Bait-and-Switch Boss

Vegeta: [on seeing Beefy Barbarian] Oh please, this guy ain't so bad.
[Barbarian Boss enters, crushing the Beefy Barbarian]
Vegeta: Oh.
Nappa: But his mama is ENORMOUS!

A Bait-And-Switch Boss is those times when the apparent boss for the stage gets replaced by the real boss, who then steps up to the plate to challenge you. The primary version has the boss destroy the 'bait' boss before he even attacks, but some games may have you fight the lesser boss for a bit before the real boss takes his place.

The real boss could be a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere. It could also be The Man Behind the Man, but it isn't a requirement that the real boss is in any way the real leader or in greater authority, aside from his presumed rank. If the new boss is a familiar face, then the story just got Hijacked by Ganon.

If you actually have to finish the first boss off yourself, then go against another, it's a Trick Boss.

Compare The Worf Effect.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • In Gantz, the first target is the Onion Alien, a scrawny, panicky little man who can do little more than say "Onions are enough for me". The hunters corner him, taunt him and then blow his head which point a much larger, much brawnier alien walks up. He bears a slight resemblance to the Onion Alien (one hunter suggests he's the first one's dad), and he's really pissed off. This one slaughters all but four of the hunters before the survivors kill him.
    • This actually seems to happen almost habitually in all their hunts. That is, Gantz gives them one or a few targets, and then more keep showing up. Think of the Buddha statues battle, for example.
  • In the manga The Law of Ueki Plus, when the main characters start their siege on the Big Bad. Plus, four generals are introduced as his guards. They are immediately dispatched by the main group on the next page, being run over by a T-rex. It's just as awesome as it sounds.
  • In Pokemon Red And Blue, the eighth and final Gym Leader is Giovanni, the Big Bad of Team Rocket. In the Pokémon anime, Giovanni leaves his duty at the exact same moment that Ash was at the Gym's doorstep, ready to challenge him. Although Gary unintentionally had a hand in this, as he wanted to challenge Giovanni just to beat Ash to the punch, when he really doesn't need to do so anyway. If it weren't for Gary's interference, Ash would have actually fought Giovanni. Instead, Ash has to face off against Jessie and James, who Giovanni temporarily left in charge.
  • In Gamaran at the beginning of the second part of the tournament, it seems that Gama's gonna fight the Kanasemanji School leader Muraku Matsumoto, but then he decides to step back and let Gama fight with Saizou Fujibayashi, leader of the Tamagakushi Ninja School.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the original series, the Red Ribbon Army arc. For the past 30 or so episodes the ultimate antagonist has been built up as Commander Red. Then when Goku begins raiding the Army HQ, Red reveals that he's been gathering the dragonballs for the sole purpose of making himself taller rather than world conquest. Disgusted that their leader wasted everyone's lives and resources over such a meager pursuit, 2nd-in-command Adviser Black shoots Red dead just minutes before Goku arrives, leaving the final showdown to occur between the two of them instead.
    • In Dragon Ball Z, the Androids arc starts off with Android 19 and 20 (A.k.a Gero) as starter antagonists, then 17 and 18 before finally ending to Cell as the Big Bad for the remainder of the arc.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has a rather interesting example in that the title character is-or rather, can be-the boss. Sure, she's literally the only person capable of beating the extremely powerful witch Walpurgisnacht, but doing so causes her to become an even more powerful witch capable of planetary annihilation. She's done it in at least two alternate timelines, and preventing it for good is Homura's goal in life.
  • In the Trigun anime, Vash initially starts fighting with E.G. Mine, only for Rai-Dei to quickly come in, kill Mine, and take over the fight from there.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Mighty Thor, Thor spent some time fighting one of the three-thousand-foot-tall Celestials, Arishem the Judge, who threatened a planet Thor was on. Just after he finally got Arishem's attention, Exitar the Exterminator, the even larger Celestial whose job it was to actually wipe out the dominant species on the planet (Arishem, per his name, only judged whether they should be wiped out), showed up.

    Fan Works 

  • In the Eighth Doctor Adventures book Alien Bodies, a devastating superweapon from the relative future of the Whoniverse is put up in an Auction of Evil, with the greatest powers being invited to bid. Much to the Doctor's horror, a Dalek saucer approaches the auction and opens... revealing the ''Krotons'', who have become an utterly ferocious warlike race since last time he'd seen them. And the Kroton has literally eaten the Daleks.

     Live-Action TV  
  • The Law & Order series have done this on several occasions, of course it's easy to see coming when they manage to try and convict a person in the first half hour.
    • In the season 5 finale of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a male urophiliac potty-peeper who installs hidden cameras in ladies' bathrooms is quickly and easily apprehended by police. With an overwhelming pile of evidence incriminating him, he folds quickly, about a quarter of the way into the episode's length—but not before offering up video footage of what turns out to be a far more disturbing crime, which becomes the "actual" plot of the episode.
    • Some of the Cold Opens do this. In one example, the episode begins with a pretty young woman walking into her apartment building late at night. It's completely empty, and after she presses the button for the elevator, we see a young man staring at her from the shadows. The music plays ominously as he slowly approaches which point the young woman turns around and cheerfully greets him. It turns out the two are neighbors who live in the same building! They even joke about his scaring her—and that's when the elevator doors open to reveal a bloody body at the bottom of the shaft.
  • In Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike is watching Buffy from an balcony giving a speech about how he's back and this time he's going to kill the slayer, but is interrupted by being tazered and surrounded by the real season's villains The Initiative.
    • Then it happens again seven episodes later with Initiative professor Maggie Walsh and Adam.
    • And of course, there was Season 2. Spike and Drusilla were continuously built up as the main antagonists for that year, making it all but guaranteed the season would climax with a big showdown with them. Then Angel winds up losing his soul...
