aka: Boring Invincible Villain
. It's a general rule of fiction. Sometimes, though, you want the hero to lose a few battles. As a result, you have an occasional instance of The Bad Guy Wins
. This also shows another generally good consequence: the importance of the struggle, the need to make an effort, and the necessity of Character Development
. Often, the challenge is tied to a singular villain (generally a Big Bad
) to build up a reasonable threat. This is usually good
, as it simplifies the cast, has a standard deuteragonist, etc.
However, just because a hero can't win all the time, that doesn't mean they can't win ever
. And just because villains can win, that doesn't mean a villain can win all the time. Both of these are problems. And they share an extreme. This is the Invincible Villain. This character is basically a walking personification of Victory Is Boring
, for the audience.
Any "losses" that occur either help the villain more than outright victory
or are ambiguous if he lost or won, or The Cavalry
shows the hero can't win on their own. Plus, it's expected in the short term; You Can't Thwart Stage One
! Doesn't matter how hard The Determinator
trains, the villain is always two steps ahead
. That head start, of course, is a given when Villains Act, Heroes React
. Even if there is a complete defeat, they'll still be subject to Joker Immunity
or Cardboard Prison
. This of course tends to rob a given episode or movie franchise of dramatic punch when the viewer's reaction to a hero's actual win
is "Like You Would Really Do It
The Invincible Villain is the guy who makes the audience react in one of two ways.
- "Oh my GOD, would somebody beat this guy already?"
- They want to see the villain get beaten, but not for a "good" reason. Ideally, what a writer wants is for his villain to be a threat and make the audience wonder and anticipate how he's going to be beaten. In this case, the audience are simply bored to see the villains winning without effort.
- "Only the Author Can Save Them Now"
- This is a problem for all of the reason it says on that trope page. You've made your villain such a credible threat that now, there doesn't seem to be any plausible way to beat him. Anything that wins against him now will be accused of being all part of the plan, or people will question why did THIS attack work when all the other ones didn't? All of his limits and weaknesses have been so thoroughly discredited that the only discernible reason why he'd lose is because the author wants him to right now.
A poorly executed Outside-Context Villain
can become this, but after a while, the hero may get used to the villain, and without the element of surprise, may be overcome. Failure Hero
is a possible result of this trope. Deliberate Villain Decay
is one way to counteract this by consciously making the villain less menacing, but can easily end up going too far in the other direction and reduce the villain to a joke if not handled carefully.
If taken to extremes, when a villain can't do anything other than win by some contrived reason, this trope turns into Villain Sue
. The Villain Protagonist
is especially at risk to this.
Contrast Invincible Hero
, their Good Counterpart
, and Harmless Villain
, their exact opposite in terms of threat level.
Compare Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain
, the generally interesting, vincible
See also Generic Doomsday Villain
, which is treated more like an obstacle for the hero to overcome rather than a true character.
As this trope frequently involves the conclusion of the story, beware of spoilers.
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Anime & Manga
- Naraku from InuYasha until the last battle. The Big Bad for a manga series spawning 558 chapters, the handful of other villains that appeared were almost universally working for or with him with the exception of a few like the Thunder Brothers, the first enemies Inuyasha faces, etc . The very few times he was defeated or killed was part of his plans and he eventually came back, and despite the heroes repeatedly finding new powers and new weapons, every time they fought Naraku he escaped and lived to fight another day. In the end, he did win, in that he got all the jewel shards and formed the completed Shikon Jewel, and if not for Inuyasha's Big Damn Heroes moment with Kagome, he would have yet again successfully executed a plan that hinged on him dying or feigning death.
- Sosuke Aizen of Bleach. Introduced as a charismatic good guy, to being a Magnificent Bastard, subsequent appearances played up his power, smugness, Gambit Roulette planning skills, and NUKE the dog tendencies to nearly ridiculous levels. He declared his entire army of underlings weaker than him, and beat nearly all of the remaining good guys alone. Unfortunately, he never got to fight any of the characters capable of killing him until he had already gone through several transformations in power via a mysterious MacGuffin that made him effectively immune to everything thrown at him. Once Ichigo showed up he got even stronger, and right about the time he had completely surpassed Ichigo the Hogyoku randomly took all his power away for no reason. But it left him immortal so he could only be imprisoned.
- From the Invading Army Arc, we have Kagezora Inaba, who fans consider the worst filler villain. For starters, it's the fact that he's a seated officer of Squad 12, yet nobody, not even Mayuri, caught on to his master plans until it was too late. His Shikai allows him to create portals that are mainly used to cause his opponents to attack themselves. If that's not enough, he's also created and controls the Reigai, Mod Souls that stronger and more aggressive copies of the Gotei 13 Captains, Vice Captains, and any other named Shinigami of considerable power, excluding Ichigo, (who's Hollow powers prevent Inaba from making one of him), and Yamamoto (the Strongest of the Gotei). The only thing that distinguishes them from the originals are the purple glowing eyes, and a purple bracelet they wear. However, after managing to back him in a corner and defeating a considerable number of Reigais, Inaba reveals he can use his Shikai to teleport, and that he's a Mod Soul and can just hijack another Reigai's body to fully heal himself, and turn it into his body, leaving the other Reigai in his old injured body. Not bad enough? Turns out that he can endlessly resurrect every single defeated Reigai, including the one's who had their pill forms destroyed. This invalidates everything they ever try to do in this arc. Especially for Komamura note It gets worse, the purple bracelets are Power Limiters that, when removed, make the Reigai so powerful that not even the Gotei 13 or Yamamoto (who were already struggling to fight them) can stand a chance against even the weaker ones. He also has the ability to simultaniously absorb Ichigo, Yamamoto (strongest fire Zanpaktou), AND Nozomi Kujo (the ability to hurl an opponents attack back at them drastically more powerful)'s powers and hurl it back at them, easily defeating Yamamoto. note . When Ichigo FINALLY manages to seemingly defeat him using the last of his powers? NOPE, Inaba has a cloning ability that makes Ichigo waste the last of his powers on a clone. Urahara's stealthy tactics that were similiar to 100 years ago? Inaba's Genre Savvy enough to catch on and sabotage it with a Reigai of Urahara.
