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I Fight for the Strongest Side!

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"I follow the strongest side!
...That is all I have ever known."

A Sub-Trope of Defeat Means Friendship. In a normal Defeat Means Friendship scenario, someone formerly opposed to the hero joins their side or at least becomes more affable towards them shortly after being defeated by them. In this trope, the defeat is the sole reason for their Heel–Face Turn. The defeated character effectively says, "Okay, now that I know you're stronger, I'm gonna join up with you now. " The reasons for this vary:

  • They're a Proud Warrior Race Guy, Blood Knight, or other character type that admires strength. Since you proved to be stronger than them, they respect you enough to want to help you.
  • They're an Opportunistic Bastard who feels that his/her interests would be better served on the hero's side.
  • They wanted to join the hero's side all along. They just wanted to test the hero's power first.
  • They're a Dirty Coward who doesn't want the hero to finish them off.

This can also be the justification for The Lopsided Arm of the Law - the cops stepping in to aid the hero almost always means they have to take their side in a big fight, while supporting the well-connected or even just well-armed criminal maintains the status quo.

See also Asskicking Leads to Leadership and Fair-Weather Foe.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Kenpachi Zaraki eventually does a Heel–Face Turn (sort of, it's complicated) and decides to help out Ichigo and his True Companions, on the basis that if Ichigo survives, Zaraki will get to fight him again.
  • Fist of the North Star:
    • In Rei's first appearance, he's helping bandits to invade Mamiya's village, but then betrays them when he sees how strong Kenshiro is.
    • In Legends of the Dark King, Yuda's loyalties go from Raoh to Thouzer as soon as he realizes who is strongest.
  • Stratos 4:
    Mikaze: Whose side are you on?
    Karin: *pause* The winning side.
  • Thorkell in Vinland Saga repeatedly inverts this trope, in that he tends to join the weakest side because the stronger side is more fun to fight. He ends up playing it straight after being beaten up by Thorfinn and then stared down by Canute — of course, the fact that the latter has proclaimed that he's going to pick a fight with the King of Denmark may also be a contributing factor.
  • Breo's girlfriend in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, who automatically dumped him and hit on the guy who beat him.
  • Monster Rancher: When Durahan's attempt at overthrowing Moo fails, his Dragon Lilim betrays him, revealing that she prefers to serve powerful men, and his failure proves that Moo's stronger than him.
  • In My Bride is a Mermaid, Chimp served as Kai's Hypercompetent Sidekick, but his allegiance switches to Akeno. When Kai protests, Chimp says that he was only serving him because he was the toughest, but now, not only is Akeno tougher than Kai, she is a really hot girl. When Akeno kicks Chimp to the curb, he apologizes for his foolishness and returns to Kai's service.
  • Kendappa-ou in RG Veda. She claims to like strong people, and despise weakness, resolving to serve the tyrant Taishakuten as long as she lives. Even if it means killing the only person she ever loved, because she cannot go back on her word.
  • The Spriggan 12 of Fairy Tail are twelve extremely powerful wizards who serve Emperor Spriggan of the Alvarez Empire as his Praetorian Guard. Prime Minister Yajeel's conversation with Markarov implies that the main reason they follow Spriggan is because even they pale in comparison to him.
  • In Fate/Apocrypha, William Shakespeare is a Caster class Servant. He is only willing to work for whoever he considers the "main character" and will abandon them if someone comes along who better fits that description. This carries on to his appearance in Fate/Grand Order.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • In Pokémon the Series: Black & White, it's implied that Snivy abandoned her Trainer because she deemed him/her too weak. In BW129, when a group of abandoned Pokémon are causing mischief as pirates, with Meowth translating, Pignite tries to convince them that they can find happy encounters in new Trainers, and then Snivy said that they could always abandon their Trainer if they're useless. Iris points out that something did in fact happen in Snivy's past that involves her previous trainer.
    • In Pokémon: To Be a Pokémon Master, when Ash and Misty are fighting over a wild Clauncher it agrees to willingly follow whoever proves themselves to be the stronger Trainer, with Misty winning the battle due to Ash having his B-team at the time and giving Misty a fighting chance by not using Pikachu in their 1v1.
  • Saint Seiya: Cancer Deathmask and Pisces Aprhodite are aware that the "Pope" is an evil usurper but they still serve him because of their firm belief that "might makes right", and Gemini Saga is definitely the strongest of them all.
