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Historical Villain Upgrade / Video Games

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Historical Villain Upgrades in video games.

Examples with real people

  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Has this and its counterpart as its entire plot. The series' main draw is how the developers use the Rule of Cool to combine exquisite research with Historical Upgrades. Everybody of note in the past belonged to one of two Ancient Conspiracies, the Templars and the Assassins. The Templars work to eradicate free will in the name of peace. The Assassins hunt and kill Evil Aristocrats wherever and whenever possible "to safeguard Mankind's evolution" (and peace). If somebody in the past was awesome, he's in the series somewhere with his life examined in detail - with Hidden Depths because history was Written By The Templars.
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    • For example, Rodrigo Borgia was certainly a murderous, conniving asshole in real life and as Alexander VI, generally considered to be the worst pope in the history of the Catholic Church; it turns out he was secretly the cackling leader of the Templars during The Renaissance. Oh, and he thought Christianity was bunk, but became Pope anyway just for the power. Unlike the game's version, there's also no evidence (beyond slander from his enemies after his death) that the real Rodrigo ever raped his daughter or invited people to dinner parties only to poison them all to death.
    • Better yet, Thomas Edison was a proven jerkass who regularly stole ideas and performed grotesque "demonstrations" to smear his assistant-turned-rival Nikola Tesla. Turns out he was also a Templar who stole his rival's MacGuffin and gave it to Henry Ford, who in turn, gave it to Adolf Hitler for the express purpose of jumpstarting the Holocaust and World War II. Also, Hitler's conspirators? Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin.
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    • Girolamo Savonarola in the Bonfire of the Vanities DLC, although in fairness AC was hardly the first to come up with this portrayal. Granted he was definitely extreme by modern standards, but people forget that the reason Savonarola was able to carry out his famous Bonfire was because the people of Florence were sick and tired of watching wealthy Italian families flaunt their vast fortunes by commissioning ludicrously expensive sculptures and paintings while the rest of society was beset by plague and poverty. By the standards of the time he was practically a popular revolutionary. Hell, in the 1990s he was even nominated as a candidate for sainthood (he didn't win though).
    • In a more modern context: Antonin Scalia, long-serving conservative Supreme Court Justice, was, apparently, instrumental in manipulating the Supreme Court's decisions since at least 2000, when he got the Templar-aligned puppet George W. Bush into the White House. In addition, since then he's had Templar-allied appointees filling up the court system. That's...yeah.
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    • Assassin's Creed III has "The Tyranny of King Washington" DLC, which is an Alternate History that postulates a What If? storyline where George Washington accepted the offer to become King instead of President, and the United Kingdom of America becomes an even worse tyrannical power than England ever was at the time. In this case, it turns out to be a shared vision of both Connor and Washington's brought on by the Apple of Eden that ultimately convinces Washington that a democracy is the best form of government for the United States.
    • Assassin's Creed: Unity: Jacques Roux. An ultra-revolutionary radical he undoubtedly was, and he was indeed, as the game narrator says, "even too extreme for Robespierre". However, Roux's real extremism was not in personal bloodthirstiness or demands for heads to roll, but in his (for the time) incredibly left-wing economic and social views. While he was one of the few prominent revolutionaries to give approval of the recurring Parisian riots involving pillaging wealthy merchants and bourgeois, there's little evidence that he led such riots himself, and certainly none that he hacked people to death during them.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II does this to the Mujahideen in a level set during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, possibly owing to current perceptions of such groups thanks to The War on Terror. The player helps the Mujahideen push the Soviets out of their territory, capturing and interrogating a Soviet character from the previous game in the process, and then the very instant he is executed after the interrogation the Mujahideen betray the player, stating that "you are, and always will be, our true enemy". In reality, the anti-Soviet Mujahideen had little to no anti-American sentiment, and were overall more moderate than the Afghan Taliban, who the Americans would end up fighting down the line, but who actually weren't founded until the 1990s.
