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Being Evil Sucks

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"I'm the bad guy! I don't save the day, I don't fly off into the sunset, and I don't get the girl!"

Evil Is Cool, right? Wrong! Despite what certain morally ambiguous personages would have a character to believe, being evil isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. It can destroy the character, their soul, and everyone they love and care about. While evil may be temporarily satisfying, and man, it sure bakes good cookies, said cookies are unhealthy and fattening, and once those cookies are gone, what does the character have left once he's given up everything just for that tasty, tasty murder, uh, I mean treat?


While the character may enjoy themselves for a little while, the consequences will eventually come back to haunt them in unpleasant ways. Kicking the wrong dogs has the unfortunate side effect of making the character lose sleep at night or consuming them with guilt over the horrible things they've done, or deeply regretting having betrayed their friends. There's always someone looking for revenge against them, and if they're lucky, they'll just get tired of fighting off vengeance-seekers; if they're not lucky, those seekers will go to great lengths to destroy their lives and break them first, usually entering moral perdition themselves and becoming just as evil as their original enemy, which leaves them burdened with the knowledge that they were responsible for making and unleashing another monster on the world. Characters letting their anger rule them will find it fun and easy until they kick the wrong dog in their bloodlust. There's also the likely chance that the character will go mad, which really isn't as cool as it sounds when they're in a straitjacket.


The character will have to realize is that true happiness can only be achieved through The Power of Love or The Power of Friendship. Anybody can cross the Moral Event Horizon, but once the character reaches there it looks pretty bleak. Nobody wants to be the character's friend because they're all terrified that they will kill them in their sleep (or they already have), they've done nothing to better their position except cause more suffering and generally made the world a worse place to live in. And through it all they've nourished so many bad feelings that not even Evil Feels Good anymore — in fact, they don't even remember what it's like to feel good for a change. If they only switch because being evil is inefficient toward achieving their goal, then they're a Moral Pragmatist.

Compare Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, This Is Your Brain on Evil, and Video Game Cruelty Punishment (in which a video game enforces this trope). Contrast Good Feels Good (which sometimes leads to this Trope, or vice-versa, if one character is able to experience both Good and Evil in his career). Being evil can be even worse if the character is bad at it.


If the same work also argues that Being Good Sucks, see Crapsack World.

Truth in Television to most people and for very good reason. We won't discuss that.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan uses this to full effect with Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie. All admit that Good Feels Good, but are resigned to having no other options. They were indoctrinated into their cause from a young age, but quickly realized the truth once they infiltrated the Survey Corps. They couldn't turn traitor because their families would be subjected to a Fate Worse than Death. Reiner, the only one to return home while Annie was captured/willingly imprisoned herself and Bertolt got eaten, suffers from crushing guilt and is suicidal, unable to fit in to the life he now knows is a lie. Oh, and their cause was All for Nothing from the beginning. Yeah, it sucks to be a Warrior.
    Reiner: It's fine. We're all short-lived mass murderers, right? Aside from us, who else could understand?
    • The Survey Corps themselves show elements of this after they're forced to kill members of the Military Police in self defence.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch Lamperouge is a mix of this and Being Good Sucks due to ambiguous methods, pride, and bad luck, with people stabbing him in the back, whereas Suzaku Kururugi learns that using dubious yet purportedly legitimized methods in hopes of achieving his goals, such as conquering relatively innocent people and threatening ex-friends with highly addictive psychotropics... sucks. So they try to do good by joining up.
  • Elfen Lied's Lucy/Kaede. After a series of events that shattered her mind, she fully gave in to the voice, which in turn proves to further ruin her life as it makes her the number 1 enemy of humanity as well as losing any chance of being with the boy she loves most. In other words, being a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds sucks.
  • In Guilty Crown, Shu Ouma becoming Tennouzu High's Student Council President after Hare's death causes him to lose everything and everyone he loves by the time of Episode 17 when the Tennouzu High students turn against him.
  • Fairy Tail: After Minerva left Sabertooth and started joining Succubus Eye, everything just started to fall apart for her. Not only was her first assignment in Succubus Eye a failure, when she came back to the Succubus Eye guild hall, everyone else was turned into a paper doll. The person who made it happen, Kyouka of Tartaros, showed up and said that they were too weak, then attacked her, captured her, and turned her into a demon. When she fought Erza a third time, near the end, she begged her to kill her. It wasn't until her Heel–Face Turn that things started to improve for her.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny has a scene where Neo Roanoke, Dragon to Fantastic Racist Lord Djibril reflects on the fact that his life has come to the point where he brainwashes teenagers into doing his boss' dying for him. He admits that he's crossed his personal Moral Event Horizon, but that he sees no way out now. Given that Neo is himself a brainwashed Mu La Flaga this is unsurprising.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: General Regius Gaiz. After years as a corrupt official, guilt came knocking at his door in the form of Zest's clone, his best friend who shared his dreams of justice and was killed because of his secret connections to Scaglietti. Once he learned about his return, the formerly pompous general spent his time sitting in his desk in a defeated state, waiting for Zest to come.
  • Naruto: Gaara doesn't quite realize this until he gets the snot kicked out of him by Naruto in full "I fight for my friends" mode.
  • Pokémon: Team Rocket are perpetually hungry and blown because of their poaching. The few occasions when they have tried to help Ash and his friends, they don't end the episode or film in question off on a bad foot, but as soon as they get back to trying to steal Pikachu again, we see them blasting off again and again...
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, Homura's life deteriorates after her depression-induced Protagonist Journey to Villain. She's long since alienated everyone who knows her true identity, and has to live with the knowledge that she betrayed the only person who truly loved her. Also, she is far too cynical and repressed to deal with any of the above.
  • The thing that kicks off Eas/Setsuna's Heel–Face Turn in Fresh Pretty Cure! is when she realizes this. Her life was cold, gray, impersonal, and she's been repeatedly asked to put herself in great pain and shorten her lifespan for fights she loses anyways. And all her infiltration of the heroines has accomplished is give her a taste of their happy lives.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: Ozymandias. His intentions were never entirely evil; he wanted to stop World War III before it started, and he saw killing several million people as the only solution. Regardless of the fact that he sacrificed comparatively few to save everyone (sans Dr. Manhattan) it's obvious that he feels remorse and wishes that there had been another way.
  • Harley Quinn has at least a few cases (although she's usually closer to Chaotic Neutral than outright evil). The biggest one is probably when Power Girl where Power Girl happens to crash outside Harley's house with amnesia and Harley convices her she is her sidekick. This at first seems like Harley just being a jerk, but we eventually learn she really does think Power Girl is cool and wishes she really was her sidekick (along with obviously having feelings for her.) There some other works where Harley has to join up with some hero or heroic organization (usually as part of an Enemy Mine), only to eventually leave due to Status Quo Is God. Often times she really does seem sad about having to go back to being a villain (or at least an Anti-Hero.)
  • Spider-Man: The Sandman eventually got sick of all the grief that came of being a criminal, and tried to go straight. He stayed a good guy for twenty years, real world time (just a couple of years, comic book time). Then his old evil teammate the Wizard stuck him in a brainwashing machine to make him evil again, causing him more grief. Poor dude.
  • Superhero team the Thunderbolts was founded as a front for a group of supervillains to gain the trust of the world's various peace-keeping forces in preparation for a world domination scheme, by changing their identities and pretending to be heroes. At least half the original team members came to realize that they really liked not being feared and hated and decided to give up on world domination and remain good guys.
  • It may never be known what insane reason Priscilla Lyons had to join a bunch of cold-blooded killers who murdered super-villains like the Scourges of the Underworld, but she discovered this Trope was true when given her first mark, that of Daredevil's old enemy the Matador. She simply couldn't bring herself to pull the trigger after seeing that her intended victim was no longer a villain, living in poverty in Los Angeles, trying his hardest to help his sister take care of her children. In fact, this is what brought the organization down, due to their strict Resignations Not Accepted policy; Priscilla was smart enough to know they'd be after her; prior to this, every would-be defector (or failure, or even members who were in danger of being caught) had been killed by the others before they could spill any of the groups secrets. But she was smarter than the others, and quickly called the Avengers hotline, and got in contact with USAgent, and as a result, they both brought the entire organization down.
  • The Mighty Thor: Loki eventually began to feel this way about being an evil god, in part because as a god of mischief, he hated the idea of being predictable. One death and some not-quite-successful resurrections later, and the following Lokis embraced this trope whole-heartedly, doing everything in their power to avoid becoming a villain again, including destroying their own identities.
  • Played for laughs with the Dilbert strip seen here where Catbert is depressed because being evil doesn't mean anything anymore. "These days I can cut salaries by ten percent, and people will thank me for not firing them!" (The strip was posted in 2009, during America's last economic slump, so it makes sense.)
  • Turns out, Trypticon of all bots feels this way in The Transformers: Salvation. He deliberately leaves Devastator alive as a show of uncharacteristic mercy in honor of the latter's valor and determination in the face of an overwhelming foe. After the Dinobots successfully free him from Bludgeon's control (and he expresses his opinion of Bludgeon's Evil Plan via Breath Weapon), he announces that he's tired of being seen only as a force of destruction and takes the newborn Sparks inside him so that they can use the metal of his body to construct new Protoforms for themselves, allowing him to be a force of creation. The idea that he hates everything including the Decepticon cause and himself was part of his original bio but was ignored in every appearance in the franchise until now.
  • If there's one running theme of Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, it's how self-hating, suicidal, and all-around messed up Darth Vader is. He violently lashes out at anything positive since it reminds him of what he used to be, spreads as much pain as he can to alleviate his own, and seeks out dangerous situations partly because he really wants to die and partly just to feel something again.

