"I'm just a bad guy who gets paid to fuck up worse guys."While Evil Versus Evil may be fun, it carries the risk of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: people just do like having someone to cheer for; but, if both sides are equally reprehensible, then there's really no point to it. So that's where this trope kicks in. It basically means that the author is clearly trying to portray one side of the conflict as the better or more sympathetic one, so the audience can root for them. Since both sides are supposed to be villains, this isn't that hard. You just need to give your Lighter Black a little edge on the sympathy meter. The idea is to have the audience say "Yeah, Alice may be evil, but at least she's not half as bad as Bob!" This can be done in many ways. Give your villain the Sympathetic P.O.V.. Have them Pet the Dog, be a Noble Demon or invoke Even Evil Has Standards. Perhaps they're simply a smaller threat to the world. Maybe their goals are, or used to be, somewhat sympathetic. Maybe they have many Evil Virtues. Or, when compared to the opposition, their cause still seems a little more "right" or their character "pure" than that of the enemy. Sometimes, Bob just needs to be stopped at any cost, and Alice happens to have that goal in mind, if only for selfish reasons. Since we want them to win, this may lead to a villainous version of Right Makes Might and Pure Is Not Good. Or maybe the villain is such a Magnificent Bastard that it's easier to side with them. Especially if their opposition is a threat to everyone. If they shoot way over the line, the character in question may end up doing a Heel–Face Turn. This is generally a trait of most Enlightenment fiction that believes Rousseau Was Right. See also Black and Gray Morality, A Lighter Shade of Grey, Nominal Hero, and Shades of Conflict. An exaggerated form of this trope is Evil Versus Oblivion. Do not confuse this trope with Lesser of Two Evils, in which case, there still isn't a side to root for. (Those stories usually involve a hero's P.O.V. and he's observing the two villains fighting each other.)
— Wade Wilson, Deadpool
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Anime and Manga
- Most of the villains in Black Butler are worse than Ciel.
- Death Note: Even Rem agrees, while Light Yagami may be a bastard he isn't as bad as Kyosuke Higuchi, though that's debatable as Light is genuinely evil and dangerous.
- Mobile Suit Gundam's Kycilia Zabi is a fascist dictator who holds that We Have Reserves and once left a group of her own men buried alive in a collapsing mine. That said, she's not quite as awful as her older brother, Gihren, a psychopath who aims to reduce the population of Earth to less than a billion and who murders their father with a Wave Motion Gun. This makes it possible, if just, to root for her as the two of them manouvere for position in the Zeon hierarchy.
- Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ spoiler: Invoked by Haman Khan as she tries to convince Judau to ally with her against Glemmy Toto. Haman explains that she's just a conqueror who doesn't believe in the Zabi name she's using as a flag, but Glemmy does, and Glemmy will drown the Earth Sphere in blood because of it. Judau doesn't buy it; as far as he can tell, Haman and Glemmy are exactly the same, and he's not going to pick one above the other.
- In the Area 88 manga and OVA, Asran's pro-monarchy forces are not the good guys. The Asran monarchy lives in luxury while Asran struggles with poverty and a poor educational system. Saki is willing to use nuclear weapons in the country's civil war. Many of the mercenaries at Area 88 are amoral or outright sociopathic. However, members of Asran's monarchy have sympathetic moments, as do many of the mercenaries. To boot, the anti-government forces are depicted as much worse, committing atrocities against civilians and allying with Farina's mafia.
- Dragon Ball Z:
- There's no denying that Nappa is a ruthless villain, but he seems to care for his comrades, as shown when he suggested the Dragon Balls be used to wish their fallen fellow Saiyan, Raditz, back to life; a suggestion Vegeta shoots down in favor of his own desire for immortality.
- Beerus, the God of Destruction and Big Bad of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods stands out amongst the Z-Fighters' Rogues Gallery. Most other Dragon Ball villains, especially Frieza and Cell, are utterly sadistic, depraved monsters who kill and destroy whoever and whenever they want For the Evulz. Beerus, on the other hand, only destroys because it's his job (though he is prone to destroying planets for petty reasons) and is quite sociable and friendly when off the clock. He'll keep on delaying the clock, too, as long as you keep his stomach full of good food and keep him of the opinion that blowing up your planet will rob him of said food.
