"A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. Always keep your foes confused: if they don’t know who you are or what you want, they can’t know what you plan to do next."The inverse of He Who Must Not Be Seen. In fact, this villain's appearance may be the only thing about them that is seen. Their agenda, their goal, their target, their motives — all secret. We're shown their face, we know their name, we see what they do and how they operate, but we're never told why. They're after the MacGuffin, but what're they planning to use it for? They consistently send Mons and Mooks out to kill the hero, but why? It's rarely ever as simple as taking over the world (rarely, but one shouldn't say never). Note that this does not apply to the occasional episode-long secret plan. True Hidden Agenda Villains have a hidden agenda for an entire series or arc. If they ever "discuss" it with minions or partners, expect The Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Don't bother trying to decipher their hidden agenda; sometimes even the writers don't know. They're playing it safe until they come up with something good without having to Retcon. If and when an explanation is revealed, it may involve a Luke, I Am Your Father. Note, no matter what happens, it's probably exactly as planned. A poorly written example of this trope can easily become a Generic Doomsday Villain if the characterization behind the hidden agenda isn't believable. Compare with the Enigmatic Minion, which is a just as mysterious underling or lesser villain working for - or possibly against - a more comprehensible Big Bad. Or perhaps not. If the agenda is so hidden that the other characters don't even know there is a villain, or if they do have no idea who it is, see Hidden Villain. See also Outside-Context Problem, whose hidden agenda is only part of the menace. Compare Motive Misidentification. Contrast with Ambiguously Evil.
— Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, Game of Thrones
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Anime and Manga
- Berserk: Ever since his physical reincarnation Griffith has been operating out in the open, making bold moves such as gathering a demon army and embarking on the reconquest of Midland from the Kushan Empire. He has gone to great lengths to consolidate his power such as getting engaged to Princess Charlotte, establishing a city with a massive population and industrial capacity, merging the physical and astral planes in the process of defeating Ganishka, and ordering a hit on Flora, the last witch who could oppose him. Not even the few people who know that he's a demon can guess exactly what he's up to, and it seems that certain of his minions are determined to prevent such nosy people from finding out, or living to tell the tale if they do.
- Shukuro Tsukishima in the Lost Agent arc. He was so enigmatic that fans kept debating about the mechanics behind his ability.
- It's unclear whether Yhwach intends to kill the spirit king as part of a rule the world plot or just created a war between Quincy and Soul Reapers to feed his energy vampirism.
- Chevalier from Kiddy Grade, but its played with for the whole show. Is he the secret Big Bad? Is he a good guy all along? It's kinda both. His ultimate goal is to avenge Eclair, who raised him as a child, but to get into a position where he could do that, he had to join the puppy kicking bastards he hated and rise high enough in the ranks (by being a puppy kicking bastard himself) to get his revenge plans set up. In the end, though, he is definitely a good guy.
- Choji Suitengu of Speed Grapher is perhaps a variant of this. At first glance, he seems to have an obvious agenda; to control the world by both becoming the man on the throne of the world's greatest Mega Corp. and by enticing as many wealthy, powerful figures into his ultra-depraved fetish club as possible. Even the members of the Roppongi Club recognize this as his plan. But it turns out his real plan is to kill off all of the powerful and wealthy sick enough to get involved in the Roppongi Club in the first place and to devastate the economy of Japan, striking a considerable injury to the world economy, by arranging for the destruction of 600 trillion yen in cash.
- Noa, the Big Bad of the Virtual Nightmare Arc, didn't reveal the reason for his grudge against Seto Kaiba or his relationship to Seto and Gozaburo until near the end.
- Anubis from The Movie, whose motivations are never revealed at all. The Japan-only novel finally comes clean with Anubis' motive; Akhenaden made him into a mummy while he was still alive in the ancient past and infused him with dark magic so that Anubis would make Seto into the ruler of the world in a future reincarnation. At first Anubis goes with it, but eventually he decides to get revenge on Kaiba and Yugi both and become Pharaoh himself.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
- Kagemaru's plans for the Sangenma in Season 1 aren't revealed until the final duel.
- The demonic Duel Monster Yubel hid its villainous actions under the guise of revenge for being abandoned by Judai and a generic want to have him all to itself for most of the season. Its intense love for Judai and need to be loved back by him in the same sadistic manner is unrevealed until the end.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Rex Godwin, whose true agenda is so well hidden that the both the viewer and the other characters are constantly forced to revise their opinions of whether or not he's a villain. At first, he looks like a fairly standard Affably Evil Chessmaster type of character. Then it turns out that he's a Stealth Mentor to the protagonists, using questionable or outright reprehensible methods but with the ultimate end of helping them save the world from the Earthbound Gods. Then the situation is complicated by the revelation that he's the better half of a Cain and Abel situation with his brother Rudger, leader of the Dark Signers, and both of them worked with Yusei's father in the past and may have had a hand in causing the huge disaster seventeen years ago that led to the current conflict. And then, finally, it turns out that rather than trying to seal away the Earthbound Gods, he was using the protagonists as pawns in his Evil Plan to gain their power, become a god, and Screw Destiny by destroying the world and creating a better one.
