Villain-Based Franchise

"One, two, Freddy's coming for you"... again and again and again...

A series linked by a recurring villain. The heroes and the locations may change or be dropped, but the central link remains the villain. The villain is frequently the 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.


Examples:

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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.)

    Card Games 
  • 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.

    Comicbooks 
  • 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 

    Literature 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • 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.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation