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This commonly occurs in RPGs. Although it's becoming increasingly popular to give the player the option to perform evil acts if they so wish, the game can't truly punish you for your actions...because it's a game. Hence, you may slaughter entire towns full of innocent people and your only comeuppance may be the game telling you you've done a bad thing,bad karma, or perhaps a fine or a jail sentence that may not mean anything to you anyway.
Magus in Chrono Trigger. In one sequence, the player can be the bigger man and have Frog decide that killing him won't bring his dead friend back. While Magus can join your party at this point, no one ever thinks of asking if Magus can at least reverse the disfiguring curse he put on Frog. It may be that the only way to reverse the curse is to kill Magus, as only those endings where the heroes chose this option get this in the ending. Naturally he's not volunteering this option. However, the Playstation port has Frog becoming Glenn regardless of what you choose. The DS Updated Re-release clarifies one of Frog's lines to telling Magus point-blank he likes his new form. Accordingly, it also goes back to Frog reverting to his old body if Magus is killed.
George Sewell in Silent Hill: Downpour. He's the cause of the entire events behind the game, and directly responsible for Frank Coleridge's death (Whether he did it himself or convinced Murphy to do it is up to the player's actions). He's also responsible for all manner of illegal and corrupt activities with the prisoners, but in the end he only gets his comeuppance in one ending, which isn't even the best ending to get. In the end, as far as anyone except Anne and Murphy knows, Murphy killed Frank for no reason and Sewell is completely innocent, and in three of the four endings, he walks away scot-free.
Mr. Match (Hinoken) from Mega Man Battle Network joined the terrorist organization World Three twice. In the third game, he even tricks Lan into bombing the government's main HQ, something Lan angsts about. Yet he's still free in later games, and Fireman even shares his soul with Megaman as a powerup, appearing in every game (except 5 for some reason) including spin-offs.
Seems Battle Network has a lot of these, especially in the second game. Pride nearly killed several foreign representatives; Dark/Dusk committed what amounted to an act of genocide. And yet nobody bats an eye when they show up as allies in the fifth game.
Grom Hellscream from the Warcraft games. He was the first to drink demon blood and advocate everyone else doing it, he slaughtered countless humans, dwarves, and elves (and others) for fun, and then after getting redeemed, still attacks some humans for no reason and drinks demon blood a second time knowing full well what it is. Sure, he has a Heroic Sacrifice at the end, but he gets idolized by the Horde despite his life being 90% evil, 10% good.
Sylvanas. She's under suspicion for the wrathgate (we don't know how much she knew), invaded Gilneas, nuked Southshore, waged a campaign of genocide on the Humans, manipulated the Horde (to join them in the first place in order to use them as tools), set herself up as an object of cult worship, employed the Val'kyr (which seems to be a case of "Even Chaos has standards" when seen by pragmatic Death Knight Thassarian), resurrected those who she killed against their will, shot and killed Liam Greymane, attempted to steal the Scythe of Elune to enslave the Worgen and make even more to make an even BIGGER army to do her bidding, and made some kind of deal with the devil to get the Val'kyr in the first place. The closest she got to any kind of punishment was Lor'thermar threatening her if she raised the Horde's dead as Forsaken, stating he'd leave her to the Alliance if she tried it on their dead and calling her out on several of her actions in Mists of Pandaria.
Trade Prince Gallywix. When Kezan is threatened by a volcanic eruption, he tricks the rest of the Bilgewater Cartel into giving him all their money and possessions to buy passage off the island, then enslaves them. On arrival in the Lost Isles, he enslaves them a second time. The player character has to almost kill him before he'll give up, but somehow after the dust settles Thrall decides to keep him in charge of the Cartel. His present whereabouts are unknown, but in Azshara he has a "pleasure palace" on top of a mountain with his face cut into it.
Captain Qwark in Ratchet & Clank manages to do a pretty good job. Thanks to his status as Comic Relief, he manages to survive being both The Dragon and the Big Bad in the first and second games, respectively, doing galactic scale, off-screen damage. It's implied that millions were killed or kicked out of their homes. His punishment is mainly embarrassment, such as becoming a monkey temporarily, but he manages to become a hero again in the third game. He is even responsible for accidentally handing the fifth game badguy the MacGuffin, and he is now 100% in the clear.
Karma seems to have low accuracy with him. In Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time he does nothing wrong or even particularly cowardly throughout the whole game, and is more competent in helping Ratchet. His ending fate isn't much more pleasant than Going Commando, where he was the main villain.
Angela from Ratchet & Clank 2 counts. Early in the game (while she's wearing a full-body covering suit) she behaves like a true Card-Carrying Villain, to the point that her actions directly result in the death of an innocent civilian, on camera, while she laughs about it. Then she loses her helmet and we discover that she's a girl and of the same species as the main character, and we're immediately expected to believe that she's a hero now. The fact that we earlier watched her laugh with glee as she committed cold blooded murder is never brought up.
Don Weaso in Conkers Bad Fur Day. He massacres several dozen Uga Bugas with Conker's help, kills one of his servants (Paulie), then later betrays Conker for cash and murders Berri. Weaso's fate, he gets to run off safely with his ill-earned money. In comparison, the Panther King and Ze professor suffer Karmic Deaths, and Conker is punished for his greed and frequent sociopathy.
Janos, the Prince of the Other World from The Black Heart. He is the one responsible for the corruption of the Other World, which was once beautiful, by causing endless wars to conquer lands that his father (the King, who was far too old and weak to stop him) gave willingly to others; he enslaved a species to be his soldiers, killed the King to gain his powers, framed Final when he stole the heart so Janos couldn't use it, wants to conquer all the other worlds through force and bloodshed, and ends up killing his own daughter, Ananzi, because she outlived her usefulness... and in the end, he succeeds in claiming back the Dark Heart, killing Final in the process, and acquires his father's powers. Another "The Bad Guy Wins" scenario in this case!
Yuna from Breath of Fire IV turned Elina into a monster, forcing her boyfriend to mercy-kill her, and is largely responsible for turning Big Bad Fou Lu into an Omnicidal Maniac. The game ends with him alive and well, and announcing his intention to do it all again. Apparently the creators meant to include his death in the ending sequence but ran out of timenote the game was rushed to production due to fears of a possible Capcom bankruptcy, and thus it looks like he never got his just desserts. In the manga adaptation, they also went with the ending as scripted in the game. Meaning Yuna is a Karma Houdinitwice over.
Even though the Ace Attorney protagonist's job is to find the guilty and absolve the innocent, a few people slip through the cracks.
In the second Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, De Killer is an assassin for hire who kills the fourth case's victim in addition to (presumably) many others in the past. He kidnaps and threatens to kill Maya if you don't acquit his client, and then gives testimony in court via radio to try to pin the crime on someone innocent. The way the story is structured, he kinda has to remain free in order to give the testimony by radio and to be able to threaten Engarde when it is revealed Engarde videotaped him to blackmail him. He reappears in Investigations 2... and he gets away there too, despite Edgeworth's best efforts.
In the 3rd game, Ron DeLite, a.k.a. Mask* DeMasque the Gentleman Thief. While he didn't commit the murder, he didcommit four incidences of grand theft. When he was framed for a fifth, he was put on trial - and found Not Guilty with the help of Phoenix Wright - for all of them. And due to the court's "Double Jeopardy" law (you can't be put on trial for the same crime twice) this means that he remains unpunished even after his crimes are publicly exposed. In the epilogue, he explains that he quit stealing and became a security consultant along with his wife Desiree - along with a side business of selling plans to criminals. He comments, rather accurately, that "Sometimes I think maybe we're the worst criminals...". Still, the whole reason that case even happened is that Ron got caught by Luke Atmey on his very first crime, indicating his crime-planning abilities completely suck. So by selling his crimes to other criminals, he may actually be lowering the crime rate... Also, one might consider the terror of getting caught, arrested, and nearly convicted of murder to be fit punishment for a relatively minor crime.
