Deliberately subverted in GUN×SWORD. The protagonist is obsessed with taking revenge on the Claw to the detriment of personal connections, but when he finally does take revenge, the somewhat Family-Unfriendly Aesop is "revenge feels great".
This is the main character trait of Sasuke in Naruto. Initially, his desire was revenge on his brother for killing the rest of his clan. Sasuke eventually pulls it off, but he only feels angrier about it. He moves on to wanting to destroy the Hidden Leaf Village as he finds out his brother's actions were driven by the village's politics. When the village DOES get destroyed, he still feels empty and unfulfilled. He now wants to personally kill anyone who's lived in the village. Sasuke was also originally going to spare his childhood friend Naruto but now has Naruto at the top of his personal hit list, first for repeatedly getting in his way and now for being the village's hero. Note that Sasuke is a unique case of this in the series—a number of other characters have learned to forgive and forget, whereas Sasuke sinks deeper and deeper. Subverted by the fact that after a little tiny pep talk from the first Hokage Sasuke has put vengeance on the village aside. His new Dream? To be Hokage.. Might be a bit hard considering that he Killed at least one of the village elders and stabbed his teammate to do it DIRECTLY AFTER she tried to help him heal and tried to Kill his former Teammates more than once. (I'll let someone else add the applicable tropes to that kind of behavior.). Not to mention that after Killing Danzo Sasuke is elated and states that he feels that he "Got his first bit of vengeance for the Uchiha Clan. " So apparently it wasn't just an empty thing before.
Subverted in Tiger & Bunny when Barnaby takes revenge on Jake for killing his parents. Instead of feeling empty, he now feels free to live life for himself. Double Subverted when it turns out that Jake wasn't responsible. Barnaby has a Heroic BSOD when he finds out.
The whole character arc of Mikagami Tokiya in Flame of Recca. He starts out as a cold, distant jerk dedicated for only one thing: vengeance for his dead big sister. It's not until he found his not-soEvil Counterpart, Kai, who is bent on vengeance against how he's always considered second-fiddle by Tokiya's master, that his vision on vengeance-driven life starts to shake and eventually be destroyed: Kai dedicated himself so much in his vengeance with Mikagami that even after he actually won against Tokiya (since Tokiya is a Glass Cannon), he felt so empty that the only path he saw is to be Driven to Suicide. However, he gave a stern warning for Tokiya to not follow his path, and to go with it, one more Awful Truth, putting Tokiya's shattered resolve in trial: The murderer of his sister is his master. It's not until the final arc that he confronted his master to find out that it's his grandpa, and he just took credit of the murder because he felt guilty of unable to protect said sister from being murdered protecting Tokiya and wanted to atone by having Tokiya kill him. As a result of 'melding' with the Hokage, infected with their optimism and discarding the majority of his cruel ways (even at cost of becoming a Distressed Dude several times), Tokiya took the lessons at heart and refused to take vengeance, and once the story is over, he's changed into a warmer man.
Highly averted in Sin City when characters enact revenge, they often remark how good it feels.
In "Kitchen Irish" storyline of The Punisher MAX, Yorkie Mitchell meets with Frank, bringing with him the son of a fellow soldier murdered by an Irish terrorist now hiding in New York. In the end, the kid kills his father's murderer, but states he doesn't feel any better for it.
In The Sandman, after escaping from imprisonment, avenging himself on his captors and regaining his kingdom and his tools, Morpheus goes to Central Park and mopes because he does not feel as satisfied as he thought he would. His oldersister snaps him out of it.
In Animal Man, after Buddy Baker brutally avenges the murder of his wife and children, he feels it was all for nothing, and decides instead to travel back in time and attempt to warn his family in advance.
Though the main character frequently takes pleasure in brutal revenge, this trope pops up in the Marvel comic version of Conan the Barbarian when Conan's ally Zula slays his former master. After Conan asks him how it felt, Zula responds that it simply felt hollow. Interestingly, Red Sonja also mentions this trope during this conversation when she says she was unable to slay the man who ravished her after he had been badly tortured.
Atrocitus in the Green Lantern universe runs into this problem when Krona is killed. He's still left with his rage when it's all said and done.
