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Anime & Manga
- Kabuto in Naruto fused some of Orochimaru's remains into his own body following the latter's death, and this act seems to have given him access to Orochi's 'Impure World Resurrection' jutsu. Which, displaying an absurd level of Genre Savvy (and showing that in a matter of months at most he's surpassed both Orochimaru and the creator of the technique in his mastery of it), he immediately used to revive and place under his control dozens of extremely powerful deceased ninja (including most of the previous Big Bads, the tailed-beast hosts, at least 3 Standard Evil Organization Squads, a number of Kages, any dead Main Characters.. making him one of the most powerful people on the planet. However, he is almost instantly dropped to Big Bad Duumvirate status when Tobi gets the Rinnegan back. Both of them have the means to completely screw the other over, with Tobi's Rinnegan being fully capable of wiping out the army of undead ninja and Kabuto being able to wipe out the army of Zetsu. Kabuto expressly states that he wants to avoid making an enemy out of Tobi at all costs, at least for now.... The two of them currently have a mutually profitable alliance, but neither one trusts the other at all. It's a fairly interesting dynamic. Kabuto's new Sage Mode transformation makes the "dragon" part of this trope rather literal. It's not enough to save him from a Sasuke-Itachi team up.
- After Beld is killed by Karla in Record of Lodoss War, his Dragon Ashram takes over and continues the original plan the same way as before.
- Gotou of Parasyte was always the most person threat to Shinichi and Migi but answered to Hirokawa. When the police raid the parasite's headquarters, they are able to kill everyone, including Hirokawa, with only Gotou escaping because of how powerful he is. After this, he spends the rest of the series pursuing Shinichi and Migi on his own and becomes the final obstacle before they can rest.
- Father Enrico Pucci in Jojos Bizarre Adventure worked closely under DIO Brando in part 3, even though he's not seen there. Later on in part 6, after hearing that his friend is killed, he continues DIO's plan to create Heaven, and nearly pulls it off.
- Valgaav of Slayers Try. Literally a dragon. Although so was his boss.
- The five demon lords of the setting are actually the former Co-Dragons of the dead Dark Lord, Shabranigdo, and are planning to resurrect him in preparation for destroying the world.
- In Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Quamzin/Kamjin (aka Khyron) embodies this trope when he shows up (late in the series) after a long absence. The last of the baddies and seemingly more un-hinged than even before, he plans to end the post-war peace by finally destroying the Macross.
- In Transformers Headmasters, Scorponok becomes Decepticon Emperor of Destruction after Galvatron dies. Twice.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Fate and Dynamis both qualify for this, though it's unclear who of them is currently the Big Bad and who is The Dragon.
- Schneizel has aspects of this in Code Geass: after Lelouch erases Charles, Marianne and their Thought Elevator from existence, his scheming, plotting brother becomes the biggest threat to his plans to establish a peaceful world - and, in fact, the entire world itself, thanks to the stockpile of FLEIJA warheads he's installed aboard his flying fortress. Not entirely played straight, though, as Schneizel is arguably a far greater direct threat to Lelouch's plans than Charles is even before their confrontation. Especially considering that Schneizel was planning to have the Emperor assassinated and Lelouch just got to him first. Considering the old man had nothing going for him other than his bizarre Assimilation Plot, it's no wonder that both Schneizel and Lelouch saw offing the old man as a big step forward.
- Lyrical Nanoha
- Toredia Graze in StrikerS Sound Stage X is revealed to have died four years ago. The person behind the events of this mini-arc is his loyal subordinate Runessa, who plans to finish the work he started.
- After Mad Scientist Jail Scaglietti is captued by Fate, Quattro steps up to take his place. For a double whammy she, like all the other cyborgs, carried a clone of Scaglietti in her womb, and was in command of the Cradle, so leaving her unaccounted for would have made all the other triumphs the heroes had garnered in the final battle meaningless.
- In the post-script season of Monster Rancher, Mu's lead Dragon/Starscream tries to pick up where he left off.
- Bleach: Muramasa spends most of the Zanpakutou Unknown Tales Arc orchestrating the Zanpakuto Rebellion before it's revealed to be a distraction that allows Muramasa to achieve his real goal: freeing his master, Kouga. Kouga betrays Muramasa before being defeated by his own nemesis, leaving Muramasa as the main villain to be defeated by Ichigo.
