Friends are great. Which is why having friends is often what separates the hero from the villain. An unfortunate and inevitable side-effect of The Power of Friendship is that if you don't have friends, there's something wrong with you, since being a loner is not "natural".
Similarly, if a writer is going to create a sympathetic Anti-Hero, they often choose to make the character a brooding and friendless loner. Introversion seems to get used much more often than other epic or humanizing flaws like pride, addiction, jealousy, or lust. Perhaps this is because showing a complete lack of a social life as opposed to a self-destructive one is much easier to accomplish. A quick establishing shot of a character sitting alone in a social setting or an insistence that they be left to their own devices is an easy way to alert the audience that something isn't quite right.
Fiction doesn't seem to draw a distinction between being asocial and anti-social. A loner character usually is more than just socially awkward; they'll have a number of serious psychological issues too. Arrogance, selfishness, and mental instability are all fairly common. At worst, they're portrayed as evil since their refusal to socialize is proof that others are not worthy of their presence and that the only person they could ever care about is themselves. When fiction doesn't make a distinction between being a loner by choice or being driven to it, this is the attitude at work.
Cultural norms can make this even worse. In Japan, Hikikomori are seen as either NEETs gone over the edge, or lazy students cutting class rather than victims of a nearly-Social Darwinist society defined by ambition and fear of shame. Rather than reaching out for help, the family is expected to isolate the weirdo from society and deal with the problem themselves.
Even more unfortunately, there is some historic basis for this. Humans, after all, are social animals. Cooperation along with the invention of language is how we survived, and those who tried to go it alone often weren't able to reproduce or hand over their innovations to the next person. Through most of human history, collective action was the only practical means of survival; being extremely selfish, hiding all the time, or being shunned/banned/exiled/cast out was very often a precursor to slow death by starvation and predation. Thus a person condemned to Dying Alone was almost certainly alone because of a problem they would've had fitting into another group and thus they should be avoided.
Loners can also Go Mad from the Isolation. Humans learn how to be human through social interaction. There are many social skills that can only be learned in person — isolation can lead to No Social Skills. When you're raised in isolation, you behave differently. Many psychological disorders originate from a deficit in human interaction. Then that person will be shunned, isolating them further in a vicious cycle, putting him closer to the Despair Event Horizon.....
A more tragic explanation for this trope is that loners are simply expressing their true personalities (in this case, being a loner) by refusing to adapt to societal standards they don't like. This can be interpreted as being an act of rebellion by others when nothing deeper is really going on. Thus, many introverted people are assumed to be going through an immature stage or dismissed as having ulterior motives for their behavior that ends up just isolating them more.
Of course, this trope could just be the inversion of the idea that nobody could like a freak, so freaks are loners. This doesn't logically translate to all loners are freaks, but a lot of fiction doesn't follow logic.
In works where the loner is portrayed as a villain, the All-Loving Hero will often effect a HeelFace Turn on an antagonist by trying to be their friend. Often this will work by itself, hammering home the idea that what's wrong with the villain isn't the need for revenge or a severely unbalanced psyche, it's a lack of friends. Even if The All-Loving Hero eventually accepts the Loner as a Loner, the Loner will often appreciate the effort, and begin making token attempts to be sociable with the True Companions.
It's hard to determine whether this trope originated from assumptions about loners in the real world or helped cause it ...or whether that's another vicious cycle.
There are exceptions, as with all other tropes: the crusty old hermit or Witch Doctor who rebuffs the villains and helps out the heroes is a fairly popular stock character. Both of those are frequently portrayed at the very least as eccentric. The Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold is a loner who is thought to be a freak but is a truly Nice Guy.
As Freaks proves, loners may be freaks, but freaks aren't loners.
Super-Trope to Creepy Loner Girl. Compare Beware the Quiet Ones, The Complainer Is Always Wrong, Ineffectual Loner, and perhaps Intelligence Equals Isolation. Contrast You Are Not Alone. See also No Social Skills. Often subverted by combining it with a This Loser Is You protagonist, in which case freaks are not evil.
- Averted in Oscar Meyer's "Overt Bert" commercial, in which introverts and extroverts are depicted as equals, both types of people enjoying sandwiches.
- Averted in Asterix and the Roman Agent. While everyone else is bickering thanks to the titular spy's influence, the bard Cacofonix isn't, since he, besides being aphonic at the time, usually keeps to himself and thus keeps away from the agent's jealousy- and paranoia-inducing influence. This isn't necessarily a personal choice — as per his name, Cacofonix is an enthusiastic but absolutely horrendous musician.
