Big Bad of the franchise and most or all of its installments, though this doesn't have to be the case to qualify for the trope. Not the same as a series with a Villain Protagonist. Each installment may introduce a whole new set of heroes, but they may still be the protagonists. Very popular with the Slasher Movie genre, probably because the heroes can die off in the end without ruining the series. Often though, the villain will appear to die at the end, to allow closure to the series if another one is not made. The End... Or Is It? ending optional. The idea started with Pulp novels and villains like Fu Manchu or Fantômas. If the franchise is named after the villain, do not confuse this with Antagonist Title. While the recurring villain in a Villain-Based Franchise usually features as the Villain Antagonist in the individual installments rather than as an outright Villain Protagonist, they are still the overarching main character in the series as a whole, disqualifing them from this trope.
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Anime and Manga
- The Time Bokan series has the most focus on the villains than the heroes.
- Although most of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica spin-off works have at least something to do with the protagonists of the main show, this is not always the case. For those works, Kyubey's presence is by necessity what links them together, as he has to be there to make the characters magical girls, which is the focus of the franchise.
- Paranoia Agent does have recurring heroes and side characters with their own story arcs, but the show never focuses solely on one of them, while every single episode focuses at least somewhat on Li'l Slugger/Shonen Bat, the serial assaulter. (As well as fictional character Maromi, because it's eventually revealed that they are basically the same thing, or at least connected phenomena.)
- Magic: The Gathering has, for the last three years, had Nicol Bolas behind practically everything: The reunion of Alara, the rise of the Eldrazi, and he even dispatched his agent Tezzeret to aid the Phyrexians in overtaking Mirrodin.
- And before that, the first ten years of the game (well, once a storyline developed) featured the Phyrexians, the wars they created, and the aftermath of their invasion (to the point that the ultimate Big Bad of the Odyssey/Onslaught story actually traveled to the ruins of Phyrexia and met what remained of Yawgmoth the Machine-God). Then again several years later for the Time Spiral block. Then yet again as villains for the Scars of Mirrodin block. They have about fifteen years worth of storyline, while their most constant adversaries (the crew of the Weatherlight) lasted only four.
- The Tomb of Dracula comic, of course.
- While Darkhell doesn't appears in all episodes of Les Légendaires, he is still present in a lot of them, and the plot is almost always related to him: the other villains are usually connected to him (Skroa), attempt to use devices created by him (Ceyderom) or have a fight with him (Anathos). Even now that he finally died, new Big Bad Abyss has been created by him and considers himself as his heir.
- The BBC attempted to give the evil Daleks from Doctor Who their own spinoff in The Sixties, but all it ended up amounting to were a few Dalek comic books.
- The Joker had a short comics series of his own in the 1970s, and Eclipso had an ongoing one in the 1990s. While radical in their day, villain-based series have since gotten more common.
Films — Animated
- Disney Villains. Most animated Disney films that failed at the box office will inevitably become this.
- When The Black Cauldron failed, the Horned King became the only character from the film to ever appear in the merchandise.
- Although 101 Dalmatians did fine at the box office, this has definitely happened with Cruella de Vil. Since the original release of the animated film, she's become a Breakout Character. When the live-action films came along, Cruella de Vil was treated as the starring role, with Glenn Close's name written in big letters on all the posters, and she basically became the central character. There's also a Broadway musical, and again Cruella (played by Rachel York) was treated as the starring role.
Films — Live-Action
- Name a horror movie. Any horror movie. The villain's on the DVD cover, isn't it? What's more, 90% of the rest of the cast is officially canon fodder.
- The Predator and Alien vs. Predator movies. (the Alien franchise counts, but not the movie series due to Ripley)
- The Friday the 13th series featuring Jason Voorhees. The first movie did not feature Jason as the killer, but his crazy mom instead. And the fifth movie features a killer imitating the dead Jason.
- The A Nightmare on Elm Street series featuring Freddy Krueger.
- Not to forget, unlike some horror franchises, it features the same actor recurring as the villain throughout. Excluding the 2010 remake, Robert Englund has reprised his killer role as Freddy Krueger in 8 films.
- The Halloween series featuring Michael Myers.
- Averted by the third movie, which was hated by critics and fans alike.
- The Child's Play series featuring Chucky.
- The titular Living Dead are the only common link in the Romero/Russo Zombie Apocalypse movies.
- Godzilla, on the occasions that he's a villain.
- Dracula, with a host of books and movies based off the bloodsucking fiend.
- The Phantasm series featuring the Tall Man.
- Though the heroes return as well . . . sort of
- The Maniac Cop trilogy featuring Matt Cordell, a deranged former cop who now kills innocents instead of protecting them.
- The Psycho Cop duology with Joe Vickers, a Satan worshipper who kills anyone whom he deems to be guilty.
- The Leprechaun series with the titular character.
- The Hellraiser films eventually became one with Pinhead.
- The sequels of original Prom Night (1980) tried to become one with Mary-Lou Maloney. She was dropped from the fourth movie.
