A "beginner's" villain, lowest on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil (the heroes have to start off fighting someone). He is the first true threat to the heroes, not just some common Mook who's there to let them show how Badass they are. Expect even the weakest member of the heroic team to eventually become more powerful than him (that is, if he survives). The Starter Villain is not always associated with the intended Big Bad of the whole series, usually having a whole story arc to himself.
As writers can't always have the Starter Villain fighting the whole Five-Man Band at once, he'll sometimes have Mooks. These men are nearly always doomed to die. He has a sliver of a chance to survive, but none of his men will make it.
If the series is not based on a pre-existing work, and the writers are making it up as they go along, a Starter Villain can end up turning into a Breakout Villain if the fans and/or the writers end up liking them enough.
See also: Wake-Up Call Boss. Sometimes, these may be the Disc One Final Boss. It's not uncommon for Starter Villains to be Token Motivational Nemeses as well.
They take it even further by using "Raditzes" as currency. As in, "He owes me twenty Raditzes!"
YuYu Hakusho: Gouki, Kurama, and Hiei are a group of these. While Gouki plays this straight and Kurama was already planned to be a part of the main team, Hiei's status was ultimately supposed to fall victim to this trope, but his role was rewritten once he was discovered to be an Ensemble Darkhorse.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba. Not much more needs to be said. He was Yugi's first opponent (unless you count the one-shots who appeared in the previous series) and the first confrontation between them started the biggest rivalry in the history of the franchise.
Kaiba may have been Yugi's greatest rival, but Ushio, Yugi's first foe in the original Toei anime, may have had an even bigger impact. He may have been little more than a thug (at least then), but after Yugi stood up to him after he was bullying Jonouchi and Honda, their opinion towards Yugi changed towards the better, leading to them becoming lifelong companions, and more importantly, Yugi completing the Millennium Puzzle and starting the chain of events that started the whole franchise.
Jadeite from the 1990's Sailor Moon anime, the only of four subvillians who didn't have an obvious visual gimmick or theme, with his character's shtick instead being that he was, well, the Starter Villain. The live action adaptation, however, actually kept him around past the start, and thus tossed him "excessive toadying" as his theme (which was admittedly somewhat present in the anime too.)
Devimon in Digimon Adventure. Toward the end of the show, his status is lampshaded, with Leomon pointing out that Devimon was nothing compared to the threats that the heroes have faced since.
Though this wasn't always the case. Devimon was supposed to be the show's Final Boss with it ending at 13 episodes. The show proved popular enough that more episodes were ordered, and as a result, Devimon's villain status was lowered.
Rider/Shinji in Fate/stay night. Except in Heavens Feel where it turns out she is not weak. At all.
Likewise, Ryunousuke and Caster in Fate/Zero. Though they aren't defeated for good until about the halfway point.
Bleach: Grand Fisher — The Hollow who ate Ichigo's mom. He just sort of disappeared and was forgotten about until he showed up just to die against Ichigo's dad. A case could also be made for Renji and Byakuya, the first enemies to give Ichigo a serious fight.
One Piece: Alvida and Ax-Hand Morgan both apply, as they were said to be extremely strong villains, but are nothing compared to just a few guys down the road.
They were barely better than thugs, and taken down with no trouble at all. The true example is Buggy the Clown immediately afterwards, the first person introduced, other than Luffy himself, to have eaten a Devil Fruit, and the first to give him any run for his money.
After the Time Skip and thus Part Two of the series, we have Hody Jones. Sure, he's ages above Morgan and Alvida- they don't even come close to Hody - and he would have probably been a challenge before the timeskip, but after, he's absolutely no threat to Luffy at all and only manages to get in one hit even after going One-Winged Angel , whilst Luffy spends the whole span of their fight beating down on him, showing off his new moves. Even Zoro The Lancer manages to One-Shot Hody's pre One-Winged Angel form.
This is emphasized further by the fact that both of these fights take place largely underwater. Which should be a huge advantage for for a fishman like Hody and a huge disadvantage for a human, especially a Devil Fruit user like Luffy.
Udo Jine from Rurouni Kenshin is the first villain in the series that Kenshin has trouble defeating, and is the first opponent that forces Kenshin to revert back to Hitokiri Battosai.
Isaac McDougal, the Freezing Alchemist, in Brotherhood.