  • Played with in Blizzard Storm, as its questionable just how much Sakido counts as evil, but she clearly still regrets her actions during her time in Hell, which she feels she has failed Darius.
  • In the BLoSC Fan Verse of For Good, Warp Darkmatter holds this opinion beneath his front of Evil Pays Better. It's a crucial factor in his eventual Heel–Face Turn.
  • Implied in Fred Porlock's conversations with Patterson, Wiggins, and Watson in Mortality. (An offscreen, pre-fic Heel Realization caused him to become The Atoner.
  • Pony POV Series: In the Dark World timeline, both Liarjack and Traitor Dash emphasize this trope. While Angry Pie and Fluttercruel have embraced their new evil and Twilight Tragedy has given up all hope and goes along with Discord's rule because it's all she feels she has left, Liarjack and Traitor Dash (especially Dash) are painfully aware of how Discord's magic has twisted them into monsters, and they hate themselves for it, but there's nothing they can do about it. During Dark World's Final Battle, against Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox and her Psycho Rangers, we see Liarjack and Traitor Dash's examples of this trope magnified in Nightmares Mirror and Manacle, who unlike Paradox and the other Nightmares, know that what they're doing is evil, but feeling that it's the best thing that they can do. Applejack and Rainbow Dash, redeemed themselves by this point, recognize this in their counterparts, and pity them for it.

