The Heavy

"Thank you! Fuck you! The villain has arrived!"
Ladd Russo, Baccano!

The Heavy is the antagonist whose direct actions are the primary focus of the storyline. This is a big role for an actor, if not the largest role, in a play or movie. The term, which goes back to theater in the 1800s, refers to this player having the most lines and thus the heaviest script.

This can be the Big Bad, but is also often The Dragon, since keeping the Big Bad mysterious generally makes him scarier. This is especially true in the case of a Non-Action Big Bad. In the original Star Wars trilogy, Emperor Palpatine may be the Big Bad, but Darth Vader is the plot driver. He's seen more. He has more to do. He dominates the films, and as the prequels prove, the story is about him.

Actors often cast in such parts are known for "playing the heavy."

Compare Dragon-in-Chief, which is when The Dragon fills this role specifically because he overshadows the Big Bad as a threat. Likely to intersect with Villains Act, Heroes React. If they railroad the plot too strongly, it may result in a Pinball Protagonist.

Do not confuse with the Heavy Weapons Guy, who is The Big Guy. Or the band.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has Father whose actions to absorb God, not only founded Amestris, but the main characters along with most of the cast would've never been born if he hadn't done so.
    • The 2003 version gives us Envy, who actually fights much more often than Dante. Not only does he do her bidding, he actually manages to kill Ed.
  • Bleach has longtime Big Bad, Sosuke Aizen. To start, Ichigo, his sisters and Uryu would literally not exist without his interference.
    • It also has a far less extreme example in Yhwach, Emperor of the Vandenreich. He's the progenitor of all Quincy, meaning that his blood literally runs through the veins of not only all of the current antagonists of the series, but also of the Ishidas, and the Kurosakis. To top it all off, his awakening is what caused the deaths of Masaki Kurosaki and Kanae Katagiri, Uryu's mother.
  • Zouken Matou in Fate/stay night. While Kotomine is the Big Bad, he always sends others to do his work and runs out of those quickly in Heavens Feel. Kotomine isn't even seen as an enemy until the very end, and its possible that no one even remembers that he was since Shirou is the only one who was there and his memory of the events is a little hazy, for good reason.
  • Hattori in Nabari No Ou appears to drive most of the plot, though he isn't actually the Big Bad Fuuma is.
  • Naruto had Orochimaru, Pain, and finally, Tobi.
    • Tobi is the most prominent example. Literally speaking, absolutely nothing would have been the same had he not gotten involved. Naruto probably would have had a much happier life if Tobi hadn't gotten involved in it.
      • The extent has become clear with the revelation of Chapter 599. If Obito had never actually "died", then not only would Kakashi never get his Sharingan eye, the Fourth Hokage and his wife would be alive, Naruto would've have had a much happier childhood, the Uchiha Clan wouldn't have been blamed for the Nine-tails attacked (leading to a coup), the Akatsuki would've most likely never existed, etc. It really begins to show how much of an impact Tobi had on the plot, now that it's been revealed he's Obito.
      • And in chapter 675, it's been revealed that the events leading to Rin's death, itself the reason for Obito's Face-Heel Turn, were orchestrated by the real Madara Uchiha, in order to ensnare Obito as his servant. Obito's Face-Heel Turn lead to, among other things, the Bloodline Purges and the Kyubi's attack on Konoha, which orphaned Naruto, and the rest is history. So literally speaking, the plot of the entire series can be blamed on Madara — Obito just happened to be the tool he used to make it all happen. Otherwise Obito would've gone back to Konoha with Rin and Kakashi and become Hokage like his sensei wanted; that, or die. Either way, everyone would have had much happier lives.
      • Then in chapter 681, this position is usurped by Black Zetsu, who is responsible for every single conflict in the entire series, creating the conflict between the Sage's sons Indra and Ashura, which led to the Senju-Uchiha feud, in turn leading to the Moon Eye plan. And to top it all off, his intent this whole time has been to revive Kaguya.
    • Danzo. Every non-Uchiha villain has ties to Danzo, even Orochimaru. Danzo was responsible for the Starts of Darkness of no less than three major villains, most notably Pein and Kabuto.
  • Eyeshield 21: Reiji Marco is this during the Kantou Regionals, with his obsessions and schemes driving most of the plot, and helping to totally upset the way the tournament was supposed to go. During the Youth World Cup, the Big Bad Duumvirate of Clifford D. Louis and Mr. Don take over as the main threat to the Devil-Bats, with their seeming invincibility driving the story for the remainder of the arc.
  • Gundam:
  • The Colossal Titan in Attack on Titan, appearing just long enough to quite literally kick off the plot. Ironically, when in human form he's actually extremely passive and merely a pawn of an unrevealed greater threat.