The Baron of Koka Castle from the Black Swordsman arc of Berserk is the first major bad guy Guts faces in the manga. His first encounter with demons period is with none other than Nosferatu Zodd, who has gone on to be a recurring rival and occasional ally of the Black Swordsman. Chronologically, however, the first major bad guy Guts faces is the warrior Bazuso, whose defeat is what alerts the Band of the Hawk to Guts's talent.
Shin from Fist of the North Star, who doubles as a Token Motivational Nemesis, is the first rival martial artist that Kenshiro faces in the story. Shin was the one who defeated Ken, stole his beloved Yuria away from him, and engraved the seven scars on Ken's chest as a reminder of the humiliation. In the first story arc of the manga, Ken must fight against Shin's four playing card-themed lieutenants, each progressively more skilled than the last, before challenging his old rival.
Nrvnqsr Chaos in the Near Side routes of Tsukihime. Once he is dispatched, Arcueid can concentrate on her main task of finding and defeating Roa.
Daimonji from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Kenichi first got involved in martial arts in part to defend himself against bullies like him. Kenichi's defeat of him is what sets him on his path toward ever greater foes. When Daimonji later comes after him for revenge, Kenichi utterly trounces him, showing how far his training has progressed.
Bamboo Blade: Toyama and Iwasa, who were tormenting Dan in the first episode, prompting Tamaki to come to his defense and join the Kendo Club.
This is lampshaded at a later point, when the main group is well-established. Team captain Kirino Chiba has to come up with training regimens for the other members. Her realization that she forgot to make ones for them is quickly brushed off, since Toyama only came to practice to pick on the newbies and girls, and never showed up again after Tamaki taught him a lesson.
And subverted later still when Toyama gets into a fight in an arcade. The fact that he hadn't turned in a formal resignation meant that he was technically still a member, resulting in the entire team nearly being shut down over the incident.
Tekkaman Dagger in Tekkaman Blade, albeit he was a bit more resilient and annoying than average. He still was far weaker than the rest of villains, who even formed a proper Five-Bad Band.
While not a villain, Akune from Medaka Box is the first opponent who gives Zenkichi a challenge in a fight (specifically a judo match), and comes close to beating him. The more proper version, however, would have to be Unzen Myori as he was the first antagonist that actually forced the protagonist to use physical force.
Naruto had Mizuki, a treacherous shinobi who attempts to use Naruto to steal Konoha's scroll containing their forbidden arts and then kill him, only for it to backfire on him when Naruto uses one of the arts within the scroll against him (though he later becomes an Arc Villain in the anime). A case might also be made for the antagonists from the "Land of Waves" arc: Zabuza and Haku are employed by Gato as a deadly fighting force and provide dangerous adversaries for the heroes at this point (Zabuza almost kills Kakashi in their first fight, while Naruto and Sasuke together are unable to defeat Haku until Naruto draws on the power of the Kyuubi); compared, however, to succeeding villains such as Orochimaru and the Akatsuki, they're small fry.
Akatsuki members Deidara and Sasori serve this role in Shippuden.
Haruka Suzushiro and the rest of the Ori-Hime unit in the Mai-HiME manga, who are trying to get their rivals Mai, Natsuki and Yuuichi expelled.
Zeta Gundam: Jamaican Danigan's entire role in the storyline is to chase Kamille and the Argama until Scirocco, Yazan, Haman and the rest of the actual main villains have arrived. Once that happens he's unceremoniously killed off by one of his own men. Kamille's rival, Jerid Messa subverts this, starting out as a bullyingJerk Jock, but graduating to Ace Pilot status and remaining a credible threat until the finale.
Michelo-Chariot from G Gundam, much like Jerid above, starts out as a loud mouthed gang leader who happens to be the representative of Neo Italy before he is effortlessly decimated in Domon's first fight. He reappears twenty-three episodes later now apart of Master Asia's crew along with Gentle Chapman, Neo Britain's representative. He's not a very good fighter and only manages to become a threat because he's infected with DG Cells and pilots a too-powerful-for-its-own-good Gundam.
Tatewaki Kuno in Ranma ½ starts as the first real rival for Ranma, but after his first true duel, he becomes almost completely ineffectual against him.
Phoenix Ikki from Saint Seiya is the first major villain the Bronze Saints have to deal with before the Pope and his Silver Saints start their full-force strike against them.