- Depending on the Writer, Batman.
- This trope is one of the reasons many heroes are uncomfortable with him, being unaware that Batman has the biggest extended family of the DCU. Again, Depending on the Writer, as he is also one of the leaders of the Justice League and one of the most respected heroes in the community. Also, Bruce Wayne by day (when he's not running a benevolent multinational Mega-Corp) is a popular playboy who often frequents parties and other social events, though this is of course at least partly just to make people think he couldn't possibly be Batman.
- Batman himself seems to think he is a loner, or that he needs to be something like one to keep himself at the top of the game, but he also acknowledges several people as family or friends, even if he keeps them at a distance at times, and is generally aware that he needs them for the sake of his own sanity and humanity if nothing else, and that he cares deeply for them. After all, he is a man driven by personal loss.
- On the flip-side, The Joker is one of the most extroverted villains in all of fiction. He usually has a gang, and a very large one, has a girlfriend in Harley Quinn, and is very fond of the Villain Team-Up both with regular Batman rogues and on the grander stage with guys like Lex Luthor. Of course, he is a Bad Boss to said gang and tends to kill members at random on a whim; his relationship with Harley Quinn is the Trope Namer for Mad Love, and though he might like teaming up with other villains, the other villains are afraid to team up with him. He's not a freaky loner; he's the freak you wish was a loner, because With Friends Like Him...
- Averted with the Rogues Gallery of The Flash, who are very sociable to the point of acting like a club as much as a loose association of criminal masterminds.
- In Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Linda and Lena are Stanhope School's pariahs. Linda doesn't like being shunned but Lena is an unhinged narcissist who is perfectly happy to give everybody else the cold shoulder.
- Both Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen. Rorschach has difficulty relating to people on a social level, being paranoid, violent, and insulting. Dr. Manhattan pushes away from humanity due to his god-like powers. It's implied in his back-story that Dr Manhattan wasn't the most gregarious man in the world even before becoming omnipotent, omniscient, and probably omnipresent if he felt like it.
- In many Legion of Super-Heroes continuities, Lightning Lord's misanthropy is at least partially attributed to this. His homeworld, Winath, has a population composed mostly of twins. As a single birth, he was apparently treated with pity, disdain, and suspicion, and didn't take it well.
- Doctor Doom regards friendship as a sign of weakness. He does have a handful of people he is relatively close to, but he refuses to call them "friends" because he imagines himself to be entirely self-reliant and superior to other men, and he keeps them at an emotional distance. Said "not-friends" are really his most trusted minions, anyway. He had a long-lost love called Valeria, but when he sacrificed her to a trio of demons for power, that kind of went out the window. He is not entirely asocial though and is Affably Evil enough to offer his female opponents a feast while their male teammates languish in the dungeons. Also, he has an annual dinner with the mercenary Silver Sable in her role as ambassador for the neighbouring country- apparently, she looks forward to them as Doom is a very good host. He truly wants his own people to love and respect him and is relatively nice to them in return. Also, he has a very big soft spot for Valeria Richards, his god-daughter who he helped deliver (she gets away with calling him "Uncle Doom"), and has placed her under his royal protection (you harm her, he makes you pay).
- Thanos of Titan was born with the Deviant gene, meaning he was an Eternal like the rest of his people but looked like a member of their historical mutant enemies / genetic cousins. He became a loner because of this and eventually killed nearly every other member of his race in a nuclear holocaust For the Evulz. He claims that the other Eternals treated him like an outcast, but his surviving brother says that Thanos imagined this and was just naturally reclusive and paranoid, and obsessed with Death, Black Magic and other dark and grim subjects that didn't exactly invite company.
- Sarah from Bazooka Jules is an anti-social girl that goes to Julie's school. She's nicknamed weird girl because she has no friends and spends a lot of her time talking to her imaginary friends. The only person that wants to be her friend in Julie and she hates Julie.
- X-23 is already a withdrawn and quiet girl as a result of her Dark and Troubled Past, but then she goes through phases where she isolates herself from others entirely. In NYX she rarely speaks and creeps out her companions, and in the beginning of her solo series, Laura mostly avoids the other younger mutants and has been spending most of her time alone after being pulled from X-Force. The other students are quick to comment on this.
- Spider-Man definitely fell under this in his early years, along with a hefty dose of All of the Other Reindeer. Depending on the Writer, it's deliberately ambiguous how much of this was genuinely because of bullies like Flash and how much of it was in his own head.
