While EvilVersusEvil may be fun, it carries the risk of DarknessInducedAudienceApathy: 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 SympatheticPOV. Have them PetTheDog, be a NobleDemon or invoke EvenEvilHasStandards. Perhaps they're simply a smaller threat to the world. Maybe their goals are, [[TheDarkSideWillMakeYouForget or used to be]], [[AntiVillain somewhat sympathetic]]. Maybe they have many EvilVirtues. 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 RightMakesMight and PureIsNotGood.

Or maybe the villain is such a MagnificentBastard that it's easier to side with them. Especially if their opposition is [[EvilVersusOblivion a threat to]] ''[[EvilVersusOblivion everyone]]''.

If they shoot way over the line, the character in question may end up doing a HeelFaceTurn. This is generally a trait of most Enlightenment fiction that believes RousseauWasRight.

See also ALighterShadeOfGrey, NominalHero, and ShadesOfConflict. An exaggerated form of this trope is EvilVersusOblivion.

Do not confuse this trope with LesserOfTwoEvils, 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.)



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/DeathNote'': [[EvenEvilHasStandards Even Rem]] [[LampshadeHanging agrees]], while Light Yagami may be a bastard he isn't as bad as [[spoiler:Kyosuke Higuchi]].
* ''MobileSuitGundam'''s [[TheBaroness Kycilia Zabi]] is a fascist dictator who holds that WeHaveReserves 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, [[TheEvilPrince Gihren]], a [[TheSociopath psychopath]] who aims to reduce the population of Earth to less than a billion and who murders [[spoiler:[[{{Patricide}} their father]]]] with a WaveMotionGun. This makes it possible, if just, to root for her as the two of them manouvere for position in the Zeon hierarchy.
** ''MobileSuitGundamZZ'' spoiler: [[spoiler:[[InvokedTrope Invoked]] by [[BigBad Haman Khan]] as she tries to [[EnemyMine convince Judau to ally with her]] against [[TheStarscream 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. [[ShutUpHannibal 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 ''Manga/{{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 [[SociopathicSoldier 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 [[ObligatoryWarCrimeScene atrocities against civilians]] and allying with Farina's mafia.
** In the manga, this shifts to {{black and gray morality}} when the pro- and anti-government forces [[EnemyMine both turn on Project 4]], a ruthless arms syndicate.
* ''Anime/DragonBallZ'': 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.

* In ''Comicbook/{{Wanted}}'', Wesley and his allies are ever so slightly better than their opponents, which makes it possible to root for them. [[ProtagonistCenteredMorality Invoked by the author]], as the story's structure (a corruption of TheHerosJourney) is specifically modelled to make you root for the VillainProtagonist 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 BigBad 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 BreakTheFourthWall to remind the reader that, yes, [[CardCarryingVillain he's still a villain and proud of it]].
* ''{{Franchise/Spider-man}}'': During ComicBook/{{Venom}}'s transformation into an an anti-hero in the nineties, readers were introduced to ComicBook/{{Carnage}}, Venom's [[EvilCounterpart eviler counterpart]].
* In ''Comicbook/{{X-Men}}'' while {{Magneto}} is often portrayed as a ruthless villain, he wanted to [[WellIntentionedExtremist create a better world for mutantkind free from]] [[FantasticRacism 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 [[EvenEvilHasStandards disgust of the]] RedSkull [[note]]The fact that the Red Skull is a Nazi who participated in the Holocaust while Magneto is a Jewish Holocaust survivor makes Magneto even more sympathetic[[/note]].
* In ''Comicbook/JohnnyTheHomicidalManiac'', the titular VillainProtagonist has next to no redeeming qualities, but he does have a MoralityPet (that he seldom actually [[PetTheDog pets]], try as he might) and seems to recognize that he's gone horrifically wrong... and when he's up against a [[CosmicHorrorStory universe-consuming]] EldritchAbomination, it's relatively easy to root for him.
** It helps, too, that Johnny is somewhat goofy and likable, mostly due to his CrossesTheLineTwice mannerisms and general [[PsychopathicManChild 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.

* In the ''Film/AlienVsPredator'' movies, the Predators are this to the Aliens. In the first movie, not only does this lead to an EnemyMine 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, [[TrailersAlwaysLie invalidates the famous tagline]] [[BlackAndBlackMorality "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 EnemyMine in sight, but to the humans, it remains a significantly smaller problem than the Alien swarm in addition to the many EvilVirtues of [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy its species]].
* In ''Film/FreddyVsJason,'' 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.
* Every character in ''Film/{{Conspiracy}}'' is a Nazi and have enthusiastically engaged in war crimes, so they're all evil. Yet [[AntiVillain Dr. Wilhelm Kritzinger]], while still a proud servant of the Fuehrer who's glad to oppress the Jewish people, is the only one appaled by the concept of complete extermination.