- It gets worse, Inaba and Nozomi are 2 parts of one person, Ōko Yushima, who went brain dead after making them. When Inaba captures Nozomi and merges with her to create the Mod Soul Ōko, he's revealed to have BOTH Inaba and Nozomi's powers as his Shikai, making him the most powerful villain in Filler and is just as hated as Nozomi and Inaba. His Shikai is so powerful, it's able to destroy Soul Society with it's mere presence.note
- It gets so bad that it takes Kon and one of the worst Ass Pull cop-outs in Bleach filler: the Reigai randomly turn against Ōko, sacrificing themselves to stop him from blowing up Soul Society, and Nozomi fighting from within to destroy Ōko's Soul Chain (which mod souls don't even have), just to make him weak enough that Ichigo is FINALLY able to kill him.
- We can now add Yhwach aka the King of Quincies to the list. You think Aizen was bad at anticipating things. Yhwach is Azien turned Up to Eleven if that was even possible. He sends his army to the Soul Society as a warning then instantly attacks them afterward before they can even get a chance to recover. His troops decimate the Gotei 13. He fight Yammamoto but nope, that was a decoy to weaken him. The real one shows up, steals his Bankai then kill him. Ichigo attacks but is soundly beaten as you do. Yhwach leaves only to come back again and take over Soul Society. Then we find out that even if his subordinates are killed, their souls will just empower him because he had given the Quincies their powers in the first place. Ichigo trains and comes back to Soul Society for a showdown...then we find out that this is what Yhwach was waiting for since Ichigo had left a path straight to the Realm of the Spirit King for him despite the fact said king is protected by Squad Zero, his elite guard. At the current he's fighting one of them but good chance he'll curb stomp them quite easily if Bleach's previous track record with villains is anything to go by.
- Hao from Shaman King is literally totally unbeatable (but not invincible). He's had quite a head start, and by the time the story ends, is stronger than the next six characters combined, including the one who trained her entire life to beat him, but only reached half his strength. Even without fighting, he has a strange ability to gather totally unrelated people to his side to help him destroy humanity. He is a human but is treated as more of a force of nature in the series. He even wins in the final battle of the series, and shows everyone else that all of their efforts were meaningless in the grand scheme of things. He was so overpowered the author couldn't think of a satisfying ending for a while. When he finally did come out with one, Hao is ultimately defeated simply by being convinced that he's wrong, as overpowering him wasn't even a possibility anymore.
- Yujiro Hanma from Baki the Grappler. In the one anime fight where someone even lands a worthwhile attack (Doppo counters with several chest crushing punches), Yujiro simply stands up smiling as if he had an itch. To date, nothing has even given him cause to pause. Though several characters have evolved based on his almost unachievable status. Yujiro is so powerful, even at the very end of the series he still hasn't been defeated. Baki, now the second strongest man alive, attempts to fight Yujiro for the final time. At first it seems Baki is winning, even causing Yujiro to bleed, but Yujiro gets serious and begins no selling all of Bakis attacks, eventually beating him. Well, he is not beaten, but he is humbled enough to hand over the title "World's Strongest Creature" to Baki
- This trope is one of several reasons why the Huckebein of Nanoha Force are so hated - it takes all of 30 chapters in an extremely slipped schedule before the heroes make any real headway against them.
- Though technically not villains (with the exception of Paul), pretty much any one of Ash's arc rivals in Pokémon will never be beaten before his league battle with them, and even then it'll usually be with Ash just barely coming out on top with his last Pokemon barely able to stand. Before then, at best, he'll tie with them. At worst, it'll be a complete Curb-Stomp Battle. There's also the trainers brought in specifically to beat Ash in the league, the most infamous case being Tobias, who not only had a Darkrai, but also had a Latios!
- Dragon Ball Z:
- Broly from the 8th movie doesn't have much going for him as a villain, with little in the way of characterization and a flimsy motivation. He's basically what Goku would be without a sense of morals or sanity. What he does have is a level of power that is much higher than the others to which he uses to negate the attempts of the heroes and give them a thorough No-Holds-Barred Beatdown until an Ass Pull is needed to defeat him twice; the second time killing him by vaporizing him into the sun. And even that doesn't stop him as a clone of his, albeit much weaker causes a lot of trouble for Goten and Trunks.
- Bills/Beersu from the 14th movie, who dishes out MASSIVE CurbStompBattles to Super Saiyan 3 Goku, Super Saiyan 2 Vegeta, Ultimate Gohan, Super Saiyan Gotenks, Good Buu, and the rest of the Z-Fighters. It's so bad that even when Goku gains acess to the Super Saiyan God Form (which is said to be the strongest form a Saiyan can attain), Beers is still stronger than him, even when not using his full power. To point it out, he's the only antagonist in the Dragon Ball Z series to never be defeated, only giving up his plans to destroy the world because he's too tired to go through with it. Justified since he is a Physical God, and his unquestioned power is fundamental to the universe.
- Madara Uchiha in Naruto. The Big Bad, Tobi, was using his identity because Madara was feared so much. But even though he's supposedly been dead for awhile, he comes back as an immortal, regenerating being with unlimited chakra, a massive Susanoo that causes a high degree of damage by swinging its sword, and capable of creating clones indistinguishable from himself and as powerful as him. Seven of the strongest characters in the series have barely inconvenienced him, even the main character has failed to significantly hinder him. Edo Tensei, the technique that revived him, was negated, and every person who was revived by it returned to being dead... with the sole exception of him, as he can apparently use that same technique on himself without sacrificing anyone. Word of God states he has no weaknesses. though one of the morals of the series was supposed to be that the new generations would surpass the old, in keeping Madara a threat the author decided to have practically every other Arc Villain hand him more power (willingly or not). As it stands, he has almost every power in the series available to him, and is inexplicably more powerful than anything that should be able to kill or wound him. Kishimoto stated at Jump Festa 2014 that Only the Author Can Save Them Now has hit Writer's Block at this point. The solution he came up with was for Madara to be backstabbed by Princess Kaguya, one of only two beings in the series stronger than him, and her to take over as the villain. And to keep her from utterly destroying everyone in five seconds flat, she seems to be not entirely human anymore and thus nearly mindless.