    • A quick version from season 1's Angel: The Master decides to call in The Three. Smash Cut to three intimidating bikers... who are immediately scared off by a trio of 7 foot tall vampires in medieval armor.
      • And before that was the Anointed One, the first big bad of season 2. Until Spike got bored and toasted him.
  • For the finale of Let's Go Kamen Rider, Kamen Rider OOO has defeated the Great Leader of Shocker, blasting him into the distance. Out of the rubble emerges King Dark, ready to fight the Riders not unlike what happened at All Riders vs. Dai-Shocker. However, the Great Leader returns, going One-Winged Angel to become the Great Colossus, a monstrosity that's even larger than King Dark himself. The Colossus quickly deals with Dark and the rest of the surviving members of Shocker, so the Riders have to deal with him instead.
  • Subverted in NCIS, when they capture the mole's boss, and it's someone whose wife is being held hostage. double subverted when the team realizes he had killed his own wife and was the actual big bad.
  • This is what happens to the Raiders, who were the Disc One Final Boss on Babylon 5. They're last seen on board their mothership, gloating about how between the ancient relic they've captured and the Centauri nobleman they're about to ransom, they're going to get enough money to buy a whole fleet of warships, rendering their losses in previous episodes inconsequential- and then a Shadow warship drops out of hyperspace and vaporizes them with downright contemptuous ease.

     Video Games  
  • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has a secret boss that only appears on the hardest difficulty of the bonus mission. When it appears, it destroys the squadron you would face on any other difficulty before turning on the player. Oh, Crap, it's Mobius One!
  • Aero Fighters 2 has something alike in the level that takes place in Australia, when a warship appears from behind you and starts attacking... just to be rammed and destroyed by the real boss: a far larguer helicopter carrier-battleship.
  • In the final level of Alien vs. Predator (Capcom), you mow down your way to a fat colonel that is getting Aliens for the Weyland-Yutani company. After you take out his last mooks he steps forward to face you... only to be impaled and torn in half by the Alien Queen, which you thought you killed three levels earlier and who isn't a Stationary Boss like she was earlier due to not being attached to her egg sac anymore. Cue hellish final boss fight.
  • At the end of Batman: Arkham City, it seems everything is set up for you to finally fight The Joker. Surprisingly enough, he turns out to be Clayface in disguise, and the real Joker watches gleefully as the two of you battle.
  • Borderlands has Commandant Steele yell at you for stealing artifacts the whole game, only to be replaced by Giant Space Flea from Nowhere when she opens the vault.
  • In the second DLC of Borderlands 2, as you're about to fight Flyboy, Piston kills him so that he can fight you instead.
  • In Castle Crashers, when you reach the first boss fight, you first see a barbarian about twice the size of the regular Mooks. Then there's pounding on the door behind him and it falls onto him, as an even larger barbarian shows up — this one fills up nearly half the screen.
    • In the Thieves' Forest, a grizzly bear attempts to attack your party, but an off-screen Giant Mook, which is causing the ground to tremble with its footsteeps, freaks out the bear so much that he craps himself and retreats back into his bush. You run away from this boss in the next stage, then fight him for real in a later level.
  • Castlevania has a few. In Harmony of Dissonance you enter the boss room in a later part of the game, and see a Living Armour marching towards you. Looks exactly like the one you fought about twenty levels ago, only with a BFS... Until it's destroyed in one hit by Talos, the real boss (the big armor that you ran away from at the start of the game).
    • Another one in Harmony of Dissonance occurs when you walk into a boss room to find a Peeping Eye. Extremely weak enemy. Move a bit to the right, hero, and you'll find the REAL boss, a Peeping Big.
    • Another version of Bait and Switch occurs in Aria of Sorrow. You've pounded Death and Legion, two of the more intimidating bosses so far, and are expecting a good challenge in the Battle Arena stage. You enter the boss room, and the bats hanging on the roof form into... the Giant Bat? A common boss, but universally a low-level boss in Castlevania. What's he doing this late a level?... Until a massive hand comes out of the background and crushes the bat in its grip. Meet Balore, the real boss.
  • Fairly early in Cave Story, you encounter a power switch that supplies power to the fans (which you need to activate) and something called "Malco." Turns out that Malco is the nearby security bot, which promptly prepares to kill you, before the Recurring Boss drops down out of the sky to take you on and lands on top of it.
    • Later on, a major villain shows up and prepares to fight you, when the ground suddenly begins shaking. The villain remarks that she's no longer needed and teleports away as a giant monster bursts out of the ground.
  • Contra series:
    • Shattered Soldier has Mr. Heli-Robo, a Transforming Mecha that chases the player throughout Mission 1. It eventually appears at the end of the stage, where it is promptly crushed by Slave Beast Taka, the actual boss. Mr. Heli Robo returns as a proper boss in Mission 6.
    • In Stage 2 of Contra 4, the player has to face a group of four enemy snipers in black who are tougher to kill than the regular mooks. When only one of the black-clad snipers remains, a tail suddenly grabs him and cuts him in half. Then the true boss rears his ugly head.
    • In the Stage 1 of Hard Corps: Uprising, the first major enemy you fight is one of the game's standard mooks driving a rather bizarre Cool Car that can detach into two halves, and has an arsenal including a huge mining drill and a flamethrower. After you deplete its life meter, the player and the boss go zooming off a cliff together...and the latter promptly gets devoured by a giant robotic sand worm named Lotus Wyrm (Kanechiku in the Japanese version), who fills in for the now-vacant position of stage boss. Subverted when you take out the mecha-worm and move on—at the very end of the stage, when you've gotten back on a motor-bike, the camera cuts to the fallen worm...and the mook-driven Cool Car rips its way out of the mecha-worm's body to continue the fight.
  • Dino Crisis 2 has you fighting and constantly running from a one-eyed T-Rex (who's justifiably pissed off seeing as you and your team are the ones responsible for blowing up its eye). What's worse than fighting a T-Rex, you might ask? Having that T-Rex corner the player about 3/4ths of the way into the game, only to be grabbed, tossed aside, and made into lunch by an even BIGGER dinosaur: Giganotosaurus. The "good" news? You get to fight (and more likely run from) it about two rooms later!