This theme is completely reversed in Investigations. The Yatagarasuor rather Detective Badd, the last remaining part of the Yatagarasu, turns himself in to Gumshoe after the arrest of Shih-na/Yew and the revelation that they and Faraday were the Yatagarasu team. He even seems as if he meant to be arrested the entire time and was only waiting for the capture of Yew before "retiring".
Viola Cadaverini suffers no legal repercussions for helping to frame an innocent woman for murder and continues working as a loan shark. Justified as she's a Mafia Princess.
Final Fantasy Tactics have The Church of Glabados, who get away with hiding the truth that the saints they worship are actually Demons responsible for much of the strife in the game. They even kill Orran Durai, one of the few good guys left after the war, as a heretic, because he published a paper detailing the truth of the war. It takes 400 years before the truth is exposed.
Albedo from Xenosaga certainly applies. Throughout the trilogy, he manages to Mind Rape MOMO twice, abuse and mercilessly torture and kill the Kirschwassers, kill many with Proto Merkabah, torture Jr. by giving him various visions of the past involving Jr.'s dead love interest Sakura, and manipulate many in his selfish desire for his goals. What is this goal? To make Jr. hate him so he can be killed. And he actually does succeed. Jr. gets pissed and offs him. Then Jr. CRIES after the guy who decimated so many lives is finally killed off. But that's not the end of it. Albedo is then revived by Wilheim as a testament, and gains uber powers. He just toys around with the party until near the end, when he, for the first time ever, actually manages to try to do something helpful for the party when he tries to stop Yuriev from merging with the Zohar and becoming all invincible and such. However, Gaignun, the third dude in their power trio, who had spent all of episode III possessed by Yuriev, intercepts and allows Albedo to merge with Jr.'s consciousness as it was originally when they were born. This is all Albedo ever wanted, and he goes to sleep blissfully inside Jr. The most enraging part about all this is that whenever Albedo manages to top himself in evil, Jr. gets pissed at him for about 5 minutes before Albedo gets defeated by the party, and then Jr. instantly turns into a whimpering dog that begs Albedo not to leave him. Even MOMO sympathizes with him, even after he had his way with her.
Given that he is actually insane, rather than just mad with power because as a child he learned he was just a weapon, though unlike his brother, who he thought he would be there for him forever due to be conjoined at birth, he would live until the end of time itself, he might get a pass on this one. It's likely that he attempted suicide several times after he found out the truth, and found out that only his brother was created in a way that could kill him. How did he discover this? By touching the mind of an Eldrich Abomination. He didn't slip down a slope so much as get shoved off a cliff. As for Junior, he actually blamed himself for what happened (as he was the one who broke the news that Albedo was immortal, he didn't try to keep him from slipping away afterwards, and he was right next to him when U-DO touched him), and generally wanted his brother to be right again. As for MOMO, it's questionable whether it was remnant memories from her past of the sane Albedo, pity for a man who had lost everything from the start, or given that she knows the feeling of being part of a world yet feeling separate herself.
In one of the paths on the visual novel Crescendo, the heroine of that path will be gang-raped, and no matter what the player does, the rapists fail to get any comeuppance at all. The heroine even makes him promise not to report the incident to the police. One can only assume that the rapists continued into the sunset twirling their mustaches and giving each other high fives. Worse, they're never even named, and we've seen Ryo fight off three nameless guys before (breaking one's arm in the process). The best we can assume is a bit of impromptu off-screen justice for the guy who's appeared more than once. And the heroine's cousin raped her nightly; the aunt and uncle weren't exactly believing of the truth.
Genesis in Final Fantasy VII, who manages to get away alive, and ends up still running around doing whatever... after killing everyone in his hometown, even his own parents, turning the people who defected with him into monsters, and starting a completely pointless war. For no other reason than to lash out at the world for something that was mostly his own fault to begin with. Also, betraying his friends, and then trying to cynically use them, which ended up as the last straw that broke Sephiroth's sanity. The Turks in the original games, especially Reno, who destroyed the entire Sector 7. In Advent Children he's demoted to comic relief.
Final Fantasy XIII very quickly forgets that Lightning, while partnered up with Hope during a time of extreme emotional trauma and misguided anger, encouraged the young man to do what he felt he must and armed him with a knife in the knowledge that he very much wanted to kill Snow with it. The game seems to think she's trying to teach a lesson of self-determination, but given that up to that point she has expressed nothing but contempt for Snow, it's very difficult to believe that she was in any way neutral to how things would play out. Lightning is never hit with any sort of acknowledgment that she essentially started a murder-by-proxy plot against Snow.
Subversion: the Super Robot Taisen series is an idealistic franchise... and therefore, even villains who got away scot-free in their series do not escape the hand of karma. Just to make a point, in episodes with Nadesicothe player is either allowed to kill off Kusakabe (Impact, MX, J), or his plans are screwed up to the point where he is unable to go on and found the Martian Successors (A, R). The same thing happens to Garimos and Gil Barg from Dangaioh (see above), who are actually killed in the Super Robot Wars Compact 2 trilogy and its remake Super Robot Wars Impact. Hard to escape a Karmic Death when you have to deal with a band of Hot-Blooded heroes who have an habit of Punching Out Cthulhu.
Certain major antagonists such as Bian Zoldark and Maier von Branstein are regarded with a certain degree of respect after they are killed. This may be partly because they are related to some of the protagonists.
Something of a subversion, several characters seem intent on punishing themselves for things that no one else blames them for. For example, Elzam von Branstien/Rätsel Feinschmecker takes the blame for the "Elpis incident". A group of terrorists, lead by Archibald Grims, took Elzam's wife Cattleya as a hostage to guarantee his escape. When he remotely opened the docking bay door, allowing her to return to the colony interior, he also released a highly potent toxic gas. Elzam was faced with the choice of either destroying the section of the colony that she was on or allowing the gas to poison the colonists. Despite the fact that she was already fatally poisoned, he felt terribly guilty for destroying the docking bay to save the rest of the colony.
On the other hand, some villains who did die in their series can be convinced in Super Robot Wars to make a Heel-Face Turn. For example, would-be Evil Overlord Haman Karn, who in the Gundam ZZ died after, among other things, killing millions via a Colony Drop, can be recruited. Because she has a crush on one of the protagonists. Granted, they're usually made less evil than they were in their series to facilitate this, but still.
In the Dawn of War Expansions, Warboss Gorgutz constantly loses to the enemy army but when backed to a corner always has an escape plan and manages to get off the planet while his army is getting killed by the enemy.
In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2, Team Skull (as always, consisting entirely of poison Pokemon) constantly provides conflict, going out of their way to hurt or discredit the main characters while scheming to steal various valuables for themselves. In a later dungeon, they mug the heroes and run off with an item that is necessary to resolve a particularly significant crisis, only to be ambushed by an unrelated group later in the dungeon. Once the main characters show up, the Skuntank leader pretends to accidentally drop the item, allowing the heroes to reclaim it. After the heroes leave, a conversation raises the possibility that this one act may have redeemed everything evil they had done up to that point. Are there any players out there that buy this?