- Prince Lotor from Voltron.
- In the Grand Finale, Baldez from Futari wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart is revealed to be Jaaku King himself. He's one of the seperated parts of Jaaku King and transforms back to his old self.
- Star Wars
- The Legacy comic series has Darth Krayt killed by his Dragon Darth Wyyrlok (who actually is loyal up to that moment, but that's another story); Wyyrlok places his dead master in stasis to hide the truth and decides to fulfill Krayt's "united under the Sith" goal in a rather more literal way — everyone in the entire galaxy will be Sith.
- Grimer from Sonic the Comic is loyal to his master until the very end, but when he realises that Robotnik is insane and unfit to serve, he quits and retreats to the shadows. In Sonic the Comic – Online!, he chessmasters his way into discrediting Sonic, leaving Mobius to the mob, and starting a destructive chain reaction of volcanoes before escaping to another universe. He appears near the end to gloat to Sonic as a hologram.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog
- Meanwhile, in the American Sonic comics, we have the Bride of Conquering Storm — she was the closest thing the Iron Queen had to a Dragon, and following the Queen's recent defeat and imprisonment by the Freedom Fighters, Conquering Storm's taken over as the main villain in the Dragon Kingdom (insert pun here). This isn't the straightest example, as Conquering Storm is still subservient to Eggman.
- A better example would probably be Snively after he succeeded in killing the original Robotnik and taking over his empire, or the period after Eggman's Villainous Breakdown when he allied with the Iron Queen; however, both these times, Eggman eventually showed up/ recovered and put him back in his place.
- Green Lantern:
- The Goon is a case of this having happened before the story even begins. The titular character actually murdered his supposed boss, Labrazzio, back when he was a kid. He just claims to be Labrazzio's #1 legbreaker so people ignore him and go looking in vain for the man who's "really" running things.
- Any Ice Age fic that takes place after the fourth film and features the pirates will show Squint leading them after Gutt's death.
- The Pony POV Series: near the climax of the Dark World arc, Discord is mortally wounded by Rancor, and transfers his remaining power to Fluttercruel, allowing her to become a full Draconequus.
Films — Animation
- The Incredibles: Big Bad Syndrome's plan is using the Omnidroid, a battle robot with Adaptive Ability A.I. that learns from any tactics used against it, as a villain so that he can swoop in and play the hero. However, he programmed it a little too well, and it managed to defeat him and become the final boss.
- Prince Charming in Shrek the Third takes over the Kingdom of Far Far Away, carrying out the plans of his mother, the Fairy Godmother, who was destroyed at the end of the second film.
- Zira from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. Although we do not see her in the first film, it's heavily implied that she was Scar's second in command and possibly his former mate. When the hyenas kill Scar at the end of the film, Zira actually put the blame on Scar's nephew and arch-nemesis, Simba, and since then, vows to destroy not only him, but also his pride as revenge.
- Nigel from Rio takes the position of villain of the second film after Marcel is arrested.
Films — Live-Action
- Subverted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. After the apparent death of Shredder in the first movie, his right-hand man Tatsu steps up to lead the Foot Clan, seconds before Shredder busts through the door to take his old position back.
- In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, after Destro is badly burned, The Doctor takes over and takes the name Cobra Commander. Also, Zartan has infiltrated the White House by impersonating the U.S. President.
- The Big Bad of The Long Kiss Goodnight, Daedalus, is unseen until about halfway through the film — up until then, The Dragon (Timothy) was the main onscreen villain. Daedalus is killed about ten minutes after first appearing, after which Timothy becomes the new Big Bad.
- While he served as The Fallen's lackey throught the film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Megatron actually went back to being the leader of the Decepticons in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Only for as long as it took Sentinel Prime to reveal his true colors, at which point he becomes Sentinel's bitch. At the end, he decides to take back the position of leadership, which gives Optimus the opening to kill both villains. Megatron returns as Galvatron in Transformers: Age of Extinction.
- RocknRolla: It's heavily implied that Archy took over things for Lenny after his untimely demise. (Having Lenny's old driver, Johnny calling him a real rock n' rolla, the bit with The Russian and so forth.) Kind of a subversion as Archy was the one to kill Lenny. Not out of a Heel–Face Turn so much as really not appreciating being lied to or sent to jail.
