The audience is presented with several candidates for the BigBad, the true source of evil actions, typically in succession of each other. As a result, there are ''multiple'' {{Disc One Final Boss}}es.

The writers are playing the Big Bad Shuffle when Bob, the good guy, defeats Big Bad candidate [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Mr. Corrupton]], but learns that Mr. Corrupton was really just being manipulated by Big Bad candidate [[MorallyAmbiguousDoctorate Dr. Unethik]]. So Bob, the good guy, [[note]][[EpilepticTrees who the audience is now thinking]] [[VillainProtagonist might be a Big Bad candidate himself]][[/note]] kills Unethik, but finds out that Unethik was secretly controlled by the Big Bad candidate OmniscientCouncilOfVagueness, which turns out to have [[TheDogWasTheMastermind Bob's scheming trophy wife as the chairperson]] and who is now -- you guessed it -- a Big Bad candidate. [[KudzuPlot And so on, with a few station breaks to sell you some of the aspirin you now need]].

Tropes by which this can be invoked include TheManBehindTheMan, HiddenVillain, TheDogWasTheMastermind, DiscOneFinalBoss and HijackedByGanon.

Multiple {{reveal}}s and [[TheUnReveal UnReveals]] are mandatory. Contrast BigBadEnsemble, which is when there are several Big Bads operating at once.

'''Warning: expect spoilers!'''


[[folder:Anime And Manga]]
* The Android Saga of ''Anime/DragonBallZ'' starts off with Androids 20 and 19 as the villains. Then it's revealed that they aren't the androids responsible for defeating the Z-Fighters in the future. Right after Androids 17 and 18 are introduced and kill Android 20/Dr. Gero. They look to be the true villains until Cell appears and absorbs them both, solidifying himself as the BigBad of the saga.
* The Future Trunks saga of ''Anime/DragonBallSuper'' initially presents Goku Black as the main villain. Later on though, we learn that Goku Black is actually working with [[spoiler:Future Zamasu]] to exterminate the mortals, though their relationship is left ambiguous. Whis theorizes that Black is actually a servant created by [[spoiler:Future Zamasu]] to act as TheDragon to him. However, it is eventually revealed that [[spoiler:Goku Black is actually an alternate Zamasu, and he is the one who came up with their plan in the first place.]] Despite this, the two seem to have a pretty solid BigBadDuumvirate between them and they later [[spoiler:merge into a singular BigBad, Fusion Zamasu]].
* The BigBad of ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' has, at various points, been: [[MadScientist Orochimaru]] (former [[StandardEvilOrganizationSquad Akatsuki]] member) -> [[GottaCatchEmAll Akatsuki]] itself ([[AloofBigBrother Itachi]] being its most visible player) -> [[BigBadWannabe Pain]] (with [[TheManBehindTheMan Tobi]] as the true BigBad) -> [[NotSoHarmlessVillain Tobi]] ''[[BigBadEnsemble and]]'' [[KnightTemplar Danzo]] -> [[{{Necromancer}} Kabuto]] [[BigBadDuumvirate and]] [[DeadPersonImpersonation Tobi]] -> [[spoiler: [[PredecessorVillain Madara]] [[BigBadDuumvirate and]] [[FallenHero Obito]] -> [[DarkMessiah Obito]] (after as he becomes the jinchuuriki of the Ten-Tails and Madara leaves on the background) -> [[AGodAmI Madara]] (after defeat Obito) -> [[PhysicalGoddess Kaguya]] (after stabbing Madara) -> [[HeelFaceRevolvingDoor Sasuke]] (after helping Naruto seal Kaguya) -> [[KnightTemplar Toneri]] (when he tries to crash the Moon into the Earth) -> [[EvilVersusEvil Momoshiki Otsutsuki]], (who is Kaguya's rival in monopolizing chakra)]].
* ''Anime/KillLaKill'' starts off with StudentCouncilPresident [[KnightTemplar Satsuki Kiryuin]] as the BigBad. Halfway through, it's revealed that Satsuki actually been working to fight the real BigBad, her mother, Ragyo Kiryuin, who is also TheDragon to the [[GreaterScopeVillain Primordial Life Fiber]].
* In ''Manga/FairyTail'', [[BigBadWannabe Jellal]] starts out as the apparent BigBad of the series. Then it turns out he's being manipulated by his right-hand woman [[ManipulativeBitch Ultear]], who is actually TheDragon to Hades. When Hades steps in as the BigBad, he wants to get [[GreaterScopeVillain Zeref]] to become the BigBad. Then it turns out Zeref was always the BigBad, but [[AwakenTheSleepingGiant he just didn't feel like doing anything until this point]]. He's challenged by [[BigBadEnsemble two other powerful enemies]]: Acnologia, whom he wants to kill; and E.N.D., [[DeathSeeker whom he wants to be killed by]].
