Greater Scope Villain

aka: Bigger Bad
Taran: Another of Arawn's servants?
Gwydion: Gwyn owes allegiance to a lord unknown even to me, and one perhaps greater than Arawn.

There is the Big Bad, a character directly responsible for the plot even while sending out various minions and lieutenants to make the hero's life busy. But what about a greater enemy that is indirectly responsible for the plot? That's where this trope comes in.

A Greater Scope Villain is a threat that's more dangerous, affects more people, or a villainous presence that is more significant than the story's current Big Bad in the setting as a whole, but isn't causing the conflict of the immediate story (and may have little to do with it at all). While the Big Bad is directly responsible for the current story — the Big Bad is the villain or situation that the protagonists are attempting to defeat or overcome — a Greater Scope Villain isn't a major force in the plot. They are just responsible for anything evil or fueling at least a part of the fictional setting (how much of it depends on the scale of the Greater Scope Villain's influence) in which the story takes place. A Greater Scope Villain may be the Big Bad's superior, but just as often they're completely unrelated — indeed, a Greater Scope Villain may threaten the Big Bad just as much as they threaten the protagonists. Whatever the relationship between the Big Bad and Greater Scope Villain, the Greater Scope Villain is always Out of Focus — the threat they pose is general and in the background, while the threat posed by the Big Bad is specific and immediate.

This is not a subtrope of Big Bad. A Greater Scope Villain is a more threatening force of evil in the setting and overshadows it, but due to various factors, it is disconnected on a personal level from the main plot, which is caused by the Big Bad. There are different ways this may manifest, for example:

If the Big Bad tries to harness the Greater Scope Villain for their own gain, they'll likely learn the painful (sometimes fatal) lesson that Evil Is Not a Toy.

A Greater Scope Villain doesn't always have to remain a Greater Scope Villain. Hinting towards a greater enemy is a common method of foreshadowing who the next big bad is going to be, the current Big Bad is defeated and the Sorting Algorithm of Evil kicks in to provide a bigger threat for the heroes to face. Alternatively, the Greater Scope Villain could show up and try to ruin everyone's day, becoming the new Big Bad and possibly forcing an Enemy Mine situation between the heroes and the previous villain. Inversely, a Big Bad can be Kicked Upstairs to become a Greater Scope Villain.

There can also be more than one Greater Scope Villain — either multiple Greater Scope Villains working together (a la Big Bad Duumvirate), multiple Greater Scope Villains each with their own agenda (a la Big Bad Ensemble), or in multiple layers of Greater Scope Villains, each bigger than the last (eg, the Big Bad threatens a city, the first Greater Scope Villain threatens the country, and an Even Greater Scope Villain threatens the whole world).

In a general sense this should also not be considered the same as The Man Behind the Man, because if they are behind the plot they would be a Big Bad. However, the Man Behind the Man and Greater Scope Villain can overlap if the Man Behind the Man remains distant enough from the story. The Greater Scope Villain must not give orders to the Big Bad, but they can corrupt the Big Bad to make the Big Bad work for them. They allow the Big Bad to do their own thing and don't interfere unless it's in their interests to do so. A Greater Scope Villain is a frequent Conflict Killer.

Compare Villainous Legacy, where a villain serves this type of role long after their defeat and/or death. May also overlap with Predecessor Villain, if the predecessor was significantly worse than the current Big Bad and still exists in some form.