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has Kawarino, He's responsible for the invasion and destruction of the Palmier Kingdom, he manipulates and abuses all other villains, and he's the one who makes Desparaiah's wish coming true. And if the Palmier Kingdom was never destroyed, the Pretty Cure 5 wouldn't even exist.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and manga have one each arc. Usually they are the Big Bad of that arc, but not always. They are:
    • Shadi in the Trial of the Mind arc, where he takes control of Anzu to test Dark Yugi. Not evil, but he has different morals.
    • Seto Kaiba in the Death T arc, forcing Yugi and friends to compete in a multitude of deadly games because an earlier match with Dark Yugi ended in a Penalty Game that left Kaiba sleepless for months.
    • The Spirit of the Millennium Ring in the Monster World R.P.G. traps those who play the eponymous R.P.G. with Bakura inside mini-figures. When Yugi and the gang get involved, Dark Yugi has to finish the game.
    • Maximillion Pegasus during Duelist Kingdom, whose kidnapping of Yugi's grandfather and Kaiba's brother serves as the motivation for both of them.
    • Mr. Clown during the manga-only Dragons, Dice & Dungeons arc (the anime has this arc too, but it's completely rewritten as a filler and Mr. Clown is replaced by his own son), with his vengeful ambitions towards the Mutou family causing his son to battle Yugi in a series of games for the Millennium Puzzle and the title of King of Games, and nearly caused Yugi and Jonouchi to die in a fire.
    • Marik Ishtar during Battle City, with his plans to kill the Pharaoh and seize the power of the three Egyptian God Cards eventually dragging in everyone.
    • Noah Kaiba during the anime only Virtual Nightmare arc. While his father Gozaburo is the Big Bad, Noah is the actual threat, and does most of the work.
    • Dark Marik during the Battle City finals; defeating him is the end goal of Yugi, Joey, and Kaiba.
    • Dartz during the anime only DOMA arc, as he's the one behind the entire arc.
    • Zigfried von Schroeder during the anime only Kaiba Corp Grand Prix; it's his plan to derail Kaiba's tournament, and he's the one who forces Leon to help him.
    • The Spirit of the Millenium Ring again during the Millenium World arc, both as The Chessmaster in the present, and by possessing himself in the past in the anime.
  • Yugioh Zexal has the Barian Emperor named Vector, an all-around menace whose ambitions are central to how the second half of the anime plays out. He's a selfish, mawkish, crafty bastard who works great under pressure or when things don't go his way, and he's not afraid to make bitter enemies out of everyone he knows, only for power.
  • Dio Brando is the villain of Jojos Bizarre Adventure. When he's not directly playing the villain (like in parts 1 and 3,) he's still playing Bigger Bad and influencing the plot even long after his death. Even when the universe is essentially reset at the end of Part 6, an alternate universe version of him still appears in Steel Ball Run to make trouble.
    • The first opening of Phantom Blood can be summed up as Dio making dramatic poses and faces. There's barely enough Jonathan to justify the series title.
  • Durarara!!: Izaya Orihara. Nearly every conflict in the series is somehow connected to him — and Shizuo, being Shizuo, is the only one who recognizes that. Despite being the closest the series has to a Big Bad, it's questionable whether he actually is the main antagonist, thanks to the actions of Yodogiri Jinnai, who, despite being in the background so far, is implied to be even worse than he is.

    Comic Books 
  • Inverted in Sin City in which the heroic roles drive the plot. In Hartigan and Marv's stories, the main characters respond to crimes that happen off-screen to people they have little connection to. Because they decide to act, this leads them to make more decisions and the plot follows them. Dwight is an even greater example. He starts off reacting to Jackie Boy being the plot driver but he takes over the plot when he decides to chase Jackie Boy into Old Town and from there, his actions led to trouble from different directions. The main villain of that particular story doesn't have a part in the plot until the mid-way point.
  • Norman Osborn in almost every Spider-Man continuity. In fact, one of the main reasons why Norman Osborn hasn't been a major threat to the main Marvel universe at large until Dark Reign is because he was hell bent on screwing around with Peter Parker's life.

     Fan Works 
  • In The Moon's Apprentice, because Nightmare Moon is still in the moon, this role falls to Twilight Sparkle. Not that you can tell.
  • Saturn Laos acts at this in the RWBY fanfic The Shadow Of Fire.
  • In The Changelings Have a King, the eponymous King Carapace is this. While Queen Chrysalis created him (by transforming Prince Blueblood into a changeling) to serve as a progenitor of new "pure" changelings and a source of love/power, and the two of them nominally oversee the hive and the invasion together, he takes a much more active role in planning and carrying out the invasion, while Chrysalis is mainly concerned with her brood, and it's implied he's isolating and manipulating her.

