The winner is born a winner!
He never will have to worry about his dinner!
He never will have to think about getting thinner!
'Cause he's a winner,
A Nature Boy,
A hero in a story,
A story with a wonderful sequel:
Men are created unequal!!
—Sam, Trouble in Tahiti
The Born Winner
is a Badass
. Of course they are; they were born that way. Born Winners
are badasses because of what they are
rather than what they do
. They're Aliens among Puny Earthlings
among mortals, robots
among meatbags, or a magic-user
. The Hero
is usually the Born Winner
; if there's a group of people besides "normal" humans
, the main character will be one, or at least partially
. If other's in the setting have superpowers
, expect the Born Winner to have won the Super Power Lottery
by comparison. If The Hero
is a Born Winner
, The Rival
usually will be too. Usually, a mundane human will be part of the main character's True Companions
and generally be able to hold their own at first, but as the Sorting Algorithm of Evil
kicks in, expect them to be Overshadowed by Awesome
or even Killed Off for Real
in order to fuel the main character's Unstoppable Rage
The heart of this trope is that a Born Winner
is absurdly powerful because they were born
that way, not because of anything they ever did
. They have some innate trait that makes them awesome; no one lacking that trait can ever acquire it, any anyone without it is doomed to mediocrity. Done badly, it comes off as a cheap ploy to make the Born Winner
seem more awesome by dropping the effectiveness of his companions to somewhere just above that of the Red Shirt Army
(and often has a This Loser Is You side effect
, seeing as viewers would presumably identify more easily with the now-useless Badass Normal
than the alien/demon/vampire/whatever Born Winner
). When it's done well, it can be a compelling reason for why the main character is the Only One
without relying on a blatant Because Destiny Says So
Compare Puny Earthlings
, where the earthlings are so
puny that not even Training from Hell
or a Charles Atlas Superpower
lets them overcome it; they simply Can't Catch Up
. Born Winners
are a leading reason why Hard Work Hardly Works
. They may or may not have been Born Lucky
. Beware those who are Weak, but Skilled
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Anime and Manga
- Bakuretsu Tenshi - Artificial Humans. Meg doesn't counts for being a Faux Action Girl.
- Bleach - Mere humans like Orihime and Chad are as nothing next to the Shinigami Ichigo. It's even explicitly stated that the only reason they developed powers in the first place was from hanging around Ichigo so long, they absorbed some of his aura leaking out.
- Blood+ - Chiropterans
- Blue Gender - Yuji and the other Sleepers' with their "B-cells"
- Cardcaptor Sakura - Only those born with magic power are really any use. Lampshaded in one episode where Mei-ling complains about not being able to contribute due to her lack of magic power; results in a Plot Tailored to the Party where she uses her martial arts skills to help defeat the Twin card.
- Dragon Ball - Saiyans and their descendants eventually overpower everything (including Physical Gods) by a wide margin.
- Eyeshield 21 - Kongou Agon is a once in a century player who is infinitely more skilled than his completely average twin brother. He neglects practice and is still ridiculously good.
- Likewise Mr. Don of the American youth team, so skilled and powerful that it took two players at their pinnacles to bring him down...once. And that was only because he fought the battle on their terms.
- The Gundam franchise has two prime examples... sort of:
- In the original Universal Century timeline, there are the Newtypes, an evolutionary offshoot of humanity endowed with various extra-sensory abilities which gives them a distinct edge on the battlefield. However, they're often shown relying just as much on the superior technology of their usually unique Mobile Suits, and are regularly trounced when up against more experienced opponents, Old- and Newtype alike. So, certainly a favorable hand, but not necessarily a winning one.
- Their expies from the newer Celestial Era timeline (Gundam SEED & Destiny), the Coordinators, seem like Natural candidates for this trope, being genetically engineered superhumans, but this comes across to some viewers as more of an Informed Ability, since most of the ones seen are enemy mooks being mowed down like wheat. However, it should be noted that in the series' backstory, the Coordinator organization ZAFT has more or less steamrolled the entire Earth Alliance military, and that the majority of the combatants responsible for the eventual turning-of-the-tide were Coordinators themselves.
