Evil is a vile temptress. She's cool. She's rich. She's powerful. She's sexy. She makes you feel good. She is everything you want, if not everything you need. And the most tempting aspect of evil?
You see, Good makes you work for her. You want her blessing, you have to take the difficult path. You have to talk to the villagers and understand their complaints instead of just blowing them up. You have to work through problems. And human problems, well, they tend to be complicated. And as Good is fond of reminding you, the pursuit of her is a never-ending quest. She is like the horizon: no matter how tenaciously you pursue Good, you're never quite going to reach her.
Evil, on the other hand, offers you her fruits with seductive ease. One squeeze of the trigger, one slash of the sword, one cutting remark, and you've won her approval. Evil presents the hero with an easy, obstacle-free path to riches and rewards. Too often, Evil seems to be the shortest distance between two points, and humans are lazy.
Expect Good to remind you how easy Evil is and reproach the protagonist for considering the simple path. The mentor will remind our hero that the easy path is not the right one. Sometimes the true cost of evil being easy is that it's overspecialised in destruction, meaning that a "weak" good power ends up more effective than a strong evil one.
There's a second, game-specific aspect of this trope. These days, a lot of games are fond of the Karma Meter. This allows the player to dictate the morality of the game. Unfortunately, the evil options tend to be quick, clean, easy. They don't require Level Grinding or other annoyances. The good options, on the other hand, require effort, puzzle solving skills and other time-intensive activities.
Compare Being Good Sucks.
Examples of the first facet include:
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Negi Springfield of Mahou Sensei Negima! chose Black Magic because the light path wasn't fast enough. The reward in this case was power. Somewhat subverted in that it's not actually evil, just much more dangerous—both to himself and others.
In Dragon Ball Muten Roshi repeatedly tells that Tao Pai-Pai and the Crane Hermit have gone "The easy way of evil".
In the title, and pretty much the thesis, of the thriller One Bad Thing. The goodly characters have never done anything truly wrong, but those who commit one misdeed and realize there's no cosmic retribution lose a good portion of their restraint, and in all but one case become jerkasses or villains. (That one case is the main character, and really isn't evil so much as chaotic, but is treated as mildly repulsive in a manner similar to Magwitch or Sydney Carton.)
In The Eyes of the Dragon, the narration notes that it's easier to do evil magic than good magic. Good magic is even harder for Flagg—he needs to keep King Roland alive, but his ability to do so diminishes since he doesn't actually want to.
The Star Wars expanded universe, and especially with the Zahn novels, explores and deconstructs the trope. In fact, some of the books note that the dark side is stronger, in terms of combat...but then being a Jedi isn't just about surviving fights.
Live Action TV
Barack Obama stated in one of his early 2009 speeches that "America does what is necessary, not what is easy" (or something like that). This was parodied on The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart asked Obama "Have you met America?" and provided a number of examples where Americans chose the easy road over the right one.
Is it true a politician's heart can rust away and fall apart?
I guess it must be hard, oh it must be hard
To know what's good and to know what's easy
This goes back all the way to ancient Greek philosophy. The Cynics had a legend about Heracles being at a crossways. One path was smooth and easy, the path to vice; the other was rocky and full of thorns, and it was the path to virtue.
A very similar image appears in the Child Ballad "Thomas the Rhymer":
"O see ye not that narrow road, So thick beset with thorns and briers? That is the path of righteousness, Tho after it but few enquires.
"And see not ye that braid braid road, That lies across that lily leven? That is the path to wickedness, Tho some call it the road to heaven."
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
There are similar passages found throughout the Bible which share this sentiment in different ways; Isaiah 35 is one such example.
In the Dragonlance setting, early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, black wizards gained levels faster than white ones, being evil and following the much easier path. However this was counterbalanced by black wizards having a lower level limit - eventually a white wizard would surpass his black counterpart. Red wizards (neutrals) fell between the two extremes advancing faster than white but slower than black and topping out lower than white but higher than black.
This is a gameplay mechanic in some versions of the the Star Wars tabletop game, where at lower levels using the Dark Side provides more benefits, but it quickly peters off and is eclipsed by the Light.
