinalFantasyTactics'' uses this trope a ''lot''. [[spoiler: The War of the Lions is orchestrated by the Church to seize power over Ivalice; the Church is being manipulated from within from Folmarv; Folmarv, in turn, is being used as a host by the Lucavi.]] In addition, it's also inverted: [[spoiler: Dycedarg, Duke Larg's attendant, is ultimately responsible for much of what the Northern Sky does.]] However, as a big theme of the game is corruption and greed in the aristocracy, it doesn't come off as ridiculous.
** This sort of thing in general is a common theme in the works of game designer YasumiMatsuno.
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite'', [[spoiler:N is supposedly the boss of Team Plasma. However, it is revealed at the end that Ghetsis was pulling the strings the whole time.]]
** In ''VideoGame/PokemonColosseum'', Nascour is built up to be the BigBad of the game. However, the true BigBad is really [[spoiler: Mayor Es Cade,]] or Evice, as he calls himself during TheReveal. This actually has a very sigificant moment of {{Foreshadowing}} in the beginning. [[spoiler: Notice how Nascour casually walks out of Es Cade's house before you talk with him. And then [[VideoGame/PokemonXDGaleOfDarkness the sequel]] reveals that Es Cade wasn't the true leader either]]
** ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky'': Dusknoir is actually working for [[DiscOneFinalBoss Primal Dialga]], who in turn is being manipulated by [[spoiler:Darkrai.]]
* In ''FireEmblem: Sacred Stones'', Emperor Vigarde appears to be the BigBad or the EvilOverlord, [[spoiler: But he is in fact not even in control of his own actions, having died months prior to the first chapter of the game's events and was being animated by Lyon's magic. Lyon meanwhile, can either be overconfident that he is in control of the Demon King or is actually mercilessly possessed by the Demon King, depending on the story route chosen.]]
** FireEmblemJugdral has [[spoiler: Manfroy, who was behind the actions of [[EvilChancellor Reptor]], [[SmugSnake Sandima]], [[TheUsurper Chagall]], [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans Alvis]], and [[DragonInChief Yurius]], with most of that being all at the same time!]]
* In ''MagiNation'', Korg and Zet appear to have something to do with the Shadow Geyzers, but in fact it is revealed that someone named Morag is their master. [[spoiler: But in fact, Agram is actually the teacher of Morag.]]
* In ''[[VideoGame/TalesOfEternia Tales of Destiny II/Eternia]]'', it is believed that Balir is in fact trying to bring about the Grand Fall, [[spoiler: but it is revealed that Balir is actually long dead, and that his wife Shizel is carrying on in his footsteps. It is then later revealed that she is under the control of Nereid.]]
* In ''VideoGame/SuperMarioRPG'', you're led to believe that the giant sword piercing Bowser's Castle is the FinalBoss, Smithy. However, when you fight the sword, you learn that it is only Smithy's minion, Exxor, and that inside him is a VillainWorld where the real Smithy lives. Despite the original disguise, Smithy is still a SequentialBoss.
* In ''[[VideoGame/FirstEncounterAssaultRecon F.E.A.R.]]'', Paxton Fettel is presented as the game's primary villain. However, the real enemy is [[spoiler: his mother, Alma, who is psychically controlling him and directing him to locate and free her. And [[TheStinger it is revealed that Paxton Fettel is the Point Man's brother, making Alma the mother of the main character as well]]. Holy bejeezus.]]
* In ''DungeonSiege 2'', [[spoiler: the Archmage turns out to not only be behind Valdis's actions, but also behind YOUR actions by disguising himself as Mr.Exposition]].
* In ''DestroyAllHumans! Path of the Furon'', there is a long, confusing, GambitRoulette example. [[spoiler: The Master. Crypto believes his ememy is Curt Calvin, supposedly another Furon DNA gatherer. Then, after meeting the Master, Crypto believes his enemy is really Saxon, who supposedly used Calvin to try and destroy Crypto. It then turns out that Saxon was under the employ of Francodyne CEO Henri Crousteau. It is then revealed that Saxon and Crousteau were both part of Emperor Meningitis's operation to manufacture Synthetic DNA. Then after killing Meningitis, the Master appears and reveals that he was the actual conspirator all along, using all of them, including Crypto, in order to usurp the Furon throne.]]