In Haruhi-chan, Ryoko claims to be the first and weakest member of the Radical Four, who answer to three even more powerful superiors, none of which are seen.
Descartes and Loose Ruth in the Trigun anime and Dr. Nebraska in the manga (he has to wait until the fifth episode of the anime).
In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, The Shredder himself was a starter villain, getting himself killed rather humiliatingly at the end of the very first issue. A colony of intelligent worms would later assume the mantle of the Shredder (it's a long story), but even they only appeared in a few issues and played a fairly minor role in the comics' plot. However, due to his status as the first villain the Turtles fought and his It's Personal ties to their backstory, all subsequent versions (namely all three cartoon series and the first two movies) went and made him the long-running Big Bad.
Old Hob and his gang serve this role in the IDW TMNT series. A cat mutated in the same incident that created the protagonists, he serves as a personal menace to the Turtles for their early days, but was little more than an aggressive thug hired by a significantly more dangerous villain.
Scott Pilgrim: Matthew Patel is the first Evil Ex-Boyfriend of Ramona that Scott encounters. He's mostly the equivalent of a Warm-Up Boss. In the movie, he has the lowest point value of any opponent short of out-and-out mooks.
The original comic is a little more iffy. The Chameleon is the first to show up, but due to Anachronic Order, the first super powered criminals he faced were Joey and the Supercharger, who never bothered him again while Chameleon did.
In Ultimate Spider-Man it's Electro and the Enforcers, who all work for the Kingpin in this version.
Uncle Ben's killer would be a less ambiguous starter villain.
Similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles example above, the first issue of Uncanny X-Men uses Magneto as this, but because of his relationship with Charles Xavier, he was brought back as the Big Bad of the series. It's different, however, as Magneto was always intended to return.
In Grant Morrison's New X-Men, John Sublime fits this, despite being the secondArc Villain rather than the first. He's the least-powerful (a non-powered Corrupt Corporate Executive), has the least far-reaching scheme (selling mutant organs on the black market) and is defeated in the shortest amount of time (three issues) of all the major villains in the series, and he and his henchmen pretty much exist for the main characters to demonstrate their powers on. As well, the first Arc Villain, Cassandra Nova, actually wins in that arc (though neither the readers nor the characters know it at the time) and has to be brought down in a later one. This, of course, makes is a particularly effective twist when the final arc reveals Sublime to have been the Big Bad behind everything, and possibly, with a bit of Alternate Character Interpretation, the Bigger Bad behind everything bad that had ever happened in any X-Men comic ever.
Batman usually starts in adaptations and reboots by butting heads with the Gotham mob bosses or the corrupt Police Force which is (Minus Jim Gordon) more than happy to blame all of the city's troubles on him. As Batman takes them down maniacal super villains like the Joker then step up to the plate.
The actual first villain Batman faced in his very first issue was crooked chemical baron Alfred Stryker, who fits this trope as he is non-powered, out of shape, and dead by the end of the issue. His first supervillain arrived a few issues later, in the form of Doctor Death.
In Captain America's first Golden Age appearance, he battled Heinz Kruger, the Nazi spy who had murdered the scientist who gave him his powers. In a later story in the same issue, he faced his first supervillain in the form of Allied traitor George Maxon, alias the Red Skull, who would, of course, be revealed in time to be merely a decoy for the REAL Skull, top-ranked Nazi Johann Schmidt.
Similarly, The Incredible Hulk's starter villain was The Gargoyle, the spy who arranged the sabotage of the gamma bomb test that turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk.
Iron Man's starter villain was the Vietnamese warlord Wong-Chu, who captured Tony and attempted to force him to develop weapons for him. It backfired.
Tintin has many, depending on the adventure. A few that come to mind are the fakir in the Indian portion of Cigars of the Pharaoh, Mitsuhirato in The Blue Lotus, Puschov in The Black Island, or Bab el-Ehr in Land of Black Gold and The Red Sea Sharks.
The Fantastic Four get one in the Mole Man, who they fight in the first issue before encountering their Big Bads Namor and Doctor Doom. Naturally, due to the nature of comic books, they proceeded to encounter Mole Man many times afterwards.
Subverted in the stand-alone Fantastic Four: Season One graphic novel, wherein Mole Man shows up as a threat- and is then promptly, almost immediately defused by Sue Storm's gentle reassurance that he doesn't have to live the way he does. After that point, he becomes the team's ally, eager to use his scientific genius in helpful ways and in a special darkened lab.