- SEELE in Neon Genesis Evangelion had their "scenario" which they talked about regularly but the fans don't now what it is. It's every human, alive or dead, turning into LCL by Instrumentality. You could say the destruction of the world was a secondary, unimportant effect of Instrumentality and never something SEELE planned to do or prevent.
- Noa from the Galaxy Angel gameverse. Her first incarnation more so.
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: In the manga, Fei Wong Reed was so tight-lipped about what he was doing that the anime kept getting it wrong when they Overtook the Manga and the series had to go back and retcon.
- Lyrical Nanoha: This is a common trait of Anti Villains such as Fate Testarossa and the Wolkenritter. After or during the penultimate battle their agenda is revealed and they are promtly befriended. After which they all beat up a really evil Big Bad.
- Kabuto of Naruto is a particularly interesting example of the trope, as his motivations and true plans are seemingly revealed several times over the course of the series, only for circumstances to change. At first, he was Orochimaru's Enigmatic Minion...who turned out to be completely loyal to him. Then, he turned out to be a Brainwashed Manchurian Agent of Sasori's...except that Orochimaru had broken his programming long ago, and his loyalty to Orochimaru is completely genuine. Now that Orochimaru is dead, he appears to be teaming up with Madara...except that he's also leaving a very obvious trail for the Leaf ninja assigned to track him straight into their secret lair. Is it a trap, or is he going for an Enemy Mine?
- When we find out his background, this becomes a Justified Trope. He was once a member of ROOT who specialized in integrating into foreign ninja villages without losing his sense of self, the only other person being his mother figure. However, he ends up losing his sense of self when he is tricked into kill her. All of his life since then, Kabuto was trying to figure out who he was, which is why his agenda kept seemingly changing. When he ultimately lost to a revived Itachi and forced to relive the same moment, he finally reaches a conclusion and right now help Sasuke find who he is.
- Akatsuki itself was much the same for a long time. They were attempting to gather the Bijuu, that was a given. But it wasn't until several years after their introduction that any solid plan was revealed, and even then the ultimate goal of said plan is in fact different between explanations. In retrospect this makes sense as the members of Akatsuki all had wildly differing agendas from the start. The Leader flat out acknowledged this early on and said he would tolerate it as long as their agendas didn't conflict with the stated goal of Akatsuki (to gather the Bjuu).
- Code Geass,
- protagonist Lelouch's Evil Overlord father, the Emperor of Britannia, is set up as the ultimate villain nearly from the get-go, but aside from vague hints and ominous foreshadowing, his motives aside from megalomania and promoting social Darwinism remain a mystery until nearly the end of the series. Likewise, Lelouch's apparent Evil Counterpart, Prince Schneizel el Britannia, isn't even clearly defined as being a villain or not until late in the series. His agenda remains hidden until three episodes prior to the end.
- Slayers: Despite being a central character for three out of four seasons, Xellos's true motives remain...a secret.
- The majority of Chrono Crusade (particularly the manga version, although the anime definitely invokes this trope as well) hides Aion's motivations, with Chrono trying to avoid explaining why they have a conflict with each other and Aion knowing that he's enigmatic and loving every minute of it.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!
- Fate Averruncus is currently planning to save the world and also destroy it while helping war orphans. Huh? There's also something about Asuna's forgotten past and apparently disliking his name enough that Nodoka needs to die for it. Pick and choose your motives here, folks.
- We don't know what Chao really wanted. It's later revealed that she wanted to prevent a horrific, century-long war between Earth and Mars.
- Kurt Godel is even worse, as he explained himself to Negi, who still isn't sure what Kurt wants or whether Kurt is even a villain.
- Fullmetal Alchemist's Big Bad Father isn't even introduced until the sixth volume and even then technically nothing is revealed about him or his goals. They only learn about his plan piece by piece throughout the series, and it is only in the end that his ultimate motive is uncovered.
- The agenda of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE villains is so hidden that they are initially named as the "Unknown Enemy". They are attacking colonies in a somewhat predictable pattern, but why? It's because 150 years ago, the Earth Federation left human colonies on Mars for dead after a disease outbreak ruined the Mars Colonization plan. Those who survived never forgave the corrupt Earth Federation and declared their independence as the nation of Vagan. Once they established a functional army, Vagan declared war on Earth Federation and began to destroy Federation-owned colonies.
- Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was first released in 1985. Fans are still confused as to what exactly The Big Bad of the series, Paptimus Scirocco was trying to accomplish. He is very obviously interested in gaining power, and makes some comments that refer to "geniuses" (like himself) being the rightful leaders of humanity. He is also on record for stating that he believes that the ruler of all mankind can only be a woman, and that he is "merely a witness to history". Then there's the fact that he's a Jovian, and he sides with the Spacenoid-hating Titans for some reason. All in all, we know he wants power, but what the heck he was planning on doing with it once he got it remains an enigma.