* ''TheConduit'' has one of these [[spoiler:revealed in a voiceover ''after'' the game ends.]]
* In the SegaGenesis game ''ShiningForce'' almost every boss you fight, no matter how big of a bastard they were, turns out to have been innocent and only under the control of the real BigBad, Darksol. It's really kind of irritating to have worked so hard to defeat someone only to have them go "What have I done? Forgive me, I was only under the control of Darksol, I'm actually good." before they die. Yeah, and we're supposed to forgive you after you killed more than half of the Shining Force?
* Both ''VideoGame/DeusEx'' games make liberal use of this trope. In the first, the NSF is working for/with [[spoiler: the protagonist's brother, Paul Denton]], who is in turn working with [[spoiler: Tracer Tong and the Illuminati under Morgan Everett]]. On the other side, UNATCO is under the thumb of [[spoiler: Walton Simons and FEMA, who are puppets of Majestic-12, which is in turn led by Bob Page]]. Interestingly, the player knows who the BigBad is because he's right there in the opening cinematic. The fun in the plotline is seeing how it eventually connects to him. The sequel ''VideoGame/DeusExInvisibleWar'' cranks it up a notch: The Order church is secretly being run by [[spoiler: The Illuminati]], and their mortal enemies the WTO are [[spoiler: ''also'' under the control of the Illuminati, who use the conflict between the two as a cover for controlling the world economy]]. There's a nifty bit of foreshadowing in the "Coffee Wars" subplot, where [[spoiler: the rival coffeehouses Peequod's and [=QueeQuegs=] are both under the control of a single corporation- which is in turn controlled by the Illuminati.]] Meanwhile, the Tarsus project is under the control of [[spoiler: [=ApostleCorp=]]], which in a strange case of HijackedByGanon is run by [[spoiler: JC Denton, the protagonist from the first game]]. Damn.
* In ''VideoGame/TheGodfather: The Game'', the Barzini Don is fingered as the one keeping the nearly-ruined Tattaglias alive and responsible for [[spoiler: Sonny's death]]. In-game, when you die after having taken over a business but not the racket in the back, you will find that the business still counts as under enemy control and is still defended by them. It's even literal, as most rackets are located in backrooms of the legitimate businesses.
** Roth in the second game.
** Michael can be seen as this, since while both Aldo and Dominic are the nominal Dons, they're taking their cues from him.
* In ''LuminousArc2'', at first [[spoiler: Master Mattias]] was build up to be a villain along with Fatima. However, later in the game, [[spoiler: Bharva]] was revealed to be The Man Behind The Man and was responsible for [[spoiler: the fire that killed Rina and Steiner's parents and give suggestions to started the Runic Engine research]] in order to kill all humans. [[spoiler: Behind ''him'' is Mage Queen Elicia from 4000 years ago, whose research in life gives her immortality and created the Beast Fiends]].
* The ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'' franchise does this a LOT. Take, for instance, ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2'': it's not a perfect example, but out of the three "bad guys", one is just trying to avenge the death of a loved one, one is working with Eggman because it involves jewel theft, and the other (Eggman himself)... ends up working with the good guys to stop ''[[TheChessmaster his own grandfather's plan to destroy Earth]]'', which revolved around Eggman's plan the whole time. This final mission also happens to involve a GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere and a good ol'-fashioned [[ThePlan plan.]]
** The same game has a straighter example with [[spoiler:Shadow being The Man Behind The Man for Eggman]].
** [[spoiler:Subverted]] in ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations''. You fight Dr. Eggman twice in the game, both times end up with [[spoiler:him getting kidnapped by the Time Eater]]. Then, when you get to the final boss, you expect to fight the aforementioned abductor. However, it is actually revealed that [[spoiler:Eggman was behind the Time Eater after all. You proceed to become Super Sonics and smash his latest creation]].