- To a certain extent, Cooler to Frieza. They're both ruthless galactic conquerors that like pummeling their opponent, but Cooler's less sadistic and more focused on just finishing off his opponent. Plus he respects his men as opposed to ruling them through fear like Frieza.
- In Dragon Ball Super, Frost from Universe 6 plays a similar role to Frieza. While Frost may be a crime lord and con-artist who profiteers off war like Frieza used to do, he isn't a sadist. He is motivated mostly by money and respect, which although hardly noble, is a very "human" desire and leads him to cultivate a Villain with Good Publicity in order to get the most benefit out of his crimes and even when found out he keeps his head about himself, unlike Frieza who gladly slaughters anyone he comes across for kicks and revels in being the most feared being in the universe. It's how Frost achieves it that makes him evil. To his credit, however, he could have easily strong-armed a city into giving him a new base of power once he lost everything and/or tried to wage an universal war using what was left of his empire, but he instead lives on the streets and tries not to harm anyone despite his great power, even hiding from patrolling police officers when he could easily obliterate them with a flick of a wrist. When caught by the assassin Hit with no chance to escape (though not realizing Hit came with a different purpose than killing him), he choses to silently accept his fate after a brief battle instead of blowing up the planet like Frieza whenever he is forced against the ropes.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Greed is still an antagonist and kind of a jerk, but he's leagues better than his fellow homunculi/siblings/former allies. He treats his underlings well and has their genuine respect and is not especially malicious.
- Black Lagoon: the protagonists are pirates and smugglers who are quite willing to do all manner of immoral acts if the pay is right. They're still much better than most of their opponents, who include neo-Nazis, bloodthirsty cartels, and the other inhabitants of Roanapor.
- Akame ga Kill!: The Jaegars can be very ruthless, but they are not barbarians. They don't indiscriminately kill the Empire's citizens unless they suspect them to working with La Résistance. Every member at least have their own share Pet the Dog moments. This is very stark contrast to Wild Hunt where they are willing to kill the Empire's citizens for any reason (even for fun). In fact, considering the state of the Empire's government, the Jaegars come across as the the best possible hope of protection for the Empire's citizens.
- In Wanted, Wesley and his allies are ever so slightly better than their opponents, which makes it possible to root for them. Invoked by the author, as the story's structure (a corruption of The Hero's Journey) is specifically modelled to make you root for the Villain Protagonist even though he murders, rapes and tortures his way through the issues and is a petty, smug sadist who obviously gets off on the evil acts he commits. In the end the only thing differentiating Wesley from the Big Bad Mr. Rictus is that Wesley is evil 6 days a week, whereas Rictus strives to fill all 7 of them with bonafide supervillainy. By the end Wesley has to Break The Fourth Wall to remind the reader that, yes, he's still a villain and proud of it.
- Spider-Man: During Venom's transformation into an an anti-hero in the nineties, readers were introduced to Carnage, Venom's eviler counterpart.
- In X-Men while Magneto is often portrayed as a ruthless villain, he wanted to create a better world for mutantkind free from human discrimination and persecution. This is a stark contrast to many other X-Men villains such as Sebastian Shaw, William Stryker, and Apocalypse; where these villains have more selfish purposes (and in the case of Stryker, genocide against mutants). And of course there is Magneto's disgust of the Red Skull note .
- Doctor Doom has some very similar traits. Certainly, he is a massive egomaniac with a God Complex that could punch holes in walls and rules the nation of Latveria as a despot with armed Doombots on each corner and an enforced Cult of Personality. At the same time, he keeps his word, provides an excellent quality of life for his citizens (Latveria's health and education infrastructure makes the United States look like a podunk backwater), and seeks to Take Over the World in order to make life better for everyone (admittedly at the cost of armed Doombots on each corner and an enforced Cult of Personality). At least once, he's been replaced as Latveria's ruler by someone who turned out to be lacking those positive traits. The Fantastic Four have to deal semi-regularly with people who want to destroy the world for reasons that range from understandable but still kind of harsh (Galactus) to plain dickish and weird (Annihilus). And Doom also refuses to have anything to do with the Red Skullnote . In the Cyberpunk Marvel 2099 universe, a re-awoken Doom was actually one of the heroes - his takeover of the United States was actually a positive development, with the corporations brought back under control, and he even made a Heroic Sacrifice to deal with the Phalanx.
