There's Generic Cuteness, the Ridiculously Cute Critter, and the Moe. And then there's these guys. Creatures who are, to put it kindly, less cute than other creatures.
OK, they look strange. Maybe they're deformed. They can even look monstrous.
However, they are also endearing, kind, and sweet. Maybe they retain a few Ridiculously Cute Critter traits, like big eyes or little awkward legs. Maybe they're The Woobie. Maybe it is simply that their lovely personality overrides any disgust at their physical appearance. Maybe they're stylized and don't look too realistic.
In short, even though they should not be cute by any sense of the word they are anyway. Indeed, many times these characters are so ugly, they're just adorable.
There are some who argue that this trope has much to do with parental instinct. Consider: very young human babies aren't conventionally cute at all; that takes a few months. They come into the world as discolored wrinkly blobs that scream like the world is ending whenever anything upsets them. And yet, all these traits seem to say, "Gotta love me!"
"Busukawaii" is a name in Japanese for fans of these characters.
Not to be confused with Grotesque Cute, which is generally when evil things are done by (or to) conventionally cute things.
Compare The Grotesque, Gonk, Cute Monster Girl, Freaky Is Cool, and the nicer versions of Fluffy the Terrible. But see also What Measure Is a Non-Cute? and Beauty Equals Goodness as those tropes will probably and unfortunately, directly affect these characters. See Grotesque Gallery for when character designers try for this kind of appeal and fail. Badly.
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Anime and Manga
Rock Lee and Guy-sensei from Naruto (aka Thickbrows and Superbrows).
Kisame's sword Samehada, especially when it's cuddling up to Killerbee.
Gluttony's even cute when his ribs open like a zipper to reveal a giant mouth.
Also Sloth. He's huge. He's lumpy, fanged, and freakishly dangerous. He hosts blank eyes and a vapid expression. But something about his unmotivated, drag-your-feet mannerisms and simple speech ("Mendokusai...") make him look like a perfect candidate for a plushie. His big muscles just make him look huggable. His asymmetrical design brings to mind tears like a cheetah's face. He says, "Buh?" and the readers squeal, "So cuuute!" He gets spartan-kicked off a tall building into the snow after wandering around aimlessly in a military base...the fans let out an, "Awww!"
Quite a few characters from One Piece would qualify, especially Usopp, Brook, and Bearsy.
Oars Jr., despite his meteoric apparition, would qualify just in the same way as King Kong - A giant, green, gargantuan (he is at least three times bigger than your average giant!), demon-looking pirate with a soft heart (A typical run-of-the-mill Gentle Giant). He is shot, hit with a giant shockwave, had his leg severed and his heart was impaled by shadows while trying to save his friend who made him a hat that protected him from the rain.
And Marine officer T-Bone, who looks like a zombie despite being alive and well. But he's so compassionate and earnest in his desire to help people that he has the undying loyalty of his subordinates (even if they're a little creeped out by his appearance) and it's hard not to feel bad when the Straw Hats have to plow through him on their way to Enies Lobby.
For a female example, we have Kokoro's granddaughter Chimney.
Rico/Loli and all versions of Exedore/Exsedol from the Macross and Robotech universes, but especially the latter's first form.
Pen-Pen from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Seriously, it's not the prettiest penguin you've ever seen (he's got clawed wings, dear God!) but what counts is how endearing he can be, especially when you know why Misato bothers to keep him despite his flaws (like being a glutton, good-for-nothing bird).
Guilmon would fit here too. In reality, he would look far more terrifying than cute, but his childlike demeanor, antics, and voice just make him so adorable.
Renamon applies as well. The species is described in canon several times that they are tough and intimidating in appearance (especially their glaring eyes) that other Digimon become nervous or threatened by their presence despite the Renamon not intentionally trying to scare others off. This doesn't stop people, be it in the canon or in the fanbase, to still consider the race (especially female ones like Rika's Renamon) to be beautiful, elegant, cute, or (depending on who you ask) sexy.
Ryuk in Death Note. His disposition towards personal amusement, his apple addiction and his associated withdrawal reactions, and his permagrin are all endearing.
Even better, L. The manga's artist, Takeshi Obata, said he was supposed to look ugly. And L has legions of fangirls.
Rem is also actually quite lovely in an odd way.
Gelus looks like an abandoned rag doll. Awwww!
What's even more awesome is that in the originl designs, Gelus was supposed to be an extremely beautiful Shinigami. Ohba, however, decided that making him The Grotesque would be better because Gelus is such a pathetic figure and the audience would relate to him better. He was right!
The snail youkai from Karas that accompanies Nue is a bit ugly, but also utterly adorable.
President Aria from ARIA. That is supposed to be a cat?
Several instances in Dennou Coil. Just look at Densuke, Oyaji, or even Satchi.
In-Universe example: Nyanko-sensei in his Maneki Neko form from Natsume Yuujinchou is constantly referred to ugly, "pig cat," "world's ugliest cat," etc. by nearly every character who sees him. Taki, as well as much of the fanbase, finds him absolutely adorable. The former's fangirling of him is seen as very odd by her peers and has become something of a Running Gag.
Chanchitos, little terra-cotta good luck pigs from Chile. They only have three legs, and their faces tend to be rather asymmetrical in the most bizarrely adorable ways.
Nightcrawler's demonic appearance doesn't exactly falls under the classic definition of "beautiful", yet he's one of the most appreciated Mr. Fanservice among the X-Men; he's basically the male version of a Cute Monster Girl. Classic ''Excalibur artist/writer Alan Davis may have something to do with this. Originally, Dave Cockrum designed Nightcrawler to look pretty scary as a contrast to his out-going personality (in fact, his very first design was some kind of bat-creature and was so spooky, Marvel nixed the idea). Alan Davis decided to turn him into a handsome swashbuckler type modled after Errol Flynn.
Shuma-Gorath, a Captain Ersatz of Cthulhu and one of Doctor Strange's minor foes (Minor as in he doesn't appear very often. He is, however, literally an evil god), is a huge, one-eyed squid thing that somehow manages to look huggably cute. His Marvel vs. Capcom design shrinks him down to human size and makes him look positively shy.
Many fangirls consider the "fascinatingly ugly" Walter Kovacs, AKA Rorschach, the cutest character in Watchmen. This may be more in North America's fandom versus Europe, as the ginger haired appearance carries a more negative connotation across the pond compared to in Canada and America where the awkward appearance is often considered to be rather sweet and endearing.
The Loathsome, a story from EC Comics, is about a girl who was born mutated by atomic radiation, so much so that the doctor tells her mother she was stillborn and ships her off to an orphanage where she's abused because of her appearance. But when she's finally shown◊ near the end of the comic, she's not nearly as hideous as she was made out to be. Alex Ross used her as the basis for Maggie in Marvels.
Sola with her enormousNonmammal Mammaries (though since the Red Martians, indistinguishable from humans except for skin color, are also oviparous, both species may be monotremes as opposed to true non-mammals) in that same work could qualify as well, though she may be more in the Cute Monster Girl category.
The gay demons in the Chick Tract, "The Birds and the Bees".
Lockjaw, the giant pug-like pet dog of Marvel's Inhumans. Although the size of a hippo, he's as cute as the dog seen atop this page. It's also sort of weird, since at one point it was suggested he actually is an Inhuman who simply got hit with the ugly stick very hard by Terrigenesis. This was retconned later... re-creating the plothole as to just where the Inhumans got him anyway (Terrigenesis does not affect animals).
Pooch the Lowbeast from Hack/Slash. He's superficially hideous with his protruding jaws and cloven hooves, but his loyalty to his masters and his desire to be petted and loved like any ordinary dog make him adorable.
Jim the Cave Troll from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic IDW. Sure he's a hulking brute who could easily crush a pony if he wanted to, but he's so innocent and carefree it's hard not to see him as anything other than the softie he really is. And he genuinely did love the Mane Six's company.
The uncorrupted moon bunny in Issue #7. Fluttershy certainly thinks so.
Totodile in New World. Sure, it's a tiny blue crocodile with a massive mouth full of sharp teeth, but it's just so adorable! It's very first scene has it curl up with its new trainer and fall asleep with him. It also became best friends with a two year old girl.
Stumpy/ Despite being dry to the bones, down three limbs and HE IS A ZOMBIE, he manages to be somewhat adorable. In the fic, you could still remember your own life before becoming a zombie. Stumpy here manages to make out a cute "bonk" after holding Scout's bat.
“I am so sorry, Stumpy,” [Medic] said. Stumpy was still confused. He wasn’t sure what those words meant, exactly, but “sorry” sounded familiar. It meant…something feeling bad. And the Meaty Thing in the White Coat looked…what was that word? Sad? Like how Stumpy felt when he didn’t get meat. He didn’t have much time to ponder this, however, before there was a loud noise and then...
In Families and Familiars Neville described the just-hatched Norbert(a) as "kind of cute, in that ugly-cute way, though."
Rinjapine's Lion King fanfictions has the deformed Kioja, the white lioness whose screwed-up family tree caused her deformities. She's a thickset white lioness with a hunchback, extra toes, deformed toes, an smaller extra limb, a useless ear and eye, and overlarge fangs. She's heavily deformed, but cute in her own way, and exceedingly kind. In the words of Rinjapine, "its like she hit the ugly event horizon and shot out the other side to passably cute."
Michael Berryman◊, who has hydrochotic-extodermal dysplasia (a rare condition which prevents him from having any nails, sweat glands or hair), is definitely never going to qualify for being Hollywood Homely, but he seems to have this trope going for him. Even in movies where he plays a bad guy, that baby face of his really might make you want to give him a hug. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that more often than not, he's also The Woobie in whatever part he's playing.
Sure, he's a horrible ancient monster with razor sharp fangs and horns, but those floppy ears make Baragon◊ simply adorable. He has been described as being like a giant puppy quite a few times on the internet.
King Seesar◊ who is an ugly/cute Shisa (A lion-dog creature from Okinawa folklore).
Oddly enough, Godzilla himself during the later Showa films, mostly due to being more kid-friendly around the time. Also, the design of the suit is constantly changing; in the late 1960s and 1970s, Godzilla was overall much cuddlier than he was when he first showed up. Compare Godzilla from 1954 to him 20 years later◊. The nuclear radiation in his body apparently mutated him into Cookie Monster and then into Kermit the Frog.
After the reaction of its keeper, the Rancor in Star Wars.
Check out the Wookieepedia pages for the Rancor◊ and Wampa◊. Both have artwork depicting a mother of the species cuddling her cubs. You cannot possibly look at the baby Wampas and Rancors without going AWWWWWW!!!!
YODA. When 900 years old you reach, look as ugly cute you will not. Hmmm?
Also R2D2. Cutest sentient fire hydrant ever.
Darth Vader without his mask at the end of Return of the Jedi. Even though he's old and scarred, you still want to give the old guy a hug.
Hell, many fans find Jack Skellington and Sally sexy.
The psycho-killer penis in Russ Meyer-homage, Pervert!
Pretty much all stages of Dren in Splice, although the earlier ones more so than the largely humanoid-looking "adult" stage. Even Fred and Ginger qualify.
Jason Voorhees. It's mostly in the way he tilts his head sideways when confused, though some claim it's the eyes.
It doesn't help that he's a complete and total Woobie, either.
Michael Myers fits this trope too. The actor who plays Michael in the brief unmasking scene in the first film was even hired because of his "angelic face."
Scrat from Ice Age probably qualifies with that long snout, big eyes and pointed fangs of his.
Sid is also very weird looking with his wide-set eyes, big nose, and crooked teeth all the way down to his slothy hips. He's clumsy, awkward, and is voiced by John Leguizamo in a tone that goes from normal with a lisp to shrill and girly. Everything about him is absolutely huggable.
The characters from Rango utilize this to stand out from all the cute-cute Pixar style animations flooding the theaters.
In The Man Who Fell to Earth, Tragic Hero Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) is Moe on the outside via a disguise, and this on the inside. One blog commenter described the true form (which is also hairless, earless, fingernail-less, etc.) as "Voldemort with a nose", and in the film it horrifies his human mistress to the point of Bring My Brown Pants. Granted it's a sudden reveal so shock factors into her reaction, but his eyes have just the faintest sheen of pain in them. Gentle-hearted YouTube commenters have compared him and his family (seen in flashbacks), in their white bodysuits, to teddy bears instead.