* The ''Literature/{{Parker}}'' novels by Richard Stark sometimes uses this. Parker, a VillainProtagonist, 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 ''[[BattleTechExpandedUniverse [=BattleTech=]]]'' novel ''Bred for War'', [[spoiler: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 LaResistance and his [[spoiler:leaving his local girlfriend to be captured and killed]] as a distraction can't quite quench the admiration for his [[MagnificentBastard magnificent bastardry]]. (It helps that he only reveals his real identity at the end of the subplot -- even to the reader.)
* In-Universe in ''Literature/VampireAcademy'', 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.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* By the third season of ''Series/BoardwalkEmpire'', VillainProtagonist Nucky Thompson had [[TookALevelInJerkass 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 BlackAndGrayMorality framework. So, he was given an opponent in Gyp Rosetti, a brutal sociopath with a HairTriggerTemper, against whom Nucky looks like a saint in comparison.
* Casual racism pops up quite a bit in ''SonsOfAnarchy'', 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 ''Series/{{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 {{sadist}}ic 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 [[FunctionalAddict Oxycontin-addicted]] {{serial killer}} and [[SerialRapist sexual predator]]), Nicky Augustine (a [[TheSociopath sociopathic]] [[TheStarscream starscream]] with a {{jerkass}} streak), Daryl Crowe Jr. (a murderous smuggler who had his own brother killed for [[YouHaveFailedMe 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 ''Series/FromDuskTillDawn'' the Gecko brothers are thieves and murderers, [[spoiler:but the vampires run [[TheCartel an international drug cartel]] and drain innocent girls by the container-full.]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* This is what ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' has instead of Good versus Evil, and is presumably what fans of the Lighter Black factions (Tau, Eldar, the Imperium) see in playing on the side of such horrible people; they're fighting against the very incarnations of cruelty (Dark Eldar), death (Necrons), savagery (Orks), consumption (Tyranids) and, well, Chaos.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Shadowrun}}'', the triple-A MegaCorp 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 ParanoiaFuel; Shadowrunners are usually extremely GenreSavvy (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 [[PragmaticVillainy Pragmatic Villains]] on the Corporate Court combined (they still don't match [[TheDreaded Aztechnology]] though) because this only means they must be hiding something utterly depraved in there ''somewhere''... But nobody knows what it is.

* Sweeney Todd is a murderous barber who slashes his customers' throats and has them baked into pies. But in ''Theatre/SweeneyToddTheDemonBarberOfFleetStreet'', we root for him because he wants revenge against the corrupt HangingJudge who falsely transported him for life in order to get at his beautiful wife, as well as having some rather [[WifeHusbandry skeevy designs]] on his daughter when she comes of age.

* ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'': Part of "Heaven's Feel" seems to be solely dedicated to making the players like Kotomine more, with several EnemyMine and PetTheDog 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 EvilFeelsGood, 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.
* ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic 2'': In the Darkside 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 ''VideoGame/DisgaeaHourOfDarkness'' (Laharl the wannabe EvilOverlord vs. an OmnicidalManiac). ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 2|CursedMemories}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 4|APromiseUnforgotten}}'' have more heroic protagonists while ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 3|AbsenceOfJustice}}'' is mixed (Mao wants to slay his father, the Overlord, for trivial reasons and the rest of the cast have more heroic goals [[spoiler:plus the real villain already made Mao do it and surpressed his memories)]]
* ''VideoGame/{{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 [[EverythingsDeaderwithZombies 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 [[spoiler: and best friend]] and has a [[DeadpanSnarker sense of humor]].
* [[KnightTemplar The Scarlet Crusade]] vs the [[NightOfTheLivingMooks Scourge]] in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft''. [[spoiler:At least until Wrath of the Lich King]].
* ''VideoGame/GodOfWar'' is full of this. Yeah Zeus pulled a humungous dick move by [[spoiler:trying to kill Kratos]], but this was mostly because Kratos [[spoiler: wouldn't stop being such a warmongering douche]]. He was pretty much causing as many wars, if not more, than the very asshole he killed because he was supposedly the lesser of 2 evils. [[spoiler: Ares did manipulate Kratos into killing his own wife and daughter]], so Ares is another example to Kratos. On top of that Kratos basically [[spoiler: kills any innocent god who's trying to protect their king Zeus, even though he was going a bit crazy and probably ready to do the same, and he caused the entire fucking world to descend into chaos just so he can kill Zeus]]. You can even kill as many innocents as you like along the way, some even REQUIRED to be killed in torturous ways just to solve puzzles. But it's ok because, [[spoiler:Kratos becomes a Blue Lantern and becomes A Hero, or not, to give mankind a more positive direction. Assuming any are still alive, that is.]]
** However, at the end of the day, Kratos is really the Lighter Shade Of Black because A) almost ALL Olympians are JerkassGods that torment mankind directly ForTheEvulz or indirectly in their struggles and generally don't give a shit about us, and B) the only reason Kratos is an AxCrazy murderer is [[spoiler: due to them kidnapping his brother, and later Ares tricking him into killing his family. Kratos finds out about his brother by his mother, who is transformed into a monster by a curse from Zeus and has to receive MercyKill from her own son. Oh, and Kratos' brother also dies shortly after Kratos saves him, and Athena treats it as if it was some sort of SecretTestOfCharacter. That is why Kratos is a "warmongering douche" in GOWII]]. There are NO innocent gods in GodOfWar, except maybe for Hephaestus and Aphrodite. The rest is very much receiving a well-deserved KarmicPunishment for their tyranny and jerkassery. [[spoiler: In the end, Kratos repents for what he's done by spreading hope to all mankind(From Athena's words, there are obviously humans still alive despite the disasters caused by Kratos' murdering the gods), which stops Athena from using it to take control and start the whole thing all over again. Kratos is not heroic, but he's got good reasons to be, and in the end is far more noble than the Olympians.]]
* ''VideoGame/ScarfaceTheWorldIsYours'' 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.
* VideoGame/{{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 [[WhatMeasureIsANonHuman 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 ''VideoGame/BlazBlue'' we have the BigBadDuumvirate, [[ArchNemesisDad Relius]] [[MadScientist Clover]] and [[FauxAffablyEvil Hazama]] / [[AxCrazy Terumi]] [[{{Troll}} Yuuki]]. Both of them are seemingly caught in a "How far beyond the MoralEventHorizon 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 [[ForScience satiate his own scientific curiosoty]], and secondly because he is [[PragmaticVillainy pretty pragmatic in his villainy]]. Compare to Hazama who [[CardCarryingVillain doesn't even pretend]] [[ForTheEvulz 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 [[JustifiedTrope justified]], though, because Hazama/Terumi avoids getting [[{{Retgone}} erased from reality]] by anchoring his own existence in the world [[GodNeedsPrayerBadly through people's hatred of him]]. It's ultimately DoubleSubverted, though, because he really ''does'' get off on pushing people beyond the DespairEventHorizon. 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 WellIntentionedExtremist. 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... [[spoiler: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. 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.]]
* In ''VideoGame/BaldursGate 2'' you are given the choice between supporting the [[TheSyndicate 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.
* ''Franchise/ShinMegamiTensei'': While the forces of [[LawfulEvil Law]] and [[ChaoticEvil Chaos]] are both [[EvilVersusEvil pretty damn repellent]], sometimes one side just makes a better argument about their ideals, or [[EvenEvilHasStandards has at least a few standards]], and that side is [[DependingOnTheWriter usually]] Chaos. That's right, the side led by ''[[{{Satan}} Lucifer]]''. Fundamentally, Chaos holds [[TheUnfettered free will as an imperative]], unlike Law's [[DespotismJustifiesTheMeans worldview that people should accept whatever fate they're given, however horrible]]. [[VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiStrangeJourney Lucifer himself admits that while he doesn't love humans, he'll never abandon them.]]
* Common in the ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' series. More often than not, as bad the VillainProtagonist PlayerCharacters are, they're still usually better than their antagonists.
** ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas'': CJ and every criminal organization he associates with (Grove Street Families, the Varrios Los Aztecas, and the Triads) are NeighborhoodFriendlyGangsters who oppose the drug trade and work to stop the sale of cocaine all across the state. The BigBad, [[DirtyCop 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.
** ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoV'': Michael is a bank robber fresh out of retirement, Franklin is a former small-time [[{{Gangbangers}} Gangbanger]] turned big-time bank robber and assassin, and Trevor (who's by far [[TokenEvilTeammate the most evil of the three]]) is an AxCrazy drug dealing PsychopathicManChild. Despite this, all three of them have redeeming values, [[MoralityPet Morality Pets]], and PetTheDog 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 InterserviceRivalry with the IAA for the sake of his career, and Devin Weston, a CorruptCorporateExecutive with close ties to PrivateMilitaryContractors known for committing human rights violations all over the world.

* {{Webcomic/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.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* The [[FishPeople Kua-Toa]] of ''WebVideo/TalesFromMyDDCampaign'' are divided into two factions: The Illud and the Deluvians. Both are [[SlaveryIsASpecialKindOfEvil slavers]] and believe themselves to be the MasterRace, but the Deluvians worship the AxCrazy 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.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/Ben10UltimateAlien'', Sir George vs Diagon. George might be a [[FantasticRacism anti-alien]] KnightTemplar leading a whole faction of CapeBusters, but he is still better than the [[MindRape Mind-Raping]], MultiversalConqueror EldritchAbomination that is Diagon. However, later episodes show that he, unlike Driscoll and the rest of the knights, was not so bad after all. If anything, he has always technically been a good guy who also protects the world, but he and Ben were at odds with their views on non-earthly beings.
** Also, Charmcaster vs. Adwaitya. [[spoiler: 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 TheAtoner afterward; by contrast, Adwaitya was power-mad and unrepentant to the end.]]