- In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, the titular Villain Protagonist has next to no redeeming qualities, but he does have a Morality Pet (that he seldom actually pets, try as he might) and seems to recognize that he's gone horrifically wrong... and when he's up against a universe-consuming Eldritch Abomination, it's relatively easy to root for him.
- It helps, too, that Johnny is somewhat goofy and likable, mostly due to his Crosses the Line Twice mannerisms and general childish tendencies, while the Monster Behind the Wall is never fun or wacky at all. Even though Johnny is clearly not forgivable, most of the readers would much rather have him running around.
- The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: Mentioned in-universe. Sentinel Prime was, during his life, a violent, murderous, arrogant fascist who killed the guy before him to get the job. But, as Brainstorm notes, the last thing he did in life was fight the newly emergent Megatron, so he gets to be remembered as a hero. Not so much with the readers, who're more likely to side with Megs, who at the time was trying to overthrow an oppressive regime with a fondness for kicking every dog they could find.
- Lampshaded in the MAD parody of Trading Places, after the main characters ruin the Duke brothers.
"I know those two old guys were ruthless... but compared to these two sharks, they were damn-near lovable!!"
- The entity possessing Naruto (implied to be the Kyuubi) in Conquering Eostia wants to rule Eostia, but more so wants to claims the seven Princess-Knights along with Dark Elf Queen Olga and her guard Chloe. On the other hand, he's also fighting against Volt and his Kuroinu Mercenaries who want to turn Eostia into a living hell where all women are considered sex slaves and public property. In the end, the main differences are the (possibly) Kyuubi takes care of his slaves, has no interest in anyone but the nine mentioned, and actually has a few morals.
- In the two Alien vs. Predator movies, the Predators are this to the Aliens. In the first movie, not only does this lead to an Enemy Mine situation where the last surviving human character teams up with the last surviving Predator, but it's made abundantly clear that the Predators are by far the lesser threat, as the Aliens will cause global extinction if they reach civilization (which, as many of noted, invalidates the famous tagline "Whoever wins... we lose"). The second film is a bit better about this trope, with the Predator gruesomely killing a fair number of people without an Enemy Mine in sight, but to the humans, it remains a significantly smaller problem than the Alien swarm in addition to the many Evil Virtues of its species.
- A lot of the victims the Predators kill in many of the films and video games are Asshole Victims: either gang leaders, thugs, criminals, rapists, or child-abusers (this is evident in Predator 2 where the Predator was killing a bunch of gang leaders and their henchmen). The Predators follow a strict code of honor and even helped develop some of the greatest civilizations in history (i.e. the Aztec Empire, Ancient Egyptians, and the Khmer Empire). The reason the Predators are considered antagonists is because many of the protagonists in such works are law enforcement officers or military personnel (which the Predators consider to be Worthy Opponents since many of them are capable of fighting back).
- In Freddy vs. Jason, Jason is often read this way, since at least he's not a children-killing scumbag with pedophilic undertones who stretches out his victims' deaths out of sheer sadism. That and Freddy can go just about anywhere whereas Jason only sticks to his home place. On the flip side, Jason racks up a way bigger body count than Freddy does (which is actually Freddy's motive for fighting him— he is killing kids Freddy has targeted), is clearly out of control, and is slaughtering teenagers by the dozen seemingly For the Evulz, so...
- Every character in Conspiracy is a Nazi and have enthusiastically engaged in war crimes, so they're all evil. Yet Dr. Wilhelm Kritzinger, while still a proud servant of the Fuehrer who's glad to oppress the Jewish people, is the only one appalled by the concept of complete extermination. This is a Historical Hero Upgrade for him— the movie is about the Wannsee Conference which discussed details of the Holocaust, but the records (admittedly compiled by those in charge of the proposed measures) show that nobody objected to the genocide at the time, not least because it was already well underway— the point of the conference was not to start the Holocaust, but to make sure it happened efficiently. Kritzinger did try to resign soon after, but whether and how it was related to the conference is anyone's guess. He was ashamed about the whole thing after the war though.