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    Comic Books 
  • X-Men:
    • The "Here Comes Tomorrow" story arc of Grant Morrison's New X-Men gave us the original character John Sublime, who was introduced with the strong suggestion that he may be the greatest overarching threat permeating the X-mythos. A sentient colony of bacteria almost as old as the Earth itself, Sublime was revealed to have orchestrated many major events in the X-Men's past, including the creation of the Weapon X program, all in a bid to wipe the mutant race from the Earth (as they are the only species immune to his mind control). It's implied that he may have even manipulated humanity to create the very idea of anti-mutant prejudice in the first place, thus making him the one villain who has managed to consistently keep the heat up on the X-Men since Day 1.
    • Apocalypse is this in Uncanny X-Force. He himself is killed effortlessly in the very first arc as a result of rejuvenating himself into a helpless child body, but almost every subsequent villain is working to either recreate him or find a successor for him. The arc even carried over into Remender's new book, Uncanny Avengers.
    • Most X-Men adaptations set up Apocalypse as this too.
    • Due to the chaotic nature of creative teams on the books at the time, the comics of the '90s featured a lot of these, with a writer introducing a mysterious mastermind character of some sort, then abruptly leaving or being kicked off the book shortly afterward, with the next creative team deciding not to follow up on the plotlines of the previous and aborting the entire arc. Typically these characters are never so much as mentioned again, although Peter David got to revisit one he created, the Isolationist/Armageddon, nearly twenty years after the fact.
  • The Ogdru Jahad tend to be behind most villains in Hellboy stories.
  • The Marvel Universe has the cosmic beings Death and Oblivion, who are incredibly powerful and exactly what they sound like. They tend to empower mortals to achieve their goals for them; Thanos and Maelstrom, respectively, are their favorite "heralds," each of whom is a universe-threatening Big Bad in his own right. The two cosmic beings have each been around for (in our time) decades, and have been directly battled only a handful of times.
  • Transformers Generation 2 has the Liege Maximo, founder of Jhiaxus's Decepticons (and, possibly, all Decepticons). Later, Unicron, Eldritch Abomination and Satan-figure, to the franchise as a whole.
  • The Lord of the Locusts in Bone
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: One could make an argument that Mammoth Mogul is this. Thousands of years ago, he founded the Order of Ixis, which eventually led to the creation of Ixis Naugus, whose actions, which may include starting the Great War, in turn led to Dr. Robotnik's rise to power, who's death ultimately led to nearly every villain in the book today, with Naugus responsible for the ones that aren't Mogul. Naugus and Robotnik are still quite active (and are, in fact, the current top two villains of the series), whereas Mogul has semi-retired from active villainy, running a casino and deciding to use his immortality to outlive the heroes and make his move then.note 
  • Locke & Key: the Big Bad is Dodge; the Greater Scope Villains are the Eldritch Abominations behind the Black Door that he wants to release.
  • As revealed during Fear Itself, the Marvel Universe's real Satan. The other demon lords hold meetings around his throne sometimes, but it's stated that all of them, including, apparently, cosmically-powered ones like Shuma-Gorath and the aforementioned Dormammu, are terrified of even trying to sit on it. He's been gone from this plane of existence so long that even among the demons themselves it's a common belief that he doesn't actually exist.
  • Green Lantern baddie Krona may well be the Greater Scope Villain responsible for almost everything wrong with The DCU. While he's not the most powerful villain in the setting (though he's close; in a crossover with the Marvel Universe he curbstomped Galactus), he's the man behind Parallax, the Manhunters, and, indirectly, the Anti-Monitor, as his experiment was the thing that fractured the original Monitor probe in two. In turn, he thus unintentionally caused virtually every Crisis Crossover the DC heroes have ever faced. In his early appearances, it was actually stated that his experiment created evil itself, though this has since fallen by the wayside and may be Canon Discontinuity.