Darkrai. After manipulating legendary Pokemon, causing the planet's paralysis (until it was stopped), putting Azurill in an endless nightmare, and almost making the main characters commit suicide, all that happens is he loses his memories and gets to more or less start a new life.
Most of the characters who travel with you are Light-sided but will mostly only be slightly annoyed if you decided to kill random innocent beings for no reason. Juhani, Carth, Mission, and Jolee turn against you if you finally declare your intent to take over the entire galaxy, but up to that point, you get away with murder.
If you do choose the Light Side ending (even if it's for all the wrong reasons), you turn light sided. Apparently slaughtering your way through everyone else in the game is cool as long as you really want to beat the crap out of a traitorous party member.
This is taken even further in the sequel game and various peripheral media. Regardless of whether or not the player indicates their character took the Light Side ending in the last game, everyone speaks of him in the most glowing praise conceivable as having done no wrong before, during, or after the events of the first game. An Omniscient Morality License is invoked by Word of God which causes him to border on Marty Stu territory.
This has been scaled back significantly in the lead-up media for Star Wars: The Old Republic, in particular Revan. There were some significant consequences as to Revan's actions both during his redemption and after he married Bastilla, putting him into a far weaker position when he hunted down the Sith Emperor.
Taken to a meta-level: Lord Scourge in Star Wars: The Old Republic.Pureblood Sith that answers only to the Omnicidal Maniac Emperor. He literally stabbed the Jedi ExileIn the Back, got T3-M4 turned to ashes, and betrayed Revan and got him sent to Malestrom Prison for 300 years of torture as the Emperor's pet chew toy (driving him genocidally insane in the process). But Even Evil Has Standards, and Scourge doesn't want the Emperor devouring the whole galaxy because that's where he keeps all his stuff. So, he merrily invites himself on the Jedi Knight's boat, sourly disapproving of everything the Light sided Knight does, and helps the Knight kill his boss. Does he repent? Does he face any fallout for what he did to the protagonists of the last two games? Heck, no! Does he merrily get away with it? Heck, yeah! The Knight apparently doesn't even mind that Scourge keeps trying to recruit them to the Dark Side. And just to put the cherry on the Karma Houdini sundae? He saunters up to Revan and Bastila's decendant to accept a Republic heroism reward! (Satele is pretty disgusted at having to give it to the louse.)
The Poacher in Jade Cocoon. You're told early on in the game that only Nagi women can purify cocoons to make the minions inside obey their master, and these women only do so for a cocoon master. The Poacher's just that: a poacher, so that means he literally has a Nagi woman held hostage and is forcing her to purify his cocoons for him. Koris even tells you this is what poachers do at the very beginning of the game. However, even though you fight him three times, Levant literally just lets him run away each time he beats him.
You! Yes, you, in Jade Empire. It's entirely possible to spend the first 99% of the game breaking people, hurting things, framing innocents, helping slavers, kicking puppies (you can actually kick puppies if you're evil enough)... and then at the very end of the game, decide that godlike power isn't worth dooming the world to a slow, lingering death. Your alignment shoots up to 90% Good, all your allies forgive you (even though you've magically bound them to your will), and everybody lives happily ever after. Except Wild Flower. Because you shattered her mind. To let a sadistic demon take it over. You horrible bastard.
Not only that, but considering the Way of the Closed Fist is more about "facing one's challenges head on, challenging one's station in life, and working to become self-reliant" rather than just being evil, it's entirely possible that you decided to finally kill the Water Dragon, thus screwing over the land's water supply for all the wrong reasons.
You can also let a number of NPCs in Mass Effect get away scot free for various crimes. However, occasionally this will work out for the better. Helena Blake, a crime lord from the first game, asks you to kill two rivals for her and then return to her base for the reward. You can either take your credits, arrest her (she resists and you have to kill her), or convince her to disband her gang. If you ask her to disband it, she turns up in ME2 working as a social worker on Omega. Similarly, Rana Thanoptis, who was working on indoctrination for Saren in the first game, turns up in Warlord Okeer's base on Korlus, ostensibly to help the krogan. She's not too sucessful.
But probably the worst one is Balak in the paragon route for the "Bring Down the Sky" DLC. The only way to save the people he's threatening is to allow him to escape. Worse, it's revealed in the second game's news feeds that the son of a bitch is STILL at large. If that fact is not a huge kick to the gut for Paragon players, I don't what is...
Vido Santiago in Zaeed's loyalty mission. The man who stole the Blue Suns from Zaeed, and turned it into an completely immoral merc group who give you endless trouble during the game, and Vido is able to easily invoke We Have Reserves with his recruitment skills. Picking Paragon will let him escape unharmed. Sure, you can pick Renegade and watch Zaeed light the guy on fire, but it means letting Zaeed cross his Moral Event Horizon; like with Balak, you must let many innocent people die to kill your target. Vido is a major reason why Zaeed has become such a psycho. He shot Zaeed in the head. Point is, Vido's caused a lot of damage in many more ways than one...
The 3rd game resolves some (but not all) of these: Rana Thanoptis wasn't just working for Saren, she was indoctrinated. If she survives to the third game, she kills a bunch of asari military officers before committing suicide in custody. Balak shows up again, and you can either kill him or ask for his help; it's your decision whether justice is worth more than the help of batarian fleet he will bring. And Gavin Archer shows up, sincerely remorseful over his actions and helping the Alliance against Cerberus, who have a standing order to shoot him on sight. Whether or not that's enough is up to you. Even Vido gets his according to some dialogue that doesn't appear in the final cut. Zaeed caught up with him again…and let him get harvested by the Reapers.
You! Yes, you, in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Doesn't matter if you are the leader of the Thieves' Guild and the kingpin of all crime, an assassin for the Dark Brotherhood who has committed a series of cold-blooded murders across Cyrodiil, someone who has done every dark and dirty deed for the various Daedra Princes, or a bloodthirsty psychopath who kills people indiscriminately in the streets, at the end, you're still hailed as the hero and savior of the Oblivion crisis. Even better, with the Knights of the Nine expansion, you can easily wipe out all of your Infamy just by doing a pilgrimage to nine wayshrines. Even the gods forgive your crimes!
If the player exterminates the Dark Brotherhood, Babette will not be present in the sanctuary. This is due to the fact that as a vampire in the form of a young girl, she is subject to the Infant Immortality of the game... even though she's not even remotely a child at all. The same goes for Cicero, who chances are you'll never even meet.
Another case of Karma Houdini is Maven Black-Briar, the crime queenpin of Riften. Not only is there no questline that involves taking direct action against her, as an "Essential" character she cannot be killed without the use of console commands, glitches, or mods. Similarly, unlike the Dark Brotherhood, there is no way to deal with the Thieves Guild as almost all the important NPCs of the guild are similarly Essential and immortal.
Morcalavin in Heretic II, the villain of the story. One of the Precursors, who botched a spell to make his race Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and became a power-mad Evil Overlord creating a plague that turns people into rabid zombies or mind-controlled slaves. At the end of the game, you learn that the way to rid the world of the plague is to fix the spell, allowing Morcalavin to become indeed a god. Even though he's magically cured of his madness, it's still a bit annoying that he is rewarded rather than punished for his crimes...
Subverted in Tales of Vesperia had minor villains Ragou and Cumore. Ragou oppressed his subjects and fed the ones that couldn't pay to his pet monsters. Cumore, in the search for Pharaoh, drafted innocent civilians into what amounted as a suicide mission. However, their positions and wealth guaranteed that they wouldn't be touched by the law. It looks like they'll get away with everything until Yuri hunts them down and murders them.