- In the prequel comic of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Captain Hammer, Jerk Jock nemesis of the Villain Protagonist, states that goths and kids that are good at science and math should be reported to the police as they are all potential supervillains. As Dr. Horrible works on his Death Ray, he also stops meeting with Penny or Moist.
- In Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld it happens to Amy, on Earth. She used to try to fit in but gave up around sixth grade. She was even called Freaky Amy by her classmates.
- Advice and Trust: During their post-First Kiss conversation Shinji and Asuka dejectedly tell they were always alone after their mothers' deaths and their fathers' abandonment: they had no friends because no one wanted to talk to them, no one even tried to understand their pain or cared... and no one could in fact understand.
Shinji: "Your father abandoned you after your mother was gone,"
Asuka: "You have nightmares all the time about it. The memory keeps coming after you when you try to sleep,"
Shinji: "It's hard to sleep. You feel lonely and cold at night, because no one ever held you after that,"
Asuka: "You never had many friends before you came here. No one ever wanted to just talk to you for you."
Shinji: "Your father never explained or apologized for why he just left you."
Asuka: "No one even tried to understand your pain. No one cared."
Shinji: "You miss her every day, but don't even have any pictures, barely any memories. No one tells you about her."
Asuka: "And there was never any point in talking about it to anyone because there was no one in the world who could understand what being an Evangelion Pilot was like,"
- A Crown of Stars: After surviving the war and the end of the world in the series, Shinji and Asuka were too soul-weary and emotionally and psychologically damaged to relate to other people. No one wanted to talk to or approach them except to attack them or use them. Later, when they were members of a fleet was being dispatched to fight another war, they insolated themselves and the ship crew gave them a wide berth, not wanting to be caught up in their troubles.
- HERZ: Shinji and Asuka hardly talked anyone other than Touji, Kensuke and Hikari in high school. Their schoolmates thought that they were weird.
- Miraculous: The Phoenix Rises gives us Clay, an antisocial student at the back of the class with the jackpot of Cloud Cuckoo Lander, Nightmare Fetishist, Eccentric Artist and was put on the watchlist by the school for an unspecified Noodle Incident.
- In The Night Unfurls, this is initially Played Straight for Kyril Sutherland, whose introversion, dislike of attention, and tendency to keep to himself like a closed clam is one of the many reason why others are wary of him. Not that he cares in the slightest, for Kyril is used to being alone for the most parts of his life, and that he really doesn't want others to know more about him, his past (which involves Things Man Was Not Meant to Know), and his true nature. Gradually deconstructed in a nice way as he doesn't object to interacting with others in general: his moments as Four-Star Badass where he has to communicate with his men prove exactly that. He's distant, yet polite, not some standoffish dude who keeps saying, "I Work Alone, thank you very much". Last but not least, despite gaining people he genuinely appreciates and sees as "friend" other than his doll companion, Kyril never becomes more sociable or touchy-feely, nor does he ever profess about how "friendship is cool". After all, he accepts that he shall walk a lonely, bitter path as a Hunter of beasts. Plus, the man would rather let the others have their time, while he basks in the peace and quiet that solitude brings.
- Shadow Snark after being in self-made isolation for a few years; he has No Social Skills.
- In Tangled, Flynn even admits that his dream involves him being alone and has to be forced into participating in the Crowd Song and the Dance Line. One Snuggly Duckling tavern thug explicitly tells him that his dream is stupid before the Character Development that led him to repudiate this.
- Although what they seemed to have the biggest problem with was that while everyone else dreamed of doing things, Flynn just dreamed of getting lots and lots of money.
- It is noted in 22 July that Anders had a very isolated life, with the only other person he talked to outside of the internet being his mother. It's implied that this isolation led him to carry out the attack as a bid for people to pay attention to him.
- Willard. Williard was definitely described as a loner and a Psychopathic Man Child.
- Throw Momma from the Train. Owen is a definitive example, bordering at times on Psychopathic Man Child. Living alone with his mother, all he has is his writing class for human contact. Otherwise, his activities are 1) bowling by himself, b) taking care of Momma. It's no wonder he develops a fixation on his writing class teacher, Larry. In the end, he has two new friends and is no longer freakish.
- 10 Things I Hate About You. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger both play social outsiders. In reality, they are rather mundane, but their rejection of society causes people to assume everything they do has some dark or criminal explanation.
- Brendan Frye in Brick is cool, and badass, and a perfect example of Determinator, but he eats lunch alone and the only two people who could possibly be called his friends are his ex-girlfriend and Brain, who serves as a sort of information broker. Brendan plays many sides against each other and is not very well-liked for it.
