[[quoteright:350:[[WebVideo/SomeCallMeJohnny http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tumblr_mxv5l6dzhq1rcxbqto1_1280.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:[[Videogame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkBetweenWorlds "It's not the most glorious of titles, but it does make for an interesting business card."]]]]
->''"You know me. I always save the day."''
-->-- '''[[SadClown Sarcastic Hawke]]''', ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII''

Heroes sometimes lose. It's the general rule of fiction to the point of being a near {{Omnipresent Trope|s}}, with [[InvincibleHero a few]] [[GodModeSue exceptions]]. A loss provides the hero a chance to learn [[AnAesop valuable lessons]] like humility and resilience, an opportunity for CharacterDevelopment, and [[TheWorfEffect keeps the villains fresh and threatening]]. After all, [[YouCantThwartStageOne losing in Acts 1 and 2]] doesn't mean a hero won't beat the villain in [[HappyEnding Act 3]].

[[WellThisIsNotThatTrope And then there are]] ''[[WellThisIsNotThatTrope these]]'' [[WellThisIsNotThatTrope heroes.]] These heroes never win.


A Failure Hero might make some headway against a rival in the first or second round, but the rival neatly trounces them before the end credits, sometimes thanks to a DiabolusExMachina. (The latter is especially common in [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption potentially series-resolving situations]].) Any "wins" he does pull off are ambiguous and open-ended, [[UnwittingPawn further the]] [[EvilPlan villain's plan]], or blatantly make things [[NiceJobBreakingItHero that much worse for the unwitting hero]]. This, of course, tends to rob a given episode or movie franchise of dramatic punch when the viewer's reaction to a hero making steps to resolving their lifelong goal is "[[YanktheDogsChain You're Just Yanking Our Chains!]]"

Behind this is usually the idea that the hero sucks that much. Plus he's the hero; [[GoodIsImpotent the side of good]] [[BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil is in an eternal struggle with evil]]! This is especially common in comedies where the hero is a [[UnsympatheticComedyProtagonist failure of some kind]] or where advancing his goals would [[JustEatGilligan end the show]].

The loser counterpart of InvincibleHero. Not as prevalent as its sibling, but still common enough to warrant its own trope. The SmallStepsHero will become this in a truly CrapsackWorld.

Please note that being saddled with the pesky StatusQuoIsGod or FailureIsTheOnlyOption tropes isn't enough to qualify someone as a Failure Hero; they must fail at not only the thing the shows says they can't succeed at, but at nearly everything else due to [[DiabolusExMachina continual plot]] [[DeusAngstMachina contrivances]].

Compare SuperLoser and SuperZeroes, the latter being the comedic version. Contrast ShowyInvincibleHero. Usually falls prey to WhatMeasureIsANonBadass Also see IneffectualSympatheticVillain, the evil counterpart.