- Johan Liebert in Monster. Even after the series ends, a lot of what he was trying to accomplish is still open for debate, and him being put in a coma and, therefore, rendered incapable of explaining any of it means the debate continues.
- In an episode of Hell Girl, an innocent nurse is sent to Hell by a stranger. It is never revealed why he did this and why he's willing to pay the hefty price of going to Hell himself to damn a seemingly innocent woman.
- Aleister Crowley from A Certain Magical Index. Manipulates damn near everything, and whenever the heroes do something, he'll usually gloat in his tower that they've completed some objective for him. So far, about all that is known is that he is trying to accomplish something through science that he cannot through magic... and one of the major steps in his grand master plan is to eliminate magic entirely.
- The Titan Shifters from Attack on Titan. Their origins, motivations, and ultimate goals remain a complete mystery. So far the only things we know about them are their identities and just how much damage they can accomplish in a short period of time.
- Tsubaki from Servamp. All we know is that he wants to start a war and defeat the other Servamps one by one, but what he is trying to accomplish by that is still a mystery.
- Marder from Panzer World Galient. While it's made apparent early on that he wants to take over the entire Crescent Galaxy (to the point of treating Arst's conquest as an anciliary goal), the reason why isn't revealed for a good while. It turns out that he sees the peace on his home planet of Lanplate as "false", since the populace is practically emotionless. As such, he plans to use Arst's technology to cause a chain reaction that will plunge the entire galaxy into all-out war, with him as the victor that will promote true peace.
- 100 Bullets has damn near everyone working for their own unknown goals. More often than not, when they talk about their plans for the future, they talk in inscrutable riddles that, if you're lucky, will make sense in the context of future issues. You'll have to read between the lines to fully grasp the implications of the plot.
- Mr. Sinister from X-Men is often like this, with no one being aware of the goals behind his villainous plot of the week. For example one time he went through the trouble to get a sample of Rachael Summers DNA and then, did nothing with it.
- A possible way to view The Joker. It is never made clear what his past and goals are as he constantly contradicts himself. This makes him even scarier.
- The Losers: The parts of Max's plan they uncover seem to suggest a movie-Lex-Luthor-esque large scale land grab. Turns out that's only phase one.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Mr. Black is initially seen as faceless, but eventually his face, backstory, and name are slowly revealed, as well as his motivations and target.
- The Conduit, his boss, is also this to a greater degree.
- Shadows Awakening has the Phantom, Daolon Wong's partner in the Big Bad Ensemble. He makes it clear from the beginning that he's only aiding Wong in order to use him to advance his own plans, without making it clear just what they are (besides revenge against Tarakudo). However, near the end of the story, it's finally made clear that all the Phantom wants is to create a worthy ruler of the Shadowkhan, since he doesn't see himself in the role. When the Queen gets loose and proves herself superior to Wong, the Phantom switches loyalty to her and demotes himself to Dragon.
- Malkuth from The Games We Play. No one knows if he has an end goal more sophisticated than tormenting Mankind, but Jaune is pretty sure he figures into it somehow.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has a couple of characters whose motives are so mysterious that it's difficult to tell whether they even are villains:
- Littlefinger is clearly gunning for something, but as he's an absolutely pathological liar with a high-functioning but severe case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, it's not exactly easy to make out. The only fairly clear part of his agenda is the possible Fatal Flaw, and even that might be an act.
- Something of an inversion: Varys claims to be working for the good of the realm, and says so in a couple of situations where it's hard to imagine what he'd gain by lying, but considering that some of his actions have potentially made life a lot worse for the people of Westeros in the short- to medium-term, it's hard to tell just what he considers the ultimate "good" of the realm to be.
- Jaqen H'ghar, depending on whether you consider him a hero or a villain and which fan theories you subscribe to.
- Lampshaded in the fifth book of The Banned and the Banished. The main characters don't realize the villain has an agenda.
- The hyper-advanced alien Overlords in Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End arrive in Earth's orbit and, over a few decades, end all armed conflict and introduce technologies that increase living standards worldwide, all the while refusing to explain their motivations. It turns out that the final generation in humanity's evolution had just been born. The Overlords were sent to ensure that they succeed in becoming part of the Overmind, a universal hive-mind that the Overlords, for reasons unspecified, are unable to join. Whether or not the Overlords play a villainous role is perhaps a matter of opinion.
- We don't find out until the last few CHAPTERS of the SEVENTH BOOK why the Trustees betrayed the Architect in Keys to the Kingdom. We also find out who precisely backstabbed the Piper, why the Will cursed the Trustees, whether or not it was the real Big Bad, what Sunday was up to this whole time, and in the last chapter (sans epilogue) why the Architect imprisoned the Old One. Now THAT'S a long set-up.