- He Was a Quiet Man. Maconel seemingly has no friends. His neighbors still don't know him after five years. This changes after he stops an office rampage, but he remains a freak.
- Norman Bates from Hitchcock's Psycho certainly qualifies although of course he has 'Mother' to keep him company.
- The Joker from The Dark Knight. However, he does run with a pretty large gang and seems to pick up new members out of nowhere and know where all the criminals meet. It's noted that a good chunk of his men broke out from Arkham in the previous movie, and he also seems to absorb the lower ranks from the other mobsters he kills into his own gang, which would give him a) intel on the other criminals and b) underlings who aren't completely Ax-Crazy. Just mostly.
Batman: He must have friends.
Maroni: Friends? Have you met this guy?
- Averted in Silent Running - protagonist Freeman Lowell is a loner who is more at home with plants and animals than with people, but he's also the good guy in comparison to his uncaring, mercenary crewmates. He's got his droids, so it's not really that he doesn't want company, he just wants better company.
- Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle just can't get a grip on relating to people. So he turns himself into a walking arsenal and decides to do some damage/good.
- In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Grinch complains about this trope: "Fat Boy should be finishing up anytime now. Talk about a recluse. He only comes out once a year, and he never catches any flak for it!"
- About a Boy features Hugh Grant in the loner role. Over the course of the film, he learns how to be a decent human being by making some friends. (Starting with a 12-year-old boy, no less!)
- WarGames is driven by the fact that the hero is a lone geek (apart from a highly unlikely girlfriend for dramatic purposes.) Which is one of the things that dates the film, since today he would have a whole cyber-community "World_Destroying_Online_PC_Games.net".
- Played for laughs in Grosse Pointe Blank: One of the characters is an assassin who is trying to start up a trade union for assassins and approaches the main character demanding that he join. The main character argues the absurdity of the idea by pointing out that most assassins tend to be disaffected loners who don't work well with others:
Martin: Loner! Get it? Lone-gunman! That's the whole point!
- Kiss of the Tarantula: The fact that Susan A) lives in the local funeral home and b) keeps several large tarantulas as pets drive her classmates to view her as a creepy freak. She actually is a creepy freak, but one who actually wants friends.
- In Pixels, Ludlow is a crazy Conspiracy Theorist with Perverse Sexual Lust for Lady Lisa, still living in his grandma's basement. Sam is his only friend, and calling them like that is quite an overstatement.
- On Dangerous Ground: Due to his Broken Ace status, Jim Wilson isolates himself from the world and becomes extremely violent because of it.
- In Where the Sidewalk Ends, Mark isolates himself from others and feels like an outsider as a cop because of his father's notorious reputation as a criminal.
- Marina from Friend Request appears to be this as some of her interests are pretty dark and opposite of most people's norm. Despite this, though, she really wants some friends.
- In Apartment Zero, Adrian's neighbors are suspicious of him because he is a neurotic loner who avoids them as much as possible. Given his behavior, their mistrust is not unwarranted. But they are so focused on him that they don't notice that something far worse is lurking under their noses.
- Now You See It...: Brooding and antisocial Danny is considered to be strange and friendless, and he mellows out a lot once people start accepting him.
- Summerland (2020): The local children think Alice is a witch, because of her solitary and hermit-like behavior.
- A recurring theme in Disturbed's lyrics is expressing your individuality and refusing to adapt to societal standards. "Down with the Sickness" is a sad example: "mother society" beats down the freaks until they snap. In "Divide," on the other hand, the narrator wants to be free to be as twisted as he wants to be, revels in other's shock and horror, and says they'll never break him.
- "A Most Peculiar Man" by Simon & Garfunkel.
- John Cale's "Half Past France":
I'm not afraid now of the dark anymore
And many mountains now are molehills
Back in Berlin they're all well-fed
I don't care
People always bored me anyway
- Harry Chapin's "Sniper". The titular sniper is described throughout the song as a strange loner, according to those who knew him. Deconstructed as, according to the sniper's thoughts, everyone treating him as a freak is what sent him on his rampage.
- Air Man feels this way about himself, as his only power is "to push others away". "If I can't walk among them, then I will walk the world alone!"
- Suicidal Tendencies (the name is program) "Alone":
I scream at the sky, it's easier than crying
I'm shyish when I'm shouting out loud
I feel so alone in a room full of people
I'm loudest when I'm in a crowd
- The Bible has a few scriptures that concern this trope:
- In Genesis 2:18, the only thing in His creation that God declares "not good" is that Adam is all alone, and He Himself says that "it's not good for man to be alone." This is why God took a rib out of Adam and created Eve to keep him company.
