So The Hero has a spiffy office, title or position, probably with lots of cool benefits, like powers, technology or inside knowledge. He's been doing it for a while, so he's thinking he's the best there is.
Enter the Hero's Evil Predecessor. This is the guy who had that cool office, title, position, what have you, along with all its perks, before the hero probably even heard about it, and he often shows up right when the hero thinks he's got this thing figured out.
He's more competent and more experienced and the only reason he doesn't have said job anymore is because somewhere along the way he Turned To The Dark Side. What's more, now our Hero has to attempt to take him down, a guy that knows all his moves, probably better than he does, knows the hero's organization inside and out, and probably has a fearsome reputation to boot. This will not be easy, he's probably one of the most difficult villains the hero will ever face.
The Evil Predecessor is a common villainous archetype who often acts as the Evil Counterpart to The Hero. Along with sharing a position with the hero, automatically making them Not So Different, they tend to share certain abilities and powers the hero might have learned for his job as well, and what's more he tends to be way better at them. While some of these characters were evil to begin with or seduced to evil out of their own weakness, it's also very common for this character to be a Knight Templar or Well-Intentioned Extremist who either didn't think his position allowed him to go far enough in whatever his office does (see also The Paragon Always Rebels), or he rebelled against his organization after finding out some terrible secret about them. Very often this character gives some kind of Join Me or Not So Different speech to The Hero, sympathizing with the hero based on having held the same position. Alternatively they may just think The Hero sucks at their job and doesn't even come close to equaling the Evil Predecessor in his day, and may dismiss him entirely.
Often the Evil Predecessor is one of the more complex villain-roles, challenging The Hero to examine his own abilities, actions and morals and make his own decisions on right and wrong. For this reason the Hero's Evil Predecessor plot is good fodder for drama.
Compare Fallen Hero, which it often overlaps with. See also Psycho Prototype, for when the predecessor is also the prototype to an experiment. May be the result of Expose the Villain, Get His Job. When the protagonist is the Evil Predecessor, then he might be a Rogue Protagonist. Compare also Redeeming Replacement when a new hero is put into an established villain's identity and power; in this trope it's the hero who's established first.
Doesn't actually have anything to do with a Predecessor Villain.
- YuYu Hakusho: Sensui Shinobu was the Spirit World Detective before the main character Yusuke Urameshi took the job. Seeing humans committing evil deeds against the demons he was fighting against, he had a Face–Heel Turn and started fighting for the demons instead.
- Bleach: Kugo Ginjo who was the Substitute Shinigami before the hero Ichigo, and his Face–Heel Turn prompted the anti-substitute law in Soul Society.
- The Prétear anime. The Princess of Disaster is the previous Pretear, fallen to darkness due to Unrequited Love, and it's suggested it may have also happened before and could happen to any Pretear if they can't control their emotions.
- Inverted in Rurouni Kenshin. The Big Bad Shishio was actually the successor to Kenshin and is definitely more evil than him (though Kenshin was more ruthless as a hitokiri).
- In Gundam Build Fighters, Meijin Kawaguchi II had a winning-at-all-costs attitude, which is why Julian MacKenzie dislikes Yuuki Tatsuya/Meijin Kawaguchi III for carrying on the name (although Yuuki says he did it to honor the first Meijin Kawaguchi).
- In Fairy Tail, the leader of the dark guild Grimoire Heart, Hades, was formerly the guild master of the titular Fairy Tail guild, Pretch Gaebolg. His successor, Makarov, was shocked to learn the mentor he looked up to turned to the dark side and tried to defeat him. It didn't go over so well.
- In Karas, the Karas who protected Shinjuku before Otoha was Eko, the Big Bad.
- In Shazam, the Wizard Shazam's first Champion was Black Adam, back during the days of ancient Egypt; when he turned evil, Shazam got rid of him and waited 5,000 years before finding Billy Batson, a kid pure of heart enough to try again with.
- Green Lantern:
- Sinestro is the Evil Predecessor to either Hal Jordan (greatest Lantern) or Soranik Natu (Lantern of Sector 1417).
- Hal himself became this to Kyle Rayner after crossing the Despair Event Horizon with Coast City's destruction and becoming Parallax, killing the Guardians in the process.
- The Green Lantern Corps as a whole has an Evil Predecessor in the Manhunters, robots that were built to police the galaxy before the Green Lantern Corps were founded. They decided to try to kill everyone.
