Dark and Troubled Past

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And the book says, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
The Narrator, Magnolia

Something terrible happened to a character; some tragic event in their past that shaped a fundamental level of their personality. Long after the event is over, it still has a powerful influence in the character's life.

The root effects are usually:

Usually involves one or more of the following:

Expect to see the above overlap for extra Angst or Wangst.

This is a stock Backstory for a character. Much like a Mysterious Past, except more tragic and troubled. Don't expect it to be revealed all at once, or sometimes at all. It usually gets revealed in small doses through a Troubled Backstory Flashback as the story progresses; possibly in a Flashback Nightmare where a happy memory transforms into a slaughter. Often used as a Freudian Excuse for an asocial character's Jerk Ass tendencies or quiet stoicism. Still, it is understandable that the character wants to keep it secret because They're Called Personal Issues for a Reason, after all.

This can lead to either becoming an Anti-Hero or Hurting Hero. For villains, this is a Start of Darkness. Especially blatant cases of this trope will result in the character being seen as a Sympathetic Sue.

Female characters with a Dark and Troubled Past include the Dark Magical Girl and the Broken Bird. Male characters with a Dark and Troubled Past are instant bait for the Estrogen Brigade who have bought him leather pants. Expect all nearby female characters to become afflicted with attraction to his Troubled, but Cute appeal, and try to help him heal his heart. Not happening. Or maybe it will?

The step-up of this trope is the Dysfunction Junction, where the whole cast will have one of these and suffer from it, too (and don't expect them to get better). If the afflicted character is in a law enforcement profession, see Standard Cop Backstory. When paired with a Nice Guy or gal with a happy upbringing, you can expect...interesting results.


Examples:

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  • Dragon Ball Z, with Vegeta having his home planet destroyed at around age 5, and being a forced underling of the creature who massacred his people for most of his life.
  • Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal. After the death of his parents, Kenshin (a child at the time) is taken by slavers, who are later violently killed in front of him by bandits. After burying the mutilated victims alone, Kenshin is resolute to “create a peaceful world where people could live without fear”. To accomplish his ideal, Kenshin trains with the master of the “Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū” (a fighting style so deadly that, to truly master, it means death to the teacher) and, at 14, became the legendary assassin "Hitokiri Battōsai”. Kenshin goes into hiding years later and marries a mysterious woman named Tomoe for appearance only, but they later fall in love. After a series of events, Kenshin kills Tomoe unintentionally in battle. As Tomoe died, she gave Kenshin half of the X shaped scar on his cheek. Kenshin later finds out, after reading Tomoe’s diaries that he had killed Tomoe’s fiancé (a man who years earlier, gave Kenshin the other half of the X shaped scar) before he met her and she only married Kenshin out of revenge, but, after living together, fell in love with him. Broken and filled with remorse for killing countless people, Kenshin wanders off wielding a sakabatō or reverse blade sword. He is determined to never kill again and to aid those in need, as atonement for the murders he committed.
  • Hiei from YuYu Hakusho. Being tossed away by your clan, brought up by bloodthirsty thieves who later abanndon you, and going through torture just to find your homeland only to learn that your mother committed suicide and your twin sister has been kidnapped by a sadistic psycho will make you be just a little bit dark.
  • Alice In Sexland
    • Protagonist Alice was poor, but worked alongside her mother as housekeepers. As soon as she was considered even remotely sexually mature, she was forced into the life of a Sex Slave.
    • The Queen of Hearts is revealed to have had one, too. She was poor and homeless, then decided to sell her body as a prostitute as soon as she 'became a woman'. However, she seemed rather happy with that life, seeing it as a good way to give herself a decent life, compared to the nothing she used to have.
  • Vash the Stampede from Trigun. He was born as an Artificial Human on a space cruiser transporting most of humanity to a distant world, where the crew was paranoid of him. Thanks to his brother, he got to watch the cruiser destroyed, killing millions, including his mother figure. Years later, after the discovery of his destructive powers, he unwittingly caused the annihilation of an entire city.
    • Wolfwood in the manga as well. Raised in an orphanage, "adopted" by a church to go around doing general labor, physically modified, artificially aged, and trained to become a killer. He spends a lot of time conflicted about life.
  • Black Lagoon has quite a few characters with these kinds of pasts:
    • Revy is a Chinese-American who was abused by her alcoholic father (whom she later murdered) and brutalized by the police for laughs. She sometimes loses control of her bloodlust, slips into a scary-calm state of Ax-Crazy Tranquil Fury nicknamed "Whitman Fever" by Dutch, and starts shooting everyone she comes across whenever something gets too close to her past. She either has to run out of steam or be physically restrained whenever that happens.
    • Balalaika is for the most part far more calm and controlled as befitting a mob boss, but her feelings of being rejected by her country (the former Soviet Union) despite her years of service, as well as the collapse of said country, have left her with nothing else but the enjoyment of planning and winning wars. Balalaika enjoys playing at war so much that she even gives Revy pause, and good luck trying to stop her once she decides to unleash her army.
    • Roberta, meanwhile, is a former soldier and assassin renowned for her animalistic ruthlessness, earning her the nickname of "The Bloodhound of Florencia", who tried to find solace working as a housemaid for the Lovelace family. She nearly went permanently insane because of the guilt she felt as a former assassin and because of the loss of her patriarch.
    • Hansel and Gretel were war orphans in Ceauscescu's Romania who fell into the hands of the mob after the orphanages closed down. They were put through absolute hell, culminating in them being forced to murder other kids in snuff films and getting a real taste for blood.
  • The entire main crew of Cowboy Bebop has this to some degree. Spike Spiegel used to be an enforcer for the Red Dragon crime syndicate, essentially Space Triads, only to fall out with them and his former best friend and fellow assassin Vicious over a girl named Julia, resulting in him faking his death. Jet Black used to be a cop until his own corrupt partner and best friend set him up and tried to kill him, though he got off with merely losing his left arm and needing a cybernetic replacement — this, after the love of his life dumped him for, basically, being too controlling. Faye Valentine lost her family, her memories, and her past after she was placed in cryogenic suspension after a space shuttle accident, and after she was revived, the one man who seemed to care for her "died"...and left her stuck with a debt reaching into the millions. Radical Edward's father was so absent minded that he was barely aware of her existence, so she spent her entire childhood wandering aimlessly in and out of orphanages and possibly over most of the planet. Even Ein, the "Data dog," was subjected to experimentation to make him a Data dog by people with questionable ethics.
  • The first segment of Memories "Magnetic Rose" had Heinz, a space salvage specialist who had some really weird reactions to such harmless things as a falling china doll. The haunted space ship, of course, uses his trauma over his daughter having died after falling off the roof while wearing a toy spacesuit he gave her to try and convince him to stay...forever.
  • In Baccano!, there's Czeslaw Meyer, a young boy who, when his grandfather and caretaker died, was taken in by his grandfather's alchemy student, Fermet. A few years later, they become passengers on the ship the Advene Avis. Cue both of them becoming immortal. Fermet's true nature begins to shine through, and he starts experimenting on Czes, claiming it's for science. This torture continued for the next two hundred years. The torture and abuse is only ended when Czes finally manages to kill Fermet, in a way that causes Czes to gain all of Fermet's memories. This means that Czes now has both his own memories of being tortured and memories of sadistically enjoying torturing himself. Because of all this, the kid now has intense trust issues.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Notable since this trope applies to virtually every character with any significance in the story, not simply the protagonist.
  • Guts's childhood from Berserk is singularly horrific. His mother was hanged from a tree outside a town while she was pregnant with him, causing him to be born prematurely and likely only surviving due to the soft mud from the rain. He was found by Gambino's wife Sys when his mercenary company was passing by the town and she took him in only to die of plague a year or two afterward. Gambino continued to keep him around but brutally trained him as a child soldier to earn his keep. Gambino's believed that Guts was a bad omen due to the way he was born and that he was the reason Sys died, which led to young Guts being raped when Gambino sold him for a night to a pederast soldier in his band (whom Guts later killed in the chaos of a battlefield at age 9) in addition to the horrific violence of war and constant risks to his life. It all came to a head when Gambino, his leg having been blown off by a cannonball and thus making him unfit for combat, got drunk one night and tried to kill Guts despite Guts trying his best to use his mercenary earnings to take care of Gambino. Guts was forced to kill his adoptive father in confused self-defense, but only after Gambino told him how he sold Guts to the soldier that raped him and had always resented him. Guts was almost immediately spotted by the rest of the company who proceeded to attack Guts and he only barely escaped alive. And that's just peaches compared to the stuff that comes afterwards.
    • Casca's past isn't much better — she lost her village at an early age and was sold to a noble who wanted a new serving girl, only for it to transpire that he wanted her for sex. Just as he's about to rape her, though, Griffith shows up. Instead of killing her would-be rapist, however, he makes her do it instead ("If you have something you wish to protect, take up that sword."). She has a relatively easy life afterward, until the Eclipse goes down and she suffers a horrific ordeal — the worst of it at the hands of her original savior, no less — that ends with her being driven insane.
    • Griffith's past wasn't much of a walk in the park either, as revealed in the second to last episode of the anime, just before he crosses the Moral Event Horizon. It involved selling his body to a creepy nobleman in exchange for the funds he needed for his army among other things.
  • Sword Art Online: Shino Asada was a happy child, until a trip to the post office with her mother took a turn for the murderous when a robber held up the office. When the robber turned his gun to Shino's mother, the eleven-year-old girl wrested the gun away and killed him in self defense. Sadly, this lead to Shino being ostracized by her classmates and her own mother, plus PTSD so severe that she can't hold a toy gun or even have someone point at her without suffering a severe panic attack. She tries using the VRMMO shooter Gun Gale Online as a form of self-help, but with minimal success.
  • Many of the main characters in Hellsing have some pretty dark childhoods: Seras Victoria witnessed her parents being murdered by burglars while hiding in a closet,Her mother's corpse was then violated as she watched. and Integra's uncle tried to kill her to take control of the Hellsing family. Even Alucard counts: back when he was just an Ottoman kid named Vlad III Dracula, he had been sold over to the Turks, whose ruler raped him.
  • This seems to be the case with a number of characters in Elfen Lied, most particularly, Lucy, who had to deal with abuse from asshole kids at her orphanage who beat her dog to death in front of her, and her horrible experimentation at the research facility that she escapes from at the very beginning of the series.
  • While a majority of Axis Powers Hetalia is silly and cute, the characters are still countries, thus, all of them have some negative points in their history. Nevertheless, Russia takes the cake for troubled pasts; the best example would be the "Bloody Sunday" strip, in which he finally snaps and starts gunning down his own people as they're rioting in the streets ("If they hate me, they're not Russian.") before turning to Lithuania and stating "We don't want children who can't play nice, do we?".
    • This trope is probably why certain countries, such as Israel, will never show up in this series, as it would quickly destroy the very comedic nature of the series itself.
  • None of the other characters in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- had a fun childhood, but Fai's was, by far, the worst. Though unlike most characters here, his childhood trauma didn't turn him into a crabby, jaded Jerk with a Heart of Gold (that's Kurogane), he kept all of his bitterness and heart break under a facade of perpetual happiness. Or, he did at first...
  • Every character in Fruits Basket, excluding a minor few.
    • Later subverted hilariously with Kimi.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!. Several. Upon learning Negi's, several of the girls were actually driven to tears.
    • Evangeline's is worth special mention simply because of it's sheer length. It is also hinted that she killed her own parents before regaining consciousness upon first becoming a vampire.
    • Then there's Asuna. We don't really know the details, but she underwent Laser-Guided Amnesia so that she could forget all that she had been through. What we do know is that it includes being imprisoned in a tower and used as a human weapon, and the destruction of a Floating Continent.
    • Setsuna. During her fight with Evangeline, is revealed that she has no parents, and because of her white white wings, she was chased out of the Crow village and picked up by Eishun.
  • Kaoru in Ai Yori Aoshi (physical abuse, betrayal, abandonment), to the point of not even remembering his childhood friend when he meets her again.
  • Most people in Deadman Wonderland. Nagi, Minatsuki, Yoh, Shiro, Hibana, Genkaku...
  • Digimon Adventure 02: Ken Ichijoji. Just...Ken Ichijoji. What started out as The Unfavourite Syndrome developed into a death in the family. Then he ended up being infected with the Dark Spore, which started playing on his huge inferiority complex and guilt over his brother's death, which was one reason he became the Digimon Kaiser, at which point he was convinced that the Digital World was makebelieve and he was just expressing his anger in a fictional world. He was bluntly shown otherwise by watching his Digimon die right in front of him, and never mind the better part of the hell the rest of the season puts him through while he's trying to make up for his misdeeds.
  • Chichiri in Fushigi Yuugi has a Trauma Conga Line in his past. His childhood best friend, Hikou, betrays him by stealing a kiss from his fiancee, who immediately calls off the engagement in shame. Chichiri goes berserk and attacks Hikou, but as they are fighting, a massive flood sweeps through the village. Chichiri's fiancee and family are killed in the flood, and although Chichiri attempts to save his former best friend's life, Hikou is lost in the flood before they can make amends. Chichiri also lost his eye in this incident, and, in fact, it was getting hit by the driftwood that caused him to let go of Hikou's hand. This all comes back to haunt him near the end of the manga and the OVA, when Hikou reappears as one of Tenkou's demon underlings...
    • While Chichiri is the most notable example among the protagonists, lots of other characters follow this trope, particularly from the Seiryuu and Genbu sides. Nakago has a particularly nasty one as his Freudian Excuse, though the fact that he's a horribly Manipulative Bastard who infamously winds up being a Karma Houdini means that few fans want to pity him for it.
  • One Piece: To say the Author Eiichiro Oda is “fond of” tragic backstory and “quite good” at writing them would be an understatement. The man is an absolute master, every canonical story arcs has several Dark and Troubled Past to tell. Not only are they informative and emotional but also filled to the brim with Chekov's Gun. He also has a knack for taking otherwise “mundane” backstory mold and drawing them into originality.
    • Romance Dawn arc:
      • Luffy’s backstory part 1, the climax of which provided the current Tear Jerker’s picture of the manga.
      • Coby’s. Though short and mostly played for laugh, it provided the starting point for his Character Development much later.
      • Zoro's past, following the otherwise generic "my best friend/rival died" past but adding in the mix that his friend didn't die honorably; she died falling down the stairs. No epic sword fight, no sacrifice, she was just tired and slipped down some stairs. First “recruitment backstory”.
    • Orange Town arc:
      • Buggy’s “tragic” past was mostly played for laugh. But the crew that he and Shanks started their careers with would be important hundreds of chapters later.
      • Chouchou’s past played homage to Useful Notes/Hachiko. It’s a simple but both tearjerking and heartwarming story about the Undying Loyalty of a Canine Companion.
    • Syrup Village arc:
      • Usopp’s past
      • Also Captain Morgan (a minor antagonist of previous arc)’s backstory was revealed, retroactively adding depth to his character.
    • Baratie arc:
      • Sanji’s backstory took the standard “stranded on an island with an enemy” story and turn them into something unique. Everyone knows being stranded on an island sucks, but this is hardly an island: it's a mushroom rock that's too far above sea water to fish and incapable of sustaining any life...because it's a ROCK. Not to mention, he realizes that the only other person on this island has a big ol' bag of, what he thinks is, food, much bigger than the one he gave to Sanji. However, it turns out that other guy just had a bunch of money and absolutely NO food, and that instead of keeping any for himself, gave all the food he recovered to Sanji and broke off and ate his own leg to survive. And on top of all that, the food that Sanji got was barely enought to last 20 days (though it lasted 25 days). It took eight-five days for a ship to find them. One can only imagine how hellish the last 60 days (two months) must have been. No wonder Sanji considers wasting food to be a horrible offense.
    • Logue Town arc:
      • Roger’s execution, which is the backstory of the whole series was revealed in depth here. Notable in that though this is an execution, it’s hardly portrayed as “tragic”. In fact the one detail we’re meant to take away as Roger’s smile before his death and how Luffy mirrors him in that regard.
    • Arlong Park arc:
      • Nami’s past was told here. Her backstory arguably set the formula for “recruitment backstory” which almost all of the Straw Hat’s later followed: Tragic backstory was caused by the current arc villain, after which Luffy was so pump up and delivered a well deserve beatdown to the Arc Villain.
    • Reverse Mountain arc:
      • Laboon the Whale’s story was told. It will be important much later.
    • Little Garden arc:
      • Dorry and Brogy’s past was told. Though not particularly tragic, it did break his crew and led to two of his men tricked into servitude later.
    • Drum Kingdom arc:
    • Alabasta arc:
      • There’s one for Vivi, Kohza and the entire Alabasta Kingdom. In short: Crocodile need a beatdown.
      • Also Robin provided a very brief, very neutral version of her backstory to the Straw Hat when they snuck abroad their ship. Some tantalizing hints to her full backstory was dropped during the conversation with Cobra as well.
    • Jaya arc:
      • Montblanc Cricket’s backstory revealed that he was the descendant of “Noland the Liar” and he was locked into a battle with his own ancestor’s legacy ever since. A ‘’fictional’’ version of Noland’s Tragic Past was also told.
    • Skypiea arc:
      • Noland’s ‘’real’’ tragic past was told. Also the backstory of the Shandoran and Skypean’s Forever War, and Sky Knight Gan Fall’s personal history were told.
    • Long Ring Long Island arc:
      • Aokiji dropped some vague hint about Robin past. Namely, every organization associated with her was eventually destroyed.
    • Water 7 arc:
      • Franky, Iceburg, Kokoro and Tom mutual history was told. It is simultaneously awesome, tearjerking and heartwarming.
    • Enies Lobby arc:
      • Robin’s long Mysterious Past was revealed in detail. It’s arguably the most tragic backstory revealed thus far and is the most important to the entire series Myth Arc bar none.
    • Thriller Bark arc:
      • Moria and Dr Hogback had one. It only make them more disgusting and despicable.
      • On the other hand, Brook’s story was so good that it brought Franky and Brook himself to tears. It also fire off the Chekov gun setup hundreds of chapter earlier.
    • Sabaody Archipelago Arc:
      • Roger Pirates story was told by none other than the Pirate King’s first mate himself. Like a good story teller, he encouraged the Straw Hat to seek out their own answers and adventures.
      • In what could only be described as the Dark And Trouble Past of an entire species, the history of racism against Fishman and Merfolk was revealed. It retroactively provided a backstory for Arlong and every villainous Fishmans the Straw Hats encountered.
    • Amazon Lily Arc:
      • One without a twist, but still absolutely horrible. Hancock and her sisters. Slavery is never a pretty story.
    • Impel Down Arc: There’s no new backstory here but there’s one humorous example that deserved special mention. And that is:
      • Buggy the Clown’s history with the Pirate Kings Crew come back to bite him as the Marine labels him the mastermind. To Buggy this is tragic but to every prisoners he rescues, this is the ultimate badass confirmation of their saviors and they pledge their life to him immediately. Buggy decided to go with the flow and led them all to Marineford
    • Marineford arc:
      • Ace's past isn't very heartwarming either, putting aside all the time he spent with Luffy and Sabo. Ace's father was none other than Gold Roger, the Pirate King. Now normally, being related to such a powerful and important figure would be a cause for joy, right? Not. In the eyes of many who actually met Roger (and didn't antagonize him), he was a great man. But the truth of the matter is that hiding his identity as Ace's father was imperative, seeing as his enemies basically amounted to the entire world. For years, Ace was tortured with the fact that in the eyes of the world, he wasn't supposed to exist, that the world would be better off without him, making him far more jaded than a child should and causing him to despise his father for the rest of his life. Most of all, the only reason he bothered to continue living was to find out whether or not he deserved to be born, just because the blood of a Pirate King ran through his veins. Living only stopped being so painful when Luffy and Sabo, and eventually the Whitebeard Pirates, came into his life.
    • Post-War Arc:
      • This arc devote entirely to the story of a young Ace, Luffy and Sabo, especially. This will be important later.
    • Fishman Island arc:
      • The History of racism against Fishman and Merfolk was told again, this time from a more personal perspective of Jinbei, a Fishman who at one time and another support both Otohime and Fisher Tiger, the two major equal right leaders. Also, Koala’s story was told.
    • Dressrosa arc:
      • King Riku Royal Family’s story was told fairly early in the arc.
      • Law. His past is up there with Robin's for how bad it is. Law was born in the country of Flevance, also known as "The White City". It was said to be a land straight out fairytales — everything, from the grass to the trees to even the buildings was pure white. Eventually, this phenomenon was discovered to be the result of a mineral beneath the country, callled Amber Lead. The people of Flevance began mining this mineral, bringing them untold amounts of prosperity. However, a hundred years before the beginning of the Amber Lead industry, the World Government conducted a geological survey and determined that the mineral was poisonous. Both they and the royal family of the country knew of its true nature, but kept it a secret due to the economic growth it brought Flevance. Though eventually, the buildup of Amber Lead poisoning became too great and a horrible breakout of disease struck Flevance, causing neighboring kingdoms to believe it to be an epidemic and quarantine the island (though the royalty of the country managed to escape thanks to the World Government). With the doctors unable to cure the disease, despair over being abandoned and desperate to escape, the population used the remaining Amber Lead as weaponry and went to war. The resulting conflict would kill almost all of the people of the White City, including Law's former friends and family; Law himself only managed to survive by hiding himself amongst corpses being carted out of the quarantine zone.
      • The Donquisote’s backstory was very dark and tragic but with an unique twist. Doflamingo and his brother Rocinante both experience the same tragic past but only one turn into a monster. Perhaps the only time in the series that Oda took Nature side in the Nature Vs Nurture debate. [[Note: This is before Doflamingo met Trebol, Pica and Vergo who would then nurture his evil side even more.]]
    • Totland arc
      • The abovementioned “stranded on an island” example turns out to actually mark the rough end to Sanji's horrible past. He was born part of the Vinsmoke family, a family of assassins whose head, Sanji's father Vinsmoke Judge, leads a massive army with ambitions of reconquering North Blue. To that end, Judge had his children genetically modified and subjected to Training from Hell, to draw out their hidden potential and turn them into Super Soldiers. However, unlike his siblings, Sanji failed to make any progress, instead remaining a regular human being, causing his father and brothers to brutally abuse him mentally and physically while his sister just laughed (Though to be fair, she had no choice but to do so to avoid being bullied herself). Eventually, Judge got too fed up with Sanji's lack of progress to bother continuing to raise him, and instead faked his son's death before locking him in a dark room and forcing him to wear an iron mask. Keep in mind that this happened before that aforementioned traumatic example with Zeff! No wonder Sanji hates his family's guts.
      • Lola, but more importantly her twin sister Chiffon Dark and Troubled Past was revealed during the Straw Hats meeting with Bege. Basically, Lola ran away from the wedding with the Giant Prince, Chiffon was forced to take her place but couldn’t fool them. This lead to Elbaf and the Giant army virtually out of Big Mom’s reach and Chiffon was severely mistreated by her as a result. Lola seemed fairly oblivious to her mother nature and the trouble she caused her sister; to the point she asked Nami to tell Big Mom that she’s still OK.
  • Bleach:
    • Ichigo is the badass hero because his mother died in front of him just before his ninth birthday. He vowed to protect others from ever experiencing the pain he went through that day, and spends years blaming himself for her death.
    • Rukia was an outsider who longed to fit in. The first person who treated her as an ordinary person was her mentor, Kaien. Unfortunately, he is possessed by a Hollow and Rukia is forced to kill to protect both herself and her captain. It takes her many years to forgive herself for his death; part of the reason why she gave Ichigo her powers in Chapter 1 was because she secretly was hoping to die.
    • Orihime was rescued from abusive parents when her much older brother kidnapped her to save her life. She was raised by him until he was killed in a car accident when she was twelve. She was bullied in school for her unusual hair, and it's not until she meets Tatsuki that she's able to grow her hair again. Even after meeting Tatsuki, she's been raising herself alone ever since her brother died. Her brother eventually comes back as a Hollow that tries to kill her and almost succeeds until Ichigo manages to save her just in time.
    • Sado lost his parents at the age of eight and was sent to live with his grandfather in Mexico where he became a big, strong bully. Only his grandfather's wisdom saved him from a violent life. After his grandfather dies, he returns to Japan, but refuses to fight to protect himself, so gets bullied for his non-Japanese appearance and height. It's only after he meets Ichigo, who tells him that they should fight to protect the other, that he begins to have friends.
    • Uryuu's mother died when he was eight years old, and he has a nasty estrangement from his father because, his grandfather once implied, he completely misunderstands his father's heart. He witnessed his grandfather being killed by Hollows right in front of his eyes and blames the Shinigami who didn't arrive in time to save his grandfather's life. He later learns that Mayuri delayed the Shinigami from saving his grandfather because he wanted Souken to die so that he would have a Quincy soul to experiment on. When he shows Uryuu the Souken's post-experiment remains, he gets one-shotted by an icily infuriated Uryuu. It's eventually revealed that his mother and Ichigo's mother were killed at the same time for the same reason, and that their killer had tried - but mysteriously failed - to kill Uryuu at that moment, too. Uryuu's been a target for Yhwach's mysterious end-game ever since.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
  • The backstory of Kagura from Ga-Rei involves her being forced to kill her own older sister. In the beginning, it doesn't bother her too much, but, later on, it comes back to hit her hard.
  • Pokémon:
    • Blue (Green in the English version) and Silver from Pokémon Adventures. Although the Mask of Ice DID kidnap them in order to use them for his plans, you see that he's got a heart for the kids. This is seen in the FRLG chapter, in the flashback of Silver and Blue/Green escaping Mask of Ice. Before, you see a large ice statue of all the kidnapped children and Mask of Ice, all wearing their masks and everything. After the kids run away, you see Pryce change the sculpture into one of all the kids standing around Pryce, who is in a wheelchair, all of them smiling. So you gotta assume that Pryce loved the kids like they were his own, even if he did kidnap them. Then again, whether or not he loved the kids, there is no doubt that Pryce had absolutely no clue how to raise them. One panel actually hints that he physically hit Blue just because she wanted to nickname her Jigglypuff. Judging by that panel, it's pretty obvious that Blue and Silver had an awful childhood.
    • Played straight with Mitsumi in Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure!. She was raised by Cyrus to be devoid of all feelings toward Pokemon and human, her only purpose to defeat her opponents. Rowan eventually softened her up though, and made her realize that there's more to Pokemon than fighting.
  • Ciel from Black Butler was a happy, loving, carefree child before his tenth birthday. Then, his parents were murdered, the mansion set on fire, and he's kidnapped. He's locked in a cage with other children his age and eventually made a child sacrifice until he accidentally called upon a demon in his desperation to live. His past is still being pieced together so more details will probably surface. No wonder he's a bitter, driven 13-year-old.
    • The children in Noah's Circus had a pretty bad past, too. Too bad the man who helped them turned into a crazy Stalker With a Crush and, with some psycho doctor, killed children so their bones could be used in the making of prosthetics.
  • Mist and Euphemia from Knights. The former is a knight of African heritage (in Medieval Europe) whose mother was burned at the stake by his father, who is also trying to kill him. The latter was accused of witchery and was raped in prison.
  • In Soul Eater, Crona was used as an experiment for his/her mother, and ended up becoming the host to a Living Weapon, driven insane through physical and psychological abuse, and forced to kill unknown (but probably large) numbers of people in order to harvest their souls. Crona gets a brief respite when Maka defeats them, only to be forced back into working for Medusa.
  • The characters in D.Gray-Man. Specifically, a whole bunch of the main Exorcists. Kanda and Lenalee, in particular, had their traumatic pasts inflicted on them by the "good guys" so they could fight the "bad guys". Allen was abandoned, beaten, and such until he met Mana, who died shortly after. Miranda was always teased for being wimpy and useless and broke down when she was fired for the 100th time. Krory was bullied by the people in the village near his castle because of his grandfather's reputation and therefore chose to never leave even when his grandfather died. Lavi used to be cold and emotionless due to all the cruelties of humanity that he had been exposed to such as numerous wars, since recording such events is part of his life as a Bookman. Kanda used to be an exorcist in a previous life, before he was killed by an Akuma. His brain was extracted and transplanted into his current body, to undergo multiple, painful and fatal synch attempts with his Innocence. He also killed his best friend. Twice
  • Pandora Hearts is full of characters with this trope, though it's not very obvious at first. Gilbert, Vincent, Alice, Leo, Echo, and Break are probably the best examples.
    • And then it finally revealed that Oz, whose dark past was thought to only being neglected by his own father, actually have the most tragic past of all: born as a plushie, forced to murder so many people and caused the legendary Tragedy of Sablier, and his owner Alice, who was the only one who cared for him and gave him his name, killed herself to save him.
  • Both the lead heroines from Macross Frontier are examples of this.
    • Sheryl grew up as a homeless orphan in the Galaxy fleet before being "discovered" by her manager, Grace. Also, even when she does get past that and works her way to the top as an Idol Singer, she finds out that everything she's ever achieved was actually part of Grace's plan, leading to her breakdown later in the series.
      • It doesn't help that Grace is the source of her v-type infection and is likely the reason why she's an orphan in the first place.
    • Ranka is also an orphan who lost her family during a Vajra attack on their research fleet, an event so traumatic that she lost her memories and, for a time, the ability to speak before her adoptive brother got to her. It's made worse for her that the cause of the attack was her singing, which, thanks to the Vajra germs she got from her mother, allowed her to unknowingly comunicate with the Vajra.
  • Chrono Crusade has this trope in spades.
    • Chrono is the most obvious example, having once been part of the Sinners and accidentally killed the woman he loved.
    • In the manga, all of the Sinners are refugees from their home and only betrayed the other demons because it was that or be killed. Aion's reasons for leaving are particularly troubled (but crazy).
    • Rosette and Joshua are orphans. This would be Conveniently an Orphan if it wasn't for the fact that both of them have some flaws explained by their parents' deaths (particularly in the manga).
    • Satella watched as her home burned to the ground and her family was killed by a demon around the age of 9 or so. Fiore is the sister she lost in the massacre, who Came Back Wrong.
    • Azmaria's parents either abandoned her or were killed (possibly during the first world war). She was then taken in by a group of traveling musicians, who were killed by a man so he could adopt her and use her powers to bring back his dead wife. Yep, he was killed too.
  • Hei, Badass Longcoat Anti-Hero of Darker Than Black, falls into this bad. Start with dead little sister and betrayal by his girlfriend and work up from there: his little sister became a Contractor and was recruited by The Syndicate, and he joined as a Badass Normal to try to protect her. They were both in their early teens. After a few years of very mixed feelings, guilt, and trauma later, his then-girlfriend Amber (apparently) betrayed him, and his sister disappeared when Heaven's Gate exploded. He basically woke up with her powers, no sign of her, and no clue what the hell happened. Add a few years more spent working for The Syndicate as an assassin because a) they'd kill him otherwise and b) he's never done anything else, it's no wonder he's a stoic Shell-Shocked Veteran.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Practically everybody. Ed and Al lost their mother when they were young, tried to resurrect her, and failed; and, as a result, Ed lost two of his limbs and Al his entire body. Roy and Hawkeye, among others, participated in the Ishvalan genocide and feel extremely guilty about it. Scar lost his brother in said genocide, Winry's parents were killed on the battlefield, Hohenheim unknowingly helped kill off the population of an entire country, and Bradley grew up as a test subject, was injected with the Philosopher's Stone, and does not know whether his present personality is the one he had prior to the injection.
  • Everyone in My Lovely Ghost Kana. It's how they get past it that makes the story so heartwarming.
  • This is how the +Anima children are usually depicted gaining their animas, animal spirits of sorts which grant them the animal's abilities. It comes from the need for help to escape from a dangerous situation, such as being close to death.
  • Soubi from Loveless was orphaned at the age of six, raised by a teacher who wanted to control him completely and sexually abused him, and then handed off to Seimei, who viewed him as a possession and physically and emotionally abused him before abandoning him without explanation. Ritsuka is a little young for this trope, but is well on his way to acquiring one.
  • For all that it's a gag series, Gintama features characters with these.
    • Gintoki was an orphan living among the corpses on the battlefield when he was found and taken in by Shoyou sensei who raised him with the samurai values he still holds today. A few years later Shoyou sensei was arrested and his school was burned down. When Gintoki and his friends fought in the Joui war, they lost, and lost badly. He was then forced to choose between his teacher and his friends. He chose to kill Shoyou. After the war, Gintoki ended up in jail and was nearly executed. Upon his release, he wandered around and nearly starved before Otose found him at her husband's grave.
    • Kagura comes from a lethally Dysfunctional Family. Her mother died when Kagura was young, and her father left her and her brother, because he was afraid he might kill one or both of them someday. Her brother, unable to beat their father in a fight turned into the cheerful sociopathic Blood Knight he is today.
    • Kyuubei (raised with gender confusion), Katsura (family deaths, lonely childhood), Takasugi (Shoyou's death), Hijikata (family issues, spree killer), Tsukuyo (sold into prostitution, maniac mentor), Hinowa (sold into prostitution, crippled by Housen), and others also have difficult pasts.
  • A lot of characters in Speed Grapher, but none more so than Chōji Suitengu, the Big Bad of the series. Near the end of the series, after showing how much of a bastard he is, one episode finally delves into his history and gives him a hell of a Freudian Excuse.
  • Despite being a fairly lighthearted series, Keiko from Stretch appears to fit this trope. Something to do with her mother, apparently.
  • It's not revealed until about a third of the way into the series, but Kiddy Grade protagonist Eclair ended up so tortured by the things she did as an ES Agent that she had her memories sealed. The seal also served as a Power Limiter. The reveals start coming when events start to unravel the mental block.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: most characters just have a Dark And Troubled Present, but Kyouko had her attempt to help her father spectacularly backfire when he finds out, causing him to go nuts and kill the family, Mami lost her family in an accident and contracted with Kyubey to save her life, and Homura has been resetting time in a futile attempt to save Madoka for years now.
  • In Wild Fangs, it turns out Syon was artificially engineered and grew up in a lab where he was constantly experimented on but had no one who remotely cared for him. Subverted in that he doesn't remember it all that well so it's not as big a deal as others think it is.
  • If anyone in Monster appears not to have a Dark and Troubled Past, just keep reading/watching and one will be revealed.
    • Ironically, the king of this trope in the series is none other than that irredeemable Johan Liebert. Or is he? The debate goes on and on...
  • From AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator, there are the four horse men. Each one of them has deeply rooted reasons why he or she despises humanity.
  • Joe Asakura of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. His parents were murdered almost right in front of him, and then the assassin tried to kill him.
  • Clair Leonelli in Heat Guy J. His mother died giving birth to him, and his father was abusive and also neglectful, hoping to train him as a suitable successor. Eventually, he went insane and killed his dad.
  • Naruto: Shinobi in general have blood on their hands before they reach chunin rank. Also, considering they are essentially soldiers, whose relatives and friends are also soldiers, living in a warzone, nearly every character has lost someone important to them at some point.
    • Itachi saw the end of the 3rd Ninja War and the Kyuubi attack before he was even a ninja and decided to do ANYTHING to pevent war.
    • Kakashi saw his father take his own life at 7, then his friend Obito seemingly dies before giving him his Sharingan; he is forced to kill his remaining teammate Rin in order to prevent the tailed beast inside her from falling into the hands of the enemy; and finally his teacher, the 4th Hokage, dies when he sacrifices himself to protect the village from the Kyuubi. And to think, when he was first introduced he seemed like such a laidback person who was simply wise and pragmatic about the nature of being a ninja...
    • Sasuke, at 8, stumbled upon the aftermath of his clan's massacre by his older brother under order of Danzo and killed said brother at 16, only to learn the truth after the act, and set himself on the Asura path
    • Gaara, of course, was feared by his village and his family for the one-tailed demon inside of him. His attempts at connecting with others proved fruitless and at times were rebuffed harshly by other kids. Not only that but out of self-defense he was forced to kill the only person who stood by him and protected him. This tragedy and the realization that he was truly alone led him to look to his literal inner demon for solace, giving us the emotionless death machine which is initially introduced to us.
    • Kimimaro was of the now-extinct Kaguya clan had been born with his clan's special kekkei genkai and the leader, fearing its power, locked him up in a dark cage except on the occasions where he was needed for battle (which was often, since they were a war-like tribe). The Mist Village, deciding they had enough with this clan's bellicose nature, decided to commit an act of genocide and wipe them all out in one fell swoop. Kimimaro managed to escape this culling and wandered aimlessly and without purpose, until he met Orochimaru...
    • Haku was born with a special kekkei genkai-Ice Release-which was all well and good except that within the Land of Water where his small village resided, the people still held extreme anger and pains from the death and destruction that a previous war had caused them due to both sides using people with kekkei genkai. He had inherited this ability from his mother, who hid it from her husband in order to maintain the illusion that they were normal and perhaps that one day they could reveal the truth to the man in hopes that love could trump the prejudice that still remained. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Haku had discovered his ability and while his mother quickly stifled it, Haku's father witnessed it and rounded a mob of villagers to attack them. Haku watched his mother be killed in front of him and was about to be murdered as well but he used his abilities to kill all of his assailants, thus rendering himself an orphan.
    • Naruto lost his parents and any chance of a relatively normal life the very night he was born. He was also taken hostage by The Heavy at the age of one minute. That's gotta be some kind of record.
  • No mentions of Ai Enma from Hell Girl yet? That girl was made an outcast by her village, and was selected to be sacrificed to a mountain god at the age of 7. She escaped that fate, only to be faced with a worse one 6 years later, where she was betrayed by her only friend and she and her family were buried alive. Then she tried to deliver vengeance on her village and was condemned to carry souls to Hell for eternity.
  • It's mentioned in Fairy Tail that everyone in the guild has some sort of hidden pain in their pasts. A lot of them are explored in each arc of the manga as it goes on.
  • Inspector Himuro of Remote has one that is regularly hinted at but not revealed until the last few volumes
  • The Gundam franchise has quite a bit of this. From characters growing up as orphaned Child Soldiers in Gundam Wing and Gundam 00 to Gundam Unicorn, where one character manages to have a past that includes knowing she's a clone and being used as an underage sex slave in a brothel. Apparently, to put across the War Is Hell message, one must use soldiers who have messed-up pasts.
  • Accelerator in A Certain Magical Index. Due to his seemingly invincible powers, he's been attacked ever since he was a child by people who either wanted to "prove their strength" or by people who thought he was too dangerous to let live. He survived all of this without a scratch, but having that much violence directed at him all his life has left him rather messed up. And if people aren't trying to kill him, they're trying to use him in inhumane experiments. When he's introduced, he's willing to do just about anything to make sure people never attack him ever again.
  • Most of the main characters in A Cruel God Reigns. If they don't have one, they are well on their way to getting one.
    • Jeremy is physically and sexually abused for months before he snaps and kills Greg, and then has to deal with living as a murderer.
    • Ian grew up knowing his mother committed suicide and wondering why his family was dysfunctional. Later on in the series he has to deal with his Broken Pedestal view of his father.
    • Sandra has a dead first husband and two Bungled Suicide.
    • It is heavily implied that Valentine was sexually abused resulting in her Dumb Struck status.
    • Liliya committed suicide at Greg's urging because she was Mistaken for Cheating.
    • Lindon become estranged from his first wife and daughter because he was so rigid and neurotically morose.
    • Nadia's mother blames her for her sister's preoccupation with suicide. Her parents also fought bitterly and cheated on each other during her childhood.
    • Natasha suffered Greg's beatings and eventually had to leave Lynn Forest for her own wellbeing, as well has knowing her little sister Liliya killed herself.
    • Cass' parents are abusive alcoholics, which is why he works so many jobs (legal and illegal), in an attempt to earn money for school and to escape his house, eventually ending in his drug addiction and Hooker with a Heart of Gold.
    • Even Bratty Half-Pint Matt, who grew up unwanted because Greg believes that he is not his actual son.
  • Kotoura-san
    • Haruka's life story, to put it bluntly, is the destruction of the lives of a born telepathic girl.
    • Yuriko has one too. When she was a child, her mother was a famed psychic, but Driven to Suicide after being accused as a fake. This is why she is so eager to prove psychics exist.
  • In Anatolia Story, Nakia was forced by her father to become a concubine to the Hittite king, who was basically the enemy of her country of Babylon at the time. Also, the king was old enough to be her father. When she got to his palace, she quickly became scared and lonely, since he already had a lawful wife, a huge harem full of other concubines, an elected crown prince and four more sons. It's later revealed that she also went through a period of time when people gossiped openly about the legitimacy of her child, Juda, since he shared few features with the king.
    • Ursula was orphaned when her family died of the plague and grew up in poverty, becoming desperate for any chance, however brief, of knowing wealth and comfort.
    • The end of the series also reveals that Urhi was the child of a noble family in another country. When his home was invaded, the conquering army killed all of his family, took him as a Sex Slave, and castrated him so that he couldn't run the risk of having children and furthering the now-extinct bloodline of his country's royal family. ''Then', he was shipped off to Anatolia to be a junior priest, which is where he meets Nakia.
  • Pretty much every experiment in Project ARMS. To name a few:
    • Hayato watched his home village and his father (or at least, the man he thought was his father) get destroyed when he was a child. Immediately after, a stranger (the same one who killed his dad in front of him) cuts off his arm and replaces it with the ARM replica.
    • Kei was raised as a soldier instead of a child, harshly treated by the Blue Men. In the manga, she and some other children were playing in a church when a madman comes in. The children try to run, instead of listening to her and staying hidden, leading to her watching them die and her getting her eyes stabbed out. In the anime, she tries to save some children from a burning building, only for them to die and her eyes to get burned out. In both cases, this leads to her own ARMS being implemented.
    • The Bowen twins were ostracized by their peers and their parents, all of whom were unable to cope with the fact that the elementary school-aged boys were super-geniuses. A flashback reveals that Jeff murdered their parents, which even freaked out Al.
    • Carol was sent to the Egrigori as a test subject because her parents were terrified of their creepy daughter who had the power to bend things into knots with her mind. She grew up believing that the horrified reactions her powers got from people were the same things as love and respect.
    • Cliff and Yugo Gilbert spent their childhood having their mental powers tested, meaning they were both horribly abused by the scientists.
    • Kyklops spent his entire life kept by the Egrigori, taught to kill with a knife as soon as he was old enough.
    • All of Keith White's "children", who were just clones of himself that he made to implant ARMS into. They weren't even given names (they simply were known as "Keith [Color]") and the surviving ones (Black, Green, Blue, Red, and Violet) all had to watch as their brothers and sisters died horrifically painful deaths from the experiments.
    • Quite possibly the ultimate example of them all is poor Alice. She's yet another Egrigori experiment who is confined to the labs, where she sees how lonely and sad the other children are. She wants nothing more than for them all to see the outside world, even for just one day, but her attempt to make this happen end with all of the children being shot to death by Keith White. She then gets absorbed by an alien life form and splits into "White Alice" and "Black Alice", both of whom keep their desire for love, but one of whom (guess which?) expresses this in the form of wanting to destroy all life on Earth.
  • Tenjou from Murasakiiro no Qualia. As a child, Tenjou fell off a jungle-gym, getting her body fatally wounded. And that's when the traumatizing part begins. Completely conscious, she then watches her best friend replacing her "damaged body parts" with jungle gym parts. This obviously still doesn't sit well with her for long years after. Justifies her acting like a jerk toward Yukari.
  • The majority of the cast in Attack on Titan, due to the nature of the series.
    • Levi is a former criminal, with his past shrouded in mystery and fodder for many rumors.
    • Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Reiner, and Bertolt are all refugees from Wall Maria, having lost everything when Titans destroyed their villages.
    • Annie was raised as a Tyke Bomb by her father, put through Training from Hell and taught early on that Humans Are Bastards.
    • Mikasa's parents were murdered in front of her, by human traffickers that intended to sell her into sexual slavery at the age of nine. Eren killed two of them to rescue her, but she was forced to kill the third man on her own.
    • Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie are Tyke Bomb spies sent to carry out genocide against mankind, and committed an act of mass murder at the age of 12 and 11 respectively on the orders of their superiors. All three are deeply traumatized as a result of their actions.
    • Ymir and her vague comments about having been hated, tormented, and expected to "die for the happiness of others". She stole the Titan's Power from a mysterious group, and spent 60 years trapped as a mindless Titan in what she described as an endless nightmare.
    • Krista is the daughter of a significant nobleman, born out of wedlock to his mistress. A conflict between her relatives concerning her potential as a successor caused her to be driven out and forced to take up a false identity. She joined the military to escape, with the hopes of getting herself killed in a suitably tragic and heroic fashion.
  • Mei from Yurara was madly in love with his teacher. Then a malevolent spirit pulled her off the roof of the school to her death. He never quite got over it.
  • Rambler the Rambling Rabbit from the Happy Happy Clover Anime/Manga by Sayuri Tatsuyama. Is an adult rabbit who usually visits Crescent Forest at random. He would usually go on dangerous adventures and travels around the world. Clover the main protagonist of the series, really admires him and wants to go traveling with him. But each time she would ask him that same question, he would refuse to answer her question. He says that she will have to wait until she gets older. In the characters mini-bio in the 3rd,4th and 5th volume for the main characters. It reveals that Rambler's homeland has been destroyed by humans. In the 4th volume of the manga, one story involved Rambler coming to stay with Clover for the night. Clover and her parents wants him to stay at her home for the night. Rambler refuses and prefers to sleep outside. However Clover, starts getting very worried about him and continues to ask him to stay for the night. Later, Clover starts looking for him in the rain just to let him stay. But when she finally, finds him out in the rain. She tries to let him come to her home, and starts pulling his arm hard. Rambler responds by snatching his hand away from her, causing Clover to cry and believes she really was a busybody and starts running back home. The next morning, Clover finds Rambler crying and starts asking him whats wrong. He then explains to Clover why he didn't want to stay at her house. He tells her that, sleeping in a bed and staying at her house reminded him of his old home and forest before it got destroyed. After he finished, he tells Clover to keep it a secret between him and her.
  • In Umi Monogatari, everyone was afraid of Kanon as a child due to her evil aura, which made her grow up aloof and unwilling to trust herself and others.
  • The Sailor Moon anime may not have many notable instances of these, but the manga has one for at least half of the characters, including the majority of the Senshi barring Usagi, and possibly Haruka and Michiru. And that's only if you don't count their past reincarnations as Serenity's guardians. Examples:
    • Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon, of all people, may count as a dark and troubled past life, as being Princess Serenity, she'd committed suicide upon seeing her Prince Endymion killed by the Dark Kingdom.
    • Rei Hino/Sailor Mars was raised by a neglectful father and an ailing mother, and when her mother died, her father seemingly didn't care, leading Rei to grow a strong distrust of men. Also, in Casablanca Memories, she was shown to have had her heart broken by a man who seemingly fell in love with another woman, furthering her conviction against males.
    • Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter lost her parents in a plane crash, compelling her to have to learn to take care of herself. All of her peers feared her and refused to have anything to do with her because of her strength and her height. She was even dumped by her boyfriend, who deemed her not feminine enough for him.
    • Minako Aino/Sailor V/Sailor Venus was the first Senshi to have been awoken, and had to fight all the youma by herself for a year. Within that year, she'd not only had to kill her first crush, who turned out to be a youma, she is implied to have lost many friends because she was too busy being Sailor V to have a social life. At the end of Codename: Sailor V, she learned that Kaitou Ace, her one true love was Danburite, a member of the Dark Kingdom, leaving her no choice to kill him and her only chance at happiness. Also, she remains cognizant of the Moon Kingdom's past life, Serenity's suicide, and the subsequent destruction of the Moon Kingdom, and shoulders the blame, thinking that it was her duty to protect Princess Serenity at all costs.
    • Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask, like Makoto, lost his parents in a crash, and wound up with Laser-Guided Amnesia with regards to his identity. This is his stated reason for looking for the Silver Crystal, the same thing the Senshi were looking for.
  • A number of characters in Queen's Blade have this.
    • Menace of Amara has a particularly nasty one. Yes, she was a Bad Boss, being more concerned with ceaseless sexual pleasures and perversions with her vast harem of lesbian love slaves than actually ruling. But her favorite slave Anarista, possibly the one woman she actually loved, grew so sick of her petty hedonism that she betrayed Amara to a foreign power. Menace's people were destroyed, her kingdom toppled into ruin, and the former queen was flung to the hands of her former slaves, who beat and gangraped her until she died.
  • Sasami of Tenchi Muyo!. When she was a toddler, she took a terrible fall that nearly killed her, only to be rescued and bonded with Tsunami. Her young mind couldn't process the tragic events and she reasoned herself into thinking that Sasami died when she fell and that she's nothing more than a vessel for Tsunami. She spent 700 years afraid that if she told Ayeka, she'd hate her. Thankfully, that last bit proved untrue as she revealed her 'past' and both Ayeka and Tenchi (who had been hunting her down after an incident involving everyone spotting Sasami's reflection) revealed that they'd still love her no matter what.
  • Bleed Kaga from Future GPX Cyber Formula. He has a best friend named Eiji Aizawa, who was also The Rival. But in one of the races, Kaga made contact with the Zero Zone and crashed with Eiji horribly. Kaga then tried to rescue him while gas was pouring from his wrecked car when suddenly, the car explodes and the debris from the pipe cuts his forehead and he and Eiji's wife watched helplessly as he burned to his death inside the flaming car. This is the reason why he warned Hayato of the Zero Zone in ZERO.
  • Birdy Cephon Altera, the title character of Birdy the Mighty underwent this as she's a bioengineered Super Soldier who experienced Fantastic Racism as the result of being a member of the Human Alien species Altan and lost the closest thing she had as a mother when Robot Maid Violin was destroyed in a terrorist attack that Birdy found herself in the middle of when she was 10.
  • In Guardian Fairy Michel, Kim set out for revenge against Salome after she stole her father's inventions and killed him during the escape.
  • Yuto and Kurosaki from Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V are genocide survivors and Child Soldiers in an inter-dimensional war, during which they lost many friends and allies, including Kurosaki's younger sister. Their entire home city was utterly destroyed for no apparent reason other than the sick entertainment of their assailants. To make matters worse, the war was waged using weaponized Duel Monsters, which in this universe are supposed to be the ultimate source of happiness and entertainment. As a result neither of them can see dueling as anything more than a bloody tool of war, and by extension have a hard time feeling any joy.
    • And then there's Reira...
  • Aruosumente: Almost every member of the main cast has a dark and troubled past, and the further the story progresses, the more is revealed in bits and pieces, all weaving together to form the events of ten years ago:
    • Lante and Dante were refugees taking in by Oracle Kian and the former Emperor just to prevent an enemy kingdom from getting their hands on Dante's fighting abilities, then sent out to certain deaths when Kian decided Dante was uncontrallable.
    • Moeran saw his beloved teacher killed in connection to Oracle Kian, then got threatened with lifelong imprisonment unless he never tells anyone a word of what happened.
    • Legna, the protagonist, was supposed to be raised in seclusion but then given to his father to be raised by him, only to lose his father and have to take over his position, without ever being told what actually happened.
  • In Brave10, Anastasia and her family were shipwrecked in Japan, where her family died and she was sold into sex slavery, then later trained to be a ninja. While looking for the last heirloom of her family, Hanzo appeared to have it. He then coerced her to join the Iga Grotesque Five and infiltrate the Braves as The Mole. This is also why the concept of 'family' is a Berserk Button for her and what made her hate the easy bonds between the rest of the Braves.
  • In Westwood Vibrato, many of Cornelia's customers have these. As well as Cornel herself.
  • City Hunter: Ryo, big time. Orphaned at such a young age he doesn't even know his actual birthday? Check. Becoming a Child Soldier to survive being orphaned? Check. Being the initial test subject of the experimental drug Angel Dust, and the only man who has ever recovered from its withdrawal symptoms? Ouch!

