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Elite Four

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Four trainers. No breaks.Clockwise from bottom 
"The final four monsters always win. Even the ultimate masters are sent down to defeat. Prepare your excuse for losing!"
Dedar, Wario's Woods
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Historically, the name 四天王 (shitennō), meaning "Four Heavenly Kings", was applied to a samurai lord's four best men, which is the root of the "four subordinates to a powerful leader" trend in many Japanese stories. The Four Heavenly Kings themselves are Buddhist guardian gods of the four cardinal directions. In western works, four may be a nod to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to similar effect.

Pop culture has taken both types of groups and expanded the concept to just mean an extremely powerful/competent group of four, sometimes in the service of one even more impressive master. Because that technically makes five in total, this could also overlap with Five-Man Band if the archetypes match up to those specific formations. Bear in mind there is a slight but noteworthy difference between a team of five with an internal leader, and a team of four with an external master, so while they may overlap they aren't one and the same.

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The Elite Four are usually antagonists but they don't have to be evil. Occasionally even good guys will employ an Elite Four.

The Elite Four also tends to overlap with Quirky Miniboss Squad and Praetorian Guard. They may function as a Rogues Gallery such that each member gets a fair amount of screentime and development. Or you could just have to Run the Gauntlet and face them all at once. Normally unrelated to Four Is Death; examples should never be listed under both unless the association with death is extremely unambiguous.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Beelzebub: The Tohoshinki are the collective title of Ishiyama High's most influential delinquents and each of them has their own gang. Each Kanji of Tohoshinki represents the name of each member and they maintain the Balance of Power in their school and keep the other delinquents in check. Oga becomes effectively the school's banchou after defeating each of them in the first arc and they have become more or less his True Companions.
  • The God Hand in Berserk consist of four hyper-powerful demons that can only manifest in the physical realm every 216 years. Subverted in that while they start as four, the show's Wham Episode revolves around them adding a fifth member, Femto (Griffith), though he often does not interact with the other four.
  • In Bleach the Schutzstaffel are Yhwach's elite guard and consist of four exceptionally powerful Quincy: Pernida Parnkgjas, Askin Nakk le Vaar, Gerard Valkyrie, and Lille Barro. After Yhwach powers them up by conducting Auswählen on the lower ranks, they are strong enough to take down the Zero Squad themselves, bar Hyosube Ichibei, who is confronted by Yhwach himself, who themselves are stated to be mightier than the entire Gotei 13 collective. They all have the distinction of having bizarre and unfathomable abilities along with being nigh-unkillable, and become the last lines of defense from reaching Yhwach.
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo features the Chrome Dome Big Four, the four top soldiers of Czar Baldy Bald. The group consists of Captain Battleship, an Evil Counterpart to Bo-bobo with a giant pompadour, Kitty-Poo, a cat-themed Freeza parody who is quickly defeated by Don Patch, OVER, a man with giant scissors who turns into Torpedo Girl when angered too much, and Halekulani, the money obsessed owner of the Holy Guacamole Land amusement park.
  • Boys over Flowers features the F4, a clique of four extremely popular boys in Eitoku Academy who encourages people to bully students they've personally targeted with a red card.
  • In A Certain Magical Index the Roman Catholic Church has a secret group known as God's Right Seat, which is made of up of four members, each representing a direction and an element: Vento of the Front, Terra of the Left, Acqua of the Back, and Fiamma of the Right. They serve as the major opponents for Touma in the second half of the original Index light novels, with Fiamma's defeat being in the final novel.
  • In Code Geass, the Japanese Liberation Front have the Shi Seiken, or "Four Holy Swords", a group of four highly skilled Knightmare pilots: Nagisa Chiba, Shougo Asahina, Ryouga Senba, and Kousetsu Urabe. They are all under the command of Kyoushirou Tohdoh.
  • In The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, the titular Evil Overlord appoints Emi, Chiho, Suzuno along with his other two surviving subordinates as new Four generals of the demon army. Yeah, all five of them.
  • Digimon:
  • Fairy Tail:
  • In Get Backers:
    • Ginji led a gang called VOLTS, and his direct subordinates were known as the Shitennō. They inspire equal amounts of terror and admiration among the population of Lower Town, and in the series proper are re-introduced to him and Ban as antagonists. According to one of them, Shido, the title "Shitennō" is for someone who has cheated death countless times.
    • Makubex attempts to duplicate their success with his "New Four Kings." After his Heel–Face Turn, one dies and the other just vanishes, leaving him with The Comically Serious and The Idiot from Osaka, plus his Team Mom.
    • Ironically, Kazuki, the least hostile of the four, has his own set of four subordinates who mirror the situation between Ginji and the Shitennō—including the aforementioned Comically Serious in Shido's place as the angry-but-ultimately-forgiving one. The aforementioned Team Mom mirrors Kazuki himself: clearly working against her former leader, but not directly threatening him.
    • Shido's Maryuudo tribe also boasts the four Shiki clans, which correspond to the four seasons. Their mortal enemies, the Kiryuudo, greatly fear the reunion of the four leaders, because it literally does mean death for them. Shido has the power to awaken hidden abilities to their fullest potential, and the other three have the powers of putting everything to sleep, healing, and instantly killing everything. They massacre the entire population of Kiryuudo pretty much in the blink of an eye.