- Subverted by Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where everyone believes Grievous to be the Dragon Ascendant of the Droid Army after the death of Count Dooku. The viewers are aware, however, that the true mastermind is the Sith Lord Sidious and both men were merely Dragons.
- In the first Spy Kids film, Floop appears to be the main Big Bad. Then The Dragon Minion deposes him and starts calling himself Mr. Minionnote . Floop quickly makes a Heel–Face Turn. By the second film, so does Minion.
- In Banlieue 13, when Taha is killed by his own men, his Dragon K2 takes over and does a much better job running things.
- The Joker starts out The Dark Knight as the mob's Dragon with an Agenda, then gets bored with that (and with them), kills most of them, and takes over for himself.
- In the final movie of the Dark Knight trilogy, the big bad is actually the daughter of the first movie's big bad, out for revenge.
- Bennett from Commando starts out as the typical Dragon to Arius. However, he's obviously a Dragon with an Agenda and a Dragon-in-Chief because he honestly doesn't care about Arius returning to power, he only cares about fighting Matrix. He also much more dangerous than Arius and his army.
- Kruger from Elysium becomes fed with Delacourt's scolding, kills her and goes on a rampage through Elysium.
- Arnim Zola in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After HYDRA fell with the defeat of the Red Skull, Zola was recruited to SHIELD as a part of Operation Paperclip, along with other HYDRA agents. Zola used this opportunity to reform HYDRA from within SHIELD without anyone being the wiser and orchestrated several conflicts in order to increase SHIELD's influence. While he is technically dead by the beginning of the movie, it's Zola's actions that resulted in the main conflict of the story.
- Mr. Joshua from Lethal Weapon attempts to kill Riggs and Murtaugh after the latter had killed his boss while he was attempting to escape.
- In In To Kill a Dragon , when the Titular Dragon has been slain, the Burgomaster takes over the city, becoming a new ruler and ontinuing the oppression.
- Francisco Scaramanga does such in the film version of The Man with the Golden Gun when he kills his current employer Hai Fat.
- Sauron, the Big Bad of The Lord of the Rings, was actually The Dragon to Morgoth in the First Age. Morgoth was defeated and locked away in the void, but Sauron was AWOL for that battle, and took up the mantle himself afterwards. He actually had a Heel–Face Turn after the battle, and genuinely wanted to help rebuild... but the temptation to abuse his power and status was too strong to resist. It's stated that he honestly did repent... though only out of fear of being punished. When he was told that he wouldn't be given a blanket-amnesty but would have to stand trial to be forgiven, Sauron feared (probably correctly) that he would lose, so he ran.
Sauron's fundamental loyalty always seems to lie with himself, with a healthy dose of self-preservation — he's more than willing to work with whoever the most powerful being currently around is while advancing his own goals in the process. It seems to be the realization that after the armies of the Valar depart he's the most powerful entity active in Middle-Earth that sets him on the path towards the throne of Big Bad and Evil Overlord.
- Subverted in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Sirius was introduced as Voldemort's former Dragon who was out to avenge his boss, but this turned out to be completely untrue. The real villain responsible for the crimes he'd been accused of was not The Dragon, being very low-ranked in Voldemort's organization, and he explicitly didn't have the guts to try things on his own. Later we find out that the real Dragon, Bellatrix Lestrange, tried to be the Avenging the Villain flavor of this, but was caught within days of Voldemort's downfall (though not before she had the chance to cross the Moral Event Horizon, unfortunately).
- In Animorphs, Visser Three ascends to the role of Visser One when the previous Visser One is killed and its host freed from Yeerk control.
- In The Sundering, Ushahin takes Godslayer and runs off after Sartoris dies and his forces are broken. Several characters muse that he might be even more dangerous than Sartoris, as while he lacks raw power, he is not limited by Sartoris's sense of honor.
- In the Dale Brown novel The Tin Man, Gregory Townsend, who was The Dragon to Henri Cazaux from the previously non-continuity title Storming Heaven, is the new Big Bad. Also, Sun Ji Guoming from Sky Masters who becomes Big Bad by Fatal Terrain.
- Trent in Ursula Vernon's Black Dogs is a love-interest-turned-Dragon. The story's Big Bad is killed by the demon he summons due to the Dragon's Evil Plan, and the protagonist is left to face him instead.