    Films — Animated 
  • Deconstructed in Wreck-It Ralph. The eponymous Villain Protagonist's job is to destroy the town of Niceland, in which Fix-It Felix, Jr. has to repair the damage done. Because of this, the Nicelanders consider Ralph as a Hate Sink and generally shun him. Fed up with the treatment, the villain decides to break out on his own to prove that he is capable of being a hero like Felix. There's just one problem: Ralph is a vital part of the game. Without him, the game literally won't function, which will cause the game to be decommissioned, which will make every resident either dead or homeless, and Felix is apparently the only one who knows this. By the time Ralph returns to make amends and the Nicelanders realize how much they took him for granted, the game is hours away from being unplugged for good.
  • The plot of The LEGO Movie revolves around the masterplan of Lord Business, who plans to glue the LEGO realms together due to his need for total perfection with the fated Kragle on 'Taco Tuesday', and the motive of a prophecy which states a Special will obtain the Piece of Resistance to prevent this plan's completion.
  • Snatcher is responsible for almost every conflict in the plot of The Boxtrolls.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Barbossa in the first, Davy Jones in the second and third, and Blackbeard in the fourth. Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
  • In Jurassic World, it's the Indominus rex that takes this title. While there are plenty of other dinosaurs (and a few humans) that cause death and destruction over the course of the film, the I. rex is the main antagonist and the danger is treated as being pretty much over as soon as she's killed, despite the fact there is still a T. rex wandering around. And possibly a Suchomimus and a couple of Baryonyx, too.
  • Colonel Miles Quaritch of Avatar. He doesn't run the RDA, but Jake and the Na'vi must fight Quaritch and his army to save the day.
  • Die Hard is something of a subversion. While Hans Gruber does set the events of the movie into motion, forcing other characters into action, and otherwise driving the entire plot of the movie, John McClane also sends the plot into other directions by being proactive and antagonizing Gruber. Their battle of wits, both men acting and reacting to the other, sets the general cat-and-mouse tone of the movie, with both taking turns in either role.
  • "Smith" in Nick of Time, the Psycho for Hire who kidnaps the daughter of the main character to blackmail him into assassinating a governor and threatens him continually, doing as Walken does. The apparent Big Bad behind the plot is an unnamed lobbyist who only appears once before riding away near the very end of the movie.
  • Loki does such a good job of driving the plot in The Avengers (2012) that it's easy to miss his brief conversations with "the Other" about the mysterious head honcho who gave him the scepter and a mission. The Stinger reveals he's actually a pawn in Thanos's scheme.
  • In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface drives the plot for the series, but he's really The Dragon to his family, and even then, it's a Big Bad Ensemble. In the remake, Sheriff Hoyt ( who is really his adoptive brother Charlie Hewitt, Jr.) doubles as this or a Big Bad Duumvirate with Leatherface.
  • In Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, there's a werewolf who's constantly stalking Brigitte, but even with the revelation of the true Big Bad, the werewolf's still the Final Boss.
  • While he's one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Destro's a bit more proactive than The Doctor.
    • While Cobra Commander is the Big Bad, Zartan is the most prominent antagonist in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and does more to set Cobra's evil plan in motion.
  • In The Never Ending Story, Gmork fills this role in the first movie. The Nothing is probably the actual Big Bad, but Atreyu has to fight him. Gmork even says something to this effect:
    Atreyu: Who are you, really?
    G'mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing.
  • Elysium: As the leader of Elysium's secret police force on Earth, Agent Kruger serves as Delacourt's primary instrument against Max and the band of freedom fighters with whom he aligns himself. He later replaces Delacourt as the film's main antagonist by murdering Delacourt in a plot to seize control of Elysium for himself.
  • District 9: Although Piet Smit is technically the main antagonist of the movie, Koobus Venter is the one who commands all the mercenary soldiers and takes part of the action.
  • Man of Tai Chi: Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) is the film's Big Bad, and the main onscreen antagonist, orchestrating the plot that brings Tiger Chen to the brink of crossing the Moral Event Horizon. He's the Big Bad and The Man Behind the Man to every bad thing in the film, and acts as the Final Boss that Tiger has to face in the climax.
  • In Serenity, the Operative is a secret government agent who represents the Alliance's interests and carries out their plans to use extreme measures to create a better world. The government elite who give him his orders remain unseen, so he's the closest to an overarching villain in the movie and presents the biggest threat to the heroes.
  • While Dr. Howell is the instigator and the Big Bad of Death Warmed Up, his flunky Spider drives most of the plot in his (eventually personal) pursuit of the main characters.
  • In Cube Zero, Jax is the most palpable human threat in the film as the evil organization's field man who directly cleans up after their experiment goes awry when one of the technicians revolts. He's shown receiving orders over the phone from people higher up in the chain, but they're never seen.