  • Moyuru Koda from DEVILMAN crybaby seeks to join the stronger side once he decides his own survival is more important than anything else. Seeing Akira's defeat by Xenon in their first encounter convinces him to join the demons. His choice comes back and bites him in the butt when Akira -who is no match for Satan but is still more powerful than Moyuru by several orders of magnitude- swiftly tears him in half.
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: When the Oniwaban begin hounding him, Itto Ogami taunts them for becoming the Yagyu Clan's dogs. Two Oniwaban reply the Yagyu control the government and opposing them is suicidal.

    Comic Books 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Sergeant Simian only works for the strongest. When Scourge attempted to win over the Destructix into working for him, he had to convince Simian that he was strong enough to earn the latter's respect and loyalty.
  • In Superman comics:
    • In his earliest appearances, Bibbo Bibbowski was like this. He broke his hand punching Superman, and from then on Superman was his "fav'rit" because he was tough. When he saw the Man of Steel getting beaten up by Lobo, his reaction was "Yer even tougher than Superman. Yer my new fav'rit". In later appearances he respected Superman for always doing the right thing.
    • In The Killers of Krypton, Rogol Zaaar's followers quickly and unanimously bow down to and join Supergirl when she beats Rogol Zaar down.
  • In Green Lantern story arc Untold Tales of Blackest Night, the Rainbow Raiders (a group carrying on the legacy of the original Rainbow Raider) attempted to side with the Black Lantern Corps. However, they have no idea how becoming a Black Lantern actually works and end up killing themselves for nothing.
  • In Final Crisis, Kalibak's forces follow the strongest. So when Kalibak himself ends stomped by Tawky Tawny, he orders his warriors to gang up on him. They refuse, as, well, his defeat has already kind of proven he's not the strongest.
  • The final issue of El Cazador ends with Lady Sin offering her defeated foe Redhand Harry an alliance (possibly conditional on his knowing Latin). While his reply was not actually given, under the circumstances it was almost certainly a "yes".
  • Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: Dr. Venom will always suddenly undergo a moral conversion to whoever seems to be winning, or claim to have been secretly working for them all along. This eventually gets him killed.
  • In X-Men storyline X-Cutioner's Song, Stryfe defeats Apocalypse, and then points out to Apocalypse's followers that their master's own "the Survival of the Fittest" creed means they should follow him now. Apocalypse's troops agree and side with Stryfe.

    Fan Works 
  • In Cardcaptor Rad, both The Create and The Shield explicity go to Hot Shot as what they had seen a better alternative-even with the fact it's established the Cybertronians have no magic.
  • My Father's Son: Like in A Song of Ice and Fire, this was why Tywin was hesitant to get involved in Rhaegar's Rebellion since he didn't want to back a losing team. He's pushed into action by receiving prophetic summons from Melisandre. She showed him that failure to act would only make things worse down the line, but once he sees Rhaegar's new dragon he instantly knew he backed the winning side.

    Films — Animated 
  • Storks: After failing miserably at stopping the baby machine, Pigeon Toady is quick to proclaim his support for Junior's new baby delivery regime once it's obviously popular.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Rodan allies himself with whomever is the Alpha amongst the other monsters. When King Ghidorah usurps the position of the King of Monsters from Godzilla, Rodan swears allegiance to him. But after Godzilla reclaims his status as the Alpha, Rodan bows to him along with several other Kaiju that arrived after the fight.
  • Célestin, the villain of La Folle Histoire de Max et Léon, is a major figurehead of Les Collaborateurs, who claimed to be all about free France but pretty openly worked with the Nazis.
    Célestin: I'm with the winners. Today, it's the Nazis. If it changes tomorrow, I'll adapt.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: One of Saruman's reasonings for betraying the Free Peoples and siding with Sauron is that at his core, he's always believed that the battle between good and evil can only be won through a matter of power (as noted by Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) — and he's seen and learned enough about Sauron's power to believe that he can't be stopped and the only options available are to either join him or die.
  • Sao Feng, in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End says "There is no honor in fighting for the weaker side" when it's revealed he's been working with the Royal Navy.

  • Every single member of the kif species from the Chanur Novels by C. J. Cherryh. Since the kif have nothing that's recognizable to other oxygen-breathing species as a conscience or sense of morality, this is how their entire society is organized.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Dirty Coward Wormtail attaches himself to "the biggest bully in the playground"; the Big Bad even calls him on this:
      Your devotion is nothing more than cowardice. You would not be here if you had anywhere else to go.
