"Harbingers of evil, henchmen of Takhisis, warriors of corruption, men and women of honor."Their goals are evil but their means, not so much. A Noble Demon is a villainous character with a code of honor. He doesn't care that he has a bad image — he may even actively cultivate and embrace it. However, every so often a situation presents itself and he's just not willing to go the extra mile necessary to be completely evil. He'll topple your castle, but he'll do it right after everyone has cleared out first. He'll sacrifice whole armies to achieve his goal but he'll also sacrifice himself if he must. He'll conquer your village but he won't cause more destruction than necessary. He wants to kill The Hero but he won't stab an enemy In the Back. His ambition might be to Take Over the World, or merely to uphold the evil side of the Balance Between Good and Evil. Some will be obsessed with explaining this behavior so people won't think that he's gone soft. Killing enemies or servants who have failed but are loyal is "a waste of resources" and his inevitable newfound friends are "tactically advantageous allies." A lot of this behavior is sometimes explained as the result of a complex they acquired when they felt weak and helpless, and if shown enough love, they may turn over a new leaf. Alternately, their nobility often gives them an opportunity to demonstrate Villainous Valor in the face of the hero's successes. And while Noble Demons are generally far from nice, being noble and powerful seems to imply they are above petty and malicious acts, or at least uninterested in them. A Noble Demon who's a Proud Warrior Race Guy often comments that his enemies are (or have become) petty and cowardly and stain the name of their species. Likewise, when other villains show their true colors under pressure, the Noble Demon is likely to show Villainous Valour. Often experiences Sympathy for the Devil from the heroes, and may perhaps show Sympathy for the Hero right back. If Eviler Than Thou comes up, the Noble Demon will likely be on the less evil end. May also be the "grayer" character in A Lighter Shade of Grey. Compare the less villainous versions: Ascended Demon, Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and Jerkass Façade. Whether Anti-Villain or Anti-Hero beneath the facade, expect a Noble Demon's motives to include getting plenty of Villain Cred. See also Ambiguously Evil and Lawful Evil. Contrast with Card-Carrying Villain who doesn't deny he's evil, but is much more willing to cross the Moral Event Horizon. Also contrast with Faux Affably Evil, whose kind acts only serve to benefit him (though milder examples of this may still qualify). Villains lacking this trait will usually be Always Chaotic Evil. Compare and contrast Nominal Hero, a character who does heroic deeds for all the wrong reasons.
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- Ah! My Goddess: Hild. She's still evil, as proven by her efforts to make Belldandy into a demon or to break up Belldandy and Keichii just to see if she could piss the former off enough to do something evil, but Hild enforces an existence of somewhat-noble demons, demons that live by making pacts and are bound in an agreement to never kill goddesses (though they can still fight them). She genuinely loves her daughter, Urd (though that won't stop her from beating the crap out of Urd if Urd stands in her way), and is distinctly less evil than many in Niflheim, evidenced when those more evil revolted against her.
- Baccano!: Most of the mafiosos and camorristas are Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters at most. Luck Gandor, in particular, lives this trope, with both Firo and Claire separately remarking that, deep down, he's too nice to really be cut out for a life at the top of a Mafia family. He pushes himself to act cold and ruthless in order to be able to properly fill the role.
- Bamboo Blade: there's a Show Within a Show, Blade Braver, where the character of Shinaider fits the classic noble demon archetype. Much as Tama considers Red Braver her favorite, her rival, Rin, is a fan of Shinaider.
- Birdy the Mighty has Gomez, as he occasionally gives Birdy advice and encouragement, and in Decode he seems mostly against the idea of releasing the Ryunka on Earth.
- Black Jack is a milder example, deliberately cultivating a Dr. Jerk reputation but still managing to be a pretty decent guy in the long run.
- Berserk: the demonic Nosferatu Zodd is a centuries-old Blood Knight who lives for battle and killing. Despite his love of carnage, he is never seen harming non-combatants or engaging in rape or torture like many other Apostles do. He also treats the protagonist Guts as a Worthy Opponent, relishing their fights but willing to let him go on occasions when Guts is too weakened from a previous battle to defend himself.
- Bleach: Grimmjow Jaggerjaquez. He is certainly ruthless in battle, and has no qualms over killing those weaker than he is (it's a dog-eat-dog world in Hueco Mundo). But his sense of honor shows in his desire to only fight opponents at their best, going so far as to make a prisoner heal his latest rival, even if he has to trap a fellow Espada to do it.
- Busou Renkin: Papillion is ruthless in his quest to become a homunculus, but this is just because he's sickly and dying, and wants immortality. Once he's become a homunculus, he's content to just observe, provide covert aid for the heroes, wear a disturbingly flamboyant costume, and, in the end, become an urban legend to schoolgirls. It helps that, due to his imperfect metamorphosis, he doesn't need to eat humans like other homunculi do.
- In actuality, while the incomplete transformation is a factor, it is actually because he is a human-type homunculus, combined with a lack of the innate desire to become human, that he has no need nor reason to eat humans.
- He did kill and eat some of his family members upon first transforming, and provided a disturbingly sensual description of how delicious it was. And then, since the transformation had blown all his clothes off, Watsuki had him pull his butterfly mask out of his briefs. Since he didn't know his clothes were going to blow off, he had to have been keeping it there...just because.
- A Certain Magical Index: early villain Accelerator becomes this after his character development and Heel–Face Turn to Type IV/V Anti-Hero near the end of the first season. Although he secretly wants to be a hero, he still thinks of himself as a villain no better than the ones he now kills (and proclaims this loudly even to those he has rescued) since he doesn't believe he can be forgiven after slaughtering 10031 clones. Much later in the novels he ditches this trope and being a Card-Carrying Villain entirely and shifts to a Type III Anti-Hero, declaring that villainy was just not working out for him and instead moves to Above Good and Evil.
- Chrono Crusade: Chrono may count as a literal example of this, though it's more just Superpowered Evil Side.
- Claymore has several examples.
- In the anime, Isley ends the war in the north, because he does not want any more Awakened Beings from his army to be killed in battle (indirectly, he also rescues many warriornesses).
- Rigaldo has killed several warriornesses, but he seemed to care about killing them in a fair fight, and did not was sadistic about torturing his opponents.
- Chronos and Lars were single-digit warriors in the first generation, and became two very strong Awakened Beings. However, when they notice that the fighting style of Raki is very similar to Isley's, they are quite polite with him and seem to have no intention of attacking and eating him.
- Code Geass: Big stretch, but perhaps Princess Cornelia. She serves as the primary antagonist in Season 1, and her arrogance, ruthlessness and xenophobia is tempered with valour and courage in battle, a genuine desire to rebuild Area 11 and return stability to it, geniune affection and respect for the men under her command, which is returned, and a soft spot for her younger sister Euphemia.
- Darker Than Black: the Contractor November 11 who frequently references his utter amorality but is unfailingly charming, friendly and sometimes flat-out ethical towards his co-workers. At the end of the series, when making a Heroic Sacrifice, his fellow Contractors ironically (or perhaps accurately) attribute his extremely altruistic actions to this same amorality/rationality.
- The protagonist, Hei, could also count as one of these, given the emphasis in the final episode of the first season on how he pretends to be the amoral, badass Black Reaper, but is actually a sensitive guy who is haunted by all of the killing and dubious acts he has to do.
- Detective Conan: Among the Black Organization members, Irish from the Raven Chaser Non-Serial Movie claims to be one. He follows the B.O's orders and beats the fuck out of both Conan and Ran, but he also tells Conan that he hates the group for killing his friend Pisco and ultimately goes down Taking the Bullet for Conan as the last "fuck you" to the B.O, using his Famous Last Words to urge Conan to keep fighting against the group itself.
- Devil and Devil: A big part of the plot involves the main character Sword desperately trying to avoid falling into this trope... and failing spectacularly. Notably, he was a powerful and vicious Blood Knight of a devil before being forced to occupy a human vessel to survive.
- Anything and everything involving Satan and his cronies as written by Go Nagai, including the infamous Devilman series. On the flip side, God is written as being anywhere from a Manipulative Bastard who enjoys toying with humanity to an unabashedly hate-filled cosmic entity who is offended by any life form that fails to prostrate itself before him, and alternates between mind-wiping the planetary populace or ejecting "sin-waves" over the surface, turning anyone with the slightest amount of impure thoughts into homicidal maniacs (the latter example comes from the latest reworking, Demon Lord Dante). The various Devilmen normally wind up fighting Satan's forces initially because he possesses humans in order to manifest on earth, and they can't get over the teachings they've learned prior. (Amon and Dante must be pretty weak mentally to keep getting overpowered by young boys like that.)
- Digimon Tamers: Impmon / Beelzemon is a weird example. He's prideful in his abilities, but as such, he's known for not attacking weak Digimon. The likely reason is that he feels it would be a waste of power, making this a subversion. Post-Heel–Face Turn he becomes a literal noble demon. Still, when compared to the other Demon Lords...
- Dragon Ball:
- Piccolo tries to invoke this when he was defeated by the androids, right before going off to fuse with Kami. No-one really fell for it, though... it was kind of half-assed. It had been years since the trope could actually apply to him, and he'd become an outright hero by the time of the android saga whether he admitted it or not. Which is exactly why Kami is actually willing to fuse with him.
Krillin: Wh-what's that look on your face? Do you have a plan?! C'mon, tell us! We're your friends!
Piccolo: Friends?! Don't press your luck. When do you think I became your friend? I'm a demon! Don't you ever forget that!! I'm merely using you — to take over the world!! *flies away*
- Beerus the Destroyer is this, though. Especially in Battle of Gods movie. He can be quite petty, mean, very short-tempered and blows up planets, but it's his job, and he can be nice and polite too, also always keeping his word (and using Loophole Abuse when he refuses to destroy the Earth). Just don't piss him off...
- Piccolo tries to invoke this when he was defeated by the androids, right before going off to fuse with Kami. No-one really fell for it, though... it was kind of half-assed. It had been years since the trope could actually apply to him, and he'd become an outright hero by the time of the android saga whether he admitted it or not. Which is exactly why Kami is actually willing to fuse with him.
- The Fantastic Adventures of Unico: Beezle is an obnoxious little hellion and a Card-Carrying Villain, but he was raised by his father to keep his promises, to the point of swimming out into a stormy ocean (which is doubly dangerous for Beezle, as sea water is poison to devils) to save Unico from drowning.
- Fist of the North Star: Raoh is mostly this with hints of a Utopia Justifies the Means Tragic Villain. Sure, he'll subjugate the people of the wasteland to his will, but if his men are ruthlessly torturing villagers, then he won't hesitate to trample them to death atop his Cool Horse Kokuoh-go. Additionally, Raoh sheds a river of Tender Tears when his weaker, radiation-addled brother, Toki, cannot fulfill his childhood promise to stop Raoh's ambitions. Raoh openly shows respect for the bravery of the heroes who fall in battle, and notably orders his men to give Juza a Hero's Funeral for putting up an exceptionally valiant fight against him. He sheds further Tender Tears when compelled to kill Yuria, the final step in his transformation to godhood, yet could not because even a tyrant like him was deeply moved with respect for her kindness and nobility. The fact that he doesn't even kill Yuria but prolongs her life in spite of her radiation sickness so she can live on with Kenshiro shows his Vader-like redemption from Noble Demon to affectionate older brother.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Greed is an extremely friendly example, being, by far, the least violent of the homunculi and a Benevolent Boss in contrast to his "siblings'" egregious use of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. This quality is seen especially with the second incarnation of Greed. Toward the end of the series, he fights alongside the heroes and rescues people, which he justifies with having nothing better to do/his desire to take power for himself.
- Father Alexander Anderson. His hatred and wrath, though often directed towards understandable targets like vampires, is still rather misguided and includes Protestants. But even so, he's displeased with the Holy Crusade's and Maxwell's actions, claiming that such arrogance, bloodlust, and genocide is an affront against God.
- Alucard could count as well. Or at least when he's under Integra Hellsing's direct influence. Just like Anderson, he is completely disgusted by Maxwell slaughtering millions of innocent civilians in London and doesn't waste any time in unleashing his familiars on Millennium's Nazi vampires and Maxwell's crusaders. There's a few other points in the series where he expresses disdain for artificial vampires who kill innocents to satisfy their own Drunk with Power egos or psychotic pleasures. Alucard usually mocks, tortures, and kills them in short order after that.
- InuYasha: Bankotsu, despite being a Mercenary in it purely for the bloodshed, surprisingly follows an honor code as well as shows true compassion towards his allies. He says it the best right before killing Renkotsu for betraying and killing Jakotsu, who also happened to be Bankotsu's best friend:
Bankotsu: "The difference [between us] is... I would never turn my back on my friends."
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Wamuu. He will not break promises or fight someone unable to defend themselves. If he hadn't sworn to obey Kars, he probably wouldn't have been a threat.
- Kara no Kyoukai: Shiki is a Blood Knight with a bit of Blue and Orange Morality who happens to take out threats to innocent people.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple:
- Haruo Nijima is a very complex character. A "close" friend (of sorts) of Kenichi Shirahama, he is commonly referred to by various characters as an alien due to his likewise features: long pointed ears, sharp hooking nose, glaring eyes, and fanged teeth. He has even been known to be able to protude two arrow-headed antennas from the top of his head. As if that's not bad enough, he openly proclaims himself to be evil, and does nothing to discourage this belief amongst other parties. Worse, he dreams to one day rule the world (albeit not in a conquery sort of way); and to this end, he (somehow) formed a fighter group that he hopes would garner enough media attention to make his dream world conquest a reality. He is an ambitious power-grabber who relishes in bossing everyone around (mostly Kenichi). Despite this, as the key founder of the Shinpaku Alliance (which Kenichi and several other principal characters are part of), he seems to prioritize the well-being of his comrades more than anything else, and is not above resorting to being a living bait to lure danger away.
- On a more serious vein, 90 percent of the antagonist Yami organization's One Shadow Nine Fists seems to consist of master-class fighters who are all Noble Demons in their own way. Special mention should go to Akira Hongo, the resident karate master who's code-named the "God Fist," as he is shown to respect the bond that should exist between a master and his disciple, who won't fight women or opponents who have injuries from previous recent fights and is even willing to team up with Ryozanpaku to help rescue the kidnapped Miu, if only because doing so will let him get revenge on "Demon Fist" Silcardo Junazard, the remaining 10 percent of the One Shadow Nine Fists, for tricking him into almost killing Kenichi.
- Saiga Furinji, Yami's One Shadow, may very well be this too, as it's implied that Hongo had to seek audience with him before joining forces with Ryozanpaku, and Saiga himself also joined the group (in disguise) to help in Miu's rescue. It's justified for him, though, since Miu is his daughter.