!! Examples: Spoilers Ahoy


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Shinji Ikari from ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' embodies this trope perfectly. Every awesome moment he has is negated by horrible failure shortly after.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'': Repeatedly applying TheWorfEffect to secondary cast members without giving them any wins has this side effect. [[FauxActionGirl Sakura Haruno]] and [[ButtMonkey Rock Lee]] arguably have it the worst, made all the more poignant by [[HardWorkHardlyWorks how very hard they try to avoid failure]].
** Due to the amount of loved ones you see die / go evil in their line of work, even the "successful" characters feel like this. Kakashi outlived his entire team and couldn't stop Sasuke's heel turn. Jiraiya watched Orochimaru become a serial killer, outlived his teacher and first student, and failed rather spectacularly at helping Nagato / Pain. Despite being two of the most feared warriors on the planet, [[HeroicSelfDeprecation they both consider themselves trash under their kooky exteriors]] - Jiraiya feels that training Naruto is the only thing in his life he did right. Objectively speaking, he even screwed THAT up, as you'll see below.
*** Naruto himself feels like this from time to time, especially in the first mission he's in after the TimeSkip, in which [[YouAreTooLate he arrives too late to save Gaara]]. He laments this failure in addition to his failure to bring Sasuke back, and remarks that he believes his training over the TimeSkip seems to have made no difference.
* ''Franchise/DragonBall''
** Yamcha suffers this way due to TheWorfEffect. Early on, he was used in each Tenkaichi Budoukai to show off how amazing some new character was. This continued with successive new enemies killing or almost killing him first to prove their threat level. After Android #20 impaled him through the chest, Yamcha decided just to call it quits for the day and start rocking a yellow ''Miami Vice'' suit. He still ended up being murdered (again) by the BigBad an arc later.
** In ''Anime/DragonBallZ'', every non-Saiyan fighter (or more specifically, every fighter not named Goku or Gohan) suffers this by the start of the Frieza Saga. Even Piccolo who gets two hefty powerups, is still only good for holding off a major foe for an episode or two before being disposed of. Vegeta suffers a similar fate, despite being a Saiyan and second in strength to Goku. Vegeta practically exists to show that being a Saiyan with cosmic levels of power still isn't enough to make a dent in the enemy for long, you have to have {{heart|IsAnAwesomePower}} like Goku has.
** In ''Anime/DragonBallSuper'', Future Trunks gets this hard. For over a year, he fights [[spoiler: Goku Black]] and loses every time despite his best efforts. Black also gets stronger every time they battle, making victory for him more impossible. After going to the past to get help, Goku, Vegeta, and he still can't beat Black and Black has a powerful ally, [[spoiler: Future Zamasu, who is an immortal]]. During their second battle, he learns that Black specifically [[spoiler: chose his timeline to punished him for breaking the time taboo and creating a new Time Ring when he saved Goku from the heart virus]]. All this frustration and anger causes him to transform into a new form of Super Saiyan…which only puts him on par with Black and [[spoiler: Future Zamasu]], and he's quickly overwhelmed. Then, just when it seems he finally won against all the odds thanks to [[spoiler: unconsciously creating a Spirit Bomb from all the survivors on Earth, merging it into his sword, and slicing Merged Zamasu in half]], it all comes crashing down when [[spoiler: Merged Zamasu's soul fuses with the multiverse and kills everyone in it except for a named few. What's left is erased by Future Zen'o, leaving Trunks' timeline nothing but an empty void. Except for Future Mai, Trunks [[AllForNothing literally lost everything]]]].
* Osamu from ''Manga/WorldTrigger'' is what happens when you take a regular, normal character and put him in a superpower infested hellhole. Quite practically everyone is stronger than Osamu, even the girl he swore to protect, and he has to consistently be helped and saved during fights. This very barely get better through the series, as Osamu's power progression is painfully slow, taking several dozen episodes to be able to beat even the weakest of his enemies. The saving grace he has is that he's willing to work hard...But that can only take you so far.
* While Clare from ''Manga/{{Claymore}}'' is introduced as a badass demon hunter with a cold attitude, it appears most of the reason for her existence the entire rest of the series is to show how much more awesome her comrades are than her.
** Albeit understandable, as she's ranked dead last by [[NebulousEvilOrganisation the Organization.]]
** As a matter of fact, most of the heroes in the series spend the majority of their battles being {{Curb Stomp|Battle}}ed and horribly mutilated by every other baddie they face. It's not even an uncommon occurrence for the warriors to outright lose their fights, or [[AnyoneCanDie even die]] without ever having their conflict resolved. Though one could argue that this makes the series a tad more realistic -- if you were to go up against an army of all-powerful demons with only half their blood keeping you anywhere close to even footing, you'd damn well better expect them to mop the floor with your half-breed ass.
** Though, many of Clare's early failures are justified by the revelation later on that she focused all of her training on fighting Awakened Beings -- while all the Claymores tend to get curb-stomped by them, she's usually able to fight far above her weight class when they're involved.
* From ''Manga/BlackLagoon'', one gets the sense that Rei Hiroe is a sadist from the fact that Rock is ''never'' going to learn that trying to do good in the CrapsackWorld he ''voluntarily'' entered will '''always''' end in tears.
* [[BigEater Kuro]] from ''Manga/BlackGod'' ends up falling into this, since she rarely wins, and the few times she DOES win is either against very early opponents, due to a DeusExMachina, made moot anyway by plot events, or several of these at once. Probably because, much like [[Manga/YuYuHakusho Yuusuke Urameshi]], even she has problems [[CantCatchUp catching up]].
* ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam0083StardustMemory'': Kou Uraki only manages to fight his main antagonist to a draw two times, and ultimately fails to avert the ColonyDrop at the end. [[YouCantFightFate Then again,]] [[Anime/MobileSuitZetaGundam can't derail what comes after it, can we?]]
* ''Anime/DigimonFrontier'': The Royal Knights Saga has the entire legendary heroes being straight up beaten up by the titular Royal Knights for 9 episodes straight doing little to no progress in stopping their attempt. However, perseverance ultimately pays off.
* Some view [=WarGreymon=] from ''Anime/DigimonAdventure'' as one due to his tendency to spend entire fights helpless and get allies killed in the Dark Masters arc. To elaborate.
** Against [=MetalSeadramon=], Zudomon has to bring him to the surface to prevent [=MetalSeadramon=] from drowning [=WarGreymon=]. Even so, Whamon has to sacrifice himself since [=WarGreymon=] still can't free himself on his own power.
** He's pretty useless against Puppetmon too, to the point where he does nothing. He basically spends the whole fight under his control. [=MegaKabuterimon=] does most of the actual damage, crippling Puppetmon and driving him off while Garudamon destroys his weapon.
** Machinedramon [=WarGreymon=] defeats in a single swipe. However, [=WarGreymon=] would have even been able to show up if not for a DeusExMachina on Hikari's part.
** He's not that important in the Piedmon fight, since that was [=HolyAngemon's=] debut. That did not stop astute fans from noticing that Piedmon was able to destroy his armor effortlessly but unable to cause even superficial damage to Andromon, who is several levels of powers below.
* Ladies and gents, let us introduce Saya Kisaragi of ''Anime/BloodC''. Taking Failure Hero to a whole new level. She has an innate talent for killing the MonsterOfTheWeek... after said monster has managed to viciously slaughter everyone she was intended to protect. She does manage to save a girl from the Eyeball Elder Bairn in the park, but scares her to death when she tries to help her while covered in blood. Considering the ultimate fate of the town, however, this probably didn't amount to much. She does become perfectly competent in [[Anime/BloodCTheLastDark the movie]]. Her incompetence from the TV series is brought by Fumito having drugged her to hinder her abilities.
* Manga/{{Kinnikuman}} in his early appearances was so pathetic that monsters wouldn't even bother attacking Tokyo if he was the only hero they'd get to fight. Fortunately for him, things start improving for him in the first Choujin Olympics arc.
* The main cast of ''Anime/CowboyBebop'' rarely ever manage to successfully bring in a bounty, and never as the focus of an episode. Most of the bounty heads they go after end up dead before they can be brought in, and when they don't, something else inevitably happens to make it impossible for the bounty to be collected, such as the bounty head turning out to be [[spoiler:an artificial intelligence]] or [[spoiler:the bounty having been placed under false pretenses]]. On the rare occasion that they ''do'' collect a bounty, the property damage and medical expenses incurred in the process guarantee that they won't come out ahead... assuming that the payout isn't so paltry as to barely count as pocket change.
* Luffy from ''Manga/OnePiece'' got hit with Failure Hero status hard in the Sabaody, Impel Down, and Marineford story arcs. First, he failed to protect his crew at Sabaody from an admiral and his subordinates and they all nearly died only to be saved by Kuma who traumatized Luffy by separating his crew one at a time before his eyes before sending him off. Just when he was ready to reunite with his crew he finds out that his older brother is about to be executed in less than a week, forcing him to break into the most dangerous prison in the world to save him. He is then defeated in said prison by the warden and left to die by poison. Luffy is saved, but it cost him ten years of his life and because it took him so long to recover he failed to reach his brother in time before he is transported to his execution ground. After fighting his way out, Luffy escape the prison, but he had to leave behind one of his friends to do it. When Luffy finally reached the war zone, he is promptly beaten up by every strong person there and is pushed past his physical breaking point. He is forced to risk his life further by taken more adrenaline just to keep going. When Luffy did finally succeed in saving his brother, Ace died in his arms saving him from a killing blow from one of the admirals. To say the least, Luffy had a terrible week. The entire experience convinces him and the others that they're not yet ready for the New World, and they spend two years training.
* In the second season of ''Anime/PrincessTutu'', Duck sees herself as this due to being locked out of the loop and feeling unable to help anyone or stop what's happening.
* Invoked In-Universe with [[IdolSinger Sakura Hagiwara]] from ''[[Manga/SekaiDeIchibanTsuyokuNaritai Wanna Be the Strongest in the World]]''. Since her debut in Pro Wrestling, she has done nothing but lose, in the same way: She is put on a Boston Crab hold and dragged away from the rope, and, unable to get out of the Boston Crab, she gives up. She had ''50 losses'' this way so far. Her fans diminish with each loss, and the audience starts booing her... until she got dragged into a TrainingFromHell where she's forced to stop giving up or else her mentor will break her bones via Boston Crab (doesn't take 'give up' for an answer) and afterwards, she would avoid the booing and instead being cheered despite her losses. Rinse and repeat 15 times afterwards until she gets her own FinishingMove and ''then'' she started avoiding the trope.
* Shuzo Matsutani from ''Anime/NowAndThenHereAndThere'' attempts plenty of heroic stuff, but doesn't accomplish anything at all. In the first episode, he fails to rescue Lala-Ru from the giant robot snakes, then he is captured and tortured. Ultimately, it's Lala-Ru who defeats the BigBad, not Shu. And the final shot gives the impression that Shu should have just stayed home and not talked to Lala-Ru on the smokestack. Remove him from the series and very little would have changed.
* The first season of ''Anime/HellGirl'' tries to shake up its formula of every VictimOfTheWeek using the Hell Correspondence to damn both their tormentor and themselves to hell by introducing Hajime, a tabloid reporter who discovers the Hell Correspondence and starts trying to prevent people from using it. Except that nothing really changes, because he fails every single time. The only person that he manages to stop from using it is his own daughter.
* Princess Hime/Cure Princess of ''Anime/HappinessChargePrettyCure'' is this, especially at the beginning. Her first appearance has her being knocked into a transition transformed stage by a MonsterOfTheWeek, who ends up being destroyed by another Cure, who promptly lays her ass out for being TheLoad. Three episodes later, she's still this as the [[RookieRedRanger Rookie Pretty Cure]] Megumi/Cure Lovely is racking up some pretty impressive kills while Hime's on her back. It seems that [[Anime/HeartcatchPrettyCure Chypre]] was a little premature in "Weakest Pretty Cure in History" calling.
* Whenever Koyomi Araragi of ''LightNovel/{{Bakemonogatari}}'' attempts to solve a problem with his fists, expect him to lose, and pretty badly as well. While he is often helpful, he rarely resolves the problems of the girls he attempts to help out, and sometimes his {{Chronic Hero Syndrome}} decisions exacerbate the problem, as seen in the case of [[spoiler:Nadeko Sengoku]]. This is mainly because he doesn't want to BE heroic at all; what he really wants is to make a HeroicSacrifice, so he is subject to many WhatAnIdiot moments over the story.
* A good number of the Hero Association members from ''Manga/OnePunchMan'' fall into this trope. It's very rare for anyone other than [[InvincibleHero Saitama]] to defeat a major villain. Especially notable are Genos, Sneck, Mumen Rider, and Darkness Blade. Mumen Rider at least has the excuse that he's a {{muggle|s}} who's punching ''way'' above his weight class -- [[DeterminedDefeatist and he knows it]]. His ChronicHeroSyndrome just won't let him stand aside. He's not even an example of TheWorfEffect because he's just a regular joe riding a bicycle. [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Without a license.]] That being said, there's one thing he did succeed at: if he hadn't pulled a YouShallNotPass against the Sea King to protect a shelter full of civilians, the Sea King would've slaughtered them before Saitama could arrive.
* ''Anime/BakuganBattleBrawlers'':
** Julie, who never won on her own besides the debut episodes of Gorem and Hammer Gorem. Then her last focus episode involves practically her boyfriend her primary cast member status, to the point she is defeated in the penultimate battle, while her boyfriend is the secondary character not defeated.
** Mira takes to almost FauxActionGirl levels as despite being the leader of the Battle Brawlers Resistance every victory she has involves needing help from someone.
* ''Anime/MacrossDelta'': The Chaos mercenary group has done nothing but lose in some way. None of their long-term strategies work against the Windemere Kingdom and more than once they are forced on the defensive or just run away. All the heroes tend to get is motivation to do better next time... and they're lucky to even achieve ''that!'' [[spoiler:It does make their victory at the end of the series a lot more cathartic, though]].
* Loof and Gin in ''Anime/GenmaWars'' have a hard time saving or protect anyone. Over the course of the series, they lose their respective loved ones, their attempts at heroism backfire spectacularly Gin's attempt to liberate his village from an tyrannical ape leads to the Genma retaliating without mercy. When they decide to join forces with their half-siblings to destroy the Maoh King, [[spoiler:all of them except the two perish in the fighting and they can't even defeat the Maoh King themselves, its his own wife Parome who kills him. Finally, when they travel back in time in order to undo the future they came from, they discover the Genma have already controlled the past (roughly modern times) and are completely powerless to stop them from causing a nuclear war that destroyed civilization. All their efforts are rendered null as they return to their native timeline only to discover nothing was changed]].
* ''Anime/ReCreators'': Despite their intelligence and familiarity with stories, the Creators and the good-aligned Creations constantly come up short in everything they do and when they do succeed at something, it's often at a great sacrifice. [[spoiler:Mamika, Aliceteria and Sirius all fail to kill Altair, Selesia only stops Charon at the cost of her life and the whole Elimination Chamber Festival ends up being hijacked by Altair to increase her power. The only reason the series even has a happy ending is because the Creators bring Altair's Creator, Setsuna, BackFromTheDead, which convinces Altair to give up her plan to destroy the world and instead go with Setsuna into another dimension when they can be together for all eternity.]]
* ''Manga/HousekiNoKuni'': Phosphophyllite is a relatively weak gem that wants to fight on the front lines with their fellow Lustrous. Despite Phos' attempts to be of use, they near almost fail in the tasks they were assigned. Even with the augments they get later on to strengthen their body (legs at first, [[spoiler: then arms, eye, and head]]), Phos is never strong enough to save the one person that needs the help most; [[spoiler: every mentor Phos has been taught under [[MentorOccupationalHazard was taken to the Moon under their watch]], and they're gradually losing their original self despite their protests to the contrary.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Superheroes in general have this problem, due to the effects of JokerImmunity in regards to villains. Due to popularity, all of the most well-known villains will be unlikely to be ''truly'' killed or defeated, as all they need is a HandWave whenever a writer wants to use them again. Regardless, a few heroes have it worse than others. (see below)
** Franchise/SpiderMan unfortunately was thrown headlong into this trope after [[DealWithTheDevil the events of]] ''ComicBook/OneMoreDay'' took away his only consolation prize for [[ButtMonkey his life of misery and failure]]. Many fans still aren't happy about it at all. Spider-Man in general can be quite easy to {{flanderiz|ation}}e into one of these; whilst his life has not been without its difficulties, many of the poorer writers who have handled his character tend to forget about his successes and reasons for optimism (which he is not ''entirely'' without) and make him 'all failure, all the time'. While the appeal of the character has always been the struggles and losses, when written badly, he's just a total loser instead of an example of a relatable, grounded superhero.
*** When Comicbook/DoctorOctopus took over Peter's body in the ''ComicBook/SuperiorSpiderMan'' saga, Otto's aghast that Peter has all of this potential and had squandered it, deciding he'll be better than Peter. Superior, even. He ends up creating an army to protect New York with, creates his own company, and gets his [=PhD=], at the cost of his friends, his family and the goodwill of New York City. When the Goblin King struck and brought everything down around his ears, Otto's forced to realize why Peter was the true "Superior" Spider-Man: because of all of his smarts and power, he sabotaged himself from using it greatly because he felt he didn't deserve being successful because of the great cost it came with - With Great Power ComesGreatResponsibility.
** ComicBook/{{Daredevil}} doesn't have it much easier. Because of his gritty setting, it's easy to have his life picked apart, and even his power plays for more permanent victories end in failure and despair.
** Alas for Franchise/{{Batman}}, his darker turn in the 70's gradually slid him into this position. It's been very clearly detailed that his presence did manage to break the gotham mob and send most common criminals into a panic, allowing Gotham to at the very least, clean up its police department. Unfortunately, in their place arose Batman's infamous RoguesGallery. Psychopaths, serial killers and all manners of gang lords who frequently carve up Gotham however they please. It's gotten to a point where some people are just begging for Batman to just kill ComicBook/TheJoker and move on, complaining that his grand dream is utterly unreachable and only death and failure can follow in his wake.
* Comicbook/{{Empowered}} frequently crosses into this trope. Especially in her earliest stories. She is a perennial loser who is constantly getting [[BoundAndGagged captured and tied up]] by supervillains, even bush leaguers like Glue Gun Gil and regular old non-super thugs. In fact it isn't until about the middle of the vol. 1 that the reader actually sees Emp succeed at anything. Even when she does succeed it often backfires on her or her victory goes unnoticed by her fellow capes. Like when she defeated a supervillain that had taken out most of the Superhomeys by ramming him with a Humvee she ended up [[BoundAndGagged tangled in the seatbelt]] and [[JerkAss Major Havok]], despite being unconscious at the time, took credit for Emp's victory. Then again when the Capey's were besieged by Fleshmaster [[spoiler:aka dWARf!]] Emp single-handedly defeated him and saved the day!...And then her teammates promptly accused her of being the real mastermind behind the whole thing. [[spoiler:All that being said, in one volume Emp went up against Deathmonger and [[SugarWiki/MomentOfAwesome totally mopped the floor with him]]. Major Havoc doesn't believe her and call BS on the whole affair, while Captain Rivet is skeptical, but the Superdead defended her and named her as their liaison with the superhero community, so that has to count for something.]]
* Jon/Skeleton Man from ''Comicbook/TarotWitchOfTheBlackRose'' is this in ''spades''. Besides the fact that he's in a world full of dragons, witches, TheFairFolk and worse, his ineptitude is legendary. The most notorious example is probably when he's forced to stop pursuing a cadre of homicidal ghosts because ''they refuse to tell him the address of their next victim.'' His only consistent victories are over grave robbers and vandals (which are surprisingly common in Salem).
** Tarot has shades of this. Over the course of the series, her effectiveness in battle is heavily degraded to the point where she can be [[ClothingDamage stripped naked]] in a duel with her EvilCounterpart, a random fish minion in her own home, and animated snowmen. She'd have died several issues ago if not for the fact that her opponents need her for something, taunt her, or are TooDumbToLive.
%%* ''JusticeLeagueInternational'' would play this for laughs, usually with ComicBook/BlueBeetle (Ted Kord) and ComicBook/BoosterGold.
* The titular character of ''ComicBook/CaptainAlcohol'' fights several villains and only defeats one of them. In fact when he attempted to save a DamselInDistress, [[spoiler: he had to be saved by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police]].
* The titular protagonist of ''ComicBook/{{Rat-Man}}''. He rarely wins, most of his victories are ridiculous (he defeated the [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Mud Man]] by getting him to clean his shoes before entering) or are made meaningless by his own idiocy (an early story shows him inflicting a CurbStompBattle on a gang that had kidnapped an orphan for ransom, only for him to pay the ransom. The gang's boss can't move due the sheer idiocy of what has just happened), the few that aren't end up getting him worse than before, and when he finally has defeated both [[BigBad The Shadow]] ''and'' the GreaterScopeVillain [[spoiler: Mr. Mouse]], the SequelHook reveals that [[spoiler: he's about to become the new host of the Shadow]].