- One meaning of Proverbs 18:1 is that a person who separates themselves from others in seeking their own desires and isn't concerned about the needs of other people fits under this category.
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 shows how two is better than one and things won't end well for those who do things alone.
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Rhys used to socialise with his classmates until his increasing disillusionment with the world and interest in writing caused him to distance himself from everyone. This eventually led to him being branded an outcast, and he starts the story as a quiet misanthrope with no friends.
- Simon is anti-social, moody, and off-putting, much of which can be attributed to his unwillingness to interact with others. He doesn't suffer fools lightly and prefers to be left alone. His mother is working to change this, and encourages him to get involved in social situations whenever he can.
- For some reason, a good portion of Survival of the Fittest's version 4 are loners. Whether or not it is played straight, though, varies from character to character.
- In Genius: The Transgression, Geniuses of high Obligation (Morality) might transgress just from avoiding people for too long. Same with changelings, but that's because they have issues.
- A Discussed Trope in GURPS Transhuman Space: High Frontier: In describing "Virts", people who do all their interaction through virtuality, it notes "Many Virts are somewhat secretive about their true nature, especially since several popular InVids depict Virts as either dangerous sociopaths, criminal hackers, or as pathetic and terrified losers.
- In Unknown Armies, spending three days alone is the sample Rank 3 Isolation stress checks, while spending 7 days alone is the sample Rank 5 Isolation stress check. This means that the average character and average rolls will reach a permanent insanity from being alone, and beating the odds leaves said character more than a little weird.
- The Lonely in Delta Green are a collection of unaffiliated loners and incels who are organized through the internet by a mysterious figure known as "CptnSnshn" (Captain Sunshine). CptnSnshn has an uncanny ability to find isolated people in nearly any internet subculture, and reinforce and amplify their loneliness and resentment. The many persons that become CptnSnshn are actually a Phantom of Truth: an avatar of the King in Yellow. As CptnSnshn keeps corrupting them more and more, they tend to either disappear out of existence or become mad bombers or mass shooters.
- As You Like It: Jaques, the melancholic courtier, frequently absents himself from society. Despite being a member of Duke Senior's court, he is known to wander off alone and talk either to himself or to nearby animals, rather than to his peers. Naturally, the other courtiers amuse themselves by spying on him and gossiping about him.
- From BIONICLE: Toa Kopaka starts out as the most anti-social of the Toa, preferring to do things by himself. Unfortunately for him, completing their destiny requires that all six Toa work together, and a lot of his Character Development revolves around him learning to accept this. By the Karda Nui Arc, he's even become deputy leader to Tahu, not that he's any less, well, cold. Unlike a lot of other examples, he does legitimately care about his teammates from the start (his Odd Friendship with Pohatu of all Toa proves that), but he hides it under layers of snark and standoffishness.
Kopaka: I Work Alone.
Pohatu: What, by choice? Or just because nobody else can stand you?
- The protagonists of so many video games, especially older ones (i.e. before the dawn of multiplayer), are fully portrayed as Loners Are Freaks...but this is also played as being a good thing, because no normal person, or even average soldier, could...
- ...fight a one-man war against Hell's armies, eventually killing the big bad daddy of all demons, whose death throes destroy Hell itself. (Doom)
- ...fight a one-man war against Hell's armies, eventually killing the big bad daddy of all demons, then finish the job by shoving The Devil's soul into his own mind. (Diablo)
- ...fight a one-man war against Hell's armies, eventually killing the big bad daddy of all demons, then do it all again a second time. (Ghosts 'n Goblins)
- ...fight a one-man war against Hell's armies, eventually killing the big bad da...anyone else noticing a pattern here? (Painkiller)
- ...fight a one-man war against Hell's arm- Oh, this is getting ridiculous... (Dante's Inferno)
- ...single-handedly face the seemingly inexhaustible resources of a globe-spanning corporate hegemony, with only a rag-tag group of ill-equipped, ungrateful Rebels backing you up on occasion. (Crusader)
- ...save the world from a cyborg-mutant overlord and his plans to turn humanity into a peaceful Hive Mind of long-lived, super-intelligent beings...that would then be unable to procreate, resulting in inevitable extinction within a matter of centuries. (Fallout, which placed a lot less emphasis on the party than Fallout 2)
- ...mop the floor with the remnants of the American government, blowing up their main base, Logic-bombing the freaking president, racking up a surreal kill count and casually blowing up cities with nuke launchers, either becoming the new Messiah or Satan's offspring. Above all, he is even named 'The Lone Wanderer'. (Fallout 3)
- The Lone Wanderer and the Courier are, in fact, the most lonesome of the Fallout protagonists. They are allowed a maximum head cap of 1 human and 1 non-human per "party". As opposed to the older games, which allowed you a reasonable 5 man team. Depending on how you play, you may end up wandering the lonely wastes with naught but your faithful hound as your only company. Or with absolutely no company at all.