- Subverted in the Mistborn trilogy. After the Lord Ruler dies, it appears that his Co-Dragons, the Steel Inquisitors, have taken over as the Big Bads. They've actually just transferred their allegiance- or rather, had it forcibly transferred- to Ruin, who was actually the ultimate Big Bad all along.
- Honor Harrington: Oscar St-Just, Rob S. Pierre's loyal lieutenant and friend, takes over Haven after the death of Pierre in an attempted coup. His ascendency doesn't last all that long, ending the second time he meets Thomas Theisman in person.
- Very literally in Guards! Guards!. For the first half of the book, the plot is driven by a secret society summoning a dragon to terrorize the city, with the leader's goal being to install a puppet king under his control. Except that then when he thinks he's pulled his plan off without a hitch, the dragon comes back on its own, kills the new king, and sets itself up as the ruler of the city.
- In Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday, a prequel to the 2007 film, Starscream takes over as the leader of the Decepticons after Megatron's disappearance. After the Cybertronians encounter the Ghost-1 in 1969, Starscream rightly determines that the technology of the primitive human spacecraft is too similar to Cybertronian tech to be a coincidence (even though, to his subordinates, he insists that it's a natural evolution of all technology in the universe), which must indicate that Megatron is on Earth. Unwilling to relinquish his position, he does everything possible to delay the discovery of Earth by his kin, including destroying the Ghost-1 and her crew in order to deny the same opportunity to the Autobots. While he obviously fails in the long term, it does take another four decades for them to find Earth. Note that the sequel films pretty much render this storyline non-canon.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Anointed One is this, until Spike kills him, of course.
- Super Sentai does this sometimes.
- In Tensou Sentai Goseiger, Buredoran is this seemingly. He is the Dragon for all three villain groups but he's simply just using them for what he wants once they are out of the way he becomes the the Big Bad.
- In Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, after Messiah is basically reduced to a Disc One Final Boss battle after the Go-busters dispatch of him, Enter takes over as the new Big Bad
- Cigarette Smoking Man after the destruction of the first Syndicate in The X-Files.
- Santana Lopez in Glee seemed to be en route to this, taking over Quinn's role as the Alpha Bitch when Quinn's status as a Fallen Princess (she suddenly became unpopular when her pregnancy was revealed) made her do a Heel–Face Turn. After Quinn had her kid, though, she first regained her status in the Cheerios and then half a season later both of them ended up quitting.
- Smallville's tenth season features the Vigilante Registration Agency (VRA) led by General Slade Wilson. Slade and his group provide a great deal of the conflict in the early half of the season, with Slade himself finally going down in the eleventh episode. That isn't the end however, as episode twelve's Villain of the Week is Lieutenant Trotter, Slade's aide de camp, who has taken over the VRA and directed it towards her mentor's agenda of taking down all the heroes. Only her defeat ensures the end of the persecution.
- Babylon 5 season five, and its spin-off Crusade, has the Drakh, former servants of the Shadows who were abandoned when their masters agreed to stop interfering with the younger races and decided to take over as Big Bad. Their name even resembles many Romance languages' words for "dragon".
- The final episode of The Shadow Line has Dragon-in-Chief Gatehouse killing his bosses and becoming the Big Bad proper.
- Power Rangers:
- Subverted in Power Rangers RPM. After Venjix is seemingly destroyed in battle, his Co-Dragons decide to fight over who gets to assume the role of Big Bad. Tanaya 7 wins, but Venjix comes back online directly after that. He isn't too mad though.
- In Power Rangers Megaforce, when the Rangers simultaneously defeat both Admiral Malkor and Vrak by hurling Malkor into his flagship while Vrak is piloting it, Malkor doesn't survive the resulting explosion but Vrak does and is subsquently rebuilt as a cyborg, becoming the Big Bad for the last stretch of the season. Similarly, in Super Megaforce the Rangers defeat Prince Vekar and Argus, leaving Vekar's other Dragons Damaras and Levira to avenge him, though in Damaras's case Emperor Mavro has him arrested for failing to protect Vekar, then he gets defeated by the Rangers when he attempts to redeem himself.