Daredevil starts off battling the Fixer, the gangster responsible for the death of his father. He doesn't survive the issue.
The starter villain for The Flash in The Silver Age of Comic Books was the Turtle Man, "the slowest man on Earth" (he even talks slowly) whose gimmick was using the Flash's speed against him.
Megami No Hanabira: Kaiwan is the first genuine threat the girls encounter, killing a Flock member right in front of Sara and one more offscreen earlier in the story. He even manages to take down one of their demons for the first time, and they ultimately defeat him through treachery rather than sheer force.
Luminosity: James and Victoria are the first intentional threat to Bella's life, and are killed fairly quickly via Summon Bigger Fish on the biggest vampires around.
In the Pony POV Series side story "Gaiden: 7 Dreams/Nightmares", Film Critique (aka the Pegasus Despot) is this to Patch. He's the first antagonist in her quest for the Rainbow of Light shards, but while he manages to trick her into a defeat in their first fight, he goes down easily the second time, and compared to Basil and Grogar, isn't much of a threat. It's implied that the next villain she fought would have been more of a Big Bad, but sadly, the Doctor negated that adventure.
Heart of Fire sets up General Azun as the Big Bad, but by the end of the story it's clear that his visions aren't hallucinations, and he really is being manipulated by a spirit (Zhan Zheng, the Spirit of War, actually), who abandons him at the end of the story, and moves on to use other pawns for the rest of the trilogy.
Friendship Is Aura has the dragon Razorfang, the self-proclaimed King of the Everfree, who challenges — and is defeated by — Lucario early on. He doesn't provide nearly as much of a threat as Chrysalis or Lord Tartarus.
Grover, Clarisse's rational study group and Annabeth in "The Evil Gods Part 1"
Wawa the Titan in "The Titans Strike Back".
Horus for the "Attack of the Sphinx" story, as the first of the Egyptian Gods William faces.
In Perfection Is Overrated, Hitomi is the first SUE the Himes fight against, although Mariko had been inadvertently killed by Miyu defeating Akane, and their memories had been wiped of her. The Himes fight against Hitomi unaware of her true nature or that there are others like her, which only becomes apparent after her defeat.
The Prequel Trilogy (and thus the entire saga) has Viceroy Nute Gunray, who, in contrast to the galaxy-spanning ambitions of the Sith, is simply a cowardlyCorrupt Corporate Executive blockading a single planet over a trade dispute. We know he's a basically a puppet for the aforementioned Sith from fairly early on, though, and unlike a lot of Starter Villains actually sticks around for a while and continues being a valuable pawn until he finally outlives his usefulness.
Dryden is the starter villain in Casino Royale. Bond spends the rest of the film climbing the villain food chain, going from a hired gun, to Dimitrios, then Le Chiffre, and finally confronting Mr. White, the Big Bad of Quantum of Solace.
The Janitor in Unbreakable is the first real threat David faces, and proves almost too tough to defeat, exploiting David's Kryptonite Factor. Killing him and saving a family is the first time he is hailed as a hero, and his mentor Elijah later points out that defeating him is just the first step in David's burgeoning career as a real life hero.
Pulgasari has the Governor, the one who is directly oppressing the inhabitants of the village who form the bulk of the good characters. In fact, the very moment after he is killed is when the film first introduces the true Big Bad, the King.
Vonotar the Traitor in Lone Wolf is the first named enemy that the fledgling Kai Lord Lone Wolf faces. It's Personal since Vonotar provided information to the Darklords that made the massacre of the Kai possible. He is name-dropped in the first book, encountered in the second book where his only purpose is to fail against the Sommerswerd, and thrown into a prison dimension at the end of the third book after Lone Wolf hunts him down and captures him. Vonotar is never heard from again as Lone Wolf focuses on the Darklords until Book 11 when Lone Wolf is thrown into the same prison dimension. While Vonotar is more formidable than he was in the past, he still turns out to be little more than a speedbump to the mighty hero Lone Wolf has become.
The thuggish, cowardly hobgoblin Lord Toede, a mid-ranking minion of the Dragon Overlords. Though never a serious threat, he proved popular enough to get his own spin-off novel.
Also applies to his master, Lord Verminaard who served as the Big Bad for the first book.