    Films — Animated 
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: Lord Shen is haunted by the perception that his parents hated him, and now is out to conquer Gongmen City and then China to have something worthwhile in his life. However when pressed, he can't say whether his dream is worth anything other than an excuse to take his pain out on.
    Soothsayer: Say you finally destroy kung-fu and take over China. Then will you finally be happy?
    Shen: (dodging the question) It's a start. I might also convert the basement into a dungeon.
  • The eponymous character of Megamind provides the quote above, saying that he doesn't get what the heroes could.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: The eponymous character has this experience. He's tired of having been the bad guy in a video game for thirty years and getting no respect for the job he does, which kicks off the plot as he sets out to prove he can be a good guy. Although he's not really evil to begin with, he just plays a villainous role and gets patronized for it.
  • Rock & Rule. Slow Schlepper Brother Zip has a Heel Realization, and becomes distraught. "We ain't evil, are we?" It leads to his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Sleeping Beauty, Fauna says of the antagonist Maleficent: "Maleficent doesn't know anything about love, or kindness, or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I don't think she's really very happy." However, unlike most uses of this trope, it's not used to garner any sympathy; Maleficent is one of Disney's most openly and unrepentantly evil villains and has no redeeming features whatsoever (undeniable coolness notwithstanding.) The only characterisation purpose this line serves is to showcase Fauna as the most gentle-hearted of the fairies, and in terms of plot it gives Flora her Evil Cannot Comprehend Good realisation that lets them trick Maleficent.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American History X has Derek turning away from his neo-Nazi lifestyle as he realizes how unhappy and crappy it has made his life:
    "And I kept asking myself all the time, how did I buy into this shit? It was because I was pissed off, and nothing I ever did ever took that feeling away. I killed two guys, Danny, I killed them. And it didn't make me feel any different. It just got me more lost and I'm tired of being pissed off, Danny. I'm just tired of it."
  • This is the lesson Cady learns at the end of Mean Girls.
    "Calling someone else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone else stupid doesn't make you smarter. And ruining Regina George's life certainly didn't make mine any happier."
  • In Battle Beyond the Stars, Roger Corman's Magnificent 7 In Space, one of the recruits is the galaxy's greatest assassin. He's amassed great wealth, but he muses that he lives alone and bored because he's feared everywhere he goes. The kid promises a home on his planet where no one knows him and where he can be happy if he helps them fight off the slaver.
  • D.E.B.S.: has an example with Lucy Diamond. After she falls in love with Amy and realizes that she'll have to give up her life of crime to be with her, she says "Being bad doesn't feel good anymore."
  • Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker's turn to The Dark Side in Revenge of the Sith costs him everything and everyone that he loves as well as leaves him locked in a robotic life-support system. When Luke insists he can come back from the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi, the way that Vader says, "It's too late for me," shows that he despises what he's become on a fundamental level, but he sticks around largely because he believes it's far too late to back out.
    Vader: Myself.
    • Essentially this is the Dark Side of the Force in a nutshell. While many Sith Lords truly believe that they're superior to the Jedi (who they see as weak for not taking advantage of their abilities), a few Sith Lords (such as Ajunta Pall, Yuthura Ban, Darth Revan, and one Sith Lord that tried to balance the teachings between the two) have eventually come to realize that such power isn't all that it's cracked up to be when you have to kill your friends, your teachers, your family, and anyone else that could oppose you, leaving you all alone. Then again, this destruction of all the connections you hold dear (and the pain, sorrow, and rage that comes with it) is what powers the Dark Side; the Light Side of the Force is powered by not making said connections in the first place.
    • Darth Maul himself, of all characters, is hit hard by this in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. A combination of Darth Sidious and Maul's own evil actions cause him to lose his mother, his brother, his homeworld, and everything he ever worked for. At the end of his life, he can only bitterly confirm that the Sith took everything from him and his only hope is that Sidious will someday be defeated.
    • This is what fully cemented Finn's Mook–Face Turn at the beginning of The Force Awakens after witnessing his fellow First Order Stormtroopers open fire on defenseless villagers and watching his friend FN-2003 die right in his arms.
  • The Godfather: Michael Corleone justifies his descent into mob villainy as being done for the wellbeing of his family, but by the end of the second movie he starts to realize that it has destroyed his family. By the end of the third movie almost all the people he cared for are dead or driven away as a result of his choices.
  • Scarface (1983). Yes, believe it or not, this film actually shows that being evil sucks. For all of Tony Montana's conspicuous consumption, he becomes a lonely and miserable person. This is especially evident when he makes a drunken scene at a restaurant.
  • In The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Jesse James spends much of the film in one stage or another of a Villainous Breakdown, and finds it all but impossible to escape the myths that have developed around him, (not to mention the government's attempts to catch him) and he is constantly reminded of the consequences of what he has done. While the film doesn't shy away from characterizing James as an unstable and murderous bully, (instead of his usual Folk Hero treatment) it's also clear that he feels genuine remorse for his misdeeds. So much so, in fact, that when he realizes that the Ford brothers are plotting to kill him, he simply allows it to happen. It's beautifully summed up by his line:
    I look at my red hands and my mean face, and I wonder about that man that's gone so wrong.
  • In Goodfellas, Henry Hill at first admits that "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster," but such a life doesn't turn out as glamorous as he imagined it would. By the end, when he's broke, addicted to drugs, and a marked man, he says "I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook."
  • This is clearly evident with the title character in the film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (where he's viewed as a sympathetic character for the most part). He's lonely and full of self-loathing (he uses that term exactly) and tries to make up with the Whoos even before his epic crime by accepting Cindy-Lou's invitation. Unfortunately, the mayor ruins that by giving him an electric razor as a gag gift. Seriously, the whole guy's life sucks, and in this case, it's hard to blame him for hating Christmas.
  • Danny Trejo states that the reason that he tends to play villains who always end up getting killed is to show the audience (especially kids) that bad guys always gets what's coming to them. Considering that he's a former convict who went straight, that message is understandable.
  • By the end of Lord of War, Yuri's gun running business has led to his entire family either being killed or shunning him and Yuri himself is left with the knowledge that his new employers (The U.S. Government) can have him disposed of whenever he becomes inconvenient.
    Agent Valentine: I would tell you to go to Hell but I think you're already there.
  • In the movie The ButterCream Gang, Pete talks about how he's not entirely sure exactly how his Face–Heel Turn happened, only that he wishes he could go back to being who he was before it, but considers himself too far gone and incapable of it.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Edmund Pevensie gets captured by the White Witch, he realizes that satisfying his greed wasn't worth the consequences it entailed for Narnia and his siblings.
  • Confessions:
    • Augustine wasted his youth indulging every horrible whim he had, lying, fornicating, and stealing whatsoever he wished, all while getting no happier than the hobos he'd walk by as they lie half-dead on the street. He refers to this period of this life as "an abyss of death" and compares his joy in doing evil to a prisoner claiming omnipotence in his cell by breaking the rules without punishment, desperately trying to ignore his own confinement.
    • Augustine's metaphysics make it a rule of the universe that evil sucks, since all evil is is the absence of a good that by definition would make you better if you had it. Oh, and existence itself is a good, so the more evil you are, the less you truly exist.
  • The tortures in Dante's Inferno represent how each of the damned exists internally, implying their evil itself is a torture. So, the lustful are tortured by a hurricane because their lust throws them around without rhyme or reason, while traitors are tortured with cold because they heart turned cold as ice to those who they owed warmth to. Lampshaded by Virgil when a blasphemer blames God for his torment.
    "O Capaneus, for your arrogance
    that is not quenched, you're punished all the more
    no torture other than your own madness
    could offer pain enough to match your wrath."
  • A constant theme across Star Wars Legends, since Evil Will Fail.
    • In Death Star, the gunner who fired the superlaser that destroyed Alderaan, who had always wanted to fire the biggest gun, finds that following orders and getting what he'd wished for led to misery beyond his wildest dreams, a personal Moral Event Horizon. He can't justify it, can't either make it less of a crime or blame someone else, and is unable to sleep for guilt and horrible dreams. When the Death Star is in range of Yavin IV, he stalls desperately, hoping that something would happen and he wouldn't have to pull that trigger again. He got that wish.
    He wouldn't be able to walk on a street on any civilized planet in the galaxy; people wouldn't be able to abide his presence.
    Nor would he blame them.
    He couldn't stop thinking about it. He didn't believe he would ever be able to stop thinking about it. The dead would haunt him, forever.
    • Lampshaded in Jedi Academy Trilogy, where Corran points out that, given how prevalent Chronic Backstabbing Disorder is amongst the Sith, they're constantly weakening themselves.
    • In Dark Rendezvous, Dooku has a philosophical debate with Yoda, and tries to turn him to the Dark Side, offering power, riches, castles, an army...Yoda points out that, if you take the Temple as a castle, he pretty much already has all those things. Dooku asks what he wants. Yoda ponders...and decides he'd like a rose. They're pretty. Dooku, exasperated, exclaims that he can't make a rose out of thin air. For all his grand power and mastery of armies, he can't make a simple flower. Not so impressive, huh?
  • Dragonlance Legends trilogy: Raistlin Majere gained so much power and was on the verge of becoming a God only to discover that continuing with his plan would result in the extinction of all life on the planet leaving him on a barren world. The alternative was only marginally better.
  • The ending of Gone Girl makes it clear that, despite Amy ultimately getting everything she wanted, she still isn't really happy, and likely never will be. Nick's last line sums it up.
    I feel sorry for you. Because every morning, you have to wake up and be you.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In general, being a Death Eater sucks because they are under the constant threat of being murdered by their boss if they try his patience in any way. Once they're in, they're in for life. If they're caught, they face life in prison with the dementors, happiness-sucking Emotion Eaters that gradually reduce their victims to Empty Shells.
    • Severus Snape: All of his years devoted to the dark side eventually gained him nothing but destroying the one thing he'd ever loved, and indulging in half-breed hatred didn't bring him any happiness.
    • Draco Malfoy learns this the hard way near the end of the series. There's a big difference between idolizing a "cool" Evil Overlord from a safe distance and being ordered by said overlord to commit murder (practically a suicide mission) with the threat of having your entire family killed. Draco also finds out that he doesn't have it in him to directly kill a defenseless person right in front of him. In Book 7, he learns that he doesn't enjoy inflicting Cold-Blooded Torture.
    • Voldemort himself is completely incapable of feeling love. He is driven solely on ambition and greed, and does everything he can to ensure that he'll live forever, even going so far as to split his soul into horcruxes which take away more and more of his humanity and cause him to gradually develop a very pale, snake-like appearance, and he becomes very paranoid and frantic as Harry and his friends destroy more of them. By the end of the series, he suffers a Fate Worse than Death.