    Comic Books 
  • The X-Men's Wolverine, who also had a Mysterious Past and, thanks to his amnesia, had it remain that way for a looong time. Further complicated by implanted memories; as if forgotten trauma wasn't bad enough, how about a helping of trauma that didn't actually happen? Not to mention the pain of wondering if his few happy memories were real or not.
  • Magneto, in spades. His entire birth family was killed in the Holocaust, his daughter Anya died in a fire because he didn't know how to use his nascent powers to save her, and his wife (who was also his childhood sweetheart) called him a monster and fled after he — literally — exploded in rage and killed the villagers who'd prevented him from either concentrating on said powers or going after Anya by normal means. Later, he joined an American government agency to pursue Nazis, and agents killed his girlfriend because he had pursued one of the "wrong" Nazis. No wonder the guy has a deeply cynical attitude toward humanity.
  • Gambit was not merely an orphan whose parents may or may not be dead—or may simply have deliberately abandoned him—but was taken in by a creepy old man/possible pedophile, then turned out onto the streets of New Orleans to fend for himself until the age of ten, then was adopted, fell in love, witnessed his younger cousin's drowning (at age 13), further witnessed the retrieval of said cousin's body(!), accidentally killed his fiancee's brother in a duel, and accordingly was exiled from the only home he ever knew. To make matters worse, his powers raged out of control and in exchange for help fixing them he was tasked with—unbeknownst to him-leading a murder-squad against a group of fearful, helpless mutants, only managing to save the life of a single child. Oh, and the girl he loves he can't even kiss because she'd suck the life out of him.
  • Cyclops was thrown out of a crashing plane with the only parachute and his baby brother when he was a young boy, which, when the parachute caught on fire, ended with him in a coma for a year with brain damage that permanently removed his ability to control his powers. During that time his brother was adopted to make him more vulnerable. He spends the next few years in an orphanage where he is bullied, belittled and experimented on while any attempt for him to be adopted is quelled by the Mad Scientist running the place. He finally gets away when his power activates and he almost kills several people, and when running he is taken in by a man. The man is an abusive criminal who beats him and treats him as more of a gun than a teenage boy and Scott is eventually forced to atomize him by Professor Xavier.
  • Batman's parents got murdered by an unknown mugger before his very eyes.
    • The two-issue miniseries The Ultimate Evil actually tried to defy the use of this trope, with social worker Debra Kane having a discussion with Batman on the concept of a person being born bad, or becoming a criminal because of childhood abuse. Debra asserts that it is not an excuse at all, on the grounds that all people have a choice, and that excusing or sympathizing with criminals who were victims of abuse is an insult to all of the other victims who suffered similar or even worse abuse and did not imitate their abusers.
  • Post-crisis Martian Manhunter has probably the most extreme example in comic books, and that's saying a lot. His evil twin brother created a plague which destroyed the entire green martian race, including his wife and child, leaving him to wander aimlessly among the ruins of his dead race until he was teleported to earth.
  • Spider-Man has his (which already includes losing both parents) tying in with his greatest failure, with Peter Parker refusing to stop a bad guy who would then go on to kill his beloved Uncle Ben. Not that things would get much better afterwards...
  • DeadpoolHey! Why don't you go watch the fight between me and Deathstroke right here!
  • Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner and his mother were regularly abused by his father, Brian. Brian eventually killed his wife, in front of Bruce.
  • V from V for Vendetta was tortured and experimented on in a concentration camp, transforming him into an embodiment of anarchism.
  • Ah, Thug-Boy from Empowered. The general criminality is how he met the love of his life, and she knows the basic outline of the whole 'Witless Minion' scam (although the detail about their last employer/victim still searching for the only survivor has apparently been glossed over). But then there is San Antonio. Cape-killing terrorist anyone?
  • Sin City protagonists usually have one, even if we never get their full backstory. This comes in vague references to past events; Dwight apparently had a criminal past and Wallace likely had an abusive childhood, for instance. Marv was tied to a tree in the middle of the woods and left overnight once, was in prison, and once made a reference to being in a war.
  • Grimjack has probably one of the worst cases of this trope. Abused and abandoned by his family, he spent his childhood fighting for his life in a gladiatorial arena. He eventually escapes and finds peace in another dimension, only for everyone in the dimension, including his true love, to be slaughtered by demons. Then there was all the crap he went through during the comic.
  • Starfire from Teen Titans (and elsewhere) had spent most of her life as a slave to the Citadel, after being sold into it by her own sister. She mentions some experiments done on her too, which were all likely horrific.
  • X-23, hoo boy. A clone created by mixing Wolverine's genetic material with that of her human "mother" to be a living weapon, Laura was raised in a padded cell, beaten, abused, had her Healing Factor forcibly activated by exposing her to lethal doses of radiation as a child, had her claws surgically removed to be coated in adamantium one at a time with no attempt at anesthesia whatsoever, was trained and conditioned almost from birth to be an assassin and racked up an impressive body count before she was a teenager, and was made to kill the only people during this time who ever showed her any kindness by means of an olfactory trigger that she was conditioned to enter an Unstoppable Rage whenever she was exposed to it. One of them was her mother, right as she planned to help Laura escape. After getting away, she was forced to cut off contact with the only other family she had to protect them from her Ax-Crazy abusive handler, and spent time on the streets as a child prostitute specializing in cutting her clients. The worst part about all this? While Logan lost most of his memories about the really shitty stuff that's happened to him, Laura remembers everything.
  • Villains can suffer these as well; as a child, Doctor Doom had to watch both his parents die and grow up an orphan among persecuted Romani in Latveria.
  • Runaways loves this trope:
    • Chase Stein was regularly physically abused by his father, to the point where he makes up lies about things that he did to try and justify this abuse.
    • Molly Hayes' parents constantly used their psychic abilities on her to make sure she never acted up.
    • Xavin was trained as a Super-Skrull from a young age so that he/she could be deployed to serve as a Child Soldier in the pointless war that his/her parents started with Majesdane.
    • Klara Prast was married off at age 11 to an alcoholic pedophile who physically and sexually abused her and forced her to work in dangerous factories to earn money that he spent on booze.
  • Superman and Supergirl's entire home planet was destroyed when they were just a baby and a little child respectively, and they're the last of their kind.
  • Dark Annisia of Red Sonja was a fighting slave alongside Sonja herself, but where Sonja endured Annisia slid toward madness due to hallucinations of the people she'd killed.

    Fan Works 
  • Bird takes place in an insane asylum for troubled parahumans and elaborates on many canon backstories that were only hinted at in Worm proper. Special mention to Burnscar and Labyrinth.
  • Broken Bird Initiates with a somewhat graphic depiction of Kakashi's reactions to his repeated childhood trauma growing up.
  • In My Immortal almost all of the characters were stated to have gone through "horrible problems", although it is not clear exactly what these are.
  • In the parody Xtremly Scray, even the freaking Sorting Hat has a tragic backstory.
  • In Transformers Meta Grimlock has this, which theoretically warrants his aggressive personality. Jazz also seems to have it, but does a better job at hiding it.
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero has Michikyuu Kanae, who, as a slider, has gone through hundreds of worlds, only to have them invaded by aliens and everyone she loved killed. Again. Hundreds of times.
  • In the Uplifted series, Joachim Hoch has this. He was conceived as a last ditch attempt to bring happiness to a couple who had lost their children to the First World War, and was beaten by his father until he was killed during the occupation of the Ruhr. He then ran away from home and was taken in by an SS officer (a surprisingly decent man), and ultimately followed in his footsteps. He's a surprisingly balanced person in spite of all this.
  • All of the main characters in the fanfic Freefall have tragic childhoods, to a varying degree of "tragic"; not surprising, since the fic features CLAMP characters.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, there's Trixie's portrayal in some of the better Twixienote  shipping fics. At least two fanfics - Out in the Cold and Of Mares and Magic - gave her a parent who inspired her to take up magic, then went and died on her and left her traumatised. This not only provides a Freudian Excuse for why she acts like such a jerk in-series, but also provides grounds for the eventual Shipping.
  • In A New Face In Ponyville, Joshua Rocket is revealed to have shadows of one of them in chapter 9note . This could also be a case of Mysterious Past since not a lot of concrete details were given and even what WAS said could be put up for speculation considering it was under heavy sedation after an attack from the Equestrian Pony Alliance
  • Firefly in Ace Combat: The Equestrian War lost her home, her parents and her dreams of becoming a Wonderbolt, thanks to Black Star. It's the reason she is sometimes cold and angsty toward others.
  • In The Key to Marauding, Dawn has all the emotional baggage of Series 5 of Buffy (dead mother, knowing that the first 14 years of her life aren't real encounters with Glory etc...). In the fic she is chained up in the dungeon and nearly raped by Lucius Malfoy, kidnapped and tortured by Death Eaters and is torn between her own world and the Potterverse when a way of getting back appears.
    • By the sequel she has lost her adopted parents (Mr. and Mrs Potter). Then, pretty much in one night, her adopted brother (James), a woman who was like her sister (Lily), the man she loved had gone insane before her eyes (Sirius) and was imprisoned in Azkaban, where she watched him fall apart, knowing he was innocent and knew the traitor to be former True Companion Peter Pettigrew, and was also aware that she was the bait for his betrayal. Then, she lost custody of her Godson (Harry) because of Blood Wards, and had to endure a year of trying to care for him, but as she said herself to Harry, 'every one thing I gave you, they took two away' before leaving, recognising that she was making it worse for him. She then had to endure Harry's anger at her until the Blood Ward thing is explained to him. Oh, and to top it all off, she miscarried her baby by Sirius. Trauma Conga Line doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Ciara's backstory in Looming Darkness. After Zelda's mother revealed there was a prophecy concerning her, she spirited Ciara away to Earth and left her with Abusive Parents while her real parents were murdered by Ganondorf. She'd been abused for her first 13 years of life until Link brought her back to Hyrule to take down Ganondorf.
  • Although never stated in the fanfiction itself, Darkheart of The Return of Chaos is revealed to have a Dark and Troubled Past by the author in other works.
  • Rainbow Dash, in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Luna's Power and Rainbow's Love, says that she and Fluttershy do not like to talk about their time in flight school, because it "wasn't a happy part of our lives." it's implied that bullying is the reason for this.
  • There are quite a few characters from What Lies Beyond the Walls (particularly the vermin) who have had either a really horrible childhood or experienced something traumatic early on as an adult. Benrath Brugo, however, gets the prize for having the worst DATP of them all: his parents were murdered by Log-a-Log when he was a child, he's abducted by him soon afterwards, and then his surrogate father proceeded to rape and abuse him for several years.
  • Eric Cartman in The Ballad Of Stoot And Argyle (a South Park fanfic). He flat-out admits to Terrance that he killed Scott Tenorman's parents, and saw so many parallels between his life and Oedipus the King in junior high that, heavily disturbed, he pledged to overcome his past ways. Whether or not he's succeeded is still up in the air.
  • At least one character of Racer and the Geek has this. The degrees to which they cope vary.
  • Parodied in Chapter 7 of The Human Whose Name Is Written In This Fanfiction "In which everyone is very tragic":
    Don't you just love to read pointless and poorly written garbage about fictional people's problems?
    Well if you do you're a complete sadist but that's okay, you've come to the right place. This is the land where we step over the borderline from "tragic past" to "Loaded up with so many problems it's kind of sick". Sounds like fun huh?
    Take a glance around the room and you will see our first victim. His name is L Lawliet. Although he possesses legions of adoring fans they all seem to be obsessed with torturing him. Let's take a closer look.
    L sat sadly in task force headquarters. He felt his imminent doom hanging over his head as well as the pain of his unrequited love for unnamed love interest/dead love interest. This reminded him of all the tragic things that had happened to him, the things that kept him awake every night for fear of terrible nightmares (because this explanation of L's insomnia isn't complete rubbish at all).
    He thought back to his childhood as a poor orphan boy. He thought about that flashback he was going to have later in the series when he died and how it showed how tragic a character he was.
    It had all started when the young boy had to watch his family be brutally murdered. They were shot/burned/eaten/poisoned/exploded/forced to watch the Pokémon movies. It was a horrifying memory that would haunt the detective all his life.
    After many heart-breaking scenes of carnage Watari brought the young L to Wammy's house. He was very emotionally scarred and had no friends. Then one day Watari brought two new children to the house, A and B.
    L immediately fell in love with A/B/random other chick. Unfortunately they died. All of them. Violently. While still carrying his child. Right in front of him. Other wretched stuff.
  • Alluded to but nothing more in Songs Uncle Sings.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan fiction Our True Colors, Pinkie Pie's "hugginess" and tendency to inhale food both derive from her time as a homeless orphan.
  • Naruto in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox has, as his dark and troubled past, the fact that he was part of the Kyuushingai, a group of nine people who were instrumental in 365 days' worth of death and destruction across the continent. It still haunts him to this day.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Captain Tallarcio had a shady past with Governor Deacon.
  • Stallions Of Harmony Verse has Prince Blueblood, who lost his parents as a colt, was blamed for it by his entire family and later was betrayed by his so called best friend, who used him to steal treasures from the castle. It took Nightmare Moon and other Elements of Harmony for him to start trusting others again.
  • Cooler Rising. This seems to be true for both Cooler and Zither, or at least as far as they're concerned.
  • In The End of Ends, Beast Boy explains his past to Terra to justify just why he felt depressed after she dumped him.
  • From Kill la Kill AU, we have Ragyou's childhood, in which she struck by a car when she six (on her birthday) and the best bid to save her life was to perform a forbidden and experimental surgery on her, which said surgery is implied to employ life fibers.
  • Nui Harime in the Kill la Kill fanfiction Maim de Maim has a very grim childhood in which she was a Creepy Child that went too far and created a flesh bound kamui made with the flesh of a ten year old girl she met in public. She eventually got out of the lifestyle and improved, but unfortunately in Chapter 15, the past came back to haunt her in such a hard way, it undid all of her improvements made since in a very depressing fashion.
  • Alluded to in regards to Mai-Lin from Kyoshi Rising; she seems to have some bad memories of her family, and a distaste for nobility, but other than a few glimpses her full past has yet to be revealed.
  • In The Saga of Avatar Korra, the Red Lotus are successful in kidnapping Korra and put her through a Training from Hell regiment for fourteen years. During that time, Korra believes her parents are dead, and while the Red Lotus promised to be her Parental Substitute, they generally abuse her. Only Ghazan and P'li treat Korra even remotely well. She is even more of a Fish out of Water than she is in canon, and she does not even know when her birthday is or her age.
  • In Second Wind, Luffy and Zoro were the sole survivors of a battle in the past that claimed the lives of all of their friends. Understandably, even though they've come back to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, they've yet to fully get over that trauma.
  • In Four Deadly Secrets, RWBY and more than a few of the supporting cast. It's the premise of the story, after all.
  • In Why Am I Crying, Diamond Tiara is revealed to have had a really shitty life. She moved away from Ponyville to Manehattan when she was four, separating her from her best friend Apple Bloom. Three years later, her mother was killed in a train accident — while she was pregnant — and her father wouldn't even want to look at her she looked so much like her and couldn't stand it. Eventually, she was sent to a summer camp near Fillydelphia, where she was relentlessly and sadistically tortured by a group of colts who hated rich ponies (including with Silver Spoon, whom she met there), causing her to develop a persecution complex against lower classes. After her father found out what was happening to her and had the camp shut down, she moved back to Ponyville, and found that none of her old friends remembered her. The last straw came when she defended Silver Spoon from some foals who were making fun of her glasses; they just so happened to be friends of Apple Bloom, who had also forgotten about her, and twisted around the events so she could accuse her of bullying them. Feeling betrayed by her best friend, Diamond was driven to become the rich brat she was often perceived as and became devoted to making Apple Bloom's life a living hell.
  • Awkward Silence: Riko Shibata was raped by her uncle when she was younger, her mother who was having an affair with said uncle just slapped her for telling her, and her father left out of anger and never came back. This leads to some very realistic emotional effects on Riko.
  • The Racket-Rotter Chronicles: In Arc 5, Sinbad reveals that he was used in dogfighting matches for a good portion of his life.
  • Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations: Revisiting all of Samus Aran's past experiences ranging from her parents' deaths, and to losing her closest friends, and all is quintessential to her characterization. But, what really stand out are the backstories of the two Kamen Riders who fought alongside with her — Mitsuzane Kureshima (Kamen Rider Ryugen) and Gou Shijima (Kamen Rider Mach).
    • Mitsuzane, during his time with Team Gaim up to betraying them and subsequent alliance with his respective series' villains, out of his obsession with Mai, ends up being the Unwitting Pawn to them (Sid, Redyue, Ryoma... You name it.). Kouta and Mai dying right before his eyes left him but an apathetic shadow of his former self and slow descent into alcoholism. Ever since at the start of his road to redemption, his past would continue to haunt him. No wonder why he began making barbed sardonic jokes that land badly at anyone around him, and as an excuse to cope with his insecurities. When he reaches out to Samus, he started to get better.
      Mitsuzane: The 'Micchy' who used to be shy and friendly member of Team Gaim has been long gone when the whole Helheim situation began to get real. The Mitsuzane Kureshima who was groomed to be an heir of a powerful company and a manipulative mastermind is dead as well. But, the Mitsuzane Kureshima you see right now is a very insecure and isolated man, who can barely make fun of other people just to see the world becoming so relentlessly unkind.
    • Gou, when he learns that his father, Professor Banno, an Ax-Crazy Mad Scientist who was never a father to him, of course. And when Chase was killed at the hands of said mad scientist also counts. He got better when Chase once again returns back to life.
  • In We Are What We Are each Dazzling has one. It's so bad it's no wonder Sunset tried to send them home after Adagio told her them.
    • Adagio Dazzle had the happiest life. ...Until she got married. Her husband cared little for her, yet still tried to kill her and her lover when she had an affair. She was forced to flee, leaving her happy rich lifestyle for a homeless life constantly on the run.
    • Sonata Dusk was abused by her parents and was only ever shown kindness once in her entire pre-Siren life. She didn't even want to go with Adagio and Aria, but was forced to when soldiers destroyed her home.
    • Aria Blaze arguably had it the worst. She never even knew her parents and was raised in a horrible Orphanage of Fear where she was abused constantly for her beauty and singing voice. It's made worse when it's revealed that she would never get to leave because she was adopted by the worst of her abusers. She tried to escape several times only to be stopped every time (she was even nearly killed once)except her final time. Is it any wonder why they're so hateful?
  • Time Out of Mind at one point features an in-universe (non-alcoholic) drinking game of the characters' varieties of dark and trouble pasts. (Among other things, leads to one character being distressed at not having one).
  • A Gem in the Rough: Petrea (Miss Valentine) and Damian (Mr. 5) both have tragic backstories. To subvert this trope, Genevieve (Miss Goldenweek) does not appear have one. In fact, she is the only one who has not lost a parent of the bunch...possibly even the entire crew.
  • Forestof Despair has a lot of characters with one due to living in a Crapsack World Afterthe End. One of the most notable examples is Akita Yamazaki, the protagonist, who has been tortured to the point of having a scar and experienced friends dying before the Killing Game actually starts.

