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Hidden Agenda Villain

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"A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. Always keep your foes confused: if they don't know who you are or what you want, they can't know what you plan to do next."
Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, Game of Thrones

The inverse of He Who Must Not Be Seen. In fact, this villain's appearance may be the only thing about them that is seen. Their agenda, their goal, their target, their motives — all secret. We're shown their face, we know their name, we see what they do and how they operate, but we're never told why. They're after the MacGuffin, but what're they planning to use it for? They consistently send Mons and Mooks out to kill the hero, but why? It's rarely ever as simple as taking over the world (rarely, but one shouldn't say never).

Note that this does not apply to the occasional episode-long secret plan. True Hidden Agenda Villains have a hidden agenda for an entire series or arc. If they ever "discuss" it with minions or partners, expect The Omniscient Council of Vagueness.

Don't bother trying to decipher their hidden agenda; sometimes even the writers don't know. They're playing it safe until they come up with something good without having to Retcon. If and when an explanation is revealed, it may involve a Luke, I Am Your Father. Note, no matter what happens, it's probably exactly as planned.

A poorly written example of this trope can easily become a Generic Doomsday Villain if the characterization behind the hidden agenda isn't believable.

Compare with the Enigmatic Minion, which is a just as mysterious underling or lesser villain working for — or possibly against — a more comprehensible Big Bad. Or perhaps not. If the agenda is so hidden that the other characters don't even know there is a villain, or if they do have no idea who it is, see Hidden Villain. If a villain has a motivation that nobody cares about, see Plot-Irrelevant Villain. See also Outside-Context Problem, whose hidden agenda is only part of the menace. Compare Motive Misidentification. Contrast with Ambiguously Evil.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Titan shifters from Attack on Titan, their origins, motivations, and ultimate goals were a complete mystery, or why they want every man, woman and child living behind the Walls dead. So far the only things we knew about them were their identities and just how much damage they can accomplish in a short period of time. Turns out they're under orders from a foreign superpower whose motives are to claim the island where the Walls are situated for their natural resources.
    • The next hidden agenda villain after the original set of Titan shifters is Zeke Yeager, the Beast Titan. It was initially uncertain if he was truly aligned with Marley's goals or if he has plans of his own. It turns out that his final goal is to sterilize all Eldians and end their race to bring an end to their suffering.
    • Finally, in later chapters, we have Eren, the protagonist, of all people. No one knows if he is being controlled or working on his own. He seemingly embraces the mentality of his enemies and turns on his closest friends as well, assuming absolute authority over Paradis.
  • Berserk: Ever since his physical reincarnation Griffith has been operating out in the open, making bold moves such as gathering a demon army and embarking on the reconquest of Midland from the Kushan Empire. He has gone to great lengths to consolidate his power such as getting engaged to Princess Charlotte, establishing a city with a massive population and industrial capacity, merging the physical and astral planes in the process of defeating Ganishka, and ordering a hit on Flora, the last witch who could oppose him. Not even the few people who know that he's a demon can guess exactly what he's up to, and it seems that certain of his minions are determined to prevent such nosy people from finding out, or living to tell the tale if they do.
  • Bleach:
    • Shukuro Tsukishima in the Lost Agent arc. He was so enigmatic that fans kept debating about the mechanics behind his ability. Eventually it is revealed that he was in cahoots with Ginjo to nurture and steal Ichigo's Fullbring.
    • It's unclear whether Yhwach intends to kill the Soul King as part of a rule the world plot, simply wants to put him out of his perceived misery or just created a war between Quincy and Soul Reapers to feed his energy vampirism. His final moments reveal that what he really wanted was to merge all worlds in order to return reality to a state in which the concept of death does not exist, allowing him to cheat death forever.
  • Aleister Crowley from A Certain Magical Index. Manipulates damn near everything, and whenever the heroes do something, he'll usually gloat in his tower that they've completed some objective for him. So far, about all that is known is that he is trying to accomplish something through science that he cannot through magic... and one of the major steps in his grand master plan is to eliminate magic entirely.
  • The majority of Chrono Crusade (particularly the manga version, although the anime definitely invokes this trope as well) hides Aion's motivations, with Chrono trying to avoid explaining why they have a conflict with each other and Aion knowing that he's enigmatic and loving every minute of it.
  • Code Geass: Protagonist Lelouch's Evil Overlord father, the Emperor of Britannia, is set up as the ultimate villain nearly from the get-go, but aside from vague hints and ominous foreshadowing, his motives aside from megalomania and promoting social Darwinism remain a mystery until nearly the end of the series. Likewise, Lelouch's apparent Evil Counterpart, Prince Schneizel el Britannia, isn't even clearly defined as being a villain or not until late in the series. His agenda remains hidden until three episodes prior to the end.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist's Big Bad Father isn't even introduced until the sixth volume and even then technically nothing is revealed about him or his goals. The protagonists only learn about his plan piece by piece throughout the series, and it is only in the end that his ultimate motive is uncovered.
  • Noa from the Galaxy Angel gameverse. Her first incarnation more so.
  • Gundam:
    • The agenda of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE villains is so hidden that they are initially named as the "Unknown Enemy". They are attacking colonies in a somewhat predictable pattern, but why? It's because 150 years ago, the Earth Federation left human colonies on Mars for dead after a disease outbreak ruined the Mars Colonization plan. Those who survived never forgave the corrupt Earth Federation and declared their independence as the nation of Vagan. Once they established a functional army, Vagan declared war on Earth Federation and began to destroy Federation-owned colonies.
    • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was first released in 1985. Fans are still confused as to what exactly the Big Bad of the series Paptimus Scirocco was trying to accomplish. He is very obviously interested in gaining power, and makes some comments that refer to "geniuses" (like himself) being the rightful leaders of humanity. He is also on record for stating that he believes that the ruler of all mankind can only be a woman, and that he is "merely a witness to history". Then there's the fact that he's a Jovian, and he sides with the Spacenoid-hating Titans for some reason. All in all, we know he wants power, but what the heck he was planning on doing with it once he got it remains an enigma.
    • Big Bad Treize Khushrenada from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing keeps his true motives for his actions hidden until the very end: to instigate a war to end all wars, so massive and horrific that everyone will think twice about open war in the future.
  • In an episode of Hell Girl, an innocent nurse is sent to Hell by a stranger. It is never revealed why he did this and why he's willing to pay the hefty price of going to Hell himself to damn a seemingly innocent woman.
  • Chevalier from Kiddy Grade, but its played with for the whole show. Is he the secret Big Bad? Is he a good guy all along? It's kinda both. His ultimate goal is to avenge Eclair, who raised him as a child, but to get into a position where he could do that, he had to join the puppy kicking bastards he hated and rise high enough in the ranks (by being a puppy kicking bastard himself) to get his revenge plans set up. In the end, though, he is definitely a good guy.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: This is a common trait of Anti Villains such as Fate Testarossa and the Wolkenritter. After or during the penultimate battle their agenda is revealed and they are promptly befriended. After which they all beat up a really evil Big Bad.
  • Johan Liebert in Monster. Even after the series ends, a lot of what he was trying to accomplish is still open for debate, and him being put in a coma and, therefore, rendered incapable of explaining any of it means the debate continues.
  • Played with in Moriarty the Patriot: While the audience is quite well aware of William's reasons and motivations, the "hero" of the story, Sherlock, is not, and spends much of the series questioning "Why me?" and otherwise trying to figure out what William's motivations and plans are. He knows William is the Lord of Crime—what he can't quite figure out it why.
  • Naruto:
    • Kabuto is a particularly interesting example of the trope, as his motivations and true plans are seemingly revealed several times over the course of the series, only for circumstances to change. At first, he was Orochimaru's Enigmatic Minion...who turned out to be completely loyal to him. Then, he turned out to be a Brainwashed Manchurian Agent of Sasori's...except that Orochimaru had broken his programming long ago, and his loyalty to Orochimaru is completely genuine. Now that Orochimaru is dead, he appears to be teaming up with Madara...except that he's also leaving a very obvious trail for the Leaf ninja assigned to track him straight into their secret lair. Is it a trap, or is he going for an Enemy Mine? When we find out his background, this becomes a Justified Trope. He was once a member of ROOT who specialized in integrating into foreign ninja villages without losing his sense of self, the only other person being his mother figure. However, he ends up losing his sense of self when he is tricked into killing her. Since then, Kabuto has been trying to figure out who he was, which is why his agenda kept seemingly changing. When he ultimately lost to a revived Itachi and was forced to relive the same moment, he finally reaches a conclusion and resolves to help Sasuke find who he is.
    • The Akatsuki organization itself was much the same for a long time. They were attempting to gather the Bijuu, that was a given. But it wasn't until several years after their introduction that any solid plan was revealed, and even then the ultimate goal of said plan is in fact different between explanations. In retrospect this makes sense as the members of the Akatsuki all had wildly differing agendas from the start. The Leader flat out acknowledged this early on and said he would tolerate it as long as their agendas didn't conflict with the stated goal of the Akatsuki (to gather the Bjuu).
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Fate Averruncus is currently planning to save the world and also destroy it while helping war orphans. Huh? There's also something about Asuna's forgotten past and apparently disliking his name enough that Nodoka needs to die for it. Pick and choose your motives here, folks.
    • We don't know what Chao really wanted. It's later revealed that she wanted to prevent a horrific, century-long war between Earth and Mars.
    • Kurt Godel is even worse, as he explained himself to Negi, who still isn't sure what Kurt wants or whether Kurt is even a villain.
  • SEELE in Neon Genesis Evangelion had their "scenario" which they talked about regularly but the fans don't know what it is. It's every human, alive or dead, turning into LCL by Instrumentality. You could say the destruction of the world was a secondary, unimportant effect of Instrumentality and never something SEELE planned to do or prevent.
    • Gendo in the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. While in the original anime his goal is to bring about Third Impact on his own terms so that he can reunite with Yui, in the movies Third Impact has come and gone while only being half-thwarted and there was even an attempted Fourth Impact, but no matter what happens, Gendo claims that everything is still going according to plan...whatever that is.
  • In One Piece, Marshall D. "Blackbeard" Teach's goal is to become the King of the Pirates like most pirates, but his plan is not just "finding the One Piece" and remains pretty ambiguous, getting revealed in bits and pieces:
    • Teach had his eyes set on the Dark-Dark Fruit and didn't make a single move until he found it. He also plans to steal Whitebeard's Devil Fruit to use alongside his own.
    • One of the only clear parts of his plan is becoming a Warlord, which he does and uses his newly acquired status to go to Impel Down and recruit powerful fighters for his crew.
    • His ascension to Emperor consists of claiming Whitebeard's old territories and hunting down Devil Fruit users with powers that catch his attention to steal them for his own crew to use.
    • He wants to have Pirate Island legitimized as a member nation of the World Government by holding Koby hostage, even though he's told point-blank by both Koby and his own crew that such a plan has no chance of working.
  • Marder from Panzer World Galient. While it's made apparent early on that he wants to take over the entire Crescent Galaxy (to the point of treating Arst's conquest as an ancillary goal), the reason why isn't revealed for a good while. It turns out that he sees the peace on his home planet of Lanplate as "false", since the populace is practically emotionless. As such, he plans to use Arst's technology to cause a chain reaction that will plunge the entire galaxy into all-out war, with him as the victor that will promote true peace.
  • Tsubaki from Servamp. All we know is that he wants to start a war and defeat the other Servamps one by one, but what he is trying to accomplish by that is still a mystery.
  • Slayers: Despite being a central character for three out of four seasons, Xellos's true motives remain... a secret.
  • Choji Suitengu of Speed Grapher is a variant of this. At first glance, he seems to have an obvious agenda; to control the world by both becoming the man on the throne of the world's greatest MegaCorp and by enticing as many wealthy, powerful figures into his ultra-depraved fetish club as possible. Even the members of the Roppongi Club recognize this as his plan. But it turns out his real plan is to kill off all of the powerful and wealthy sick enough to get involved in the Roppongi Club in the first place and to devastate the economy of Japan, striking a considerable injury to the world economy, by arranging for the destruction of 600 trillion yen in cash.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: In the manga, Fei Wong Reed was so tight-lipped about what he was doing that the anime kept getting it wrong when they Overtook the Manga and the series had to go back and retcon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Noa, the Big Bad of the Virtual Nightmare Arc, didn't reveal the reason for his grudge against Seto Kaiba or his relationship to Seto and Gozaburo until near the end.
    • Anubis from The Movie, whose motivations are never revealed at all. The Japan-only novel finally comes clean with Anubis' motive; Akhenaden made him into a mummy while he was still alive in the ancient past and infused him with dark magic so that Anubis would make Seto into the ruler of the world in a future reincarnation. At first Anubis goes with it, but eventually he decides to get revenge on Kaiba and Yugi both and become Pharaoh himself.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Rex Godwin, whose true agenda is so well hidden that both the viewer and the other characters are constantly forced to revise their opinions of whether or not he's a villain. At first, he looks like a fairly standard Affably Evil Chessmaster type of character. Then it turns out that he's a Stealth Mentor to the protagonists, using questionable or outright reprehensible methods but with the ultimate end of helping them save the world from the Earthbound Gods. Then the situation is complicated by the revelation that he's the better half of a Cain and Abel situation with his brother Rudger, leader of the Dark Signers, and both of them worked with Yusei's father in the past and may have had a hand in causing the huge disaster seventeen years ago that led to the current conflict. And then, finally, it turns out that rather than trying to seal away the Earthbound Gods, he was using the protagonists as pawns in his Evil Plan to gain their power, become a god, and Screw Destiny by destroying the world and creating a better one.