    • Peter Pettigrew is of particular note because he gained literally nothing out of his betrayal. He was such a Dirty Coward that nothing he did had any rhyme or reason other than temporarily saving his own ass. Before he became a Death Eater, he had three great friends who would have sacrificed their lives for him, but because Voldemort was taking over everywhere he decided to hand in the Potters in the hopes that he would be spared. This did absolutely nothing for him other than force him to spend twelve years as a rat and be abused for the remaining four years he lived, after which he was murdered by his new master anyway, completely defeating the purpose of siding with him in the first place. Along the way, he lost everyone who actually truly cared about him and destroyed countless lives, getting absolutely nothing out of anything that he did. Had he even shown the slightest bit of courage, he ironically probably would have ended up living longer than he actually did.
  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer: The titular Necromantic has sold his soul, alienated his family, and inflicted immense suffering in pursuit of his goal. In a candid moment with a priest, he admits that he's not at all happy and means to give it all up as soon as possible. In the climax, he pulls a Faustian Rebellion and succeeds.
  • The Lord of the Rings: This is the overarching meta-theme in Middle-Earth. Evil consumes all it touches, leading them to waste their lives before their miserable deaths. This is true from the first Dark Lord Morgoth to mortals to Sauron to Saruman. Everyone who gives in to darkness ends up bitterly regretting it, and that's if they're lucky. If they're not, it's And I Must Scream time.
  • In Masques, Aralorn's friend Wolf was evil once, more precisely, his evil father raised him evil from the start, realized that it sucked, and became neutral. While he's still challenged in the empathy department, he works together with Aralorn, who is more clearly heroic.
  • Night Watch (Series): While the Dark Ones in use every opportunity to brag about all that freedom, independence and strength The Darkness had given them and to make some lenient remarks on the poor deluded Light Ones who are so very constricted by their rules and who fuss over humans so much... It turns out that vampires are haunted by persistent insatiable Horror Hunger, werewolves have to deal with feats of feral uncontrollable rage once in a while and all the Dark Ones in general live in a world of constant paranoia and distrust towards their own brethren and superiors; Especially superiors who wouldn't even bother notifying that You Have Outlived Your Usefulness before they set up and sacrifice you as a part of their Evil Plan. The one non-Watch dark magician we see is shown enjoying himself in a restaurant with his lovely wife and happy children.
  • In Paradise Lost, Satan makes a big show of being a epic hero who rails against God for His injustices. To himself, however, he admits that he really hates having fallen and knows that he only has himself to blame. In fact, one of the big themes of the book is that the fallen angels cast themselves out of heaven with their own actions. Thus, hell isn't a punishment, it's a result.
  • The Sorcerers in Rogue Sorcerer are at constant risk of being driven insane by the very spirits they command. There's also the issue of Aiden's death curse which he accidentally places over them, which kills them all off slowly and with a great deal of pain.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events For the first few books, it seems Count Olaf will always win, but slowly we realize that he alienated the one person he loved and lost practically all his henchman, all on the hopes of getting the Baudelaire fortune. Guess how well that worked out?
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Jaime Lannister after getting his sword hand chopped off regrets becoming a Blood Knight and struggles to become the Knight in Shining Armor he always wanted to be.
  • In Jim Button, dragons work like this. As Mrs. Grindtooth explains to the heroes, while dragons are evil by nature, they are quite unhappy about it and hope that a hero will come and defeat them so that they can turn into Golden Dragons of Wisdom. Unfortunately, most heroes kill the dragon while defeating it, making the transformation quite rare.
  • In Worm, this is discussed in-universe by Taylor when talking to some kids about the differences between being a hero and a villain. Supervillains can end up with a lot more money and power as a result of their illegal activities, but they don't have any of the support structure that a superhero does, and they end up having to fight other supervillains as much or more than they fight heroes. A large portion of them aren't actually able to get rich or achieve other goals in the first place, and on top of all this they have an insanely high risk of injury, incarceration or death. While Taylor is one of the few who is generally successful as a villain and eventually turns hero, she and most of her team have undergone some very traumatic experiences, not to mention she's seen a pretty enormous body count as far as other villains are concerned.
  • East of Eden: Because she was born a sociopath, Cathy is intelligent enough to get away with committing horrendous crimes and has a Lack of Empathy to avoid feeling remorse for any of them. But, throughout her life, no matter how powerful or rich she becomes, she is never truly happy because she doesn't have the one thing that makes life worth living: the ability to love and be loved. Her final fate is Dying Alone by morphine overdose to escape the legal consequences of her crimes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "Selfless". The whole point of that episode was to show how damaged Anya was following her return to vengeance.
    • Even soulless vampires are sometimes subject to this—if, like Harmony or chipped Spike, they're Ineffectual enough to be aware that they're Ineffectual. Harmony flat out says it in season four:
    Harmony: Being a vampire sucks.
    • When Faith returns in Season Four, it's clear that her hostility is accompanied by deep self-loathing of what she's become. She seemed to be happier with it prior to her awakening, but this is likely because her slide into darkness went in hand with her relationship with her father figure. With him dead all she had left was the knowledge of how badly she'd fallen. Immediately after she leaves the season, she shows up in the first season of Angel attempting Suicide by Cop, but thankfully ends up with a Heel–Face Turn instead.
  • Charmed: A demonic seer (played by Charisma Carpenter) who contacts the Charmed Ones and offers them information if they will find a way to make her human. She explains that, through her visions she's seen just how much fun it is to be on the good side and realizes that as a demon, she could never experience any of that.
  • Game of Thrones: Theon discovers this when he captures Winterfell, but presses on regardless because he believes he's gone too far to turn back.
  • Leverage: Before becoming good guys, every member of the team was horribly alone. "The Roshomon Job" showed that they were always so afraid of getting caught that even incompetent security guards seemed menacing.
  • Stargate SG-1: Mentioned by Mitchell after they've captured a Mook and promised him protection from the bad guys. Sam points out that "protection" will mean locking him up:
    Mitchell: Well, there are downsides to working for a super-villain.
  • The Sopranos: Tony's psychiatrist frequently hints that Tony's (and certain people around him) mental problems are due to this.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Because of his meth-cooking, Walt's wife wants to divorce him and he has been wracked with guilt over the results of his actions. Regardless, Evil Feels Good and he keeps going. Ultimately, it becomes a straight Greek tragedy as Walt becomes the villain of his own story, and he becomes a fugitive when the DEA discover his activities.
    • For Jesse Pinkman, learning this is essentially the major part of his character arc. He starts as a delinquent who's more eager about going into the meth trade than Walt is. But as the series goes on, he starts losing everything he holds dear because of it. Two girlfriends of his die because of the drug trade (one overdosed and the other was killed to force him to comply with his kidnappers) and he himself ends up kidnapped for his knowledge of how to make blue meth. He finds out he can't take the ruthlessness of the criminal life, and his conscience constantly bothers him. He eventually tries to disassociate with the whole business, but finds out that it's way harder to get out of the drug trade than it is to get in. He does finally manage to get clean of the business after the series finale.
  • In Supernatural: Hell really sucks even for demons. Ironically, for a series that often puts Being Good Sucks at the forefront, this is more or less how their universe works. All good people get to go to Heaven when they die, and spend eternity reliving the best moments of their lives. Likewise, the standards of what is classed as good is quite lenient. Despite not caring for man, the angels refuse to sell or barter the souls of Heaven, as it's their Creator's will that this be their fate. Meanwhile, all the evil people go to Hell, and are tortured til they become demons. Monsters who rip people apart in life go to Purgatory and spend eternity ripping each other apart, and all the other species just go to The Nothing After Death.
  • On Teen Wolf Chris Argent the Hunter is really feeling the bite of this. His sister abandoned the Hunter's Code and committed the mass-murder of a non-hostile family of werewolves and humans, which led to her death in the end. His father ordered the abandonment of the Code, and this led to increasingly psychopathic behavior all around. When his wife is bitten by an alpha while trying to murder her daughter's teenage werewolf boyfriend, she is obligated by Hunter rules, and Gerard's insistence, to commit suicide before she turns into a werewolf. Her death pushes Allison over the edge, and she goes on a psychotic rampage. Then, the real kicker, Gerard, who has been encouraging all this crazy, reveals that he is dying of cancer and that his plan along along has been to use the Hunters to help him capture the alpha so that he can receive the bite and become a werewolf to survive the disease, making it fully clear that he knows he will have to kill his son to do it. Needless to say, Chris finds himself stuck on-side with the werewolves because of how the evil in his family has led to loss and suffering for him and his daughter.
  • Heroes: Towards the end of Volume 5. Sylar realizes his evil life will leave him alone and unloved, so he went forth to do good and hoped to be forgiven. The judicious application of a Mind Rape taking the form of a Fate Worse than Death by Matt Parkman helped, as well.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • In Kamen Rider OOO Being a Greeed turns out to be pretty unpleasant. Their creator couldn't get them to do anything, so he removed one of the ten Core Medals that make up a Greeed's being from each of them, in order to give them something to want. They came to life, but it's not much of a life. Their senses are dulled, they've got a void of desire they can never fill, and they're incapable of feeling even the most basic of positive human emotions such as love or compassion. Even getting all nine medals back and becoming as complete as they can get, most of the Greeed's ultimate goal, is a pointless effort, as it does nothing to remedy the above problems, except let them try to devour humans to feel what humans can, and even then, they're incapable of ever truly being satisfied no matter what they do. Ankh is so far the only Greeed to realize this after being able to experience what being human is like while possessing Hina's brother Shingo, and is increasingly disgusted with himself and frustrated the other Greeed are completely incapable of realizing it.
    • In Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, Poppy Pipopapo realizes that there is no point to the Bugsters' plan to destroy humanity. As video game characters that came into reality, Bugsters were created to play with humans. Without anyone to play with, there is no meaning to their existence.
  • Power Rangers:
  • According to Word of God, this is the premise behind Once Upon a Time. The Evil Queen's reason for choosing to get revenge on Snow White by casting a curse on the entire fairy tale world is to create a world where she can "win for once." Even there, she is shown to be deeply unhappy and is aware that she has destroyed her life for revenge. Aware of this, she finally tries to become The Atoner in Season 2.
  • In My Name Is Earl, this is what spurs Earl to create the list. After winning $100,000 from a stolen lottery scratch ticket, he gets hit by a car (and badly injured), losing the lottery ticket in the process, and then his wife divorces him for Darnell and takes the trailer and the kids in the settlement, leaving him with nothing except the clothes on his back. Then, while doped up on morphine, he flips on the TV and hears Carson Daly talking about (the Theme Park Version of) karma, and decides that the reason his luck has been so bad lately is that he's done a lot of bad things... and that this karma thing will destroy him if he doesn't make up for them. So he writes down a list of all the bad things he can remember doing (some going all the way back to grade school). As he's tackling an item about littering, he finds the lost lotto ticket and claims the money, which he takes as a sign that karma is working for him. He decides to do good things from then on.
  • An example of Being Ambiguously Evil Sucks in Dexter, where the title character is a rare Anti-Villain example of I Just Want to Be Normal.
  • The Cape: Voyt decides this by the finale, after he's been sold out the moment Fleming no longer needs him.