- In fact, in the Lonesome Road DLC, the Courier can get a perk that makes him stronger if s/he goes off to face Ulysses by him/herself, aptly titled Lonesome Road.
- Fallout loves this Trope. Fallout 1 makes the PC the person who is most adept to wander the "World Outside" in the first place and he/she ends up to be cast out by his superior. In Fallout 2 PC is descendant of the original PC who must be sent out to the Big World. In Fallout 3 you are child of a person who wasn't supposed to be there anyway. In New Vegas you are a courier, who was not meant to be there in the first place.
- ...gather a group of fellow loner freaks around himself and embark on a vaguely surrealistic journey to uncover the nature of death and reality itself. (Planescape: Torment)
- ...expose the scheme of a Corrupt Corporate Executive who intends to turn the last domestic motorcycle manufacturer into yet another maker of minivans. (Minivans!) (Full Throttle)
- ...repeatedly exterminate the species that would become a threat to the universe if it were allowed to spread. (Metroid)
- ...destroy the entire pantheon of Greek gods. (God of War)
- ...aid the formation of the unlikeliest military alliance in, well, quite some time anyway, in order to battle back a demonic apocalypse. (Warcraft III)
- ...prevent dragons from destroying the world by devouring their souls and using their powers against them. (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
- ...escape a bizarre Death Course of a testing facility and destroy the homicidal AI running it. (Portal)
- ...defeat the risen Count Dracula and his legions of monsters, earning the
undying gratitudefear and hatred of the townsfolk. (Castlevania)
- ...save the world three times over while stealing everything even slightly shiny and not nailed down and on fire (Thief).
- Other games, particularly Japanese RPGs, frequently highlight either a brooding loner hero who gradually gets better through the support of his True Companions, or a kindly, happy-go-lucky hero who instead gathers people to him (including at least one Loner, usually The Sixth Ranger or The Lancer) and teaches them The Power of Friendship.
- Final Fantasies VII and VIII are stellar examples of the first, while Final Fantasy IX provides an example of the second (who lapses briefly into being the first type and is then snapped back out of it). Almost all of the other games in the series feature at least one brooding loner learning that he needs to come out of his shell and join the hero crowd.
- Then Dissidia Final Fantasy goes and turns the trope on its ear, setting Squall up in the same "brooding loner" role he occupied in his own game, only to then reveal that he chooses to travel alone because he believes in the Power of Trust and feels he can support the others from a distance. His explanation of his reasons is enough to convince the Warrior of Light... not that it prevents everyone else from continuing to pick on him about it, even after he ends up joining forces with Zidane and Bartz after all.
- In The World Ends with You Neku's Character Development a pure example of the first tendency.
- Sho Minamimoto is the classic "evil (or at least crazy) loner that becomes an Ensemble Dark Horse".
- In Mega Man Star Force this is the main subject in the first game. In the second game, the theme was more like "fight for the friendship", which was just an extension of this trope.
- Averted in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. Nocturne's protagonist and his scattered friends all start the game proper alone, each doing their own thing. Out of all of them, he's the only one who ends up more or less stable(depending on the player), even having the option of readily accepting a puzzle game challenge from a kid.
- Nocturne deserves some expansion - see, there's even a whole philosophy of existence you can embrace to recreate the world, Musubi. Its leader, one of said friends, is not only a Hypocrite of the first order, but will mercilessly use you and mock you for your dedication to Musubi as he succumbs to madness. Another philosophy, Yosuga, is a Might Makes Right world - albeit one with serious paranoia complexes, in which you can never cease looking over your shoulder, never rest, never relax. Yosuga's leader, another of your friends, also goes insane. Both of them lose their marbles and will die whatever you do. When the option to just go into absolute Omnicidal Maniac mode and trigger a Z-Class Apocalypse How starts looking good, you gotta reconsider whether being alone is worth it.
- Depending on your alignment in Shin Megami Tensei I, you'll have to kill at least one of your allies, and no matter what both the Law Hero and Chaos Hero will die by the end.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse meanwhile in contrast to series standard plays it painfully straight with about as much subtlety as a steam-train barreling through ones home. It's made especially apparent with Dagda whose whole Omnicidal Neutral gambit completely revolves around his loner nature.