  • The trope can easily become a problem when a bunch of writers work in a shared universe, especially one where the characters are in speaking distance of each other. For example, Marvel kept doing multibook crossovers over the course of the two years Lucifer was, or at least six hundred and sixteen fragments of him were, running wild and free on Earth. With the possible exception of Annihilation, nothing that inspired the crossover events was a bad a problem as this but Ghost Rider was the only one who seemed to care about it.
  • Batman: In Grant Morrison's Batman, Dr. Hurt is the main Big Bad, but is revealed to have a Greater Scope Villain controlling him, who he thinks is the demon Barbatos, but is actually a weapon Darkseid sent back to the dawn of man when Batman was hit by the Omega Effect in Final Crisis.
  • The early Conan the Barbarian comics from Marvel often had the royal family from the Kingdom of Turan as this trope.
  • The Transformers IDW:
    • Shockwave. While Megatron or Scorponok or any other Decepticon are always front and center as the Big Bad, Shockwave has always worked behind the scenes with his regenesis project, which is a number of energies which bond to planets and create different Ore. This kicks off the earth conflict, which he is absent for, as the empowering Ore is there and everyone is fighting over it. It kicks off Spotlight Kup, which he is also absent for, because it drives Kup crazy. It is the reason behind the Syndromica arc, which he has very little to do with. In addition his projects have been behind the destruction of numerous civilizations, which he was also absent for because the Dynobots got to him before he could stabilize them. As of Transformers Dark Cybertron he has subverted the Trope, and stepped up as the major threat, requiring all the Transformers to unite against him.
    • The Dead Universe and alternate universe that seeks to consume the one present and mind controls anyone it can reach, even controlling the Decepticons to do its bidding. Later we learn that Shockwave is responsible for its existence.
  • Senator Roark and Mob Boss Wallenquist in Sin City. The former is an immensely powerful and unashamedly Corrupt Politician who can get away with anything while the latter is an immensely powerful crime lord controlling most of the organized crime in the city. While both men are responsible for the greatest evils in Basin City and perpetuate the Crapsack World itself, neither would really qualify as the main villain in any of the stories. Their organizations and influence are so vast that they're usually concerned with larger matters than direct confrontation with the (Anti-)heroes.
  • In Spider-Verse Solus is the Greater Scope Villain. He is father to Morlun and all the other Inheritors, but doesn't take part in the Great Hunt for totemic beings himself. He also turns out to be a cosmic-scale threat capable of going toe-to-toe with the Spider-Man of Earth-13, a reality where he kept his Captain Universe powers.
  • Darkseid, in the New 52, the first villain the Justice League faced, has been conquering the multiverse, and is responsible for the invasion and subsequent destruction of Earth-2.
  • The Anti-Monitor, even more dangerous being with second to no one (except, maybe, Marvel's the Beyonders) awesome Crisis Greater Scope Villain background, who made the Crime Syndicate to escape their world (Earth-3) and destroyed it. He is going to kill Darkseid and is in league with his daughter.
  • Brainiac, easily number #3 on this list for DC, his true form as giant artificial entity, capturing cities from different timelines and universes before their destruction. Vril Dox Brainiac guy is just one of his pawns. Brainiac serves as Greater Scope Villain in Convergence, as the reason for why Telos is doing what it's doing. Telos even refers to him as "the master", as he is in charge of every other Brainiac.
  • Empty Hand, sinister entity that led the Gentry to the invasion of the DC Multiverse. Currently, just decided to wait. Probably qualifies as THE Greatest Scope Villain in DC.
  • In Violine, Muller and Marushka are the main villains in the plot, driving much of the backstory as well as Violine's adventures, especially Muller who actively hunts her and her father down.