- The Parker novels by Richard Stark sometimes uses this. Parker, a Villain Protagonist, is an amoral thief. However, he is pragmatic. He would kill to get what he wants, but he would not do it if it was unnecessary because he knows that the police put more effort in hunting murderers than thieves. Some books like The Sour Lemon Score or Deadly Edge, put him against complete psychos who rape and kill on a whim.
- In the BattleTech novel Bred for War, the assassin responsible for the death of Melissa Steiner-Davion in an earlier book gets this treatment. When a new "revolutionary" government takes over the planet he'd been thinking about going into retirement on, it turns out to be sufficiently nasty that even his disregard for collateral damage in leading La Résistance and his leaving his local girlfriend to be captured and killed as a distraction can't quite quench the admiration for his magnificent bastardry. (It helps that he only reveals his real identity at the end of the subplot — even to the reader.)
- In-Universe in Vampire Academy, the Alchemists consider Strigoi, Moroi, and Dhampirs to be all "evil creatures of the night". But they are willing to concede that the latter two are a lighter shade of black. Allowing them to covertly co-operate.
- Ezra's Gamble is about Bounty Hunter Bossk and Street Urchin Ezra Bridger fighting a criminal and a corrupt and murderous Imperial officer in cahoots with him. Bossk himself only comes across as evil in other Star Wars stories, not in this one. Until the reward he promised Ezra turns out to be significantly smaller than implied.
- The Hunger Games: While both Coin and Snow are power-hungry villains, what makes Snow a slightly better person than Coin is that if he makes a threat or promises to do something, he keeps his word on it. Coin, on the other hand, is willing to manipulate others and lie to order gain power. This led Katniss to realize that it was Coin, rather than Snow who was responsible for the bombing of the Capitol's children and the death of her sister, Prim.
- Given that The Man in the High Castle takes place in an Alternate History in which the Nazis and Imperial Japan won World War II, the novel is rife with this. To name one example, Reinhard Heydrich is the ruthless leader of the SS and it's pretty heavily implied that he's been responsible for several genocidal actions. And yet he's still a lesser evil compared to other factions jockeying for power in the Reich... who want to nuke Japan.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has plenty of it, given it's set in a Crapsack World where good people suffer, seemingly good people are questionable, and bad people are total bastards. The Clegane brothers are both Blood Knights, but while Gregor ("The Mountain") is an Ax-Crazy Sociopath who rapes and slaughters for pleasure, Sandor ("The Hound") is a Professional Killer with some standards. Cersei Lannister is a ruthless queen, her brother\lover Jaime starts firmly black but after suffering a lot turns out to be a better person than he seemed, and younger brother Tyrion is a Lovable Rogue.
- By the third season of Boardwalk Empire, Villain Protagonist Nucky Thompson had taken a level in jerkass and embraced his role as a gangster to a degree that he was no longer clearly the Gray in the Black and Gray Morality framework. So, he was given an opponent in Gyp Rosetti, a brutal sociopath with a Hair-Trigger Temper, against whom Nucky looks like a saint in comparison.
- Casual racism pops up quite a bit in Sons of Anarchy, which is probably why the gang ends up fighting actual white supremacists. The blue collar, decidedly Un-PC Sons seem like paragons of liberal virtue in comparison to the brutal, bloodthirsty skinheads they battle throughout Season 2.
- In Justified, Boyd Crowder transitions from antivillain to outright villain as the series progresses. For all his machinations and bloodshed, however, he has sympathetic moments, as is far less sadistic than his adversaries, who include his father, Bo (drug lord, casual killer and eventual mass murderer), the Bennetts (a clan of marijuana dealers who kill anyone who so much as questions their control), Robert Quarles (an Oxycontin-addicted serial killer and sexual predator), Nicky Augustine (a sociopathic starscream with a jerkass streak), Daryl Crowe Jr. (a murderous smuggler who had his own brother killed for screwing up a job), and the Mexican cartel, who skin their enemies alive. This works to Boyd's advantage in-series as well, as series' protagonist Raylan Givens will typically focus on the more evil villain of the season and leave Boyd more or less alone.