Played straight, however, with Dedecchi, the Aque Blastia thief. This is fixed in the PS3 version, where a new optional event allows the party to capture him.
Asch from Tales of the Abyss. In the beginning of the game, he slaughters around 140 Malkuth soldiers onboard the Tartarus, tries to outright kill the party numerous times (though his main target is Luke, when you first meet him, he makes a comment about how Jade is difficult to kill), and takes control of Luke in order to try and make him attack (and presumably kill) Tear. Yet, just because he's against Van and starts to cooperate (little by little) with the party later on, all is forgiven and nobody mentions the massive amounts of people he willingly, purposefully slaughtered (whereas Anise later reminds Arietta of her participation in the above massacre to drive home that she has also done things that drive people to seek revenge), or the fact he could have stopped everything if he just helped everyone from the beginning.
As well as the entire party except Natalia who all lied and deceived Luke yet got nothing equal to what they did to Luke just because they basically said "my bad, sorry".
In Fable I, you can absolutely be the most evil mofo Albion has ever seen, and you can bathe the Sword of Aeons in your beloved sister's blood to awaken its unstoppable power. You will suffer no consequences for your actions.
Reaver from Fable II. When you first meet him, he seems like a pompous yet somewhat awesome pirate king. Then he asks you to do a little favor for him: secure a sacrifice to the Shadow Court so that he can remain young and beautiful beyond his natural years. It's a choice between making some poor young girl who got lost the sacrifice or willingly giving up some of your own youth and beauty. You can't kill him, though, because he's necessary to take down the Big Bad.
And the above is just the tip of the iceberg. Reaver is personally responsible for the demise of Oakvale, and was busy selling the protagonist to the Big Bad while he/she was off performing the aforementioned favour. He also kills off a certain comic relief character, though that might count as an act of goodness to some.
He returns in the third game as a highly successful Corrupt Corporate Executive who owns environmentally disastrous factories that run on child labor. Not only does he avoid comeuppance, he usually ends up making a profit somehow whether or not you agree with his decisions. In all probability, he's been rolling like this for three hundred years.
If you read the note from him after the game, which is narrated in his voice, he simultaneously mentions something he has to do alone. Presumably make his offering to the Shadow Court for more years, though his voice indicates he's growing tired of it.
Sam and Max Spade, who repeatedly misuse a highly dangerous necromantic tome and summon undead monsters that proceed to kill innocent bystanders. The brothers aren't intending to cause trouble or get people killed, but it frequently happens and they never learn, nor are they ever punished for the lives lost.
One appears in the first Golden Sun. The "evil thief" Dodonpa, who kidnapped a wealthy merchant with the intention of sending repeated ransom demands and who is trash-talked by most people in the village he runs, appears in a sidequest in which he sics a monster on the heroes, then is trapped under it when he tries to stab them in the back while they're distracted. His ultimate sentence is to replace the merchant in his dungeon cell, to which his underlings have a key, and receive no treatment for his twisted ankle.
A less serious case is Briggs, one of the main antagonists in the second game, battling Felix's team, stealing Plot Coupons, and having his grandmother sic a boss on them. He doesn't get a proper hint of redemption until the third game, where he aids Matthew's party into fleeing from Belinsk, losing his life in the process. And up until them, he had been keeping up with the pirate trade.
The chief antagonist of Psychonauts, Coach Oleander, gets off with naught but having to say to the campers "Sorry I had you all kidnapped and your brains removed to power my weapons of mass destruction." He even gets all his psychological daddy issues magically resolved by Raz. His accomplice, on the other hand, falls out of a high tower to a probably very messy death.
Most villains in the Pokémon games. Their actions range from running a nationwide criminal empire (Giovanni), to unleashing and attempting to control a rampaging titan with the power to either create continents or expand the oceans (Maxie and Archie), to attempting to hijack either the avatar of time or space to destroy the universe and remake it in typical A God Am I fashion (Cyrus). Neither them nor their associates, willing or not, suffer any repercussions.
Silver in Pokemon Gold Andsilver, who steals his starter pokemon and another trainers Sneasel is never dealt with by authorities or anyone else in regards to the stolen pokemon for the rest of the game.
Ghetsis in Pokémon Black and White is a major subversion. Although he is arrested in the end, it is heavily implied that he is later rescued by Dark Trinity. However, let's think on this for a moment. Team Plasma has been utterly defeated. N is a good guy now. His plan to use Zekrom/Reshiram to rule the world has been completely ruined. Yes, he escapes the authorities, but with only the Shadow Triad at his side, it will be very hard, if not impossible, for him to fully recover from his loss and regain the power he once had. Essentially, he escapes imprisonment, but is still a ruined man. A fitting end for him. His Villainous Breakdown also heavily implies he's lost his sanity as well, making any hope of a come back all but impossible. This is then double subverted in Black 2/White 2 where he's back as the villain and crazier than ever. And the game implies that he got away again after you defeat him and his fused Kyurem. Except that the postgame reveals that his defeats have rendered him so utterly broken that he can't even function as a basic human being without the Shadow Triad looking after him.
In Pokémon Colosseum, Evice and Nascour lose any claims to Karma Houdini privileges when Ho-oh shoots down their escape chopper, leaving them to go with Sherles and Johnson on the Party Van. The four Cipher Admins seem to get away scott free, however; they later appear as opponents in the Deep Under, and what ultimately happens to them is unknown. (Except Miror B., who appears in the sequel.)
Ardos from Pokemon XD Galeof Darkness, on the other hand, is the big one. His father, Greevil, chose to side with Eldes, the other son, and accept arrest instead of blowing up Citadark Isle with you on it. Even after this, Ardos appears as an opponent in the Orre Colosseum and makes clear his intent to rebuild Cipher; both by giving Michael a warning that he will be watched and branding him as "Cipher's Biggest Enemy". This is the guy who could have gotten away, killed you and the rest of his group from the safety of his chopper, and reconstructed Cipher for absolute dominion in the following months, and has likely backed up all the vital data on Cipher's Shadow Pokemon research. Let that sink in for a second.
Also, the hero's childhood friend comes Back from the Dead in the ending, but not anyone else of the party.. Apparently to justify the above.
But the true Karma Houdini is actually the Zenithian Lord. The overgrown lizard who kills your father and makes your mother an outcast prisoner for the crime of falling in love and fathering the hero who would save the world, yet these actions are completely ignored.
Saemon Havarian in Baldur's Gate II is only mildly villainous, but he's the most annoying character in terms of getting away with things. He keeps dumping his own troubles and enemies on you in both the original game and the expansion, and coming back and belittling what he did and acting like you're friends before doing it again, but you never get to take revenge successfully, even if you set the biggest thieves' in the country on him. The way he always gets away really fits the "Houdini" part - and in this case it's just not karma he's eluding, but a pissed-off player character as well. Considering that even beings of godlike status often fall to the might of the Player Character, it's about equally impressive.
Although you CAN kill him and get his role later in the story to be replaced by someone else, it requires you being ready far in advance, making his comeuppance VERY tricky to do.
A particularly grating example is Saerk from the second game. In Anomen's personal quest, his sister gets murdered, and Saerk is the prime suspect. If you convince Anomen to go to the authorities, they tell you that there's not enough evidence to convict him. The good option to the quest (as well as the one that will allow Anomen to be knighted and become considerably more tolerable) is to convince Anomen not to pursue Saerk and to let bygones be bygones. Oh, and it doesn't stop there. Sometime after Anomen is knighted, he learns not only that Saerk really was the murderer, but that now he's killed Anomen's father after the latter confronted him. Again, the good option is to convince Anomen not to kill him, saying that he'd be no better than his alcoholic father if he did. In summary, Saerk ruins Anomen's life, and the good option is to let him get away with it.