- However, there's no question that anyone born with a SEED factor is pretty much unstoppable. Kira Yamato, the main character of the first series (and the second) plays this to the hilt, not only possessing a SEED factor (with full control of it to boot), but is later revealed to be "The Ultimate Coordinator". Despite this, he's still defeated on several occasions, most notably by Shinn Asuka (who uses Kira's Honour Before Reason style of fighting against him) and Big Bad Rau Le Creuset who's just that good.
- Completely inverted (and possibly slyly lampshaded) with Garrod Ran, protagonist of After War Gundam X, Puny Earthling and self-made badass. He despises Born Winners and happily demonstrates his ability to kick them to the curb whenever the opportunity arises.
- Gundam AGE has a similar character in Asemu Asuno, who can curbstomp enemy psychic pilots with nothing but pure skill on his side (and a Gundam). Worth noting that he's probably the single best pilot in the series, and the protagonist with the super-powerful psychic abilities is... well, really not all that great a pilot.
- Most later Gundam series tend to play around with this in that much of a protagonist's power comes from the fact that they have a Gundam that's much more powerful than most of the other stuff they have to fight. However it's also mentioned that it takes a certain amount of skill to use them. Not just any idiot could hop into the Strike Freedom and start kicking ass.
- Inu Yasha - If you're not at least part demon or the reincarnation of a priestess, resign yourself to uselessness.
- Medaka Box is essentially about this trope. The born winners, called "Abnormal" or sometimes "Plus" are people who are inexplicably born with incredible talent, luck, and superpowers, making it difficult for them to fail no matter what they do. Later, the series also examines their opposite, "Minus", those who are doomed to fail despite their efforts.
- Naruto spent some time early on trying to avert this by emphasizing that just because you're a Born Winner doesn't mean you're all that special and anyone can reach your level with a bit of gumption and elbow grease. This was quickly thrown to the wayside as the main character and nearly every other character of any significance became stronger and stronger by virtue of the legacies that were passed down to them (in Naruto's case, no less than three ultra-powerful legacies, on top of the all-powerful demon sealed inside of him) leaving everyone who isn't a Person Shaped Can o' Evil or named Uchiha far behind in the dust.
- Pokémon - Ash Ketchum is involved with many prophetic legends.
- The fourth season song is called "Born To Be a Winner", which is much of a remix of the season 1 theme.
- Scryed - "Alters"
- Gemstone espers in A Certain Magical Index are espers who were born with their powers, as opposed to having to have to develop one. An example would be Academy City's #7 Level 5 esper, Sogiita Gunha. On the magic side, Saints are this, allowing them to access a part of God's power.
- Touma was born with Imagine Breaker.
- Also that's not really an example. It's strong but it also takes away his luck, making tons of bad things happen to him. Also it's been stated nobody could use it like Touma could, because of all his constant fighting.
- Valkyries are people born with bodies and abilities similar to the Norse Mythology beings. Brunhild Eiktobel is both a Valkyrie and a Saint.
- Trigun - Vash's and Knives' badassness is due to the fact that they're both biological power plants. Yeah.
- Trinity Blood - Vampires. And Crusniks even more so.
- Yu Yu Hakusho - Demons are the only ones who can accomplish anything after the Tournament Arc. Even Yusuke is revealed to have demonic heritage. In the last three arcs, Kuwabara was killed to send Yusuke into an Unstoppable Rage, taken hostage, and Put on a Bus, respectively.
- Also played with with the humans who were born with amazing spiritual power, in that one of them went insane and did a Face Heel Turn, one of them is The Hero's mentor before he found out about his Superpowered Evil Side, and the third went into hiding to marry and raise a family.
- Vampire Hunter D - Vampires (and dhampyrs) again.
- Zettai Karen Children - Although psychics in general qualify, Level 7 psychics are vastly more powerful than lower level ones, and they alone seem to have enough control over their powers to find new and creative uses for them after sufficient practice. For example, a low level telekinetic might be able to cheat at a crane game in an arcade, but the most skilled Level 7 we've seen is basically a Reality Warper.
- The Gorans from Buzzer Beater by Takehiko Inoue. Humans aren't really destined for greatness in intergalactic basketball. The main character is a Goran but doesn't know it until later.
