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"Kingdoms are good, Empires are evil."

In a story that involves a war between two different countries, groups, organizations, or factions, a common way of making the goodies better and the baddies worse is to give both sides certain stereotypical governments or administrative forms.

The good guys are often democratic members of The Federation, or at least led by some sort of council. If there is a monarch, it'll be The Good King or The High Queen, and they will always listen to their advisers and, if they have a veto, would never dream of overruling the prime minister or chief commander. The Supporting Leader is often a member of this council. In some cases, the council's commitment to consensus rule may get in the way of taking action against the villains; this can provide drama for an episode, as the heroes have to take matters into their own hands and act without the approval of their bosses.

The villains, on the other hand, will usually be a totalitarian dictatorship led by a single Evil Overlord, a supreme king or emperor, or perhaps queen/empress. The dictator may have a council of advisers, but with the exception of The Starscream, none of them are in any doubt as to who is really the boss. If there is such a council, it will be hand-picked by the Big Bad rather than being elected or passing some sort of qualification test, and will often include The Dragon.

This trope at times can be so strong that any monarchies featured within the story (either good or evil) will be converted into democracies or republics by the story's end, just to show how superior democracy is as a form of government. These transitions nearly always happen more smoothly than they would in real life. There's no jockeying for power by The Remnant: those who want to keep the monarchy going. The kindly prince who gracefully abdicates would never find himself a target of assassination either by enemies of his former administration or by fanatics who see him as a class-traitor, kingdoms never find themselves splitting up into smaller groups acrimoniously opposed to each other, and of course the Republic doesn't face issues concerning class, economy and wealth distribution.

This trope originates in the wake of the success of anti-monarchical revolutions, The American Revolution and The French Revolution. The American Revolution is commonly invoked as an example of brave Americans fighting for democracy and freedom from the tyrannical British monarchy. note  The French Revolution is also portrayed like this though with greater focus on fears of mob rule, with the revolutionaries more likely to be shown as Well Intentioned Extremists or He Who Fights Monsters. In either case, neither revolution is shown in the context of its time and place, with attention to its complexity and multiple causes. So it directly feeds into this trope's binary opposition between a Republic that is Good and an Empire or Kingdom that is Bad. What both revolutions did achieve was that it was the first time it was proved that a republic can govern and rule over a large area of land, taking apart what was formerly believed to be the main argument in favor of Kingdoms, that republics were good for city states but not for large areas.

This trope often gets applied retroactively to times and places that precede The Enlightenment. It can go as far back as The Roman Republic and its wars against various monarchies or the Greek city-states fighting the Persian Empire. These city-states were decidedly not very democratic by modern standards but they were held up as (admittedly flawed) models by the American Founding Fathers, the English Parliamentarians, the French Revolutionaries and, earlier, Niccolò Machiavelli. Remember the old line about winners writing history.

May be a case of Writer on Board, but if it is, it is not always deliberate. See also The Empire, The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified and Disaster Democracy. When the latter tries to pose as the former, it's a People's Republic of Tyranny.

Note: When editing this page, for the love of God, No Real Life Examples, Please! History is Written by the Victors, so of course every war is going to be portrayed like this, making it Truth in Television for people in the winning country and Reality Is Unrealistic for people in the losing country. This includes World War II.

Contrast Democracy Is Bad and People's Republic of Tyranny. That trope and this one here are on opposing ends of the Romanticism Versus Enlightenment match. Compare Villainous Badland, Heroic Arcadia, where the land's appearance and landscapes mirror its inhabitants' morality.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Played with in Altair: A Record of Battles, with the lead country of Türkiye being a stratocracy rather than a republic, where the military manages affairs of state, but is still described as highly meritocratic and egalitarian. This is contrasted with the brutally expansionistic Balt-Rhein Empire, which routinely commits Rape, Pillage, and Burn across the continent. Needless to say, the story doesn't pull many punches telling the reader who the good guys and bad guys are.
  • It's not entirely clear whether Code Geass subverts or plays this straight, the antagonists for most of the series are the Britannian Empire, and the Black Knights form the United States of Japan and United Federation of Nations. But earlier the EU was the only major power that was democratic and was so weak it was barely even mentioned.
    • The spin off series Akito the Exiled makes it clear that the EU wasn't functionally much better than Britannia, being just as elitist and racist, and corrupt to its core.
    • By the end of the series, the series ultimately plays it straight with the United Federation of Nations against Britannia.
  • Averted in Crest of the Stars where war between monarchistic Humankind Abh Empire and democratic United Humankind is shown to be the case of Grey-and-Gray Morality with neither side being completely good or bad. Partially inverted with the Abh Empire being A Lighter Shade of Gray of this conflict.
  • Completely inverted in the old OVA series Genesis Survivor Gaiarth; the sparse backstory had an Empire and a Republic destroy each other in a cataclysmic war, but it's clearly stated that it was the Empire who was noble and the Republic who was villainous.
  • Even Though I'm a Former Noble and Single Mother has a Kingdom that's run by The Good King and is where main character Shirley currently lives, and an Empire plagued by problems like excessive taxes, corrupt nobles, illegal drugs and slavery. The Empire originally wasn't that bad, but after its previous emperor and empress died, Albert succeeded them and caused it to enter its current state.
  • Played straight and subverted in Gundam metaseries, both The Federation and The Empire never portrayed as completely good or evil, The Good Kingdom is often the only one that's Lawful Good or Neutral Good, but tend to be powerless and portrayed as a victim of the war raging between aforementioned larger factions.
  • Subverted in Magic Knight Rayearth. Autozam is one of the invading countries. But unlike Chizeta and Fahren, which are monarchies, Autozam has a president. Autozam's representative, Eagle Vision (who is the president's son), comes closest to succeeding in becoming Pillar. And while he is an antagonist, he is certainly not a villain.
  • Outlaw Star has a subversion in the Ctarl-Ctarl Empire. Although they try to present themselves as an empire expanding into "Human" space, most people just view them as annoying.
  • Subverted in Overlord (2012) with the Re-Estize kingdom and Baharuth empire; while Re-Estize's ruler is The Good King, his kingdom is rife with inequality, rampant crime and scheming, selfish, short-sighted and arrogant nobles that he's largely powerless to stop, while The Emperor, despite having come into power through bloody, machiavellian means, despite still being ruthless by necessity, is largely a Reasonable Authority Figure who genuinely seeks to improve his populace's lot and assigns positions according to meritocratic principle rather than connections, wealth or birthright.
  • While the protagonists of Pumpkin Scissors are part of The Empire, one gets the impression that this trope still applies in respect to them and the enemy nation of the Republic of Frost.
  • Subverted in Zoids: Chaotic Century, where a Republic and Empire are at war, but neither side is portrayed as particularly villainous. (besides a few General Ripper types and an Evil Chancellor on the Empire side).

