Hooray, you've got super powers! Your dreams of becoming a hero and making the world a better place are one step closer to coming true! Only, wait a minute... why do your powers revolve around raising the dead as zombies, or causing another person's muscles to atrophy, or overriding someone's nervous system so that they feel nothing but pain?
Let's face it: there are some powers that just aren't conducive to superheroics. Necromancy? Not so much, Deadly Girl of The Specials aside. Toxic kiss? No. Life-draining touch? Not very likely. Bone tentacles out of your back? No way.
So, if you happen to be on the receiving end of these powers, there seem to be only two logical options:
Embrace your newfound powers and descend into full-on cackling villainy, or
Surprisingly, more often than not, people with "bad" powers end up turning bad (and even those that stay good end up being pretty dodgy). And don't even think of using your bad power: when it starts feeling good, you've already fallen off the slippery slope. Even if you use it for good, odds are that you'll become an angst-ridden Anti-Hero.
Some aren't even any more truly evil than other powers, but still have the stigma attached; spraying of acidic slime or shards of bone aren't much more damaging than freezing solid, but they're still a Bad Power because they have more of a Squickyorganic feel to them. Even "neutral" powers like telepathy can require good Mind Over Manners to stay clear of being Puppeteer Parasite.
Compare with Red Right Hand, often goes along with an Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance. This can be derived from ideas about Personality Powers, including how the characters think about the idea. Characters can get "evil powers" because their heart was already dark, or they can turn evil due to their powers, and which way isn't always explained. Often, this goes hand in hand with No Cure for Evil, where evil characters are forbidden the "good powers" of healing. Then again, some settings will use Good Powers, Bad People to show that powers have no inherent morality, and even good powers can be used for evil ends. And, of course, if you deliberately went out of your way to get bad powers...
Also see Dark Is Evil. Contrast with Dark Is Not Evil, which is where just because something seems innately evil doesn't mean that it is, and Walking Wasteland, in those cases where the person responsible doesn't mean or want to be an affliction. Very unlikely to be stacked with Light Is Not Good, which is where something that seems innately good turns out to not be so good or even outright evil. This is an extreme form of the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality, as the power has no use outside of evil.
open/close all folders
While all of the Contractors in Darker Than Black are thought to be evil, this really applies well to the character Wei. His power is Bloody Murder, powered by cutting himself - he sprays blood at enemies and once he snaps his fingers, whatever area was hit by the blood explodes. He definitely comes across as more of a Psycho for Hire than most Contractors. Havoc also counts, as her power is Explosive Decompression and she fuels it by drinking the blood of children - this clearly is one power that offers no possibility for good. When she is depowered and regains her personality/morality, she becomes The Atoner and begs the protagonist to kill her if her powers should ever return.
There are a few odd examples, too. One girl, for example, has the power to liquefy the internal organs of one person at a time. Her payment is that all her human emotions come back for a few minutes—at which point the guilt hits her so hard that she can't even stand.
Blackbeard of One Piece comes at this the opposite way. He specifically wanted the darkness-based Dark-Dark Fruit because it was considered the most evil Devil Fruit around.
A more straight example would be Gecko Moria. The power to steal peoples' shadows (without which they will vaporize in sunlight) and then put them inside corpses to make a slave army of Zombie Mooks? What possible use for good could that possess?
Note, however, that that is merely one of the various applications of Moria's Shadow-Shadow Fruit; he's shown to also be able to use those powers to create impromptu weapons, teleport, and use people's shadows to temporarily add the strength and skills of the shadows's owners to someone else(and considering how Devil Fruit powers tend to be pretty broadly defined, there's probably a lot more to it than even that.). Moria didn't start using his powers to create Zombie Mooks until his True Companionswere all killed; at the same time, it's implied that he was actually a fairly nice guy back before that point, too. In the One Piece universe, it's generally more like Neutral Powers Good/Bad People.