- YuYu Hakusho's Sensui Shinobu is occasionally criticized as this, given that after all of Yusuke's efforts to defeat him he's still a Hopeless Boss Fight that requires the intervention of Yusuke's heretofore-unmentioned demon ancestor to finally bring down. Granted, this did turn out to be Foreshadowing for the next arc.
- Younger Toguro to a lesser extent as literally no one was able to even force him to go all out, not even Genkai, so he was free to annihilate everyone. He only was killed because he intentionally kills Kuwabara, Yusuke's best friend in order to even force the strength needed to do so, as the latter, even with a significant power boost was unable to scratch him at full power prior to this
- In Berserk Griffith as Femto is a Physical God in a mostly Low Fantasy setting (and most of the non-Low Fantasy elements are his direct minions). He can No Sell cannonballs, magic lightning and even a Reality Warper sword forged over hundreds of years specifically to kill him. Did we mention he's a Villain with Good Publicity to the point where most of the world believes he's the second coming of Crystal Dragon Jesus?
- And that's without counting the other members of the God Hand.
- Even worse, is the Idea of Evil, the god of the Berserk universe.
- So far, though, it doesn't seem to be interested in intervening, at least not directly.
- NEO from Digimon Next is probably the second- or third-closest thing to omnipotence the Digimon franchise has come, capable of erasing the entire Gondor Calls for Aid army assembled to fight him from existence with a single thought. As with Hao above, the only reason he loses in the end is because the heroes talk him into a Heel Realization and he puts everything back to normal.
- One of the main complaints about Digimon Frontier (season 4) was the Royal Knights, a Quirky Miniboss Squad who show up and do nothing but beat the tar out of the heroes for nine straight episodes because... something had to eat up the time before the Big Bad got out of his can, right?
- Bagramon from Digimon Xros Wars gets in the act as well, as ever with his weaker left arm he can No Sell just about everything thrown at him and when he Get's stabbed and forcibly fused with his brother Dark Knightmon, he just takes over after a while and becomes even more powerful. It takes the Digixros of Shoutmon and EVERY SINGLE DIGIMON in the whole series in order to kill him. Even then, it's revealed in the sequel season that he came back as the clockman and it's the power of the Brave Snatcher (his disembodied right arm) that saves the day in the end.
- Myostimon in Digimon Adventure was Ur Example for the series, and is especially notable in that while he was initially just more a of threat per the point in the series he showed up, but never came off as unbeatable. But then with more of the protagonists getting their Mid-Season Upgrade it became clear that at the rate the series was going he'd end being defeated before Hikari even joined the team, so he started pulling new powers of out nowhere and the powers he had skyrocketed and went from being challenged by the heroes' individual Digimon to being able to outright streamroll them, and even Angemon, who could actually defeat him before, could no barely even slow him down, ensuring that only Hikari's joining would bring his defeat.
- Black War Greymon in Adventure 2, while not as infamous as the Royal Knights, is arguable a worse case of this trope. The Royal Knights, the main characters at least gradually starting to better against as the arc went on, going getting flattened, starting to give a bit of pause, actually do well against, to fighting them an even terms, and then turning the tables and delivering a Curb-Stomp Battle to them. Balack War Greymon, no such events occurred. He easily defeated the protagonists' digimon in his debut, taking down the current strongest member of their roster Paildramon, and he would spend around 8 eight episodes fighting the heroes over and over and they keep losing, the addition of Silphymon after his debut failing to slow him down. Even when it looked like he might actually lose when Shakkoumon was the only time in his arc where he even took any real damage, and even then the protagonists still failed to stop him and he was defeated by the release of Azulongmon before leaving. He wouldn't suffer a real defeat from the protagonists until he returned, and it War Greymon and Imperialdramon Fighter Mode to do.
- The D-Reaper in Digimon Tamers. The series turns into a Cosmic Horror Story with its introduction, and for most of the series after its debut, there is no perceivable way of stopping it. The entire Digital World tried fighting, with all of its inhabitants being brought to their full evolution levels, and when the progress of the fight is shown, they're losing, badly. The Tamers fair little better, struggling against the agents it sends and possessing no way of killing it. In the end, it takes almost a total Deus ex Machina in order to defeat it.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has Filler Villain Dartz, unquestionably the most powerful non-Eldritch Abomination villain in the franchise. He's a 10,000-year-old expert shapeshifter and magician who knew the secrets of the Pharaoh before anyone else, and over the millennia has become the single wealthiest man in the world, rich enough to effortlessly buy out even KaibaCorp. Then there's his deck, which features such winners as a monster that, whenever it's destroyed, revives even stronger, and another one that absorbs any Life Point damage he would have taken and is nigh-indestructible besides. If you can somehow get rid of that, he can summon another monster whose attack value is equal to all the Life Point damage he would've taken had the first one not been there (over 20,000 in the final duel with him), and if you can get rid of that, it turns into a monster that instantly wins the game if it attacks for damage; that's in addition to the ever-present Seal of Orichalcos (which he has two more levels to). Using this deck, he keeps the heroes occupied for an unheard-of six straight episodes (the longest duel in any Yu-Gi-Oh! series), and it takes a Heroic Sacrifice from Kaiba and some serious liberal application of the rules on Yugi's part to defeat. After going through all that, you'd think the Evil Plan would be good and foiled, right? Nope; Dartz reveals the he alone is equal to the tens of thousands of souls he intended to sacrifice to his Eldritch Abomination master, so he goes ahead and summons it anyway. It takes the God Cards in their purest forms and an Ass Pull from Yami in order to even weaken him and his master.
- Subverted with Marik Ishtar who developed a strategy which would make him invincible. Slifer the Sky Dragon got 1000 ATK and DEF for every card in Marik's hand, and Revival Jam protected Slifer from every attack, thanks to the Trap Card Jam Defender and the Jam revived itself after every destruction. And two Spell Cards allowed him to ignore the limit of having six hand cards in the end of every turn, and drawing three card by every revival. However, Yami Yugi used this strategy against him and he brainwashed Revival Jam, so Slifer's effect forced it to attack Revival Jam automatically and destroying it immediately. But since Revival Jam always revived itself after every destruction, Slifer's effect cannot be stopped, and Marik was forced to draw three new cards whenever Revival Jam was revived due to his own Spell Card. And when Marik draw every card from his deck, he lost automatically.
