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Arc Hero

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How do you top the first outing? You have to add something unique to the sequel, or else why would anyone buy it? Sometimes this means introducing a new obstacle in the Arc Villain, but you could also introduce a new partner. That's where the Arc Hero comes in.

Basically if you start with the adventures of Alice, in the sequel you follow the adventures of Alice and Bob. Then in the third the main characters are Alice and Charley. And so on.


You don't want to write out the characters you already built your series off of, but what's The Hero without a new Foil to keep things interesting? Not every new cast member counts. They should get a good amount of Character Focus and have a real impact. A new sidekick you have to learn to work with, a Sixth Ranger with history with the Arc Villain, a new Rival that changes how you look at things. Any of them can work.

In Videogames, an Arc Hero might also something to do with new gameplay mechanics. Sometimes even if the new mechanic is just multiplayer.

Compare the shorter Day in the Limelight and Spotlight-Stealing Squad when they completely overshadow the main guy. The Arc Hero is usually a supporting cast member to whoever The Hero is. If the Arc Hero becomes The Hero outright it may overlap with Changing of the Guard or Contrasting Sequel Main Character. Doing this too often can result in an overly large Ensemble Cast, and old favorites who used to carry the plot getting Demoted to Extra.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Very common thanks to the Ensemble Cast that constantly added new characters to help freshen up the story. While the main protagonist is always Goku, the list of characters around him constantly changes.
    • The 21st Tenkaichi Budokai introduces Krillin and Launch, and establishes Master Roshi is a permanent hero. He's showcased here more than in any other arc.
    • The Red Ribbon Army Arc actually inverts this Trope: Goku spends a large amount of time adventuring on his own with no consistent companions.
    • The 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai gives us Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu, firm anti-heroes who switch to being good guys starting with the Piccolo Daimao Arc that follows it up, along with Yajirobe. The Daimao Arc is the first "Villain Arc", which would be a recurring story format starting with the Z era.
    • The 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai has Kami (God) and Mr. Popo, the former charting the direction of Goku's life for the next three years.
    • The Saiyan Arc showcases previous Arc Villain Piccolo as he inadvertently switches to the side of good. It also famously introduces Goku's son Gohan, a much more meek combatant compared to his father who is trained and mentored by Piccolo.
    • The Namek Arc heavily featured previous Arc Villain Vegeta, whose relationship with Frieza's Army, the Ginyu Force, and Frieza himself gave context to the battles, as well as his transition from villain to free agent.
    • The Android Saga overall is about newcomer Future Trunks arriving to warn the others of the Android threat, his strenuous relationship with his father Vegeta. All of the villains in the Arc have some sort of connection to Future Trunks, much like how those in the Namek Arc had a connection to Vegeta.
      • The Cell Games portion looked like it was going to be about Goku in the final battle, but he makes a conscious decision to pass the fight onto Gohan, who becomes the main character for the first time.
    • The Buu Arc's slap-dash style means not all of these actually stuck. Goten and Trunks are undeniable however, being the sons of Goku and Vegeta who are trained to meet the threat of Buu. Videl was fast on her way to becoming this, but changes to the story meant she became sidelined with the legacy characters. Gohan was also primed as the new main character, then was in the shadow of his father, and then sidelined entirely when he loses to Super Buu.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, The Future Trunks saga's arc hero is...well, Future Trunks. Unusually for Dragon Ball, he is actually the one who kills Merged Zamasu, not Goku, although technically Zen'o is the one who kills Infinite Zamasu.