  • Gintama:
    • In the Yagyuu arc, we have the top four of the Yagyuu clan, who are charged with protecting the main family: Toujou Ayumu, Nishino Tsukamu, Minamito Sui, and Kitaouji Itsuki. Although once the arc is over, only Toujou becomes a recurring character.
    • The ruler of Kabukichou district is a group of four influential figures, fittingly named the Shitennou. The members are: "Demon Mademoiselle" Saigou, the leader of the okama and is also a former warrior; "Peacock Princess" Kada, the owner of the largest casino in Kabukichou; "Grand Gentleman" Jirouchou, the leader of the yakuza; and "Empress" Otose, who is the landlady of the protagonists.
  • In GTO: The Early Years, supporting character Tsuyoshi Tsukai was a member of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of Enoshima Junior High School before joining the Oni-Baku gang. We don't see the other three, though.
  • Gundam:
    • G Gundam uses this trope in a similar way as Sailor Moon, with the Dark/Devil Gundam having four principal minions known as the Four Heavenly Kings, with three acting as leaders for the Devil Gundam's various forces (Grand Gundam leads the army, Gundam Heaven's Sword leads the air force, and Walter Gundam leads the navy) with Master Gundam as the overall leader.
    • The Four Heavenly Kings have Expies in SD Gundam Force in the form of the Kibao Hoarde, the four elite generals of the villainous samurai lord Kibaomaru.
    • The Gundam Meisters themselves in Gundam 00 were a group that would wreck havok on all sides of every major armed confilct until they centered the hatred and military might of the whole world on themselves.
  • In Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger, the fittingly-named Jyarei Four are Big Bad Nyanma's main subordinates and four of the most powerful opponents in the series. They're far more humanoid than the rest of the Jyarei Monsters, but individually are a bigger threat than most of them combined.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has the "Four Ramen Emperors of Tokyo", the four greatest ramen eaters in the city. They have absolutely nothing to do with the main story.
  • In Kill la Kill, Satsuki Kiryuin had an Elite Four who oversaw the organization of all of the clubs (Ira Gamagoori, Nonon Jakuzure, Uzu Sanageyama and Houka Inumuta). These four have the highest ranked Goku Uniforms after Ryuko and Satsuki. At one point, Ryuko has to fight through them all to get to Satsuki, just like the Trope Namer.
  • The Quirky Miniboss Squad in Monster Rancher calls themselves the Big Bad Four.
  • Jokingly mentioned in My Monster Secret. According to Mikan, Nagisa, Shiho, Karen and Youko are known as the 'Complacent Four'. They even have their own Red Baron names, with Shiho being 'the Pervert' and Nagisa being 'the Runaway Train'.
  • Naruto: Big Bad Orochimaru sends his followers the Sound Four to retrieve Sasuke for him. The pursuit team of good guys sent after them, by contrast, are a five-man squad. (Which conveniently allows everyone on the team to face down a Sound Four member, with Naruto himself facing Sasuke).
  • One Piece:
    • Among the Straw Hats, Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, and Usopp were ones who saved the East Blue from the Arlong Pirates and destroyed his fortress. They're also the only original members of the crew who can use Haki, though Usopp was swapped with Chopper at least once in Water 7.
    • The four strongest pirates in the world, who rule over the second half of the Grand Line (a.k.a. the New World) are called the Four Emperors. The original four were "Red Haired" Shanks, Kaido "of the Beasts", Charlotte "Big Mom" Linlin, and Edward "Whitebeard" Newgate. Later in the story, Marshall D. "Blackbeard" Teach kills Whitebeard and replaces him. Even later Luffy's act of surviving a battle against Big Mom causes news outlets to declare him the Fifth Emperor, though the other four don't seem to consider him a real part of the group. Following the defeat of Big Mom and Kaido, Luffy and Buggy the Clown officially enter the ranks, taking the places of the former two.
    • In Skypiea, there exist the Four Holy Priests of Skypiea that directly serve the Big Bad God Eneru. They're named after terms in Buddhist myth: Satori, Gedatsu, Shura, and Ohm/Omu.
    • The Thriller Bark Pirates have the Mysterious Four as the leading commanders, which consist of Absalom, Perona, Doktor Hogback, and their captain, Gecko Moria. These four are also the only members not to be zombies.
    • The Donquixote Pirates has this built into their organization structure; they have four top executives that answer directly to the captain Doflamingo, and each top executives handles different matters and has 3-4 lower-ranked execs under their command. The four are named after the card suits: Diamante (diamond), Trebol (club), Pica (spade), and Corazon (heart), with Doflamingo using "Joker" as his alias.
    • The Revolutionary Army has four army commanders, each operating in one of the four cardinal seas, that serve under Dragon and his chief-of-staff. They are Morley (West), Belo Betty (East), Lindbergh (South), and Karasu (North).