- At the end of Season 1 of The Wire, Big Bad Avon Barksdale is convicted of drug trafficking and sent to prison, but his right-hand man, Stringer Bell, who managed to avoid being caught on tape doing anything illegal, is left out on the street. Since Stringer is a lot smarter than Avon was, he proves to be even tougher to catch.
- A mild example in Doctor Who with the Cybermen of Cybus Industries. When the Cyberleader is killed, another Cyberman immediately upgrades himself to Cyberleader. It's not made clear if there is any hierarchy in place to determine succession.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: After Gul Dukat is captured, Gul Damar steps into this role for a while though ultimately pulls a Heel–Face Turn and becomes the hero of a Cardassian resistance against the Dominion.
- Once Upon a Time: Regina becomes this in season 2 when she is manipulated into helping Snow kill Cora and wants revenge.
- Alaric Saltzman of The Vampire Diaries becomes this to Big Bad Esther in season 3 after his Face–Heel Turn. Ester's plan to commit Vampire genocide by killing her children, The Original Vampires, and all vampires sired by them rested on her possessing Bonnie after she's killed to complete Alaric's transformation into an "Enhanced" Original Vampire armed with an indestructible White Oak Stake that she intended to have defeat The Originals.
- On Alias, Breakout Villain Mr. Sark moved up the ranks from Mouth of Sauron in Season 1 to Dragon in Season 2 to finally becoming part of the Big Bad Duumvirate in Season 3. Unusually for this trope, he eventually went back to being the Dragon again in Season 5 when his original boss completed her circuit of the Heel–Face Revolving Door and decided to be a villain after all.
- Supergirl (2015): After Astra is killed by Alex to save J'onn halfway through the first season, her husband and second-in-command, Non, takes control of their forces and continues the progress of their Evil Plan with an even more aggressive stance.
- After dealing with Abismo Negro's constant efforts to takeover Los Vipers, Cibernético actually relented and gave ownership of the group to him, leaving to form a larger group called Lucha Libre Latina, who would then use Los Vipers to help him takeover AAA.
- The Rock ousted Faarooq from The Nation of Domination when Faarooq grew jealous with the Rock's success after winning the Intercontinental Championship and disrespect. The Rock still acknowledged Faarooq as leader, but where The Rock gifted every other member of the nation a Rolex watch, he gave Faarooq a big blown up picture of said championship belt. After the Rock took over, he moved the nation in a completely different direction and brought in Owen Hart. He had already gone behind Faarooq's back and brought back Mark Henry.
- Muerte Cibernética usurped control of Cibernético's Secta while the latter was benched with an injury by blaming him for their collective failure against La Parka Jr. Muerte becoming Mesias of La Secta, he would in turn be ousted by his own dragon, Ozz. When Cibernético would reform La Secta to defend AAA against Los Perros Del Mal, he mistakenly allied himself with Ozz's group, which had now become the Black Family, leading to Ozz once again taking over La Secta after the dogs were defeated.
- Act Yasukawa quickly advanced through the ranks of Kimura Monster Gun after betraying Trouble2Maker to them in World Wonder Ring STARDOM, eventually getting Kyoko Kimura herself to voluntarily submit to her takeover.
- Allysin Kay took Valkyrie by the horns in SHINE Wrestling, determined to undo its Villain Decay after previous leader Radiant Rain was forced into retirement by stable oddball Ivelisse Vélez and Rain's replacement, Serena Deeb, was injured while taking a detour on Valkyrie's path of revenge against Ivelisse for betraying them(read:refusing to participate in a Finger Poke of Doom match).
- Revolver Ocelot from the Metal Gear serves as the henchman to not one, not two, but three main antagonists note . He manages to outlive them all due to his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, and ultimately becomes the final boss in Metal Gear Solid 4.
- Dimentio, in Super Paper Mario. He manipulated both sides for his own personal ends, for his own goal to remake the multiverse. What reason? None. He's just a crazy psychopath who thinks he is a god.
- At the end of Earthbound, after you defeat Giygas Porky/Pokey, the bratty little kid from earlier in the game escapes to another time - specifically, Nowhere Island, where the events of MOTHER 3 take place.
- Ramirez in Skies of Arcadia. His boss, Lord Galcian, wanted to Take Over the World, but Ramirez really doesn't take his death well and attempts to go a teensy bit further with the ancient superweapon they awakened together.