    • In the same game, Manuel Noriega. In actual history, he was a former US-aligned de facto autocrat who was later ousted by an American invasion. He was undoubtedly a dictator and engaged in many amoral dealings like profiting from the cocaine trade, throwing political opponents in jail, and rigging elections, but he was overall pretty small time by Cold War standards as Panama never reached anywhere near the instability and violence as, say, Nicaragua. He only had a few people murdered, and killing just one political rival (Spadafora) was considered such a heinous and serious crime by his standards that it got him enormous backlash both in Panama and in the U.S. and led to him trying to cover up involvement. In the game, he's a Smug Snake with a much bigger body count, killing any and all witnesses to his shady dealings and allying with Big Bad Raul Menendez despite the latter's desire to kill millions.
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines: Countess Elizabeth Bartley is based on Erzsébet Báthory the Blood Countess. Whereas the real Bathory was an infamous serial killed who tortured and murdered thousands of young girls and was accused of vampirism, the game makes her an actual vampire, Draculas' niece in fact note . She was also responsible for kickstarting the events that led to World War I as she hoped to sacrifice all the souls of the people killed in the large scale conflict to revive her Evil Uncle. Likewise Drolta Tzuentes, the witch that revived Countess Bartley, was based on Dorotya Semtész, servant of Bathory who was later executed for aiding the countess on the atrocities she committed.
  • City of Heroes has Romulus Augustus, who is 8 feet tall, can wear what looks like hundreds of pounds of armor, can stand up to multiple super-powered punches, blasts, mental assaults, etc... and that's BEFORE he gets bonded with an evil alien parasite which makes him even stronger!
  • Josef Stalin is supposed to be this in Command & Conquer: Red Alert, except that, well... given the historical circumstances, it's actually a pretty accurate portrayal of the guy, even though the real person never engaged in gassing of entire villages with sarin. The only major difference here is his voice, which is a Large Ham in the game; in Real Life Stalin hated his own voice because it was simply not threatening enough and hence it was ordered to not be recorded. Indeed, only a very few examples of his speeches exist in audio form.
  • Sir Alexander Leslie is depicted as being quite evil in The Crooked Man and The Wolf Among Us. What was so crooked about Sir Alexander Leslie? He negotiated peace between Scotland and England.
  • In Custer's Revenge, General Custer is portrayed as a depraved rapist, far worse than the real life general.
  • Dante's Inferno takes many of the historic figures who were upgraded in The Divine Comedy mentioned above (except any who would be controversial, like Mohammed, who are omitted entirely) and upgrades them further, making them downright nasty. For example, Cleopatra becomes a succubus of titanic size cruelly goading Dante as he makes his way through the Lust Storm, summoning demons and her former lover Anthony (himself an example of this Trope) to stop him, finally trying to seduce him if all else fails. (Causing a Non Standard Game Over if he falls for it.) Of course, in this game, everyone from the original work is an Adaptational Badass. Dante himself also qualifies as this,being a positively Ax-Crazy Knight Templar responsible for murdering countless prisoners and blaming his brother-in-law Francesco Portinari for it.
  • The arcade version of Double Dragon 3 (as well as the Famicom version) features a revived Cleopatra as the final boss.
  • Fallen London: Played with a bit with Jack the Ripper himself. In the usual world, he was a vicious murderer. In the Neath, he's what appears to be a Body Surfing sadist that takes over the minds of people until they die, and murders everyone that he knows about. Problem being, Death Is Cheap down below. Everyone he kills just gets back up, which frustrates him to no end and turns him into a bit of a Harmless Villain. The local magazines even review his murdering techniques, and give him crappy scores for being "gimmicky".
  • Fate/Grand Order: While many Servants get a Historical Hero Upgrade, Christopher Columbus, who was introduced in the game as the Rider of Resistance in the Agartha Sub-Singularity, wasn't so lucky. The case of the real Columbus was a bit complicated: whereas while he did govern the American colony and promoted slavery there, he might not have been completely at fault on that, as behind-the-scenes politics played a role in the colony's development. In-game, however, he did all his horrible deeds for the sake of profit, and despite the world moving on from slavery, he's extremely insistent in trying to bring back the old ways of slavery because he likes it better. And he does all those while being a two-faced Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, using his positive qualities such as being a Determinator and inspiring captain to cover his dark desires.