Turnabout Storm: After a rather long time trying to break through their lies, Gilda Griffonbreaks down, finally admiting that their spontaneous plan to try to take revenge on the defendant ended up with this.
This is the trait of Maylu Sakurai from Maylu's Revenge. Her goal is to delete Roll for being Brainwashed and Crazy. She eventually pulls it off, but she only feels angrier about it. Maylu then moves on to destroy DenTech City when she learned that Roll's actions were driven by the politics of the city. When the city DOES gets destroyed, she will feels empty so she plans on killing anyone who lives in the city itself.
In Perfection Is Overrated, Natsuki and Nao reach this conclusion late in the fic. Natsuki, after learning that the Usurper-possessed Obsidian Lord has destroyed the First District, still believes that they deserved to die, but realizes that even if everyone related to her mother's death is dead, she won't come back and her triumph feels empty. Nao realizes that robbing perverts "was fun for a while, but (she) realized (she) was never getting anywhere." The two of them find a new purpose, however, in defeating the Obsidian Lord, the Usurper and the rest of the SUEs so that they can bring the conflict to an end.
Cell 8 (Swedish crime thriller/Author Tract on capital punishment): One character is desperately waiting for the state to execute a prisoner on Death Row in vengeance for what the prisoner did, so that the character can finally move on. When that finally happens towards the end of the book, he's still not able to move on. and then the real killer reveals that the prisoner was innocent all along.
The Princess Bride: Once Inigo Montoya has killed his father's killer, Inigo's life is rather empty, although it's not really a lack of satisfaction but rather "That's everything on the to do list. Now what?"
Westly: You'd make a great 'Dread Pirate Roberts'.
However, in the book, the narration reveals that he loved the sight of the terrified face of the Count's corpse.
At the end of Take A Thief, the person responsible for Bazie's (Skif's thief-mentor) death is killed by Skif. When Alberich asks, Skif says he's not happy, because "there weren't no justice" — the man got a quick death, and can't be hauled into court to answer for everything else he was behind.
The protagonist of Jack Vance's The Demon Princes trains since childhood to avenge his parents deaths and his Doomed Home Town, but after finally taking revenge on all of the titular princes, he realizes he no longer has any purpose in life, and is devastated.
In Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Joe Kavalier escaped Czechoslovkia prior to US entry into World War II and spent two years cultivating his rage over the Nazi occupation of Prague, resettlement of his family, death of his father and finally, death of his beloved brother by German U-Boat. Hell-bent on revenge, Joe joins the navy in hopes of killing German soldiers. By way of Antarctica, he finally acheives his goal of murdering a German. However, the man was an innocent scientist and Joe's successful revenge made him feel like "the worst man in the world."
In Bloodhound, Beka speaks to the ghost of one of the people behind the counterfeit plot, who wanted to get back at the whole country because they ended his years of loyal military service for hitting one incompetent officer. He doesn't have any regret for the many victims, but he does say it feels rather hollow to look at it as a ghost.
During Dinoverse Janine's old bully has to ask a favor of her. Janine tells her she'll grant it, but Candayce can't say a word until permitted, and so Janine airs her grievances, reminding Candayce - who's been growing a conscience - of all the horrible petty things she's done to Janine. But it's not fun, it doesn't mean anything.
At the end of Space Viking, Lucas Trask finally catches up to Andray Dunnan, who he had been pursuing ever since Dunnan murdered his bride on their wedding day.
It hadn't made the least difference. It had been like shooting a snake, or one of the nasty scorpion-things that infested the old buildings in Rivington. Just no more Andray Dunnan.
George Orwell's essay "Revenge Is Sour", published on 9 November 1945 in Tribune, discusses this trope in the context of the Second World War having just ended.
The story of Daedalus as told in The Storyteller has this message. After causing the deaths of his son and nephew, Daedalus tried to live a good life, but that was sabotaged by King Minos. Daedalus later takes a terrible revenge on Minos, but in doing so, realizes he's destroyed any chance of happiness/being a good person, and is totally emotionally broken.
In LOST: Sawyer spent most his adult life tracking down the con man who killed his father. When he finally finds him, he guns the man down in cold blood. Afterwards, though, he still feels empty.
