Sometimes evil is the best way to go - at least when you are trying to make money - but that isn't always the case. Sure if you keep the populace uneducated and you block the internet you may have a state that is less likely to riot in the short term. You may be able to tax your people an unreasonable sum in order to make money. Maybe you can loot one of your neighbors once in a while when cash is low. Who wouldn't agree that this is a profitable idea?
Well, just about every decent ruler out there. Kindness towards your people will pay off more in the long-term. Sure it may cost money to build those schools, roads and police stations, but having a good education system, better transportation routes and security is good for the long term. This isn't due to capitalism, communism, or any form of government. It's common sense. If your people are able to earn a substantial amount of money through a job that requires education through an economy that's connected to many foreign countries, then you can get more revenue in taxes. Attacking your neighbors costs money. You have to pay for those military forces don’t you? Plus, if you can't beat your neighbors or their allies, then you have a serious problem on your hands.
Whereas Videogame Caring Potential is similar to this trope, it doesn't always pay off in $$$. Exporting that surplus of oil to a country that needs it is going to pay off more than say, sitting on it to watch that country suffer. Good diplomatic relationships and good internal PR go a long way. Reducing squalor, building parks, designing sports arenas and constructing defensive structures goes a long way to improving that PR and the better PR you have the more you can tax without starting a riot. The people are happy, you are happy and the money is flowing.
A subtrope of Moral Pragmatist. Aversions of this trope should be added to Evil Pays Better. Compare it to Videogame Caring Potential and Cut Lex Luthor a Check. Often this type of system relies on the Power of Trust, the latter of which takes inventing things instead of common sense management. This is related to Rousseau Was Right. See also Mercy Rewarded.
- Zig-Zagged in The Boys. Many of the "superheroes" were former supervillains that only turned to heroics because Vought contracts and comic royalties paid better than robbing banks ever could. Although very few went through a genuine Heel–Face Turn, instead just becoming better at hiding their lack of morals. One notable example was the Thor expy Stormfront, who was an actual Nazi who "quit" being a villain to join the Alternate Company Equivalent Avengers.
- Austin Powers: In every movie, Number Two will tell Doctor Evil that they're making a lot more money with legitimate business operations than evil plans. In response, Doctor Evil says "SILENCE, NUMBER TWO!" and then does the Evil Plan anyway.
- Subverted in Casablanca when Louis is making his case that Rick's cynical "I stick my neck out for nobody" policy is all an act. Rick invokes this trope, but Louis contradicts him.
Louis: In 1935, you ran guns to Ethiopia. In 1936, you fought in Spain. On the Loyalist side.Rick: I got well paid for it, on both occasions.
- Jerin's grandmothers in A Brother's Price were common thieves, until one of them was caught by some military official and argued that thieves would make excellent spies for the government. She succeeded, and after the war, the surviving sisters were knighted. Jerin's family is quite well off when the novel takes place, and while they do have the skills to be excellent thieves, they are firmly on the side of good and government.
- This is one of the core beliefs of the heroic characters in Atlas Shrugged — only honesty and genuine skill (not force, fraud, or coercion) bring profit.
- Max Rebo, the elephantine keyboardist from Return of the Jedi, joined the Rebellion in the extended universe because they had the best food (his species, Ortolans, come from a planet where food is scarce and so their culture revolves around finding it).
- Jedi Apprentice: New Apsolon industrialist Manex rejects the idea that he's a Corrupt Corporate Executive, pointing out that an economy where everyone from CEO's like him to the laborers are making money means that people have more money to spend on his businesses, and that New Apsolon's neighbors will have less reservations about trading with them when everyone is being treated equally (as opposed to the costly embargo they inflicted due to the recently overthrown dictatorship and its Fantastic Caste System).
- For a looser definiton of "Good", we have the Firefly episode "Out of Gas". A flashback shows Mal and Zoe are being held at gunpoint by three bad guys, one of whom is Jayne. They manage to get him to switch sides on the spot by offering him better pay and accommodations.