- In the original Time Crisis the Big Bad Sherudo Garo is the boss of act 2. When he is killed, his henchman Wild Dog takes over the plan in act 3.
Wild Dog: How could you?! You killed my boss!! What do I do now... I can't let things end this way!
- Wild Dog has no reason to do this, he just feels like it. This becomes a trend for the series — Wild Dog is always a mercenary, and he's always the last guy you fight.
- Final Fantasy likes to play with its Sorting Algorithm of Evil in a way that often invokes this trope.
- Subverted in Final Fantasy II: after the heroes kill the Emperor, the Dark Knight tries to take his place...but then the Emperor returns from hell to take back his throne.
- Final Fantasy VI is perhaps the Trope Codifier for this plot in games: The Emperor Gestahl meets his end by trying to stop his underling, Monster Clown Kefka, from meddling with powers beyond his comprehension in the Disc One Final Dungeon. Kefka gleefully takes over; only then does the true extent of his insanity show itself - but if anything, it only makes him more dangerous.
- Final Fantasy VII After President Shinra is killed by Sephiroth, his son, Rufus, the Vice President of Shinra Inc. assumes his position. However, this isn't an entirely straight example: though Rufus isn't a good guy, he's more a pragmatist than his father, and actually attempts to fight against Sephiroth, the real Big Bad.
- Later, as a result of Rufus' apparent death and Professor Hojo's defection to Sephiroth's faction, Shinra board members Scarlet and Heidegger attempt to do this, staging a hostile takeover of the company, placing Reeve, the sole honest member of the board, under arrest, and taking the field personally in a giant robot with the intent to wipe out all the opposing factions. They don't even get out of the city before they're offhandedly killed by the heroes, because the robot wasn't nearly as strong as they thought it was.
- Fawful, The Dragon of Big Bad Cackletta, was the fan favorite villain of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, thanks to Nintendo's localization efforts. His popularity (and the fact that he wasn't seen dead) played a major part in his transformation to a major Big Bad in the third game Bowser's Inside Story.
- Call of Duty : Modern Warfare franchise. Vladmir Makarov was an underling of the Big Bad of Modern Warfare 1, Imran Zakhaev. He was the main villain in Modern Warfare 3.
- In the Ratchet & Clank series, Captain Qwark becomes the Big Bad after the game in which he was The Dragon.
- Kyle Katarn kills Desann, after beating his apprentice Tavion but allowing her to go, in Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast. Tavion proceeds to be the Big Bad in Jedi Academy, the next game, seeking revenge for her humiliation, among other things.
- In Myth 2, Soulblighter returns to try and finish the job that his boss, The Leveler started. Too bad the job is wiping out all human civilization and ushering in a thousand years of darkness.
- In [PROTOTYPE], the Supreme Hunter/Hybrid is the final boss; you kill its "Mother" Elizabeth Greene (who was the source and driving intelligence behind the infection) several levels earlier. The Hybrid may have actually facilitated Greene's death. At the end of the game, the Hybrid reveals that it had consumed and assumed the form of Specialist Cross. Cross had been secretly advising you; his advice led to Greene's death. It's unclear as to whether the Hybrid consumed Cross before or after this. The hybrid wants to eat Alex in order to grow powerful to survive a nuke and live to spread the infection elsewhere. It's actually implied that the Supreme Hunter consumes and impersonates Cross in the cutscene immediately following Greene's death, so it's unlikely that it directly facilitated her demise.
- Cho'gall was the lieutenant of Gul'dan, mastermind of the conflicts in the first two games. After Gul'dan's death Cho'gall went into hiding with the remaining members of the Twilight Hammer Clan. By the time of World of Warcraft he is head of the rebuilt Twilight Hammer Cult and leads them in a quest to unleash the Old Gods on Azeroth. In Cataclysm he lost his leading role when Deathwing returned.
- Judging by his lines in the Sunwell Plateau raid, Kil'jaeden has taken full command of the demonic army known as the Burning Legion now that Sargeras is just a spirit. Kil'jaeden was perfectly happy serving Sargeras, even easily forgiving minions who failed to carry out his plans, but he definitely took advantage of the absence of Sargeras. His title in Sunwell is even "Lord of the Burning Legion", and fel (demonic) creatures even refer to HIM SPECIFICALLY rather than Sargeras when referencing the Legion.