The Stitchpunks in Nine, who're basically little ragdolls made out of things like sacking, canvas, and (in the case of two of them) garden gloves. Most of whom die horribly.
Where The Wild Things Are: The titular Wild Things are so exaggerated and silly, you just want to hug them all. Generally speaking, Maurice Sendak practically runs off this.
Interestingly, adults seem to be put off by the Wild Things' appearance more than children. This was a major talking point when the film was released; just what side of the "It is for kids" / "It's not for kids" divide does it fall?
Many Redwall fans think the villainous "vermin", who are supposed to be ugly and creepy, are cuter than the good "woodlanders".
It's hard not to agree with them at times: compare a hare◊ (good) and a ferret◊ (vermin). There have been some alternative arguments as to how Jacques draws the distinction between good animals and bad animals, the most popular being that it's based on the literal definition of vermin. But that doesn't explain anything since nearly all the good animals are also vermin. So no one really knows except Jacques himself.
It generally seems to be based on contemporary urban British perspectives of the animals, which explains the relative ambiguity of wildcats and foxes (although the popularity of ferrets and rats as pets in recent years dates the series slightly). To people in a rural environment, of course, they would all be vermin, except the hare, who would be lunch.
People say he makes the cute animals good. This is a blatant lie. EVERYTHING in Mossflower is cute.
Dobby and, in general, the House Elves from Harry Potter. Even Kreacher gets better.
Alan Rickman's portrayal of the character likely contributed to Snape's woobification. In the books, the character only becomes sympathetic after he dies.
The Thestrals - well, for those who can see them, anyway.
The Other, the sentient operating system of Otherland, steals system resources to create a private world for itself, populating it with grotesque mockeries of fairy tale creatures that are nevertheless treated like its children. This is not out of malice, but because it genuinely doesn't understand the context.
This isn't uncommon in Lovecraft Lite in general. It helps that much of the horror fandom doesn't share Lovecraft's apparent aversion to sea life.
Lovecraft's own Zoogs, by virtue of being small, furry, and tentacle-faced.
Some illustrators draw Brown Jenkin (the little human-faced monkey-rat-imp familiar from Dreams In The Witch House) this way before events in the story start getting really sinister. Lovecraft depicts him as a denizen of the Uncanny Valley, but anything small, furry, and vaguely anthropomorphic is going to be cute to someone.
Aunt Beast in A Wrinkle in Time. She's part of the "really, really strange looking - but still sweet and lovable" side of this trope. In Wayne D. Barlowe's portrait of Aunt Beast, she's downright lovely - in a very alien way.
Practically any artist's representation of an Ixchel is likely to fit this trope.
All the characters in Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy: And Other Stories.
The more A Song of Ice and Fire harps on just how ugly Brienne of Tarth is, the more you just want to...hug her. That she's one of the most good-hearted characters in the series just makes her that much more adorable.
The books also have Tyrion Lannister, who is also one of the more likable characters in the series (although more morally ambiguous than Brienne), and even less conventionally attractive.
According to Oberyn Martell, his dead little sister Elia coo'd at him when he was a baby.
Also Shireen Baratheon: a child which combine the worst traits a girl can inherits from her parents with a childhood disease which disfigured her. She's a quiet, sad little girl that never smiles.
There's also Pia, a serving maid from Harrenhal, who was pretty until she made the mistake of being within arm's reach of Gregor Clegane, who broke her nose and most of her teeth.
Death himself, for that matter. He's your stereotypical cowled-skeleton-with-a-blade Grim Reaper, and plenty badass when he needs to be, but he's a gently compassionate being who loves cats, makes endearingly misguided efforts to understand humanity, and rides a Pale Horse named Binky.
Vettul, in the Doctor WhoEighth Doctor Adventures novel Vanishing Point, is a twenty-year-old ingenue who's at least 6'6" and has one leg twice as thick as the other, obviously crooked eyes, and an otherwise plain face. She also acts like she has No Social Skills, in a completely endearing manner, and manages to have Incorruptible Pure Pureness without being cloying. She quite fancies Fitz (and calls him "very beautiful", at which he "[stands] there speechless, blushing crimson", being only average-ish in the looks department), and he her:
She looked like a painting of someone beautiful that had gone subtly wrong somehow; as if the artist had been wearing the wrong prescription glasses or something. That said, there was definitely something to her...
She lives with a group of other people who have various (worse) deformities, and would therefore be persecuted in the dystopia where they live, and their caretaker, Ettianne:
A little man with a bent, frightened face peeped out from behind a table, and Ettianne went over to soothe him.
Pretty much the entire crew of the Ferkel in Rod Allbright Alien Adventures. None of them (save perhaps Plink, and Edgar if you want to count him) are conventionally cute. All are teribly, terribly endearing, particularly Snout.
Played with in the Lensmen series. Ordinary stay-at-home humans find the various Starfish Aliens to be utterly horrible-looking (and likewise for ordinary stay-at-home aliens wrt humans), but cosmopolitans, spacehounds, and especially Lensmen are expected to rise above this. In particular, Kinnison and Worsel have a very strong friendship, saying about each other: "He's so hideous that he's positively distinguished-looking."
The baby Adiposians from Doctor Who. Basically a pound of roughly humanoid animated fat. Possibly the cutest thing the show has ever featured.
They become less cute when you remember that that pound of humanoid animated fat killed people when they came into existence.
Only a few of them, 99% just detach from a human and walk away one by one. The main characters even comment that it's not that bad a weight loss program, all things considered.
Also from Doctor Who there's the Ood. Due to their benevolence and the fact they are all Woobies, once you get past the fact they've got mince meat where their mouths should be, they are very sweet.
Also Dalek Caan. Don't tell me you've never thought it!
Daleks in general, at least their metal casings. What's not to love about a metal pepper shaker with a plunger and half an eggbeater for arms?
The tiny old Doctor that the Master kept in a birdcage from the S3 finale. He was so tiny and sad! And kind of looked like Tweety Bird, between the birdcage and the huge head. Also, there's something very endearing about the Doctor's personality in that minuscule body.
The Gangers are incomplete, unstable copies of human beings, all with a smooth, featureless Nightmare Face with visible veins that looks like they are melting. They also managed to look vulnerable and sweet, especially the positively dainty Ganger of Jennifer.