    • The four strongest enforcers of the Big Mom Pirates were known as the Sweet 4 Generals. However, shortly before the Straw Hats arrived in Big Mom's territory, one of the generals suffered a humiliating defeat offscreen, resulting in him being demoted and the group renamed into the Sweet 3 Generals. Not that it made the group any less dangerous.
  • In Pokémon, occasionally members of the Elite Four from the games will appear. However, Ash has never challenged them in official matches, though he's had a few off-the-job matches with members such as Lorelei, Drake and Bertha that almost always result in a Curb-Stomp Battle in their favor, because the prerequisite for doing so is winning a league, which Ash has never accomplished until Alola.
  • In Ronin Warriors, there are the Dark Warlords — Anubis, Sekhmet, Kale, and Dais — who serve as Talpa's generals.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Enishi's right-hand man's elite bodyguards are quadruplets explicitly named for the Four Heavenly Kings.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • The series manages a set of four lesser villains per story arc. The Amazon Trio are an exception, eventually followed by the more traditional Amazones Quartet. (In the manga, the Amazon Trio were Monster of the Week class and dealt with very quickly. The TV versions who get more screentime and characterization are in fact Ascended Extras.) The first set was explicitly called the "Shitennō".
    • There's another Monster of the Week promotion that gave one group two sets of these: First, the Four Phantom Sisters were the elite warriors of main villain Rubeus. However, Rubeus screws up enough times that the others reveal themselves: Rubeus, Esmeraude, Saphir, and their leader Prince Diamande are attacking Earth at the behest of the season's final Big Bad, their Treacherous Advisor Wiseman.
    • It is also shown in flashbacks to the Moon Kingdom, Princess Serenity/Sailor Moon and the four Sailor Soldiers were a "leader and four elite subordinates" group. Season two reveals that in the future, the current incarnation of the gang will be this for Crystal Tokyo, once an After the End world is pulled Back from the Brink and into prosperity by them; a happy ending even if they can't avert the disaster that will befall Earth as we know it in a few years.
    • In Sailor Moon Crystal, (as in the manga, the original material for the franchise) it's revealed that back during the days of the Moon Kingdom, Tuxedo Mask, then Prince Endymion, was served by his own elite four, who became brainwashed into being Queen Beryl's Shitennou.
    • Sailor Chibi-Moon will eventually have her own Elite Four as well, Sailor Ceres, Sailor Pallas, Sailor Juno, and Sailor Vesta. They were abducted by the Big Bad of the fourth season before they could awaken, and corrupted into the aforementioned Amazoness Quartet: individually known as Cere-Cere, Palla-Palla, Jun-Jun, and Ves-Ves.
  • Scrapped Princess has Cz, Steyr, Socom, and Galil, who make up the Peacemakers, a group of four incredibly powerful entities tasked with periodically wiping out the majority of the human race, in order to prevent humanity from developing past a medieval era. They are very good at what they do.
  • Parodied in the 4th Slayers movie, Slayers Gorgeous. Marlene call her elite guard the Shitennou because it sound cool, but there is actually only two of them, or three including Naga after she agree to help her.
  • Soul Hunter: The Shisei (Four Saints) of Kuryuu Island are Bunchuu's four most trusted men and possess powerful Elemental Powers. They are the one sent to stop the heroes from reaching the capital of the west.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the Spiral King had four elite generals who led his army. Each of them were based on The Four Gods and their names are a mashup of Nature Spirits and DNA nucleotides; each of them oversaw the oppression of the Human race in different war domains (land, sea, sky, and home defense).
  • In Toriko, the title character is one of the Four Heavenly Kings, the world's best Gourmet Hunters. The others are Coco, Sunny, and Zebra. They also each represent the five senses, with Toriko representing smell, Coco represents vision, Sunny representing touch, and Zebra representing hearing. Komatsu the chef completes the group, representing taste.
  • In Uchi No Maou Kamimasen Yo, Demon King Satan is the boss of the territory the characters live in. To challenge him for territory control, one must first defeat all of the Four Devas under him. Only one Deva has been revealed so far, Bifro the Zombie.
  • Violinist of Hameln has the four Mazoku Generals as acting Big Bads.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: The Four Heavenly Dragons are this, each of them being owned by Yuya and his three counterparts. The dragons are central to their owners' overall strategy and each dragon has a couple of upgraded forms. They are much more dangerous when they combine their powers, either by just being present and playing with their individual strengths or by becoming one (either two dragons become one powerful dragon or all four become the ultimate dragon). Zarc combines himself with all Four Heavenly Dragons to become said ultimate dragon, Supreme King Dragon Z-ARC. While Z-ARC is already incredibly powerful, he also owns corrupted and powerful Servant versions of the Four Heavenly Dragons, who provide him incredible offensive options and protection while he also protects them by his mere presence alone.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: In the Bad Future, the four last humans plan to change history and prevent the apocalypse from happening. All four of them serve as the biggest villains after the end of the Dark Signer arc, and against three of them, it takes the combined power of multiple duelist to defeat them. The one member who is defeated by the power of a single person is the Token Good Teammate of the team who pulls off a Mentor Occupational Hazard.