- In Mary Gentle's Ash: A Secret History, the Wild Machines' true motive for wanting to destroy the world and erase future history isn't revealed until the final climax, and comes as a total shock to both Ash and the reader.
- Iago's last line in Othello flaunts that he has a hidden agenda...and you will never know what it is.
- Although he might just be lying out of pride and spite. Iago's a jerk.
- The apparent current Big Bads of The Dresden Files universe are the Black Council. We've seen some of their members, we know some of their methods, and we've seen Dresden scuttle some of their plans. We still haven't the faintest idea what their overall agenda is, though it's hard to imagine what plan has "become a god" as an intermediate step.
- "The Organisation Which I Represent" in the Mediochre Q Seth Series, and their main representative, the tempomancer. We know that they have a secret plan (and they're already on stage three) and it somehow benefited their cause to manipulate everybody in the first book into doing at least some of what they did, possibly everything. The tempomancer tells Joseph that they are Well Intentioned Extremists seeking to ensure that some future event of Biblical proportions (he specifically references the Tower of Babel) results in the most scientifically-beneficial outcome, but it's hard to tell how much of that is true considering tricking people is what the tempomancer is there for. And it's hard to see how their actions could possibly affect anything of that sort.
- Gammis Turek of Vatta's War is one such villain. While it's clear that he plans on using his fleet of Space Pirates to take over, the full goals are never revealed in any detail, and are only speculated by the heroes.
- In Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, Spider tends to have ulterior motives for any job she assigns villains. The ploy we see her put into motion in the climax involves sending dozens of villains to steal minor artifacts that she'll find useful, all as a distraction while another team steals a major artifact.
Live Action TV
- The Cylons in the 2000s Battlestar Galactica were said in the title crawl to "have a plan", though whatever it might have been was nearly impossible to judge from their actions, which included various attempts to destroy the human race outright as well as an interbreeding program and one attempt at forming a bilateral government. That there were apparently multiple Cylon organizations with differing agendas working against each other only complicated it further. The series is now complete, and we never did find out what the hell they were after.
- Though you can make a pretty good guess: It was Cavil all along. He wanted to prove to The Five that Humans Are the Real Monsters so they would abandon their old efforts to make peace with them and hand over Resurrection technology to Cavil.
- Word of God has confirmed that "they have a plan" was a marketing tag line chosen because "they have a broad series of goals and act in ways that seem likely to achieve them but usually wind up not doing so" wasn't as catchy.
- Benjamin Linus from Lost. His love for playing mind-games with both his enemies and his allies clouds the issue still further, as do the varying levels of villainousness with which he is depicted.
- "The Company" from Heroes: Daniel Linderman, Bob Bishop, and Angela Petrelli make this look easy. Further complicated by the appearance of another Company (Pinehearst), apparently founded when Arthur Petrelli broke off from the previous one.
- As was only recently revealed in Supernatural, we haven't even begun to learn what the Yellow Eyed Demon/Azazel has planned for his "endgame." Not even Heaven itself knows what he's planning just yet.
- In Star Trek: Enterprise, "Future Guy" directed agents in the "present" to commit various acts in order to advance his goals in a "Temporal Cold War". Exactly what goals he was trying to advance was never explained. The writers admitted that they themselves had no idea who Future Guy really was or what he wanted (they apparently had a vague idea early on — he was a Romulan meddling to allow the Romulan Star Empire to win the coming Earth-Romulan War — but it was abandoned along the way). The writers of the Star Trek Novel Verse thought up the answers.
- The Silence from Doctor Who. They were responsible for the events of series 5 without appearing until the series 6 opening, and were entirely inscrutable in their actions. The blew up the TARDIS (somehow that wasn't explained), kidnapped Amy's daughter, and manipulated all of human history so that they could get a spacesuit. It later turns out that they wanted to prevent the Doctor from helping the Time Lords return to our universe because this would start the Time War again. They tried to do this by blowing up the TARDIS and when that failed they kidnapped Melody Pond to turn her into a Time Lord assassin. The spacesuit seems to be a Stable Time Loop, the Doctor was killed by someone in a spacesuit so that's why they got one.
- Gatehouse of The Shadow Line. He's the series's main antagonist but who he works for isn't revealed until the penultimate episode, and even after this his true goals remain mysterious until the finale's last few scenes.
- Agravaine from Merlin. He is trying to sabotage Arthur's reign, despite having genuinely fond memories of Igraine (his sister, Arthur's mother) as well as a prime position as #2 in Arthur's court. He scathingly calls Uther "old friend", suggesting a history that has not yet been revealed. He is working with Morgana, even though he seems to find magic distasteful. He also seems reluctant to harm Guinevere (and is in fact, rather creepily fascinated by her) when Morgana demands that they assassinate her. No one really knows what he's up to.
- Moriarty on Sherlock apparently likes to blow people up, break into high-security places, and drive people to suicide simply because he's bored. That is, if we can trust what Moriarty says...
