Villainous Legacy

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

This trope is when even though the villain of a work is no longer around, the plot continues to be driven by things they did while alive. This can be done by his organization being taken over by someone else, his descendants being evil themselves, someone continues his plans without him, and so forth. If it's an ongoing series where one way or another every villain can be traced back to the first one despite his defeat, it's this trope.

This trope is not, however, when the original villain is still manipulating things behind the scenes. For a true Villainous Legacy, they must have actually been defeated and are no longer the main threat. If the villain somehow continues to directly act against the heroes in some manner, it is not this trope. This trope can still apply if the villain is still around, as long as they are no longer the primary antagonist of the current story.

Compare Predecessor Villain, The Big Bad, Hijacked by Ganon, As Long as There Is Evil, and My Death Is Just the Beginning, each of which can overlap with this trope. Contrast Eternal Hero, which is the heroic version. See also The Man Behind the Man, The Man Behind The Monsters, Someone to Remember Him By, Leaking Can of Evil, The Remnant, Avenging the Villain, which can be assorted ways this trope is invoked. Contrast Villain of Another Story.

NOTE: Because this trope focuses on a villain being behind other events in a series (and often dead themselves), expect unmarked spoilers.


Anime and Manga
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure has main villain Dio; even after his death, his shadow looms over the Joestar/Kujo Clan, causing them and the world much trouble. Even he, however, is a result of a much more ancient evil from Mesoamerica.
  • Digimon Savers: Even after Kurata is defeated, his genocide of Digimon makes King Drasil believe all humans are evil, and thus he attempts to destroy the human world to protect the digimon world.
  • King Piccolo in Dragon Ball expels an egg from his mouth mere seconds before his demise. This egg eventually hatches and gives life to Piccolo Jr., who consciously seeks to conquer the world and avenge his father's death. Fortunately, he makes a Heel-Face Turn in Dragon Ball Z.
    • In Dragon Ball Z, even after Dr. Gero's death and the destruction of his laboratory, a supercomputer in his lab's basement (which survived the destruction) continues to work on his final creation, the biomechanical android Cell.
  • In One Piece, Arlong is defeated fairly early in the series, and he later hear more about his motivations much later in the series. Years later (two in-universe, eleven outside), a pirate crew/insurrectionist movement in Fishman Island arises following Arlong's example, and taking it to a grander scale.
  • The damage that Rau Le Creuset and his unwitting pawns, Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael did in Gundam SEED has yet to be undone by Gundam SEED Destiny. Grudges from the war they started continue to drive new conflict, Azrael's successor Djibril has taken over his terror organization, and Gilbert Durandal, the new Big Bad, plots to unite the world under himself so that no one can ever do what Le Creuset did again.
  • Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine had the death of Count Almeida happen before the series began, but their influence is felt by one of the experimental subjects continuing his work under his name long after his death.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam's Big Bad, Gihren Zabi, might have died at the end, but the state that he and his family built continues to antagonize the world for years afterwards, with both Haman Khan's Axis-Zeon and Char Aznable's Neo-Zeon laying claim to the name and legacy of the Principality of Zeon.
  • The Big Bad of Kara no Kyoukai, Araya Souren, is killed by Shiki in the fifth chapter/movie. The remaining two chapters are driven by lesser villains, who never got a chance to play their intended parts in his Evil Plan before it was foiled, and so they went independent.
  • This is zigzagged in Naruto. For a while it appears that a still-living Madara Uchiha is behind most of the plot, though it's a bit odd that he always wears a mask. Then, during the War Arc, Madara gets revived as a zombie, proving that the man behind the mask is simply pulling a Dead Person Impersonation, thus playing this trope straight. But it's then revealed that the real Madara actually passed down his plans/ideals to the masked man (revealed to be an Evil Former Friend of one of the protagonists) and planned for his successor to eventually revive him (though said successor didn't intend to do so) and left a few failsafes to make sure he was revived (though they didn't exactly work as planned). So ultimately this trope is zigzagged in the sense that Madara WAS dead for most of the series, but was still manipulating things in an indirect way.