- Kinnikuman: Ashuraman is this both literally (he is the prince of the Demon World) and figuratively (the reason for his loss and concurrent Heel–Face Turn in the Tag Tournament arc is because he's touched by the Power of Friendship). For that matter, his trainer, Samson Teacher, qualifies as this as well, planting the seed of friendship into Ashuraman through saving his life.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- Evangeline A.K. McDowell, the vampire mage, constantly tells the rest of the cast how hideously and irredeemably evil she is, explicitly comparing herself to a video game Big Bad. So they'd better not be getting the wrong idea when she's saving their lives, making sure they're okay, giving them proper training, helping the resident ghost girl not be feared, etc. Though, given that she officially wants Asuna and Negi to be her video-game sub-bosses... Also, it might be that she simply took the "evil" name from the "good" mages, who don't necessarily seem all that good, compared to her. She just only cares about herself and the people she has chosen to care about. The rest, including the world, may go to scrapper.
- Wilhelm is a literal Noble Demon, despite the fact that he petrified Negi's hometown (because he's forced to do it by the person who summoned him), he drops all sorts of hints that the petrification isn't permanent, and goes out of his way to not hurt any of the girls when he fights Negi, and gives him some useful advice.
- Fate as well. He's a rather pleasant guy to be around, civilized, and willing to talk things out. Granted, he does have six young girls working for him. However, he justifies this when it is revealed that five of the six of them are each the sole survivors of destroyed villages that he just happened across, whom he'd helped without question. The sixth is just a battle loving, Psycho Lesbian girl who's creepy. When one asks how he forced them into it, he states that the girls volunteered of their own free will. He's saved 57 others. What did he do with them? Kill them? Torture them? Perform unspeakable horrors upon them? Nope. He gave them applications to prestigious boarding schools so that they could grow up into a successful life.
- Natsume's Book of Friends: Madara is a powerful man-eating youkai who is next in line to inherit the main character's MacGuffin, and has repeatedly stated that he wants nothing more than for said main character to hurry up and die so he can claim it. Nonetheless, he follows Natsume around as a bodyguard and saves his life on numerous occasions. He usually gets very defensive when other youkai point out that he's essentially Natsume's servant, usually deflecting the accusations by claiming that the main character is his pet or his prey (hence why he'll beat the crap out of anyone else who tries to hurt him).
- Ninja Scroll: Mujuro saves the two protagonists from precariously dangling over a cliff, just so that he can challenge Jubei, the male protagonist, to an honorable duel. He notably gets the cleanest and quickest death out of all of the villains.
- Ouran High School Host Club: Kyouya insists that he is an egotist with nothing in common with Sheltered Aristocrat Tamaki. Despite this, his long-suffering of Tamaki's antics, which includes wearing ridiculous costumes on a daily basis (as a female more than once), is nobility in itself. He says that it's all to keep Tamaki looking like a golden child, to the point where it costs Kyouya favor with his own father. That's a bit too self-sacrificing for the so-called Evil Lord, isn't it?
- The titular character in Overlord, though very ruthless and ultimately self-serving, most of his worst actions are directed at beings more evil than himself, he treats the subjects of Nazarick like they are family, thinks of his personnel guardians like his children, and treats his conquered subjects generally well, and he has a very good track record of keeping his end of the bargain when invoking Deal with the Devil scenarios.
- Tamura Reiko from Parasyte is a monstrous parasite that eats humans. However, she does not hold any meaningless bloodbaths and acts of violence. She even strives to live together between humans and parasites. In addition, she has a long time over, Shinichi and Migi protected from the other parasites.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyouko Sakura before Character Development.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Saitou Hajime is a cold-blooded killer with a limitless mean streak, but still firmly believes in worldly order.
- Samurai Champloo: Mugen (at least at first) is a Chaotic Neutral vagabond who is open about not caring about anyone but himself and liking violence for its own sake. However, those same qualities make him unwilling to join with villains, scorning their self-importance and the idea of him following anyone. Moreover, despite his frequent complaints about her, he will always come to the rescue of Fuu when she is danger.
- Slayers: Zelgadis is self-serving but ultimately keeps coming back to the protagonists... no matter how much they tarnish his vaunted "cool and mysterious sorcerer-swordsman" image. He is also one true Mazoku. "The power of the Monster race flows from... terror, anger, sorrow, despair." And he's still the friendliest and nicest character in the series most of the time, despite his penchant for painful and infuriating pranks. The novels make this clearer. Xellos sets a city on fire, just to convince Lina to take action. He also blames it on an enemy, to make her even MORE active. This is one of the scenes that proves him a Magnificent Bastard. He definitely appears to be one, though.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Viral is quite honorable, despite always wanting to enact revenge on Kamina for tarnishing his reputation and pride.note Here are several examples:
- Just after the Hot Springs Episode, he not-so-politely asks the heroes to Please Put Some Clothes On and allows them to arm themselves before fighting him.
- When he confronts Simon and Yoko over Kamina's whereabouts, and eventually accepts Simon as his new rival, he agrees to a fair one-on-one duel.
- When said duel is interrupted by Cytomander, who takes Yoko hostage and orders Viral to perform a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Gurren Lagann, Viral refuses and sheathes his axe, knowing that his honor cannot be regained that way.
- Ushio and Tora: Tora is a tiger-like demon who seems like he'd be eager to eat Ushio if it wasn't for the magic spear he wields. However, the demon needs so little persuasion to help the boy fight various supernatural threats to humanity, you'd almost think Tora secretly enjoys being a defender of the innocent.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba. The "noble" half is mostly due to his little brother, and the "demon" half is mostly due to his competition with his adopted father growing up.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Likewise, it took Edo Phoenix, Kaiba's third Expy, quite a while to reluctantly admit he had become more "hero" and less "anti."
- Yu Gi Oh Zexal: there's Alit, one of the Barians, the only one with any sense of honor and fair play. (The others tend to regard him as "immature" and "childish".) He seems to consider Yuma a Friendly Enemy (a sentiment shared by Yuma) and has developed a crush of sorts on Kotori.
- Durbe of the Barian Emperors might be the original embodiment of this trope. While he showed in the battle of Saragasso that he will use any means to win, even using a dirty trick (which was part of Vector's plan), he only does so because of his noble intention in saving the Barian World, no matter the cost. He is also known to praise his opponents for their skills as he did with Shark (before knowing his true identity) and Droite (in the final battle on Earth). He puts an end to any unnecessary fights between the emperors, and trusts them and acknowledges their skills. Even his Chaos Number is named after this trope. His noble soul is shown the most during his final duel with Merag against Vector, Where he sacrificed himself to ensure Merag's Victory on the traitor. Might also overlap with Wicked Cultured and Anti-Villain.
- YuYu Hakusho:
- Hiei fits this trope to a T. Not only is he a demon, but he keeps insisting that he's bad to the bone and cares about nobody, but his actions keep on betraying him. By the end of the series, he's loosened up enough that he actually admits to having friends and he gets emotionally close to a female demon with a past even more ghastly than his.
- Yoko Kurama also plays this straight. He was once a sociopathic and ruthless thief, but by the time that he first appears in the series (midway through the Dark Tournament arc), he has since abandoned that for the most part. While it was feared that Kurama would pull a Face–Heel Turn once he transforms, his former demon self is shown to be more than willing in helping his human half and Team Urameshi. This is otherwise a subversion with Kurama, as while he is a demon he is way too noble to qualify, as Love Redeems.
- Although, he is still quite willing to do whatever he deems necessary to achieve his end goals, and seems to enjoy torturing anyone who actually manages to anger him in some rather horrifying ways.
- Sorin Markov of Magic: The Gathering is an Innistrad vampire planeswalker who is paranoid and drains blood in order to survive, but is one of the few characters who could be classified as a Big Good. He views his bloodthirst as a necessity, but tries to maintain order in his hometown and attempts to seal the Eldrazi to save the lives of billions. Being a white/black (formally monoblack)-aligned planeswalker, he also falls under Dark Is Not Evil.
- The Dark World monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh! are implied to be this by Word of God, despite the fact that they're all hideous demons ruled over by a certifiably insane king. Zure, Knight of Dark World is of particular note, referred to by his flavor text as an "illustrious knight" who "never oppresses the commoners." Yep, he's a literal Noble Demon.
- Lex Nova, a one off character from the 30 Days of Night comic, Bloodsucker Tales, fits this trope to a T. A completely batshit insane vampire who thinks he's a private eye and narrates his life out loud, Nova saves the town of Juarez from the various villains and only feeds on goats.
- Julius Caesar as depicted in Astérix. He isn't above tricking people, but within far more defined limits than Asterix himself, generally being more clever than he is deceitful. He always keeps his promises, treats people below his station and even his enemies with respect (even when they're really annoying), and is one of the few Roman politicians we see who isn't plotting to backstab everyone else, stealing money from the state, being completely ineffectual, or fantasising about getting the Gaulish magic potion and using it to kill their friends and become god-emperor. It should be noted that in no way is he a nice guy, though; he's still a colonialist tyrant who tries to have people executed, is delighted by various Villain of the Week characters with bizarre and horrible gifts, and is trying to destroy a culture's way of life simply because they're getting on his nerves.
- The Kingpin, archenemy of Daredevil. He's an unabashed crime lord who will ruthlessly eliminate people who hinder his operation. However he almost always keeps his promises, has a fairly strict code of honor, genuinely cares for his friends and family, and treats his underlings well as long as they pull their weight and don't try to backstab him. He actually has a fair amount of respect for Daredevil, if only because Matt so strongly adheres to his convictions. In this regard Kingpin is often contrasted with Daredevil's other archenemy Bullseye, a Blood Knight who commits evil for the fun of it.
- Diabolik may be the King of Terror, but he will not harm children (and in fact he likes them), has little tolerance for human traffickers and drug smugglers and zero tolerance for rapists and biological weapons, tries to avoid collateral damage (not that he cares when he has to cause it), respects those who give him a run for his money, and will always keep his word.
- Another literal example was the Straw Man, a scarecrow-like demon and one of the Fear Lords: a group of demons who could feed on fear and conspired to conquer and rule the Earth. (The most notorious of them was Nightmare.) The Straw Man eventually double-crossed the others, aiding Doctor Strange to oppose Nightmare. (The reason behind this shift in allegiance isn't known, but it may have been part of its stated goal of taking vengeance upon a group called the Cult of Kalumai.)
- Depending on the Writer, this is either played straight or occasionally subverted with Doctor Doom. In the latter, he acts like he has a sense of honor, but will do anything to achieve his goals, up to and including sacrificing a woman who loved him to a demon. A very pissed-off Sue Richards once gave Doom a "The Reason You Suck" Speech in which she called him out on his so-called nobility, saying that despite all the trappings, Doom is still just a spoiled brat who's wasted his entire life making a hyperbole out of his juvenile grudge against her husband.
- This could be said of The Rogues because they have a code of "ethics" that they live by and consider themselves above killing women and children. Captain Cold is a particular stand out in this regard. This is also the reason they generally keep to themselves and don't work with the Secret Society; they're so stubborn and honor-bound that more amoral villains like Lex Luthor can't manipulate them, and instead alienate them by proposing schemes that none of the Rogues can stomach.
- Hellblazer's succubus Chantinelle (Ellie) is less noble than extraordinarily unlucky. Having tried to seduce an angel and succeeded, she fell in love with him and bore his child, leading to his demise at the hands of other angels and her exile from Hell. John Constantine notes that she's not a bad sort considering what she actually is, to which she replies, "I don't think so, John...I think I'm just polite."
- Iznogoud: Sultan Pullmankar is mostly known as a ruthless conquerer and a terrifying enemy, but he has a lot of rules (including always sparing his enemy's generals), is very affable to the Caliph when they are allied, and is shown to be a pretty good father.
- Magneto may very well define this category, at least when he's on the Heel side of his Heel–Face Revolving Door. He only wants to protect his people and sees a war between mutants and humans as inevitable so he wants to strike first. He may even have a point or two about this, he just can't resist going several steps too far.
- Neil Gaiman often writes to this trope. Denizens from Hell can often be bargained with (after all, being a demon is all about lying, backstabbing, betrayal, and personal gain) or reasoned with, and frequently have a code of honor by which they will abide, to the extent of helping out a protagonist. Lucifer in the earlier Sandman arcs is particularly representative of this trope.
- The Secret Six sometimes fall into this, though it's usually more a case of punishing the evil (with torture) than saving the good. One of the best examples is Deadshot's revenge mission to a North Korean political prison.
- A literal example is Spider-Man's enemy Demogoblin, who was created due to a curse placed on the second Hobgoblin, who had previously made a Deal with the Devil. Through most of his career, the Demogoblin acted like a Sinister Minister, killing people who he believed were sinners, which usually included many Innocent Bystanders. However, in a battle with the actual Hobgoblin, he made a Heroic Sacrifice to save an innocent child who the Hobgoblin had deliberately put in harm's way, dying in the process. This made Spider-Man more disgusted with the Hobgoblin than he ever had been; in the end, the demon who his wickedness had spawned had been more noble he had.
- The Sandman, a member of Spider-Man's rogue gallery, is often portrayed as rather heroic despite being a villain. He has a moral code and is not above teaming up with Spider-Man if the situation requires it.
- Namor the Sub-Mariner retains his nobility the times he passes the Face–Heel Revolving Door between Anti-Villain and Anti-Hero. He's fully smitten with Sue, but respects her choice and seeks to legitimately win her heart.
- This is the common characterization for Thanos the Mad Titan of the Marvel Universe, post-The Infinity Gauntlet.
- Venom. He may be a violent psychopath determined to destroy Spider-Man and anyone who gets in the way of that goal, but he always tries to avoid hurting innocents and in fact tends to go out of his way to protect them. This is because, in Brock's delusional mind, he's the hero of the people and Spider-Man is the monster that New York needs to be saved from.
- Princess Lucinda from the reboot of Witch Girls Tales, so much. She has quite a sadistic side and a reputation as an evil princess... but for all her loudly-proclaimed villainy, she almost always seems to end up on the side of good, despite her rather Nightmare Fuel-rific methods — even by the standards of the setting, which is loaded with Body Horror transformations and remarkably casual murder. It's actually Lampshaded in one side comic, where it's noticed that unicorns will approach her, despite supposedly being amazing judges of character that never approach anyone evil. When someone suggests that this means she's just acting evil, she turns them into a frog for it.
- Batman Beyond Revisited: Ra’s al Ghul, who while having no conscience when it comes to killing criminals regardless of the collateral damage, is a man of his word and an honorable fighter…which is how Jake manages to defeat him.
- Blood and Honor: Sanguis has a personal code of honor which often conflicts with how Sith are expected to behave in the Empire. She regularly shows mercy to her enemies, keeps her word, frees Vette from slavery at the first opportunity, and engages in small acts of charity when prompted either by her friends or her conscience. On the other hand, she is completely dedicated to the defeat of the Republic, has no issue with slavery in general and loyally follows the orders of her superiors, even when they are personally distasteful to her.
- The Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. crossover fanfic Kage (part of Project Dark Jade):
Jade: Wow, a bad guy with honor? Now I have seen everything.
- Raythor is this, much to Jade's surprise. Among other things, his first reaction to meeting Jade is to refuse to let Nerissa force a child to fight their war. It's only when Jade herself insists on fighting (due to her own new vendetta against the Guardians and Elyon) and proves she can fight, that he backs down.