- On Leverage the Italian is this in season three. She has a lot of behind-the-scenes power (she can keep Nate out of jail and in Boston after he has escaped a Massachusetts state prison), and has blackmailed the team into taking down the world's most powerful criminal banker. We know she wanted Moreau out of the way. It's never really established who she works for or what her ultimate goals are, but she's implied to have a web of corrupt dealings and plans, and taking down Moreau is just one part of them.
- In the Diagnosis: Murder episode "Rear Windows '98" we never learn what the killer's motive was.
- The Night's King from Game of Thrones. He's leading a seemingly invincible army from the freezing and unknown Land of Always Winter after the failure of his first campaign millennia ago. For what? Simple conquest? Eradication of the human race? Fleeing something even worse? No one knows, and he's not telling anytime soon.
- Jimmy Jacobs came into Dragon Gate USA "not as an invader" but to use his influence and connections to benefit worthy wrestlers like The Young Bucks against Ryo Saito and Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! (who were more straightforward in their deviancy), recruiting them to his "cause" in the process of course. The Bucks, for their part, didn't buy it.
- Dr. Blackgaard on Adventures in Odyssey was revealed to be plotting to get the land Whit's End was built on even back to the distant flashback when Whit saved the then-rec center from being torn down. Moreover, his ultimate goals were not revealed almost until the very end.
- The Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 god Tzeentch is supposedly working on some inscrutable endgame, to which he has innumerable Gambit Roulettes running at all times, often seeming to work against each other. It has been suggested a few times that the plotting might be the objective itself, since as a God of Chaos it wouldn't be much fun if he won and there was only his own will. Another suggestion is that his plotting has become so complex that it's self-defeating, and Tzeentch himself has lost control of his Gambit Roulette.
- Newer material suggests that because Tzeentch is change, he can no more stop plotting than he can end his own existence, because that is precisely what would happen.
- In Mage: The Awakening, while not all archmasters are necessarily villainous, hidden agendas are fairly par for the course, especially regarding their Imperium Rites. Not only does utilizing mysterious and circuitous methods of achieving them make them metaphysically easier, keeping the specific agenda hidden from other archmasters makes it less likely that they will employ retroactive sabotage with their own counter-rites.
- Metal Gear: It takes 4 games and about 80 hours of play to finally understand what Ocelot was doing all the time. And he appears about 1 to 2 hours into the first game and apparently runs the entire show.
- The heroes spent some time chasing after Exdeath / Exodus in Final Fantasy V without having the faintest clue what he was up to - and he even berates them for trying to stop him without knowing what he was planning. As it turns out, he was trying to re-fuse a sundered world into its original form. But since he wanted to do this so he could gain control of the Void and conquer / destroy everything, it wasn't that ambiguous after all.
- Mercilessly parodied in No More Heroes, in which Jeane, a character given precious little foreshadowing except in the manual (and in the name of protagonist Travis Touchdown's cat), suddenly appears out of nowhere. After the supposed final opponent Dark Star makes a ridiculous Luke, I Am Your Father pronouncement, Jeane kills the man from behind before any fight takes place, and she does so by punching him through the crotch no less. As it turns out, Jeane has had a grudge against Travis all along, but unless you can capture video and play it back slowly (or have Internet access and see the clip on YouTube), you'll never know: she explains that the details are too gruesome and that they might drive the game's rating up even further ("What if it gets delayed? You don't want this to become No More Heroes Forever, do you?"), so she only agrees to divulge them through a brief fast-forward sequence where every revelation prompts a stunned reaction from Travis, but the revelations themselves are perfectly unintelligible (save for at the end, when Travis unhelpfully summarizes that Jeane is his half-sister).
- In Chrono Trigger, Magus is the villain for a good portion of the first half of the game, since the heroes are lead to believe it was he who created Lavos. After being defeated at his castle and accused of creating Lavos, he informs the heroes he was only summoning Lavos to the year 600 AD, not spawning the beast. Later on, it's revealed he wasn't even summoning Lavos so as to unleash the creature, he just wanted revenge on it for ruining his life.
- What, exactly, Kun Lan is doing in Killer7 is never truly revealed. It is merely hinted that he and Harmon pass the centuries by one causing trouble and the other putting a stop to it. The games godlike entities play...
- A strange example of what may be a Hidden Agenda Villain, or maybe a Hidden Agenda Hero can be found in the High Men race of strategy game Age of Wonders. They're listed as Pure Good-seems obvious. They're masters at fighting the Undead, and aggressively attack other evil races-fine. They're unusually friendly with the humans. Fair enough. They're so piously righteous that they make even the game's main good guys nervous-hmmm... and what, exactly, have they come to do? You only find out in the epilogue, and let's just say that a Keeper who leaves the dwarf-elf-halfling coalition to join the High Men will face a bittersweet ending at best...
