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 their organization being taken over by someone else, their descendants being evil themselves, someone continues their plans without them, 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 no longer in the spotlight but still manipulating things behind the scenes as The Man Behind the Man or The Man Behind The Monsters. For a true Villainous Legacy, they must have actually been defeated and are no longer the main threat. 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, 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 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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure has main villain Dio Brando; 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. Though Dio dies in part 3 of Jojo, the initial enemies of Part 4 are a direct result of his actions, Part 5's protagonist is a blood relation to him, and Part 6's Big Bad is trying to continue Dio's master plan.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • King Piccolo 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 Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has yet to be undone by Mobile Suit 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.
  • Fairy Tail has Zeref the Black Mage. It's been 400 years since his death, and people are still fighting against demons and other evil artifacts he made back then. And it turns out he's still alive, and intends to wage war on humanity. At this point in the series, he finally takes up the role of the overall Big Bad.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! R Dark Bakura never appears, but killing Pegasus in the Duelist Kingdom arc is what fuels the motivation of the Big Bad, Yako Tenma, to resurrect Pegasus, since Yako was his adopted son.

    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.)
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog has Mammoth Mogul. Thousands of years ago, he founded the Order of Ixis, which eventually led to the creation of Ixis Naugus, whose actions, which may include starting the Great War, in turn led to Dr. Robotnik's rise to power, who's death ultimately led to nearly every villain in the book today, with Naugus responsible for the ones that aren't Mogul. Naugus and Robotnik are still quite active (and are top two villains of the series), whereas Mogul has semi-retired from active villainy, running a casino and deciding to use his immortality to outlive the heroes and make his move then.

  • Queen Chrysalis in Cadence In A Minor. She never actually appears in person, but raping a brainwashed Shining Armor while taking the place of his bride is the root cause of most of the fic's conflict.
  • In the Medaka Box fanfic World As Myth, Ihiko Shishime seems to be this, as his existence is heavily implied to be the reason for the Big Bad's plans.
  • The War of Megazords Vs. Gundams has Patrick Zala and Mykan Yuki. They fueled each other's hatred towards Naturals and Coordinators receptively and are what sparked their respective wars.
  • Ace Swift, the Asshole Victim of Turnabout Storm. His immoral actions indirectly caused the conflict in the story, but it never met in person since he's dead.

    Film - Animated 
  • Treasure Planet has Captain Nathaniel Flint, based on the original Captain Flint from Treasure Island. While he is long dead by the main story, it is his treasure that drives the plot not to mention he set the planet to explode when the treasure was found.

    Film - Live Action 
  • 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, from the end of the New Sith Wars to the Galactic Civil War a thousand years later, 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 have disobeyed this practice. Darth 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, and many apprentices (including Sidious' last one, Vader) secretly kept apprentices of their own.
  • Friday the 13th:
  • Assuming Prometheus is in continuity with the rest of the franchise, the Engineer race serves as this to the Alien series, having created the Xenomorphs to begin with.
  • Daryll Lee Callum is this in Copycat. Peter Foley, the actual copycat of the title, is a fan of serial killer Callum who is committing his killings in an attempt to impress the imprisoned Callum.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in spite of the Red Skull no longer being around, HYDRA have continued to be a major threat to the world as whole- his second-in-command simply rebuilt the organization within S.H.I.E.L.D. and it's never entirely disappeared since- Every time its leaders are killed or imprisoned, a new one takes their place, as per their motto.


    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.
  • Whenever Doctor Who allows Davros to stay dead, he is this to the Daleks, his creations that continue to menace the universe long after his control over them is gone.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Daniel Whitehall. He's the Big Bad for the first half of season 2, but is abruptly shot and killed by Coulson in the midseason finale. Nevertheless, the ramifications of his actions are felt for the rest of the season, as his abduction and experimentation on Jiaying form the basis for her distrust of regular humans and eventually leads to her succeeding him as Big Bad when the full scope of her insanity is revealed and she kicks off a war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans. To a lesser extent, there's also Kara Palamas, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was captured by HYDRA, and who Whitehall brainwashed. After his death she falls in with Grant Ward, who takes her on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the people who (she feels) have wronged her.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In Ring of Honor, the Lovely Lacey was part of Special K, a bunch of rich stoners who tried to drug members of the ROH roster to increase their membership. When that group broke into two, one half became "Lacey's Angels" but she eventually dumped the Special Ks for The Forgotten (BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs). The end of Lacey Angel's lead into Jacobs starting The Age Of The Fall, a movement to 'save society'. Jacobs was also a founder of S.C.U.M (Suffering, Chaos, Ugliness, Mayhem), though leadership ended up defaulting to Steve Corino. Corino and Jacobs would eventually present Matt Hardy as S.C.U.M's centerpiece. After that group's end Jacobs would go on to form Decade (Three wrestlers who had been "loyal" to ROH for a decade attacking everyone who wasn't, even if they hadn't been around long enough) while Hardy would be a key player in The Kingdom (providing Kanellis and Bennett with 'the title of love'). Thus, you can trace a successive line of factions that have terrorized the promotion since its very inception — the strange part is that it's not one of the major factions, such as Christopher Daniels' The Prophecy or CM Punk's Second City Saints, but rather a bunch of drugged out Spot Monkeys that started all this. The only notable members of the stable to ever have a direct, lasting impact on the promotion was Lacey and later on, Jay Lethal.