    • The Universe Survival saga of Super has Android 17, who was a relatively minor character Put on a Bus after the Android Saga but is a major focus here, getting a lot of Character Development and eliminations, as well as winning the tournament.
  • Pokémon: While Ash is the show's constant protagonist, each new region after Johto switches up the team he travels with — after Misty and Brock in Kanto and Johto, it's May, Max, and Brock in Hoenn, Brock and Dawn in Sinnoh, Iris and Cilan in Unova, Clemont, Bonnie, and Serena in Kalos, Lillie, Kiawe, Mallow, Lana, and Sophocles in Alola, and Go in multiple regions (including Galar). Each new Deuteragonist has their own arc, personality, and motivations, and more relationships with the natives of each region.
    • The Mega Evolution specials are a set of episodes taking place concurrently with the anime's XY season, featuring Alain. It veers very close to becoming a Protagonist Journey to Villain.
  • Done in every sequel arc of Sailor Moon.
    • In the second arc, we're introduced to Chibiusa, Usagi and Mamoru's daughter from the future who also becomes a Sailor Guardian by the end of the story. We also get to know the mysterious Sailor Pluto.
    • In the third arc,expands the idea of Sailor Pluto into an entire Outer Senshi team, bringing Haruka (Uranus) and Michiru (Neptune) as the focus of many episodes, and Hotaru (Saturn) as the ultimate McGuffin.
    • On the fourth story arc, Chibiusa befriends a Winged Unicorn named Pegasus which becomes central to the plot to the point of being the McGuffin all along.
    • The fifth and final arc introduces us to the Sailor Starlights and Chibi-Chibi who the main mysteries from the storyline surround.
  • Sword Art Online has this dynamic in all of its arcs, usually with Kirito forming an Adventure Duo with someone else in each new virtual world he explores: Asuna in the Aincrad arc, Leafa in the Fairy Dance arc, Sinon in the Phantom Bullet arc, and Eugeo in the first half of the Alicization arc. The only exception is the Mother's Rosario arc, which focuses on Asuna and Yuuki. The same goes for the side stories; Silica serves as Kirito's companion in the Black Swordsman arc, while Lisbeth is this during the Warmth of the Heart arc.
  • This serves as the basis for the East Blue Saga in One Piece, with each arc in the saga focused on each new member of Luffy's crew getting a particular amount of focus and having their backstory revealed as they join.
    • Romance Dawn/Morgan Arc: Roronoa Zoro. Koby also serves as a temporary ally working with the two.
    • Orange Town Arc: Nami, although her backstory and motivations aren't revealed just yet, and she decides to only temporary team up with Luffy, leaving early on two arcs later.
    • Syrup Village Arc: Usopp. The setting takes place in Usopp's hometown making things personal for him, with him actively working to prevent a band of pirates from invading it and killing everyone living there.
    • Baratie Arc: Sanji.
    • Arlong Park Arc: Nami again, now with her origins revealed as she joins the crew full-time.
    • Baroque Works Saga: Nefeltari Vivi, who, despite only working with the crew for this lengthy arc, serves as the driving force of it, with her working to prevent a civil war in her nation caused by the titular organization.
      • Drum Island Arc: Tony Tony Chopper. Taking place in between two of the arcs from the above Saga, it's the only one where the main antagonist has nothing to do with the Baroque Works organization, and as a result sees Vivi's role downplayed. Chopper instead takes the spotlight showing the mistreatment he's faced in the past and eventually finding a place to belong with the crew.
    • Water 7 Saga: Nico Robin and Franky.
    • Thriller Bark Saga: Brook.
    • Whole Cake Island Arc: Sanji, again.