- The Ring, especially in Japan.
- The Stepfather films with Jerry Blake.
- Shocker featuring Horace Pinker was an attempt to create one, but low sales ended these plans.
- The Warlock trilogy featuring the titular character.
- The Final Destination pentalogy, where recurring villain is Fate or Death itself.
- The Saw Franchise. It's the same villain for the first several, then his apprentices take his place.
- The lesser-known Sleepaway Camp series.
- Angela in the original Night of the Demons (1988) was just another demon-possessed person. In Night of the Demons 2 and Night of the Demons 3, she is the leader of the demonic debauchery.
- The Doctor Mabuse series is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, starting before talkies.
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes and its sequel, Dr Phibes Rises Again. Each gives the eponymously abominable doctor a new nemesis, with the only other recurring characters being a pair of ineffectual detectives.
- The Wishmaster series is centered around an evil genie, although the one in the third and fourth movie seems to be a different Djinn from the one in the first and second.
- In a way, the Terminator series. The movies do have central protagonists in John Connor and his mother Sarah. But not only the villain is always a Terminator Killer Robot - even if it's not one that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger - but some media only feature said machines.
- The Night of the Living Dummy series from the Goosebumps books.
- Hannibal Lecter, who became more and more the protagonist as new books came out, though he suffered from Badass Decay.
- Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu series — sure, Fu's nemesis Nayland Smith was in all of them, but who got title billing?
- Fantômas, from the series of French pulp novels writen by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre (and later by Allain alone after Souvestre's death) starting in 1911.
- A lot of the Old Republic era of the Star Wars Expanded Universe is linked by the Sith. In recent years, practically every villain in every era has been a Sith.
- An in-universe example is the fictional Emperor Zhark series mentioned in the Thursday Next books.
- Kaiju Big Battel's Big Bad Dr. Cube is also the most recognized figure in the promotion. This is partially because his helmet is the logo. Though he eventually dies.
- WCW tried to do with with the nWo, to turn it into its own brand. However, people started to view the nWo as boring invincible villains at the time, so giving them their own show where surprise, surprise, the nWo won every match, turned out to be a turn off to many viewers.
- Los Perros Del Mal, a Card-Carrying Villain Power Stable who operated in CMLL and AAA, later founded their very own wrestling promotion, named after themselves, Perros Del Mal Producciones. They remain the bad guys even on their own show.
- Diablo is based upon its title demon lord.
- Castlevania is linked by its main villain Dracula. This even extends to the Sorrow games, which are set in the future after Drac's Final Death. Who is the player character? His reincarnation!
- With the exception of the fourth game (though they still influence the plot to a degree), Resident Evil centers around the Umbrella Corporation and its successors.
- The heroes asking the question cycles depending on the series, but they're always asking the question "Where in |the World/America/Time/Hell/etc.| is Carmen Sandiego?"
- Possibly Silent Hill, if a place can be a villain.
- In one way or another, the main stories of the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series seem to revolve around Geese Howard. By the time The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match comes around, he's also present in that as a secret boss, out-bossing a considerable cast of SNK Bosses. Also, in Capcom vs. SNK, Geese is ratio 6 when fought as a boss, since you fight him twice as ratio 3, when the highest a character goes in the game, Akuma (Gouki) as a secret character, is ratio 4.
- Command & Conquer: Tiberium revolves around Kane.
- Super Robot Wars is so named because the villains in the games start these, with the good guys having to end them.
- Every Kingdom Hearts game in the Xehanort Saga (Kingdom Hearts I-III and every spin-off or side-game released in between) is linked by the same mysterious evil figure who just won't stay dead. Whether a new villain will antagonize the next several games or if the series will move on to one-off villains is yet to be seen.
- The MOTHER/EarthBound series is a special case. None of the heroes ever return, but the Big Bad from the first one reappears in the next one, in which a Dragon for him is introduced. The third one then features only The Dragon from the second one, since the original Big Bad was killed in the second game. A couple of characters (how many exactly depends on the player) from the second game appear, though, and Ness, the hero from it, is referenced a lot.
- Doctor Wily of Mega Man is one of these. His declaring world domination pushes Rock to undergo the change to Mega Man. Wily is also influencing events long after his life thanks to his hand in the creation of the Maverick Virus.
- The Tale of ALLTYNEX of course focusing on the malevolent AI Alltynex.
- The main focus of the First Encounter Assault Recon series is its resident Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl/Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds Alma.
- In its final years, the arcade division of Irem produced several post-apocalyptic action games whose only real link was the villains, a terrorist organisation know as the "Dark Anarchy Society". The games part of this universe are (in order) Air Duel, Undercover Cops, Fire Barrel, In the Hunt and Gunforce II.
- The When They Cry series centers around its villains, many of them as the result of progressing insanity. Also an example of a Villain Protagonist, not that the characters themselves realize it until its too late.
- Dangan Ronpa has Monokuma, the sadistic robot Killer Teddy Bear who pushes the cast of each game into killing each other.