    Comic Books 
Done so many times in comics during the early Cold War.
  • When Captain Marvel overthrows an evil monarch in that era he always had a democracy set up.
  • Parodied in the intro to the paperback collection of Tank Vixens: The Pan-Vulpine Coalition are cheerful freedom loving peoples who express their love for peace through a maniacal obsession with guns and uniforms. The Vole Imperium, on the other hand, believe in centralized authority and unified galactic government. Therefore, they must be stopped at any cost!


    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars involves heroic rebels fighting to restore the Republic from the iron grip of the Emperor.
    • The Prequel Trilogy is a subversion, as the benign Galactic Republic is turned into the evil Empire not through a military coup but by popular vote. The vote was masterminded by Palpatine's Evil Plan, but it was still approved by the Senate. He was thus a President Evil prior to becoming The Emperor, and in both cases enjoyed majority political support in his assumption of those roles. Moreover, the Republic itself is shown to be massively corrupt and spectacularly weak; the first two movies revolve around it initially having less military might than a shipping company that had been granted a legal monopoly.
    • Subverted again in The Force Awakens. The New Republic, while a democracy, is massively complacent and outright accuses Leia and her supporters of being warmongers for their warnings about how the Empire's successor state, the First Order, is blatantly disregarding the disarmament treaties that they signed at the conclusion of the Galactic Civil War. Thus the real conflict is between Leia's small, privately-backed Resistance and the First Order, with the New Republic offering so little support that the Resistance does not even have a large fleet like the old Rebel Alliance.
  • The Matrix has the humans being led by a council of elders and the machines by a single, huge AI.
  • An odd counterexample is 300, in which the protagonists are a constitutional monarchy, but the Senate are shown as corrupt and constraining on the heroic king, who kills unarmed messengers when he gets angry. Women are granted some respect—in the film the Queen, at least, is not only allowed but encouraged to debate with men—because "Only Spartan women give birth to real men," which is a paraphrase of a real Spartan quote. By contrast, The Persian Empire is a multiracial, decadent tyranny. Though this is a case of an unreliable narrator speaking to a group of soldiers before battle. Belittling the enemy as a bunch of wishy-washy pansies, praising your violent and decisive king, and mocking politicians is a good way to rile them up. Why would the narrator speak of anything positive regarding the Persians?
  • In Gladiator, the good guys are hoping to turn the Roman Empire back into a Republic by giving more power to the Senate. The bad guy wants to get rid of the Senate altogether. Historically speaking, no one planned to make Rome a republic again, especially since the last five emperors had been both good and competent guys, and the Republic was two centuries dead at that point (to say nothing of the fact that Romans didn't really make such a distinction between the Republic and the Empire, as the transition into true monarchy had been more gradual than is now commonly understood) - then there's the fact that it was the People's Assemblies which held a democratic function in the Republic, as the Senate was an unelected body of the nobility. In real life the main villain enjoyed a 15-year rule (plus a few years co-ruling with his father) and was rather well-liked, though historians mark his reign as the start of Rome's decline, but that is considered Dated History with the decline having being caused by serious political and constitutional errors by its final emperors, not the final emperor of the third out of eight dynasties of the principate.