  • Peoples Hernandez to Walter Wade Jr. in Shaft (2000).
  • Aleksandr is this to Viktor Cherevin in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit by the movie's third act.
  • The Equalizer has Teddy, Vladimir Pushkin's right-hand man. Pushkin is the Big Bad of the movie, but Teddy has a lot more screen time.

    Literature 
  • In most variations of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham is plot driver underneath Prince John's Big Bad.
  • Sauron is the Big Bad of Lord of the Rings, but Saruman (and to an extent the Witch-King and the other Ringwraiths) are much more visible and involved villains, especially in the movies. Broadly speaking, each of the six "books" that the story is internally divided into has its own Heavy, with the exception of Book II and Book VI:
    • Book I: The Black Riders collectively
    • Book III: Saruman
    • Book IV: Gollum
    • Book V: The Witch-Kingnote 
  • For The Silmarillion, Morgoth is the Heavy as well as the Big Bad for most of the story, however the episodic nature of its mythical narrative allows other characters like Feanor, Sauron, and Glaurung to all have their time in the spotlight.
  • In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, Kronos is the Big Bad, but Luke drives the plot, as Kronos has no physical form until Battle of the Labyrinth, when he possess Luke, and can only plot and scheme.
  • Though Lord Voldemort is the Big Bad of Harry Potter, he's only directed the plot from afar until the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The role of the plot driver is therefore often taken by another character, who may or may not be working for him.
  • Paolo Bacigalupi:
  • Several times in The Dresden Files, the most visible villain of a given book would be distinct from the ultimate mastermind.
    • Grave Peril: The Nightmare aka Leonid Kravos
    • Dead Beat: Grevane, who appears first and most often of the three necromancers and is fought most consistently through the novel, though he's probably the least dangerous.
    • Proven Guilty: The Scarecrow
    • White Night: Vittorio Malvora
    • Turn Coat: Shagnasty the Skinwalker
    • Changers: Duchess Arianna
    • For the series as the whole, the Red Court of Vampires are the most obvious and heavily featured recurring villains, though the Black Council is shaping up as series-wide Big Bad. With the Reds out of the picture, the Fomor look to be stepping into their vacated role.
  • Nom Anor in the New Jedi Order series. He's not the leader or even a leader of the Yuuzhan Vong, being a mid-ranked but influential intelligence agent, but he's by far the most recurring villain in the novels, and by the last quarter or so the series is as much about him as it is about the heroes.
  • Hawkfrost in the second Warrior Cats arc, The New Prophecy. While his dad Tigerstar is the Big Bad, Hawkfrost's schemes to take over the Clans are the main driving point, partially because his dad is dead and only appears as a Spirit Advisor.
  • Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men, the most menacing and visible of those searching for the drug money. In theory, there is a Big Bad Ensemble of the major players who hired Chigurh and the various Mexicans (implied to be the "Matacumbe Petroleum Group" and real-life drug lord Pablo Acosta), but they're ultimately rendered irrelevant by Chigurh's inscrutable, single-minded rampage, a point driven home when Chigurh kills the guy who apparently hired both him and Carson Wells for interfering with his work, then negotiates a new contract with the man at the very top.
    Accountant: He felt, the more people searching-
    Anton: That's foolish. You pick the one right tool.
  • Krait, the assassin in Dean Koontz's The Good Guy. He spends most of the book as the sole enemy hunting down Linda on behalf of a vaguely defined shadow government that is both explained and destroyed near the end of the book. Played with, as Tim also helps drive the plot by intervening in the hit, similar to the Die Hard example above.
  • If you could really call him a "villain" per say, Pepe el Romano in The House Of Bernada Alba manages to drive the story without even appearing once. His presence in the background causes sister to bitterly turn against sister, and eventually undermine's Bernada's authority over the house, as Adela rebels.
    • A more straight-up example may come in the form of Bernada, who is most definitely a villain.
  • In The Good The Bad And The Mediochre, Mr Antler drives the plot for most of the book, up until Maelstrom catches up and eventually overtakes him in this regard. Neither of them is the Big Bad - they both at least nominally work for Sapphire - and it's actually the tempomancer who is implied to be the most dangerous villain present, working for some sort of Bigger Bad Nebulous Evil Organisation. Antler and Maelstrom are the Heavies because both Sapphire and the tempomancer prefer to work indirectly from the shadows.
  • Diogenes Pendergast in Aigent Pendergast books Dance of Death and Book of the Dead. He is the driving force for both books and even manages to get more screentime than his brother in each of them.
  • In Animorphs, Visser Three is leading the Yeerk invasion of Earth, but the Yeerk Empire is actually ruled by the Council of Thirteen, who only appear in one book. He's also technically outranked by his rival, Visser One, who started the invasion but is only a recurring villain in the series. There's also a Bigger Bad, Crayak, who is pulling the strings of the Yeerk invasion (and just about every other evil thing in the galaxy) but can't do much directly, being limited by the Ellimist.