* ''Anime/YuGiOh5Ds'', the initial antagonists are Jack Atlas, TheRival, and Sector Security and their leader, Rex Goodwin. Then in the second half of Season 1 the heroes find out Goodman has been recruiting the heroes to fight the Dark Signers and his brother Rudger, the ''real'' villains. Then Goodwin becomes a Dark Signer as well and becomes the FinalBoss of the season. Next season the Three Emperors of Yliaster become the main antagonists, and it is revealed Rudger and Goodman were their puppets they manipulated. The Three Emperors in turn are working for the leader of Yliaster, Z-ONE. It is also revealed that the BigBad of the 10th anniversary film, Paradox, was another member of Yliaster.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/VForVendetta'' descends into this once original BigBad Adam Susan is killed, with multiple villains attempting to fill in the power vacuum caused by his death.

[[folder:Fan Fics]]
* ''Fanfic/ChaosTheory'' starts out with the BigBadEnsemble of Kotomine, Gilgamesh, Zouken and [[spoiler: Caster Alter]] being the main antagonists, the latter two working together to fulfill their agendas while simultaneously plotting against the other, while Kirei merely observes and Gilgamesh does whatever he wants. However, after [[WhamEpisode Chapter 31]], [[spoiler:Dark Sakura kills both Zouken and Caster Alter, Kirei becomes TheDragon, and Gilgamesh is reverted to a child after a near-disastrous encounter with Dark Sakura and ends up doing a HeelFaceTurn.]] Near the end though, [[spoiler: Sakura is separated from the Grail's influence, but Kotomine sacrifices himself to incarnate Angra Mainyu as Avenger, whom proceeds to take over as BigBad.]]

* Mystique and Bolivar Trask compete for title of villain in ''Film/XMenDaysOfFuturePast''; it's Trask's Sentinels that lead to the BadFuture, but it's Mystique killing him and being captured for experimentation that leads to the Sentinels getting approved by the government, making ''her'' the one whose EvilPlan needs to be stopped. Additionally in the future Trask and Mystique are dead, making it the Sentinels themselves that are the villains. [[spoiler:And then in the past Magneto ends up becoming a ''third'' villain when he decides to kill Trask and the President.]]

* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'': Good luck guessing who is ultimately behind any given act of villainy.
* So, in the ''Literature/MollyMoon'' series, there's Primo Cell, who's really being controlled by [[spoiler: Lucy Logan, the librarian.]] But then we learn that the real person with the strings is [[spoiler: Cornelius Logan, crossdressing as his sister Lucy.]] Okay... And then in the third book, it turns out [[spoiler: Waqt]] hypnotised [[spoiler: Cornelius]] into his StartOfDarkness. Wow.
* Hoo boy, ''Literature/TheChathrandVoyages'', which could just as easily be called "GambitPileup- The Epic Fantasy", despite the action largely being confined to the eponymous ship. Let's take a look, shall we?
** [[TheSpymaster Sandor Ott]] wants to start a civil war in the Mzithrin Empire by freeing the Mzithrini tyrant and war-criminal [[GodEmperor the Shaggat Ness]] and returning him to his followers.
** [[EvilSorcerer Arunis]] tricked Ott into thinking it was a good idea as part of stage one of a plan to recover the Shaggat's ArtifactOfDoom and [[spoiler: destroy the world]].
** His on and off co-conspirator and rival [[spoiler: and sister]] Macadra wants the same artifact and sent him to get it, but she wants to rule the world [[spoiler: rather than destroy it]].
** The Shaggat himself thinks fate is manipulating all of them to help him fulfill his destiny as a DarkMessiah.
** Master Mugstur is the psychotic, sentient rat who wants to take over the ship at the head of an army of regular rats because he thinks [[CrystalDragonJesus Rin]] wants him to (and eat the Captain's tongue while he's at it).
** Lord Talag is the eight-inch-high {{Chessmaster}} who wants to use the ''Chathrand'' to find his people's lost homeland, then scuttle it there and kill everyone aboard except his followers. He's aided and abetted by his son Taliktrum, who starts plans of his own that quickly spiral out of control.
** [[EldritchAbomination The Swarm of Night]] is the entity Arunis ultimately intends to summon. It doesn't really make anything that can rightly be called "plans" of its own, but the threat it offers to the world is greater than ''all of the above combined'' [[spoiler:and by the end of the third book, it's loose]].
** Needless to say, they all trip over each other at every turn. ''Yikes''.
* ''Literature/WarriorCats'' descends into this in the Dark Forest storyline. Every major villain in the series, and a few new ones, team up to destroy the Clans. The story leads us to think that Tigerstar, Hawkfrost, Brokenstar, or Mapleshade is the villain, without ever giving a definitive answer on who's behind it all. Even Ivypool is confused, and the information she relays to the other characters reflects it. Not that this is a bad thing.
** Very much so in ''Literature/WarriorCatsDawnOfTheClans''. The first novel sets up [[spoiler:Clear Sky]] as a villain. This continues throughout the second and third novel. However, Clear Sky [[MyGodWhatHaveIdone regrets his actions]] and tries to makes up for them. The fourth book introduces One-Eye and [[spoiler: Star Flower]] as villains, with the former [[spoiler: dying]] that very book. In the fifth book, we are introduced to Slash, and the story makes Star Flower's choice of side unclear. By the last book, Slash is the final boss, and Star Flower is good.