  • George Orwell, in his 1946 non-fiction essay, "Politics and the English Language," Lampshaded this trope, noting that in the modern era, nations that go to war always refer to themselves as "democracies" and their enemies as "fascist," regardless of whether they actually are.
  • Patrick Tilley's Amtrak Wars features the despotic First Family leading the Amtrak Federation against the tribes of Mutes.
  • Played with in Animorphs. The Andalites apparently have a democratic government, with the highest ranks in the military being democratically elected, but over their long war with the Yeerks the military "princes" have gained a large amount of autonomy. The Yeerks refer to themselves as an Empire and have the Council of Thirteen, with the Emperor being chosen from the members of the Council, but the council members are apparently elected. Also, by the end of the series it becomes clear that the Andalites are not as good as originally believed, nor are the Yeerks Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Subverted in the CoDominium series, where the resistance often want republican forms of government, but often use violent and unethical methods to achieve their goals, or end up being hypocrites. True Empires (led by a constitutional monarchy) are often portrayed as positive (or at least not as malevolent).
  • Gore Vidal's Creation (1981) points out how this rarely works out as simply as it does in Historical Fiction. He notes that the Persian Empire were an abolitionist, multi-cultural empire where women had some amount of freedom and social rights and authority, as opposed to the Greek City States of Athens and Sparta, which are slave-owning, aristocratic and decidedly less fair to women.
  • Played straight in Elizabeth Moon's Familias Regnant series, which has a Space Cold War in the background between the titular Feudal Future parliamentary democracy and the Benignity of the Compassionate Hand. The Esmay Suiza novels introduce a good-aligned United Space of America called the Lone Star Republic.
  • In The High Crusade, the theoretical "democracy" of the Wersgor Republic is compared unfavourably to medieval England's feudal system. However, it later turns out the Wersgor are pretty much a sham democracy, with subjects being reflexively subservient to the head of state, and they have no problem with imperialism and wars of conquest, so really they're an evil empire after all. The Wersgor are also compared unfavourably to the Jair, who are a truly noble republic with no strings attached.
  • The Honor Harrington series has made enough use of this trope that depending on the work it's been played straight, subverted, and averted.
    • It starts with the Star Kingdom of Manticore (a constitutional monarchy) against the People's Republic of Haven (oligarchy posing as a republic). And goes to the Star Empire of Manticore and the Republic Of Haven in an alliance against the Solarian League.
    • In In Enemy Hands there's a mention that this trope, applied In-Universe, causes severe headaches for Manticore when dealing with the Solarian League. Despite the advantage they have by getting their information to the Sollies first (because the Manticore Wormhole Junction allows their ships to reach Sollie space faster), there's an instinctive mistrust of Manticore in the confederation-like League because they're still a monarchy, whereas Haven claims to be a republic.
  • Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy has both straight (but weird) examples and aversions:
    • The Edenists, being telepaths, form a Hive Mind whenever anything needs to be put to a vote.
    • The best-organized baddies are dictatorships, led by Al Capone and a Satanist.
    • However, the Kulu Kingdom takes its responsibility to its subjects very seriously. Likewise its offshoot, Tranquillity.
    • Before the war, Norfolk was a borderline case: Its aristocracy was oppressive, but it's implied that the only reform necessary is for the government to pay for dissidents' tickets off-world (which would also be cheaper than running the gulags). (Well, the only political reform necessary; there's also the matter of its backward health and education systems.)
  • Swedish SF author Anders Blixt's novel Iskriget both uses and subverts this trope. Yes, the novel's empire is an authoritarian regime, but its officials are frequently decent people who approve of the rule of law. On the other hand, the republican rebels espouse democratic ideals, but some of them turn out to be ruthless militants.
  • Subverted in Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The protagonists are an officer in The Federation's navy and a nobleman of The Empire, both of which are sympathetic authority figures of very corrupt governments. After Reinhard von Lohengramm takes charge, it's the autocratic empire that's reforming, and the Free Planets Alliance that is increasingly repressive. The biggest irony is that despite being less populated and smaller than the Empire, the Alliance has fought it to a standstill for 150 years, and even with its corrupt elite, its GDP by capita was nearly twice that of the Empire. Reinhart himself admits that if the Alliance's idealists had not been blocked by a glass ceiling, he would not have been able to beat them. It's actually the whole reason of Yang's loyalty toward the Alliance: he claims repeatedly that the worst democracy is still better that the best dictatorship.
  • The Reluctant King: Inverted in a tale, where a kingdom is toppled by a rebellion and turns into a republic... in name only (they allow voting, but all those who vote against the republic are considered enemies of the people, and thus their vote is made null) which tries to take over the nearby far more benevolent monarchy.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire also tackles this trope, especially the recent volumes, and generally presents a less simplistic and binary division between the two extremes:
    • Westeros is pure aristocratic and rests on the Divine Right of Kings, and rigidly maintained feudal divisions. The Wildlings and Mountain Clans have some kind of democracy owing to harsher weather conditions putting a greater value on merit, yet they are considered highly uncivilized and primitive by Westerosi standards, even progressives like Tyrion. They are also highly violent and indulge in guerrilla/terrorist raids.
    • The Ironborn which is a macho culture of Rape, Pillage, and Burn has a tradition of every captain being a King of his ship, and every King needing to captain his ship, there are also cases where women may sail and pillage with men. They are paradoxically more primitive and meritocratic than mainland Westeros. The least gender-biased and most ethnically mixed region is that of Dorne that runs on monarchy but is more relaxed in terms of bloodlines and class than the rest of the continent.
    • Republics such as the Free Cities are oligarchies run on pure mercantilism and slave trade, which Westeros explicitly forbids. The major exception is Braavos which is recognizably a more idealized republic with a strong abolitionist tradition though its fortune and influence comes via a Mega-Corp like the Iron Bank that instigates War for Fun and Profit on non-payment of loans.
    • Likewise, Slaver's Bay and Qarth are oligarchies and plutocracies which essentially thrives on large scale slavery and inhuman oppression. They are opposed by Daenerys Targaryen who becomes a conqueror and Queen on an explicitly abolitionist platform.
  • The Star of the Guardians series by Margaret Weis inverts this, with the justification that its royal family are genetically engineered to be good rulers (with Psychic Powers as well), and the republicans are Well-Intentioned Extremist Unwitting Pawns, whose "democracy" is corrupt due to elections being invariably won by whoever spent the most on advertising (but the worst thing about them is the Unwitting Pawn thing). This sort of falls apart since it's established early on that the last "good ruler" was a weak man who couldn't make a decision to save his life, while President Robes doesn't seem to spend much time caring about personal power. Not to mention these supposed Epitomes of humanity seem to break their vows of chastity with frightening regularity, only to produce unwanted bastards that invariably plot to kill them.
  • Many books in the Star Wars Expanded Universe use this trope just as much as the movies did, but not all. Timothy Zahn's novels tend to feature an Empire that's, well, more complex than Black-and-White Morality. In the Hand of Thrawn duology, it's not evil at all, and the Supreme Commander is trying to make peace with the New Republic. Problem is, there are some Imperials who refuse to let that happen...