    • Magic wands in the Potter Verse function as Loyal Phlebotinum for their specific owners but may switch allegiance via You Kill It, You Bought It. Notably, the most powerful wand in the world, the Elder Wand, is also the most fickle as you don't even need to kill anyone to earn its loyalty; beating the owner in a Wizard Duel can work just as well even if nobody dies. Granted, acquiring the Elder Wand in particular tends to entail murdering the owner outside the context of a duel, since beating it in a fair fight is a nigh-impossible feat that only Albus Dumbledore is known to have accomplishednote . But you can also wrest control of the wand by disarming its owner before a fight can even begin. The Elder Wand can even shift loyalty by proxy if the owner loses a duel while using a different wand. That's how fickle the Elder Wand is, people, and it's a major part of what led to Voldemort's death.
  • In Destiny of an Emperor, Lu Bu decides to serve Yuan Shao upon seeing how big and powerful his army is.
  • Near the end of the second book in Harry Turtledove's Tale of Krispos series, the Big Bad Avshar's Haloga mercenaries start to desert him when Krispos finally manages to beat him. The first man to join Krispos tells him that he only followed Avshar because he thought he was the strongest man in the world, but Krispos beat him, so that means that Krispos is the strongest and he must serve him.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Sellswords are notorious for switching sides like this, because they're Only in It for the Money. When Queen Daenerys Targaryen accuses Brown Ben Plumm of betrayal, he simply points out that his mercenary company, the Second Sons, took a vote, and didn't think she was going to win. Given that they originally were hired to fight her and then defected, she shouldn’t have been surprised. Now that Daenerys has proven herself a Dragon Rider, the Second Sons look ready to defect to her side again.
    • During Robert’s Rebellion Lord Frey refused to pick a side and kept his house out of the war, despite his Lord Paramount fighting against the crown. After the Battle of the Trident, everyone realized the Loyalist side was going to lose. Lord Frey then deployed his forces and arrived after the battle was over assuring Lord Tully he was coming to help. Tully was unimpressed and dubbed him "The Late Lord Frey".
    • Tywin Lannister also kept the entire Westerlands out of the conflict up to the Battle of the Trident. Unlike Walder Frey however, Tywin was smart enough to know he had to do something if he wanted to gain anything in the war, and did so by sacking King’s Landing and slaughtering the royal family. Some members of the rebellion were still unimpressed, as the Lannister’s only declared after the war was over (and their help amounted to rape and murder).
  • In Discworld, when Nobby Nobbs was a soldier, the generals used to keep an eye on what uniform he was wearing in order to judge how the battle was going.
  • In Into the Hinterlands, the Cutter Stream Colonies start out allied to a nearby group of Riders, though the alliance is much more ephemeral than the Stream government thinks it is. After Allenson loses his first campaign against the Terrans, the Riders defect en masse to the other side.
  • In the Aesop's fable "The Birds, The Beasts, and The Bat," the birds and the beasts are at war. The bats repeatedly switch sides to fight for whichever side is currently winning. When the war is over, neither the birds nor the beasts want anything to do with the bats for being so two-faced, and that's why they hide in caves during the day and only come out at night.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Clairvoyant a.k.a. Agent John Garrett gives this as an explanation for his allegiance to HYDRA:
    Coulson: Spreading death and destruction? You really believe all that crap?
    Clairvoyant: I wouldn't say I'm a true believer. Let's just say I felt the wind changing direction and swung my sail.
  • Tyr from Andromeda uses this as an Exact Words scam on a temporary ally. He never said he was on their side, he said he'd chosen the winning side.
  • Being Human (UK): Milo firmly believes in the phrase, "'Tis better to be at the Devil's right hand than in his path". He joined the Old Ones' side and sold out all of humanity and the werewolves because he believes the Old Ones are "the winning team", and he's a survivalist who has no intention of joining the rest of the living in the new world order's concentration camps once the vampires take over.
  • In the backstory of The Boys (2019), Frederick Vought switched sides from Nazi Germany to the United States during World War II when the Wehrmacht started to lose ground. His widow Stormfront is even willing to work under Stan Edgar, an African-American muggle, as long as the experiments with Compound V continue under his watch.