    Fan Works 
  • Carmen in Hottie 4: Even Better Sequel, who was also the Big Bad in Hottie and the last chapters of Hottie 3: The Best Fan Fic in the World.
  • Princess Jody in Supetastic 6: Year Four.
  • The Child Of Love: SEELE. In the first story they were behind Gendo, ordering him around and watching him to ensure he fulfilled their goals, knowing fully well he had an agenda of his and being aware of his project to create a new lifeform to fight them with. In the sequel they remained in the shadow, sending their agents to spy on the heroes and destabilize them as they get ready to fight them and carry forward his plot to create a new god.
  • New Dawn revealed the real villain of the first book was not the cat's paw Nebiros, but rather the insidious New Order, at first seemingly spearheaded by Chris, but in reality controlled by an even Greater Scope Villain: Sharon Tate Roman. And to add to the intrigue, it is unknown if Nebiros or Chris even knew she existed.
  • Satan is this in The Prayer Warriors, since he is said to have created the false gods and had a hand in the rise of communism in Russia, but hardly ever appears.
  • The Avatar in Perfection Is Overrated, having created the SUEs and the Usurper as a means of testing whether a Mary Sue could compete with a canon character on equal terms, is this.
  • Moriarty was there was an essay published by Doyle's Fandom trying to upgrade Moriarty from Break Out Villain to true Big Bad status for the Sherlock Holmes book series by doing a Revision about Holmes cases and arguing that Moriarty was there as a Greater Scope Villain for various BigBads cases: after all, canon has established him as a Diabolical Mastermind, with vast criminal resources that can be exploited by minor criminals by a fee. For example, the essay proposes that the criminal of the very first novel, A Study in Scarlet, after losing his Memento MacGuffin and recognizing he is Lured Into a Trap by whoever put the ad in the paper to recover it (Holmes), then consulted Moriarty, who commissioned a Master of Disguise to pose as an elderly woman to get it (it worked!).
  • Metal Sonic in Mario and Sonic: Heroes Unite!. His power is claimed in the description to be "bigger than Eggman and Bowser's powers combined".
  • Justice League of Equestria would appear to have Darkseid for the series as a whole, judging by Athena's comments about the War in Heaven against his forces. Mare of Steel ends with him opening a boomtube to Equestria, setting him up to be the Big Bad of the main Justice League of Equestria story.
  • The Cadanceverse has Nemesis, the entity/force that corrupted Celestia and Luna, and is still free and on the loose even after they're purified by the Elements of Harmony.
  • In The Lion King Adventures, the Ultimate Evil of the entire series is the Writer, an Author Avatar of ThatPersonYouMightKnow's dark side. He created the entire universe and all the characters in it, as a means of having his own world in which to create chaos and destruction.
  • In Lanterns Of Equestria Blackest Night, the Black is the true villain, while the Black Lantern of Commander Hurricane serves it and acts as the de facto Big Bad of the story.
  • In the Medaka Box fanfic World As Myth, Ihiko Shishime seems to be this, as his existence is heavily implied to be the reason for the Big Bad's plans.
  • Tales of the Oppressed has King Sombra. He's the one responsible for everything bad that happened in the story, but 38 chapters in and he's only had one major appearance.
  • The War of Megazords Vs. Gundams has two Greater Scope Villains: Patrick Zala and Mykan Yuki. They fueled each other's hatred towards Naturals and Coordinators receptively and are what sparked their respective wars. In short, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED had Zala the Big Bad and Mykan its Greater Scope Villain, while Megazords vs. Gundams had the reverse.
  • In Memories, Discord's mother is this. It was because of her that Discord took over Equestria, because of her that Discord "Discorded" the Mane Six, and because of her that Serenity had to die. (she got better) She appears to be becoming the Big Bad in the sequel, though.
  • Rainbow in the Wastes has Queen Chrysalis. The entire events of the story were all just a hallucination caused by her- Rainbow Dash isn't in the world of Fallout, she's in a Lotus-Eater Machine. The whole thing was a case of The Bad Guy Wins.
  • Somber Ties has two. The first, as one might expect from a story that takes place in the Chrystal Empire, is King Sombra. The second (and greater) one is Blackheart, as the evil force behind his rise to power.
  • In The End of Ends, Trigon created the Dark Prognosticus, thus giving rise to Logan’s power.
  • In Young Justice: Darkness Falls: Darkseid serves this role to the first 2 seasons of the show, as Vandal Savage's endgame involved him, making him an essential part of the plan. He also serves as one to Superman, as he was actually behind the destruction of Krypton as well. Although, once his invasion of earth begins, he takes on the role of Big Bad as well.
    • Following this, Young Justice Titans has another Greater Scope Villain in the form of Trigon. The new secondary villians the church of blood are dedicating their efforts to finding a way to release him into earth.
  • Most fics in the Shadowchasers series have one:
  • Ask Jappleack: Applelox is revealed to be the father of Discord and Wolfilor, and the one who sent them to Equestria, making him directly responsible for the events in PONY.MOV.
  • Ace Swift, the Asshole Victim of Turnabout Storm. His immoral actions indirectly caused the conflict in the story. He's never met in person though since he's dead.
  • Being Dead Aint Easy has the Big Five. They're technically behind a lot of major events in the story, as they're responsible for sabotaging KaibaCorp and siccing Morrison on Kaiba—inadvertently starting the entire plot—but aren't personally involved or seen at all. At most, they get a couple mentions.
  • Shattered Skies: Chaos, mentioned above, is one of these not only to the Sailor Moon universe, but to every magical girl universe, claiming to be the ultimate source of all evil and darkness.
  • Queen Of Shadows has Shendu. His actions kicked off the plot, and in the new reality he's the Evil Overlord of half of Asia. However, he hasn't actually shown up yet outside of the opening scene of the prologue, and it's not even clear yet if the Shendu in the new reality is the same one who damaged the Book of Ages.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Thanos maintains this status from the canon MCU. In addition to having sent Loki and the Chitauri to invade Earth in The Avengers, it's implied that he also sent Gravemoss to Earth as well, confirmed in-universe to have been behind the destruction of Krypton, and Word of God is that he also has a connection to Gorr the God Butcher, who Thor fought in the past (and is still traumatized by).
    • There's also Cthon. Gravemoss's use of the Darkhold is allowing his influence to spread throughout the universe, breaking down the dimensional barriers separating Earth from all kinds of scary shit, both of Cthon's making and of various other evil deities (the side story Chaos Reigns is about one such infestation). There's also the fact that while the various villainous factions at play (the active Death Eater/HYDRA alliance, and all those powers working in the shadows) are fairly limited in scope, only wanting to control Earth. Cthon would destroy and dominate everything.