- Inverted with Yami Marik, despite being the darker half of Marik Ishtar and having the most powerful God Card in his deck, all of his victories are attributed by luck. It was Mai's fault that he got the opportunity to control The Winged Dragon of Ra as she chose to tribute her harpy ladies instead of attacking for game. Yami Bakura has no clue how the god card works, as he tributed Ra which allowed Marik to utilize it. He is also the first to lose in the Battle Royale. Jonouchi would have won had he not played a shadow game under Marik's rule and fall unconscious. In fact, Yami Yugi was never driven to the point where he had to rely on a lucky draw to defeat him.
- Zorc has No Sell to the Egyptian Gods, the Master of Dragon Knight, Exodia (only because of his feeble old man of a container) and everyone else, it takes a Serial Escalation of a summon of the most powerful monster involving the sacrifice of the three mentioned god monsters to even defeat him.
- Yubel and Saotorius from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX are ridiculously overpowered; with the former having control of not only an evil version of the three gods including their overpowered fusion, but a monster that reflects all damage back to the enemy. He/she defeats everyone she/he meets including a user of an even stronger version of Exodia and the main character had to merge with him/her in order to stop his/her mad rampage. With the latter, he predicts everything, and his charisma made it so no one would oppose him, as of course it took an Ass Pull, involving a student becoming a T-Rex in order to destroy his satellite, not to mention his overpowered deck.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds escalates the invincibility of its Big Bad villains, with Z-One, a literal Physical God who controls the space time continuum who could and does erase anything in existence that threatens his plan. His deck is an entirely different matter, as every last monster in his deck has incredibly overpowered effects, and if you manage to defeat of all of them, he has an even more overpowered one that has the combined attack of all of his monsters (for bonus points, not only does it have the combined attack of them all, another of its effects actually raises the attack power of the others to 4000) with a very powerful effect as well.
- Yugioh Zexal manages to top even this with Don Thousand. His ace monster has 10,000 attack and a plethora of broken abilities like destroying all of the opponents monsters and then summoning every monster sent to the grave that turn afterwards. Managed to destroy it? Congrats, now he gets to summon an even stronger version of it that has 100,000 (Yes, that's the correct number. One hundred thousand.), which is immune to card effects and MUST be attacked if you are able. Failure to attack it means you automatically lose the duel.
- Professor Desty Nova in Gunnm / Battle Angel Alita has his hands on the controls to the Laser-Guided Karma machinery, almost literally. He walks away from series 1 without paying for any of the thousands of lives he consumes - including the protagonist's adoptive father - and series 2 seems set to make him even more sadistic, more amoral, more manipulative, more powerful and much more immortal than before.
- Nui Harime and Ragyo Kiryuin from Kill la Kill are never seriously threatened by the heroes at any point, and even when they get defeated, it's on their own terms, with a comeback usually quick to follow. Their utterly vile behavior only makes it worse.
- Under a bad writer, the Teen Titans' archnemesis Slade Wilson/Deathstroke can be this. His most infamous showing was in Identity Crisis, in which he demonstrated faster reflexes than Wally West and enough willpower to convince a Green Lantern ring to not attack him. The encounter ends with the entire Justice League on the floor spitting up blood, and Slade quipping that this League, made up mostly of new faces (in Comic Book Time terms, anyway) to superheroing, is so much weaker than the old one... despite the fact that many of them (Wally in particular) are far more powerful than their predecessors. You'd think that an arrow to the eye would have done something more than force him to retreat, but he just fine afterwards.
- Prometheus was an acceptably threatening Justice League level supervillain in his first appearances, but gradually went through Villain Decay as the story went on later. Come Justice League: Cry for Justice, the writers retconned his decay and tried to make him a threat again... by turning him into a total Villain Sue who pull out a ridiculously large Gambit Roulette and makes the whole League and Titans look like morons, to the point it no longer became believable. Made even more ridiculous when he actually is defeated... by Green Arrow infiltrating his conveniently unprotected headquarters and shooting him through the head with an arrow. That's right, the guy who could anticipate anything, including his own capture, the heroes calling for a guy he was stated to not be able to identify and many other things, couldn't ensure something as simple as protecting his headquarters against infiltration.
- On the Marvel Universe side, Thanos can be this mostly under Jim Starlin, especially when he has the Infinity Gauntlet: when he had it, he easily took down and killed practically every hero that oppose him, plus Doctor Doom, Galactus, Mephisto and several cosmic beings, either killing or defeating them and taking everything they threw at him. He even went as far as defeating the incarnation of the universe. The only way he was defeated was because of his own error, and it's implied he partially did it on purpose. In fact, virtually all the times he acquires ultimate power he fails to win is implied to due his subconscious desire to lose. Or a clone did it.
- Red Hulk was this in his initial run, defeating easily Hulk and the Avengers initially, with the worst case being when he was able to raise Mjolnir, something only people worthy to use it (Thor, Captain America, Beta Ray Bill and a few others, namely) should be able to do. This was fortunately corrected in later issues, making it, ironically, one of the few case where Villain Decay was considered a good change by fans.
- The Marvel Universe's Ultimate version of Loki was this at first. He was a reality warper who could rewrite history, summon armies of monsters, and make himself immune to physical attack including Thor's hammer. During the final battle, Thor mentions his powers have conveniently weakened allowing Thor to beat him. Suffered Villain Decay in later appearances where he was reduced to the traditional illusions and feats of sorcery.
- In the Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog], we have the Dark Mobius storyline's version of Enerjak, who the story points out immediately is Chaos Knuckles turn evil, so he's this inevitably. In his timeline, despite having a 0% Approval Rating, he singlehandedly took over the world and the only heroes left to fight him, he only left alive because he was bored and could have killed them at any point he wished. During his fight with Silver, he No Sells everything thrown at him. About the only thing that can hurt him are his own attacks. Thankfully, he was only around for one four issue storyline that ended with his powers being drained.
- We can't forget Superboy Prime, the Face-Heel Turn to end all Face Heel Turns, who not only went from good to bad, but also from a sympathetic hero who lost his universe to a whiny Villain Sue who had all of the Silver Age Supermans power level, with none of his weaknesses, as his universes Krypton had been swallowed by its Sun, and thus there was no Kryptonite that could harm him, and magic seemed to have little effect either for explained reason. The result was a superpowered, adolescent jerk on a cosmic tantrum who could effortlessly destroy entire universes and tear through countless heroes without getting a scratch, and any setback was at most temporary.