    Comic Books 
  • 100 Bullets has damn near everyone working for their own unknown goals. More often than not, when they talk about their plans for the future, they talk in inscrutable riddles that, if you're lucky, will make sense in the context of future issues. You'll have to read between the lines to fully grasp the implications of the plot.
  • Mr. Sinister from X-Men is often like this, with no one being aware of the goals behind his villainous plot of the week. For example one time he went through the trouble to get a sample of Rachael Summers DNA and then, did nothing with it.
  • A possible way to view The Joker. It is never made clear what his past and goals are as he constantly contradicts himself. This makes him even scarier.
  • The Losers: The parts of Max's plan they uncover seem to suggest a movie-Lex-Luthor-esque large scale land grab. Turns out that's only phase one.
  • Black Science introduces Doxta the witch on the world Tarana. Everyone in the world is terrified of her but no one knows what she's up to. On meeting Grant she implies she's a hero preventing misuse of power; or maybe she's manipulated Grant across the eververse to bring her pillar technology; or maybe she just enjoys watching people suffer. In any case she escapes Tarana on her own terms, promising to see Grant again...
  • In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe story "Threat From the Infinite" the T'Zook are introduced this way: they're aliens who are looking for something and causing damage to the environment in the process, but the Junior Woodchucks, the only ones to have chanced on their existance, have no idea what they're looking for or why, or even their name. This makes The Reveal even scarier when the Space Police (who had been chasing them for years to serve them fines for polluting hundreds of words) arrives and reveals that they were originally from Earth and want the planet back, and are looking for the ancient cities that contain devices that would help them do just that.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In-Universe, The Collaborators, Apex Cybernetics (who only make a Continuity Cameo in this Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction). It's unclear exactly what this continuity's version of them want. They do appear to have a little more respect for Godzilla and the Titans as the Earth's real line of defence, compared to their canon counterparts' Muggle Power agenda; or at least Maia Simmons makes it seem like that's the case with them. Maia expresses an interest in making the human race better able to match the Titans' power level, supposedly with the aim of supporting rather than attacking Godzilla and his allies in defence of the world. Supplementary materials reveal that they're just as obsessed with usurping the Titans as the dominant force on Earth as their canon counterparts.
  • The Bikini Bottom Horror: SpongeBob is responsible for manipulating the Tortured One and the events of the story to take control of Bikini Bottom for himself, but it remains ambiguous at the end what his motives are beyond opening his own restaurant or what he plans to do next if anything.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls:
    • Even as we learn more about the full depths of the Zero Division's manipulations and plans, their ultimate goals remain vague, not helping this is the fact that the various members don't always see eye-to-eye, and may have separate agendas from the group's. Human Starlight also hints that their plans might be a threat to Equestria as well...
    • Charybdis aided in Gaia Everfree's resurrection, but besides the opportunity to gain access to Earth, a realm where the powers that be were unaware of her existence, and couldn't limit her plans as easily, unlike Equestria, it's unclear what she sought to gain from it.
  • Fate Revelation Online: Kayaba Akihiko traps ten thousand people in a death game and introduces a [Thaumaturgy Patch] that creates a far more complex magic system than the bare-bones Low Fantasy version it had before. He invites everyone to find out why; "If you wish to uncover my motive, struggle to clear the game." No one understands why he would trap so many people, or place so much emphasis on the magic system. The few real mages in the game know full well that the magic system is a near-perfect simulation of real magecraft, but that just leaves even more questions. If he really does let them out at the end, all he's done is create ten thousand collaborators to his crime of breaking the masquerade, and they'll all be executed by the Enforcers. Argo, who was following the development of the game beforehand, thinks back to how Kayaba was revolutionizing not just the gaming industry, but software as a whole; she even started a forum thread on the topic that was featured on CNN. He has to have some plan, but no one knows what.
    Kayaba Akihiko threw away becoming bigger than Bill Gates to orchestrate this Death Game.
    Compared to that, what could he possibly be hoping to accomplish?
  • Invader Zim: A Bad Thing Never Ends: Lex states that he's on a secret mission from the Tallest, one that requires him to retrieve something that he later determines to be Minimoose. However, why he's doing this is yet to be revealed.
  • lies of attrition: Chrysalis claims that her goal is to undo Monarque's Wish and set things right, but her motives for this are unclear. And her Evil Gloating to Ladybug makes it clear that she's no Well-Intentioned Extremist. And since she's a Consummate Liar, this may not even be her true goal at all.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Mr. Black is initially seen as faceless, but eventually his face, backstory, and name are slowly revealed, as well as his motivations and target.
    • The Conduit, his boss, is also this to a greater degree.
  • Prehistoric Earth: While implied to be a somewhat shady figure during his very first appearance and eventually confirmed to be both the story's Big Bad and responsible for setting up a mass breakout at the titular park, his exact goals and endgame were never really made clear until close to the end of the story;at which point it's revealed that he's secretly running a prehistoric animal smuggling ring.
  • Shadows Awakening has the Phantom, Daolon Wong's partner in the Big Bad Ensemble. He makes it clear from the beginning that he's only aiding Wong in order to use him to advance his own plans, without making it clear just what they are (besides revenge against Tarakudo). However, near the end of the story, it's finally made clear that all the Phantom wants is to create a worthy ruler of the Shadowkhan, since he doesn't see himself in the role. When the Queen gets loose and proves herself superior to Wong, the Phantom switches loyalty to her and demotes himself to Dragon.
  • Malkuth from The Games We Play. No one knows if he has an end goal more sophisticated than tormenting Mankind, but Jaune is pretty sure he figures into it somehow.
  • Deconstructed in The RWBY Loops. Because Cinder Fall was canonically one of these when she started looping, her backstory and history varied wildly in each iteration of the time loop, and she eventually decided to ignore any higher goal in favor of gaining power and her own amusement. This, in combination with her Becoming the Mask, contributed directly to her insanity and eventual attempt to destroy the world...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In A Field in England, the villain's main goal is finding a buried treasure in the titular field. What he plans to do with it is never explained.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Ren Serizawa in the movie version, as it's never explained why he's joined Apex Cybernetics' Muggle Power plan with Mechagodzilla and in doing so gone against every single value that his late father ever stood for, but it's hinted when Ren glares at Godzilla from afar that It's Personal. The novelization on the other hand fleshes out Ren's personal motivations and the source of his hatred for Godzilla.
  • Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Despite being a rare case of a recurring villain in the James Bond flicks, very little is known about the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. In fact, more may be known about his cat. His past, motives, and most everything else about him remain a mystery (although there was a backstory for him in Fleming's original Thunderball).
  • Snowball Express: Ridgeway isn't too villainous, but it's clear from his first scene that he has some secret reason for wanting to buy the hotel. The final scene reveals that he's after logging rights.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a couple of characters whose motives are so mysterious that it's difficult to tell whether they even are villains:
    • Littlefinger is clearly gunning for something, but as he's an absolutely pathological liar with a high-functioning but severe case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and economic shell games, it's not clear what that is. Gathering influence, wealth and power are certainly part of it, but whether those are his goal or a means to something else has not been revealed.
    • Something of an inversion: Varys claims to be working for the good of the realm, and says so in a couple of situations where it's hard to imagine what he'd gain by lying. But his plans are convoluted enough that it's hard to be sure what he considers the good of the realm to be.
    • Jaqen H'ghar, depending on whether you consider him a hero or a villain and which fan theories you subscribe to.
  • Lampshaded in the fifth book of The Banned and the Banished. The main characters don't realize the villain has an agenda.
  • The hyper-advanced alien Overlords in Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End arrive in Earth's orbit and, over a few decades, end all armed conflict and introduce technologies that increase living standards worldwide, all the while refusing to explain their motivations. It turns out that the final generation in humanity's evolution had just been born. The Overlords were sent to ensure that they succeed in becoming part of the Overmind, a universal hive-mind that the Overlords, for reasons unspecified, are unable to join. Whether or not the Overlords play a villainous role is perhaps a matter of opinion.
  • We don't find out until the last few chapters of the seventh book why the Trustees betrayed the Architect in Keys to the Kingdom. We also find out who precisely backstabbed the Piper, why the Will cursed the Trustees, whether or not it was the real Big Bad, what Sunday was up to this whole time, and in the last chapter (sans epilogue) why the Architect imprisoned the Old One. Now THAT'S a long set-up.
  • In Mary Gentle's Ash: A Secret History, the Wild Machines' true motive for wanting to destroy the world and erase future history isn't revealed until the final climax, and comes as a total shock to both Ash and the reader.