    Films — Animation 
  • Kovu from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was raised by his vengeful mother to become Scar's successor and trained to be a hateful war machine so he can kill Simba.
  • Manny in Ice Age: his wife and son were slaughtered by human hunters, which is why he's so grumpy and cynical. Even after he falls in love with Ellie in Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, he becomes overprotective of her in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs for the exact same reason. And after Peaches' birth in said threequel, he becomes EXCEEDINGLY overprotective of her in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift for the same reason as well.
  • Marlin in Finding Nemo: his wife Coral and all of his eggs, except for Nemo, were eaten by a barracuda, which is why he's so overprotective of him.
  • Megara in Hercules: she sold her soul to Hades in order to save her boyfriend, and he dumped her shortly after that. Also, it's hinted that she probably had more problems to face in life besides that.
  • Spoofed in Wreck-It Ralph: Sergeant Calhoun "Was programmed with the most tragic back-story ever."
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, it turns out that Po of all people has one, though he doesn't learn about it in full until just before the climax. It involves the attempted massacre of his entire species by Lord Shen and his birth mother sacrificing herself to save him.-Tigress can also be an example. She was left by her parents in an orphanage, called a monster by adult and child alike and was not shown any signs of parental love by her foster father, Shifu.
  • In The Snow Queen (2012), The Snow Queen's backstory shows her as a girl whose natural sorcerous powers were so strong that she was rejected and mocked by her people.
  • In Frozen, Queen Elsa goes through her greatest failure as a child. She strikes her sister Anna in the head with her icy powers, causing her to fall unconscious. The trolls remove Anna's memory of all the events and her sister's magic, but she still comes out with a white stripe in her hair, thanks to the ice magic. In case you thought that seeing your sister's white stripe of hair and being reminded of your largest mistake wasn't bad enough, her parents decide to separate the two sisters to allow Elsa to gain control of her powers. Then, when they grow older, their parents die, which finishes off their Trauma Conga Line.
  • In Trolls, the reason why Branch lost his colors, refuses to sing, is a bit of a Grumpy Bear, and is massively (but rightfully) paranoid of the Bergens attacking is because when he was a kid, his singing attracted a Bergen, and Branch's grandmother got eaten when she tried to save him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Michael in The Blind Side: crack mom, disappeared dad, virtually no schooling, homelessness, etc.
  • The eponymous Max Payne had one, his family was killed in a mysterious robbery. Made extra saccharine thanks to the Flash Backs being in a warm ember tone compared to the rest of the film's drab winter blues and grays.
    • To be even more specific, in the game the movie is based upon, his family got killed by V-head junkies as part of an attempt to silence Max's wife for knowing too much about Project Valhalla. Tragically, Max's wife didn't have a clue what the memo meant and wanted to talk to Max about it, but he didn't listen to her because he had to go to work for the day.
  • The emotional turmoil brought on by the childhood abuse of Tim Robbins' character is the main crux of Mystic River.
  • Gabriel in Van Helsing also has Wolverine Amnesia, it's implied by Dracula they both share "a history" together, and even hints at Gabriel being an immortal "tripped" angel or the like, but nothing concrete ever comes of it. Sequel Hook?
  • In the 2009 Star Trek film, Captain James T. Kirk lost his father just minutes after his birth. He was frequently abused by his stepfather while his mother was working off-planet, his brother ran away when he was still young, and he was already a repeat offender long before enlisting in Starfleet. It is also possible that he survived Tarsus IV (if future movies keep with the original series).
  • Johnny Guitar's main characters Vienna and Johnny "Guitar" Logan have dark pasts dealing with their former lives as a prostitue and a ruthless gunslinger.
  • O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill lost both of her parents to vicious Yakuza gangsters at the age of seven and then getting her revenge just four years later.
  • The main character of Hoosiers, Norman Dale, moves to the small town of Hickory, Indiana to take one last shot at redemption as a basketball coach after ruining his coaching career many years earlier when he lost his temper and punched one of his own players.
  • The Strange Love of Martha Ivers: Martha killed her Evil Aunt (her parents being dead, leaving her aunt as her guardian), and Walter witnesses it when they were kids.
  • Subverted in The Dark Knight, where the Joker likes telling stories about his Dark and Troubled Past to explain his scars...but every story is different.
    • This is a tribute to Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, wherein The Joker has the following line; "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another...if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"
  • The first five minutes of The Descent kill off the main character's husband and young daughter, leaving her traumatized and sometimes hallucinating. A big part of what fuels her trip into Ax-Crazy, particularly if the monsters don't really exist.
  • The first five minutes of the Prom Night (2008) remake feature the protagonist coming home to find her father and brother dead, and watch her mother get killed, all because the killer was looking for her. For her character, this doesn't really come into play much for the rest of the movie, even when the killer comes back.
  • Princess Leia from Star Wars. She remembers her (presumably adoptive) mother always being unhappy when she was young, saw her homeworld destroyed as a You Said You Would Let Them Go, has seen one son KIA and the other do a Face–Heel Turn — his twin sister was forced to kill him.
  • Given that the main characters in The Way Back are seven gulag escapees and an orphan, this is something of a given. None of the men will tell each other their stories, but they all tell the girl, who, in turn, passes them on to the others. When she asks why they don't talk to one another, she's told that, in the gulag, the less you say, the better off you are.
  • Will in Snow White A Taleof Terror still has nightmares about the events that led to his banishment and scars.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior: Why Tommy left Iraq.
  • Jack/Kyra during the Time Skip between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. She ran away to search for Riddick and signed up with a bunch of mercs, only to be enslaved, with a heavy implication as to what kind. Made worse in that she was only twelve at the time! Riddick is understandably pissed to learn this, as well as furious at her for ignoring his single instruction when they parted ways;
    Riddick: I told you to stay on New Mecca. Did you not listen!
  • Something that happened "in Chicago" to Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings is repeatedly alluded to, much to his displeasure.
  • Both Eddie and Sarah in The Hustler have this; she even lampshades it when they first meet.
    Sarah: Eddie, look, I've got troubles... and I think maybe you've got troubles. Maybe it'd be better if we just leave each other alone.
  • In Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker (1964), the main character is traumatized by what happened to him and his family in a WWII Nazi concentration camp. He hasn't been able to work through his issues, which causes those unpleasant memories to regularly flood his mind.
  • The Wolfman (2010): You've had quite a nice little messed up childhood, haven't you, Lawrence? What with witnessing your mother's death and all, and being sent to a mad-house where you underwent all sorts of nasty treatments and then shipped off to live with a distant relative in America.
  • X-Men:
    • Magneto. "Holocaust survivor" is about as dark and troubled as it gets. He eventually settles down with a wife and daughter, only for them to die as well. It's no surprise Erik isn't exactly a ray of sunshine these days.
    • Wolverine's past history of fighting in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and his past work with Team X. How much of it still happened after the Cosmic Retcon is unclear, but we do get to see him escape from the Weapon X project in a flurry of adamantium and rage, so it's clear that the Broad Strokes of most versions of his origin still stand, and it ain't pretty.
    • In The Wolverine, Yukio’s first premonition was her parent's death, and after she was forced to watch it come true, she became a street urchin scavenging for food until Ichiro Yashida found her and adopted her under his wing.
  • Jack, of Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, had his family killed in front of him by a monster when he was a child. He ran, the only thing he could do, but it's eaten at him ever since, fueling his Unstoppable Rage and inspiring him to step up to become a hero.
  • In The Lazarus Effect Zoe survived a fire that killed many people in her apartment complex. She's had recurring nightmares of it for years. Turns out she set it.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy's father died in action, and his mother remarried a jerkass domestic abuser who liked to beat the crap out of Eggsy and his mom. At some point, Eggsy resorted to drugs and petty crimes. By extension his half-sister Daisy has this too, despite not even being old enough to speak yet: her own father is the domestic abuser and her own mother nearly killed her during the Valentine's Day Massacre.
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): Callum Lynch's father killed his mother according to the Creed to preserve the secret of the Eden Apple of Granada as modern-day Templars led by Alan Rikkin were coming for them. Little Cal didn't know any of that so he grew up an orphan hating his father and drifted in and out of correctional facilities.
  • In The Magnificent Seven (2016), several of the Seven have dark things in their past.
    • Chisolm was a USCT in the Civil War and became a bounty hunter after witnessing his mother and sisters being raped and killed by Borge's hired men.
    • Jack Horne had a wife and children but lost them in an unspecified event. It's hinted that their deaths were related to him hunting and killing Indians for a government bounty.
    • Vasquez is wanted for a Texan ranger but no details are given except Vasquez suggesting he had it coming.
    • Goodnight is a former Confederate sharpshooter suffering from PTSD and survivor's guilt.
    • Billy is a Korean immigrant who was an indentured servant who killed his masters and ran away.
  • In Manchester by the Sea, the protagonist Lee was once a cheerful and outgoing, if somewhat irresponsible, father and husband. Then, while he was high and drunk one night, he accidentally started a fire that burned down his house and killed all of his children. After being questioned at the police station, he attempted suicide, forcing him to leave town and become a recluse. As a result, he's been reduced to a shell of a man and a jerkass woobie by the start of the film, unable to forgive himself.