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fanfic ''Fanfic/EyesWithoutAFace'', the main character [[AntiHero Rose]] attempts to right her wrongs after her meeting with [[spoiler: Twilight Sparkle]]. Unfortunately for her, her earlier mistakes sneak up on her: [[NiceJobBreakingItHero the other ponies she's hurt are out for her blood, she's gained the attention of the mob and the police...]]
* In ''The Adventure Through Runescape'', the main protagonist [=Mainiac97=] is always forced to rely on another character to save him from whatever predicament he falls in. Did we mention that he's the main character?
%%* Copycat a.k.a. [[Series/{{Heroes}} Peter Petrelli]] in ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4860110/7/Heroes_Abridged_With_Commentary_Genesis Heroes Abridged With Commentary]]''.
* [[IronWoobie Blackjack]] from ''FanFic/FalloutEquestriaProjectHorizons''. Nothing ''ever'' goes right for her: everyone in the [[CrapsackWorld Equestian]] [[DeathWorld Wasteland]] she helps or saves winds up mutilated, raped, or killed anyway, every wrong she rights turns out to be a [[NiceJobBreakingItHero mistake]], and to top it off she's painfully aware of her inadequacies and [[HeroicSelfDeprecation despises herself for them.]]
* Maria Nitzschmann, (aka [[Anime/GirlsUndPanzer Miho Nishizumi]] from ''Fanfic/{{Heimatfront}}''. She's a BDM conscript who's tasked with delivering several tanks to the front, but things quickly get out of hand, and she's in charge of a mostly female group of combatants who do what they can to ensure that Germany gets more favorable terms in the post-war peace talks. Unfortunately, even apart from the ForegoneConclusion involved, Maria faces much steeper odds than Miho with all of Miho's weaknesses and none of her strengths. Since Maria's only qualification for commander is knowing more about tanks than is socially acceptable for a woman in Nazi Germany, she's lucky to even survive.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* The title character of ''WesternAnimation/{{Nine}}''. 9 first turns on a literal killing machine [[IdiotBall despite all evidence at the time saying his actions would be a bad idea]]. The machine kills [[spoiler:2]], whom they [[NiceJobBreakingItHero were trying to rescue in the first place]]. Later, when [[spoiler:7 and 8]] are kidnapped, he orchestrates a plan to both rescue them and destroy the machine. [[spoiler:8]] ends up dead while [[OhCrap the machine still works]], which proceeds to kill [[spoiler:5 and 6]]. He comes up with yet another plan which involves [[spoiler:[[HeroicSacrifice sacrificing himself]]]]. But this changes when [[spoiler:[[TakeMeInstead 1 shoves him out of the way and gets the ax instead]]. Despite that, he ''did'' finally achieve success when he used the talisman to defeat the machine]].