    Films - Animated 
  • Disney Animated Canon as a whole seems to have the Chernabog from Fantasia, who appears to be the Disney version of Satan.
    • In The Black Cauldron, the spirit trapped inside the titular Black Cauldron is one. The Horned King wants to use the cauldron to Take Over the World with an undead army.
    • The Lion King Big Bad, Scar, becomes this in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and The Lion King 1˝, with the Big Bad of the former wanting to avenge him and the villains of the latter working for him.
    • Treasure Planet has Captain Nathaniel Flint, based on the original Captain Flint from Treasure Island. While he is long dead by the main story, it is his treasure that drives the plot not to mention he set the planet to explode when the treasure was found.
    • In The Princess and the Frog, the friends on the other side appear to be the dragons for the Big Bad, but ultimately his evil scheme was to sacrifice souls to them in order to get out of a deal he made with them before the film.
    • Wreck-It Ralph has the Cy-Bugs from the game Hero's Duty, who are powerful and a great threat as a whole, while just being a threat in Ralph's quest and having nothing to do with the situation at Sugar Rush. However, they come back in the climax, when they begin to destroy Sugar Rush, and the Big Bad even fuses with one of them!
    • Beauty and the Beast has the enchantress from the prologue, who kicked off the entire plot by turning the (implicitly eleven years old at the time) prince into a Beast and his entire household (including the dog and the tea lady's children) into furniture and kitchenware in an act of supreme Disproportionate Retribution, but then disappears from the narrative so the story can focus on the conflicts between Beast, Belle, and Gaston.
  • Pixar
  • Rothbart, the Big Bad of The Swan Princess, for the second and third sequel, and the Forbidden Arts for the entire franchise as a whole.
  • Pharaoh Seti I in The Prince of Egypt. He was causing suffering for the Hebrews since before the movie began, which no doubt influenced Rameses and contributed heavily towards the way he turned out (and him being an emotionally Abusive Dad could not have helped.) Moses does not have a direct confrontation with him though, as Rameses becomes Pharaoh by the time Moses returns to Egypt.
  • In Anastasia, there's the Dark Forces that Rasputin sold his soul to and gained most of his powers from to get revenge on the Romanov family. The deal he made with them spectacularly backfires; first he's reduced to a decaying zombie stuck in limbo after he drowns and stuck like that until the last Romanov dies, and when his reliquary is destroyed they immediately claim him, and he dies a rather horrific death.
  • In The LEGO Movie, Lord Business' actions are metaphorically linked to the actions of "The Man Upstairs", a human whom the LEGO people regard as a godlike figure. The Kragle is only one of many tubes of Krazy Glue in his possession.
  • The Gorg from Home. The conflict of the film is because of the Boov finding refuge from them.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • According to most varieties of Christianity, this is the role Satan plays in the human world.
  • Angra Mainyu (better known by the Persian name Ahriman) in some forms of Zoroastrianism.