Comic Books
  • Norman Osborn had this role for decades after he "died". Initially, he was limited to the Spider-Man characters. He had killed Spider-Man's girlfriend and created a supervillain legacy that not only included his own son, but several goblin-based villains that plagued Spidey for years. Of course, since Death Is Cheap, Osborn is back these days.
  • In X-Men, after Stryfe is defeated, it turns out that he has left behind a virus that spreads through humans and kills those with the x-gene, devastating mutantkind for years. Appropriately, it is referred to as the Legacy virus.
  • In DC One Million, their are future versions of practically every member of Batman's Rogues Gallery on the prison at Pluto; the android version of Robin explains to "our" Batman (who switches places with the future one) that a few were simply inspired by the originals, while others came about through cloning, DNA splicing, and other scientific methods. (One of them, Catwoman's future counterpart, gets her own issue in the series.)

  • In the Saw series, Jigsaw is killed in Saw III, but the series continued on by his apprentices and the plans he's left for them to follow.
  • Ghostface has been played by 7 different people throughout all four films of the Scream series.
  • In The Dark Knight Saga, Ra's Al Ghul, leader of the League of Shadows, is killed after he tries to annihilate Gotham and all its citizens to rid the world of its corruption. In The Dark Knight Rises his influence continues to be felt since the League was not actually destroyed, and Ra's student Bane sets out to fulfill his dead master's plans along with Rha's daughter Talia, but wants Gotham to suffer first.
  • The Order of the Sith Lords in Star Wars practiced what's known as the Rule of Two which meant that at any given point in the history of the Republic, the order was only comprised of two, and only two Sith warriors: a master and an apprentice. The apprentice becomes the master once their former master has died (often killed by them, no less) and they have an apprentice of their own to continue the cycle. Of course, many Sith Lords (namely Lord Sidious) have disobeyed this practice. Sidious, for instance, established his "Rule of One" where he'll secretly harbor many apprentices all at once to do his bidding while he was the sole person in power.
  • Friday the 13th

  • In the long-ago Back Story of the The Sharing Knife books, the ancestors of the Lakewalkers managed to kill their villainous sorcerer-king that threatened to destroy the world. However, it split into fragments and spread over most of a continent, each piece able to grow into a malice. The Lakewalkers in the books are still clearing those out, several hundred years later.
  • There is an entire subgenre of Star Wars Expanded Universe books dealing with the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi - just because the Emperor is dead doesn't mean there's nobody who is interested in continuing the Empire. Also, the Sith as a whole based much of their tradition (including the Rule of Two) on Darth Bane, not the founder of the order, as some believe, but the one who revived it in its more well-known incarnation after infighting among them led to near-extinction at the Jedi's hands.
  • The Silmarillion: Even after the Big Bad Melkor/Morgoth was thrust by the Valar through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World into the Timeless Void, he was the ultimate cause of much of the evil in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
    • He is said to have created the orcs by cruelly torturing and corrupting captured elves.
    • Sauron (the Big Bad of The Lord of the Rings) was one of the Maiar that Melkor corrupted and turned to the path of evil.
    • The Balrogs were other Maiar that Melkor corrupted. The Fellowship encountered a Balrog in Moria.
    • This was specifically stated in The Silmarillion.
    ...the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.
    • The tenth volume of The History of Middle-Earth was entitled Morgoth's Ring, referencing a quote stating that just as the One Ring was Sauron's Soul Jar, since Morgoth was involved in the creation of the world itself, his influence cannot be expelled from it even after he himself has been physically removed.

Live-Action TV
  • When The Shadows left the galaxy on Babylon 5, they left behind some technology, and at least one planet-killer ship—and their old Henchmen Race race the Drakh, who searched for and obtained some of these items for use in their own designs for conquest.
  • Justified: Mags Bennett may have been dead since Season 2, but the three million dollars she left to Loretta McCready, and her deal with Black Pike have continued to effect events in Bennett township and Harlan County ever since, with both her son Dickie and surrogate daughter Loretta trying to step into her shoes. One could make a similar case for Bo Crowder and Arlo Givens, whose legacies live on in the form of their sons Boyd and Raylan.

Play-by-Post Games
  • We Are All Pokémon Trainers: The Seven Jerk Dragons transformation of most of the human population of the PMD-B timeline is directly responsible for the state of that universe when the J-Team visits it. Specifically, Bahahkun's descendant Maleficent had designs on starting a whole new dragon war, which were cut short when she died.