Nimrod, the baby mammal-like-reptile-sea-creature-thing from NBC's short-lived series Surface. Come on, who wouldn't want to love a creature that, when full grown, can swallow a small boat whole, burrow through miles of rock, sunbathe in a magma chamber, secrete a substance that lets it regenerate injuries, and generate bolts of lightning?
The Vork from the Farscape episode "Beware of Dog".
Star Trek: The Next Generation had cute alien critters from time to time. A bug-like species in the episode "The Most Toys" and a thing that Worf's son Alexander becomes fond of in "New Ground".
Alf was most likely designed with these intentions.
Radiohead's "Modified Bear" logo. Their Weeping Minotaur, too.
The Gorillaz artstyle has distinct tones of this. 2D is far too Uncanny Valley to be classically cute, but he has an undeniable charm.
That thing from Animal Collective's Peacebone video. Sure it was horrifying-looking, but there was also something disturbingly charming about seeing it go out for a romantic picnic and frolic through a field.
Voltaire uses this in his song "Zombie Prostitute" with the line "She was a rotten kind of cute for a zombie prostitute".
While we're at it, most baby dragons don't look very much better than their adult forms, but are still able to pull this off. Especially blue dragons, for some reason.
Blue dragon wyrmlings◊ have huge eyes, faces that look like they've run face-first into a brick wall, big ears (which no other chromatic dragon has) and nubby horns. They're like spiky blue pugs the size of golden retrievers.
Pseudodragons◊. Also described as having 'the personality of a common housecat'. D'awww, I want one!
Though often hated by most, Flumphs embody this trait. Think of a pancake crossed with an octopus floating around and you've got the idea.
Goblins and Kobolds. Two races of three-foot-tall people whose apparent racial destiny is to be killed by first-level PCs - you have to feel for them a little. Pathfinder goblins are particularly adorably ugly, since their huge heads give them an almost Chibified look.
Along that vein (and created in the same town as the Sock Monkey was—seriously, we have giant plexiglass sock monkeys and a sock monkey wing in the museum): The adorable creepy/ugly-cute of the Socks That Rock line.
Mutant Dolls. Basically ragdolls with huge eyes, horns, fangs, floppy, lopsided bodies, and and odd, vacant stares - and you just wanna hug 'em?
The legendary "Robert The Doll" would fit in this trope. Sure, he's a haunted doll rumored to curse you if you don't ask him permission before taking his picture, but he is kinda cute http://www.robertthedoll.org/
The Worrible. Weird, bulgy-eyed, drooling, round, yet somehow adorable little...thing.
Squishables has made plush versions of all sorts of oddly adorable creatures from octopi to jellyfish to axolotl to even Cthulhu. Yes, there's a squishy Cthulhu.
This is pretty much the explanation for the success of Troll dolls.
The My Pet Monster toy line (and associated media) from the 1980s was a deliberate attempt to invoke this trope, especially with the "My Monster Pet" toys, which were more dog-like. The 2001 Toymax version retooled the Monster making him more conventionally cute, but still falling into this trope.
The minions of Overlord were created specifically to evoke this trope. They look like goblins or the Gremlins, but act like Ax Crazy little children, loyal to a fault to their overlord and eager to earn his praise. Watching them run back to give you some of the loot they found is adorable. Or watching them grab an item (such as a pumpkin or a dead rat) and use it as equipment (in this case, a hat).
Even more so in Overlord II when they sing and say adorable stuff to their mounts.
Paramites are vicious spider-like creatures with a hand for a face. Strangely, they look oddly adorable.
The Arachnotrons (and possibly the Spiderdemons) from Doom. Also, related to the beholder example: the Pain Elementals and Cacodemons. (The latter actually has had two fanmade plush dolls made, one of them being the official mascot of the DoomWiki.)
The viruses of Dr Mario are cute, even if they are little disease-spreading creeps.
Quite a few of the animals in Star Wars: The Old Republic both hostile and otherwise. A good example would be the Empire Balmoraa World Boss, which is an Ancient Bormu. Bormu are like Hippo-Caterpillars. I rest my case.
Baby Metroids, both the plot-significant one in Super Metroid and the bitty little things in Prime 2 and 3.
Many of the mushroom people in Mushroom Men, especially the hero, Pax. Sure, he's got beady little eyes, a raggedy-looking "lost boy" style tunic, and his mushroom cap breaks away to reveal his brain... But just watch the intro, where poor little Pax is wandering all by himself in the big scary human world, glowing eyes looking out innocently.
The creatures of Jade Cocoon 2 quickly grow on you.
Kouri in Brass Restoration finds the Ill-pin stuffed... characters adorable. They are based on viruses. Ryo, the main character, just doesn't see it.
Especially Snubull◊ and Granbull◊, two bulldog-based Pokémon that are said to be popular with women. In the anime, one even started acting like a Clingy Jealous Girl with Meowth (or was just obsessed with biting his tail).
Some of the Pokémon in the Ruby ROM hack, Pokémon Quartz, fall under this as well, surprisingly.
Feebas◊, a shabby little fish Pokémon, has a secret: if you feed it many, many Dry-flavoured (blue) Pokéblocks and level it up, it turns into something that is Beautiful All Along, the much-coveted Milotic.
Scraggy◊ also counts, since it's a lizard who wears its shed skin as pants. And it's ridiculously lovable.
Can't forget Muk. He's a giant pile of toxic waste, but comes across as a fairly lovable blob.
There's also the baby Bug-type Pokémon. Most of them are based on squirming larvae that in real life you'd hit with a broom, thinking that an Eldritch Abomination was here to feed on your soul. But Game Freak managed to make them cute.
Joltik◊ - it doesn't help that it's based on the jumping spider.
It helps that despite being one of the most dangerous common enemies, Big Daddies are also the only ones that don't actively attack you on sight.
The Little Sisters count too. Their eyes might be a solid, sickly, glowing yellow, but they're still cute.
The baby forms of most aliens you can make in Spore tend to be like this. Sometimes the adult forms can be, too.
One of the non-combat pets available in World Of Warcraft is a baby version of a Beholder-like demon. It's a floating head with one huge eye and small stubby tentacles. It also drools a lot and randomly falls asleep. It's at the same time very ugly and absolutely adorable.