- The mysterious Man Behind The Beast in BlazBlue is apparently working toward The End of the World as We Know It, but no one knows why (or, indeed, if that's his aim at all). Guess we'll have to wait for now.
- That Half-Life's G-Man has has an ambiguous nature only goes to show how well his agenda is hidden.
- Hel's plan in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume gets no explication whatsoever. In one ending a character suggests she was just stirring up trouble For the Evulz, but this character has no way of knowing for sure. It is a reasonable theory that she wanted to get her hands on the Angel Slayer, but this is conclusively proven either.
- Alex, in every game in which he has appeared. Yes, even that one.
- Resident Evil's Albert Wesker managed to keep his true objective hidden for the first 4 and a half games. He was a special forces police officer and secretly a top researcher for Mega Corp. Umbrella. When Umbrella collapses, it becomes apparent he has another motive. Soon, we discover he's gathering viral samples for Tricell, Umbrella's rival company. Soon, he manages to redefine Magnificent Bastard when he backstabs Tricell and reveals his true agenda: To release a virus across the planet to create a superior race of humans, wiping out ''almost'' the entire world in the process.
- Kessler's motives only become apparent right at the end of inFAMOUS. He's got control of a huge organization of soldiers, but doesn't aim to take over the world. He's been researching the Ray Sphere, but doesn't seek superpowers for himself, since he already has them, nor is he really trying to change the world, despite that unleashing that technology has certainly changed it. None of his lectures have the usual villainous rant; he says he's tired, and that he honestly hopes Cole will kick his ass when the time comes for them to confront one another. Kessler is Cole from an alternate future, where he fled from a giant monster called "The Beast", only for everyone, including his family, to die because of his inaction. He's traveled to the past to jump-start Cole's development of powers and to ensure that Cole is tough enough, physically and mentally, to face the Beast before the Beast kills everyone.
- In the first Mass Effect, Saren's goal of acquiring the "Conduit" stays pretty unclear for a long time, you don't find out what it is and what it does until the very end-game.
- The Reapers themselves are much the same throughout both games. They come back every 50,000 years and wipe out all sapient organics. Why? It's not until the end of the second game that we get the answer that they're doing it to use our bodies to build more of themselves. And one game later it turns out there's even more to it than that. Turning organic beings into more reapers accomplishes two things. Making more reapers, and preserving that life in some way as opposed to completely wiping it from the galaxy. The reapers' true purpose is to keep organic life from creating, and then warring with, synthetic life. Because this kind of war has happened before, and tends to wreak havoc on inhabitable planets, meaning less places to support life. The reapers have been killing spacefaring races to preserve life itself as a whole.
- Flemeth saves the PC and Alistair from the bloodbath at Ostagar in the first Dragon Age and even sends her daughter with them. At first she claims that the Blight threats her too, but her real intentions aren't revealed until much later in the game, depending on what order you'll play certain regions. She's hoping that Morrigan will grow her magical powers during the quest so she can posses her later in the hope continuing her centuries long lifespan. And going even further in the game It becomes clear Flemeth set up the whole Take a Third Option setting in the hopes of getting her hands on to the demon-god-baby that the male PC, Alistair or Loghain can father.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals a bit more about her nature, but does nothing to clear up her motives. She carries a fragment of Mythal, a powerful mage that the ancient elves worshipped as a goddess - and she seems to be seeking even more power for her mysterious goals. If Morrigan's son Kieren was born with the old god soul, she'll take it from him peacefully, all while revealing that neither Morrigan or Kieren ever needed to fear possession by her.
- In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Evil Vizier's plans are never revealed throughout the entire game until his last words ("I could have been... immortal."), and even then, it's not clear how he wanted to achieve that goal. Thanks to the Timey-Wimey Ball in Warrior Within, he's back in The Two Thrones, and achieves immortality quickly into the game.
- Jon Irenicus in Baldurs Gate 2 spends the whole game thwarting any attempt to directly glean his motives and ultimate goal for capturing and performing horrific experiments on you and your party (and then letting himself get arrested and carted off to a magic insane asylum while dragging one of your party members with him.) The party eventually finds out he's an elf exiled from his homeland and stripped of his soul, and he wants the soul of a Bhaalspawn to save himself and get revenge on those who exiled him.
- During Starcraft: Brood War, Duran filled this role. He appeared first as an enemy of the Dominion, then as an apparent mole for Kerrigan helping her destabilize the terran forces in the Sector... then the infamous "secret mission" came along and implied he had some other paymaster and that Kerrigan was merely a puppet.
- In Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, details surrounding "Dr. Narud" suggested he was affiliated with (or was) Duran and was helping Mengsk create Hybrids for some unknown reason — both revealed to be spot on the money in Heart of the Swarm. As of the latter expansion, it appears that Duran served an entity known various as "Amon" or the "Dark Voice", who is quite possibly a Physical God and/or xel'naga. According to the Overmind's visions, Amon wants to obliterate all life in Koprulu Sector (or maybe beyond...), but even the Overmind, who was a puppet of Amon's for most of its life, has no clue how or why, or what cards Amon might still have to play.