  • In the second and third Old Kingdom books, the necromancer Hedge is the most visible villain and the most direct threat to the heroes, though it's implied throughout that he's getting his marching orders from elsewhere. He's actually working for Orannis the Destroyer, a powerful Sealed Evil in a Can; because of said sealing, Orannis has very limited ability to interact with the world beyond sporadically taking over Nick and using him as a mouthpiece, therefore leaving most of the heavy lifting on evil's behalf to Hedge by necessity.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, Jack Frost's actions start the plot of every series.
  • In The Behemoth, Stephen Burton kicks off the plot through murder, and evades capture at every turn, but is not actually the Big Bad.
  • Daemon: The Major is technically just a (highly-placed) enforcer for the conspiracy. However, he's the most visible and active of the antagonists.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The First is intangible, which means all the physical jobs belong to Caleb. It first showed up in season 3 as the Monster of the Week, and claims to have been the Bigger Bad for the entirety of the series. but only becomes relevant in season 7.
  • Ben on Lost, especially in late season 2 (even without knowing his real name...) and all of season 3.
  • Diana in V — Jane Badler even got top billing, thanks to alphabetical order. Although Diana commands the Los Angeles mothership during the initial invasion, she shares power in the Visitor fleet hierarchy with several others such as Steven as head of security and several superiors who outrank her in military matters. At the end of the two miniseries, she takes power from Supreme Commander (Fleet Admiral) John and boasts that while she planned the entire operation, he was just a meaningless figurehead.
  • Anna in V (2009) (and though unlike Diana, she has no direct superior, there are other leaders whose combined might even she wouldn't want brought to bear against her.)
  • Sylar from Heroes, especially in the first season and the second half of Volume 4.
  • Gets a lampshade in one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Uncle Phil laments "Why must I always be the heavy?" Will, standing nearby, remarks "Forget it, that would be too easy."
  • Smallville: Lionel Luthor fulfilled the role in Seasons 1-3 (especially 3), Brainiac in Season 5, Lex Luthor in Seasons 6 & 7, and Major Zod in Season 9. Each was also the Big Bad of the season in question. The others are a lot more ambiguous about it, with multiple villains, numerous Big Bad Ensembles, and a lack of plot direction.
    • One could make a definite case for Earth-2 Lionel Luthor in the latter half of Season 10. Darkseid and his Co-Dragons may be the Big Bad, but it's Earth-2 Lionel's schemes who drive most of the plots, and (unintentionally) enable Darkseid to eventually cross over.
  • Gatehouse of The Shadow Line. He's a Dragon-in-Chief rather than a Big Bad, but his plans are eventually revealed to be driving almost every aspect of the series's plot, even in the storylines he's apparently uninvolved with.
  • Tony Almeida in the seventh season of 24. Alan Wilson is the true Big Bad of the season, but Tony's actions throughout the entire thing serves one giant Gambit Roulette to kill Wilson which is what serves as Season 7's entire driving force.
  • Mr. Sark in Seasons 2 and 3 of Alias. He plays The Dragon to two separate Big Bads who prefer to operate in secret, so he becomes the face of their organizations.
  • Bo Crowder takes this role in Season 1 of Justified following his release, with the rest of the show being about his attempt to rebuild his criminal empire. Season 2 has Big Bad Mags Bennett and her Starscream son, Dickie, alternate the role. Season 3 has Robert Quarles. Season 4 sees Nicky Augustine take the role on behalf of Theo Tonin, and Season 5 gives the role to Daryl Crowe Jr.
  • House of Cards (US) is an interesting case in that he's one of the few cases where a character is the show's heavy, Big Bad and main character all rolled into one.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise had Commander Dolim in Season 3. He was the Xindi-Reptilian leader who had the most influence regarding the events of the plot, and was most devoted to the Sphere Builders. While the Sphere Builders served as the Big Bad (or possibly the Bigger Bad), Dolim did most of the in-the-trenches work.
  • The Cigarette-Smoking Man and the Bounty Hunter from The X-Files. While they're technically just agents of the Syndicate, they're the villains Mulder and Scully face the most and provide roles their bosses can't really fill. The Cigarette-Smoking Man provides hints about the extent of the conspiracy, is constantly manipulating the situation, and gives a face to the villainous force behind the plot. Meanwhile the Bounty Hunter serves as a physical archenemy for Mulder and Scully to contrast with CSM's role as a mental enemy.
  • Enter from Tokumei Sentai Go Busters.