    Comic Books 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW): While Sonic is the main hero of the series, each arc so far has seen at least one of his friends take prominence over the others.
    • Opening Arc: Knuckles.
    • Metal Virus/Chao Races and Badnik Bases Arcs: Silver and Cream.
    • Season 3 arc: Belle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Die Hard series John McClane is the hero, but each film gives him a different main ally providing him backup and/or assistance.
    • Al Powell in the original film.
    • Played around with in Die Hard 2, as unlike the other movies, there isn't one set character aiding John. Al shows up early on to give John some information over the phone, but otherwise isn't involved. Leslie Barnes and Marvin the Janitor are the most common characters aiding McClane in the second film, with their roles being switched back and forth depending on the situation.
    • Zeus Carver in Die Hard with a Vengeance.
    • Matt Farrell in Live Free or Die Hard.
    • John's own son Jack in A Good Day to Die Hard.
  • The constant protagonist of The Librarian series (including The Librarians 2014) is Dr. Flynn Carsen (played by Noah Wyle), accompanied in succession by:
    • Nicole Noone in the first film,
    • Emily Davenport in the second,
    • Simone Renoir in the third, and
    • Eve, Cassandra, Stone, Jenkins, and Ezekiel in The Librarians 2014.

    Video Games 
  • Devil May Cry: Dante is the main protagonist for most of the classic continuity. However, the first three games also have him sharing the spotlight with another hero who serves as his main ally, while the fourth and fifth games gave way for Nero, another main protagonist alongside him.
    • Devil May Cry: Trish is a servant of Mundus whose goal is to lure Dante to Mallet Island where Mundus can kill him. After being moved by Dante's kindness, Trish pulls a Heel–Face Turn and becomes Dante's ally, aiding him in defeating Mundus during the game's final battle.
    • Devil May Cry 2: Lucia is a member of a devil hunting clan from the island of Vie de Marli. She enlists Dante's help to deal with a man named Arius who seeks to claim the power of a great demon lord using her clan's scared artifacts. Lucia is the first DMC character to be playable alongside Dante and has her own story arc exploring her origins as Arius's discarded creation.
    • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: Lady isn't playable like Lucia is, but she serves this role nonetheless. Like Dante, Lady is related by blood to one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate consisting of Vergil and Arkham. While Dante has a final clash with Vergil, Arkham is killed by Lady.
    • Devil May Cry 4 and Devil May Cry 5: Dante returns as a playable and prominent character for both games, but Nero replaces him as the main hero.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Liu Kang is the main hero from Mortal Kombat to Mortal Kombat 4.
    • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance: Kung Lao would be the closest thing this game has to a main hero, with his goal being revenge on the Deadly Alliance for Liu Kang's murder. Sadly, he fails.
    • Mortal Kombat: Deception: The main hero is Shujinko, a warrior who was once manipulated by the Big Bad into helping him achieve his goals and now seeks to atone for this.
    • Mortal Kombat: Armageddon: Taven is an Edenian demigod who is trying to prevent Armageddon.
    • Mortal Kombat 9: Raiden serves as the main protagonist as he tries to prevent the visions sent to him by his future self from coming true.
    • Mortal Kombat X: The game introduces a new generation of heroes, all of whom are related to the heroes of previous games. Cassie Cage is the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, and leads a team consisting of herself, Jacqui Briggs (daughter of Jax Briggs), Kung Jin (cousin of Kung Lao) and Takeda Takahashi (son of Kenshi Takahashi).
    • Mortal Kombat 11: Liu Kang becomes the ultimate hero once more, this time after fusing with Raiden to become Fire God Liu Kang.
  • Sonic Team has done this throughout the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, to the point you could almost subtitle them based on the Arc Hero.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Sonic and Tails, plot-wise a new sidekick, gameplay introducing two player mode.
    • Sonic 3 & Knuckles: Sonic and Knuckles, plot-wise a new rival, gameplay introducing characters with different abilities.
    • Sonic Adventure 2: Sonic and Shadow, plot-wise another new rival who was directly related to Space Colony Ark and Gerald Robotnik's experiments. Also introducing the idea of seeing the plot from different perspectives with Hero Mode and Dark Mode.
    • Sonic Heroes: Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Plotwise the Power of Friendship on full display and gameplay wise the Stance System of changing the leader on the fly.
    • Sonic Rush: Sonic and Blaze, who had a direct relationship with new Arc Villain Eggman Nega.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Sonic, Shadow and Silver. Shadow is targeted by Mephilles the Dark who seeks to corrupt Shadow against humanity, while Silver is trying to prevent his Bad Future from coming to pass.
    • Sonic Unleashed: Sonic and Chip, a new sidekick also directly related to the new Arc Villain. Gameplay was more about the contrast between default Sonic and his new werewolf-like form.