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
%%* The ''Film/MysteryTeam'' is implied to be this.
* Brad and Janet in ''Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShow''. At no point in the narrative do they even come close to stymieing [[MadScientist Frank]] at anything he wants to do. In fact, if the credits didn't identify them as "a hero" and "a heroine," most people probably wouldn't even notice.
* Both Professor Anbronsius and his assistant Alfred from ''Film/TheFearlessVampireKillers'' are so terrible at their jobs of vampire hunting, [[spoiler:they fail in killing a single vampire, but they end up spreading vampirism to the rest of the world by bringing a vampirized Sarah along with them]].
* Luke Skywalker in ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack''. Absolutely nothing goes his way throughout the film, and his attempt to save his friends at Cloud City ends with them saving ''him''.
* Huff in ''Film/StoneCold''. All his plans to stop the [[AllBikersAreHellsAngels Brotherhood]] with proper police procedures fail, and while he shoots all the bad guys by the end, their big plan succeeded.
* In ''Film/{{Inferno}}'', the main character Mark does absolutely nothing that contributes to the villain's death. The villain died in a fire that she unintentionally set through one of her murders. All that Mark did was explore the building and escape it while it was burning down.
* Captain Picard in ''Film/StarTrekGenerations'' fails a lot. Upon gaining the ability to transport himself to ANYWHERE in time and space, Picard chooses to go back minutes before Soren launches his missile, instead of say going further back and just arresting him or going back even further to save his brother and nephew who died in a fire which is established in the same damn movie! So, his family stays dead, his ship stays destroyed and he gets Captain Kirk killed because he apparently wanted a macho last minute action movie confrontation. The expanded universe explained that Picard knew that the further you go back in time, the greater the chance that [[TemporalParadox you'll screw everything up in horrible fashion]], and he wanted to avoid that risk as much as possible, but still...
* ''Film/JamesBond'':
** In ''Film/{{Skyfall}}'', Bond fails at every objective he has during the movie: he leaves the MI6 agent to die; loses the MI6 hard drive; allows an assassin to kill a politician; fails to get information from said assassin; fails to protect the mole; [[spoiler:falls into Silva's trap; fails to stop Silva escaping; fails to stop several deaths in Parliament; loses Skyfall Manor; kills Silva instead of letting him rot in prison; and finally fails to protect M.]] The only positive thing that can be said is that he survives. In a sense this is exactly the way Creator/IanFleming first conceived of Bond.
** ''Film/TheManWithTheGoldenGun''. Other than [[spoiler:killing Scaramanga]], Bond doesn't accomplish all that much.
* Franchise/IndianaJones succeeds at very little in ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk''. He loses the golden idol to Belloq at the beginning of the film, which perfectly exemplifies Indy's failures throughout the rest of it: the Nazis are always a step ahead of him or manage to turn his successes into their own, culminating in the Nazis obtaining the Ark of the Covenant, the very thing he had been trying to prevent the whole time. Indeed, it's possible that, without him, the Nazis would never have obtained the Ark at all. Indy doesn't even get to save the day at the end, since it's the Ark itself, not Indy, that defeats the villains. Finally, he can't even keep the US government from locking the Ark away instead of putting it in a museum. This isn't to knock on Indy, though, because it's clear that he gives everything his absolute best, and we love him for trying. A ''lot'' of people love to point out that the entire flick would have ended ''the exact same way'' had Indy just stayed at home, but don't forget he at least saved Marion who otherwise would have been tortured to death by Toht. Of course, the Nazis were also following Indy when he went to visit Marion, so they might have never found her without his help.
* Reid in ''Film/TheLoneRanger'' may have killed the bad guy, [[spoiler:but he utterly failed to save the Commanches from being massacred, although given their historical fate, there's an overlap with DoomedByCanon here]].
* Gandalf in ''Filrm/TheLordOfTheRings'' and ''Film/TheHobbit'' trilogies. Sure, he can easily beat {{Mooks}} and lesser villains, but put him against a major opponent and he loses. ''Hard.'' Examples include Saruman trouncing him in ''Film/TheFellowshipOfTheRing'', the Witch-King of Angmar destroying his staff in ''Film/TheReturnOfTheKing'', and [[spoiler:Sauron]] wiping the floor with him in ''Film/TheHobbitTheDesolationOfSmaug''. [[spoiler:Even when he defeats the Balrog in ''Film/TheTwoTowers'', he still dies.]]
* When the bird apocalypse happens again in ''Film/Birdemic2TheResurrection'', Bill gathers together his survivor friends and decides that he needs to rescue as many people as possible, before demonstrating that he's absolutely horrible at it and should've just holed up somewhere. Despite traveling around to numerous locations, his group only manages to save ''one'' person, who just dies later (hell, at one point he goes into a silent film theater to see the audience under attack by birds...and then just leaves without even ''trying'' to save anyone.) Near the end of the movie, his group finally reaches a zoo that the birds aren't attacking (apparently because the zookeeper understands [[GreenAesop that they're attacking because of global warming...or something.]]) Rather than camp out and wait for things to die down, Bill ignores his complete failure of a track record and decides that he ''has'' to find more survivors, before leaving and getting two more of his group killed before the end of the movie (one of which dies ''within seconds'' of them leaving the zoo.)