  • Only in the "Season 0" of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime, Kaiba has a quartet of game masters under his employ whom he mobilizes against Yugi after their first match: Ridley Sheldon, an elderly British doll collector and ventriloquist; Ryuichi Fuha, a high school student who was Born Lucky; Aileen Rao, a Canadian-Indian dancer skilled in tactical gaming; and Daimon, Kaiba’s caring butler preserved on life support who plays a zombie deck.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, the villains of the Maze City arc are the four rulers of Demon City, the Saint Beasts: Genbu the Stone Beast, Byakko the White Tiger, Seiryu the Blue Dragon, and Suzaku the Crimson Sparrow. They closely follow the symbolism of the cardinal directions: North (black / tortoise), West (white / tiger), East (blue / dragon), and South (red / phoenix).

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • During the Knightfall storyline Big Bad Bane's gang consisted of Bane himself and three henchmen: his loyal Number Two and former mentor Trogg; the sharply-dressed and Bald of Evil Zombie; and the smooth-talking falconer Bird. While initially it seemed that the gang had an uncommon Undying Loyalty to each other, as it turned out Bane himself wasn't nearly as loyal to his henchmen as they were to him.
    • Superman once had to contend with The Elite, a group of four self-styled Anti-Hero types who took it upon themselves to "rid the Earth of scum." Ruthless telekinetic Manchester Black was the team leader, Psycho Electro Coldcast was The Brute, Rampotatek aka "The Hat" was the team's Black Mage, and the Shapeshifting Menagerie was the Dark Chick of the group. They later reformed as the heroic Justice League Elite under the leadership of Manchester's sister Vera, though with more than four members.
  • The Disney Kingdoms take on The Haunted Mansion has a rule that ghosts of people who died within the Mansion's walls have a measure of control over the magic contained within, with this power being split up among four characters: Constance Hatchaway the black widow bride, Madame Leota, the Hatbox Ghost and Captain Gore the Pirate Ghost. While the first three are well known to fans of the ride, Captain Gore is a case of What Could Have Been: he was planned for the ride but ultimately scrapped.
  • The four Dark Judges in Judge Dredd, who take the role of Hanging Judge to the ultimate extreme by declaring life illegal. They're composed of Judge Mortis, Judge Fire, Judge Fear, and Judge Death, and are also close analogues for the Four Horsemen: Famine (Mortis), Conquest (Fire), War (Fear), and Death (of course, Death).
  • Marvel Comics:
    • The Fantastic Four are four humans that made a daring venture into space, where exposure to cosmic radiation gave them superpowers. Reed Richards, "Mister Fantastic," is the team leader and also The Smart Guy; Ben Grimm, "The Thing," is The Big Guy; Johnny Storm, "The Human Torch," is the Loveable Rogue / wildcard of the group; and Susan Richards, "The Invisible Woman," used to be The Chick, until John Byrne's run on the series promoted her to The Lancer.
    • The frightful Four are an Evil Knockoff of the above team created by F4 foe The Wizard specifically to be a counter to Marvel's First Family. While their membership has varied and at times included members much stronger than any individual member of the F4 like Sandman, Hydro-Man and even Deadpool (!), the Wizard's poor leadership and unrelenting obsession with besting the F4 rather than actually accomplishing anything productive has led to the team being defeated again and again and again.
    • X-Men villain En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse has his Four Horsemen, a group with varying membership due to replacing dead or defecting members. Depending on the story they range from mere Elite Mooks to Co-Dragons. A common thread across nearly every continuity is that Warren Worthington (Angel/Archangel) will spend some time as the Horseman Death.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • In the original Mirage Comics, Splinter explicitly trained the four turtles to be elite assassins so he could exact his revenge on Shredder for killing Yoshi. In future adaptations, he trains them for self-defense from Muggles and in case the legacy of Shredder comes back to haunt them. Still, even after training April, and other regulars come on board like Casey Jones, the four turtles are set apart as the best and most central members of their team.
    • In some incarnations Shredder has his Elite Guard comprised of four foot ninja in special robes, wide straw hats, and unique weapons. In one of the games from the 03 series they faced off against the turtles with the weapon most similar to theirs. Leo fought the sword user, Don fought the lance, Raph fought the trident, and Mike fought the ax since they were the only two left.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Hades from Disney's Hercules looses the Titans from their prison deep within the Earth, using their vengeance against Zeus to engineer a coup d'etat. Four Titans: Lythos (earth/rock), Hydros (water/ice), Pyros (fire/lava) and Stratos (air/wind) advance upon Mount Olympus, while a fifth Titan, Arges (a cyclops with no elemental affiliation) keeps Hercules busy. Apparently poor Arges isn't coup d'etat material (and the other four have to be pointed towards Olympus).

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there are four witches. The ones in north and south are good, while the ones in east and west are wicked. In one of the sequels, however, it is further explained that there were originally four wicked witches who took over Oz. The ones in north and south were overthrown by the good witches before the events of Wonderful Wizard.
  • Non-villainous example: in The Zombie Knight, the Rainlords of Sair have four members that are tied for strongest: Rayen Merlo, Melchor "Darktide" Blackburn, Xuan "Seadevil" Sebolt and Octavia "Red Lady" Redwater.