- Leverage: Before teaming up, each member of the crew used their skills to make a living stealing on behalf of bad guys. The first time they used their skills to take down a bad guy, they made enough money to (in Hardison's words) "go legit and buy an island".
- In Medieval II: Total War, there is a point where you can make enough trade agreements to cause valuable good prices for merchants to skyrocket. Building structures that add protection (like walls), provide entertainment (like race tracks and inns), provide security and law (like the Mayor's house and garrison quarters), and other such structures that raise the people's happiness is not only beneficial, but a necessity. Providing them places to work (like farms), places to trade (like ports and markets), and structures to increase said trade (like shipwrights and roads) will increase profits by a substantial amount. If you use loyal, non-corrupted, and smart family members to run cities, you can increase public happiness further. All that this means is that population growth will accelerate and you can get away with charging higher taxes. Everyone wins!
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, there is a mission near the end of the game where you need to ask all the city rulers to send soldiers to protect the capital. Each ruler will assign you a mission that you need to finish first. If you go the extra mile and complete all the optional objectives, you will get more units to help fight and better rewards.
- In Fallout 3, there is a mission to help Moira Brown, an eccentric yet friendly and aspiring scientist, make a handy survival guide. If you risk life and limb to make a very informative book and tell her honestly about your results, you will make a better book and get a bunch of extra rewards, the least of which being people giving you free stuff in gratitude for helping save their lives.
- In the Oasis quest, accelerating Harold's growth, slowing it, or peacefully putting him out of his misery will earn you various rewards. Accelerating his growth gives you a hood that increases Agility by +1 and Sneak by +10, along with Powered Armor. Slowing his growth gives you a Missile Launcher and a garb that increases both Perception and Agility by +1. Finally, euthanizing him by destroying his heart gives you 10% damage reduction. Meanwhile, cruelly killing him with fire will turn the Treeminders hostile and fail the quest, thus no rewards for you.
- Having Good Karma allows you to befriend Fawkes, an absurdly powerful and intelligent Super Mutant, after you free him in Vault 87. He's also the strongest companion in the game, thanks to his massive health pool, deadly laser minigun, and surprisingly fast running speed.
- Fallout: New Vegas: There are a lot of opportunities to do both good things and evil things, and there are rewards for both. However, there is a general trend of higher rewards for more effort and often times the evil route is a shortcut with limited rewards while the good route is more rewarding in the long term.
- In the Old World Blues expansion, several optional side quests to aid members of the Think Tank will result in an easy way to end the expansion without bloodshed. If you do, you can continue to take advantage of the extra caps, magazines, and energy cells they give you every day whenever you go back to The Sink.
- Helping the Brotherhood of Steel with their internal conflicts will net you power armor training, something you would otherwise not be able to get until much later in the game.
- Increasing your Freeside rep by helping The Kings or The Followers will result in members of The Kings periodically approaching you and giving you free stuff.
- Increasing your rep with any major town will result in better prices at their stores. The best way to do this is to go out of your way to help people in that town (defending Goodsprings from the Powder Gangers, getting a new sheriff for Primm, etc). In contrast the evil option would be to just murder everyone. This will allow you to loot the place, but deny you the additional merchants, which can be more harmful in the long run.
- Increasing your rep with the Followers of the Apocalypse will first get you some free healing items every day, and later get you an honorary membership which gains you access to their safe house. You do this by helping them provide aid to the people of Freeside, cleaning up drug addicts, fetching medicine, helping refugees, and other acts of humanitarianism.
- In Quarry Junction a man will straight up pay you after the fact if you fix the town's pet mole rat’s leg and/or fix their generator. The evil option (killing the mole rat and wrecking the generator) will only net you mole rat meat and scrap.