The Grand Theft Auto series plays a lot with this trope, especially with the playable characters, including: Tommy Vercetti in the mission "Missing With The Man", killing civilians and causing destruction in the city, CJ in "Management Issues", killing the Madd Dogg's manager and his girlfriend, and Toni Cipriani having committed a lot of atrocities on orders from Donald Love and Ned Burner. And of the three mentioned, they all got away with it; at least canonically and as we know them.
GTA: Vice City has, besides Tommy, Maude Hanson. Despite currently being allied with the Vercetti mob, she's a mentally unstable psychopath who allegedly ran a children's home. Unfortunately, she's the biggest child hater imaginable; even Vercetti is disgusted by it. Maude is even being investigated for the VCPD.
Donald Love. Consider: sent Toni to steal corpses for "his party" and bombard the Fort Staunton sector (probably killing thousands of innocent civilians). While his fate is unknown at the end of GTA III, still qualifies.
The King Courtney from Grand Theft Auto III. Besides being quite hostile with Claude, he betrayed him and allied with Catalina and never received any punishment.
While his compatriots Michael and Franklin aren't straight-up good guys by any means, Trevor Philips, one of the three Villain Protagonists from Grand Theft Auto V, probably would have been written as an antagonist in any other installment in the series. In addition to being a cannibalistic Serial Killer, he also relentlessly abuses and finally kills the innocent and helpless Floyd Hebert. But in Ending C, he gets to walk off triumphantly into the sunset just like the other two, although he does burn to death in Ending A.
Jock Cranley in GTA V. He literally got away with murder after throwing his wife Jolene off a cliff and creating the "GTA V ghost" easter egg. He was arrested, but immediately released and later became rich and famous. He was even allowed to run for governor and got away with throwing feces at his rival's campaign headquarters. (They're both terrible candidates, but the point still stands.)
Rowd from Suikoden II. It is true that he is a Glory Hound that seeks a better life for his ill sister. However, with his methods to achieve it, including helping Luca Blight slaughter the Unicorn Brigade that he led... because the job didn't pay enough, or even trying to kill the hero and Jowy so he can get promoted... we never know how he ends up, as he vanishes from the story after Jowy becomes the King of Highland.
Supplemental materials reveal he failed to get his sister to the doctor who might have been able to help her after he ran away, making everything he did meaningless and costing him his sister's life. The fact his innocent sister is the one who dies is another trope entirely.
Suikoden III has Albert Silverberg. He is responsible, directly or indirectly, for every single bad thing that happens in the game. And why is he orchestrating the lead-up to a meaningless war, then partially derailing it, after the lives and societies of thousands of people have been shattered? Just to prove that he can do it. The reward for victory for everyone else is that they get to live another day. Albert? Gets exactly what he wanted, a cushy position miles away from the land he almost destroyed. This man is absolutely infuriating to quite a few players.
Suikoden IV has the elves of Na-Nal. They aren't pleased that the human islanders struck a deal with the Kooluk, so they manipulate matters and spark off a massacre, which the Elven elder gloats about. Ironically, the heroes stopping the massacre before it spreads too far probably caused their karma evasion, as once the Kooluk finished killing off the human natives, they likely would've moved to the elves next...
In Freedom Fighters, the Big Bad, General Tartarin, actually does get his comeuppance midway through the game. He is replaced by The Mole, Colonel Bulba, who betrays your organization, has your allies killed/captured, and tries to have you taken out (it's implied he sent you to kill Tartarin so he could grab all the glory). But you never get the opportunity to put a bullet in his brainpan.
In Xenogears, the main antagonist, Krelian, is never fought or killed. He had been responsible for many heinous crimes but was never brought to justice.
The Komato in Iji. They commit genocide of one entire alien species, attempt genocide of another (humans), and guess who dies? The one who repented.
Shichiou and April in Princess Waltz. The first gets a sort of half assed 'forever in death with my beloved, who is not holding a grudge' ending. The second might be a god and just sort of skips merrily away at the end after reviving Pigeon. Then again, she didn't really do anything particularly bad either.
Leasath commanding officer Diego Gaspar Navarro from Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception doesn't get caught and brought to justice, and while he fails to overrun Aurelia or sell his beloved Fenrir superfighters, part of his Evil Plan still plays out as the conflict gives a boost to Leasath's military-industrial complex.
It's actually averted in a second ending. If the player completes all the missions, he's murdered by an angry mob of his own citizens.
In BioShock 2, we have Sofia Lamb, who has been presented as, at the very best, a Knight Templar who believes that elimination of free will is the only way to save mankind, and at worst, a monster who does things like forcing a father to commit suicide in front of his daughter. In the neutral/evil endings, Eleanor kills Sofia Lamb, stating she is beyond redemption and needs to die. However, in the good ending, Eleanor states that the philosophy that people are beyond redemption is at the core of Sofia's philosophy and rejects this, saving Sofia's life.
Sofia's survival is hardly a victory. Her plans to create a Utopia were ruined, all her servants and the cult she built to fulfill her plans were killed by her own hands in a childish tantrum, and the weapon she was going to use to bring her Utopia about, her own daughter Eleanor, has probably rejected her for Delta and probably goes on to make the world a better place after his sacrifice, very different from what her mother wished. Considering these facts, Eleanor condemns her mother to a life of regret and/or disappointment, as she realizes she lost everything she tried to achieve forever and has to see her daughter, whom she tried to turn into her tool, ditching her and her beliefs and going on to disrespect her dreams. And she can't do anything to stop her daughter, as Eleanor possess enough power from Plasmids to burn Sofia into cinders. In the end, Sofia's survival is her punishment.
Still, Andrew Ryan, the first game's Big Bad, who had his own war crimes, got his punishment in an ironic way (not just transliteraly), but was never given a tiny chance of redemption by anyone. Sofia, on the other hand, was left without a scar considering all the people that died on her command; including Mark Melter from the Tear Jerker story There is something in the sea.
All in all, the BioShock series generally gives chances for multiple Karma Houdinis, depending on the choices of the player. In the first game, we have Jack, the player character himself, if he has chosen to harvest all the Little Sisters, thereby turning him into an old-style Person of Mass DestructionPowered by a Forsaken Child, having killed about twenty little girls. The end of him? He becomes the king of Rapture, and uses it to kill the crew of a nuclear submarine, and conquer a nuclear weapon. And that's it.
BioShock also gives us Sander Cohen, the Mad Artist, that creates his sculptures using plastered bodies of men, and wants to create a masterpiece requiring the death of no less than eleven people, though hardly innocent. His comeuppance? That's up to the player/Jack. He can be killed, with possibly ounces of Karma if his picture is photographed, but Jack can just as well choose to abandon him alive in Fort Frolic, and later in Olympus Herights, in which case he makes it through alive.
To continue with the sequel, we also have people like Stanley Poole, the Mole in Charge turned Dirty Coward, whom was hired to infiltrate The Pature Family, and sell out Lamb to Andrew Ryan. Later it went onwards for him, as he degenerated into a walking Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, betraying all characters — Delta by giving him to Ryan because Ryan was suspicious, and having him turned into a Big Daddy, Eleanor for threatening to sell him out, causing her to become a Little Sister, and eventually killing the entire family by drowning Dionysus Park. You get the idea. In the end, it is the task of Delta to decide whether he lives or dies. However, one could say, that even if he lives, he is still left alone, trapped among homicidal splicers, so he might get his deserved comeuppance after all.