    • Subverted by the Fate of the Jedi series. The Imperial Remnant (which has recently decided to start calling itself "The Empire" again, though most people don't) is led by Chief of State Jagged Fel, who was imposed on the Empire against its will during the peace after the previous series. Fel, as the dashing, handsome young leader of the Galactic Alliance's biggest ally (and fiance to Jaina Solo), is a prominent socialite on Coruscant and is constantly harassed by the paparazzi. The Moffs aren't particularly happy about the above situation. Amusingly, Fel comes off as less autocratic than the head of the supposedly democratic Galactic Alliance (itself headed by an appointed unelected Chief of State, Natasi Daala). In Star Wars: Legacy we see the Fel Empire assume control of the galaxy, and act as a Hegemonic Empire with the Fels being Reasonable Authority Figures.
    • Also worth mentioning: the New Republic was really a military junta for a couple years after Endor. Then they took Coruscant in Wedge's Gamble and started setting their democracy up.
  • Subverted in the Eldraeverse with the Empire of the Star and the Voniensa Republic. The Empire is a constitutional diarchy, though not democraticnote , and very libertarian in most areas by human standards, even by the standards of many eldrae. While the Republic is portrayed as ridiculously centralized, statist, and technophobic by their universe's standardsnote .
  • In Everybody Loves Large Chests, the main background conflict in the series is the war between the human Lodrak Empire and the elven Ishigar Republic. Guess which one is the aggressor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Whilst Star Trek fits this on the surface, with the democratic Federation fighting against the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Empire and the like, it fails on closer inspection. The Klingon Empire is ruled by the High Council (and later acquires a clone of the original emperor as a figurehead, reinstating the office as a moral bulwark), the Romulan Empire appears to be ruled by the Senate rather than any individual (depending on the episode: the Praetor seems to be able to overrule the Senate at times), the Cardassian Union was theoretically ruled by the toothless civilian Detapa Council (though the Obsidian Order and the Central Command had all the power) until eventually Dukat claims sole leadership and has it join with the Dominion. The Borg, whilst they do have a queen, call her the "One who is Many" in their collective.
    • The Klingon High Council is not a democratic body, though, it is more like the government in a feudal society rather than a democratic one. The members of the Klingon High Council are not elected, they are members of powerful houses that are based on hereditary succession. So while the Klingon Empire isn't quite a total dictatorship with all the power in the hands of one person, it is oligarchical enough to count as The Empire. Also according to the Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha, the Romulan Senate represents an oligarchy rather than a majority of the people, not to mention they have a caste system.
    • In fact, Klingons themselves pretty much believe in the opposite of this trope; they're quite satisfied with being a military expansionist feudal elective monarchy. They've flirted with democratic social reforms in the past, but generally they resist them, and remember those times as their Dark Ages.
    • The Detapa Council came into power after the Central Command and Obsidian Order were SEVERELY weakened by a misguided attack on Dominion space, led by a spy posing as a Romulan. Before that, they were absolutely ruled by the Central Command. The Obsidian Order wasn't SUPPOSED to have ships, originally. They built them as part of the attempted attack.
    • The place where Star Trek really fits this is in the Mirror Universe, where the benevolent Federation is replaced by the evil Terran Empire.
    • While The Federation is ostensibly a democracy, its member worlds have been shown to be somewhat mixed as to their form of government. An episode of the Original Series had a member world where the elites lived in a cloud city while the workers, who were little more than slaves due to the conditions of the mines, lived on the surface in caves (this was supposedly contrary to Federation membership requirements, however, but they still managed to keep it hidden for a long time).
    • Star Trek: Enterprise reveals that one of the founding governments of the Federation was an Empire in name — and the Andorians were not presented as any worse than the Vulcans, and definitely better than the lurking Romulan Star Empire or the looming Klingon Empire.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis normally follows this trope to a T, but subverts it with the Asurans, antagonists who are led by a council. This because they were trying to emulate the Ancients, who are generally good. Minor subversion is the council of the humans of the Pegasus Galaxy introduced in season 5 of Atlantis, but they were more dickish than evil.
  • Rome. Unsurprising given its setting is quite literally Ancient Rome, but much of the fighting in the first and second seasons is the attempt to displace the Caesars and restore the Republic as it existed immediately prior.
  • The Dalek Empire, from Doctor Who hews to this trope so closely, they call themselves an empire despite being a parliamentary democracy largely because, well, they're evil.
    • There's the "Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire", though it's more of a place where the evil Jagrafess permits humanity to live and be manipulated by the media as sheep rather than an actual human empire. The Doctor's comments at the beginning of the story however suggest it's meant to be an aversion of the "evil empire" trope, that's just been hoodwinked by the Jagrafess. In the same description he also cites that it's meant to be "planet Earth at its height".
    • And there's the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire, which makes the occasional appearance every few decades. They're pretty imperialist, and enslave the lovely if meek Ood (although when it turns out the Ood are being lobotomised by an evil megacorp, mankind apparently shuts it down and lets them all go). Also, they have a very fascistic secret service. When asked by Donna on mankind being as far out as they are, the Doctor merely shrugs and says he's not sure.
    • The eleventh Doctor meets one Emperor of some iteration of this in Nightmare in Silver, he's a pretty decent guy and rather reluctant in his role.
    • The Draconian Empire and Earth Empire are rivals in the 26th Century. Subverted as the Draconian Emperor and the Earth President come across as both being a Reasonable Authority Figure, and the original conflict was begun by the supposedly more Republic-like Earth due to a misunderstanding. However it is the Dalek Empire that is trying to trick the other two into war.
  • In I, Claudius, the main thing that drives Claudius is his desire to end the Roman Empire and get the Republic reestablished. This is because he has seen firsthand the destruction that can be unleashed by an unsuitable ruler. Unfortunately for Claudius, when the Emperorship is thrust into his hands, he's unable to reject it, since doing so will plunge the country into civil war (and probably result in the death of himself and his family.)
  • Played with in Babylon 5 with the Centauri Republic. It's called a republic, and its main representative is Londo, a harmless, funny old drunk dreaming of distant glories - plus, they gave the humans hyperdrive technology! What a nice bunch. However, as the series progresses, it becomes apparent that the Centauri "Republic" is actually a technologically advanced absolute monarchy at the whim of a Decadent Court, which given half the chance begins rapidly expanding again and soon embroils the galaxy in a bloody conflict.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Considering the Space Opera setting of Star Realms, one would think the Star Empire would be this trope. After all, their focus is more on combat than the commerce-based Federation. However, the Empire faction has a benevolent emperor, and was formed to provide other worlds stronger defenses during an alien invasion. Both Empire and Federation groups are morally grey.
  • Averted in Anima: Beyond Fantasy for the Empire of Abel during most of its existence and now inverted with the Empire of Abel and the Azur Alliance, at least on what refers to the leaders of those factions.
  • Played with in the Terran Empire setting book for the Hero System, as said Terran Empire's entire centuries-long history from foundation to fall is covered, with several periods and rulers pushing towards or away from this trope in turn. Its fall is in fact caused by a particularly... problematic ruler managing to fully turn it into The Empire, though it takes several decades of repression, mismanagement, revolts, revolution and successive incompetent rulers before the final collapse. Usually played straighter for alien polities: the two federations/republics are mostly benevolent, and three of the four empires are varying degrees of nasty (the one exception being the Perseid Empire, who are more of a neutral ground).

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Disgaea. Most Netherworlds appear to be two or three-branched Republics — and horribly dysfunctional ones at that. The executive branch (Overlords) is composed of people constantly trying to kill each other for their position (and sometimes, just for the hell of it). The Senate is a rabble of drunken, bribe-hungry factions more concerned with barring the other guy than actually paying attention to what they're voting on. As for the Judicial system, it says a good deal when the judge doesn't even care that the convicted party isn't the one they actually charged with the crime.
    • Given that Felonies are considered badges of honor in the Netherworld, it's probable that Impersonating a Felon is probably a Felony in and of itself, and as such would be seen as a good thing. So they would figure that anyone with the skill, power, guts, or savvy to take someone else's felony conviction probably deserves it. These are Netherworlds we're talking about, after all.
  • Tales of the Abyss subverts this. Neither the kingdom of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear nor the empire of Malkuth is evil (the party members consist of people from both, including the princess of Kimlasca, the son of a duke from the same country, and a colonel in Malkuth's military). But they still go to war with each other because of a prophecy from the world's religion... However, it turns out that the founder of said religion, and the "aggregate sentience" being worshipped in it, both want humanity to break away from this prophecy since it will eventually lead to the world's destruction.
    • Semi-inverted. The Emperor of Malkuth is a good ruler who is popular with his subjects... and the King of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear has good intentions, but is ultimately incompetent (as is his brother-in-law, the protagonist's father). That being said, the Princess of Kimlasca is a competent leader and seen as more of a Queen than her father is a King, what with supporting her citizens and building them hospitals and listening to their troubles, and her father is old; it's made abundantly clear that Kimlasca has a bright future ahead of it once Natalia ascends the throne.
  • Tales of Vesperia strongly subverts it. The Guild Union is set up early on as a free and democratic contrast with the Empire, but ultimately both are portrayed as fundamentally good institutions plagued by corrupt officials.
  • Shining Force III features the Republic of Aspinia (which has a king) and the Empire of Destonia. Guess which one's evil!
    • A republic with a king isn't such a strange idea, depending on how powerful the king is; a state with a figurehead monarch will tend to function as a republic in practice, but since the term "republic" tends to connote the absence of any kind of monarch it will rarely, if ever, be called that in Real Life.
    • It's actually averted in Shining Force III. On disc I (the only disc that came to the U.S.), you play as the Republic against the Empire and the Cultists. On disc II, you play as the Empire against the Republic and the Cultists. Disc III is when everyone realizes that the Cultists are the only real bad guys and go against them.
  • Played straight as an arrow in Knights of the Old Republic, with Darth Malak as the absolute authority over the evil Sith Empire and the Dark Jedi themselves battling the Senate-controlled Republic and the Council-ruled Jedi.
    • Played straight up as well in Star Wars: The Old Republic. 300 years after KOTOR, the Sith Empire returns to destroy the Galactic Republic to avenge its defeat in the Great Hypserspace War.
  • Subverted in Neverwinter Nights, in which the titular city is ruled by a single hereditary lord and his advisers, and the antagonistic Luskan is ruled by a dictatorial council of five High Captains backed by the might of the Host Tower.
  • Played with in Mass Effect. Asari governments tend to be loose, accommodating republics and turians are governed under an autocratic empire, but members of both species seem to be satisfied with their leadership. (It helps that the turian government is an meritocracy rather than a garden-variety dictatorship.) However, come Mass Effect 3 humanity is supported by the turians from the beginning. Meanwhile, the asari spend most of the war with their heads in the sand, keeping a critical advantage laying around until too late to use. Played straight with the Batarian Hegemony, however, which is a straightforward totalitarian regime considered a rogue state by the Citadel, and as per the "Leviathan" DLC had evidence of the Reapers' existence twenty years ago and kept it secret so they'd be the only ones to benefit.
  • Played straight story-wise in Lusternia with the Holy Principality of New Celest vs the Grand Empire of Magnagora, though it's more a case of "good Vestigial Empire, evil Empire". Averted completely in practice thanks to Gameplay and Story Segregation, though - both cities are governed by a democratic council (the Star Council for Celest and the Iron Council for Magnagora).
  • The Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series has the heroic GDI fighting for freedom and democracy against the evil Brotherhood of Nod, led only by Kane. But it's a subversion: GDI is really a military arm of the United Nations and by the third game bears a resemblance to a dictatorship, if a fairly benevolent one.
  • Though we don't ever see what actually happens afterwards (Invisible War? What's that?), the democracies (and for that matter dictatorships) of the world are corrupted and failing in Deus Ex. The "best" ending is probably the one where your character becomes the cybernetic God-Emperor of humanity.
    • "Best" meaning it doesn't involve throwing the baby out with the bathwater or leaving the world under a shadowy cabal.
  • Subverted in Iron Storm. Turns out that both The Federation (for which your character is fighting) and The Empire are actually similar. In fact, both are provided with war materials by the same American corporation who are actively preventing the war from ending because they get profit from it.
  • Bet On Soldier, the spiritual successor to Iron Storm, takes this even further: aside from keeping the war going, the Syndicate are also sponsoring one-on-one deathmatches between enemy combatants they broadcast across the entire world for even more profit.
  • Also subverted in the freeware RPG Last Scenario. You start out working for the Republic, and are sent on a mission to stop The Empire. But it turns out the Emperor isn't so bad, and your mission just set up a much worse ruler to take over. So you take part in a civil war to save the Empire, at which point your own Republic allies show up to get in your way. While their army is busy with that, the Republic itself is conquered by the evil Kingdom, who started the whole thing with a False Flag Operation.
  • Yggdra Union throws this one for a loop. The Fantasinian good guys have a hereditary Monarchy, who kicks off the game by dying, killed by the hostile Bronquian Empire, whose present Emperor overthrew the last one in a bloody Coup De'tat. As the story goes on and a counter-invasion is launched, Grey-and-Grey Morality kicks in to full effect as you find out the Empire and its generals are not inherently evil people. The final nail in this trope's coffin for this series is the prequel Blaze Union, the canonical ending of which shows the Coup as a good thing.
  • Fire Emblem
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn presents a bit of an inversion with Begnion. While it is most definitely an Empire (Empress and all), it does have some of the trappings of a Republic (Senators and all). But the empress is good, and the senators are evil.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses has the Adrestrian Empire, although it is soon to be headed by Edelgard, who is a good figure willing to right the wrongs its dark past has caused. The students hailing from the Empire are all good-natured people as well. This is complicated by the second part of the story, where Edelgard instigates a war and invades the rest of the continent. Due to the nature of the game and writing, whether this trope is played straight still depends on the player's action and values. On the one hand, Edelgard's reasoning for starting the war is based on false information and no matter how one cuts it, her action leads to the death of countless people, leaving her empire as the unquestionable dominant power of the continent should she come out the victor. On the other hand, the core of her argument has merits, she is portrayed with varying degree of sympathy depending on the route (with her own framing her as arguably more of an Anti-Hero) and should she succeeds, the Empire manages to bring about a meritocratic golden age that is portrayed just as positively as the outcome of any other route. The Holy Kingdom of Faerghus is presented as noble and is backed by the Saintly Church, but its leaders instigated the Tragedy of Duscur massacre of minority citizens in the past after accusing them of regicide without solid evidence, and there are quite a few defectors causing problems in the present after losing status or a loved one due to the Church's teachings. Meanwhile, the Leicester Alliance, the polity closest in form to a classic republic, is: (1) rather far from being exactly democratic or representative as it's led by a council of high nobility with positions transferred via inheritance, and (2) extremely prone to factional in-fighting, with many ruling nobles pursuing their own selfish interests over those of their compatriots.