    Literature 
  • In the Nightfall Series, Prince Vladimir's entire human family was killed as a result of a rebellion gone wrong. However, he never uses it as an excuse for his evilness and is unapologetic about what he has done to humanity.
  • Trini in A Brother's Price is an Ice Queen, and eventually revealed to have been tortured and raped by her late husband. Who convinced her elder sister that it was entirely Trini's fault. Her sister in turn convinced Trini of this before their mother came home. Fortunately, the husband, Keifer, died in an explosion not long afterwards ... along with several of Trini's sisters. Which gives all the remaining sisters a dark and troubled past. The only ones who are not really affected by it are the young ones who were babies or toddlers at the time.
  • Phyllis Hatherley's past is not only mysterious but also shady in The Ghost Writer. One of story's major plot points is her son's attempts to discover her past right from her childhood.
  • The Marquess from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making has a very troubled past. She stumbled into Fairyland when she was 12, lived there for many years, fell in love, became a heroine and queen, and became pregnant. Then she was snatched back into the human world, stuck in a 12 year old's body and with her alcoholic and abusive father, no husband, no child, and no Fairyland.
  • Oreg from the Hurog duology could be the poster child for this trope. He is something like a ghost, but does have a body, which can feel pain. He has also been a slave to generations of men from a family whose members are known to be frequently violent or insane, or both. Think about the implications. His current owner Ward also comments that Oreg is "a pretty boy", and he knows what this would have meant to some of his more unsavory ancestors. He also notices that Oreg experiences flashbacks, fueled by magic to be more realistic than the mundane version. Of course, Ward had no happy childhood either, he eventually had to pretend to suffer from braindamage after a beating, as his father would have killed him if he had presented a threat to his father's keeping the power. Ward's younger sister didn't have a happy childhood either, and he helped his brother escape after said brother tried to commit suicide because he couldn't bear it. Their mother is The Ophelia. Many other people in the story don't have happier pasts, but if there were a competition, Oreg would win, as his dark past is longer than any of the others'. And more mysterious.
  • Most of the main characters from Loyal Enemies haven't lived a life of roses so far:
    • Veres was a skilled, talented mage on the verge of handing in his thesis and becoming an archmage. Then the love of his life was suspected of being a crazy necromancer and he refused to be interrogated, believing her to be innocent. He was tortured for information for days, left the prison as a functional cripple, was banished from the capital, had all of his possessions confiscated and his career thus ruined. To top it off, his lover Tairinn was killed by a werewolf a week later. If not for his friend Gloom, he'd probably have died right there and then. The worst part? Tairinn wasn't innocent at all and never loved him, faking her own death.
    • Werewolf Shelena has her share of bad memories. Among others, her first child was lynched, she had to leave a man she loved behind because he despised the wolf side of her and wanted her to kill it with an elixir, and she was once captured by an Ax-Crazy monster hunter and tortured for days before being left to die. That's not mentioning all the times she had to leave everything behind because people found out she's a werewolf.
    • Rest, Veres' apprentice, was thrown out of his home and by several masters he was apprenticed with, often for no good reason other than that they didn't want to feed another mouth anymore. Veres found him on the verge of dying from falling into the lake in the middle of winter beneath a flight of stairs, while his drunk father was about to beat him for falling in.
    • Virra is a seven-year-old half-elf girl who, due to her clan who all have the killing touch, is being shunned by both elves and humans. She lost her family to vicious bird-reptile monsters and has been told so often that she's a monster and worth nothing that she's started to believe it.
  • Most of the main characters in T.S.Hana's Dawn of Craven: The Alchemist fall under this trope.
    • Except Joshil.
    • The Witch Megiram's servant, Ororo, is implied to have a troubled past, as she lives with the evil woman "by choice". She chose to live with Megiram as a servant for life over staying with the possibly rich Axel who loved her quite a bit (to the point where he still blushes at seeing her). There had to have been something up.
  • Wang Sau-leyan in Chung Kuo. He was ugly, fat, clumsy, and treated as a poor sequel to his brothers while he grew up. This is not presented as an excuse for his behavior, but it helps explain it.
  • Sajag from Dragon Queen killed a guy and then had to go into exile away from his family.
  • Severus Snape from the Harry Potter franchise, the neglected and emotionally abused child who fell to The Dark Side at school and then devoted the rest of his life to Dumbledore's cause.
    • Also Sirius Black, who had (let's count!): 1) a dead best friend, 2) a dead brother, 3) abandoned (disowned) by parents, 4) spent 13 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit (for bonus points, this jail employs Dementors as wardens) , 5) been betrayed by former True Companion Peter Pettigrew!
    • Dumbledore, who went through the following events in his lifetime: 1) his sister was rendered magically unstable due to being attacked by three Muggles, 2) his father was sent to prison for attacking said Muggles, 3) his mother was accidentally killed by his unstable sister, 4) he then neglected said sister and spent all his time planning a takeover of the Muggle world ‘for the greater good’ with his crush Gellert Grindelwald, and 5) he might have accidentally killed his sister in a three-way duel with his brother and Gellert Grindelwald. (Rowling says that what he did while infatuated with Grindelwald turned him asexual).
    • Harry himself: both parents murdered before his eyes at age one, nine years living with abusive guardians, being bullied at school by his cousin and his cousin's friends, a dead godfather, a dead mentor, the most evil person in his world has a connection to him, a life and death battle every year, and sometimes his friends turn their backs on him.
    • Neville Longbottom also deserves a mention. Lives with his grandma because his parents were tortured into insanity by Death Eaters and feels that he can never live up to them and has no self confidence at all. He also thought for a long time that he was a squib and only discovered his magical ability by being dropped out of a window.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has this with Count Olaf, and the entire series could be said to be the dark and troubled past of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny.
  • A lot of characters from A Song of Ice and Fire because Westeros truly is a Crapsack World.
    • Sandor Clegane killed an innocent peasant boy and laughed about it, however the fandom forgave him as soon as he confided that his older brother Gregor had burnt his face as a child.
  • Most of the vampires from Twilight seem have dark and troubled last minutes of their human lives; the terrific pain of the transformative venom doesn't help matters.
  • Vin from Mistborn. Born the daughter of a skaa (peasant) woman and an Imperial nobleman (a death sentence from the get-go), her earliest memory is of her insane mother killing her little sister and performing Hemalurgy to transfer some of her soul to Vin, before being rescued by her older half-brother. Said half-brother genuinely cares about Vin, but he's a cynical, abusive Jerkass who hammers into her head the idea that she can't trust anyone because everybody is selfish and manipulative. They spend the next several years working as petty thieves on the lowest rung of society, until the half-brother runs out on her, though it turns out that he was actually captured and executed, leaving Vin without a protector in a den of scum. Of course, from there, she gets recruited by La Résistance, finds out that she's an Extraordinarily Empowered Girl, and takes a level in badass, but still. Is it any wonder the poor girl spends most of the trilogy wrestling with crippling paranoia?
  • Francis Crawford of Lymond in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. He's got almost everything: rejection by his father, didn't fit in as a child, betrayed by his early—perhaps first—lover, framed as a traitor, physical and perhaps sexual abuse as a galley prisoner, self-hatred because he blames himself for his sister's death, and pretty much everyone he cares about dies as a result of knowing him.
  • Séraphine Francq (Fiancée du Vent): lost her mother at a young age, her father died from the experiment that gave her her powers, was gang-raped by schoolmates, and consequently beat them up so hard that one of them is stuck in a wheelchair for life, giving her remorse...
  • Barbie, from Stephen King's Under the Dome, has a greatest failure in the time he allowed his military unit in Iraq to torture and kill a prisoner for no reason. He regrets this for the rest of his life, and his remorse thinking back on it is bad enough to get an Energy Being who sees him as an ant to show pity on him.
  • K.J Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy. The story revolves around Poldarn's unknown past and worse pasts are few.
  • Niall from Wicked Lovely: 1. Cold-Blooded Torture, 2. Rape as Backstory, 3. both were orchestrated by the one he loved above all others, 4. inadvertently responsible for the deaths of several mortals. That's not even counting what happens to him during the series. He is The Woobie, indeed.
  • Harry in The Dresden Files. Never knew his mother, his dad died when he was a kid, bullied at an orphanage, adopted by an abusive Evil Mentor who tried to turn him to The Dark Side, had to kill him in self-defense, arrested by the White Council, barely escaped the death penalty for violating the Laws of Magic, and is still under the Doom of Damocles and being stalked by an Inspector Javert at the beginning of the series. None of this is what makes him a woobie; he is one because, taking into account the things that happen to him during the actual series, his backstory isn't depressing so much as it's "a very small taste of what's to come.''
  • Jez from the Spaceforce series, a space vampire whose entire race was almost totally wiped out in a genocidal uprising by their own 'bloodservants' when she was a teenager. The remnants were exiled from their homeworld, and now face fear-based prejudice in a supposedly liberal galactic Union.
  • Burke from Andrew Vachss' books. Born to a mother (strongly implied to be a teen prostitute) who promptly abandoned him, brought up through a variety of foster and juvenile homes, and experiencing the worst that humanity has to offer is a very succinct description of his past.
  • Since all of the princesses of The Princess Series are based mostly on the Grimm Bros. version, they all have this, though some more than others.
  • Kieran Trevarde of The God Eaters has a dead mother, some degree of rape and child prostitution, as well as drug addiction in his past, and a dead lover on top of all that at the outset of the novel.
  • YMMV, but Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre was betrayed by his greedy father and brother to marry a woman they knew was insane just to get her money, and all the man ever wanted was to find someone to love.
    • Jane had one, too. She was orphaned, put into an unloving and abusive home, and sent to an unsanitary boarding school that could barely feed its students. The first friend that she made there died shortly after she arrived, as did most of the other students in a typhoid epidemic.
  • Another Charlotte Brontë example: Lucy Snowe in Villette.
  • Everyone in The Pale King, but Toni Ware especially. She spent her childhood in perpetual poverty as she and her sometimes-crazy mother drifted around the country. She also saw her mother murdered right in front of her.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, there are several.
    • Bluestar's mother died when Bluestar was only an apprentice, and her father never really paid much attention to her and her sister. Her sister died as a young mother, and Bluestar felt guilty for her death because she'd convinced Snowfur to leave the camp for a little while. She had kits with a RiverClan cat (a forbidden relationship), but had to give them up in order to become deputy instead of Thistleclaw, and one died.
    • Crookedstar sustained a disfiguring injury as a kit. Because his shallow mother couldn't stand having such an ugly kit, she neglected him, favored his brother, and renamed him Crookedkit for his injury. As he grew up, many of the cats he was close to died.
    • Yellowfang, a medicine cat, had kits with the Clan leader (another forbidden relationship). Two of them died, and the one that lived became cruel and bloodthirsty, killing his own father and taking leadership, breaking the warrior code by stealing kits from other Clans, and even murdering kits from his own Clan and framing Yellowfang.
  • The In Death series: Eve was abandoned by her mother, raped by her father (who impregnated her mother with the sole intention of selling her to child molesters), killed him in self-defense, and then had to handle at least one abusive foster parent as she grew up in the system. Roarke was regularly beaten up by his father and non-biological mother, had to steal for his father, and even though Summerset took him in, they lost Marlena, Summerset's daughter, to a group of rapists. Dr. Mira watched her parents divorce, her mother remarry, and was sexually abused by her stepfather to the point of being Driven to Suicide (fortunately, she survived). Boy, these three had it rough, didn't they?
  • Kvothe from The Name of the Wind had his entire troupe die, lived homeless for three years, got kicked out of the only place he felt he belonged after the death of his troupe...and that's just what we know so far.
  • In Heart's Blood, Anluan’s entire family history, all the way back to his great-grandfather, Nechtan, who had an evil summoning spell go VERY wrong.
    • Caitrin’s isn’t exactly bright and cheery either. Her father’s dead, her sister married and left her, and a distant relative took over the house and allowed her son to beat Caitrin when he felt like it.
    • The members of the host are all souls from Purgatory. Some of them seem to have particularly violent pasts.
  • Animorphs Tobias. His natural father had to leave, and he was given a fake father, who then left himself. His mother was in an accident and didn't even remember him, besides being blind. He was bounced among aunts and uncles who didn't really care about him and became a bully magnet.
    • Marco. The disappearance of his mother and the subsequent split of his family caused him to become more cynical and, in effect, more ruthless and pragmatic and less attached to romantic, idealistic principles. To make matters worse, one of the Big Bads has possessed his mother.
  • Fisk from the Knight and Rogue Series. He took up crime to support help support his sisters after they lost both parents to disease. When his oldest sister marries someone who could take care of them, he decided Fisk alone couldn't stay, becuase he didn't want to be associated with a criminal. And that's ignoring everything involving Jack Bannister.
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, Cedar's brother Wil dragged him west after the loss of his wife and children. Then they went on the wrong land and were cursed into werewolf form. Cedar came to find himself at the end of a bloody trail, and backtracked to find his brother's wolf corpse, its throat torn out by himself.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Freckles does not remember his dark and troubled past, but knows it happened:
    Does it seem to you that anyone would take a newborn baby and row over it, until it was bruised black, cut off its hand, and leave it out in a bitter night on the steps of a charity home, to the care of strangers? That's what somebody did to me.
  • While the Aunt Dimity series is generally upbeat, many characters have had brushes with insanity, tragic accidents, serious diseases, major injuries, even war and murder. In some cases, coping with the fallout occurs over an extended period (often carrying over from one book to the next). The fates of other, more minor characters are addressed in the epilogue that closes each novel; they typically go about rebuilding their lives, and are usually better off after all is revealed.
  • Both main characters of Gives Light. Skylar had his mother murdered in front of him when he was five. Her murderer realized he was in the room and slashed his throat. Skylar didn't die, but now he's irreversibly mute. To top this all off, his one dream in life is to be a singer. And then you have Rafael, son of said serial killer. Everyone equates him with his father and he has no friends. Until he meets Skylar.
  • Vulpie in A Fox Tail has a particularly dark one, almost to the point of parody, beaten and shot by his birth father at 5, raped by a priest at 12, beaten by another foster parent for being gay... A psychologist strongly believes that it's his reason for hacking the known universe, but Polar helps him grow out of it.
  • In Sarah A. Hoyt's Darkship Thieves, Kit's wife died, and it looks like he murdered her, and he refuses to clear his name out of, it turns out, fear that other dark elements of his past will turn up.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: All of Kthonian Knights have one; the three girls were kidnapped and raped by truly evil men and the guy had his hands cut off and left for dead for deserting the Leondian army. All of them function as a Freudian Excuse except for the last one. The only thing his past does is make him angst about how he can no longer truly embrace his precious little sister.
  • In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, Shann Lantee was a Street Urchin. The only affection he got during that time was from a pet bird, that died in pain. He was at least once tortured with an Agony Beam by a bully. And he saw people under mind-control — a fact which he blurts out to Thorvald; that deeply embarrasses him, because it underscores how unlike the standard Survey team member's life his has been.
  • Jace Wayland from The Mortal Instruments, saw his father, Michael Wayland, murdered in a pool of his own blood. That was staged, of course. And Michael Wayland was never his father.
  • The Power of Five: Played straight with Matt, Pedro, Jamie, and Scott. Subverted with Scarlett, whose had the nicest life out of all five Gatekeepers.
  • Hostile Takeover (Swann): Klaus and Jonah Dacham were raised by an abusive mother, who often threatened them with their absent and nameless father. They joined the secret police to escape her, and were groomed to commit atrocies, peaking in Jonah's massacre of 35,000 rebels and innocent bystanders on Perdition.
  • In Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series, Ukiah was abandoned in the woods to run with the wolves before that, Magic Boy was brutally murdered, eventually creating Ukiah and Atticus. Atticus Steele was another foundling. The foster parents who would have adopted him died in a car wreck and he was passed from foster home to foster home throughout his childhood. Max Bennett's wife disappeared mysteriously while he was on a speaking tour, only to turn up at the bottom of a lake from a car wreck.
  • Both Greg and Emma from the novel Fort Hope have troubled pasts. They come to find out their dark and troubled pasts are linked. Of course, in that book, almost everyone is related somehow.
  • Samantha Cataranes from The Nexus Series has a particularly unpleasant past. It is strongly implied during the first book that her experiences drove her to revile "Transhuman" technology and join the ERD as soon as she was old enough.
  • There are eight main characters in Of Fear and Faith and each one has experienced either a crappy, abuse-filled childhood or a life-altering, emotionally scarring tragedy. To put it in perspective, the character who lost his father when his hometown was destroyed probably has the least depressing backstory.
  • A large part of Damnatio Memoriae is the reader waiting to find out what happened in Enim's past that had caused him to become so withdrawn and troubled. It's then revealed that his mother jumped off a bridge, survived but is now in a vegetative state being kept alive by his uncle, and Enim could have stopped her. Oh, and she had schizophrenia and Enim most likely has it, too.
  • The Infernal Devices:
    • Will Herondale. Or at least, he alludes to one quite often.
    • Jem Carstairs. A demon who had a grudge against his mother tortured him in front of his parents, injecting him over and over with a drug that made him hallucinate vividly.
  • The stepmother of the Snow White retelling Six-Gun Snow White, Mrs. H, had quite the terrible childhood if the mirror is to be believed.
  • In Heart of Steel, both Alistair and Julia have their own traumatic pasts, over which they ultimately bond:
    • Alistair—back before he was Alistair—was in a car accident that left him badly mutilated and his girlfriend in a coma. Because he was a robotic genius even then, he rebuilt himself out of metal parts over the course of five years, only to discover when he went to visit his girlfriend that her parents had had to take her off life support the week before. Cue psychotic break.
    • Julia was attacked at the hospital where she worked and nearly killed by a deranged junkie looking for drugs. The incident left her with PTSD, unable to go back to work due to panic attacks.
  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society,
    • Mallory. she has no memories of before she was six and came to Cloak, despite telepathy efforts to get past her trauma; she has been told that she killed her parents with her powers. Actually, Cloak murdered them and erased her memories.
    • Kirbie and Kyle are less troubled, because of the Parental Substitutes they had in the Rangers. Nevertheless, when Kirbie recounts how their parents had brought them to the city on a vacation, left them in a park on the pretense of getting ice cream, and never returned, it was still clearly painful for her.
  • Most of the characters in the novels by Michael Slade.
  • Noir, from the web serial Barkwire, a dog who "has buried more secrets than bones."
  • Colin Whisterfield, in Alan Garner's novel Boneland. It is progressively revealed throughout the book that before he was thirteen, he:
    • was possibly abducted and sexually abused by a man and a woman;
    • lost his parents to a plane crash;
    • lost his twin sister in mysterious circumstances - she went horse-riding by night, and only the horse was found; it is assumed she was thrown in the waters of a lake and drowned;
    • was struck by lightning while alone in the hills, suffering brain damage that went undetected until an MRI scan in later adulthood.
  • In Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mice trilogy, Thomas Triton is haunted by feelings of guilt for being responsible for the death of his friend Woodget Pipple. In the prequel book Thomas, which describes the incident in detail, it is revealed that the villainous Ma Skillet put him into a trance, causing him to throw Woodget (who could not swim) into the ocean. When he awoke from the trance, he realised what he had done and was filled with remorse. However, unbeknownst to him, Woodget was rescued by a siren whose song gave him amnesia. He was brought to the City of Hara in India and became their new sadhu.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords:
    • As a child, Karyl saw his immediate family being eaten alive by a wild dinosaur. As if that wasn't traumatic enough, soon afterwards his aunt kicked him out of the country to take over his family lands, leaving hism with nothing but a pair of trousers and his pet allosaurus Shiraa. He managed to climb out of it, though - he spent years serving as a mercenary on Shiraa's back until he amassed an army of his own and took his country back.
    • Falk's father is said to have been extremely abusive, to the point that Falk still has nightmares about him and has o tell himself that the man can't hurt him anymore. He ended up pushing his father off the stairs, killing him, on orders of his mother, who's equally abusive, although in a different way.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • Eric's initially low self-confidence and self-esteem is due to his past but it is mild compared to some of the people he meets.
    • Kallen Selios is a survivor of the Siduban Chaos Explosion and her parents were not. She was adopted by her mom's business partner because her remaining blood family was afraid of her mutation. Since then she has faced discrimination for being a demon and a "labrat".
    • Zettai's parents were abusive, and after they died, she was homeless and vagrant. She traveled constantly to evade Ceiha's secret police because she was a courier in the magical black market. Then they eventually caught her and bad things happened to her behind bars. When Nolien shines an Illumination Orb over her at night, her automatic response is to shout "I'm innocent! Please don't arrest me!"
  • In All For The Game, the Foxes tend to have these. The team is set up as something of a halfway house to give promising athletes second chances.
  • Nikita from The Girl from the Miracles District has spent her entire life running with her mother away from her insane father, all while dear old mom had her assist with assassinations and training her to be a killer - on pain of not getting any food if she failed a task. And when Nikita's father got to her, he kidnapped her, tortured and cut off two of her fingers, just because.
  • The Witchlands:
    • Iseult has ran away from home shortly after Corlant started taking unhealthy interest in her mother, and nearly died when she was discovered by a Carawen monk. She had to leave the monastery as well, and then almost died again before Safi saved her and they became Threadsisters. All the time, she had to manage the copious amounts of Fantastic Racism that all Nomatsi face - in the Dalmotti Empire, they're considered animals.
    • Aeduen apparently used to live in a Nomatsi settlement before something happened that made him terrified of fire, killed his mother and caused him to flee. He was found by a Carawen monk and joined the monastery, but was ostracized there for being a Bloodwitch. At some point later, his father roped him into his schemes and convinced him that Aeduan should accept being a demon other people see him as.
    • Cam grew up in a gang, and his brother wanted him to become another gangster. Adding to that, he's biologically a woman, and everyone in the Nines think that he's just pretending to be a boy for laughs. He joined the Navy to escape the life of crime, but it caught up with him anyway.
  • The Spirit Thief: While all three main characters have some degree of this going on, Nico takes the cake. As a young child, she was kidnapped by slavers and sold to the Dead Mountain cult, where she grew to be Master's worshipper by the way of Stockholm Syndrome. She was eventually implanted with a demonseed and sent out to murder everything - until the League of Storms beat her within an inch of her life and the Master abandoned her, took his powers away and told her she's a failure and should die. If it wasn't for Josef appearing at a fortunate moment, she absolutely would.
  • The Machineries of Empire: Jedao has some messed-up events in his past, such as his superior raping him, him and his fellow agents being bombed by their own allies (with the other agent dying) and the Hellspin Massacre, when he had a psychotic break and ended up killing one million people on both sides of the conflict.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: There are two kinds of characters in the series: those who have this trope, and those who are living this trope.
    • Sandor Clegane had half his face burned off by his own brother for borrowing a toy.
    • Littlefinger Used to Be a Sweet Kid until his unrequited love for Catelyn Stark got him curb-stomped by Brandon Stark. Also, when Lysa reminds him of their "wedding night" many years ago, he looks like he's having a minor post-traumatic episode, subtly implying he didn't find it quite so pleasant as she did.
    • Varys was a slave who was drugged, castrated, and left to die by a sorcerer as a boy.
    • Melisandre was once a slave who was "scourged and branded" and always hungry until she was lifted up by the Lord of Light.
    • Osha fled her homeland, north of the Wall, after her husband disappeared one night and then came back as a wight and tried to strangle her, forcing her to burn down their tent with him inside.
    • Xaro Xhoan Daxos arrived in Qarth less valued than a piece of cargo.
  • Ned from Pushing Daisies was abandoned by his father, accidentally killed both his mother and the father of his childhood sweetheart, and spent most of his childhood in a Boarding School of Horrors. This, along with being given the sometimes unfortunate gift of bringing people Back from the Dead with a touch, led him to grow into a nervous and shy adult with some trust issues.
    • And, upon trying to solve his first murder case (which was an accident) to make his father love him more, he was found with the man's body and thrown in jail. When he was 10 years old. Is there such a thing as a cosmic Moral Event Horizon?
  • The initial sequence of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pilot episode shows Sisko being bodily dragged out of his quarters because he refuses to voluntarily leave his wife's corpse behind, despite the fact that the ship was critically damaged by the Borg and he doesn't have enough time to dig her out of the rubble before it explodes. Then we flash forward three years to his arrival at the space station.
  • Elle Bishop of Heroes - originally introduced as a demented vixen (everyone's favourite trope), but then revealed to be ridden with several issues, including being experimented upon as a child, locked up, and pumped full of drugs, eventually leading to her being diagnosed as a sociopath and the subsequent use as an "Executioner" by her own father.
  • Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most well mannered and uptight middle-aged English Gentlemen you will ever come across. However, one old friend from College still calls him by his old nickname, Ripper, and their conversations drop tonnes of hints that he used to be one evil, badass warlock in his youth, whose feared reputation was very rightfully earned. It's never explicitly mentioned what he and Ethan did in the past and what happened to the other people in their group, nor what made him change into the champion of good he is today.
    • The rest of them were killed by Eyghon.
    • Spike used to be ridiculed by his social peers while still alive, and this is shown to deeply affect his personality, most evidently by lowering his already not-so-good social skills, along with leaving other significant marks. After siring his mother, she abused him verbally and sexually assaulted him, to the point that he was forced to kill her for good to stop her. He admits many years later that this episode has been weighting on him. After regaining his soul, he has to come to terms with the great sense of guilt he feels towards his criminal past. Us viewers usually get to see bits of his past via flashback, and the extent to which it is dark and troubled is occasionally emphasized by Spike telling Buffy that she really doesn't want to know how far he's gone in torturing and killing people. It gets better.
    • Angel also counts. Initially introduced as a mysterious protector of Buffy, his past is slowly revealed throughout Buffy and Angel, his own series. He is known as one of the worst vampires in history, and feels deep remorse for the thousands of people he has killed, tortured, and traumatized and for all of the lives he's destroyed. He has told Buffy that she truly does not want to know the extent of his evil, though he has been forced to confess some of the specifics. Now ensouled, he fully accepts the fact that he will never stop seeking redemption for all of the things he's done.
    • Faith Lehane. Grew up in an abusive home and poverty, no father mentioned, and her mother died at some point, likely while Faith was in her teens. It's heavily implied that being Chosen to fight the forces of darkness, something that very few Slayers lived more than a few years doing, was the highlight of her life so far. Oh yeah, and right after she was Chosen her Watcher, the only authority figure/person she trusted, was murdered right in front of her. And she blames herself for the incident, since y'know, the murderer was a vampire and Faith is a Vampire Slayer.
  • Daryl from "The Walking Dead has hinted at his occasionally. He and his brother were definitely products of Abusive Parents who shot guns in the house, drank, and beat them, leaving them Covered in Scars. He mentions in a drunken rant in Season 5 that he never got an Christmas presents and tells a story in Season 2 about being lost in the woods 12 days when he was a kid and no one noticing.
  • Then there's the Angel side. There's Gunn, who ended up a street teen because vampires killed his family, and Fred, who got sent to a hell dimension, enslaved, and lived in a cave for five years. Plus Wesley, who was emotionally abused by his father and locked in a dark closet for hours. Plus Angel himself, of course. And Connor, good lord, Connor. Raised in a hell dimension to hate his real father and once tied to a tree and left behind at five years old so he could work to escape and find his foster father.
  • Almost everyone on Grey's Anatomy?
    • Meredith - Abandoned by Dad, raised by a mother who didn't really care about her or want her.
    • Cristina - Witnessed her dad die when she was 9 (she actually felt his heart stop!)
    • Alex - Abusive dad, Crazy mother. Practically raised his siblings, went to Juvie.
    • Izzie - Grew up in a trailer park, gave up a baby for adoption in high school.
    • And that's just to name a few....
  • Several character in Babylon 5:
    • Marcus Cole , in the episode in which he was introduced, says he "doesn't believe in miracles". We later learn that he witnessed everyone he cared about, including his Ranger brother, being killed in a Shadow attack on his home colony. He can't shake the survivor's guilt.
    • It comes completely unexpected with Delenn, who, throughout the show, is well known for her compassion and kindness, as well as being a firm believer in the just cause and a wise advisor to others, cautioning against anger and hatred. However, it's not until much later that some details from her earlier life get revealed. She was aboard the ship that encountered the first human vessel and whose salute to the strangers scared the humans so much that they opened fire. When the initial salvo killed the most important religious leader of the minbari, she became the highest ranking person on the ship, and still holding the dead body of her teacher, immediately ordered a holy crusade by the whole minbari people to completely annihilate the entire human race. When the destruction of earth was stopped at the very last moment, it was partially because she regretted her order.
  • The character of Stephen Colbert is prone to Suspiciously Specific Denial of certain bad things that definitely didn't happen to him as a child. From his book I Am America (And So Can You!):
    "It doesn't matter how my parents raised me, because I loved my parents. Sure, they could be a little 'strict', but I often think back fondly on the memories I haven't repressed. The truth is, I wouldn't be the man I am today if it wasn't for the way my parents raised me."
    Margin note: I had a happy childhood.
    • Also a case of Truth in Television, since the real Colbert's father and two of his older brothers were killed in a plane crash when he was 10.
  • Almost everyone on House qualifies.
    • Dr. House himself figured out at age 13 that his "father" wasn't actually his biological father, and he was therefore the result of his mother's infidelity. The father who raised him was a strict military man who moved them all over the world and was fond of punishing his rebellious son with ice baths and other forms of corporal punishment. Also, there's the whole "losing part of my leg against my will thanks to a decision by Stacy, leaving me with chronic pain and a limp" thing. He didn't want his leg amputated. Later on in the series, when he has to go under for surgery again, he tells Cuddy not to let the doctors amputate it unless there's no other choice.
    • Dr. Chase's father abandoned the family, leaving Chase to care for his alcoholic mother, who eventually drank herself to death.
    • Dr. Cameron married a man she knew was dying of cancer when she was 21. Since she knew he was terminal when she married him, it's implied that her damage goes back even farther than this situation.
    • Dr. Taub is revealed to have cheated on his wife, and has had a suicide attempt in his past.
    • Even Dr. Kutner, who initially seems like the most happy and easygoing character on the show, later reveals that, when he was six years old, he witnessed the murder of his parents by an armed robber. He is sufficiently dark and troubled that he eventually kills himself.
    • Dr. Foreman was arrested during his teenage years, and has a brother currently in jail.
    • Dr. Hadley (Thirteen) saw her mother die a painful death from Huntington's disease, which she herself has.
      • She also killed her brother (upon his request) when his Huntington's got too advanced.
    • Dr. Wilson has a homeless and a schizophrenic brother, whose fate he blames himself for. He also had three divorces and a thing about "damaged people," i.e. he cannot help but try to help them.
  • Quite a few characters on NCIS, though namely Gibbs, Ziva, and Tony.
    • Gibbs lost his wife and daughter twelve years before the series began.
    • Tony lost his mother at the age of eight and was subsequently neglected by his father, who remarried again and again and sent him to live in various boarding schools for the majority of his childhood.
    • Ziva's mother died when she was young, and her father was basically a sociopath who raised her to kill people. Her younger sister was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing, and she was forced to kill her brother after he became a terrorist. She has also lost several friends while working with Mossad, one of whom was captured while undercover and beheaded.
    • Even Ducky gets into the act in some episodes. The late Director Shepard also had a screwed-up childhood. Basically, the only ones with possible good pasts are cheerful Perky Goth Abby and Hollywood Nerd McGee.
    • Whoops! Abby is still haunted by her first case, where she failed to reunite a damaged family. And McGee's father was emotionally abusive and distant. To be clear, that's all four members of the field team now with daddy issues.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles has this with everyone, but especially Callen, to the point where he doesn't know his FIRST NAME. Special mention to Marty Deeks, who had an abusive father who he eventually shot (at age eleven) to protect himself.
  • Walter Bishop from Fringe crossed several ethical boundaries (including experimenting on children, see below) in the name of Science, before he was admitted to St. Claire's Psychiatric Institution.
    • Walter's also directly responsible for another Dark and Troubled Past: to save the other dimension's Peter after losing his own to a fatal illness, Walter kidnapped that Peter to this dimension. The ensuing years were implicitly turbulent and unhappy: by the time Peter was 13, Walter had been committed to a mental institution, and after Peter split for Europe at 18, Elizabeth Bishop committed suicide. We *still* don't know everything that Peter did or saw before joining Fringe Division, but it was apparently not all sunshine and puppies.
    • AND let's not forget Olivia in all this. Military brat who moved around a lot, abused by her stepfather, lost her mother at a young age, and, oh yeah, experimented on in Jacksonville by none other than Walter Bishop.
  • On Bones:
    • The titular character was abandoned by her parents at the age of 15, taken away from her older brother, and placed in foster care. She finds out later that her parents were bank robbers and "Temperance Brennan" isn't her actual birth name, and that her father is still alive (and an accused murderer).
    • FBI Agent Seeley Booth would be a parody if he wasn't so expertly written; He was the child of an abusive, alcoholic father who came within inches of killing him and his brother. He almost committed suicide as a teen. He was a top-rated US Army sniper, and feels deeply guilty about it because he came to believe his kills never really accomplished anything. And on top of that, he's a direct descendant of John Wilkes Booth.
    • Dr. Lance Sweets, the young psychologist, was adopted at the age of six by a loving elderly couple after he had been abused as a young child (he has scars from whips on his shoulders). His adoptive parents died shortly before he came to work with Booth and Brennan.
    • Booth lampshades all this at one point: "What are we, the island of misfit toys?"
  • In the eighth season of 24, it is revealed that Renee has one of these.
  • Michael Westen of Burn Notice observes that this is very common in his line of work:
    People with happy families don't become spies. A bad childhood is the perfect background for covert ops: You don't trust anyone, you're used to getting smacked around, and you never get homesick.
  • The Pretender: Jarod, Miss Parker and Sydney all have dark and troubled pasts. Jarod's leads him to help people, Miss Parker's makes her icy and defensive and Sydney's leads him to stay at the Centre and try and prevent them doing as much damage as he can.
  • On Stargate SG-1, Dr. Daniel Jackson's cringe-worthy backstory explains how he can keep going in the face of the constant perils he faces on the show. He lost his parents to an accident (which he witnessed) as a kid, and his own grandpa was too busy to take him in, so he went to foster care. He was ridiculed for his (true!) archaeological theories and lost his apartment and research grants before he joined the Stargate program. There, he falls in love with a woman on another planet and stays with her, but she's kidnapped one year later and he leaves to go tramping around the galaxy trying to find her (which remains his motivation for continuing with SG1 until she dies, possesses, and almost succeeds in killing him). Add that to what happens to him during the actual run of the show, and he's still the first one to give anybody the benefit of doubt.
    • Teal'c's father was murdered horribly for losing an allegedly unwinnable battle, and he was the leader of Apophis' army for decades before he did a Heel–Face Turn. During that time, he did numerous unpleasant, if not outright evil, things. It's been made clear that he feels guilty about them.
    • While usually (but not always) portrayed as more of a jaded goofball than a dark character, Colonel Jack O'Neill doesn't have the most pleasant background. He is ex-Special Ops, and his professional backstory appears to fall under 'you don't want to know' territory. It was stated that he's done some 'distasteful things', and a few allusions have been made to his 'file' and his having a 'strong stomach'. He was also left for dead by his friend and teammate, Frank Cromwell, resulting in four months in an Iraqi prison. The Iraqis were not known for being nice to their prisoners, and he carried a grudge for at least seven years, to the extent that he refused to forgive Cromwell even when the planet was about to be sucked up by a black hole. This was never mentioned again. The specifics of his early life are unknown, but when Sam Carter was trying to get him to empathise with some new Air Force Academy graduates, he retorted that '[He] was never their age.' That one has about even odds of being a joke or a hint-within-a-joke, but it's a weird thing to say if it doesn't have any basis in fact. Finally, his son Charlie accidentally killed himself with O'Neill's sidearm, and O'Neill blames himself. He was suicidal and, were it not for the intervention of Daniel Jackson, he would have killed himself with a nuclear bomb and knowingly taken five-thousand people with him. All this before the show happened. At a later date, there was a little episode called Abyss.
    • It's actually pretty difficult to find a many character in any of the Stargate shows who hasn't had some horrible tragedy of varying levels heaped on them at some point or another. Mitchell, for example, is, so far, the only main character who has been confirmed to have both parents alive and well, but even he had that troubled experience where he blew up a truck of refugees, due to miscommunication.
  • Don Draper of Mad Men lives this trope. He was born to a prostitute and frequently abused as a child because of this. Oh, and she died in childbirth. His father had his head kicked in by a horse in front of him. Don then joined the Army, went to Korea, saw his CO die violently in front of him, switched identities with his CO to get discharged, got discovered by his CO's widow, divorced his CO's widow and married his current wife, only to have lots of extramarital affairs.
  • Torchwood: Jack Harkness gets a lot of this. The audience knows a bit of it due to remembering his origins in Doctor Who, but his actions over the last 100 years without the Doctor include giving up twelve children to aliens who wanted to use them for substance abuse in exchange for a cure to a deadly virus, being a member of a less than morally outstanding Time Agency earlier, having his blood drained as part of an immortality plot, and there are probably a few other things we haven't been made aware of.
  • Doctor Who, the Doctor himself has elements of this trope. At first, it wasn't that bad - sure, he stole the TARDIS from his own people and broke their laws on non-intervention. Then we started to wonder why he left... and when the Doctor mentioned 'pressing reasons' we knew it couldn't be good. Then, just to make sure we know that he falls into this trope, the Time War happened off screen, and now his back-story includes a horrible war, at least two (near) genocides, and the destruction of his fellow Time Lords.
  • A lot of the characters in Carnivàle have this trope:
    • Ben Hawkins being the primary example, having been raised by his partially insane mother (who was driven insane by virtue of having given birth to him), who drowned his pets and treated him like the devil's spawn because of his gift. When he met the Carnivale troupe, he had recently escaped from a chain gang.
    • Sofie had to deal with her mother being catatonic from birth, as well as slightly tapped in the head, and she tends to be a little cynical in her manner (although, given her circumstances, there's nothing unjustified about this).
    • Jonesy had his higher hopes of becoming a well-paid professional baseball player dashed by the Mob mutilating one of his legs after not throwing a game for them, forcing him into a life of crime and, later, employment as a roustabout by Samson.
    • Henry Scudder's entire characterization is built around this trope - he didn't want to be an avatar of darkness, and to try and avoid his fate, he traveled from one place to another, causing havoc wherever he went, eventually disappearing altogether.
    • Management had an accident involving a bear in the trenches during the Great War, leaving him horribly scarred and mutilated.
    • Justin and Iris both had messy childhoods before being adopted by Norman Balthus, both having to deal with Justin's inner demons, as well as their insane mother, who dragged them halfway across the world because she was convinced their father was evil and trying to kill them.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a large number of these in the main cast.
  • Hinted at, and later proved, with several characters on ER — Luka, Sam, etc.
  • On Castle, it's stated several times that Kate Beckett joined the police force because her mother was murdered. At one point in her life, she became totally obsessed with solving her mother's murder, to the point that it almost destroyed her. Despite finding the killer in the Season 2 episode "Sucker Punch", the crime remains unsolved.
  • Guy of Gisborne of the BBC's Robin Hood - turned out that, when he was a teenager, his dad was a leper and his mother was having it off with Robin Hood's father, and after his parents died, he sold his sister to an older man.
  • The origin of Dexter Morgan's "Dark Passenger" is from his early childhood, watching his mother being brutally murdered.
  • Admiral Al Calavicci of Quantum Leap. His family was penniless, his father was gone most of the time, and his mother ran out on him and his sister, Trudy, who happened to have Down's Syndrome. His father eventually found another job out of country, and left Al in an orphanage and Trudy in an institution, but came back in time to free his kids and then die of some unspecified cause. Al, ten years old by this time, went back to the orphanage and his sister back to the institution. Al spent his time running away and stirring up trouble, and, in his late teens, engaged in both boxing and theatre, but apparently, his grades were good enough to earn him entrance to Annapolis. Then, when he went to spring his sister from the loony bin, he was told that she had died of pneumonia some time before. Time goes on, though, and he graduated Annapolis to become a Naval pilot. He met the woman he referred to as the love of his life, a Navy nurse named Beth, and married her. Now, just when you think things are getting better, Vietnam came along. During his second tour of duty, he was shot down over enemy territory, and, depending on the timeline, spent either six or eight years as a prisoner of war. As if that wasn't bad enough, he was listed as MIA, and when he was finally repatriated, he found out that his wife had him declared dead and was already remarried. He went on to remarry four times and gradually declined into alcoholism. Though he did get better, sort of.
  • Firefly: Shepherd Book was always implied to have one of these, having unusual knowledge of crime, combat, and other esoteric skills suited for a spy or soldier that ran counter to his nature as a Shepherd. In The Shepherd's Tale comic, this past is enumerated on; his original name was Henry Evans, and he ran away from home to escape an abusive father, becoming a street criminal. He joined the Browncoat resistance to escape arrest and imprisonment, and became a spy that infiltrated the Alliance military and joined the Alliance command staff, first as an interrogator and then as a high-level officer. He was eventually disgraced when he planned an operation during the Unification War that got hundreds of Alliance soldiers killed, and was thrown out of the military to become a drunk drifter until, finally, he found and joined a monastery and became the Shepherd in the series.
  • Derek from Teen Wolf, via Dead Family, and eventually, ripped-in-half older sister.
  • Elena Gilbert from The Vampire Diaries. To date, she has lost every single one of her parental figures: her adoptive parents (who happened to be her biological Uncle and Aunt) were killed in a car accident shortly before the series began, leaving Elena with an enormous sense of survivor's guilt, having been in that same accident. She didn't find out she was adopted until halfway through the first season, and discovered that the man she thought was her uncle was actually her father, and her mother was a woman named Isobel who had been (willingly) turned into a vampire. They both died, John in order to allow Elena to wake up human at the end of the second season, and Isobel burning herself to a crisp in front of Elena in the cemetery. Jenna, Elena's aunt who assumed custody of the Gilbert siblings (technically cousins) after the tragic pre-series accident, died shortly before John, also in front of Elena, during the ritual in which Klaus ripped out her heart. And then, throughout the third season, Alaric, who had basically acted as Jeremy and Elena's guardian after Jenna's death (who had, incidentally, been in love with Jenna), became increasingly mentally unstable due to all the times he had died and come back to life with the Gilbert Life Ring, eventually turned into a vampire by the season's big bad and completely possessed by the need to eradicate the entire vampire race. And then he died, leaving Elena with Jeremy as her last living relative. And then he died, triggering a Heroic B.S.O.D. during which Elena switched off her humanity. When Jeremy came back, it was at the cost of the life of one of her best friends, Bonnie Bennett. (She got better too, but only by becoming the Anchor to the Other Side, through which every supernatural being has to pass (unless you're Katherine, lmao) which causes her unspeakable pain every time. AND THEN SHE GOT POSSESSED BY HER EVIL DOPPELGANGER. This show never gives Elena a rest.
  • The CSI franchise is rife with this:
    • CSI
    • Sara Sidle was abused by her father and watched her mother abused, then her mother killed her father and she was in foster care for a few years.
    • Warrick Brown somehow lost his parents at a young age and was raised by his grandmother. He struggled for years with gambling problems before Grissom turned him around.
    • Nick Stokes was molested as a child by his babysitter
    • Ray indicates he was abused by his father, and he's wrestled with his own violent tendancies his entire life.
    • CSI NY
    • Lindsay was the only survivor of the killing of her friends, and only because she was in the bathroom at the time. Her dark past was alluded to a lot before it got revealed.
    • Adam was physically abused-he says his dad was a 'bully'.
    • Stella grew up in an orphanage and foster homes
    • CSI: Miami
    • Horatio and his brother Ray were both abused by their father
  • Roswell Michael had enough of his foster father's abuse and went to court to emancipate himself.
  • Who in Supernatural does not have this?
  • Community has this quite a bit. With everyone.
    • Jeff's father was an abusive alcoholic who eventually left the family, leaving Jeff with a lot of emotional scars. Additionally, he has seriously deep self-esteem, vanity and body image problems amongst other things.
    • Britta was taken advantage of at a young age, with no one, not even her controlling father standing up for her. Adding to the many insults and put-downs thrown out by the study group, other students, and even a priest.
    • Abed's father is cold, controlling, and distant towards him since his parents' divorce, blaming it on his son. He has a hard time to try and connect with other people, feeling alone and stuck in a metaphorical locker. He is so withdrawn he cannot allow himself to exist in his own ideal universe, and he constantly feels the need to scheme and change himself so that his friends won't abandon him.
    • Shirley used to be a happy, married mother, never thought about going to college and starting a business, until her husband left her, causing her to try and turn her life around while being a single mother and college student for the most of the series. She also used to have what seems to be a drinking problem.
    • Annie was driven by the pressure and stress to succeed that she ended up taking Adderall. Went to rehab against her parent's wishes (but ultimately for the better of her own health), and is currently estranged from her family.
    • Troy's parents overprotected him from the ideas and concepts of the adult world, despite him being out of high school. They left him unprepared, overly innocent, and naive. Furthermore, his parents are divorced and his father has pushed him out of the house because it is uncomfortable to have Troy there with his new girlfriend - who is Troy's age.
    • Pierce has spent his whole life trying to get any hint of appreciation, approval or affection from his prejudiced father, who has constantly emotionally abused him. Even to his dad's grave, he has never once gained any of that.
  • JAG has both Sarah Mac Kenzie (parental abandonment) and Jennifer Coates (criminal past).
  • Every single damn transgenic in Dark Angel, but particularly Alec, who spent twenty-two years as a Manticore soldier. In addition to the normal horrible Manticore torture and indoctrination, Alec spent at least two long-term stays in the Psy-Ops re-indoctrination unit. The longer of the two stays bought Alex six months of Cold-Blooded Torture just because his twin brother turned out to be psychotic, and his handlers were curious whether he would snap, too. Alec's flashbacks in the show are...unpleasant.
  • Exaggerated in Retro Game Master episodes such as the Parappa The Rapper episode, when Arino's comments on his past are referred by the narrator as this trope.
  • An interesting variation with Eliot Spencer from Leverage: a lot of viewers assumed that his violent reaction to an abusive father stemmed from a childhood history of abuse. Word of God denied this, and Season 4 strongly implied a much less sympathetic reason for it.
  • Pretty much the entire premise of Titus. Possibly one of the only uses of this for humor.
  • Strongly implied by Major Frank "Ferret Face" Burns in Mash, who regularly drops comments hinting at a very abusive family life as part of his Freudian Excuse.
  • Most of the main characters of Criminal Minds fit this trope.
    • Aaron Hotchner: It is implied that his father abused him when he was a child.
    • David Rossi: He failed to stop a killer from murdering a couple right in front of their three children.
      • When he was a teenager, a group of bullies forced him to shove a kid into a locker and then urinate on him.
    • Spencer Reid: His mother is a paranoid Schizophrenic, his father abandoned them, and he once had a group of bullies strip him naked and tie him to a goal post and left him there for the rest of the night.
    • Penelope Garcia: Her parents were both killed in a car accident when she was eighteen.
    • Derek Morgan: He watched his father get shot when he was a kid. He then hung out with a bad crowd until the owner of the youth center took him under his wing. We then find out that the so called "mentor" actually molested Morgan.
    • Elle Greenway: Her father, a police officer, was killed on duty when she was eight years old. Elle feels guilty because of this because the last thing she said to her dad was "I hate you."
  • Multiple characters in OrangeisTheNewBlack have a dark past that is explored to show how they came to be in prison.
  • 12 Monkeys: Cole. He grew up in a post-apocalyptic world following the release of the plague in 2017, and became a 'Scavenger'. It's strongly suggested that he committed several violent and horrifying acts in order to survive, and became emotionally and mentally scarred as a result.
    • Probably applies to pretty much every character in 2043, most notably Jones.
    • Jennifer Goines. She witnessed the massacre of her entire laboratory team by the Pallid Man, and was framed for the killings and committed to a mental institution. Between these traumatic experiences, as well as the medications she is given, she has truly become mentally unhinged.
  • On The 100, Octavia spent almost her entire life in a single, small room, often having to hide in a compartment underneath the floor, and never interacting with anyone besides her brother and her mother, because the Ark's Population Control laws made her very existence a crime. The one time she ventured outside her room, she was almost immediately caught, leading to her imprisonment, her brother's disgrace, and her mother's execution. This makes her react rather negatively towards any attempt to confine her.
    • Murphy reveals that his father was executed for trying to save him, and his mother became an alcoholic who died hating him. He blames this for his turn to crime.
  • Several Blake's 7 characters have this but Soolin takes the prize. You have to piece it together from casual lines in different episodes, as the whole thing would have been just too dark for taste and decency standards at the time, but she saw her whole family murdered in a Federation attack on her Doomed Hometown, was only spared because one of the killers was a pedophile who kept her as a child Sex Slave, and got away from him by feigning Stockholm Syndrome enough that he taught her to be a quick and deadly gunslinger, at which point she killed him and became a professional mercenary. Her first meeting with the Seven was also quite traumatic, as it involved discovering that her boyfriend at the time was planning to kill her to extend his own lifespan, although it didn't seem an especially meaningful relationship to her.
  • The Death in Paradise episode "A Personal Murder" reveals that The Mentor to Dwayne Myers, Cedrik Verga, was involved in a deadly incident 45 years before he died and was fully prepared to come clean about it when he was murdered. Specifically, a local youth, Vincent Garcia, died as a direct result of the actions of four older boys, Cedrik included. All of them went on to live respectable lives for 45 years afterwards, but the incident would continue to haunt them for many years, and with the boy's mother close to death's door herself, Cedrik realized that now was as good a time as any to confess, so that she may at least die in peace knowing what really happened.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Eiji Hino from Kamen Rider OOO. He is the son of a rich Japanese politician. During a visit to an African country, he befriended a local young girl named Alfreed. Unfortunately, he got caught up in a civil war and saw Alfreed die before his eyes. Eiji himself was captured and held for ransom. While his family did pay the ransom, his father used the tragedy Eiji went through as a way to gain more votes. This event left Eiji devoid of any selfish desire with him only wanting to live to help others.
    • Haruto Souma from Kamen Rider Wizard. Both of his parents died in a car crash. Just before the series starts, he was used as a sacrifice in a magic ritual known as the Sabbath. He barely managed to survive as he found the will to do so in a promise he made to his parents, where he said he would never give in to despair.
    • Kaito Kumon, The Rival in Kamen Rider Gaim. Yggdrassil shuts down his fathers factory, causing his family to become very poor. As a result, Kaito's father becomes an alcoholic who frequently abuses his family. To make matters worse, both of his parents commit suicide, resulting in Kaito being put into an orphanage.
  • Daredevil
    • Karen Page is heavily implied to have one.
      • She regularly implies that she had a dysfunctional childhood. She tells an anecdote to Frank Castle in the hospital about pretending her broom closet was a spaceship in which she could escape, that suggests that her home life may have been unhappy– probably even abusive.
      • She doesn't talk about her family, not even with her closest friends (Matt is genuinely surprised when he learns she has a brother). Part of the reason she pushes Ben Urich so hard to expose Wilson Fisk is because she believes that she can't go public with any kind of story herself. Ben implies that whatever he dug up about her past activities makes her a noncredible source, which Karen doesn't even try to refute; when Mitchell Ellison hires on Karen at the Bulletin towards the end of season 2, and reveals that he's come into possession of Ben's research into Karen, he has to reassure her that he doesn't care about what she did in the past.
      • It's heavily implied that Karen’s emotional connection to Frank Castle during season 2 may involve more than their shared experiences with homicide. There’s something about the death of Frank’s family– or his violent reaction to it– that seems to trigger something in her.
      • When Fisk has Karen framed for murder, she doesn't get any support from her family. In "Semper Fidelis," when she's at Matt's apartment reminiscing about that night, she tells Matt that she knew, while sitting in the precinct interrogation room, that no one would come to help her. This suggests that if she does have family still living, at least one or both parties have gone to great lengths to shut the other out.
      • She knows how to use a gun, and right before she kills James Wesley, she says, "Do you really think this is the first time I've ever shot someone?" implying that Wesley is not the first person Karen killed.
    • Wilson Fisk grew up under the control of an abusive father, and eventually killed him while defending his mother.
  • Dear White People: Coco in Episode 6 reveals she's watched friends and family die at the hands of Police Brutality and harbors the feeling that she could've done something to save them.
  • Lucifer (2016): Ella Lopez used to steal cars, says she has "lots of darkness" inside her, and has mentioned "voices" that she could only silence by counting cards while playing Black Jack.