Tabletop Game
  • Warhammer 40K: Orks have a biological version of this: their corpses release spores that eventually mature into more orks, ensuring that a planet that's been attacked once will pretty much always face them from then on.
    • A more true to form version of this comes from the Horus Heresy. Nearly all of the troubles the Imperium has with Chaos are a direct result of Horus' rebellion. Not to mention the fact the Imperium that came out from the heresy is not the same one that went into it. Horus may not have conquered the Imperium, but he certainly made it the galaxy wide hellhole it is today.

Video Games
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reveals that the machinations of Ganon are the legacy of Demise, the Demon King who cursed Link and Zelda to be plagued by an incarnation of his hatred forever, manifested in Ganondorf (and perhaps others)
  • Ultima: Mondain is the Big Bad of the first game. The second and third games have the villains as his lover and apprentice Minax, and their creation Exodus. The fourth game requires the player to retrieve Mondain's skull, and the fifth game has the villains as manifestations of the shards of his Artifact of Doom the player destroyed in the first game. In the sixth game, the Gargoyles summoned Mondain's spirit to embody their virtue of Control, along with Minax and Exodus. Finally, the Guardian, the villain of all subsequent games from VI, was initially planned to be revealed as the combined form of the Shadowlords after they were cast into the Void, but this was axed.
  • In Final Fantasy VII and its expanded universe, all major villains trace themselves back to Jenova, an Eldritch Abomination who tried to destroy the planet 2000 years ago. Jenova was found by Shinra, and the lab experiments produced by tinkering with her cells serve as the villains of the series, along with a few of the scientists who did said tinkering.
  • Non-character example in Fallout. The Big Bad of the first game, The Master, was using the Forced Evolutionary Virus to mutate humans. The villains of the second game excavated the ruins of his lair to retrieve the FEV for their own uses, and the villains of the third synthesized their own version for their plan as well.
  • Gerald Robotnik from Sonic Adventure 2. The main conflict of the story is against Eggman, but it was Gerald's actions 50 years in the past that caused many of the problems in the game.
  • In the Mega Man video game franchise, this comes up a lot, as Mega Man (Classic)'s Dr. Wily rivals the Trope Namer as a master of Hijacked by Ganon.
    • In the Mega Man X series, it is discovered that The Virus that turns Reploids into Mavericks originated from Zero, and both were Wily's final creations before he died long before the X series. The Big Bad of the X series, Sigma, merges with the Maverick Virus and transforms it into the Sigma Virus.
    • In the Mega Man Zero series that comes after the X series, Dr. Weil (no connection to Dr. Wily according to Word of God) creates Omega as a Dark Messiah to exterminate all Reploids. Omega's consciousness inhabits Zero's original body since Zero's mind was extracted after the X series. The Mother Elf, who becomes the Dark Elf, another major antagonist, was created by Ciel's ancestor by studying the Maverick Virus and trying to create an antibody.
    • In the Mega Man ZX series, all the Biometals are created from studying the original Biometal Model W, created from the ruins of the Ragnarok satellite that Weil fused with at the end of Zero 4.
  • Orochi in Ōkami makes sure the yet-to-be-lifted evil curses cast by him wouldn't fade away after his defeat by Amaterasu and Susano. In addition, as his soul flies away to the north of Kamui to reactivate the Ark of Yamato to summon Yami, the Lord of Darkness, he releases several monsters originating from that place so they can terrorize all of Nippon, starting with Kamui itself.
  • In Fable, Jack of Blades inspires followers in the form of the Cult of Blades years after his death.
  • Manus, Father of the Abyss in Dark Souls is long dead by the time of Dark Souls II. His remains eventually became the Abyss, a dark realm haunted by malevolent spirits, and the fragments of his soul embodying his emotions were reincarnated as his Children of Dark. One of those Children Queen Nashandra, embodiment of Manus' desires, is directly responsible for Drangleic's downfall. Even in death Manus spreads Dark.
  • Shuji Ikutsuki was a major antagonist in Persona 3 who was defeated and died. However, Sho Minazuki, his "son" (actually an orphan he experimented on) attempts to continue his legacy in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. As much as he tries to deny it, all of Sho's villainous actions stem from Ikutsuki in some way.

Western Animation