And, continuing in the veins of BioShock, Delta himself can become one in the sequel, if he chooses to be a villain, although he might not get out just as scot-free as Jack, given he can only live on as the conscience of Eleanor, even if he does live on in her mind.
And finally, even Eleanor, the Distressed Damsel in the game, can become a Karma Houdini in the end. If Delta chooses to be a villain herself, she will become one, and harvest all the little sisters, kill her mother, and then as a final act, take Delta's survival instincts against his will, gaining his abilities, effectively allowing her to attempt to Take Over the World, with no punishment.
Although in regard to her attempt to Take Over the World, the good ending of BioShock, and namely the ending of Minerva's Den, which is final, implies that at least her attempt fails, so she won't end up as the supreme ruler of all humanity. But no matter if she is a saint or a monster, she gets away scot-free.
Villains in the Nancy Drew games often pull a Karma Houdini, particularly when their attacks against Nancy herself are concerned. In Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, the villain deliberately causes a cave-in to trap Nancy and leaves her to die, yet the only punishment mentioned is that the culprit's credit cards are taken away. Likewise, villains who'd tried to drown, strangle, and/or burn Nancy alive wind up going to jail for robbery.
Averted with Rentaro, though. Depending on what you do, he is either fired and never heard from again (implied to have gone off elsewhere) or loses his chance at his love interest but gets to keep his job anyways. Even though it was one of his inventions that almost drowned Nancy, it was an accident as he had no intentions of harming any guests, just scaring them off.
Advance Wars Days of Ruin has the civilians, who pushed Isabella out of their group — and while their own survival was at stake, they should know long by this point that Isabella isn't selfish, but they never say anything about her being one of Caulder's "children" or that Caulder will bomb them to death if he doesn't get Isabella. They never get punished for it at all aside from dealing with the After the End setting that Will and company also have to.
Unless you believe the Black Arms Invasion or the destruction of Prison Island, GUN from Sonic the Hedgehog never receives any form of punishment for massacring hundreds of innocent people, including a child, in cold blood, just to cover up a failed experiment they funded.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Vladimir Makarov, one of the main villains in the game and a terrorist who massacred hundreds of civilians in a Russian airport, kills Joseph Allen (the player) and then pins the blame for this massacre on him in order to incite a war between Russia and the U.S. The war is then taken to American shores, where a further catastrophic loss of life occurs. He is never killed or captured during the game's plot and his fate is unknown.
Modern Warfare 3, however, gives you the opportunity to settle scores.
Gabriel Rorke survives his .44 Magnum bullet wound at the end of Call of Duty: Ghosts and captures Logan.
Jitterbug, the Big Bad of Cave shooter Death Smiles, is a pretty strong example. He's directly responsible for the demons rampaging throughout Gilverado, as he had been opening portals to the demon world with the intent to create a portal back to the real world. In the end he is not punished for his actions, nor is he repentant in any way. He gets exactly what he wanted, and is allowed to leave for the real world, where he can go back to being a cold-hearted Corrupt Corporate Executive. The only bad thing that ever happens to him in the entire game is getting eaten by a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere that came out of one of the portals he'd opened. This does not kill him, and depending on the version you're playing, and depending on how well you've done, it may only pisshim off.
The sequel does show a bit of comeuppance: in Deathsmiles II's True Final Boss sequence, he gets inadvertently yanked back into Gilverado and is beaten up yet again by Dior's Angels. Given that he hates Gilverado, being trapped there once again is definitely a punishment for the guy, and his chances of escape are next to nil this time, given that he can only open the portal on All Hallow's Eve and the Angels are probably going to make very sure to keep an eye on him around that time.
Invoked in Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Jun became Joker due to his anger over the perceived notion that Tatsuya and co never received punishment for almost killing his close friend Maya years ago.
But at the same time, Nyarlathotep gets away with it and forces the heroes to give up their friendship. But by the end of its other part, Eternal Punishment, he gets what's coming to him, even though Tatsuya and Katsuya don't get to be with Maya.
Metal Gear Acid 2 has a Karma Houdini in the form of General Wiseman. Even though he was arrested in the story, his reaction in the ending heavily implies that he intends to get out of jail sooner or later in some way, shape, or form.
The only punishment Bowser ever seems to get for kidnapping Peach so many times is being humiliated when Mario trounces him. He still rules the Koopas (who remain loyal to him) he's still free to do it again, and neither Mario nor Peach seem to help matters, seeing as the Go-Karting with Bowser Trope happens between them so often he's the Trope Namer. (Of course, it was suggested at the end of Super Mario Sunshine that Bowser is doing it for thrills, and he doesn't want the conflict to end; maybe Mario and Peach are humoring him.)
Beldam from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, a Dragon with an Agenda who willingly executed an Eldritch Abomination's plan to be released by manipulating the Big Bad, Grodus, and the heroes into opening the titular door. She also told Grodus that after he released the Shadow Queen, she was bound to obey the one who freed her. The second he tries this, said Queen lets him know this was a lie, and blows him to bits. After the Queen is defeated? Beldam apologizes for abusing her sister Vivian and promises to never do it again. This is the last we hear of her.
She wasn't the only Karma Houdini in that game. Lord Crump is last seen living in Poshley Heights with Grodus (who isn't so lucky, he survives, but only his head remains) and four X-Nauts, having resolved to turn over a new leaf. He hasn't been seen since, so it can be assumed he retired. Doopliss actually benefitted in the end; when Flurry decides to go back to show business, he becomes her partner, acting as Mario in a stage production of the adventure.
In the Perfect Crime ending of Heavy Rain, all of the heroes and witnesses are killed or otherwise incapacitated and all evidence is destroyed. The game concludes with the complete and utter triumph of the Origami Killer.
Lieutenant Blake is a real nasty, brutish thug of a cop. He gives a sniper a direct order to kill Ethan (who's innocent), even if he comes out peacefully with his hands up. If Ethan is killed by the police and Shaun survives, Blake is suspended pending an investigation. Otherwise, nothing happens to him. Even the aforementioned ending may be a Karma Houdini, since it doesn't necessarily lead to him fired in disgrace or rotting in prison.
This is discussed in Persona 4 (see the Quotes page for the conversation) regarding Namatame. This is a DoubleAversion. The first aversion comes in the fact that soon after, you get the option to kill Namatame, though it's not recommended as the second comes with the revelation that he was an Unwitting Pawn the entire time who genuinely believed he was helping everyone.
A less serious example, Chie and the rest of the girls get away with punishing the guys for entering the baths during the trip to the Amagi Inn, even though it was really time for the guys to use it.
Jupis from "Rogue Galaxy"; he throws a conceited temper tantrum after losing his job, (admittedly for something he didn't do, but still...) takes the factory he worked at hostage (on a planet that practically sustains itself on said products produced), turns the robots working there into killbots, threatened the lives of anyone who tried to enter said factory, including the beloved Dr. Pocchacio, tried to kill your group when you go in to defuse the situation, attacked you with a giant killer robot, and what happens afterwards??? Nothing. He escapes, sneaks onto your ship, and gains the love of the overweight captain and crew due to his cooking skills and kinda forces his way into your group.
Bill Hawks in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future was responsible for an explosion 10 years ago from a failed time travel experiment that he ran prematurely for his corporate sponsors. In spite of the failure, he receives a fortune and goes on to become Prime Minister. At the end of the game, although he gets kidnapped by Clive and Dmitri, Layton still saves him anyway, and he clearly regrets nothing that he's done.