    Music 
  • The Patient from The Black Parade is implied to have had a violent past, in which he committed many misdeeds.
  • Pink from Pink Floyd's The Wall. His father died in the war, his mother is over-protective, he was tortured by sadistic teachers...no wonder that, when his marriage collapsed, he isolated himself from the rest of the world and became a fascist dictator in his own imaginary world. What's more, Pink was strongly based on Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters and his similarly-troubled life.
  • Luca Turilli uses this trope whenever he can.
    Lord Of The Winter Snow: Back again to my tragic past
    Demonheart: Shocked again she opened the gates / of her tragic past and bloody images / came back to her mind
    Dargor; Shadowlord of the Black Mountain: For his tragic past he disowned the sunlight
    Legend of Steel: Break the chains of the past forever
    Black Dragon: Had to fight the reputation of his bloody past
    Dawn of Victory: Shades of a past not so far to forget... / the rise of the demons from their bloody Hell!
    • Bloody Hell! He couldn't break the chains of this reputation.
  • The protagonist from The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash", which has him born and raised in an abusive household and abandoned at some point in his childhood. It's hinted in the chorus that he's gotten over it, albeit not in one piece, given the nature of the song.
  • A lot of great musicians have had dark and troubled pasts. John Lennon had serious issues with the way his mother (and father) treated him, which he only started dealing with after he met Yoko Ono. Neil Young similarly had a chip on his shoulder about his parents breaking up (leading him to support Ronald Reagan under the guise of his 'strengthening the family' rhetoric, although he soon became disillusioned). John Cale, due to his grandmother not allowing any language but Welsh to be spoken in her house, never had a conversation with his Anglophonic father before he learnt English when he was nine, and he was molested by at least two older men in his youth, giving him issues that fed into his later substance abuse.
  • Dr. Light, as told by The Protomen. His father died in a mining accident, leading him to build robots to do the work instead and "take the death away". Unfortunately, things do not improve from here.
  • Almost the entire cast of the Evillous Chronicles. Venomania was locked in a basement and horribly bullied because of a small deformity, and then the only person who accepted him turned on him; Conchita's mother was abusive; Riliane's parents died and she was forced to ascend the throne while still a little kid; Margarita's true love completely ignored her, which sent her over the Despair Event Horizon; Lukana's family died in a fire; and Gallerian's family was killed by a Giant Octopus possibly by MA or Nemesis while Nemesis never knew her father, Gallerian, was abandoned for sometime by her mother, and later was forced to kill the man she loved by her boss. No wonder they're all so fucked up. And that's only a few of them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution the book states that there is a correlation between manifestation of psionic talent and childhood trauma, although no causal link has been established. It also specifies that most espers have pronounced emotional problems.

    Theater 
  • In Chess, Florence's father disappeared during the 1956 Budapest uprising.
  • The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera was used as a circus sideshow freak until he escaped.
  • Mary in Vanities has an alcoholic mother and runaway father; she sings about her desire to get away from it all in "Fly Into the Future".
  • In Pokémon Live!, Delia Ketchum used to go out with Giovanni.
  • Siegfried in Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung: An orphan, with additional guilt-inducing bonus of knowing that his mother died giving birth to him, raised by Mime to be used to kill Fafner for his hoard and the ring. Although he doesn't know it yet, his parents Siegmund and Sieglind were siblings, and his scheming grandfather Wälse alias Wotan also wanted to use Siegfried as a pawn in a longterm project and Wotan's enemy Alberich also would like to get rid of him. Sieglind saw her mother killed and was kidnapped and forced into a loveless marriage, then had to witness her brother and lover killed (which was also due to Wotan's intervention). Small wonder that one of the leitmotifs is called the Wälsungen suffering motive (Wälsungenleidmotiv).