  • The apparent current Big Bads of The Dresden Files universe are the Black Council. We've seen some of their members, we know some of their methods, and we've seen Dresden scuttle some of their plans. We still haven't the faintest idea what their overall agenda is, though it's hard to imagine what plan has "become a god" as an intermediate step. Battle Ground finally gives the biggest hint to date: The Black Council is working with the entity Nemesis, who is finally revealed to be one of the Outsiders, beings from outside reality who are trying to invade and bring about the Empty Night — a universe utterly empty and void of any aspect of life imaginable for the rest of eternity, a true unraveling of all things into darkness and eternal silence.
  • "The Organisation Which I Represent" in the Mediochre Q Seth Series, and their main representative, the tempomancer. We know that they have a secret plan (and they're already on stage three) and it somehow benefited their cause to manipulate everybody in the first book into doing at least some of what they did, possibly everything. The tempomancer tells Joseph that they are Well Intentioned Extremists seeking to ensure that some future event of Biblical proportions (he specifically references the Tower of Babel) results in the most scientifically-beneficial outcome, but it's hard to tell how much of that is true considering tricking people is what the tempomancer is there for. And it's hard to see how their actions could possibly affect anything of that sort.
  • Pegasus (2010): There appears to be a faction among the magicians that has been working ever since the first contact with the pegasi to ensure that humans and pegasi cannot truly communicate with each other. Why they are working so hard to prevent such communication has yet to be revealed, but considering that the most arrogant and manipulative magicians are part of this faction it probably isn't anything good.
  • Gammis Turek of Vatta's War is one such villain. While it's clear that he plans on using his fleet of Space Pirates to take over, the full goals are never revealed in any detail, and are only speculated by the heroes.
  • In Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, Spider tends to have ulterior motives for any job she assigns villains. The ploy we see her put into motion in the climax involves sending dozens of villains to steal minor artifacts that she'll find useful, all as a distraction while another team steals a major artifact.
  • Animorphs has an interesting example with Visser One, who has been noted, multiple times, to be explicitly pushing for a stealthy and slow infiltration of Earth, as opposed to Visser Three's preference for an all-out invasion. Despite this being mentioned repeatedly, we never found out why... until we read the off-spin Chronicles book, VISSER.
    • The book VISSER is not widely-read, as it is not part of the main series (being one of the four "Chronicles" book). As a result, many fans missed out on the revelation in this book (which is a rather throw-away line, to boot): Visser One had, through a previous host, conceived and given birth to human twins. The reason she's pushing for a slow infiltration is because an all-out war might kill her children, and she cannot allow that.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Shadows of Babylon 5 go around making shady deals and causing wars, but it's not clear for a long time what they seek to gain by doing this - they are clearly so strong that they could openly seize territory if that's what they wanted. The Vorlons claim that the Shadows are Always Chaotic Evil and want everyone to unquestioningly oppose them, and their anger at Sheridan for pointing out that he'd be better able to fight the Shadows if he knew what he'd need to do to thwart their goals is the first indication that the Vorlons also have a hidden agenda. In the end, it's revealed that both the Shadows and Vorlons have lost sight of what they are actually supposed to be doing, making it more of a case of forgotten agenda villians.
  • The Cylons in the 2000s Battlestar Galactica were said in the title crawl to "have a plan", though whatever it might have been was nearly impossible to judge from their actions, which included various attempts to destroy the human race outright as well as an interbreeding program and one attempt at forming a bilateral government. That there were apparently multiple Cylon organizations with differing agendas working against each other only complicated it further. The series is now complete, and we never did find out what the hell they were after.
    • Though you can make a pretty good guess: It was Cavil all along. He wanted to prove to The Five that Humans Are the Real Monsters so they would abandon their old efforts to make peace with them and hand over Resurrection technology to Cavil.
    • Word of God has confirmed that "they have a plan" was a marketing tag line chosen because "they have a broad series of goals and act in ways that seem likely to achieve them but usually wind up not doing so" wasn't as catchy.
  • Benjamin Linus from Lost. His love for playing mind-games with both his enemies and his allies clouds the issue still further, as do the varying levels of villainy with which he is depicted.
  • "The Company" from Heroes: Daniel Linderman, Bob Bishop, and Angela Petrelli make this look easy. Further complicated by the appearance of another Company (Pinehearst), apparently founded when Arthur Petrelli broke off from the previous one.
  • In Supernatural, we haven't even begun to learn what the Yellow Eyed Demon/Azazel has planned for his "endgame." Not even Heaven itself knows what he's planning just yet. As revealed in Season 4, virtually every major event that happened with the Winchester family was set up by Azazel and his minions to achieve his master plan, which is to release Lucifer himself from his cage. And boy, does it work. See Magnificent Bastard for Azazel's plan in depth
  • In Star Trek: Enterprise, "Future Guy" directed agents in the "present" to commit various acts in order to advance his goals in a "Temporal Cold War". Exactly what goals he was trying to advance was never explained. The writers admitted that they themselves had no idea who Future Guy really was or what he wanted (they apparently had a vague idea early on — he was a Romulan meddling to allow the Romulan Star Empire to win the coming Earth-Romulan War — but it was abandoned along the way). The writers of the Star Trek Novel 'Verse thought up the answers.
  • The Silence from Doctor Who. They were responsible for the events of series 5 without appearing until the series 6 opening, and were entirely inscrutable in their actions. The blew up the TARDIS (somehow that wasn't explained), kidnapped Amy's daughter, and manipulated all of human history so that they could get a spacesuit. It later turns out that they wanted to prevent the Doctor from helping the Time Lords return to our universe because this would start the Time War again. They tried to do this by blowing up the TARDIS and when that failed they kidnapped Melody Pond to turn her into a Time Lord assassin. The spacesuit seems to be a Stable Time Loop, the Doctor was killed by someone in a spacesuit so that's why they got one.
  • Gatehouse of The Shadow Line. He's the series's main antagonist but who he works for isn't revealed until the penultimate episode, and even after this his true goals remain mysterious until the finale's last few scenes.
  • Agravaine from Merlin. He is trying to sabotage Arthur's reign, despite having genuinely fond memories of Igraine (his sister, Arthur's mother) as well as a prime position as #2 in Arthur's court. He scathingly calls Uther "old friend", suggesting a history that has not yet been revealed. He is working with Morgana, even though he seems to find magic distasteful. He also seems reluctant to harm Guinevere (and is, in fact, rather creepily fascinated by her) when Morgana demands that they assassinate her. No one really knows what he's doing.
  • Moriarty on Sherlock apparently likes to blow people up, break into high-security places, and drive people to suicide simply because he's bored. That is, if we can trust what Moriarty says...
  • On Leverage, the Italian is this in season three. She has a lot of behind-the-scenes power (she can keep Nate out of jail and in Boston after he has escaped a Massachusetts state prison), and has blackmailed the team into taking down the world's most powerful criminal banker. We know she wanted Moreau out of the way. It's never really established who she works for or what her ultimate goals are, but she's implied to have a web of corrupt dealings and plans, and taking down Moreau is just one part of them.
  • In the Diagnosis: Murder episode "Rear Windows '98," we never learn what the killer's motive was.
  • The Night's King from Game of Thrones. He's leading a seemingly invincible army from the freezing and unknown Land of Always Winter after the failure of his first campaign millennia ago. For what? Simple conquest? Eradication of the human race? Fleeing something even worse? No one knows, and he's not telling anytime soon. We eventually are told his goal is to kill everyone and usher in a time of eternal night. What would happen after that is unclear, though.
  • Chucky: Throughout the first season, it's clear that Chucky has some higher goal than just another random killing spree, especially with his focus on trying to convince Jake (and later other kids) to commit murders as well. As we find out in the Season Finale, he needed to corrupt an innocent in order to power his soul-splitting spell enough to possess dozens of Good Guy dolls that he and Tiffany had collected, which would then be spread across the country to kill and corrupt even more.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Fourze: Gamou's agenda may start with spreading Dark Switches that turn people into rampaging Zodiarts, but the real purpose is to find the ones who can evolve into the exceptionally powerful Horoscopes. And he actually only want their Switches. And he only wants those so he can fulfill his life-long dream of meeting the Presenters. The net result is a Big Bad whose plan is constantly advancing despite (or even because) Fourze defeating everything he comes up against.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard: Wiseman is the one responsible for creating the Phantoms, but for most of the series it's unknown why he wants to summon more of them. As it turns out, he doesn't want to make more Phantoms at all, they're just a side effect of his true goal, which is to find people capable of resisting Phantoms who can then become wizards.
  • The Golden Blade in Lockwood & Co. (2023), a mysterious swordsman who works in accord with Fittes for the sake of some sinister agenda, but claims to be serving other, even more powerful forces.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Jimmy Jacobs came into Dragon Gate USA "not as an invader" but to use his influence and connections to benefit worthy wrestlers like The Young Bucks against Ryo Saito and Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! (who were more straightforward in their deviancy), recruiting them to his "cause" in the process of course. The Bucks, for their part, didn't buy it.