- Jade herself is only working with the villains because the Guardians' misconceptions and Nerissa's Blatant Lies have forced her into it, and she tries to remain a good person as much as she can under the circumstances. She is also a literal example of this trope, because she's currently an Oni, a Japanese demon.
- The Godzilla and My Little Pony:Friendship Is Magic crossover, The Bridge, gives us Monster X and Xenilla (aka Spacegodzilla). While still being a Xilian war weapon and not batting an eye at killing several Symbiotic Legion, X refuses to harm those who cannot fight back unless commanded to. Xenilla, on the other hand, isn't above pondering mass property damage and killing those whom annoy him, but keeps the actual killing down to those who are needed to die for his goal, and despite his rivalry with his "brother" Godzilla, is actually the least aggressive of the two.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: Jadeite is an interesting case. While how evil he was in his original media is debateable, there is a definite trend towards nobility after Pemployment under Keeper Mercury. It helps that, by the standards of the local dimension he is rather tame.
- Of further consideration is Keeper Mercury herself, who is veiwed as this by most of the lightworld governments- and she wishes people would just drop the villain part already.
- Zuko becomes this in The Masks We Wear.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Ballade is this, treating Mega Man with dignity while his allies don't.
- The (OC)Changeling Princess Ceymi gets to be this in two My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fics by two seperate writers. She genuinely believes that the Changelings must be ruthless to survive, and she is loyal to her Hive and Queen Chrysalis. She herself avoids any unnecessary cruelty, and does not like to kill Ponies — though she will if she is ordered to or believes that she has no better choice. In Phoenix_Dragon's Without A Hive, the story in which she originally appeared, she is the mentor and mother (though maternity means little to the Changelings) of the protagonist Nictis. In Jordan179's MLP Collateral Damage, she is one of the three main characters along with Jordan 179's OC Falcon Punch and the young Background Pony Cheerilee (age 9), in a story taking place almost two decades before the series and a decade before the start of Without A Hive (which is a long Coming of Age novel).
- A literal demon in the case of Baphomet from Warriors of the World: Soldiers of Fortune, who is more than happy to cultivate his image of being a bad guy, but has standards on wiping out entire races, isn't afraid to give the Normans a leg-up, and keeps to his word.
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures fanfic The Ultimate Evil, Shendu is portrayed as the lying and selfish demon he's known as in canon, but he's shown to have some honor with the way he saves the life of Valerie Payne (his Other and the Chans' ally) more than once. Even though he wants to make her his, he attempts to do it by her own terms: by making her to fall in love with him and not forcing her into anything. Eventually Valerie comes to view Shendu superior to Valmont.
In her eyes — she didn't know whether it had always been so, or if this was something new — Valmont was a scumbag criminal who would stoop to any means and do anything and everything just for a little money. But Shendu, despite being a lying, murderous and evil demon, had at times shown some form of honour, and he was more sophisticated and regal then Valmont. Valmont hid what he was behind an air of aristocracy and superiority that made her blood boil, but Shendu let you know up front what you were dealing with. That little shred of honesty, no matter how vile in its using, still made Shendu more worthy to Valerie then Valmont could ever hope to be.
- Thousand Shinji: Shinji is a manipulative asshole, but he has standards and limits. Usually he doesn't mind using, manipulating and backstabbing people, but he doesn't seek to destroy someone who hasn't done anything to him, and he refuses to betray his family and friends.
- Subverted in The Return — while demonic and of nobility, when Dark Star wants to "topple your castle", she'll use artillery, and then go in the ruins and personally kill anyone left.
- A Great And Powerful Heart: Sheriff Brass is a crooked, and racist scumbag. But despite pushing Trixie into an unwanted task, he does honor his promise to let her go when she completes the task, and even rewards her for her trouble.
Films — Animation
- Xibalba from The Book of Life is incredibly prone to cheating, be it giving the man he bet would marry Maria a medal of everlasting life or faking the death of Maria so the other man after her heart would commit suicide. But he is still married to La Muerte, and is willing to gracefully accept defeat and even assist the heroes when his plan fails regardless.
- Pterano from The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire. He's not above kidnapping, but he does make a point to strike his own henchmen to punish them for two things he considers intolerable: violence and asking redundant questions (though the latter is disproportionate on his part).
Pterano: If there's one thing I will not tolerate, it's violence!
Rinkus: Then why are you hitting me?
Pterano: Right... make that two things: violence and stupid questions!
- He then becomes The Atoner toward the end when he has a flashback to the last time he tried to find the titular Stone due to Ducky coming close to meeting the same fate as did one of the dinosaurs on the earlier expedition.
- Megamind is a perfect example of this, with more than enough affable evil thrown in for good measure. When he manages to "kill" his arch-nemesis in the first fifteen minutes of the film, he is honestly shocked and really quite horrified at first. After a brief villainous spree, he regrets his actions even more and works to make it right.
- This trope is also implied earlier on with how Roxanne responds to each of his death traps with little more than an eye roll and a snarky quip. Regardless of how many times she's seen them before, there's no way on Earth she would react so calmly to them unless she was absolutely positive that he wouldn't actually use them.
- His sole motivation for becoming a villain was there already was a hero. Everything he does is in the interest of preserving a balance. He even creates a new hero after "killing" the original one. Didn't work out quite as well as he hoped, but it's the thought that matters.
- In Rango, Rattlesnake Jake is considered one in the end and tips his hat to the main character, even calling him a Worthy Opponent.
Jake: "I tip my hat to you. One legend to another."
- Long John Silver from Treasure Planet. He's a pirate, and he burns down the Benbow inn and commits unknown other crimes, including conspiracy and mutiny. He's afraid of being seen as going soft, but he honestly cares for Jim, and when it comes down to a choice between his dream of untold riches and saving the boy's life, he saves the boy. Still doesn't stop him running away to escape being imprisoned, though before he leaves he does give Jim the jewels he managed to save so that the Benbow inn can be repaired.
Films — Live-Action
- 3:10 to Yuma: Ben Wade.
Wade: Kid, I wouldn't last five minutes leading an outfit like that if I wasn't as rotten as hell.
- The Amazing Spider-Man: Dr. Curt Connors is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who gains a dash of Ax-Crazy when injected with the serum. However, even as the Lizard he only has beef with those who attack him or directly get in the way of his plan. The first time he first transforms, he goes after Ratha who is on his way to play doctor with unwitting war veterans, and when he finds Gwen hiding with the Ganali device, he merely takes it from her and lets her live.
- Assault on Precinct 13 (2005): Marion Bishop. The show starts with him brutally killing an undercover policeman in a church. He later fights alongside cops who have him under arrest in the interest of "self-preservation". But at the end of the show, he walks away from the downed Good Guy, Sgt. Joe Roenick, despite the Good Guy now being his Sworn Rival.
- Avatar: Colonel Quaritch. He and his men serve a morally reproachful cause, by helping a mining corporation drive indegenous population away from their home and demolish said home, all for the sake of the precious mineral deposit underneath. But he takes steps to limit the civilian casualties, and even when the natives gather en masse to oppose them, he devises a plan to destroy their spiritual center, hoping to break their spirit and scatter them, rather than engage them in an all-out combat, which would likely turn into a massacre. He's also a A Father to His Men and is sympathetic to the paraplegic protagonist, until the latter goes native, then the gloves go off.
- Black Book: Müntze, the Hauptsturmführer was something of one as he was at least true to who he was and trying to do something approaching the right thing given his position as head of the Nazi security service. This is contrasted with the traitor inside the resistance.
- Byzantium: Darvell. Despite the rather elitist company he surrounds himself with he has always shown Clara kindness and is by far the most likeable member of Brethren. His loyalty to the brotherhood is born out of the fact they saved his life. He also respects both Clara and her daughter for how they've chosen their victims. He eventually sides with Clara in the finale.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Riddick. He's a villain in almost every way; a savage murderer and psychopath with a really sick sense of humour, but Even Evil Has Standards (he dislikes rapists and senseless killing, for instance), he is a lot closer to animals than people, and it seems he Wouldn't Hurt a Child (he seems to like children, and in return he often fascinates them).
- The Expendables: General Garza is a tyrannical Puppet King. However, he refuses to harm his daughter even after she betrays him. He is also genuinely sorry for the pain he brought to his people by collaborating with a corrupt ex-CIA official.
- Gangs of New York: Bill "The Butcher" Cutting. He's a ruthless murderous gang leader and a 19th century equivalent of a mafia boss, but he cares for the children and elderly who live in the five points in old New York. He despises lying and deception in all its forms and has a man killed for betraying the film's protagonist who planned to murder Bill: meaning, he killed a man for saving his life because he regarded any form of betrayal to be worse.
- Even before that point, when referring to Amsterdam's father, he says, "I killed the last honorable man 15 years ago." Bill is a nativist who would like nothing more than to see all Irish-Catholics thrown out of America.
- Godzilla generally levels out into one of these. Destructive? Yes. Uncaring? Ayup. But at the end of the day, he hates other kaiju a lot more than he hates people.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Yondu and the Ravagers. They may be space pirates whose motto is "steal from everyone," but they have a code and they stick to it, even helping defend Xandar with the Nova Corps during the final battle against Ronan.
- Mad Dog in Hard Boiled. He's Johnny Wong's top enforcer, and one of the most prominent members of the weapon smuggling Triads in Hong Kong. However, he possesses a very strong sense of honor, and openly expresses his disgust for those who betray their superiors. He also refuses to harm innocents, which is why he tries to kill Johnny Wong when the latter guns down a bunch of patients in cold blood during the hospital takeover just to get at Allan.
- Heat: Neil McCauley may be a professional criminal, but he has a sense of decency that clearly outstrips all other criminals and many cops. He doesn't want to kill the security personnel he robs from and is angered when his accomplices do so. And he holds much more anger and malice toward other criminals who engage in duplicitous and inhumane behavior against him and his friends than against the police. He cares for those close to him as much as any hero, and it's impossible to not sympathize with him most of the time when he's shooting someone, as they usually deserve it.
- Hellraiser: Pinhead and the Cenobites, as they were originally depicted as targeting only those who solved the Lament Configuration, along with those who had solved it and tried to elude them. Even so, solving the box in itself isn't sufficient cause for retrieval, as there has to be some sense of desire behind the act for the Cenobites to take an interest (which was why Tiffany from Hellbound: Hellraiser II was spared). They are also not averse to occasionally bargaining with their targets, with mixed results.
- Captain Friedrich von Hecht in Hornets' Nest. He sees partisans (civilian resistance) as unlawful combatants and treats them accordingly, however he considers ordinary Italian civilians as being off-limits. He'll use threats to try and dissuade them from helping the partisans, however he is never shown actually going through with it, and looks down his nose at the SS because he disapproves of them targeting civilians as revenge for partisan activity.
- In Bruges: Harry is a violent crime boss, but with principles and a clear moral code. He is a caring father and does not tolerate anyone who harms a child, even by accident.
- Although Ray and Ken could both also be seen as examples. Nobody in the film ever comes across as clearly evil.
- Ip Man: General Miura, who is brutal and vicious out of a sense of patriotism, as a contrast with the sadism of Smug Snake Colonel Sato, and is, in his own albeit Combat-Pragmatic way, an honorable, traditional Japanese Warrior.
- Joshuu Sasori: Matsu is a multiple murderess, desperate Combat Pragmatist, serial prison escapist, and veteran manipulator of those around her. However, she only kills those who wrong her; she can't bring herself to kill Yuki's brain-injured brother when Yuki begs her to, and while some prisoners hate her, she looks out for those who help her, help others, or hold no malice. Really, she's forced by circumstances into becoming a demon and retains her basic nobility. In a way, this is played literally - there's a visual theme of Yuurei symbolism implying a supernatural driving force behind Matsu.
- Similarly, Captain Klaus Woermann in The Keep. Despite an Establishing Character Moment where he tells his driver that the Nazis are the "masters of the world" ("Does that enthrall you, Oster?"), he's another "no civilains" kinda guy and goes out of his way to ensure that relations between his troops and the Romanian villagers are good, even going so far as to punish one of his men he catches trying to loot. He is enraged later on when the SS execute several people for suspected partisan sympathies. When accused of incompetence, he unloads a scathing indictment of the SS and their policy of targeting civilians: "My competence was proven in combat... against people who shoot back!"
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Senator Paine, complete with a Heel–Face Turn.
- Muppet Treasure Island: Long John Silver is very charming, polite and actually cares for Jimmy. He even goes out of his way to protect Jimmy at one point.
- Le Samouraï: Jef Costello. Even if he is a hitman, he has a clear set of morals.
- Star Wars: Boba Fett has been characterized as this retroactively. He's extremely brutal and pragmatic in combat, will work for anyone that pays him enough, and gladly aids the Empire. However he's also a strict professional and is bound to a strong code of honor; he only takes jobs that meet his harsh sense of justice and has frequently screwed over scumbags who hire him once they're no longer of use. He also has a soft spot for children, particularly orphans, partly because of his own difficult childhood. Some expanded universe works suggest that he works with the Empire because he genuinely believes that they'll bring some level of order and peace to the galaxy.
- The Streetfighter: Kowloon Dingsau may be the most feared Yakuza boss in Hong Kong, but he has a code of honor. He has numerous Pet the Dog moments, particularly toward Junjo (himself also a Type I), and he does a Heel–Face Turn when King Stone tags Terry during the climactic deathmatch, becoming the only Yakuza (apart from Junjo, who is himself presumed dead until the second half of the sequel) to live to see the end of the film. That said, you have to be really stupid to provoke him into killing you (just ask King Stone and Jadot).
- Quentin Tarantino's films usually have at least one character of this nature in them, seeing as they usually require us to empathize with and support vicious, murderous criminals. Examples include:
- Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn is a ruthless, violent professional criminal who nevertheless has an inner core of decency and, in fact, comes across as downright heroic compared to his psychotic rapist-murderer brother, Richie (who he vocally expresses disgust against). For bonus points, Richie is played by Tarantino himself.
- Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs, who coolly and emotionlessly kills police officers and is willing to kill innocent civilians if it will help him, but expresses disgust at the psychopathic excesses of Mr. Blonde and treats the terminally wounded Mr. Orange with almost paternal care.
- Bill in Kill Bill. He's the head of an international team of assassins, and was the mastermind behind the El Paso chapel massacre that left The Bride comatose and had the rest of the wedding rehearsal attendees killed. However, he refuses to let Elle Driver kill The Bride in her sleep, as in his own words "that would lower us", and is a loving father to The Bride's daughter.
- Kazuya is this in Tekken: Blood Vengeance, since not only is he shown to not be a bad boss to Anna Williams, he's more concerned about beating the crap out of Jin than the atrocities committed on Shin Kamiya's class.