  • Harry Potter: Hogwarts was said to have been a group of four of "the greatest wizards and witches of their age": Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider
    • In Kamen Rider 555, the elite Orphnoch Dragons are a group known as Lucky Clover. However, they don’t follow the Sailor Moon villain formula because one (Mr. J, the Crocodile Orphnoch) is beaten early on and the fourth (Kitazaki, the Dragon Orphnoch) doesn't arrive until much later. As such, the Big Bad (the president of Smart Brain) and the three Lucky Clover members that are active at any given time are the four main villains of the series.
    • Kamen Rider Kiva has the same head writer. The Checkmate Four are the head honchos of the Fangire, and are the Big Bad and his three elite warriors. We even have the last to arrive being a Blood Knight who treats it all like a game, though Rook isn't quite the same flavor as Faiz's Kitazaki.
    • The antagonists of the second arc in Kamen Rider Gaim are the four New Generation Riders. Their arrival is marked with things going downhill for the heroes.
    • There tend to be four Roidmude executives present at any given time in Kamen Rider Drive. At the start we have Heart, Brain, Medic and Mashin Chaser, with the latter being replaced by Freeze not long after he defects. It's also revealed much later that the Roidmudes' ultimate plan, a ritual known as the "Promised Number", requires four Roidmudes who've achieved "Super Evolution" states, making this something of an invoked trope in-universe.
    • Kamen Rider Build: The Hokuto Three Crows and their boss, Kamen Rider Grease, together form a quartet of elite super soldiers who serve the government of Hokuto.
    • Kamen Rider Zero-One has Metsuboujinrai.NET, four prototype HumaGears with the highest level of intelligence, selected and hacked by the Ark to serve it. Though, the last two members don't appear late in the series, they've been assisting Jin and Horobi in their mission from the shadow since the first episode.
    • The Four Sages in Kamen Rider Saber are four of the best warriors in the Sword of Logos and act as advisors to its leader. Although they're dead by the time we hear of them, having been killed by the traitorous current Master Logos to keep them from interfering with his plans. They later get reanimated by Storious to act as his minions in the Final Battle.
  • Metal Heroes
    • Kyojuu Tokusou Juspion has the Evil Four Deva Kings, a four man team of infamous space mercenaries hired on by Mad Gallant to act as his enforcers.
    • ''Jikuu Senshi Spielban: Power in the Waller Empire is divided between four commanders - Queen Pandora, who interprets and conveys messages from Waller and acts as Dragon-in-Chief to the deity, General Deathzero, who commands Waller's machine army and armed forces, Doctor Bio, Waller's chief scientist and the head of its Bio Army, and Rikki, who leads Waller's spy force.
    • The Victorious Saints in Choujinki Metalder are the four highest-ranked lieutenants of God Neros, each commanding one of the Four Armies of the Neros Empire.
  • This happens in several Power Rangers and Super Sentai series:
    • The four leading generals of the Black Cross Army in Himitsu Sentai Gorenger - Sun Halo Mask, Iron Man Mask General Temujin, Volcano Mask General Magman and Commander-In-Chief Golden Mask, although they take turns acting as the Dragon to the Black Cross Fuhrer rather than appearing at once.
    • The Crime Big Four in the crossover between J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai and Goranger are a group of four warlords assisting Iron Claw in his plan, and who fuse together to fight the two Sentai teams in the climax.
    • The Zero Girls in Taiyou Sentai Sun Vulcan are an all-female group of spies/assassins who personally serve Führer Hell Saturn.
    • The Alien Hunters in Choushinsei Flashman are comprised of Sir Cowler and his four trusted men. There's technically a fifth, but he doesn't show up until the other four are dead.
    • During the midpoint of Gosei Sentai Dairanger, the Big Bad summons his four greatest warriors, who are even called the Gorma Shitennõ. These are a team of four powerful magicians, capable of fusing into a four-headed monster. These characters do not appear in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, though their fused form does appear as a simple Monster of the Week.
    • Similar to Goranger, Captain Zahab in Seijuu Sentai Gingaman has four top lieutentants - Sambash, Budoh, Iliess and Battobas, each of whom commands a different monster group in the Balban.
    • The Four Hell Kings from Mahou Sentai Magiranger, who ended up being so powerful that the heroes needed to gain their Legend forms just to be able to defeat two of them, though the other two they handled on their own. In Power Rangers Mystic Force, these villains are called the Barbarian Beasts.
  • Supernatural:
    • The four archangels were the very first angels created by God and are appropriately far more powerful than any other angel in Heaven. Like in Judeo-Christian mythology, they consist of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, with the fourth archangel being Lucifer instead of Uriel. All four of them together with God were able to weaken and seal away The Anti-God. They are also reflections of different aspects of God's own personality.
    • At the very top of the demonic hierarchy sits the four Princes of Hell, personally created by Lucifer to lead Hell's armies (obviously, his answer to the four Archangels of Heaven, which ironically he himself used to be a part of). They're all yellow-eyed demons and can easily go head-to-head with powerful angels. Only Azazel has any interest in actually following Lucifer's will, though. Ramiel, Dagon, and Asmodeus are content with simply living as they see fit on Earth.