- The motives of the mysterious Shivans in the FreeSpace games is never explained. It's strongly implied that their "war" with the Terrans and Vasudans is little more than a speed bump in the path toward their true objective.
- Team Rocket are clearly up to something in Pokémon Red and Blue, but it's never fully explained why they did most of the things they did other than "wanting money". If the player puts together the pieces, though, their plan becomes clear: They were trying to regain control of Mewtwo after it broke out of the Cinnabar Mansion. No living Pokemon is stronger than Mewtwo, but something revived from a fossil might work. Ghosts are strong against Psychic, so a horde of Ghost-type Pokemon from the Pokemon Tower might also work (hence the need for the Silph Scope). Finally, the Master Ball can capture any Pokemon without fail... but there's only one in the entire region, so Giovanni had to take it by force. It's justified in that the average Rocket Grunt probably didn't know that Mewtwo even existed, and Giovanni isn't about to spill the beans to an eleven-year-old who's seemingly intent on wrecking his organisation anyway.
- The still unnamed ghost from A Girl and Her Fed - who we've seen, but is (probably intentionally) hard to identify due to the art style - who was responsible for setting the Pocket President program in motion. It's been stated that the PP's purpose was to eventually spark another American Civil War... but the question of why - let alone how, given the PP's tendency to turn its bearers into into depressed zombies or Ax-Crazy psychos - has left even the protagonists' ghostly allies baffled.
- Hereti Corp from Sluggy Freelance. While they engage in a few bits of more explicable evil, their primary goal involves doing something with Oasis and Dr. Steve's base lab. Like most everything else surrounding Oasis, however, it's shrouded in mystery.
- The Order of the Stick: The three directors of the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission; we know that they want to unite the fiend races, and that the (apparent) reason they made a deal with Vaarsuvius was to "knock Xykon out of his comfort zone" as part of their larger Evil Plan (which apparently also involves the Gates. We know that they want to attack The Upper Plans but we don't know why or how. In short, we know nothing of their long-term goals.
- Ava's Demon: TITAN is a Galactic Conqueror and has a rising popularity as a Cult, private army, Mega Corp. and Lifestyle, his true motivations for his conquest are unknown, but "TITAN has a plan for you."
- Dragon Ball Multiverse: U4's Zen Buu
- Done very well in the Laputa Arc of the New Vindicators, with the leader of Laputa's motivation and true identity remaining unknown until the very climax of the story. The heroes think they're dealing with one thing-a terrorist group that wants to punish the United States for its treatment of superhumans and create a better world led by the superhumanly intelligent leader, but the real truth is hidden, even from many members of Laputa.
- The Necromancer of the Whateley Universe. The heroes have tangled with him several times, but they still don't know what he's after, why he's gathering Plot Coupons, and what he wants to do with them. Given who he deals with, it'll be bad.
- In Survival of the Fittest, Danya's agenda is so well hidden that even most of the handlers don't know what it is, let alone the characters. This is a bigger deal than it sounds when you take into account that the handlers are the ones who write the plot. After five years and (almost) three versions of the game, with a fourth on the way, only a few hints have been shown.
- Slender Man. Maybe.
- Mechakara, the first major villain of Atop the Fourth Wall. For months we watched him occasionally pop up at the end of a video with Linkara remaining oblivious, until the Wham Episode that explained everything.
- The Gunslinger was happy to talk about what he wanted—Linkara's magic gun, by any means necessary—but what he wanted it for remained unexplained for most of a year after his first appearance.
- Parodied with both Mysterior and Mr. Enigma. Their only motivations are being mysterious. They don't pose any threat, aside from bothering Linkara.
- The Gungan Council has featured several enigmatic villains. Two high ranking Imperial, Xyra and Ayreon, are mysteries even to their own peers and both their ultimate goals are shrouded in mystery. What Darth Apparatus wants has always been assumed to be power, yet whether it's for power's sake or some other end goal has never been explained in detail.
- In Marble Hornets, The Operator, the Masked Men, and totheark (who may or may not be one or more of the Masked Men) all have inscrutable goals. The Operator is generally considered to be an Eldritch Abomination, and may not have a goal that humans can comprehend. It's debatable whether some of them can even be called villains, as the biggest indication of their malevolence is acting incredibly creepy. The most unambiguously malevolent character turns out to be Alex, and even his goals, outside of murdering the rest of the cast are a mystery.
- RWBY has Cinder Fall, to the point where even her own minions don't know what her endgame is.