  • Dragon's Crown: In one stage's B-route, the players are tasked with stopping an evil cult from summoning the Demon King. They succeed with relative ease, banishing him before he can even leave the demon realm...only to be forced to face his Dragon, the Arch Demon.
  • The Taito arcade game Dungeon Magic has a classic example of this. After chasing the evil wizard Venom through three scenarios, each of which ends with him escaping and leaving you to fight one of his minions, you face off with him. He summons a Demon Lord which kills him in one blow, and then fights you.
  • The first boss of Dynamite Headdy shows up at the end of the second world with a new vehicle, only to be squashed by the real boss. He even remains stuck in the boss's underside for the whole fight.
  • At the end of 1-3 in Demons Souls, you find a typical Fat Minister, the likes of which you've been fighting as regular enemies before. At first it looks like he would be the boss, but suddenly he gets stabbed from behind and thrown out by the real boss, The Penetrator.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, you arrive at the core of the moon just in time to see The Man Behind the Man get defeated in a cutscene, only for his hatred to take form and become the Final Boss.
  • In Final Fantasy V, after retrieving one of the Plot Coupons, one of the Big Bad's minions shows up, ready to fight you; only to be swept away (somewhat literally) by Leviathan. However, nothing forces you to fight Leviathan now: You can proceed to the next dungeon and return there only when you want to unlock his Summon.
  • Early on in Final Fantasy VIII, Squall and company run into Biggs and Wedge atop the Dollet Communication Tower. After depleting their health (a simple feat - they're only slightly better than normal Galbadian Soldiers and Elites), they get sucked up in a tornado as Elvoret gets annoyed at all the racket.
    • Also inverted with a bait and switch ally. If you've got Odin by the time you fight Seifer the last time, Odin shows up (which he never usually does in boss fights), attacks Seifer, and is killed(!). Later in the battle, Gilgamesh shows up and beats Seifer instantly for you, and replaces Odin from then on.
  • Final Fantasy X features an example in the beginning of the game. Tidus, the main character, battles several minor enemies who ambush him in the water. After he defeats two of them, a massive unbeatable (at that point) boss, Geosgaeno, kills the remaining enemy and promptly attacks you.
  • Final Fantasy XII combines this trope with Fluffy the Terrible with The Fury from the Necrohol of Nabudis. When entering the boss room, a huge behemoth greets the party... but it suddenly collapses and a fuzzy little purple bunny shows up and the real battle takes place.
  • Final Fantasy XIII continues the trend with Jihl, although many agree that she deserved it after some less than meritorious behavior.
    • In one of the side missions later in the game, your objective is to fight Zenobia, an Undying Cie'th—that is, a Cie'th holding onto immense hatred for the fal'Cie that cursed it. Zenobia rises from the ground, in all its Body Horror glory, only to be stabbed in the leg and killed instantly by a Tonberry, the real boss of the mission.
      • Both Zenobia and Jihl are fightable in the sequel, former as a storyline boss and latter as DLC.
    • The last enemy you face during Titan's trials is one of the Undying, which kills the behemoth Titan had intended for you to fight.
  • In Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword the Big Bad turned out to have summoned a great big dragon that you need to take down.
    • This is also seen in certain chapters of Sword of Seals. For instance, when you go to free the Western Isles once and for all, Lord Arcard is sitting on the throne. When the chapter starts proper, he leaves and puts his and Narcian's subordinate, General Flaer, in charge...who then makes way for the Manakete Aine when he shows up.
    • Also seen in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones in Ephraim's version of Chapter 10, after Duessel defects. In the chapter preparation screen, it looks like you'll be facing against one of Grado's top generals, Selena... only for her to be replaced on the first turn by a much weaker boss named Beran. You do later face her for real, though, and she's a That One Boss at that.
  • An early mine level of the Ganbare Goemon game Goemon's Great Adventure has a boss setup on a bridge against a bigger version of the standard haniwa enemy, except the haniwa is instantly smashed by a giant skeletal hand from behind the bridge, and Goemon must then fight a gashadokuro (giant skeletons composed of starved bodies).
  • In the beginning of God of War: Chains of Olympus, a cyclops armed with a gigantic club smashes through a door you're trying to open. You drive off his first attack, and then the massive Basilisk, the real first boss, nibbles the cyclops from outside the door and eats it. At least he leaves you his club to use on the big lizard.
  • Two of the bosses for Gunstar Heroes qualify. After fighting your way through an entire army, the boss warning sounds as you approach an invulnerable soldier who's just standing there and...swaying his torso around? The boss read-out identifies him as "Final Great Soldier", and lists his attack as "Love Love Dancing". After a few awkward seconds, the real boss, the Big Bad's Dragon shows up, chews him out, and tosses him aside. The whole boss warning/read-out sequence starts up again to herald the upcoming fight.
    • As well, when you face off with Grey, the Big Bad, his evil scheme fails on him, and he gets blasted by the real boss, Golden Silver.
      • Oddly, despite being a sequel, not a remake, the exact same things happen again in Gunstar Super Heroes. The entire plot of Gunstar Super Heroes basically revolves around the exact same things as the original Gunstar Heroes happening again, but with more story and explanation surrounding them this time.
  • In I Wanna Be the Guy, right before you enter the Palace of The Guy the moon, which has been pestering you throughout the game, drops down from the sky to confront you...and then the real boss, the robot dragon from Mega Man 2, beats it down and the real fight begins.