  • Played with in Fallout: New Vegas, the NCR is generally good organization but wealthy individuals like Brahmin barons and hawkish military personnel now run the NCR Senate and Presidency, leading to excessive bureaucracy, which in turn has led to the government becoming slow and inefficient. Plus same barons have created an underclass as ghouls and super mutants, once valued citizens, are now openly bigoted against (think the civil rights movement in reverse) and their territory isn't secure from rapid territorial expansions. Meanwhile, across the Colorado River, Caesar's Legion has set up a horrible society based on Roman beliefs mixed with extensive slavery, sexism, and bigotry; yet the leaders of the Legion are generally intelligent, thoughtful people trying to make lives better (from a certain point of view mind you) and have (somewhat) because they turned Arizona from a living hell-hole to an ok place to live. Raider tribes are gone, roads are even safer than in the NCR and (male) merchants make a killing because the Legion's forced conscription means that they do not have taxes in the traditional sense. To residents in the contest Mojave wasteland, the NCR is a good faction, but they'll "steal their wealth and freedom" if they take over and the Legion is just hated on principle.
  • Escape Velocity:
    • EV Override: The Voinian Empire invaded with the intent of enslaving humanity, directly causing the establishment of a defensive alliance between the countries of Earth (who still controlled the majority of human colonies), United Earth, which developed into a truer Federation.
    • Subverted in EV Nova, wherein it is the Federation that is The Empire (due to the elected government being suborned by one of its intelligence agencies), and the Auroran Empire is really a loose confederation of Proud Warrior Race Guys that believe in Asskicking Leads to Leadership. Meanwhile the Polaris government is a caste system ruled by the Kel'ariy. The trope was more accurate in the backstory — the road to the Federation being founded was started by unprovoked Auroran aggression against worlds re-contacted by Earth (and after the Federation was founded, it was the Aurorans who launched both the first and the most third, most recent and technically ongoing, war between the Federation and the Aurorans), the Auroran Empire has a vast and generally downtrodden underclass of non-warriors — but then the Bureau (the aforementioned intelligence agency) was founded during a spy panic and things deteriorated.
  • X-Universe:
    • The two Commonwealth races with democratic governments (Argon Federation and Boron Kingdomnote ) are the good guys, and the two with absolutist governments (Split Dynasty and Paranid Empire) are the bad guys. But morality in the series is kind of gray, and the Commonwealth races will happily work together to deal with threats like the Xenon and Kha'ak.
    • The Terrans in X3: Terran Conflict are ruled by a government that is canonically a democracy but has strong xenophobic and paranoid tendencies.
    • In Albion Prelude it's subverted when we find out the Argon Federation are fully willing to commit multiple genocides against the Terrans unprovoked, and the Paranid are so disgusted they side with the Terrans.
  • Subverted in Freespace. At first it is played straight: the Terrans (whom you play as) have some form of democratic republic, while the Vasudans (the alien enemies) are governed by an Empire (a "Parliamentary Empire", but nonetheless...). However, neither race is wholly evil or good: in sequels, the Terrans suffer some attempted military coups and xenophobic rebellions, while the Vasudan Emperor is actually a pretty benevolent leader who is credited for the Vasudans' post-war economic boom and favors strengthening peace ties with the Terrans.
  • In Gatling Gears, you know that something's not quite right when you start out as a member of the corrupt, industrialist Empire, fighting against the free government known as the Freemen. You switch factions after the prologue.
  • Played with in Tears to Tiara 2. The Empire is evil. But only because it was taken over by Corrupt Church. Hamil wishes to return it to what it was. In the end he reinstates the senate, but leads discussion as the first citizen.
  • Inverted in Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon, the Terran Empire are the good guys and the Procyon Expanse are the bad guys.
  • The Erebonian Empire and the Republic of Calvard from the Trails Series plays with this in a surprising realistic way. From an outsider's perspective, the expansionistic and militaristic Erebonian Empire seems quite evil, but in fact it has quite a complex history and political intrigue of mulitple factions, including noble families and political reformists, making it severely grayer than most other Empires in fiction and especially in a JRPG. The democratic Republic of Calvard, while yet to be directly explored, already showed signs of not being that much better than Erebonia. The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie actually begins to invert the trope, as Erebonia has given up one of its occupied territories and is undergoing significant reforms to shake off its negative reputation, while at the same time Chancellor Osborne's actions have caused Calvard to elect a President Evil to office.
  • Though many subversions exist, Under Defeat gives a rare inversion. The players are on the side of the Empire, which has reflections to Nazi Germany with its language and SS uniforms, but are wanting peace. Whereas, the seemingly democratic Union is using the ceasefire to their advantage by building heavy weapons to bring to the Empire's doorstep.
  • Star Trek Online has what may well be an in-universe invocation of this (even if it plays it straight): the Romulan Star Empire (after the Hobus incident) have developed into a combined military dictatorship/police state with Sela having enshrined herself as a ruling Empress and having the Senate under her thumb, while working in alliance with the Tal Shiar to maintain control over other colony worlds. The Romulan Republic starts the game as a rebel movement consisting of a coalition of Reunificationists,note  other Romulan and Reman dissidents and Romulans who got driven to dissidence over having serious reservations about Sela's and the Tal Shiar's methods, and early on colonises a world to serve as a capital for setting up a rival government (an alliance with the Federation and the Klingon Empire acts as a shield to keep Sela from just launching a full-scale invasion) explicitly meant to be a more open, freer society than the old Star Empire, and to all appearances living up to that.
  • The Dio Field Chronicle has three major factions: the Empire and Alliance, which are fighting over the titular continent of DioField, and the Kingdom, which is located on a large island off the coast of DioField, is focused more on protecting its people than conquest, and is the faction that the main protagonists are initially aligned with.
  • Subverted in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, in which, at the start of the game, protagonist Rex had been told of the growing military tensions between the Empire of Mor Ardain and the Kingdom of Uraya, leading the player to believe this trope to be in effect. This isn't helped by the fact that the party was pursued for a time by Ardainian soldiers, headed by Special Inquisitor Mòrag, who wanted to take the Aegis into custody. However, it emerges that Mòrag is in fact a Reasonable Authority Figure who had only sought to remove the Aegis from the equation to prevent a possible repeat of the destructive Aegis War from centuries prior; she backed off after observing Rex and deeming him to be responsible enough to handle this power. As well as this, Niall, the young Emperor of Mor Ardain, detests militarism and would much prefer to rule peacefully through diplomacy than by conquest. The Empire's expansionist policies and its occupation of the Gormott province 50 years before the events of the game were rooted in the fact that their home Titan is on its last legs and will die of natural causes within likely a few generations at best, and Niall in the present has had to fight the War Hawks in his own Senate on matters of militarism vs diplomacy. After a False Flag Operation caused by the terrorist group Torna capturing and firing an excavated Lost Superweapon (itself a violation of Niall's orders to stop such excavation) under Mor Ardain control at Urayan troops in a neutral zone, Niall is willing to deescalate matters by offering Uraya exclusive surveying rights to the neutral zone, halted Ardainian excavation in the area, possibly shared control over the Gormott province; and even pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save Urayan Queen Raqura from a massive explosion, though he gets better. Meanwhile, Uraya is shown to have various societal issues of its own, such as social stratification that leaves many lower-class citizens starving due to rationing on a "first-come-first-served" basis, as well as a military that relies heavily on mercenaries and in some cases isn't afraid to brutalize said citizenry out in the open over rights to said rations.