  • In Breaking Bad Saul Goodman takes this attitude as the main reason he partners up with Walt, in the "opportunistic" style of the Trope. He even explains to Jesse, "That's the way of the world, kid, go with the winner," to explain his allegiance. Subverted in the end, though. When Walt DOES become the strongest side by killing Gus, his actions have become too extreme for Saul. Unfortunately, by that time Walt won't let him back out.
  • Discussed in Doctor Who when new prime minister Harold Saxon (The Master) criticizes those working for him for being traitors to their party, having gone to work for him only after they realized their party would lose the election. He then kills them.
  • In Farscape there is a human alien named Vreena that betrays her people because of this.
    "Peacekeepers, scarrans, what does it matter who rules? I'll never be in charge. I'm just doing what I have to to survive."
  • Game of Thrones:
    • House Tyrell and their vassals will always back the winning team and will drop anyone at the drop of a hat if they become a liability. If both sides of a war appear to be evenly matched they'll simply stay out of it. The one time they stayed loyal to anyone they lost a war.
    • Why nearly fifty thousand barbarian warriors follow Daenerys. The Dothraki only fear three things. The poison salt water, lightning storm fires on the Great Grass Sea and of course by extension; dragons. Dany is not only able to walk through the biggest threat to their way of life; which causes all their warriors and shamans to kowtow in reverence. But is topped even further when her mount is revealed to be the largest dragon left in existence, effectively making Dany the greatest rider who ever lived in their history. They follow her easily over the sea after all that and obey her without question.
  • The Season 1 finale of Gotham sees the corrupt members of the Gotham City Police Department switch their support to Sal Maroni after an attempt on Carmine Falcone resulted in Falcone being hospitalized.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Shades Alvarez is The Consigliere to various crime bosses in Harlem. His loyalty though can be compromised if his cohorts become self-destructively violent or aggressive. If it's clear his employer is losing it, he will find a new employer. He won't cross them, but if they cross him, he's not holding back.
  • In Power Rangers S.P.D., this is the reason why the A-Squad Rangers defect to Grumm's side in the Series Finale, claiming they want to be "on the winning side".
  • Isabella in Robin Hood specifically states that she wants to be on the winning side, and this (along with an ill-timed break up speech) is what causes her to turn against Robin and the outlaws.
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand season 3, Spartacus kills Seddulus, the leader of a Germanic tribe, prompting the rest of the tribe to join him out of respect.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Paul Heyman. Constantly backstabbing the wrestler he was sponsoring once "the next big thing" comes along. Man would sell out his own mother if he saw the writing on the wall.
  • The reason why Kurt Angle betrayed WWE to join The Alliance, saying that he represents everything great about America; he is a winner, and he fights for the winning side. This was subverted at Survivor Series 2001, as he was actually Vince McMahon’s mole and cost the Alliance everything in their Winner Take All match.
  • Paul Bearer would frequently switch allegiances between The Undertaker and Kane depending on which of the two had the upper hand in their feuds at any given time. When Paul first turned on Kane to re-side with the Undertaker, he said outright that he did it because Kane was weaker than his brother.
  • Sunny managed her on-screen brother and real-life boyfriend Skip, whose gimmicks were heel versions of Workout Fanservice, mocking fans for being out of shape while showing off their bodies. Sunny then managed a tag team of Skip and Zip, who later won the tag team championship. When they lost the championship, she jumped to whoever held the belts: first the Godwins and then the Smoking Gunns. This proved to be the Start of Darkness for Billy Gunn's heel turn.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has the Ghazbán Ogre, which goes under the control of the player with the most life at the start of every turn. Spoofed by the Ghazbán Ogress, from the Unglued set, which instead goes to the player who won the most games of Magic that day, unless there's a tie.
  • Downplayed by some captured Clan warriors in Battletech. Some refuse to fight for the Inner Sphere "barbarians," but others see being defeated in combat as proof that the Inner Sphere is worthy of fighting for. Some take to it better than others. It's also enforced by their culture, as defeated enemy warriors and captured civilians can be taken as bondsmen, essentially functioning as spoils of war.

    Video Games 
  • Alucard in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse as well as Legends is a Type 3 example. Both boss fights are just tests to see if the Belmont is capable of taking on his father.
  • Grobyc from Chrono Cross fights for the Big Bad because Grobyc thought they were the strongest being in the world. Until you kick his ass, at which point he joins you instead.