  • The Hearts of Iron 2 Game Mod Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg does this to Baron Wrangel, a important White General in the Russian Civil War. In Real Life he was arguably one of the more liberally-leaning White Generals who favored Constitutional Monarchy and supported widespread labour and land reforms. The mod originally turned him into a Fascist dictator and an expy of Adolf Hitler to some extent, who can become the tyrannical and absolutist Tzar of Russia or a sinister prime minister/regent using a Tzar as a figurehead. A later version shuffled things around so the Fascist-y/expy elements fall to another potential military leader of Russia, while Wrangel's rule is a more mundane authoritarian military dictatorship that can bring back the Tsardom in either autocratic or constitutional forms. It's implied in-game and by fanon that Kerensky's mismanagement of Russia in the backstory of the mod made him lose faith in democratic forms of governance and turned him into what he was in the game.
  • In the expansion for Hidden & Dangerous the SAS fighting off the communist partisans in post-war Greece, where they are depicted as terrorists. However this can be seen as Video Game Historical Revisionism, as the side the SAS was fighting for, the Kingdom of Greece, was no better, and its forces consists of former Nazi collaborators that engaged a campaign of systemic killings against leftists.
  • The Big Bad in The Last Resurrection is Jesus himself, and has allied himself with Dracula and Hitler. To say that the game's creator doesn't like Christianity is a severe understatement.
  • Mafia III:
    • In reality, the American Mafia and the Ku Klux Klan hated each other, in large part because the latter was violently xenophobic and anti-Catholic, and the two groups came into conflict with each other on multiple occasions. But in this game, the Marcano Family is allied with the Southern Union, an expy of The Klan. Admittedly, their collaboration is indirect, fraught with tension and has purely mercenary motivations, but the odds of something like it happening in real life are slim to none. The ending also indicates that the Mafia, or at least the Marcano Family, was involved in the JFK assassination, an idea that — while a popular theory — has no hard evidence to support it.
    • The real Dixie Mafia was/is little more than a loose association of white Southerners with largely the same motivations as most criminal organizations. In the game, however, they're portrayed as white supremacist Neo-Confederates who force black women into prostitution and whose drug manufacturing facilities are filled with slaves.
  • The game Martian Dreams, the premise of which is pretty much "famous historical personages of the late 19th/early 20th century, colonizing Mars!", has a few historical villains, including the ever-popular Rasputin and anarchist activist Emma Goldman. To be fair, though, Rasputin turned out to be possessed by an evil Martian and Goldman didn't know what his plans truly were.
  • MediEvil 2 does this to infamous serial killer Jack The Ripper. Like in real life, he's a serial killer, but unlike in real life, he's a giant, green skinned demon with absurdly long claws, and he doesn't mutilate his victims here, he devours their souls. Oh, and just like the real Jack, he completely gets away with his crimes. The first time you meet him, anyway.
  • So, Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (Ieyasu's brother) did have a disproportionate love of dogs. He probably didn't destabilize politics in order to let wild dogs run people out of town, while simultaneously freeing a dog demon for its ultimate power.
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe:
    • Heinrich Himmler, while already being one of the worst Nazis in our world, is elevated to the point of being even worse than Hitler himself. A full on Manipulative Bastard who creates a form of Nazism that's more extreme than Nazism, and who pulls at the strings of world politics all in the name of causing nuclear apocalypse, Himmler serves as the true main antagonist of the mod.
    • While historically, many of the generals of Omsk were brutal KGB Generals while Dmitry Yazov was a prominent hardliner, they did not advocate killing every German in the world or destroying Germany, which they do in this scenario, with not even nuclear war standing in the way of revenge to them.