  • Daredevil has Wesley, the Big Bad's Dragon. Early on in the series, we never even see the main villain and Wesley is the one taking care of most day-to-day affairs on his behalf and acting as the biggest threat and obstacle to the heroes. Later on, he slides into a more standard Dragon role as Wilson Fisk begins to take more initiative himself.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Mariko Yoshida in ARSION. Aja Kong's reputation preceded her and she had absolute power, but was content to let Yoshida run wild over the roster, torture rookies and represent the promotion abroad.
  • While John Zandig was the big bad of the ROH CZW feud and Necro Butcher was theoretically just as important as his other dragon, Chris Hero, it was Hero who was front and center.

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy has a number of them:
  • Solidus Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2 is a mere Big Bad Wannabe in the grand scheme of things, but he nevertheless provides a direct opponent unlike the Nebulous Evil Organisation that's really pulling the strings.
  • Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2 is the prominent Big Bad throughout the entire series. His actions or the actions of his corporation, Hyperion, are the primary cause of nearly every event across Pandora.
  • Dead Rising has its share of Heavies whose actions are motivated by a conspiracy by the US government.
    • In the original Dead Rising, Carlito Keyes kicks off the zombie outbreak in Willamette as part of his plan to take revenge for Santa Cabenza, a South American town that housed a wasp that was found to create zombies during the US government's experiments to increase meat production.
    • Dead Rising 2: Tyrone "TK" King, host of the Blood Sport game show "Terror Is Reality", started the zombie outbreak in Fortune City as part of a plan by Phenotrans to harvest queen wasps to make more Zombrex. Eventually, though, he deviated from the plan, motivated by pure, unadulterated greed.
    • Dead Rising 3: General John Hemlock works as both the Heavy and the Big Bad, starting the outbreak in Los Perdidos as part of a plan to seize power in the American government as well as create a bio-weapon that functions like a neutron bomb, zombifying and killing populations while keeping the infrastructure of infected cities intact.
  • In The Legend of Spyro, Malefor is the Big Bad, but he spends the first two games as Sealed Evil in a Can, so his Dragons serve as the main villains of the first two games, Dark Cynder in the first game and Gaul in the second. He only drives the plot in the third game after being freed.
  • Resident Evil: Ozwell E. Spencer is the series' Big Bad, but never drives the plot, allowing a number of other characters to step into that role.
  • In FEAR, Alma. Pretty much everything that happens in the game is a direct result of Alma's actions, whether they be conscious or unconscious. What isn't a result of her actions are due to Genevieve Aristide, Harlan Wade, and Paxton Fettel, but none of them have as much presence in the games.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Ghirahim, big time. While he's actually very loyal to his boss, it's his efforts in unsealing the can that drive the whole plot.
    • The same could be said for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks's Chancellor Cole. Like Ghirahim, everything he does is in the name of resurrecting his master, but he has a much greater presence in the plot compared to Malladus himself.
    • In Twilight Princess, Ganondorf is the Big Bad, but the heroes don't even meet him until right before the final battle. Zant is the threat for most of the game, and has a closer connection to Midna than Ganondorf does (though arguably not to Link).
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds plays with this with Yuga. His main goal is to resurrect Ganon, but he simply wants the dead Ganon's power for himself. He actually works with Princess Hilda of Lorule, who tries to control him to fight Link. However, he manages to turn the tables and absorb Hilda along with Ganon, elevating him to true Big Bad status.
  • The Tales Series has quite a few.
    • Emeraude in Tales of Graces is probably the most notable example. At no point in the game is she positioned as a main antagonist, but flashbacks reveal that she is the root cause of everything that goes wrong in the story.
    • Duke may be the final antagonist in Tales of Vesperia, but the actions of Alexei (who ends up being a Disc Two Final Boss) drive the plot. Act 3 is mostly concerned with the fallout of his plans, and partaking in a copious amount of sidequests.
    • Grand Maestro Mohs in Tales of the Abyss, he wants war because Yulia's Score depicts it, in the end, he's just an Unwitting Pawn to the real Big Bad, Van Grants.
      • Although, granted, what Van Grants did and does in the game prior to Mohs' actions is driving the plot to move into the direction of Mohs' actions.
    • Though Yggdrasil from Tales of Symphonia doesn't appear until about a third of the way into the game, almost every major villain is either taking orders from or plotting against him, and in fact the entire Journey of Regeneration that the heroes embark on at the start of the game is ultimately his idea, and only serves to further his plans. He does get mentioned at least once before he finally makes his appearance.
  • Saren in Mass Effect 1, Kai Leng in Mass Effect 3. The former remains Shepard's most personal enemy even after it's revealed he's the servant of a much bigger threat. Kai Leng, by contrast, is the guy the Illusive Man (an exclusively mental opponent) sends to get his hands dirty. As a result, Shepard doesn't bother trying to teach Kai the error of his ways and just kills him.