Warhammer 40K: Defending oneself against Chaos involves maintaining control over one's emotions, specfically rage, lust, hope, or fear of death. In a Crapsack World. And since Chaos is far from the only threat, its servants can very often sway Imperials by using the promise of power (either psychic, mutation or possessed weapons) against the Tyranids / Orks / Dark Eldar.
Becka: If you have two choices you can usually tell which one is right. Because it's the hardest one.
Later quoted by one of the villains, during his Heel-Face Turn. Looking how Becka turned him for the good, she will be great mother one day.
This is a recurring theme in Sinfest. At the same time, it's subverted in that Slick's application for "Anything You Want" via the Devil takes FOREVER to process.
Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness has this when Fenghuang wants Po to join her in "Owl Be Back". Unlike Shifu, she's not just willing to teach him all sorts of cool kung-fu moves, but ''eager', to the point she turns her assault on the Jade Palace into an impromptu, entertaining and fast-paced training session. She also lavishes him with praise and calls him a fast learner, as opposed to Shifu repeatedly pointing out his flaws.
On Captain Planet,Zarm's first appearance has him offer the Planeteers magical gauntlets that are far more powerful than Gaia's rings. Unfortunately, using them also make them Drunk on the Dark Side. (This especially fits this trope because the one Planeteer to refuse the offer is Ma-Ti, whose power is both the most good and the most useless.) The gauntlets are also fashioned so that the Planeteers have to remove their rings to wear them, symbolically casting aside their allegiance to Gaia.
Examples of the second facet include:
Old World of Darkness as a whole seems to be quite the fan of this. Whether vampire, werewolf, mage, or other monster, the player characters are supposed to be regularly and reliably tempted with the easy but vile path.
In Exalted, being evil causes Limit Break, and even the Abyssals, a bunch of Solars corrupted by the very forces of the underworld, can bleed off their punishment for being good without acting evil.
Alchemicals play it straight with Transorganic Desecration Cyst, which gives them brain cancer, Gremlin Syndrome (which turns them into murderous, psychopathic avatars of the Engine of Extinction), and the ability to grow Charms that don't take up Essence to have installed.
Also, Limit Breaks do not happen if you are evil. They happen if you act against your virtues. Depending of how you make the character, it can means you're likely to do so if you don't kill everyone in the village because doing so is the most efficient way of completing your objectives.
In core Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, there's the Paladin, a 20-level hard-to-handle base class that often makes it more difficult for the rest of the party. On the other hand, you have the 10-level Blackguard, which gets evil-flavored versions of just about every paladin ability. By the numbers, the Paladin should be more powerful at the end of the day for anything that counts level into the numbers, but this is subverted when fallen Paladins get most of their powers back as Blackguards.
Borderline version in The Dresden Files RPG. Lawbreaker supernatural powers grant bonuses to the effectiveness of a given spell, if you're using it for the purposes of further breaking that law. For example, a character who's killed someone with magic once will get a +1 bonus to his spells if he's trying to kill someone with it afterward. Killing more increases the bonus. This is said, in the rulebook, to represent the seductive, corrupting nature of breaking the laws of magic.
Similarly, Sponsored Magic comes with several bonuses that will both make your spells stronger, and let you cast them easier. The catch, of course, is the more you take advantage of the bonuses, the more in debt you become to the sponsor, and the more they can exert influence on you. Deals with Demons and Fallen Angels fall squarely into this trope, whereas deals with, say, God fall right on the "Good is Hard" side.
Many Star Wars games let the player choose between the dark and light sides. The dark side tends to be simpler, but not always.
Played with and sometimes averted in Knights of the Old Republic. An example would be on Manaan, where the prime moral choice comes down to pumping nerve toxin into the ocean (dark side) or overloading a Republic harvester (light side). The nerve toxin can be deployed by pressing a button, but can result in getting banned from the planet, making several sidequests unwinnable. Overloading the harvester requires the player solve an (admittedly easy) puzzle, and bears no negative consequences. It's inverted on Taris, where the dark side option only becomes available just before you are about to finish the light side path.