  • Subverted and played with in Erfworld, where the good Prince Ansom tries to overthrow the evil Stanley, a warlord who hates the very concept of aristocracy. It's a bit of Grey-and-Gray Morality, though—Ansom's arrogance about rank isn't presented as right, but he is presented as willing to take the added responsibilities of leadership along with the perks, while Stanley basically wants to be a king but can't claim the title because he is not, in fact, royal. On the other hand, Stanley actually worked his way up to his position, starting out as a lowly line soldier, and it's implied that this fact is one of the reasons why Ansom dislikes him so much.
  • Seems to be becoming the case in Tales of the Questor as of the recent dragon slaying arc where the human explorer writing to his king about his travels in Antillas seems to have never heard of a republic before, at least not one with a direct democracy, as well as the racoon peoples' national flag being a fantasy version of the famous American revolution flag 'Don't Thread on Me' and given their supposedly inherent and natural aversion to aristocracy and inherited rule...
  • Seems to be inverted in Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger by the end of the Star Trek parody, though it's not so much that the Federation is evil and the Empire of the Seven Systems is good as much as it's a rant about the author's views on socialism.
  • Inversion in Darths & Droids which plays with the set-up from Star Wars. Palpatine is presented as a fairly good guy even as he accrues personal power- he's just easily manipulated by the corrupt elected officials in the Senate, and by Vader.