Codex Alera: Atsurak the leader of a Marat barbarian horde. The novice spy races against time and an ex-mentor to Bring News Back to the local Legion's garrison before Atsurak can invade a valley in a rural part of Alera. The Farm Boy gets used as a pawn by another barbarian, an enemy of Atsurak. Five books later, Atsurak is an afterthought, all the Marat are allies to the Alerans and actually the least important faction in that alliance, and it's not just the valley that's at stake but all intelligent life in the world. If not for the fact that some Chessmasters from the first book are still around, the first book could be considered separate from the rest of the series.
Matilda: Mr Wormwood serves as the antagonist for the first few chapters before the Trunchbull is introduced.
New Jedi Order: Somewhat similar to the above, the first book introduces Prefect Da'Gara and his Praetorite Vong forces, terrifying aliens from beyond the Rim bent on galactic conquest and possessing powers and weapons far beyond anything the galaxy has ever seen. They live precisely one book- it turns out the Praetorite Vong are only one (largely unimportant) political faction among the Yuuzhan Vong Empire and Da'Gara was just kickstarting the invasion to grab some glory for himself. His troops weren't even particularly well-trained by Vong standards, and the nightmarish Eldritch Abomination he had on a leash as his secret weapon was defective compared to others of its kind. Da'Gara's main purpose was to give the Galaxy a taste of its new threat before being killed off to make way for the real bad guys.
However, the same book also introduces Da'Gara's political ally Nom Anor, who not only survived, but would go on to continue making trouble for the Jedi and the New Republic all the way until the final book in the series. He outlives both the Big BadandThe Man Behind the Man (though not by long).
Chamdar, alias Asharak, from The Belgariad is an Evil Sorcerer and high-ranked priest in a Religion of Evil who killed The Hero's parents and follows him around for a while in the early part of the series making a general nuisance of himself but is killed spectacularly midway through the second of five books after goading The Hero into unlocking his powers. It is, however, eventually revealed that he was at least partially possessed by the Big Bad.
The Dresden Files: Evil Sorcerer Victor Sells is the first bad guy to give Harry Dresden a serious challenge on-page, but doesn't make it past the first book (and there are much more dangerous things than him out there, anyway). From Harry's perspective his real Starter Villain was Evil Mentor Justin DuMorne, but as Justin's been dead for years by the beginning of the first book, the reader doesn't really experience him that way.
Unlike most Starter Villains, it turns out that Victor Sells was connected with the series' Big Bad (or at least, one of the Big Bads) the Black Council, or at least with the Red Court. Someone had to teach him that heart-exploding spell, after all....
Principal Chapman from Animorphs is the first named Human-Controller the kids encounter and the first five books focus on him rather closely. After that, though, he fades into the background as real threats such as Visser One and Tom make themselves known.
Harry Potter: Draco Malfoy. One of the first wizards Harry meets, and whose general unpleasantness shows how wizards can be be as big of jerks as muggles. Dealing with him is a large part of the early books, but even though he repeatedly tries to Take a Level in Badass, he never manages to be anywhere nearly as powerful or evil as the true villains of the piece.
In a way, Quirrell in the first book. Despite being possessed by Voldemort himself, he is fairly easy to defeat by The Power of Love, and it's even implied that Dumbledore set up their confrontation as a test for Harry and a warmup for what lay ahead of him.
Ishamael in The Wheel of Time is a subversion. He's the main villain of the first three books, calling himself "Ba'alzamon" and presenting himself as the Dark One, only to be killed off at the end of book three. Several books later, a guy called Moridin who has several of the same quirks shows up, and is gradually revealed to indeed be Ishamael reincarnated. Turns out he's the local version of The Antichrist and Rand's opposite number; it's implied that they're destined to eternally be reborn and fight each other across history. Moridin is actually one of the last villains to go down.
Babylon 5: Season 1 featured the Raiders and the Home Guard as the primary recurring villains. The Raiders got almost completely wiped out as part of The Reveal of The Shadows, the shows' primary villains. The Home Guard dropped off the radar and became irrelevant after President Clark came into power (since they had essentially won), and never turned up again.
A almost annual rite of passage for initial villains at the start of about half the seasons: The Anointed One gave way to Spike who gave way to Angelus in the 2nd, Mr. Trick—->The Mayor and Faith in 3, and The Trio begat Dark Willow in 6.