Suzaku goes so far as to outright classify Geass as a sin. Of course, he is understandably biased, since he's suffered at the hands of something he doesn't have himself.
The novels state that Lelouch actually hates his power, because as someone who highly values personal freedom, the ability to rob someone of their free will is abhorrent. Therefore, he usually reserves his use of it to short-term orders and, occasionally, self defense. Only late in the series, when he fully immerses himself in his Well-Intentioned Extremist ways, does he start doing the "obey me" command that everyone was asking why he never used before.
In Speed Grapher, the super-powered characters have their abilities determined by their depravities and fetishes, so there are several of these, including a evil dentist who grows his own instruments for use as implements of torture, a guy who can bring his creepy tattoos to life, and a Big Bad who uses his own blood as a weapon. Subverted in the case of the hero Saiga, whose power is the ability to destroy anything he takes a picture of.
A Death Note is technically an artifact and not a power, but otherwise, it fits perfectly.
Especially applies when used by the Shinigami, though they mostly take lives simply because they must to extend their own. Whereas a human with a Death Note could at least theoretically use it to indirectly save lives (not that any of the ones given the chance takes it, being more concerned with punishing the guilty than protecting the innocent), Shinigami are explicitly forbidden from extending a human's lifespan by any means. If they do so, they instantly die.
According to Word Of God, a good person will never use a Death Note the way Light did - which is why, in the prototype version of the manga, Taro (the original protagonist) got rid of it after only using it once.
Played with and arguably deconstructed in Medaka Box. Most of the Minus Abnormals are driven into utter sociopathy through being born with horrible, destructive powers, like the ability to rot anything that your hands touch, that cannot be turned off. Yet the guy whose whole abnormality is an overwhelming killing instinct successfully supresses his urges and even helps the heroes after some point, while the Big Bad's superpower not only can easily be used for good, but wasn't even what corrupted him - he got it when he already was evil...
Inverted in Yaiba: the Devil King Sword's power is proportional to how wicked is the wielder is.
In Naruto, we have the Mangekyou Sharingan, which can use Mind Rape by compressing 72 hours in a second (or a weaker version which Sasuke uses), control the strongest Eldritch Abomination, summon ethereal warriors which feed off lifeforce, and create black flames that burn forever. The only way to obtain this power is to kill the person closest to you, and the only way to keep it is to take the eyes of your sibling (who needs to also have the Mangekyou Sharingan).
Apparently, the emotional reaction of feeling responsible for the death of the person closest to you is more important to the activation than literally murdering them, since one character gets his retroactively upon learning Big BrotherHad A Good Reason For Abandoning You, and two others apparently get theirs after failing to save the person closest to them.
Zeref, of Fairy Tail, whose two known powers thus far are to create horrible demons and suck the life out of anything and everything in the surrounding area. It's currently unknown whether he's a decent guy who got a really bad rap for what seems to be a pretty unnerving lack of control for his abilities, or if he's just a little screwy to begin with, got such twisted magic, and then went psycho before developing a conscience.
The X-Men had Wither, whose skin broke down organic matter on contact. When his powers first manifested, he accidentally killed his father. After trying for a life of semi-normalcy, he went over to the dark side.
It can be said that this is the whole point of the entire X-Men series, i.e. most mutants in the series struggle to control their superpowers, some of which are pretty good-proof, like the superpowers of the original horsemen of Apocalypse. Even some neutral or good-affiliated powers can be dangerous at times and the Xavier institute is founded for training the amateurs to control their superpower for the humans' and their own safety.
Jean Grey's experiences with the Phoenix Force kinda dance around this line. She has the power to manipulate entire timelines for the better, can go toe-to-toe with Galactus, can make matter with her mind, survive being inside of and eating stars, beat Xavier and Emma Frost in a telepathic battle, make star-gates, breathe in space, generate all kinds of awesome fire, oh, and burn up the life force reserved for beings who have not yet been born. Good thing she's on our side most of the time.
For added fun, her Phoenix powers are actually their own sentient being, which for a while impersonated Jean.