* ''Literature/TheDeathGateCycle'' begins with one BigBad, [[SorcerousOverlord Lord Xar]] (though the [[VillainProtagonist main character]] is his [[TheDragon Dragon]]), but as it goes on picks up more main villains with increasingly complicated relationships. The {{necromancer}} [[OmnicidalManiac Kleitus]] is the ruler of [[OurLichesAreDifferent the lazar]] and despises all life and seeks its destruction; when Xar encounters Kleitus he manages to defeat him and force him into servitude, but Kleitus hangs around mostly for the chance to [[TheStarscream kill Xar while his back is turned]] while trying to manipulate him for his own ends. [[TheHeartless The Serpents]] are a timeless force of evil who feed off chaos and negative emotions, and willingly subordinate themselves to Xar in the hopes of manipulating him into causing unprecedented destruction - their leader is [[BiggerBad the Royal One]], but he rarely shows up and plays little direct role, leaving the position of TheHeavy and TheFace of Serpents as a faction to [[TheCorrupter Sang-drax]]. Sang-drax and Kleitus don't get along and are seen to try and manipulate Xar in opposite directions, while Xar himself trusts neither of them and generally does what they want only insofar as it suits his goals. ''Then'' there is [[KnightTemplar Samah]] (who is replaced by his son [[DragonAscendant Ramu]] after he dies) who opposes Xar and is ''also'' working with the Serpents, who like to play both sides wherever possible. Needless to say, when they all crash into each other, the worlds barely survive.
* In the ''Literature/ErebusSequence'', it takes until the end of the second book (of three) to be clear on exactly who the main villain is. The King and the Majordomo each seem dismissive of the other's belief that they're the one in charge, and apparent new primary threats (the reactionary Fonteins, the increasingly tyrannical Domina, etc.) turn out to be manipulated by the then-thought-dead Majordomo.
* ''Literature/TheGreenEmber'' has a large amount of villains who all appear to be the "main" villain of each book, but turn out to be an ArcVillain at best, or a MookLieutenant at worst. Even Redeye Garlackson and Lord Falcowit, two dangerous antagonists in the series, are both killed relatively easily and have little screentime.
* ''The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga'' has, at various points, [[OurVampiresAreDifferent Pentreath Reese]], [[EvilSorcerer Vigus Quintrel]] [[spoiler: or rather, the demonic being controlling Quintrel]] and [[ShroudedInMyth Thrane]] as architects of different plots trading off the role of main threat; [[AristocratsAreEvil Lord Vedran Pollard]] is TheHeavy of the series and works with or for all three of the above at various points [[DragonWithAnAgenda to advance his own ambitions]], and [[SorcerousOverlord Nagok]] has a similar relationship with Thrane alone. [[spoiler: However, several characters speculate that Thrane may have been responsible for the magical cataclysm that set the MythArc in motion; if this is true, that probably cements him as ''the'' BigBad of the Saga]].
* ''Literature/CodexAlera'' combines this with BigBadEnsemble, as some of them overlap: For the first book, it's the Atsurak (with the Aquitaines as the GreaterScopeVillain), then it's Sarl in book two, Lord Kalare and Sarl in Books 3, Kalare and Senator Arnos (with Lady Aquitaine pulling his strings) in Books 4 and 5, it's [[spoiler: the Vord Queen]].
* ''Literature/ReleaseThatWitch'': In order to survive and protect his lands, Roland has to go through his brother Timothy who appointed himself king, then TheChurch trying to kill all the witches who he's made his allies [[spoiler:and finally the Demons who are hell bent on wiping out humanity.]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'': Darla wants revenge/reunion with Angel. Her actions prompt Sajhan to pull Holtz through time to kill Angel and Darla both. Holtz betrays Sajhan, who then seeks aid from longtime foes Wolfram & Hart, who play off both Sajhan and Holtz. Sajhan discovers this and banishes Holtz to another reality, then duels Angel. In the aftermath of that battle, Holtz returns with a new means of attacking Angel, while Wolfram & Hart lick their wounds. Who was the Big Bad? Not even Creator/JossWhedon could tell you.
** The writers, same as every season.
** A later BigBad takes credit for having set all of it in motion millennia ago as part of their plan to (re)enter and take over the mortal plane. The veracity of the claim is never tested but there's no evidence to dispute it either and several of the events involved would definitely make more sense with some otherworldly party pulling strings behind the scenes.
* ''Series/BurnNotice'' season three started with a BigGood cop as the potential antagonist, then moved on to an AffablyEvil fixer, followed by a PsychoForHire, and culminating with a [[TerroristsWithoutACause Terrorist Without a Cause.]] Apparently feeling that was too easy, the writers in season four go with TheMole, a CorruptCorporateExecutive, a stray SmugSnake, a returning EvilCounterpart, ANOTHER returning EvilCounterpart, all before the reveal of the actual BigBad: [[spoiler: TheMole from the beginning!]]