  • Subverted in Voltaire's song "When You're Evil". The last verse sounds like the singer is bothered by his villainous ways and longs for some human happiness...
    It gets so lonely being evil.
    What I'd do to see a smile... even for a little while.
    And no one loves you when you're evil...
    I'm lying through my teeth! Your tears are all the company I need.
  • The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes", which was intended to be a song for the villain of Lifehouse, the album that became Who's Next.
  • Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks On Me" tells the story of a Gangster who rules his 'hood, makes money, drives fancy cars, is feared and respected... and has been driven batshit insane by paranoia: he can't sleep at night, he sees betrayal everywhere, and he's haunted by visions of people he's already killed.
  • Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" bluntly tells that it doesn't feel good to be a gangster.
    As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
    I take a look at my life and realize there's nothin' left
    Cause I've been blasting and laughing so long
    That even my mama thinks that my mind is gone
  • "I Fought The Law" by Sonny Curtis is a song that shows why crime does not pay.

    Multiple Media 
    • Krika realized that he and his Brotherhood have done terrible things, but carried on doing them because he saw himself as doomed anyway, and also partly because he had hoped he could sabotage the plan of his leader by being part of it. All his brethren that had been also opposed to the Brotherhood's corruption were executed.
    • After his decision to sell out Metru Nui to the Dark Hunters, Nidhiki gets nothing but misery for his trouble. His closest friend, Lhikan, has him banished from the city, and on the isle of the Dark Hunters (Odina) he is treated with scorn and contempt, since no one trusts a traitor. Although he made one friend, Lariska, he ultimately ends up being transformed into a horrifying monster by Roodaka after trying to escape, and ends up spending the rest of his days as a hideous spider creature (the type of creature he himself had an extreme phobia of) alongside a bumbling moron before being devoured by an Evil Overlord to recharge his energies. The only upside was that he got to capture Lhikan to sate some vengeance, but even then Lhikan ended being remembered as a legendary hero while he himself was a minor villain. It's especially painful because other, far worse villains get off scot-free, such as the Shadowed One himself; so even though Nidhiki isn't exactly kind and lovable, Karma picked on him the hardest out of pretty much everyone. Ironically, in an alternate universe where Nidhiki chose to betray Lhikan in a far worse way far sooner, he actually got the better deal than his main universe counterpart, ending up as a high-ranking official of the universe-spanning Toa Empire.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Dark Angel uncharacteristically debuted in CMLL alongside La Amapola as a ruda after training with El Satánico Dr No. It only took four matches with the promotion, which were all losses, for her to decide that she was much better as a tecnica and turn back. La Amapola never forgave Dark Angel for it.
  • Averno, who himself was corrupted by El Satánico, went on to convince CMLL's poster boy of the previous decade Místico, to become a rudo at the beginning of 2010. At first he came to like living by the all's fair philosophy and eagerly tore into his friends during matches but gave up on the philosophy after learning during his subsequent feud with Volador Jr. that even in Super Libre being a rudo ultimately did not come with the freedom he was told it did, that he ended up being less successful than before and that his fans wouldn't appreciate his efforts to "defend" Mexico City even if he had otherwise succeeded.

  • Old Harry's Game:
    • Satan is borderline suicidal because of the toll that running Hell has taken on him. He repeatedly tries to find a way out of his duty, but his arrogance keeps getting in the way.
    • While not everyone in Hell is evil, all evil people do go to Hell, and those who are legitimately evil, like Thomas, tend to suffer worse there than those who ended up there only because of God's incredibly high standards, like the Professor and Edith.

  • The original and most ancient concept of Karma, before later doctrines, meant action. Hence, doing anything inherently created a new 'self' which was different. Grossly oversimplified, the first victim of wrongdoing is yourself, since you've made yourself into something less than you were.
  • In Christianity and Islam, the wages of sin are death, a weakening of your relationship with God, and eventual damnation if not repented.
    • Satan himself is supposed to be constantly tortured by his decision. The Divine Comedy even has him imprisoned with the rest of the sinners who betrayed their lords.
  • In The Scorpion and the Frog, the Scorpion kills itself (alongside the frog) because evil is in its nature.
    • Variation: The Scorpion and the Turtle, the Scorpion kills itself (alongside the turtle) because of spite: "It is better we should both perish than that my enemy should live.".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the World of Darkness, you just can't win. Not only does being good suck, but if you decide to go the other way and embrace the dark side, you can look forward to a number of side effects - starting with batshit insanity. Each of the game lines comes with its own drawbacks, lovingly crafted to screw with that particular type of critter. At the lowest level, you turn into a monster and are removed from play.
    • In Chronicles 1st Edition, as an ordinary mortal: The lower your Morality goes, the more likely you'll blow a fuse and start to go insane - every time your Morality drops, you have to make a roll to resist getting a Derangement, and your dice pool to resist is your new Morality level (so you're basically guaranteed to crack up at Morality 1). Hit Morality 0 and you snap, losing all restraints and any ability to recognize other people as people. If you're lucky, they'll put you in an institution before too long.
    • Vampires: Stronger predatory instincts and a thinner veneer of humanity, meaning the human prey can sense you want to eat them. This tends to make them want to stay away. You're literally going to devolve into a mindless animal if you do enough evil. Moreover your new society consists of assholes and psychopaths, most of whom are way older and more powerful than you and there is that mutual risk of flipping out and killing each other whenever you first meet another vampire. The original Vampire doesn't let you off the hook lightly either. While meetings between two groups of vampires do not devolve into brawls every time, you're still stuck in the society of manipulative monsters, and the power difference between you and the Powers That Be is much greater. Hit Humanity 0 and you fall completely to the Beast, becoming little more than a rabid animal to be put down.
    • Werewolves: The spirits you're trying to police can tell you're out of balance, and they hate you that much more. You have a harder time performing rituals, and it's that much harder to keep from kill-everything-around-you berserker rage. On top of all that, you tend to develop disturbing obsessions - from breaking every third window you pass to taking a bite out of anyone who looks you in the eye. At Harmony 10 and 0 (the idea is to balance your disperate natures and 5 is ideal), you're completely locked out of half of yourself.In the original Werewolf you suffer nothing of the sort and can techically do anything you please. There is just that little problem with the Universe-devouring Big Bad who has a Fate Worse than Death in store for your entire race and you personally, and whose local representatives are generally empowered by evil acts.
    • Mages: You know that Abyss that hates your magic? The more evil you become, the harder it can smack you around and the harder it is for you to resist it. In the original, you're free to do as you wish; thing is, there's a horde of Eldritch Abominations seeking to drag reality down into oblivion with them, and their goals are furthered by the spread of evil.
    • Prometheans: You know that whole "I wanna be a real boy" thing you've got going on? Your ability to comprehend humanity is judged in part by how much you understand human morals. You can be a mad murdering monster, but good luck ever earning a soul that way. If you want to create a kid/companion like you who'll help you deal with the loneliness, there's a much better chance the process will go horribly wrong and result in the creation of a bunch of cannibalistic aberrations that wish to devour your essence.
    • Changelings: Low Clarity gives a double-dose of insanity; not only do you suffer specific derangements, but your perceptions are more and more skewed by your Fae experiences. Plus, you become more and more like one of the Fae overlords who kidnapped you. Because you'll probably become one if you grow powerful enough.
    • Hunters: One trope: He Who Fights Monsters. That goes for the previous game, too.
    • Demons: To start, you just spent human history in a Hell far worse than humans comprehend. You get out, but the more evil you behave, the more Torment you accumulate, until you become a creature incapable of hope and compassion. If you're forced into an inanimate host one way or another, it gets worse, as now you lose any anchor to humanity, any way to deal with the darkness within, and become one of the Earthbound.
    • Sin-Eaters: You find it harder and harder to enter and navigate the Underworld. Kerberoi and geists can tell you're out of sync with your geist, and become more reluctant to deal with you. You also find it more difficult to perform ceremonies. Hit Synergy 0, and you end up as a Meat Puppet for your geist to drag around. By the way, you don't even have to be bad to hit Synergy 0 - every time you die, if your geist decides to pull you back, your current Synergy goes down one and your maximum Synergy goes down two. Makes being dead look a lot more attractive, doesn't it?
    • Wraiths: Your Shadow, your resident Enemy Within, grows more and more powerful, working against everything you care about. When it's finally able to take over, you become one of the local servants of Oblivion, and now work to the destruction of everything.
    • Geniuses: (yes, it's fanmade, but shut up): the you that's actually, you slowly dissipates and your personality is overtaken by some strange, unknown and terrifying will that leads you to horrible acts. Also, the Geniuses who haven't given in to Illumination (likely including your friends and Mentor) will hunt you down and kill you. Granted, by the point you've hit Obligation 0 and become an Illuminated, it could be considered a mercy to you.
    • Princesses (also fanmade): Your entire duty is to be the heroine standing against the forces of evil, and the less Belief you have, the more you've given up on that ideal, and the cause of Darkness is further advanced. Hit Belief 0, and you take a cue from Puella Magi Madoka Magica and become a Witch-like entity called a Dethroned.
      • On the other side of the War of Hope, you have the Darkened. Accept the Darkness into yourself, and you'll gain a new Umbra superpower for every point of Integrity you lose... except that every Umbra also comes with a nasty downside, and if you hit zero Integrity you die and reanimate as a mindless Darkspawn.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
    • This is the fate of most servants of Chaos. Sure, the lucky few become immortal and godlike Daemon Princes, but the vast majority is doomed to become consumed by their emotions and end up as blood-crazed berserkers who live only to kill and die in battle, jaded hedonists who have to keep doing more and more depraved things simply to feel something, sorcerors who are forever driven to expand their knowledge in an attempt to reach an impossible goal, or disease-ridden husks who are kept alive by supernatural powers despite their bodies rotting away. That is all if you don't simply end up a mindless mass of betentacled gribblyness because of all the mutations you've been receiving, or simply sacrificed, as cannon, as an experiment, to slate the hunger of ravenous daemons, as a sex toy to rapacious daemons, or simply For the Evulz.
    • On a more personal note, some traitor primarchs fell because Daddy didn't love them enough. Perturabo was consigned to brutal, grinding seiges, Angron was little more than a self-aware attack dog, and Lorgar had his love thrown back in his face because it was expressed as religious fervour. Corax was just as vicious as Angron, but while Angron was a berserker, Corax was that kid who picks appart flies allowed to practise on people. Magnus was a nerdy wizard memetically held to have done no wrong but was unjustly punished for the fallout of a backfiring plan. All of them held this inside until it crystalized into a spark of hatred that caused them to gleefully toboggan down the slippery slope when Horus betrayed the Emperor. After 10,000 years, all of them are still just hurt kids.
  • Part of the theme of Ravenloft is that however much it sucks to be good, it sucks even worse to be evil. Good and Neutral people at least live their lives without interference from the Dark Powers, but if you do enough evil deeds, you'll be getting their attention, and the Dark Powers love to get creative with curses. If you've really crossed the Moral Event Horizon, they'll go the extra mile and make you a Darklord, giving you almost unlimited power... but taking away anything that would give actual fulfillment. For example, Azalin wanted to live forever to truly master magic; as a Darklord, he's immortal, but he now cannot learn any new spells. Vlad Drakov wanted to be a conquering king; as a Darklord he has complete control of his domain, but gets his ass kicked whenever he tries to conquer any other.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Elder Evils sourcebook is full of villains like this. A lot of the mortals who are servants of the Eldritch Abominations featured in the scenarios are only such because they have no choice, and are full of self-loathing as a result. One of them, Ragnorra's servant Iricathix Vane, actually can be persuaded to turn on Ragnorra and help the P Cs, but most of the others are stuck where they are.
    • Asmodeus is the game's Satan analogue, a Fallen Angel who came to rule the Nine Hells and plots to overthrow the deities themselves. He's thoroughly evil, elegant, and supremely confident... and yet anyone who descends to the lowest layer of Hell, and travels down the Serpent's Coil to his citadel, the Fortress Nessus, will find a vast and splendid palace that nevertheless feels empty, melancholy. Its magnificent halls are said to resonate with despair, regret, and the constant sound of soft weeping.

  • Several villains in William Shakespeare plays find this out.
    • Macbeth and his wife find that killing the king so that you can inherit the throne wasn't worth it, and Claudius also ends up learning that same lesson.
    • Richard III, where at the beginning Richard says, "I am determined to prove a villain / And hate the idle pleasures of these days." At the end of the play, after, amongst other ill deeds, having his brother and nephews murdered, he remarks to himself:
    What do I fear? myself? there's none else by:
    Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
    Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
    Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
    Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
    Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
    That I myself have done unto myself?
    O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
    For hateful deeds committed by myself!
  • In The Ring of the Nibelung Hagen tells his father Alberich he is constantly miserable and hates people being happy.
  • Doctor Faustus:
    • Faustus is killed and tormented eternally in Hell as a direct result of his Deal with the Devil. Faustus is told very explicitly that this will happen decades in advance, but remains in denial until he's about to die.
    • Mephistopheles claims to be "tormented with ten thousand hells" by no longer being allowed to taste the joys of Heaven, which was caused by his siding with Lucifer in the fall.

  • Also from LEGO, Lord Garmadon from Ninjago basically has nothing go right for him. He didn't even want to be evil in the first place, but The Corruption caused him to slowly transform into a wicked villain with a taste for conquering all of Ninjago. Said desire ended up with him being cast into the Underworld by his own brother, losing his wife and child and missing out on the chance to see the latter grow up, and ultimately finding out that Evil Is Not a Toy the hard way when he is betrayed by the Overlord. Thankfully, he is eventually purified and gets better... only for the consequences of his actions to catch up with him, and ultimately result in him being killed. When he is eventually resurrected by the Sons of Garmadon, being evil doesn't suck for him because he is reborn without any of his positive qualities, no longer "hindered" by his love for Lloyd.

    Video Games 
  • Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights turned to the dark side to get vengeance fully understanding that being evil sucks, and counted on the fact that her boss would betray her and kill her because she felt she deserved death for turning in the first place.
  • Being evil for Darth Nihilus in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords really sucked, as indulging his supernatural hunger ate him away from the inside, leaving him a inhuman walking void that exists solely to consume all life around him. Likewise, Darth Sion is extremely unhappy with his existence as a living corpse sustained only by agony and hatred. The only way the Exile can end the final encounter with Sion is to convince him to willingly let go after admitting that his unlife isn't worth living.
  • Choosing the evil alignment in Black & White tends to earn the player far fewer rewards than if they play the good option when attempting challenges and mini-games.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Even when he doesn't do something "evil", Waluigi suffers from this. He is hated by everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom (including himself), he lives at the constant shadow of his partner Wario, everyone despises or is scared of him and nothing ever goes right for him, no matter how hard he tries. In his first appearence, all he ever wanted was to be famous and loved like the Mario Brothers. He trained many years prior to that to become as strong as them.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, poor Vivian was clearly already starting to realize this at the start of the game. As one of the Shadow Sirens, her sisters treated her like garbage, and always dumped the blame for their mistakes on her. Then, as fate would have it, she met Mario, and because he couldn't tell her his name due to Doopliss' spell, the two formed a brief partnership, and for the first time in her life, someone was treating her decently. When she did find out who he was, the choice was between staying with someone who was treating her nicely or going back to two rotten sisters who were treating her like dirt. What other choice could she make?
  • BioWare used to run with this in general. In both Jade Empire and Knights of the Old Republic, taking the dark path means you'll end up having to slaughter most of your party, delivering a Player Punch and making the endgame more difficult.
    • In Mass Effect, a hard-core Renegade path can bite you in the ass hard, as it makes your companions less likely to trust you, destroys several assets that would be really useful at the endgame, makes the political negotiations you have to make to get an army against the Reapers harder to accomplish, and usually results in a few dead squadmates.
    • Dragon Age is a complicated case, as it's not really that being either evil or good sucks as much as people and conflicts are so morally ambiguous, it's often hard to know what is good or bad to begin with (best illustrated with the Dwarven questline in Origins). There are, however, some cases where this trope does apply:
    • In all three games, being a jerk or mistreating your companions makes them less effective, less loyal and can eventually result in some of them turning against you. "Good" companions will also inevitably turn on you if they consider you crossed the Moral Event Horizon, whereas "evil" companions might disapprove some of your good actions, but will still stick with you regardless as long as you are nice with them.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, doing the right thing to solve the various main questlines (saving Redcliff, saving the Circle rather than anihilating it, solving the conflict between the Dalish and the Werewolves peacefully...) usually results in better outcomes for you and ensures you more assets in the endgame.
    • If the Darkspawns' backstory as narrated by the Chantry really did happen (it's implied it did), then the ancient Magister using Blood Magic and human sacrifices in an attempt to become gods only resulted in them being turned into hideously deformed and corrupt monsters who caused a deadly plague on the world.
  • Beat in The World Ends with You. As a result of his subsequent side-switching, Konishi gives him a few days to live, before he'll fade away.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth has power beyond what anyone can imagine but at the expense of his sanity, memories, emotions, and humanity.
  • While in the original Final Fantasy VI, Kefka was painted as a psychopath without remorse, restraints, or regrets who actively, and successfully, tried to make every bad situation much, much worse, all of it because he found it entertaining beyond reason, the developers for Dissidia Final Fantasy decided to run with an Alternative Character Interpretation. There he is instead depicted as a man who's nigh-godlike powers have ruined his ability to feel joy to the point where he can only feel it when destruction is involved. The reprise of his well-known, hateful, nihilistic rant about the futility of the world from the original game takes on the nature of a wistful lament, and even as Kefka dies, he laughs. A sad laugh.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line, Colonel John Konrad had to do horrible, sadistic things to try keeping order in the sandstorm-ravaged Dubai. Throughout the game, he repeatedly talks to the main character, Captain Martin Walker, trying to explain the choices he had to make and forcing Walker to make a few of his own. However, it is later revealed that the guilt Konrad felt for his actions led him to kill himself long before the game even began, and the Konrad that has been talking to Walker and the player is actually a hallucination; a manifestation of Walker's guilt for the actions he has done, like using white phosphorus on a refugee camp. This is an interesting variation, as the protagonist of the story thinks he's the hero charging in to save the day, but he subconsciously knows he's done bad things, and this drives him to insanity, reinforcing the game's central themes: an examination of what soldiers go through and how their mental state is affected, and a look at just how far removed modern war shooters are from reality.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: Dwayne Forge describes his experience as a drug-lord in these terms. More specifically, he describes it as "sorta fun and sorta like living in hell," and being a Corrupter to those around him, preying on their flaws to turn them into crack-fiends for reliable business.
  • The Godfather games, Grand Theft Auto, Mafia... just anything in the Mafia genre at all tends to have this (or specifically Crime Sucks) as one of it's central themes. The main character will end up injured countless times, dead along with their friends and family, and lose anything and everything pursuing a life of crime alongside numerous others of the profession. Even in the rare cases they become rich and powerful by the end they'll have to go through tragedy after tragedy to get there, and if there's money in a sequel even then.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: Arthur Morgan has no real love of the outlaw life, only doing it because of his loyalty to Dutch van der Linde and his love for the gang and his hatred of modern civilization.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines follows this trope pretty much the same way the game it's based on:
  • The No Mercy run in Undertale is meant to invoke this feeling.
    • From a gameplay standpoint, the No Mercy run requires you to kill enough of the randomly encountered monsters so that no more will appear in each area. The game is also coded to decrease the frequency of random encounters as you approach to quota (probably in order to ensure that no one falls into a No Mercy run unintentionally) so a lot of time is going to be wasted simply walking around looking for monsters to kill. Furthermore, on a No Mercy run you're powerful enough that you will kill almost every single monster in a single hit (the exceptions can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare) so the gameplay quickly becomes rote and unengaging. And what bosses do take more than one hit to kill are difficult, so freakishly difficult (and lampshaded as such) in a frustrating fashion that you don't get any satisfaction from actually fighting them because they're so unfair and cheap and are deliberately designed as such.
    • From a storyline standpoint, the game does everything it can to guilt-trip you into abandoning a No Mercy run after you begin it. For example, Towns will be empty in No Mercy because everyone is fleeing for their lives from you, and what would be the second boss of a regular run will refuse to fight you in No Mercy, because he believes you're lashing out in confusion and fright and that you can be a better person if you try, and offers his friendship to you. You kill him in a single hit, and his final words are to say that he still believes in your potential to be a good person.
  • In Pokémon, the move Frustration invokes this (though it's more "Being Evil is Impractical"). It grows stronger the more the user hates its Trainer, but it's considerably easier to make them happier (simply walking around will do it) while methods of making them dislike you are rather limited. What's more, many Pokémon start off with a neutral affection towards the player, and the move's inverted counterpart, Return (which grows in power the more the user likes its Trainer), is far easier to use, making Frustration not worth the effort.
  • Injustice 2: Despite his constant ranting about how Hobbes Was Right, it becomes clear that this is how Superman actually feels about being a tyrant. He misses being a hero, he wishes he and Batman were still friends and, despite himself, would probably like to listen to Supergirl and go back to being The Cape, but is too disillusioned with conventional heroics to actually follow through and do it.
  • Mafia II has Vito realize this late in the story, after losing most of the people he cares about, and with two criminal organizations and the FBI after his head. Had it not been for Leo repaying him a favor for saving him, he most certainly would have been killed.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, despite supposedly showing Big Boss's fall to villainy, uses a similar system to Pokémon where gaining Heroism is considerably easier than earning (and retaining) Demon Points. About the only thing a player can do to stay on the bad end of the Karma Meter is to obtain a nuke or two.
  • Deltarune: Lancer really, really wants to be evil, but generally tends to be bad at it, poking the poodle at every turn and generally just being an energetic goofball. So when the time comes for him to do some actual evil acts, he just cannot do it. He needs to convince himself locking the Lightners up is for their own good, and even then he doesn't buy it much and hates it the whole time, and even under threat of death he simply cannot kill them like he's supposed to. It's the only thing that gets some genuine sorrow out of the little guy.