  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who Divergent Universe arc the Kro'ka controls where the Doctor, Charley, and C'rizz go but is working for the Divergence. In Caerdroia he is revealed to be working for Rassilon, who meets the Doctor in the next story.
  • Old Harry's Game: The main villain of the show is Satan. However, it's well-established on the show that God Is Evil and that even Satan fears God's wrath.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is the role the Demon Lords And Arch Devils and Gods Of Evil in the Dungeons & Dragons world are likely to play in most games.
    • The best examples may be the Obyriths and their partner Tharizdun. The former are beings that predate mortal life and even gods. The latter is a god seduced by the Obyriths into evil and madness who shares their desire to destroy everything. Tharizdun used a shard of evil to create the Abyss (and by extension all demons), making him responsible for the existence of the greatest evils in the setting.
    • Vecna, one of the most notorious evil gods in the history of the game, who is known for his dreaded Eye and Hand, claims to have gained his power from a being he calls simply the Serpent, but the exact nature of this being (which is possibly his only ally) is unknown (including whether it even exists, the only source on its existence being the words of a mad and evil god).
    • The Dark Powers in the Ravenloft setting can play this role depending on what type of game the DM is running. Just as many people say that the Dark Powers are not evil at all, but may actually be good. After all, each domain is an Ironic Hell for its ruler, who is an eternal prisoner of it, making Ravenloft a prison of the damned. Seeing as the Dark Powers punish evildoers, it is very possible that they are good.
  • The Deathlords of Exalted are Omnicidal Maniac ghosts granted power by the Neverborn in the name of destroying Creation. The Neverborn themselves, however, aren't much a threat; they're busier spending time coping with the pain of being eternally-dying-but-never-truly-dead and sending strange messages to their servants.
  • Mage: The Awakening:
    • The Exarchs, who stormed the Supernal realms and broke reality in the time of Atlantis. Together all eleven of them form the main villains of the setting, responsible for both the Abyss and the depressing state of the world.
    • The Abyss has the Annunaki.
  • The Wyrm was this for the now defunct Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
  • Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Chaos Gods rarely pay any attention to mortal affairs, spending the vast majority of their time fighting each other, but the powers that are available to mortals because of their very existence (and the corruption and madness that results from them) are the cause of multiple evil factions in both settings.
    • Since Warhammer 40000 is that sort of game, the God Emperor of Mankind probably also qualifies, despite being "dead" for ten thousand years, considering he created and initially led the xenocidal, expansionist Imperium.
    • 40K has the even Greater Scope Villain of the C'tan, who created the Necrons, indirectly created Chaos with their war against the Old Ones (which in turn allowed the Chaos Gods to be born later), and indirectly led to the creation of the Orks and Eldar (as the Old Ones created them to fight against the C'tan). Originally they served as part of the Big Bad Ensemble, but then the 5th Edition Retcon had them be shattered into pieces millions of years ago.
  • Blue Rose has the seven Exarchs of Shadow, though it's never stated explicitly whether they actually exist or are just a myth.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Kazavon in the Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign, where defeating even a small part of his legacy is an epic adventure for a group of 17th level characters. A monstrous Blue Dragon and Psycho for Hire who once served as Zon-Kuthon's Champion, Kazavon was killed long before the story began. His evil persists however, in the form of seven Artifacts Of Doom made out of his bones, which are so contaminated by the pure evil of his soul that they corrupt all they touch, exacerbating the evil that is already there in the human soul. Queen Illeosa, The Big Bad of the setting, is wearing the Crown of Fangs carved out of his teeth; with her defeat the story is over, but the possibility of someone else picking up the Crown (or one of the other six items) remains a very real threat.
    • Queen Abrogail II of Cheliax takes on this role in Skull & Shackles. Your main foe in the campaign, and the one responsible for almost everything, from Captain Barnabas Harrigan's treachery, to the confrontation you are forced into with Kerdak Bonefist at the end, is Abrogail's cousin Admiral Druvalia Thrune of the Chelish Navy, who is acting independently of the crown. While Druvalia's defeat will solve most of their problems, the PCs should step lightly—flaunting their victory overly much can result in a new war with Abrogail once the campaign comes to an end.
  • The Supreme Monstrosity in Dinosaurs Attack!, also named by fans, "Dinosaur Satan."
  • Magic The Gathering:
    • The Eldrazi, until Rise of the Eldrazi when they actually show up.
    • Yawgmoth, who had a similar treatment. For most of the original storyline, the various Evincars of Rath were the setting's primary antagonists, especially Volrath. Rath and its Evincars were essentially satellites to Phyrexia and Yawgmoth, its ruler. While Phyrexia turned up quite a bit throughout the game's history (going at least as far back as Gate to Phyrexia in Antiquities), Yawgmoth himself didn't take center stage until the Urza's Block and then not again until Invasion.
    • In many blocks, Nicol Bolas takes this role. While he himself rarely appears, his minions (such as Sarkhan Vol) often do. In the Khans of Tarkir block, he briefly appears in the backstory, killing the Big Good Ugin, setting up the block's situation; Sarkhan (now his own agent) stopping it to Set Right What Once Went Wrong causes Fate Reforged; and Ugin still being in a magical coma a millennium later results in the situation in Dragons of Tarkir.