* ''GuardiansCrusade'' has multiple fakeouts that all hit at once, such as who the prophesied Hero (you're just babysitting), what Baby is as well as who the real villain is. But don't mistake the fake villain for a silly plot twist: before the reveals the DiscOneFinalBoss had set up cults in every city of the world, which are now launching an all-out assault and doing more side-quest related damage than the demon frolicking in the middle of the ocean is even bothering to do.
* [[spoiler:Hector]], at first, seems to only be the BigBad of the VideoGame/DeptHeaven game ''VideoGame/RivieraThePromisedLand'', but supplemental materiel reveals that he had a hand in the ''entire series''. [[spoiler:He's the one who had Nessiah tortured and exiled, causing his madness and subsequently leading directly to the events of YggdraUnion, ''and'' he's the one who manipulated the events leading to Marietta's fall from grace in ''KnightsInTheNightmare''.]]
* ''VideoGame/BaldursGate'': So you came back WhereItAllBegan and killed the leaders of the evil organisation that was pushing for the threat of war to gain money and power and was behind all the troubles in the Sword Coast? That might sound like it was the end, but in the game, you'll probably not think that. Sure enough, it turns out they were only pawns for Sarevok, their leader's adopted son, whose motives are more of the "seas of blood" and "AGodAmI" sort. And so were you, if you actually did kill them; if not, he'll just frame you for it.
** The Iron Throne in turn were the men behind Davaeorn, who was the man behind the Chill and Black Talon bandits, who were the men behind Mulahey and the kobolds in Nashkel. Oi.
** ''Throne of Bhaal'': The Five are clearly the enemies, leading their armies to destroy those who they think who stand in the way of their ascension. Only actually their leader is [[spoiler: the apparent philanthropist Melissan, who also gives [[UnwittingPawn you]] many of your quests as a good guy.]]
** For that matter, the entire ''Dark Alliance'' series [[spoiler: in its entirety was shaping up to be a long string of this.]] At the end of the first game, [[spoiler:a lizardman who gave you supplies to help you defeat the final boss Eldrith turns out to be [[TheMole working for another gang of villains who wanted Eldrith out of their way.]]]] After the final battle of the second game, [[spoiler:we cut to what appears to be some Egyptian tomb, where [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere we see a heretofore unexplained sun god or whatever]] and his priest discussing the disappointing failure of the second game's gang of villains.]] Unfortunately, the company responsible for the titles went out of business after that, leaving the player with no way of finding out [[SortingAlgorithmOfEvil just how far Interplay was willing to take these cliffhanger endings.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'', Ramsus is introduced as being the main antagonist of the story. [[spoiler:It turns out that his unassuming girlfriend, Miang, is the real villain. Not only that, but she is essentially "god" in human form, and she has been manipulating world events for 10,000 years.]]
** Its spiritual successor ''VideoGame/{{Xenosaga}}'' has a rare 'good guy' example. [[spoiler: chaos was the man behind the man to none other than {{Jesus}}: he did the miracles, Jesus got the credit.]]
* In ''VideoGame/SpaceRangers'', the Klissan invaders you spend most of the game fighting turn out to have been [[spoiler: manipulated by the SpacePirate king Rachakhan in a LetsYouAndHimFight scheme. The idea was to tie up the galactic military, leaving no one to protect the traders from Rachakhan's plundering.]] It's a [[FridgeLogic pretty dumb evil scheme]], when you think about it, since if it had succeeded [[spoiler: the Klissan would overrun galactic civilization, leaving nothing for Rachakhan to plunder. [[NiceJobBreakingItHero Nice Job Killing Five Spacefaring Civilizations, Villain]] ]]
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfDragoon'' first starts off with Dart's girlfriend being captured and imprisoned. When he arrives at her place of capture he is quickly introduced to a man named Frugel, who is the cruel warden of Helena prison. After defeating him Dart learns that he in fact takes orders from Emperor Doel, who lives in the Black Castle of Kazas. Doel also is taking orders from a man named Lloyd, who is acting as TheDragon for Emperor Diaz. Emperor Diaz is revealed to actually be [[spoiler:Dart's father, Zieg Feld,]] who plays the part of the main antagonist for the rest of the game up until the final boss,[[spoiler: Melbu Frahma, who was posessing Zieg the entire time]].