  • In Jade Cocoon 2, all the non story bosses are oversized versions of regular monsters, and before fighting a short fmv clip is played. In one of them a large Dragon fly buzzes at you menacingly. It looks a little out of place in the water world, and seems smaller than other bosses. It then gets eaten by a HUGE frog monster, who then attacks you.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess does this in the fourth dungeon (which may seem like the final dungeon if you aren't familiar with the series tradition of having two sets of MacGuffin). Big Bad Zant appears, but rather than facing Link directly he just drives his sword into the skull of a dragon skeleton, animating the boss of the dungeon. Even then you may think it's just his Dragon and you'll be facing him afterwards, but no.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has one in the quest "Tomb of Elendil": after wearing down the first boss for a while, he runs over and wakes up the real boss, a giant turtle that eats the first boss for waking him up.
  • Lunar: Dragon Song does this in reverse. Before you ever see Ignatius or Lucia, you battle Ignatius's butt-fugly pet Gideon twice. In the second time it is in the chamber of rebirth in his most powerful form possible. After the fight, Lucia is already transformed into Althena and she is killed trying to save Jian in his not-so noble and heroic submission. Just when Ignatius tries to kidnap Flora and attempt to prompt Jian and co into a battle, it turns out Ignatius slips and falls when the platform he stood on crumbles and he falls into the endless void below. Despite the game portraying Ignatius as the main villain and the whole point of collecting all four dragon rings, the player will never battle him (not including one earlier match before you collect the dragon rings) and it is implied Gideon had been the final boss instead.
  • In Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Dan originally appears as the final boss, only to get jumped by Akuma before the round starts.
  • Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge does an interesting variation - at the end of Wily Castle, there is a room with four teleporters. Seasoned Mega Man players will assume this part to be rematches with the four Robot Masters fought earlier (lifted from the first Mega Man), but instead they lead to completely different Robot Masters (lifted from Mega Man 2).
  • Metroid Prime Hunters - In one stage, the player is about to face a guardian who gets shot by Trace, a bounty hunter with a sniper-scope weapon.
    • This happens twice on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Both times, you face off against an "alpha" version of a wild creature you've already faced before, but then, it gets possessed by the Ing. Neither one is very far into the game.
    • Zig-zagged at the end of Metroid Fusion. You get mauled by the big nasty-looking boss first, then the boss you thought just died shows up...and gets destroyed in one shot (at least giving you the firepower to kill the original enemy).
  • No More Heroes had three of these: Boss #5, Letz Shake, is taken out by Henry (whom you don't fight until much later). This is played straight, with your character (and probably yourself) left angry and unfulfilled., and just before the fight with final boss begins the real final boss punches straight through him, and one cut scene later the real final battle begins. Then, after the final boss, you can watch the ending, where an unnamed assassin kicks down the door while you're...compromised. If you meet the requirements for the True Final Boss, and select the 'real ending' option, he will then be chopped in half by the True Final Boss, starting the fight.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle has more, numerically speaking. Out of the 51 ranked assassins in the United States, numbers 49 through 26 are cheerleaders who work with the 25th ranked assassin, Charlie MacDonald, to form a Humongous Mecha. Assassins ranked 22 through 11 are participating with Travis (ranked 23rd by this point) in a free-for-all battle where they are killed by the tenth ranked assassin, Dr. Letz Shake (ironically, the brain from the machine that Letz Shake used in the last game). Story-wise, the ninth (Million Gunman) and eighth (Neo Destroy Man) ranked assassins are this to Travis, although you do get to fight them as Shinobu. Finally, after Henry comes out of a coma thanks to Travis, he goes out and kills the fifth and sixth ranked bosses for Travis off-screen, giving the victories to Travis and sending him pictures of the aftermath; he also chides Travis for being upset about it because the game already has 15 bosses and more would be unreasonable. All in all, that's 39 bosses that the player does not get to fight (when Henry killed some assassins for Travis, he gave three names, but Travis only went from rank 7 to rank 5, which implies that one of the bosses worked as a team. That or the creators just can't do math).
  • In Paper Mario, what you expect to be a rematch against the first-level Quirky Miniboss Squad is interrupted when all four of them get knocked out by the Recurring Boss, who demands one last fight from you.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has an interesting variant. Where you THINK you're fighting the chapter boss, and it goes through the entire sequence of the end of a chapter. But for some reason, there's no Peach or Bowser segment: It turns out, Doopliss has stolen your name, and fooled your party into thinking he's the real you. The rest of the chapter has you getting your "self" back.
  • Done in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within in the True Final Boss ending. If you got all the health upgrades, as you prepare for a second battle with Kaileena, the Dahaka attacks again, but by this point you have a weapon that can harm it, so you and Kaileena team up to kill it. Earlier in the game, you're about to confront the Crow on an outside ledge, but it just then gets killed by the Dahaka, and yet another Escape Sequence begins.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures for Genesis had you finally get into the evil pig space station and lay some smackdown on the Pig Emperor. Except he's a robotic impersonator, and once you beat him you find out the real boss is an ancient malevolent computer.
  • In Salamander 2, the sequel to Salamander (known as Life Force in the United States), you encounter the first boss of the first game, the giant brain Golem. Golem attacks you at the end of the first stage in Salamander 2. A few seconds later, Golem is gobbled up by a gigantic serpent-like creature. You then end up fighting this giant serpent instead as the boss proper. It is possible to actually destroy Golem for a large sum of points before the serpent kills it, but you have acquired a specific weapon type, have enough Options, and be constantly pounding on it.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, you've barely begun fighting General Scales when the real final boss has him give up the Krazoa spirit (killing Scales when he resists). He doesn't reveal himself until after the last McGuffin is in place—surprise, surprise; it's Andross.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, a group mission features a boarding party of the players' faction (Galactic Republic or Sith Empire) fighting to reclaim a cruiser from some rogue Mandalorians. As you approach a group of enemies rallying around a huge war droid, a boarding pod punches through the hull, crushing the Mandalorians and bringing in a boarding party fighting for the other faction. Naturally, you have to fight them.
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo normally has you fight M. Bison for the final showdown. But if you've beaten the game without losing a single round, Bison is taken out in one shot by Akuma, who becomes your final opponent.