- In From Dusk Till Dawn the Gecko brothers are thieves and murderers, but the vampires run an international drug cartel and drain innocent girls by the container-full.
- As with the novel it's based on, this is all over the place in the live-action adaptation of The Man in the High Castle, due to the setting. Adolf frakking Hitler of all people comes across as this in comparison to Reinhard Heydrich's faction, whose goals are by all accounts a nuclear war with Japan. Interestingly, the novel portrays Heydrich's faction in the exact opposite manner; there Heydrich's faction is the only one that opposes nuking Japan. This may be a minor case of Not His Sled.
- Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold from Once Upon a Time fits this trope throughout the series. While most other villains in the series either die or become active heroes (Anti-Heroes at worst), Rumpelstiltskin holds his Chaotic Neutral position all the way through. He usually keeps out of the affairs of the savior and her friends and family unless he benefits from them in some way (either through a deal or a common goal) or if the villain they face threaten him or Belle directly, flip-flopping between Anti-Hero, Anti-Villain and straight up menace throughout.
- In season 4 of Orange Is the New Black, three of the least-likable members of the prison staff in Healy, Luschek, and Coates turn out to be nothing compared to the majority of the new guards headed up by Capt. Piscatella. All three at various points of the season display at least a basic degree of concern for the inmates or remorse for their own misdeeds, in stark contrast to the likes of Humphries and Dixon who have absolutely no empathy whatsoever.
- CHAOS was the top "evil" stable of New Japan Pro Wrestling before the establishment of the gaijin group Bullet Club (never mind CHAOS's own "outsiders") but they both get cheered when facing what was once Kojimagun. Minoru simply became that unlikable since taking over and making it Suzukigun.
- World Wrestling League Tercias champions Los Rabiosos consisted of two thugs who only cared about money and a whiny backstabbing hypocrite, which still made them better than Spectro, Kronya and Vassago, the murderous arsonists of Legio. However, Rabiosos would later get some Pet the Dog moments through haciendo la diferencia while the later only got worse by picking up Mistress Glenda Lee and El Profe, turning it into Black and Grey Morality.
- This is what Warhammer 40,000 has instead of Good versus Evil, and is presumably what fans of the Lighter Black factions (Tau, Craftworld Eldar, the Imperium (specifically the Salamanders), Necrons) see in playing on the side of such horrible people; they're fighting against the very incarnations of cruelty (Dark Eldar), savagery (Orks), consumption (Tyranids) and, well, Chaos.
- The Tau were basically created to be this trope, despite Fan Dumb forcing them to get darker since their introduction. It says a lot about the state of the universe where the race with a "communist manifest destiny" motif, who openly seek to conquer the universe and make all other races part of their empire, who resort to violence if their efforts to subsume other races diplomatically fail, and who are implied (in a comment of dubious canonicity) to set up concentration camps and forced sterilization programs for races who resist, are still relatively good guys.
- The Imperium of Man: a massive Vestigial Empire choked with a Tautological Templar bureaucracy that preaches zealotry, ignorance, and militarism while completely disregarding the individual — yet it's made up of humans just trying to survive in a universe where Everything Is Trying to Kill You. Plus, at this point in the setting, the galaxy is so screwed up that fixing it might actually cause the apocalypse.
- Most (non-Dark) Eldar default to this. Like the Imperium, they consider all other races to be worthless compared to their own citizens; unlike the Imperium, they usually don't actively try to exterminate outsiders that don't get in their way, and mostly just want to be left alone. The Necrons who aren't utterly psychotic Omnicidal Maniacs are similar in that regard.