Behold, Gory, the Abomination. A giant golem made of rotted flesh and organs with bone and metal sticking out of him and an stomach that hangs open and exposes his innards...who only wants to be a farmer and tells you so with an innocent, childlike enthusiasm.
Many of the Zerg creatures from the original Star Craft fit this trope. The little Zerglings are quite cute on the screen, and way they pounce on the Terrans like kittens at a ball of yarn only makes them cuter. All of the wild creatures also apply, being horribly proportioned beasts that look cute in spite of it.
Banelings. Bloated little monstrosities, with the entire back two-thirds of their body devoted to a bunch of pulsating sacs of acidic pus. Before the speed upgrade is evolved, they get around via an ungainly waddle; after the speed upgrade, they tuck themselves into balls and roll around. Their fate is to run or roll into a mass of infantry and explode. They're adorable.
Remember the Ragnasaur found on Char? Big forlorn orange eyes, irritated groan whenever you poke it...
The creators of Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus will soon be giving us The Last Guardian. The hyena-gryphon creature in this game is meant to be unbalanced and strange-looking. Who, after watching that trailer, didn't think the creature was the most adorable giant beastie ever?
Same with the Colossi from Shadow Of The Colossus. Some of them are hard to kill just because they look so cute and pathetic.
The grunts from Halo. After awhile you just feel sorry for them, while admiring their pluck, and smiling at their little dog-like huffs and growls.
Another Halo example are the Engineers. They are essentially floating gas bladders with a small head and tenticles, but they coo like small whales and shiver and recoil in fear from danger. They aren't the most attractive creatures but they are the only passive enemies in the series and eventually you will start to feel bad for killing them.
The alien spawn from The Sims 2 tend to turn out this way. Some players might disagree (and there are hacks out there to have the aliens be more conventionally cute) but the bug-eyed, no nosed green babies are adorable.
The products of "Breed Ugly Sims" challenge games frequently end up in Hollywood Homely territory, being strange-looking but still very attractive (largely due to averting Only Six Faces). The truly ugly ones, however, are inevitably this trope, and consequently no less popular.
In Monster Hunter, there's a small Wyvern called the Yian Kut-Ku. It has an oversized head, disproportionate ears, and is generally very much non cute◊. However, perhaps due to its clumsy running and falling down, his cheerful screechings and his beak feeling similar to a smiling face when open, there are few players who haven't ended up feeling some kind of odd fondness for the guy, and he's a prime target of fanart.
Similarly, the monster Khezu may look like a cross between an oversized maggot and male genitalia, but that doesn't stop fanartists to draw adorable little chibi versions of it. It doesn't help that some of the cutest female armor sets in the game are made of Khezu material.
Almost all of the monsters in general could fall under this category. Moreso when they're sleeping, and especially with their Super-Deformed versions that show up in the Felyne spin-off titles.
Sonic Adventure has Chaos, who is fought in multiple forms over the course of the game. A few of the forms can count as examples of this trope, but the best example is probably Chaos 6.
Some breeds of the Chao are also like this.
Another example from Sonic may be the alien slugs in Shadow The Hedgehog. Antennae, a single eye, a goopy slug body. Some fans insist they're adorable; others find them disgusting.
No love for Motobug?
In Fallout 3, the bartender of Moriarty's Saloon, Gob.
Many Final Fantasy monsters may qualify, but the Tonberry most of all; he may be one of the most dangerous random encounters around, but a diminutive fish-lizard-thing with a lantern somehow winds up being cute enough to sell plush toys.
The Ground Urchins and Raptor Elks from Brutal Legend. Also the Metal Beasts - giant Aztec panther Nibblers.
The headcrabs in Half Life. Illustrated with Lamarr◊, the pet headcrab of Doctor Kleiner, who while de-beaked and harmless, will nonetheless try to swallow your skull. Valve even makes plushes of them, though the original version was decidedly cuter and less accurate than the current model.
The title character of The Maw. It's an Extreme OmnivoreMiracle-Gro Monster with rows of sharp teeth and one eye. As it grows bigger it's happy chuckling become sinister-sounding laughter. Despite it all it's a cowardly creature who follows the alien player character Frank around like a little puppy and is always happy to eat, and the hug between Frank and Maw's massive eyeball at the end is utterly d'awww-inducing. Think of A Boy and His Blob if The Blob was an Eldritch Abomination.
The Zelda series has its share of these:
In the The Legend Of Zelda original game, a few of the dungeon bosses qualify for this trope, such as Aquamentus (the unicorn dragon...thing). Regular enemies such as Moblins and Octoroks also fit the bill, though YMMV of course.
Megalo from Fossil Fighters. It was deliberately designed to look like people thought dinosaurs used to look, so it's big, lumpy, gray, and dopey-faced. But it's that derpy expression that makes it so incredibly endearing.
The Ettins and Grendels from the Creatures series. The main Creatures, the Norns, are supposed to be cute. But the Ettins have lumpy, monkey-like bodies and strange red eyes, while the Grendels are nasty little reptilian critters with diseases and angry expressions. But when they display the same sort of helplessness as the Norns, well, it's hard not to love them.
Grorns too, with some of the adorable features of norns and the not so adorable features of grendels, are generally adorable anyway.
Hellgate London had pets, originally available to multiplayer subscribers only, that were intended this trope, and some players find them this way.
Urz, a tame varren (a.k.a. "fishdog") in Mass Effect 2. Unlike most of his species, Urz will allow you to pet him, and if you feed him some pyjack meat, he will happily follow you around Tuchanka, bounding like a puppy.
Thane manages to look like a rotting fish with the voice of a rusty lawn mower and still being a highly attractive man. Of course, Thane was deliberately designed to be exoticallyalien but attractive to female players.
Garrus is a much better example of this trope, especially after his scarring, considering female Shepard can engage in some good-natured teasing of him for being ugly (which doesn't stop you from being able to romance him). He's also considered The Woobie both in-game and in the fandom.