- In Honest Hearts, killing or turning hostile any friendly NPC's triggers "Chaos in Zion" and forces you into a shorter alternate quest, denying you any of the rewards or achievements earned from the normal path.
- In StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, one of the first missions involves fleeing Mar Sara. At certain points in the mission, stranded survivors will call for aid. If you go to retrieve them with enough forces, you can end up with a positive net gain in saved resources. Similarly, in the mission where you bail out Narud, it is almost impossible to win the mission on hard mode if you don't bother to search and save the surviving mercenaries scattered around the map. This happens again when you fight in the underground caverns on Char where rescuing lost terran units (especially the firebats) is almost a must. In-universe, helping Tosh and Ariel Hanson will free many dissenters and intellectuals who opposed Mengsk and help humanity in its search for a cure for infestation respectively.
- In BioShock, rescuing Little Sisters gets you less ADAM than harvesting them, but you'll get extra rewards that cannot be obtained otherwise (like the almighty Hypnotize Big Daddy Plasmid), including additional ADAM, making the difference in ADAM negligible, but much poorer in terms of exclusive Tonics and Plasmids. The same is true in BioShock 2, which also has several choices of whether to kill or spare certain characters. Sparing the first one has them help you out with a few security bots in a later fight, but otherwise you get no in-game reward for either option (it does, however, affect Eleanor's morality). There is, however, the "Savior" achievement which requires that you spare them all and save every Little Sister, while there is no equivalent "evil" achievement.
- In the Civilization series of games the Republic and Democracy forms of government place some restrictions on your foreign policy (harder to initiate or sustain a war effort) and support for military units, and your populace gets discontented quicker when you are engaged in war (even those not initiated by you)—not exactly easy for a player bent on conquest (at least early and mid game), compared to Despotism, Monarchy, or Communism. But the economic benefits of these government forms (especially Democracy) is astronomical, to the point that late in the game the player can still pay for a large military (with advanced technology paid for with more money that can go into research or tech trades) if they're so inclined, and become a formidable superpower. Or they're more likely to achieve the technological victory (first ship to Alpha Centauri).
- In first and second game Democracy was almost a Game-Breaker, since it gave you immunity to corruption - your empire could run smoothly without any loss of money from its sheer size.
- In Freeciv, the FOSS remake of Civilization, running a democratic regime is a common endgame choice (the other being Communism, which allows repression of the populace to prevent anyone from opposing your command economy and large military) not because it is nicer to your citizens, but because it allows for greater income and most of all, it eliminates corruption meaning that there is no loss of income in cities far from the capital and nobody can pay your units or cities to betray you and join them.
- Speaking of Alpha Centauri:
- Lal and his Peacekeepers are The Remnant of United Nations. While his faction is somewhat cirppled with Vast Bureaucracy, all his bases can grow bigger, his people are happier and less likely to riot. His preferred social choice is of course Democracy, giving him further advantages toward expansion and nullifying his efficiency problems.
- Running Democracy is the most effective choice for social engineering, since it gives population bonus and efficient economy with price of costly military. Other choices are Police State, which lowers your efficiency and Fundamental, which hurts your research.
- Picking a Value of your faction is basically a choice between Knowledge (research bonus and efficient economy) and Wealth (production boost and more profitable economy), since Power makes things much more costly to build and doesn't help your economy in any way.
- In later stages, there is a "Future Society" tab, which provides you with Eudaimonia, giving overall bonuses to just everything aside of warfare and Cybernetic, which makes your faction an efficiency and research powerhorse. This is contrasted with Thought Control, which is perfect for warmongers, but extremely costly to run.
- And then it's all put on its head with Cloning Vats - a Secret Project, that removes all the disadvantages of both Power and Thought Control.
- There is also Yang and his Human Hive with their faction immunity to inefficiency, so he can run Police State with Planned Economy without any problems - something that can kill any other faction.