    • Trofim Lysenko was an incompetent pseudoscientist in real life whose policies worsened Soviet famines, and who also used state repression to ensure his theories were not disputed by other scientists. In the game, however, he's gone full Mad Scientist and experiments on humans that he keeps locked in a huge mountain lair. It's so bad that the notoriously brutal NKVD overthrowing him is the "good" ending for his nation.
  • Nioh: While many characters have varying degrees of decreased or increased villainy, two charming individuals stand out for their sheer depravity:
  • The games Operation Darkness and Bionic Commando. Think Hitler can't be upgraded, villain-wise? Think again.
  • Onimusha lives and breathes this trope. The backstory of the game states that mankind was created by the Genma God Fortinbras during the primordial chaos as a Slave Race, serving only as food. However, Fortinbras and the Genma were happy to trade their advanced technology and skills to humans for a price: their blood sacrifices and their own humanity, causing most of them to be turned into Card Carrying Villains. Despite their Japanese name, the Genma operated on a global scale, with some historical conquerors like Alexander the Great confirmed to be Genma allies. Some Japanese warlords, like Takeda Shingen, are also confirmed to be Genma conspirators. But they were not the focus of the games, as they have their own historical people to be vilified as Genma conspirators:
    • Oda Nobunaga, who was basically him at his evilest portrayals taken Up to Eleven. After making the deal with the Genma for personal power, he was shot to death by a stray arrow. Upon his revival by the Genma, he took over the leadership of Japan, with Fortinbras supposedly having been killed by the protagonist, Samanosuke. Nobunaga then continued to spread his hellish conquest, mirroring his brutal actions in history, throughout the franchise, until Samanosuke came back and personally killed him in Honnoji, sealing him within the Oni Gauntlet. Per Onimusha tradition, Nobunaga's brutality went through Flanderization that made him look a bit too Obviously Evil, with the same applying to every one of his followers, starting with his wife Nouhime/Kichou (called Vega Donna here) and his page Mori Ranmaru, all of which became cackling evil and/or monstruous to boot. Nobunaga was so much this in this game that Matsunaga Hisahide below, who is usually treated as 'Villain of the Sengoku Period' and as being a roadblock to Nobunaga's road to unification, is given a heroic, positive light in Onimusha Tactics because anyone who opposed the Genma and its followers can't be that much of a villain.
    • Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In the beginning of the franchise, Hideyoshi was made to be a Smug Snake; a cowardly, irritating sycophantic servant of Nobunaga who was complicit in all of Nobunaga's atrocities. When his master died, Hideyoshi finished his conquest, seemingly in a fair way without Genma influence, only to summon them again once he became the ruler of Japan, plunging the country into chaos once more while he grew his ego until he was flat-out claiming to ''be'' a God. The Genma played along and then discarded him like a tool once he outlived his usefulness.
    • Ishida Mitsunari. An administrator under Hideyoshi, the historical version's flaws were a bad military record and terrible luck at Sekigahara, but overall he was just trying to preserve Hideyoshi's legacy (which allowed him to enjoy a Historical Hero Upgrade whenever anti-Tokugawa notions started to spring). In this game, Mitsunari was possessed by the Genma. However, it was also noted that in the beginning, he's so evil that the possession was completely voluntary and based on his own desire to get more power for his own than trying to help Hideyoshi.
    • Luis Frois, a Portuguese Catholic missionary who happened to befriend Nobunaga and wrote books about Japan's history... is a subversion. Putting aside the odd change of his nationality from Portuguese to Spanish, here he became a Sinister Minister and a Mad Scientist. However, it was said that he was a good and pious man that helped the poor beforehand but ended up unwillingly possessed by the Genma, making his evil actions not really his own, unlike Mitsunari.
    • Yagyu Munenori was turned into a traitor to the Jubei clan, aligning with the Genma for personal power, dismissing notions of his family's sacrifice for a life of evil. He decided to become The Starscream to Fortinbras himself for his own sake, but Fortinbras struck him down with ease.
    • The browser game Onimusha Souls also showcased several Warlords being under the Genma influence, Tokugawa Ieyasu included. But on the other hand, some are instead siding with the Genma's opponents, the Oni, like Date Masamune.