In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Viridi doesn't get what she deserves for having slaughtered thousands of humans and laughing about it. You do fight her forces, but she never gets punished for it. It becomes more aggravating when she doesn't even admit that her fight against Hades brought an alien invasion into the world to ransack the earth.
In one of the endings to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Baron Alexander succeeds in his master plan, thus completely getting away with manipulating and mentally torturing Daniel, betraying and torturing Agrippa, and killing god knows how many innocent people. In the other ends, Daniel may be considered this for those who don't consider his panic over the Shadow of the Orb and/or his aforementioned manipulation by the Baron to be adequate excuses for his own role in the Baron's ritual murders.
When you shoot a Star Wolf team member's ship enough for the power to be "Down," like Fox's wingmates (but not Fox), their ships are crippled and are forced to abort. On Fortuna, you need to send all of them packing before the timer for the bomb at the base runs out. If any of them aren't too crippled to keep fighting, they get away victorious rather than being forced to abort and Fox takes care of the bomb. If you take the path to Bolse afterwards, whichever Star Wolf team member is "Down," they sit out of the level. Before destroying the satellite, you need to defeat whichever Star Wolf member is active and send them packing.
Whether you go to Venom 2 from Area 6 with or without going to Fortuna first, you will face the Star Wolf team with new ships, as if their old ones were irreparable. They also have cyborg-ish prosthetics presumably from piloting critically damaged ships. You must also cripple them and force them to abort before heading to face Andross. They will all return fully recovered in Star Fox Assault with a new member, Panther Caruso.
Roy Earle, the Jerk AssDirty Cop of L.A. Noire, has reported Cole's affair with Elsa to the media, and gets away scot-free. He is later seen in Cole's funeral pretending to be his friend, much to Elsa's outrage.
He does worse than ratting on his partner. For this information, the corrupt players in the Suburban Redevelopment Fund — a cruel con to offer housing for war veterans and then make a ton of money when a freeway is built through the development area — make him a member of their scheme. A lot of people die for this, and most of the men responsible are arrested, but Earle manages to completely evade the axe.
Olympia, from Etrian Odyssey 3: The Drowned City. This is the person who was responsible for the deaths of countless adventurers in order to keep the Deep City hidden. In addition, she tried to kill your own party on at least two seperate occasions. In both the Deep City and True endings, she gets away scott-free with absolutely no ill consequences whatsoever. In the Armoroad ending, she gets beaten down alongside the final boss (Abyssal King Seyfried), but gets better in the post-game.
Shinji gets away scot free in Kara no Shoujo in several endings. He even casually hands off Toko's body to a kid on the train before just disappearing from the story. However, he is revealed as a pretty tragic figure around that time, so some readers may feel he doesn't deserve to be punished so long as he stops.
The antagonist of the second Dark Parables game spends his time capturing people who wander into the wrong part of the Black Forest of Germany and turning them into frogs. His "punishment" at the end of the game is death - which is the very thing he's been wanting for centuries - and a spectral reunion with his beloved first wife. It's bittersweet and very beautifully done, because he's an Anti-Villain rather than a full-on bad guy, but still.
Porky Minch from Earthbound. He kidnaps little girls, steals your helicopter, and ultimately you fight him alongside Giygas. And when you finally stop his villainy? He teleports away through time, and you don't see him again until the sequel, and there he's not any less of a Karma Houdini there, either. He pretty much spends his entire life corrupting the world in an effort to make it more fun for himself, using advanced technology to live a sort of toy life, but never really gets taken to task for it. He ends up sealed inside his Absolutely Safe Capsule, which will keep him alive and unharmed for eternity. It's supposed to be a variant on And I Must Scream, but he seems happy enough with it in the end; being so desperate to prolong his own childhood, gloating about escaping punishment forever and being protected within the safety of an artificial womb isn't really all that bad, or even all that different from the way he was living before.
Double Switch: Elizabeth is very much a Karma Houdini. Why? Because she took a hefty bribe from mobsters to let them find Brutus, and she had to have known that they were going to murder him, one of her own tenants. She did not try to protect the tenants from a secret society, mobsters, and Eddie. In fact, she actually prevented two tenants from leaving the building when they were trying to escape Eddie. No one chews her out for her actions, not even at the end of the game.
The Player himself in Overlord. It's stated by Word of God that every Overlord winds up in the abyss eventually. The first Overlord goes there willingly and takes over. It seems a bit far-fetched that the ruler of the underworld would have to play by its rules and be a victim. This also retroactively affects his son, the protagonist of the second game, as the first one was, canonically, an Anti-Hero at best, and probably wouldn't allow his kin to suffer. And from the first game, your jester, who is the quickest to jump ship when your predecessor shows up to take control back and later attempts to summon the fallen God, fleeing first and giving a taunting gesture when the portal closes just after he gets out through it. He's not present in the second game, however, so he may have been given comeuppance at some point offscreen.
For all its emphasis on Grey and Grey Morality, Dragon Age: Origins loves to pit the PC against some truly despicable bad guys (Branka, The Tevinter Slavers, Bann Vaughan) and give the PC the option of letting them go on with their evil business, usually for some money or a nifty bonus. For all of Bioware's emphasis on story arc and character, they know the marketing value of Video Game Cruelty Potential.
Isabela in Dragon Age II. Her selfishness forces the Qunari to stay at Kirkwall for years, causing numerous conflicts between them and the inhabitants of the city and ultimately leading to a full-scale war that kills hundreds if not thousands of Kirkwall's guards and citizens. Even when there was still time to prevent the conflict, Isabella stole the object of the Qunari's mission and ran off with it. Even if she comes back later and turns it in to the Qunari Arishok, it's too late to undo the damage. And no matter what choices are made, she never gets any kind of comeuppance for the ruin that she caused (if she is handed over to the Arishok, it is believed that she escapes their boat two days later).
At the beginning of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Groose and his two goons attack and imprison Link's Loftwing so that he wouldn't be able to participate in the race that determines who gets promoted to senior class in the Knight Academy. When that doesn't work, they still cheat during the actual race, despite having been explicitly told that interfering with other competitors is prohibited. And yet, as far as anyone can tell, neither Groose nor Stritch get in any kind of trouble for the things they did.note Eventually, Groose redeems himself later in the game, while Stritch is actually a nice guy when Groose isn't around. Cawlin averts this trope, however: He asks Link to deliver a love letter to his crush, and you have the option to deliver it to a ghost needing toilet paper instead. Either way, it doesn't work out for Cawlin and he spends the rest of the game heartbroken (and the ghost reads the letter first and starts stroking him lovingly in his sleep, giving him nightmares if you give it to her).
Kimberly Freeman, the real sixth Lord of Chaos, counts as well. She was Brainwashed and Crazy, and after she is free from the Chaos tune that Drakath sang to her, she asks the hero if he / she wants to participate with her band, and they perform in the same way they were before being freed by him / her, this time with no Chaos tune controlling them and the hero performing alongside them.
Kirby Super Star gives us quite an example in Captain Vul. He makes sure the piloting of the Halberd runs smoothly, but when Kirby invades the Halberd, Vul becomes violently obsessed and will do anything to kill him — even destroy his own ship. After Kirby destroys the reactor, Vul panics and decides he would rather live than go down with the Halberd. He is the first to evacuate the doomed airship, and is never seen again.
In the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes of Fate/stay night, the protagonist never even finds out about Zouken Matou, and he is presumably still torturing Sakura, which is one of the primary reasons fans consider those routes to have Bittersweet Endings.