The show also had one-shot villains for the first episode of each season; an enemy who was reasonably threatening, but who was ultimately defeated by Buffy before the credits roll: Luke in season 1, Absalom in season 2, Keith in season 3, Sunday in season 4, Dracula in season 5, and Razor in season 6. The Season 7 opener is a somewhat confusing beast, with Buffy fighting a group of malevolent spirits who are indeed defeated by the end but the true mastermind who summoned them...is never actually identified (although the episode's tag scene does set up new Big Bad the First so possibly it can be deduced that way).
Lothos, the main villain from the movie and The Origin.
Angel has Russell Winters in its pilot, who in turn is a client of the overall main villains of the series.
In the first Doctor Who story, the Doctor's opponent is Kal the caveman, a fairly bog-standard murderer and power-seeker who is summarily dispatched. Then the second story introduces the Daleks who, while also originally planned as a one-off villain, are quickly established as the Big Bad of the series in Season 2.
Farscape had Bialar Crais, a Peacekeeper captain whose brother accidentally died in the pilot episode when his ship ricocheted off Crichton's, which had accidentally gone through a wormhole and emerged in the middle of a space battle. Crais went into Captain Ahab mode and spent the rest of the first season chasing Crichton and his new friends. At the end of the season, Crais is replaced as by Scorpius, a Peacekeeper scientist intent on getting information about wormhole technology that had been implanted in Crichton's brain. Scorpius went on to be the show's Big Bad, while Crais underwent a Heel-Face Turn.
Firefly had an undercover Alliance agent as the villain of the pilot episode. Although he seems to be built up as a potentially recurring villain, the ending of the episode subverts multiple tropes when, during a Put Down Your Gun and Step Away / We Will Meet Again moment, Mal simply walks up and shoots him in the head. Word of God is that had the show continued past the first season, he would have turned out to have survived the shooting and would have come back (with a cybernetic eye!) to seek revenge on the crew. In fact, this is exactly what happens in "Those Left Behind," a comic book set between the series and the movie.
Kamen Rider Fourze: Had the Scorpio Zodiarts, the first of the Horoscopes to appear. He (actually she) is the first Horoscopes to be a legitimate challenge for Fourze, but is by far the weakest Horoscope and was the only Horoscope that Fourze or Meteor didn't need their Super Mode or even a Mid-Season Upgrade to defeat. He's also the only one of the original four Horoscopes to be beaten before the midpoint, the others all lasting until the final arc.
Leverage: Victor Dubenich who assembles the team to do a job for him, before betraying them and becoming The Mark of the pilot. He later returns to be the Big Bad of Season 4.
Merlin: Nimueh, the titular character's main adversary in the first season, before she's Killed Off for Real in that same season's finale.
Captain, later Major, Tom Neville of the Monroe Republic is the first militia threat the protagonists go up against ("Pilot"). Neville turns out to be subordinate to Big Bad General Sebastian "Bass" Monroe. Neville ends up leaving Monroe in "The Song Remains the Same", joins up with the Georgia Federation to fight Monroe ("Home"), and then takes Bass's place as the Big Bad in the first season finale ("The Dark Tower").
The real Big Bad appears to be a rump U.S. government operating out of Cuba, for which Randall was working when he launched nukes on Philadelphia and Atlanta. It's hinted that the heroes may end up teaming with Neville in an Enemy Mine situation to prevent everyone from being conquered.
Star Trek: Enterprise: The Suliban, genetically augmented Gecko-Men, initially filled this role. A lukewarm reception had them soon replaced with the much more credible Xindi as the series' main enemy race.
The parasites in the episode "Conspiracy" were intended to return, but weren't for budget reasons. They were "replaced" by the Borg as the Big Bad. The Borg proved to be "too powerful" to write many episodes about... indeed, after the events of Best of Both Worlds, the only Borg encountered are small splinter groups and individuals separated from the Collective. The writers eventually settled on the Romulans and Cardassians as the preferred bad guys.
More to the point, the Ferengi were initially conceived as TNG's Big Bad, getting a Name Drop in the pilot as a race with a terrifying reputation (complete with the suggestion that they eat the people they conquer). Then they showed up and turned out to fall far short of the hype. So they were abandoned as the archnemesis of the series, eventually resurfacing as occasional comic antagonists, and getting a more sympathetic portrayal on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The rumors referenced in the pilot were later retconned as having been planted by the Ferengi leader, who having heard about the Federation and it's economic policies concluded they must be utterly insane and hoped to intimidate them.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine itself opened up with the Cardassians, Klingons, Romulans, and even some Bajorans (especially Kai Winn) switching off as the "bad" of the week, in keeping with the series' Gray and Grey Morality. Then the Dominion comes knocking...