- Among the forces of Chaos, the Thousand Sons (especially Magnus) are sort of this. The Emperor kept secrets from Magnus, and his attempt to warn the Emperor of the Horus Heresy damaged the Emperor's secret work, and resulted in the Thousand Sons being forced to join the traitors. Afterwards, Ahriman managed to turn most of the legion to dust, leaving the Thousand Sons as a broken legion, just as engineered by Tzeentch.
- In Shadowrun, the triple-A Mega Corp. Horizon (which appeared in 4th edition onwards) is a world-dominating mega corp that has a completely flat and transparent corporate structure, an extremely cheerful and public CEO, and focus on 'benign' industries like Public Relations and pharmaceuticals. Rather than make them the 'good guys' of the setting this has made them Paranoia Fuel; Shadowrunners are usually extremely smart(the ones that aren't don't live long) and the concept of a Mega with no skeletons in the closet that actually cares is scarier than eight of the other open Pragmatic Villains on the Corporate Court combined (they still don't match Aztechnology though) because this only means they must be hiding something utterly depraved in there somewhere... But nobody knows what it is.
- Ares Macrotechnology is generally considered this trope in the shadows. It's not that Ares aren't doing shadowy, dirty business (they are) or that they give a hoot about making the world a better place (they don't), but Ares (perhaps due to their Lovable Rogue CEO or the fact that shadowrunners continuing to exist raises demand for their products) tend to understand 'the game' between shadowrunners and corporations better than most. A run against Ares is a run where they'll play by the rules if you play by them. If you get hired to do work on their behalf, odds are better than average that the Johnson actually intends to pay you at the end instead of backstabbing you.
- Sweeney Todd is a murderous barber who slashes his customers' throats and has them baked into pies. But in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, we root for him because he wants revenge against the corrupt Hanging Judge who falsely transported him for life in order to get at his beautiful wife, as well as having some rather skeevy designs on his daughter when she comes of age.
- Fate/stay night: Part of "Heaven's Feel" seems to be solely dedicated to making the players like Kotomine more, with several Enemy Mine and Pet the Dog situations and most importantly, an utterly epic fight where he holds his own against Matou Zoken and his Servant quite well. In "Fate", Kotomine is portrayed as fairly simplistic with no motives beyond Evil Feels Good, and in Unlimited Blade Works he takes a backseat to the conflict between Shirou and Archer. Only "Heaven's Feel" fleshes him out at all, but in doing so it makes him into a much more complex character than when he was portrayed in simple black and white terms.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: In the Dark Side Ending, Kreia will say that the PC is not a Sith. Not really. Presumably, she considers them a Dark Jedi instead, i.e. someone who uses the Dark Side for their own advancement rather than submitting to the Sith Code and philosophies.
- This is the case in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (Laharl the wannabe Evil Overlord vs. an Omnicidal Maniac). Disgaea 2 and Disgaea 4 have more heroic protagonists while Disgaea 3 is mixed (Mao wants to slay his father, the Overlord, for trivial reasons and the rest of the cast have more heroic goals plus the real villain already made Mao do it and surpressed his memories)
- Blood has no good guys. On one hand you have a cult trying to summon a dark god, murdering anyone they want to and experimenting on the rest. On the other side you have one of their failed projects, a sadistic revenant named Caleb who was one of those cultists and also is murdering anyone he feels like. At least Caleb is fighting to avenge his wife and best friend and has a sense of humor.
- The Scarlet Crusade vs the Scourge in World of Warcraft. At least until Wrath of the Lich King.
- God of War Series is an interesting example. On one side, the Gods of Olympus, famous for toying with or outright squashing humanity when they feel like it, but also the sources of wisdom, love, agriculture, and even the Sun itself. On the other, a completely psychotic killer who thinks nothing of slaughtering anybody in his way, but with basically sympathetic motives for bringing war against the gods, and who ultimately grants his enormous power to humanity after bringing down Olympus. In the end, which side is Lighter comes down to the viewer.
- Scarface: The World Is Yours follows the original film in this. Sure, Tony is wiping out the gangs and the enemy gangsters all the way up to Sosa, who watchers of the film would have known was not a nice person, but he is still putting drugs on the streets of Miami.