  • Dr. Blackgaard on Adventures in Odyssey was revealed to be plotting to get the land Whit's End was built on even back to the distant flashback when Whit saved the then-rec center from being torn down. Moreover, his ultimate goals were not revealed almost until the very end.
  • Bleak Expectations: Spoofed with Mr. Benevolent's plan in the first series, which requires forcibly marrying Agnes Bin (presumably for her money). When Pip Bin foils this, Benevolent laments how his evil plan is ruined, prompting Pip to ask what the plan actually was. Mr. Benevolent's only response is an awkward "it was complicated." (Which he proves moments later by revealing part of it involved building a church with a special step for trip Pip up with). Benevolent's plans in later series are far more obvious - kill Pip Bin.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 god Tzeentch is supposedly working on some inscrutable endgame, to which he has innumerable Gambit Roulettes running at all times, often seeming to work against each other. It has been suggested a few times that the plotting might be the objective itself, since as a God of Chaos it wouldn't be much fun if he won and there was only his own will. Another suggestion is that his plotting has become so complex that it's self-defeating, and Tzeentch himself has lost control of his Gambit Roulette.
    • Newer material suggests that because Tzeentch is change, he can no more stop plotting than he can end his own existence, because that is precisely what would happen if any of his plans were to actually succeed.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, while not all archmasters are necessarily villainous, hidden agendas are fairly par for the course, especially regarding their Imperium Rites. Not only does utilizing mysterious and circuitous methods of achieving them make them metaphysically easier, keeping the specific agenda hidden from other archmasters makes it less likely that they will employ retroactive sabotage with their own counter-rites.
  • The God-Machine's final goal in Chronicles of Darkness is not known. By anyone. Even its Angels are given, at best, fragmentary details with no idea how they play into the overall plan. This can lead to streams of contradictory data being fed to the Angels, leading to them Falling and becoming the player characters of Demon: The Descent.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: Nobody knows the Queen of Mirrors's full agenda except the Queen herself. All that is known is that she keeps appearing in the dreams of newly-Blossomed Princesses, telling each of them that she is the True Heir, the one who will drive back the Darkness and restore the Kingdoms of Light.