* "Craig" from ''VideoGame/StrongBadsCoolGameForAttractivePeople''.
* In EpicMickey, [[OswaldTheLuckyRabbit Oswald]] reveals that all of the Blotlings [[MickeyMouse Mickey]] fought, including the [[LivingShadow Shadow Blot]], were all [[spoiler: drippings from the [[EldritchAbomination REAL Shadow Blot]], who was [[SealedEvilinaCan imprisoned inside a bottle]] on the summit of Mickeyjunk Mountain.]]
* The final cutscene in ''VideoGame/HaegemoniaLegionsOfIron'' reveals that the Darzok are the puppets of the AbusivePrecursors who are responsible for the extinction of the Solon. But this SequelHook did not result in a second game.
* In ''SamAndMax: The Devil's Playhouse'', it is revealed that the true mastermind of the events of the third season is not Skun-ka'pe, not Papierwaite, not [[EldritchAbomination Yog Soggoth]], and not even [[FluffyTheTerrible Junior]]. It is Max's super-ego, the narrator of the game, who got tired waiting for Max to discover his cultured side (Max is all id).
** Same in the first season, where the true villain is Hugh Bliss, who is actually a sentient colony of alien bacteria that feeds on happiness.
** And in the second season, the true villain appears to be TheDevil, but he is actually a pawn in the hands of the Soda Poppers, a trio of growth-stunted former child actors.
* ''[[VideoGame/CrashBandicoot3Warped Crash Bandicoot Warped]]'' reveals that [[MadScientist Dr. Neo Cortex's]] plans from the last two games were under the instruction of Uka Uka, the EvilTwin of the witch doctor masks from the first two games.
* Tatanga, the main villain of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand'', is actually revealed to be working for Wario in the game's sequel. And the main reason why he kidnapped Princess Daisy in the first place? He did this just to distract Mario so Wario will succeed in his evil plans!
* ''VideoGame/AgeOfMythology'' has several levels of this. The initially presented villain is Kamos the pirate, who turns out to be working for the cyclops warlord Gargarensis. Gargarensis is getting divine backing from [[spoiler: Poseidon]], and they're both working to free their ultimate master [[spoiler: the Titan Kronos, who if freed has promised to give Poseidon the power to defeat Zeus, and make Gargarensis immortal]].
* In ''EmbricOfWulfhammersCastle'', the Awesome Fellowship's ArchEnemy Lord Vecnathrax [[spoiler: is actually being manipulated by Loni, who is taking advantage of his senility to pit him against the Fellowship for the artistic value of the struggles.]]
* The end chapter of ''VideoGame/TheWitcher'' reveals The Man Behind The Man, necessitating an Epilogue chapter to deal with him.
* In ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'', [[BigBad Albert Wesker]] is revealed to have been The Man Behind The Man to many of the events in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil0'', ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil'', ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil4'', and ''VideoGame/ResidentEvilTheUmbrellaChronicles''. ''Umbrella Chronicles'' also reveals, that Wesker's [[TheRival rival]], [[FormerRegimePersonnel Sergei Vladimir]] was The Man Behind The Man to much of ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil2'', ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil3Nemesis'', and the rest of ''Umbrella Chronicles''. At the end of the day, most the series' plot up until then is the result of the war between these two men for control of [[MegaCorp Umbrella]]'s remnants. As [[{{Tykebomb}} Wesker]]'s [[EvilutionaryBiologist creator]], [[DragonInChief Sergei]]'s [[UndyingLoyalty employer]], and CorruptCorporateExecutive to the entire corporation, [[EvilOldFolks Ozwell]] [[EvilCripple E.]] [[NonActionBigBad Spencer]] can be said to be The Man Behind The Man (and TheManBehindTheCurtain) to the entire series (up until [[ChronicBackstabbingDisorder Wesker]] [[HijackedByGanon offs]] him in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil5'').