Also either averted or played straight depending on the situation in KOTOR II: The Sith Lords. It's played straight in a lot of the sidequests (for example, the evil route to dealing with the Exchange boss in the Refugee Sector on Nar Shadaa just involves doing a few errands and talking to people, while the good route inevitably leads to killing every Exchange goon in the Sector), but averted in the overarching plot (when you encounter the Jedi Masters, the good path is to talk to them, get some questions answered, and go on your way; the evil path is to fight them to the death, and they are tough).
Inverted in The Force Unleashed: The Light Side final boss uses a lightning attack you can reflect to damage him and summons mooks you can kill to restore health. The Dark Side final boss is a master of lightsaber combat who gives you very few openings to damage him and no chance to restore lost health during the battle.
Then played straight in Ultimate Sith Edition where, during the fight with Boba Fett, you can just use Force Lightning with him unable to block it, thereby making him the easiest boss in the game.
Also inverted in Jedi Academy. The Light Side Final Boss is this resurrected Dark Lord of the Sith possessing what had been the main villainess up to then. It's a considerably easier fight than the Dark Side boss: Kyle Katarn. Also, as a darksider, you have to fight both the Jedi and Sith Cultists throughout Korriban and the Jedi are harder to kill(but have less offense).
Inverted in Overlord, which makes sense since you're a Villain Protagonist. Gaining 100% Corruption, the Evil Path, requires you to go out of your way - sometimes, FAR out of your way - to do evil deeds. 0% Corruption, the Good Path, on the other hand... mostly just requires you to refrain from doing evil deeds when offered the opportunity.
Also, to get 100% corruption, you had to kill a lot of people. Over 300 to be specific. Considering how much there are humans in the game, getting 100% corruption means that you are going to spend lot of time warping between levels to kill peasants. Unless you abuse Silent Orders resurrection ability.
The Demon Path of Soul Nomad is also notably more difficult than the normal path, as you'll end up facing many heroes and villains of the normal path, only all united against you, instead of acting alone or on your side.
Most Strategy Games such as Total War Series and Galactic Civilizations has a lot of benefits for the evil side before there is a decision to decide if you are a nice guy or not, And genocide give you bad traits but lots of money.
Total War has a weird one in the Medieval titles. Your generals have opposed Chivalry and Dread values, but you get Dread for showing more tactical ability than a deranged squirrel (AKA not a frontal charge with your full force) as much as for massacres.
At least in the early stages, the Carnivore/Predator route seems substantially easier than Herbivore/Diplomat in Spore. Once you reach the Tribal and Civilized stages, though, a mixed approach is more likely to achieve success.
In Disgaea, it's trivially easy to kill your allies either accidentally or on purpose. Unless you have a walkthrough, you've just missed the Good Ending of the first game.
The first Disgaea game also offers a bizarre subversion, in the form of two special bonus endings that you can only get by killing large numbers of your allies, far more than you would ever be likely to kill by accident.
Black & White is much, much easier to play as an evil god. Scaring people by throwing fireballs, rocks and summoning wolves rewards more belief than good miracles do, sacrificing provides an enormous mana boost compared to the worship of an average village, and evil miracles can be almost game-breakingly devastating (Increased Lightning, with good aim, depopulate an entire village in two shots). By comparison, good miracles are almost all close-range and reward pitiful belief unless you're fulfilling a need of some sort (wood, food), worshiping only becomes effective when you get dozens of people doing it (and this will take a while), and to get the kind of power an evil god will have you will have to build a village so large that it will be nigh impossible for your enemy to not be able to hit it. And of course there's the resources you will pour into making said village... evil rules this game.