  • In Othello Iago refuses to explain himself and if anything seems annoyed at Lodovico for asking.
    Iago: Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word.
  • Westeros: An American Musical:
    • One scene parodies this aspect of Littlefinger by having Tywin make a couple comments about Littlefinger being a mystery whose true motives may never be known. Just as he's making those comments, Tyrion is reading a letter written by Littlefinger that makes his Crazy Jealous Guy tendencies towards Sansa blindingly obvious.
    • Littlefinger himself later has a line which paraphrases the line spoken by his canon counterpart that is used as the page quote:
    Littlefinger: If they don't know where you're going, you'll never be seen.

  • BIONICLE: Makuta Teridax's ultimate plan wasn't revealed until he'd already accomplished it. In individual years he had shorter-term goals, like gaining the Mask of Light, Mask of Time, and escaping the prison the Toa Metru put him in, but those never lasted past that year's storyline. Once the Mask of Life storyline started, however, he just seemed to be helping the heroes for his own unknown reasons, which were later revealed to be committing a Grand Theft Me on the ''ENTIRE UNIVERSE''.

    Video Games 
  • A strange example of what may be a Hidden Agenda Villain, or maybe a Hidden Agenda Hero can be found in the High Men race of strategy game Age of Wonders. They're listed as Pure Good-seems obvious. They're masters at fighting the Undead, and aggressively attack other evil races-fine. They're unusually friendly with the humans. Fair enough. They're so piously righteous that they make even the game's main good guys nervous-hmmm... and what, exactly, have they come to do? You only find out in the epilogue, and let's just say that a Keeper who leaves the dwarf-elf-halfling coalition to join the High Men will face a bittersweet ending at best...
  • Jon Irenicus in Baldur's Gate 2 spends the whole game thwarting any attempt to directly glean his motives and ultimate goal for capturing and performing horrific experiments on you and your party (and then letting himself get arrested and carted off to a magic insane asylum while dragging one of your party members with him.) The party eventually finds out he's an elf exiled from his homeland and stripped of his soul, and he wants the soul of a Bhaalspawn to save himself and get revenge on those who exiled him.
  • Yuuki Terumi made his appearance in the first BlazBlue game as the villain responsible for destroying many characters' lives, a sly Manipulative Bastard heading the NOL's Intelligence Department, and a mysterious man with ties to most key players and events in the game working towards killing the Master Unit: Amaterasu. But the how's and why's remained unexplained until the fourth game... We eventually learn that he fucks up people's lives because he's tied to the Schrodinger principle; his existence needs to be "observed" in order for him to exist, and making people obsess over killing him is an effective way of accomplishing that, but it's not until the fourth game that it's explained what kind of entity he really is, why he needs to be observed in order to exist, or why he takes so much enjoyment in breaking people. We furthermore learn that he, along with the other villains, seeks the Azure, which will allow him to remake the world into what he deems ideal... once again, we don't learn what Terumi's ideal world is until the fourth game... and, come the fourth game, we finally learn that Terumi is actually Susanoo, Jerkass God extraordinaire and Amaterasu's brother. He hates his sister Amaterasu because he was tied to her will as a kind of necessary adversary in the past, and as he considered that a form of denial of his own free will, he decided to dedicate his life to destroying absolutely everything she loved in the world out of nothing but petty spite. But since this was still in line with his assigned role, he seeks the Azure so that he can turn the world into a cesspool of misery, fear, hatred and despair, where everyone kills everyone they love for him and he rules over this hellhole world as its new Top God.
  • In Chrono Trigger, Magus is the villain for a good portion of the first half of the game, since the heroes are led to believe it was he who created Lavos. After being defeated at his castle and accused of creating Lavos, he informs the heroes he was only summoning Lavos to the year 600 AD, not spawning the beast. Later on, it's revealed he wasn't even summoning Lavos so as to unleash the creature, he just wanted revenge on it for ruining his life.
  • Darksiders: Samael regularly encounters the Horsemen and aids or hinders them as he sees fit, all in the pursuit of a mysterious agenda. He has repeatedly refused to work with Lucifer and Lilith in the past, has no interest in upsetting the Balance of Power or challenging the will of the Charred Council (at least openly) and has made no move to claim the throne of Hell for himself, even though he has accrued enough power and resources to challenge Lucifer for rulership.
    • Darksiders: For whatever reason he opposed Lucifer and the Destroyer following the Apocalypse, and as punishment was imprisoned on Earth. He then offers to help War reach the Black Throne in exchange for the hearts of the Destroyer's Chosen, allowing Samael to regain his full power. While he could easily kill War at this point, he instead elects to honor his deal and leave without issue, allegedly because he respects War's desire for vengeance. Samael then cryptically states that they will meet again before parting ways.
    • Darksiders II: When Death travels to the past in order to acquire the Demon Key from Samael, the Blood Prince has Death fight him for it after confirming that the Horseman's visit is unsanctioned and that no one knows he's there. While it is clear that Samael wasn't fighting Death at all seriously, he still chooses to relinquish the Demon Key willingly after measuring Death's strength, and cryptically states that Death's coming fight with Absalom will be "quite the show" no matter the outcome before disappearing.
  • Demon Hunter: The Return of the Wings: Greed's motives are one of the biggest mysteries, as he keeps pausing his hide-and-seek game to give Gun hints on what to do next, which results in defeat of other demons, while also being an Unreliable Expositor.
  • The Darkness from Destiny and Destiny 2 doesn't seem to have any particular motivation for why it caused the Collapse and provides power to humanity's enemies. While the lore confirms that it is The Social Darwinist and wants to bring about an Ultimate Life Form scenario called the Final Shape, it seems content for this to happen over billions of years with minimal input on its part. Lightfall would eventually reveal that the reason the Darkness has an enigmatic motive is because it has no motive - it isn't alive or intelligent, instead being a Background Magic Field. The true orchestrator of the events of the franchise is The Witness, and while it too had an unknown agenda, Season of the Deep reveals that it is a Mind Hive of the first race the Traveler blessed who languished for purpose. When they discovered the existence of the Traveler's opposite, the Veil, they tried to merge to two to bring about the Final Shape - a perfectly ordered universe. The Traveler fleeing led to them fusing into the Witness and begin an eons long hunt to create meaning in a meaningless universe.
  • Flemeth, from Dragon Age:
    • She saves the PC and Alistair from the bloodbath at Ostagar in the first Dragon Age and even sends her daughter with them. At first she claims that the Blight threats her too, but her real intentions aren't revealed until much later in the game, depending on what order you'll play certain regions. She's hoping that Morrigan will grow her magical powers during the quest so she can possess her later in the hopes of continuing her centuries-long lifespan. And going even further in the game It becomes clear Flemeth set up the whole Take a Third Option setting in the hopes of getting her hands on to the demon-god-baby that the male PC, Alistair, or Loghain can father.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals a bit more about her nature, but does nothing to clear up her motives. She carries a fragment of Mythal, a powerful mage that the ancient elves worshipped as a goddess - and she seems to be seeking even more power for her mysterious goals. If Morrigan's son Kieran was born with the old god soul, she'll take it from him peacefully, all while revealing that neither Morrigan or Kieran ever needed to fear possession by her.
  • Dyztopia: Post-Human RPG: Asterisk doesn't reveal why he attacked humanity in the first place or why he agreed to revive them for Zazz, outside of him ominously mentioning a cycle. On a New Game Plus run, he'll claim that wiping out humanity is a Mercy Kill because of how they rendered the planet uninhabitable, but he doesn't specify if that is the main reason he did so.