* ''MortalKombat'' does this, more specifically in ''VideoGame/MortalKombat2''. In the first game, Shang Tsung is hyped as the big bad, a deadly, powerful, long haired, evil sorcerer who has taken control of the shaolin tournament through unethical means, and corrupted it into chaos, ensuring that with 10 consecutive victories, he can take over Earthrealm. It's later revealed he's doing this for his boss, the emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn, who the good guys eventually met when they're forced to continue a new tournament in Outworld itself.
** It goes even behind that. In ''VideoGame/MortalKombatDeception'', although foreshadowing had hinted at it in earlier games, we are faced with the resurrection and revival of [[spoiler: Onaga, the Dragon King, former ruler of Outworld. The one Shao Kahn was formally an advisor to, and who he killed so he could take his throne.]]
*** Doesn't stop there. [[spoiler: Shao Kahn and Onaga are both said to be manipulated by the One Being. The immortal omnipotent being that existed before the realms were created, that battled the Elder Gods before time. As he couldn't be defeated, the Elder Gods shattered his existence using a powerful weapon, and used it to create the realms before he could reform. The One Being is now essentially all reality, and his conscious exists within everyone. The only way for him to return is to merge the realms together, of which Shao Kahn and Onaga subconsciously try to do.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheReconstruction'', [[spoiler:Havan]] behind [[spoiler:Skint]]. Subverted by the man in front of the man turning out to [[spoiler:not have been a villain in the first place]]. The real BigBad also has much shallower motives than the fake one, which may qualify as an additional subversion.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOriginsAwakening'' reveals that [[spoiler: the Architect, a sapient darkspawn trying to "free" his kind and give them free will, awakened Urthemiel, BigBad of ''Origins'', and caused the Fifth Blight. Unusually, this was accidental; the Architect is trying to ''stop'' the Blights, and inadvertently tainted Urthemiel while trying to "free" him. [[NiceJobBreakingItHero Nice job breaking it, antivillain.]]]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'', [[spoiler: The Imprisoned/Demise]] is this for Lord Ghirahim. Not that Ghirahim keeps it a secret that he's not the one in charge. [[spoiler:Demise is this for ''Ganon'' as well by way of the latter being an incarnation of the former's hatred]].
* [[spoiler: Julius,]] from ''FinalFantasyAdventure'' / ''SwordOfMana''.
* In ''DarkSouls'', [[spoiler: Gwyndolin]] is the one secretly behind Gwynevere, [[spoiler: with the Gwynevere you face actually being an illusion. Gwyndolin is using her to manipulate the Undead into linking the fire, so then he can ruling through her by proxy.]]
* ''VideoGame/KidIcarusUprising'' sets you up to fight Medusa, the [[BigBad Big Bad]] of the previous NES game. [[spoiler:It turns out Medusa's resurrection was just a distraction courtesy of the true villain, Hades.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion'', one Imperial-aligned character mentions in passing that [[BigBad Mehrunes Dagon]], the [[OurDemonsAreDifferent Daedric Prince]] of Destruction and Change, was involved in Jagar Tharn's attempt to overthrow Emperor Uriel VII in ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsArena Arena]]''.
* VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsUX, Hazard from Tobikage is responsible for 90% of the trouble you have with humans in the game and then some. He manipulates the government and media, depicting your guys as terrorists, is arrested but breaks out of prison and somehow manages to become the supreme commander of the UN forces and nukes the Festum resulting in the events of the Fafner movies, when Sakomizu (Rean) attacks him, Mamoru (Fafner) protects the ship because it has nukes on it but then Hazard just shoots at both of them, hitting and killing just Mamoru. He gives Rouri (Rean) a nuke to drop on Tokyo, which in the end leads to Sakomizu's death. He fires off nukes again during the operation Azure II leading to Misao's (Fafner) death. He turns the Mazinkaiser SKL bad guys (humans) into unwilling suicide bombers and helps Mishima (Macross F) to brainwash the Vajra.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Robopon}}'', Circe apparently kicked the crap out of Knives in a Robopon battle at some point after he got his title as Master, rendering him mute and giving her the title.
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[[folder:Web Animation]]

* ''WebAnimation/{{Audience}}'': has the [[spoiler:white Darkky that curses Litho and manipulates [[BigBad Showtime]]]] in the cold open of the first episode.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''FunnyFarm'' does this at considerable length.
* ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'': Torg (the hero) himself becomes The Man Behind The Man to the [[IneffectualSympatheticVillain wannabe]] DiabolicalMastermind Minion Master, while convincing the Minion Master that he's his minion. He's secretly using the Minion Master to obtain the technology to rescue his friends, and manipulating the Minion Master to take out other supervillains rather than do evil. Then the whole pattern gets more complicated with more serious villains getting involved, and more men hiding behind each other ensues.
** For a 'Mastermind', he's easily manipulated; his own sister manipulates him as well, and they both get burned.
** Dr. Schlock has usurped Prometheus as the Man behind Hereti Corp. Since it's a corporation full of evil characters, there's quite a few figures he can get behind.
* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'':
** We've now met the Evil Outsiders behind the Linear Guild - although in this case Sabine is the only one who knows about them.
** General Tarquin and his friend Malack are the men behind ''several'' of the easy-come-easy-go kingdoms on the Western Continent. In the case of the Empire of Blood, at least, they're doing all the real ruling for the Empress, an unusually thick (in more ways than one) red dragon. But it's even deeper than that: [[spoiler: Their four old adventuring buddies are behind the thrones of two other empires, using manipulation and war politics to ensure their anonymous power no matter who's nominally in charge - and the figurehead changes regularly.]]
** [[spoiler: Redcloak]] is this to [[spoiler: Lord Xykon]]. He ''acts'' submissive and serves the role as [[spoiler:Xykon]]'s toady while actually manipulating him to his own ends. Or at least he thinks he is. It's strongly hinted that [[spoiler:Xykon]] is aware of it and believes ''he'' is manipulating ''[[spoiler:Redcloak]]'', and he's certainly been on the ball about [[spoiler:Redcloak]] (and family)'s plans in the past.
** The [[GodOfEvil Dark One]] is this to [[HighPriest Redcloak]] ([[spoiler:making him/it the man behind the man behind the man]]) -- every action Redcloak takes is to fulfil the Dark One's Plans.
* In ''PowerpuffGirlsDoujinshi'', pretty much every villainous act can be traced back to [[BigBad Dr. X]]. When [[ArchEnemy Mojo Jojo]] tries going after the Girls himself, he is forcibly recruited into X's [[QuirkyMinibossSquad Darkstar Council]].
* Complicatedly used in ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}''. The Black Monarchs are the {{Big Bad}}s at first, but their DragonWithAnAgenda, [[spoiler:Jack Noir]], kills them and assumes the title. [[spoiler: Later it's revealed that Vriska manipulated events so that Jack rose to power. And even later, Doc Scratch reveals he manipulated her all as part of his own plan to bring his boss, Lord English, into the universe.]] It's hinted however that the ultimate BigBad may in fact be [[spoiler: Lil' Cal.]]
* ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'': The BigBad of the "New and Old Flames" arc turned out to be [[spoiler:the short, hairy, quiet comic book geek, Dex]]. But it turns out he was under some kind of MindControl. The main cast know it must have been an immortal due to the circumstances, but only the reader and maybe a couple of other characters know it was [[spoiler:Pandora]].