- Ironically the one time karma finally gets him is when he finally gets what he wants-to return home. Since his world is our own, the fan backlash has trapped Prime in his own Ironic Hell.
- Harvest from the New 52. His introductory story The Culling spends its whole second half on scene after scene of him effortlessly beating back every attack the heroes make and insisting literally every single thing that all the many heroes involved in the story have done was part of his master plan, before getting away at the end. It also doesn't help that he claims to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist with no evidence to back it up. The Atop the Fourth Wall review says he's actually worse than the above-mentioned Prometheus.
Films — Live-Action
- In John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, the eponymous ghosts are just that — intangible ghosts, who possess humans to interact with them. The spirits can't be killed by any known means (they even tried a nuclear detonation, which did nothing), which means that if their host is destroyed they'll just move on to the next body. The movie dances around this issue by setting up the all-out battle to occur after the story's events, but it's impossible to maintain any hope for the surviving characters because victory is ultimately impossible.
- The Final Destination movies teeter back and forth as to whether the heroes can actually win, but this theme consistently shows up in every entry. They're explicitly fighting Death, a presumably eternal force of nature. Every plan the heroes have made involves evading or hiding from Death and have only occasionally been succesful and temporarily at that; destroying or defeating it for good is never presented as an option.
- Boris from GoldenEye thinks he is one. He's not.
- In the Mouth of Madness is solidly in this territory. The villain Sutter Cane is the author figure of the entire movie, and just makes any changes he wants to the story no matter how implausible or crushing to the protagonist's goals. Trent never stood a chance of defeating him; he's just words in Cane's imagination. The meanest part is that not even Only the Author Can Save Them Now applies here (except out-of-universe). Cane is both the villain and the author, and won't save Trent from ceasing to exist when the story ends.
- The Tall Man from the Phantasm films. No matter what our heroes do, he will always come back for them, often pulling a new power out of his ass in the process. The series is designed to feel like a nightmare, and every nightmare needs a guy whom you can never hope to defeat and can only stay ahead of for a bit.
- John "Jigsaw" Kramer from the Saw franchise. He always wins, and gets away with his crimes. Even when he gets killed, he still wins.
- Mick Taylor from the Wolf Creek films. In both films he kills several people, does not get hurt much, and winds up a Karma Houdini.
- Blake's 7: Servalan almost always ran circles around Blake and his Rebels. Most of the time, she left them holding the bag after playing them too. She also survives the series finale. The alleged heroes don't.
- Leverage: Sterling. Never. Loses. The best the con artist team can manage is misdirection.
- The X-Files: The Cigarette Smoking Man survived things no human being ought to have survived, and repeatedly came out on top with Mulder and Scully once again discredited and humiliated.
- Even though he ultimately dies definitively in an airstrike, he still has the last laugh when he gets to tell Mulder and Scully that the alien invasion is scheduled for 2012.
- Sylar from Heroes. He kills numerous people, usually minor characters, over multiple seasons; and despite being mortally stabbed (twice), getting completely incinerated, having his entire brain overwritten, etc. he still keeps coming back, usually with even more powers, to terrorize the rest of the cast.
- Arthur Petrelli takes this Up to Eleven. While he's around, he's able to overpower Sylar effortlessly, as well as killing off nearly every major baddie the show had cultivated up to that point. Realizing their mistake, the writers deemed him Too Powerful to Live and had the three most powerful non-Arthur characters come together to kill him for good. Embodies this trope to a much greater degree than Sylar, because Sylar's rise to godhood occurred over the course of the series and stemmed from his own determinator persistence and cleverness, Arthur's ascent occurred off-screen and before the main storyline and comes without any real emotional baggage, so there's no sense that he was ever particularly vulnerable.
- Anna on V (2009). This is even lampshaded by Erica. No matter what the Fifth Column does, Anna always comes out on top. Either through Diabolus ex Machina or just good PR, every supposed win they've had is thrown right back in their faces. Manages to go Up to Eleven in the season 2 finale. The Fifth Column decides to take out Anna. Result? Anna uses Bliss on pretty much all of humanity; the Fifth Column is basically defeated; Diana, Tyler, and Ryan are dead; and the queen egg hatches to replace Lisa. This was all the writers got to before the show was Cut Short.
- Nukus from Big Bad Beetle Borgs started out as the Outside-Context Villain varian of this; as soon as he brought to life, he proves Dangerously Genre Savvy enough to destroy the Beetle Borgs' weaponry, leaving them gradually losing. When they finally defeated the invincible monster he created to fight them, it turns out he let them do it so he could get rid of the actual villains and take over as the new Big Bad. He then proceeds to deliver a Curb-Stomp Battle to the protagonists, obliterating their powers, and transforms the one who gave them power into ice. Of course, once the protagonists got new powers and he became the new Big Bad, he lost his Villain Sue status and ended up defeated on regular basis.
- Pelant from Bones is turning into this. He can pretty much hack any system he wants, change whatever records he wants, stop traffic, fake video footage, block cell phone signals, and kill anyone he wants at any time. With these abilities from a computer, it seems the writers have made his character so powerful of a threat, the team simply cannot defeat him and any defeat would come at Pelant's own mistake, which according to his character, seems impossible.
- Ultimately that's exactly what happens, as he overestimates his own importance. He honestly believes that Brennan values his intelligence over Booth's life. He's wrong.
- The Alliance from Firefly already won the Great Offscreen War before the series began. Mal and our intrepid heroes may win short-term victories on a small scale by pulling off this heist or evading that patrol, but at the end of the day, the Alliance will remain in power and the Browncoats will remain a historical footnote. The best Our Heroes can hope for is to fly far enough under the radar to continue to live their lives the way they want. This may have been subverted as of The Movie; it's unclear whether the PR nightmare that the revelation of the Reavers' origins represents will be enough to do any lasting damage to the Alliance' moral authority.