The DCU had The Brotherhood of Evil, and the name alone told you which side of this trope they came down on. The second incarnation of the Brotherhood backed it up with members like Plasmus, a being made of living radioactive protoplasm, and Phobia, a woman with the ability to make others live out their worst fears.
Poison Ivy, from Batman. What homicidal environmentalist would be complete without a poisonous kiss? Besides Ra's al Ghul, that is.
Ivy is also a case of Good Powers, Bad People. She could regrow the rain forest, feed the hungry, fix global warming, etc. Shame she's insane, really.
In Justice, Ivy, along with a number of 'former' villains, started a series of good will moves across the globe. She was shown in an impoverished desert, either north Africa or middle east, growing entire orchards and crop fields. The main reason she doesn't do this more often is that she is essentially an eco-terrorist with superpowers who believes she can help the environment more by destroying factories and businesses.
The character Red Mask from Animal Man had originally wanted to become a hero and learn to fly. But when he gained a deathtouch power from a radioactive meteorite, he reluctantly became a super-villain, and even acknowledged that he wasn't very good at it.
The only reason Red Mask became a villain was because his powers didn't have an "off" switch. He couldn't even be near his wife, lest he accidentally killed her. One of the main points he was trying to say by giving his origins was that with the continuous power to kill with a touch, there was little he could do otherwise. The other was that if he had almost any other power (flying being his most wanted), he would have been a hero instead.
Maxwell Lord, former member of Justice League International, fits this. He was originally a good guy who headed the League and had some psionic powers, then we found out his powers had increased a great deal and he had been manipulating the League for a long time. He went speeding past the Moral Event Horizon by murdering Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, then used mind control to give Superman and Batman hallucinations and endanger their lives, forcing Wonder Woman to kill him to save them. He's back to life as of Brightest Day and making his former teammates' lives a living hell. His powers are once again increased and he also nearly killed Kord's successor as the Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. Unambiguously a bad guy at this point.
Unlike Alternate Company Equivalent Rogue, Parasite never decided to try using his powers for good. His inhuman looks didn't help, making him more inclined to be taken for a villain in the first place.
Miss Misery of Sleeper will waste away and die if she doesn't kill, steal, and/or betray on a regular basis. If she does do those things, she gains superhuman strength, speed, durability, and healing directly proportional to how bad she's being. To put it mildly, Being Good Sucks for her.
If your shriek has the potential to kill other people like the Silver Banshee, you might be a villain too.
Avengers Academy is a series about averting this. The first six students were manipulated, enhanced and tortured by Norman Osborn, and many of them are inherently lethal, such as Striker's lightning and Hazmat's toxic and radioactive secretions.
Justified in Black Dogs, where mages are assumed to be immoral or evil and magic is a thoroughly nasty practice - for example, the most common means of magical communication is to take a living human and possess him or her as an avatar from a distance - completely destroying his or her mind in the process. Magical power is strengthened by doing things such as ritual bloodletting and human sacrifice, and the more powerful magical spells require either of these two things to even be cast. Naturally, the people willing to do this kinda stuff for power are not nice people.
In The Dresden Files, the skinwalker has a vast variety of magical powers, many of which could theoretically be used for good, but two stand out as just plain evil. The first is to devour the power of other magic-users, which naturally leads to it hunting people down to kill them and take their power. The second is from Word Of God, that it always instinctively knows what act will cause someone the most suffering possible. Yeah, find a nice way to use that one. This is the reason why it tried to reach Harry through Thomas despite not knowing of their connection, and also why it tormented a would-be Friendly Neighborhood Vampire by torturing him into starving madness, then giving him someone to eat. Repeatedly.
Also subverted (and discussed) with the necromancer in Dead Beat, who uses her power to keep dying people alive long enough to get to a hospital. Though she's not so much good as a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
Warlocks, Practitioners that have used Black Magic, become genuinely bad people even when they start as Well Intentioned Extremists. Black Magic is addictive, as is the mindset of using your Power to solve any problems or become more powerful. They may even still have good intentions, but their means rapidly and possibly intractably go south.