  • Ultra Series:

    Myths 
  • In Greek Mythology there were the four Titan Lords who were of higher rank than the other Titans and presided over the four corners of the earth. They consisted of: Krios, Titan of the South and the stars, Koios, Titan of the north and wisdom, Hyperion, Titan of the east and the sun, and Iapetus, Titan of the west and mortality. They were under the command of the King of the Titans, Kronos.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • An out-of-Kayfabe example was All Japan Pro Wrestling's "Four Pillars of Heaven". Not a faction, but the four top men who carried the entire promotion on their backs in the 90s and early 2000s- Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue.
  • All Elite Wrestling invoked AJPW's Four Pillars with their own set of "Four Pillars", although rather than their top current attractions, they were positioned as the four top young stars who would carry them forward into the future—MJF (who, despite being the only heel of the four, was the one who cut the promo that named the Pillars), Darby Allin, Jungle Boy and Sammy Guevara, all considered incredibly talented wrestlers AEW could build its entire main event scene around in the future despite only being in their 20s. Though in their epic promo shootout in November 2021, CM Punk suggested to MJF that he had been replaced in the Four Pillars by Britt Baker (30 at the time), while a lot of fans in 2022 decided to replace Sammy with Wheeler Yuta, due to the former's lukewarmly received angle with Tay Conti and the latter's rising prominence and acclaimed matches.
  • WWE:
    • Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, John Cena, and Batista are officially dubbed as the "OVW 4". They aren't a faction (though Batista and Orton were part of a four-man stable), but rather wrestlers who all debuted early in the 21st century (2002 to be exact) and dominated the main event since.
    • Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch are dubbed as "The Four Horsewomen". They aren't a faction (save for Banks and Bayley who were a Tag Team), but they are credited for reviving WWE's women's division during the middle of the 2010s and elevating it to newer heights than it has ever been. Incidentally (or perhaps not), the name is derived from The Four Horsemen which was led by Chalotte's father.

    Religion 
  • The Four Heavenly Kings are a group under Sakra, the lord of the devas in Trayastrimsa. They serve to protect the domain from the Asuras and to protect the Buddha, his followers and the Dharma from danger.
  • Abrahamic traditions have a few groups:
    • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are harbringers of doom and destruction. They are fated to be unleashed at the beginning of the End Times. They are Anthropomorphic Personifications of Conquestnote , War, Famine, and Death and are named appropriately.
    • Hayyoth, or the Living Beings, are the four throne-bearing cherubs most prominently referrenced in the Book of Ezekiel. In some Abrahamic schools of thought, they are the angels closest to God.
    • Groups of angels are more emphasized outside of the canonical holy texts, which do not group individually named angels. In exegetical and other popular interpretationsthough, its fairly common to put together named angels: Michael and Gabriel are always there, as they are the most consistently named and agreed upon; many denominations of Christianity and Islam agree on Raphaelnote , but the books that mention him (Tobit and Enoch) aren't canon in Judaism; and only Islam and some denominations of Christianity usually have Uriel as the 4th, and he's not named in any of the canonical texts.

    Video Games 
  • Bayonetta has the Auditio, the four Cardinal Virtues personified as gigantic angels: the two-headed dragon Fortitudo, the golem-like Temperantia, the tentacled abomination Iustitia, and the mechanical dragon Sapientia. All of them are grotesque, ornate, and monstrous, and they cause massive destruction with their mere presence.
  • The Vicious Ones, the main antagonists of Beyond the Beyond, have four members (winged archer Dagoot, grotesque magician Yeon, and Big Bad Black Magic duo Ramue and Shutat).
  • Many enemies from Dark Souls have a four theme:
  • In Eternal Sonata, Count Waltz has four agents working directly under him: Legato, his right-hand man, Fugue, the big lug Tuba, the cruel and calculating Fugue and the Dual Wielding assassin Rondo. He actually has two other agents, Claves and Serenade, but both are spies and don't work directly under him.
  • The Final Fantasy series has a recurring group of enemies often referred to as the Four Fiends, sometimes the Four Elemental Fiends or Archfiends. They usually double as a Four-Element Ensemble, since the individual members are often associated with the elements of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. The characters themselves vary, but some variant of the same "Four Fiends" team has appeared in Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IV (and its direct sequel, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years), Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Bravely Default (a Spiritual Successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light), Final Fantasy Dimensions, Dissidia Final Fantasy, and Final Fantasy All the Bravest.
  • Fire Emblem
  • God Hand: The 4 Devas are a group of baddies who's out to resurrect their master, the ancient demon Angra Mainyu, to take over the world. They are Belze (he has the highest pecking order of the four), Azel (the Evil Counterpart), Elvis and Shannon. Played with when there's the "5th Deva" in form of Dr. Ion; he's actually merely the 4 Devas' ally.
  • The Millenion crime gang in Gungrave has the Big Four, the elite members who answers directly from their leader, Harry McDowell. They are Bob Poundmax, Balladbird Lee, Bear Walken and Bunji Kugashira. Brandon Heat, our protagonist, was once a part of the group until he died (and resurrected as Beyond the Grave) and Bunji, his apprentice, took his place.