- The Avengers: Nathan Garrett, the Black Knight who was an original member of the Masters of Evil, preceded his nephew, Dane Whitman, in the role. Whitman received a Last Request from a mortally-wounded Garrett to redeem the name of the Black Knight. Whitman (who, unlike Garrett, was deemed worthy to wield the cursed Ebony Blade of their 6th-century ancestor) took up the mantle and chose to infiltrate the Masters to bring them down from within, before being invited to join the Avengers.
- The wearers of the Darkhawk armors were Space Pirates and quite evil. Darkhawk was basically the only good guy to wear one.
- In The Authority, one of Doctor Jeroen Thornedike's predecessors, known only as the Renegade Doctor, was an Omnicidal Maniac. After Jeroen suffered a heroin overdose during a crisis, the Authority was forced to restore his predecessor's powers in order to fix the crisis. Luckily for them, in the intervening years, the Garden of Ancestral Memory had added "empathy with all living things" to the list of powers that came with the job, which overwhelmed the Renegade Doctor, distracting him long enough for the Authority to finally kill him.
- W.I.T.C.H. and its cartoon adaptation has Nerissa. Years before the current generation of the Guardians was born, she was the previous generation's leader until she became corrupted and murdered her friend Cassidy. A sublot has her successor Will fearing of becoming like Nerissa (though more in the comics than in the cartoon).
- Birthright inverts this as Villain Protagonist's Good Predecessors with the Five being a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who fought against God-King Lore before fleeing from their world. Mikey Rhodes is summoned to fight in their place, but becomes a Fallen Hero in the process by siding with Lore and being charged with killing the Five so his master can take over Earth.
- Kung Fu Panda: Downplayed; Tai Lung, Master Shifu's former personal pupil, was a talented kungfu fighter who trained since his early age, and Shifu thought he would take the legendary Dragon Scroll and become the legendary Dragon Warrior. Master Oogway didn't agree, though, leading to Tai Lung rebelling against the masters and then gets imprisoned for his troubles. Some years later, our hero Po is made the Dragon Warrior and then he's informed that he's fated to defeat Tai Lung, the former candidate for the scroll.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls introduces Sunset Shimmer. She was once the prized student of Princess Celestia before My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic protagonist Twilight Sparkle until her impatience and selfishness got her stripped of her rank. Unusually for this sort of character, she proved redeemable, and even becomes friends with Twilight.
- Speed: Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper), a former member of the APD bomb squad unit turned mad bomber, to Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves), an LAPD bomb squad member. This becomes central to the plot as Payne not only uses his extensive knowledge of explosives and police procedure to stay two steps ahead of Jack and his friend, Harry. He tries to convince Jack that they're Not So Different. It doesn't work.
Payne (over the phone): Why are they messing with me, Jack? Do they think I'm doing this for fun and games?
Jack: Aren't you?
Payne: Oh! That's not fair, Jack. You don't know how I feel. You don't even know me.
Jack: I know you want a shitload of money you didn't earn.
Payne: Oh, I earned it. See, I was like you once. They gave me a medal too, Jack. A medal, a pink slip, and a 'sorry about your hand!'
- Madison in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. She was a former Angel to Charlie. In the movie she turns evil and tries to expose Charlie and kill the current Angels. And unlike this incarnation of the Angels, she uses guns.
- The Bad Guys from Night at the Museum are the three previous night guards of the museum before the protagonist Larry.
- Before he fell to The Dark Side and became Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars was once a Jedi Knight like his son Luke.
- In Power Rangers (2017), a new backstory is added so that Rita Repulsa was once the Green Ranger, making her this to the team.
- Knight Rider: KARR, the predecessor of KITT.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Gul Dukat, the main Big Bad of the series, used to run DS9 before the Federation took over.
- Seven Days:
- There was an episode where the villain was a former test chrononaut, believed dead for years.
- Another has a man who wanted to be a chrononaut, and cracked after he learned he does not qualify. The problems started when he got out of madhouse early.
- Windom Earle in Twin Peaks is Agent Cooper's former mentor, an FBI agent gone rogue, possibly possessed by evil spirits, and definitely murderous.
- The protagonist in the first The Librarian Made-for-TV Movie was replacing the Big Bad.