- Kanzaki Shirou from Kamen Rider Ryuki, since his main plan is the make sure the titular Kamen Riders fight each other, he's effectively getting what he wants for most of the series, and even if the refuse to fight, his plans only require riders to die, whether from fighting each other or outside circumstances. As he's a ghost, it also means directly challenging him is impossible, and any time he does feel the need to do something himself he sends his avatar Kamen Rider Odin, who far outclasses the other riders and only loses a couple fights due him getting careless, and Kanzaki can just send out replacements for him if he's killed. In the end, the only thing that stops him is coming to grips with Yui being opposed to his plans.
- Common place in Super Sentai to have some henchmen or Big Bad who goes out and hands repeated defeats to the titular team, though never kills them for whatever reason, before the team eventually gets strong to beat them. For the most part the trope works since the defeats mostly inconvenience the heroes. The other case where it tends to occur is if its a Sixth Ranger who starts off as a villain for whatever reason before joining the team, to show how off how Badass before joining, which tends to lead to a Redemption Demotion to avoid them becoming a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. Whether or not their story arc works tends to vary.
- The Undertaker rode a heavily hyped 21-year win streak at Wrestlemania, despite no one really believing he'll lose.note Memes have been made about him being beaten by the least likely person. Of course, the "villain" part only applies due to his angle and whenever he's a Heel (which he hasn't been since 2003, and considering his mostly-retired status, he's unlikely to ever be one again).
- For a couple years after being recognized both in-story and out as Vince McMahon's son-in-law, HHH could never lose a major match. Thanks to being part of Vince's family, "Trips" is pretty squarely heel, though occasionally a lesser of two evils.
- The New World Order faction in WCW was a notable example of an entire group of invincible villains. This was especially evident in the group's early days, where the nWo would frequently run roughshod over their WCW foes and episodes of WCW Nitro would end with the nWo triumphant more often than not.
- In 2012, John Laurinaitis (who was Senior Vice President of Talent Relations in the WWE) became the GM of Raw and Smack Down, and before the interim GM of Raw. What befell his character wasn't that it was not done well by John (it was), but that, as a heel GM, he seemed to never be able to be outsmarted by anyone and his character nearly took over the show, getting more air time than some of the wrestlers combined. It got so bad that Vince's "firing" of John at No Way Out was welcome because someone FINALLY was able to outsmart him, despite their like for how well done John played the actual role.
- This is because usually, a heel boss only works if some wrestlers are able to outsmart them, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin finding a way around Vince's stacking the deck at many points during their feud in 99. Vince seemed to have things work, but Austin found a way around it. This hasn't been the case in some of the more recent heel G Ms that the WWE has put out there, where it might take months for any heel GM to get their comeuppance due to them either being way too smart, have way too many allies, or just being on TV way too long during a show. However, heel GM's (Laurinaitis, especially), as well as some other heels, when they finally get beat, might draw some Fan Dumb from fans who insist that a character has been ruined, or that the WWE did something awful because they lost a battle if they like something about the character to a fault.
- To be fair, Laurinaitis was supposed to be kayfabe fired in the January of that year. The only reason he wasn't was because the man who was about to fire him, COO Triple H, was interrupted by The Undertaker in order to challenge him for WrestleMania that year. While Hunter was busy with that, Laurinaitus managed to beg the Board of Directors for a second chance.
- Before the end of the Detroit territory, the original Sheik was this to anyone who was not rooting for the empire.
- BIONICLE's very own Big Bad, Makuta Teridax was this. Even after his body got destroyed, he still kept coming back as the Man Behind the Man for years. It took LEGO to pull the plug on the toyline to get him finally offed.
- In Dragonfable, Sepulchure is one of these when he isn't being Orcus on His Throne. His incompetent minions frequently fail at their tasks, but whenever Sepulchure gets directly involved, he wins every battle with ease and makes the Hero of Dragonfable look like a total Failure Hero. Sepulchure never loses until his Villainous Breakdown, which is triggered by Drakath betraying him and stabbing him in the back with his own Doom weapon.
- Caius Ballad from Final Fantasy XIII-2 possesses the Heart of Chaos, which makes him immortal and also connects him to the goddess Etro. If he dies, so does she. This actually happens at the end of the game.. Due to him being the overseer of the world's timeline, he has gained vast knowledge of every possible scenario and uses it to his advantage.
- The Stinger that's shown if you collect all of the fragments reveals that he's still alive, and in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, it turns out that he actually has Complete Immortality, being unable to die as long the souls of countless incarnations of Yeul desire for him to live, and has become a part of the Chaos itself, though having reached his goal, he's now content to simply watch things unfold.
- BlazBlue seems to be fond of these types of villains, because all of it's known villains are this in some way, shape, or form, with two of them having carried out their plans with few flaws as of the end of Continuum Shift.
- Relius Clover has remained enigmatic in his ability to plan ahead and outfit Ignis accordingly, and while he has little direct impact on the story, it's safe to say that a large portion of the Evil Plan is of his creation. note Further, while Relius avoids conflict most of the time, almost any time someone fights him, they either get subdued and/or apprehended, or it's time for a Bad Ending. The exception is Valkenhayn, who thrashes him enough to force him to withdraw, but not enough to derail the plan. But even then, in Chronophantasma, Relius returns the favor and thoroughly thrashed Valkenhayn, only stopped because of time reset.
- Yuuki Terumi is even more broken, and is nearly completely overwhelming in terms of combat ability, and is unafraid to rub it in the protagonists' faces whenever he can. Further rubbing salt in the wound, every time he has lost in combat it is beneficial to the Evil Plan. Jin on the verge of owning him? He dives into a cauldron to force a reset. Ragna rocks his face in the True Ending? Relius kills Terumi soon after so he can infiltrate Takamagahara. Kokonoe keeps a loaded nuke silo for this? With the Imperator observing him, a number of lifelinks, and Phantom as his exit bus, all that will do is annihilate millions of innocents. The only time something went wrong with no backup plan is when Makoto fell into the Wheel of Fortune timeline, eluded Relius' pursuit of her, and obliterated Terumi's plans as collateral damage. Compared with Relius, this trope has made a Base Breaker, because of how he's suffered from appearing too often in the story mode that many fans got sick of him.