  • Half-Minute Hero: Discussed Trope (and Enforced Trope) in Evil Lord 30 Mode, as the Evil Lord believes that he is not complete without a Fabulous Foursome and goes out to recruit them.
  • Half-Minute Hero 2: The Second Coming: The Four Ultimate Kings are the strongest commanders of the Ultimate Evil Lord Metsvolos.
  • The Four Heavenly Kings of Orochi in The King of Fighters, each with control over a different element. Orochi also has Four Earthly Kings, who are weaker and less prominent than the Heavenly ones; together, they form the Eight Heads of Orochi. The Hizoku (a ninja clan with suspicious motives) has its own set of Heavenly Kings - Lin, Sai, Ran and Chat.
  • The four parallel bosses in the "Heroes in Another Dimension" mode of Kirby Star Allies (Parallel Woods, Parallel Kracko, Parallel Meta Knight and Parallel Dedede) are referred to as the "Four Otherworldly Kings" in the Japanese, Chinese and Korean versions.
  • The main villains throughout the Lufia series are the four "Sinistrals", also known as "divine beings" or simply gods. They are Gades, Amon, Erim and Daos, and apparently represent the evils of Destruction, Chaos, Death and Terror, respectively. They are ruled by another being known as Arek, who never interferes, and it's plausible that other divine beings may exist, but they never appear.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, before taking on the final boss, Link must first defeat the Four Guardians, each of which is a boss that yields a Plot Coupon mask after its defeat, freeing the spirit of one of the Four Giants. Once all of the Giants are free, Link must summon them to hold up the moon and keep it from crashing into Termina. The Four Giants clearly take their inspiration from the Buddhist Four Heavenly Kings, each guarding one of the four directions to which Link must travel to free them—the Southern Swamp, the Northern Mountain, the Western Ocean, and the Eastern Canyon.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has the four Divine Beasts running wild in the corners of the map, wreaking havoc on nearby settlements. Although defeating them isn't necessary to take on Calamity Ganon, doing so aids Link in the final battle.
  • Mega Man
    • Mega Man Zero: Big Bad Copy X has his Four Guardians (literally called Shitennou in Japan), his 4 personal guards as well as generals of their own armies: Harpuia (the air force), Fefnir (the army), Leviathan (the navy) and Phantom (the espionage and intel unit).
    • Averted, due to resource limitations, in Mega Man X2. The X-Hunters were supposed to have a fourth, female member, but neither she nor Violen's second form made it into the game.
  • In Monster Girl Quest, the main antagonists for most of the game are referred to as the "Four Heavenly Knights" and each one of them is connected to one of the four elements. They are Alma Elma the Succubus Queen (Wind), Tamamo the Nine-Tailed Fox (Earth), Eruberite the Slime Queen (Water), and Granberia the Dragon Knight (Fire, though she technically has a mastery of all four elements).
  • Monster Hunter:
    • Monster Hunter Generations has the Fated Four, the game's four flagship monsters (Astalos, Gammoth, Mizutsune, and Glavenus) that all get their own specially-animated cutscenes and a lot of importance in-game.
    • Monster Hunter: World: before facing the final boss of the main story you have to take down four Elder Dragons, significantly stronger and physiologically different enemies compared to all the previous wyverns you hunted. Each has their own thematic powers: Kushala Daora rules over winds, Teostra is a dragon of fire, Vaal Hazak represents death and decay, and Nergigante smashes you in the face really, really hard.
  • Ninja Gaiden:
  • The four Knights of Danika in Ogre Battle 64. You can also get a maximum of four Black Knights.
  • The Four Devas in the original Ogre Battle.
  • The English version of Pokémon is the Trope Namer, a localization of "Shitennou" or "Four Heavenly Kings".
    • Each and every game (except Sword and Shield) has the player's journey to the league end with beating the Elite Four, a group of four powerful trainers, second only to the Champion in terms of skill. After beating them you unexpectedly get to face the resident Champion himself or herself and take the title, ending the plot.
    • In Platinum, Cyrus has four Commanders under him, though only three are actually battled.
    • There are also four Team Rocket Executives in HeartGold and SoulSilver, and earlier a group of Four Rocket Brothers in Red and Blue. The Let's Go! games have four Rocket Sisters, though they're not located in the same place and only claim to be a team in their pre-battle dialog.
    • In Pokémon X and Y, Team Flare leader Lysandre has four female scientists.
    • The Fighting Dojo in Red and Blue and its remakes has four flunkie trainers arranged symmetrically under their Karate Master boss. It's possible to skip some of them with clever movement, though.
    • The Orre region doesn't have a Pokémon League, but Pokémon Colosseum has the four admins of the evil organization Cipher: Miror B., Dakim, Venus, and Ein. They're fought as bosses throughout the game and rematched in the final dungeon and post-game.
  • In Resident Evil Village, the titular village is ruled by four "Lords" under the authority of a figure known as Mother Miranda. Ethan has to contend with each of them in order of Lady Dimetrescu, Lady Beneviento, Lord Moreau and Lord Heisenberg.