Hugely averted in the sequel, however - rather than performing Miracles to impress villages you want to conquer, you have to build up your own city's "Impressiveness" by building structures and prospering to make them migrate to you. And unless you make a pointed, conscious effort to build as unattractively as possible, even building an Evil city up to sufficiently support warfare and a miserable, slave-like populace will attract 50-75% of the villages on the map to migrate. Sure, you can just kill them when they reach your borders, but there's Evil, and there's totally moronic. Even if you do avoid this problem, Good typically ends up with one massive, prosperous, efficient and productive metropolis that naturally grows until you attract the entire map, whilst Evil ends up with a population whom it's a full-time occupation to keep ALIVE, so many people in the armies that efficiency in other areas is less than nothing, and people spread uselessly and frustratingly over various pointlessly insignificant and underproductive villages on the map.
The Suffering games give you a handful of simple moral choices, usually by introducing NPCs who depend on you for their lives. If you want to be a murderous villain, all you have to do is blow them away as soon as they stop speaking. If you want the good guy points, you usually have to protect them as they stumble through the halls of a haunted prison. Fail to save them from the unholy abominations and you don't even get points for trying. However, most of your companions are decent fighters, even if they don't check their fire for you (particularly the dynamite guy), and neutral is an ending unto itself.
While there are rewards for being a goody two-shoes in the Fallout series, especially Fallout 3, several of the best rewards and simplest solutions are very, very bad. Sell a sentient, innocent, and helpful android into slavery? Free perk for you! Want the single best face equipment in the game, the only one that adds action points? You'll need to kill a friendly guy in cold blood.
In Fallout 2 this trope is inverted. Playing a very low-karma character not only denies you many major and rewarding quests but the evil route requires many more direct fights with major NPCs and the low-karma options are often difficult to discover. Just gaining full access to Vault City requires you to either take a high-karma route to have the perfect stat setup to take the no-karma option. Also, the quest lines to join with the Raiders and/or the Hubologists were both left incomplete.
Puzzle Quest has it both ways. For some sidequests, one can take an easy amoral option for a reward, or the long path for another reward. However, the "good" rewards tend to be superior (though often not worth the trouble) for helping you out down the road.
In Might and Magic VI, reaching the Saintly reputation (required for Master of Light Magic) requires you to trudge through quest after quest, slowly building your reputation. However, becoming Master of Dark Magic (requires the worst "Notorious" reputation) takes less than 30 seconds of killing innocent villagers.
Inverted in the main quest of the first Fable game. Said main quest gives you good points fairly often, and evil points fairly rarely, so unless you go out of your way to slaughter civilians, you'll probably end up good.
Played straight outside of the plot: things which give you good points when you kill them, like bandits and undead, are rather difficult to find in large groups and yield only 5 good points. Guards, though slightly harder to kill, spawn infinitely and yield 20 evil points. Also, you can get 600 evil points easy by divorcing your spouse.
Fable is an inversion in that while evil acts are as simple as punching out a window, becoming evil is a full-time job as the default in the game is Good, and going evil mid-game requires multiple Moral Event Horizon in order to be recognized as evil.
As an in-game example, the tweo temples require different types of sacrifice. Avo requests money, Skorm request humans. Guess which is easier to collect enough of in order to get the good weapons?
In Fable 2, during the part of the story where you're a Spire guard, disobeying the evil commandant makes you lose experience, while taking the evil actions has no negative consequences except, if you don't want them, evil points.
Played very straight in Fable 3, where you have to make several evil decisions if you want to save all the people of Albion and you don't have 8.5 million gold.
It should be noted that the good route is just easy if the player has been buying stalls, houses and shops the whole game, which is neither a good nor evil option. By endgame, the player can be making well over 100,000g every 5 minutes, without incurring corruption for high prices/rent... not counting job work.
In FAMOUS seems to invoke both parts of this trope. It's easy to sway the Karma meter to evil (Meleeing a civilian with low-ranked melee skill granted like 4 ticks of bad Karma vs. the 1 for healing a downed one,) and Evil often Pays Better, as well. Take the 1 bit of payment from the guy you just helped, or kill him for 5? Hmm...
No one says you can't be evil when it's definitely more beneficial and be good the rest.
inFAMOUS seems to be a fan of Black and White Morality: performing a Good action when playing Evil will reduce your Evil XP, & vice versa. So it's beneficial to play as either absolute Good or absolute Evil.