    • Sonic Colors: Sonic and Yacker, or the Wisps generally, a new power-up system.
    • Sonic Generations: Sonic and Sonic bringing it full circle for the anniversary, combining new gameplay with classic gameplay.
    • Sonic Forces: Sonic and Avatar, giving fans a chance to make a customizable self-insert, who has a personal beef with new antagonist Infinite (who Eggman 'modified' as well, making the custom character thing meta.) The Avatar represents a third style of gadget and Wisp-based gameplay separate from modern or classic Sonic.
  • Batman: Arkham City, the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, did this, making a point of putting the other main playable character, Catwoman, whose story affects the Batman part of the story. She plays similarly, but not the same, giving it a unique challenge. There's also a bunch of DLC characters for challenge maps, but they're far closer to pallet swaps for Batman, and don't have a playable role in the story.
  • Donkey Kong made Mario famous. Mario Bros. gave him a brother named Luigi for two player mode. The rest is history.
    • Super Mario World introduced the Power Up Mount with Yoshi who Mario had to help save Dinosaur Land.
    • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island: In addition to letting Yoshi be The Hero and basing most of the game around his abilities, it also introduced Baby Mario who directly tied into the plot, some power-ups, and the unique take on the health meter.
    • Luigi's Mansion: Similarly made Luigi The Hero for once, but introduced Prof. E. Gadd who had already been on the case in the haunted mansion and provides story justification for new gameplay gadgets like the vacuum and even the next game's water cannon.
    • Super Mario Sunshine: Introduced FLUDD as Mario's assistant to help take care of Arc Villain Shadow Mario's paint, and personified the water cannon gameplay additions and power-ups.
    • Super Mario Galaxy: Brought Rosalina and Luma as the force opposing Bowser throughout the galaxy, and personifying/granting Mario the new gameplay mechanics of everything from his all-purpose Spin Move, to shooting Star Bits, to the Launch Stars and other environment features throughout the levels. The sequel also brought Lubba as the pilot of Starship Mario, the new world map/Hub Level hybrid system.
    • Super Mario Odyssey: Brought Cappy, personifying the new costume and capture mechanics.
  • On the Donkey Kong side of things:
  • Ganbare Goemon 2 introduced Ebisumaru, who would be Goemon's sidekick and comic relief for the entire series afterward.
  • Halo: Master Chief is the star of the show, but sometimes there's a second protagonist:
    • Halo 2 did this with the Arbiter, whose plot starts out being separate from the Master Chief's, but then they come together at the end of the game. The Arbiter is also the second player character in Halo 3.
    • Halo 5: Guardians does this with Jameson Locke and Fireteam Osiris; not coincidentally, Halo 5 is also the second game of a saga. Unlike Halo 2 however, which had you playing as the Arbiter be a plot twist, all of 5's promotional material was very clear about the game having two protagonists, focusing on their contrasting personalities and ideals. The cover art has them glaring at each other, and a lampshade is hung about the fact that, since Locke and his team are hunting the Chief and his team, the former are going to be hated by everyone.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit 2 introduced Jazz's brother Spaz.
  • The King of Fighters manages this within each major story arc in the series.
    • While the first game had Kyo Kusanagi be the main protagonist, the proper Orochi trilogy (95 - 97) gave some measure of focus on both Kyo and his rival, Iori Yagami.
    • The NESTS trilogy (99-2001) gave focus to both Kyo and new hero K'.
    • The Tales of Ash trilogy (2003, XI and XIII) gave focus to Kyo and new protagonist/antagonist Ash Crimson.
    • The Shun'ei arc (XIV and XV) gives focus to Kyo as well as newcomer Shun'ei.
    • The Maximum Impact games had Alba Meira as the protagonist.
  • Dishonored 2 is doing this, having two main playable characters. Playing with the trope, the second was little more than a MacGuffin in the first game.
  • Half-Life 2 did this with Alyx Vance, who plays a major role in the franchise and is rather beloved by fans, with few detractors.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty did this infamously. Solid Snake was playable for the heavily-advertised prologue chapter. Then you switched to Raiden for the real game, with Snake acting as a part of your mission control.
  • Inverted with Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2; the original game allows the player to choose between playing Jude, a medical student who gets swept up in a demigod's plan to save the world from evil technology, or Milla, the demigod in question, with the decision affecting a few missions and cut scenes but ultimately not changing the game much. In Tales of Xillia 2, on the other hand, the player can only play as Ludger, a Guns Akimbo-wielding... cook.
  • Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two has Mickey and Oswald playable, while Epic Mickey only has Mickey. The title is one of the more blatant uses of the trope, managing to not only emphasis that there's now two, but that it's the second game, by using "two" twice.
  • Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus introduced 2 more teams as counterparts for the initial two: for the good guys' side (Hanzo academy) there's Gessen Girls High and for the bad guys (Homura's Crimson Squad) there's the (second gen) Hebijo Academy. Both of the new groups look down on the old ones for getting soft on each other (in the prev game the two initial groups grew to respect each other greatly) which serves to highlight the Grey-and-Grey Morality in the game's lore and paint the two new groups as zealots of their own philosophies.
  • In many Disney world in most of the Kingdom Hearts series, the player character, whether it be the main trio of Sora, Donald and Goofy, or one of the protagonists in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, are joined by one (or two in Kingdom Hearts III) Guest-Star Party Member appropriate to the film, such as Aladdin in Agrabah, Jack Sparrow in the Caribbean, and Mulan in the Land of Dragons. With very rare exceptions, none of these party members can be used outside of their worlds.
  • Similar to above, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has one of Sly's ancestors as a player character in each timezone.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Since Ocarina, the new Fairy Companion tends to be the main supporting character for each game, partially due to having to be the Voice for the Voiceless since Link is the Heroic Mime.
  • This occurs in the Disney's Magical Quest trilogy. In the first game, Mickey Mouse sets out on his own. In the second, he's now accompanied by Minnie Mouse (who was also retroactively added to the GBA edition of the first game). In the third and final game, Mickey teams up with Donald Duck.
  • Uncharted
    • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception: Nate's mentor Sully takes center stage in this game with it showing his backstory and how he and Nate met, showcasing how much of a surrogate father he is. Sully also has a personal connection to the game's main villain in this one, with her being his ex-lover.
    • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End: Nate's long-lost brother Sam, who reunites with him early on in the game and convinces him to come out of retirement for One Last Job.
  • With the exception of Book I, Fire Emblem Heroes introduces a new heroine who serves as a major protagonist for that book. Book II has Fjorm, Book III has Eir, Book IV has Peony, Book V has Reginn and Book VI has Ash.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Batman, each season has a story arc focusing on one particular ally of Batman. In order, season 1 is Bennett, season 2 is Yin, season 3 is Batgirl, season 4 is Robin, and season 5 is the Justice League.
  • South Park has a truly bizarre version that could only have been a parody in the episode "The Wacky Molestation Adventure". After a standard first half following the boys on a comedic setup (Cartman convinces every kid in town to accuse their parents of molesting them so the police will take them away, resulting in a town bereft of adults), the second half abruptly transitions to two new characters, Mark and Linda. They look and act like the main characters of a standard horror thriller film, with the second half of the episode playing out as a very abridged version of Children of the Corn (1984) or Logan's Run as Mark and Linda explore the After the End setting of South Park as the absence of adults has caused a collapse into anarchy among the child residents. Mark has a relatively detailed backstory (recently married, doesn't want children, on his way to a job interview in Breckenridge), solves the whole conflict, and even has a coherent Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot character arc. After he gets the job and the two presumably move to Breckenridge, they're never seen again.
  • DuckTales (2017): Word of God stated that the show's seasons will revolve around a character beside Uncle Scrooge. Season 1 focuses on Dewey, Season 2 revolves around Louie, and Season 3 is about Huey.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Season 2 adds Ashoka Tano to the cast as a Big Good type figure leading Kanan and Ezra to contrast the new Big Bad Arc Villain Darth Vader leading the Inquisitors. She also has history with him as his former apprentice.
  • In Teen Titans, each season has a story arc focusing on one specific Titan. In order, season 1 is Robin, season 2 is Terra, season 3 is Cyborg, season 4 is Raven, and season 5 is Beast Boy. Starfire gets screwed over, unless you count the Romance Sidequest of The Movie as her arc.
  • Tangled: The Series
    • Season 1 had Varian, who was essential in helping Rapunzel make breakthroughs in the mystery surrounding the black rocks and about her mysterious new hair, but it becomes subverted when Rapunzel is unable to help him free his father during Zhan Tiri's storm, and turns into the Arc Villain.
    • Season 2 has Adira, a warrior from the Dark Kingdom who goes against King Edmund's wishes to help Rapunzel make her way there, believing that the Sundrop is the only thing that can neutralize the threat of the Moonstone, the source of the Black Rocks.


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Alternative Title(s): Arc Heroine


Jack Skellington

Jack Skellington is Sora's ally in every appearance of Halloween Town in the series.

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