  • In Margin for Error, Adolf Hitler is obviously the power behind the German Consul, but his presence in the play is limited to a bronze bust and an obnoxious radio speech.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night gradually reveals over the three routes that the source of the Grail's corruption is Angra Mainyu, who will be reborn if any of the Big Bads succeed in their plans.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The Snarl, a God-killing Eldritch Abomination, is the most powerful and malevolent presence in the series, and the whole reason everything is happening, but appears to have no real mind or personality of its own; there are some hints as of this comic (major spoilers ahoy) that this might not be the case.
    • The IFCC Directors are three fiends who are rather, were The Man Behind the Man to the Linear Guild, but they themselves refer to more powerful fiends ("the Lower Downs") from whom they are attempting to gain support for their venture, using their corruption of Vaarsuvius as proof of concept.
  • Lord English from Homestuck is the most powerful character in the setting, but remained The Unseen until after Act 5, despite a great impact (mostly in the form of his chief servant, Doc Scratch) on the plot. The Big Bad was initially thought to be Jack Noir, stab-happy treacherous Archagent, who the protagonists have much more motivation to destroy but he has since lost focus in the story as Lord English's machinations become more and more obvious as well as his possible origin.
  • Chaos of 8-Bit Theater is an evil Eldritch Abomination and embodiment of decay that is the whole reason behind the Light Warriors' quest. Although he does desire to end (and eternally torment, however that works) existence for no real reason, he does not come into play until the real Big Bad, Sarda, accidentally brings him about. Who was himself indirectly created by Black Mage.
  • In Sluggy Freelance the Demon King of the Dimension of Pain generally plays this part in Dimension of Pain arcs. The demon lord Horribus serves as Big Bad. Presumably Psykosis will be replacing him in future Dimension of Pain appearances.
  • Malefor in The Legend of Spyro Zonoya's Revenge. Not only was he responsible for everything that happened in the games, he brainwashed Cynder into slashing out the eye of Zonoya, her best friend, which was Zonoya's Start of Darkness. Zonoya was also in love with him, leading to many of her actions in addition to her revenge plot, making him responsible for most of the plot..
  • Commander Badass's superiors in the Nomura Syndrome arc of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. They were the ones that hired the Big Bad Gackt to release The Virus and turn Commander Badass into a Bishounen. And it's just so they can market new merchandise.
  • Altair in White Dark Life is a far more villainous character than Dark Matt or Artemis. The latter are simply selfish and commit evil to keep Dark Matt from being erased once he is finally purified and are rather comical at times. The former on the other hand wants to murder all the demons, little children included.