The Gone series: in book 3, a new villainess is introduced who has the power to create illusions of monsters. Not illusions of anything else, only monsters. Also, an extremely sadistic villain had his arm replaced with a powerful whip. Justified in that powers in the Gone series seem to often be based on personalities, desires, or needs.
Doro in the Octavia Butler novel Wild Seed survives for centuries by passing his consciousness from one mind to another. When he takes someone over, he essentially consumes and destroys their soul; when he leaves the body for another one, the body dies. It would be pretty hard not to be a villain if that was your superpower.
Live Action TV
In Smallville, most of the meteor powers are neutral, but there are also a few nasty ones, like Sean Kelvin who needs to reduce people to a frozen corpse to stay warm, another guy who causes strokes with physical contact, and of course, the classical Death Touch.
Sylar in Heroes has the superpower of instinctively understanding how things work. Not exactly the most spectacular talent, except that it includes the ability to take the powers of others by killing them. If his power had been more like Peter's, i.e., the ability to duplicate the powers of others just by being exposed to them, then he might never have become evil.
He actually can copy powers without killing people, though he doesn't find out until the third season. It doesn't matter for long.
Even his normal copying power isn't necessarily lethal; it just includes direct study of the brain, so Claire is the only one to survive it.
In Charmed, good magic and evil magic are functionally distinct, and using the other side's magic or, to a lesser extent, simply being able to use it will turn you to that side - especially with evil magic. Poor Cole Turner, if only he'd lived in a world where the dichotomy between good and evil wasn't supported by Applied Phlebotinum.
It's also somewhat of an aversion with Cole, though, as he spends a chunk of time fighting on the side of good despite still using his demonic powers, only losing them after being unable to control his Super-Powered Evil Side.
Michael in Roswell was convinced he was this because his strongest powers killed while Max's healed. Of course, you could argue that, that made him a born soldier, not a bad person.
In Friday The 13th: The Series, you have a slew of Artifacts of Doom which either require someone to die in order to grant miracles to their users, or it just makes it easier to straight out kill someone. Not surprising as these items were cursed by The Devil. As such it would be nearly impossible to actually use these items to do good, and the villain of the week is usually some unrepentant sociopath who uses the artifact to kill people or kills people to use the artifact. Not surprising as these items were cursed by The Devil.
While Vampire The Masquerade had a bunch of "Disciplines" that could be considered context-neutral, one power was more often than not used for wicked purposes — Vicissitude, the ability to rework the flesh and bones of one's self and others. Needless to say, it ended up in the hands of the Tzimisce, a clan full of twisted transcendentalists almost completely devoid of ethics, but fond of sadism and agony. And if that wasn't enough, they often decide to show it off by turning humans and animals into monstrous servants and other vampires into screaming, insane pieces of furniture.
In one Old World of Darkness source book pertaining to sorcery (magic, but not the full-on reality-warping kind) and psychic powers, this trope is lampshaded. Magic and Psychic Powers by themselves, even the ones with obvious evil potential (like Shadowcasting or Pyrokinesis), were wholly dependent on the practitioner...but people with Psychic Vampirism, the ability to leech emotion, willpower, and life from others, have a general trend of turning evil (because, in that power's case, Evil Feels Good).
In Mage The Ascension, we had Widderslainte, children who have been reincarnated with the reality-warping avatars of dead Nephandi. These kids tend to be amoral sociopaths BEFORE awakening, but when they do, most of them dive headfirst, cackling into the dark side.
In the Dungeons & Dragons setting Eberron, there are families with hereditary magical tattoos called the dragonmarked houses. These families used their powers to economic ends...except one. Their mark was known as the Mark of Death; while its exact powers are never detailed, it's been implied that they were both disproportionately strong and not very well-suited to making a business profit. They had to be wiped out for the good of Khorvaire. That, and attempting to stop a war by hybridising an elf and a dragon. This was immediately considered a crime against the natural order, and the war was put on hold while the elves and dragons wiped out the hapless House Vol. Frankly, who wouldn't turn evil after that kind of experience?