- Deathwing is the (no pun intended, as he is also a real dragon) Dragon to N'zoth and Yogg'Saron, who both had a hand in his corruption. N'zoth is currently the one "signing his paychecks", but Yogg admitted that he helped corrupt Deathwing in the past. This leads to an awesome You Have Out Lived Your Usefulness when those guys get tired of Deathwing and impale him on his own Temple in the Bad Future, thus ending his reign as Dragon.
- At the end of Mega Man Zero 1, the tyrannical ruler of Neo Arcadia was defeated by Zero. In Zero 2, Harpuia, de facto leader of Copy-X's 4 Guardians, assumes leadership, while keeping it a secret from the Neo Arcadian citizens that Copy-X was dead.
- Red Faction has the first half of the game hunting down Capek, after that it's fight against the mercenaries he hired and their leader Colonel Masako.
- StarCraft: Immediately after Tassadar destroys the Zerg Overmind, Kerrigan ascends to rule the swarm, although Daggoth initially takes control of half the swarm as well, starting the so-called Brood War.
- Often in Castlevania games, Dracula isn't always revived for most of the time the castle is around. This leaves Death to try and figure out how to revive him and set some of the plots in motion, such as in Harmony of Dissonance and Portrait of Ruin. Inevitably, he succeeds (or fails but but comes back anyway) and Dracula is once again the final boss.
- The plot of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night turns out to be an attempt by Shaft, Dracula's magician from Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, to corrupt Richter Belmont as revenge for killing his master... and him... twice. Once Alucard and Maria expose his involvement, he switches to Plan B and revives Dracula again.
- An example From a Certain Point of View happens in Tales of Vesperia, where the Fallen Hero Duke picks up where Pharoh left off; trying to save the world through questionable means. Unfortunately, nobody realizes until it's too late that his Necessary Evils include Kill 'em All. Oh, and the name of one of his attacks? Dragon Ascendant. It's from a certain point of view because, with a few exceptions, the game runs on White and Grey Morality.
- Jimmy Pegorino becomes this in Grand Theft Auto IV's Revenge ending.
- The Godfather
- Played with. Once Sollozzo's taken down, Bruno Tattaglia seems to be the one pulling the Tattaglias' strings during the mid-point of the war against the Corleones, but he's killed fairly quickly. After that, Johnny Tattaglia (Bruno's brother) tries to form up his own army to take down the Corleones from Brooklyn in one of Tessio's contract hits. Key words: Contract hits, so he's whacked shortly after his existence becomes known.
- Played straight in the sequel if you take the Villain Protagonist angle - You as Dominic were Aldo's underboss and become the new Don after Aldo gets killed.
- In Onimusha 3, the game ends with Nobunaga's final defeat. The game ends with sequel bait showing that his right hand man, Hideyoshi, is ready to make his move. The hell he plays a hand in unleashing in Dawn of Dreams is way worse than anything Nobunaga ever accomplished.
- In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, Mastema serves as the yes-man for the Three Wise Men, the Law authorities of the setting. They intend to use the Schwarzwelt's powers to rewrite reality so the Law of the Lord will forever be in Humanity's heart. Problem is, Mastema really doesn't give a shit about the Wise Men's motives. He doesn't believe in human cooperation, bonding or any human activity aside from their blind faith and devotion. What he believes in? Power. For himself. All he ever does is for the possibility of ascending to a higher form. Even after the Wise Men's armies have been mostly junked in the Chaos Path, he tries going himself against the protagonist and is thoroughly humiliated and forced to own up to his own silly pretenses.
- In Assassin's Creed III, when Connor kills Haytham, Charles Lee, his second-in-command, takes over the Colonial Templars.
- Saints Row
- In the first, the protagonist is "Playa", a new recruit into the Third Street Saints street gang, who eventually rises to become second-in-command to its founder, Julius Little. In the second game, Playa awakens from a years-long coma to find Julius missing and the Saints disbanded. Becoming "the Boss", they reform the Saints under their own control and go about conquering the city.
- In Saints Row: The Third, Killbane takes over the Syndicate after Phillipe Loren is killed off surprisingly early on.
- At the end of A2XT, once Science is defeated, Pandamona destroys the Super Leek machine in order to remake the universe on her own image.