  • Major Dan Carter, the sole human villain of C-12: Final Resistance, is a former human soldier who, upon realizing humanity doesn't stand a chance against an Alien Invasion, instead defected to the alien's side, even helping his alien masters capture humans and converting them into cyborg slaves.
  • The ending of Advance Wars 2 has this. After Hawke kills Sturm and declares himself the new leader of Black Hole, the three remaining Black Hole lieutenants are visibly shocked. Flak and Lash quickly decide to follow Hawke, since they don't care who's in charge as long as they still get to do their thing. Adder is more visibly disturbed by this chain of events, but after uttering the trope name almost verbatim, Hawke cuts him off mid-sentence and accepts his allegiance before he can regain his train of thought.
  • Dr. Yi Suchong in BioShock has a habit of making himself valuable to the enemy. When the Japanese killed every other man in his city in Korea during World War II, they kept him alive because he could sell them quality opium. After Fontaine was killed and his company seized by Ryan Industries, Suchong's only major complaint was that Ryan didn't pay as much as Fontaine.
  • In Deltarune, when it becomes clear that the heroes are strong enough and smart enough to conquer anything Rouxls Kaard throws at them, he lies that he was on their side the whole time, and was just testing their strength.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • This is why Zevran joins the party. In his own words, even if he managed to kill the hero through backstabbery, he might be killed by his masters on principle for failing the first time anyway. Basically, he enlists because it's his best chance to survive.
    • When reaching the village of Haven, which is isolated from most of the Darkspawn invasion, Sten will threaten to take control of the party because he feels you are too weak and thinks you are fleeing from the battle. Once you beat him in a duel he admits that you are strong enough and will follow you with no more complaints (unless you have high enough influence with him before the duel. In that case, he expresses his concerns but can be convinced that you know what you're doing with no duel necessary).
    • The Antivan Crows, of whom Zevran was a member combine this with Pragmatic Villainy. After their initial attempt to kill you fails, Ignacio will offer you a number of contracts. Complete them, and he'll assure you they all benefited your side of the civil war. If pressed for elaboration, he'll explain that the Crows are smart enough to know the Blight has to be stopped (the end of the world is bad for business); and after you survived their first attempt, they decided you and not Loghain are the best chance to stop it. He'll also warn you that another contract exists (once opened, it can't be closed), but no more will be placed on you, and he personally will not help the remaining assassin.
  • Eastern Exorcist: Your Evil Former Friend, Zhang Huai-zhou, arranged for your downfall and the exorcist sect to be ambushed and massacred by demons, before putting the blame on an innocent hulijing you just spared. Turns out he was working for the forces of evil ever since several years ago, having witnessed their powers.
  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game: Count Caldwell will flip sides on the board based on who has the strongest single unit in play.
  • In the Kamen Rider Dragon Knight video game, if chosen as the player character, Kamen Rider Strike, originally having joined Xaviax because he perceived him as strongest, comes to believe that good guys have better odds and decides to turn on Xaviax. While his ending does have him saving the world, the story mode still pits him against the heroes...
  • In Kill Zone, ISA gets a good deal of traitors amongst them throughout the invasion of Vekta, Adams shut down the defense line that allowed the invasion to happen and the Colonel allowed nuclear weapons to fall into enemy hands.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • King Bulblin from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess as quoted above is the Trope Namer, and a Type 1 example. After being defeated for the fourth and final time, this time on the final dungeon, he gives you a key that helps you progress through the castle, and he stops harassing you.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, it turns out that Byrne is a rogue Lokomo who is trying to revive the tribe's enemy, the demon king Malladus, because he could only get the power he wants that way. After his defeat against Link and Zelda, he goes back to Malladus' whereabouts to witness his awakening; yet the villain one-shots his servant with a magic blast; as a result, the now-betrayed character joins the good guys' side.
    • In numerous battles on Adventure Maps acquired via DLC for Hyrule Warriors, knocking King Bulbin out without defeating his guards will have him repeat his speech from Twilight Princess word-for-word and join your side. Captain Keeta from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask follows the same ideology, defecting to your side if you stop attacking him when he admits defeat.
    • Also in Hyrule Warriors, when fighting against Ganondorf with Cia's army during the "Darkness Falls" mission, Cia orders Wizzro to attack Ganondorf's army after defending their keeps from multiple Gohmas, but Wizzro refuses to listen to her and switches sides to fight with Ganondorf, whose army is much larger.