- However, Chronophantasma subverts this. While Relius is pretty invincible in combat, his plans aren't the most fool-proof and Bang Shishigami completely wrecked it, as a result, Relius suffers a gigantic Villainous Breakdown and gets himself beaten to near death by Valkenhayn and lost his will to go on, only living under the leash of Carl and Litchi, two people he recently manipulated with 'promises' of aid for their beloved, and that's just because Carl needs his brain, after that he looks forward of being offed. Terumi got himself caught in a series of 'trolling' by Hakumen and Trinity to the point that he's 'separate' from his Hazama form, and even if he managed to kill Trinity, Hakumen slays him with 'Time Killer', erasing him from all traces of time so we can be sure that it's his last hurrah. And even Imperator Saya abandons them to their fate... but that's because turns out she became another Invincible Villain with good justifications so far: She's Izanami, the friggin' Goddess of Death!
- From the same game we also have Azrael, The Mad Dog, who combines this trope with Too Powerful to Live. To give you a good idea, think Relius and Terumi, merge them together and crank it Up to Eleven. While Azrael is not a tactical planner or a Magnificent Bastard like the former two, he makes up for it in raw physical power. Both Story Mode and his Arcade mode basically consists of him steamrolling over the cast and he even admits he's only using a fraction of his actual power. note And even then, he either decimates strong opponents like Ragna or Valkenhayn or forces other opponents like Hakumen and Rachel to retreat. And unlike the above two he's never been defeated in a straight up fight and had to be sealed away in the space between dimensions by Kokonoe to be dealt with. note
- Diablo takes this trope and run with it Up to Eleven: for the first two games and most of the third game, all you character does by trying to defeat the Great Evils usually only ends up helping them in some way, to the point that the first game actually ends with Diablo winning anyway despite his death at the hands of the hero.
- The Templars from Assassin's Creed are really starting to feel like this, at least during the present, in the segments in the past they suffer so many defeats them winning being a Forgone Conclusion can come off as Fridge Logic. For starters, Abstergo (the Templars' front company) already holds a large monopoly on the world's economy and technology. Their archenemies, the Assassins, are on the brink of extinction. By the time the games take place, the Templars' plan for world domination is largely unoppossed, save for the last Assassins, who seek out the Pieces of Eden to stop them. In Assassin's Creed III, Desmond kills Warren Vidic and Daniel Cross, two very important Templar members, and even then William Miles says that their deaths will not affect the Templars in the long run.
- Rorke from Call of Duty: Ghosts comes across quite heavily as this. Despite the hero's best efforts, and his many losses and injuries, he still manages to magically come out on top on nearly every possible angle. The most egregious example comes at the end, when despite being shot point blank in the chest with a .44 round and being left to drown in a sinking train, he survives with only minor injuries and kidnaps the main protagonist to brainwash against his brother.
- Barthandelus from Final Fantasy XIII. The whole ending is you kicking the guy's ass, followed by him gloating that you just played right into his hands. Followed by the heroes proclaiming that they won't let him dictate their fates...before doing exactly what he just said he wanted them to do. Even his eventual defeat happens in the most aggravating way possible, as this is all in service of a plan that's nothing more than a wild stab in the dark to get God's attention and have a little chat. And since the heroes do eventually win, we never find out if it would have actually worked.
- Golbez of Final Fantasy IV, which is no surprise when you consider how many Final Fantasy games are already up here. The first time he encounters the party, he effortlessly defeats them in a cut scene. The second time, he shrugs off the most powerful magic in the game turning Tellah's Heroic Sacrifice using the Dangerous Forbidden Technique into a Senseless Sacrifice. Golbez's mind-control over Kain isn't even broken at the time, though he has the wits to fake it. The next time, he once-more beats the entire party and is about to claim an easy victory until a Big Damn Heroes moment by Rydia. But just when you think his invincibility has run out, nope, he gets away with his real target, the Dwarves' crystal. In short, not once in the game can the heroes even slow down his evil plans, though you do get to defeat him in a boss battle. In an odd case for this troope, it's shown that one of his Four Archfiends is actually stronger than he is.
- He'd later subvert it though, because when the heroes actually make a dent in the Tower of Babil, he came up, visibly upset that they ruined his plan... Then FuSoYa did something to him... and turns out Golbez was Brainwashed and Crazy all along, he's actually a good guy! And he's going to help you defeat the Bigger Bad, Zemus! ... He's not so invincible as a good guy and one-shotted by Zemus, leaving our heroes to take care of him.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising gives us Big Bad Hades. His goal throughout the game was to harvest human souls to creat more Underworld Monsters. To do so, he instigates a war between human nations by pulling a Xanatos Gambit so brilliant that no matter who killed the humans, whether his forces, Viridi's forces, or Palutena's forces under the Chaos Kin's control, he would always end up with more souls for his realm. And his invinciblity doesn't end at tactics. In terms of combat prowess, Hades is all but outright stated to be one of the most powerful characters in the game, second only to Lord Dyntos. His first fight with Pit is an out and out Curb-Stomp Battle that ends with Pit nearly eaten alive. And though Pit fares much better with the Great Sacred Treasure, Hades still had the upper hand and only lost due to Medusa's Villainous Rescue. And even when Pit vaporizes him with the Great Sacred Treasure's Final Strike, The Stinger reveals he's still alive! Albeit as a disembodied voice. But unlike most examples, this is completely justified because... he's a god.
- Hades is an odd case of this trope. While most the game things go his way, very little of it is actually spent fighting him.
- Aggregor in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien was pretty much this for the first half of season 1, and only got defeated at the end of his story arc; all the previous episodes, he ended up somehow winning, usually by using the heroes to do his job. Tropes Are Not Bad however: after the previous light-hearted season 3 of Alien Force with a Vilgax suffering Villain Decay, an actually threatening villain was rather welcomed by the fans.
- Amon in The Legend of Korra; seriously, the guy goes as far as preventing a Big Bad Ensemble by defeating his rival in one fight after displaying immunity to said Rival's powers. And he did nothing but win until the finale, even succeeding in de-powering two major characters (though temporary). Fortunately, this was balanced by a good Character Development in the finale and a notable charisma. It also helps that they explain why he was so invincible. Although exactly how bloodbending can take away a person's bending isn't clearly explained, though the guy is an expert Chi Blocker.