- Played straight in Persona 4 with Mitsuo Kubo, a creepy Gonk who decided becoming a copycat murderer was the only way he could ever get attention. His own shadow represents the fact that his true pathetic self hides behind video games and that he's practically dead inside. After being defeated he is later sent to an asylum after the characters learn he wasn't the true murderer.
- Final Fantasies VII and VIII are stellar examples of the first, while Final Fantasy IX provides an example of the second (who lapses briefly into being the first type and is then snapped back out of it). Almost all of the other games in the series feature at least one brooding loner learning that he needs to come out of his shell and join the hero crowd.
- In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and Platinum, a woman in Sunyshore mentions that Cyrus used to prefer the company of machines to other people. Continued in Platinum where the player encounters Cyrus's grandfather, who tells you about how his grandson snapped at a young age due to parental pressure. Grandpa himself is quite a loner, holed up in a cabin in an eternal sandstorm that you have to pull off an impressive bike trick to even get to.
- Touhou features several characters noted for shunning most human (or monster) contact most of the time. How much they are portrayed as "freaks" for this varies widely, however.
- Marisa isolates herself most of the time so that she can perfect her explosion-making skills in relative peace. Her extreme charisma and energetic speech patterns assure her of her popularity, however.
- Alice Margatroid, who lives in much the same situation as Marisa (even living in the same woods), however, is portrayed as an anti-social freak, or even a Stalker with a Crush of Marisa's.
- Fujiwara no Mokou likewise isolates herself, apparently feeling more connection to humans than youkai society, she protects people who wander into the bamboo forest but isolates herself from them otherwise, main reason being that she knows she will outlive everyone she meets. Her Bifauxnen appearance and Les Yay relationship with Keine prevent anyone from calling her a freak, however.
- Kaguya Houraisan, Immortal Enemy of Mokou, however, in spite of living with a friend and servants, is portrayed as a NEET and fangirl.
- Lily from Daughter for Dessert is an unusual version. She has no trouble making friends, but travels alone. She uses a tabletop RPG-style app to find things to do, doesnt find holding down a job to be palatable, doesnt pay attention to signs or other cues to socially or legally acceptable behavior, and doesnt mind being the target of racially offensive jokes.
- Double Homework plays with this different ways with a class full of loners:
- Defied with Lauren. She makes every effort to be conventional, and to appear high-class, even though shes not accepted by the very people she tries to emulate.
- Morgan is an inversion of sorts. Her eccentricities lead to her being a loner more than the other way around.
- Downplayed with Amy. While she has some unusual attitudes toward life, shes not overly bizarre from having grown up isolated.
- Exaggerated with Dennis. Hes a nerd who is a very threatening kind of freak.
- Archer of Fate/stay night chose to never share his ideal with others and simply went from one battle to the next, never seeking the praise or company of others. Because nobody understood why he would choose such a life, nobody trusted him or questioned it when he was made into a scapegoat for a war he had tried to stop.
- Katawa Shoujo: Hanako's classmates see her as this, thinking of her as a strange hermit who never talks to anyone. Becoming closer to Hisao reveals this, but doesn't really make her less of a loner - she becomes less anxious, but still tells Hisao matter-of-factly that she doesn't really like most other people, and Hisao doesn't really press her on that.
- In Lilly's route, however, Hanako becomes less of a loner, not only befriending Hisao but also joining the newspaper club and spending her summer vacation on a trip with one of her classmates who is also in the club. Her teacher also notices that her attendance and grades have improved since becoming friends with Hisao.
- Rin also counts, as she is a Cloud Cuckoolander with a talent for making vivid and disturbing art. She, like Hanako, has only one friend, but she's significantly less close to Emi than Hanako is to Lilly.
- Averted with Becca in Melody. She is definitely a loner, not having had any close friends or romantic partners for years, but shes very conventional and well-adjusted with all things considered.
- Bittersweet Candy Bowl: Lucy's loner preference comes from how she couldn't find acceptance for who she was. Augustus, however, plays this trope straight.
- Mag Isa: This trope applies to a lot of the characters in the webcomic. Kyle, Alice, and Chu were loners in school. That is why they joined some crazy cult and shoot up a school.
- No Rest for the Wicked: Red, who's Ax-Crazy, and the Witch, who's worse. At one point, Perrault suggests to November that they might want to leave Red: the years alone in the woods might have been what drove the Witch crazy, and Red might be well down the same path.