  • The Dual Blade from Lufia & The Fortress of Doom behaves like this.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Mazken (aka Dark Seducers), are an intelligent race of lesser Daedra in service to the Daedric Prince Sheogorath. Mazken are said to be a treacherous race that will quickly switch allegiances if it becomes beneficial to them. The group of Dark Seducers fought in Battlespire betrayed their former master (a lieutenant of Nocturnal) to side with Mehrunes Dagon when he promised them greater power. Because of this, it's difficult to tell if they've always been servants of Sheogorath or if he is simply their race's most recent master of convenience.
    • Skyrim:
      • This is a staple of dragon culture, going hand in hand with their beliefs that Asskicking Leads to Leadership and their tendency toward Honor Before Reason. Dragons will only follow those who prove themselves to be the strongest. Odahviing, the right-hand of Alduin, aids the Dragonborn after the Dragonborn forces Alduin to run away at the Throat of the World and captures Odahviing themself. Odahviing explains that he is doing this because a) he wants to free himself and b) after Alduin fled like a Dirty Coward, Odahviing and the other Dragons are no longer certain that he is worthy to lead them. After the Dragonborn defeats Alduin, Odahviing will swear his loyalty, allowing the Dragonborn to summon him with the "Call Dragon" shout. An interesting variation comes from the backstory - Paarthurnax betrayed Alduin and sided with Mankind during the last Dragon War, teaching the Ancient Nords the Thu'um, the draconic Language of Magic, which allowed them to turn the tide and defeat Alduin and his followers once and for all. Essentially, Paarthurnax chose to follow the strongest side as all Dragons do... he just happened to make them the strongest side first.
      • The dragon example is repeated in the Dawnguard DLC with Durnehviir, an undead Dragon bound to the Soul Cairn and thus unable to truly be killed. He swears fealty after the Dragonborn proves to be the first person to ever defeat him.
      • Jarl Elisif proves to be one if the Stormcloaks win the Civil War questline. Elisif, who Ulfric Stormcloak widowed to become High King, will submit to the Stormcloaks since the Empire is now gone from Skyrim and she has no other choice. She still despises Ulfric however.
  • Saia in Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis offers Alphonse a deal after being bested in combat, agreeing to fight against other demons alongside Alphonse since he only cares for power.
  • You meet a lot of these guys in the Suikoden series. A lot of characters won't join until you have a castle of a certain size, which depends on how many other characters have joined you; some won't join until you have a certain number of characters, period. The implication is that they want proof you have a large enough army to do anything before they sign up.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, when Zelos is asked which side he would fight for, Zelos answers "the one that's likely to win," though he admits that he'd want to help Save Both Worlds if all sides were equal. He utters this line again after betraying the party to Yggdrassil. However in all but one of the endings, he turns out to be lying and was pulling a Fake Defector act to help Lloyd's party; he just didn't tell them first.
  • Warcraft III has Varimathras, a Dreadlord who switches sides to avoid being killed by Sylvanas, and who even has "I'm always on the winning side" as one of his responses. In World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King it's revealed that he lied and never left the Burning Legion, using his position as second to Sylvanas to be The Starscream.
  • Happens to Augus in Asura's Wrath. As shown in episode 15.5's interlude, Augus wasn't interested in joining the eight Guardian Generals at first, stating that they were "weaklings". Then Deus came along and fought him to a tie. After the fight, Deus promises Augus that all battles will be like the one they were in if he joins his cause. Augus complies.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • Several missions have you allied with a person who is allied with the Sith Empire just so he can become Prime Minister of the planet. If he becomes Prime Minister or not depends on how much a dick you are. In addition, your Bounty Hunter character can express this as the reason for working with the Empire.
    • Surprisingly inverted with the Mandalorians of that era. they are fighting for the Empire because they actually have more respect for the strength of the Republic and Jedi. They don't want to fight for the strongest side. They want to test their mettle against it. Somewhat played straight by Jicoln Cadera's faction, who rebelled against the current Mandalore since they revered Mandalore the Vindicated, who supported the Republic for this reason.
  • Canderous gave the same inversion of this trope ("I want to test my strength against the strongest side") for why his people fought the Republic in Knights of the Old Republic Later, after The Reveal, he swears Undying Loyalty to your character because you are Revan, the one who kicked their shebs into obscurity, playing this entirely straight. Then again, seven people and two droids in a stolen smuggling boat against the entire might of Malak's armies is just the kinds of insane odds Mando'ade dream of fighting.