* In a variant of this trope, ''[[Literature/WorldsOfShadow Out of this World]]'' by Creator/LawrenceWattEvans is a rather vicious {{Deconstruction}} of both HighFantasy and the ''ComicStrip/FlashGordon'' style of sci-fi, so the hero fails because he's just an ordinary person in [[ThisIsReality the real world]] and the stuff he's trying to do is only possible by the TheoryOfNarrativeCausality. (At times the book swings towards DeusAngstMachina, particularly when [[spoiler:the villains rape and murder his wife ''and'' his daughter.]])
%%* Ed Greenwood's {{Falconfar}} trilogy, at least the first two books.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' has Brienne of Tarth, no matter what her task is she either fails or circumstances make things impossible for her to fulfill them. She was tasked in protecting Renly,[[spoiler: but he was killed by a shadow assassin that she couldn't stop ]]. She was then tasked in exchanging Jaime Lannister for Sansa Stark on behalf of Catlyn Stark. But Jaime loses his sword hand,[[spoiler: and the Starks are all killed ]]. Now she has to find Arya Stark and keep her safe, but Arya has now left Westeros for Braavos, and things go downhill for her when she meets Lady Stoneheart AKA [[spoiler: Catlyn Stark ]].
* This is Darth Vader's perspective on himself at the start of ''Literature/DarkLordTheRiseOfDarthVader'', set just after ''Film/RevengeOfTheSith''. He turned to TheDarkSide to save Padmé, and what does he have to show for it? Padmé is dead by his own hand, as are most of his former colleagues, he himself has undergone an EmergencyTransformation into a {{cyborg}} trapped in a walking iron lung, and his Master is also disfigured. Vader sinks into a depression that Palpatine finds irritating and counterproductive, and the Emperor spends most of the book telling Vader to get over himself--the galaxy is theirs, they ''won''.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'': How the Lannisters see Jaime after he returns; King Joffrey and Cersei both note that they survived a siege without him and the war was won without him playing a major role and he for his part, sat out of it as a captive and returned as a cripple. This is amplified furthermore when Joffrey gets poisoned at his own wedding in full view of everyone, with Jaime unable to do anything but watch. It's worse in the TV show because his book counterpart wasn't even ''present'' at King's Landing at the time. And then his actions directly lead to [[spoiler:Tywin]]'s death. Harshly, but accurately summed up by Cersei:
--> '''Cersei:''' Tyrion may be a monster, but at least he killed [[spoiler:our father]] on purpose. You killed him by mistake.
* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' can't seem to write a good guy who ''isn't'' one of these, with Peter and Mohinder getting the worst of it (and Hiro beginning to catch up). On the rare occasions they aren't carrying the IdiotBall or VillainBall or doing a NiceJobBreakingItHero, they're up against opponents heavily favored by DiabolusExMachina. It's no coincidence that characters like Angela Petrelli, Noah Bennet and Sylar -- ranging from morally ambiguous to downright evil -- tend to be extremely popular, given that they have been shown actually succeeding at their goals on a fairly regular basis.
** It feels like the Writers constantly throw the idiot balls at Peter because, let's face it - if he actually knew how to use his powers correctly he would be a GodModeSue, while the others... the writers just don't know how to write dramatic tension.
*** Oddly enough, when Peter [[DiscardAndDraw got a new power]] [[RePower after losing his original one]], he became a ''lot'' more effective.
* This was part of the massive CerebusSyndrome that hit ''Series/{{Supernatural}}''. In the later seasons, there was very rarely an episode where hunting was portrayed as a good thing or that they were doing it for the right reasons and more often than not, someone got a [[BreakTheCutie little bit more destroyed or slipped down the humanity scale]], [[AnyoneCanDie died]] or managed to [[NiceJobBreakingItHero break something]].
* ''Series/{{Torchwood}}''. They can't straight-up win the day ''ever'', ending up with PyrrhicVictory at best. By the end of ''Children of Earth'', [[spoiler:three of the initial five main characters are dead, one's on effective maternity leave and one's buggered off into space]].
** This trend continues right into ''Series/TorchwoodMiracleDay''. As of episode five [[spoiler: Jack has lost his immortality, Ester has gotten her sister separated from her children by child care services, Oswald Danes refused to fight [=PhilCorp=], Rex destroyed the throat of the one man who could give them information on the villains, Vera has been burned alive and Gwen has her father set up to go down the same route]]. [[SarcasmMode Go Torchwood!]]
* ''Series/EverybodyHatesChris''. The title of the show alone should already give you a clue what the title character is.
* ''Series/NinjaWarrior'' competitor Katsumi Yamada has not only never managed to obtain Total Victory, but from the 14th tournament on he hasn't even manage to complete ''the first stage''. The fact that he's focused his life completely on this (which cost him his job and his family) makes it all the more heartbreaking. Nevertheless, he is considered an All-Star and fans (as well as the other All-Stars) continue to cheer him on for him to one day reach on top of Midoriyama.
* Series/{{Wallander}} seems to be this, especially in the Kenneth Branagh version. He's basically a Swedish Shinji Ikari. The moment something goes right for him in his personal or professional life, it is certain to ultimately end in tears. Usually Wallander's, who cries in literally five out of six episodes of the six-episode series. Because he fails. All the time.
%%* Film/TheThreeStooges. Nobody can fail as epically as they can.
* ''Franchise/UltraSeries'':
** Pity the Science Patrol in ''Series/{{Ultraman}}.'' It's their lot to spend the first twenty minutes of every episode throwing everything they've got at the MonsterOfTheWeek to absolutely no effect, until Ultraman shows up and saves the day in the last five minutes.
** This is {{lampshade|Hanging}}d in an episode of ''Series/UltramanTiga,'' where the team's leader comes to resent Tiga a bit for ''always'' having to bail them out; but by the end of the episode, he's decided he's okay with it.
** ''Series/UltramanMebius'':
*** Played With as the Ultramen are there to protect the Earth, but really want to fight ''alongside'' humanity as equals.
*** Mebius usually gets to kill the MonsterOfTheWeek at the end of the episode, GUYS often helps pull his butt out of the fire during the battle, are usually the ones to neutralize the monster's special abilities, and often get to score monster kills in the beginning and middle of the episode. In fact, due to one particular episode, they actually end the series with a kill count ''higher'' than Ultraman's.
** In ''Series/UltramanTaro'', ZAT's efforts more often than not [[NiceJobBreakingItHero make things]] ''[[TemptingFate worse]]''.
* John Wiles's tenure producing ''Series/DoctorWho'' edged into this. "Mission to the Unknown" (the handover episode) was a BottleEpisode where a bunch of people die at the hands of Daleks and the Doctor never shows up. "The Myth Makers" is a comedy story that ends with most of the endearingly well-characterised guest characters being slaughtered in a sudden, horrific bloodbath and the time travellers having no choice but to abandon them to escape. "The Daleks' Master Plan" ends with every heroic guest character dead, two companions KilledOffForReal, a planet reduced to an arid desert, and the remaining companion saying WhatTheHellHero about the Doctor's methods. "The Massacre" involves Steven [[PinballProtagonist having virtually no idea what is going on for most of the story]] and the Doctor failing to save anyone's life from an atrocity he knew was going to happen. Only "The Ark" has a happy ending and that features the Doctor ruining everything ''just by arriving'' on an alien world by spreading an alien virus to the last remaining humans, and his attempts to fix this problem end up causing a race [[HappinessInSlavery Happy In Slavery]] to [[TurnedAgainstTheirMasters Turn Against Their Masters]]. The Doctor is straight back to having a generally more competent role once Innes Lloyd takes over, and "The Celestial Toymaker", "The Savages" and "The War Machines" all show him using his intelligence to create a relatively happy ending.
* For much of ''Series/{{Castle}}'' Beckett had this problem with [[SingleIssueWonk regard to her mother's murder.]] Though she slowly makes progress, she almost always looses her cool and is easily caught off guard by events. [[spoiler: She finally is victorious outright in Season 6, gaining enough evidence to bring down the mastermind.]]
* In season 3 of ''Series/PersonOfInterest'' Finch is this, completely ineffectual at [[spoiler: stopping [[InstantAIJustAddWater the creation of a second machine]], [[EvilCounterpart without the restrictions of his own creation.]] In season 4, once that AI goes fully online, he is also unable to prevent it from very nearly killing his own creation]].

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'': Charlie Brown is the world champion of this trope, forever destined to demolish all challengers to the throne in his [[KafkaKomedy hilariously cruel]] world, managing to find [[SerialEscalation new and creative ways]] to make him fail at life.
** To be clear, Charlie Brown fails, often through no visible fault of his own, in ways that are explicitly stated by other characters to be ''physically impossible''. [[NeverMyFault Not that this stops them from blaming him.]]
*** Charlie Brown did win a game of marbles, winning back Rerun's marbles from a bully in his last animated special. Lucy could not believe it.
*** And he won a motocross competition in one of the animated shorts...though his prize was less than impressive.
*** And he [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome kicked the damn football while taunting Lucy]] in ''It's Magic, Charlie Brown''.
*** There was a baseball game that Charlie Brown's team won. He was doing a happy dance like you would not believe. He was happily proclaiming "I won! I won!" The person he was saying this to responded "''You'' won?"
*** There is a strip where Charlie Brown enjoys Snoopy missing his suppertime with a HappyDance mocking Snoopy's usual dance.
*** The first full-length movie with the ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'' gang, ''WesternAnimation/ABoyNamedCharlieBrown'', specifically revolved around Charlie Brown's role as an eternal failure, demonstrating that even when he wins, he ultimately loses.
%%* The cast of ''ComicStrip/FunkyWinkerbean'' comes a close second though, especially in recent years.
* Averted in ''ComicStrip/{{Garfield}}'', where Garfield's owner [[CasanovaWannabe Jon]] finally gets the girl of his dreams after 28 years. In these 28 years, however, all of Jon's plans to get a relationship fail horribly. Even when he scores a date, you can bet that either he, Garfield or the environment would ruin it.
* ''ComicStrip/{{Tom the Dancing Bug}}'' sporadically features Sam Roland, the Detective Who Dies. Each appearance gives us another case of Sam dying before solving the crime. Sometimes before answering the phone to get a new case.
* The newspaper comic version of ComicStrip/SpiderMan has always been this. He's utterly incompetent and completely ineffective. It's not at all unusual to have a street thug get the drop on him and knock him out with a piece of debris they found nearby -- despite the fact that his Spider-Sense should make this virtually impossible. He's often shown more likely to just sit around and watch TV and many of his storylines have even resolved ''despite'' Spider-Man's involvement.