** And then again in Season 6. First we have the BigBad of Season 5, followed by a ColdSniper, then the EvilMentor, and finally an InspectorJavert.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'': The multiple storylines that occur independently of each other, as well as the shifting morality and power structures of the various noble houses and other factions, results in there being several central villains at a time. Among the top contenders across the series are Tywin Lannister (the head of House Lannister and thus an enemy to the Starks and Baratheons), Littlefinger (actively instigated the War of the Five Kings), Roose and Ramsay Bolton (evil overlords of the North and enemies of the Greyjoys), the High Sparrow (religious fanatic who is taking over King's Landing), Mance Rayder (the leader of the Wildlings planning to attack the Night's Watch), and most unquestionably, the White Walkers, who are plotting to invade Westeros and KillEmAll.
* Dai Shi is the initial and eventual Big Bad of ''Series/PowerRangersJungleFury'', though the title shuffles frequently. Carnisoar, Jellica and Grizzaka all take their turns on the throne, and it initially looks like the Phantom Beasts are going to take over before they betray Jellica and Dai Shi takes back his title.
* ''Series/KamenRiderFaiz'': In a season where not all monsters are bad and not all Riders are good, multiple candidates are presented to be the main threat. At first it seemed that Kyoji Murakami was going to be the final villain, as he is the standard CorruptCorporateExecutive, but then TheRival Masato Kusaka is introduced and begins screwing up Takumi's friendship with Mari. After some episodes, the menacing Kamen Rider Delta appears, but its user is killed and the belt is given to PsychoForHire Kitazaki, who was mentioned several times in previous episodes and was hyped up to be the series' most dangerous antagonist, until he gets bored and gives the belt to Aki Sawada, a victim of LoveMakesYouCrazy who desperately wants to kill Mari. With Sawada out of the way, MadScientist Masahiko Minami began experimenting on Orphnochs and terrorizing the protagonists, until he is killed by Takumi's EvilFormerFriend Yuji Kiba, who becomes the new chief of Smart Brain. Kyoji comes to the spotlight once again as he attempts to kidnap CreepyChild Teruo, who is revealed to be the Arch-Orphnoch. With this revelation, Kyoji and Kiba sacrifice themselves, but not before the latter snapped Kusaka's neck. Jealous of the Arch-Orphnoch's power, Kitazaki tries to kill him but is finished off, leaving the Arch-Orphnoch as the TrueFinalBoss.
* ''Series/KamenRiderGaim'' goes through this as more of the story is unveiled and important details surface. When the [[MonsterOfTheWeek Invase]] first appear, it looks like Takatora Kureshima (Kamen Rider Zangetsu) and his [[MegaCorp Yggdrasil Corporation]] are behind it. Then it turns out he's trying to ''save'' humanity, but everything is thrown into chaos by the reveal of a metaphorical and literal AppleOfDiscord: Takatora gets back-stabbed by his power-hungry inner circle and his younger brother Mitsuzane. Then the characters learn that the Invase have intelligent leaders called "Overlords", who possess the Golden Fruit everyone wants. Then Mitsuzane undergoes a full [[LoveMakesYouEvil love-induced]] FaceHeelTurn, including allying with one of the Overlords who wants the Fruit for herself. In the end, TheRival Kaito Kumon (Kamen Rider Baron) is the "final boss" because his SocialDarwinism clashes with TheHero Kouta's more benevolent attitude and they fight for ownership of the Fruit.
* ''Series/KamenRiderBuild'' starts with the Faust organization led by Night Rogue as the main villains. It's soon revealed though that they're supported by Nanba Heavy Industries, led by Juzaburo Nanba. Once they accomplish their goal of starting a war between the divided territories of Japan, Prime Ministers Tajimi and Mido step up as potential condidates, the alliance between Nanba and Faust starts to falter, and TheDragon Blood Stalk starts revealing that he's PlayingBothSides, leaving Faust in the dust. [[spoiler: Tajimi is eventually neutralized by Mido, who's revealed to be a PuppetKing for Nanba, and Night Rogue also winds up subservient to Nanba in order to keep up with the power levels of everyone else. It ultimately narrows down to Nanba and Blood Stalk by the midway point of the series. However, it's quickly revealed that Blood Stalk AKA Evolto, the destroyer of Mars, has been playing both hero and villain alike since the very beginning in order to unlock the power to destroy the world, coming out as the ultimate villain.]]
* ''Series/OnceUponATime''
** Season 5A starts with The Dark Swan and King Arthur as the BigBadEnsemble of this arc. Eventually, it becomes apparent the latter (and Zelena who teams up with him) is just a BigBadWannabe. Then we are introduced to [[spoiler: Nimue]], the very first Dark One who is responsible for all other Dark Ones turning evil in a bid to fulfil her desires. Except [[spoiler: it turns out Hook was turned into a Dark One and he and Nimue]] act as the arc's FinalBoss.
** Season 6 revolves around the search for a mysterious hooded figure destined to kill Emma Swan. It begins with Mr. Hyde and the Evil Queen as a BigBadEnsemble. [[spoiler: Hyde gets killed four episodes in leaving the Queen as sole BigBad.]] At which point the hooded figure [[spoiler:(Rumple and Belle's grown up son, Gideon)]] shows up to usurp the role - except he is just a pawn for the Black Fairy, the FinalBoss of the season. Even after she is defeated [[spoiler: Emma's death needs to be stopped completely leaving Gideon as the PostFinalBoss since the FinalBattle between them is one to ensure that neither of their hearts turn dark rather then a battle of good and evil.]]