    • Also happens in the first Street Fighter Alpha, as well as in the first Street Fighter EX.
    • In Alpha 2, each character has a secret rival who will interrupt one of the scheduled matches if the player fulfills certain conditions.
    • Played for laughs in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, where after defeating all of the other characters a pumped up Dan Hibiki stands up as the final boss...and then Akuma pops out kicking Dan's ass and making him flee in tears, facing you with a nasty evil grin. For those of you who don't know, Dan is the Glass Joe of the game.
    • Also played with in Alpha 3. Sometimes when you fight Karin, Sakura's rival, the pre-match animation will show her muscled butler waiting to fight you instead - then Karin throws a pot at him, he runs off, and she gets ready to fight.
  • The entire plot of TRON 2.0 builds up to a final confrontation against Thorne, the 12-foot-tall Big Bad Super-Virus...and when you finally get to his inner sanctum, you see him being unceremoniously killed by the regular-sized ICP Kernel (the leader of the game's Mook cops), who out of nowhere decides to fight you too while he's at it. The rest of the game is also a case of a Halfway Plot Switch, as the last several levels has you chasing after greedy corporate hackers after an entire game of battling The Virus.
    • (cough) Not "out of nowhere". The Kernel has been out to get you too. You're an unauthorized program and you escaped him once already, while killing his men. Also, at that point, you're trying to save Thorne, because he is the only one who has the codes to get you out of the system and back to the physical world. The Kernel doesn't want you to save him.
  • The final boss of Two Crude Dudes was the evil scientist who'd unleashed all those hideous mutants upon post-apocalyptic New York. He's hilariously easy to beat the crap out of and throw around like a ragdoll...until he suddenly mutates into a gigantic asskicking monstrosity.
  • Clive Barker's Undying does this with the final boss fight, no less than four times. Here we go:
    • First, you fight Bethany, who's been set up to be the final boss all through the game.
    • After killing her, your friend Jeremiah appears and reveals that he's been behind the whole thing! Looks like he's the final boss, but then Patrick just unceremoniously decapitates him mid-speech. Which results in the much-hyped Undying King being summoned, leaping out of the ground looking like a pissed-off mummy, as befit his name, only to disintegrate into powder upon hitting the ground. Only then does the real Undying King (the Celtic King was just a human sacrifice) raise out of the ground in the form of some odd-Eldritch Abomination-crab-spider-scorpion thing. After him, the game ends.
  • Viewtiful Joe 2 ends a later stage with yet another appearance by the Recurring Boss, Big John, this time in a crappy Charlie Brown from Outta Town Bruce Lee disguise, Big Lee. His conversation with the heroes lasts for a good half-minute before he is taken down and replaced by the Noble Demon expy Rival Alastor from the first game. Oh, and did we mention an almost exact thing happens in the next level, this time without even the excuse of being a different character? Almost immediately, the real boss, Frost Tiger shows up, and cuts him down without a second thought before Big John is finished yammering. Unlike him, Frost Tiger has a hardcore attitude and is incredibly hard to defeat.
  • Win Back: First, Cecile, The Dragon, pulls a Starscream and kills the Big Bad, Kenneth. Then Dan, The Mole and Man Behind the Man, shows up and shoots Cecile in revenge for his brother. Then you fight Dan as the apparently Final Boss, but after you defeat him, it turns out that Cecile is Not Quite Dead, although he's an Anticlimax Boss if you figure out how to get past the laser fences.
  • The World Ends with You tries to set you up expecting a rematch with a back-to-the-undead Minamimoto - which judging by an earlier encounter would be undesirable. It turns out that someone knocks him out first, and when your partners start celebrating Neku points out that someone capable of that is their next opponent and that they shouldn't get too comfortable.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • In The Burning Crusade, the apparent final boss of the Arcatraz dungeon is an insane blood elf who hides in a magical bubble and releases three random minibosses (and an obnoxious but allied gnome) from the cells around him. After defeating them, the "real" final boss, a Sealed Evil in a Can (a Mind Rape insect mage) (and presumably the reason the elf was crazy, given all that babbling about a "master"), is released; he kills the crazy elf rather swiftly then moves on to you.
    • The Trial of the Crusader raid has another, rather sad one. A gnome warlock named Wilfred Fizzlebang, rather confident about his abilities and his supposed immense power. He intends to summon a Doomguard (a rather powerful demon, but not ridiculously powerful, however). Instead, he accidentally summons a huge eredar lord, a much more deadly demonic sorcerer, and proceeds to attempt to convince said demon (who is about 20 times bigger than him) that HE, the gnome, is in charge here. Needless to say, he gets swiftly killed by his summoned demon, who then proceeds to blast away at the players.
    • In the Cataclysm expansion, there's another example of this in the Stonecore. The very first pull in the instance has you fight Milhouse Manastorm (incidentally the same gnome as in the Burning Crusade example above), who fights until he's at half health and runs to the next trash pull. Finally, you have him and his group of adds cornered, and he's channeling a powerful spell. But as soon as you engage him, a giant gyreworm named Corborus bursts out of nowhere, knocking the gnome and his group far away, never to be seen again. You fight the worm (who puts up a decent fight, especially on Heroic mode).
  • In Yoshis Island, when you get to the boss room in Baby Bowser's castle, it looks as though you are about to confront Kamek, but then Bowser wakes up, complains about the noise, and proceeds to stomp Kamek flat and kick him away. Kamek later shows up all fine just to provide a segue to the second phase of the battle and take Bowser away when he's defeated.
    • Similarly, at the end of Super Mario Galaxy, just right before you even get to Bowser, you see Bowser Jr. once more, but instead of fighting him, he simply flies away in his spaceship, and as a result you actually end up fighting Bowser directly.