  • Ring Fit Adventure has the Four Masters, a quartet of fitness gurus who each specialize in one of the game's four types of exercise (arms, core, legs, and yoga).
  • River City Ransom has the Zombies, a faction of the Plague comprised exactly of four members. In the Japanese version, they were known as the Shitennō.
  • In Street Fighter II, after beating all the other characters, the player then got to challenge Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison, who form the "Four Devas" of Shadaloo. The series introduced more members to the organization later, but the only change to the four is F.A.N.G. taking Sagat's place when the latter left.
    • In a subversion of the traditional usage of the trope, the leader of the organization (M. Bison) is considered part of the group of four, rather than being a separate, superior entity.
  • In Summoner the role of Emperor Murod's Dragon is filled by the Four Riders: The Serpent Rider, the Tiger Rider, the Ghost Rider and the Phoenix Rider.
  • Super Metroid calls attention to its four strongest bosses (excepting Big Bad Mother Brain) with a golden statue of the four clustered together that blocks the entrance to the final level. While the group is not explicitly given a name in the game, some sources refer to them as the Four Guardians (Kraid, Phantoon, Draygon, and Ridley).
  • In Tales of Xillia, King Gaius has a group of four elite generals known as the Chimeriad, all of whom are faced as bosses at various points in the game. They are Jiao, Wingul, Presa, and Agria. They also double as a Four-Element Ensemble, since Jiao specializes in earth, Presa specializes in water and ice, Wingul specializes in air and electricity (and dabbles in fire), and Agria specializes in fire.
  • In the first Tokyo Xtreme Racer game, there are two Quirky Miniboss Squad racing teams whose name starts in "Four" (Four Devas and Four Devils), consisting of four members each.
  • Touhou Project:
    • "Four Devas of the Mountains", a group of four powerful oni who used to rule the Youkai Mountain, and then went their separate ways when they left the Outside World for Gensokyo. Suika Ibuki and Yugi Hoshiguma are confirmed to be Devas, while Kasen Ibaraki is strongly implied and later confirmed to be the third.
    • In Touhou Kikeijuu ~ Wily Beast and Weakest Creature, the Animal Realm is ruled by four factions. The Kiketsu Family is led by the stage 4 boss, Yachie Kicchou, and the Keiga Family is led by Saki Kurokoma, the Bonus Boss. The Gouyaku Alliance's leader, Toutetsu, is mentioned but does not make an appearance. The last, unnamed faction, has no named leader. The appearance of Keiki and her idol as a new faction is what kicks off the plot of the game.
  • The SNES version of Wario's Woods has the elf Dedar claim that the final four opponents Toad faces — himself, the knight Carlton, the rabbit Harry H, and Wario himself — never lose. It’s up to you and Toad to beat them all.
  • In Wild ARMs, the leaders of the Demon army are called the Quarter Knights. Wild AR Ms 2 follows this up with a four-member Recurring Boss squad known as Cocytus, who become the party's main antagonists for the first half of the game.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Card-Carrying Villain Optimatus from Loonatics Unleashed freed four select villains in the Loonatics' Rogues Gallery from prison capsules, to occupy / overrun the Loonatics while Optimatus engineers a coup d'etat on planet Blanc. The four Optimatus selects are Massive (The Big Guy), Mallory Mastermind (The Smart Guy), Weathervane (Berserker), and Sypher (Subversive).
  • Mummies Alive!: The eponymous mummies are four warriors from Ancient Egypt who in life were guardians of the young Prince Rapses. In the modern day, they serve as guardians to Presley, the current incarnation of their original charge.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: The Magic High Commission are a group of powerful magical beings at the head of the Bureaucracy of Magic, created by Glossaryck to protect the magic of the universe. The comisssion consists of Heckapoo, Rhombulus, Ommnitraxus Prime, and Lekmet.
  • The Foot Clan in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) has the Foot Elite, a group of four Foot Ninja who are much stronger than their regular counterparts. In their first appearance, they almost managed to kill Leonardo.

    Real Life 
  • The first instance of shitennō in Japan dated back in the Heian period, where famous samurai popularized as a Demon Slayer Minamoto no Yorimitsu was constantly accompanied by four retainers that helped him in his tales of demon-slaying (and for good measure, attaches The Four Gods in it): Sakata Kintoki (Suzaku), Usui Sadamitsu (Genbu), Urabe no Suetake (Seiryuu) and Watanabe no Tsuna (Byakko).
  • During the Sengoku Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu is known to have four top retainers, known with their fierceness in battle and their Undying Loyalty, which saved his bacon so many times and helped him a lot in his journey to unify Japan (sort of, he did enjoy the fruits of unification created by his predecessors), and also dubbed them shitennō in the same vein of Yorimitsu above. These include: Honda Tadakatsu, Sakai Tadatsugu, Sakakibara Yasumasa and Ii Naomasa.

 
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The Dark Masters

The Dark Masters are the fourth major antagonistic force in the series, consisting of four powerful mega Digimon: Piedmon, Machinedramon, Puppetmon and MetalSeadramon.

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