Recurring Boss Vanessa from Luminous Arc is set up this way, constantly being asked to join the other Witches permanently after a handful of Enemy Mine encounters, despite having killed who-knows-how-many human researchers on her solo quest for Plot Coupons. Also, it gets subverted when when her rather complex motivations are spelled out. The deaths attributed to her turn out to be due to the project they were working on going out of control. Vanessa was in the right place at the right time and simply took off with the Lapistier during the chaos, and the Church pinned the deaths on her in propaganda. Vanessa forced her fights with the protagonists since she (correctly) assumed the human party calling the shots was too full of Fantastic Racism to hear her version of events and would have fought her anyway, and resented the other Witches for being passive enough for things to get as out of hand as they did. Proven innocent and with the Witches pushed into action, she has nothing to apologize for and happily joins.
Astrid of Atelier is theArlandTrilogy's resident jerkass, pulling all kinds of mean pranks, intimidating the other cast members (most of which are pretty nice, friendly, likable people), and generally kicking the dog. This culminates in a pretty dangerous experiment on Rorona which turns her into an eternal ten year old. Her punishment for her behavior? What punishment? She pretty much always gets a one-up over the others.
In Max Payne 3, you never get a chance to cap Anthony DeMarco Sr. for all the grief he's put Max through. On the other hand, you did just kill his son and most of his army. Max just lets Serrano go back to being a killer just half a day after watching him murder Mrs. Branco. In front of her sister. Whether or not this is justified (Serrano may or may not have had his guts surgically removed and his friends and family turned into organ pulp) is unknown. Then again, considering that Serrano is in very bad shape when you meet him for the last time, and the building he's in collapses shortly afterwards, its possible that karma caught up to him in the end.
One of the endings to Contra: Hard Corps has Colonel Bahamut fleeing in an escape helicopter after the heroes defeat the Alien Cell.
Downy Reed'sFreudian Excuse involves one of these. A local noble forced young children to fight their siblings to the death and he was one of them. When he grew up, he swore he would take revenge, but the noble had died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by friends and family. Without any way of coping with his loss or even feeling like his enemy had met a just end, he instead decided to remake the world so that such things could never happen. Failing that, having no world at all would be better.
During Mia Touma's route, she takes a turn for the yandere and first more or less rapes her brother in his sleep with drugs. Following this, she tries to get her 'rival' Lily petrified and then wants to leave her to die. After she has her own Disney Death sequence, she pops up under mind control on the enemy side. The mind control is broken, but then it turns out she's still on their side and her yandereness has increased, after which she kills thousands of people, formally betrays her former allies, and in the end nearly destroys the world. In the end, she not only doesn't even get a slap on the wrist, she gets to have her memory of these events wiped so that she doesn't have to remember she did anything wrong. As a point of justification, her lover is the world's hero, so his influence may be responsible for getting off without punishment.
In the terrorist campaign for Police Quest: SWAT 2, you play as Dante, The Dragon of the Five Eyes terrorist group. After a dozen missions filled with murder and kidnapping, the final mission sees you betrayed by your boss, and Dante escaping from SWAT on a private jet. Mocking the Big Bad's obsession with haiku, Dante composes a poem of his own: "The criminal life / Isn't cool / I'll live my life / By the golden rule", and sets course to the nearest tropical island paradise.
Killbane in Saints Row: The Third, depending on the player's choices. If you decide to save your friends instead of chasing after him in the penultimate mission, he escapes the city. No big confrontation, no chance to track him down, he just gets away. And if you decided not to unmask him in the previous mission (in exchange for learning the secret of his Apoca-fist), he's even spared public humiliation before he goes. He was cemented as a Karma Houdini in Saints Row 4, which follows Saints Row the Third from the ending where Killbane escapes.
Likely averted, however, in that Killbane is presumably still on Earth when it's destroyed in Saint's Row IV.
The Edutainment Game series Jump Start had a spin-off series of workbooks. In one of them, JumpStart 2nd Grade Math Workshop, C.J. and Ratso are competing in a tournament, but they sorta break off in the middle so Ratso can kidnap the princess, whom C.J. rescues. Ratso gets absolutely no consequences for his actions and no one seems to mind. They just resume the tournament and act as nothing ever happened. Probably a result of the workbooks having They Just Didn't Care plotlines.
Ellen from The Witch's House. She befriends a little girl named Viola, earning Viola's trust. Eventually, Viola agrees to trade bodies with Ellen, as Ellen's body is afflicted with a deadly sickness and can barely move from her bed, and Viola was nice enough to agree to take Ellen's pain "for a day". Cue Ellen (in Viola's body) sawing off Viola's legs and gouging out her eyeballs, all in the name of sadism. Ellen also poured a burning liquid down Viola's throat, because she didn't enjoy the sound of her old body screaming in agony. Now, fast forward to the end of the game. Viola almost gets her old body back, but her father shows up at the worst possible time. Armed with a rifle, he fires at Viola, thinking that he's saving his daughter from a monster. While he and Ellen leave the area, Ellen laughs one last time at Viola's corpse.
Eric Sparrow of Tony Hawk Underground. He uses the player character as a means to make himself more popular, going so far as to edit a video tape to remove an amazing stunt that the player character had pulled off and leaving the character in Moscow after a drunken ride on a tank causes massive amounts of damage and destruction and he/she tries to stop it. Even though Eric is shown that skating for the sake of skating is way better than skating for money and retrieving the video tape that had your character's stunt still on it, Eric's duplicity is never revealed and he is just left throwing a temper tantrum at the end. Unless you count the alternate ending where the player character decks him in the nose and walks off with the tape.
The villains of Catherine, Boss and Catherine, are both directly responsible for leading a number of men to their horrible deaths, and for causing a number of relationship breakups. Neither of them are ever held accountable or called out for it, and in fact in Catherine's case, it is possible to end up Happily Married to her.
Most of the villains in the Time Crisis series get their comeuppance, but in the Special Mode of the original Time Crisis, should Miller fail to defeat Kantaris within the time limit, she'll escape, but not before taunting Miller. She also happens to be a Karma Houdini in the spinoff Project Titan, as she sails away from her boat as it explodes, taunting Miller.
Catherine Halsey from the Halo franchise. Her actions may have saved humanity, but the Spartans, from their very inception, were designed to fight other humans, not the Covenant, and in the end she and everyone else who was involved in the project got away with destroying hundreds of children's lives. No one knows that the Spartans were kidnapped children, and the truth is effectively covered up.
Kanako Yasaka, the final boss of Mountain of Faith. In Subterranean Animism, she gave the power of a dying god to dim-witted Utsuho Reiuji, causing the latter to go mad with power and wanting to destroy everything. Not only does she not get any comeuppance in Touhou canon, there is literally no fan-material— fanart, fanfics, doujins, whatever— of her suffering the consequences for what she did.
At the end of Auto Destruct, Big Bad Lazarus escapes in a submarine after you shoot down his helicopter.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes does this. In his blue path, Motonari Mori plots to take over Japan by manipulating Mitsunari and Motochika to accomplish this task. When Motochika kills Ieyasu, Motonari then carries out his plan to kill off Motochika as well as Mitsunari and Yoshitsugu. When it comes time for the three to make Motonari pay for his deceiving ways, they are the ones who get killed off instead, leaving Motonari to rule Japan.
Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum (if you don't kill him), Ichabod Crane and Jersey Devil all survive without imprisonment or death in The Wolf Among Us (though Crane is letter killed by Bigby in the comic book series).