    Web Originals 
  • Averted in Decades of Darkness: New England becomes a quasi-fascist dictature for a while, the *USA conquers and enslaves the western hemisphere, while the European great powers all remain comparatively nice. Played relatively straight in Brazil, where the monarchy is pro-*USA and pro-slavery and the republic is somewhat better.
  • Inverted in Look to the West, where it's republicanism that is currently tarred with the brush of evil (of course, this was somewhat true in the 1810s even in our own world). Partly due to Author Appeal.
  • Tales of MU is set in the Imperial Republic of Magisteria, which can be seen as good or bad depending on who's asking. Apparently it's a fantasy version of the Roman empire and United States of America combined.
  • HC Bailly often lampshades this in his Lets Plays, particularly of the Final Fantasy series.
    Because as we all know, Empires are bad, Kingdoms are good.

    Western Animation 
  • In Teen Titans (2003), when Mad Mod conquers America and makes it like a Theme Park Version of Britain, the Titans are unable to defeat him until Starfire makes a Rousing Speech about how democracy is so great. The speech isn't about voting or anything (they've tried that a lot, and it hasn't worked), but compromise, which is encouraged by a system where you have to come up with a way to agree with the opposing party if anything's going to get done, and pretty much boils down to "E pluribus unum" - out of many, one.
    • Of course, Britain is a democracy, but Mad Mod set himself up as a king. Somewhat lampshaded at the end, when Cyborg remarks that even British people probably don't like Mad Mod.
  • Transformers:
    • The original series began with Optimus Prime and Megatron as supreme leaders of the Autobots and Decepticons. However, Optimus was later retconned into a high-ranking leader but still subservient to a council of emirates. Throughout most incarnations, the Autobots have been generally democratic and egalitarian, while Megatron rules the Decepticons with an iron fist. The exception is Beast Wars, in which Megatron is a rogue Predacon and the majority of Predacons are ruled over by the Tripredacus Council.
      • Both sides are engaged in an eons long war, they are effectively controlled by the military, every Autobot and Decepticon is effectively a soldier. The Decepticons are imperial by nature as they are descended from military hardware built by the Quintessons whereas the Autobots are domestic goods, slaves but due to the rise of the Decepticons, they were forced to fight and have been continuing to fight since.
    • In Animated the Autobots government, while still a republic, appears to be a military dictatorship run by a junta. The High Council has one civilian member Alpha Trion, who mentions that he does not have any power. All the rest appear to be heads of branches of the military with the Magnus acting as chair. Meanwhile the expanded universe of Animated notes other galactic governments that include the Decepticon Empire, the Quintesson Pan Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere, and the Nebulon Republic, with the Republic mentioned as being kind and nice and the Sphere as cutthroat and wicked (by a nominal Decepticon no less).
  • The four civilizations that make up the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender are: the Air Nomads, the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. In this instance it is the Fire Nation that is trying to conquer the world.
    • In the sequel series The Legend of Korra, the main setting is Republic City, which does indeed elect its officials. In the three years between Seasons 3 and 4, Kuvira has been reuniting a fractured Earth Kingdom. However, she soon renames it the Earth Empire and plans to conquer Republic City.
  • Dino-Riders starts with the peaceful democratic Valorians being attacked by the evil Rulon empire.
  • Subverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. While the Crystal Empire was once ruled by a Evil Overlord, he was deposed in the show's backstory and the Empire is very much on the side of good. Mind you, it's also an empire In Name Only: in practice, it functions more like a city-state.
  • Subverted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003). In the second season's "Turtles in Space" arc, the Turtles are beamed across space into the middle of the war between the Federation (Human Aliens) and the Triceraton Republic / Empire (exactly what they sound like). Both sides are run by General Ripper types intent on using Weaponized Teleportation to commit war crimes. Later in the series, both sides overthrow their leaders (with the Triceraton rebellion getting more screen time) and leave them in adjoining cells, impotently hurling abuse at each other.
  • In SpacePOP, Geela overthrows the kings and queens of the Pentangle and declares herself Empress.