  • In The Punisher (Capcom), Frank Castle and Nick Fury spend the first two stages running after mafia boss Bruno Costa, eventually cornering him and setting up for a not so intimidating boss battle. Suddenly, a laser sweeps away Bruno and his henchmen in a single hit, and a huge robot sent by the Kingpin engages the player instead.
  • A Olympus Coliseum mission in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days has you fighting in a tournament (which plays in the exact same way as the tournaments in the first Kingdom Hearts). The final opponent there is...Xigbar? Just wail out some of his lifebars and cue the uninvited appearance of the mission's boss: the Guard Armor from the first game. And when it seems like Xigbar will assist you in fighting it, he instead dumps you for the boss battle. That clever little sneak.
  • One Piece Unlimited Cruise Episode 2 plays this pretty straight with the battle against Donquixote Doflamingo. At first it looks like you're going to fight against Bellamy, the relatively weak and easily dispatched villain from the Jaya arc. All of a sudden, a pink arm rises from the boss container and takes control of Bellamy. This is followed by the rest of Doflamingo's body, which proceeds to KICK. YOUR. ASS.
  • You know Zouken Matou, big bad of the Heavens Feel route in Fate/stay night? Yea, turns out Sakura wasn't as brain dead as he assumed. Cue bridge drop with Saber vs. Shirou and Sakura vs. Tohsaka, while the real Big Bad, Kotomine, shows up. And then after that, Shirou still has to beat what is essentially the devil.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Worldwide Edition: Stairway to the Destined Duel, sometimes a nearby duelists with a story connection to the person you challenge will make your opponent go away and you'll have to fight them instead. An example would be Marik and Bakura or Mokuba and Seto Kaiba. You could try to challenge Bakura, but then Marik shows up out of nowhere and drives him away with possibly the worst excuse ever to trick someone with this line: "If I recall correctly, there is something you need to take care of right don't have the luxury of wasting any time here, correct." This works and you face Marik.
    • Every now and then, a Rare Hunter will show up to give an in-story example, and will replace any character.
    • Any character that has an alternate ("Yami") form can do this to themselves. Yami Yugi and Yami Bakura are their default forms, but can switch out with Regular Yugi or Bakura. Marik can switch out with Yami Bakura, who is a lot more aggressive. These examples mean minimal, though, as they use the same decks.
  • Generalissimo Killt is setup as the Big Bad of Bionic Commando Rearmed. When you meet him, he is immediately backstabbed by the newly-resurrected Hitler "Leader".
    • Same in the original game, except Hitler "Master-D" is somehow able to folgorate Killt from inside his resurrection chamber.
  • In an early dungeon in Mega Man Legends 2, the MacGuffin at the end of the dungeon is gone when you get there. This is not surprising, as you already fought a Cowardly Boss pursuing the same MacGuffin twice in the same dungeon. He then shows up behind you...and informs you that he doesn't have it, then leaves you to fight the boss that does.
  • In The Force Unleashed 2, while rescuing General Kota on Cato Neimoidia, you end up with him in a gladiator arena, surrounded by the corpses of countless warriors and wild beasts. Suddenly, a large gate nearby opens up, and out steps a rancor. Starkiller smirks and readies his blades... and then, from beneath the ground, a humongous hand reaches up, smashes the rancor into the ground, and pulls it under. And then said hand's owner comes out to play. Say hello to the Gorog.
    • Zig-zagged in the first game, where Maris Brood looks like she's the boss, then introduces a rather large bull Rancor, then turns out to actually be tougher than the Rancor after it goes down.
  • In Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure, the final boss is apparently your Arch-Enemy Weasleby. However, after beating on him for a while he suddenly starts twitching a whole bunch before his head pops off, with Henry's Kid Sidekick Cole coming out of his body. After a speech in which Cole reveals that HE'S the real Big Bad, he summons out a massive Mech that he only managed to build thanks to all the money you've spent on upgrades in his store.
  • Subverted in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, where one battle in Hakumen's Arcade Mode path seems to set you up against Tager, but then Rachel appears...and then she only speaks briefly with Hakumen before making way for Tager, for real.
  • Mass Effect 1 made you think that the entire final battle was going to be against Saren while the fleet dealt with Sovereign. While it is possible to get into a final boss fight with Saren, either way you get into a fight when Sovereign takes over Saren's body.
  • In Sonic Colors, Eggman tries to use mind control to force a fight between Sonic and Tails, but when the device he's using breaks down, he's got a regular boss ready to go.
  • Ape Escape 2 has Hikaru finally meet Specter after defeating the Freaky Monkey Five. Specter talks about how he'll beat Hikaru with a powerful mecha...when Yellow Monkey, the one who run after you beat him, appears again, and giant size. After Yellow destroys the mecha because he's told not to eat more Vita-Z bananas Specter leaves you to deal with the new problem.
  • In AdventureQuest, Kimberly and One Eyed Doll decide to assist you in battling Chaos Lord Discordia. You battle your way to Discordia, but after defeating him and preventing him from summoning his Chaos Beast, Kimberly suddenly reveals that actually, she's the real Chaos Lord of the Mythsong saga, and Discordia was just a victim of her Mind Control. And she's already got a Chaos Beast lined up for you to fight before you take her and the band on proper.
  • Pokémon Black and White : So, you've defeated the Elite Four and are on your way to challenge the Champion. Not easy by any means, but at least you know what to expect! You heal up your Pokemon and ascend the staircase...wait, what's N doing here? Oh crap! At least you know who the Final Boss is now, though! Wait, Ghetsis?! Oh crap...!
    • Pokemon Red And Blue pulls off a similar trick. You fought the Elite Four and even Lance appears to set you up as the champion so all is well. Right? Nope! You WOULD have been the champion, but your rival beat you to the punch so now you have to go beat him to obtain the title!