It happens to Regina in Once Upon a Time, because after what she went through, she wants a revenge which continues whatever happens.
In Game of Thrones, even though Robert Baratheon killed the man who captured his beloved in single combat, he seems to be unable to be satisfied with it. He mentions in his dreams that "he kills him every night" which betrays the emptiness he feels even with having revenge.
In the Adventures in Odyssey episode "Waylaid in the Windy City, Part 2" Wit gives a Crowning Moment Of Awesome speech to Richard Maxwell about the futility of revenge, focusing on how how pursuing revenge will harm Richard. Keep in mind that this is while Richard has the man who ruined his life at gunpoint.
Don't you understand that when you go out for revenge, you've got to dig two graves! One for the person you're after and one for yourself! Richard, there's no such thing as revenge, not really. It never replaces what you lost. It never restores. It doesn't even satisfy. You're out of the detention center now. You've got you're whole life ahead of you! Now please, give me the gun!
The Trope Namer is Grand Theft Auto IV. If at the end of the game you choose to kill Darko (that's what you wanted to do for the whole game), after being asked how he feels, Niko says "empty", as shown in the page quote.
Though a possible contributing factor to this is that unlike in most examples, Darko (who by this point is a pathetic junkie torn apart by guilt) wanted to die. If Niko instead chooses the Cruel Mercy path and lets him live, Niko feels a lot better.
In Knights of the Old Republic, Carth obsessively focuses on destroying his former mentor, Saul Karath, after Karath defects to the Empire, glasses his home planet, and kills his wife. After Carth and the player kill Karath, Carth admits that it didn't bring him the peace he thought it would.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Inquisitor finds space pirate Andronikos Revel in the process of tracking down and murdering his mutinous crew. At several times during the story, he misses out on the chance to personally kill his betrayers, and is visibly distraught about this.
In Mass Effect 2, it is possible to convince Garrus of this through Paragon dialogue during his loyalty mission.
In Mass Effect 3, Javik the last Prothean and the self-proclaimed avatar of vengeance can be pushed either towards this realization (in which case he despairs and plans to commit suicide after the war) or away from it (letting him start enjoying his life again).
Maiev Shadowsong of Warcraft III's expansion pack The Frozen Throne and World of Warcraft; she pursued Illidan Stormrage for a long time, and realised this after she (along with a large set of adventurers) killed Illidan.
Present to an extent in the Max Payne series. At the end of the first game, Max has completed his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and seems to have achieved a measure of inner peace and satisfaction. By the time of the second game, however, he's wracked with shame and Survivor Guilt, wishing he'd been punished for the events of the first game, and by the third, has become bitterly resigned to the fate it brought him.
In Borderlands 2 you can do a sidequest for Sir Hammerlock where he asks you to kill the thresher which tore off his arm. After you do it, he realises that he doesn't feel any better but still considers it a job well done.
In Fire EmblemGenealogy of Holy War, the protagonist of the second generation Celice feels this way after killing Emperor Alvis, who murdered the former's father. The secret event between Celice and the ghosts of his parents has the latter lecturing the former about this trope.
In Starcraft II, Kerrigan is repeatedly warned by various people that her desire for vengeance is empty and won't make her feel any better. It turns out to be a subversion; after killing Mengsk, she is instantly and noticeably happier.
She is happy not because she killed Mengsk, but rather because Raynor has forgiven her for her past atrocities (which plays this trope straight). Sarah realized after meeting Raynor on the prison ship that killing Mengsk just for the sake of doing it would not make things better, and decided to cooperate with Raynor and Valerian because of this.
In the Fantastic Four episode "Behold, A Distant Star", Susan and Johnny's long-lost father Franklin Storm was killed by a Skrull plot. They both want to avenge him by attacking the Skrulls (or to kill the Skrull responsible). By the end of the episode, after the Skrull Emperor gives the team a pardon for saving his daughter from a crossfire between Skrull groups, they asked for the one who killed Franklin. The Emperor sadly points to Morrat, her daughter's lover, who tried to overthrow the Emperor. The team leaves for home, feeling much worse.