Star Trek: Voyager, in an inversion to The Next Generation, started with a new race called the Kazon, who were essentially slightly modified Klingon expies, but eventually replaced them with the Borg... although the Borg eventually suffered from the Villain Decay that the Next Generation writers hoped to avoid. Again, several episodes focused on individual Borg separated from the Collective, for the same reasons as above.
Supernatural has the Woman in White, a spirit Sam and Dean encounter before they even begin their hunt for the Yellow Eyed Demon.
Al Capone serves as this in the early-'60s series The Untouchables, as the pilot movie was about his arrest. The face of his organization in the series proper was his enforcer, Frank Nitti, and the organization was involved in only about a quarter of the episodes.
Arison gave Ayako Hamada one hell of a starter villain in head bookerAja Kong. In fact, the only reason she was likely the "starter villain" was because the conflict of interest that came with being the head booker. Kong really started as Hamada's partner though.
After The Natural Born Sinners broke up due to an injury, Steve Corino became the first major opponent for Homicide during his Ring of Honor Singles run. Corino would return and become the first threat to Homicide following his acquisition of the World Championship from American Dragon.
Dungeons & Dragons: Any single enemy with a challenge rating of two or three. Anything less would need a group to present a serious threat to even a level one party (Assuming four players).
The introductory adventure in the D&D Basic set in the 1980's (which would likely be a Player's first experience with the game) featured a villain named Bargle the Infamous. While he was rather tame as far as villains go overall, and he did not appear in any other published work, his crime in the adventure - murdering the beautiful female cleric Aleena - left quite an impression and had the potential to make him the Player Characters' hated enemy. (Depending on just how far the DM was willing to expand the character.)
Kefka from Final Fantasy VI is a notable aversion, in that he's definitely Starter Villain material for most of the game, only to evolve into the game's true Big Bad.
President Shinra from Final Fantasy VII, the main villain for the first five hours or so of the game before he's killed off by the realBig Bad, Sephiroth.
Final Fantasy VIII begins properly with the newly-appointed SeeDs given orders to assassinate the fascist president of a powerful nation, and his top adviser. Things quickly go south when said adviser turns out to be one of the strongest beings on the planet and both executes the president herself and marks the SeeDs for death.
Judge Ghis from Final Fantasy XII, the first noteworthy villain the party confronts directly.
Mass Effect series: At first, it seems like Saren is the true Big Bad and Sovereign is a Bigger Bad acting behind the scenes. The sequels establish that the Reapers are indeed the true driving threat behind the series, Saren was just an indoctrinated servant, and The Illusive Man eventually becomes a human version of Saren in the third installment.
Clayton is the first Disney villain you fight, and the first enemy who isn't just Made of Evil or a vicious animal. In a series where the villains include gods and evil sorcerers, he's just a stuck-up guy with a gun who needs a Heartless ally to put up a good fight. However, due to the eventual Canon Discontinuity of Deep Jungle, Jafar becomes this by retcon.
Shan Yu in Kingdom Hearts II is very likely to be the first Disney villain you fight. Although being a skilled and powerful swordsman puts him slightly above Clayton's level, he still ranks the lowest in comparison to the more supernatural Disney/original villains you fight in the other worlds.
Dragon Age: Origins: Two of the origins have the player character face off with a Starter Villain. In the Dwarf Commoner origin, the character will have to take down the crime boss Beraht. In the City Elf origin, the PC will come up against Bann Vaughan in a "right of the lord" scenario. In an aversion, the latter may survive the story if the hero takes his bribe.
Lord Crump in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door takes on Mario almost as soon as the game begins. He tries to defeat Mario a few times later on, but he becomes increasingly outmatched even as Lord Crump himself continues to improve.
Speaking of Mario, Bowser has a trend to be the starter villain in RPGs.
Most Fire Emblem games tend to have one, usually of the General class and also tends to be a Disc One Final Boss or a Climax Boss as well. They may or may not be affiliated with one of the main antagonists, but they will typically be the most visible threat during the early game chapters, up to the point where you fight them. Lundgren from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword, Lyn's great uncle, is probably one of the best examples. His plot to take over Caelin has nothing to do with the overarching Black Fang plotline, but he's the final boss of Lyn's Story, the first ten chapters of the game, and a dangerous villain and schemer in his own right.