- The Town: Ben Affleck's Villain Protagonist is a pretty good example. Despite being a career criminal and ruthlessly efficient bank robber, he is personally a very nice and sensitive guy, is disgusted by his colleagues beating people or taking hostages, and cares a lot about his community to the point of donating his stolen money to local charities. It's not hard to see how a woman could fall for him even after finding out that he was involved in robbing her bank and taking her hostage, leaving her with PTSD.
- Utu: Although Te Wheke kills white settlers indiscriminately, he respects courageous warriors. This rebel Maori spares the life of wounded cavalry officer Lt. Scott so they can fight again on more equal terms.
- Atlas Shrugged: Imagine 1,000+ pages of characters constantly doing this. Whether they're making a Heroic Sacrifice when being blackmailed with a Sadistic Choice, giving food and shelter and later a job to a homeless man, or devoting their life to (what they see as) recovering stolen wealth and returning it to its rightful owners, with no monetary or material benefit to themselves, they will find a way to rationalize it as being "selfish."
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy: The title character is a literal Noble Demon (he prefers to be called a "djinni," though; "demon" is rather rude).
- Belisarius Series: Damodara, a Malwa noble, starts off as being a Reasonable Authority Figure (especially in comparison to his gratuitously evil peers) and insists that not ruthlessly executing subordinates for failures is purely a pragmatic thing to do. Later, after having been in command of the highly honourable Rajput army, even he has trouble convincing himself that his actions are those of a purely pragmatic nature.
- The Canterbury Tales: The demon featured in "The Friar's Tale", while declaring himself motivated by purely evil intentions, expresses a willingness to act toward good ends by punishing members of the Corrupt Church of the day. He also avoids the Literal Genie behavior of other demons, only actually taking what people damn (e.g. saying "Damn you" to a person, animal, or object) when they truly mean it.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Several characters follow the religion of Tash, who is basically that world's Satan, but are genuinely decent people who follow that religion only because they are brought up in it. Most notable is Emeth, an honorable Calormene soldier who is taken to Aslan's country (Heaven) at the end of The Last Battle despite having spent his life striving to serve Tash as faithfully as he could. Aslan explains that, just as evil done in his own name counts as service to Tash, he considers Emeth's pure-hearted and noble actions in Tash's name to be service to himself. There's also Alimash, Aravis' Calormene cousin, who Bree describes as a "worthy nobleman."
- The Cinder Spires is set in tall spires of incredibly hard stone set After the End. In Spire Albion, there are habbles, living areas made one on top of the other. The gangs that run Habble Morning are revealed to be basically this. They run things to keep their illegal activities going, protect those who pay their protection fees, deal with any outside criminal trying to make way in their territory all for the name of profit. Spirearch, knowing he didn't know if there was a mole in his own Guard, sent private word and money to the gang leaders to prepare in case civilians needed to be evacuated from the Habble. They kept to their word and the civilians were moved to safety with no casualties during the major attack, and they helped with firefighting teams.
- Dragonlance: Raistlin Majere. An embittered, power-hungry Magnificent Bastard with a slew of Pet the Dog moments and a love/hate relationship with his twin Caramon.
- Also, the Knights of Takhisis, who modeled themselves after the Knights of Solamnia. They are Card Carrying Villains who follow an evil goddess but stress chivalry, respect for their enemies, and loyalty to their comrades in arms. They frown upon the backstabbing, self-serving ways of their predecessors, the dragonlords.
- In fact this trope was deliberately invoked in-universe. Age after age, the forces of evil would attempt to conquer the world, get most of the way there, determine that victory was inevitable, then start to turn on each other as each petty evil overlord tried to come out on top of the others when the dust settled, which gave the heroes the chance to regroup and turn things around. Takhisis was sick and tired of this, so she discarded the majority of her forces, all the hordes of monsters and minor tyrants, in order to found a knightly order who would follow a strict code of conduct and honor. They were much less powerful overall than her previous armies, but their unity and integrity made them much more dangerous than the less discriminate monsters of the past.
- Also, the Knights of Takhisis, who modeled themselves after the Knights of Solamnia. They are Card Carrying Villains who follow an evil goddess but stress chivalry, respect for their enemies, and loyalty to their comrades in arms. They frown upon the backstabbing, self-serving ways of their predecessors, the dragonlords.
- The Dresden Files.
- Gentleman Johnny Marcone runs a cut-throat criminal empire, but he will not tolerate rape, and he likes for his business to be done cleanly. He is renowned for 'disappearing' any gangster who hurts/tries to sell drugs to a child. He is fine with Harry and works with him when their interests coincide, and, as of Ghost Story is funding La Résistance as a way of keeping the Fomor off of his territory. He also steals the Shroud of Turin to heal a victim of a shootout between his gang and another
- Subverted in Death Masks by Paolo Ortega, who does a very good job of appearing to be an honorable vampire who only does what he must out of loyalty to his Court, wanting duel Harry to settle the war between the Red Court and White Counsel even if he threatens Harry's loved ones to force him to do so. In reality he is as ruthless, pragmatic and evil as any Red Court vampire and just puts on the act for political advantages, as shown when tries to force Harry to lose the duel by continuing to threaten his loved ones and pulls out a gun when things don't go his way.
- Also, Lara Raith. Similar to Marcone, she has her own (albeit, twisted) sense of honor and integrity, as Carlos Ramirez states that her word is good, and will frequently work with Dresden when their goals coincide, to the point where she could easily be mistaken for one of the good guys. Until Turn Coat, where she thoroughly disabuses Dresden himself of the notion that she's a "good guy."
Lara: At what point did you forget that I am a vampire, Dresden? A monster. A habitually neat, polite, civil, and efficient monster.
- Proven earlier in White Knight, where she's heavily implied to be the one who gave Lady Malvora the plan to target the Ordo.
- Leto Atreides II from Frank Herbert's God-Emperor of Dune rules the Galaxy as a tyrant for 10000 years to enforce peace.
- Eisenhorn: Daemonhost Cheruabael demonstrates some shades of noble behavior, especially towards the end of the story.
- Elantris: Hrathen. He's one of the top priests of the Corrupt Church, has a menacing (and largely accurate) reputation in his own right, and he's every inch the Magnificent Bastard, but unlike other leaders of his religion, he really does care about the spiritual wellbeing of his followers, derives no pleasure from unncessary destruction, and executes a Heel–Face Turn after his Ax-Crazy sidekick decides to pole-vault the Moral Event Horizon without Hrathen's consent.
- Good Omens: Crowley is possibly the Trope Codifier: a demon situated on Earth whose assigned mission is to spread sin among humans and, in fact, was the original serpent who tempted Eve. However, six millennia of living with humans influences him to the point where he's become fond of humans and doesn't like the idea of them being wiped out in the Apocalypse - in fact, he actively tries to prevent it. There's also the fact that his best friend Aziraphale is an angel who's supposed to be his sworn enemy. Aziraphale could be considered a mild inversion of the Noble Demon, as while he sincerely believes in and commits himself to goodness, he displays decidedly un-angelic traits such as materialism, pettiness, and going on drinking binges with a demon.
- Aziraphale actively works against Heaven's plan to bring about armageddon just as resolutely as Crowley works against Hell's. The story implies that the actual differences between the two afterlives aren't as big as advertised, and that God isn't actually actively on either side.
- When you've spent 6,000 years on Earth with no other supernatural entities but each other for company, an Agreement is inevitable. Crowley is still Evil, but not too evil; and Aziraphale can be Good, but not too good. And they should probably thwart each others' plans once in a while for, you know, appearance's sake. And there's nothing wrong with the occasional cup of tea together. And Crowley's car is a much better means of getting around so it's surely OK to ride together once in a while, when necessary (although Aziraphale just cannot come to appreciate Crowley's taste in music).
- Not even Crowley can appreciate Crowley's taste in music. Any cassette left in his car for more than two weeks, no matter how soothing or classical, metamorphoses into a Best of Queen album, which was bad enough before Freddie Mercury starts giving him messages from the demon commanders of Hell.
- And living together in cottage somewhere in the South Downs just makes it easier to keep an eye on each other's misdeeds/good deeds; it's certainly not fraternizing, nothing friendly about that at all.
- And when Crowley rushes into a burning building without a second thought because he thinks Aziraphale may be inside...
- Crowley himself insists that the reason he ended up in the rebellion is simply because he hung around with wrong crowd;
- Honor Harrington: Rob S. Pierre is a ruthless Dolist manager who clawed his way up to become the head of the People's Republic of Haven. He did it mostly to fight off the other factions who would have done it anyways and been worse than him, and he actually has a plan to fix everything. It actually works, and when a democratic revolution after his death establishes a stable and free government, they owe his efforts at fixing the economy.
- Pierre is more of a Tragic Villain, who continued the path the Legislaturalists laid out before him because the Havenite economy would collapse otherwise and he could see no way out. Stephen Westman is a more accurate example. He bombs are designed to affect and discredit the Star Kingdom of Manticore, and he sends warnings to evacuate before his bombs detonate. It surely couldn't be echoing the original IRA in a fantasy counterpart war, could it now?
- The Immortals: Rikash Moonsword. He's only Daine's enemy at all in Wolf Speaker, where he's smart enough to try to kill small animals venturing indoors, but he doesn't directly attack her, seems vaguely embarrassed when she finds out that he's friends with lonely Maura. Later he's more directly Daine's ally, and she trusts him, though he never lets up on the snark.
- General Ashal from Jingo.
- John Rain: The title character is a freelance assassin. However, he has rules about which jobs he accepts. He will not harm women or children and he will only target "principal actors", meaning he won't hurt a target's friends or family members to "send a message."
- The Master and Margarita: the Devil himself appears in the guise of a man named Woland, with an entourage of mischievous and ruthless pranksters who wreak havoc upon 1930s Moscow. However, his actions often serve the purpose of exposing the greed and hypocrisy of his victims, and the ordeal he imposes upon Margarita is designed to bring out her better nature, for which he rewards her and the Master. Some interpretations of this novel describe Woland's actions as inspiring good through instigation, rather than through example, as Christ does.
- Well, yeah, that's certainly one view, but Woland's a very complex and deliberately ambiguous character so much so that almost every critic you read is going to have a different take on him. At the end of the day, his motives are always pretty opaque and Margarita and to some extent the Master excluded everyone's a target, with some not-exactly-evil folks getting pretty traumatised by the end. Plus, it doesn't really seem that he's always doing what he wants to. It's both implicit and explicit that Woland has no real dominion over this world. He's more of a catalyst than a force in his own right — he sets up the situation, but ultimately can't force anyone towards anything they don't choose and which isn't in their character — and that he's ultimately answerable to a higher power and its bigger plan. He's pretty powerless and being as opaque and multidimensional as he is, we can't say that a souped up Woland who isn't held in check wouldn't just be a soulless jerk on a rampage. His whole behaviour could be explained as not being able to do anything — but and if he had more power and more free will, well...
- Nowhere Island University: Ulfric Trollbjorn is a near-mute psychotic, with a constant Slasher Smile, disturbing strength, a distinctive giggle, and has a reputation for being Ax-Crazy in a setting filled with other Ax-Crazy individuals. However, he is a good loser, and if you beat him, you'll have earned his respect.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: there are quite a few theoretically villainous or antagonistic characters that act rather decently, at least to some people. These include Jaime Lannister, Sandor Clegane, Jaquen H'Gar, and Petyr Baelish, all of whom have acted decently towards protagonist characters when they didn't have to. Then again, the series tries to show all of its characters as three-dimensional and well-developed.
- Your mileage may definitely vary on Petyr Baelish; the only character he's kind to is Sansa, and that's only when he's not sexually harassing her. His nobler moments come off as squicky to some. This is the problem with Petyr... you're never quite sure when he's donning any particular behaviour pattern (including this one) as a mask, even as a reader: heaven help the characters he interacts with.
- Jaime Lannister is probably the best example; his biggest evil act was the murder of King Aerys after swearing to protect him, but what most characters don't know (or conveniently forget) is that Aerys was a crazy son of a bitch, who, if he had lived just half an hour longer, would have ordered his capital city burned to the ground with wildfire, killing hundreds of thousands of civillians as well as the enemy. Jaime himself laments that he's loved by one for a kindness he never did, and reviled by thousands for his finest act—though, despite a sympathetic PoV and some heavy duty character development, he remained pretty unrepentantly demonic until A Storm of Swords.
- He also threw the young son of his host out of one of the higher windows of a castle, permanently crippling him. He becomes much more sympathetic when (two books later) we realise that he did it for the great love of his life (not a nice lady herself), that he had intended the child to be killed instantly, and that he is deeply remorseful for it, considering it his own Moral Event Horizon. By the time his PoV comes up, he has a humongous pile of other things (many immediately dangerous) to worry about... so, it's not looked at again in any great depth due to having been put in the stock pot of "miscellaneous things to guilt about in aggregate at 3 am, but which I don't usually have time for" he has constantly on the backburner.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- For a Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis surprisingly fits this trope. For one thing, when Plagueis takes Palpatine under his wing, he makes it very clear that, although he is going to make Palpatine's training a living hell, he will not attempt to continue with Darth Bane's legacy of backstabbing, and intended to share everything he knew to Sidious expecting that he'd do so in return. Unfortunately, Sidious still managed to continue the legacy.
- In his appearance in Galaxy of Fear, Thrawn comes off this way. He's cold and fairly callous and calculating, but he's also fair - when he thinks another character is responsible for the deaths of some of his men, he tries to find out the facts, and as soon as he's sure they didn't do it, he lets them go. He's also the only character in this series to really acknowledge that the protagonists are children - when Tash is rude, he crisply informs her that since she's a child, he won't take offense. This time.
- Any bounty hunter who follows the Bounty Hunters' Creed.
- Boba Fett fits this trope nicely. He is the Consummate Professional, and while he will work for anyone who can afford his prices, he does have a code of honour and a sense of justice. His justice is just much more direct and no-nonsense. The "evil" in him comes from the fact that he believes order, no matter how it is achieved, is preferable to chaos; so he'll work for a genocidal xenophobic totalitarian faction like the Galactic Empire because he genuinely believes it's better than the alternative of chaos across the galaxy without a unifying power. But he has standards and acts on them frequently, refusing jobs that do not meet his exacting standard of justice or outright refusing to do things that he considers wrong, like sniping the clone of Starkiller when he was distracted kissing Juno Eclipse.
- Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: Sorceress Arachnia, before her Heel–Face Turn. Justified in that she was very lonely and was committed to the path of an Evil Sorceress mainly because The Tradition was pushing her along.
- Don Simon Ysidro from the Barbara Hambly novel Those Who Hunt the Night — despite being a vampire — has a distinctive sense of honor due to his nobility (noblesse oblige).
- Vampire Hunter D: Baron Balaz from Pale Fallen Angel. He's a vampire, but also a protagonist due to his extreme sense of Honor Before Reason.
- Young Bond: Zoltan the Magyar from Blood Fever is a ruthless criminal working for the Big Bad, but he keeps his promises and ends up saving Bond from certain death.
- Roger Zelazny's Lord Demon had retired for a time before the story opened. Before that, he was known for hacking down armies with his sword.