* ''Webcomic/{{Spacetrawler}}'': The protagonists initially believe Kuu-Drahc, Apex Speaker of the Galactic Organizational Body, to be the BigBad. As it turns out, he's just taking orders from Qwahntoo, the guy who enslaved the Eebs and founded the Galactic Organizational Body in the first place.
* In ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'', [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20130628 Tweedle is frustrated by multiple layers of this.]]
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[[folder:Web Original]]
* Stacy Bradshaw is this to Bridget in ''WebVideo/SororityForever''.
* Don Sebastiano, the BigBad who rules [[SuperheroSchool Whateley Academy]] in the WhateleyUniverse, dropped hints for some time that Hekate, his 'queen', scared even him. Now we know that ''she'' was really behind the horrific act that gave Don Sebastiano his power base. BUT we also know there's someone behind her. Someone we've never seen except in a concealing cloak...
** More recently there's been a story about a villain who became the Man Behind The Man by ''accident'' - basically bluffing a smallish gang and checking up on them later to discover they'd set up the international 'Master of the World Network', with thousands of pawns, all channelling money and information back to that one gang leader, who was more than happy to give it all to his 'Master'. Later on in the story this villain does a similar thing, except this time ''he actually does control it all''.
* Semi-invoked in ''BrokenSaints'': The two {{Chessmaster}}s behind the Big Plan are presented as equal threats, only differing in that one stays more mysterious for longer than the other. Then, naturally, it turns out the more mysterious one, [[spoiler: Lear, was just manipulating his more active partner Palmer, whom the heroes thought was the BigBad. Lear betrays and murders Palmer, revealing himself to be the real BigBad.]]
* [[spoiler:Metus]] to the Skrall in ''Franchise/{{Bionicle}}''.
* Roleplay/WeAreOurAvatars: [[VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas Yes Man]] to the [[VideoGame/MadWorld Deathwatch Organization]] and [[VideoGame/NoMoreHeroes UAA]]. Then, it turns out Yes Man was using the plan of a "Courier 6"
* In ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', [[spoiler:[[DiabolicalMastermind Coil]]]] is this to the [[NobleDemon Undersiders and Travellers,]] using them as proxies to TakeOverTheCity.
* In ''Machinima/CultOfPersonality'', [[WordOfGod which takes place before Mann Vs. Machine]], the then unknown Gray Mann is supporting oWn with funding, weapons, and prototypes of his robots in exchange for combat footage. Said combat footage would then be used to improve the AI of the robots and make them more closer to the mercenaries in terms of combat expertise and personality.
* A non-villainous version in the Yogscast Tekkit/Jaffa Factory series. Sjin takes orders from Sips [[spoiler: who takes orders from a mechanical head underground that is later revealed to be operated by Sjin.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* When former BigBad Slade comes BackFromTheDead on ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'', it soon becomes apparent that someone or something is pulling his strings this time around, confirmed at the end of the episode "Birthmark" when he is shown kneeling to an unseen figure and calling it "master". [[spoiler: It turns out to be [[DarkMagicalGirl Raven]]'s demonic father, [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Trigon the Terrible]].]]
* A non-villainous version in ''WesternAnimation/SWATKats'': It's pretty obvious that Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs is the one who really runs Megakat City, which is a good thing considering how incredibly incompetent Mayor Manx is.
* In the first season of ''WesternAnimation/{{X-Men Evolution}}'', Magneto is this to Mystique, who is in turn the Man Behind the Man to the Brotherhood as far as the X-Men are concerned (though both the viewer and Xavier knew about her from the start, and the viewer knew Magneto was meddling from the end of the first episode). Later on, Apocalypse is the man behind Mesmero.
* Sslither to Metlar in ''WesternAnimation/{{Inhumanoids}}''.
* Twin Masters to High Roller in the second season of ''WesternAnimation/{{Hero 108}}''.
* Crooler to Cragger in Franchise/{{LEGO}} ''Legends of Chima''; Crooler is the truly evil one of them using [[PsychoSerum rage-inducing pollen]] to control Cragger so she can use his newfound power as leader of the crocodile tribe for her own goals.
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