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* Cited as one of the main reasons why Wrestling/{{WCW}} went under in its later years; every single {{Face}} that tried to go up against the {{Heel}} stable [[Wrestling/NewWorldOrder NWO]] invariably got ruthlessly squashed, including Wrestling/{{Sting}}, Wrestling/RicFlair, and even in one of its most infamous moments in history Wrestling/{{Goldberg}}, who was a ShowyInvincibleHero before. It was almost a ridiculous cycle of [[KickTheDog kicking the dog]] and then [[YankTheDogsChain yanking its chain]] just to get it back into kicking range. Sting seemed to have the [=nWo=] beat... and then it resurged. Flair returned and Wrestling/TheFourHorsemen were reformed... and they did nothing. Bill Goldberg was, well, Bill Goldberg... and Nash beat him with outside interference. Nash was all right though, because his nWo was opposed to Hogan's... and then the FingerPokeOfDoom happened.
* They're called {{Jobber}}s for a reason -- the very few occasions when a dedicated midcarder [[HopeSpot ever achieves anything remotely resembling success]], [[YankTheDogsChain their hopes are quickly dashed]].
* Taking the [[PowerTrio trios]] concept from its Mexican origins {{up to eleven}}, Wrestling/DragonGate can largely be described as several {{power stable}}s competing for dominance, with the few "good" groups usually coming up short. Most likely, the "rudo" stables end up [[SelfDisposingVillain imploding due to their own internal conflicts]].
* Wrestling/RingOfHonor had a case where a number of factors combined to create a team of Failure Heroes. Early in 2007, longtime TagTeam partners Wrestling/AustinAries and Wrestling/RoderickStrong split, with Strong forming the No Remorse Corps alongside hot new talents Davey Richards and Rocky Romero. Aries, the {{Face}} in this feud, teamed up with the less established wrestlers Matt Cross and Erick Stevens. Unfortunately, Aries was soon forced to leave ROH for a few months due to contract obligations with Wrestling/{{TNA}} - leaving Cross and Stevens woefully outmatched by the No Remorse Corps. Wrestling logic dictated that the NRC get the early advantage in the feud, but without Aries around, Cross & Stevens had ''no'' credibility to begin with. By the time Aries returned, Cross and Stevens had already lost to the NRC so many times that nobody could get excited about their comeback.
* In Wrestling/{{TNA}} [=EV2.0=] had been this since day one, whether if it was during their feud with Wrestling/{{Fortune}} (led by Wrestling/RicFlair) or Immortal (led by Wrestling/HulkHogan). Whatever victory they managed to obtain was only short-term as they lost many of their key members, including the FBI, Wrestling/{{Sabu}}, Wrestling/{{Rh|yno}}ino, and Wrestling/{{Raven}}.
* [[Wrestling/TedDiBiaseJr Ted DiBiase Jr.]] slowly become a Failure ''Villain''. Lampshaded by his girlfriend Wrestling/{{Maryse}}, who even accused him of causing her to lose matches by association and outright called him a loser. On the 1/26/11 edition of NXT, however, he did finally managed to score a win. Who? '''''[[Wrestling/BryanDanielson Daniel Bryan]]'''''! ''Cleanly''. And Maryse actually complemented him! And his rookie Wrestling/BrodusClay won the Fatal Four Way elimination match! ...[[YankTheDogsChain But wait]]! That match Brodus won? The winning rookie had the opportunity to switch Pros! Brodus then [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech pointed out all of DiBiase's failings]] before ''ditching'' him for Wrestling/AlbertoDelRio. And to add insult to injury, he took him out with the Tongan Death Grip! After this [=DiBiase=] leaned more into Face territory and started to gain more actual victories. He never got out of the midcard, but still got clean wins every once in a while.
* Wrestling/MontelVontaviousPorter went through a similar situation during a heel run, losing every match he had for a very long period of time (albeit for different reasons ranging from legitimate failures to outside interference and flukes). Story actually implied he was becoming bankrupt as a result of this, leading him to gradually gain audience sympathy and eventually get cheered with great enthusiasm as [[RedemptionPromotion he finally started to gain wins]] as a {{face}}.
* On paper, Wrestling/{{Daffney|Unger}}'s All-Star Squad seemed capable of reigning in the heels running roughshod over SHINE by the twelfth show. In practice, the three core members often act without Kimberly and Wrestling/AmazingKong, leaving them outmatched and or outnumbered by the heel stables, who aren't above teaming up against them. Their luck hasn't been much better in Wrestling/{{SHIMMER}}, where Daffney was lucky to simply escape Sweet Saraya's pseudo faction.
* [[Wrestling/ChrisHero Big]] In [[Wrestling/ColtCabana USA]] in Wrestling/ProWrestlingNOAH. Beloved by the crowds, consistently awarded by the promotion's staff, respected by most of their opponents but they keep finishing at the bottom of the annual Global Tag league.

* Depending on codex and writer, the [[Characters/Warhammer40000ImperialGuard Imperial Guard]] of ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}''. Conscripted by the billion, given laughably inadequate equipment, following moronic plans by incompetent (if not outright traitorous) generals and of course, executed whenever they complain, piss themselves at the horrors they're facing or think of a way to win that ''isn't'' the way the Imperium has been doing for the past few thousand years. All for nothing, as the Imperium steadily crumbles further.
** Anytime an army is victorious over Chaos could count as this, as the Ruinous Powers are actually ''strengthened'' whether or not they win (one is worshipped whenever blood is spilled, another by both pain and pleasure, one has so many {{Xanatos Gambit}}s running that the failure of one just means another can now function, etc.).
** The Craftworld Eldar, to the point that they are depicted as a DyingRace even in their own Codices. All but the most arrogant and delusional Eldar ''know'' that they are totally screwed, but keep fighting anyway since the alternative would be to just lie down and accept extinction.
** A serious contender for the most blatant example of this trope is the Lamenters, a Space Marine Chapter cursed with extremely bad luck. Apparently, they are cursed by fate or by the Ruinous Powers to be the single unluckiest chapter in the history of the Imperium of Man. Even when they win a battle, it will be through great sacrifice or that victory will make way for an even bigger defeat. Still, the fact they're still committed to the protection of humanity in the living nightmare that is the 41st Millennium is worthy of admiration.