  • In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the Broodmothers (Zerg Queens that take the place of the old Cerebrates) were specifically programmed by Kerrigan to follow this logic. Dehaka, who joins with Kerrigan on the planet Zerus, cites this as his reason for joining her. However, he also subverts this later after they learn of Amon's existence, and Kerrigan asks Dehaka if he's considering joining as he's most certainly stronger than her. Dehaka says that may be true, but he's also smart enough to know that Amon is an Omnicidal Maniac, so no good will come of siding with him.
  • Inverted by the god Skaen in Pillars of Eternity. The god of hatred, resentment, quiet loathing, and — most importantly — rebellion, he will abandon any followers of his once they fulfil their ambitions or otherwise become too powerful, favoring only those who are both oppressed and willing to bargain with a creature as bloodthirsty as Skaen.
  • Saïx in Kingdom Hearts II outright says that The Heartless ally with whoever's strongest, though this refers not to them making peace with or joining Sora (which would be...problematic on several levels), but to them ditching Maleficent and the Disney Animated Canon villains for the Eviler than Thou Organization XIII.
  • Lantry and Kills-in-Shadow joins your party for this reason in Tyranny. In Lantry's case it's because he's a Tagalong Chronicler who believes in Great Person History, and thus attaches himself to interesting/strong people because they tend to shape interesting history to chronicle (that you saved his life helps, too). Kills-in-Shadow, meanwhile, is a Beastwoman, and in their society a leader must be strong — Killsy just applies the same logic to a non-beastman (you). In fact, a great way to increase Killsy's Loyalty to you is to insist, upon meeting her, that you should fight so you can prove your strength to her.

    Western Animation 
  • This appears to be the case for the Dai Li in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Because Earth King Kuei was weak and merely a puppet, they had to answer to Long Feng, who was mostly in charge of the government. When Azula came along, Long Feng sought an alliance with her, but she proved to be a much stronger leader to the Dai Li, causing them to switch allegiances. By the time of The Legend of Korra, the new Earth Queen went out of her way to avoid being as weak as her father (by being an evil tyrant), thus the Dai Li decided to pledge their loyalty to her.
  • In the Transformers mythos, most Decepticons or Predacons serve only the most powerful among the faction. Should a leader be deposed through either trickery or combat, the bulk of the army will quietly settle under the usurper's authority without much in the way of objection after the dust settles (though the process is rarely smooth if the usurper isn't up to snuff). As far as the 'Cons are concerned, you're only worthy of authority if you can hold onto it. If somebody else takes it, then they deserved it more than you. As you'd imagine, this policy tend to lead to a lot of scheming among the higher ranks.
  • Justice League Unlimited:
    • This is heavily implied to be the case for Killer Frost, when Gorilla Grodd attempted to stage a coup on Lex Luthor, she was on his side but when it failed, then immediately switched allegiances and froze the other mutineers.
      Luthor: Can any of you give me one good reason to let you live?
      (Killer Frost fatally entombs the other mutineers in ice.)
      Luthor: Killer Frost, you've got a future. Get rid of the rest.
    • Tala's modus operendai seems to be "bone the strongest" as she starts off in a (possibly) romantic relationship with Gorilla Grodd, then switches over to hanging off Luthor the moment he took control of the society.
  • As seen in Star Wars Rebels, this is a rather logical side-effect of the Mandalorian culture being based around the idea of "leadership belongs to the strongest"; since they are used to just falling in line when one of their own takes over, many of them are happy to fall in line when some other power proves strong enough to defeat the Mandalorians as a whole. This is why most Mandalorians are working for the Empire.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: During the Clone Wars, Mandalore is shown to have entered a period of peace in spite of their Proud Warrior Race Guy history, which Clan Vizsla disagreed with and so they formed the terrorist organization Death Watch under the leadership of Pre Vizsla. This eventually led them into a pragmatic alliance with Darth Maul to set up a false flag operation with Maul as the leader of a new, galaxy-spanning crime syndicate which will briefly take over Mandalore, allowing Vizsla and Death Watch to liberate it, become heroes, and end the pacifist government of Satine Kryze. When Vizsla decides to keep Maul locked up instead of setting him up to run his syndicate out of Mandalore, Maul engineers an escape and challenges Vizsla to a duel, killing him and claiming leadership of Death Watch in the process. Most of the Death Watch then sides with him, but Satine's sister Bo-Katan—who was also Vizsla's second-in-command—objects and goes on to lead a resistance against Maul in the Final Season and then the anti-Empire Mandalorian factions during Rebels.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Double Trouble starts working for the Horde explicitly for money, but as soon as they found out the Rebellion had a superweapon, they switched their alliance to be on the winning side. Then, when the Galactic Horde shows up and starts steamrolling the Rebellion, Double Trouble tries joining them, though they quickly wind up disillusioned since a group of Hive Mind drones make a poor audience for Double Trouble's dramatic flair.