Silent Hill has the Larval Stalkers in the first game, which have no face and are almost entirely invisible. Harry will still aim his gun at them or hold his Pipe at them, and Silent Hill is one of the few games to still follow the "if it moves, kill it" rule. Naturally you just aim and empty a clip into whatever you're aiming at, but the radio still gives off static. I stopped in my tracks simply to watch the little child-like manifestation bumble around and fall over a few times, before finally disappearing.
Dena seems to think so. (3:36 minutes in). Look at 'em go!
The little robot in Machinarium is made of rusty scrap metal and grunts to communicate, but is still absolutely adorable. The fact that he is a Woobie definitely aids the cute factor.
Nugs in Dragon Age: Origins look like the subterranean hybrid of rabbits and pigs. Although they're a tasty delicacy to the dwarves, some people apparently domesticate them; in fact, you can acquire a nug for Leliana, which she will name Schmooples. They are actually kind of cute, though their constant squeaking is a bit annoying to the point that Oghren will threaten to eat Schmooples.
Deepstalkers from the same game are also cute despite their horrible lamphrey-like mouths and their tendency to spit poison.
Ghasts from Dragon Age II seem to have been designed with this trope in mind. They're vile little gremlins with More Teeth Than The Osmond Family, but they tumble out of their holes when they attack, make goofy noises during combat and wear funny hats. They even flop over in a comical way when they die.
So many of the infected in Left 4 Dead fall under this category. The hunter falls under this especially when drawn in chibi style. The boomer looks like a chubby kid with bloated puss sacks and looks like he wants a cookie, the smoker even with his facial deformities, the tank with his humungous body and tiny head, and especially the witch whos basically a zombified Cute Monster Girl. Valve knows the creatures they made are cute. They even made plushies!
In some lights, Left 4 Dead 2's charger and jockey, especially because one looks like deformed hillbilly farmer and the other looks like a retarded midget on crack.
Minecraft's Creepers. Deformed pig model that's green and aptly-named, but is absolutely adorable.
Y'know, when it's not trying to kill your or destroy the creations you've invested hours on.
Within the Monster Rancher universe, the patron saint of this trope is probably the Color Pandora. It is a strange, vaguely caterpillar-esque monster with freaky human faces◊ on its separated body segments... that makes high, squeaky noises and does cute acrobatic tricks. In-universe, it's hailed as a shining example of how to cooperate. Out-of-universe, its Ugly Cuteness gives it a surprising number of fans.
League Of Legends features Kog'Maw, a little critter from the Void that spews acidic goo at things. Koggy is adorable in his little mutated way, and if official plushies ever hit the merch store Kog'Maw is probably close to the top of the list.
Twitch as well. There's something oddly adorable about the derpy-eyed, crossbow-wielding, plague rat. Might be due to the resemblance to Scratt.
Post-transformation Emil from Nie R is a character whose design straddles a surprisingly fine line between being considered vaguely cute and being considered downright horrifying (and for some people succeeds at being both simultaneously). Add in his sunny disposition and penchant for being a bit of a childish romantic and you now have a surprisingly adorable pseudo-mascot... with a grin that will still make people deeply uncomfortable.
The Jinjos, as well as King Jingaling's "cool pet thing."
Some of the Blotlings from Epic Mickey, particularly the Spatters◊ who get a neat little costume depending on what area you're in, and the chubby Spladooshes, who (as long as stay a safe distance or have befriended them) are perfectly content to sit there and sleep.
The Mars People in Metal Slug. Especially in 6, where they salute the player. Awww...
The Dream Eaters in Kingdom Hearts 3D are either this or the standard sort of cute (The Meow Wow being the prime example of the former). If their appearance doesn't get you to find them cute, then their downright adorable reactions to being pet and fed most likely will.
Surprisingly, Painwheel from Skullgirls. Take a look at her without her mask on◊. She also appears maskless in the Story Mode endings of Filia and Valentine. When she smiles, she's creepy and adorable!
A lot of the monsters in the 3D Tales Series games are of this nature if they aren't just standard cute things.
Mujoe (a.k.a. Mr. Meanie) from the Bomberman series.
The Avernum series has the GIFTS, a race of cheerful, childlike ditzes who all talk in squeaky voices and think you're really neat. And happen to be giant spiders.
The zombies in Plants Vs Zombies. Wall-eyed, lopsided, with snaggle teeth and endearingly Narm-y voices. They've been very successfully merchandised as a result of this trope, with several sets of plushies and vinyl figures.
Several examples in The Inexplicable Adventures Of Bob. Molly's pet Snookums is a space monster Bob calls a "tentacle bunny". Molly herself is a pretty weird-looking creature. Roofus the Robot would not be especially cute if not for his innocent personality; well, okay, the construction-worker cap built into his head is kind of cute. And Voluptua, even in her alien butterfly form, still manages to be very attractive.
This is a common theme in Digger, as well as Ursula Vernon's other work. Currently she's on a kick of making adorable phalloi — which are Greek fertility symbols that are basically penises with wings and feet.
Plus, her relationship with Gamma is very, very sweet. I couldn't help but go "awww" when Zimmy and Annie arrived where Gamma was in Zimmy's dark, terrifying hallucination (which seems to come right off a Silent Hill game), and Gamma was sleeping peacefully on top of a giant pile of cute, brightly colored stuffed toys, representing just how much she means to Zimmy.
Tchick the Beholder in Planescape Survival Guide. He's a giant floating eyeball who has extra eyes on stalks around his bulbous body. And all the other beholders won't even let him play their beholder games!
Squidge the bogeyman in Tales of the Questor is somewhat reminiscent of Gollum and Stitch, both mentioned elsewhere on this page.
Some of the lusii may count too. Tinkerbull is under this category, though he's more just plain adorable. Aurthour, the weird-looking centaur-cow-man lusus of Equius, fits better. He's definitely not cute by normal standards, but his mannerisms help him to achieve a similar effect.
Kanaya's lusus definitely falls under this. It's basically a truly gigantic winged bug with a skull for a face. But she's such a caring guardian to Kanaya! Look at her as a kernelspritecomforting Kanaya◊. And Kanaya mentions reading stories to her on 12th Perigee's Eve. Aww.
This is the only way to describe how Calliope looks. One is led to believe that she is a different and more attractive-looking species right up to her reveal, making your first reaction be "What the fuck is that thing!?", but then you realize that she's adorable.