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein turns Heinrich I AKA Henry the Fowler, the first king of Germany (and a figure who was in fact revered by the Nazis) into a Nigh-Invulnerable Evil Overlord who has to be sealed in a can so that his reign of terror can be stopped.
  • Samurai Warriors had some cases, but those were mostly toned down:
    • Fuuma Kotaro was, by all accounts, not a very nice man... but Samurai Warriors 2 exaggerates him from merely a ninja who turned to petty banditry after the fall of the Late Hojo to a chaos-worshiping madman who actively tries to extend the Sengoku period for his own amusement. Koei probably noticed this and decided that they'll expand the Hojo clan in future games, with addition of first Hojo Ujiyasu and Kai, and then Hayakawa, so Fuuma eventually mellows down and not exactly a madman who spreads chaos for the lulz, though he still loves to spout about chaos things and more like a minor Token Evil Teammate for the Hojo.
    • Matsunaga Hisahide was known as the "Villain of the Sengoku Period"... and Koei decided to dial it Up to Eleven. He is portrayed as an Obviously Evil Card-Carrying Villain who revels in his role as "the greatest villain of the era" and, after getting shanghaied into Nobunaga's army, takes every opportunity he can get to subvert his campaign of conquest before finally, in the game's own take on his dying act of defiance, uses a teapot containing dynamite to attempt a suicide attack on Nobunaga. Still, this version has its Pet the Dog moments: an event from Chronicle Mode shows him offering free meals to the poor while blasting the idea that people who don't work should starve.
  • Sengoku Basara, which is considered to be 'Sengoku Period On Crack' has this galore. Just when you thought that Capcom couldn't top themselves from Onimusha.
    • Oda Nobunaga again, of course. Even without Genma influence, the Sengoku Basara version is basically an Obviously Evil warlord who only thought of himself and made it his mission to spread hell into the world to showcase his power. He thinks himself above humans and might have been a demon incarnated. Oh, and he's interested in being a multiversal conqueror too. Topping it all off, they hired Norio Wakamoto to voice Nobunaga in his most glorious form of evil voice he's best known for.
    • Akechi Mitsuhide. Not going along with the usual portrayal of 'heroic Mitsuhide bringing down karma to the evil conqueror Nobunaga', Mitsuhide is turned into a sadistic, twin scythe wielders that feeds off pain, be it his own pain or any other people's. He also indulges in manipulation and getting off the people's misery, and overall, he's about as evil as Nobunaga himself, turning his betrayal at Honnoji into a case of Evil Versus Evil.
    • Toyotomi Hideyoshi has a different treatment, however. Rather than being a straightforward Smug Snake, Hideyoshi gets turned into a rather complex Well-Intentioned Extremist portrayal, a ruthless, subjugating warlord that wants to unite the nation under his glove and turn it into a strong nation, merciless to his enemies, but tends to be A Father to His Men; just his own men that proved their loyalty, that is. To enforce this, rather than being a short monkeyish person, he's turned into an eight-foot tall 'mountain monkey'/'gorilla' and exhibits mannerisms from a well known big conqueror from another anime, Raoh.
    • Mōri Motonari, the daimyo of Chuugoku region. The real life Motonari actually had bouts of ruthlessness, but just as necessary as his era allowed him. He also put a great emphasis on family unity; a particular personal event in history went like this: Motonari called forth his sons and handed them an arrow each, and told them to break them; they did that easily. And then Motonari told them to do the same on three arrows at once, they failed. However, it allowed Motonari to teach a good Aesop that one person is easier to break than three, united people. Now how was the Basara version of Motonari like? A jackass commander extraordinary who sacrificed his own soldiers, clansmen and allies willy-nilly as long as it serves his own interests and thinks that the only thing that matters is just himself, that he sometimes contests the position of Big Bad alongside Obviously Evil characters like Nobunaga and Hisahide (and his 'advantage' that contributes to his popularity or people making excuses of his 'misunderstood' jackassery is that "He's prettier"). He's basically what happens when you exaggerate Motonari's bouts of ruthlessness to the point it eclipses everything else and he most likely would rather die than giving that unity lesson to his family... if any of them remains.