- The Smurfs was sometimes accused of this, along with a number of children's shows accused of preaching conformity (ruthlessly parodied by the "Buddy Bears" on Garfield and Friends). Smurfs often got in trouble for either working independently from the others or ignoring their informed warnings, depending on who you asked. This is a milder version of where some people took it...
- One episode of SpongeBob SquarePants had SpongeBob trying to make friends with Plankton, to try to help him become a better person. It hilariously didn't work: "Being evil is just too much fun!"
- Eric, the loner in Dungeons & Dragons (1983) who always messed up, was included specifically to reinforce a "The group is always right" mentality in the show.
- As Mark Evanier notes in the Dungeons & Dragons (1983) piece linked above, this was a common Aesop that consultants would foist on cartoons in the 1980s. One extreme example Evanier points to is the show: The Get Along Gang, where this was the only Aesop.
- Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender. As he would later say to Jet "I've realized lately that being on your own isn't always the best path."
- Adventure Time:
- The Ice King. He rules the Ice Kingdom, which is uninhabited (except for snow creatures he creates occasionally, and penguins.) He gets a little better once he becomes friendlier with Finn and Jake.
- Lemongrab. He's a science experiment gone wrong and is socially awkward and isolated — and a huge jerk. Apparently, he prefers to be alone... not that anyone would really desire his company, anyway.
- Prowl in Transformers: Animated is considered a bit of a weirdo for how much of a loner he is. Despite technically being part of a team, he's always saying he'd rather work alone, or that he only depends on himself. While that is (or was) certainly what his teammates think, his actual personality is something of a subversion as he's shown to be very peaceful with an interest in nature, he's just not good with other Autobots.
- Jonny from Ed, Edd n Eddy, which is zig-zagged six ways from Sunday throughout the course of the series. Jonny is acknowledged as the weird kid of the neighborhood for obvious reasons but at the same time, he's usually quite friendly with the other kids and participates in many of their activities (with the Eds being the outcasts as their own separate clique, on the outside looking in). Jonny is just more capable of having fun on his own (although the series also takes an ambiguous stance on just how "imaginary" Plank was). This is then played completely straight at the very, very end of the series, where the Eds finally get accepted and Jonny becomes a full-on outcast.
- Deep Six in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero became a deep-sea diver solely so he could go on missions alone. He's never been known for being sociable, and all of his teammates are constantly suspicious of ulterior motives that he simply doesn't have.
- It's often joked that Danny Phantom's nemesis Vlad Masters should get a lonely guy cat... which he does in Season 3. Considering who he is, he does qualify.
- Mentioned in Daria, especially "Boxing Daria", where the title character's parents have a fight over her lack of ability to get along in pre-school. (Daria herself managed to avoid this mostly by her friendship with Jane, and to a lesser extent Beavis and Butt-Head.)
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Played straight and subverted in the first episode. Twilight Sparkle, the main character, is seen this way by the denizens of Canterlot, but on the other hand, the overly friendly ponies of Ponyville strike Twilight Sparkle as rather crazy.
- Loners barely even seem to exist in the show; friendship is, quite literally, one of the fundamental forces of that universe. The biggest loner so far shown is Zecora (a faux-African witch doctor living alone in the dark woods), and she's a very sympathetic character — the first episode featuring her is all about how she's not a freak. On the other hand, even she is not a complete loner, as she keeps friendly relations with the main characters, doesn't mind visits to her hut, and sometimes helps out with celebrations in Ponyville.
- One of the themes in "A Friend in Deed" is that some people just want to be left alone, and that's okay. It does hint at the difference between alone and lonely, since Cranky, the donkey Pinkie tries to befriend is both. She manages to help him by finding his lost love and while he may not be lonely, he and Matilda still enjoy their privacy.
- Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series is another example: where Batman has Robin, who he treats as a teammate, Mr. Freeze is completely ruthless when one of his henchmen gets accidentally frozen.
- Gargoyles live in a clan structure, and gargoyles within a clan are very close and protective of each other. Losing her clan and being alone for centuries is part of what drove Demona to go from disliking humans to actively trying to wipe out the species.
- Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty doesn't even get along with alternate dimension versions of himself! One episode features an inter-dimensional "Council of Ricks" who have labeled our Rick a dangerous rogue. He says in the same episode that Ricks use Mortys as camouflage to stay alone and undetected from the many enemies they make. He claims that his total inability to connect with people makes him "the Rick-est Rick of them all".
- Pantheon: Caspian. Due to being a brooding quiet teen, he's seen by most of his classmates as a creepy weirdo. One girl even infers that he'd be the type to shoot up the school.