About half the fanbase thinks her brother Caliborn, the juvenile form of LordEnglish, is almost as adorable. How can you honestly take this face◊ seriously as that of the angel of double-death?
And the imps. Easy to kill, but how can you hate them?
Some of the members of the Midnight Crew and the Felt are rather endearing-looking in a cartoony sort of way, despite being alien gangsters. Clubs Deuce especially so.
Bort from Dominic Deegan, who seems to be one of the few characters that the Hatedom itself accepts.
Choo Choo Bear from Something Positive has to fall under this trope. A hairless cat, over thirty years old, whose cancer treatments in his younger days reduced his bones to a gelatinous substance that let him contort into various shapes and travel through sewage pipes. He's a bit of a freak, but he's so damn cute that he gets forgiven for just about anything he does, up to and including suspected murder.
It's yet another horrible death trap of fun in the Axe Crazy building Castle Heterodyne, but the Nyar spider is just so cute (it even eats its victim with a little knife and fork.)
Due to the art style, many normally horrific monsters can turn out this way in The Order of the Stick. For example, Tsukiko apparently sleeps with a plushie version of Xykon, and the instant that comic appeared all the fans wanted one. For context, Xykon is an undead Magnificent Bastard. He's also an adorably drawn stick figure skeleton with expressive glowing eye-sockets, a cheerful-looking skeletal grin, and a little golden crown floating just above his head. In plushie form, too cute for words.
Chelsea Grinn of Chimneyspeak is a ravishing young woman... who's covered with scars and is utterly psychotic... and still is adorable in her own way.
Pretty much all of the hellhounds in Wurr. Underfed, deformed doggies never looked so cute.
The title character of Selkie is an orthodontic nightmare with Hellish Pupils and a bluish skin tone more commonly associated with walking corpses. She describes herself as "a pretty one", and the fans are inclined to agree. (The tipping points seem to be that a): she has normal human hair, and b): apart from the fangs, her smile is the same as that of any other Heartwarming Orphan.)
Maybe it's just the art style — the Cheat's baffling physiology probably would make for a pretty horrific-looking creature in a more realistic style — but I don't even see how The Cheat counts as ugly.
In Charlie The Unicorn, there is a strange... sea-goat-seal...thing. Charlie even lampshades this. "I can't tell if you're adorable or creepy."
In Protectors of the Plot Continuum, when a canon character's name is misspelled in badfic, a 'mini' creature appears: a small version of a monster from that canon. For Lord of the Rings, Mini-Balrogs, and for Harry Potter, there are Mini-Aragogs, etc. These are cute, but also just as ugly as their larger counterparts.
Gossamer the red monster. It's heart-shaped and wears sneakers.
Nibbler from Futurama has 3 eyes (one of which is on a stalk), fangs, walks like a monkey, only has one nostril, adorably devours whole creatures several times his size, and poops starship fuel. Leela still goes "Awwwww" when she first meets him. The animators were deliberately working with this trope. It becomes all the funnier when he starts speaking with the voice of Frank Welker (although he had provided the noises Nibbler made up until that point anyway).
Also, Amy's pet buggalo, Betsy. Buggalo are giant beetles with cowskin-colored shells that can be milked like cows.
A more recent example: Mr. Peppy. Anybody who says they didn't want to hug him after watching him hatch is a filthy, filthy liar.
Fry's dog, Seymour◊, from back in 2000 is basically the hobo-dog version of Scruffy ("the Janitor"). Never the less, he has the awkward adorableness of this trope. It helps that the episode that introduces him is heartbreaking.
Quasimodo from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Once you get past his deformed face, you'd want to do like the little girl at the end, and cuddle him. Of course he's considerably less ugly than he was supposed to be in the book.
Seeing as WALL-E is a rusty, dirty, trash compactor, he certainly qualifies.
And his adorable little disease-harboring pet, a cockroach.
In the first movie, "A Sitch in Time," we see the duo's first mission, right before which Ron purchased Rufus from the pet store. As he introduces the little guy to Kim, Rufus is a baby; a tiny, wrinkly, shrivelled little thing that still manages to be utterly adorable.
Don't forget Ron's one time mutated cockroach friend, Roachie. We've all seen cockroaches, so I don't even need to explain where the ugly comes in. However, Roachie still manages to be cute, like a "hard shelled puppy".
Mr. Crocker. Despite being abnormally thin (to the point where his ribs are clearly visible), having a hunchback, crooked teeth, being bald (his hair is actually a wig which pops off at times when he spazzes), and having his ears on his neck, Crocker has a surprising number of fangirls who find him cute/attractive.
Humorously lampshaded in one episode where Timmy's Dad thinks that Mr. Crocker is gorgeous...even though Crocker is clearly supposed to be ugly.
The Anti-Fairies....especially Anti-Wanda with all her crooked teeth and Anti-Cosmo and his Cute Little Fangs.
Silkie, Starfire's pet in Teen Titans fame. A burping mutant worm the size of a cat should not be that cute.
And Monster!Starfire from the episode "Transformation".
Gorgonzola from Chowder. And that's just to name one character.
The art style of Ed Edd n Eddy is crude in a way that results in the entire cast being this, to various extents depending on the character.
TheKankerSisters are the most prominent examples, particularly May (though Marie is more popular with fans and often considered the most attractive of the Kankers Sisters).
Squibby, from the series The Future Is Wild may well be the model for unconventional cuteness. "He" is the series' resident Non-Human Sidekick and is essentially a land-dwelling Mimic Octopus (who in turn, is a great model for Real Life unconventional cuteness; there's something adorable about a chunk of coral staring anxiously at you) with the personality of Curious George.
Some of the character designs in Dreamworks' Monsters Vs Aliens, like the giant bug monster, Insectosaurus.
Clayface, from Batman The Animated Series. Yes, he's a psychotic shapeshifting clay monster with a horrible temper, but admit it, when he starts mourning for his humanity and showing off those huge yellow eyes, he's just adorable.
There's also Bud and Lou, the pet hyenas of the Joker. Something about those beady little blank eyes and gaping fangy smiles make them cute.
Meelo from The Legend Of Korra was initially designed as a conventionally cute toddler, but the team fell in love with Ryu Ki-Hyun's uglier designs. A direct quote from SDCC: "Strangely though, the more ugly he was the cuter he became."