- Many of the characters from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha have some reason why their magical powers are miles beyond average, whether genetic engineering, cybernetics, or the power of an Artifact of Doom. The main character herself is a freak of nature, extremely powerful with only a handwave about how people from Earth tend to be very strong on the very small chance that they have magic.
- The Big Bad of the first season, Precia, also won the Superpower Lottery in a big way entirely through natural talent. She's one of only two SS rank mages in the entire series, and the other one had to have her head plugged into a sentient magical tome to gain that kind of power.
- The Single Numbers in Sekirei, who are inherently more powerful than their younger siblings. It is suggested that one of the reasons for their increased powers is because they were found as infants, and so couldn't be controlled as much as the others that were discovered as fertilized eggs. This makes them Names to Run Away From Really Fast, since their greater experience and powers make them extremely dangerous opponents.
- Daywalker Blade: Born right after his mother was bitten by a vampire, he got superhuman strength and senses but isn't affected by sunlight. He counters his thirst for human blood with a serum, but whenever needed, there's some willing victim or pool of anonymous blood to regain his full potential.
- Superman, particularly the Silver Age one.
- Basically any of Marvel's mutants (although many of them have drawbacks). That said, most of them manifest as puberty superpowers.
- Subverted in normalman who was the only person on the planet Levram without superpowers... but it might also be a double subversion in that he was ultimately destined to rule Levram as President and stuff...
- Batman can be considered a subversion, as his prowess comes from intense training than any inborn power. That said, he was born into wealth and his extreme intelligence is definitely an inherited trait, so he's at least a partial example.
- However, his characterization can also portray the downside to being a Born Winner. For example, people have stolen plans from him to allow them to take down the Justice League, and his perfect memory that helps make him the world's greatest detective also forces him to remember his parents' death with perfect clarity, which keeps the pain from fading at all.
- The Wheel of Time, I'm looking at you. Rand al'Thor is the umpteen millionth reincarnation of the hero who has saved the world (or destroyed it) since the beginning of time.
- There are those who are basically explicitly Born Winners, the ta'veren, who are special in that they specifically do exert an influence on people and events around them.
- Hell, Channelers period. Walking nukes in a medieval world.
- In the Merchant Princes series by Charles Stross, the ability to travel between worlds is a recessive genetic trait.
- The Sleepless in Nancy Kress's Bio Punk story Beggars In Spain. Sleepless are genetically engineered to, well, not sleep, but this genemod ends up unlocking all sorts of other useful traits, such as increased mental stability, higher intellect, and (eventually) some sort of mad Healing Factor that essentially halts aging. Nobody knows what the upper limit of a Sleepless lifespan is (none of them ever undergo a natural death).
- The Howard Foundation, from Robert A. Heinlein's Future History mythology, is a centuries-old breeding program, extending the human lifespan through genetics. There's no secret to it: you're born, and then you live for five hundred years or so. Of course, just try telling that to all those angry, envious short-timers...
- Replica: the Designer Babies are ultimately meant to breed so they become a master race and take over the world.
- Arguably Cassie from Animorphs. While the rest of the team all offer contributions they have to learn and grow into - Jake's leadership, Rachel's fierceness in battle and Marco's keen mind for strategy - Cassie's qualities are all qualities she was born with. She's an estreen, a character naturally talented at morphing, and the fourth Megamorphs book reveals she's a temporal anomaly, quite literally a game breaker so potent her very presence undoes the efforts of reality warpers and collapses an alternate timeline.
- Wizards in the Sword of Truth mostly get along on their wiles, but when push comes to shove, magical napalm.
- Richard Cypher, (actually Rahl,) is not only the rightful Seeker of Truth, but a War Wizard, Emperor of Dhara, and the prophesied Bringer of Death. Any one of those would be a legendary hero on their own, but wrapped up in the same person it's fair to say that the world revolves around him.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer got 'lucky' and was born a Potential Slayer. Once her predecessor died, she got 'lucky' again and became The Slayer. which grants her amazing strength and reflexes. Of course, she didn't get her powers until she was 15. So really it's a Puberty Superpower.
- At the end of the series, they manage to give all potential Slayers their full powers, so we get an entire army of Born Winners...