- The Light from Young Justice takes this trope Up to Eleven; the group consist in a group of various villains from the DCU working together to oppose the Justice League. Though they hardly get any development themselves, they constantly pull out a combination of Xanatos Gambit and The Man Behind the Man that would put the Trope Namer to shame. The previous examples listed at least didn't last more than one season before being defeated or having a Heel-Face Turn; The Light, on the other hand, end a whole season with Karma Houdini, and their Evil Plan is still going on. The heroes' "victories" to date have tended to be little more than minor inconveniences for The Light (and often not even that). No matter how successful the team seems to have been, the episode will usually end with The Light revealing that either the heroes played into their hands, or that they have a backup plan that makes the heroes' victory irrelevant.
- Finally Subverted in the second-to-last episode of season 2, where the team out wits the Light, derailing their plans and capturing two of them while the others flee. Vandal Savage even states that no one else has ever managed to disrupt his plans so much before.
- But even then The Light is not defeated. Most of the members go scot free and Savage is able to salvage some of his plan, by using the Warworld to threaten the rest of the the galaxy to stay away from Earth. At the very end, he steps onto Apokolips itself and is revealed to have a working relationship with Darkseid.
- Black Beetle does nothing but roll over everyone in his way. Superboy goes down in one hit, Wondergirl's only credit is that he has to hit her at least 10 times to get her to stay down, he can easily track Impulse's movements and nobody else can even come close to denting him. Only Blue Beetle with scarab in control cased him any problems, and even then he probably couldn't win. Superman probably could have but he was convieiently off world whenever Black was around. The Light's people don't do any better as Beetle effortlessly holds off Deathstroke and Black Manta and his troopersand kills Ra's Al Ghul, though he can ressurect. Even MONGOL can at best stalemate him. Aqualad's first 5 minutes being officially back in uniform end with Beetle stomping him too. Green Beetle might have been able to win, but he hacks and destroys his Scarab. He's FINALLY defeated when Blue Beetle and scarab working together hack and destroy his Scarab. And even though destroying a scarab is usually fatal for all but a Martian, Black STILL survives, albeit now powerless.
- Chase Young from Xiaolin Showdown is basically an immortal, powerful, intelligent, handsome, highly skilled warrior who outclasses every other villain on the show as well as most of the heroes, and almost never suffers major setbacks. In the first two episodes of the revival have him get a spy amongst the Xiaolin warriors, who manages to steal all the Shen Gong Wu, and then he attacks the temple, defeats Master Fung with ease, and destroys the temple in a matter of minutes.
- Megatron from Beast Machines operates on an intellectual level far above and beyond the main characters and commands an army so vast that despite chipping away at it for two seasons, the heroes can't even dent his forces. He also commands a body far more powerful than anyone else in the show.
- On the subject of Transformers, Soundwave from Transformers Prime is the most blatant example of this trope in the show. In every situation where he had to get directly involved in the plot, he always found a way to win. Encounters Arcee or Airachnid? He Groundbridges them away. Fights Wheeljack for a Iacon relic? He wins. Gets in a dogfight with Optimus Prime? He knocks him out of the sky with Laserbeak. Gets captured by the Autobots? He breaks himself out. Soundwave was flat out unstoppable until the series finale, where he gets trapped in the Shadowzone by the kids. But unlike most examples, this was part of the reason why he was so well liked by the fans (also helped that he didn't come off as completely infallible). It also helps that he was a lot less active than the other Decepticons so he didn't suffer from overexposure.
- And from Season 3 of the same show, we have Predaking. Think Soundwave, then crank it up. All the way up. 95% precent of the guy's screentime is him steamrolling over anyone dumb enough to trade blows with him. In his debut appearance, he's managed to survive everything that's thrown at him. That incudes various weaponry, burying him under rocks, and the detonation of an entire Energon mine. And when he reveals his robot mode, he's still as much of a powerhouse as before as he nearly kills Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus, who were only saved by Optimus's Big Damn Heroes moment. He later goes on to beat Optimus in a straight-on fight, the same Optimus who can regularly go toe-to-toe with Megatron. And later still, he gets in a fight with Megatron and would've most likely won had Starscream not interfered. By the time the series ends, he's only got one loss to his name and that's with A Unicron-possessed Megatron. But even then, he fared much better than the Autobots did. Much like Soundwave, this was part of the reason so many fans like him. It also helps that like Soundwave, he wasn't as active as most Decepticons so he didn't suffer overexposure.
- Much like Aizen, the Choten in Kaijudo Rise Of The Duel Masters was initially a fairly convincing Magnificent Bastard, but season 2 ended up making him this trope: none of the episodes where he shows up really ends up with him actually losing, as he constantly finds a way to get a victory out of the situation, where he is not outright winning his scheme of the week. Even in the last three episodes, when his plan developped over the course of the season has just been entirely destroyed, he just switches to invading the good guys' headquarters, which he does in a single episode with barely a sweat. And since he cumulates even more Kick the Dog moments on the way, it quickly becomes even more irritating.
- Apocalypse in the 90s X-Men cartoon. Each appearance he made, even though his plans didn't work out, still didn't result in anything more than a temporary setback for him, and defeating him in a fight is never presented as possibility. Stories focused on Cable showed that he would long outlive the X-Men and continue to ravage the world in the distant future. Even when he's apparently erased from existence he finds a way to come back. Since he only appeared once a season, however, this trope added to his appeal since he never suffered overexposure.
- Palpatine/Darth Sidious in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The series' placement means his victory is a Foregone Conclusion, and by extension, most anytime something that might seem it would derail his plans comes up, it will obviously fail. While his plans sometimes didn't go how he wished, they were only minor setbacks.
- Mighty Max Skullmaster full stop. Oh sure, Max, Virgil and Norman squeeze out a few small victories against him. But ultimately they're nothing but small setbacks and Skullmaster manages to find a way to continue his plan one way or the other. By series end he regains his Crystal of Souls which Max had previously smashed, re-powered it then sets about reviving every previous villains fought and chases down Max for his portal making cap. Even killing Norman and Virgil in the process. The only reason he doesn't succeed in the end is because Max interrupted the ritual at the last moment and rewound time to the point Max got the cap. Only now Max has full knowledge about what's about to go down and they'll be able to beat Skullmaster this time.