    • Matsunaga Hisahide gets another kind of villain upgrade when compared to his Koei counterpart. This incarnation is a Manipulative Bastard on the level of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi in villainy, plunging the country into chaos just because he felt like it. His act of dying defiance in real life, destroying a famous tea kettle that Nobunaga coveted, is up-played into him becoming a Straw Nihilist with Walking Wasteland powers who wants to destroy all the world's treasures. Whenever Matsunaga appears, expect things to get grim.
    • Otani Yoshitsugu. In real life he was known for being a leper and a courtier who was Ishida Mitsunari's best friend. In the game, he's a leprous Manipulative Bastard and a Misanthrope Supreme with Psychic Powers who hopes to plunge all of Japan into eternal misery by killing Ieyasu. His only redeeming feature is his strange fondness for Mitsunari, who in his own words is the only man in Japan more miserable than he.
    • Kyogoku Maria, half-sister of Azai Nagamasa, as an example of how you can take a usually minor historical person and make her villainous or being a complete bitch. Historically, she was known as a devout Christian, dedicated in spreading her religion after her husband's death and becoming one of the best Japanese Kirishitans (aside of the more famouse Dom Justo Takayama Ukon). In this game? Every notion of Christianity are removed and Maria is turned into a manipulative, bitchy egoistic enchantress who thinks that the world and everyone revolve around her because she is a stunningly beautiful woman, and sees Nagamasa and to an extent Oichi as her playthings to be manipulated for lulz. The only hint of 'Christianity' in her is her exotic name, in here she picked the name because she's so vain that she decided that she deserves an exotic name. This is saying something considering Basara does include Christianity off-shoots in form of the Xavism and Otomo Sorin, and at worst they were just being sissy but comedic 'villains', Maria instead becomes a really malicious witch-bitch.
  • In Snoopy vs. the Red Baron, the Flying Circus has been upgraded from a fighter wing to its own branch of the German military that deals in futuristic Dieselpunk tech like gigantic tanks and ICBM-armed airships. Naturally the Red Baron himself serves as the Big Bad. Ditto for its unofficial sequel Snoopy Flying Ace.
    • The Triple Entente make Sally do all of their spying by herself without backup, don't give her hazard pay or overtime, and suppress her demands for union representation, the monsters.
  • The Secret World: While Akhenaten the Pharaoh certainly threw Egypt into chaos back in his day from a religious schism (he tried to replace the entire pantheon for monotheism at once) and interpretations vary, the game turns him into both the nameless Pharaoh that kept the jews enslaved and got struck by the Ten Plagues, and the leader of an omnicidal cult. Granted, it's also said he used to be reasonable and sane like his real version, but then the Filth got involved at a critical time and turned him into a Humanoid Abomination.
  • Total War: Attila:
    • Attila the Hun was certainly no saint and had a lot of blood on his hands, but the main game greatly simplifies his motivations and removes his good qualities, reducing him to a man who wants to set the world on fire just so he can watch it burn.
    • In The Last Roman campaign, Byzantine emperor Justinian I is a spoiled brat who holds Belisarius back from the greatness that he deserves. The real Justinian was a very intelligent man in his own right and Belisarius was one of his closest friends.
  • In World of Warcraft, Emperor Lei Shen is an Expy of China's first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. He is given demonic lightning powers and Nazi-style racial theories to make him look particularly evil. Qin is nowadays generally seen as a brutal (albeit effective) tyrant, but he didn't approach this level of evil.

In-Universe examples

  • King Vendrick of Dark Souls II gets this by the time of Dark Souls III. The description on the Shield of Want paints him as being cursed by an all-consuming lust for power. Which is technically true, except they neglected to mention that the curse was called Queen Nashandra.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Many fade spirits from the series view Loghain as a savage and power-mad betrayer who left King Cailan to die so that he could take the throne. The reality is that while Loghain was delusional and paranoid when he made the call to retreat, he honestly thought he was saving his soldiers from certain death. Other spirits take the opposite approach.