- Come Mass Effect 3, taking Paragon choices throughout the Mass Effect series results in far greater war assets than Renegade choices. Justified since Paragon Shepard is, in general, much more conciliatory than Renegade Shepard and is thus much better at building alliances. More to the point, in a renegade run most of the people needed for the best results (especially the ones that let you recruit both sides of a conflict for massive asset boosts) are already dead.
- Hawke can make this argument in Dragon Age II, but Isabella counters that they’re too busy being The Fettered to enjoy the benefits anyway.
- An annual mini-game festival event in The Lord of the Rings Online has a storyline where you can either choose to help homeless townsfolk, or help the mayor and festival organizers who exploited them. If you help the mayor, he rewards you with some fancy clothing. If you help the townsfolk they reward you with ragged old clothing — but about a month later, when they're presumably all doing well for themselves again (and when most players have already stopped thinking about the festival), they send you something really nice and extravagant.
- In the Baldur's Gate series, the Reputation mechanic (which increases by doing good quest solutions and falls by killing innocents and certain rare quest solutions) is tied into shop prices. 'Good' options may give you less gold, but also lowers the prices on practically everything you'd use said gold on. In addition, good solutions usually offer rare artifacts or party members you can't get otherwise, several quests require a certain reputation to get (and most of the actuallly good quests are for high Reputation players) and in most cases the 'evil' quests simply boil down to doing good deeds anyway but being rude about it in dialogue afterwards.
- Tomb Raider III:
- If you decide to help Lara's allies during fights, they will survive much longer (or even make it to the end), being helpful in future fights.
- In London it's entirely possible to ditch the Damned and their embalming fluid. However, only by helping them will Lara gain access to one of the secrets in Lud's Gate.
- Zigzagged in the City-Building Series:
- In Pharaoh, the Kingdom rating (how your city is thought of by other cities) is one of the most important ones. It's usually raised by responding to other cities' requests, and falls when you ignore them (and if it falls low enough, you'll be attacked by fellow Egyptians).
- Zeus: Master of Olympus and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom:
- City-states don't mind if you attack rival cities (if anything, they admire you for it), and only care that you attacked them personally. You lose favor with them by making demands of other cities or failing to respond to their requests, so you can always bribe yourself back into their good graces (and your rating increases when you give gifts). However, conquering other cities is the only way to make them trade with you if they aren't already (in Emperor, it's the more efficient way if you already have a strong military, as otherwise you need to send a gift, wait for the gift to arrive, and then send a request for trade).
- Citizens will only tolerate a tax rate higher than Normal for a few months. However, matching the salaries with the taxes not only prevents this discontent, it puts more people in the workforce.
- Black & White: Many quests have both Good and Evil completion options. The Evil path sometimes provides the same reward or an equivalent one to the Good, but often gives no reward or an outright punishment. Overall, Good gods get plenty of extra Miracles and even start the final level with a bonus village, a huge asset.
- In ReBoot, Dot Matrix was able to stop the Crimson Binome's pirate raid by parleying with him and his accountant. After showing him that his pirate profit margins were lower than her own rates for honest cargo hauling, she hired him and his ship.
- Jackie Chan Adventures: In "The Dog And Piggy Show", Jackie tries to persuade Tohru to leave the Dark Hand and join Section 13, saying that they have dental coverage and every Tuesday is "Donut Day". In "Day Of The Dragon", Tohru finally makes his Heel–Face Turn, specifically repeating that Tuesdays are "Donut Days".
- A strange case in the Justice League two-parter "Injustice For All". Lex Luthor is keeping Ultra-Humanite involved in the Injustice League's plans by simply offering to pay him a lot of money, routinely doubling it when Humanite looks like he'll turn. Batman convinces Humanite to betray Luthor and disrupt the plan by simply doubling Luthor's payment. For what it's worth, Humanite didn't even need the money for himself; he simply wanted to make a charitable donation to his favorite art media channels (though it's implied part of this is to annoy Luthor from the cell next-door in prison).