    Visual Novels 
  • Kotomine in Fate/stay night has this psychological issue where only Evil Feels Good for him; he takes no satisfaction in good, finding that Being Good Sucks. However, he was raised to have a moral compass, so he kept trying to be good anyways, until he had a chat with Gilgamesh and decided to be evil instead. However, due to him still having that moral compass, he finds his own evil revolting even as he takes pleasure in it. Ultimately, by the time the story starts, Being Good Sucks and Being Evil Sucks and it pisses him off so much that he attempts to bring an Eldritch Abomination into the world to get some answers. Basically: If being good is supposed to be a good thing, why doesn't he like it? If he should just be evil, why does that feel wrong to him?

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick prequel book Start of Darkness details the origins of Xykon and Redcloak. Redcloak eventually learns how much being evil sucks after Xykon makes him kill his brother (who had already tried to run away from Xykon's evil scheme twice).
    • Xykon himself may have a lot of Evil Is Cool going on, but he also lost the one joy in his life (coffee) when he became a lich. The revelation that he could no longer taste his favorite beverage caused some severe Sanity Slippage, and now the only thing that gives him any pleasure is hurting others.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Zuko realizes after he averted a Heel–Face Turn that he's still not happy even after getting everything he thought he wanted, because after his wanderings through the Earth Kingdom, he knows on some level that he's on the wrong side. He realizes the depths of his mistake when he sees his father plan outright genocide against the Earth Kingdom.
    • His sister, Azula, learns the hard way that while being an Evil Overlord may get you all the power and success in the world, it also means that basically everyone around you is really only there either because they're scared of you or they were manipulated into it. Unlike Zuko, Azula's pride won't let her admit that she was wrong — the resulting conflict pretty much destroys her mind. However, Word of God claims that it's not totally beyond repair.
  • Sequel series The Legend of Korra has Varrick, who was a Corrupt Corporate Executive who attempted to mastermind a full-scale war out of a civil war, having threatened innocent lives and secretly backstabbed the heroes. By Book 4, he develops a conscience after making a huge breakthrough, and realizes how dangerous it was. This leads to his Heel–Face Turn, and afterwards admits how horrible a person he was to discover the means to a terrible weapon.
  • The Batman: In the episode "The Apprentice", a kid in Barbara Gordon's class falls in with the Joker. Both have a weird sense of humor, and Joker makes him his sidekick as a mock to Batman and Batgirl. However, when they succeed against the caped duo and the Joker tells him to kill Batgirl, the kid is horrified. He just wanted to make a statement and defy convention, not go and kill people. He wisely bails and the now favorable odds let the heroes beat the Joker.
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", one Jokerz initiate tags along as another member of the gang hijacks an experimental advanced fighter craft. He becomes increasingly horrified as the hijacker goes mad with power and does things like attacking a rival gang armed with nothing but chains and tasers. When he overhears the guy denouncing the Jokerz as a crutch and ignoring Terry's warnings that the craft's illegal nuclear reactor is going critical that's the last straw. He knocks down the lunatic with a folding chair and leaves the Jokerz forever.
  • Beast Wars:
    • This is essentially the reason for Dinobot switching sides during the first arc. He couldn't stand working for an evil guy like Megatron, and after failing to take leadership from him, jumped to the other team.
    • Rampage is an Expy of Hannibal Lecter, but is clearly aware of what a nightmare his life is ("I regret everything, my sweet."). It's implied at the end that he's also a Death Seeker.
    • Waspinator defects in the series finale, citing the fact that he's "sick of being evil, sick of being Predacon, and Wazzzpinator especially sick of getting blown TO SCRAP ALL THE TIME!"
  • In the Bravestarr episode "Brother's Keeper", Bravestarr captures one of a pair of bandits who are brothers. The bandit admits the life of crime sucked and he's glad it's over, and the only reason he'd kept on with it was to look out for his brother, who is a much more unrepentant low-life.
  • South Park,
    • In the "Woodland Critter Christmas" episode, Kyle willingly takes the Antichrist's essence into his body, but immediately feels the excruciating pain of "having one's soul on fire". Stan replies with "what did you expect, dude, he's the son of the devil!" "Yeah, but I didn't think it'd be so... dark and evil!" The whole incident was a Christmas story written by Cartman.
    • Back in the second season, Satan's son Damien joins the boys' third grade class. For some reason, no matter how much he terrorizes and tortures the other third graders, he just can't get the kids to like him.
  • Early on in the second season of Xiaolin Showdown, Raimundo, who had turned on his comrades and subsequently joined Wuya after being denied promotion, has just been rewarded by Wuya for help in restoring her and helping her take over the world with his own personal arcade. He is soon lonely and disappointed that he has no one else to enjoy it with, and pleads his friends when they are captured to join him. Their impending execution finally convinces Raimundo to turn on Wuya.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • This is one of the Central Themes for Gotham City villians: Except The Joker and Diabolical Mastermind Ra's al Ghul, every villain has Hidden Depths that let them know a life of crime sucks and would attempt redemption. All There in the Manual has a lot of examples or Redemption Failure, and by the time Batman Beyond sets in, all of Batman's Rogues Gallery has died, said Screw This, I'm Outta Here! (Poison Ivy) or even found Redemption (the Ventriloquist and possibly Harley Quinn). Bane and Mr. Freeze's destinies are And I Must Scream, and all the others had been forgotten.
    • In "It's Never Too Late", aging mobster Arnold Stromwell's life has become terrible. His marriage is crumbling, and his organization is falling apart due to Rupert Thorne's rise to power. Eventually, Stromwell sees that his own son has become a drug addict as a result of his organization dealing them. At first, he still isn't convinced enough to accept Batman's conditions and make a deal with the police, until his clergyman brother Father Michael (who had saved him from being run over by a train when they were kids, an act that cost him his leg) helps him out of charity one more time, resulting in him finally deciding to retire and turn State's evidence.
  • In Gargoyles, the one hurt worst by Demona's Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and Fantastic Racism is, ultimately, Demona herself. She originally genuinely wanted to help gargoylekind, but her willingness to throw humans under the bus at the slightest provocation ultimately resulted in the deaths of both of her clans, and creation of the Hunters. Her current states is a desperately, miserably lonely woman, who only keeps going because of her need to shift the blame for all the tragedies she caused herself onto some outside party, even as she just keeps creating more tragedies for herself in the process.
  • In Gravity Falls, Pacifica discovers this the hard way after discovering her family are liars, cheaters, and sociopaths. After this discovery, she's willing to put an end to her family's villainy.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: A lifetime of being every story's evil monster hasn't been kind to the beast from the Land of Legends — by the time he meets the ponies, he's cripplingly lonely and profoundly unhappy, and very tired of his lot in life.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Several villains seem to enjoy being bad at first and reject friendship, but that is mainly because they have never given it a try before. Once they get a taste of friendship, they usually realize how empty and alone they really are, leading to several of them doing a Heel–Face Turn.