Eduardo's not Ugly Cute, he's just cute. He's a big, furry, snugle-thing who is more sensitive and downright shy than most children, he's almost a Ridiculously Cute Critter if not for his size. He's like a giant teedy bear. Actually Eduardo probably is what a Carebear would look like if you fed it steroids till it was John Cena sized. And if you think about it, he makes sense: imagine you're a small, weak, introverted girl probably hitting puberty for the first time (like his creator)...what is your ideal best friend-defender-boyfriend? A giant, cuddly, protective man-monster with pro wrestler-like biceps and a sweethearted streak who likes hugs and tea parties.
The Ice King. He's an old, skinny man, has a long nose and a gravelly voice, and a shaggy beard... but many fans think he's adorable and want to hug him. Perhaps it's the little beady eyes, the tiny pointed fingers and teeth, derpy personality, and cuddly beard that make him cute? It doesn't hurt that he has a sad backstory and is a huge woobie whose greatest desires are friends and companionship.
Cinnamon Bun. He's a cinnamon bun. But he has a really gonky-looking face and an adorably affable and dim-witted personality.
Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons. Just watch the episode where he is Maggie's babysitter. Awww!
Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas And Ferb. He admits on the show that he's ugly, what with his extremely crooked teeth, hunched back and large nose. That doesn't stop fans from thinking he's adorable, or even hot.
Another one from the same show, the Super Computer from "Ask A Stupid Question". It's huge for one thing (to the point where most screenshots show it looming over the gang), speaks in a Creepy Monotone, and is overall really strange-looking. And yet, Isabella seems to think "He's cute!"
Lessee, a lot of characters from Earthworm Jim qualify. Well, there's Jim, bug-eyed and goofy, Peter Puppy (cute in normal form, ugly in monster), Princess Whats-Her-Name (ugly on her home planet, cute on Earth) Professor Monkey-For-A-Head who has a monkey grafted upside-down to his forehead with whom he constantly argues, Psy-Crow with his lack of pupils and his eye-blindeningly yellow space suit, Bob the Killer Goldfish and Number Four, and can't forget Evil the Cat and Henchrat.
Eventually she stops hiding her face behind her hair, and it turns out it's a rather pretty one. This doesn't change the fact that she has a pair of extra arms that would be too big for a person five times her size, and the weight of those extra arms have given her a permanently hunched-over stance.
Twipsy. He may look like Picasso's rejected sketch but he's so darn cute.
In an episode of King of the Hill Kahn describes Bill this way when getting used to the idea of him dating his mother, "You know he's not so bad, he's like one of those little dogs that are so ugly they're almost cute".
Fly Baxter in the 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon is surprisingly cute for a mutant manfly. He's pretty short, has big eyes, a pretty normal mouth, and wears a silly looking vest. Stockman's action figure, however gave him greater height, more prominent segmented eyes, mandibles, and a torn labcoat.
It also helps how completely and disturbingly adorable this guy is. He's an AdorkableJerkass Woobie. Strange, considering he is (or was) an insane middle-aged man.
Many characters from Superjail get this reception, when not thought of as being flat-out Gonk. With the nature of the show and varying depictions of them by the artists, they can be both:
Jared is a short, middle-aged and overweight man cursed with Four-Fingered Hands and a long, wide oversized skull. Even so, it doesn't stop him from having fans that adore his cartoony appearance.
Lord Stingray is never shown without his Expressive Mask, and is often depicted with shark-like fangs and bulging eyes by certain artists. While intended to make him look more unhinged, his fans' reaction is more of this trope.
Ash is depicted as horribly burnt and deformed, lacking ears and a nose. Later appearances put emphasis on his wide eyes, giving him a somewhat cuter look as his excitable Man Child personality was developed a little more.
The Twins range from simply looking kind of strange with the Big Ol' Unibrow, to being much more on the visibly Gonk side or to this, depending on the artist drawing them in a given episode. Much like Ash above, the increase in "ugly cuteness" has to do with the later seasons, which at times depict them as seemingly younger and more vulnerable than their initial appearances.
Discord. There's also Snips and Snails, who are either this or Gonks. Actually, let's just say that everybody in this show that isn't conventionally cute is this.
Then there's Chrysalis, who's basically a locust/zombie/vampire/pony mashup. And manages to look kind of adorable while still being terrifying. Even her changeling army, which are mindless, chattering insect drones, somehow manage to come off as cute.
Molly Coddle of Bump In The Night is a mismatched Frankenstein's doll, yet utterly adorable.
The titular Invader Zim and pretty much the enite Irken race.
In-Universe, Ickis has a particularly bad case of this, as he basically looks a lot like a rather anthropomorphic red rabbit. He's pretty good at spooking humans from out of sight, but when they see him, a lot of people tend to start cooing over how cute he looks. This has caused more than a few "scares" to fail and he has quite a complex about it. Even The Gromble has had a few laughs at how Ickis's looks undermine his efforts to be scary.
The Hub's version of Pound Puppies has Freddy from "A Nightmare on Pound Street", who is even described as "cute ugly".
Wooldoor Sockbat from Drawn Together. He's also the most cheerful and friendly guy on the show, which helps.
Stuart ("Stella") the scrawny cat with missing fur patches from Recess.
Tick Tock the Crocodile from Disney's adaptation of Peter Pan. On the one hand, he's a crocodile with a taste for human (in this case Captain Hook's) flesh with razor sharp teeth. On the other hand, he's so goofy-looking and his antics with Hook are so funny that you can't help but find him endearing.
The Tick gives us the superhero Sewer Urchin. He has an oversized lightbulb-shaped head (though that might just be a helmet), is clad in two shades of clashing purple and blue, wears a yellow oxygen tank, sounds like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, is covered in spikes (naturally enough), and is explicitly stated to smell awful to all of the surface-dwelling heroes due to his home territory being, well, the sewers. In spite of all these things going against him, he is also a kind of Crazy-PreparedGadgeteer Genius who doesn't get enough credit and is oddly charming, as well as considerably more likeable than the JerkassMiles GloriosusDirty CowardBatmanpastiche Die Fledermaus. Inexplicably, Sewer Urchin and Die Fledermaus are best friends, possibly of the Vitriolic Best Buds variety.