* It's easy to miss, but Ash doesn't win a single Pokemon battle throughout the entirety of ''Theatre/PokemonLive''. He's knocked out by Jigglypuff's song, and Giovanni soundly defeats Pikachu.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/ChronoCross''[='=]s [[SilentProtagonist Serge]] unfortunately became this trope after his '''third''' NiceJobBreakingItHero. There's a reason that why that trope was named after him in Website/TheGrandListOfConsoleRolePlayingGameCliches.
* Leo of ''VideoGame/{{Zone of the Enders}}''. [[spoiler:Despite some victories, things still get destroyed all around him, and the end of the game is a humiliating defeat. He has better luck in the sequel, but that's when he's not using Jehuty.]]
** However, you can save plenty of civilians from BAHRAM if you're good enough, you prevent Jehuty from falling into BAHRAM hands, and you [[spoiler:save the colony from destruction before you're defeated by Nohman]].
* ''{{Rameses}}''. There are even conversation choices where you can stand up to the bully, insult the toadie, or defend TheWoobie, but the [=PC=] will nearly always reject them with a variation of "Why bother? [[{{Railroading}} I couldn't do that anyway.]]"
* Isaac and his son Matthew in ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' and ''VideoGame/GoldenSunDarkDawn''. Every single decision that they make unfortunately leads to world destruction and/or furthering [[InvincibleVillain Alex's]] [[GambitRoulette plans]]. [[YouCantFightFate And there's nothing they]] [[OnlyTheAuthorCanSaveThemNow can do about it]]. This combined with their HeroicMime status and [[DracoInleatherPants the Draco'ed villains]] makes them the least popular of all 16 ''Golden Sun'' protagonists within the fandom.
* A problem in the ''VideoGame/MetalGear'' series after ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'', which applied via RetCon. Anything the main characters do advances the AncientConspiracy's goals ''[[GambitRoulette somehow]]''. If the series didn't get a sequel after 3 it would have been a TheBadGuyWins DownerEnding to the series. Used in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty''. The main character Raiden [[spoiler:is told before the ending that all his actions have been scripted and defeating the BigBad would just help the group that has been forcing people to against their will. As a result, before the final fight against Solidus Snake, Raiden tells the Patriots {{A|rtificialIntelligence}}Is he prefers not to fight and is threatened with the death of his girlfriend and an infant if he is murdered. In the end Raiden has to defeat Solidus, leaving the other conflict open for the next games]].
* ''Franchise/MortalKombat'':
** Taven in ''VideoGame/MortalKombatArmageddon'' is sent a quest to halt the titular event that will destroy all of existence. Not only does he find out that his brother went crazy with power and murdered their parents with Taven unable to do a thing to prevent it, his quest turns into a failure since the elemental being he was supposed to defeat in order to gain godhood and stave off Armageddon [[ShootTheShaggyDog turned out to have been long tainted]] and the canon victor of that game turned out to be [[TheBadGuyWins Shao Kahn]]. That ended up leading to the whole timeline being rebooted.
** Raiden becomes this in ''VideoGame/MortalKombat9''. His actions to change the future only makes things worse, he loses the trust of Liu Kang, gets many heroes killed through his indirect actions to change the past and only barely wins the battle because the Elder Gods arrive to help him at the last moment.
* Leonard in ''VideoGame/WhiteKnightChronicles'', the actual main character of the game. Despite being possessing the power to transform into an indestructible 20 foot tall walking tank whenever he feels like it, he consistently fails to achieve his goals or [[VillainsActHeroesReact take any action that isn't a direct response to the actions of the antagonist]]. He allows the Princess he's supposed to be saving to get kidnapped in front of his eyes multiple times, even allowing to her to get ''re''captured after rescuing her for about 15 seconds. He is consistently fooled by the bad guy's spies and infiltrators, and can't wrap his head around the fact that every time his friend Kara disappears, the evil [[TheRival Black Knight]] appears. He suffers a ''HeroicBSOD'' and outright quits the party for half of the second game. Then, in a misguided attempt to save the day, he parachutes back into the party during a crucial battle underleveled, underdeveloped, and undergeared and usually gets the entire party killed as a result of the player being forced to field an unprepared character. And finally, he leads the charge into the final dungeon and defeats the BigBadWannabe, only to wind up [[NiceJobBreakingItHero fulfilling the real Big Bad's]] EvilPlan and become the final boss ''himself'' via a GrandTheftMe. He's last seen limping off screen slumped over someone else's shoulder, with the Princess he spent the last game repeatedly failing to rescue having killed the BigBad herself when everyone else wasn't looking.
* The goal of the game in the InteractiveFiction title ''VideoGame/{{Inhumane}}'' is to enter a pyramid full of traps and get killed by ''every single one''. Even if you succeed in all of this, [[spoiler: the throwaway in-joke about the author's math teacher destroys your mind when you try to exit the pyramid with the treasure]].
* Hawke in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII''. [[spoiler:Fails to save his/her sibling in the beginning. Fails to save his/her mother from a serial killer. Fails to stop the Qunari attack on Kirkwall. Fails to prevent the Mage/Templar War. Fails to properly kill Corypheus.]] Essentially, Hawke tries to stand against massive wave after massive wave and most of what they achieve is getting soaked to the bone. Even their one unambiguous success (the Deep Roads expedition which makes them rich) turns out to have disastrous effects in the long run thanks to [[spoiler:their discovery of red lyrium]]. The best that can be said for Hawke is that their actions at least prevented ''bad'' situations from becoming many times ''worse''. In ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'', [[spoiler:the Nightmare demon taunts Hawke with the fact that nothing s/he did made a big difference and that s/he couldn't even succeed in saving Kirkwall]].
** [[spoiler: Though if Hawke survives the events of ''[[VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition Inquisition]]'', the ending of the "Trespasser" DLC will reveal that he/she eventually returned to Kirkwall as it's Champion and helped it rebuild. Their efforts did amount to something, [[EarnYourHappyEnding it just took a long time to get there]].]]
* Mike Dawson in ''[[VideoGame/DarkSeed Dark Seed II]]''. While he was competent and knew what he was doing in the first game (even if [[GuideDangIt it was only because the player used a walkthrough]]), in the sequel he seems to struggle with things that shouldn't really be too problematic, and gets himself into situations that could be easily avoided. His attempt to [[spoiler:stop the Dark World invasion, something he achieved handily in the first game, is implied to be badly botched. The ending is left ambiguous, but it doesn't end well for him, either way]].
* In ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedIII'', Connor fails all of his longterm goals even though he manages to kill all of his enemies. He finds out the hard way that the world does not run on BlackAndWhiteMorality and that killing people doesn't always make problems go away. His only victories are re-starting the all-but-dead Assassin Order in America and [[spoiler:successfully hiding the MacGuffin away for his descendant to find.]] Oh, and living long enough to become Desmond's ancestor, but that was a ForegoneConclusion because the life of an assassin who dies before siring heirs couldn't exactly be relived through the Animus and according to ''Videogame/AssassinsCreedRogue'', his wife eventually left him and took the kids, leaving him to die a bitter old man.
* Walker from ''VideoGame/SpecOpsTheLine''. His attempts to be a hero, save Dubai and thwart Konrad all end in failure, [[NeverMyFault and despite his protests to the contrary]] it's 100% his own fault ([[YouBastard and your's.]]) [[spoiler: By the end, he's accidentally killed Dubai citizens with white phosphorus mortars, destroyed Dubai's only source of water, dooming the surviving inhabitants to die in the harsh desert sandstorm, gotten his squadmates killed, and in the end Konrad was DeadAllAlong and the voice in the radio taunting him for most of the game was in his own head.]]
** [[spoiler: Konrad himself turns out to be one as well. He defies his orders in order to help the people of Dubai, and after six months of draconian military occupation he realizes that his efforts only made the situation worse and [[DrivenToSuicide and takes his own life.]]]]
* Canonically, the Hanzo Shinobi in ''VideoGame/SenranKagura'' do spend an awful lot of time on the back foot and dealing with opponents who [[TheBattleDidntCount "Weren't really trying"]], but this is presented as a series of hardships leading to a well-earned victory. Then you [[AnotherSideAnotherStory play as a different faction]], and the "heroes" of the setting come across as ''utterly incompetent'' - they never pull the same "not trying" trick, and are the only team to lose clean ''every time''.
* Failman, the star of a Flash point-and-click game. He saves all of the problems... to create even bigger ones.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfBerseria'' has a villainous example. Not in a MinionWithAnFInEvil way; Oscar Dragonia is the first non-BigBad antagonist to get a name, being in charge of the HellholePrison where Velvet was being kept, and brings her to a standstill when they clash using a variety of powerful artes while espousing his loyalty to the one person Velvet can't stand. In short, he has all the trappings of a [[RecurringElement classic Tales of...]] [[TheRival rival character]], and then the rest of the game happens. [[spoiler:His entire story is one failure after another. An unwanted spare of a noble family, he was made to join the Abbey to give them more influence, but his career has been unknowingly propped up by his beloved sister - who, despite being a baseborn bastard, has more clout in the Abbey than him. He passed over a prestigious assignment because he felt the other candidate deserved it more; instead of being rewarded, he ended up in charge of Titania, which is a [[ReassignedToAntarctica dead-end shithole]] of a post. What looked like skillful use of powerful Artes during Velvet's escape was actually Oscar jumping straight to tactics of last resort just to slow her down, and the only clean hit he gets was a cheap shot. After being beaten and disfigured by Velvet, he's reassigned to the boonies and not heard from again for half the game, where his sister has petitioned for him to get a safe-but-important gubernatorial role in the sticks. He's not there a week before Velvet causes him to utterly fail at every aspect of his assignment, including not being fought because Velvet knocks him out mid-sentence with a single kick. This results in him being "asked" to act as a candidate for a powerful but completely untested new arte; despite finally putting up a boss fight with a prototype he was apparently compatible with, it ultimately goes completely haywire and he has to be killed in self-defense.]] It's not for no reason that his title in his final battle is "Failed Oscar".
* [[PlayerCharacter Otus]] in ''VideoGame/{{Owlboy}}'', already considered a failure and constantly chewed out by his mentor Asio even before the game starts for real, goes out of his way to do things right but it always happens to backfire or accomplish nothing : chasing a troublemaker while on watch duty in Vellie actually gives an opening to the Sky Pirates that assault the village, [[spoiler: he is then sent to re-activate an ancient device that happens to be worn out beyond repair and no one will believe it and still punish Otus for failing, he then infiltrates the Dreadnought during the siege of Advent to sabotage it from inside, only for Molstrom to nearly kill him and destroy Advent by himself... It fortunately gets better by the end of the game when he reverses the effect of the ancient cataclysm that shattered the world and defeats Molstrom]].
* One of the sample comics in ''[[VideoGame/WarioWare WarioWare: D.I.Y. Showcase]]'' features the titular "[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Failure Man]]", who attempts to stop an asteroid from crashing into Earth. It goes as well as you'd expect.
* Rean Schwarzer in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfHeroesTrailsOfColdSteel'' probably beats almost everyone in this list where he ends up losing in his games ''[[RuleOfThree three times]]'' despite being the protagonist of the series for three of them. From the first game alone, he doesn't stop the leader of the terrorist group from assassinating the chancellor and occupy his school because it turns out that said leader is one of his dear classmates who has a HumongousMecha of his own (Rean does have one as well at this point) but is clearly trounced by his years of experience compared to Rean's day one inside the Divine Knight. Then in ''Cold Steel II'', he fails to [[spoiler:bring Crow back to the academy because Crow, who was the leader of the terrorists in the first game, sacrifices his life to save the crown prince who is being used as a battery for an EldritchAbomination. Oh and the chancellor that Crow tried assassinating [[FakingTheDead faked his death]] throughout the CivilWar so he ends up on top despite not showing up for most of the game.]] And finally in ''Cold Steel III'', he fails to [[spoiler:stop putting the giant turtle back to sleep as he was overpowered by it and his sword is useless against the might of a beast sent by the goddess to guard her treasures which forces his friend, a young girl, to sacrifice her life to become the SwordOfPlotAdvancement for him. He then gives in to his SuperpoweredEvilSide and ''kills the beast'' instead of putting it to sleep, causing the Erebonia country and maybe its neighboring countries to be affected by the curse that was kept at bay by the beast.]] It remains to be seen if Rean will finally be successful by the fourth game, but it sucks to be him.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Collar 6}}'' struck the protagonists with this for its second major arc. Any fight was either lost or interrupted, which lead to them getting captured twice. The first time, they would've spent the entire arc in captivity if their maids hadn't come to bail them out. Ultimately, they could have stayed home and the whole thing would have worked out for the best, if the bad guy's plan didn't require kidnapping Laura and [[spoiler:a sudden GreaterScopeVillain that required stopping]].
* ''Webcomic/CurseQuest'': Implied with the Owl Hunter, he doesn't seem competent enough to actually take down the owl-bear he was wrestling, and is openly seen crying at the convention after failing to do so. Walrus also gives off similar vibes, considering he didn't do anything to hurt the owl-bear despite trying to fight it and getting launched at a tree.
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'': anything that [[JerkassWithAHeartOfGold Karkat]] [[JerkassWoobie Vantas]] wasn't guaranteed to fail at due to YouCantFightFate, he managed to bungle on his own, with the exception of [[spoiler: calming Gamzee down]] and a few other things. When tasked with creating a universe-frog, [[spoiler: he wasn't patient enough to do the job right and ended up giving the poor thing cancer]] (although waiting any longer may have made the game unwinnable, due to the black king becoming exponentially harder to beat the longer the game goes on). When he tried to lead his group to victory, [[spoiler: he managed to keep at most five of them alive from a group of twelve]]. His efforts to prevent the creation of a HeroKiller GodOfEvil were kicked in the head by destiny, and his dating life has been kind of consistently disastrous. Even his childhood dream of joining the Threshecutioners was doomed from the start due to a) his mutant blood colour and b) [[spoiler: the destruction of the universe]], and his efforts to learn programming ended up killing his [[RaisedByWolves lusus]]. It's no wonder the guy hates himself so much, and is so consistently pissed.
** Ironically enough, many of his failures seem have side effects that turn them into successes, for example, the robotic Aradia clones that came from doomed timelines that were attributed to his failures were essential to win, and Aradia also states the the Mobius Double Reacharound virus was essential to winning as well. Similarly many of his successes turn into horrific failures- the ectobiology that he was initially successful with [[spoiler: later making the game unwinnable]], for example.
*** Other examples include [[spoiler:Calming Gamzee prevented the other trolls from offing him, and considering Gamzee is one of the main sources of problems for every group of protagonists...this... isn't a good thing. Not only that, Vriska speculates that if attaining Godhood is related to attaining your species equivalent of maturity, then Karkat's efforts to keep his murderous race of friends together may have kept most of them alive for as long as it did, but had he been a BAD leader, half of them would have killed the other half but the survivors may have gotten FAR more power as a result]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' we get [[spoiler:Tex who was created from the Director's memory of his dead girlfriend. Since said girlfriend died in battle, the memory and thus Tex herself have that failure deep seated within them. As a result, despite being perhaps the most badass character in the entire series, she fails just about any mission that has actual importance no matter how hard she tries]].
* Splendid from ''WebAnimation/HappyTreeFriends''. Without exception, he kills every single person that he tries to save. Lumpy is another example, though he at least has occasional bursts of competence.
* [[https://www.youtube.com/user/ElementGames/videos ElementGames]]'s custom ''WWE 2K17'' story, "Corporate John Cena," has The New Ministry. Despite being led by The Undertaker -- who, as an individual, actually averts this just as much as his RealLife self -- they lose every Tag bout they're in (including their debut), one member [[spoiler:(Finn Balor)]]'s soon humiliated and destroyed right before [=WrestleMania=], and then the other [[spoiler:(Sting) suddenly betrays The Deadman right after his victory there]]. What's especially sad is that their MalevolentMaskedMen buildup beforehand was actually quite impressive.
* WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic very rarely gets what he wants or wins anything. The "hero" part is downplayed, as he's not a particularly good person.