** [=Victoria Belfry/Lady Tremaine=] is the initial antagonist of Season 7 given she is in control of Hyperion Heights. Except she did not cast the curse that created the city, that was [[spoiler: her daughter, Drizzella.]] The two proceed to swap between the BigBad position for a while with Mother Gothel acting as a consul to both of them. The real main antagonist is [[spoiler: Gothel and her Coven of Eight.]] And things get even more complicated when [[BigBadEnsemble two new antagonists are introduced]] Doctor Facilier who wishes to harness the power of the Dark One Dagger and [[spoiler:[[SerialKiller the Candy Killer]] who is hunting down the witches living in Hyperion Heights.]] In the end, [[spoiler: the Candy Killer is revealed as Facilier's pawn and is killed off, while Gothel dies in the penultimate episode before the two-part series finale, leaving Dr. Facilier as the last man standing...or it looks like until he ends that same episode getting dispatched by Wish!Rumple, who is the show's TrueFinalBoss.]]
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'':
** Season 6 starts out with the ArchangelRaphael and the angels whom follow him, as they want to free [[ArchangelMichael Michael]] and [[{{Satan}} Lucifer]] from Lucifer's Cage and restart the Apocalypse, Crowley, who is rounding up the [[MonsterProgenitor Alpha Monsters]] in order to find an entrance to Purgatory, and Soulless!Sam, who lacks a moral conscience without his soul. [[spoiler: Midway through the season, [[TheGrimReaper Death]] retrieves Sam's soul,]] but his spot is soon taken by Eve, Mother of All, who wants to avenge the deaths of her children, AKA all of the monsters. [[spoiler: Eve is killed by Phoenix Ashes, making her a DiscOneFinalBoss, but her spot is soon taken by none other than [[WellIntentionedExtremist Castiel]], who is revealed to be in league with Crowley, as he wants to use the souls within Purgatory to stop Raphael from restarting the Apocalypse. Castiel soon double-crosses Crowley, who then goes over to Raphael, but they are too late to prevent Castiel from absorbing the souls within Purgatory. Crowley barely escapes, but Castiel destroys Raphael, and then declares himself [[AGodAmI as the new God]].]]
** Season 10 starts out with [[spoiler: Deanmon]], but he gets better in the third episode. His spot is then taken by Rowena, an immortal witch who is Crowley's mother, and soon forms an alliance with him. Metatron returns as a BigBadWannabe, and the [[AncientConspiracy Styne Family]] is introduced in the second half of the season, as a group who wish to get their hands onto the Book of the Damned. And above all of it, the [[TheCorruption Mark of Cain]] is still working its way onto Dean, who is trying to resist its effects until they can find a way to remove it. [[spoiler: Rowena and Crowley's alliance falls flat, with Crowley kicking Rowena out after it becomes apparent to him that she doesn't care about him. Metatron's angelic grace is removed, leaving him human and stranded on Earth with not much to do, and the Styne Family is massacred by a Mark of Cain-powered Dean in the penultimate episode. Ultimately, the SeasonFinale makes it clear that the true BigBad of Season 10 is [[VillainProtagonist Sam and Dean Winchester]] themselves, having long gone before into HeWhoFightsMonsters territory. Season 11 has them having a HeelRealization.]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/BlazBlue'' establishes Yuuki Terumi aka Hazama as the BigBad in ''[[VideoGame/BlazBlueContinuumShift Continuum Shift]]'', revealing him to have been manipulating the events of the series from behind the scenes alongside his [[BigBadDuumvirate partner-in-crime]], Relius Clover. At the end of the game the two are revealed to be working for the Imperator of NOL, Izanami, the goddess of death possessing Ragna and Jin's sister Saya. She later takes the position of BigBad position from them in ''[[VideoGame/BlazBlueChronophantasma Chronophantasma]]'' after [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness abandoning them to their fates]]. Later, in ''[[VideoGame/BlazBlueCentralFiction Central Fiction]]'', Izanami's apparent [[TheDragon Dragon]] Phantom makes her plans known and Hazama (who was split from Terumi's body after his apparent defeat) is revealed to have his own agenda as well. Ultimately, once those three are knocked out of the way, the role of final villain is taken over by Terumi in his true identity as Susanoo.
* The ''Franchise/CallOfDuty:'' ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare'' games go through several Big Bads. In the first game, Al-Asad, the leader of a revolution in a [[{{Qurac}} nameless Middle Eastern country]] looks to be the BigBad at first. Halfway through, it's revealed that his revolution was being funded by Russian Ultranationalist leader, Imran Zakhaev. After Zakhaev is disposed, one of his CoDragons, Vladimir Makarov, appears to fill the BigBad role in ''Modern Warfare 2''. It's eventually revealed though that Makarov was an UnwittingPawn of [[spoiler:General Shepherd]]. However, ''Modern Warfare 3'' reveals the Makarov may have been using [[spoiler:Shepherd]] as ''his'' pawn, and that [[spoiler:he's the one who detonated the nuke that drove him mad.]] He also [[spoiler:saved Zakhaev when he was shot]], ultimately making him responsible for the events of the ''Modern Warfare'' series as a whole.