    Tabletop Game 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • 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.
    • Thanks to Evil Versus Evil, the God Emperor of Mankind probably also qualifies, considering he created and initially led the xenocidal, expansionist Imperium.
    • Everything wrong with the galaxy can ultimately be traced back to the Necrontyr and the C'tan. They are the reason Chaos even exists, since it was the war they started that turned the Immaterium into a nightmarish hell dimension.
  • Pathfinder has Kazavon in the Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign, where defeating even a small part of his legacy is an epic adventure for a group of 17th level characters. A monstrous Blue Dragon and Psycho for Hire who once served as Zon-Kuthon's Champion, Kazavon was killed long before the story began. His evil persists however, in the form of seven Artifacts Of Doom made out of his bones, which are so contaminated by the pure evil of his soul that they corrupt all they touch, exacerbating the evil that is already there in the human soul. Queen Illeosa, Big Bad of the setting, is wearing the Crown of Fangs carved out of his teeth; with her defeat the story is over, but the possibility of someone else picking up the Crown (or one of the other six items) remains a very real threat.

    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.
  • While not quite "villains", the Touhou Story Arc consisting of games 10 through 13 is generally referred to as the "Moriya arc", because the events of each game are caused by a character who debuted in the previous game, despite not appearing in the game in question, starting with the Moriya Shrine members. Subterranean Animism was caused by Kanako giving Utsuho the tremendous power that gave her ideas of megalomania. Undefined Fantastic Object was caused by a geyser that Utsuho created launching the Palanquin Ship into the sky. And Ten Desires was caused by Byakuren landing the Palanquin Ship on Miko's mausoleum, giving her the boost she needed to resurrect.
  • Metal Gear:
  • In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, the Big Bad is a mechanical owl named Clockwerk. But in the second game Clockwerk is now destroyed, shut down, and separated into several pieces, but still a very dangerous potential threat if he were to be rebuilt. Most of the bad guys are just using pieces of Clockwerk for their own small-time schemes, until it becomes clear that Arpeggio intends to fully rebuild Clockwerk to take Clockwerk's body for himself so that he can be immortal. Then his protege Neyla backstabs him and takes Clockwerk's body for herself.
  • Ace Attorney: Blaise Debeste is this to the entire franchise, being the one who gave Manfred von Karma the first penalty in his perfect 40-year career. The penalty was for using a falsified autopsy report as evidence, but Blaise was the one who had the report falsified in the first place. This in turn lead to the DL-6 Incident, a tragic event that was both directly and indirectly responsible for the backstories of several major characters.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's has the unnamed Serial Killer who murdered at least five children (maybe as many as eleven) at a birthday party in 1987, possibly causing the animatronics to develop their murderous tendencies. The third installment eventually reveals that the the killer died when he tried to hide from the ghosts of the dead children inside an animatronic suit. Said animatronic is implied to be haunted by the killer and tries to kill you, thus making the killer the Big Bad of the third game.
  • In Pokémon Gold and Silver (and their Expansion Packs, remakes, etc.) Giovanni, the Big Bad of the original Pokémon Red and Blue games, is AWOL in this entry but his organization is still committing crimes and experiments in his name. The Big Bad of these games is the Dragon Ascendant, who went nameless in the original Gold and Silver editions but was named Archer in the remakes.
  • Portal and Portal 2 have Cave Johnson, the deranged, corrupt and non-wheelchair-friendly CEO of Aperture Science. Although long dead by the time of the games, he's responsible for the company's horrific (and counterproductive) policies, as well indirectly responsible for creating GLaDOS and putting her in charge of the facility.
  • The Grotesqueries Queen, Final Boss of Drakengard Ending E, becomes this in Nier, since it was because of her that the Gestalts and Replicants were created to allow humanity to outlast the White Chlorination Syndrome caused by the Queen's remains.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has Ashnard, the Big Bad of Path of Radiance, who turns out to have been the cause of a major problem for Daein during the sequel. Of couse, he doesn't actively play a role due to being dead by then.
  • As of Contra: Shattered Soldier, it turns out that the Triumvirate is truly responsible for everything that has happened in the Contra series, when they had stole the Relic of Moirai and provoked the Alien Wars in the first place.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • Red vs. Blue Season 10 flashbacks show that the A.I. Sigma qualifies for the Recollection Trilogy as a whole; he's the Big Bad of Reconstruction, but he is killed after those events, and his influence on the Meta still remains in Recreation and Revelation.

    Western Animation