[[folder:Web Serial Novel]]
* ''Literature/StatlessAndTactless'': Kyle is styled like an archetypal pulp-era adventure hero, very much the group's most obvious good guy. He's also spread so thin on skill points that he's pretty much incapable of succeeding in any task he attempts.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Racing cartoons tend to have one of these characters:
** ''WesternAnimation/WackyRaces''' Dick Dastardly, despite being as lukewarm a VillainProtagonist as you can possibly get, definitely falls into this trope. Even in the rare instances he conquers [[DickDastardlyStopsToCheat his obsession to cheat]] he still manages to become a Boring Failure Hero. He actually managed to win ''once'', even to the narrator's surprise.
** His {{Expy}} Phantom Fink suffers the same problem; when he does win, the prize is absolutely horrible.
** No matter ''who'' wins in ''WesternAnimation/YogisSpaceRace'', something happens to make the prize {{undesirable|prize}}. One wonders why the racers keep coming back.
* The protagonists of ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy''. Not only do [[AmbitionIsEvil Eddy]] and his crew fail at their attempts to scam kids, they also completely fail at legitimate ventures or even completely innocent goals like gaining a little respect from their friends. The constant teasing and harassing of their {{Jerkass}} neighbors only rubs salt into the wound. In the movie [[spoiler:this is subverted. [[EarnYourHappyEnding The other kids finally accept the Eds into their group after seasons of turmoil]]]].
%%* The title character of ''WesternAnimation/TheBuzzOnMaggie''. Mostly everything she tries to accomplish fails, or backfires in her face.
* The main theme of ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'', where all the characters are failures, both heroes and villains. It really says something when even the most badass character on the show, Brock Sampson, is a failure. Brock was a promising college football player who had to quit school because he accidentally killed a man on the field. Then he goes off to OSI, where he gets paired with a guy tagged as a crazy conspiracy theorist by the department. Despite being as awesome as he is, he gets assigned [[strike:guard]] babysitter duty to Dr. Venture, a washed-up, sociopathic OmnidisciplinaryScientist, and his CloudCuckooLander kids. He's viewed as just about as much a waste of great potential in his field as Dr. Venture in his own. On top of everything, he can get any woman on the planet, except the one woman he actually loves.
* Creator/ChuckJones' interpretation of WesternAnimation/DaffyDuck was meant to represent a polar opposite of WesternAnimation/BugsBunny, constantly attempting to take on TheAce role, be it a super hero, a western sheriff or a detective, only to get his ass handed to him by even the most incompetent of villains, with real heroes Bugs or WesternAnimation/{{Porky|Pig}} usually clearing things up. Other directors occasionally placed Daffy as a bumbling hero as well, [[DependingOnTheWriter though it varied]] whether he was an actual failure or not.
* One of the major problems most fans have with ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice'' is that no matter what the heroes do, it almost never matters. They usually end up soundly defeated, and on the rare occasions that they ''do'' win, it just furthers the villains' goals somehow.
* The titular character from ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'' zigzags with this trope. While she manages to save the day a number of times and defeat the [[ArcVillain Arc Villains]], she makes more than a few mistakes. During the first two seasons, she makes a lot of mistakes partly due to how she was raised. During the third season, she matures and learns from her previous mistakes along with playing a vital role in restoring the Air Nation, but the trope is played straight towards the end of the season. [[spoiler:The Red Lotus capture her twice, and her plan to rescue the airbenders almost completely failed. After she is poisoned by the Red Lotus, she is able to prevent them from killing her in her Avatar State right away, but she ultimately needs help from Jinora and the other airbenders to defeat Zaheer. As a result of being poisoned during her capture, she is crippled and it takes her three years to fully recover. This continues into Season Four, where after finally recovering her ability to walk (which in itself was a struggle), she is unable to get back into the swing of fighting right away. This leads to her getting beaten up on multiple occasions in the first half of the season, including by Toph, Kuvira, and a few random earthbenders.]] Ultimately, Korra subverts this trope during the second half of Season Four between [[spoiler: saving Prince Wu from Kuvira's forces, managing to overcome her PTSD by facing Zaheer, taking up a leadership position against Kuvira's forces, and ultimately defeating Kuvira and convincing her to surrender]].
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Archer}}''. His luck/skill during missions is almost always ''just'' enough to ensure that he lives to screw up another one. It gets to the point where villains will sometimes hire him to foil their own plots because they're so sure he'll fail.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Freakazoid}}'' has a ShowWithinAShow called Hero Boy, a parody of ''Anime/AstroBoy'', where the eponymous hero ''always'' fails in comic fashion. In the one episode we see, he tried to beat the {{Kaiju}} attacking Tokyo by ineffectually beating its foot before it brushes him off with nary a second thought. It also happens to be Freakazoid's favorite show.