  • Mantorok is initially a sort of Big Good for Eternal Darkness, manipulating events in order to kill off the other three Ancients as revenge for them sealing and weakening him. In the Omega Ending of the game where he succeeds, however, it's implied that he has ulterior, more sinister motives for what he's doing, and whatever they are is never revealed.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The heroes spent some time chasing after Exdeath/Exodus in Final Fantasy V without having the faintest clue what he was up to - and he even berates them for trying to stop him without knowing what he was planning. As it turns out, he was trying to re-fuse a sundered world into its original form. But since he wanted to do this so he could gain control of the Void and conquer / destroy everything, it wasn't that ambiguous after all.
    • Golbez was a similar example in Final Fantasy IV. The characters Lampshade this halfway through the game when they mention that Golbez is seeking the Crystals to reach the moon for some kind of power, although they don't know exactly what it is. It's later revealed that Golbez is actually Brainwashed and Crazy, manipulated into trying to free Zemus, The Man Behind the Man and actual Big Bad of the game, who is trapped in stasis on the moon.
  • The motives of the mysterious Shivans in the FreeSpace games is never explained. It's strongly implied that their "war" with the Terrans and Vasudans is little more than a speed bump in the path toward their true objective.
  • Alex in every Golden Sun game in which he has appeared. Yes, even that one.
  • That Half-Life's G-Man has an ambiguous nature only goes to show how well his agenda is hidden.
  • Heinrich Himmler in the Hearts of Iron Alternate History mod The New Order Last Days Of Europe runs the 1984-esque dystopia known as Ordensstaat Burgund (SS State of Burgundy) under an even more extreme version of Nazism called "The Burgundian System" that keeps up an unprecedented level of secrecy, earning Burgundy the nickname of "The Shadow State". The player can't even view their focus tree unless they're playing as them, with the only result of trying being "STRENG GEHEIM" (Top Secret). There's a reason for that. His grand plan involves unleashing a Nuclear Apocalypse upon the entire world in order to kill off all non-Aryans, thinking only they are strong enough to survive it. In a world where Hitler is still alive, Himmler stands as one of the cruelest & most insane men in the game. This comes to the point of justifying the trope if Heydrich wins the German Civil War: Even the Blonde Butcher, architect of the Holocaust and one of the worst of the Nazi power sphere here and in the OTL, cannot bring himself to back the apocalypse. Thus, he ends up plunging the entirety of the Pakt into a gigantic war to seize the nukes before Himmler can use them.
  • Horizon Forbidden West plays with this in the case of the main antagonists - Far Zenith. At first, it seems they sent the extinction signal for HADES because they wanted to get to a "clean" earth from their destroyed planet and use GAIA to re-terraform it as they see fit. However, this plan, despite being in line with what we see of them, is still suspect from a logical standpoint. It isn't until the very end of the game we get the real story: a rogue A.I (NEMESIS) of their own design wiped out their planet, and is chasing them. Earth is just a stop point to some random location NEMESIS can't get to. NEMESIS not only sent the extinction signal, but will wipe earth clean just to spite them.
  • Kessler's motives only become apparent right at the end of inFAMOUS. He's got control of a huge organization of soldiers, but doesn't aim to take over the world. He's been researching the Ray Sphere, but doesn't seek superpowers for himself, since he already has them, nor is he really trying to change the world, despite that unleashing that technology has certainly changed it. None of his lectures have the usual villainous rant; he says he's tired, and that he honestly hopes Cole will kick his ass when the time comes for them to confront one another. Kessler is Cole from an alternate future, where he fled from a giant monster called "The Beast", only for everyone, including his family, to die because of his inaction. He's traveled to the past to jump-start Cole's development of powers and to ensure that Cole is tough enough, physically and mentally, to face the Beast before the Beast kills everyone.
    • In inFAMOUS 2, we find out that the Beast himself is not just a monster destroying the world for kicks. An illness originating from the Ray Sphere's explosion in the first game is going pandemic, and will kill everyone except conduits (people with powers like Cole). The Beast is using his power (which is bringing out the conduit powers in anyone that may have them) to make sure there are as many survivors as possible. This however, involves, sacrificing the life force of those around the conduit (similar to how the Ray Sphere works, only there's no illness from it).
  • What, exactly, Kun Lan is doing in Killer7 is never truly revealed. It is merely hinted that he and Harman pass the centuries by one causing trouble and the other putting a stop to it. The games godlike entities play...
  • The Master of Masters from Kingdom Hearts. We still don't know his plan, his motivation, his goals, or even his name or what he looks like under that cloak. All that's been revealed so far is his voice, his personality, and that he gave his six apprentices oddly ill-fitting roles to save the world of light.
    • Additionally, Xigbar/Luxu. We know he's been manipulating Xehanort to fulfill the role the Master gave him, but unlike the other Foretellers, we don't know what that role is.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Saren is set up as scheming and traitorous from the beginning of the game, but even while investigating his links to the geth, his research on Noveria and archaeological digs it's unclear why he's doing it all. His goal of acquiring the "Conduit" stays pretty unclear for a long time, you don't find out what it is and what it does until the very end-game.
    • The Reapers themselves are much the same throughout both games. They come back every 50,000 years and wipe out all sapient organics. Why? It's not until the end of the second game that we get the answer that they're doing it to use our bodies to build more of themselves. And one game later it turns out there's even more to it than that. Turning organic beings into more Reapers accomplishes two things. Making more Reapers, and preserving that life in some way as opposed to completely wiping it from the galaxy. The Reapers' true purpose is to keep organic life from creating, and then warring with, synthetic life. Because this kind of war has happened before, and tends to wreak havoc on inhabitable planets, meaning fewer places to support life. The Reapers have been killing spacefaring races to preserve life itself as a whole.
  • It takes four Metal Gear games and about 80 hours of play to finally understand what Ocelot was doing all the time. Pretty good for someone who appears about 1 to 2 hours into the first game and apparently runs the entire show.
  • Mercilessly parodied in No More Heroes, in which Jeane, a character given precious little foreshadowing except in the manual (and in the name of protagonist Travis Touchdown's cat), suddenly appears out of nowhere. After the supposed final opponent Dark Star makes a ridiculous Luke, I Am Your Father pronouncement, Jeane kills the man from behind before any fight takes place, and she does so by punching him through the crotch no less. As it turns out, Jeane has had a grudge against Travis all along, but unless you can capture video and play it back slowly (or have Internet access and see the clip on YouTube), you'll never know: she explains that the details are too gruesome and that they might drive the game's rating up even further ("What if it gets delayed? You don't want this to become No More Heroes Forever, do you?"), so she only agrees to divulge them through a brief fast-forward sequence where every revelation prompts a stunned reaction from Travis, but the revelations themselves are perfectly unintelligible (save for at the end, when Travis unhelpfully summarizes that Jeane is his half-sister).
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Evil Vizier's plans are never revealed throughout the entire game until his last words ("I could have been... immortal."), and even then, it's not clear how he wanted to achieve that goal. Thanks to the Timey-Wimey Ball in Warrior Within, he's back in The Two Thrones, and achieves immortality quickly into the game.
  • Resident Evil's Albert Wesker managed to keep his true objective hidden for the first 4 and a half games. He was a special forces police officer and secretly a top researcher for MegaCorp Umbrella. When Umbrella collapses, it becomes apparent he has another motive. Soon, we discover he's gathering viral samples for Tricell, Umbrella's rival company. Soon, he manages to redefine Magnificent Bastard when he backstabs Tricell and reveals his true agenda: To release a virus across the planet to create a superior race of humans, wiping out ''almost'' the entire world in the process.
  • StarCraft:
  • Hel's plan in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume gets no explication whatsoever. In one ending a character suggests she was just stirring up trouble For the Evulz, but this character has no way of knowing for sure. It is a reasonable theory that she wanted to get her hands on the Angel Slayer, but this is conclusively proven either.