    Video Games 
  • In The King of Fighters series, one or two fighters crop up with these kinds of pasts, but extra points go to Rock Howard, who has this through virtually no fault of his own. He's the son of the notoriously death-retardant Geese Howard, who barely took any interest in the boy's well being. Rock was rendered an orphan by one of Geese's nemeses, Terry Bogart (who tried to keep him from falling to his death, only for Geese to yank his hand out of Terry's grip and Go Out with a Smile as he fell), who took it upon himself to raise and train Rock himself...possibly out of penance. Rock is surprisingly well-adjusted, but it constantly at war with himself internally, given he has "evil blood".
  • In Silent Hill, a dark and troubled past guarantees you a season ticket to the titular town.
  • The Final Fantasy series loves this trope. Seriously, we could be here all day.
  • The Tales Series should probably get its own folder. The heroes, villains, supporting cast and even random NPCs in pretty much any installment can be counted on to have serious issues. Even better, their pasts are usually plot-relevant, and since the franchise loves plots full of Wham Episodes, most characters' pasts are also spoilertastic.
  • Playing a BioWare (or Obsidian) game? Yeah. This trope will apply to your party.
    • Knights of the Old Republic. Carth Onasi? Nice Guy, but has a truckload of paranoia issues. Not surprising when you find out that his Evil Mentor decided to defect to the Sith, and laid waste to Carth's homeworld. Carth was widowed in the attack, and he finds out later that while his son survived, the Sith are training him in the ways of the Force. Bastila? Well, it's a mild case, but the Jedi policy of child conscription and forcing them to cut all ties with their family and loved ones isn't pleasant. Mission may not consider her past all that troubled, but she is a teenager pretty much living on the streets of a Wretched Hive. Zaalbar? Exiled from his homeworld for flying into a rage and attacking his brother. Said brother was colluding with slavers to sell his fellow Wookiees into slavery. In his anger, Zaalbar broke the taboo about not using claws in a fight, which makes you less than an animal in Wookiee society. Juhani? Oh, where to begin? Her people were subject to genocide by the Mandalorians. Her parents fled, but ended up on a Wretched Hive that hated "aliens" and openly discriminated against them. Her father became a drug addict and died in a Bar Brawl. Her mother starved to death because she was trying to feed her cub at the expense of herself, but was in debt to a loan shark, meaning Juhani was Made a Slave to pay it off. The Jedi freed her from slavery, and Juhani latched onto their Code and ideals hard. She dedicated herself to training and the Jedi way...until her master decides a good idea of a final test is to goad her into rage and trick the poor girl into thinking she killed her own master! Canderous and HK-47 certainly have dark and troubled pasts, but they're actually proud of the carnage trail they've left. And then, there's what The Reveal has to say about your Player Character.
    • The second game (by Obsidian) gets an even nastier bunch of people. Kreia? Well, she's been a Jedi Master and a Sith Lord. She was probably The Man Behind the Man for Revan. As much as she protests that she's neutral, it's obvious she hasn't given up the "Sith" part, aside from trying to setter it more towards Manipulative Bastard than Stupid Evil. You don't get much more dark and troubled than Atton Rand, either. Former Republic deserter, Jedi hunter, Sith torturer, Sith deserter, turned to smuggling, and was likely the guy trying to sell your Player Character to the Exchange. Visas is of a rare species who can see through the Force, and Darth Nihilus ate her homeworld and all life on it, sparing only her. She became his "apprentice," but in practice is more his slave and punching bag. Handmaiden is the shunned, Heroic Bastard daughter of a Echani general and a Jedi. Because her daddy cheated on his wife to produce her, her sisters treat her with contempt at best. Disciple? Well, under that naive persona, he's actually a spy for the Republic, enlisting in the Republic Navy because the Jedi shrugged and threw him away after the Mandalorian Wars didn't leave enough Jedi to train apprentices. Bao-Dur? Whew. Massive PTSD issues from creating and using the Mass Shadow Generator at Malachor. He literally threw a switch and killed thousands of ally and enemy alike. Hanharr? Well, we're dealing with Wookiees and slavery, but Hanharr was insane to begin with and slaughtered his whole village to keep them out of slaver hands. Mira? Well, her family was killed by Mandalorians, and the Mandos took her as a slave. She doesn't speak of her captors with too much rancor as they taught her how to fight and handle explosives (in Expanded Universe material, it explains that Mandalorians tend to "adopt" children of fallen foes that have potential to join their ranks). And your Player Character? Well, s/he left the Order to fight the Mandalorians, was the teacher that abandoned Disciple, fought in two of the nastiest battles in the War, ordered the use of the Mass Shadow Generator that made Bao-Dur's issues, was the only one of Revan's followers to walk away and try to go back to the Order, only to get slapped in the face and a sentence of Exile, left with absolutely nothing to show for all the sacrifice.
    • Neverwinter Nights: By the time you meet Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights Hordes of the Underdark, she has a very troubled past (including being executed for something that wasn't technically her fault). The character you play in that one technically doesn't know about it, even though you almost certainly played the first campaign beforehand. Casavir in the sequel has a stormy history with Neverwinter.
    • The module creating community has brought up several examples as well. Anera in the Shadowlords arc took a lot of crap from her family (the celestial side) for being too mortal, and eventually entered into a relationship with a necromancer. It did not end well. Alex in The Bastard Of Kosigan series has a very troubled one, dealing with the complications involved with being in love with the severely disfavored bastard, and her abortive relationship with Vlad. Pia in A Dance with Rogues has many regrets about her time as one of Vico's playthings.
    • Every recruitable NPC in Dragon Age: Origins. In the order you usually meet them, they are: a royal bastard left at the local church to become a mage-hunting Knight Templar; mother is a legendary witch that intends to steal her body some time in the future; used to be an assassin-bard whose favoured method was the Honey Trap; killed all the inhabitants of a farmhouse after experiencing a big cultural no-no; turned into a golem some time ago and lost memories due to a very extensive And I Must Scream experience; old lady who's really dead but kept alive by an inhabiting spirit; another assassin whose past may suck just as bad, if not worse, than the first one's; drunk whose wife left him to become a monster. Even the dog has a troubled past; the dog's original master ended up dying, and it reached you only by managing to escape the mass slaughter at Ostagar. Sometimes, you think your party should form a Country & Western band.
      • Dog's troubled past is averted if you play as the Human Noble, as s/he is Dog's original owner and survived. The Human Noble is also one of the only two possible player characters without a significantly dark and troubled past as well. The events of their origin story are horrible, to be sure (their family is betrayed and massacred by their closest friend), but it's indicated that the character's life up until that point has been largely peaceful and content.
    • Considering the entire story takes place in the past, let's add Dragon Age II companions to the list: a healer who's possessed by a demon due to his own anger; an ex-slave who's hunted by his previous master; an Elven mage whose own clan views her as a walking liability; a prince whose family was murdered; and the story teller who witnesses it all. All of this is not including the main character, Hawke, who witnesses their siblings and mother die, and is forced into war. The only one without a troubled past is Isabela, who seems to make light of even the worst situations.
      • Actually, Isabela was sold into marriage at an implied young age by her mother for a few silvers and a goat. Then Zevran was hired to kill him, and she inherited his ship and decided to become a pirate. Her stories about her past are the most fragmented of the party, and generally consists of noodle incidents. Also, that relic she's looking for? She stole it from the Qunari. This actually comes back to bite the party in a serious way in Act 2.
    • Varric, the aforementioned storyteller and resident Meta Guy, lampshades this in a conversation with Blackwall in Dragon Age: Inquisition, actually namechecking this trope: "Surely you have a dark and troubled past." He guesses someone he couldn't save, "bad judgment leading to too many deaths - I have a couple of people like that in my past," or betrayal. Blackwall denies all of these.
    • Just about every single major character in Mass Effect has some sort of tragic backstory. Even Commander Shepard can be customized to have one — the Colonist background involves everyone in Shepard's home colony being massacred or taken by slavers, while the Earthborn background gives him or her a criminal history, and the Sole Survivor psychological profile involves Shepard losing everyone in his or her unit to a thresher maw attack.
    • By Mass Effect 2, the only characters who don't have such a background are Ashley and (maybe) Jacob.
  • Kla in Warbears is implied to have one.
  • Ayane of Dead or Alive fame is a Child by Rape between the Mugen Tenshin matriarch and the outlaw ninja Raidou (the Mugen Tenshin patriarch's brother). Because she was considered a cursed child, she was shunned by everyone in the clan, except for Kasumi and Hayate, who later turn out to be her half-sibling. This upbringing has shaped her into a cold, ruthless assassin with a burning hatred for her older sister Kasumi.
  • Jennifer from Rule of Rose. There's a reason why the narrator never fails to refer to her as the "poor, unlucky girl".
  • Many of the characters in the Metal Gear series have them. Raiden, The Boss (kind of), Psycho Mantis, and Fortune (spoofed by Hiimdaisy above), to name a few. In fact, it's easier to mention the ones who didn't have it: Mei Ling, and.... Okay, maybe just Mei Ling.
  • The Heavy from Team Fortress 2 subverts this to hell and back.
    Director: Your father was a counter-revolutionary. When he was killed, you, your mother, and your sisters were transported to a North Siberian gulag. Paint me the picture.
    Heavy: No. This is my gun. I like to shoot this gun. Is all you need to know.
    Director: Your family only lived in that gulag for three months. In December 1941 it burned to the ground. All of the prisoners had escaped. All of the guards had been killed. Tortured to death.
    Heavy: I. Like. To shoot. This gun. Is all you need to know.
    • Later played straight in the comic A Cold Day In Hell, when some of the other mercs visit Heavy's home. It turns out that the events The Director described actually happened, but Heavy's Big Brother Instinct caused him not to want to discuss his family with a total stranger.
  • Devlin McCormack in The Orion Conspiracy definitely has this. Let us see. He fought as a soldier in the Corporation War, which apparently left him with issues. He admits that he was not a good father to his son, Danny, and that he, in fact, drove him away. Interestingly enough, Danny's death and the investigation of it is what drives Devlin for a portion of the game. Also, the local Jerkass claims that Devlin drove his wife to suicide, which would indicate that Devlin may not have been a good husband. Of course, it is hard to say that really is the case, or if there is more to that story than that.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog probably has the darkest past of all the Sonic characters. He was created as the Ultimate Lifeform in an attempt to cure a terminally ill twelve-year-old girl, had his home ambushed and said ill child die in front of him from a gunshot wound, was thrown into stasis and had his memories tampered by his creator to turn him into a ruthless killing machine. And all it took to turn his character around was a Rousing Speech by a different twelve year old girl, a Heroic Sacrifice which resulted in him getting amnesia, spending not one, not two, but three games trying to remember things properly again, and the near planetary takeover of an alien race to snap him out of his amnesia for good and to put his past behind him. Yikes.
  • Fallout 4: very few of your companions' past are exactly rosy, but Cait's life has been a living hell from the word "Go". She was raised by Abusive Parents before being sold off to slavers at the age of eighteen, enduring horrors under her owners for five years until she managed to scrounge up the money to buy her freedom, after which she got her revenge and murdered her parents. Her memories of her twenty-three years of abuse and torture drives her to drink and abuse Psycho to help her forget, as well as fighting in raider-infested arenas, in the hopes that if she isn't killed in combat, the drugs would do it for her.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's has this for the Suck E. Cheese's you work at, revealed both through voice-mails from the phone guy and newspaper clippings visible through the security cameras. A serial murderer had put on a Freddy Fazbear costume and lured children into the back of the establishment. He was eventually brought to justice, but the children were never found. Soon, patrons started to complain about the animatronics smelling foul and appearing to leak blood and mucus around the eyes and mouth. This, combined with the "Bite of '87" where a kid lost his frontal lobe, has caused the establishment to fall on hard times financially, forcing it to close down at year's end. To make matters worse, it's hinted in the third game that the murderer actually didn't get brought to justice, forcing the ghosts of the crying children to take matters into their own hands.
    • Then there's the protagonist of Five Nights at Freddy's 4. He has to deal with a brother who constantly antagonizes and bullies him, parents that at best fall under the Parental Neglect trope, and he's constantly dragged to a place full of animatronics that terrify him. Then the nightmares about said animatronics begin. To cap it all off, he's the Bite of '87 victim.
    • Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location has Eggs Benedict. It turns out he's actually Michael Afton, the son of William Afton (the actual murderer). Likewise, his sister was killed by Baby, and it's heavily implied that he's either The Child from FNAF 4 (who somehow survived) or The Brother.
      • The "Golden Freddy" cutscene takes this even further. Not only did Michael have to deal with his father, murderous Animatronics, and being cursed with immortality after barfing out Ennard, but he also ends up becoming Springtrap. To say he's been through a lot would be a huge understatement.
  • Star Control II has this for both the Ur-Quan and the Kohr-Ah The Ur-Quan were originally a single species before one of their explorers found the Dynarri, and after the latter used the former to conquer the Sentient Milieu -the group of alien races in which the Ur-Quan were- the Ur-Quan were splitted in both races by the Dynarri.
  • All of the Warriors of Hope from Absolute Despair Girls have one, sans Monaca
  • Oxenfree has a couple of characters with this backstory:
    • Jonas grew up in a crime-ridden town and he may or may not have been involved in criminal activity himself. His mother also died shortly before the main story and possible dialogue suggests he doesn't have a good educational or pop culture background.
    • Alex watched her brother drown and was helpless to stop it because she didn't know how to swim. Her parents got a divorce because they couldn't handle the grief and it's even said that a lot of the townsfolk hate her and blame her for her brother's death.
  • Most of your party in Persona 5 have some pretty crappy backstories:
    • Ryuji had an abusive father who beats both on him and his mother. Kamoshida also broke his legs, causing his Career-Ending Injury, spreading rumors of his home life that provocated Ryuji into punching him, which in turn ended the Track Team and made the members hating and blaming Ryuji.
    • Ann was bullied and harassed with gossip and rumors due to her heritage and appearance and became the unfortunate Lust Object of one of her own teachers.
    • Futaba witnesses her own mother die in a car accident in front of her eyes.
    • Yusuke was orphaned and abused by his adoptive parent. Worse, his adoptive parent is the reason his mother died.
  • Quite a few of the hunters in Evolve have this.
    • Markov saw the population of his colony killed by corporate mercenaries mere days after they made a discovery that would have ensured their prosperity.
    • Maggie's entire home world was razed and the inhabitants slaughtered by monsters, leaving her trapped on a burned out husk of a world for years before she managed to escape.
    • Abe was a petty thief before stealing a ship and killing an innocent man in cold blood, an act that still haunts him.
    • Torvald lost his ship, his crew, and most of his body when a monster broke free from containment, leaving him a ruined man in a ghost ship floating through space.
    • Slim served in the Third Basilisk Rebellion, which resulted in him being mutated into a human-insect hybrid, the deaths of all his friends, and enough traumatic experiences that he's repressed every memory from before the end of the war, up to and including his own name.
  • As part of its shtick of setting you up with fanservice and then smacking you in the face with drama, Senran Kagura is not afraid to point out that high school students who are training to lead lives of demon-hunting or black-ops wetwork that would probably see them dead by 25 probably don't have the most stable backgrounds. Evil Shinobi schools accept any psychopath off the street, which compounds the problem, but even Good Shinobi (keep in mind these labels are nominal at best) having training practices that preceded junior school. Just the most straightforward Good Shinobi team has:
    • Asuka, who's the most at ease with the life of a Shinobi, but has never known a normal life and has an optimistic streak her foes ruthlessly exploit.
    • Katsuragi, whose parents have execute-on-sight orders active against them for abandoning a mission. Katsuragi's training to fulfill a bargain and clear their name.
    • Ikaruga, who was adopted from an impoverished family into a noble house. There's no love in this arrangement, purely the family wanting a worth heir to inherit the family sword and name, and her adoptive older brother has not taken this turn of events well.
    • Yagyuu, who lost her sister in a car crash, only to discover Hibari is a dead ringer for the deceased, leaving her with a mess of issues as she tries to spend every waking second with the Replacement Goldfish.
    • Hibari herself, who never wanted to be a Shinobi, but was pressured into it by her family after being the only child to inherit a special ability. Happy to have a scion, they never pressured her when she fell short, leaving her horribly unequipped to deal with the high-stakes lifestyle, completely aware of this fact, and terrified she's going to screw up.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The green tiger laguz Muarim of the Fire Emblem Tellius subseries was a slave in the beorc (human) nation of Begnion for some time, and had an apparently cruel master. In his supports with fellow laguz Lethe, Muarim recounts that his master would beat him if he did not have the materials with which to clean his master's weapons. It seems to have affected him psychologically, as he tells Lethe that he still has trouble thinking of himself as an equal to beorc, and feels anxious whenever he does not have the materials his master once demanded of him close at hand. He tells Lethe that he cannot imagine what it is like to live with the pride that she feels as a laguz from the race's native Gallia.
    • Niles the archer of Fire Emblem Fates was abandoned by both of his parents at a very young age, and grew up on the harsh and unforgiving streets of Nohr, falling in with a gang of thieves and other seedy types just to stay alive. At one point in his childhood, he had one of his eyes gouged out by another orphan, and when his gang of thieves threw him under the bus to escape when one of their heists went bad, he was close enough to the Despair Event Horizon that he begged his captor Prince Leo of Nohr to kill him and get it over with. He ended up becoming one of Leo's loyal retainers instead. In the present, Niles' sadistic and cruel tendencies are explained by him as a result of jealousy; when he sees someone who "doesn't know what suffering is," he feels the need to mess with them.
    • Jakob, the Avatar Corrin's loyal butler in Fates, was raised by Abusive Parents who cared so little for him that they abandoned him at Nohr's Windmire Castle, where he was taken in as a castle servant, and never looked back. He was mistreated and disliked by the rest of the castle staff, with the exception of young Corrin him or herself, and in the present as a result of it, he's cold, distant and rude to most anyone who isn't the Avatar, while being slavishly loyal and dedicated to the Avatar him or herself. He tells Mozu and Azura in their supports that the Avatar is literally the only person in the castle that treated him kindly.
    • The Hoshidan spearwoman Oboro of Fates witnessed her merchant parents being murdered by a Nohrian assassin when she was young, and only managed to escape the same fate herself by hiding in their cart. She developed a deep hatred for all things and people Nohrian as a result and reacts...rather badly to them, to the point that her in-battle skill makes her deal more damage to Nohrian units.
    • The swordsman Lon'qu of Fire Emblem Awakening grew up in the slums of the Chon'sin, and at one point when Lon'qu was young, his good friend, the little girl Ke'ri, was killed by bandits, with Lon'qu only able to watch helplessly. He developed gynophobia as a result of the incident, believing that any women close to him would meet the same fate.
    • Henry the Dark Mage of Awakening started off with Abusive Parents who ignored him to the point that he spent most of his time wandering the woods outside of his village. When he became close friends with a wolf that lived in the forest, it was killed by villagers when it tried to visit him. His parents then sent him off to a cruel, abusive orphanage (in the Japanese version) or a cold and strict mage school (in the English version) where he was harshly punished and experimented on, and all of it seems to have...broken him mentally. In the present, he seems to be operating on Blue and Orange Morality, is fascinated by Body Horror and zombies, and is at the point that he just doesn't understand human empathy and that threatening to kill and curse people is morally objectionable.

    Visual Novels 
  • Miles Edgeworth in Ace Attorney. His father was murdered when he was ten and Edgeworth spent 15 years believing he was responsible for his death. He was adopted by the honorable and kindly Manfred von Karma, the one who really murdered his father, and brought up to be a cold and ruthless prosecutor with no regard for whether the people he prosecuted had actually done anything wrong. Just like von Karma planned. It's surprising he came out as well-balanced as he did.
    • Godot. In his first appearance, he claims he's come back from Hell to challenge Phoenix, and he's not exaggerating hugely. He was poisoned by Dahlia and fell into a five-year-coma, during which his beloved Mia Fey was murdered. The poison also took his sight, and is implied to have done other damage as well.
  • Archer's dark and troubled past in Fate/stay night inspires him to prevent it from occurring by murdering Shirou, his pre-Jade-Colored Glasses self, and thus possibly prevent himself from existing as well.
  • Every character in Higurashi: When They Cry starts out seeming normal, but ends up having one of these - even Keiichi.
  • Nameless has Tei revealed to have one. His previous owner was obsessed with cleanliness and only let him out of his box for one hour a day. Despite this, Tei was happy. One day, someone else took him out of the box and dropped him, causing his legs to get scarred and his owner to freak out. Since then, his owner hasn't touched him, repeatedly talks about how dirty and disgusting Tei is and eventually sold him. This left Tei convinced he was 'dirty' and horrible, twisting his feelings into thinking he's incapable of loving someone without destroying them, turning him into a Stepford Smiler.
  • A significant plot point in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is figuring out what exactly happened to Akane after she was separated from Junpei. Turns out she was kidnapped, locked in an incinerator, and burned to death.
  • Sunrider has a few examples:
    • Icari Isidolde was orphaned at a young age when her family’s ship was boarded and destroyed by a PACT patrol, and she spent the next five days helplessly drifting through space in an escape pod before anyone found her. This tragedy drew her into a life of crime, and she became a highly-skilled assassin and bounty hunter with a burning desire for revenge.
    • Sola di Ryuvia was born the bastard child of a Ryuvian prince, who abandoned her peasant mother before Sola was born. Her mother died while Sola was still young, leaving her to fend for herself. Three years later, Sola was spirited away by agents of her father and she was acknowledged as the Sharr, a warrior-princess expected to fight and die for the Ryuvian Empire… not because her father cared about her, but because he was fighting a civil war and his legitimate daughter refused to risk her life in combat.
    • Kryska Stares grew up in poverty on a Neutral Rim planet whose corrupt government terrorized its own citizens while doing nothing to protect them from pirate raids.
    • Cosette Cosmos grew up in an overcrowded slum on the planet Ongess, where constant exposure to toxic chemicals mined from the planet’s surface stunted her growth so that she looks like an eleven-year-old. By the time she was ten she had already killed two men. Her abusive mother would also whore her out to pedophiles for a quick buck, which went on well into her teenage years until Cosette finally killed her. Small wonder that she turned out so vicious and unhinged.