- And in Zelazny's Lord of Light, the demon king Taraka not only helps the hero in his war, but develops (by possessing the Buddha) a sense of shame and remorse. By the end, he's only a demon in form and desire for power.
- Illyria, who is a literal demon king, has a tendency to give self-serving justifications for her helpfulness. Given the above Buffy example, this might be part of the reason why she gets along with Spike so well.
- There's plenty of benign demons in the Buffyverse, but Lorne goes above and beyond the call of duty. His club, Caritas (Latin for "sanctuary") was specifically designed to bring human and demonkind together peacefully.
- Breaking Bad: Mike Ehrmentraut, a former police officer who works as a bodyguard/hitman for meth kingpin Gustavo Fring. All of his actions are ultimately driven by a desire for his next paycheck, but he also has a strict policy about providing for his family at all costs, and refusing to abandon former allies who have fallen into the hands of the law. Tellingly, his main conflict with Walt in Season 5 comes when Walt plans to orchestrate the assassinations of all of Gus' incarcerated agents to get out of paying them for their continued loyalty. Mike makes it clear that this crosses a serious moral line, and refuses to even consider going along with it.
- In the transitory stages of his Badass Decay, this accurately describes the normal behaviour of Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an escalation from his previous instances of Petting the Dog.
- In Charmed, the Council of the Cleaners is made up of two Elders and two powerful demons. Either both or one of them agreed with the decisions regarding at first letting the Charmed ones off free but at the cost of Morris' life (this was reversed before he was killed) and then agreed to punish Phoebe only for her trying to use magic to short-cut her path to finding a husband.
- Grey from Choujin Sentai Jetman. As opposed to Radiguet, he believes in fair play and strangely has an extra devotion to Maria, because he likes her. He even gets pissed at Radiguet's plan to turn Maria into a vampire to become his queen, and pleads with the Jetmen to restore her humanity so she can die human, not as a monster. While he does fight Gai in his end, his reasoning for that boils down to just "I'm a warrior, this is all I can do". He died commending Gai for his victory and muttering Maria's name.
- Doctor Who:
- Jano in "The Savages" is the chief of a powerful high-tech civilisation that runs its technology through kidnapping and draining people from an undercaste. While he stringently regards them as worse than animals, the Doctor is able to snare him in a Batman Gambit by observing Jano's reasonable treatment of his men and dedication to his role of benevolent leader, getting him to implant a Soul Fragment from the Doctor into himself and causing him to have a Heel Realisation as a result of gaining the Doctor's morality.
- The Master is sometimes portrayed as a Noble Demon, often mentioning his friendship with the Doctor, or expressing regret at inconveniencing the companion, between stages of his plan to rule the universe and kill them both.
- The trope is subverted in the episode "Boom Town", in which the villain claims that her sparing of a journalist is evidence that she isn't evil, and the Doctor completely dismisses the idea, pointing out that it's just a rationale she uses to live with herself.
Margaret: I promise you I've changed since we last met, Doctor. There was this girl, just today, a young thing, something of a danger. She was getting too close. I felt the bloodlust rising, just as the family had taught me, I was going to kill her without a thought... and then, I stopped. She's alive somewhere right now, she's walking around this city because I can change, I did change. I know I can't prove it—
The Doctor: I believe you.
Margaret: Then you know I'm capable of better.
The Doctor: It doesn't mean anything.
Margaret: I spared her life!
The Doctor: You let one of them go, but that's nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim is spared. Because she smiled. 'Cause he's got freckles. 'Cause they begged. And that's how you live with yourself. That's how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind's in the right direction, you happen to be kind.
[Margaret then attempts to turn his own argument against him:]
Margaret: Only a killer would know that. Isn't that right? From what I've seen, your funny little happy-go-lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on, because you dare not look back. Playing with so many people's lives — you might as well be a god. And you're right, Doctor, you're absolutely right. Sometimes... you let one go. [beat] Let me go.
- Saladin in "The Crusades" is treated as a more honorable figure then King Richard. He doesn't return Barabara from El Akir, but for good reason, pointing out he can't upset one of his commanders during a war. This does seem to keep with his portrayal in a lot of representations of the Crusades.
- The Imagin of Kamen Rider Den-O are time-traveling spirits whose goal is to ravage the past in order to change the future, typically pulling cruel Literal Genie tricks along the way. However, the series introduces several Imagin who don't know their original goal or simply don't care for it; all of these Imagin end up as good guys. The singular best example is Kintaros, whose partner wished to become stronger. While most Imagin would beat up anybody stronger than their partner, Kintaros possessed the young man's body and underwent physical training using his extreme strength. Throughout the entire ordeal, Kintaros displays exceptional honor, courage, and compassion, and it's no surprise he ends up partnered with Den-O by the end of the two-parter.
- Madan Senki Ryu Ken Do had Jack Moon, who while living by an ideology of "The Strong Rule and The Weak Obey" belived in a fair fight, he even refused at one point to revive his boss todestroy everything because it would violate his ethics as a swordsman, although his demonic nature would rear it's ugly head from time to time.
- In Merlin we have Morgause. When trying to kill the king of Camelot (a dude who drowns children) she puts everyone who might try to fight her immortal soldiers under a sleeping spell. While considered the villain, she actually doesn't do much of anything that is really evil, and has a lower body count than the heroes.
- Koragg The Wolf Knight in Power Rangers Mystic Force as well as his Mahou Sentai Magiranger counterpart Wolzard for that matter - constantly insisting on honor, and refusing to fight the Rangers as it would be "dishonorable to defeat a weaker opponent" (as a result of which, by the time he does fight them, they're too powerful for him to beat). It eventually turns out that his honorable side was an artifact of his previous heroic personality, before he was turned evil by a magic spell.
- Zen-Aku in Power Rangers Wild Force also has shades of this, although it's implied to be mostly a result of having fused with Merrick. Even after they're separated and he's defeated a second time, he somehow survives and decides to acompany Merrick on Walking the Earth and seeking atonement.
- Before them, there was Diabolico in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, a very literal example. In fact, his code of honor is strong enough that it eventually results in a Heel–Face Turn.
- And before him, there was Villamax (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy). And before Villamax, there was Ecliptor (Power Rangers in Space), the series' original Noble Demon.
- Mr. Cataliades from The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries.
- Supernatural: Crowley doesn't want the world to end and helps the Winchesters to find Death (partially because Lucifer would wipe out demons as well, but also because the other demons ate his tailor... it makes sense in context) and gives Bobby back his ability to walk... Although there was a deal (well, pawning) involved in the latter.
- Then subverted when it's revealed that he can't actually get Sam's soul back and has been getting the Winchesters to do his dirty work, leading to Cas burning his bones and effectively 'killing' him.
- And THEN it turns out that he was working with Cas so they could get the souls out of Purgatory.
- Todd from Stargate Atlantis may be a Wraith, but he's helped the humans out a fair bit with their various crises, some of which they caused in the first place. Todd is assumed to be killing and feeding from humans as usual when the Atlanteans aren't around (which is a necessity for any Wraith to survive). He does volunteer to be a test subject for an attempt to transform Wraith into beings capable of eating normal food, even if it doesn't work out in the end. What makes him stand out is that he considers Atlantis too useful to destroy, given how often he's benefited from their temporary alliances against his real enemy (rival Wraith). The one time he does act against Atlantis is when he believes (wrongly) that they have betrayed him.
- System Lord Yu from Stargate SG-1. Unlike the other Goa'uld, Yu is known for keeping his bargains, probably the whole "Asian honor" thing. He also lets Teal'c go after capturing him in "The Warrior". Unfortunately, Lord Yu ends up going senile, meaning he can no longer be trusted to keep his bargains because he doesn't always remember making them.
- Victorious: Jade may act like a bitch most of the time, but she pets enough dogs (or, should we say, Cats) to show us that she's actually one of these.
- The Wire: Proposition Joe is a drug dealer, but unlike many of the other dealers in the show, he has no desire to dirty his hands with violence whenever he can avoid it, as it's bad for business. His Pragmatic Villainy makes him quite reasonable and sensible: "buy for a dollar, sell for two". He regards himself as a businessman and wants nothing to do with anything else attached to the drug trade.
- For fans of Rhapsody (...of Fire), it's certainly hard to read this trope without a certain Shadowlord of the Black Mountain leaping to mind. This is his theme. Listen to the lyrics closely. Noble Demon? Dargor's his name!
- The subject of "Black Wings" from Bone Machine by Tom Waits could be said to be a Noble Demon or an Anti-Hero. "He broke out of every prison" and "they say he once killed a man with a guitar string", yet "he once saved a baby from drowning" and "there are those who say beneath his coat there are wings".
Myths & Religion
- Older Than Feudalism: Similarly, in the Ramayana, Ravana's brother Vibhishana is one. He makes a Heel–Face Turn and joins Rama.
- Whenever the devil in a Deal with the Devil plot is the literal Devil, classic works of fiction often portray him as this; in particular, those that make a deal with him get exactly what they ask for at the quoted price. Though the devil can be a Jerkass Genie when he feels like it, the thrust of most stories is the humans trying to wheedle their way out of the contract, not the other way around.
- The "demon king" Asmodeus from Jewish folklore is an excellent illustration, being portrayed as a wise and sometimes morally superior Worthy Opponent to King Solomon, as well as observant of Jewish traditions down to attending synagogues.
- This portrayal influenced the presentation of demons in Isaac Singer's short stories. A notable example would be the protagonist and narrator of "The Last Demon", who ends up with this distinction and acts as an Antagonist in Mourning after the entire town he tempts is exterminated by the Nazis. He ends up trapped without future victims, as his evil depends upon luring people away from good, making completely evil people of no use to him.
- Fagin from Oliver!. He is a thief, who trains others to be thieves, and works with Bill Sykes, but deep down he doesn't like his life and wishes the things he does weren't necessary, and tries his best not to be too bad. This trope is exemplified in the song "Reviewing the Situation":
Fagin: though I'd be the first one to say that I wasn't a saint, I'm finding it hard to be really as black as they paint. I'm reviewing the situation; can a fellow be a villain all his life?... I'm a bad 'un and a bad 'un I shall stay. You'll be seeing no transformation, but it's wrong to be a rogue in every way. I don't want nobody hurt for me or made to do the dirt for me, this rotten life is not for me, it's getting far too hot for me, there is no in-between for me, but who will change the scene for me? I think I'd better think it out again!
- This is The Undertaker and his brother Kane, when they're in a Face role. Treated more as a force of nature than an actual wrestler or superstar, Taker could hit a Tombstone Piledriver on anyone and have the crowd cheer for him. Once, Taker kidnapped perpetual-face manager Teddy Long, and Taker still got cheered. Kane, meanwhile, is pretty much always Ax-Crazy; he just targets faces or heels depending on his current alignment.
- Low Ki lashed out at perceived slights that were not actually dealt towards him in Pro Wrestling Zero 1, was part of his fair share of rotten power stables in New Japan Pro Wrestling and often tended to be an asshole during matches. Besides referees though, he generally respected officials, seemed generally happy to be in both companies, graciously accepted his awards and though he mostly ignored the cheering of the crowds for him, didn't resort to too much Cheap Heat or anything to really disquiet them.
- Vampire Warrior/Gangrel and his manager "Evil Queen" Kiara Dillon tend to be babyfaces since most of their 'evil' tends to be retaliatory towards those who crossed them first.
- Randy Orton's face run in 2010. The lyrics to his entrance music show that it's no secret that he's extremely evil-minded. But the more his face gimmick goes on, the more he shows that he has standards regarding respect and earning your victories. This was shown more than ever during the buildup to Survivor Series 2010, in which John Cena was the special guest referee in Orton's WWE title match with Wade Barrett. John Cena was a reluctant member of Wade Barrett's group, The Nexus, and Barrett said that if Cena awarded Barrett the title, then Cena would be free from the Nexus, but if Randy Orton won, he would have Cena fired for violating Nexus orders. Orton was one of the first to point out that if Cena were to screw him over in the title match, while he would keep his job, it would make him the biggest phony in WWE and would be disrespecting everyone who ever won it by handing it over to a man who cheated to win it.
- Ivelisse Vélez in Valkyrie's first incarnation. The other members claimed they were wronged, claimed to be classy or were only in it for the money. Vélez was the only one completely open and unapologetic about the group's intentions and methods. She was also the most sacrificial member and eventually kicked out for refusing to take a dive.
- Many of the demons of Exalted. The general demonic mindset is alien rather than explicitly evil, so it's possible for them to have agendas that might come across as weird or scary while ultimately being well-meaning or even pleasant. Ligier, the Green Sun, simply wishes for Creation to share in the glories of Hell (and is often drawn into Creation by lowly people with great need, who he will offer his services as a smith to), Amalion only wishes to create beautiful things (even if they are beauties that break mortal hearts), Alveua wants to give everything a sense of order and purpose (albeit through forging their bodies into useful items), and creatures as low in the hierarchy as the neomah somply want to create children, albeit from flesh harvested from multiple donors (and can be summoned by the tears of parents mixed with the afterbirth of stillborn children).
- In the Heroes Unlimited supplement Gramercy Island, there is the story of a demon who is given a human body and sent to the mortal world to redeem himself. He is promptly arrested for shoplifting food (he didn't know the local customs). While sitting in the interrogation room at a police station, he is asked if he's committed any other crimes. Not wanting to lie, he says that yes, he was directly responsible for the deaths of over three thousand people, many of whom he had killed with his bare claws...ed hands. "In fact, sixty of them were here in this city. Why do you ask, officer?" Attempting to arrest him, he defends himself by resuming his demonic form right there in the interrogation room. After the frightened cops drop 30 bullets into him without much effect, he apologizes and resumes his human form. The demon is then sentenced to one thousand years in prison, a sentence set to commensurate with the demon's extraordinary life span.
- Dungeons & Dragons has the Narzugons, or Hell Knights, who are Noble Devils. Unlike their scheming and manipulative brethren, Narzugons treat their foes with the utmost respect and courtesy, always allowing them the chance to surrender peacefully and always fighting fairly, which is far more than can be said for most other Devils. 4th Edition takes this even further by revealing that the Narzugons are actually the disgraced servants of the unnamed god Asmodeus slew in his ascension to godhood, and are now forced against their will to serve the Nine Hells. This may actually push them into full-blown Anti-Villain territory.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Talos of the Night Lords has been a thief and a murderer since childhood. He joined his Legion in their treachery during the Horus Heresy and has spent centuries killing and surviving using every underhanded tactic in the book. Yet he treats his useful slaves well, even kindly, and strives to live up to the (admittedly warped) ideals of his Primarch, in contrast to the rest of the Night Lords.
- The Alpha Legion's whole hat is being this, along with The Chessmaster and Fake Defector... maybe. During the Horus Heresy, the Alpha Legion often went out of their way to help Imperial forces even though they were supposed to be on Horus' side.