  • The World Ends with You: The Composer sits back and lets the Game Masters, led by Megumi Kitaniji, do all of the work. Kitaniji himself lets his underlings do all of the work, and the Game Masters generally stay in the shadows until close to the end. (Minamimoto is the exception, and Konishi was Game Master of a special week). The Composer takes a huge hands-on role in Week 2 under the alias of Yoshiya "Joshua" Kiryuu, and on the final day, you fight Kitaniji three times in a row when he realizes he needs to take care of things personally. The two acted more hands off than usual because of the Game they were participating in to determine the fate of Shibuya. In Another Day, Higashizawa does all of the work for the Black Skullers. Turns out he was using them the whole time and eventually backstabs Uzuki.
  • Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins. While the Archdemon and the Darkspawn are the premier threats of the game, Loghain is the biggest obstacle to the player when it comes to trying to get Ferelden to band together.
  • The Joker serves as this in Batman: Arkham City. Although Hugo Strange serves as the real Big Bad with Ra's Al Ghul as a Bigger Bad, he winds up becoming the cause of most of the actions Batman takes in the game to save everyone in Arkham City, and he is even encountered much more frequently than either of the other villains. Even after Strange and Ra's are both killed, the Joker remains at large and ultimately serves as the Final Boss of the game's story.
    • Technically it's Clayface who serves as the final boss. Joker just watches.
  • Touhou: From Mountain of Faith until Double Dealing Character, the goddesses of the Moriya Shrine were the driving force in the narrative. When something happened, it was either because of their schemes to gather faith, or the result of their faith gathering.
  • Char Aznable takes on a heavy role in Shin Super Robot Wars's storyline because he sides with the Ze Belmary Empire, builds the Angel Halo, causes the Zanscare Empire to collapse and forced Master Asia to use the Devil Gundam on humanity.
  • Fawful has this role in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. He causes the blorbs virus that infects the Toads, tricks Bowser into eating Mario and the rest of the main cast, takes over all the castles in the land and tries to use the Dark Star's power to conquer the world. He also gets the most lines in the entire game by far, which is rather good considering his status as a Large Ham throughout.
  • While Galcian in Skies of Arcadia is the ultimate Big Bad, his Dragon Ramirez is more directly involved in the plot, and when Galcian is killed, he goes berserk and tries to destroy the world in retaliation.
  • Meden Traore from Project X Zone is the true Big Bad of the game, but Due Frabellum drives most of the plot.
  • Kyurem, The Dragon, from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity.. The Big Bad is never encountered once before the Final Battle.
  • Dimentio in Super Paper Mario. He appears the most out of Count Bleck's minions and advances the plot more often than Mario or Bleck himself. He's Playing Both Sides and the game's true Big Bad.
  • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell: The latest Third Street Saints' adventure is caused by Satan kidnapping The Boss, forcing Kinzie and Johnny to go To Hell and Back to rescue them.
  • Adachi from Persona 4 He's the killer that the player has been pursuing for the entire game, responsible for the first two murders, manipulating Namatame into kidnapping the others, and pushing Mitsuo into the TV when he tried to claim that he was the killer. However, he's just a pawn to the Bigger Bad in order to test humanity.
  • Satan/Zayin for the Law faction in Shin Megami Tensei II. He's played up as the most direct threat (or, if you side with Law, your greatest ally) on the side of Law despite being the second in command of YHVH's forces and ultimately ends up being Law's counterpart to Lucifer, the leader of Chaos. YHVH Himself doesn't show up until the very end of the game.
  • Michael Jordan is the most prominent threat in Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, but not the Big Bad.
  • Hazama(Aka Yuuki Terumi) from Blazblue. He initially presented himself as a harmless bystander in the first game, but reveals his true colors in the ending and shows just how much he's had a hand in shaping the series` plot. He chops off the protagonist's arm, brainwashed his younger brother, Mind Raped a young hapless soldier into a killing machine, the list goes on. Almost every major event is connected to him in some way and everyone is gunning after him. He is not however the Big Bad despite what it looks like, he's more of The Dragon.
    • His partner in crime, Relius Clover is also a muted example of this. Unlike Hazama, he doesn't even show up until the second game, but reveals he's been working behind the scenes and has played just as large a role as Hazama has.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Linkara bemoans the fact he doesn't get to play this role very often in a That Guy with the Glasses Cross Over review between him, Nash and Film Brain.
  • In Demo Reel, Tom Collins's only role is to move the Character Development along by kidnapping Donnie and letting him go through Break the Cutie into He's Back, and therefore leaving Rebecca and Tacoma to talk about their issues and realize that they love the show.
  • The Meta in Red vs. Blue Recollection. Out of all the characters, he doesn't talk, but is the most fearsome character besides Tex, he works for the Director of Project Freelancer, but everyone dreads of his presence the most.