- Beast Wars has several:
- Tarantulas first and foremost. His origins and sanity are open for interpretation and he doesn't reveal any of his goals until his final appearance. A good example of this would be an instance in which he returns to the other Predacons after what's implied to be a decent period of lurking in the shadows on his own, and in the same breath, both defects from Megatron's crew and offers his assistance in dealing with an alien structure that's central to the episode's plot. When the incongruity of this is brought up by Megatron, Tarantulas's explanation is simply: "I have my reasons!" Turns out he was acting as a mole for the Tripredacus Council with the goal of negating the existence of both the Predacons and the Maximals by destroying The Ark, as he and the Tripredacus Council aren't descended from Autobot or Decepticon. His reference to The Vok as "meddling" implies that their actions were a hinderance to this goal.
- Megatron plays this role somewhat, with his true intentions carefully masked by a series of other plans, any one of which could take priority... It's often unclear how much he had planned from the start, how much was backup plans, and how much was simply improvisation. It takes a cunning villain indeed to play mind games with Tarantulas and come out on top. His true plan was to travel back in time to prehistoric Earth and destroy the sleeping Optimus Prime onboard The Ark, changing history so that the Decepticons win the Great War and the Predacons become the rulers of Cybertron in the future. Finding a huge energon source- the reason given in the pilot for why he stole the golden disk, was just a bonus that allowed him to recruit his crew.
- Ravage, Blackarachnia, and even Quickstrike dabble in this, to boot.
- The Vok. Their powers are vast and ambiguous, they introduce themselves to Optimus in the guise of Unicron, they cause incredible damage to both sides in the conflict over the course of their involvement, but what they actually are and what they're there for is never made clear. To make matters worse, it's revealed they're Ancient Astronauts, and are implied to be responsible for Stonehenge and other monolithic structures. They at least partially cross over into Blue and Orange Morality, as well. Every Vok-centric episode is also easily picked out by its title, each one going by the template "Other V----".
- The writers of Teen Titans confessed they at first had no idea what they would make Slade's plan in Season 1, explaining why the viewers, let alone Robin, had no idea either. Come to think of it, what Robin was meant to DO was never really specified either. The one thing he stole was meant for him anyway. And how Terra's running everyone out of town benefits him is never mentioned either.
- In the original season of Jackie Chan Adventures the main protagonists know that Valmont and the Dark Hand are after the talismans, but they don't know that said talismans are meant to bring Big Bad Shendu back to life. In this case, the audience knows the intentions of the villains but the protagonists don't.
- Grodd in the third season of Justice League Unlimited. He brought together the supervillains of the DCAU into one combined force, came up with a plan for granting invulnerability to all of them, blackmailed Lex Luthor...and what was his ultimate plan? Turning the entire planet into apes!? Needless to say, it ended with Luthor shooting him in the face.
- Vlad Masters often does this in Danny Phantom. The first major instance is getting the Skeleton Key. Neither the heroes nor the audiences know why he wanted it. It's revealed in a later episode. The same episode then shows ANOTHER hidden agenda; namely Vlad obtaining the Fenton Ecto Suit, the services of the Fright Knight, the Ring of Rage (which he didn't get), and the Crown of Fire. While the former is shown in a later episode, the rest unfortunately is never explained due to the show being cancelled.
- Also Youngblood in "Pirate Radio". He pops out for the first half of the episode, doing various villainous tasks that makes absolutely no sense and doesn't seem to connect. It's all revealed in the second half.
- Nerissa from the first half of the second season of W.I.T.C.H.. It's later revealed she's a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wanted to end all war and suffering- by making herself goddess of all reality. Before she got anywhere close to attaining this, though, her plot was Hijacked by Phobos, a much more straightforward Evil Overlord.
- In Metalocalypse, the only thing that's been revealed about Mr. Salacia's master plan is that it's called Falconback.
- Zaheer and his gang from Season 3 of The Legend of Korra; other than an attempt to kidnap Korra when she was little and a few vague mentions of wanting to overthrow the White Lotus and the Avatar, no one knows what his end goal is. He eventually explains that their end goal is the complete destruction of all governments, followed by killing Korra while she's in the Avatar State, so the world would go back to the way it was before the Avatar and thus achieve "true" balance.
- Gravity Falls has Bill Cipher, a goofy-yet-sinister "dream demon" who is summoned by Li'l Gideon to steal the combination to Grunkle Stan's safe, so Gideon can get his hands on the deed to the Mystery Shack. Bill agrees to do it in exchange for help with "something I've been working on", and is rather furious when Dipper, Mabel, and Soos manage to get in his way and drive Gideon to break off the deal. After being fought to a standstill in a Battle in the Center of the Mind, Bill departs with a cryptic warning. Bill returns in the season two episode "Sock Opera" and tricks Dipper into a Deal with the Devil, only to double-cross Dipper, steal his body, and attempt to frustrate his investigations, first by damaging the old laptop found in "Into the Bunker", then by trying to steal and destroy Journal #3 because he fears Dipper is getting too close to solving the mysteries of the town. It's finally revealed what his plan is in the latter half of Season 2: he wants to open a rift between reality and the Nightmare Realm, allowing him to take a physical form and bring about The End of the World as We Know It.