It also makes the game itself easier, good is precision and non-lethality, evil is destruction of whatever gets in the way of you and your enemy, it's easier to play through hard mode when you can spend less time aiming and more time shooting.
Mass Effect seems to try for it and then doesn't! The manual says the easy option is the evil one. But since the evil choice is almost always going to result in lying, stealing, and fighting difficult battles, it seems harder. The good side ends with you saying something gallant, which then makes the enemy give up without a fight, or kill themselves. Which is really the easy choice?
A good few of the really evil ones are literally easy, in that you can default to them if you don't have the stats, you can use the 'evil' version of diplomacy, or it's just a straight-moral choice, and equal.
Some of the Renegade interrupts in Mass Effect 2 also make it easier by disposing of enemies "unfairly," such as by setting off an explosion to take out some of the enemy.
In Kane and Lynch the "evil" ending is the easiest, with Kane betraying his companions and escaping with his daughter, while the "good" ending requires to play a last and rather tough level to save your companions. Ironically, the "good" ending is the bleakest of the two, as it's implied that both your daughter and Lynch die, while in the "evil" ending (established by the sequel as the canonical one) they just hate your guts.
In the PC game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript, the player character has a Karma Meter which measures his angelic level (white) versus his devilish level (red). You can increase either level at will, if you have the points to spend, and they also are increased by certain choices made during the course of the game. Quite often, the "evil" course of action is the better one to take — for example, you're going to have a better chance of getting the female character to like you if you lie and say that the gift you're giving her was your mother's, instead of telling her the truth about how you swiped it.
Averted in Ace Combat Zero: morality is entirely based on the number of yellow targets you either destroy or spare. In missions with a lot of yellow targets, you have to deliberately take time away from the actual mission to go destroy them if you want a level other than "Supreme Knight". In addition, spared targets seem to effect karma a lot more than destroyed targets. However, destroying yellow targets nets you quite a lot of extra money, such that if you're playing as a Mercenary (evil) character, you'll have an easier time buying new planes and weapons, as opposed to the Knight (good) character, who has to make each purchase count that much more.
Nexus War made it much harder to stay good than to go evil as an intentional design decision. Demons could wander around murdering whoever they damn well please. Neutrals, goods, evils, all were fair game and all gave experience. If you wanted to be an Angel however or even just a Good Transcendant you had to work considerably harder. While you weren't punished for attacking Demons and evil characters, so long as someone maintained a neutral alignment you were unable to attack them without the karma meter frowning upon you, even if they attacked you first! This isn't at all helpful when a large portion of the neutral population counts as Stupid Neutral. Avoiding the days of sitting around doing good deeds to gain favor with the karma meter again can thankfully be avoided by friends using Sin Eater to take away some of your evil points.
To sort-of-compensate, good warriors could usually beat neutral or evil ones in a straight fight since they obtained an armor ability (which are massively powerful in this game, completely dwarfing any item-based armor) as soon as they reached level 10, while nobody else gets one until level 20. And it scales with level to remain the best for almost the entire game. They also get the most straight "all attacks do extra damage" skills. Plus demons couldn't be healed even if they had allies who wanted to (which most non-goods wouldn't). Unfortunately for the angels the game was never ever about straight fights, and how quickly you gain experience was almost unrelated to how much of a beating you could take except at the highest levels.
That said, the actual hardest morality to maintain was probably the Nexus Champion's True Neutral; morality shifts with every attack rather than every kill, so you would literally slip away from the center over the course of a single fight if you couldn't finish it fast enough.
In True Crime: Streets of LA, to be a bad cop, all you had to do was drive down the sidewalk plowing down pedestrians. You could reach this unintentionally by, say, accidentally shooting a hostage, or accidentally running somebody over while in pursuit of a criminal, or a stray bullet hitting a passerby. To raise your meter, you have to complete arrest missions, and you're more likely to commit one of the accidental deeds than actually get your job done.