- From the same universe and its sister series several editions earlier, we had the Chaos God Khorne pre-Flanderization, whose servants generally fought with some degree of honor, and would frequently spare noncombatants on the basis of them not being Worthy Opponents. There were even cases of Khorne sending his daemons after servants who had offered him the skulls of noncombatants or other equally "unworthy" opponents. While this is no longer true of the vast majority of his servants, Khorne himself is still usually portrayed as honorable, and he refuses to allow his servants to use psychic abilities as they would be unfair. He is generally suspicious of Tzeentch, the god of sorcery and secrets, for the same reason.
- Warhammer has Abhorash and his Blood Dragon knights, who are basically a cult of martial vampires who have a code of honour which states that only cowards prey on the weak and defenceless, and so they travel around picking fights with worthy warriors and monsters and feeding on their blood instead. They're still bloodthirsty (metaphorically and literally), sociopathic undead monsters, but if you're a woman or child, they'll leave you alone.
- BIONICLE: Makuta Krika of Brotherhood of Makuta. Just as guilty as the other members of his species of plunging the Great Spirit Mata Nui into slumber and ruining the universe he was made to protect, but remains the only one with a functioning moral compass and fully aware of what he and his comrades have done, but goes along with it because he believes their fate is sealed either way. He offers mercy to his opponents when possible, questions the Plan of Makuta Teridax, finally pulls a Heel–Face Turn near the end to try and stop the Plan from succeeding, and upon learning that Teridax set all the remaining Makuta up to die he chooses to return to his comrades and warn them instead of escaping, knowing he would likely (and did) die by their hands for his betrayal. There's a reason he's considered by many fans to be the Ensemble Darkhorse among the Makuta.
- Transformers Generation One has a lot of these, especially as time went on and the Decepticons started to be portrayed with more depth and moral grayness.
- Thundercracker in almost every continuity. He expresses disgust towards Decepticons who kill innocents because "the Decepticons are forged through combat, not slaughter". In at least one continuity he abandoned the Decepticon military and became a neutral civilian after Megatron attempted to use a nuke on a civilian population just to kill Optimus Prime and his team.
- Cyclonus. He's brutal in combat and serves the Decepticons willingly, but avoids unneeded cruelty and holds a strong code of honor. In the IDW continuity, he refuses to feel bad about actions committed during his time in the war, but strives to be a good person and is driven by a desire to return Cybertron to its golden age.
- Soundwave in most continuities is undyingly loyal to Megatron and ultimately wanting peace and equality. He also tries to avoid violence that he considers unnecessary. The IDW comics highlighted this the most, with Soundwave attempting to start up a peaceful Decepticon commune on Jupiter after the Great War ends.
- Thunderwing in the original comic series. He's most famous as being the only Decepticon leader to gain the position through fair election.
- Sixshot, a powerful One-Man Army who will ruthlessly carry out missions, but who has a strong code of honor and refuses to harm children. In at least one continuity he actually pulled a Heel–Face Turn after interacting with one of the Autobots' human allies. In another he grappled with severe depression and remorse over his actions in the war, feeling like he had let himself be used as a weapon by evil people.
- Krok, at least in the IDW continuity, where he's ruthless in combat but reasonable and polite off the battlefield. He also bears no true hatred towards his enemies, as he's come to realize that there aren't as many differences between the Autobots and Decepticons as most think.
- Deathsaurus, well-known as one of the most noble Decepticon leaders. Not only does he try to avoid unneeded cruelty and have a soft spot for children, but he's very polite towards soldiers under his command, treating them with respect as long as they pull their weight. He's also motivated partly out of a desire to provide for his wife Esmeral and holds respect towards his archenemy Star Saber.
- Magus from Chrono Trigger. Everyone thought he was summoning Lavos to win his war in the Middle Ages. Turns out Lavos destroyed Magus' home and family in the Dark Ages and the whole war was so he'd have an army strong enough to defeat it. While in the past it's shown he's always been pretty cold, he offers your party advice on how to save Crono and his childhood pet cat follows him around very willingly.
- Played straight in Darksiders with Samael, who, on top of being a literal demon, states that the only reason he won't kill War is because he has his own set of moral codes.
- Planet Eater Pyron from Darkstalkers started out as a full straight villain in his debut, but then his ending in the third game indicates that he evolved into this as he began to show curiousity and respect toward Earth and its inhabitants, and chose to not destroy it at the end.
- Assassin/Sasaki Kojiro in Fate/stay night embraces his status as Caster's 'gate guardian' and enjoys warding off the heroes from whatever Caster's planning, but he's incredibly polite and only in it because of the good fight he gets from the heroes, without ill-wills and if they beat him fair and square, he'll congratulate them. Essentially, a Noble Demon.
- Several Nippon Ichi protagonists, and storyline party members, are Noble Demons (especially those who are actual demons), which usually comes into full display if you play through the official endings of their respective games. Laharl from Disgaea and Zetta from Makai Kingdom are prime examples.
- Valvatorez will have you know that he is very evil... by his own definition of evil. Which looks suspiciously not much like anyone else's definition of evil and more like Lawful Neutral with good leanings and an extra dose of Honor Before Reason. But still, evil.
- It's worth remembering that in the Disgaea series, "evil" tends to be playing ding dong ditch and not washing your hands after going to the bathroom. Valvatorez has a strong sense of order, but at the same time, rebellion is one of the themes of his character (sadly, this was somewhat Lost in Translation). "Wings That Can't Fly" is the music track embodying this theme. The game keeps putting bigger and stronger entities for him to rebel against in his way: first Warden Axel, then the corrupternment, all the way up to God. He's a demon who firmly believes in being "demonic," but his life as a Prinny instructor have given him a strong nurturing instinct. Allowing for Disgaea's somewhat distorted idea of morality, Neutral Good is the closest fit.
- Axel from Disgaea 2 fits this trope in it's literal sense. He loses all credibility and fame in the Netherworld because he actually cares for his family.
- Mao from Disgaea 3 is probably the most genuinely "evil" of the protagonists, and he limits most of his bad deeds to skipping class (vital for a demon honor student), and performing scientific experiments on skirt lifting. By the end, he has learned the value of true friendship and made peace with his father, and is this trope for sure.
- Generally, anyone who isn't this will be utterly despised by the protagonists as well as most other antagonists, once their true character is revealed. Nobody has any love for Seedle, Auron, Fake Zenon or Hawthorne.
- Valvatorez will have you know that he is very evil... by his own definition of evil. Which looks suspiciously not much like anyone else's definition of evil and more like Lawful Neutral with good leanings and an extra dose of Honor Before Reason. But still, evil.
- For a short time, Anji Mito from Guilty Gear. Anji has no desperation or pressure to make him join That Man and joins out of complete, unpushed free will (and HIGH level of curiosity) rather than being forced. However, despite all that, he's still friendly as ever to even That Man's nemesis (Sol), tried to befriend May at one of her endings, and in any moment he met Baiken, after one fight, he calls it quits.
- Lucifer from the Shin Megami Tensei series has a strong element of this in his characterization. He at least is very interested in convincing the people sent to deal with The End of the World as We Know It that listening to him is certainly better than going the Great Will's way. Guy's got a gift for making himself look good.
- Chai Ka from Jade Empire (though this is of the more literal persuasion).
- Street Fighter: Sagat before Street Fighter Alpha 3, he willingly became a subordinate of Bison in order to get stronger and embraced his status as one of Shadoloo's Four Devas. But over time, he developed into a Noble Demon who is disgusted by Bison's more underhanded methods of granting strength and eventually ditches him for good to resume a more healthy rivalry with Ryu.
- In Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2, the player may choose the half-angel, half-devil Dinah as their Guardian Beast. Her devil half claims to be heartless and evil, and that she's forced by circumstance to work for the main character. Her Catch-Phrase whenever Edgar or Aera announces his/her plans to do anything is, "I guess I don't have a choice."
- Ryudo from Grandia II begins the game this way, a cynic who actively embraces the unsavory reputation attached to mercenaries like himself. Conversely, fellow party member Millenia is a subversion, being the closest thing the series has to a literal demon (a fragment, in fact, of the setting's local Satan figure) who gets offended or pouty when others label her as evil.
- In Onimusha 2, the protagonist, Jubei, meets a literal Noble Demon — GOGANDANTESS!!! THE GREATEST SWORDSMAN OF AAAAAALL THE DEMONS!! — several times. While working for the demons by default, he refuses to finish off Jubei after he defeats him during their first encounter, and when you defeat him during your final encounter — having found a way to nullify his otherwise impenetrable forcefield — he expresses great respect for Jubei's abilities before he dies. At one point, he even he saves Oyu (Jubei's love interest) from certain death, by grabbing her as she is about to fall into a hole and whisking her to safety. He actually never claims or pretends to be evil in any way — he was simply born a demon, became an invincible swordsman, and thus got dragged into the Big Bad's plan for world domination and human extinction.
- Asch from Tales of the Abyss. Asch is not insisting that he's evil while acting good; he's insisting that he's the good twin while acting like the evil one. Asch has a large number of Kick the Dog moments, such as probably assisting with the slaughter of the crew of the Tartarus, possessing Luke's body and forcing him to attack Tear while Luke watches in horror, and, while Luke is trapped in his body, threatening to kill Luke's friends if Luke doesn't stop being concerned about Asch's welfare, in sharp contrast to Asch's behavior. Asch even says at one point that his Heel–Face Turn is not motivated by disgust over Van's intention to kill all the people of Auldrant, but the fact that he intends to replace them with replicas. It's not that Asch is insisting that he's evil, it's that he fails at being a good guy, as shown by his inability to reconnect with the party, especially Natalia. Even the Power of Love can't make him stop being a jerk.
- Jade Balfour is described by everyone, including himself, as a monster who experimented on harmless creatures, but he's one of only two characters in the game who even attempts to take responsibility for his actions. While constantly hinting that he's poisoned the party's food and so on, he reveals real concern for Luke, and the culmination of his character development hinges around Luke's inevitable death and the multitude of potential causes, demonstrating real concern for another human being. Jade's motivations eventually evolve from "going because I was ordered to do it" to "because I have to atone for my sins."
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, we have Richter Abend. Although he's pretty obviously the Big Bad from the beginning of the game, he's also the mentor (and not an Evil Mentor, but a true guardian to Emil), and while he often yells at his student, he almost immidiately apologizes thereafter. This only snowballs him into full Necessarily Evil status when you discover that his entire plot was to trick The Legions of Hell so he could become the guardian of the gate to Niflheim in place of Emil's Superpowered Evil Side, which had the slight downside of his having to burn for all eternity. Villainous Sacrifice, anyone?
- Bowser from Super Mario Bros., partially as the result of Villain Decay. He's done some pretty evil things before in order to win Peach's affection and take over the Mushroom World, including unthinkable things (with obvious evil intentions) like nearly bringing about the end of the universe and himself with it unintentionally, the latter not part of his plan, but he's unaware of such a possible risk. On several occasions, however, he's forced to team up with the Plumbers (and sometimes even Peach herself) to defeat an even greater threat, often because said threat has interfered with his plans, but he nevertheless unwittingly counters the evil things with good things to an extent. And they count as at least a step going "Turbo." One notable example is in Super Paper Mario, where Bowser and Peach are both kidnapped, and forcibly married by a third party to bring about the end of the world. Bowser is a fully playable character in this game, and at one point, Peach even calls him "sweet". (The fact that he still believes his marriage to Peach is valid helps as well...)
- This is especially apparent in his interactions with his minions. One would think that after all of his repeated failures, Bowser's subjects would stop listening to him, and the only reason they would still obey him is out of fear. This isn't true at all. Bowser's minions ADORE their ruler, and seeing him in scenarios like his conversation with an AWOL Goomba in Super Mario RPG makes it easy to see why.
- Rubicante from Final Fantasy IV is one of the four elemental archfiends serving under Golbez. Nevertheless, he apologizes to a protagonist for his parents getting turned into monstrosities by a subordinate, heals the party before fighting them to ensure that the fight is a fair one, and when defeated for the second and last time, accepts his defeat with 'Farewell, valiants.'
- Golbez himself gains this characterization in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, giving advice to his brother and the other heroes even while fighting them. It's revealed that he's actually working for Cosmos to end the cycle of battle.
- In Super Robot Wars Original Generations, Axel Almer's personality is changed into this (from the sadistic Jerkass seen in OG); now he is a man devoted to stopping Beowulf (Kyosuke's alternate diminsinon Evil Twin) because he REALLY is dangerous, not out of a personal grudge. Some of his new Noble Demon acts includes:
- When he tears off the Alt Eisen's arm, it's because he wants to check if this is the same Beowulf he fought or not (Beowulf's mech had the abilty to regenerate). Turns out, it's not, and he shows genuine surprise. So he ceases his relentless pursuit of Kyosuke, but still tries to defeat him because there is still the risk that he might become Beowulf. In OG, he did that out of sadistic fun, proving how much of a bastard he was. If it had been proven that Kyosuke was not Beowulf, he still delusionally thought they were the same.
- When Lamia defects from the Shadow Mirror and escapes captivity, instead of cursing about how she could escape, Axel says, "W17, turn yourself back into custody. If you do, I'll forget that you ever tried to betray us." Still refused, but it shows more of his generosity despite being a villain, if you compare that to what he did in the previous incarnation (where he mocked her for being 'a true broken doll').
- When he confronts Raul, the latter is furious because Axel interfered with him in the past, causing his sister Fiona to be caught in a time vortex and go missing. Instead of mocking him for his weakness (which is what he would do if he's still his previous self), Axel instead tells him that it's nothing personal. "It's war, casualties are expected, your sister just happens to be one. Mature up, boy."
- With all those...his eventual fate becomes obvious.
- In the Animated Adaptation of the second game: in the last episode, after realizing that the Shadow Mirror forces have been destroyed and he's the last member left, he fights alongside with the Kyosuke and co. to stop the Einsts and Beowulf, stating that "The world we sought was denied. But I will not let him [destroy and recreate] this one!"
- Neverwinter Nights 2 has Mephasm, who is quite nice for a demon (though that may be a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" situation more than any actual kindness on his part). You can later gain the ability to summon Mephasm in the basement of your home base. Whilst he is courteous and polite, he thoroughly warns you against trying to make a deal with him, telling you that, ultimately, it will not be worth it. However, you can still go ahead and do it.
- In Legacy of Kain, Kain and Raziel certainly qualify. They're a vampire and a soul sucking wraith, respectively, but are both trying, in their own way, to do what's good for the world, a few massacred townspeople notwithstanding. Kain gets some extra points for being an actual nobleman before his death.
- The battle music played when fighting the Devil Lords in Romancing SaGa 3 is called "4 Noble Devils".
- Elvis from God Hand is actually a pretty nice guy, for a demon. At one point, he punishes a pair of mooks for disrespecting one of their dead victims - by uppercutting them into the stratosphere. After their third and final bout, Gene himself laments that they couldn't be friends.
- Planescape: Torment features a *literal* Noble Demon (almost, since, in that setting, the difference between demons and devils is pretty significant), Fjhull Forked-Tongue. A Lawful Evil and unrepentant devil who (through an unwise contract) is forced to do good.