    • Played with, with Fen'Harel throughout Dragon Age: Inquisition and Trespasser. While definitely not the wicked, spiteful Trickster that modern elves portray him as, he is responsible for the creation of the Veil, and the subsequent loss of elven magic and immortality. Even though his motives were arguably noble when constructing the Veil, it was created, at least in part, because he wanted to punish the false elven gods who murdered Mythal. So the Dalish are technically correct when they accuse him of destroying Elvhenan out of spite, even if they got the story behind it wrong.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series' backstory, Zurin Arctus was the first Imperial Battlemage of the Third Empire, serving under Emperor Tiber Septim. Septim has a Multiple-Choice Past, of which only the most heroic version of the events of his life is recognized by official Imperial history. In any case, Arctus was an invaluable asset to Septim, even being Septim's Hypercompetent Sidekick according to the more "heretical" tales of Septim's life. Arctus brokered the Armistice between Septim and the Dunmeri (Dark Elf) Physical God Vivec, and was then tasked by Septim to find a way to reactivate and control the Numidium, a Humongous Mecha of Dwemer construction which warped reality merely by being activated that Vivec traded to Septim in exchange for special privileges. In order to accomplish this, he either took the heart (soul) of Wulfharth, a Shezarrine, or gave up his own heart (soul) in order to create the Mantella, the new power source of the Numidium. (Or possibly both, as he was killed by Wulfharth after soul-trapping him, and it is possible that they merged into the same undead entity.) In any case, he would become The Underking, an undead wizard bound to the Mantella. He created the Totem of Tiber Septim to control the Numidium, so that only someone of royal lineage or a supernatural connection could use it. When Septim began to use the Numidium in a way that Arctus/the Underking did not intend, he tried to reclaim the Mantella. However, the process devastated both the Numidium and Arctus/the Underking, while blasting the Mantella into Aetherius. In order to prevent political unrest, Septim had the event covered up while claiming that Arctus betrayed him and attempted to assassinate him. To this day, official Imperial history sees Arctus as a villain, while it's highly likely that the Third Empire never could have came to be without his contributions.
  • Owyn Lyons of the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel suffer this between Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. Following the off-screen deaths of the Elder and his daughter, the Brotherhood reverted back to their xenophobic, tech-hoarding ways under the leadership of Arthur Maxson. Despite the massive Karmic Jackpot they enjoyed under Owyn's leadership, he was demonized by those under Maxson's command as a fool and a heretic that led the chapter astray from their true purpose.
  • The Fate series as a whole uses this trope a lot, along with its counterpart, and justifies it, since the summoning of a Heroic Spirit draws its power from the legends surrounding the person and integrates them, so people who for some reason have acquired a popular reputation of being evil will be influenced by it. There is even a special attribute for it: "Innocent Monster".
    • One good example of this, with a dose of deconstruction, is Vlad III Dracula in Apocrypha, who has the ability to assume the form and powers of a vampire, becoming tremendously more powerful at the cost of his reason and sanity, purely due to the influence of Dracula over the popular perception of him. He hates the fact that the legacy he left is that of an evil beast and refuses to use this ability willingly. In other words, he is aware that he has suffered a Historical Villain Upgrade, and he hates it.
    • Antonio Salieri manifests as an Avenger in Fate/Grand Order due to the rumors of him killing Mozart out of jealousy being so ingrained into culture that they have twisted his Servant incarnation into a twisted parody of his actual self with a murderous obsession with Mozart despite the fact that the actual Salieri in this setting was a close friend and peer of Mozart.