- Drakengard. Among your plucky group of heroes are an Ax-Crazy mute soldier whose sister loves him more than is socially acceptable, a vicious red dragon, a batshit crazy elf who eats children, a religious patriarch who never passes up an opportunity to call for genocide against all other intelligent species, a blind pedophile, and a child cursed to never grow up. However, they're care bears compared to the Grotesqueries, hideous Humanoid Abomination who wish to unmake creation through the efforts of their possessed minion Manah, a six year old girl who delights in ruining lives left and right because her mommy never loved her enough.
- In BlazBlue we have the Big Bad Duumvirate, Relius Clover and Hazama / Terumi Yuuki. Both of them are seemingly caught in a "How far beyond the Moral Event Horizon can you go" contest, but despite the fact that they are pretty much evenly matched as far as accomplishments go, Relius is still a lighter shade of black than Hazama is. First and foremost because most of his atrocities were committed in order to satiate his own scientific curiosity, and secondly because he is pretty pragmatic in his villainy. Compare to Hazama who doesn't even pretend to have a rationalization for all the shit he does and often goes out of his way to ruin people's lives JUST BECAUSE... His behavior is sort of justified, though, because Hazama/Terumi avoids getting erased from reality by anchoring his own existence in the world through people's hatred of him. It's ultimately Double Subverted, though, because he really does get off on pushing people beyond the Despair Event Horizon. The fact that there are good reasons to suspect he's the 'verse's own take on Satan doesn't help his case, either.
- Eventually Relius in Chronophantasma turns out to be capable of being portrayed as an extreme version of Well-Intentioned Extremist. All three main bad guys (Imperator, Terumi, Relius) aim for destroying the Master Unit Amaterasu which can cause a genocidal damage to the current world and resets it, but it turns that Relius... does so because he's frustrated that the world never progresses and prevents advancement of his goal of creating the Perfect Doll. While he is still pretty selfish that he only cares for his own project, his intention can be portrayed at being beneficial for the rest of humanity trapped in depressing loops. If he completes the project, he could either leave humanity alone, or try to inject the Perfect Doll for humanity, which in his twisted mind, may have a chance to be considered a beneficial improvement for overall humans (though probably other people will not agree). This is in comparison of Terumi who just wants the world to be his playground of evil and filled with despair for his own greed, and the Imperator, being Izanami, who just wants everyone to die and make the world empty.
- Baldur's Gate
- In Baldur's Gate II, you are given the choice between supporting the Shadow Thieves, a thieves' guild you've probably already done some sidequests for, and a rival guild led by a lady called Bodhi that contains vampires that attack people in the streets at night. If you visit their guildhalls neither of them seem terribly 'good', but at least the Shadow Thieves don't decorate with giant pools of human blood and fill their halls with mindless thralls they feed on.
- In all the three parts (BG 1, BG 2 and BG 2: Thone of Bhaal), the protagonist can be evil but will still be potentially sympathetic due to being the Player Character, and will also be the lesser evil compared to the major villain of each story and their destructive plans. In Throne of Bhaal, the prophecy behind much of the games' plot is revealed to contain the clause that, no matter what path the protagonist chooses if they should triumph over their antagonists in that storyline, the results of their losing would always be worse.
- Shin Megami Tensei: The series as a whole chronicles the omniverse-spanning Forever War between the Forces of Law, Chaos and Neutral, each side possessing their positives and negatives. Law and Chaos have genuinely noble intentions laden in extremism, and while Neutral is the most nuanced of the alignments, it also is never a permanent solution to the universe's problems, making it overall a decision of what's best for humanity. Due to the rampant subjectivity of the matter, it's possible to argue all three sides as the best choice.
- Common in the Grand Theft Auto series. More often than not, as bad the Villain Protagonist Player Characters are, they're still usually better than their antagonists.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: CJ and every criminal organization he associates with (Grove Street Families, the Varrios Los Aztecas, and the Triads) are Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters who oppose the drug trade and work to stop the sale of cocaine all across the state. The Big Bad, Officer Frank Tenpenny, has not only been largely been giving the coke-dealers more power for his own benefit, but he's deeply corrupt and is set to kill everyone who could possibly expose his crimes. Including his own partners.