    Web Original 
  • The Lord Vyce story arc of Atop the Fourth Wall has the Multiversal Conqueror Lord Vyce the Big Bad, but his goal in conquering is to in fact protect dimensions from, and eventually track down and kill an Eldritch Abomination that he simply refers to as "The Entity", which devours entire planets, and eventually universes. Later it turns out the Entity came to our universe as a Batman Gambit in hopes Linkara would defeat Lord Vyce, since it considered fighting him to be too inconvenient.
  • In The Gamers Alliance, the Nameless Evil, which later took over the god Dreamweaver's body and became known as Death, has been behind all atrocities which have taken place in various eras, subtly influencing events to its liking.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The Director is this, as most of the things that happened to the Blood Gulch Crew and Freelancers were caused by him and his plans.
    • The Chairman serves as a Hero Antagonist Greater Scope Villain when he sends that Big Bad Duumvirate of Wash and the Meta to find Epsilon with the ultimate goal of arresting the Director. Actually, he's not a hero at all when the Season 12 finale reveals that he was the Big Bad "Control". He is also the Greater Scope Villain for the overall series when it's revealed that he funded the Insurrection that the Freelancers fought against.
    • Flashbacks in Season 10 show that the A.I. Sigma qualifies for the Recollection Trilogy as a whole; he's technically the Big Bad of Reconstruction, but he is killed after those events. However, his influence on the Meta still remains in Recreation and Revelation.
    • In Seasons 11 and 12, General Doyal takes this role on the account of being the leader of the Federation Army. However, he can be hardly be considered a fighter, and he has no control over Locus. Locus is working under the orders of the Big Bad, Control, and Doyal's role is subverted when it's revealed that Locus and Felix are manipulating the Civil War on the planet Chorus under Control's orders.
  • We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
    • Cipher serves as one for the entire RP in general, often acting through proxies instead of fighting the J-Team directly, having a hand in the backstories of several characters, and even created 'M which antagonized the J-Team during the Unova arc. For Orre they end up becoming the Big Bad of the arc.
    • OLD MAN's nemesis, the Magikarp Salesman, a powerful demon who doesn't really concern himself with the J-Team's antics at all.
    • The Seven Jerk Dragons serve as this for the PMD-R arc. While they don't make a direct appearance, their actions are directly responsible for the state of PMD-B when J-Team members visit it.
  • Tyrant and the King in Winter of Citadel. One holds the entire population of Europe in mental thrall while the other is responsible for freezing a large chunk of the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Worm:
    • Empire 88 are an offshoot of a more established German organisation called Gesellschaft, who sometimes send cape assistance over but are never confronted directly by Taylor.
    • Cauldron is this for a large part of the story. Long before they directly come into the picture, they indirectly aid and abet a lot of the antagonists.
  • Ask That Guy with the Glasses: The series doesn't really have a plot, so it's hard to call any character the Big Bad, but the closest thing is the titular Ask That Guy. However, even Ask That Guy is horrified by the depravity of Bennett the Sage.

Alternative Title(s):

Bigger Bad