When different agendas come into conflict, it's a Foregone Conclusion in most cases that one and only one will emerge triumphant. When this happens, the expected result is that it's one of the major chessmasters who comes out on top (especially one who turns out to have been playing all the other players to their own ends), but it's just as likely that the final winner is a minor player, a Spanner in the Works who unknowingly sabotages the efforts of the would-be masterminds, or even someone who's simply lucky enough to be alive when the dust finally settles.
In many cases, the Last Plan Standing is nothing of the sort — the winner is simply someone who happened to be in the right place in the right time and seized victory while all the other players had their attention elsewhere.
Manga & Anime
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, a world full of Magnificent Bastards and God Wannabes, the one who benefits most from all the conflicts is the new Führer Grumman, whose master plan to seize control is essentially "Keep your head down and say nothing."
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has Lucius Malfoy actually lecturing his son Draco to make his plans as simple and practical as possible, because falling to Complexity Addiction (like his rival Harry has) is putting his chances of this trope happening in the hands of sheer uncontrollable luck.
- Ultimate Video Rumble 2: The Gambit Pileup of villain groups resolves with Demitri Maximoff methodically brainwashing the leadership of half of them (plus several other competitors) into serving his goals, and convincing the Dark Guy to give him a power-up for good measure. Once it's clear he's holding all the cards at about the 2/3 mark, the rest either (grudgingly) allies with him or give up on their own plots to focus on taking him down.
- Happens in every Pirates of the Caribbean movie to date, but especially Dead Man's Chest, with Norrington emerging as the surprise victor.
Live Action TV
- On Lost, when the dust finally settles after all the years of scheming and back stabbing between Jack, Locke, Ben, Widmore, Jacob, and the Smoke Monster, it is kind-hearted Hurley who comes to rule the island.
- Simon at the end of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy is at least a partial example.
- Fortinbras in Hamlet is established as seeking revenge on Denmark for past grievances. He ends up having the crown fall into his lap because all the legitimate claimants have killed each other.
- Liquid Snake at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. His only real involvement with the plan was getting Solid Snake involved so that he was able to be released. However, the enormous circle of backstabbing between Dead Cell, Solidus, Olga and Ocelot cancelled them out to the point he was able to abscond with RAY. On a bigger scale, the Patriots managed to get exactly what they wanted out of the situation, successfully testing both their mind control system and eliminating one of their major enemies. And in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Big Boss returns from the dead to effectively reveal himself as the Last Plan Standing for the entire series - the entire events of MGS2 and MGS4 were engineered to free the world from the grip of the Patriots.
- By the end of Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Raziel finally stops being manipulated by everyone, and lets himself be absorbed by the Reaver, so that Kain can use the Reaver to defeat the Elder God.
- In Adam Cadre's Varicella, the Villain Protagonist is tasked with manipulating a complex web of court intrigue so that he becomes the last and only choice for Regent. It backfires spectacularly when the young prince, who has become evil as a result of his upbringing, ascends the throne, eliminates the last obstacles in his path - including Varicella himself! - and declares war on everybody.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, Delita marries Princess Ovelia and is crowned King Delita. However, this example is actually subverted. Delita is stabbed by Ovelia, and stabs her in return. Even if he does survive, he has lost everything that he was fighting for in his quest for power, and hundreds of years later, the revelation of the Durai Papers vindicates Ramza as the real hero of the game of the war.
- Of the many agendas from Dealer in Mega Man Star Force 3, only one really comes to fruition, and that's Heartless betraying them and using Meteor G as a means to contact Kelvin.
- The Closed Fist ending of Jade Empire involves you turning upon the two entities who had been using you as a pawn and destroying them. You next combine their power and rule as a god.
- Arabia and the Middle East were fought over by the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Britain and France, who were aided by the Rashidis (allied with the Ottomans), the Hashemites (allied with Britain), and the Saudis (led by Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud), along with others such as the Bedouins and the Ikhwan. As the region (plus a good deal more of the area) is now known as Saudi Arabia, it's clear who won. The Hashemites came in second, holding much of Mesopotamia and remaining in power in Jordan today. Most of the rest of the regional powers were devastated and replaced by entirely new states.
- Also happened in 1917-1921 Russia, where Czarists, Liberals, Anarchists, several Western Powers, Poles, and even a Czech Legion (prisoners liberated from Siberia) intermingled. Who would have bet on the tiny Bolshevik faction back in 1917?
- The United States might have been this after the Gambit Pileup that was World War I, as all the other major powers were devastated by war and falling apart. Instead, they went back to isolationism.
- Henry VII of England was this, both in Real Life and in William Shakespeare's play Richard III.
- Actually he doesn't come across as this in the play, which does a Historical Hero Upgrade on him, portraying him as the rightful King. Also many people forget that other Yorkists attempted this on him.