- In Knights of the Old Republic Big Bad Darth Malak was originally apprentice and subordinate to Darth Revan. After Revan's defeat Malak took control of the Sith forces. Unfortunately where Revan was pragmatic about his war efforts, thus limiting collateral damage, Malak savored the opportunity to cause mass destruction.
- Dalton from Chrono Trigger wasn't present at the climactic scene in the Ocean Palace (to be specific, he ran for it one battle earlier). Accordingly, after Zeal's destruction, he's the highest-ranking Enlightened One left, and remains in full control of his powers, so it's no surprise that he asserts his authority over the survivors of 12,000BC.
- Final Fantasy Adventure: Dark Lord is defeated, and the mana pendant recovered from his body. Except it's a fake. Dark Lord's archmage Julius has the real one, and has brainwashed the heroine who can unlock it's powers.
- Ansem was The Dragon to the FOX director of the first season of Ansem Retort, but has ascended to become his own Big Bad, made all too apparent in the newest season.
- Malack of The Order of the Stick planned to be this to Tarquin. His plan was to take over the entire Western Continent after Tarquin and their other companions die from old age. Malack would outlive them all because he's a vampire. Tarquin was actually perfectly fine with this, as long as he got a bigger statue. But Malack's dead so that can't happen.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, Yurius becomes the next Big Bad when his master and father figure Sydney is killed in the First Age. Richelieu ends up as the lord of Alent when Jemuel is frozen in stasis inside the Beam of Alent in the Third Age.
- In the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, the Venomous Tentacula replaces the previous leader of the League of Mary-Sue Factories when they are killed during an invasion of PPC Headquarters, though not before having to win an Enemy Civil War.
- At first, it seems as if Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender will be ascended when her father crowns her Fire Lord. Subverted in that, two seconds later, he crowns himself Phoenix King, removes all power from her position, and makes her stay home instead of fighting in the final showdown.
- Played straight in Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, when her father is imprisoned and depowered and she becomes the main antagonist of the story.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
- The Shredder's adopted daughter Karai takes up her father's mantle and attempts to avenge him after his defeat.
- Hun also gets this treatment, going from being Shredder's bodyguard to a competent leader of a more black-ops incarnation of the Purple Dragons. While only appearing as the main villain in only a small handful of episodes, he had a tendency to get away scott free at the end of the episode, as opposed to appearances in earlier seasons when it was standard procedure for him to get his ass kicked by the end of every story arc.
- In the Five-Episode Pilot of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, the Rangers defeat ruthless mob boss Alden Klordane. He's never seen again, but his Right-Hand Cat became a frequently recurring villain, as did the Mad Scientist he was employing. Though Fat Cat's status is questionable, since he already had a criminal empire and plans of his own when he was a pet.
- At the end of the Five-Episode Pilot for Transformers Prime, Starscream appoints himself Decepticon leader roughly a minute after Megatron disappears in a space bridge explosion. This goes here rather than under the trope he named because, for once, he didn't have anything to do with what happened to the Big Bad, though he's not above worsening the damage once he finds what's left of his former master in the next episode. Though when Starscream does take command, you can tell by his voice and the look on his face that he is absolutely loving his chance at ascension. So rather than his usual trope, this seems to make him more of a Bastard Understudy.
- Before that, there's Galvatron in the third season of the original Transformers cartoon, due to Unicron's body being destroyed at the end of Transformers: The Movie.
- Snively at the end of Sonic SatAM was shown stepping up to this role in the final episode after Robotnik fled, but the series was canceled before he got to do anything.
- Zemerik from Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 was this to Krytus. He used to be Krytus' Dragon but gained free will, betrayed Krytus, and sealed him away. He proceeded to take over Krytus' role of Big Bad over the Sark. Unfortunately for him, Krytus eventually returns and takes said role back.
- Young Justice
- Black Manta ascends as a main member of The Light after his former boss, Ocean Master, becomes "disgraced" after an unspecified incident during the Time Skip.
- In "Summit" it becomes clear how much the Ambassador has been Out-Gambitted by the Light, and immediately after both of them are Out-Gambitted by the Team. The Ambassador is captured, but Black Beetle opts not to help him escape, citing Reach code to prove that he's incompetant enough for him to take over the invasion.
- The finale of Cyber Six has Von Richter die, but ends with Jose grinning evilly at the camera.
- The final episode of Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys used this as a cliffhanger.