  • In RWBY Roman Torchwick's string of dust robberies and other illegal activity is a looming shadow of a much bigger plot in volume one while the main focus is the girls' introduction to Beacon and the forming of their team, but then the revelation that he's working for Cinder comes along and by Volume 2 he becomes the heavy full stop.

    Western Animation 
  • Mystique in the first season of X-Men: Evolution. She runs the Brotherhood, and Magneto, usually only seen in shadow, runs her. Eventually, Magneto takes over the role himself, and later Apocalypse.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fire Lord Ozai is always the Big Bad, but he's off-screen for most of the action, leaving others to pick up the slack as The Heavy in a progressively more dangerous chain. Specifically, we go from Prince Zuko for the first part of season one to Admiral Zhao for the second part to Princess Azula for the first part of season two then Long Feng for the Ba Sing Se arc followed by Azula again from the end of the Ba Sing Se arc through most of the third season, and then finally Ozai himself during the Sozin's Comet arc.
  • The Sequel Series The Legend of Korra does not have an overarching Big Bad, changing major antagonists each season. Except for Book 4, each of them has a Big Bad and Big Bad Wannabe in opposition to each other, with the Big Bad being prominent enough to also snag the role of The Heavy:
    • Amon in book one; though he competes with his brother Tarrlok and his father Yakone's legacy for villainous screentime, it's Amon who establishes himself head and shoulders as the most dangerous threat and the one most central to the narrative.
    • Book two has Unalaq, who acts as The Dragon (or, considering his exclusive loyalties to his own ideals, possibly the other half of a Big Bad Duumvirate) to Vaatu, who was up to this point the Bigger Bad for the franchise as a whole. Vaatu is sealed away in the Spirit World, so Unalaq drives the plot with his attempts to free Vaatu and merge with him into a Dark Avatar.
    • In book 3, the four main members of the Red Lotus collectively function as the main antagonists, but of them Zaheer is the most dangerous, most intelligent, and most heavily featured in the season's story and climax.
    • Kuvira is this in book 4, with her campaign to rule over the entire Earth Kingdom being the main source of conflict; indeed, she fits here even more squarely than any of the above, as she's the only one who doesn't have to share space with a competing Big Bad Wannabe like Tarrlok, Varrick, or the Earth Queen, meaning that there's never any doubt just who the main antagonist is.
  • Slade, whenever he shows up in Teen Titans - even when serving under Trigon the Terrible (see Vader and Sidious - while not the Big Bad, Slade is a menace through the season, while Trigon is a threat only in three episodes.)
    • During season 3, Brother Blood takes over this role (and Big Bad) while Slade is dead; though he appears in fewer episodes, when he does appear he hogs the spotlight a lot more than the shadowy Slade usually did.
    • Season 5 plays this one interestingly. The Brain is the Big Bad, but he's the head of the Brotherhood of Evil, and each of the core brotherhood members gets his or her chance to star as headlining villain at least once during the arc- except for poor General Immortus, who was introduced with much fanfare but ended up as little more than window dressing.
  • Transformers Prime: Starscream plays this role for most of the first season, before Megatron returns and puts him in his place.
  • Beast Wars: Megatron, from the first episode, until the last episode of the sequel series.
  • In Gargoyles, Xanatos and Demona tend to hand this role back and forth depending on the given episode or story arc (and they're each half of the show's initial Big Bad Duumvirate). However, the Archmage takes over during the "Avalon" multiparter, and Oberon during the "Gathering" multiparter.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: Khyber; trailers seemingly established him as the Big Bad, he was the one chasing Ben for several episodes and seemed to have a motivation for that. Predators and Prey reveals he was actually The Dragon for Malware, a villain that has only had one episode and a cameo at this point, and Dr Psychobos, a guy we had never seen before, but Khyber still is the one acting while they are just waiting for him to do the job.
  • The Urpneys in The Dreamstone. While Zordrak is the Big Bad, he has very little involvement outside threatening his soldiers into making a new scheme to steal the stone. Urpgor invents most of the plans and inventions, while Sgt Blob, Frizz and Nug act them out. Only two or three episodes feature Zordrak prominently as the main antagonist, with other antagonists such as Zarag and Urpgor's Auntie appearing for about the same amount. This expands even onto the heroes, who are often merely reactors to the Urpney's schemes and have only a limited number of side plots throughout the series.
  • On Invader Zim, Zim is actually just a soldier of the Irken Empire, which is ruled by the Almighty Tallests. Kind of a partial example, since in reality, Zim's been Reassigned to Antarctica and the Tallests don't care if he conquers Earth or not.


Alternative Title(s):

The Villain Makes The Plot, Plot Driving Villain