Very common in Epic Mickey. While every problem has a paint-based "good" solution and a thinner-based "evil" solution, the paint solutions are almost always much, much more complicated, to the point where many players choose evil not out of preference but out of not having any idea or ability to figure out how to solve the problem the good way.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert allowed you to play as either the evil Soviets or the good Allies. The first Soviet mission is unloseable, their tanks are more powerful, and their Tesla coils make their bases nearly invulnerable. The Allies, on the other hand, had much harder missions, separate base defenses for infantry and tanks (the Tesla coil would work fine on either), and small, cheap tanks which were rather slow to build anyway. Reversed in Red Alert 2, however, in that the two sides were rebalanced and made more even, and the Soviet story mode ends up notably more difficult than the Allied story in both the main game and expansion pack.
Sorta holds up in Red Alert 3, the Soviets are the easiest faction to use and the campaign is designed to be the easiest. The opposite applies in Tiberium Wars, in which GDI's campaign is designed as the easiest since they are the easiest to use.
In Prototype, consuming defenseless civilians for health is faster than trying to wait for Alex's regen to rebuild the same amount of health and easier than taking on the military, especially in Hard mode where every scrap counts. And have a very fun time trying to minimize the civilian deaths from collateral damage, even you try avoid killing them you'll likely fail. As if in acknowledgement of this, there's actually an Achievement for consuming less than 10 civilians in a run.
Not for killing less than 10 civilians, mind you. You're going to kill a few hundred or so simply by moving around the map. Prototype is that kind of game.
The Godfather: The Game is confusing about this. If you try to be one of 'em Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters and not extort any more shopkeeps or racket bosses, your income is going to be atrociously little, so Being Good Sucks. On the other hand, trying to take over businesses with violence leads to enemy mobsters attacking, and this game can get rather challenging at times. If you're dealing with a business that doesn't have a backroom racket, it's easier and safer to build up enough Respect that you can take over without violence - on the other hand, building up Respect takes up more time than you probably would going about things the killy way.
This is present in many sandbox games with Karma Meters. While its easy to get a boatload of evil points in a city by killing every person you come across, there is no easy way to get good points except when give a good/evil choice during a mission. They certainly couldn't give you good points every time you walk by a NPC without preforming a spontaneous head-ectomy.
It is this way in "NASCAR 2005 Chase For The Cup" if you are not a good driver. Accidentally bump into other cars while racing and you become "evil" very quick.
Played with in Dante's Inferno. When given the choice to absolve or punish a famous shade (essentially equivalent to opening a treasure chest), the Punish choice gives out Unholy experience and a small amount of soul economy. The Absolve option, on the other hand, forces you to play a quick-time minigame, resulting in an equal amount of Holy experience and a generous amount of soul economy, depending on how well you score in the minigame. Though collecting three Beatrice Stones lets you bypass the minigame altogether, it is almost never a good idea to do so, especially on your first playthrough, as you miss the soul payoff from playing the minigame.
Xenoblade toys with this one at times. When there are two mutually-exclusive quests, or a quest that can be completed in one of two ways, the trickier completion -usually- leads to a better outcome for the characters involved... but not always. Sometimes, it's murky which one is better, or the two are equal in result. One notable one that could go either way, yet has a "tough" path, is Emmy Leater's request to give her either a sword or a shield. The shield is easy to find, the sword requires another small collection quest - yet the shield is possibly the "good" option, leading to a shorter final quest in the chain.
Dishonored zigzags this trope. When you proceed through the game, you can either opt to eliminate every enemy in your path or simply sneak by and/or incapacitate them. The former is much easier to do, especially since the majority of your weapons, tools, and powers make it easier (and more fun) to do so. However...leaving a trail of bodies increases your Chaos, which causes there to be more rats, Weepers, and increasingly paranoid guards in future missions. The last level in particular is significantly harder on a high-Chaos playthrough.
Some of the games in the WWE series featured rewards for living up to your character's status as a face (good) or a heel (evil). In practice this gave heels a huge advantage, since living up to their reputation involved using damaging illegal moves, connecting with hard-hitting foreign objects and adding extra pain by refusing to break submission holds. Good guys could only showboat or perform high-risk moves, both of which left them wide open to a counterattack.