  • Older Than Feudalism with the story of St. Christopher; a warrior that went out to search for the strongest lord to follow. He found the strongest living man in the world but also learned that he was afraid of the devil. Then he learned that the devil was scared of God and went on a search to find him. After an eventful river-crossing he found Jesus and learned the weight that rests on his shoulders and forever served him... before being killed by Roman Emperor Decius. Of course being a saint, martyrdom did nothing to cramp his style.
  • There's an old tale about a man who goes in search of the most fearsome thing in the world. He makes progress by asking each creature to tell him its fear, and works his way up to some mighty, powerful being ... only to find that the mightiest giant fears something tiny and weak, taking him full circle.
  • This is how Saito Musashibo Benkei came to serve Yoshitsune, according to legend. He'd disarmed and collected the swords of 999 swordsman before finally being defeated by Yoshitsune, serving as his retainer until their deaths.
  • Bandwagon fans in various sports, who cheer for the team that's doing the best at the current time, jumping ship if a new team becomes the best. These are particularly hated in soccer, where they are known in the UK as "glory hunters". In some countries there is not even the need to jump ship, as there is a specific team that has all the financial support and investors and is therefore the winner by default. The majority of its fans just chose it, knowing it that they would never need to change.
  • Amongst political scientists who study international relations, there is much debate over whether states tend to balance or bandwagon. Balancing refers to states allying against the most powerful or threatening state; bandwagoning refers to states allying with the strongest or most threatening state. To the extent that there is any consensus, it is that states balance when they can and bandwagon when they must. In other words, weak or vulnerable states tend to ally with the strong.

    Real Life 
  • Towards the end of World War II, this occurred frequently as Axis forces realized that they were losing. Italy, Romania and individual soldiers of many countries deserted and joined the Allies.
  • This happened three times with Italy over two wars:
    • In World War I, it was noted that Italy was likely to "rush to the aid of the victors". Indeed, despite nominally being part of the Triple Alliance (with Germany and Austria-Hungary), they found an excuse not to join in...and then joined the Allies after the war became deadlocked and it was clear that Germany wasn't going to win a quick victory.
    • In World War II, they only declared war on and invaded France at the proverbial last minute (joining in on June 10; for reference, the French air force had mostly stopped resisting on June 9, and Paris was declared an open city on June 10 and would fall on June 14). This would entitle them to annex or occupy various pieces of French territory once France surrendered...two weeks after they joined the war (and after they had only failed to take a few mountain passes, despite numerical superiority).
  • This is why many people consider the Battle of Antietam to be the turning point of The American Civil War. The Union had suffered many defeats and it was suspected that Britain and France would soon officially recognize the Confederacy, but the Union victory at Antietam dissuaded them. It also helped that Lincoln was waiting for a Union victory to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and did so after Antietam. This meant that if the British and French governments (which had already abolished slavery in their own countries) recognized the Confederacy, they would be tacitly supporting its stance on slavery as well.
  • From the 2010s onwards, numerous businesses have expressed their support for Pride Month by posting messages of support on their social media profiles and changing their logos to rainbow variants for the duration of the month. Plenty of individuals on the LGBT+ spectrum don't appreciate the effort, as this superficial show of support only came after queer rights were fought for and won over decades of grassroots campaigning. This behavior is also perceived as hypocrite rainbow-washing considering that local profiles of the same companies do NOT express support in nations where LGBT is still taboo or outright illegal, such as many Middle East countries.
  • This is often seen as one of the reasons that the Republic of Afghanistan struggled and ultimately crumbled in 2021. Due to Afghanistan's terrain and general culture, many of its inhabitants lived in small and isolated communities that had little connection to the capitol, and therefore saw themselves first and foremost as part of their tribes rather than part of a nation. Consequently, their loyalty to the government mostly only extended to respecting them as the biggest fish in the pond, and when it became evident that they probably weren't anymore, they shrugged and quit.