The Beast in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, who is your main antagonist for the first ten missions before succumbing to The Virus secretly planted in him by Caulder, the game's actual Big Bad.
The Kuraselache (Shark) Leader in E.V.O.: Search for Eden. One or two major plot points haven't been introduced yet and he's the only boss in Era 1. You can run into sharks that are exactly the same as he is in Era 5. As a Degraded Boss, he's pretty easy.
Vlad Glebov in Grand Theft Auto IV talks a big talk and Roman is scared of him and his Albanian thugs, making it look like Roman's debt to Vlad will play a major part in the game (or at least the Broker/Dukes chapter) but it takes very little time for him to push Niko's buttons too much and get his brains blown out. Killing him and getting made to work for Mikhail Faustin is what REALLY sets the plot in motion, as it lets Dimitri find Niko for Ray Bulgarin.
Banthus from Elsword is this. He's not a one-level wonder boss and his theft of Elstone actually kicks the whole plot into motion. Heroes encounter him three times before he's finally dispatched and other, more dangerous recurring villains take his place.
Balio and Sunder in Breath of Fire III are the first real threat for Ryu and gang, and do so for a good third of the Childhood Chapter.
General Rasso in Breath of Fire IV, though never fought directly, just keeps attacking the party for most of the first half of the game, his actions eventually releasing Ryu's true powers and sending the plot into its main course. For Fou-Lu's side of the history, it'd be Yohm, the only enemy that poses any danger to the weakened dragon god.
In Tenchu 2, neighbouring warlord Toda Yoshisaga sets the story into motion with his attempted invasion of Lord Gohda's Realm, but only last 3 chapters before being replaced by his own subordinate.
Brady Culture in the first episode of Sam & Max: Freelance Police. He's the antagonist of the first episode, but is almost completely unconnected to the bigger threat of the season.
Borderlands has Nine-Toes as the first major bandit that you deal with before you move on to other areas. The sequel has Captain Flynt, a bandit leader stranded in the middle of nowhere as your first obstacle before the plot actually gets started.
Ben 10: Doctor Animo was the first proper villain Ben took on. He doesn't die, but in subsequent appearances, it's pretty clear that he's nowhere near as dangerous as other threats Ben has faced.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Baxter Stockman and his mouser robots. This has the effect of immediately setting the tone of the series, as in the original cartoon Baxter was a goofier mad scientist best known for being mutated into a fly, whereas now he's a legitimate threat even at the bottom of the villain hierarchy.
Exo Squad: The Pirate Clans in the Five-Episode Pilot, before the Neosapien wars break out. They eventually become the reluctant allies of the fleet.
Prince Zuko is probably a better example. He was the first villain in the series and was often a threat in early book one episodes, however he only met the Gaang a few times by the end of the season and acted as more of a mini-boss during the finale. Zhao on the other hand doesn't meet the Gaang until a third of the way through season one, and was much more of a threat than Zuko. He also acted as the Big Bad during the season finale.
Mr. Wink and Mr. Fibb in Codename: Kids Next Door, the first villains Sector V ever faced. They later appear in the series as hired thugs, but they spend most of their time minding their own business otherwise and only attack if provoked.
G.I. Joe: Renegades starts with the Joes tangling against Dr. Mindbender, a COBRA mad scientist with crazed mutants at his beck and call, but little in the way of power in the actual organization.
In the first episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey takes on The Enforcers who, while upgraded from their original comic gimmick of lasso-wielding guy (Montana), short martial artist (Fancy Dan), and strong guy (Ox), weren't exactly going to make it into the Sinister Six as was.
Furthermore, the show was made up of a series of short (3-4 episode) arcs which each had their own plot and villain, while also advancing ongoing storylines. The Big Bad of the first mini-arc was the Lizard (who as noted under comics often gets this treatment).
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes depicts the team coming together to face the decidedly C-List Graviton, a departure from both the comics and movie version, where they start with a battle against Loki. Graviton is an Adaptational Badass who proves to be an immense threat in the first episode... but definitely never again, as the Avengers go on to face multiple bad Asgardians, cosmic level threats, and coalitions of A-list villains.