* The ''Franchise/MetalGear'' games, especially the MindScrew of ''Metal Gear Solid 2'', and the non-canonical ''Ghost Babel'', where the terrorist general, his mercenary [[TheDragon Dragon]]/manipulator, and the U.S. government all mock the others as fools who are just being played by whoever is doing the mocking at the moment.
* Untangling who stands behind whom, with many false leads, is the entire point of ''VideoGame/DeusEx''.
* ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosBrawl'', in the Subspace campaign, has... numerous [[BigBad Big Bads]]. This stems partly from the nature of the game - as a lumping together of the respective Nintendo mythologies, all the key villains come with their respective heroes.
** To elaborate, it at first seems that the Subspace Army is led by the Ancient Minister with Bowser and Wario working with them to take out the other fighters and collect them in their trophy forms. [[spoiler: King Dedede]] is also collecting trophied fighters, but he's competing with the other villains [[spoiler: and it turns out he's GoodAllAlong as he was collecting the fighters so that he could give them timed badges that would revive them in case all the fighters were wiped out.]] Then it turns out that the real leader of the Subspace Army is [[spoiler: Ganondorf and Ancient Minister was ForcedIntoEvil in order to protect the R.O.B.s.]] THEN it turns out [[spoiler: Ganondorf and the other fighters working with the Subspace Army were working under the Master Hand, who was in turn being controlled by the true Big Bad, Tabuu, the lord of Subspace.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Myst}}'' has this in spades. The game begins when you meet [[ObviouslyEvil two imprisoned brothers]], each of whom tries to convince you that his brother is the one behind the disappearance of their father. As you complete the various stages to slowly free the brothers, you encounter clues to help you finally decide which of the two is the actual BigBad. [[spoiler: Turns out, [[TakeAThirdOption they BOTH are]].]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'' introduces Shinra as the {{Megacorp}} oppressing the world. The it turns out Sephiroth is Cloud's ArchNemesis and the real threat. But it turns out the Shinra scientist Hojo created Sephiroth by experimenting on Jenova, but Sephiroth is still the bigger threat than either of them. And the party continues to come into conflict with Shinra throughout the game as they search for Sephiroth.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'' has the Galbadians and President Deling as the Disc 1 villains, only to kill him off and reveal Sorceress Edea as the real villain at the end of the disc. Then Disc 2 ends with Edea's defeat and Disc 3 reveals she was under DemonicPossession by the ''real'' villain Ultimecia.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX''. The BigBad is Queen Brahne. Wait, now it's Kuja! And now it's Garland! Now it's Kuja again! But in the end, it's Necron!
** The lattermost is more just the FinalBoss - s/he/it [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere has no involvement in the plot until then and isn't actually orchestrating anything]] (Necron is implicitly a personification of death/the reaper... probably).
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV''. The game starts off with a series of [[TheEmpire Garlean]] superior officers on the surface - Nael van Darnus in 1.0, who along with Bahamut caused the Calamity; Gaius van Baelsar in 2.0 who acts as the Empire's TheHeavy as they invade Eorzea; Regula van Hydrus in 3.0 who replaces Gaius and even brings along Emperor Varis as the GreaterScopeVillain for the Empire. The Ascians, with Lahabrea, Nabriales (pre-3.0), and Igeyorhm (during 3.0), working from the shadows form the majority of the overall conflict of the story. Then 3.0 reveals that King Thordan of Ishgard is driving most of the plot and is the true BigBad of the 3.0 plotline, manipulating the Ascians while they think they're manipulating him. Meanwhile, each of the city-states have their own minor antagonists (who are usually underlings to one of the above), but Lord Lolorito of Ul'dah has been orchestrating a lot behind the scenes and may be a step ahead of them all if he gets Omega in possession like he's planning to.
* ''VideoGame/SeikenDensetsu3'' has three possible {{Big Bad}}s, each with their own [[TheDragon dragons]] and {{Mooks}}. About halfway the game, one of them will eliminate the other two (which one depends on your choice of main character), but until that time the whole game is a tangle of their conflicting plots.
* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed'': The Templars/Abstergo are the oldest enemies of the Assassins and seem a lock for the position of {{Big Bad}}s. But that's before you learn the AbusivePrecursors who made the Pieces of Eden. Even then, it's a toss-up between [[spoiler: Minerva and Juno]] until the end of III, which pretty clearly cements the latter.
* ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity'' has [[PsychoPsychologist Hugo Strange]] and SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker competing for the position of BigBad, [[spoiler: with Ra's al-Ghul proving to be Strange's [[TheManBehindTheMan hidden benefactor]]]]. In the end, [[spoiler:Strange is defeated by Batman and killed by Ra's [[YouHaveFailMe for his failure]], and then Ra's kills himself while fighting Batman, leaving Joker as the subject of a PostClimaxConfrontation]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'' is similar. At first the Full Moon Shadows serve as the collective BigBad of the game, being the source of the Dark Hour. Then you meet Strega, a fellow group of Persona users who want to stop you from getting rid of the Dark Hour, but they aren't affiliated with the Shadows at all, they just want to keep using their powers for petty reasons (which mostly involve killing people). Their leader Takaya [[spoiler: eventually manages to inflict a PlotlineDeath on one of your party members]] and is the closest thing the game has to a human villain. Then you kill all the Full Moon Shadows and [[spoiler:Shuji Ikutsuki, your MissionControl, reveals himself as EvilAllAlong and that he was just using the party to bring about TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt.]] This character becomes the clear new BigBad... for all of one cutscene, after which they're quickly killed off and the game has NoAntagonist for a while. Then we meet [[spoiler: Ryoji, who turns out to be the avatar of Nyx, a godlike being that will bring about the end of the world.]] Takaya becomes TheDragon to this new BigBad, and said new BigBad is the FinalBoss. However, the PlayableEpilogue added in the UpdatedRerelease reveals that [[spoiler: Nyx wasn't really evil and the ''true'' BigBad, Erebus, was just using her to destroy the world. Though Erebus is more of an animalistic force born from humanity's collective despair than an actual sentient being, complicating things further.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' is filled with this. First it seems that [[spoiler:Kubo]] is the killer but [[spoiler:he only killed your teacher and wanted attention]]. The murder attempts continue and you eventually find out that the one doing the deeds was [[spoiler:Namatame]] but then it turns out [[spoiler:that he thought he was doing good and something made him snap]]. The person who made him snap was [[spoiler:Adachi]] who [[spoiler:did the first two killings while Namatame did the rest, plus he threw Kubo in the TV world]]. AND THEN [[spoiler:he gets possessed by Ameno-Sagiri, a creature that had been causing the fog and was using Adachi to raise paranoia and chaos among the town to begin to create a world full of shadows]]. AND FINALLY [[spoiler:Izanami, one of the two gods in Japanese myth that birthed humanity, gave personas to you, Namatame, and Adachi to do what they did for her goals and is the master of Ameno-Sagiri]]. And I'm out of breath...
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 5}}'': Each ArcVillain was being pressured into TheConspiracy by someone in a "Black Mask". Black Mask was in turn working for politician Masayoshi Shido. [[spoiler:And the villains ''and'' the heroes were being manipulated by the real BigBad, Yaldabaoth, God of Order.]]
* The third game in ''VideoGame/TheSecondRealityProject'' series is slated to have this, according to [[ this old thread at SMW Central]]. The first world takes its time to set up the game's premise. Bowser, the BigBad of the first game, returns to the Second Reality with the intention to take back the Power Supply Switch from the Catgoom Kingdom. Then it was discovered that Zycloboo, the second game's BigBad, has been revived, and he too wants the Power Supply Switch. With both villains vying for the switch, Mario and his friends have no choice but to go on a quest to destroy it.
* ''VideoGame/LifeIsStrange'' initially seem to set up either [[spoiler: [[AxeCrazy Nathan]] [[ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney Prescott]] or [[LoanShark Frank]] [[HairTriggerTemper Bowers]]]] as the main candidates for Racheal Ambers disappearance [[spoiler: and subsequent death]]. However [[spoiler: Frank turns out to be a giant RedHerring (Rachael was actually in a relationship with him) and Nathan turns out to be TheDragon to the true villain of the game [[SadistTeacher Mark]] [[TheDogWasTheMastermind Jeffison]]]].
* ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights'', the expansion ''Shadows of the Undrentide'' opens with a tribe of kobolds attacking your home and stealing several artifacts. As you pursue them you find evidence that they came into conflict with some bugbears and each made off with at least one artifact. The kobolds are employed by the dragon Tymofarrar, but he ordered the attack because he was in alliance with J'Nah, the leader of the bugbears. Then you find out J'Nah is collecting the artifacts for an unknown third party.
* ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'' winds up doing one in its final act, due to its enormous GambitPileup finally getting resolved. For most of the game, the apparent BigBad is [[HiddenAgendaVillain Lynx]] - who turns out to be an avatar of the rogue supercomputer [[AIIsACrapshoot FATE]]. Defeating [=FATE=], however, allows the [[GaiasVengeance Dragon Gods]] to return to their true form and busily get to work on destroying humanity. And it's only after you defeat the Dragon Gods that you learn the entire plot was orchestrated as a setup to create a weapon capable of defeating the ''real'' BigBad, the [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere Time Devourer]].
* In ''VideoGame/GuildWars Prophecies'', the first campaign, the game begins with the Charr being set up as big bads and destroyers of the player characters' home kingdom. Then they travel through the Shiverpeak mountains with the Stone Summit Dwarves taking over their role as primary antagonists, especially when they [[spoiler: kill Prince Rurik.]] When the PC's arrive in Kryta however, the undead and the Lich Lord pop up as a new bad until [[spoiler: they find out the truth about and are betrayed by the White Mantle]] who then proceed to hunt them down for a good portion of the game. The player characters then go through a lot of trouble to Ascend and be able to see and fight their "gods" [[spoiler: the Mursaat]], when suddenly they're thrown back against the Stone Summit Dwarves and finally deal with their leader, then back to the [[spoiler: Mursaat. Then out of the blue it turns out that one of their closest allies of the last half of the game was in fact the Lich Lord in disguise and he uses their actions to take control of the Titans, another race of superpowered baddies,]] and they end up facing him as the final big bad.