    Visual Novels 
  • In ghostpia, the Priest's goals and motivations are a complete mystery. It's never explained why he holds such a tight grip on the town, why he holds such animosity towards Sayoko or why he held Yoru in Church custody beyond a vauge claim that she is a "witch," a claim that Yoru herself is confused by.

    Web Animation 
  • T E T R I S ' D: It is never revealed why the aliens attacked Earth to cover it up with Tetris blocks.
  • RWBY: Most of Salem's followers believe that Salem is trying to create a new world order and they'll benefit in different and personal ways if they support that endeavour. While both Tyrian and Ozpin believe, for differing reasons, that her true goal is to destroy the world, Salem has never confirmed what she really plans. Tyrian believes she represents his ideation of ultimate destruction while Ozpin believes that immortality has become such a traumatic burden for her that she's seeking an out via a loophole she thinks she's found in the curse the gods placed upon her.

  • The still unnamed ghost from A Girl and Her Fed - who we've seen, but is (probably intentionally) hard to identify due to the art style - who was responsible for setting the Pocket President program in motion. It's been stated that the PP's purpose was to eventually spark another American Civil War... but the question of why - let alone how, given the PP's tendency to turn its bearers into into depressed zombies or Ax-Crazy psychos - has left even the protagonists' ghostly allies baffled.
  • Hereti Corp from Sluggy Freelance. While they engage in a few bits of more explicable evil, their primary goal involves doing something with Oasis and Dr. Steve's base lab. Like most everything else surrounding Oasis, however, it's shrouded in mystery.
    • Although now Dr. Schlock is in charge, and at this point we know practically the entirety of his plan thanks to the 4U City arc: get rid of riff, acquire military contracts, put dimensional flux agitator in space, take over world, create dystopia.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The three directors of the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission; we know that they want to unite the fiend races, and that the (apparent) reason they made a deal with Vaarsuvius was to "knock Xykon out of his comfort zone" as part of their larger Evil Plan (which apparently also involves the Gates). We know that they want to attack The Upper Planes but we don't know why or how. In short, we know nothing of their long-term goals.
    • The Snarl eventually evolves into another example. We are told that it is a world-destroying, god-killing abomination, but its real goals appear to be more than just destroying everything, and the person telling the Snarl's story is quickly revealed to be a Consummate Liar anyway. It is made clear that the heroes don't know everything about it, and it's quite possible not even gods know what the Snarl is really after.
  • Ava's Demon: TITAN is a Galactic Conqueror and has a rising popularity as a Cult, private army, MegaCorp and Lifestyle, his true motivations for his conquest are unknown, but "TITAN has a plan for you."
  • What does Posey want with Attley in The Sanity Circus? She seems to want to 'help' her somehow, but how? It doesn't become clear for a long time, and until then it becomes very clear that she will knock down anything/one she has to in her way. Even her strictly-speaking teammate Sammy doesn't get let in on her plans, but appears to know that when she says 'Don't worry, this will work', it will. She wants Attley to return to being a fellow Scarecrow, and to prove her worth to the other Scarecrows who would declare Attley's too useless to be allowed to live.
  • In El Goonish Shive, all that is known about Lord Tedd is that he is apparently a Dimension Lord who wants to kill his weak multiversal counterparts. The questions of which Tedds (besides the main universe one) he considers weak, why he considers being weak to warrant killing, and what motivates him to kill weak Tedds all are unanswered and given the Kudzu Plot of the comic won't be for a long time.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: Brook suspects this of Satan for making reapers. He notes that sinners will die on their own so there is no real need for him to create reapers at all. Satan does admit that his reapers have a purpose for a plan of his, but refuses to elaborate on what that plan may be.

    Web Original 
  • Done in the Laputa Arc of the New Vindicators, with the leader of Laputa's motivation and true identity remaining unknown until the very climax of the story. The heroes think they're dealing with one thing-a terrorist group that wants to punish the United States for its treatment of superhumans and create a better world led by the superhumanly intelligent leader, but the real truth is hidden, even from many members of Laputa.
  • The Necromancer of the Whateley Universe. The heroes have tangled with him several times, but they still don't know what he's after, why he's gathering Plot Coupons, and what he wants to do with them. Given who he deals with, it'll be bad.
  • In Survival of the Fittest, Danya's agenda is so well hidden that even most of the handlers don't know what it is, let alone the characters. This is a bigger deal than it sounds when you take into account that the handlers are the ones who write the plot. After five years and (almost) three versions of the game, with a fourth on the way, only a few hints have been shown.
  • Across the various works of The Slender Man Mythos, the motives of the titular Slender Man typically remain as inscrutable as everything else about him, from his nature to what he even does to his victims.
  • Mechakara, the first major villain of Atop the Fourth Wall. For months we watched him occasionally pop up at the end of a video with Linkara remaining oblivious, until the Wham Episode that explained everything.
    • The Gunslinger was happy to talk about what he wanted—Linkara's magic gun, by any means necessary—but what he wanted it for remained unexplained for most of a year after his first appearance.
    • Parodied with both Mysterior and Mr. Enigma. Their only motivations are being mysterious. They don't pose any threat, aside from bothering Linkara.
  • The Gungan Council has featured several enigmatic villains. Two high ranking Imperial, Xyra and Ayreon, are mysteries even to their own peers and both their ultimate goals are shrouded in mystery. What Darth Apparatus wants has always been assumed to be power, yet whether it's for power's sake or some other end goal has never been explained in detail.
  • In Marble Hornets, The Operator, the Masked Men, and totheark (who may or may not be one or more of the Masked Men) all have inscrutable goals. The Operator is generally considered to be an Eldritch Abomination, and may not have a goal that humans can comprehend. It's debatable whether some of them can even be called villains, as the biggest indication of their malevolence is acting incredibly creepy. The most unambiguously malevolent character turns out to be Alex, and even his goals, outside of murdering the rest of the cast are a mystery.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars has several:
    • Tarantulas first and foremost. His origins and sanity are open for interpretation and he doesn't reveal any of his goals until his final appearance. A good example of this would be an instance in which he returns to the other Predacons after what's implied to be a decent period of lurking in the shadows on his own, and in the same breath, both defects from Megatron's crew and offers his assistance in dealing with an alien structure that's central to the episode's plot. When the incongruity of this is brought up by Megatron, Tarantulas's explanation is simply: "I have my reasons!" Turns out he was acting as a mole for the Tripredacus Council with the goal of negating the existence of both the Predacons and the Maximals by destroying The Ark, as he and the Tripredacus Council aren't descended from Autobot or Decepticon. His reference to The Vok as "meddling" implies that their actions were a hindrance to this goal.
    • Megatron plays this role somewhat, with his true intentions carefully masked by a series of other plans, any one of which could take priority... It's often unclear how much he had planned from the start, how much was backup plans, and how much was simply improvisation. It takes a cunning villain indeed to play mind games with Tarantulas and come out on top. His true plan was to travel back in time to prehistoric Earth and destroy the sleeping Optimus Prime onboard The Ark, changing history so that the Decepticons win the Great War and the Predacons become the rulers of Cybertron in the future. Finding a huge energon source- the reason given in the pilot for why he stole the golden disk, was just a bonus that allowed him to recruit his crew.
    • Ravage, Blackarachnia, and even Quickstrike dabble in this, to boot.
    • The Vok. Their powers are vast and ambiguous, they introduce themselves to Optimus in the guise of Unicron, they cause incredible damage to both sides in the conflict over the course of their involvement, but what they actually are and what they're there for is never made clear. To make matters worse, it's revealed they're Ancient Astronauts, and are implied to be responsible for Stonehenge and other monolithic structures. They at least partially cross over into Blue-and-Orange Morality, as well. Every Vok-centric episode is also easily picked out by its title, each one going by the template "Other V----".
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Most of the Arc Villains fit this bill in the series, aside from Chief Cruz, who makes his goals quite clear to Hiro when they first meet.
  • Code Lyoko: XANA's motivations, or the reasons for its hostility to human life, are completely unknown, and unlike most examples, the heroes never find out. It's not clear if it wants to rule the world, or destroy it, or what it plans to do after that (if anything), or why it would want either. Its immediate goals get revealed as it pursues them, but any kind of end goal it has in mind is a complete mystery. It's never seen by the heroes, and it rarely bothers communicating with them, much less give a Motive Rant. Being that XANA is essentially a sapient computer program, for all anyone knows it could just be malfunctioning, but that's just speculation. None of this makes XANA any less frightening.
  • Vlad Masters often does this in Danny Phantom. The first major instance is getting the Skeleton Key. Neither the heroes nor the audiences know why he wanted it. It's revealed in a later episode. The same episode then shows ANOTHER hidden agenda; namely Vlad obtaining the Fenton Ecto Suit, the services of the Fright Knight, the Ring of Rage (which he didn't get), and the Crown of Fire. While the former is shown in a later episode, the rest unfortunately is never explained due to the show being cancelled.
    • Also Youngblood in "Pirate Radio". He pops out for the first half of the episode, doing various villainous tasks that make absolutely no sense and don't seem to connect. It's all revealed in the second half.
  • Disenchantment: Emperor Cloyd and The Enchantress are a villainous duo that are responsible for sending Luci to Bean. They are clearly evil, but their end goal is never revealed. In fact, the country where they are isn't even revealed until late in season 1. It's revealed they are planning for Bean to get her hands on the Elixir of Life and they want Dreamland to fall. Season 2 reveals they and Dagmar have made a bargain with Hell which they want Bean to fulfill, but the specifics of that deal, even by the end of season 4, are similarly unclear, and by then Cloyd and Becky have changed plans to stealing Dreamland's magic for their own reasons.
  • Grodd in the third season of Justice League Unlimited. He brought together the supervillains of the DC Animated Universe into one combined force, came up with a plan for granting invulnerability to all of them, coerced Lex Luthor... and what was his ultimate plan? Turning the entire planet into apes!? Needless to say, it ended with Luthor shooting him in the face.
  • Gravity Falls has Bill Cipher, a goofy-yet-sinister "dream demon" who is summoned by Li'l Gideon to steal the combination to Grunkle Stan's safe, so Gideon can get his hands on the deed to the Mystery Shack. Bill agrees to do it in exchange for help with "something [he's] been working on", and is rather furious when Dipper, Mabel, and Soos manage to get in his way and drive Gideon to break off the deal. After being fought to a standstill in a Battle in the Center of the Mind, Bill departs with a cryptic warning. Bill returns in the season two episode "Sock Opera" and tricks Dipper into a Deal with the Devil, only to double-cross Dipper, steal his body, and attempt to frustrate his investigations, first by damaging the old laptop found in "Into the Bunker", then by trying to steal and destroy Journal #3 because he fears Dipper is getting too close to solving the mysteries of the town. It's finally revealed what his plan is in the latter half of Season 2: he wants to open a rift between reality and the Nightmare Realm, allowing him to take a physical form and bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Hazbin Hotel: Alastor the Radio Demon obliterated some of Hell's oldest and most powerful Overlords almost immediately after arriving there, creating his reputation as a feared and incredibly powerful Overlord. His goals and motivations are known only to him, including his reasons for suddenly deciding to sponsor the titular hotel (his stated reason is that he wants to entertain himself by having a front row seat when the whole thing proves to be a failure). Things get only more mysterious when it's revealed that he mysteriously disappeared seven years ago, and has only returned recently, and that he decides to keep it secret that Carmilla Carmine killed an Exorcist; something that was thought to be impossible for a Sinner to accomplish. When he does reveal it to Charlie, it's to make a mysterious deal whose details are still secret. The Season 1 finale proves that Alastor does possess a deeper agenda than his own entertainment: He's made a deal that resulted in another entity having ownership of his soul, and that he seeks to free himself so he could "pull all the strings".
  • In Metalocalypse, the only thing that's been revealed about Mr. Salacia's master plan is that it's called Falconback.
  • Zaheer and his gang from Season 3 of The Legend of Korra; other than an attempt to kidnap Korra when she was little and a few vague mentions of wanting to overthrow the White Lotus and the Avatar, no one knows what his end goal is. He eventually explains that their end goal is the complete destruction of all governments, followed by killing Korra while she's in the Avatar State, so the world would go back to the way it was before the Avatar and thus achieve "true" balance.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: The Chameleon in the "Six Forgotten Warriors" arc of season five, where it is revealed that he is conspiring against the Kingpin, with foster brother Rhienholdt to free their father the Red Skull, from the vortex he is trapped and use the Doomsday weapon to the Red Skull’s dream of World Domination a reality.
  • Tangled: The Series: The Enchanted Girl becomes an Evil Mentor to Cassandra in the third season for reasons only revealed much later. She's Zhan Tiri playing Cassandra like a fiddle.
  • The writers of Teen Titans (2003) confessed they at first had no idea what they would make Slade's plan in Season 1, explaining why the viewers, let alone Robin, had no idea either. Come to think of it, what Robin was meant to DO was never really specified either. The one thing he stole was meant for him anyway. And how Terra's running everyone out of town benefits him is never mentioned either.
    • Seeing how Terra curbstomping the Titans resulted in him having total control of the city with his robot armies goose-stepping through the street, the benefit to him seems quite obvious. The real question is where he was intending to go from there. Slade is the God of this trope.
    • He had a clear agenda during the Trigon arc, at least. Of course, that was because he was dead and very clearly didn't want to stay that way.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In contrast to Ludo's obvious and repeated desire to capture the wand, Toffee's ultimate motives are unknown. He plots to destroy the wand, in a gambit to ultimately get his finger. However, after he does achieve full regeneration, he just walks away until he's blasted by Star. Likewise, we know nothing of what motivated him to go rogue and kill Moon's mother in the first place, though Word of God seems to imply that he used to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wanted to help monsters rise up against the Mewmans, and thus would not accept a peace treaty between the two species. More light is shed on things with the release of the Book of Spells, which explains that Toffee was radicalized by Seth, the oldest Septarian who vehemently wanted Comet dead.
  • In the original season of Jackie Chan Adventures the main protagonists know that Valmont and the Dark Hand are after the talismans, but they don't know that said talismans are meant to bring Big Bad Shendu back to life. In this case, the audience knows the intentions of the villains but the protagonists don't.
  • Nerissa from the first half of the second season of W.I.T.C.H.. It's later revealed she's a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wanted to end all war and suffering- by making herself goddess of all reality. Before she got anywhere close to attaining this, though, her plot was Hijacked by Phobos, a much more straightforward Evil Overlord.