  • Used creatively in Devil May Cry 4. The boss of mission five appears to be two luminescent Horny Devils with ice powers, fought in a snowing courtyard, but as you fight them they seem unusually pathetic, rarely ever attacking and doing little when they do. Damage them enough, though, and a massive toad demon with ice powers will suddenly lunge out of the blizzard, trying to swallow you whole. He's the actual boss - the devils were just his lures.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, there's a Bonus Puzzle Boss called the Guy Made of Bees. His opening line is "We are Bees. We hate you." There's also a special challenge path called Bees Hate You. Curiously, the Guy Made of Bees doesn't appear in his usual location during a Bees Hate You run. Given the page you're on, you've probably guessed that he takes out the final, sausage-y form of the Naughty Sorceress, and you have to fight him instead.
    • Something similar happens on the Avatar of Boris run - the final form of the Naughty Sorceress is taken out by an Avatar of Sneaky Pete, who takes the opportunity to attempt revenge on Boris for stealing his thunder back in their mortal days.
    • In an Avatar of Jarlsberg run, you find the Avatar of Boris has already defeated the Sorceress, and Jarlsberg seizes the opportunity to get revenge on Boris for being the Jerk Jock to Jarlsberg's Hollywood Nerd.
    • Likewise, the Zombie Slayer challenge path ends with you facing Rene C. Corman, mastermind behind the Zombie Apocalypse plaguing the kingdom, instead of the Naughty Sorceress's final form.
  • Subverted in Last Scenario. At the end of the Disc One Final Dungeon, Ortas, the guy who you'd been lead to believe was the Big Bad, gets literally and figuratively stabbed in the back by Castor, who reveals that he's been manipulating him all along. Despite being mortally wounded, Ortas gets back up and fights you anyway.
  • Zuma's Revenge has the final boss, Zhaka Mu. After putting out the four torches, the mysterious cloaked figure reveals themselves to be a chicken-themed boss monster with an enormous health bar. He goes down in one hit, at which point it turns out he was really Zhaka Mu's chef. Cue the real Zhaka Mu's entrance, and the toughest boss battle in the game.
  • At the end of the fourth chapter in Mega Man 8 Bit Deathmatch's single player campaign, it appears you're going to fight the Cockroach Twins, only for them to be stomped flat by the Metool Daddy.
  • In Solatorobo, Red finally wises up and answers the third guardian's riddle, gaining the last piece of the Flute without having to fight him. However, at that exact moment Blanck shows up and a boss battle against him ensues.
  • Abobo's Big Adventure first has Jaws being eaten by the larger Big Daddy. Later just as it seems you are about to fight the giant Contra end-boss alien he gets inhaled by Kirby, and things get nuts
  • The Panther King from Conkers Bad Fur Day. At first, it looks like if you're going to fight him at the end of the game's final level, but then a Xenomorph queen show up for no reason, kills the Panther King, and as a result the final boss battle actually pits Conker against her.
  • Halfway through playing in single-player in Digimon Battle Spirit, one of your next opponents may be blasted off the stage by Impmon before the battle can start. If you manage to defeat him and collect 300 D-Spirit in total by the end of the playthrough, you can then unlock Impmon as a playable character.
  • In Dead Space 2, it looks like the majority of the game is leading up to a dramatic final confrontation with Tiedemann before you destroy the Marker. Then you get there and Tiedemann is already horribly mauled and barely able to stand, then proceeds to shoot you through the chest twice with Javelins. A quick-time-event lets you pull them out, steal the Javelin gun and shank him in return. Game over right? Nope. You hallucinate about Nicola one more time, only now she wants to absorb you into the Marker body and mind and you have to hallucinate-fight her in your psyche, after which you sit down to accept your imminent demise as the station explodes. And THEN the credits roll. And then Ellie comes crashing through the ceiling in a ship to rescue you.
    • Dead Space had this as well; after Kendra Daniels turns out to be working against Isaac, and ruins his only hope for escape, the player is supposed to grip the controller with rage. When you finally see her next on the destroyed colony, she's just on her way to leave... And is smashed to bits by the Hive Mind.
  • Played the other way round with Maiden Astreaea in Demon's Souls. Her bodyguard, Garl Vinland, is a formidable fighter in his own right (though not near the class of the other bosses of the game). Once you kill him, Astraea is completely helpless and you can either slay her with a few hits, or talk to her, which results in her suicide. Not without poiting out what you just did. She is supposed to be a heretic priest using demon powers, but the game doesn't tell you that.
  • In Vagrant Story, Ashley interrupts a scene where Rosencrantz is beating up Sydney, demanding that Sydney teaches him mastery of the dark and berating him for choosing Ashley as his 'apprentice.' It looks like he's going to be the next boss fight... but then Sydney tricks him into discarding his weapon, and uses his dark magic to animate a statue sat against the wall, which crushes Rosencrantz with a giant sword. You end up fighting the statue instead.
  • Near the end of Diablo III's Act IV, one of the "boss preview/warning" of sorts shows what seems to be Imperius as the next boss, with earlier scenes highlighting a conflict between him and the Nephalem. Unfortunately, Diablo reaches the Crystal Arch at about this time and begins extinguishing it, neutralizing every angel in the High Heavens and nipping this impending fight in the bud, meaning that Diablo becomes your final opponent.
    • The previous game provides an inversion of the usual trope. Act II of Diablo II plays up Baal as possibly being the final boss of the act, but instead you face the Lesser Evil named Duriel (who is still a very tough boss, mind). Baal himself isn't confronted until the expansion.
  • Sly 2: Band Of Thieves builds Arpeggio up as the main villain. Then during the final level Neyla betrays him and takes over as the real Big Bad of the game.
  • Fire Emblem Elibe Sword Of Seals does this in a few chapters. The earliest example is in Chapter 3, where Zephiel is sitting on the throne before he, Brunya and Narshen leave, leaving Slater to replace him.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Chapter 8 has Pit fight through the Space Pirates on his way to confront the Pirate Captain, only for a space Kraken to show up out of nowhere, eat the Pirate Captain, and become the boss for the chapter.