- Grand Theft Auto V: Michael is a bank robber fresh out of retirement, Franklin is a former small-time Gangbanger turned big-time bank robber and assassin, and Trevor (who's by far the most evil of the three) is an Ax-Crazy drug dealing Psychopathic Man Child. Despite this, all three of them have redeeming values, Morality Pets, and Pet the Dog moments that can instill some sympathy. That's more than can be said about their antagonists: Steven Haines, a corrupt FIB agent who engages in some incredibly irresponsible Interservice Rivalry with the IAA for the sake of his career, and Devin Weston, a Corrupt Corporate Executive with close ties to Private Military Contractors known for committing human rights violations all over the world.
- If you play as a rogue in NetHack, the Assassins' Guild becomes the lighter shade of black to the Thieves' Guild. You're on the eviler side.
- In Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire you got two gangs competing with each other: Team Magma, who want to expand the landmass to further develop civilization and Team Aqua, who want to expand the oceans so Pokemon will have more places to live. One of the teams will resort to kidnapping, robbery and awakening dangerous Olympus Mons to further their ideals, while the other, while not really sympathetic towards you, will help you defeat them. Which team is the lighter shade of black depends on which version you're playing.
- Wizardry has the typical D&D alignments and the manuals use this reasoning to explain the presence of such people in the party: "Evil characters are not really evil when compared to some of the things they fight in the Maze. They are self-centered, and always want to know "what's in it for them." Evil characters help old ladies cross the street for a small fee."
- In the lore of Overwatch, Hanzo Shimada is the heir to a powerful yakuza clan, groomed to be such from the day he was born. He also killed his brother (or so he assumed), but it's heavily implied that Hanzo didn't want to go through with it and he spends the rest of his life trying to atone for it. Hanzo is definitely a rude asshole, a ruthless assassin, and a morally dark gray character, but he also despises his family for what they made him do.
- He also denies joining up with Talon, though whether this is based more on his morals or his pride is still up for debate.
- Homestuck has The Midnight Crew, who are only considered heroes during "Operation Regisurp" in the Troll's Session, due to their alliance with the protagonists. Later in story, they're only considered heroic at all because their rivals, Lord English and the Felt, are worse. They still casually murder people and given half the chance would become just as dangerous as Jack Noir and the agents under him in the Kid's session.
- Zala'ess Vel'Sharen in Drowtales is by no means a particularly nice person, since in the process of vying for the title of Empress among her sisters participates in Matricide, pulls a Uriah Gambit on an (adopted) child, politically manipulates several clans into helping her and deliberately and secretly sabotages a duel that causes one of her sisters to die. And yet compared to her eldest sister Snadhya'rune, who's an outright sociopath who views people as things and Sarv'swati, her brutal and tyrannical second eldest sister, she seems downright reasonable and displays some humanizing qualities like honest concern for her children.
- The Kua-Toa of Tales from My D&D Campaign are divided into two factions: The Illud and the Deluvians. Both are slavers and believe themselves to be the Master Race, but the Deluvians worship the Ax-Crazy goddess of slaughter and want to butcher all the civilized races, while the Illud worship a neutral god of storms, and may be content with just enslaving all the civilized races.
- In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Sir George vs Diagon. George might be a anti-alien Knight Templar leading a whole faction of Cape Busters, but he is still better than the Mind-Raping, Multiversal Conqueror Eldritch Abomination that is Diagon. However, later episodes show that he, unlike Driscoll and the rest of the knights, was not so bad after all. Once the Diagon arc kicks in he's pretty much a good guy who also protects the world, but he and Ben were at odds with their views on non-earthly beings until a bigger threat forced Sir George to get over it and work with the team.
- Also, Charmcaster vs. Adwaitya. Charmcaster is hardly is a saint, but Adwaitya is way, way worse: she may have done more damage than he did temporarily (though one could argue that regardless of what Spellbinder claimed, wiping out all life in her realm in one go is still more benevolent than Adwaitya's systematic killing over the ages) but is called out on it and becomes a Friendly Enemy afterward for the most part; by contrast, Adwaitya was power-mad and unrepentant to the end.