D&D also has lots of magic spells that are considered to be inherently evil. Anything to do with creating undead, for instance. It doesn't matter if you order your army of skeletons to build orphanages and help old ladies cross the street, creating them was still evil. This makes it almost impossible to play classes like Dread Necromancer and have a good alignment; neutral with antihero tendencies is pretty much the best you can do.
At least one 3rd Edition sourcebook explained that this is because even animating unintelligent undead like skeletons and zombies binds the soul of the dead in a rather excruciating manner, as well as perverting the natural order of things.
The aforementioned Eberron setting basically says "evil, schmevil." There are noAlways Chaotic Evil races or classes, and you're perfectly free to play a Lawful Good necromancer as long as you can justify it to the GM (try "These people were taken before their time; I'm restoring the natural order, not perverting it" or "Now in death they can atone for the evil they did in life").
The Warp operates this way in Warhammer 40000. When you wake up with the ability to Mind Rape people at will, turn bodies inside out, create a mini-Negative Space Wedgie at will, or teleport by means of traveling through hell, you know you cannot possibly be employed by a benevolent organization. The setting being what it is, of course, this means you're as likely to be employed by the "good" guys as the forces of hell.
The implications for Professor X and other canon characters with this power are...interesting, to say the least.
Xavier has always been strongly against manipulating peoples' minds, so the game's ideology is certainly consistent with the comics.
In the RPG books for The Dresden Files, it lists all the supernatural powers observed up to that point in the series. They're all in the same place for convenience's sake, but both the text and margin comments made by Harry and Bob point out some powers and say something along the lines of, "Yeah, you're pretty much only going to use this to make bad guys."
Inverted in In Famous 2, thanks to Personality Powers: while Joseph Bertrand might think that his Conduit power of turning into a city-destroying maggot and turning innocent people into monsters is what made him evil, beforehand, he was willing to murder hundreds of people just to activate his powers.
An unsurprising number of the bad guys in City of Heroes, and a few of the signature villains in City of Villains. Probably the most visible is Dr. Vahzilok, a scientist intent on conquering death, who's had some actual success. Of course, since the visible results of the process tend to be zombies more often than sentient undead, he's got to be a bad guy looting morgues and kidnapping people off the street for raw materials. (Never mind that the city he's in has undergone at least three major disasters within as many years and must have been all but overflowing with dead bodies.) For players, it used to be impossible to have a necromantic Hero, or one with a focus on assassination strikes.
One of the main features of the Going Rogue expansion is that characters can now switch sides - heroes can fall, and villains can be redeemed. So Bad Powers, Good People is now equally possible.
Illidan in the WarCraft series was somewhat of an Anti-Hero that tried to use his acquired demonic powers for good, but his efforts didn't earn him a lot of appreciation (especially not the attempt to create a new Well of Eternity), and he ended up allying himself with his enemy to get rid of another.
Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins starts off with several of the basic Entropy-class spells, including those that freeze the target with fear, screw with the target's mind, and drain life from them. Correspondingly, she is the most outright evil party member you get, disparaging any assistance or kind acts you show to anyone but her. She also plots and schemes, if not against you, then certainly not with you.
Potential subversion: however, nothing prevents you from spending all of her remaining spell talents on buffing, healing, and support.
This can also be subverted if the Warden is a mage; nothing is preventing you from being an overwhelmingly good character who just happens to be a master of Entropy and Blood Magic should you so desire to be one.
...Unless you have the expansion, in which case, one of your characters can just learn it from a book and hold this immensely "bad" power with no moral quandary whatsoever.