- At least in this case, the Born Winner is not even remotely the most powerful person in the series. Looking at you, Willow...
- In the RPG Exalted, the most powerful of the titular god-kings earn their magic powers through displays of badassery so incredible that the rulers of the heavens choose them as champions. However, the most numerous of the Exalted, the Dragon-Blooded, receive incredible magical powers for no reason other than that they were born with the blood for it.
- And even the Celestial Exaltations favor those who already have an "important destiny", to cite the rulebook...to say nothing of the basic requirement to be lucky enough to attract the attention of a major deity at the right moment in the first place. The epic-level badassery that's basically expected of player characters just isn't something that mere mortals could possibly achieve on their own.
- This is what 'trueborn' Clan warriors in the BattleTech universe are supposed to be bred to be. (They also get Training from Hell, but as that's pretty much universal for the warrior caste attention is usually paid more to individual bloodlines and genetic combinations thereof.) In practice, while many of them do have a physical edge over their Inner Sphere counterparts — notably the giant battle armor infantry troopers known as Elementals, whether they're actually wearing said armor or not —, they're still far from invincible, as quite a number of both Clan and Inner Sphere "freebirths" have demonstrated.
- Too many games to list have you take the role of some sort of super soldier or half-human hybrid that is much more powerful than an ordinary citizen by genetics alone. You might even say that being a player controlled character can make most protagonists born winners - because they're controlled by you, even the badass normal variety of hero ends up being unimaginably more successful than other theoretically equal humans.
- Several of the Servants of Fate/stay night and Fate Zero derive as much, if not more, of their power from popularity and the circumstances of their birth than having an impressive legend. Gilgamesh is perhaps the greatest example; he is two-thirds god and owner of all the Noble Phantasms in the world because of his status as the first hero, although his legend does contain several heroics.
- The Gifted in Final Fantasy Tactics A2. It can actually end up as being Blessed with Suck, as some don't manage to master their power before it destroys them, and even the ones that survive usually end up outliving their non-Gifted friends.
- Galen Marek/Starkiller from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed seems to have been born with his incredible power. As a toddler, Darth Vader was able to sense him and commented that he was far more powerful than Kento Marek, his own father, and Galen was able to steal Vader's lightsaber with telekinesis. In comparison, the ten-year-old Anakin Skywalker merely had enhanced reflexes.
- The Touhou series has a lot of this. The stand-out example is Reimu Hakurei, who is one of the most powerful characters in the setting despite putting in as little effort as possible by virtue of being born into the Hakurei line. Though Reimu is only notable for this in that she's actively opposed to hard work; the vast majority of the cast simply uses their natural youkai abilities.
- Torn to shreds in Mass Effect 2 with Miranda and Grunt, both products of genetic engineering, and neither taking it well. Miranda angsts over having all her personal victories cheapened by her father's manipulation while her failures are all her own, and Grunt angsts over being born and bred to fight with the best of them, but never being given something to fight for.
- Tragically inverted in Red vs. Blue with Alpha Texas.
- Carolina and Tex both think they're one of these. It causes some friction.
- The title character of Avatar The Last Airbender was born into having the combined powers of dozens, if not hundreds, of bending predecessors. The Rival, Zuko, is notably not an example of this, and embraces it fully: his father describes his sister, the fire-bending prodigy, as "born lucky" while Zuko was "lucky to be born."
- That said, he was born into the royal family of the most powerful nation on the planet, and is the descendent of two extremely powerful lines of benders, the first being the Fire nation royal lineage and the second being the great grandson of Avatar Roku, Aang's Fire Nation-born predecessor
- In Ben 10 Alien Force, the reason Gwen's Evil Counterpart Charmcaster gives for hating her is that she had to work hard to become such a powerful witch whereas Gwen was born partially made of magic and was able to grow strong easily. Gwen actually comes to really feel bad about this when she learns just WHY Charmcaster works to be a powerful witch...
- Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was born with magical potential unparalleled by anypony not named Princess Celestia and Luna. Granted, it takes the Sonic Rainboom to unlock it, but the ball rolls from there, with her becoming Princess Celestia's personal apprentice, the bearer of the Element of Magic, leader of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, savior of Equestria on several occasions, and eventually an alicorn princess of Equestria.