* ''VideoGame/Halo2'' starts off with the three Covenant High Prophets in a [[BigBadDuumvirate Big Bad Triumvirate]]. However, after [[spoiler:the Prophet of Regret gets killed by Master Chief]] and [[spoiler:the Prophet of Mercy gets devoured by [[TheVirus the Flood]]]], leaving the [[ManipulativeBastard Prophet]] [[AxCrazy of Truth]] as the sole BigBad. He soon forms a BigBadEnsemble with the [[HiveMind Gravemind]], though in ''VideoGame/Halo3'' [[spoiler:the Gravemind and the Flood briefly team up with our heroes to stop Truth from activating the Halo Rings]]. After this gets accomplished, the Gravemind takes over the sole BigBad.
* ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'' does this over the course of the three routes. In ''Fate'', [[EnfantTerrible Illya]] is the initial antagonist, with [[SmugSnake Shinji]] becoming another contender once his plan is discovered. Then Illya [[KickTheSonOfABitch kills Shinji]], leaving her as the sole antagonist. Once she’s beaten, Caster breifly takes the Big Bad position before [[Literature/TheEpicOfGilgamesh Gilgamesh]] is introduced and knocks her away. Then [[BigBadDuumvirate he turns out to be working with]] [[SinisterMinister Kirei Kotomine]], and they summon [[spoiler:the Holy Grail itself]] as a GreaterScopeVillain. In ''Unlimited Blade Works'', Caster appears to usurp the position from Kotomine, even seemingly killing him. Then once she’s beaten, [[spoiler:''Archer'' betrays the party and]] kidnaps Rin. Then he [[spoiler:[[VillainTeamUp joins forces with]] Shinji, Gilgamesh, and [[NotQuiteDead Kotomine]]]]. Eventually [[spoiler:Gilgamesh]] is left as the sole antagonist with the others dead... until [[spoiler:he summons the Holy Grail]]. Finally, in ''Heaven’s Feel'', [[EvilOldFolks Zouken Matou]] is introduced, and he [[EvilVsEvil competes with Kotomine and Gilgamesh]] [[spoiler:before Sakura [[FaceHeelTurn becomes]] [[SuperpoweredEvilSide Dark Sakura]] and [[MakeWayForTheNewVillains kills them all]]. But Zouken survives, and attempts to take over Dark Sakura- so she kills him ''again''. Then, when she’s defeated, Kotomine returns for one last battle]]. Ultimately, [[spoiler:everyone is revealed to be a pawn of the Holy Grail’s corruption, [[EldritchAbomination Avenger]] [[MadeOfEvil Angra]] [[SatanicArchetype Maiynu]]]].

* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' does this quite a lot. So, the BigBad and FinalBoss of the Game is the Black King. Except before they can fight him, he gets killed by [[spoiler:Jack Noir]], who's the REAL big bad that all the heroes and other villains are trying to stop. Except [[spoiler:the whole thing was a set-up by Vriska Serket]]. Until it [[spoiler:Jack]] stops following her plans. And then it turns out that they were both under the control of [[spoiler:Doc Scratch]], even though [[spoiler:Jack]] is actually more dangerous than him, except he's not because everything he does is part of The Plan, and it eventually turns out that [[spoiler:Scratch was behind everything]]. BUT WAIT! He was doing everything to summon his Master, [[spoiler:Lord English]], who's actions also provoked the Horrorterrors, pretty much the only party not being manipulated by someone. But then, Act 6 introduces ''even more'' villains while still keeping one or two of the old ones around, [[spoiler:but all of them can be traced back to Lord English]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* The initial BigBad of ''WebAnimation/MadnessCombat'' is the Sheriff, though after Hank kills him, his [[TheDragon Dragon]] [[DarkMessiah Jesus]] briefly takes the role. Then [[MonsterClown Tricky]] comes in and kills him, stealing the role from him. It's eventually revealed though, that the overall BigBad was the Auditor, as he was manipulating everything through the Improbability Drive.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* One episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'' featured six villains, each revealing one after the other that the previous villain wasn't actually that episode's BigBad.
* Season 20 of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' at first presents a BigBadEnsemble between [[{{Troll}} SkankHunt42]] / [[spoiler:Gerald]] and Mr. Garrison, who are soon joined by the Memberberries. A few episodes later, they are also joined by Lennart Bedrager, head of [=TrollTrace=].com, who eventually takes [[spoiler:Gerald]] out of commission. Mr. Garrison, meanwhile, ends up becoming a pawn of the Memberberries, who are also revealed to be led by the [[TheDon Don Memberberry]]. However, the Memberberries become OutOfFocus when Lennart and [=TrollTrace=] take center stage, leaving Lennart as the FinalBoss of the season.