  • In Rockman 4 Minus Infinity, the final boss is set up to be the alien from Mega Man 2 before Mega Man climbs on a nearby structure and blasts it, revealing it to be a hologram (like in the original game). With this, Wily quickly distracts Mega Man long enough to flip a switch and trap Mega Man, stealing his weapons and E-Tanks to create the Petite Robot Masters.
  • In SNK's Buriki One, you work your way up in the tournament and when you reach the final match, the guy you're supposed to be fighting is suddenly knocked through the entrance door (with said door flying off its hinges) and into the ring's steel cage before crumpling to the ground. Then an evil-looking guy with scars all over his body slowly walks in, and then leaps straight into the ring in a single bound.
  • Fur Fighters has a rather humorous example. In the Space Station Meer, you bump into a Xenomorph, but before the fight starts, a stereotypical lawyer barges in, claiming to represent 31st Century Films, and begins berating the game for breaking 35 different copyrights. The player character argues back, so the lawyer draws a gun and begins shooting at them.
  • Shienryu aka Steel Dragon aka Geki-Oh has this with the Final Boss, where you first fight the red demon mecha from the game's spiritual predecessor Daioh, only for it to be destroyed by a Wave Motion Gun blast from a much tougher blue mecha.
  • In Marathon: RED, you return to the mysterious pyramid after being mutated to confront Joshua, but you find that Michael has finished him off first. He escapes and has his Champion Metalloids fight you in an arena battle similar to "You Think You're Big Time?", then the last act of the game is spent pursuing him.
  • One Piece Unlimited World Red: The game has themed levels based on the locales of major arcs from the show, each of which has that area's Arc Villain as the main antagonist. There are a couple of points, though, where they get replaced at the last minute by someone a bit bigger on One Piece's Badass Scale.
  • Streets of Rage: At the end of stage 5 in the second game, the boss music immediately starts and replaces the main stage theme (rather than the usual fade out-fade in), and waiting for you is Big Ben (more than one in higher difficulty settings). An earlier incarnation of him in the first game was a boss character, but in the second game he's just an Elite Mook that appears as a miniboss half way through stages every now and then (in fact he even appears earlier in stage 5 being just that). But the way the boss fight of stage 5 prepares itself, with Big Ben waiting there, you take a breather thinking it's just a Breather Boss. You're wrong. Further up the stage, hiding out of sight, is R.Bear waiting for you. Get ready to lose a lot of lives.
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt: After completing three of the six stages, you're thrown into a new mission, with a special boss icon and everything. Partway through the mission, you encounter Zonda, who uses xer illusion powers to flip the entire mission until right before the boss fight, where the illusion breaks. However, approaching the boss area reveals that Copen, a human with a hatred for Adepts, has already defeated Zonda, and Copen replaces xem as the boss. In the spin-off Mighty Gunvolt, the inverse happens: Copen seems to be the final boss, only to be knocked out by Zonda, giving the player a chance to finally face xem.
  • In the Dark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLC, traversing the Royal Wood leads you to a coliseum behind a fog gate. Upon entering you are greeted with a menacing looking gangly monster, seconds before he gets pounced on by the imposing figure of the Handicapped Badass Knight Artorias, who, having skewered the monster on his sword, proceeds to throws it at you and let out a deep roar.


     Web Originals 
  • In the Dragon Age episode of Tabletop, the first enemy the Grey Wardens encounter is an Avar barbarian who leads a group of bandits and tries to get the Wardens to pay a toll to travel his road. He and his bandits are quickly killed off by a Shriek Darkspawn.

     Western Animation  
  • In Wolverine and the X-Men, a little mutant girl is released from a stasis box by Juggernaut. The first (apart from the manner of keeping her in stasis) way of demonstrating her powers? She flings said Totally Unstoppable Juggernaut a few miles away, knocking him out completely.
  • Justice League Unlimited pulls this twice in consecutive season finales. First Luthor sets himself up as the ultimate villain of the Cadmus arc, only for Brainiac, of all people, to come in from nowhere in a plot twist tied to an episode of Superman that aired eight years before. Then in season five, after an entire arc dedicated to Luthor's attempts to revive Brainiac, it looks like he's finally succeeded...until it resurrects Darkseid instead.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man builds up Tombstone through the first season and most of the second as New York's resident Magnificent Bastard crime-king Big Bad, with it seeming that the series will come to a head with him against Spidey, but then he's deposed by the Green Goblin's Evil Plan, and Gobby's the final villain instead.
  • Happens twice in succession during the climactic episodes of W.I.T.C.H.. Knight Templar Chessmaster Nerissa was Big Bad for most of the season, but near the end former Big Bad Phobos returns, steals her Amplifier Artifact and seals her inside it, resuming his Evil Overlord throne. And then in the last episode, Phobos's previously loyal Dragon Cedric senses opportunity, goes all Scaled Up, and eats both Phobos and the artifact, acquiring both Phobos's throne and nearly limitless power.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Aggregor is the Big Bad for most of the first season, and later, he's within inches of acquiring Physical God levels of power when a desperate Kevin powers up directly from the Ultimatrix and beats him to a pulp- but thanks to how Kevin's powers work, suffers from great insanity in the process, becoming a villain again and Big Bad to boot.
  • Doctor Frankenwagon and his Monster from Monster Truck Mater.
  • Greg Weisman seems to be becoming fond of these. In addition to the W.I.T.C.H. and The Spectacular Spider-Man examples above, the second season of Young Justice builds up the Light and the Reach as a Big Bad Duumvirate, with the former lead (more-or-less) by Vandal Savage and the latter by the Reach Ambassador. As of the season's penultimate episode, the Light has suffered a major setback, with many of its members captured, incapacitated, or forced to withdraw from the field, and after a string of failures results in the Ambassador having a Villainous Breakdown Black Beetle forcibly removes him from command, takes over as head of the Reach invasion force, and decides to destroy the Earth, cementing him as the final villain for the season.