- Also, the intentional inversion appears in the same arc of the game: Trias the Betrayer, a lying angel with a grudge against Heaven and a willingness to cross the Moral Event Horizon.
- Star Fox's Wolf O'Donnell qualifies, what with also being The Rival and Fox's Enemy Mine.
- Sword Man of Mega Man 8 apologizes before the fight, saying "I've got orders." He compliments you if you completely avoid his Fire Slash attack, and congratulates you when you defeat him.
- Fire Emblem:
- Black Knight Camus from Fire Emblem Akaneiauntil he Heel–Face Turn-ed as Sirius in the sequel
- Lloyd and Linus in Fire Emblem Elibe were carried out the deeds of the Black Fang (and Nergal) but were relatively honourable.
- As a Plegian military commander, Mustafa from chapter 10 of Fire Emblem Awakening is obligated to try to capture or kill Chrom and his Shepherds, but he clearly wishes no harm to them personally, and is only fighting because Gangrel will punish his wife and child if he doesn't obey. When some of his men admit that they don't have the will to fight following the martyring of Chrom's sister Emmeryn, he gives them his explicit permission to leave the battle without fear of reprisal. His men think so much of him and are so moved by his care for their well-being that many of them choose to stay in order to fight to protect him, and upon his defeat he asks Chrom to spare his men.
- In Graffiti Kingdom, several of the demons actually seem like decent people while still embracing their position as troublemakers, but the one who plays it the straightest is Tablet, who is sneaky, sarcastic, always creepily smirking, and, as the local rival, challenges the protagonists to path-interrupting duels from time to time, and, before the ending, he kills his own father and takes his place as Satan and is reluctant to become "good" upon Pixel's suggestion exactly because he's a demon, yet he helps Pixel out and encourages him from time to time, though it's pretty heavily implied it's out of loneliness rather than morals.
- In Overlord, despite the fact that you are playing an Evil Overlord, you are given the option to choose the lesser of evils, usually involving giving the civilians what they need and saving the elves. Gnarl, who is Card-Carrying Villain incarnate, justifies this as Pragmatic Villainy, telling you that you will need living servants for your evil empire and that "Gratitude comes with it's own rewards." The sequel (which apparently does confirm that the previous Overlord was a Noble Demon) does away with this, the Overlad instead opts to just brainwash the populace into slavery.
- Illidan in Warcraft III qualifies, as do some of his followers.
- The Death Knight Thassarian from World of Warcraft. He is, by far, the most polite of the Death Knights, even showing genuine concern when one of his comrades is captured, causing the other Death Knights to look down on him. When he has the chance, he spares Koltira's brother's life, remembering his own mother's death. In fact, when the Knights of the Ebon Blade defect from the Scourge, he's the first Death Knight to rejoin the Alliance.
- Koltira Deathweaver as well. In one breath, he curses Thassarian's foolishness for sending you to rescue him, in the next, he risks his life to help you escape safely by drawing the attention of all the Scarlet knights in the keep. This is fresh off the torture table, too, which is pretty impressive.
- Thassarian and Koltira managed to become good friends during their time as Scourges, even though they were bound to the will of an Omnicidal Maniac who filled them with hatred to make them effective killing machines.
- Highlord Darion Mograine of the Ebon Blade Death Knights. While he pledges his knights to atone for their actions as the Lich King's slaves, he's not a nice guy by any means and he wants vengeance. He's rude, abrasive and generally very pragmatic in his tactics to the point of calling out Tirion for not using them. However, he's also driven by a pure love for his father and is overjoyed enough when they are reunited to give the adventurer his personal mount as a reward.
- The Death Knight Thassarian from World of Warcraft. He is, by far, the most polite of the Death Knights, even showing genuine concern when one of his comrades is captured, causing the other Death Knights to look down on him. When he has the chance, he spares Koltira's brother's life, remembering his own mother's death. In fact, when the Knights of the Ebon Blade defect from the Scourge, he's the first Death Knight to rejoin the Alliance.
- A variation occurs in Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier. Ezel Granada is extremely civil to his enemies, including both your party and the general whose forces his army decimated in a bloody war ten years ago. He seems like a perfect candidate for this trope, until you learn that he may actually be the most outright heroic character in the game, having personally put a stop to the war and spent the last ten years shouldering the burden of protecting the Endless Frontier from the Einst. He still thinks that he deserves to be called a villain, though.
- For Grand Theft Auto V, this is Michael De Santa in a nutshell. Pretty much all of the money he's made has come from a life of crime. But unlike his fellow Player Character, Trevor, who's basically The Unfettered, Michael makes a point of avoiding bloodshed if it's at all possible, preferring to use threats and bribes to keep people in line.
- Grand Theft Auto IV protagonist Niko Bellic is a Shell-Shocked Veteran suffering nightmares of the human rights horrors he had to witness/commit and desperately wants to live a peaceful life in America but is forced into his criminal ways due to his background and skill set, which is something he laments constantly but ultimately goes through with because he's good at it. Very often you'll hear him quip that he has no personal interest in what he does but someone's paying him to do it so it has to be done. If something crosses the line and becomes a personal affair he must deal with, Niko frequently chooses to abandon the money to settle things on his terms.
- Sabata, the, er, Dark Magical Boy in the Boktai series is like this after his Heel–Face Turn. He really believes in Darwinism, really! The Dark is superior to Light, he's just helping out for the challenge. Helping little girls recover their cats is just the result of the heroes' bad influence.
- Alastor from Viewtiful Joe is a rather transparent example.
- More obvious in the anime than the games, as he comes off as the Noble Demon from the start. In the games, he seems more like a self-proclaimed rival to Joe, but in Double Trouble!! seemingly sacrifices himself to save Joe and his sister. He gets better, though.
- Griff from Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale has this going on, especially after his Defeat Means Friendship incident. He plays it to the hilt, too, including such gems as:
Griff: I demand you sell this to me! ...Politely, of course.
- Asmodeus from Painkiller is a friendly little demon that helps Daniel in his battle against Satan's generals. Turns out, he is Satan in disguise and his generals were plotting against him.
- This describes you in Star Wars: The Old Republic if you are a Sith Empire character who keeps on choosing Light Side options. More than a few NPCs on said side are either this or Affably Evil.
- This depends on your specific class; Light sided Imperial characters can run the entire Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains; Inquisitors are type II by default due to their backstory and can go higher, Agents can easily hit type III or even Type IV, and while the Bounty Hunter is a Chaotic Neutral Hitman with a Heart at best and the Light Sided Sith Warrior is generally a type I, both can come across pretty heroic in certain situations.
- As far as NPCs go, Keeper is the head of Imperial Intelligence while remaining pragmatic at worst. He works for the Sith though it's clear that he dislikes their wanton cruelty but is smart enough not to say anything to their face. His main problem with an idealistic Agent is that he's concerned that this line of work will leave them traumatized and generally remains a Reasonable Authority Figure. In the end, he even states that he's never lost sight of his goal of improving the Empire, a goal that he believes that he's failed at.
- In Shadow of Revan and its prelude, Sith Lord Lana Beniko is this (in counterpoint to her Republic partner, SIS Agent Theron Shan). She approaches problems cautiously, is a devoted patriot of The Empire, and is no stranger to making cold-blooded sacrifices when strictly necessary, but she avoids the wholesale egotism and hedonism common to high-ranking Sith. Several times, she advocates for the player to take Light Side actions, usually because they're expedient. Both Imperial and Republic players can remark that she's not like other Sith.
- Darth Marr also presents a certain amount of nobility — for instance, when he agrees to a truce in the face of a bigger danger he fully means it and sticks to his word. He's level-headed, promotes his followers based on merit and not bloodshed, and understands when a more subtle approach is called for. It's implied that this is the reason he's painstakingly pulled the Empire back from the brink of defeat where his predecessors left it.
- Lord Dearche, the King of Darkness in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Gears of Destiny becomes this by the end of the game. After being convinced by her retainers that the times has changed and a plan that revolves around destroying everyone and everything isn't as meaningful nowadays, she decides that her new plan will involve starting over in a new planet and making the people there accept her as their ruler. This evil, evil plan of hers begins with saving the Unbreakable Darkness from her out of control powers and saving The Multiverse in the process, and continues with an extensive terra-forming project to save a planet that was on its last legs. Reminding her of what she's doing will make her break out in hives.
- Dragon halfling Halfas in Dragon Valor, who doesn't kill the player character when he has the chance. Instead he makes them "stronger" by giving them reason to hate him (either by killing someone or cursing the character), so that he'll be able face you in a fair fight. He even offers healing items to the player character before the said fight.
- The original Splatterhouse games portray the Terror Mask as a malicious force, but the remake downgrades him to a sadist with principles. He takes great joy in the slaughter of his enemies, but he's willing to act as a protector, so long as there's something to violently protect against. (On the other hand, his desire for vengeance against the Corrupted clouds his judgment, leading directly to the game's bad ending.)
- Thrynn of Skyrim's Thieves' Guild was this when he was a bandit. When his clan's leader, Garthek, told him to kill some women and children... it didn't end well.
Thrynn: I refused to do it, and Garthek ordered the clan to kill me as well... I left his head on a pike at the wreckage of the caravan.
- There's an actual demon in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal in the maze in Watcher's Keep who politely invites you to a non-rigged game, and gives you his part of the key after he's assured that he and his group can escape instead of just leaving you trapped. Noble Demon indeed.
- Sarah Kerrigan from StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. Yes, that Sarah Kerrigan. After being brought back to her pre-infestation personality, she goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Mengsk, but also tries to atone for her previous sins by following this trope. Eventually, this allows her to gradually evolve into an Anti-Hero.
- After his ship goes down with her on it, Professional Killer Gaspard in Dark Chronicle can be seen tending ally Monica's wounds. If not for his Heel–Face Door-Slam, he likely would have become an Anti-Hero, or at least a neutral party.
- Hawke from Advance Wars wants to Take Over the Worldnote , and he's willing to sacrifice friend and foe alike to do it. He's not willing to sacrifice allies or enemies out of revenge, nor is he willing to take over the world if it means destroying it in the process. He even offers to shoot Von Bolt in the end of Dual Strike not for payback, but so Jake (A late teen) won't have to do it.
- Sheeva is the closest thing to this among Shao Kahn's minions in Mortal Kombat 9; unlike any other villains, she doesn't seem to have anything personal against the Earthrealm Warriors. (In Jax's chapter, she doesn't take offense at all when Sonya insults her and the Shokkan in general, and in Jade's chapter, she claims that Kitana's execution is "the only means of regaining her honor".
- Mortal Kombat X introduces Kotal Kahn, who is a high-ranking never-before-seen Shao Kahn (no relation) minion that eventually takes leadership of Outworld after Shao Kahn's apparent demise. Unlike the former emperor, Kotal is generally reasonable and civil with Earthrealm in addition to being a Benevolent Boss. The only reason why he can be even considered a villain is being quick to grip the Idiot Ball if frustrated, in the sense of leading an attack on Earthrealm if he thinks they are conspiring against him.
- Fate/stay night has a number of these among the Servants: Rider, Assassin, Lancer, and even Saber herself when she's corrupted by the darkness in Heaven's Feel. Tohsaka Rin tries to be this to Shirou when getting him up to speed on the harsh realities of the Grail War, up until she finds herself truly allied with him.
- It could be said that Senator Armstrong of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an Inversion of this trope. Whereas a normal Noble Demon has noble means and evil goals, Armstrong has noble goals but ethically questionable means. Armstrong wants to bring down US society through force, which he thinks is ruled and manipulated by the powerful and wealthy political and financial elite. Once the crooked politicians and media moguls are gone, he will lead a new, prosperous America where everyone is free to do whatever they want without being told to manipulated by media and corrupt governments; however, he freely admits that this will create an America where the strong survive and the weak die and right and wrong are determined entirely by strength, and Raiden calls him insane, but Armstrong defends his ideals and truly believes he is doing the right thing. The theme song for his boss fight, "It Has To Be This Way", really hammers home the Not So Different nature of the two of them, and the moral ambiguity of his plans for America.
- While cruel, Heihachi Mishima from has some soft spots to prevent him to be equal or even worse than Kazuya.
- Bruce Irvin even moreso. He's working with Kazuya efficiently but is a Punch Clock Villain when outside his job, befriending, helping and inspiring children to become a better person.
- As it turns out, Akuma, is this to Kazumi Mishima in Tekken 7, as he promised years ago to kill both Heihachi and Kazuya in case she died, as part of a debt he owed her. Again, this is FUCKING AKUMA we're talking about.
- In Senran Kagura, the Hebijo girls are far from being as evil as they seem; in fact, the game goes to lengths to show that they are in fact really close to the Hanzo girls while being much more aware than them that they chose to live in a dark and violent world. Hell, "evil shinobi" means little more than being a mercenary rather than an actual villain.
- Homura: She fights to feel alive and to protect her Hebijo comrades.
- Yomi: Apart from her fixation on rich ojou-sama, she's probably one of the sweetest and most friendly of the Hebijo girls. But you have to be a good listener with an affinity for bean sprouts.
- Hikage: She has multiple opportunities to eliminate Katsuragi, but she never follows through.
- Mirai: She just want to be recognized, preferably as an equal.
- Haruka: She genuinely wants to be friend with Hibari.
- Augus from Asura's Wrath, who only fights him because he fights for the strongest side, and actually treats up Asura's wounds from fighting Kalrow's space fleet before fighting him.
- Word of God says that for all of his terrible reputation, Zamorak from Runescape is this trope. He certainly wasn't interested in the Noble side of it at first, but ever since then most of the evil things done in his name have been perpetrated by followers'' who fail to understand his more positive goals.
- Fallout: New Vegas allows the player character to become this. Good Karma Couriers can, while maintaining their squeaky clean methods, set up New Vegas as the slave capital of the world under the brutal heel of a self-confessed dictator. This can shift into Well-Intentioned Extremist if the Courier (and thus, the player) truly believes the Legion's brand of civilization is the best option for post-apocalyptic America.
- Blazblue Chronophantasma introduces a new antagonist in the form of Azrael. He's a mass murderer and causes destruction to almost anywhere he goes, and doesn't even have any compunctions against attacking his own allies. And he loves every bit of the mayhem he causes. However, unlike Terumi or Relius, his goal is rather small scale. He just wants a Worthy Opponent he can go all out against since everyone he fights dies even when he's holding back. If he finds a potential opponent that can give him a good fight, he will genuinely compliment and praise their skill and if Azrael wins, he'll let his opponent live so they can get stronger and they can fight again. He hates cowards or people who are strong, but refuse to go all out. And in one segment, he doesn't like people weaker than him being picked on.
- In Halo, Sangheili/Elites are often this: In a Terminal video from Halo 2: Anniversary, then-ONI agent Locke is giving background information on Thel 'Vadamee, a powerful Sangheili Commander, before he became the Arbiter. He tells the story of Thel and his squad ambushing a group of unarmed human soldiers, but allowing them to get dressed and arm themselves before slaughtering them. Locke notes that while this kind of "honorable" behavior is common among Sangheili, this was the first time that honor had been shown to human opponents.