    • Nero as portrayed in Fate/EXTRA is said to have this occurred, supposedly doing everything the historical Nero is alleged to have done but not deserving her (yes, her) reputation. Though unlike others, there seemingly are no actual side effects.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, Ivalice remembers Ramza as a criminal and heretic after his quest to stop the Lucavi and Ultima has ended. The Church of Glabados covered up the truth about Ramza's heroic deeds as well as revering Delita Herial as a hero who brought the end of the War of the Lions.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Yune, the so-called "Dark God" of the medallion in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, turns out to have had one. She's remembered as a God of Evil who flooded the entire world thousands of years ago, was fought by the forces of the God of Good led by three heroes, and became a Sealed Evil in a Can. In reality, Yune accidentally flooded the world when she lost control of her emotions, and her personality is more akin to a small child, and she was sealed away in a Well-Intentioned Extremist bid by the supposed God of Good to prevent that from happening again... but seeing as Yune was actually part of Ashera, sealing her caused Ashera to slowly become a misanthopic, order-obsessed Light Is Not Good being. Unusually for this trope, the villain upgrade was engineered by one of the characters in-universe with good intentions: the story of the Dark God destroying the world if awakened by war is Metaphorically True, as waking Yune would cause Beorc and Laguz to fail Ashera's covenant and be wiped out. So Deghinsea, one of the original heroes, painted her as an evil god in the hopes that it'd scare anyone out of waking her. Then an insane, Social Darwinist king came along who thought waking an evil good would be a perfectly good idea...
    • By the time Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the previous game's protagonist, Ike, is seen as not as heroic or noble as the original game portrayed by the people of Daein and the new protagonist Micaiah, with the reasoning that his actions in defeating the Mad King Ashnard and preventing his megalomaniacal plan to turn Tellius into a strength-obsessed hellhole eventually paved the way for the Begnion councilmen to rule over Daein and they proceeded to treat the people of Daein like trash, and while Ashnard was by no means a father to his own people, it was stated that he never sunk as low as the Begnions in the inhuman treatment of the people of Daein. Only some Daein people that fought alongside Ike in the past, such as Sothe or Jill, knew what Ike was really like; that while he has some rough edges, he was truly a heroic figure and he did not approve the mistreatment of the people of Daein by his ex-allies.
    • Discussed in a Xenologue chapter of Fire Emblem Awakening. Chrom and Robin meet Arvis, a major villain of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, and are surprised when he turns out to be reasonable and agreeable. Chrom wonders just how much of the stories they heard of him were true. The real answer falls somewhere in the middle; Arvis wasn't the despotic, child-sacrificing tyrant he was remembered as, but he did make a deal with the Loptousian cult so that he could betray Sigurd, hypnotize Deidre into being his wife, and take over Judgral, which opened the path for the Loptousians to reduce him to a Puppet King and left the entire continent at their mercy. In short, while Arvis was a Well-Intentioned Extremist, he resorted to means that allowed him to indulge in petty envy towards Sigurd and ended up ruining his own name for centuries to come because of it.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, the Sun Saga, a... skewed account of the events of the first two games, does this to Felix. In the actual games, he started out as the Token Good Teammate for the forces trying to restore Alchemy, and after Saturos and Menardi died on Venus Lighthouse, became The Hero, while Isaac eventually wound up as The Lancer. In the Sun Saga, he is portrayed as one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate alongside Alex, and his heroism is only revealed towards the end, where he becomes a Sixth Ranger to Isaac.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: At the end, it's revealed that the Boss only pretended to defect to GRU as part of a secret mission to take the Philosophers' Legacy from Colonel Volgin. Unfortunately, Volgin firing a nuclear warhead at a KGB facility on a whim forced a change of plans, the result being that she had to die and go down in history as a reviled traitor in order to prevent potential catastrophe.
  • The Anti-Hero of Tales of Berseria Velvet Crowe will go down in history as a terrible Evil Overlord Lord of Calamity who slew the "heroic Shepherd" Artorius Colbrande. That said, she really is hardly the nicest person and a good chunk of the rumours and lore that spread about her are based on some kind of fact. Not to mention she embraced the title and all it stood for for the sake of her goals. She makes such a legacy, that "Lord of Calamity" becomes the term of a particularly dangerous and vile hellion that the Shepherd must defeat to save the world.


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