The sequel has Merill, a Dalish Elf who freely uses blood magic, to the shock and horror of the other members of the team, but is more concerned with helping others and healing nature. Blood magic is simply a means to an end for her, although this can result in you having to slaughter her entire clan.
While using the Dark Side powers in the Star Wars universe almost inevitably leads you down an all too familiar path (due to the addictive nature of the negative emotions used to power them), Kyle Katarn from the Jedi Knight series holds the opinion that powers themselves are neither good, nor bad. He tells that, for example, to Jaden in Jedi Academy if you predominantly develop Dark Side powers. That coming from the man who has been tempted by the Dark Side on many, many occasions is quite powerful.
Played with in Duel Savior Destiny. We're assured that necromancy isn't evil and is in fact the same school of magic that the medic Berio uses, but in actual practice the only one bringing undead to the field is the very bitter Lobelia.
Xykon, the sorcerer/necromancer from The Order of the Stick. How he became like that is told in the prequel, Start of Darkness. It starts with reanimating his boyhood pet, then having his reanimated grandmom kill his parents, and goes from there.
Richard in Looking for Group. Even after he joins the group, he's still a homicidal, sadistic, sociopathic warlock who commits genocide out of nothing more than boredom.
While he doubtlessly seems to enjoy what he does, he's less evil for the lulz and more of an Anti-Villain, since Richard reverts back to a normal, BLEEDING human unless he does something pointlessly vile like murdering the innocent, while being shown to actually have noble goals, and needs his powers and invulnerability to achieve them and help his companions.
Sekhmet from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe has the power to infect other people with fast-acting plagues. What else is he supposed to become but a supervillain?
SCP-353 fully embraces her Plague Master powers, to the point where she refers to herself exclusively as Vector.
Maggot and Killstench of the Whateley Universe. Maggot's skin gives off something that burns like acid. Killstench gives off toxic gas. They're still in high school and using their powers to be jerkass bullies, but it sure doesn't look like they'll graduate and decide to become superheroes. On a lower scale, Peeper has the power to see through women's clothing (he doesn't look at guys), and he uses it to be an annoying perv.
That's not "evil", that's "male and not exclusively homosexual." In fairness, it's not like that's a power with a lot of really good or really evil applications; best case scenario, you wind up working for TSA or as a physician who doesn't need to send his patients out for x-rays.
Jinx from Teen Titans has the ability to affect probability negatively. In the episode "Lightspeed", she tells Kid Flash that because of this, she felt she had to be a villain. Also changed sides at the conclusion of the final arc.
Bloodbending in Avatar The Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra is particularly nasty variation of Waterbending that manipulates the water in others' blood to turn them into People Puppets. The inventor of the technique was a particularly vicious old woman bent on exacting her pound of flesh from the Fire Nation by attacking innocent Fire Nation civilians. Katara learned the basics, but only uses it twice: once to save her friends from it, and the second time she was in a very bad place mentally. Yakone and his sons Tarrlok and Noatak/Amon are evil ambitious control freaks who, at least in the former's case, get a sadistic thrill out of turning people into blood puppets. Coincidentally or not, they also happen to have a talent for Bloodbending to the point where they can do it without a full moon, and Yakone and Noatak even without motion mnemonics (IE: purely by thought).
Subverted with Firebending, which many people outside the Fire Nation consider to be inherently evil. Most notably, even Jeong Jeong, a master firebender and defector from the Fire Nation army, believes that firebending is evil, referring to his power as a "burning curse" which can only cause pain and destruction. Even worse, firebending is powered by rage and hatred, meaning anyone who uses it has to be angry all the time for it to work, which seems to be a big part of why the Fire Nation is so evil. As the series goes on, however, we see that firebending is not evil after all and that firebenders are just as capable of good as anyone else. In season 3 we even learn that firebending is not supposed to be fueled by anger at all, but by willpower - the practice of fueling the fire with anger was started by the evil Fire Lord Sozin as part of his crossing the Moral Event Horizon and has weakened modern firebenders considerably compared to those from a hundred years ago.