- The Ace Attorney series gives us Shelley De Killer, an assassin who serves as one of the the culprits in Case 2-4. He makes it very clear that he upholds a strict code of ethics: he values the trust of his client above all else, and he always leaves his calling card at the scene of his murders so the police will know he was responsible and his client will be above suspicion. And when he discovers that his client, Matt Engarde, has betrayed him, he's more than happy to return the favor and make Engarde his next target.
- We also have Shiran Dogen from Investigations 2. Despite being an assassin, he went out his way to save the lives of two young boys who were freezing to death in a car (Horace Knightly and Simon Keyes). Dogen was then saved by Keyes at one point and Dogen looks after him as a father figure. He also harbored no ill will toward Edgeworth as he was the one that got Dogen locked up and, after escaping from jail to later save Simon Keyes from a fellow assassin Shelly de Killer, Dogen gladly went back to jail with Keyes saying "It's their home now."
- In Tyranny, the Fatebinder is a Villain Protagonist serving the resident Evil Overlord, Kyros, and their Empire. Kyros' laws are harsh and draconian, but Fatebinders are given a lot of leeway in interpretation — even if they don't outright pull a Heel–Face Turn, the player Fatebinder can very much play this role. It gets particularly bad if they do join the Vendrian Guard, but keep insisting they're doing it just to amass their own power base to Take Over the World; whatever their reasons, the epilogue makes it clear a Vendrian-aligned Fatebinder's actions greatly benefit the Tiers.
- Agent Washington from Red vs. Blue qualifies, at least late in Revelations. His brand of villainy is less out of genuine malice, and more out of desperation to get out of prison. As the bad guy, he's quite nice to hapless Doc, at least as nice as his personality allows. He ends up making a Heel–Face Turn (To counter his earlier Face–Heel Turn) by the end of the season, and has been firmly heroic ever since.
- Ito, the God of Trust and Betrayal from A Moment of Peace, steals dreams and crushes hopes for a living, and has prosthetic hands forged from moments of despair by crows that grew hands to strangle people. Despite all this, he seems to be a nice guy when you get to know him.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures :
- A fairly obvious example in Abel. Abel is pretty unambiguously good, he just tries to push people away.
- Fa'lina is perhaps a straighter example, running a school that teaches horrible things like torture, yet simultaneously seeming to really care about people (even strangers) and wanting to help protect them. Its not entirely clear whether she is simply crazy, has a deeper agenda, or is actually good and merely allows evil things in her school because otherwise should couldn't protect more cubi.
- Garland from 8-Bit Theater, although it's debatable whether he's noble or just stupid.
- The Demon from Friendly Hostility not only works as a nurse, but is also the Only Sane Man and the Nice Guy. Despite this, he's pretty cool with his family devouring human beings.
- Errant Story's Jon Amraphel likes to think he's a cold-blooded assassin Anti-Hero ("I kill people for money. I'm officially a not-nice person"), but gets called on it several times for all the times he Wouldn't Shoot A Girl and helped them escape, even setting them up with foster families.
- Many of the trolls in Homestuck are this when they are first introduced, in the "Hivebent" arc. Their culture explicitly endorses being a violent psychopath, and most of them have no problem with this (having been raised with it) and wish to grow up to work as soldiers for The Empire. However, all but a few of them are fairly kind and compassionate, and the aforementioned few who actually are violent are clearly treated as wrong by the others.
- Sandoval from Oglaf is a wicked nobleman and serves as ambassador for the elvish country of Xoan. He'll use, screw, and kill anyone he feels like, typically in flamboyant fashion yet he usually spares innocent, virginal Ivan simply because Ivan is an innocent virgin. Sure, he'll toy with Ivan, but that's merciful and gentle coming from Sandoval.
- Malack of The Order of the Stick is a vampiric dark cleric and loyal right-hand man to a brutal warlord. He is also cultured and cordial, and he goes out of his way to offer truces and compromises to fellow cleric Durkon because he doesn't want to have to resort to violence against someone he respects. When Malack is ultimately forced to fight Durkon and turn him into a vampire, Durkon pleads with Malack to show mercy on his comrades. And true to form, Malack leaves the paralyzed Belkar alive and, a short while later, does not reveal the Order of the Stick's position to Nale out of respect for Durkon's final wish.
- Jerak, who is a demon, from Planescape Survival Guide is convinced that he remains evil, even after helping the good guys eats rather significantly into his profit margins. His (also demonic) compatriots, Grull and Winnie, don't seem to mind alignnment shifts as much as he does.
- "Gav", the protagonist of Nukees, is an aspiring dictator-of-the-world, with a passion for gigantic weapons of destruction — and everything nuclear. But he's also helped his friends out of any number of tight spots, while constantly trying to cover it up so as not to lose his villainous reputation. The most notable example is probably when he saves a Damsel in Distress, but makes it look like he was trying to rape her instead...
- The cast of Something*Positive are a cynical, mean, and sometimes violent and sadistic bunch of people who always look out for their friends.
- Mosp, of Sluggy Freelance, is an extremely literal example, what with being a demon and also very, very noble. Her nobility comes across slowly as a product of Torg's compassion for her, and leads to her epic Momentof Awesome. It doesn't end well for her.
- Spondulio Wealthmonger from Unwinder's Tall Comics is considered "the most charitable person alive" by everyone. But Spondulio would be the first (and only) one to remind you that he's thoroughly selfish to the core, and that his many acts of kindness are actually the side effects of elaborate plans to make himself fabulously wealthy.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has a textbook example in the from of the title's Mad Scientist, a generally nice guy who wants to make the world a better place...but he's so cynical that he believes that this can only be accomplished by taking it over through classic supervillainy and rebuilding it according to his ideals.
- The Thing That Shatters The Sky from Critical Hit: A Major Spoilers Dungeons and Dragons Podcast offers to provide the Torqeltones safe harbor on the moon in gratitude of his liberation so they can live in happiness as his plans destroy the World. He seems unphased when they talk of choosing to fight him instead, telling them to weight their options carefully and consider whether the glory of taking down a void god is worth the perils of facing one.
- Kakos Industries has Villain Protagonist and Card-Carrying Villain Corin Deeth III normally fall into this. He's in charge of one of the biggest Evil corporations in the world, but is still a fairly lenient boss who honestly cares about his closer companions and has some sense of moral compass, making him far less ruthless than his competitors. He does have the occasional violent outburst and some severe cases Lack of Empathy at his worst, but is all around a pretty decent person.
- Played with in Tales of MU with Vice-Chancellor Embries. He's a "noble" dragon, employed by MU as their ace in the hole against the campus being razed to the ground again. He does, however, have an unfortunate habit of eating his secretaries. As Professor Hall says, "Few people mistake a noble dragon for a nice one more than once."
- The MLP Abridged Series Ultra Fast Pony portrays Maud Pie as a demon, who serves whoever summons her without question, but adamantly refuses to kill anyone under any condition and is very friendly by this show's standards.
- In the Whateley Universe, Carmilla is noble and a demon. She's one of the protagonists, and yet she is directly descended from both Cthulhu and Shub-Niggurath, and is supposed to take the mantle of The Kellith, to wipe humanity off the face of the earth and repopulate the planet with the seeds of The Great Old Ones. She's refusing to do so.
- The Whateley Universe also has Dr. Diabolik, known colloquially to his kids as 'Dr. Dad'. His goals are fairly villainous all in all, or at least they appear to be; still, he likes to avoid collateral damage, refuses to allow the slaughter or maiming of civilians, and the like. Word of God has it that he does this at least in part to avoid being on the supervillain A-list: while he's at the top of the B-list, it's getting on the A-list that will really have everyone gunning for him. He also curbs his plans to attack Darwin when an Omnicidal Maniac turns up.
- Prince Zuko in the first two seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Multiple times he has a clear opportunity to coerce Aang by threatening either bystanders or captured prisoners, but he never does. During their first fight, he clearly sees that Aang will surrender instantly to protect innocent bystanders, but never exploits this, and keeps his word to leave the village in peace if Aang surrenders. When he has Katara prisoner, he tries to bargain with her and appeal to her better nature rather than threaten or coerce her, and he forces pirates to help him capture Aang rather than use Katara as bait. Likewise, when he has Katara and Sokka prisoner, he still insists on fighting Aang one on one rather than try to use them. This eventually turns into a full Heel–Face Turn.
- The Penguin from Batman: The Animated Series fancies himself a Gentleman Thief (which he would be if his etiquite wasn't so terrible) and follows a code of honor, stating at one point that he refused to go after Two-Face while in the hospital as "kidnapping a fellow rogue from his sick bed just isn't done". It also helps that he's the only one of the rogue's gallery to not be insane, thus his crimes all center around monetary gain rather than revenge or just sheer insanity and tend cause much less collateral damage.
- Despite considering himself an official villain, Puma Loco from El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera puts his family in first place than his criminal schemes most of the time, and is often seen helping his grandson Manny and his son White Pantera in beating up the other criminals of Miracle City.
- David Xanatos of Gargoyles has had his moments where he tried to appear more callous than he really is, usually where his feelings for Fox are concerned:
Owen: You've never looked more heroic.Xanatos: A momentary lapse, I assure you.
- Macbeth counts as well. Practically all of his actions in the show are driven by his desire to kill Demona- both for revenge for her betrayal and just wanting to finally die, but he outright refuses to take the easy way out by smashing her to bits when she's in stone form during the day, preferring to beat her in a fair fight. Notably, Macbeth only attacked Goliath's clan in his introductory episode because he thought they were Demona's allies. In all subsequent episodes, he refuses to harm anyone outside of his feud with Demona.
- In the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special, Skeletor gradually falls under the influence of the Christmas spirit, causing him to become this for a time. He does not enjoy the experience.
- Ultra-Humanite in Justice League is quite morally ambiguous for a villain. While he does a series of serious crimes, like blowing up a modern art museum because he despises Modernism, he also tends to help the heroes in certain occasions. A particular example is in the Christmas Episode where he helps the Flash giving a desired toy to a group of orphans.
- Oddly enough, both of those plots are from the same episode! Ultra-Humanite waited until Christmas, because he knew the museum would be empty, thus making for exactly zero casualties. In the ensuing fight with Flash, they accidentally smash the toy, and Humanite helps to repair and deliver it.
- Earlier, in his introduction episode, (which is really Batman playing on all of the Injustice Gang) Batman is forced to trying to offer Ultra-Humanite double whatever Luthor was paying. Humanite counters by revealing he's not being paid, but is in it because he cannot stand the lack of culture in modern society. Batman counters by offering to donate enough money to his favorite opera program on PBS to upgrade him from Viewers Like You to a named donor... and he'd put in a good word to the prison to get Humanite a TV to watch that. Humanite's Heel-Face Turn is what stops Luthor's plan once and for all.
- Gene from Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Despite technically being the Big Bad, he puts himself and his (cough) business at considerable risk to save a girl when The Hero could not (she's not a Love Interest, not a MacGuffin, not an Action Girl that could be useful to him, just a friend).
- Nightmare Moon from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic despite being Drunk on the Dark Side doesn't seem to want to harm her subjects. Compare how she merely tried to block and distract the Mane 6 to how she actively tried to kill Princess Celestia.
- Brain from Pinky and the Brain is a Well-Intentioned Extremist Evil Genius, but if the push comes to shove, he'll choose the Power of Friendship over taking over the world: he did take over the world in one of the Christmas episodes thanks to toy bears that hypnotized people, but when he realized how badly he had alienated Pinky and crossed a line he shouldn't have, his only order was for everyone to just have a happy Christmas and be with people they cared about; another episode had Pinky sell his soul to Satan to give Brain world domination, but Brain eventually decided that if he couldn't rule with Pinky by his side, he wouldn't rule at all.
- Whenever the world is in danger from some other threat, Brain will do whatever he can to save the world. ("So it is available to take over tomorrow night.")
- Alvin from the Sabrina: The Animated Series episode "Planet of the Dogs". He starts off as a normal dog, but when Sabrina neglects him, he gains the ability to speak from the Spooky Jar and becomes the leader of a gang of mistreated dogs. Also, he kidnaps Sabrina's family but never puts them in mortal danger.
- Captain Skyhook from The Space Kidettes is a pathological Noble Demon. His evil minion, Static, enthusiastically suggests all sorts of gruesome villainy to be done to the Kidettes, only to be chastised by Skyhook, who replies that "They're just itsy bitsy, teeny weeny little kids!", and promptly bashes Static's helmet in.
- Red X from Teen Titans, so very, very much. He's a talented thief using powered suit that he stole from Robin to commit crimes, and he outright tells Robin that he likes being a criminal. On the other hand, whenever Red X shows up, he inevitably ends up doing something good in spite of himself, up to and including making enemies out of nine other supervillains to ensure Robin wins a race. He did consider attacking Raven and Starfire's vehicle too, but changes his mind at the last minute, telling the girls, "Tell Robin we're even... For now" before he left.
- Duncan from Total Drama becomes this when he plays the villainous role, though he's usually an Anti-Hero. He's a Jerkass delinquent who loves to push people's buttons, but usually he's just playing up his bad boy reputation so he doesn't seem "soft".
- Cyclonus in Transformers: Generation 1 occasionally had elements of this. Sixshot in Transformers Headmasters suddenly became one towards the end of the series so he could do a Heel–Face Turn.
- In Transformers Armada,:
- Starscream falls into this category, leaving the usual betrayal duties to the likes of Thrust and Sideways.
- Megatron also did this, although mostly towards Optimus Prime. On one occasion, he had a beaten, Heroic B.S.O.D. Hot Shot in his territory, who was the only one who knew that Sideways had turned to the Decepticons—and instead just shoved him back through the space bridge and sent him home.
- In Transformers: Robots in Disguise Sky-Byte combines this with Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain; he becomes such a failure at being evil, that the good guys think he's pulled a Heel–Face Turn.
- Transformers Prime:
- Breakdown shows shades of this when Bulkhead saves him from the terrorist group MECH. Starscream and a load of mooks arrive, and Starscream orders Breakdown to turn on him. Breakdown does, but is hesistant and needs prompting from his leader to actually do it. He also seems to be the only Decepticon to not view the vehicons as expendable, confiding in one and later stating he doesn't think they get enough respect.
- Dreadwing has Undying Loyalty to Megatron and the Decepticon cause, Combat Pragmatist and Mad Bomber, but shows honor, gratitude and respect to Optimus Prime and the Autobots. In the end, Starscream's defilement of Skyquake's body almost causes him to switch sides.
- The Monarch from The Venture Bros. has shown on several occasions that he does not hate Dr. Venture (and his family) as much as he claims to.
- Carmen Sandiego from Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?. Sure, she'll steal priceless works of art, monuments, archeological digs, etc. but she won't harm anyone. In fact, if Zach and Ivy are in trouble, she'll rescue them. To her, its just a game to play and she only chose it because catching bad guys as an ACME agent was too easy for her.