- Angel: In season five Angel & Co. are given the LA branch of the Evil Corporation Wolfram & Hart to run as they see fit. Their objective is to do good with this company that used to be in the evil business.
- Power Rangers has used this three times.
- Power Rangers Mystic Force has Nick's predecessor Leanbow possessed by the Big Bad to become The Dragon.
- Power Rangers Jungle Fury has Jarrod, the original choice for the red ranger before he was kicked out for bullying becoming the Big Bad through Demonic Possession.
- Meta example in Power Rangers Samurai, where Rick Medina, aka Cole the Red Ranger from Power Rangers Wild Force, is cast as Noble Demon Deker.
- Since Kamen Riders are often Phlebotinum Rebels, sometimes the previous wielder of the Rider gear wasn't so good. The previous OOO was a greedy king who created the villains to gain power and the OOO Driver to channel that power; the previous Kiva, now known as Dark Kiva, is a Big Bad and his existence is the reason Kiva himself was a Hero with Bad Publicity at first. (On top of that, his own armor finds its way into the hands of someone who makes a Heel–Face Turn, making him the evil predecessor of the new Kiva and Dark Kiva.)
- In an episode of The Incredible Hulk TV series David comes across a man who had been changed into a Hulk-like creature years and years ago, and had been cured. He has one vial of the cure left. However, the man (now an old man) desperately wants the power again in order to gain revenge on his enemies, so he reexposes himself to gamma radiation. The other man Hulks Out and David is forced to use the cure on the other man lest he start a killing spree.
- In the 2007 version of Bionic Woman the Arc Villain is the previous bionic woman Sarah Corvus, who is trying to teach Jamie about how uncaring the Berkut Group is by attacking her and being generally evil.
- An episode of Legend of the Seeker deals with Kieran, a Seeker of Truth before Richard. Like many other Seekers, Kieran fell in love with his Confessor, Viviane. However, Kieran and Viviane chose to consummate their feelings, resulting in Kieran becoming Confessed. He strayed from his mission. Their wizard Amfortas convinces Viviane to kill herself in order to free Kieran from Confession. While the spell is broken, Kieran goes mad with grief and starts slaughtering innocents, forcing Amfortas to kill Kieran with the Sword of Truth. Amfortas then curses Kieran and Viviane's souls and falsifies the story to maintain the good Seeker name for future generations. Unfortunately, this becomes known when Richard and Kahlan end up being possessed by the spirits of Kieran and Viviane, who nearly end everything by trying to consummate their relationship in their borrowed bodies, which would result in Richard's Confession (or not, if the Grand Finale is anything to go by).
- Odd Squad: Otto takes the place of Todd, the main villain of the first season.
- Saren Arterius, the Big Bad for most of Mass Effect, has his Spectre status revoked during the same meeting where Shepard is made a Spectre.
- Ulysses in Fallout: New Vegas is the original Sixth Courier. He's pretty darn evil, while your character may or may not be evil, depending on how you play.
- Ares is the titular God of War in the first game of the series. He's so bad that the other Greek gods recruit Kratos to kill him. When Kratos ultimately succeeds, his reward is to become Ares's replacement, though YMMV on how much of an improvement he is.
- The Arbiter in the Halo series is a title given to a shamed Sangheili who becomes the Prophets' exclusive hitman. The Arbiter introduced in Halo 2, set towards the end of the war, is a noble former commander who wants to atone for his errors and even is a bit of a Death Seeker; he later becomes a Reasonable Authority Figure working to heal the wounds of the Human-Covenant War. The previous Arbiter seen in Halo Wars, set towards the beginning of the war, was a bloodthirsty General Ripper who was cruel to humans and his own soldiers alike, and who didn't care at all about repenting for his crimes.
- The titular Big Bad of Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time was an ACME agent, just like the player character, before she switched sides out of boredom. Her villainous subordinates never worked for the organization and are distinctly less competent than all the characters who have.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Jagar Tharn, the Big Bad of Arena, served Emperor Uriel Septim VII as Imperial Battlemage before imprisoning the Emperor and usurping his throne. After Tharn's defeat, the Emperor named High Chancellor Ocato to the position, where he serves as a very Reasonable Authority Figure for the next several games in the series until his death prior to Skyrim.
- The Big Bad of the Dragonborn DLC for Skyrim is Miraak, the first Dragonborn to the Player Character's status as the last Dragonborn.