    Web Animation 
  • Arguably, every character in Card Players. Nuff said.
  • One of the De Noirs from Dusk's Dawn gives us an Info Dump about how his father is missing and how "illusions can't help."
  • All four main characters in Broken Saints, despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, all have less than pleasant life stories:
    • Shandala was orphaned at infancy, and although her life among the Fijian Islanders is peaceful, when she was a young girl, her adopted mother was horrifically mutilated and murdered by white men under the direction of—and possibly including—her biological father.
    • Oran's father was killed during a bombing assault on Baghdad during the first Gulf War.
    • Kamimura was taken from his home at a very young age to become a monk, leaving his family behind to be killed in the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in World War II.
    • Raimi has arguably the most mundane, but no less heartbreaking. After his father left, his mother died from what is implied to be cancer.
  • Arguably, Church from Red vs. Blue. While he doesn't remember it for the most part, the original Church is what you get when you brutally torture an AI into splitting into pieces, even to the point of using parts of its own mind against it (Gamma and Omega). The result is a constantly angry person who doesn't even understand why he's so angry all the time. Epsilon!Church probably remembers more about the torture, but chooses to suppress it to keep from going crazy.
  • Considering that one of RWBY's themes is War Is Hell, the majority of the cast have their burdens from the past to shoulder.
    • Blake was born a Faunus, and abused by humans who routinely discriminated against Faunus. She joined the White Fang at a very young age, where her mentor became an abusive, anti-human, murderous psychopath. She ran away from the White Fang when she could no longer take their violence.
    • Weiss grew up under the thumb of an emotionally abusive father, who regularly took his anger out on her and tried to force her to abandon her own dreams and ambitions. She'd watched family members and friends die at the hands of The White Fang.
    • Ruby lost her mother, presumably while fighting, when she was a very young child, and was raised by her father, and half-sister.
    • Yang's birth mother abandoned her for reasons unknown, her stepmother presumably died, and her father suffered a prolonged Heroic B.S.O.D. following these events, leaving Yang to raise herself and Ruby. She'd nearly gotten herself and baby Ruby killed trying to find her birth mother.
    • Nora was a street rat in Ren's hometown, the two orphaned when the Nuckalavee Grimm destroyed it, killing everyone save the two.
    • Emerald was a street rat, resorting to thievery in order to survive, and had nobody to care for her or love her.
    • Mercury grew up in an abusive household, with no mention of a mother, and a father who beat him. He'd ended up killing his own father prior to aiding the main villain.
    • Ozpin admits to Ruby that he's made more mistakes than anybody in Remnant, though it isn't specified what he;'d actually done.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Green Eyed Sniper, one of the main characters, Sekhmet, is a wanted war criminal who hides her past from everyone, until she confesses it to another character, named Blitz and, later on, the other main characters, Shanti, finds out about it.
  • A fair portion of the characters in Charby the Vampirate:
    • Charby was kept as a slave by a sadistic pirate captain from infancy and when he took a chance to escape was attacked by a vicious vampire who played mind games with him before tearing into his throat and leaving him to die.
    • As a child Blaine had an argument with his parents and when he started to feel guilty and came downstairs to apologize he found his mangled parents being fed on by a vampire.
    • Menu didn't even have a name before meeting Charby having been left in the trash as an infant and eventually mauled by a werewolf while still a child.
    • Mye and Hex were drowned as children in a witch hunt proving them to be innocent. They were then raised from the dead as zombie slaves by a cruel master.
    • When Tony finally learned he was an Alp instead of a sickly human his painful looking initial transformation was seen by his mother who hired a hunter to hunt him down.
    • Zeno was shamed and ostracized by the other Scotodino before being abandoned by his parents. He was then picked up by mad scientists who vivisected him alive and eventually killed him. After being rescued from their lab he was taken in healed and adopted by elves only for his new family to be killed by monsters as his crying now attracts them before the story even began.
    • Sadick seems to have lost his eye in a traumatic event that left his best friend banished and Sadick thinking him to have been executed.
  • In Chirault both protagonists seem to have this. Teeko's past is fairly straightforward, but we have yet to learn anything but cryptic puzzles about Kiran.
  • It eventually turns out that Zig Zag, the perky, perpetually randy and playful Serbian tiger/skunk crossbreed from Sabrina Online has one of these. She gets livid if anyone tries to suggest it's her Freudian Excuse for being a notorious pornography star and director, though.
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, Claire. Introduced, she muses about how easily a woman could become a witch without realizing it and implies something about her own child. Later she refuses to explain why she no longer has her baby with her. And she comments that she had hated her parents — and now she knows she's no better.
  • Lexx's past in Alien Dice takes this up to eleven. Lexx's father died young of an illness and his mother, a fighter for the space station they lived on, was killed defending their home. He was then raised in an orphanage from hell where he was forcibly turned into a mon-like thing (the titular Dice). He attempted suicide several times, but failed, and has faced numerous other tragedies, including rape, slavery (or, the threat of it, actually), and being forced to kill his fellow Dice, Riane, who then decides to haunt his mind. That's only hitting the highlights. Lexx is better at remembering happy moments than he is at remembering truly tragic ones, though nightmares say otherwise.
  • In TheBeastLegion Fyre constantly goes through this syndrome until she meets Xeus & unveils here tragic past.
  • Grace, Susan, and Tedd in El Goonish Shive, though Grace appears to have been the only one who suffered physical abuse. "Lord Tedd" from the alternate universe seems to have a dark and troubled past of truly epic proportions.
  • Many of the characters from Gold Coin Comics, such as Lance, whose entire village was burned to the ground.
  • Galatea in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, who spent her one-month childhood being treated literally as a lab animal in a pen. She didn't take it well.
  • Parodied in The Noob here.
  • Played straight in Bittersweet Candy Bowl. Abbey has such a distressing past that the author actually felt unable to finish a planned chapter about it.
  • Secret in Keychain of Creation. Ye Gods, that girl has been through some deeply troubling shit. Backstory starts here.
  • Alexander Hamilton in The Dreamer, man, oh man. Let's break it down: when he was a teenager, in the span of a few years, 1) his mother died, 2) his father vanished, 3) his aunt, uncle, and grandfather also died, 4) his cousin committed suicide, and 5) Alexander and his brother were disinherited and left penniless orphans. Let us not forget that his father, James Hamilton, may not even have been his father at all (the honor may go to a gentleman by the name of Thomas Stevens).
  • Warrick of Namesake is a prime example of this. He was abandoned by his father, watched his mother be killed in front of him, had his grandmother die, his grandfather commit suicide, ended up contracting the same illness that killed his grandmother, and then uses magic to heal himself that makes him both unable to touch water and completely mentally unstable. And this is all before the comic even starts.
    • The same goes for his twin sister Selva, who went through the same things minus the mystery illness, and ended up just as unstable as her brother, as a side effect of his spell.
    • Slightly subverted, as although he does begin as a villain his backstory isn't used as much of a Freudian Excuse. His villainy is actually a side effect of the spell he used to keep himself alive.
  • Vriska Serket of Homestuck. Being raised by a giant spider who forced her to kill hundreds or even thousands of other children to feed left her pretty damaged.
    • Also, WV. A simple farmer willing for peace has his home and crops destroyed by war. He unites the Prospitian and Dersite pawns and leads a rebellion against the Black King. Then Jackspers Noirlecrow shows up. Noir slaughters the King and all the rebellion, save for WV, dooming him to lead a life of Survivor's Guilt.
  • Tekno in Sonic the Comic. While we never see her past, it's implied that she's done some pretty bad things since she worked with Dr. Robotnik. Her murdering someone in the fan continuation seems to better support this, though that's related to her going through a mental breakdown
  • In Impure Blood, Roan has been subjected to Fantastic Racism, was Made a Slave as a child, and has had to fight for years in Gladiator Games (as "The Abomination", to put the icing on the cake).
  • Questionable Content:
    • Faye moved to the same town as the other characters to escape her small Southern town after her father shot himself in front of her and she got into a car accident. She's also an alcoholic.
    • Hannelore's parents' response to her crippling OCD seemed to be mostly "throw money at it and hope it goes away".
  • Elf Blood: For such a cheery, optimistic, and caring person, the fact that TKO was designed, born, and raised to be a long-range assassin is quite surprising, if not downright shocking.
    • It's implied that, as children, when assassination became too emotional for TKO, SKO voluntarily did the killing for her.
  • Dissonance: both of the main characters have one.
    • When James' mother died, his father kept telling him that god had a plan for those he allowed to pass. But then his father developed Alzheimer's Disease. He was mostly normal at first, and when he eventually needed to go to a nursing home, James would visit him and take him to the church there every Sunday. But in the end, he was just a shadow of the man James once admired.
    James: When my mother died, my father always told me that god had a plan for those he allowed to pass. But god took my father years before he finally allowed him to pass.
    • Sarah has wanted to be a mother for years, and one day got herself inseminated. But in a 1/20,000 chance, she developed ovarian cancer. It's implied she nearly didn't recover, and now she isn't sure fate wants her to be a mother.
    Sarah: I think if I were meant to mother, there would be at least one positive sign.
  • In Blue Yonder this is brought up against a cape: he used to be a cop, and was thrown off the force for stealing evidence.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Angelika warns Norbert not to go there when he asks if something bad happened in her past.
  • In Monsieur Charlatan, Charlatan's first appearance has him musing over a photograph, ready to commit suicide.
  • In Glorianna, the title character sometimes alludes to unspecified traumas from her childhood, and also carries heavy guilt for abandoning her daughter.
  • In Harbourmaster, Nephos freaks out during a conversation about names when asked what "Caliga", his last name, means — because it's not actually a last name, it's the name of his tribe, and the planet his tribe lived on was wiped out during the war by Orbital Bombardment. (Javin goes to talk to him, in part because he's had to deal with similar trauma in his own life.)
  • Commander Badass's superiors tried to invoke (yes, invoke) this in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, telling the Commander that his entire family was dead for two years. The Commander being the Only Sane Man though, his response (instead of becoming dark and broody like they wanted) was to ask for a therapist, then a lawyer.
  • In Knight Run, Anne and Pray are orphans who have been together forever, with Pray making no attempt to hide that Anne is the only person she cares about. Their extremely unhealthy devotion to each other is one of the many hints that there is something extremely dark in their past, especially as Pray is slowly revealed to be The Ageless and at least one generation older than Anne (though note this isn't particularly rare in this universe). Fans had several theories about who they are and where they came from. The idea that one or both of them killed their parents was suggested, as well as the possibility that Pray might be a doll, or Anne might be someone she kidnapped, so on and so forth. In chapter 74, we finally get a flashback to the truth, and it's far worse than anyone imagined. Pray is one of the monsters who has been fighting humanity for centuries—and Anne is her daughter.
  • Asia Ellis from morphE. The details are not apparent yet, but it seems she was raised in some form of cult where she was forced to wear a mask at all times. After she was rescued her guardian tried to bring her into public schooling with failed results. The situation she is in now feels familiar, though as of Chapter 3 she is convinced it is not the same group that kidnapped her this time.
  • Both Cain and Kylie from Serpamia Flare have exhibited signs of having gone through traumatic events in their pasts.
  • Redcloak, goblin cleric from Order of the Stick. Readers learn his tale of loss and regret in his Trope Namer prequel, Start of Darkness.
    • Word of Author says: "Some people choose evil, and some are driven to it by what life has forced them to endure. Xykon is not one of these. Redcloak, however, might be."
  • In The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, hints of this slip past TJ's jovial facade. Even the day after he and Amal meet, he makes light of having given sexual favours in exchange for food at a young age. Later on, some of the stuff he really didn't want to share gets dragged into the light.
  • Detective Bolivia Enzon from Lovesyck is the daughter of her mother's rapist, and consequently was never truly loved as a child while also being overshadowed by her genius sister who later turned serial killer. She then joined Hubble Police Force where her warnings of threats were ignored due to her reputation for paranoia, resulting in innocent deaths. At some point she also lost her unborn child while it was still in the womb.

    Web Original 
  • Tasakeru's primary characters, the Outcasts, are shining examples of this trope, it's pretty much a prerequisite for being one. One is a runaway Samurai suffering from Survivor Guilt, one was thrown out on the streets with her mother as an infant and grew up in poverty, and one was disowned by her family for being a mage. And that's just the ones we know about...
  • Due to Darker and Edgier attitude of Neo Pokeforum, it's unsurprising that it has a lot of characters like this, such as the Crow and Ardus, Tom Allen, Leonard and Mahariel.
  • Most characters from MSF High Forum own this. It's also their motivation to become heroes. Also, there are monsters created out of this.
  • When you put them all together, even though they're played for dark laughs, a lot of bad things have happened (that weren't actually his fault) to The Nostalgia Critic. Abusive Parents, hiding in the cupboard when he got scared, breaking up with someone three times and getting stalked for it, pitied by his classmates for acting like a brat, date-raped on his prom night, and that's just what we know so far. No wonder he's a weepy Psychopathic Manchild with issues.
  • The Nostalgia Chick had a judging mother and an emotionally distant father who both were alcoholics and yelled at each other constantly, had an uncle that molested her, got bullied at school for being the awkward dork, became an alcoholic herself and somehow got fixated on guys she could fix and control to do whatever she asked of them.
  • Ithalond. An Elf from Imladris, he was pulled into the infamous fic Celebrian. Need I say more?
  • Touhou: a Glimmer of an Outside World has many, many indications that Yuuka wasn't quite as mentally stable as she is in the roleplay in the past. Like a basement with a room full of torture equipment.
  • The Gungan Council has this as a staple trait for characters. As the saying goes, "Slavery is a totally original backstory!"
  • In Guts and Sass: An Anti-Epic, Efeddre was captured and tortured for nine years, and ended up a Jerkass Woobie.
  • any of the Organization's Agents in LIS DEAD count, considering what we've learned of the Organization so far.
  • The Opening Narration of Doom House explains how the wife of the main character, Reginald P. Linux, had died long ago and that this had left a severe depression weighed heavy on his soul.
  • Jeanette of Funny Business is revealed to have this in the flashback. It turns out that having omnipotent power from a young age can do a number on one's psyche.
  • A lot of AkaiChounokoe's characters have these, so here's a few
    • Toki's past and if they are to be believed started is this, particularly so when she tried to runaway from them and, as Brownie put it She was once sweet and only wanted to be loved. Lets see? Here they are:
      • She was abused and then neglected causing her to almost die of leukemia, during the events of Flashbacks I, something that caused something in her to drive her insane in the next incident (see below)
      • She returned to the place where she was once abused so she can get hold of the inheritance money but went insane during the events of Insanity and Resentment and has had issues eve since.
    • Frailine (the one Toki abused) is also an example as per these statements:
      • She was imprisoned for being criminally insane after the events of Little Girl's Revenge when she almost killed Toki and damaged the border between this world and the next. Kind of a Disproportionate Retribution, compared to what Toki did to her (abused her and then, sometime afterward, she sent to Alaska attached to a bus by a magnet with no means of getting home)
      • Sometime after being imprisoned, she almost kills herself twice and is never seen again, as per stated, in Diary of a Borderline Schizophrenic, driving Toki into more self-hate because of it.
    • Bunny and Madgie's parents died in an accident when Bunny was twenty and Madgie was nine.
    • Doki was seperated from her twin sister Toki at when both were going on thirteen and was sedated and frozen.
  • Before leaving his home planet on the Dionysian, Fiearius Soliveré of "Caelum Lex" worked as an assassin for the dubious government organization the Society, potentially murdering many innocents. This culminated in an event that caused both his wife and four year old son to be killed
  • Par for the course in Fallout Is Dragons. Granted, it's set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but thus far two player characters are former raiders, one was abandoned by his mentor after nearly damning a filly, one was physically and psychologically tortured by his own "teacher", one was forced to kill his own brother for no other reason then to amuse the Big Bad, and one lost his memory, leg, and EYES in an explosion.
    • And that's not even factoring in the NPC backstories....
  • Madiha Nakar from The Solstice War is an amnesiac orphan and is hinted at having done a lot of horrible things as a child during her country's revolutionary war, where she fought on the socialist side.
  • The crew of captain Icomb's ship in Skies Unbroken has: two former Sky Pirates (including the good captain himself), one not-so-former Sky Pirate who joins later, a soldier whose side lost The War Just Before, and a Waif Prophet. It's their passenger's Dark and Troubled Past that is, however, most frequently (if vaguely) alluded to.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender lives on this trope because it takes place in a cruel global war that the main characters are trying to end. Let's look it over;
    • Zuko: father always favoured Azula over him, and then planned to murder him to get the throne. His loving mother sacrificed her life/freedom to prevent this. He, one day, speaks out against a horrible plan, and his own father burns his face for insolence. He then gets banished and put on a Snipe Hunt for the Avatar. Needless to say, he's the Mr. Fanservice of the series.
    • Aang: While he had a happy childhood with the Air Nomads, he made the fatal mistake of freaking out and running away from his responsibilities, ending up being frozen in ice for a century, and finally paying dearly for it when he discovers the corpse of his beloved mentor.
    • Katara and Sokka: mother killed in a Fire Nation raid when they were little, and their father and all the men of the tribe left three years prior to the show's start. This left Katara with abandonment issues, and Sokka feeling that he wasn't good enough as a warrior. They may not show the effects as much as Zuko does, but it catches up to them later on (Sokka risks his ass breaking into a Fire Nation prison, Katara has her dark night of the soul tracking down her mother's killer).
    • Iroh: was once a very powerful warrior and general in the Fire Nation army, leading a siege on Ba Sing Se. Then his son died, he went into a Heroic B.S.O.D., and 'betrayed his nation'.
    • All this isn't even counting the pasts of more minor characters such as Jeong-Jeong, Pakku, Hama, Jet, and even Azula, who has Mommy Issues.
    • The episode "The Beach" was essentially a show-and-tell around the campfire of each of the villain's version of this trope, complete with showcases of Parental Neglect, Not So Stoic and The Unfavorite.
  • The Sequel Series The Legend of Korra has given two of its main characters a Dark and Troubled Past: Mako and Bolin were street kids growing up, and Mako had to take care of his little brother.
  • Mr. Cat from Kaeloo is heavily implied to have had one of these. Most of it is a Noodle Incident, but what the show has revealed is an alcoholic father, two abusive older brothers who were so cruel he had to run away from home, and the death of one or more loved ones.
    Mr. Cat: As a kitten, I was tied up in a sack and thrown into a rushing river...
  • Kevin E. Levin from Ben 10 and Ben 10: Alien Force: probably abandoned as a young child because of his power, became a criminal to survive, then, for kicks, became a literal monster by the age of eleven, and got sent to a hellish prison dimension. Turns out, he wasn't really abandoned; it was just his powers playing with his mind.
  • Denzel Crocker on The Fairly Oddparents. At first, he had a life similar to Timmy's: he had a neglectful mother who left him with an abusive babysitter. He also had fairy godparents (Cosmo and Wanda, in fact), which he used to do good things for people. The end came when he lost his godparents: he forgot all his happy memories, the town shunned him because they forgot all the good things he did, he became obsessed with proving fairies exist thanks to a note he left himself, causing him to lose his sanity, he was laughed out of his college for promoting fairies, and he lost Waxelplax because of his obsession. Yeah, not very fun.
  • Casey Jones was given one of these for his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) incarnation, in order to explain his vigilantism: when he was a kid, the Purple Dragon gang, led by a teenage Hun, burned his father's store before his very eyes. Afterwards, when Arnold Casey Jones Sr. tried to extract retribution, he was killed. Eventually, writers for the Mirage comic book integrated a modified and considerably less sanitized version of the story into the original canon.
  • Artemis from Young Justice, though it took a long time to figure out the nature of it. Turns out she was raised by criminals, who trained Arty and her sister to be expert assassins. Then her mom broke her spine and was sent to jail. Her sister, not wanting to be left with their abusive father, ran-away, leaving Artemis alone for years, until her now reformed mom came back, kicked her father out, and Artemis decided to become a hero.
  • Just about everybody in Adventure Time, but special mention to Marceline, who has a thousand years that can all be summed up with this trope, and an honorable mention to the Ice King, whose troubles are of such a nature that he's incapable of understanding them or remembering their existence anymore.
  • Zap Monogan from Dex Hamilton: Alien Entomologist, He's a human/insect hybrid that was created by an evil scientist as a weapon for the military. He never talks about his past life, and struggles to remember anything about it.
  • Mike Chilton of the Burners on Motorcity. He used to work for Abraham Kane and was proud of it, until he realized Kane was willing to harm innocent civilians, which made Mike realize that KaneCo was doing more bad than good. He did manage to save several tenants from going down with their homes though. It's revealed in "Mayhem Night" that Mike's greatest fear is his own past.
  • Lance in Sym-Bionic Titan was seemingly orphaned by his father's disappearance, presumed dead. He was sent to a military school where he was constantly picked on. It's possible his past goes further than what we've seen in flashbacks.
  • Some time before the events of Total Drama, Mike has been to juvie, thanks to Mal, thereby showing just how a problem Mal has been for him. Duncan also appears to be in this league.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants reveals that Mrs. Puff has got one. It's not expanded on much, other than her husband was killed and converted into a lamp, and after giving Spongebob a license and learning he now has a boat she considers changing her name and starting a new school in another city. But then decides not to do it again.
  • A very persistent trope in Steven Universe. Though the Crystal Gems had to deal with this the most. From them (except Amethyst and Steven) fighting in a war that left them traumatized for eternity, to losing the one that kept them together.
  • Used for comedic effect with Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz in Phineas and Ferb. In just about any plan he concocts, there is some backstory he explains to Agent P - most of his history is cringingly dark and troubled: His parents didn't even show up for his birth, he had to stand in for the broken garden gnome, got disowned by his parents, grew up with ocelots... In addition his brother, who is mayor of the Trio-Starte Area right now, always was preferred by his mother - to ridiculous extents.
  • Gravity Falls has a lot of this.
    • We have Soos, whose father never came back with his birthday, but wrote a lame excuse in the form of a postcard every time ('Couldn't make it'; 'I'll be there next year', etc). When he realized his father would never come back, he started working at the Mystery Shack and views Stan as a father ever since. That's why he once said he wants 7 children, one to love every day of the week. He wants to be a better father than his father was!
    • We cannot forget about Pacifica. She is part of a lying, cheating and backstabbing family, whose ancestor unlawfully claimed the foundership of Gravity Falls. Her parents abused her using pavlovian conditioning, like a trained dog. She, however, learned the fact you don't have to live up to your parents and make your own choices, finally breaking the spiral of misfortune and determined to fix the Northwest name.
    • The one who takes the cake when it comes to dark and troubled backstories, is however Stan! He had a twin brother, Ford, who was his best friend, who left him to attain a prestigious university, and after Stan accidentically ruined his project, he was thrown out home. He was told he wasn't welcome until he made a fortune, which explains his greedyness.And that's just one part of the story: It's revealed the Shack was once Ford's, but after he accidentically disappeared though a interdimensional portal, Stan tried for thirty years to get him back. That's a dark backstory and then some more.
  • AAARRRGGHH!!! from Trollhunters was once a Gumm-Gumm before defecting. He became The Atoner to make up for his past.
  • Lloyd's childhood stands out as being the worst of the ninjas in Ninjago. Abandoned by his parents (not that they had any other choice in the matter) and thrown into a boarding school for kid villains, heavily bullied at said boarding school for not having the drive to commit actual evil, and trying to prove his worth as an evil mastermind despite his naivety and young age only to fall into Humiliation Conga over and over again. Luckily he met his uncle and the ninjas and he got better, but as shown after he is forced to grow up, he still has some issues...

    Real Life 
  • Joseph Merrick, "The Elephant Man", never told Treves a single detail about his family, even that his mother was dead, because the whole family situation was a Dark And Troubled Mess. Dead mother, a classic case of Survivor Guilt over his dead four-year-old brother, crippled sister, abusive father, Wicked Stepmother, and step-siblings who were, as he put it, "more handsome". This may actually have been the source of the misnomer "John" — his father was also named Joseph, and he may have wanted to separate himself as far from that as he could, possibly out of paranoia of having to go back home.
  • Kelsey Grammer: His entire life has been one tragedy after another. His father was murdered. His sister was murdered. Two half-brothers were killed in a diving accident. His longtime friend and Frasier producer David Angell was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Another longtime friend was murdered in an inheritance scheme. He was abused by two ex-wives, one of whom attempted suicide while pregnant and killed their unborn child. Seriously, someone give this man a hug.
  • Russell Brand. Childhood Bulimia? Check. Traumatic incidents involving a tutor, and then a babysitter? Check. Self-harm? Check. Mother with cancer that reappeared four times? Check. Evil stepfather? Check. Bipolar disorder? Check. Misguided attempt by his father at bonding, involving a trip to Thailand and prostitutes? CHECK.
  • Axl Rose: read the biography "Guns And Roses: The Band That Time Forgot" for the full details. Needless to say, it's no wonder he's such a Jerk Ass sometimes.
  • Richard O'Brien. Born abnormally small, bullied at school, and then growing up genderqueer in what amounted to a conservative country town in the 1950s/60s...ouch. And then his baby flopped in cinemas.
  • Janice Dickinson, one of the world's first supermodels. She was thoroughly traumatized and damaged not just by her father's emotional and physical abuse of her, but also his sexual abuse of one of her sisters. And then in 2015 she claimed that in 1982, she was one of the victims of Bill Cosby's date rapes.
  • Charles Bukowski, a German-American novelist and poet. His childhood was a long episode of school fights, child abuse and social rejection. This depression later bolstered his rage as he grew, and gave him much of his voice and material for his writings.
  • James Ellroy
  • Scott Hall suffers from PTSD as a result of killing a man in self-defense, developed a serious drug and alcohol addiction to treat it, had most of his friends abandon him because of it, and is in a serious amount of pain constantly
  • Edgar Allan Poe. His biological father left, his biological mother died of tuberculosis along with his brother and both loves of his life, and his foster dad was an abusive jerk. No wonder he wrote what he did.
  • Michael Jordan had to watch his friend drown trying to save him when he was a teenager, and then had his father murdered later during his career.
  • Manu Bennett was a bullying victim, then lost his mother and brother in a car accident. He stated in an interview that he found peace through acting.
  • Charisma Carpenter had a near-rape experience, as she and and two of her friends were the final victims of a serial rapist back in 1991.
  • Tyler Perry was constantly beaten by his father, Emmitt Brown Sr., to the point that he once attempted suicide to get away from him, and was molested by a friend's mother and three other men as a child. He changed his name from Emmitt Brown Jr. to Tyler Perry, and eventually discovered that Emmitt Brown Sr. actually wasn't his biological father.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DarkandTroubledPast