      • Discord is a Physical God with near-infinite power, and certainly seems to enjoy unleashing chaos on the world whenever he gets a chance, but in all the eons he's existed, he has never had a single friend. When he finally gets one, he's astonished to find that she matters to him more than anything else, and chooses to preserve that friendship by agreeing to use his power for good, "most of the time". In the Season 4 finale, he falls victim to Lord Tirek's temptation and betrays the ponies, believing that he'll regain the freedom he thinks he needs... only to be betrayed in turn and realize too late that evil has no sense of loyalty. In contrast, despite his betrayal, Twilight Sparkle still considers him her friend, convincing him to take their side again, presumably genuinely this time.
      • The changelings are a race of emotion eaters who feed on love from others to survive. It is eventually revealed that their hunger can never be satisfied by taking love by force, and their ruler Queen Chrysalis was just using them to gather love for herself so she could become more powerful. Once Starlight Glimmer showed them what happens when they share love instead of taking it, with their fellow changeling Thorax as proof, they all immediately share love and transform into more beautiful forms in the process, overthrowing their abusive former ruler and freeing their former captives, finally free from their constant hunger. Chrysalis is the only changeling remaining who refused to change and redeem herself, vowing revenge on everyone responsible for her losing control of her hive, especially Starlight.
  • In Steven Universe, being tyrannical god-empresses of gemkind has not actually been kind to the Diamonds' psyches. Blue and Yellow are still grieving over Pink's death, and since they have no one to help them through it, they've both snapped in their own ways; Yellow Diamond tried to repress her feelings so she could rule effectively (which just meant that she blows up whenever she's reminded of Pink), and Blue Diamond was so overwhelmed by her feelings that she was effectively incapacitated for millennia. Pink Diamond was The Baby of the Bunch and got no respect from the others no matter how hard she tried. She eventually grew to outright hate the other Diamonds, and underwent a Heel–Face Turn when she realized what Gem colonization did to planets. White Diamond holds the other diamonds to standards so impossible that she doesn't meet them herself, and has a mental breakdown when confronted with her own off-coloration.
  • In the "Fallen Angel" episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), there was Angel, a young girl from Casey's neighborhood who he tried to be a Big Brother Mentor to, who wanted to join the Purple Dragons because she thought Evil Is Cool, despite Casey's attempts to talk her out of it. She changed her mind quickly when his attempts led to him being captured by the Dragons, who obviously intended to kill him in as the finale to their violent initiation rites. Fortunately, Casey told her where to get help.
  • Total Drama: Courtney might be one of the show’s strongest, most determined competitors who will do anything to win, but at the end of the day, her over-aggressiveness, arrogant attitude, and willingness to betray everyone and anyone in her pursuit of the million dollars eventually makes her hated by the entire cast, including her former friends and boyfriends who really did care about her, but broke things off as soon as it came out she was plotting to take them down too. When she can’t win the prize in spite of all her efforts, she’s left with nothing and no one.
  • By the end of Transformers: Prime, both Knock Out and Megatron have come to this. Knock Out genuinely defects to the Autobots as they would treat him decently. For Megatron, it took getting killed, Barred from the Afterlife from his use of Dark Energon he'd been poisoning himself with and being possessed by Unicron to make him realize just what kind of a villain he had become.
    Knock Out: (shrugs) I'm joining the "winning team".
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: The Dark Hand Enforcers originally had no problems being criminals, but after several seasons of getting caught up in demonic plots and getting nothing for it, they become rather sick of it all.
  • Wacky Races: In "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint," while having Muttley set up some remote-controlled mosquitos, Dick Dastardly laments that it was the other racers that forced him to be a bad guy. So maybe it wasn't his idea after all.
  • Phineas and Ferb: The finale suggests that Doofenshmirtz, despite his Card Carrying Villainy, never really wanted to be evil; his absurdly horrible childhood just conditioned him to feel as though he had no choice. He pulls a Heel–Face Turn in the series finale after a heart-to-heart talk with his daughter Vanessa, who tells him that he is actually a good person doing bad things and she wants him to quit making himself unhappy. As shown in the previous penultimate episode (taking place about a decade or so in the future), he does indeed remain a good guy and he eventually finds a new purpose in life as a science teacher after undergoing a midlife crisis... that Doof asked Perry help him achieve.
  • Dan Vs.: Played with. Dan's insane obsession with revenge prevents him from doing anything worthwhile with his life or forming any meaningful, healthy friendships. However, "The Barber" shows that he enjoys getting revenge so much that he thinks this is worth it.
  • Elena of Avalor: Elena's cousin Esteban was secretly responsible for Shuriki's invasion of Avalor and the untimely deaths of the king and queen (and seemingly the rest of his family) in the show's backstory. Since then, he became her right-hand man out of fear of her, and though he does seem to take joy in it, he does appear troubled by some of the things he has to do for her (such as hurting civilians) and tries to minimize the harm that comes with it. That said, the miraculous return of his family causes him to betray Shuriki and he hides his betrayal from them in the aftermath, something that torments him throughout the show. When his secret is eventually exposed, he once again feels he has no choice but to side with the villains to avoid Elena's wrath, but this means becoming a pariah to his people and being disowned by his family. Realizing this leaves him devastated and drives him down the slippery slope, at best leaving him a Stepford Smiler while at worst meaning The Gloves Come Off.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power:
    • This is ultimately a big part of why Catra is miserable. She has a lust for power and control that makes her life actively worse, causing problems that will come back to wreck Future Catra's day, or just plain not getting her what she wanted. On top of that, it undermines her true desire for affection and acceptance, with these actions and her own unwillingness to ever forgive a slight driving away everyone who remotely cares about her. By the end of the fourth season, all her friends have left her, she's suffered two consecutive Villainous Breakdowns, and has been treated to a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that leaves her so broken she won't even defend herself against attack.
    Double Trouble: (capping off said speech) We both know this was never what you really wanted.
    • As the leader of the Horde, Hordak must cultivate a ruthless, stoic, and unapproachable exterior and desperately hide his physical illness and emotional vulnerabilities. Living among ruthless minions who are constantly jockeying for power results in Hordak being lied to, manipulated, and separated from the woman he loves. Like Catra, it's implied that what he really longs for is not power, but self-worth and love. Unfortunately, events that he set in motion culminate in Hordak losing everything he worked for and being mind-wiped by Horde Prime before he can realize his mistake.


Video Example(s):


Mary Shelley's Frankenhole

Hitler wants Frankenstein to surgically remove his anti-semitism.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / BeingEvilSucks

Media sources:

Main / BeingEvilSucks